Excerpt for Spiritual Storms by , available in its entirety at Smashwords

Spiritual Storms

Version .02a2 3/14/2017

Copyright 2017 Hallett German

Written by Hallett German

Illustrated by Alessandra German

This eBook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This eBook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you are reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, please purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.

Other Works by the Author:

Series Books:

Amazi Chronicles:

Story #1: How I Overcame My Inventor's Block

Book #1: Automatons for Peace

Book #2: Translators for Peace (Future)

Corporate Intent:

Story #1: Missing Profits?

Book #1: Missing Employees?

Book #2: Missing Owner?

Book #3: Missing Company?

Book #4: Missing Syndicate?

Olivia Plymouth, International Traveler and Fashion Consultant:

Story #1: Joyous Travel with the Wrong Suitcase

Book #1: Brazilian Quest

Book #2: Boston Wedding

Book #3: The Year Fashion Changed

Book #4: Encounter at Tokaido Road

Non-Series Books:

Command and Control

Combustible Networks

Ghosts vs. Robots!

In Small Doses 1 (A Collection of Short Stories)

In Small Doses 2 (A Collection of Short Stories)

In Small Doses 3 (A Collection of Short Stories)

Killing Thoreau

Missed Landing

Saving Eddie

Shrouded Witness

Spiritual Storms

Simply Business/IT (Best of Short Stories Collection)

Transitions

Transitions 2

Why I Document (Short Stories)

Writing & Stuff

Musings (Non-Fiction Collection)

More details at http://hallettgermanfiction.ml and https://sites.google.com/site/hallettgermanfiction

Cover Art Credit:

Thanks to fine folks at Pixabay for supporting royalty-free images.

For excellent web sites, graphics, and book covers, please consider using my illustrator:

http://www.alessandragerman.com


Chapter 0: Introduction

This introduction has gone through two major iterations. The first version (in story format) can be found at the end of the book.

The book is grounded in real-world experience. During the second half of 2016, I managed what was mostly a one-person six-month project. Early on, I reached a reluctant conclusion. This effort would have tight deadlines with little room for error. There was only one thing to do -- to go "all in." This meant putting in long hours throughout the whole week and taking very little downtime. It also required putting on hold the creation of any blogs on writing and delaying the release of Shrouded Witness.

In each phase of the project, I experienced various mental states outlined in Chapters 12-17.

When the project was finished ahead of schedule in five months, I knew that I wanted to capture my "lessons learned" in a fictional work. The whole project journey was a kind of personal spiritual pilgrimage with varying moments of light and darkness. The working title of this book was The Dark Night of the Soul: A Spiritual Project Manager's Journal. However, Spiritual Storms better captured the essence of what I wanted to cover herein.

After completing Chapter 4, I knew something was missing. I wanted this work to have a different feel than what I was portraying. Once again, I went "all in" -- the otherworldly alien element was introduced. This also allowed greater flexibility on what the "lessons" could cover. (The original Chapter 4 can be found in Chapter 23.)

This work is also unique in that it was written on the James River (while taking the Jamestown ferry) as well as on both river banks.

*Chapters 18 and 22 were written in part on the ferry.

*Chapters 1-2,12-17, 19-21 were written on one river bank.

*Chapters 0, 3-11, 22-24 were written on the other river bank.

As with all of my stories, I worked hard to create a unique, thoughtful, and exciting experience. Perhaps soon you too, will have a life-challenging encounter. If so, here is to your success!

Chapter 1: Prologue: The Late Mr. Trevor Lake

A solicitor's life can be rather dry and meaningless on most days. Oh, how I could bore you easily for hours on end with pointless tales. These would be all about the countless days spent poring over unstable piles of folders filled with voluminous legal documents in small print. As well as other activities that I perform regularly with great care.

But that has nothing to do with what you are now reading which I took great pains to oversee the transition to this public "printing". For what you are holding in your hand is an incredible tale. It is a thorough recollection of what appears to be an astounding series of events by the late Mr. Trevor Lake, certified project manager.

I do know something about this eccentric yet grounded man. For you see, I was his lawyer, friend, and main contact to the outside world during the last thirty-eight and a quarter years of his life. It was my honor and privilege to serve him during that important time.

