The Letters From Love Series
Letter From Money
The season of little leaves was so far advanced that Liz had been feeling a thrilling in the trees as she passed them, roiling cascades of energy that felt to her like a soft sizzle. It was lovely, although sometimes it did trouble her to realize that plants everywhere must be giving off perceptible energies this way, and only on this tiny island were human minds developed enough to notice.
Her climb through the woods was becoming steeper. The opening onto the windmill hill was ahead. Then Liz was stepping from the forest path directly onto sheep-cropped grass that giggled softly in the sunlight. There before her was the big umbrella tree that Jack used to call their “bed with a view,” and the sight of it made her breath catch. When he was a boy, their son had slept on a pallet beside his parents’ bed whenever his father was on this island, so Liz and Jack had spent many private afternoons beneath that tree.
Liz walked up its little hillock to stand beneath their special tree, at the tallest spot on this island’s southern tip, and shaded her eyes against the sea’s overwhelming glittering. She was trying to spot the ships that she had been told were approaching the harbor. When Jack had first begun spending time here, back when their son was barely two, he had hired what Liz thought of as a mercenary navy to patrol the waters around this island in order to avoid having to bring ashore the disruptive nuisance of security staff. And apparently, even after years away, Jack still cared enough about protecting his family and also protecting this pure island culture that his mercenary navy was there to this day. For two ships to have been allowed to come past the patrols and approach the harbor now was an event so unusual that a friend living in the village of Darakan, at the island’s southern tip, had sent his daughter running inland to let Liz know about those ships.
And there they were.
A gunship was out beyond the Darakan promontory, looking flat black against the ocean’s glittering, heading for the harbor just below the village. But what was horrifying was what was behind the gunship. Jack’s yacht had been white and stately and lovely, as sweet to behold as the man himself, but there behind the gunship was a considerably smaller and racy-looking black-hulled yacht. And the fact that a yacht so different from Jack’s was being allowed to approach the harbor, and maybe the fact that it was black besides, made Liz know for certain that this was the message that her husband had long ago promised to send. She would never be able to remarry here unless it was known that he had died, and Jack was careful in all that he did. He wasn’t going to leave her with that trailing end.
Liz dropped to the grass where she and Jack had sat and talked and laughed and made love and felt so united that they used to say that now they finally understood the Atlantican creation story, and they were indeed a single person split so they could have the joy of reuniting. Thinking of that, Liz clapped her fingers to her mouth. She was trembling but, oddly enough, not crying. What would have seemed impossible when she first got up this morning was seeming now to have been inevitable. Of course Jack had died. He had had a heart attack on this island at the age of only thirty-eight, and his father’s first heart attack had been fatal at the age of fifty-five. Liz would have to figure out how old Jack must be, time being such an elusive thing here, but surely a great deal of time had passed. And now Jack had died. He was never coming back.
* * *
This little island in the South Atlantic, less than twenty miles from south to north and roughly eight miles wide, was populated by fewer than five thousand people who now were uniformly tall and brown, but whose ancestors from all over the world had been shipwrecked here over thousands of years. Listening to their island’s oral history recounted in dozens of children’s stories, Jack and Liz used to marvel at the fact that what had been millennia of bloody warfare had led to a way of life so joyous that this island’s culture had been stable for what was now going on five hundred years.
Liz had first arrived here as a teacher for the children of Jack’s island staff. Having grown up in a clumsy poverty that had made her always an outsider, she had come here at the end of her twenties because when you have nothing in your life, even taking a dead-end job at the edge of the world seems like something. And Liz had been cynically reckless enough, fearless enough and smart enough to interest a man so wealthy that the odd piece of work she had been at the time had seemed to him to be a refreshing change.
Liz had always known it couldn’t last forever. Jack Richardson was already famous as the richest American under the age of forty, on the cover of Time when he was twenty-six, and seldom out of the news thereafter until eventually the fun of being famous wore off, and by his mid-forties he was routinely suing anyone who dared to publish his name. Jack was still unmarried in his mid-thirties when Liz began to work for him, but eventually he was going to marry. For that he would want someone prettier than Liz, someone used to being rich, someone much more suitable. So, feeling certain that whatever they had together couldn’t last for long, Liz had broken up with Jack repeatedly. How many times had that happened? Three times? Four? Her need to protect herself from being hurt had made her ditch this man she adored whenever she suspected she was soon to be ditched. That he had calmly accepted such treatment and always come back to try again still astonished Liz, as she thought about it. A man who so carefully controlled every other aspect of his life had graciously allowed her to control their relationship.
