Almost a full day later the group started its ascent. The tunnel was elevating, and they could see a narrow stairway that ended with a large door. Light emanated from behind it, illuminating the path in long streaks. The children’s eyes had become so accustomed to the dim lamps along the tunnels walls that the doorway was like radiant beacon.
“We’re here, right?’ Hanu asked hopefully.
Even Sadie was too tired to have a bad attitude. “Please tell me we’re done when we get up these stairs,” she said.
Up until this point, they had stopped asking Ellie questions because she would often stop walking to over-explain. Then they were stuck listening politely while she prattled on and on. By the end of her rants they would forget what the question was, let alone if it had been answered. If the tunnel didn’t have so many off shooting side tunnels they probably would have just went on ahead without her.
But the children were desperate this time, and in need of some reassurance. Not having slept in quite a while, they were at their limit.
“This is the last stretch, I promise,” Ellie said, smiling cheerfully. “That staircase leads to Deprogramming. It’s just a big cave, though, so don’t expect anything too fancy.”
And then she stopped again. “Alright, before we get all the way up there I’ll have to warn you guys- Paula’s one tough cookie. I mean, I’m not trying to say anything bad about anyone, you know….but, anyway, we all are different, and all… So, Paula-”
But Hanu stopped listening. He was looking at Ellie now in the dim lamplight. She had been so energetic this whole trip, even as they rested. Back at the Bathtub Resort she looked to be pretty old, though. He wondered how she was so lively all the time. He could see the lines around her mouth and eyes, exaggerated by the light. He wondered if she was so pale because she spent all of her time in this dark tunnel. And maybe that’s why she was so… talkative. But still, she was very pleasant.
“So just remember to be respectful, and just follow your instincts is all you have to do,” she continued nervously. And then she started walking again. “Well come along, now. We really have to stop stopping like this, guys!”
Hanu continued walking, laughing to himself.
“This lady is nuts,” Vanessa whispered as she passed him, then she broke out into hysterical laughter. Then a raspy voice came from just ahead on the stairway.
“You morons are lucky I didn’t call for the tunnel to be collapsed. What’s the hold up?”
They hadn’t noticed the woman at the bottom of the staircase. She stopped just close enough to talk to them, holding both hands behind her back.
“Oh, hi Paula! It was my fault, of course… well, and then we had to rest, you know,” she explained as she twisted a sleeve of her robe.
Paula stood on the bottom step, looking at them with inscrutable eyes.
“Just hurry up before I change my mind about collapsing the tunnel,” she sighed. Then she turned on her heels and started climbing the stairs. The group followed Paula silently for the rest of the walk. She moved rather quickly, so they had to push themselves to keep pace.
When they reached the top they were surprised to see that the large cavern was quite hospitable. A large pool took up the majority of the ground, leaving room only for a long table surrounded by chairs. Hanu could see several other doorways along the shore of the pool. They probably led to other secret entrances like the one at the Bathtub Resort, he thought. Stairs were built along the cave wall, giving access to various cavities enclosed by stone or glass.
“Woah, this is amazing!” Hanu exclaimed, looking at the waterfall on the other side of the pool. Above the rocks was a clear statue. It looked exactly the same as the tools Harris used to scramble their signals. It had a large base with a pointed top. But this one had a metal wire coiled around it. Hanu wondered if it was used to keep this place hidden.
“Can we drink this water?” Ester asked, looking into the pool.
“Not just yet, kiddos,” Paula said. “First I’ll tell you how Deprogramming works, then we’ll have to lay down some ground rules.”
Paula wore a green tunic over white pants and her wavy hair fell down her copper cheeks like waterfalls. In the light of the cavern Hanu could see that she might have been even older than Ellie. Her face was kind, but stern. Hanu didn’t need the warning that Ellie had given- he wouldn’t have messed with this woman out of sheer common sense.
“Uh, excuse me, Paula,” Ellie interjected. “Don’t forget to let them know we’ll be feeding them. You know, they’re young and… well, they should be good and hungry by now.”
