The three of them sat together drinking tea. Rybys's face had an embittered, stark expression on it, a look of fury; she said almost nothing.
"What bothers you the most?" Elias Tate said. "The fact that Yah was driven off Earth, that he was defeated by the Adversary, or that you have to go back to Earth carrying him inside you?"
She laughed. "Leaving my station."
"You have been honored," Elias said.
"Honored with illness," Rybys said; her hand shook as she lifted her cup to her lips.
"Do you realize who it is that you carry in your womb?" Elias said.
"Sure," Rybys said.
"You are not impressed," Elias said.
"I had my life all planned out," Rybys said.
"I think you're taking a small view of this," Herb Asher said. Both Elias and Rybys glanced at him with distaste, as if he had intruded. "Maybe I don't understand," he said, weakly.
Reaching out her hand, Rybys patted him. "It's OK. I don't understand either. Why me? I asked that when I came down with the M.S. Why the hell me? Why the hell you? You have to leave your station, too; and your Fox tapes. And lying all day and night in your bunk doing nothing, with your gear on auto. Christ. Well, I guess Job had it right. God afflicts those he loves."
"The three of us will travel to Earth," Elias said, "and there you will give birth to your son, Emmanuel. Yah planned this at the beginning of the age, before the defeat at Masada, before the fall of the Temple. He foresaw his defeat and moved to rectify the situation. God can be defeated but only temporarily. With God the remedy is greater than the malady."
"'Felix culpa,' "Rybys said.
"Yes," Elias agreed. To Herb Asher he explained, "It means 'happy fault,' referring to the fall, the original fall. Had there been no fall perhaps there would have been no Incarnation. No birth of Christ."
"Catholic doctrine," Rybys said remotely. "I never thought it would apply to me personally."
Herb Asher said, "But didn't Christ conquer the forces of evil? He said, 'I have overcome the world.'"
"Well," Rybys said, "apparently he was wrong."
"When Masada fell," Elias said, "all was lost. God did not enter history in the first century C.E.; he left history. Christ's mission was a failure."
"You are very old," Rybys said. "How old are you, Elias?
Almost four thousand years, I guess. You can take a long-term view but I can't. You've known this about the First Advent al this time? For two thousand years?"
"As God foresaw the original fall," Elias said, "he also foresaw that Jesus would not be acceptable. It was known to God before it happened."
"What does he know about this now?" Rybys said. "What we are going to do?"
Elias was silent.
"He doesn't know," Rybys said.
"This-" Elias hesitated.
"The final battle," Rybys said. "It could go either way. Couldn't it?"
"In the end," Elias said, "God wins. He has absolute foresight."
"He can know," Rybys said, "but does that mean he can- Look, I really don't feel well. It's late and I'm sick and I'm worn out and I feel as if. . ." She gestured. "I'm a virgin and I'm pregnant. The Immigration doctors will never believe it."
Herb Asher said, "I think that's the point. That's why I'm supposed to marry you and come along."
"I'm not going to marry you; I don't even know you." She stared at him. "Are you kidding? Marry you? I've got M.S. and I'm pregnant- Damn it, both of you; go away and leave me alone. I mean it. Why didn't I take that bottle of Seconax when I had the chance? I never had the chance; Yah was watching. He sees even the fallen sparrow. I forgot."
"Do you have any whiskey?" Herb Asher said.
"Oh fine," Rybys said bitterly. "You can get drunk but can I? With M.S. and some kind of baby inside me? There I was"- she glared hatefully at Elias Tate-' 'picking up your thoughts visually on my TV set, and I imagined in my deluded folly that it was a corny soap opera dreamed up by writers at Fomalhaut -pure fiction. Arachnids were going to decapitate you? Is that what your unconscious fantasies consist of? And you're Yahweh's spokesperson?" She blanched. "I spoke the Sacred Name. Sorry."
"Christians speak it all the time," Elias said.
Rybys said, "But I'm a Jew. I could be a Jew; that's what got me into this. If I was a Gentile Yah wouldn't have picked me. If I'd ever been laid I'd-" She broke off. "The Divine Machinery has a peculiar brutality to it," she finished. "It isn't romantic. It's cruel; it really is."
"Because there is so much at stake," Elias said.
"What is at stake?" Rybys said.
"The universe exists because Yah remembers it," Elias said.
