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A Simple Handshake


Alice C. Bateman  &  Clive S. Michie

Chapter Three

Many hours later, many miles of water between himself and his killers, Dan had relaxed and come to a few decisions about his future. Heíd decided he would never go back to either the campsite or his farm. It would be a shame to walk away from the four year old Jeep, but he could probably arrange for somebody to tow it out of the park and keep it in payment. He could exchange the pink slip by mail and have the guy send him a five-dollar bill back, to satisfy the Ďconsiderationí rule. Didnít want to leave it just sitting around too long, only a few days. Long enough to make the fool brothers think heíd still be going back to the campsite. He didnít want to have to feel like he was being pursued while he was trying to decide what course to take.

Drifting, Dan spotted a small patch of beach on the edge of the lake he was traveling through. According to his map, he was somewhere on Snake Lake, paddling south about fifteen feet offshore. Dan liked to stay close enough to the edge of the lake to see the animals and birds going about their lives, in the natural order of things.

Dan had always felt closer to animals than to people; every single picture of him as a child had a puppy or kitten or other baby animal. His parents hadnít owned a large farm, in fact had only raised small numbers of chickens, a few pigs or goats off and on, and large gardens for the family.

Dan felt closer to those childhood days right here in a canoe under a blue sky with white fluffy clouds than he had since heíd been living through them. Days he hadnít appreciated until he was an adult and stuck in a high-rise in the city. Sure, Ottawa was beautiful, and it was the seat of power of Canadian politics, but heíd still felt trapped there during the last half of his marriage to Jane.

Dan heaved a big sigh. The decision to leave everything behind in light of the threat to his life eased Danís mind considerably. For a long time, he had been yearning to cut all his ties and just head out to the mountains. Heíd gone out to stay in Banff for a week with some buddies, his last year in university.

When heíd first stood amidst the grandeur of the mountains, heíd felt immense freedom, immense power swelling his soul. But then the drinking had started, and he didnít sober up long enough to think about that moment until he was back in the dorm ten days later. After which Jane and the path of his life had pushed that experience to a back corner of his mind.

Drinking wasnít something that Dan had continued doing, except on social occasions when it was expected, it was just a part of being away with the boys for a week. He finds it hard to believe now that anyone could think staying drunk for a week was fun, but theyíd all been young and sowing their wild oats back then.

Now again, he felt a pull in his soul, a sense that he was near a place of power. The feeling compelled him to turn the canoe on a right angle toward the six-foot stretch of pebbly sand heíd noticed a few minutes ago. As the canoeís front scraped the shore, Dan felt a small shock of something he couldnít quite put his finger on, akin to the handshake feeling, but not quite the same. This spark, or whatever he should call it, evoked good feelings, and prompted him to pull the joint out from behind his ear and hold a flame to it after heíd beached the canoe.

Sitting on the stump of a tree, bare feet propped on a sun-warmed rock, Dan inhaled deeply of the healing smoke.

Two-thirds of the way through the smoke, his eyes searched the horizon to the north as if looking for a pursuer. Danís head snapped up suddenly as he heard the unmistakable sound of an axe striking a tree trunk.

Curious, Dan pulled the canoe farther up, and tied it to a tree branch hanging out over the lake. On another impulse, he removed the bungee cords securing his load, and slid his guitar case out from under his sleeping bag. He sat it on the ground, removed the guitar and put it over his shoulder, strap in front, guitar in back. The strap was hand-tooled leather, from an adult stag taken in the Spirit fashion, with thanks given to the Father and the animal before and after the kill. The animalís blood soaked into the Earth to nourish her. As it should be, in the taking of a sacred life force. And all life is sacred. Dan had always known these things, and lived his life accordingly.

As much as he loved fishing, Dan was having a harder time eating the flesh of any animal, fish or fowl. Since heíd split with Jane, heíd eaten less and less meat, never red meat anymore at all. He could almost feel the pain of the torture and death of the animalsí spirits when he passed a McDonaldís restaurant. Not something he talked about or preached to others, just something that he was.

After returning his guitar case to the canoe, Dan patted his right pocket to make sure his pouch was still there. Putting his hand in his left pocket, Dan felt among the loonies and toonies and small change for his thinking stone, as he called it. A sort of puffy triangular piece of Arizona turquoise, its natural dark tones were placed in a way that always reminded Dan of one of those typical alien faces that were used everywhere to depict alien life forms. Two large black eyes, with another irregular circle shape centred below, indented a little into the stone, where the mouth and nose would be.