“Of course, as long as I can speak without interruption,” Paula continued. “My name is Paula. I won’t bother with your names because I will forget them. You’ll have to excuse me, but too many people come through here for me to bother. I’ll learn them eventually, as you’ll be here for six days, at least. You’re obviously here either for refuge or because of an awakening to the treachery of our current situation up there. Either way, you will have to shed your old ways of thinking and step into some truths. If you turn your attention to the waterfall-” and she gestured toward the pool, “-you’ll see what is called a pyramid- they don’t teach you about these in school anymore. Not only does this act as a power generator, but it draws in disharmonic energy and converts it into a higher frequency. In essence, it creates a healing space for everything around it. Negative programming and thought forms will be released, if that’s what you agree to do.”
“Excuse me, but what do you mean, if that’s what we agree to do?” Hanu interrupted.
“It means you don’t have to be deprogrammed if you don’t want to. It’s your choice. But your being here is evidence enough that you do not wish to continue living under the regime of our current invaders, so I don’t see you opposing the opportunity to shed the thought forms they have implanted within you,” she explained impatiently.
Hanu was still confused, but he didn’t want to inconvenience her by asking more questions, so he was relieved when Sadie spoke up.
“I’m sorry, but what are thought forms?” she asked.
“A simple thought form is a collection of presuppositions and ideas that define a group’s thinking. Naturally, it is created and agreed upon by a group,” Paula explained. “But the Ancient Ones, who harbor deep knowledge of the mind, implant thought forms within humans that serve their own best interest. Your thoughts and desires become what the Ancient Ones wish for you to think and desire.”
Hanu thought about his reaction earlier at the Bathtub Resort. The voices he had heard- ’you won’t die if you just turn yourself over to the Ancient Ones… This man poisoned you, but the Ancients know how to stop it…’
“You will be shedding those programs that do not serve your true selves, and it requires nothing more than you to be willing to do so. During your stay here, I will be determining if you are safe enough to go to the Underground. We’ve had artificial humans and other spies attempt to find our location in the past, so we can’t be too careful,” she said, but then she paused too long, giving Ellie an opportunity to interrupt.
“Um, Paula, I just want to remind you… I mean, are you going to tell them about the safety rules, you know-” she started.
“Just as soon as I can continue, yes, Ellie. I will tell them about the safety rules,” she said, walking over to the staircase now.
There was a black box on the wall that looked like a cabinet. She unlocked it to reveal a rather large keypad with a blinking button. “Now our main priority here is to keep the Underground safe. Thousands of people rely on our vigilance and ability to keep them hidden. So these are our non-negotiable procedures in case we are invaded or otherwise attacked. First, any intruder in our tunnels will both trigger an alarm and unlock this box. It is everyone’s first duty to come to this box and activate document destruction by hitting the blinking button, which will cause the data room-” and she pointed to one of the doors on the opposite shore of the pool. “-to explode, destroying all of our evidence. Then, we must escape through that tunnel.” And she pointed to another door underneath the stairway. Hanu looked at the keypad, putting the procedures in his memory.
“And one last thing,” she added. “If we are captured you must kill us before they take us away. You have not been to the Underground, but Ellie and I have. They could glean valuable information from our minds if we are captured.”
And now the children looked at each other, wide eyed. They were mortified.
“Good stuff, Paula,” Ellie said, mock clapping and nodding excitedly. “Now come on guys, let’s eat and then I’ll show you to your rooms. We need some rest!”
Later on that night, after everyone ate and washed up, Hanu found himself in his room. Vanessa and Sadie were paired into one, and he and Ester shared another. The living quarters were incredibly cool and dry compared to the humidity of the cavern. There were four beds and a dresser, and not much else. It was the most inviting sight he’d seen in days.
Hanu dropped onto his bed, face first, and sank into the soft herringbone comforter. He watched as Ester raised a hand to the glass wall, palm forward, and looked out over the pool.
