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Chapter 1

It was hard to sit comfortably in the thick, padded chair. My stomach was like a lead weight and my skin was too hot. No part of my body was free from the vibrations of stifled emotions.
The sun shot laser beams through the office window. Every inch of my body felt the warmth but it wasn't calming like it usually is with me and the sun. It was too hot, it was annoying and I felt my face turning red at its intrusion. I wanted to explode but I never let myself have that kind of freedom. My anger dissolved into depression.
"I hear you Kelly and I really understand what your going through but you must understand, you're not the only one. At this stage in your sobriety, this is all very normal. How long has it been? Three years?" asked Jerry Henderson, a calm, middle-aged man who genuinely looked interested in my pitiful life.
"Four years Jerry. Four God damn years of confusion and turmoil. Isn't it supposed to get better? They say it gets better. I want it to get better!"
I thought for a moment that I may explode right there in the head-crackers office. Wouldn't it be the perfect place for an emotional blow-out? He was a therapist, he would know how to handle it. Something inside me refused the much needed release and once again, I denied myself the right to feel freedom and slid back into my seething mind.
Jerry was trying hard to help me get it all out of my system but when it came right down to it, I didn't trust him enough. He slumped down in his high-backed mahogany chair looking defeated. Some childish part of me felt proud, as if I had won a battle.
"Kelly, I know your hurting but I also know it hasn't been all that bad for you over the last four years. Look at the good things you've done with yourself. That's what I want you to do over the next week. List your assets and your accomplishments since you got sober. We can discuss them next Thursday."
It wasn't hard to tell the session was nearly over. He always gave his "think positively, look on the bright side" spiel and burdened me with homework about three minutes before the little gold buzzer on his desk went off. His timing was remarkably stable.
" I'm not happy. I don't even know what I'm doing anymore. Worst of all, I don't know what I want to do. Don't I have some kind of purpose? I want one, one that I like, something that makes me feel alive, bold, special. I'm sick of wanting to be normal. I've been trying normal for too long. Normal is stupid. Look at all the stupid things normal people do. So much suffering so they can fit into the grand scheme of things. It's not fair. I wanted to be normal and all I got was alcoholism and now all you can say is that I'm a normal alcoholic. Everything is normal and it still doesn't work. I want to know what's beyond normal, what's . . ." The tinny buzzer broke my speech and Jerry smiled professionally.
"Twenty years of drinking isn't going to be cleaned up in four years of sobriety. I'm telling you honestly Kelly, every human being is looking for the meaning in their lives. It's just part of the fun of being human." With that he raised himself out of his fancy chair and held out his hand to me. "Let's get you another appointment."
My body shriveled a little with the disappointment of not being allowed to finish my ranting. I needed to do some ranting, I had years of ranting to do but I always let myself get cut off. Truth is, I was always on the edge of a ranting session and it was wearing me down.
We walked out to the carpeted reception area where everything was a quiet shade of green. The blonde lady at the desk matched the surroundings.
"Just set your normal time up with Jesse. . . Well you know the routine. Remember your list. Goodbye Kelly."
Before I could open my mouth, he whisked a young man into his office and shut the heavy door. I smiled at the older woman behind the desk while deciding whether or not to make an appointment. I wanted to do something different this time. She waited for a moment, looking at me with expectation but finally broke the silence with "Same time next week Ms. McGrail?"
"Actually Jesse, no. I'll give ya' a call to make the appointment. I might be busy next week." That felt good. It was different. Four years I'd been paying this guy to figure me out and set me straight. I had to have the guts to break the tradition, maybe that would get me out of the slump I was in.
None of this psychological sifting was helping me anymore.
"I'll just wait for your call then, Ms. McGrail." she said with the intention of sounding like a firm goodbye.
"Yea sure, you do that." I smiled at her and thought about saying "So long Jesse, I'm outta here." but knew it was too rude for my usual demeanor. I didn't know what I was doing nor did I think that any of this would help me with my debilitating emotional problems but for the moment it gave me a sense of great power, just to think for myself and act on it without consulting with anyone else.

Though the air was cold, the sun continued to shine with its full intensity. Stepping out onto the parking lot pavement, I soaked up the energy from above. Ice sparkled on the flat black surface beneath me. The sun made things look beautiful even when they weren't. I grabbed for the handle of the door to my rusted out Tempo but before opening it, I pulled back. It didn't seem like it could be my car, I deserved something better. Next to my car sat Jerry Hendersons' six month old Jaguar.
"I paid for that." I said out loud and laughed. I decided to walk home.

