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The Final Incarnation

Mellow, easygoing, that’s how Jamie’s friends and family described him. Some tied it to his frequent pot smoking. Others linked it to his natural temperament, definitely a Type Nine Enneagram, the Peacemaker, always seeking balance. His mother wished that her son had more ambition, but mostly she was relieved by the course of his life. She had worried constantly during his childhood. The schools he attended weren't as racially charged as those she had endured, but there were still clear divides. Jamie's mixed heritage, coupled with his quiet demeanor and ungainly height, were a magnet for bullying that his intelligence and kindness never quite overcame.

On the surface, Jamie seemed unscarred by his past, content with his job as host at a high-end restaurant. Both the staff and the patrons enjoyed his affable demeanor, and the regular hours allowed him plenty of downtime for his favorite hobbies: partaking of edibles or blunts, listening to his eclectic vinyl collection, and reading philosophers from across the centuries.

His girlfriend, Tasha, had a keen mind and sharp wit, but she was equally laid-back. An ideal date night was to get high, settle on the couch, stream a movie or cue up some tunes, then have leisurely sex afterwards. They had once listened to all four sides of Yes's Tales from Topographic Oceans without falling asleep, riding the musical sine waves together. They still laughed about that night. Jamie enjoyed the parameters of his relationship with Tasha. No pressures, no expectations. Perfect.

Not surprisingly, Jamie had turned a four-year degree at the local university into a sojourn with no end in sight. He was now in his early 30s, and if someone asked him when he planned to graduate, he would smile and say, "I'll get there. I'm just enjoying the journey."

On this particular morning, he was seated in a class called The Existentialists. They had covered Sartre, Kierkegaard, and were now reading Camus, starting with the Nobel Prize winner's seminal essay, The Myth of Sisyphus. As usual, Jamie found the conversation engaging. It ranged from abstract discussions of the absurdity of human existence to personal examples from people who felt they were pushing infernal stones up hills in their personal lives. Both the original Greek myth and Camus’s interpretation came alive.

Existentialist tenets resonated with Jamie. Despite the unflappable mask he wore around others, even Tasha, angst about the direction of his life sometimes flooded him with emotions. He knew that much of his long educational journey had been a quest to discover some meaning that eluded him. This was his stone, the one he rolled upwards over and over, never getting a satisfying sense of who he was or what he was called to do. When those feelings of unfulfillment became overwhelming, he took refuge in THC. It was like medicine that dampened the dread, but it left him wondering what was on other side of his soul’s dark night.

One guy in the existentialist class named Ian always had something unusual to say. Jamie had met him in other courses and recognized a fellow traveler on the long track of schooling. He felt a kinship with him.

"To me, one of the symbols of this Sisyphean task,” said Ian, “is humankind’s constant struggles for justice throughout the centuries. Consider how many times people have rebelled against oppressive economic and political systems in one historical age after another.”

“I agree,” said a woman named Romana. “But when I think of those struggles, Camus’s notion of absurdity is spot-on. How much have we really gained as a species? We’re still warring. The poor still get crumbs from the 1%. Politicians still traffic in their own power with little regard for average citizens. It definitely seems pointless and absurd.”

Jamie felt compelled to speak. “Existentialism is not nihilism, Romana. That’s why I agree with Sartre’s concept of the existentialist hero. Our ability to act for the common good brings meaning to this life. We can become protagonists in the best sense of the word. That’s why Sartre said that existentialism is a new humanism.”

“I agree with Jamie,” said Ian. “If you look at recent social movements like Occupy Wall Street or Black Lives Matter, I think we’ve made real gains. And maybe the most important thing is the elevating of our collective consciousness.”

Romana snorted. “Our collective consciousness? Elevated? What about the backlash from white privilege, wrapping themselves in both the American and Christian flags? It’s the same sick dance over and over. It’s a boulder of absurdity. And I don’t even thinks it gets far up the hill before it slams back down on our heads.”

Ian was nodding. “I hear you. But it’s too easy to be cynical, and cynicism is cancerous. If you knew the heroic struggles I’ve seen while leading people through past lives under hypnosis, you might feel differently."

"Remember our class covenants," interjected Professor Sanchez, a transplant from Mexico with fierce intelligence and a strong will. "We agreed to stay out of the realms of religion and speculative fantasy."

"I know, I know," said Ian, “but with all those incarnations I’ve witnessed. . ."

"Ian. . .", cautioned the instructor.

