Alyssia Darkling is in her first year of college. The world is opening up to her in more ways than one. A strange package arrives from her unknown grandmother. Inside is a necklace that is the key to a hidden world. The world behind our own. When Alyssia discovers that those that have died may never have left, she is approached by a boy who claims to be a part of an ancient family of Spirit Hunters. Alyssia slowly discovers that our world moves according to the ebb and flow of the other.
“It is a continuity holding all cultures that there is life after death. There isn’t a culture on Earth that believes that we end with quietus. There are individuals that hold this belief, or unbelief as it were, just as there are individuals that believe the government has established this college to maintain their control over all of your brains. Individuals may believe anything that they see fit. In general, however, Science is the first culture to maintain a disbelief in the afterlife as a norm. It stands in the face of humanity’s lineage and collective knowledge to state that we simply die and are done. We are more, and that part of us that is more makes up the most of who we are. We are meant to last beyond this. Why then can we not look into this as one would look into any undiscovered land and forge ahead into the mists that surround each new crag and coast. It is all guesswork at first, with any discovery. One person must insist that there is more out there... another land... a further energy... a smaller particle. It is all hope and courage. You were courageous, or at least curious enough, to sign up for this class. There is a reason you are here and we, together are going to probe the depths of what is beyond the veil.”
I watched Professor John Stanworth sit at his desk and let the last five minutes of the first day of his “Life Beyond Death” class sit in silence. He had brilliantly white hair which stood out even more because of his dark skin. He spoke with just the slightest Indian accent. His houndstooth jacket, complete with elbow pads, fit perfectly with his blue button down shirt and bow tie. I had just spent the last forty-five minutes letting my mind dance along with his words to the rhythm of childhood imaginations. I was caught. One class and he had me. I had had professors like this before though, and seldom did they live up to their “first day” soliloquy. Still, my hopes were up for this class.
He sat and let us trickle out silently. There were a few kids, mostly freshmen, that giggled as they left, but I did see a few that had that same wonder in the back of their eyes that I knew lighted my own.
College can be a lonely place, especially for a sociology major. There is something about the study of people in groups that is innately alienating. Monkey’s lose their witty charm after you have torn apart fecal samples looking for dietary trends for a semester. Human behavior fares the same. I can’t even sit at lunch without noticing the various ethnocentric and socioeconomic groupings... I just want to eat a my pizza slice and laugh with the rest of the kids Mom... and speaking of pizza. I headed out toward the cafeteria.
The University of Vermont is beautiful in the fall. The trees are still holding on to their green, straining to hold back the oranges and reds that will paint the mountains in just a few weeks. College food does not approach that splendor though. After lunch I only had one class left, Biblical studies. It was one of the last of my General Education classes and it fit into the humanities slot. I have very little interest in the Bible...or in anything approaching religion. I don’t really know why I chose to have these two classes together this semester. It just seemed to work out that way. Tuesdays and Thursdays “Life After Death” and “Biblical Themes.” Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays I piled three Sociology classes together. Five classes is a lot of work, but I wanted to finish college on time next year.
My Biblical Themes class was being held in a part of the college that I hadn’t been in before, and it was being taught by Fr. Anthony. I am assuming that Fr. stood for Father... or Francis. If my name were Francis I would consider abbreviating it as well. Still, It being Biblical Studies and all, I am sure that Fr. stood for Father. A priest. This was going to be...different. My only experience with Priests was when I was very little and my mother went on a church stint for a year or so. I have two memories of this time. I remember the hardness of the pews, and I remember falling asleep on them anyway.
The class was being held in a little room off of the office building. I didn’t even know that the office building had classrooms in it. I headed up the stairs and through the glass doors. Tucked around the back of the leering secretaries (why do all college secretaries seem to hate their lives) was a stairway tucked behind some file cabinets. A small sign pointing up the stairs read Chapel. Why did no one tell me that we had a Chapel? The stairs opened up to a small room, filled with the dreaded wooden pews and ending in a small stained glass window of a Crucified Christ in reds and blues. Several students filled the seats and looked around at me. I immediately felt the need to duck into the nearest seat. There were about twenty of kids all spaced out among the long wooden pews. They continued to look around in silence as I took my seat... near the back.
I didn’t know exactly what to expect. A balding man in a pointy hat? A wrinkled old hunch-back with whithery eyes? What walked out from behind the curtain though, was the last thing that I would have considered. A neatly shaven, straight backed, young man... probably in his early twenties, with curly black hair and deep brown eyes stepped out and sat on the edge of the steps leading up to the altar. He was wearing long black robes and a white collar. He smiled and walked toward us.
“Buon giorno.” He said in a thick Italian accent. We all sat and stared. He smiled and walked to the back of the room. “Thank you all for coming.” His english was as thick with Italian accent as his Italian had been. “This is my first class that I will be teaching.” We still sat in silence and I could see he was getting a bit nervous. “Perhaps we could talk to one another for a little bit? Where are you from?” The silence was growing uncomfortable. He moved to the front of the room again and placed his hands on the small altar. “I...am from Italy.”
Finally, a girl three rows away and in front of me whispered, “Yeah we could tell.” He grew red and sat down on the little stairs leading up to the altar.
“What else can you tell?” he said smiling again.
The same girl said a little louder this time, “That you’re a priest or whatever.” and looked over at her friend and started laughing.
“Yes... I am a priest. I just became one last year. And you are students here in this college. Are there any other obvious things that we can speak together?”
Finally the class began to warm up and we spent the next half an hour discussing how young he was to be a priest. He eventually turned the conversation toward class expectations, but the class was practically over by then.