Reaching my apartment door, I thought that the heavy burden of my depressed spirit was lifting. I wasn't entirely stable but I had three and a half days left to my four day holiday. No sense wasting them all on bad moods and dark thoughts. The phone rang as I entered my humble home.
"Hi Kelly. It's Shirley here. Sorry to have to call you at home like this. I know we agreed that you'd have a couple of days off but we just got this big project and we could use your help. Gimme a call as soon as you can, okay? I really appreciate it. Bye- Bye for now." The machine clicked when the message ended.
My face dropped along with the keys that tumbled out of my hand. My stomach bubbled with anxiety. I lunged at the machine, fully willing to smash it to tiny bits, but I stopped myself and stepped back. Stupid to ruin my stuff because I'm pissed off at her. I erased the message and shut off the machine.
"Sorry Shirley, I didn't get your message until Sunday night and by that time it was too late. So, so sorry." I practiced what I would say to her when I went back to work. Sure, I'd hear about it for weeks but if I went in at that moment I may of killed her. I figured I'd be better off taking a long, hot bath and forgetting it. My favorite places in the world were my old, claw-foot tub and my bed. I soaked away my cares until the bright sun set behind the distant western mountains and all the windows in my apartment looked like black holes. Perfect, just what I needed to calm my raw nerves and solidify my new found confidence. I wasn't going back to the therapist and when I had a day off then everybody else could kiss my ass. Yes, there's my power. I crawled into bed and turned off the world.

Sacro came into my life on a Friday evening. I'd just seen a movie with my Chinese friend, Cassie. We were walking to her car, mine was still in the parking lot of the Henderson and Croft Counseling Service, and talking about the movie we'd just seen. Suddenly, a tall man cut in front of me. Cassie grabbed my arm pulling on it to prevent a collision. All but his slightly weathered face was hidden under a course, hooded robe. His hazel eyes were focused intently on mine which produced a mesmerizing reaction within me. I swayed and trembled beneath his gaze. A cold gust of wind snapped me back to reality. I shook my head to break the eye contact. He pulled down his hood releasing locks of billowy, golden hair which danced wildly in the wind. After saying hello and flashing a slightly mechanical smile, he turned and walked in the direction from which he came.
"Okay . . . Whoa, that guy was really weird. Who the hell does he think he is? Did you see those clothes? He's just damn lucky I didn't give him a taste of that women's defense course I'm in. I shoulda set him straight."
"He just said hello, Cassie. You can't beat someone up for saying hello." I felt a little shaky as I watched him walk away.
"Men should know better than to approach women in dark parking lots. Any guy deserves to be beat up if they're going to do things like that." She pulled her coat up as if to protect herself better.
I looked around at the well lit parking lot and the eighty or more people going to or coming from the theater and shook my head at Cassie.
"Besides, he cut me off in mid-sentence and now I don't remember what I was going to say." she said with a childish whine. I laughed a little but wasn't paying much attention to her self-centered rambling.
The strange man had affected me. I gave my head another shake and shrugged off the preternatural feeling. I looked around the parking lot again but I couldn't see him.
"Kelly?" Cassie nudged me with her elbow. "Are you still with me?"
"Of course Cassie." I turned to her and vowed to myself to forget the whole moment. I needed the social acceptance, so I refrained from talking about how I felt, best that she didn't think I was strange or abnormal.
We went on with the average night out and I went home. By the time I reached my apartment door, I had put away the memory of the robed stranger. After all, vague feelings about meeting a weirdo on the street couldn't be trusted as anything of value. I went to sleep in denial.