“Ester?” he said.
“What is it, Hanu?” she asked, still looking at the pool.
“How do you know things? I mean, how can you tell things are going to happen? Like meeting at the fountain, and about Harris?” he asked. Ester thought for a while, stroking her dark hair.
“I don’t know how I know, I just know. Sometimes when I look at someone, I can tell what they’re thinking or what’s going to happen to them,” she explained. “For instance, when we got into the Convoy at the Flush, I knew we’d be escaping that day. I didn’t actually know we would be meeting at the fountain, though. I felt like we needed to stick together, so I said something about it, hoping everyone would know when the time was right.”
“If you know so much, then why are you so quiet all the time? You could really help people,” he said.
“Well, talking too much is what landed me at the Flush in the first place. And then the psychiatrist kept giving me more drugs, so I just learned to stay quiet about those things. Eventually, I stopped talking at all, because why talk with others if it can’t be authentic?” she said, getting in her own bed.
“Ester?” Hanu said once more. He could feel himself drifting to sleep, but he had to know. “Will we be okay?”
“I hope so, Hanu,” she said quietly.
And they fell asleep.
The next day Paula called a meeting. The gang dragged themselves down the stairs, feeling the full brunt of the nonstop workout they’d had in the last couple days.
“Good afternoon, sleepyheads,” Paula said. “We’ll have some breakfast after a while, when Ellie wakes up. But first, there are some basic truths I want you to start chewing on right away. If any of you happen to still harbor piercing admiration for the Ancient Ones and their pets, the Council, you will unfortunately be disillusioned right now. I am going to share with you a little history of our planet.”
Paula gestured for them to have a seat at the long table. There was a very large and very tattered book pulled out. Its spine was about six inches thick, and if its paper was ever white, it had turned to a dark brown color now. The book had no title or author on its leather cover.
Paula opened the book to the first page. It showed a picture of a tall, pale birdman ushering humans into a temple.
“This is the Tome of the Earth. This one is merely a replica of the original, which is kept in a secret place in the Underground, but it contains all of the wisdom and history accumulated over recorded time,” she said.
“Are we going to read the whole thing?” Hanu asked, leaning in to look at the picture. There was very small handwriting underneath it.
“No, that would take forever. I’m going to point out the most important details and then you all will be free to peruse it at your leisure. Let’s begin,” she said, smoothing out the page. “The Ancient Ones, are indeed ancient. They never lied about that. As early as seven thousand years ago they have been materializing in our world for a time. They always come during times of strife to reel humanity back in from the brink of self-destruction, and humanity is grateful to have a higher being to follow. The Ancient Ones claim to be our creators and teach humans how to live properly in their eyes, and they leave an explicit set of rules to follow upon their departure. Sometimes they ask for blood sacrifices and sometimes they give us rules on diet or societal structure. Every time they leave, though, they make sure that the ones they have groomed to control us-and their progeny- continue to uphold those rules.”
“You mean the Council?” Hanu interrupted.
“Exactly,” Paula said.
“And in the past, Kings and Queens, and Emperors, and Pharaohs right?” Sadie said. “They were telling us in school how they were appointed by the Gods.”
“Yes, that is all true,” Paula continued. “Now ordinarily this wouldn’t be such a bad thing, but they are not who they say they are. They claim to come from different planets in the galaxy- and they may- but it looks more like they are coming from a different dimension. You see, even when they aren’t walking amongst us, they are able to influence us mentally- just as they do now. They are a parasitic race that can both inspire us to make beautiful art-” and she turned to a page with a colorful mosaic. “-or terrible weapons,” she said, turning to another page with a violently orange mushroom cloud. This illustration had a description along the bottom.
“These beings have been historically known as the offspring of Apate or the Army of Set. They’ve also been called Titans, Fallen Angels, or Nephilim. Whatever their names, we are sure of one thing: They have been trying to take over our planet for centuries using nuclear war. It’s the same pattern in each epoch,” Paula went on.
