When their expedition stretched along an unassuming path that threaded tightly between the mountain and the icy shores of an unmarked river, the tortuous terrain and thin air began to take its toll on even the best conditioned of Evan’s men.
His back bent with exhaustion, Sheridan carefully placed tender feet on rocks that teetered and shifted with every step. His stoic face wore a mask of ice that framed deep-set eyes where pitch-black pupils brimmed with faithless determination.
Pulling alongside a course of the river where the water swirled in a violent whirlpool, Kunchen came to a stop.
“This is the way to the city of Shambhala,” Kunchen said. “It’s a sort of wormhole . . . a back door between dimensions.”
Sheridan’s eyes fell to the watery gateway
Kunchen stepped into the pounding vortex,
his bag of supplies in tow.
Sheridan hesitated before slowly following Kunchen’s lead. He watched Kunchen sink deeper into the water as the maelstrom wrapped itself around him like an anaconda.
Then, in an instant of boundless fury, the powerful grip of the Water Spirits wrenched Kunchen below the boiling surface!
Sheridan lunged for Kunchen,
plunging headfirst into the whirlpool.
Sheridan began to flail about, wrestling against the current that pulled him deeper. His anger mounted as he battled to control his dive into the liquid blackness while bone-numbing cold pressed in and pitch darkness swallowed him whole.
Plummeting into the unfathomable depths, his hand fumbled with the fixture on his head. Then, finding what felt like a toggle switch, he turned on the lamps.
A brilliant halo burst from the top of his head forming a sphere of opaque light that pushed back the tenebrous underwater world.
He scanned the murky depths for a way out of the swirling wormhole when something caught his eye: a photograph in a wooden frame whipping through the unyielding current.
He lunged through the impetuous deluge, swimming against the flow to reach the listing image. Overcoming the urge to take a breath, Sheridan fought his way to the passing debris, snatching it from the watery grave.
Pulling it close, he was taken aback to see an image that chronicled one of the happiest days of his life–his wedding photograph! Graciela was a stunning bride in a dress of ivory lace and a bright-faced version of Sheridan beamed in a black tuxedo.
The painfully blissful image roused a burning bitterness. He tried to wrap his head around the improbable coincidence:
How does a photo that was once displayed on my living room mantle, suddenly appear in this hellhole?
Then he saw another remnant of his former life twisting in the subterranean stream.
Ignoring the oxygen cravings that clawed at his chest, he rushed to the personal relic, battling against the steady pull of the river, refusing to relent to its demands.
He scooped up the trophy and confirmed his suspicions:
it was a conductor’s baton.
He looked at it with equal parts joy and horror.
It was the same gold baton that had brought so many ancient manuscripts to life; the prestigious symbol, engraved with his name, that the Vatican had brutally stripped away.
What is happening?
He looked back into the fathomless deep, cringing when he saw it: the flash of vivid red in the shape of a small book.
My first bible.
In defiance of the angry whirlpool and the hunger for air that stabbed at his gut, he willed his way to the floating refuse. Taking hold of the childhood bible, he remembered the faith it once symbolized and the loss of innocence it had come to represent.
Looking up from the bible’s water-soaked pages, he found himself encircled by the lost treasures of his hard fought life.
In a spree of desperate resolution, Sheridan reclaimed the mementos from the coursing water: the magazine cover that gave him worldwide recognition; the diary in which he divulged his deepest aspirations and the keys to his new dream house. He wrapped his arms wrapped around the collection of keepsakes holding them tightly against his breast.
Finally, drunk with oxygen deprivation, he grasped a photograph, freeing it from the river’s grasp. It was the photo of a twelve-year-old boy sporting a Yankees baseball cap. The pain that struck his heart at the sight of it was too much to bear.
Desperate to put an end to the torment, he was struck with a morbid irony.
One deep breath and I can rejoin my old life forever.
Before he could commit to the final act, Sheridan began to turn, round and round, twisting at the merciless hand of the revolving wormhole. With his arms loaded down he had no way to maneuver and no rudder with which to set his course.
As he spun out of control, the hard won trophies began to slip from his grasp, ejecting from his clenches one by one to be returned back to the abyss. Straining to hold onto to one last memory, he reached overhead with both hands—
—when instantly the spinning stopped.
With his arms extended in the international sign of surrender,
he found himself riding the coursing waterway.
At that moment, in the thrashing silo of the wormhole,
with Sheridan’s body weak from a long fought battle and his lungs burning for air,
something extraordinary happened—
he heard music.
Gentle strings joined a tender piano, the whisper of a melody growing with every beat. He heard it all, not with his ears, but coming from somewhere deep within his own unexplored depths.
The music washed away the pain and exhaustion that clung to every cell of his being leaving him with nothing but the blissful relief of pure peace.
Then, in the midst of complete abandon, Sheridan heard a voice singing:
Till then I’ll shine for you
Cry in the night for you
Calling you home to renew
Our love again
But until then
I’ll shine for you