The performance artists had spent the entire year preparing for the Passion Plays, and now the plays are beginning in the vast global complex called the Artists Round that is located in the St. Augustine Astral Plane above the Muy Bonita Hotel. The complex is specially designed to accommodate all the various arts, from the most abstruse to the most literal. The audience are performers as well so they are able to judge the quality of the performances. They have an award system that includes two awards, the Artist Most Admired award, called the AMA, and the Performance Most Admired, called the PMA.
The AMA and the PMA awards are much sought after and, given the results of the awards, all are hoping to achieve them. The result is that the artists are granted the opportunity to visit the Beautiful Plane in person for a few moments to experience the beauty of it. This motivates them to perfect their performances to become more prepared for the plane when they finally go forward into it.
Some of the artists are, technically speaking, not performance artists but are involved in the theatrical arts and in the performing arts. They also gather at the Artists Round and are given specific theatres in which to prepare their performances. This time, however, the Artists Round is dedicated to the Passion Plays, although the theatre, on Level 2, is open as well for the individual performing arts. On Level 2, the singers embody the angelic choir, and the musicians embody the angelic musicians. No one wants to miss this because the celestial music produced is beyond anything imaginable.
George and Mavis decide to look for Louise at the Artists Round because they know the Cuts Ups will be in performance there. They get a little bit lost in trying to find the front door because the round building goes around and around and around forever. It needs to be this vast because all the performance artists in the vast Astral Plane are in town to give their performances. The building also has infinite hotel rooms, as needed.
Unless George and Mavis ask a doorkeeper or a watcher for assistance, they may never find the front of the building. The doorkeeper stops the eternal rotation of the complex long enough to allow them to find the main entrance. Mavis is a little exasperated by the set up and mechanism of this complex, but the watcher tells her, "Relax!"
They see the almost infinitely long roster of performers and decide to do a "root search" for the Cut Ups. A root search will put them in exactly the right place within the complex the moment the search engine finds the name of the artist or artists group. George types in "Cut Ups" in the root search window and instantly they are transported to Level 4 of the Round.
The Artists Round is designed by the architect Daedalus, who bases his design upon the Divine Plan. Like the Creation, the Round has 10 levels with no hierarchy involved in the levels. Level 10 is, in the Creation, the Creator Plane but is no more prestigious than Level 1 which is, in the Creation, the Physical Plane. Like the Creation, Level 10 is not higher up than Level 1, just much more expansive. It can hold more performers.
One of the nice things about this design is it eliminates aggressive competition. Everyone is equal, and only the participation of the audience matters. This takes a little getting used to for certain new people who are accustomed to being in the limelight, but that is because of the need for ego gratification on the Physical Plane. In the Astral Plane, ego gratification is no longer a driving force. Somehow, it begins to drop off when the body drops off.
Mavis and George find the Cuts Ups in performance on brightly lighted Level 4 and decide to stay and take in the entire performance. Louise is playing the part of LoverGirl in a stage play conceived of by JuicyGirl. In this script, LoverGirl is being molested by her employer, a man who is trying to avoid getting caught fooling around on his wife. Instead of taking the honorable path and just telling his wife he wants a divorce, he decides on the dubious path of hanging onto his wife's money and molesting the young girl who works in their home as a maid on Wednesdays and Thursdays. This is a sex play script that JuicyGirl came up with after hearing part of Louise's life story.
In the play LoverGirl is trying to push the man away and get away from him, but he has her trapped in the bathroom where she was cleaning the toilet. He is shoving her against the wall and grabbing her all over her body while his wife is away at the hairdressers. LoverGirl is trying to get away from him but he won't let her out of the bathroom. His molestation takes a nasty turn into violence when he rapes her on the bathroom floor. Louise was only fifteen. The event disillusioned her to the extent that it marked the beginning of her downhill slide into drugs and prostitution. The man who did it continued on this rotten path with the other maids, one after another, until his wife caught on to his activities and shot and killed him.