“Why do they want to take over Earth? And what’s wrong with their planet?” Hanu had a million questions. “And why do they keep getting us to destroy our planet if they want it for themselves?”
“They abandoned their own planet,” Paula said, flipping to another page. This one contained a picture of a humanoid figure with various colored dots lined along its center, and it was shrouded in different colored spheres. “The natural progression of intelligent life forms is to grow mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually- all in balance. These beings neglected their emotional and spiritual bodies for a great deal of their species’ evolution, and so they became devoid of them. It’s very important for you to understand that a planet and its intelligent life are one. They’ve compromised their planet, and now they need a new one to live on.”
“Well that still doesn’t answer why they would make us bomb our own planet,” Ester said.
“And why don’t they just kill us all off and take over for good?” Sadie added.
The children leaned in closer to Paula. This was the history lesson they never got at the Flush, and they were thoroughly enthralled.
“Well, if you think about it, I just told you why they won’t kill us off,” Paula said, pointing at the picture. “A planet and its life forms are one. If the intelligent life is altered, so is the planet itself. If the intelligent life is extinct, so is the planet. They only wish to alter us, for control, but not completely eradicate us, because our planet will also die.”
Then Paula took a minute to find another page in the book. This one had a diagram of a smaller mushroom cloud with even more tiny little words littering the page.
“They cause us to drop nuclear blasts specifically. Every epoch they inspire scientists and military leaders to create the same weapon of war. The military uses it to wipe out the enemy, unknowing that what they are really doing is creating a way for the Ancients to enter our reality. The energetic output blasts a hole through interdimensional space, allowing them to enter our dimension in physical form. This blast terraforms our atmosphere for a time, but they cannot survive for more than a couple hundred years here. As of late they have been working hard to keep our atmosphere in their ideal conditions- hence the spraying in our atmosphere and weather controlling devices. I’m sure you poor kids have never heard of rain until a few days ago. I heard it was a beautiful sight,” she said, gazing longingly over at the pool.
“When the water was falling from the sky,” Ester told Hanu, who was the only one looking quite confused. Apparently the girls knew that that was rain, and that it was a normal weather pattern, because they were all nodding their heads.
“Killing people off with the blast is, unfortunately, a clever tactic for them though,” Paula continued. “It would serve to kill most of the peaceful people, leaving only war minded individuals. It’s easier to control the competitive and war-wounded types. Those are the ones who believe that humanity is nothing more than animals that need to be caged by a higher being.”
Then Paula flipped through the pages, deciding which one she’d discuss next. There was an occasional, you guys are too young for that, or that’s too scary to think about, which made Hanu nervous. He wanted to glimpse the photos but didn’t want to be stuck trying to push images out of his mind. His imagination already wandered too far as it was. He did, however, accidentally glance a shot of an Ancient One whose chest cavity was opened. The page was titled, Basic Make-Up of an Ancient.
“Here we go,” she finally said, pointing to an illustration of the human brain. “So how do they control us? They use media, schooling, and drugs. At the beginning of the first real influential war before the Ancients arrived this time around, some idiot created the television. This device was just a box that you had to look into and it would send you messages. There would be an overt message, such as “our economy is worse than it’s ever been. Lend a helping hand to a good neighbor.” But then there was a covert message, subliminally sent directly to your brain, such as “our economic problems were orchestrated by Jewish people. We need to get rid of them.” That, in conjunction with other mind controlling devices worked well enough to kill millions of Jewish people in that country.”
Hanu thought about the news anchors that visited the social room every morning and the movies that they would occasionally watch at the Flush. What messages could they be sending to the patients?
“Then there are the various drugs in our food, water and air that shut down both our higher levels of thinking and our foresight. Those drugs, in conjunction with the frequencies they’re shooting off from these towers, keep us content with the state of things as they are,” she continued. “As far as schooling, you spend your days memorizing useless bits of information that have no actual practicality in the real world.”