The stone was already hot to the touch, which was unusual. It had only ever heated when he was holding it. Another small bit of mystery and magic in this very unusual day.

By now, the steady rhythm of the axe strokes had allowed Dan to pinpoint the location of the sound. Maybe twenty or thirty yards away, to the northwest. In a matter of moments, Dan was looking at the user of the axe. Looking up at him, to be exact. This was one large man, thought Dan, who was considered tall himself, at six feet. He was standing with his back to Dan, six foot six at least, a shoulder width that looked wider than the length of the axe he was using to chop through the last couple of inches of the thick trunk of a pine tree. Dan was pleased to note that the tree was notched to fall in a direction away from where he was standing.

Shirtless, the large manís muscles rippled and bunched with the motions of his work. A few minutes later, Dan heard the cracking of the last fibres of the trunk splitting, and a part of him gave thanks to the tree, even as the tall stranger turned around. Ludicrously, Dan suddenly thought of the childhood story of a giant called Paul Bunyan, who chopped down trees in the forest. All of a sudden, the possibility that such a man could actually exist didnít seem too far-fetched.

The strangerís torso was covered with hair, front and back, partly a reddish blonde, partly grey. Waist-length hair the same mixture of colors was tied into a ponytail with a leather thong, a long curly beard hung to his chest. Danís sense of storybook reality was intensified when a grin broke across the strangerís face at sight of Dan and his guitar. Dan was, he admitted to himself, intimidated until the guy grinned.

"Hey, didnít know I had company!" the stranger exclaimed, in a deep, resonant voice. He held his axe handle in his right hand, and did not automatically extend it for a handshake, as most of the population seems conditioned to do. "How are you, young fella?"

Somewhat taken aback by the joviality of the other man Ė Dan had expected a much more gruff greeting, or a demand that he be gone from this manís territory Ė Dan took half a step back before answering. "Iím, uh, fine. Nameís Dan, just taking a canoe trip through this beautiful country."

"Mineís Eugene, son. Nice to meet you." Eugeneís eyes crinkled as another grin split the beard and mustache. His weathered face wrinkled a little around the eyes, but was otherwise smooth and what Dan considered ruggedly handsome. Almost like Dan had always pictured a heroic Viking would look if he were relaxed and at home.

For a moment, it seemed to Dan that Eugene grew even taller, then shrunk again to a more comfortable size. ĎOK, this is just getting too weird now,í Dan thought. ĎMaybe I got too much sun today, and Iím just dreaming or something.í Dreaming or not, Dan no longer had to crane his neck to look at Eugeneís face.

"Set yourself down, son. Pull up a stump." Eugeneís deep laughter at his own humor was contagious, and all at once Dan was laughing too, and it felt so good to just release the tension of the morning in a gale of laughter. Soon, tears streaming down his face from laughing so hard, Dan tried to compose himself again. His new companion was looking at him intently as Dan quieted.

"So, whatís brought you to this neck of the woodís, Dan? Just a simple canoe trip?"

Even as Dan decided to answer yes to the question, his mouth opened, and his entire story poured out. Amazed at himself, Dan finally clamped his mouth shut after talking about the idiot brothers and the seemingly distant morning. Heíd had no intention at all of telling this man anything, and yet it had all come out, right down to the weird experience of shaking the guysí hands and seeing their memories. He explained to Eugene as heíd explained to himself, that this must have been a warning from God, to let him know that he needed to get away.

"Could be, Dan, could be. Thereís a lot more to this world than meets the eye." Eugene pulled his plaid shirt off a nearby tree branch, where it had been hanging. "Was just about to head back to the cabin for a little refreshment. Care to join me?"

Suddenly extremely thirsty, Dan readily agreed to Eugeneís invitation, and followed as the big man led the way to a small cabin not too far to the west. As he walked, it sounded to Dan as if his guitar was playing, oh so very softly, a pretty melody Ė all by itself. ĎA trick of the wind, obviously,í Dan thought. Besides, he didnít think anything that might happen on this very unusual day could surprise him anymore. If his guitar wanted to play itself, who was he to object?

He was wrong about being surprised, though. A black wolf lying across the doorway of the cabin that came into view startled him out of the pleasantness.

"Eugene! Look out!" Dan exclaimed.

"Whatís the matter, Dan? Donít like Phantom? Him and I are old friends," Eugene replied, as the wolf rose and loped over to lick Eugeneís hand. "Phantomís been with me almost since I moved here, near to twenty years ago now."