Just before I knew him, he had moved here from parts unknown. On arriving, he retired to a far from modest house in the affluent part of the city. Although highly curious, I never asked him why he had such a large home or what he did with the sizable amount of free time that he had. In addition, he was reluctant to talk about his past during my few inquiries about his life. Thus, so many ways, Mr. Lake was a big mysterious unknown to me. Even today, almost no new information about him has come to light.

There is an area that I can talk with greater confidence about and that is his personality. One of his endearing qualities was that he was generous to a fault. My dear friend spent many an hour inquiring with great interest on what was happening in town. He was especially attentive about hearing more on those with misfortune as their lot. I took care to tell him all of the relevant details because I knew what would follow -- a selfless act of financial generosity.

After hearing these tales of sorrow and strife, my client would ask me anonymously to perform some deed to improve their lives. Whether it was to pay off someone's mortgage, get a person out of jail, this saintly man helped out anonymously again and again. You could then see him smiling and lighting up after doing this. He would be like a small child being given a new toy. He genuinely got a kick out of helping others. All he would ever say at that time was "There is always time to be of service to your fellow creatures and their Creator. Don't deliberate. Just help those in need. "And then he would chuckle to himself and say the name Mike as if that was meaningful and as if he was reliving some memory.

He was also prone to do strange things at times. Until he got too weak, he would do a run up, down, and though the house. It appeared to be very reassuring for him to do so -- as if it was part of some time-honored ritual. On completion, he would sit down in his favorite chair. And afterwards, he would close his eyes completely for what seemed to be an eternity. One day I asked him what he was doing. "I'm taking the time to clear out my 'mental trash', those back pages in my minds filled with regrets, shame, anger, fear, and recall of my time in the shadows", he replied.

For those many years, curiosity about my client was my cruel mistress. She would taunt me about not having taking advantage of my situation to learn more about the person in my charge. But I honorably withstood her harsh looks and mean words tugging at my consciousness.

Until it was too late. For on one otherwise uneventful cold December day, the precious and dear Mr. Lake passed on. I had business elsewhere during his last week. So, there was no chance to bid him farewell. Afterwards, I heard about some eerie events during that time. Perhaps it was good that I did not witness them. Some people that lived nearby reported hearing loud noises. And a few claimed to witness a strange, colorful array of pulsating and bright lights above and throughout his house during those final days. But as mentioned before, I was never privy to seeing such alien and frightening sights.

As executor, I made the extra effort to carry out the numerous clauses of his will including the distribution of all his worldly goods. Many a citizen and organization was pleasantly surprised to see a healthy deposit in their bank account. It made me feel good to be so useful.

After most of Mr. Lake's assets were transferred to other parties, there was one task remaining.

I was trusted as his executor to clear out his oversized safety deposit box. This would be the first time that I was viewing the contents. So, I had no idea what to expect or how long that this would take. I often pondered what very private people would want secured from the prying eyes of their neighbors and friends.

The inevitable day arrived to open his large safety deposit box. Inside were the usual items. Packages of securities, deeds, and other former possessions could be found. But at the very bottom, carefully tucked away from the securities was a worn oversized manila envelope. Being adventurous, I pulled apart the already fragile mental clasp. Excitement was building inside me. I was anxious to know what I would find inside. What I saw was anti-climactic. I was taken very much aback to see two yellowing spiral bound steno pads with Mr. Lake's very clear handwriting still visible. I was greatly puzzled. What was so very special about these two notebooks? Were they confessions about some immoral and tasteless act? Without hesitation, I pored over its contents. There was a title page on each artifact --Tales from Boot Camp, Notebooks 1 and 2. Mr. Lake never mentioned being enlisted or drafted by the Armed Forces. But if he did serve in the military, it would explain his great attention to detail and his strong adherence to order and discipline.

Having to liquidate the other outstanding resources in the security box first, I simply took the notebooks back with me, with the intention to review them at a later time. But as time went on, I put them aside in my office to deal with more pressing and routine matters. I always meant to get back to them. Finally, that day arrived and I didn't even know it!