Ian laughed, threw up his hands in surrender, and the conversation moved to other things. But Ian’s comment lingered in Jamie’s mind. As they were going out the door after class, he tapped Ian on the shoulder.

"What did you mean by working with past lives through hypnosis?"

"You could call it my lifetime's obsession,” said Ian. “After I got my formal training in hypnosis, I took a seminar on past-life regression. It fascinated me how people who had never even considered the idea discovered these incredible experiences buried in their unconscious memories. All it took was a willingness to peel back the layers."

"Do you still experiment?"

Ian raised his eyebrows and smiled in a bemused way. "Absolutely. Are you interested?"

Looking back later, Jamie wasn't sure why he was so intrigued, but in a manner that was completely out of character for him, he blurted, "I am."

"Cool," said Ian. "Give me a call and we'll set up a time."

They exchanged numbers and Jamie promised to make contact.

The First Incarnation

As Jamie drove towards the address Ian had given him, he replayed the previous night’s discussion with Tasha.

“I don’t get it,” she said. “I understand being curious about past lives, or even hypnosis, but why would you submit yourself to some guy you barely know? Have you read about this practice? It’s been discredited by most people, especially legit therapists who use hypnosis to really help people.”

“I read that,” said Jamie. “But I don’t think it’s dangerous. Besides, what if this really does open up some realizations about my life that I’ve needed to connect with for too long?”

Tasha shook her head, pulling her dark hair back. She downplayed her beauty, but when she got emotional, her eyes flashed with alluring vitality.

“Is this the new you? Off on psychic adventures without chemical assistance? Since when have you left your comfort zone?”

She laughed in a forced way and shook her head again. “Anyway, I don’t see why you would give some random guy access to your mind. What if he doesn’t play nicely in there?”

Jamie swallowed. He did have some trepidation, but he had grown tired of always playing it safe. A nagging part of his brain had been telling him that he was pissing away his life with nothing to show for it. This seemed like an adventure, maybe even that key to meaning that always seemed to elude him. He was determined to carry it out.

He turned into the driveway of Ian’s modest bungalow. It was well-kept, painted an off-yellow, the lawn neatly trimmed. A gurgling fountain and flower beds bursting with spring color adorned the yard. As he stepped out of his car, he could smell the blossoms and hear bees buzzing at their pollinator chores.

He walked up to the door and pressed the intercom button. A voice crackled over the speaker.

“Welcome, Jamie. Just a second.”

Jamie heard footsteps approaching from within, then Ian opened the door with a smile

“Come on in. I’d appreciate you taking off your shoes.”

Jamie slipped them off, then followed Ian into the main living room. Like the exterior, it was clean, nearly gleaming. Along the walls were enlarged photographs of sacred sites from around the world: the Sikhs’ Golden Temple in the Punjab, Angkor Wat, Machu Picchu, and Teotihuacán.

“Beautiful photos,” said Jamie. “Did you take them?”

“Yes. I love to travel and chronicle my journeys. Another avocation of mine. Several of these remind me of transcendent moments. Not just because of their beauty, but because I felt a sort of communion, a connection to those who occupied those holy places.”

He laughed.

“Does that sound odd?”

“Not at all,” said Jamie. “Honestly, I envy you a bit. The only trips I’ve taken recently have been through the portal of a television or at the end of a joint.”

Ian laughed again. “I’m glad you’re here. Are you anxious?”

“A bit, but I’m ready to experiment.”

“Okay, then let me give you a few disclaimers.”

“I’m listening.”

“First of all, I’m sure you’re aware that most people discredit this practice. They’re the same ones who discredit any avenue of psychic exploration outside the norms of what we can prove. Also, you need to know that I am not one who religiously holds to reincarnation. I don’t press my beliefs on anyone.”

“Then what got you so interested in this?”

“It’s pretty simple. During my training in hypnosis, I allowed someone to lead me back to what I consider my own former lives. I can tell you about it another time if you’d like, but not today.”

“I’d love to hear that. Is there anything else I need to know?”

“Just a bit about my method. It’s a blend of hypnotherapy and guided imagery. You’ll be in a mild hypnotic state, able to follow my suggestions, but you’ll also be able to speak with me about them. Is that okay with you?”

“It is,” said Jamie. “I’m ready.”

“All right then. Follow me.”