Danís eyebrows rose in surprise. "Youíve lived here for twenty years? Howíd you manage to escape from the rat race?"

"Well, thatís a long story, son. What say you stay over tonight, and weíll have us a good long talk?"

Dan thought it over for a moment. "Sure. I donít have any deadlines, nobodyís following me, why not?" He grinned at Eugene, already totally comfortable in the older manís company.

"Whatís that youíve been holding in your left hand, Dan?" Eugene questioned.

"Oh, just a stone Iíve had for a long, long timeÖ It showed up on the driveway at my parentís farm one day, think I was about twelve at the time. Iím surprised I havenít worn it away, Iím always holding it and rubbing it with my thumb."

"Do you mind if I take a look?"

"Of course not, Eugene. Here." Dan handed the precious talisman over to Eugene, who studied it for only a moment before handing it back.

"Thatís a pretty powerful piece of stone there, Dan. You say it just showed up? What do you mean?"

"Well, Iíve always been attracted to anything natural, and always searched along the driveway and roadsides for interesting rocks and things. I looked every morning on the way out to school, every afternoon on the way back, so I was pretty well familiar with every pebble after a while, you know? But one morning, there was this beauty, shining up at me as soon as I stepped out the door and headed down the lane. Couldnít have missed it if I tried. It almost seemed to shimmer, but that was probably from the dew on it, I always figured."

By this time, the men were inside the cabin, eighteen feet square, built of pine logs hewn and fitted together by hand. It was a little dark inside, after the bright sunlight of the day. The cabin was nestled among the trees and had only two small windows. As Danís eyes adjusted, he took note of the simple furnishings, also built of pine. It was obvious to Dan that Eugene had built this place and all itís furnishings himself. The cabin had a very comforting and welcoming atmosphere, entirely befitting itís owner.

Dan sat at the table, which was actually a large tree stump. He asked Eugene how heíd managed to get it into the cabin. Eugene laughed, and answered that it was actually the base of the tree heíd taken most of the lumber from to build the other furnishings, and itís roots were still in the ground. Heíd built the cabin around the stump. Dan laughed with pure pleasure. He was liking this man more and more.

Dan placed his left hand on the surface of the table, and could feel the thrumming life of the planet through the surface. He closed his eyes and drank in the feeling of nourishment and peace he always got from communing with a tree. Totally content, Dan, tired from the emotions and exertions of the day, drowsed in his chair as Eugene prepared a simple meal.

Soon, Eugene was at his elbow, placing a plate in front of him. On it were a mountain of scrambled eggs, toast, fried mushrooms, and a compote of wild berries. The sharp scents of garlic and aged cheddar cheese rose with the steam from the food.

"Eat up, Dan, but I should warn you, I added a few very special mushrooms to that mix. I think itís time for you to have a little magic mushroom experience."

"Magic mushrooms?" Dan laughed. "Cool! I havenít had any of those since I was in school! I always loved them then, though!"

"I use them as a consciousness enhancement, Dan, not just for fun. Can you relate to that?"

"Of course! Thatís exactly what I use pot for, too. I just havenít even thought of doing mushrooms for years!" Dan replied. He paused and patted his right pocket. "Would you like to share a joint after we eat?"

"Any time, my friend," Eugene answered. "But here, would you like to try it in my pipe?" Dan nodded affirmatively, and Eugene reached back over his shoulder to a shelf behind his chair. He took down a black stone pipe, squared on all sides, a smooth and comfortable fit in Danís palm. The end had a small hole for smoking; the top had a hole to cover as you inhaled smoke, then release as the smoke built up, acting as a trigger to expel the smoke into the lungs. The bowl was small, but adequate. A very attractive piece of worked obsidian.

Carved on the underside of the bowl was a symbol remarkably like the shape and configuration of Danís turquoise stone.

The cool stone of the pipe warmed almost immediately in Danís right hand. It almost seemed to have a small vibration. He looked up from the pipe to Eugene, who was watching him closely. "Yes, I think I would like to use this pipe, very much. Thank you, Eugene."

"OK, son, transfer it to your left hand as you eat, then. Hold on to it for a minute, let the two of you become better acquainted."

"Sure. Whatever you say, my new friend who feels like an old friend. Iím beginning to feel like Iím on some magical mystery tour."

Eugene grinned broadly. "Well, Dan, thatís about as good a way of putting it as any. Now, letís give thanks for our food, and especially for the magic in these mushrooms weíre about to enjoy."