Both Herb Asher and Rybys stared at him.
"If Yah forgets, the universe ceases," Elias said.
"Can he forget?" Rybys said.
"He has yet to forget," Elias said elliptically.
"Meaning he could forget," Rybys said. "Then that's what this is about. You just spelled it out. I see. Well-" She shrugged and then reflexively sipped at her cup of tea. "Then I wouldn't exist in the first place except for Yah. Nothing would exist."
Elias said, "His name means 'He Brings into Existence Whatever Exists.' "
"Including evil?" Herb Asher asked.
"It says in Scripture," Elias said, "thus:
So that men from the rising and the setting sun
May know that there is none but I:
I am the LORD, there is no other;
I make the light, I create darkness,
author alike of prosperity and trouble.
I, the LORD, do all these things."
"Where does it say that?" Rybys said.
"Isaiah forty-five," Elias said.
'Prosperity and trouble,' " Rybys echoed. " 'Weal and woe.'
"Then you know the passage." Elias regarded her.
"It's hard to believe," she said.
"It is monotheism," Elias said harshly.
"Yes," she said, "I guess it is. But it's brutal. What's happening to me is brutal. And there's more ahead. I want out and I can't get out. Nobody asked me originally. Nobody is asking me now. Yah foresees what lies ahead but I don't, except that there's more cruelty and pain and throwing up. Serving God seems to mean throwing up and shooting yourself with a needle every day. I am a diseased rat in a kind of cage. That's what he's made me into. I have no faith and no hope and he has no love, only power. God is a symptom of power, nothing else. The hell with it. I give up. I don't care. I'll do what I have to but it will kill me and I know it. OK?"
The two men were silent. They did not look at her or at each other.
Herb Asher said finally, "He saved your life tonight. He sent me over here."
"That and five credpops will get you a cupee of Kaff," Rybys said. "He gave me the illness in the first place!"
"And he's guiding you through," Herb said.
"To what end?" she said.
"To emancipate an infinitude of lives," Elias said.
"Egypt," she said. "And the brick makers. Over and over again. Why doesn't the emancipation last? Why does it fade out? Isn't there any final resolution?"
"This," Elias said, "is that final resolution."
"I am not one of the emancipated," Rybys said. "I fell along the way."
"Not yet," Elias said.
"But it's coming."
"Perhaps." The expression on Elias Tate's face could not be read.
As the three of them sat, there came a low, murmuring voice which said, "Rybys,
Rybys gave a muffled cry and looked around her.
"Fear not," the voice said. "You will live on in your son. You cannot now die, nor even
unto the end of the age."
Silently, her face buried in her hands, Rybys began to cry.
Late in the day, when school had ended, Emmanuel decided to try the Hermetic transform once again, so that he would know the world around him.
First he speeded up his internal biological clock so that his thoughts raced faster and faster; he felt himself rushing down the tunnel of linear time until his rate of movement along that axis was enormous. First, therefore, he saw vague floating colors and then he suddenly encountered the Watcher, which is to say the Grigon, who barred the way between the Lower and Upper Realms. The Grigon presented itself to him as a nude female torso that he could reach out and touch, so close was it. Beyond this point he began to travel at the rate of the Upper Realm, so that the Lower Realm ceased to be something but became, instead, a process; it evolved in accretional layers at a rate of 31.5 million to one in terms of the Upper Realm's time scale.
Thereupon he saw the Lower Realm-not as a place-but as transparent pictures permutating at immense velocity. These pictures were the Forms outside of space being fed into the Lower Realm to become reality. He was one step away, now, from the Hermetic transform.
The final picture froze and time ceased for him. With his eyes shut he could still see the room around him; the flight had ended; he had eluded that which pursued him. That meant that his neural firing was perfect, and his pineal body registered the presence of light carried up its branch of the optic conduit.
He sat for a little while, although "little while" no longer signified anything. Then, by degrees, the transform took place. He saw outside him the pattern, the print, of his own brain; he was within a world made up of his brain, with living information carried here and there like little rivers of shining red that were alive. He could reach out, therefore, and touch his own thoughts in their original nature, before they became thoughts. The room was filled with their fire, and immense spaces stretched out, the volume of his own brain external to him.
Meanwhile he introjected the outer world so that he contained it within him. He now had the universe inside him and his own brain outside everywhere. His brain extended into the vast spaces. far larger than the universe had been. Therefore he knew the extent of all things that were himself, and, because he had incorporated the world, he knew it and controlled it.