The man is in the audience to view the play as part of his Personal Redemption Plan, called a PRP, where he has to watch himself and his lascivious actions acted out on the stage by his helpless, innocent victim. Then he has to endure seeing how he negatively influenced the rest of her life. He is crying as he experiences the passion of his past life. But this is good. If he can't feel empathy with his victim, he might have to become a Go Back and experience the event from the other side of it. This is as close to a concept of Karma as one finds on the Astral Plane, but the Passion Plays are designed to obviate the need for any kind of karmic readjustments.
The Creator does not want the Physical Plane cluttered with people who are hardheaded and who return to continue their behavior rather than to experience the aftermath of it. Some people might get addicted to the Physical Plane because it is the only place in the Creation where this kind of thing can happen. Only in the actions of humans on the Physical Plane can evil find a place to live, and not even in the humans themselves but in their actions. Humans are divine beings but their actions sometimes are not, so evil can live in the context of their actions. Once evil gets hold of a person and convinces them to continue those actions in order to give it a place to live, the Ecstasy of the Creation is lost to them.
As the Cut Ups continue their Passion Plays, George and Mavis decide to enter the Level 4 lobby to visit some other performances. They see one that looks interesting and enter the theatre. In this Passion Play, BridgeGenius is reenacting the circumstances leading up to his suicide. He is at a bridge tournament playing for the World Championship when his little boy runs out of the hotel into the busy street and is struck and killed by a car. This is just a small part of the play, however, because most of it is taken up by BridgeGenius endlessly berating the paramedics for not saving the boy's life, as though it is their fault the child died.
The child is played by the little boy himself so that everyone can see the point of the play. It is not mortality we need to be concerned with but our treatment of others in any circumstance, even the most dire. This kind of Passion Play is popular because so many people relate to it. Not everyone commits suicide on account of something they can't help, but everyone has blamed someone else for their troubles. What is really interesting to George and Mavis about this play is that two of the paramedics are played by DontBugMe and MaliciousCode, who apparently are practicing for parts with the Shadow Breakers.
DontBugMe plays the part of the paramedic who keeps trying to explain to BridgeGenius that they did all they could. MaliciousCode plays the part of the paramedic who pronounces the child dead based on the kooky ticker tape running behind him that doubles as a make-believe EKG machine. The ticker tape is giving him stock prices. MaliciousCode's paramedic is trying to interest BridgeGenius in life because his stocks are going up, up, up and therefore there is some reason to continue to live. BridgeGenius of course is not interested at all and in the next scene he walks out into the path of traffic and is killed. Now the paramedics are charged with saving BridgeGenius' life, but of course they can't.
"What do you think?" asks Mavis.
"Not bad at all," replies George. But they both know that DontBugMe and MaliciousCode have a long way to go before they can play the parts of Praetorian Guards. Still, it does them credit that they are practicing in the Passion Plays.
The next play they watch on Level 4 is a play put on by a prison guard who is responsible for the death of one of his prisoners. In this play, the prisoner plays the part of the guard and the guard plays the part of the prisoner. The value of this is clear. Neither one of them will elect to become Go Backs because both are involved in understanding the passion and the events of their lives that threw them into conflict.
George decides to check the root search for the Bored Players but can't pull up any information about them. He is sorry about that because he knows the Bored Players are just being obstinate, and this will get them nowhere.
"Let's check another way," suggests Mavis. "I can hardly believe that Ralph Dragon and MetaphorMan would miss the Passion Plays."
They check under Saint George and the Dragon and are transported instantly to Level 6, where the play is being performed. Entering the theatre, they see Ralph Dragon and MetaphorMan performing the play. But the play, without StumbleBlock to direct it, is taking a strange turn, one that Mavis finds pleasing.