He led Jamie down a short hallway to a door on the right. The room inside had clearly been two former bedrooms, their adjoining partition demolished to create a studio. The walls displayed more gorgeous photos—the Pyramid of Giza, Stonehenge, the Alhambra, and the Parthenon. At the center of the space was a massage table, deeply cushioned with a pillow at one end. Faint ambient music played from speakers positioned in the corners. The air smelled of sandalwood incense.

“Is that music by Steve Roach?” asked Jamie

“Yep,” said Ian with obvious surprise. “No one has ever recognized it. It’s from Dreamtime Return, Roach’s immersion in Australia’s aboriginal culture. You a fan of his?”

“I’m a fan of many genres. My musical tastes might give you whiplash they’re so diverse. Soundtracks for those journeys I take from my living room couch.”

“Nice,” said Ian with a laugh. “I love how Roach explores the aboriginal concept of time.”

“What do you mean?”

"Our Western minds think of time in such a linear way,” said Ian. “Today is today, yesterday was yesterday, tomorrow will be tomorrow. But Indigenous Australians conceive of time as circular, with events occurring in proportion to their importance for us. I have found this to be true in both my experiments and my own life. Time is flexible. Fluid.”

Jamie nodded. “Interesting. I’ve always thought of time as a dimension we poorly understand. Maybe Einstein was right when he said time is an illusion.”

“Not an illusion, just bendable,” said Ian, looking away for a moment then back at Jamie.

Jamie was still scanning the photos in the room. A few were different than the others, like blown-up newspaper clippings, a bit yellowed, the kind you might find in a museum exhibit. One in particular caught his attention. It showed a group of people standing on top of the Berlin Wall, the Brandenburg Gate behind them. Jamie had seen similar images in a history class, and he knew that the event took place in the late 1980s. Yet right there, in the middle of the protestors raising their fists, was Ian. Decades ago, and he looked exactly the same as he did this very moment.

“That’s you on top of the Berlin Wall, isn’t it?” Jamie asked.

Ian was slow to respond, his eyes still averted from Jamie’s. “Yes. That’s me. A thrilling moment for all of us.”

“How come you don’t look any older than today?” Jamie pressed. “Did someone photoshop that image?”

Ian finally looked back at Jamie with a remote expression. “I guess I just have good genes. Anyway, let’s get started. Go ahead and lie down on the table. Get yourself comfortable.”

Feeling even more unsettled, but determined to see this out, Jamie climbed onto the platform, nestled into the cushions, and eased his head back against the pillow. His long legs stuck out from the end just a bit.

Ian was silent for a full moment.

“Now,” he finally said, “just close your eyes and follow my voice.”

Jamie did so and waited. The background music had ceased, and Ian said nothing for another moment as Jamie heard only the ebb and flow of his own breathing.

“I want you to imagine that you are floating above the rooftop of your childhood home,” said Ian in a gentle voice. “Take your time and visualize it in as much detail as possible.”

Jamie concentrated on the suburban home his family had lived in most of his life. He saw the flat roof covered with white rocks. He saw the expansive redwood decking at the rear of the house and the blue water of the swimming pool it surrounded. He saw the many trees his father, an insurance executive, had lovingly planted on their property—liquid amber, eucalyptus, elm, and sycamore. He saw the clubhouse his father had built for him and his brothers near the back of the yard.

“Keep visualizing,” coaxed Ian. “Let every detail grow sharper.”

Jamie focused further. Now he could see the many Talavera pots his mother had planted with succulents. The bright colors of the pottery as well as the exotic blooms of the cacti crystallized in his mind’s eye. He saw the Adirondack chairs on the decking with their red and yellow pillows, and the hummingbird feeders hanging from the trees.

“Now,” said Ian, “imagine that you are floating even higher. Feel yourself becoming weightless and ascending as the scene below grows smaller.”

Jamie saw the house receding, its colors growing dimmer.

“And let yourself go…”

Jamie suddenly felt suspended in what seemed like a gray vapor or cloud surrounding him. Slowly the mist began to recede and the first sensation he had, with a realness that startled him, was sunlight beating hot and heavy on his back.

“Tell me what you feel,” said Ian.

“Sunlight scorching my shoulders.”

“Look down at yourself and describe what you look like. What you are wearing?”

Jamie examined himself.

“My skin is black and I’m barebacked. I’m wearing a faded and soiled pair of dungarees. My shoes seem to be made of canvas, and they’re so frayed that one of my toes is sticking out. I’m holding a short-handled hoe in my hands.”

“Good. Any more details? Look around you.”

Jamie lifted his eyes and realized he was in the furrow of a field. He could smell the fecund soil and it startled him. He had not expected his senses to be so acute.

