Beyond the Veil

Chapter One.

In a terrible war, now so forgotten that many long to repeat it, a pilot trapped inside his burning plane falls into the void.

It's impossible to open the cockpit, and the smoke seeping in turns to fire, climbing up my legs and swiftly reaching my face. I try to shield myself with my wounded hands, but the fire devours my skin in bites full of oil and pain. I can bear no more and scream in despair, looking up where I see more of the green carpet of the ground than the blue sky. My scream is drowned in a deafening noise, and everything moves. Then, only silence.

I find myself face down in the grass. I feel its scent and coolness on my face and realize I am in no pain. Opening my eyes, thinking I've survived the fall, the first thing I see is grass of a brilliant green, not too tall. A few daisies peek out to gaze at the Sun, and a bee startles as I move to sit up. I am at the foot of a small undulating hill, clad in uniform, searching for the plane, but there's no trace of it, not even smoke to betray its presence. I lie back and inhale deeply the pure air that smells of wildflowers.

"I think I'm dead," I think to myself. "How wonderful. This looks promising.

Swallow

The sun warms pleasantly, and every so often, an insect approaches to examine me, or at least that's the sensation I get. A group of swallows speed by overhead. One breaks away from the flock and comes closer to me. It circles around and then veers off, chirping towards the hill's crest, following the others. I watch it until it vanishes, but I can still hear faint cries from that direction, which now, instead of swallows, sound like children at play.

I rise carefully, still fearful that the burns might pain me, but I find none and feel perfectly fine. Reaching the top of the hill, I see on the other side a small river bordered by meadows with a few trees. In the distance, across the river, lies a forest of grand oaks, and right at the bank, a group of about seven children are playing. For some reason, they remind me of the swallows. I watch them for a while and decide to approach and ask where I am when, out of nowhere, a roof appears to my right, rising above another hill. Preferring to encounter an adult, I head in that direction.

It's a fairly large two-story building, with a wide main door and windows arranged in regular rows on all facades. It has the air of something official, like a school or a small hospital. Entering through the door, I find a sort of reception area but, though I hear human voices, I see no one. I start walking towards the voices, but despite passing several rooms, chambers, and corridors, I never seem to reach them. I begin to feel very tired and at that moment, I see a room more reminiscent of a house than a hospital, with a very inviting bed. I lie down to rest and fall asleep.

I am awakened by nearby voices. Uncertain of how long I've slept, I leave the room and realize the voices are coming from the next room. Approaching, I peer inside. With a just-roused expression, I see a girl about eight years old, with light brown hair and meticulously chosen attire, speaking in a language I don't understand with an older man. He is unshaven, wearing a wool jacket, old trousers, and a hat with earflaps like those worn by native peoples of the highlands around the world. The girl appears worried, but the man approaches and takes her hand in his, at which she immediately smiles, radiating happiness and peace. Then he strokes her head, and the two leave the room hand in hand. The girl glances at me for a second and continues chatting with the strange man in that unknown language as they walk away down the corridor.

older man with an Andean hat

"Excuse me! Hey!" I call out to the man before he gets too far away.

"What are you doing here?" he asks, turning around with a slightly annoyed tone.

"I really don't know. I don't even know where I am."

"Well, you're in Dolores's dream. This shouldn't even exist for you."

I stare at him, speechless, my mind a blank slate.

"Are you the pilot who crossed the sky a few days ago, burning?" he inquires.

"I suppose so," I respond. "But for me, it was just a moment ago."

"And what do you expect, falling asleep in a dream? And in someone else's dream, no less. The cheek of it," he retorts. "You know, you gave quite a fright to several swallows... and children. Come on, follow us. We'll talk later, you and I."

I walk a few steps behind them. The man is only a bit shorter than me, and they say I'm quite tall. Well, at least my mother says so. I think of her and wonder what they must have told her. Probably some nonsense about dying for the country like a hero.

The girl looks at me and says something in that language to the older man, but I don't understand.

"It's Spanish," he says. "That's what they speak in Spain."

"Haha," I think to myself. "Very funny."

"It's spoken in much of South America too," he continues.

"I know what Spanish is," I tell him. "But it's not my language."

"One day it might be," he replies. "Since Dolores tells me you seem familiar to her."

I don't understand a thing.

Valley with a small river.

Still pondering what that man had told me, we step outside the building and make our way towards the hill. From the top, I see the group of children playing by the river again, and to my right, a quaint train station. The track is barely discernible among the grass, but a little further ahead, I notice it curving sharply around another hill. Despite his older appearance and worn clothes, the man moves with the speed and energy of someone much younger, and each time I look at him, the feeling that I've seen him before grows within me.