Ralph Dragon plays Saint George, and MetaphorMan plays the part of a cartoon artist who is drawing the play as a cartoon. This makes for a divine comedy that causes the audience to laugh out loud. To see Ralph Dragon on the back of GoryGuy, who is playing the part of the horse led by John Simpleton, is enough to make anyone whoop and holler.
When the dragon rides in on the horse, MetaphorMan produces an empty colorful caption above his head, like cartoon art. The audience suspends their disbelief long enough to forget the dragon is playing the part of Saint George, and instead just imagines the dragon. This makes it wonderful performance art because, upon imagining it, each member of the audience is cast in the role of the cartoon dragon they imagine into the empty caption. Then, they have sympathy with the dragon after having the experience of feeling a spear pass through their bodies.
At that point, they fall out of the caption and roll on the floor and are dead. Sometimes they are only injured. This comedy is derived from tragedy and probably is going to win the Performance Most Admired award. Ralph Dragon could possibly win the Artist Most Admired award, if it doesn't go to GoryGuy for playing the horse that the dragon rode in on. GermyGirl is playing the part of the spear and she also stands to win admiration for playing to the hilt the irony of her role. Once she passes through someone's body as a spear, she turns herself into a nurse and then goes to heal the injured. The humor of GermyGirl as a nurse is not lost on anyone in the audience. Everyone gets a big kick out of that as well.
"They're going to win it," Mavis declares. "You wait and see."
"Wonder what happened to StumbleBlock?" says George.
"Creative differences, most likely," says Mavis. "You know StumbleBlock never allows the Bored Players to play comedy as long as he is the director."
"Looks like the Bored Players are due for a name change," says George, smiling, "because it sure isn't boring anymore."
Just as they turn to leave the theatre, something catches George's eye. "Look! Can you see?" he says excitedly to Mavis.
"What?" asks Mavis.
"The ghost. Look at the ghost in the third row from the back, in the center. Look right there!" George points to the glowing transparent figure in the chair. "Can you see?"
"Yes, I see it!" she says in excitement.
"It's the Saint," says George. "He's witnessing the play. He's laughing! Oh, he loves it!"
George's voice is overheard, and the whisper goes out into the audience, "The Saint is here! The Saint is here!"
The players on stage, on hearing the whispers, stop their play to ask the Saint to stand so everyone can see him. "Ladies and gentlemen," announces Ralph Dragon. "Saint George is in the audience!" The theatre is suddenly abuzz with excitement, as Saint George rises as requested. Everyone waves to the Saint, who waves back at them and vanishes.
"Now I know they're going to win," declares Mavis.
Later on, Mavis and George have their chance to speak with Louise, who thanks them kindly for finding her such a wonderful place to live but informs them that she and MetaphorMan are making plans to become Go Backs. George wants to hear more about this, although Mavis seems to intuitively understand it. Louise promises George to talk more with him about it later when the Passion Plays have ended, when she and MetaphorMan can get together with them and discuss it at length. This pacifies George and he hopes that Gary Gravestone will hold the room at the fort just a little longer until he makes sure Louise is positive in her decision.
Mavis is crying a little, but out of happiness not sadness. She loves it that Louise has found direction in her new life and she doesn't judge the direction Louise is choosing. Direction is all that matters, as long as it is personally beneficial, as long as no one is being harmed by it, and as long as it doesn't upset the direction of anyone else's life. All and all, thinks Mavis, the visit to the Artists Round is, as usual, a great entertaining, exciting, and educational event.
George sees how touched Mavis is by Louise's choice to go back. Just at that moment the Saint suggests something to George, something that might just work, an idea that Mavis might like.
"Mavis, dear," he says, "it's not too late to reserve a theatre. We could find StumbleBlock and see if he is interested in joining us in a Passion Play."
"Why not? It might work and it could be illuminating for us, as well." Mavis knows, as wives always seem to, what their husbands are thinking. George is thinking about putting on a play about their lives and including StumbleBlock in the production. She looks at her always-compassionate husband, and her love for him shows on her shining face. He can't resist kissing her.