“And that’s why I never did my homework!” Sadie said, laughing. Hanu and the others frowned. Apparently they had always done theirs.
“Neither did I,” Paula said, smiling at Sadie.
“Okay, so the Ancient Ones are trying to take over our world, but they haven’t figured all the kinks out yet,” Hanu said, sitting back in his chair. “Why did they bother building the mental hospitals? Why don’t they just kill the ones who are malfunctioning?”
“What do you mean, malfunctioning?” Paula asked, sitting up.
“You know. I hear voices and Ester know things, and Sadie has... well I don’t know what’s wrong with Sadie except she gets mad a lot. And Vanessa… well…” he gestured toward Vanessa as a whole, who was looking at the pyramid and tracing loops in the air with her finger. She wore a gratified smirk.
“We ended up at the Flush because we don’t fit in,” Ester helped.
“Well Hanu, haven’t you been listening this whole time?” Paula asked impatiently. “After a while the tricks they pull stop working and people start waking up. It seems like you all are insane because that is what they’re telling you, but you’ve returned to what humans are supposed to be at this time in our planets evolution. You all have access to the fourth dimension in some way or another.”
“Fourth dimension?” Ester raised a brow.
Paula grumbled something about the public education system being worthless as she rubbed her temples.
“Think of dimensions as parallel worlds that exist alongside ours. As we journey through time, we evolve and become higher dimensional beings. We change. We become more connected- to our world and to each other.”
Hanu shifted in his seat, trying to absorb Paula’s words. “So when we have access to the fourth dimension we hear and see things that nobody else can?”
“Yes, you have greater access to your intuition, but most importantly, you have greater manifesting power. So with the right knowledge and physical abilities you would be capable of manipulating your environment. You’d be capable of dispelling these creatures for good.”
Paula flipped ardently to another page in the book. This one had a picture of a strand of DNA.
“The Ancients wouldn’t be as popular with the general public if they were getting rid of children left and right, so they try to ‘rehabilitate’ you through aggressive drug therapy. These drugs shut down portions of the brain and body that are evolving beyond their ability to control. So occasionally they take a few patients for genetic experimentation so that they can create new drugs that counter our evolving bodies. You children are powerful, and don’t you forget that. Why else would they want to kill you? Why else would they need to take your flesh and blood?”
Hanu studied the picture. It showed the DNA strands as he had seen them in his science books at school, but there were other strands as well, superimposed over the regular strand. It was illustrating evolved DNA. Hanu thought about the drugs he had been taking. He remembered the last time he and Akesh stood in line for their meds- the day that brought him here. ‘What do you think about the new drugs? Tastes a little like blood...’ He imagined an Ancient One putting blood into capsules with a dropper and shipping them off to the Flush. Akesh wasn’t even phased by the medicines they were giving him. He must be the biggest threat against the Ancients. And the girls, too. These girls were taking their meds and still had enough fight to see through the lies.
“I wasn’t even supposed to be here,” he accidentally said out loud. But then he heard his own voice and looked around to see everyone looking at him, so he had to explain. “I’m not strong, or special or anything like that. I decided to stop taking my meds on a whim and they found out. I was breaking the rules, and that’s the only reason I was even on that trip.”
“Hanu, everything happens for a good reason,” Ester said, trying to reassure him. And the other girls helped.
“If you weren’t on that trip we would have never survived, Hanu. You’re the one who introduced us to Harris,” Vanessa said. Sadie gave him what was supposed to be a reassuring pat on the back, but he fell forward into the table.
“Ever think that you decided to stop taking your meds because you were strong enough to recognize the truth?” Paula asked gently. Then she gave him a second slap on the back. “Stop acting like a prepubescent dandelion. You made it this far for a reason, and apparently, you were integral to the mission.”