Dolores, the young girl, runs towards the children and joins their group. The man watches her for a moment before strolling over to where I stand. As he approaches, I see Dolores playing intently with some stones.

"Those stones are a spell to open the rest of her life," the man tells me.

"What?" I ask, puzzled.

"Never mind," he says, now beside me, still watching the girl.

"Your face is familiar. Do we know each other?" I ask, the sense of familiarity growing stronger.

"If you're starting to remember me, it means you're beginning to belong more to this side," he replies.

"Could you be a bit more clear? Half the time, I haven't the foggiest idea what you're on about."

"That means you still have much left on the other side."

I don't reply, though several sharp retorts come to mind. Just then, a breeze moves the earflaps of his hat, and despite his clothes and older appearance, he strikingly reminds me of Mercury, the messenger god. Considering my surroundings, I venture a guess:

"Is your name Mercury?"

He looks at me, surprised, then smiles. "I have many names, but yes, that's one of them, though it's been ages since I've been called that."

"Why would the messenger of the gods dress like that? And what are you doing in my dream?" I inquire, grasping a bit of the reality I'm in.

"It's not your dream. You're dead. This is Dolores's dream, and that's why I look like this. In any other form, she'd soon forget me, and it's crucial she remembers. Frankly, I don't know why you're here. I suspect you'll meet Dolores someday, and that's why she's let you in."

"And why are you here?" I ask, bewildered at the sight of a pagan god in a girl's dream, conversing with a dead man. After all, I am, or was, a Protestant Christian.

"One of my most important roles is to help souls cross to the other side. As Mercury, I would guide them safely to the ferryman. That's what I'm doing with you."

Charon, the ferryman.

Charon, the ferryman of the underworld.

My heart skips a beat, and I glance towards the river, half expecting to see a grim-looking boat slowly approaching, steered by a being who will demand payment. But there's none of that. Just a bucolic landscape and children playing. At that moment, I hear a whistle and see, in the distance, a small two-carriage train approaching, puffing steam and smoke. I suspect this is my 'boat' and want to ask Mercury, Hermes, or whatever he's called now, but he's walked away and is talking to the girl. He takes her hand and walks with her towards the little station. Just then, the train, having arrived, stops at the platform, and I see it already carries passengers. Mercury points towards the train, and I overhear him telling Dolores that she can board if she wishes. The girl looks at the train, then at the children playing, and makes a decision. She lets go of his hand and runs towards the children.

"I think that was a wise choice," he tells me as he approaches. "Get on the train, it's now waiting just for you."

"Where will it take me?" I ask, somewhat tired of not understanding what's going on.

"Don't worry. You'll start remembering bit by bit. And thanks for reminding me of Mercury. I was rather dashing in those days, quite lucky with the goddesses."

I leave him there and board the train. I don't recognize anyone inside. In the second carriage, there's a lad in an English uniform who looks at me, startled. The train gives two sharp whistles and starts moving. I turn to look out the window. Mercury is still there, his gaze lost in the past, smiling. I see Dolores watching the train pull away, waving goodbye. I'm about to wave back, but she vanishes as the train rounds the bend.

Continue with Chapter 2...

I stand by the door in the carriage, gazing out the window, but upon reaching the final station, I remember nothing of the journey, having been absorbed in memories that were beginning to resurface. The most prominent among them is that I was supposed to meet someone very important, but I can't recall who. I realize the train has stopped at a colossal station, reminiscent of Berlin's, and the carriage door is open. The carriage is empty. Outside, I see someone smiling and gesturing to me. It's a young woman, tall, with long blonde hair, dressed in white. She seems incredibly familiar, yet I'm certain I've never met her. I disembark and greet her.

Schwechten Franz (1841-1924), Anhalter Bahnhof in Berlin

Berlin Anhalter Bahnhof
(Berlin Anhalter Station)

"Hello. Do we know each other?"

"My name's Ingrid. I'm your maternal grandmother."

By now, nothing surprises me, so I take a closer look at her and realize she bears a striking resemblance to my mother. That's why she seemed familiar.

"My mother told me you died young of an illness during the First World War."

"That's right. That's why I'm here. It's the responsibility of the nearest family member or friend to wait for you and help you cross over."

For a moment, it's sad that the only person who could be there is almost a stranger, but then I think it might mean my loved ones are still alive.

"Thank you. This is all very odd. I never imagined dying would be like this."