A few plans need to be made, but the management of the Artists Round is helpful. When George explains to them what the play is about and that it involves recreating large sections of old St. Augustine in 1704, the management of the Round opens a vast theatre on Level 10 and posts a marquee announcing auditions. Word gets around right away that two of the St. Augustine Shadow Breakers are planning to do a production of their play, "Virtual Reality, Death, and Remembrance." Although the three main parts have already been cast, many supporting parts are available, and of course many positions are available for performers who want to perform the props and sets.
Rumor has it that this is a one-performance-only production. This causes the excitement to build, and reservations for seats are already beginning to pour in. The management puts the theatre on automatic expansion mode so it automatically produces as many seats as needed. In automatic expansion mode, the theatre also automatically readjusts the location of the stage so all the seats are the best seats in the house. This is a software programming marvel created by Daedalus, who bases it on his understanding of the automatically expanding universe.
Stage relocation is accomplished by the use of special holograph equipment that requires especially skilled technicians. DontBugMe and MaliciousCode apply for positions as assistant technicians, just so they can gain experience operating the holograph projectors. Before accepting them, however, the management reviews their resumes and notes they both give George as a reference. After checking with George, who gives them the nod of approval, the management offers them both the positions of Assistant Holographic Technicians. DontBugMe and MaliciousCode are beside themselves with joy to work with the Astral Plane's best holographic technicians and equipment. Most of them hold Masters Degrees in Projection from the History of God Academy in Beulah Land. This dream come true is because of George and Mavis.
Several people apply right away to play historical props and sets. They are accepted by Mavis, who reviews all the applications while George makes a visit to StumbleBlock. As Mavis accepts the applicants they go right away onto San Marco Avenue, St. George Street, and Cordova Street to begin their historical research for the parts. The virtual reality play takes place on these three streets, and the auditions are being held on Earth Street.
The presence of the performers on these streets produces what the ghost tour guides in St. Augustine are calling "significant ghost activity," and the ghost tours quickly fill up with tourists hoping to glimpse some of the ghosts. Many orbs are photographed during this time, as the performers prepare for their parts as props and sets. One lady, who took a picture of her husband and son against the wall of the old fort, on developing the film was greeted with the ghostly image of a smiling Osceola in the center of the two men, his arms around their shoulders.
Most of the artists auditioning for the supporting cast are professionals with experience. Many of them are patiently waiting for a chance to perform the screams at Maria Sanchez Lake, when Maria ever decides to go forward. The audition line will surely be long for that part. The part of the backstabbed and staggering Spanish solider on Aviles Street was recently recast when the soldier went forward. Everyone knows the gangster ghosts at St. Augustine House are destined to become Go Backs, so no one is interested in those parts. That house might actually become unhaunted, a rarity in the annals of house hauntings, but that Gary Gravestone will never let it sit empty as long as there are ghosts looking for houses to haunt.
The ghost pirates are not giving up their posts anytime soon, and even when they do the parts will be recast with less aggressive players. The audition line will be long for those parts, considering there is a ghost ship involved and several cannons to shoot. So there is not much left right now in St. Augustine available to good ghost professionals. Consequently, the audition line for parts in the new Passion Play is winding long.
A group arrives from Animal Heaven that includes animals who want to play the animal parts in the Passion Play. This is exciting for Mavis because she loves to cast these parts. What fun to be in the company of ascended animals. Several thousand people show up to watch these auditions and to see the animal parts cast.