“I’m working in a field. That much is clear.”

“Are there others?”

Jamie surveyed the scene and saw other laborers, most of them Black but also a few Whites. A cacophony of sounds swarmed over him: people grunting, a clanking of tools hitting stones, crows squawking from the trees that bordered the field, and then, in the distance, a cracking sound. He looked farther down the furrow and saw a White man sitting atop a horse, holding a whip in one hand, a shotgun holstered on his horse’s flank.

“I’m definitely enslaved. There are others here, both men and women, and there’s a man on a horse keeping everyone in line.”

“What emotions are you having?”

Emotions? thought Jamie, never considering that he would be so conscious in a scene like this. But the answer was immediate and strong, like bile that rose from his stomach.

“I have this burning rage inside me. It seems like a feeling that’s been smoldering in my bones forever. It’s almost overwhelming.”

Just as he said that he saw a man leap up from one of the furrows and begin running toward the tree line. The White man didn’t hesitate. He lifted his shotgun, took aim, and fired. The fleeing slave’s body contorted with the impact, like an unstrung marionette, and he fell, bloodied, into the dirt.

“No!” shouted Jamie, jerking himself upwards and out of hypnosis.

* * *

“That’s a fucking trip,” said Tasha. “You could actually see, smell, and hear all those things?”

“As if they were right here and now.”

“Jeez. What did Ian say when you woke up after the gunshot?”

“He didn’t seem surprised, as if visions like that are normal. He just asked me to describe it again, writing down my responses on his laptop. Then he said it was up to me if I wanted to come back for a second session.”

“It’s too weird to wrap my head around,” said Tasha. “I’m not closed-minded. You know that. But you? A slave in a former life?”

She laughed in a strained way.

“What’s so funny?” he asked, feeling a flash of anger.

Tasha saw it in his eyes. “I’m not laughing at you, just the strangeness of it. Most people who have experienced injustice in their lives seem motivated to fight for change. They seem driven or fanatical. You’re one of the most levelheaded people I’ve ever met. It’s one of the reasons I love you. I’m so tired of all the fighting in our society. Right and left, Republican and Democrat, class against class, race against race, religion against religion. Has any of it really helped us progress?”

“I hear you. But what if I’ve been so laid-back that I’ve lost a connection to my passion? What if I’m like a sleepwalker? What if I don’t really know who I am or where I’ve come from? My family never gave me any sense at all of my roots.”

Tasha shook her head. “Who is this person talking to me? I’m not sure you should go back.”

“I have to,” snapped Jamie. “I have to go back.”

The Second Incarnation

“Tell me what you see,” said Ian.

“I’m standing on the boardwalk of a town. The colonial style of the architecture and a church steeple in the distance make me think I’m in New England. The roads are dirt and horses and buggies are passing by. All kinds of stores line the street. A mercantile, an oil outlet, a bakery, and a tavern. I can hear the snorts of horses, people talking and laughing, some kind of piano music from an open door to my right.”

“What else? What do you look like and what are you wearing?”

Jamie examined himself.

“My skin is white. I’m wearing a work apron of some kind. It’s covered in black spots, and my hands have smudges of the same color. I think it must be ink.”

“Look behind you. What do you see?”

Jamie turned.

“I’m standing in front of a printing shop. Through the window I can see long tables covered with small blocks, stacks of paper, cabinets lining the walls, and some kind of large machine, probably the press. Two men and a woman are assembling things at the tables.”

“Keep letting the details materialize. Any more?”

Jamie focused on some letters etched into the glass of the shop’s door.

“The door says, ‘Oldfield Print Shop, James Oldfield, Proprietor, For all your printing needs.’”

“James Oldfield,” said Ian. “Is that your name?”

“Yes, it is,” said Jamie with sudden certainty. “I own this shop.”

He then noticed something posted on the front window.

“There’s a paper glued to the window. A flyer or handbill of some kind. It says, ‘Union with Freemen, Not Union with Slaveholders! Three million of your fellow beings are in chains and the Church and Government sustain this horrible system of oppression. Join us for an Anti-Slavery Meeting on April 17, 7:00 p.m. at First Unitarian Church. Special address by James Oldfield, candidate for city mayor. Come and learn your duty to yourselves, the slaves, and God!’”

“So,” said Ian, “a printer, a mayoral candidate, and an abolitionist.”

Jamie felt his pulse beginning to rise. “Yes!”