But Hanu was already deflated, and his mind was going again. He thought about the state of the world and the people he loved. He thought about his mom. She was so happy the day she got her job as a geneticist. He was six years old. That night she kept saying, ‘I’m a real scientist now!’ And his sister. She was always so bubbly and happy. Maybe he’d be happier if he were like them, unaware of any of these realities. He wondered if his mom knew about the genetic experiments in the District of Operations. And he hoped they didn’t find a way to stay on Earth for good this time.
“How do we survive this?” he asked. “This is so unfair- this life. We’re so helpless. Aren’t there other beings out there that want to help us? It can’t just be us and them.”
Paula turned to a page in the middle of the book, and passed it over to Ester.
“There is actually a faction of extra dimensional beings that are helpful. They tip the balance, if you will. But these beings respect the rules of non-interference. They cannot fight our entire battle for us because then humanity will never learn to stand on its own two feet, but they do lend help from time to time. They offer advice, and sometimes knowledge,” she said.
“Well where are they? How do we get in contact with them?” Ester asked, sliding the book over for Vanessa to see.
“Humans are naturally capable of astral travel. We can enter a pretty wide range of dimensions that harmonize with our own vibrational frequency, temporarily of course. There, we are able to meet with these beings,” Paula explained.
“Cool,” said Sadie as she looked at the picture. “So how do we do this astral travel stuff?”
Sadie slid the book over to Hanu. There was an illustration of a different assortment of creatures. Some were insect-like and others looked more human except they were either taller or shorter and had varying colors of skin. There were a few that looked kind of like the Ancients, but Hanu could tell the distinctions. Two of the beings didn’t even really have bodies, they were just orbs of light. Hanu recognized one that he’d seen before- with a brown, wrinkled little face and wispy whiskers protruding from underneath its long beard.
“You do it every night,” Paula said. “It happens in your dreams.”
Hanu’s heart stopped beating altogether. He put his nose to the page, studying the features of the being. He looked at the inscription below the illustration: Galedeus, Nergal: Ambassador of the Intergalactic Council, 5th dimension.
“That’s enough for today, gang,” Paula said, pulling the book from under his nose and placing it on a desk underneath the staircase. “Let’s eat.”
Three days later someone arrived with a shipment of goods.
“It’s time you guys put a little work in for the world class vacation you’re getting here,” Paula said as she doled out instructions. “Jars of food go in that pantry over there, Hanu. Stack them nice and tight, okay? Vanessa, if you will, change out the light bulbs in the growing room over there. My vegetables haven’t been getting much attention lately. I’ve been waiting on these sun lights to come in for days. They might be dead. Ellie please stop eating the carrots.”
Hanu was dragging the food over to the pantry. His body was very sore now and the heavy box didn’t help. He didn’t mind too much, though. He was happy to be of use. And once he was finished, he’d go and get the Tome and read some more. As of late he’d been reading up on interdimensional beings and astral travel to the fifth dimension. He had to read through a lot of material to glean what he really wanted, so it was tedious, but well worth it.
He got the box over to the pantry under the stairs but now he was struggling to get it open.
“Back up,” Paula said as she brought a knife down into the side of the box. Then she put the knife on the desk and went on to help Sadie store the dry goods.
After everyone was finished unpacking and breaking down the boxes Paula brought out a loaf of bread and cut it up.
“Okay guys, the vegetables didn’t die after all, so tomorrow we’ll eat some good stuff. Today we have to eat the last of the bread, though,” she said with a sour face. Survival bread, she called it. They had been eating it for the last day and a half, and apparently she didn’t like it very much because sometimes that’s all she had to eat. But Hanu loved it. It was ordinary buttered bread, sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar.
“Okay kiddoes, you’ll be leaving the day after tomorrow. That’s when the Bowl officially starts, and with all of the celebrations in town the Council will have too much on their hands to be worried about you guys. It’s a three day journey,” Paula explained.
Hanu was hardly listening though. He scarfed down his bread and thanked Paula before excusing himself. Then he grabbed the Tome off of the desk and found a spot on the floor to read. He opened to a small section toward the back of the book titled Astral Travel.