The Ascension of Father Roland

Ash Fork was an energy field whose personification was an 1880s gunfighter. The manifestation of the gunfighter included archetypal detail, such as the gold pocket watch on a gold chain, relentlessly ticking toward high noon, and the calm assurance of the hands closing the inscribed cover over the face. The inscription was a circle with a jagged line, like a lightning bolt, originating in the center and piercing the perimeter. The gunfighter dropped the watch back into its pocket.

The Dina was manifesting men on horseback. Bergamo scanned the attacking field and discovered a design flaw. There was no separation between the horse and the rider. They were designed from pictures and assumed to be structurally connected. If the horse was separated off it would have no organizing principle. He knew the Dina was simultaneously scanning for a weak point in his defense system.

Two warriors are facing off. One is invading. The other is defending. Like two masters they wait for a moment of unconsciousness in the other. Each knows this moment will come at the bottom of the breath. The prey will call the hunter. High noon is when the exhalation begins. It will end first for one of them. The moment of unconsciousness at the bottom of the breath will invite the attack.

The Dina exhales with a slight hissing sound, like a lazy snake. Bergamo smoothes the fine woolen tails of his black suit with hands which pray for the sport of it. They have explored movement down to the intersections of nerve and muscle, slowing it down to theta wave trance and refining connections between mind and body to Germanic tolerances.

There were three suns in the sky. One was on the eastern horizon. Another was sinking into the west. One was directly overhead. The gunfighter drew and fired directly into the design flaw. The blast hit the intersection of a man and a horse, burning through connective tissue and sending the startled perimeter guard into a violent confrontation with systems engineering. He was supposed to protect the nerve center but with the violent separation from his lower body he became conscious of himself as a rider. He was making a high pitched screaming noise.

As one the remaining guards turned on Bergamo assuming a lone gunman had no time to kill them all. But he wasn’t alone. Indian Shadow had found the Pacemaker behind the bar, and he came through the swinging doors of the saloon brandishing it like a light sword. The Pacemaker scrambled muscular information and induced instant heart attack. He had hit two of the riders before they could adjust to the expanding field of players manifesting in response to the Dina's plan of attack.

From the church at the other end of town Father Roland came sweeping up the street in brown robes with no weapon and no plan. He was in his own mind committing suicide, which was the only outcome he could imagine for himself in a fight with an invading field. A strange calm settled over the ground where the priest walked and his feet didn’t touch the ground. They were on an invisible path above it as he began the ascension he had practiced for all his life.

Inside the calm of his walk toward death Father Roland exhaled his personal history and his dominating spirit finally realized itself. When Father Roland had imagined ruling the world he'd always used magical powers, having no interest in broken bones and damaged organs. His interest was in the power of a faith that bends reality to its image.

This was of course the thinking of a very young child, but it was also Father Roland as the servant of this young child, expanding the reach of the child. The companion of the child was the grandfather, who was very much like the child. There was a moment of synthesis as the center sun reached its zenith. Father Roland later spoke of it as the moment when he was saved, but he was never very sure of what that meant. On one day it was like he was a mushroom that had been collected for a savory sauce made with a secret recipe. On another day he had been drowning and was rescued, and on another he’d been visited by a spirit bigger than the one he served, and was forced to submit himself into service.

For years afterward he was known for his stories about the day of the Dina, when he walked down the main street of Ash Fork to sacrifice himself as a gesture of love for Count Bergamo. He’d pictured himself looking up through dying eyes and saying something clever, like, “It only hurts when I pray.”

But he didn’t die. When Indian Shadow blasted the incoming riders with the Pacemaker a stray particle stream hit Father Roland. It wasn’t fatal but it interrupted his patterned responses and there was a moment without any patterns at all. Down in the basement the evil that had been refused suddenly came awake and howled for revenge. All the repressed rage over which his self sacrifice was riding found an opening through the arrhythmia, and escaped into the upper world with the hideous shriek of a great predatory bird. It was answered by another terrible shriek from the rider who ass was severed from his horse.

Having been unaware of having a rider, as there was no independent existence for either in the schematics, the horse was in blind panic, eyes wide with terror and foaming at the mouth. Blood flowed from the separation wound, through which was exposed raw meat and white bone. The horse's separation from the rider was separation from the Dina itself. The horse was raving mad and without purpose or direction.

The rider was adapting almost instantaneously, as he could evolve as quickly as he could be reprogrammed to operate as a separate organism by the Dina. But there was the problem of thermal lag. The entire system had to adjust to a change in heat being generated and dispersed. The rider staggered. It would only take a moment. He was feeling the energy from the shifted heat setting. The last thing he saw was Darlene Darling, but he only caught a glimpse of her. For some reason unknown to him she remained in the periphery of his vision no matter how hard he tried to train on her. At first it felt like a scratch. It was just a surface wound.

Darlene Darling had come out of the saloon behind Indian Shadow. She was packing a Sex Ray pistol, so named because penetration, however slight, resulted in paralysis of the surface muscles. Three horsemen were already dying from the loss of the contractions needed to inhale and exhale. They had exhaled their last breath and their eyes searched the street without hope.

The central nervous system was in the center of the field, protected by the riders. They were expendable. The Dina didn’t have Father Roland in his calculations. The priest passed through the filters as being no threat. But he’d had a change of heart and all the evil he’d battled was through the barn door. His robe was flapping open, displaying an expanse of fur and a free swinging balls the size of apples, while he used the white rope that had secured his modesty to garrote the Dina’s centerpiece.

The last four riders turned and fled the scene, taking with them the vision of the Dina’s central nervous system being murdered on the main street of Ash Fork by a mad priest in a flapping bathrobe.

At the center of the system Bergamo holstered his gun and returned to his apartments above the saloon. The four compartments in protective field glowed with the infusion of energy taken from the Dina. There was the priest, who was immortalized in the now famous painting, “The Conversion of Father Roland.” He was a duality, containing father and son, priest and killer, beads and balls. The shadow remained in the personification of the Indian warrior, and the anima resided in the figure of Darlene Darling, whose true nature was always a mystery, as she was a shape shifter.

Posted: Wed - November 26, 2008 at 01:10 PM