On that fateful and unusually quiet day, I recalled a very pleasant memory about spending time with Mr. Lake. He was discussing about the time that he traveled to some country for a project. "Every possible thing that could go wrong did. On start day, I arrived at a large office with a sea of empty desks. My contact had left the company after a very noisy row on a very obvious difference of opinion with their manager. The manager had been transferred the week before to another office. There was no one that knew if the project was still on or the name of the current project leader. Part of me wanted to head home. But papers had been signed and money exchanged. I had to honor my customer. Something would be done that week no matter what the personal price was. I thought of those invaluable lessons in boot camp when I had no means to go forward or backwards. Just attempting to survive in the chaos of the darkness. Fortunately, I recalled the lesson: 'be patient and persistent.' And eventually, I found the right door to knock on and accomplished the purpose of my visit."

When I remembered that moment, I immediately recalled having taken Mr. Lake's unread notebooks from his safety deposit box and placing them somewhere. Chastising myself for not having reviewed them, I pulled my office completely apart trying to find their location. In the end, they were found hiding under a pile of timesheets from the previous year. Then, I took the courage to look at these fragile artifacts once again. As I read through the pages which were remarkably still legible, a single note dropped out. All it said was "To be published on word of my demise." So, that made it very clear that it was Mr. Lake's intention to publish these "Tales from Boot Camp."

But what to do with them? Funny, I don't recall any provision on how to handle such a minor item in his fairly lengthy and well thought-out will. After a second review of his will, I was surprised that he made me the owner of everything not explicitly covered. So in essence, the notebooks were mine to do with as I pleased.

I would try to honor his wishes. Not sure if these works would find a ready audience, I took it to a local publisher to get her opinion. She returned word back quickly. "Did you read it? Do you know what you have here?" I said no to both questions. She then told me that it was a truly unique and exciting adventure and a very memorable encounter with perhaps another alien civilization from another galaxy. She said that she would publish it gladly. We agreed to give any proceeds (which I expected little to none) to a children's summer camp. Little did I know that it would be a raging success.

A short time later, I traversed the pages of a pre-publication copy of Tales from Boot Camp. It was an eye opener. This was not the Mr. Trevor Lake that I knew. The man detailed inside was far from confident and an emotional mess. I was astounded to read the struggles and humor from a man that was quite different from my friend of so many years.

Having reached its end, I am not sure if any of it was real. Or if he was contacted by creatures from another world. Even after reading this, dear Trevor remains still very much an enigma where time has not revealed any of his secrets. In any case, here is an offbeat yarn to read on a cold winter night about a good man and his unusual initiation where he possibly encountered a wise and powerful alien species. May God grant eternal rest my friend's likely tortured soul.

Chapter 2: A Dramatic Hiring Process -- Invitation to adventure

When reaching the end, it is all supposed to come together and mean something. That twisting and trackless rollercoaster that is called one's life journey. The various economic upheavals, downturns, and, prosperous times. All of those intense emotional periods encountered. The many dreams that were dashed and those hard-fought victories that were achieved. Those terrible and difficult setbacks that left one wanting to hide forever from the world due to feeling so very vulnerable. But after all of these numberless and dramatic life experiences, where am I, truly?

In recent years, I have been drifting around while in a trance-like state. Things look hazy when gazing backward and feel so unclear when thinking about moving forward. I am in limbo and accept reluctantly being in a stuck state.

One such period of constant activity, unexpected misdirection. and eventually no progress has been the last crazy eight years. I cannot remember a period when I ever worked harder. But in the end, it always has the same final act. Relieved, I perform another escape act and make a smooth transition to another company.

So why do I move on? Well, it is not driven by fear, anger, or any base emotion. I love the job that I am doing. Most of my colleagues are genuinely sad when I leave. No, what drives me is this awful, nagging feeling. As if I am missing out on something important and meaningful. And end up just failing to find it wherever I go. Always there is this tug at my brain and heart, listening to this constant inner dialogue while struggling to be happy. What the heck should I do about this uncertain feeling of restlessness? Where can I be satisfied, and find this elusive thing that I am seeking? Will there ever be a time that I will start moving forward? It is time to end these damn expectations games. There it is again. The thoughts begin to race through my head causing immediate dissatisfaction. "If only I had..." But what is this state of mind or object that I desired? I was never certain of it. It was there, just over the horizon. My desired happiness and peace of mind. The next big thing or the only thing that I truly would need.