With the weekend over, I went to work with as much enthusiasm as I could. I thought about calling my kind therapist but fought the urge. I was addicted to him, I thought. I was going through therapy withdrawals, making up excuses for why I wasn't ready to handle life without those once a week check - ins with the man who could teach me how to behave in the world. It really was time for me to handle life on my own but it seemed so hard.
The dreams started about a week after the encounter with the strange man at the movie theater parking lot.
I left work early and went home deciding that sleep would cure my pains and get the crazy day over with. I found myself praying as I lay in bed, something I did very little of unless I was feeling particularly hopeless. I did feel the warning signs of a downward emotional spiral coming on. I tossed around, trying to find a comfortable position. It didn't come quickly but I finally fell to sleep in the darkness of my room.
The large man appeared before me again, the same way that he had in the parking lot. He smiled and put his hand on my shoulder. I brushed it off as defense against feeling his strength.
"My name is Sacro. I look forward to knowing you Kelly McGrail." That's all there was to it, the dream ended when he said my name. It lasted a minute in total if one can actually put time on a dream. The problem was, it wouldn't stop. It kept on unfailingly repeating itself.
My body jolted upright with a claustrophobic feeling. Sweat beads dripped from my cheeks as I clawed the bed sheets. The waking relieved some of the anxiety and when I truly realized I had only been dreaming, I laughed at my childishness. Yes, it was just a stupid dream, nothing more.
The dream took over the moment I fell back to sleep. I awoke on several occasions more irritated by the invasion each time my eyes fluttered open.

By morning, I was feeling quite numb. The dream had gotten boring and my memory of it faded steadily the longer I stayed awake.
Going to work was a blessing as I could always find some way to ignore myself in my responsibilities. All I had to do was act normal and everything would be okay.
"Kelly, about last week. Maybe you should think about getting a pager. We really needed you here and that answering machine doesn't do you much good when your out gallivanting around." Shirley had come to offer me business advice. She did it every time she didn't get what she wanted out of me. She babbled on but I heard nothing as I let my mind wonder to images of the dream man.
"Are you listening to me Kelly?" The shrill voice yanked me out of my daydream. Shirley was standing over me with her perfect business suit, matching coffee cup complete with the bright red lipstick ring and practically shouted into my face.
"What's going on with you Kelly? " She saw that she had my attention and calmed her harsh voice. "You're normally very attentive."
"Normally, I am very attentive to you aren't I?" I asked.
"Yes, very much. Is everything all right? Maybe we should have a talk in my office." Shirley loved talking in her office. Since she didn't actually do any work, she took it upon herself to mold her employees to fit her liking by talking one on one in her grand office. I'd always joked with the others that she was secretly hypnotizing us so we'd do what she wanted more often.
"No Shirley. I don't want to talk in your office. I want you to go away so I can finish my work." It just popped out of my mouth. Judging by the look on her face, she received it like I'd thrown a brick at her rather than an answer to her question.
"Excuse me Kelly. I hear my phone. We will talk about this later." she said, smiling for the rest of the office staff who was undoubtedly looking our way. Her phone wasn't ringing.
My muscles relaxed, my heart sang, I turned to my desk and finished my work. I'd never talked back to that woman, not ever in the five years that I'd worked for her and oh, it felt divine.
Shirley didn't come back but the memory of the dream man did. He popped in and out of my awareness throughout the rest of the afternoon. Being a master of denial and ignorance, I was able to push the dream image farther back each time it appeared. By the end of the work day, I was on automatic pilot.