After the first time Liz broke up with Jack, he abandoned her here. He thought he was leaving her with his staff so she could have the clean break that she seemed to want, but without him here she felt more secure in moving to one of the native villages. Neither time nor distance mattered on Atlantica, but Jack had been the sort of man who liked to time things, and he had told Liz that Morakan was exactly one hour’s walk north of Darakan. Samitkan was another three hours beyond Morakan. So Liz had glumly trekked out to Morakan on that long-ago dismal morning when the man she had been trying not to fall in love with had unexpectedly left without her. And she had been living in Morakan ever since.
It was during those early months long ago that Liz first became entranced with this place. Atlanticans had stumbled upon the fact that when people have perfect freedom of mind, they can develop such spiritual unity that they have no need for governments. No need for ownership or money or laws. No aspect of civilization is necessary.
And what was most extraordinary to Liz was the way that living as Atlanticans lived allowed people to develop hitherto unsuspected mental powers, as if living in any other way put shackles upon the human mind. People here became aware of plant and animal energies, and especially aware of other people’s emotions, so living as Atlanticans lived produced an extraordinary deep-seated joy. Liz had long thought of it as “the Now,” this pleasure you felt here in simply existing, and it was continuously astonishing to her. It surprised no one else, since these people couldn’t conceive of living any other way. Liz knew her mind-sensitivity was less than theirs. She was feral, while all the others here were wild. And her son had grown up as wild as they were, deeply and joyously free from all the bonds that would have been forced upon him if he had grown up in the United States.
Liz refused to give in to crying now. There was no point. She and Jack had tried so hard to make their life together work, and then they had resolutely made what had felt at the time to be their best decisions, so of course living rich was going to kill him and he was going to die too young and there never could have been a different outcome. Liz was feeling their umbrella tree’s old familiar energies the way most people felt individual trees, as if perhaps her body were the tree itself. But Jack had never managed to feel plant-energies with any consistency. He was never here for long enough to develop much mind-sensitivity at all, and then he would be right back in the States, and whatever progress he had made here would be gone.
One of the peculiarities of this island was the fact that time passed differently here. That highly pleasurable Now seemed somehow to suspend time in people’s minds, so there was not the daily awareness of its passage that people felt in civilization. People here had no concept of time, no verb tenses, no linguistic way to transform the blissful Now into anything linear. Children grew up, true, and people aged, but somehow you didn’t notice that here. This morning, Liz was seeing that as a trap. She hadn’t noticed the passage of time, but years had gone by since she had last seen her husband. Years had been stolen. Hadn’t they been stolen? If you don’t even notice the passing years, then have you really lived them at all?
Liz had been trying to figure out, as she walked their path up toward Jack’s “bed with a view,” how many of what she was calling earth-years had gone by since she was last here with him. She could measure time most easily in the fact that Jack had kept track of Relandela’s age, and he had told her their son was twelve years old on that last awful day that Jack ever spent with them. Twelve. And now Relandela was married and a father.
Liz and Jack had learned early on that his wealth intimidated her. She saw being wealthy as a complicated dance that she couldn’t even learn how to fake; she wasn’t pretty, and a man so rich could afford and surely deserved much better. Jack had found her attitude so mystifying that after a brief, early time when he thought it had something to do with him and therefore it might be something he could fix, he just accepted it as part of the package he had bought when he fell in love with Liz. And it told you a lot about the man that for year after patient year thereafter, he respected her need not to see him as wealthy. He used to arrive in Morakan already dressed in the homespun woolen tunic and pants that the people here wore. He would stay with his family for a couple of Atlantican seasons, living exactly as these people lived, and let his hair and beard grow wild, so by the time he was ready to leave he would be adorably scruffy. Jack was never rich when he was here. And seeing how easily he could shed his wealth and go native, Liz had long cherished the hope that eventually he would be able to stay here. If he could just get into it enough, and perhaps develop his mind enough, he would see how little consolation there was in having money in that desolate world where money was even necessary. Without it, he had the chance to live in a place where people had the infinite wealth of never having heard of money.