Then I did what I always do to seek some sense of balance. Walk the nine straight blocks east to the river's edge. Soon I arrived and stared into the near-darkness. The continuous and ever-changing series of waves arrived and departed. Birth and death. Motion and stillness. Always both a process and a moment.

No. This usual elixir was not working its magic. No answers sprang forth from this typical watery salve. And all too quickly, those old, unwanted feelings came storming back. I was bathed in a strong sense of helplessness, being very much alone, and feeling so very useless. Not able to take these mental exchanges and mind storms any more, I walked back slowly and retreated under some comforting covers. Once there, I faced what would be a long and uneasy sleep.

***

Sunday arrived soon enough. Somehow, I made it to this last scheduled break in the action before returning to work. As was my weekly ritual to occupy the time, I purchased the oversized weekend news edition. I take my time reading through all of the sections except the dreaded one. When I cannot delay the inevitable any more, I dive into the Employment Section. I can sense the disdain that some might have about doing this. "Oh, this is so unfashionable! Search for a job online. There are so much other friendlier ways." But going through the Help Wanted section is something I fear and am thrilled by. I love the intrigue and fun of gazing up and down each column trying to acquire its secrets. I enjoy the thrill of holding that bulky portion of the paper in my hands.

And while nearing the end, there it is. Ruling a modest area of the bottom left of page 23. How could I not be captivated by the lure of the challenge posed in small print. It said the following:

Lost at sea with your life and job?

Do you have Project Management skills?

Looking for a different and more meaningful existence?

Try us!

A. Regis West Project Consulting

I was not sure at first what to make of this. Was it a put-on or real? Maybe it was just a scam to gather résumés for future jobs or it was some sort of strange exotic cosmic joke. With nothing left to lose. I wanted to probe a little deeper into this mystery. That same day, I sent in my job history and contact information to the specified address. Given that the ad's font was so small and hard to find, I doubt anyone would take this job posting seriously or even see it. I have low expectations that I would ever hear back. Was I so wrong!

***

A few days later, the preliminary stages of the interview process began unexpectedly. Imagine my surprise when receiving a carefully scribed handwritten note two days after submission.

The adventure starts for you!

Are you our type of employee?

We will find out soon enough!

Tomorrow 10 a.m. come rain or shine.

Corner of Digby & Coral

Don't be late.

After reading that, my head was exploding with thoughts driving in a thousand and two different directions. I started to dive into the meaning of each sentence of the response:

"The adventure starts for you!" What the heck does this sentence even mean? Could it be a misguided nod to the matinee serials of the past? Or the product of the overactive imagination of some zealous marketer? Or maybe it is just some words to liven up what will surely be a very ordinary process.

"Are you our type of employee?" Shaking my head on that one. Is this an artificially-imposed snobbishness? Like "Oh, we are so darn exclusive. You need to thank us for being a member. "Really (Sarcasm dripping off my tongue.) Like this particular job is an honor and a privilege.

"We will find out soon enough!" Is this a serious threat or an open invitation?

"Tomorrow 10 a.m. come rain or shine...Corner of Digby & Coral." What the heck? I am not even asked if I am available then? Who are these people? Does my say even count for anything? And why that particular corner in the whole city? Why not meet in a building, a library, a restaurant? Something is very off about this whole thing!

"Don't be late." I sense the implied OR here. Or I miss the one chance of my lifetime. Or you better obey us. A threat or an opportunity. it was all so emotionally loaded.

With so little input, how can you even prepare for an interview like this? Just have to be rested and open to the likely traps to be set in each moment of the meeting.

Chapter 3: A Dramatic Hiring Process -- Testing can kill ya!

Tomorrow arrived soon enough and my day of destiny was shouting out my name. It was time to call in sick from being an unexpected victim to a sudden flu that was a result of the change of seasons. I kept the exchange short but vague. That way it could be interpreted as being afflicted by any temporary and non-life-threatening malady. I checked online about possible "gotcha" interview questions. Got my clothes ready. Going with the best suit. Come to think about it, they never said what to wear. Geez.