"It's different for everyone, but yours has indeed been unusual. You vanished for a while from a place where vanishing is impossible. Turns out it is possible with someone's help, but highly unlikely," she says with a smile, seemingly proud. "Come. Follow me to that room; you need to rest and remember more of this side before moving on," she says, pointing to a small, cozy room next to the platform. Before entering, I hear a whistle and another train, larger than the previous one, arrives at the station. Many people disembark, most in British, French, and German uniforms, all together. Life is life, and from this side, wars, borders, and countries are little more than foolishness. Among them are some in Luftwaffe uniforms, and I recognize my captain. Before I can greet him, my grandmother grabs my arm and pulls me into the room.

"Come on. Don't stir up more trouble. Protocols are there for a reason," she says, closing the door.

"Protocols for the dead?" I ask, surprised.

"Of course," she replies. "At least in the transition process. Lie down on that cot and relax. The memories will come on their own."

It's more of a small, solid wood bed than a cot, and very comfortable. I lie down, wondering what I will remember. Just as I'm on the brink of sleep but still conscious, a flood of memories hits me. I sit up and shout.

"Damn it! What the hell happened?! I shouldn't be here!"

"Child! Don't swear," my grandmother responds. After a few seconds, she continues, "...and it's normal to react like that to death. Don't worry."

"But I don't care about death," I reply, lowering my voice. "This is my third life where I was supposed to meet my soulmate, and it hasn't happened, even though I was promised it would," I say as more memories come flooding back, and suddenly I know who and what I am.

Looking into her eyes, fully aware of who I am, I say, "I know who I am."

She looks at me, surprised and concerned, opens the door to the other side of the room, and calls someone. She returns talking with another person dressed similarly, though I can't tell if it is a male or female.

"This is Dara, one of your oldest friends," she says. "I must leave you now; this is beyond me. Good luck, little one," she says, giving me a hug.

"Hello, Antares," the stranger, who's becoming increasingly familiar, says.

"Antares?" I think, but my priorities are clear and elsewhere. "I know who I am. I want to speak with the circle of elders since they haven't kept their word," I say, feeling increasingly angry.

"I think you should stay here a bit longer and remember everything before doing that. If you do it now, you might regret it," they reply.

I know he's right, but I'm so angry I don't care.

"I'm fed up. I want to speak with them now."

"If you're sure, I'll take you," he said, waiting motionlessly.

"Yes, I'm sure," I say, seeing he expects some kind of confirmation.

Continue with Chapter 3...

We exit through the other door and traverse various corridors, rooms, a garden or two, and throngs of people moving with an air of serene purpose. Some look as though they might greet me, but a glance from Dara sends their eyes skittering away, feigning ignorance of my presence. I'm indifferent to it all. I feel betrayed and am intent on seeking a resolution at the earliest opportunity.

We arrive at a rather dim room. It's large, judging by how the light illuminates only a group of about six individuals in the centre, their attire reminiscent of senators from the Roman Empire, as seen in aged frescoes. Beyond the pool of light, I can discern more figures, and even more shadowy silhouettes beyond them, suggesting the room is quite expansive and populated.

Approaching the illuminated assembly, I find that what I thought would be a council of the ancients more closely resembles a gathering of the elderly, with only one woman among them. A man greets me, the others silent, their demeanour brimming with annoyance. Those lurking in the shadows do nothing but watch.

Senate of the Roman Empire

Senate of the Roman Empire

"Antares. I've been told you remember and want to speak with us."

"That name again," I think. It's clear I don't remember everything, which unnerves me, but the frustration and anger over their unkept promise propel me forward, despite Dara's warning that I might be getting myself into trouble.

"Ancients, thank you for receiving me. I won't waste time on formalities. Here's why I've sought you out. I've just returned from this life, embarked upon solely to meet my soulmate and experience the physical world. This was the third attempt and the third broken promise. It seems incredibly unfair. When will I be with her? We all know how rare it is to find your soulmate, and when I do, I exercise my right to live on one of the living planets, but to no avail. Something always happens, and I never meet her."

"Do you realize he still uses gender in his speech?" the woman says. "I think he doesn't really remember, or only partially. We shouldn't even be listening to him."

The others remain silent but observe me. Not just with their eyes but with different frequencies too. Unsure of what I'm doing, I release my anger for all to see.

"We don't doubt your frustration and anger," the man acting as spokesperson says. "But it's strictly forbidden for a human or semi-human to make decisions or even participate in these meetings. It's like a five-year-old human participating in government decisions."

I was at a crucial moment. Either I admitted I didn't remember everything, or I bluffed. I chose the latter.