SmartyCat, a beautiful Calico, gets the part of the intelligent house cat, and a dog named Roll-Over-Play-Dead gets the part of the faithful watchdog. A rabbit named BunnyRabbit gets the part of the Easter bunny, a parakeet named Tweeter gets the part of the singing caged bird, a horse named CharleyHorse gets the part of the carriage horse, and a bird named Corinthian gets the part of the pigeon. A wolf named GhostWolf gets the part of the ghost dog, and two cats named Muffy and Scruffy are cast in the parts of the ghost cats. Footsy the Squirrel is cast as the squirrel, and Rocky the Raccoon gets the part of the raccoon. Sterling the Deer gets the part of the deer hit by the carriage, but Mavis rewrites the part so that Sterling is only a slightly injured. Several other animal players arrive and are given supporting parts to play in filling out the sets for the scenes of old St. Augustine.
Mavis is not sure how to cast the elephants, lions, tigers, and zebras and other animals not indigenous to Florida but she finally realizes to station them with the Bushmen, who she also doesn't know how to cast. When she asks the animals if they are interested in playing the parts of animals in a petting zoo, they all agree to it, and the Bushmen enjoy the idea of organizing and running the zoo, which is outside the theatre on Level 10 as an added attraction. When management hears about the petting zoo, a special section is added to the theatre that begins to expand as more animals from Animal Heaven come to be part of the zoo. When the word gets around that there are plenty of animal parts, more animals from Animal Heaven show up to audition and are given parts to play in a reenactment of a marshy swamp. Management creates another special section outside the theatre for the swamp reenactment.
Finally, Mavis throws up her hands in exasperation. She wonders how to cast all these animals that keep showing up, but George reminds her they can always call on Noah to bring his Ark. All the animals love that. So Noah is contacted and he agrees to come with his Ark. The management once again creates another section outside the theatre, this time to accommodate Noah's Ark. All the animals, two by two, begin to get onto the Ark that also is on automatic expansion mode.
When word gets around that all the animal parts are cast and that Noah is making a special appearance with his Ark, the theatre automatically expands again. Everybody and everything wants to be part of this Passion Play.
Most of the ghost professionals are accepted and parts created for them. Mavis doesn't want to leave anyone out. They are already in rehearsal, using part of the script that George placed on file with the theatre management. Word gets around far and wide that the performers are saying the play is a "total knock out." This interest in the play causes the theatre to automatically expand again, and it is now as large as the area of physical St. Augustine. This is going to be a huge reenactment.
On the Physical Plane, tourists are pouring in from all directions, attracted to the energy and hoping to see the ghosts. Sitings are numerous from one end of downtown to the other, and ghost tour companies are advertising in the local newspaper for more tour guides.
George finds StumbleBlock in his room on St. Francis Street, where he is supposed to be elaborately haunting the inn, but everyone knows he has been neglecting his post. The inn is a choice haunt, and when StumbleBlock moves on, a long line will form to audition for the part of inn ghost.
His door locked and his windows closed, StumbleBlock is not interested in visitors. George bangs on the door several times before StumbleBlock answers.
"What do you want?"
"Block, what's wrong with you? The Passion Plays are ongoing and here you sit in your room."
"MetaphorMan and Ralph Dragon turned against me," says StumbleBlock sullenly.
"Ok," agrees George. "Maybe they did, but I want to ask you for a favor."
"What?" says StumbleBlock, still refusing to open the door.
"I want to know if you will appear in a play with me and Mavis about historical St. Augustine. We have a great part for you, a main character part, and we want you to be in the play with us."
StumbleBlock is taken aback by this. He has never been invited by any Shadow Breaker to be in a play. All he can think about is how MetaphorMan and Ralph Dragon will envy him. He opens the door and accepts George's offer. George tells him to go to the Artists Round to pick up the script, that he will really love his part.
"Yeah?" says StumbleBlock, finally smiling.
"Yeah," says George, nodding and smiling back at him.
THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE CURIOUS
My life has taken a strange turn. I just received a threatening phone call from Gladys Kurtz and I can't imagine why. But I am wise enough to be worried about it. When someone calls you on the phone and tells you that you are going to die if you do not stop writing a book, you have to take into consideration that perhaps you should stop writing the book. Unless the book is writing you, in which case you have no choice but to continue.