Go home, go to work, eat, sleep. Just the basics except that sleep became intolerable due to the continuing dreams and my grasp on sanity was slipping.
Every night the dream went on running through its fixed loop, not a single second of variety to change my focus. It was obvious to others that I wasn't doing to well. I couldn't talk to anyone about my troubles. Jerry Henderson left messages on my answering machine but I didn't dare call him. I was embarrassed that my already dark vision of the world was getting bleaker.
My job was the first thing to go. I made it easy for Shirley to find a reason to fire me. It might have been the time I yelled out a firm "Fuck You" when she asked me if I'd get coffees for her and the division manager before they went into their meeting. I really didn't realize that I'd lost control, I didn't feel a thing. I justified every ignorant action by proclaiming "That asshole deserved it." I wouldn't deny that I was in pain. I knew I was "acting funny", as Cassie had said one evening over the phone. She called to cancel our regular movie night because she couldn't handle my moods.
The dreams continued so I decided I would just stay awake. I passed out a few times much the same way as I did when I was drinking. A drunk never really sleeps, they just pass out when they hit their limit. This was the same thing.
God was punishing me. I thought as I looked out my window to the cold, dark streets. I had the heat turned off and all the windows open to let in the minus fifteen-degree Celsius winter air. No way would I go to sleep. The dreams were part of my punishment and Sacro was the devil coming to take me away. God was testing me. I prayed for another chance. I cried in hopes that doing so would wash away my terrible sins. God had to forgive me. Even though I longed to talk to somebody, I only yelled at those that dared to be concerned. Finally, I had successfully driven away all of my friends. I thought the devil must have won the battle over my soul, how else could a being feel so miserable?
Weeks of this insanity passed through me. Alone in my apartment, I flickered through morbid emotion.
One particularly cold afternoon, after letting the pangs of hunger reach my awareness, I stumbled to the kitchen only to find nothing to eat. The cupboards had been emptied and my hunger overcame fear. I needed to go out and get food. I dressed myself to venture to the corner store, not daring the journey until darkness fell. The bitter, cold wind hit my face as I walked out and oddly enough it felt good. I had never enjoyed the biting air of winter but just then it reminded me that I was alive. After so many long days of numbness had passed by, I supposed I'd forgotten the refreshing qualities of feeling my own presence.
"Please, let no one see my tonight." I whispered to the frozen air. Sure, I was alive in the world but I didn't care to share that knowledge with anyone. I had treated people so horribly that, on top of the anger, I felt smothered in remorse and shame. How could I explain myself to anyone? I didn't even want to try.
I made my way to the little house-turned store on the corner. The storekeeper greeted me with her usual bright smile. I peered out from beneath my dark hood. She squinted her eyes at me, her smile faded. I'd looked at myself before I left my place. My skin was as blank and pale as a sheet of empty paper, a complete contrast to the shadowy rings around my pale blue eyes. My hair spilled out from beneath my hood in dark tangles. I scared her. What a strange pride I took in that. I knew that I looked like a crazed mad woman, it wasn't something I could hide behind my heavy winter coat.
She didn't recognize me at all. Her face contorted in concentration as she tried to figure out if she'd ever seen me before and I watched as it loosened up with the realization that I must have been a stranger. I looked away from her and grabbed a basket. I took whatever was easiest to get at, not too concerned with the quality. My usual health consciousness had gone with my sanity and personal hygiene.
The last of my savings was passed to the nervous storekeeper. She had called someone from the back who was watching me intently while he packed my groceries into bags. I wanted to yell at them, tell them both that they knew me. I was the lady who came in every evening after work, with my cheerful manner and polite smile. The one who bought fruits and vegetables and whole grain bagels and always had pleasant things to talk about. Ha-Ha-Ha, look at me now!
I grabbed my bags of food, pulled my dark hood over my neck and head and braced myself for the cold, night air. The storekeeper and her companion watched my every move. The door swung open before I reached it, letting a bitter gust of wind and snow hit me dead on. A bold figure stood in the doorway, not moving, not letting me get through. I stood, looking down at the person's shoes and realized they had no intention of getting out of my way. I looked up toward the face, brimming with anger and ready to yell, "Get the hell out of my way." when I found that I was looking into the eyes of someone familiar.
My hazy brain scrambled for the name or some symbol of recognition. Was it someone from work? No. Someone from an A.A. meeting? Maybe, but no. Then it clicked in.
"You're not supposed to be here." I whispered. My mind began to whirl. I knew the man's face but couldn't accept the reality of it.
"It is all right." he said gently.
Everything around me faded to black. All I could see was his carefully constructed face, that face from my dreams.
"I can't . . . you're not real . . . " I stammered. My voice faded out like my vision. I lost my balance and my consciousness.

I dreamed in the blackout, a good dream of complete release. Nothing appeared. There was only great darkness all around me. Warm, comforting darkness. I could see nothing but I felt clear-minded. A serenity I had not felt in months had settled over my heart. Sensations of tremendous peace washed through me. I had never known such tranquillity and I certainly didn't want to ever leave it.
So this is why I had suffered, I thought, just so that I could experience this moment with complete abandon. The blackness swirled around me and I sensed a distinct liquid movement. The braids of black resembled whirlpools of motion. I felt the pull toward the center of a large twisting spiral. I started to panic but let it go . The pull of the motion was intoxicating, and I let it take me. The feeling of powerlessness was just as invigorating. Such freedom in this utter lack of control. If I stayed in it forever, I would be happy.