"We all know that merely requesting this meeting with the ancients shows I remember," I add in my mind "...enough." "We also know it's my right and that this situation is unjust."

After a long silence, when I almost see myself being taken back to the remembering room, he replies:

"Alright, we acknowledge something odd is going on, but you've always been like this, so we accept the meeting."

"So, I'm odd," I thought. "Good, that gives me an angle if needed." Aloud I said:

"Thank you. I called this meeting because this has been the third life journey that has been an utter failure, as we didn't even recognize each other in the corporeal world. We all know how hard it is to find our soulmate and how important it is to test and prove the relationship in the physical realm. To put it very calmly and politely, I'm fed up with empty promises and harsh, horrible lives that lead nowhere."

Again, silence. The woman and two of the men exchange looks and shake their heads.

"He's taking us for fools," she says. "This gets cleared up now, or we end the meeting. Sol, we know this planet is your responsibility, but you shouldn't let the conflict of interest your friendship with Antares has created cloud your judgment."

"Sol?" I think. We have star names.

"Antares. Free Will is one of the most important values of corporeal experiences, and as you should know, it often breaks any possible planning..."

"Three times?!" I shout.

The entire room gasps, then falls silent. The shock that someone would interrupt an ancient leaves them breathless. Everyone stares at me, agape.

The woman stands up, about to speak, when Sol raises her hand. He asks her to sit and tells me:

"I'm sorry, Antares. It's obvious you don't remember everything. This meeting is cancelled, and as punishment for your lies and manipulation, you won't be allowed back to Terra for ten generations. You've destroyed your chance to meet with your star friend for a long time."

At that moment, I remember something more.

"This circle of ancients has my utmost respect, but don't forget I'm much older than most here; I'm no youngster. I demand to be heard."

Sol sighs and tells me, "That only assures us you've lied and manipulated us. The decision stands. You are punished."

I close my eyes. I still have enough humanity to know this is very unfair. The anger rises, and suddenly I know what I have to do.

I close my eyes. Enough humanity lingers within me to recognise the sheer injustice of this situation. My rage mounts, and suddenly, I know what I must do.

"You all know how I feel, so I hope you understand this decision," and with that, I begin the process of self-destruction. For a few seconds, my human side thought this would wipe out all these haughty old beings, but even as some were hugely surprised by my action, none showed fear. I knew, considering how old and significant I was, the explosion would be like a supernova, a creator of heavy elements, but of course, none of the circle was physically near where I resided, so it mattered little to them. It was a process of about three minutes to the point of no return. When it was 5% complete, Sun says to me:

"Antares, have you lost your mind?"

Supernova

7% "No, Sol, I'm not mad, but it seems this is the only way to make you understand how important my soulmate is to me."

10% "But you can return later. The span of a human life is nothing to you."

15% "It's not about that. It's the lack of respect for the love of a couple you show, as well as for human values, the injustice of it all, and the worst part seems to be that nobody cares."

25% "Our reality is very different, Antares. I'm sure you can see more and more of it each time."

35% "That reality of yours that glimpses the true scale of the universe and renders the time of a human life as insignificant or love as valueless, only makes things worse. The universe is vast, but the quantity of soulmate love is so small that its value should be astronomical... literally."

50% Silence. Sun looks at the other ancients, and they all sit, looking at each other, moving their arms, nodding or shaking their heads, but I hear nothing of their conversation.

70% "We've decided to give you another chance, but it's impossible to guarantee what happens on Terra, so you must accept the following conditions:

Accept that you might not meet your soulmate.
You must recognize her yourself, don't expect our help.
She'll be in a human body with all its limitations. She won't be the same as here.
When you return to us and remember everything, you must accept the consequences of your actions here."
90% I pondered for a few seconds as it didn't seem to change much, but it opened a door that was previously closed.

97% "Alright. I accept," I replied and began the cooling process to stop the collapse.

The other ancients stand up and start leaving the room, chatting in groups of six or eight. The woman looks at me, and at that moment, I knew not everything was forgiven and my actions would carry a heavy price upon my return. But I had gained many memories, and I knew that whatever they had planned for me, I would come out alright. Just then, everyone turned towards the door. I look and see Dara entering with a woman. The most beautiful being I had ever seen in my life. She radiates an energy that fills the entire room. She sees me and smiles. The smile brightens the entire room, so much so that many of the people there also smile back. She seems older than me.

"I've just died in a traffic accident and I don't know where I am. I thought I'd see Jesus, and I thought it was so when I saw your light, but then I realised you are my great love. The one I've waited for so many years. Who are you?" she said. She was nervous and somewhat worried.