The buildings of Steve’s old Farm were right below the cliff that was a little to the south of where Liz was sitting. Having seen what personal freedom could do, Jack’s childhood friend Steve Symington had long ago conducted an experiment in freedom using thirty-odd hippies and hangers-on. Steve had meant well, but he never had thought through the fact that just removing all constraints without grounding people in spiritual unity would leave them rudderless. So Steve’s Farm had ended badly, with the men there turning on the natives in a way that had sealed in these folks’ minds the certainty that the people of the rest of the earth were in every way inferior to the people of this little world. Surely the Farm’s buildings would still be down there. Liz was glad that from where she sat, she couldn’t see them.
Farther out on the promontory beyond Steve’s Farm was Darakan, a village of a thousand people that looked from here like just a few roofs floating in a sea of branches. The harbor would be there beyond the village. When Jack was still coming here, he had used an Argentine company to maintain a manmade channel through the outer reef to the pilings where he moored his yacht. That he came and went in a yacht that was nearly three-hundred feet in length and required a crew of forty people had been something that never had mattered to Liz, although she later understood that perhaps it should have mattered.
Sunlight shimmered fiercely on an expanse of ocean so vast that from where Liz sat it seemed not even to meet the horizon, but the ocean eventually became the sky. There used to be a couple of dozen windmills maybe twenty feet tall on the sloping part of the cliff to Liz’s right, but most of them were broken now. A few still clacketed slowly. Until the communications tower had been taken out by a storm, it had been important to maintain the windmills so Liz and Jack could stay in touch. Otherwise, electricity was useless here. And while he was here, Jack also had seemed to see electricity as useless. For a long time, there appeared to be a kind of switch in his mind that would let him come and go easily, so he lived with Liz and their son each spring and fall in a place so far beyond civilization that he had taken to calling it post-civilization. A place where human life finally worked. But then he would be able to step back on his yacht and spend each winter and summer in what he had been willing to admit was a civilization that really didn’t work at all.
That gunship was slowly beginning to emerge from the shadow of the Darakan promontory, so close to the village that the nasty mind-energies of the men it carried must be troubling the villagers.
Liz and Jack had had such fun together! It wasn’t only the friendly people and the healthy lifestyle that had made their lives together so perfect, but also it was the fact that everything that happened to them here was more or less funny. Jack used to say he never really laughed except when he was with Liz. One year, they even wrote a book together. What was it called? Strange Dogs and Their Masters. That was it. It was a book about fixing failing businesses that was based on notes Jack had been keeping, and over a year’s time when Relandela was tiny, he had dictated it to Liz in clipped sentences that she wrote out in more creative longhand.
Because everything they did together was more or less funny, their book had ended up humorous, too, and it had been a bestseller in fourteen languages. That someone so famous for being wealthy had finally been willing to tell some secrets would likely have dictated that it would sell well. But Jack had been sure that its success was due to what he called its “Lizzie voice,” full of what read like a hard-won sense that life was so tough that our only rational approach to it was basic silliness. Even the cover was silly, with a ceramic Cerberus whose three heads displaying three different moods were arguing with one another. The title was above the dog, and below it was “Jack Richardson as told to Elizabeth Lyons beneath a tree” as the authors. It surprised Liz to find her name there at all, and astonished her that their names were in equally large letters, with the rest of that foolishness in small script. Jack had told her at the time that there was a lot of curiosity about who this woman was, and he had variously answered questions about her by saying that she was his secretary, then that she was his business partner or his lover, and then finally – when he was tired of being asked – that she was his secret wife on a secret island where she was raising their secret family. The truth was the only answer no one believed.
ROBERTA GRIMES is a business attorney who had two experiences of light in childhood. She majored in religion at Smith College, and she spent decades studying afterlife evidence, quantum physics, and consciousness theories in order to understand the fundamentally spiritual nature of reality. She uses fiction to explore human nature and the ways in which spirituality affects our lives.
To learn more visit: http://robertagrimes.com/
Publication Date: 03-03-2014
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