I dressed up and headed out. I arrived with a good twenty minutes to spare. Very soon thereafter, I realize that I am very out of place, like a penguin walking through a desert. I look and feel VERY conspicuous wearing a suit on a street corner surrounded by closed abandoned buildings and overgrown vacant lots. There is no place to sit down or provide shelter from the unseasonably hot sun. As mentioned before, I arrived early. That is the conventional wisdom -- be early and make a good impression. But am I really emanating confidence and promoting employability? My brain is starting to be wracked by a crushing headache. Was it REALLY right to do this interview? What could I even expect to happen? Was there something that I especially hoped to gain? Wait a second! Am I even on the right corner? The note did not say. That would be the worst. Oh, these growing doubts and fears! Suppose I was on the opposite side of the street when the vehicle arrived and then all too quickly leaves. And at that moment, traffic and a walk light hold me up from crossing in time. Then where would I be? Frustrated and feeling awful about losing my one chance in a real while for happiness.

I am becoming very lost in my thought patterns when suddenly arises a circle of rising flames surrounding me. What just happened? When was this inferno set? And why? I am quaking with fear all over. "Please help. Help me." I keep thinking over and over.

At one point, I had the urge to raise my head and look skyward. By doing so, I could see the immediate relief to my pressing situation. From above, a line descended. No, that would not be an accurate picture. A strong line holding a basket that could comfortably hold two was moving ever closer towards me. When at last it perfectly landed, I did not hesitate even a second to move towards it. Having nothing left to lose, I jumped in. I was thrilled to see that the basket was rising at a good pace. But to where was I going? For a second time, I looked up. And was greeted by a surprising sight. For above me was none other than a flying oversized red convertible. At that point, I knew that I have long left the coziness of my comfort zone. This was far too much over my head and for me to deal with. What am I to do next? What is expected of me? Oh, poor me! I just sat and waited for the end of this rise.

The basket ascended smoothly and effortlessly. Once I had all but reached the car, some incredibly strong hands pulled me in. To say that my feathers were ruffled is an understatement. Here I was in the back of this enormous vehicle up above a city that I knew so well. Words started to fail me. I had expected something far different -- just a simple limousine with a driver to pick me up at the appointed time. Then once I climbed in and we resumed moving, my chauffeur would initially be gracious. After the mandatory amount of polite conversation, they would be quiet, thus helping me to gather my thoughts. Or to concentrate on the drive heading to places so unknown...

Instead, I was facing a very unforeseen and potentially dangerous situation. Here I was reclining uncomfortably while gliding across the sky in this large retro-styled convertible with the top completely down. Was I really okay with this? Would there be problems breathing while up here? And...

My train of thought was broken up by the one and only one person sitting across from me. My impression of her was far from neutral. Her brown hair was trimmed short and she dressed very conservatively. But I could see the muscles bulging from her formal business attire. Apparently, my hostess was a former athlete who was still in great shape. Was she the one that pulled me so firmly up to the backseat? It had to be.

More incredibly, she was behind for lack of a better term -- a mini-desk. It was a smaller desk that fits comfortably in the back seat. While still thinking about this situation, I glanced up to the front seat. All I could see was the wheel automatically turning by itself and no driver behind it. An impended sense of doom was swallowing up my consciousness.

I was gulping for air when she spoke. The tones emitted were professionally sounding. "Good Morning. Mister Trevor K. Lake. I hope that we started your day properly with a small dosage of adventure and a brief moment of reckless abandon? Good, your head is nodding. So, I take that as a solid yes? Excellent, I know that you are still taking it all in. Don't worry, you are off to a great start. You showed up and made your way fairly smoothly to your ride. You would not believe how many get so panicked-stricken that they could not even do that simple task." She gave a cold and dismissive look after saying this.

"I hope you enjoy our unusual means of transport. Quite rare actually in that only five of these cars exist. And we bought all of them. The motorized conveyance that you are now enjoying is a three surface (land, air, water) self-driving vehicle. Within seconds, it can be switched to an all-metal top, very convenient when you think about it. The ancient prophets, rulers, and others ascended to the heavens sometimes atop of a chariot of flames. This was done to receive a revelation or to begin what was believed was a life of immortality. However, you are not rising that far. Still, you experienced a a short climb upwards nonetheless. "

"We have a forty-minute ride to our headquarters. So, there is plenty of time to answer your understandably large list of questions."

