A Nice Brew & Something New is a feature that allows me the opportunity to spotlight books and authors that are new to myself and the blog. Nothing tops a nice cuppa and new book to explore! Today I am pleased to feature something truly unique to the blog, an excerpt from Justine Johnston Hemmestad’s Visions of a Dream.
Visions of a Dream
By Justine Johnston Hemmestad
Deep beyond the cascading waterfalls of the palace stood a marvel of engineering, a wonder of architecture, a dreamland that asked only to be stepped into. For centuries it had beckoned to admirers of no less dwindling numbers to be quenched by its river of beauty, like a road of diamonds sparkling in the sun so that a soaring bird might be tempted by the illusion of luminance and swoop down to drink in.
Slowly, he stretched forth his arm and lay his hand, palm down, upon the marble that was so smooth it may have been mistaken for a drape of Eastern silk. A thin, translucent sheet of water slid over his hand with a chill, pleading with him to become part of this ancient city in more aptitudes than inner knowledge.
He glanced up, toward the umbrella of plants and trees that were as though a sunburst after a storm. He could only imagine how much more lush this mountain garden was in the Spring.
“My ancestors consorted with God here, long ago.”
Alexander whirled around. “Who are you – announce yourself,” he demanded of the man who could not yet be twenty years. “Wait, I did not intend to frighten you, young man, come back. I am interested in what you say. Who are your ancestors and what do you mean by ‘consorted with God’?”
The man raised his head and returned to his previous bold stature before Alexander, cornering a respectfully mild grin. “That,” he answered, “is another story, for another time and place, for all those around you have forgotten.” Alexander took a breath, glanced to the trickling waterfall, the sound of the surging river in his ears, plummeting through his thoughts. But the young man added, “There are those who have tried to remind you, as I am to remind you.”
“What is your name?”
“I am Daniel, of the same name as my ancestor.”
“I have heard of him…from someone else.”
“I know,” Daniel said. “Jeremiah told me to find you. He told me what God wills you to know now.” Alexander nodded, humble to the knowledge of Jeremiah. “Come,” Daniel said, “I will lead you within the mountain.”
“Who built it?” Alexander asked as he followed the man beyond many plants on the lowest terrace.
Daniel shifted his loose black hair by his ear and said, “It was built by a king who wanted to bring the heavens to his wife. She was a foreigner, but abreast of her wisdom as he was, he had no doubt about who she was in truth. She longed for her homeland; she longed for Heaven. He tried to take her there, but God destroyed her memory and the thought she reached Him by. God was angered by her unwillingness to endure the hardship of separation from Him, for it was only for a time. He confused her thoughts, and without the memory of how to use her thought to reach Heaven she began to tell the king of her longing for home in words, which she had never had to use before. But the more she spoke, the more confused she became and the more she forgot the truth…” Daniel abruptly walked through one of the waterfalls, stunning Alexander. He could not believe his own sight, for there remained to be seen no sight of Daniel. He knew he must follow to learn where he had disappeared to – so Alexander walked into the waterfall without knowing where he was going.
Cold and wet on the other side, engulfed in shadowed darkness, Alexander stood to face an ajar door in the stone wall. He nudged it open, and slowly, clutching his dagger, he walked inside. Light streamed in from the sun itself through countless holes and windows in the walls to illuminate and water the many plants and trees that surrounded him. The smell itself was more of growth than of fragrance. He held the leaves of a plant between his fingers for a moment.
“Up here, King Alexander,” Daniel announced of his own presence beside another doorway. Alexander left the plants and lunged up the steps, passing beside stone walls thick with ivy, until entering the doorway. Daniel’s white tunic was smeared with a small amount of mud at his chest. “This was at one time the King’s harem,” he said.
Alexander straightened his back, saying, “I thought you said that your ancestors came here to consort with God, not a harem.” Daniel nodded. Alexander added, “I do not understand. Where was your ancestor?”
“Daniel also came. This palace was built after the king’s wife became so confused that she forgot her homeland of Heaven. This mountain is meant to symbolize the mountain that she once was before God tore her down with speech. She reached the fourth plane of love when she became unwilling. That was when God gave her a voice. She lacked courage and she consorted with the fear of explanation. She chose the fear of not being understood, over the certainty of thought. When she did that, God knew she had no more trust in Him, no will, and no more true desire. What she thought was a longing for home, He knew was her cowardice and fear, the fear of not being understood.”
Alexander sighed and closed his eyes for a lingering moment. The shadow of sunlight streamed past his eyelids; the smell of dew, soil, and mist filled his nostrils unadulterated. “There is similarity…” Alexander reflected, a lingering drop of water trickling down his cheek from his hair.
“Time,” Daniel began, “will destroy the body as the voice destroyed the mind. Doubt slithers in through the mind and rules it. Unless, both time and voice are in essence the wisdom and certainty of God. Then, time will be benevolent as Time was born to be. What is a riddle that has been spoken many times?”
“A riddle in itself,” answered Alexander.
“Right, but a true riddle devours those who are unable to solve it in their doubt. The same is true with God. My ancestor Daniel solved the riddle of the King’s dreams. The King himself could not see the writing on the wall. So who was the chosen one, who was the vessel that held the riddle? The only one who can hold such a riddle is the one who can also answer it. The dreams that God sent to the King were never meant for the King himself, they were meant of their interpreter –Daniel. Everything that he had translated the dreams to mean for the King’s rule were the very truth and soul of Daniel. The meanings were the reality in the kingdom of his far-reaching and powerful mind – the real, documented history of Heaven. The awful clues continue until the riddle is solved.”