"My true name is Antares," the hushed gasp once again filled the room. The woman from the group of ancients, still there, gave me a look that said "you are a fool" and left, shaking her head.

"You're going back to Terra, and you must never give your real name there, or to someone who's just come from there," Dara tells me. "But while we're at it, her name is Lintang." He winks at me.

"Thank you, Dara. If it weren't for you, this place would be unbearable."

"Haha. It's not so bad once you remember everything. Come on. We must do this as soon as possible," he replied.

We left that dark room and walked through well-lit corridors, where through large windows, sometimes we could see the landscape of the hills, at other times a large unknown city full of lights and colours, and at another, space filled with stars and a beautiful blue and white planet. Next to that last window was a door which the three of us crossed. The room only had three walls. The back one was missing, revealing the immense blue and white planet that filled almost everything. We approached and looked at the enormous planet.

"That's Terra," Dara tells us. "You just have to jump, and you'll return."

"And how will we remember all this?" I ask, pointing back at the room and all it represented.

"You'll forget everything," he answers. "And that's better for truly enjoying that life. Go on, jump. I shouldn't even be here. Goodbye!"

I take Lintang's hand and immediately feel happy.

"We're being reborn," she says.

"We're being reborn," I reply, and we jump.

Continue with Chapter 4...

Chapter Four.

At first, it was more a sensation of flying, but gradually it morphed into a feeling of falling. Falling faster and faster. Suddenly, a jarring impact caused our hands to part, and Lintang quickly drifted away towards another part of the planet. The fear of losing sight of her again troubled me, yet this thought simultaneously filled me with peace. I knew this time everything would turn out right.

As I plummeted faster, the planet expanded, filling my entire view, and simultaneously transformed into a colossal, red-orange sphere, seemingly dotted with what appeared to be tiny valleys.

Planeta morph

Suddenly, I understand – it's a human ovum, now so immense that it engulfs everything. I expect to disappear upon colliding with it, but instead of a collision, I merge into it, and abruptly my perception of what I am shifts – I am the ovum, no longer colossal, but having become minuscule.

"I must remember everything that's happened," I think. "It's crucial as I cannot afford mistakes."

Time passes in an oddly disjointed manner, and without even noticing, I am once again a human being – a baby in my mother's womb. I have lost parts of the memories of being a star, or whatever it was that I was.

"I must remember," I think.

One day, without any warning, I start the process of separating from my mother, becoming an independent entity again.

"I must remember. I must remember," I repeat to myself as I do what can only be described as flowing and entering my new reality. As I immerse myself in this confined space full of distant sensations, I keep repeating, "I must remember," and I do remember what I was supposed to, but I notice that I'm rapidly losing those memories.

Many years later, through a dream, I recalled my experiences with the ancients, but free will didn't concern me. I was confident I would achieve this life's goals, including reuniting with my soulmate. Life had given me many positive and negative experiences, but at that moment, I was content.

I was driving my sister home. It was late, and I had offered to take her. Turning the corner onto her street in Nottingham, I approached her house, which was lit up, and suddenly, I knew. She was there. In my sister's house, which surprised me as my sister lived alone with her son.

"Is someone at your house?" I asked my sister.

"Yes, Loreto's there," she replied. "She's a classmate who needed a place to live, and it helps me to share expenses. She'll probably be with her boyfriend now."

I could feel an incredible energy emanating from every pore of that house, a force that shouted, "Hello! I'm here! Don't miss the chance! We only have this one!"

"Her boyfriend?" I asked my sister.

"Yes, he often comes to see her on Fridays. She's very nice; you'll like her. Want to come in?"

"No, thanks. Another time," I replied. I just knew it wasn't the right moment.

Weeks later, I returned to my sister's house and finally met her. She was a charming girl from northern Spain, in England to study English. The first thing I noticed was that she didn't recognize me, but I had been warned she wouldn't be the same while in that human body. She looked nothing like the tall, blonde woman from my dream, except for her smile, which still radiated energy that left me spellbound. At that time, I was in another relationship, which I sensed was nearing its end before meeting Loreto. Now I was sure. We started talking and didn't stop. For me, the rest of the world ceased to exist, and for a moment, I glimpsed the sparkle of Lintang and a new future unfolding before me with that light by my side.

Months later, talking to a friend, she asked if Loreto was the woman of my life. "Yes," I replied. "She will be my partner for many years, and we will have two children."

"How can you know that?"

"I just do," I answered. "It's written in the stars."

...and so it was.

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