My roommate Stephen is sympathetic and also quite curious about what motive Gladys might have for threatening my life. So he decides, bless his heart, to go try to find out.
"How are you going to do that?" I ask him.
"Simple. I'll just shadow her a bit and see where it leads. I have a day off, and she doesn't know me from Adam. I'll tail her around and just see what I can find out."
"Thanks, Stephen. I really appreciate it. I can't believe she threatened me. I just can't believe it."
"Don't worry about it," he says. "I'll find out as much as I can and be back later."
Soon after he leaves I get a phone call from a producer at National Journey TV who wants to come interview me about the Phaistos Disk. I am thrilled of course and I make plans with her. She says she will email me some contracts to sign and as soon as she gets them back, she will finalize a trip for their production team to St. Augustine. I am so excited that I call Laurel in Atlanta to let her know, and she too is thrilled.
"I knew it!" she says. "I just knew it! Work like that just can't go unnoticed."
"Archeologists probably are not going to accept it," I remind her. "You need to be an archeologist if you are going to solve a great archeological mystery and get recognition for it."
"Well, I agree it's something they can choose to ignore. It's not like you discovered another pyramid on the Giza Plateau. They couldn't ignore something they can trip over. But let that be their problem, not yours. All you care about is that your work gets out there, right?"
"Right." I was originally planning to tell her about the book but I don't see how I can do that without also telling her about the phone call from Gladys. Laurel is already worried about me. I don't want to cause her any more concern, so I decide not to mention the book. We chat some more about her son and his work as an artist and also about her work as an energy healer, then hang up.
Out on Nine Run Road, Jimmy Dobbs waits for Gladys at their usual rendezvous but something scary happens. A patrol car goes by and then another car. Both cars turn around and come back by. The men in the cars glance at Jimmy just a little too long, and he thinks he recognizes Chief of Police Warner Thompson. As he is starting his car to leave, Gladys suddenly gets in. He would have left anyway but when Gladys gets in she starts an argument about The Man and his instructions to Jimmy to kill her. The argument becomes so heated that Jimmy gets sucked into it and forgets to drive off, and neither of them notices the palmetto fronds rustling on Jimmy's side of the car, near the ditch, or see the face of the man peering at them from behind the fronds.
"What I told you still holds," says Gladys. "I'm going to kill her."
"When?" says Jimmy, partly in disbelief. "Why don't you just clear out your bank account and get out of town? You have a chance to make it anywhere. You have the money you need, you have everything it takes to start over anywhere you want to." Jimmy is again trying to talk sense to Gladys.
"Jimmy, I was born here. My parents were born here. Their parents were born here, and their parents were born here. Where is it you think I can go? I have roots in this town that go way deep. I am not going to just pull them up and move out. Are you kidding? I can get away with murder if I want to. They'll cover for me. We take care of each other. That's the way it's always been and that's the way it always will be. Now give me that bag and let me do what I can to straighten all this out." Gladys can really be hardheaded, thinks Jimmy, as he hands her the little bag of white rocks.
"And Jimmy," she says menacingly. "I hear you've got some new girls. Well, let me tell you something. You keep them where they belong in their part of town and you keep me connected, you understand? I'm not going to give up anything. I want my life the way it is, I want you to keep on giving me the names, and I am going to keep on giving those men what they want. And that is the way it is going to be, understand?"
Jimmy agrees. What else can he do, he thinks? Gladys gets out of the car and walks quickly to her car and drives off. As Jimmy sits and thinks about what to tell The Man, he is startled by a voice behind him.
"Jimmy boy," says a man's voice. "I got something for ya." That's the last thing Jimmy hears as his breath is strangled out of him. He doesn't even see the face of his killer. The only good thing about it is that he is not alive when the words "St. Aug" are carved into his forehead.
Page 1 - A Ghost Tour | Light of Recognition
Page 2 - Deus Madre