“Daniel did not solve the riddle of his own mind?” Alexander asked, his trousers and tunic still saturated by the passage through the waterfall. His hair had only begun to fall from the sides of his neck, lightly curling as it dried somewhat in these stolen rays of light.
“Not completely,” the young man answered. “He solved as much as he was born to solve. Daniel saw the destruction of Babylon, though not by another kingdom, not even by the Assyrians. Babylon’s avenger is Time, and Time alone. This is the way that vengeance is God’s, and God’s alone. Nothing will be left standing. God’s wrath is upon Babylon, but Jerusalem will withstand time and endure.”
“What did Babylon have then? The Jews were taken as slaves here, which must have meant that something here enlightened the Jews – what was it?”
“The same thing that keeps you now. You could have sent me away, but you did not. You have listened to me, though you are King. Why? Because you know that what I say is like God speaking to you, you can see it in my eyes. I hold a piece of the puzzle that you have spent your life trying to put together. If you listen to me, the connection will be made in the kingdom of your mind.”
“They stayed for the sake of the puzzle?”
“The puzzle, or the riddle, which ever word you choose. For the ancient Babylonians, and later the enslaved Jews, that puzzle could be seen in the stars above. Astronomy is the map of the same puzzle on earth. The truth is in the stars. By mapping the stars and learning their characteristics, the Babylonians learned about each other and the characteristics that made each person unique, and they applied this knowledge to a kind of shortcut when putting the puzzle of humanity together. Many cultures interpreted God and wisdom, some even know the miracle of worshiping God’s very name, but the Babylonians taught the Jews another aspect – astronomy.”
“Like the spinning earth -” Alexander said to himself with his head lowered in thought.
“Mankind must stay in motion like the earth,” Daniel said, shifting his sandals over the debris-covered floor. “Otherwise, the riddle will never be solved and Mankind will be lost to his own passive nature. Time will destroy Him like Time will destroy Babylon. As you chase Darius, you thought chases the answer to God’s riddle.”
But Alexander shook his head, for he had yet to have opportunity to chase Darius. “What must I do,” he began, “when I cannot chase my life’s goal?”
“Darius is only the symbol of your goal, but he is not the goal itself. You will be no further once you capture him. The chase is what prolongs your days.”
“Then does justice always prevail? If the true focus is in the chase itself?”
“If the truth is in the chase, if God and the love of God are in the chase, does it matter if you catch what you have chased? To reach the goal that God has set before you, if God’s wisdom and love dwells nowhere else but in the chase – will this prolong or number your days?”
Alexander stood silent, steadily breathing for several moments. He repeated the conversation over in his mind until the words became a part of him and joined with the many other thoughts in his mind. “The chase,” he concluded aloud, “of my lifelong dream is the creation of God. As long as Mankind chases, He creates. So God has not created the world. For God to be God, He must never cease from creating. Mankind and the Word continue to be in creation as I speak.”
“True, for Man’s speech is his outward affiliation with God.”
“Not his punishment.”
“After speech, Man’s desire to reunite with God was acted upon, giving way to only being thought out. By giving Man the limitation of speech, he has opportunity to reach far beyond his thought.” Alexander nodded, intently focused.
“This is why God’s Word, His Law, was written down in Babylon. As the Jews were held captive, God’s truth was held captive with them, by their hands, as the written word. By writing God’s law down, they imprisoned the truth within so that the Babylonians, their captors, would never be as enlightened as they – living in darkness was to be their punishment. By writing the truth as parables, they held the truth under lock and key. Not until much later will the one come to give the World the key to understanding the parables, but it is only the key. Without the key He brings, Mankind will separate himself from God by reading the Law.
“Words are only the guardian of the Truth. The more words there are, the more the truth is obscured. Like Hammurabi’s legal code straightens Babylon, the written Law of God straightens Mankind. It is only without words that the truth is set free. But like the seventy-two copies of this law for the library at Alexandria, and like the seventy-two foot long Processional Way through the gates of Babylon, the path of love has seventy-two folds and countless facets. The number seventy-two symbolizes Al-Mu’akhkhir, the name of God which means The Delayer. God delays his majesty with the Word, spoken and written. God, as the Delayer, is also the Word. And Babylon’s destruction has been delayed, but the advent of her true annihilation was marked by your entrance into the city.”
“And now Babylon dies?”
“Slowly, and not by your hand, for her murderer wields the ax of Time. She will never again recover. Test God on this.”
“Why would I want to test God?”
“Because God bids you to test Him.” Daniel then bowed as though extending his apology for speaking so abruptly to his king. “Test Him. The more times He proves His Word, the sharper Time can puncture stillness. Order the Tower of Babel to be rebuilt.”
“Why – if I know I am to fail?”
“Man must do many things he know he will fail at. The importance for God lies in his doing them. It is the chase itself, remember?”
Justine Johnston Hemmestad’s TBI recovery story is in Chicken Soup for the Soul: Recovering from Traumatic Brain Injuries, and she truly hopes it can help others going through medical trauma. She began college in the mid-2000s, part time as she and her husband raised 7 kids and she continued to research and write Visions of a Dream. She he has earned her BLS from The University of Iowa and is currently working on a Master’s Degree in Literature through Northern Arizona University and she hopes to teach creative writing and literature in the future.
*I would like to extend a special thank you to Justine for her complete patience and understanding during my health hiatus last most. She has been a true joy to work with.
Have you read Justine’s work? I hope to explore it in the near future!