Dan bowed his head while Eugene said, "Thank you, Father, the creator of all. Thank you, Spirits of the land and the sky. Thank you, Mother Earth, for providing us with this bounty, that we can continue to serve you another day."

Tears unexpectedly welled in Danís eyes at the simple beauty of these words. It was as if Eugene was taking from Danís own soul all the things heíd ever felt, and making them manifest. His words resonated deeply inside Dan, setting up a vibration within him. Dan said, "Amen," as Eugene finished speaking, and picked up his fork a second after Eugene picked up his own.

The two men ate quietly, until, when they were finished all but a forkful or so of eggs, Dan spoke up and said, "And thank all the powers that be for my new friend, Eugene."

Eugeneís ear to ear grin broke through his facial hair again, and his eyes sparkled. Dan held Eugeneís eyes for a moment, and found himself compelled to continue looking. Softly at first, Eugeneís eyes began to glow. As he looked at Dan, the glow became a stream of light that eclipsed the bright blue of Eugeneís eyes. Although Dan had never seen this before, he was not in the least uncomfortable. On the contrary, he was totally relaxed, and felt only warmth emanating from the large man.

"Dan," Eugeneís voice seemed to come from far away now, although neither man had moved. "You are a very special individual."

He paused; Dan nodded slightly, not taking his eyes from Eugeneís.

"You have a sacred mission to fulfill."

Dan nodded again.

"You have been sent to me. I am to be one of your teachers."

Dan nodded a third time, and Eugene toned down the beam of his eyes until they appeared to be simply twinkling again. Eugene smiled broadly, content that Dan had passed his scrutiny, and not been discomfited in the least. Any person not of good and true heart would have been made completely ill at ease, squirming to get out from under the laser beam of Eugeneís vision.

Eugene had been expecting Dan, but he still put him through his own tests. He couldnít work with and teach someone he didnít trust implicitly. This kind of soul and spirit work could not be done with someone who showed weakness. Nor on anyone who had not released their past and was prepared to fully embrace their present.

Present, not future. Eugene knows that the present is where we live. Until a person realizes this, and gets past the notion that he or she can control their future with plans and worry, or change the past, they are not ready to make any in depth progress along their spiritual journey.

Dan is the first person that Eugene has been sent to work with. Without either of them realizing that it was happening, Eugene began to tell Dan a little about his own background. Eugene had been born in Russia, and given his name by his Belgian mother. She had a streak of gypsy blood in her, and encouraged the unusual powers she could see in her son at a very young age. Unfortunately, what his mother had intended as spiritual training had resulted in young Eugene being labelled a freak of nature. He was not in school for very many years before government officials came to their house, and demanded that Eugene be given over to them for testing in their psychic experimentation facilities.

Held virtually a prisoner for ten years in a facility in Gdansk, Eugene had been studied and poked and prodded and tested in every way conceivable. Until, in his early twenties, Eugene had rebelled and escaped from the compound, and finally the country. Heíd visited his mother on the way, and been given family jewels that sheíd been saving for a day when they might be needed. Eugene traded them sparingly, when he absolutely had to, to make the connections he needed to get out of the country undetected.

Arriving in Toronto, the sheltered Eugene had discovered a whole new world that he loved. The sudden freedom was intoxicating. He let his lust for a new way of life eclipse his innate sense of honour and morality. He was like the proverbial kid in a candy store, wanting to see everything, taste everything, experience everything.

For a few years, Eugene just enjoyed himself. He used his powers of foresight and insight to attain personal gain, to attract women to him, to win poker games and place the right bets at Woodbine Racetrack.

Until he found himself one night, alone in a seedy hotel room with an overly made-up woman with very loose morals, and really looked into his own soul. He didnít like what he found. Heíd lost every shred of decency and dignity heíd ever had, and despised himself. All of the special gifts of power that heíd been given at birth had been bottled up and blocked completely through the lifestyle heíd fallen into.

Even now, Eugene didnít like to use the word Ďchosení when he was relating the story of his past to Dan. He didnít like to think that heíd deliberately turned his back on his powers, even if it was temporarily.

In summing up his own story, Eugene had tears in his eyes, and so did Dan. "Thatís why Iím way out here, Dan. I simply removed myself from all the temptations, all the women, all the booze. I had to try to grow my own soul back, and Iím very blessed to have been able to do so. You are the first person that God has trusted me to teach. I hope I donít let you or Him down, my friend." Eugene wiped his eyes and smiled. "Letís go outside and build up a nice fire. I want to discuss some things with you, and introduce you to the sacred peyote button."

Chapter Four

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