"Let's start with what is likely to be your topic -- the fire. When did it start? Who started it? Was I ever in danger? It began precisely twenty seconds before ten o'clock. We use a setup that makes a very controlled fire set to any height or intensity that we wish. My confederates remotely started the fire. You were never in harm's way at any time. If you panicked, then the flames would have stopped. But while distressed, you were still thinking of your escape options. That is what A. Regis West Project Consulting or ARWPC (as we call ourselves to save time) expect of our employees. Smart. Thinking on their feet. Detail-oriented. All of us in the area could tell this about you and more. Yes, I was watching you on a screen that can be raised or lowered from this desk. "

"Let us take the next topic. What were we trying to achieve? Quite simple actually, we ran an experiment placing you in an ambiguous situation. It was all about what you would do. You were uncertain from where and when we would show up. You had no idea what side of the street to wait or what to look for. No details were provided on how to dress. That is what a good Project Manager does -- deal with the unexpected. In case you were wondering, any side of the street was correct, we would have found you. Also, all four corner of the intersection have the same capabilities for generating test situations with flames and other surprises that you will never experience. Once again, congratulations Mr. Lake for getting this far. Only 34.27% of our interviewees typically do."

She then reached out her hand to offer her version of a friendly handshake. From my perspective, I received a bear grip that I still have nightmares about. Then there was her wide smile, "You may relax Mr. Lake. I am the mere greeter. In twenty-eight minutes, you will be on our campus. The interview takes place there. Care for an iced tea? "Trying to calm down, I said that I would and this unusual car traveled onward. What had I gotten myself into? The greeter, the car, and my drink failed to offer any sure answers.

Chapter 4: A Dramatic Hiring Process -- My arrival on campus

Maybe I was overcome by the shock of the whole thing and dosed off. Or I could have been drugged by the iced tea. Who knows? To this day, I still have no answers. In time, I was roused roughly from my apparent sound slumber to see an enormous expanse of land just serving as the entrance to ARWPC's headquarters. When did we descend and return back to solid ground? Amused by how awestruck I was, my temporary companion cheerily stated, "Welcome to our Campus, Mr. Lake."

It would take almost a long a drive to reach the headquarters' main buildings as it did to travel from my meeting spot. And what could I say about that experience? Some things are beyond words and perhaps even beyond time and space. The whole area seemed like a series of loosely defined regions. One was a wondrous park. Another was a space filled with imaginary creatures. A third place was a replica of someone's idea of heaven or hell. What could I ever speak of the collection of sights and sounds that I saw and heard along the way? Let me do a weak retelling of what I thought I viewed during those precious moments where one location was replaced quickly by another.

An interconnected set of gardens overflowing with unique blossoming flowers and teeming with wildlife. I was amazed by all the different creatures that were allowed to roam freely. Animals from many different climates and continents. It made any known zoo look ordinary.

We drove through several narrow and twisting mountain paths, dodged deep holes and sizable boulders on dirt roads, and traversed barely passable narrow, twisting bridges that swung dangerously close to a river's or lake's surface.

At times, we could see the skies filled with what looked like dragons, griffins, phoenixes and other imaginary creatures that I had only read about or seen in fantasy videos. It was visually stunning.

In the distance, I could view an island and its ancient ruins that had a strong sense of familiarity. Were they some of the wonders of the Ancient World? Or perhaps Atlantis itself? One came away with a strong sense of expectation that anything was possible on the Campus. And the imagination and reality merged together as one. It all felt as something I had experienced sometime before in my distant past. And quite strangely, my yearning and emptiness felt gone just being here.

In one place, I could hear a beautiful heavenly-like choir singing. Listening to them, I felt inspired and brought to tears of joy. Moments later, I was listening to the painful and howling strains of a devil's chorus. And sobbed, hearing their laments of heartbreaking despair.

Each second unfolded to a different view. Warriors past and present fully engaged with each other likely to the death, renowned authors reading proudly their own works, prize-winning scientists demonstrating excitedly their findings in dynamic lectures, politicians craftily debating each other anxiously waiting for an opportunity to make the verbal kill, and more situations that words fail to capture. Was this some ultimate reality with no past or present? Aaru, Milam Bardo, Elysian Fields, Valhalla, Heaven, The Pure Land. The Sphere of Ideals. This place was like a little bit of these and many other imaginary and venerated places, I was somehow at my ultimate home. A place that vaguely felt that I had once resided some time long ago.