Light hit me with incredible force, as if I had been falling from thousands of miles above and suddenly hit water. Light. Great spears of light charged through me. I was in pain. I felt afraid again. The light brought with it all of my own worldly senses. It was cold again and I shivered uncontrollably. My eyes were struggling to focus. Shapes and sounds danced into my awareness. My bedroom took its full shape through the intensity of light.
In my bedroom, laying on my bed, I moaned through the pain in my head. He stood in the doorway.
The man from the store, from my dreams, was in my apartment. He walked slowly to the side of my bed , as if approaching a wild animal. Each step he took echoed through the halls. I could find no words, I was thinking in a language of mortal terror. I hung onto the one word that made sense to me, God.
"It is all right. You are safe. I am not here to do you harm." He spoke while looking around my bedroom. I wanted to say something but my voice was gone. I thought about him the way he appeared in my dream. Could I be mistaken? No, it was him. It is him, I thought.
"You did not meet me in your dream." he said, this time looking directly at me.
I convulsed in shock. Had he read my thoughts? My private thoughts!
"We met in a parking lot."
I relaxed a little. That was true, we had met in a parking lot after the movies. I'd forgotten that reality completely.
"What . . . who . . . what are you . . . do . . . doing here?" I managed to stutter through my shakes.
"I am protecting you, guiding you, changing your life." He said plainly.
We looked at each other in silence. I was dumbfounded by his response. What a strange thing to say. My mind began to flutter and race again but the strange man held onto me with a fixed look. He entered me through eye contact and comforted my soul. The pain I'd been living with for so long was being lifted out and away from me, released through his stare.
"What are you?" I asked, overwhelmed with his presence. It fell out of my mouth before I could stop it. I felt embarrassed immediately afterwards but he didn't hesitate to answer.
"I am different from you or anyone you know Kelly."
"Yea, I can see that . . . How do you know my name?"
"Your friend spoke it when we met in the parking lot."
That was normal enough. Yet something about him wasn't real, didn't seem possible.
"My name is Sacro." He said it with the intention to jolt me to complete attention. My heart fell into my stomach. The dream that had driven me to madness formed clearly through my inner vision. I knew, without doubt, that the only place I'd heard that name was in the dream.
Sacro calmed me without my consent. He read my fear and quieted me. I wanted to freak out, charge off my bed and make him go away but I couldn't do anything. I just laid there, certain that my end was near, maybe welcoming it. So take me to Hell, how much worse could it be?
"I am not your devil, Kelly. You have nothing to fear from me."
I knew he was being honest. As afraid as I felt of his being in my house, I knew he was something more spectacular than a devil.
"I will take you from here now. Trust me Kelly. You can feel that I am not a threat to you."
It was true, I could feel his calmness, his sense of balance and love. He moved a little closer to me and smiled. I pulled back.
"I'm not going anywhere." I said.
"I can bring you to a place of usefulness, a place where you can feel courage and comfort. Is that not what you have wanted for so long?"
"Yes, but I don't know you. God! This is crazy. I'd be an idiot to go with you. For all I know you are trying to kill me." I felt dizzy with fear again but, just as before, his simple gaze calmed me.
"You know that I am unable to hurt you. I am sorry that is such a surprise. I will take you from here because you have a need for qualities you cannot find here. I know where you can get what you need. Do not fear this, you can come back if you do not appreciate what you find. You are ready for this Kelly, otherwise I would not have come." His smile widened.
I sat up slowly, feeling his strength encouraging mine. He moved closer. A fierce gust of emotion swept through me. The closer he came, the stronger it got until I fell back, stunned. He reached out and gently touched my hand. I couldn't feel his skin. There was fire in his touch, like I was holding the sun. I was incinerated without pain, pulled into his warmth. The walls of my bedroom fell away. The floor vanished. There was nothing physical supporting me but I felt secure. The heat was so soothing that I didn't care what was happening or where I was going.
Sacro was all around me although I could not see him. He spoke to me, telling me to let go of the world. So I did. I let go of everything that I thought of as mine. I had nothing to lose anyway. Maybe it was the only way I could find my right senses.
I floated in the comfort of being released from the life I'd been tormenting in. I let my body mingle with the loving touch of Sacro's mind. His words caressed me to restful dreaminess, allowing me to savor each divine moment. I cared nothing of the world I was leaving behind. Oh sweet bliss, had I been wrong all this time? Had I mistaken this man for a devil when in fact he was really God? Or maybe just an angel? Whatever he was, he could not be bad, not evil. He was too perfect, too kind with his preternatural caresses. An angel had found me and I was going home. I rested on the thought, taken completely by the spiritual quality of it, how I had longed for something to feed my spirit and finally it had come.

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