He turned at a noise from behind him. A fashionably dressed man and woman were approaching along the boardwalk, the man in a three-piece suit and bowler hat, the woman in a voluminous brocade dress with a floral design. They didn’t look at Jamie until they were almost upon him, and at that moment the man leaned in close to Jamie and whispered, “agitator dog,” then quickly walked away.

Jamie watched the man’s back as he retreated—a gesture of indifference, even arrogance—and he felt his fists clench with the same rage he had experienced in the first incarnation. He stepped toward the man, intent on knocking him to the ground and pummeling his face until it was bloodied…

“What’s happening!” exclaimed Ian, the sharpness of his tone awakening Jamie.

* * *

“Unbelievable,” said Tasha, shaking her head with concern. “That was more vivid than the first time, and it sounds like you wanted to kill that man on the boardwalk. What have you gotten yourself into? What did Ian say about it?”

“It was a bit odd this time. He just nodded with this knowing smile, like he was amused by the whole thing, or that it confirmed some theory of his.”

“This is getting stranger and stranger,” said Tasha. “Have you done a background check on this guy?”

“Of course. I couldn’t find him listed anywhere as a hypnotist, but he’s all over social media. A lot of pictures of him with activists going back to Occupy Wall Street and, more recently, Black Lives Matter. He even has some links to articles about Antifa. You can see him clearly at various protests, including the one following George Floyd’s death. But that’s not surprising. When I’ve heard him speak in my classes, you could always tell he was super liberal.”

“What else?”

“Just a lot of other photos from his travels around the world. I saw a fair amount of them on the walls of his home. The only surprising thing on Facebook and Instagram was that some of those photos showed him involved in protests in Germany, Argentina, and Brazil.”

“He sounds like a true believer,” said Tasha. “Has he ever tried to enlist you in his causes?”

“Never. Not a word.”

“How old is he?”

“It’s hard to tell. Could be in his late thirties, maybe early forties. He’s youthful but he also seems older than he looks. And…”

Jamie caught himself in mid-sentence.

“What?” asked Tasha.

Jamie sighed. “I haven’t told you one of the strangest things. There are photos on his wall that seem to be from actual historical events. The first time I was with there, I noticed one from the tearing down of the Berlin Wall. Yesterday I saw one that I swear was from the Montgomery Bus Boycott, Martin Luther King, Jr. and his wife Loretta marching arm in arm with others.”

“So, he’s a history buff,” she said. “What’s so strange about that?”

“What’s strange is that those two events took place 35 years ago and 67 years ago. I did the math. And in each of them you can clearly see Ian right there in the scene.”

“Were they altered? Did someone Photoshop him into them? You know, like those segments from Forest Gump where he shows up at actual moments in history.”

“I don’t think so. They look too real. When I asked him about them, he was evasive, just saying that youthfulness is something he inherited.”

Tasha shook her head vehemently. “Isn’t that enough to make you stay away? I don’t like this at all. What the hell is going on with this guy? My Spidey Sense is telling me you should cut him loose. Who knows what his ultimate motive is. For my sake, will you please stop going? You’ve had a couple vivid trips. Isn’t that enough?”

Jamie looked down at his lap, unable to counter the intensity in Tasha’s eyes. “One more time. Then I’ll stop.”

“Please look at me,” she said. “We have a comfortable life. We love each other in our own ways, and I care about you more than you know. I never really ask you for anything. I never make demands. But right now, I am. Don’t go back. I don’t think this is safe.”

Jamie met her eyes, and for one of the few times in their relationship, he felt defiant, shaking his head. “I’m not interested in comfort right now. What if my comfort has been built on the backs of others. What if it still is? The same goes for you. I know your views on things. I know you pride yourself on not taking sides. I’ve always gone with that flow, but it’s not working for me anymore. In only two sessions, I’ve seen things I’ll never forget. Are these actually my former lives or just a hypnotic dream state? You know what? It really doesn’t matter. They’re real at some level that needs to change me and I welcome it!”

He stopped, realizing he was shouting, then brought it down a notch.

“Anyway, it’s not your choice. I’m going one more time whether you like it or not.”

Tasha suddenly stood. “Then you’ll have to debrief with someone else.”

Her tone was sharper than he’d ever heard. She turned, grabbed her overnight backpack, and made her way out the front door.