Finally, I could see people dressed in various colors on what was a long lawn with endless walking trails. Some were reading. Others were doing calisthenics, fire walking, or some unworldly martial arts. Others were dancing to some tune being carried in their imaginations. At times, I would see a shimmering of the air and people would suddenly appear or disappear. On one side, it was bordered by challenging rock faces to surmount. Another side was... No I am far from able in describing adequately even just a little of this place. Countless wonder on wonder.

The whole thing was so large that I felt that I was visiting another planet. My interest was piqued. How enormous was this place? Who maintains this? And how could they afford it all given such a small employment advertisement? I was entranced by a growing curiosity filled with awe and admiration.

In time, we made it past the well-kept lawns to the headquarters entrance. The all-glass building was circular, rising up multiple levels like a new Tower of Babel. It was an incredible sight. The car door was opened by a smiling well-dressed man who spoke oh so matter-of-factly. "Welcome Mr. Lake to A. Regis West Project Consulting HQ. Follow me please." I looked back but my greeter was gone. Perhaps she had shimmered out at some point after arrival on the Campus. What a curious and amazing place.

My new host said nothing as we walked the short distance to the building entrance. Once inside, I felt lifted of my burdens and relieved to be here. The lobby was immense. I felt so insignificant against the light-colored vertical supports rising to who knows where, and the beautiful yet alien looking sculptures. On the walls were pulsating lights alternating with various colors and patterns accompanied by a series of highly unusual sounds. I was more than now convinced that I was kidnapped by aliens ready to harvest my brain for their starving offspring. My imagination was overthinking of all of the awful possibilities that could happen to me when I heard in a firm voice, "Please sit and wait there."

My guide had indicated two chairs that were on a small marble-covered "island" surrounded by steaming, swirling water. Was this another test? I saw the narrow steppingstones that led from where I was to my meeting place. Knowing there was no going back and having no other option, I raced across each step. Hopefully, there were not any other surprises such as the steps rotated, suddenly raised and lowered, and the like. Fortunately, none of those things happened and I made it to my location without incident. Once there, I could see two chairs. As commanded previously, I sat in one spot. Then a whirring sound began. Automatically, I was strapped in, no longer able to freely move. The chair rose off the ground and carried me higher in a zigzagging pattern. Where was I going? Am I prisoner or was I strapped in for my own safety? This place generated more questions that it answered.

After zooming around for what seemed an eternity, I arrived on a "landing platform" on maybe the tenth or eleventh floor. The straps retracted and I was free to move once more. A lit arrow on the floor indicated where I was to go. I headed through the open door and was surrounded and blinded by a strong blue light. Then it cleared and I could see that I was in an ultra-modern conference room all made of glass. Which meant if I looked down, I would see... No, I don't want to think of it. I sat in one of the transparent chairs that was stronger than it looked. A few seconds later, I was facing what would likely be my interviewers. They appeared to shimmer in from nowhere. They were a man and woman in their twenties or thirties. Both wore some sort of colorful robes with no apparent pockets. Somehow, I could feel energy levels emitted by them that was off the charts. I am definitely getting that "matinee film alien encounter" vibe. What follows is going to be very interesting and truly unique. If I survive that is.

Chapter 5: A Dramatic Hiring Process -- My "extraterrestrial" interview.

"Welcome Mr. Lake", my hosts said in eerie unison. They continued on in a sing-song voice that was creeping me out major big time. "There is no time to rest. We need to learn more about you to see if you would be a good fit here. Let's hope for the best, shall we?"

This continued joint speaking style was far too weird for me to bear. I felt I was participating in a new-style Greek tragedy and was expecting the obligatory singing and dancing next. Instead, I was confronted with an onslaught of questions by the "twins." I felt that this was not going to be easy at all.

"Why are you here?"

Wow, tough questions straight out of the gate. Following the safe approach, I stuck to the facts. "I saw a small help wanted posting in my Sunday paper and I responded. You need to do a better job in making these ads more visible by the way."

"Not good enough. Why are you really here Mr., Lake? Explain to us."

"To help my customers complete their projects on time, within budget, and according to specifications."


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