If you’re coming in late, the novel starts here: CHAPTER 1: Some bugger steals my sushi
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I knew that I had been conceived at the heart of the Vortex, at a predestined time and in a preordained place.
That place had been chosen not because it was evil, but because there was such emotion, such strength and power of human experience attached to it that I could never have been anywhere else.
As I walked to the concrete steps of the pier to touch the water, within me there came a voice, and the voice taught me what I needed to know. That there truly wasn’t anything special about me. I truly was an ordinary man.
This wasn’t about being chosen, or being special, or extraordinary in any way – it was about experience, and fate.
My fate, which could so easily have been another’s.
I took the first step down the concrete flight of steps, away from the pier, and a wash of knowledge swept over me.
The whole of space and time opened inside my mind like a flower blossom, unfurling and gifting me with light to fill the dark recesses of my mind. And love to give understanding to my enemies. And hope to give me strength for what must come. And forgiveness for what had happened in the past, not just to me, but to every single person who had suffered and lived and died on this rock before the awakening that was to happen now.
Suddenly there was nothing that couldn’t be recognised, assimilated, understood and noted. Nothing was too foul to be observed. Nothing was too cruel to be avoided. Nothing was to horrific that I had to look away.
Ten thousand years of human history swept through me, a wall of sound and power and sight and touch and sense, and everything was new and old and original and state and absolutely, oddly, uniquely and powerfully human. And then, like a world map targeting a street, then a house, then a corner of that house, my consciousness shifted from the whole of the web to one small piece of it: the Cathedral, its vortex, and the reason so much power and energy had welled in such a small, odd, out of the way place as Dunedin in this vast and wonderful world.
I saw the truth, shining brighter than the sun. That everything is connected. Everything. Nothing happens without reason, without intent and thought and plan.
And I knew that Ryecroft’s death had created a shift in time and space, because pain and love, good and evil, love and hate – these opposites have always battled, and their echoes have always lived on, spiralling through time and changing the lives of those who come after, whether we know it or not.
I took a second step down, my legs shaking, and more understanding, more comprehension became mine.
Everything is connected. You and me, and my parents, and the stone walls of the Cathedral that surrounded us all, and the sound of the bells as they tolled sadly, mourning the fact that in all the years of pretension and guile and brother against brother, nobody had ever bothered to care for them, or build them into the Cathedral.
So, even now, they sat rusting in a heap of fallen masonry at the back of the church, uncared-for, their song unheard but still – ghost-like – echoing on from the distant past. From a time when the used to hang proudly in the old church. A time when that place had at least been a home to kindness and care.
Yet even while the church bells had hung, the death of one man had created a culture of fear and shadows. Hiding and shame. Hatred and jealousy. Lust and greed and suspicion that would live on after his death, tearing a community – and a city – apart, for hundreds of years to come.
I took another step closer to the water, its frothy wave tips rising to meet my feet.
Everything is connected. Everything.
And I had seen it. The victimisation of an innocent man a hundred years on. An entire choir leaving the Cathedral in support of him, defiant and whole to the outside, yet burned and scorched within, carrying within themselves such pain and suffering that they would not bear to enter what had once been their home of worship, their center – the stone Cathedral – again, without feeling the stirrings of torment rising up again within theselves, poisonous and bitter.
The last step. Half submerged by the sea, waves lapping over its edge, topping the brim and splashing against the back of the stair, the last step was covered by barnacles and green seaweed that swayed gently to and fro, as the tide moved in and out and in again.
My skin connected, above the edge of my boots, and steam rose from the water’s surface, creating a hissing veil of mist and a salt spray that rose in the air.
Everything is connected. Everything. Life and death and sex and blame, and redemption and guilt, and marriage vows torn apart by lust and the desire for power and control, and pride. Yes, and pride. And the fear of being discovered for what one has done, and the fear of lying and claiming that one didn’t do anything at all.
And the games that were played, and the tales that were told, and the endless round of deception and abuse and victimisation and hurt.
And the fear and suspicion and blame-laying had lived on. In a culture with a strong antipathy to tolerance, openness and forgiveness, seeds were easily sown for more abuse, more pain, more heartache.
I’d seen that tall man and his dumpy wife shamelessly abusing victim after victim, over a hundred years after Ryecroft – long after his death – yet the stone walls of the Cathedral remembered Ryecroft’s last words – “Don’t tell anybody” – and the culture of fear and abuse of power, and bullying, and lies, lived on.
And the stone walls had soaked in the visions, and the hurt, and the lies like a sponge – absorbing it all and creating a vortex of energy built on real human deeds.
St Paul’s hadn’t been chosen as a place of power, like the Temple in Jerusalem and the Kaaba in Mecca, because great deeds had been done there, or because it had a remarkable history. St. Paul’s had been chosen because it enshrined and clasped within itself what was worst and most petty in men.
So when it came to drawing humanity’s history, and refining it, and bottling it, and collecting samples to be filed and stored as the earth awakened, all pf that cruelty and abuse, and neglect, and turning away from one’s fellow in a place of worship were just as representative of humanity as all of the best things we’d done.
The earth’s eyes were opening, and it was seeing all.
It saw a place – a church – that should have been a community hub, and a place of love and support, but had instead become a place where people turned their backs on one another, abused their power, used petty tyrannies against one another, walking away from the light.
It didn’t judge. It just felt the power, and knew it, and seized it as a vortex. And it needed a Host to connect with the human element of that vortex, and I’d been there, at the right time and the right place.
I took a step outwards, to the bay, and the water supported my weight. I was barely aware of it, as I walked out, away from the pier, away from my friends, away from Athena, and towards the horizon. Framed by both sides of the bay, the hills of Ravensbourne rising up on my left and the rocky, windblown peninsula hillside high on my right, I kept my eyes firmly up, fixed on the heads – Tairoa and Aramoana and beyond – at the entrance to the harbour.
Everything is connected. Everything. And yet, while I saw all this, and all the images flashed across my mind, I didn’t feel shame.
I felt relaxed. As everything was processed, and collected within me, it all just disappeared, seeping away, down through my legs into my feet, and out into the wide ocean. And then it was just so much flotsam and jetsam, pieces of history that mattered no longer. It was all over; gone. And all the evil in the world – all the foolishness – meant nothing in comparison to what I knew would happen next.
And I didn’t mourn the past. For there had been good too. That choir had walked in solidarity with their victimised choir master. That tall skinny man had lost his job and been disgraced, and his victims vindicated. People who had been hurt had moved away and found new lives, rebuilding and growing again, away from the bitter, cold stone heart of the Cathedral.
Even Ryecroft had been forgiven, and buried in peace. Time had washed his sins away, leaving little more than a memory of a man who had simply been flawed. Like all of us: human, frail and flawed.
I walked with the water, faster and more confident now, reaching the shoals that ran like an underground hilltop down the middle of the harbour, where the sea was shallowest, following them out to the headlands.
Time seemed to speed up, the wind was at my back, my friends long gone behind me. The water was speeding me, forming a current at my feet that steamed and forced me along fast as the fastest sailboat. Ahead of me, the sea began to glisten, shining with a bright light, creating a trail in the water ahead of me.
I was dimly aware of a small pleasurecraft chugging along behind me, and people yelling, trying to catch my attention, but by now I was in a trance, dazzled by the light and the earth and the power, and I couldn’t respond.
The water was with me, and I was with it, and nothing could stop the movement and flow of power and energy and me at the heart of it all, out of the harbour and to the wide, churning, open sea.