Jamie was a bit stunned, but her departure only galvanized his resolve. Sitting on the couch in silence, images from the first two sessions played through his mind: the sun on his skin, the crack of the whip, the blast of the shotgun, the ink staining his clothes and hands, the poster on the window of his print shop, the infuriating remark from the man along the boardwalk. If this was the awakening of the purpose that had eluded him, he wanted to be fully aroused.

He usually smoked a joint before bed to help him sleep, but on this night he was sober as he lay on his back and stared at the ceiling fan. Emotions from the argument with Tasha roiled beneath the surface. He got up and went to the bathroom, staring at his face in the mirror. In a sudden burst of rage, he slammed his fist into the glass, splintering his reflection into a puzzle he wasn’t sure he could reassemble.

The Final Incarnation

“This is going to be my final session,” said Jamie. “I’m grateful to you. It’s been more than interesting, but I have enough information to think about for the rest of this lifetime.”

Ian looked closely at him, scanning his face as if searching for clues, then noticing the bandages on his knuckles.

“What happened to your hand?”

Jamie looked into Ian’s eyes. “It’s of no consequence. Let’s do this.”

Ian smiled as if Jamie had somehow shared a secret. “OK then, let’s get started. And thanks for helping me with my research.”

Jamie nodded and eased back on the pillow. Ian took him once again into the sky above his childhood home, then the clouds, and this time as the fog dispersed, he found himself in the midst of what seemed like a riot, causing his body to tense. His ears were assaulted by the sounds of explosions and shouting voices.

“What is it?” said Ian. “What do you see?”

Jamie scanned the scene, immediately thinking of Tasha’s warnings as fear started to grip him.

“I’m with a crowd on an inner-city street. There are skyscrapers rising above us. The people around me are young and old, of all different races. They’re carrying bottles, rocks, or clubs in their hands, and they’re chanting something.”

“Can you make out the words?”

“Yes,” said Jamie, listening more closely. “Down with the Imperium! Human beings will not be your slaves!”

“What about yourself? What do you look like?”

Jamie looked down. His skin was black, and he was dressed in an old pair of jeans and a shirt that had a design. But his body shape was all wrong, more compact, more muscular, the form of a different person. He was wearing a T-shirt with a symbol that looked like a combination rainbow and lightning bolt encircling three words in bright red: Humans, not AI! He was also carrying a baseball bat in this right hand.

“I’m wearing…” he began to say, but his words were cut short as the crowd swelled and pushed him along in its tide. He looked into the direction they were heading. Buildings burned in the distance. A phalanx of riot police dressed in full battle gear was marching towards them in locked unison. They moved with a jerky mechanical precision, not human, as if connected to the same power source. People began to chant even louder, Down with the Imperium!

He had no choice but to be swept along with the crowd. He lifted his eyes and saw a message flashing on a digital billboard: “The Imperium requires your allegiance on this day, July 15, 2092.”

He blinked and shook his head. 2092? The future? Not the past? How was that possible? His fear turned into panic.

“Ian!” he shouted. “Ian!”

No response. He tried to shake himself out of his hypnotic trance. It didn’t work.

“Ian!” he shouted again, and a response came from nearby.

“I’m right here!” came a voice to his right, barely audible through the noise of the crowd.

Jamie looked along the front line of advancing protestors and instantly spotted the hypnotist, who was dressed in the same logoed shirt. Ian smiled fiercely, nodding his head then gesturing forward with the bat in his hand.

“What the fuck!” he shouted, but Ian’s face was swallowed by the crowd, and all he could hear were the chanting voices and explosions in the distance. Smoke from the fires had descended on both sides of the advancing lines, stinging his eyes and coating his throat.

He gripped his bat harder. The riot police appeared through the haze like a legion of mechanized orcs, and suddenly his panic and fear were replaced by that primordial rage from his other incarnations. It rose out of his very organs and bones until it erupted into a cry from deep in his lungs.

“Down with the Imperium!” he shouted.

Then he surged forward, brandishing his bat above his head.

Krin Van Tatenhove was a Presbyterian pastor for 32 years, with simultaneous experience as a Hospice chaplain, Coordinator of projects with Habitat for Humanity, and Director of a nonprofit. In 40 years of professional writing, he has produced countless articles and over a dozen books, including (as co-author) "Neighborhood Church: Transforming Your Congregation into a Powerhouse for Mission", chosen as the 2019 study book in the Presbyterian Church (USA). Krin is a published photographer and has curated several art books downloadable from Krin and his wife, Donna, have a blended family and live in San Antonio. Texas.

Photo credit: Krin Van Tatenhove via Midjourney AI

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