He soothed himself and relaxed, and then could see the outlines of the room, the coffee table, a chair, walls, pictures on the walls: the ghost of the external universe lingering outside him. Presently he picked up a book from the table and opened it. Inside the book he found, written there, his own thoughts, now in a printed form. The printed thoughts lay arranged along the time axis which had become spacial and the only axis along which motion was possible. He could see, as in a hologram, the different ages of his thoughts, the most recent ones being closest to the surface, the older ones lower and deeper in many successive layers.
He regarded the world outside him which now had become reduced to spare geometric shapes, squares mostly, and the Golden Rectangle as a doorway. Nothing moved except the scene beyond the doorway, where his mother rushed happily among tangled old rosebushes and a farmland she had known as a child; she was smiling and her eyes were bright with joy.
Now, Emmanuel thought, I will change the universe that I have taken inside me. He regarded the geometric shapes and allowed them to fill up a little with matter. Across from him the ratty blue couch that' Elias prized began to warp away from plumb; its lines changed. He had taken away the causality that guided it and it stopped being a ratty blue couch with Kaff stains on it and became instead a Hepplewhite cabinet, with fine bone china plates and cups and saucers behind its doors.
He restored a certain measure of time-and saw Elias Tate come and go about the room, enter and leave; he saw accretional layers laminated together in sequence along the linear time axis. The Hepplewhite cupboard remained for a short series of layers; it held its passive or off or rest mode, and then it was whisked over into its active or on or motion, mode and joined the permanent world of the phylogons, participating now in all those of its class that had come before. In his projected world brain the Hepplewhite cabinet, and its bone china pieces, became incorporated into true reality forever. It would now undergo no more changes, and no one would see it but he. It was, to everyone else, in the past.
He completed the transformm with the formulary of Hermes Trismegistus: Verum est . . . quad superius est sicut quod inferius et quad inferius est sicut quad superius, ad perpetrando miracula rei unus.
That is: The truth is that what is above is like what is below and what is below is like what is above, to accomplish the miracles of the one thing.
This was the Emerald Tablet, presented to Maria Prophetissa, the sister of Moses, by Tehuti himself, who gave names to all created things in the beginning, before he was expelled from the Palm Tree Garden.
That which was below, his own brain, the microcosm, had become the macrocosm, and, inside him as microcosm now, he contained the macrocosm, which is to say, what is above.
I now occupy the entire universe, Emmanuel realized; I am now everywhere equally.
Therefore I have become Adam Kadmon, the First Man. Motion along the three spacial axes was impossible for him because he was already wherever he wished to go. The only motion possible for him or for changing reality lay along the temporal axis; he sat contemplating the world of the phylogons, billions of them in process, continually growing and completing themselves, driven by the dialectic that underlay all transformation. It pleased him; the sight of the interconnected network of phylogons was beautiful to behold. This was the kosmos of Pythagorias, the harmonious fitting-together of all things, each in its right way and each imperishable.
I see now what Plotinus saw, he realized. But, more than that, I have rejoined the sundered realms within me; I have restored the Shekhina to En Soi. But only for a little while and only locally. Only in microform. It would return to what it had been as soon as he released it.
"Just thinking," he said aloud.
Elias came into the room, saying as he came, "What are you doing, Manny?"
Causality had been reversed; he had done what Zina could do: make time run backward.
He laughed in delight. And heard the sound of bells.
"I saw Chinvat," Emmanuel said. "The narrow bridge. I could have crossed it."
"You must not do that," Elias said.
Emmanuel said, "What do the bells mean? Bells ringing far off."
"When you hear the distant bells it means that the Saoshyant is present."
"The Saviour," Emmanuel said. "Who is the Saviour, Elias?"
"It must be yourself," Elias said.
"Sometimes I despair of remembering."
He could still hear the bells, very far off, ringing slowly, blown, he knew, by the desert wind. It was the desert itself speaking to him. The desert, by means of the bells, was trying to remind him. To Elias he said, "Who am I?"
''I can't say," Elias said.
'But you know."
"You could make everything very simple," Emmanuel said, "by saying."
"You must say it yourself," Elias said. "When the time comes you will know and you will say it."
"I am-" the boy said hesitantly.