Frank woke from a bizarre dream. It was the same dream again, the same dream that had haunted his nights since he turned 16. A full moon lit strange reddish brown columns of stone stretching into the distance. He wandered between the columns until a booming voice from above said, “Temple of the Gods.”
He always woke up after the voice spoke, covered in sweat and terrified. After almost two years of this nightmare he was tired of its presence in his life; he was also sure that it was more than a dream.
“Dreaming again?” Buddy Wilson spoke from the other bed in the small room.
“Yeah, I’m really getting sick of it.”
“Look it sucks, OK, but think about this; today is your birthday. You’re eighteen man, you’re finally escaping this place.”
Frank used to dream about escaping the Burlew Ridge Orphanage with a forever family. That dream faded as he aged and now he was destined to finally leave the orphanage as an adult, rootless, without prospects, and hag ridden by a dream which he could not understand but knew he had to.
“Big whoop. All that means is I lose the roof over my head and steady meals.”
“Oh come on man, it won’t be that bad. You get to move to the halfway house in the Ridge until you get set up. Tommy said that the recruiting firm they set him up with found him a good job in no time.”
“Great, I can be another factory puke living in the Ridge until I become a toothless moron like the rest of the people stuck here.”
Buddy threw his pillow across the room smacking Frank in the face.
“Get up loser, it’s gonna be great.”
The two boys, one aged 17 and the other now officially a man at 18, got ready and ran down for breakfast and one more day in the orphanage.
At lunch, the staff and children performed the normal ceremony for a resident who was aging out. They gathered in the cafeteria, sang an off key rendition of Happy Birthday, ate sheet cake and then wished their departing member the best with a forced cheer.
Frank was driven to his new home, a halfway house operated by the local government which would house him for up to one year while he got a job, saved money, and finally moved out into the world.
“Temple of the Gods.”
Frank sat up in his new room, the three snoring roommates in the bunk beds around him were oblivious to his distress.
Unlike the orphanage he was free to come and go as he pleased so he dressed and slipped from the building to walk the streets of Burlew Ridge and clear his mind.
Burlew Ridge, or the Ridge as residents called it, was a mountain town nestled between four peaks. There was only one road in or out and the locals preferred to live simply; that meant most nights were pitch black without the presence of street lights which the locals were loathe to install, unlike their big city brethren. One or two random house lights lit the sidewalk allowing him to see. A few blocks from the halfway house the night became as bright as day. Frank looked up to see the lone cloud in the sky move away from the full moon which shone like the sun through the darkness. He shuddered; it reminded him too much of the dream he had just escaped.
He increased his pace and in a matter of a few minutes he found himself at the edge of town facing one of the many trails leading into the mountains.
“What the hell,” he said and started up the dirt path.
He knew that hiking into the mountains in the dark was potentially suicidal. Hikers fell off cliffs or were injured by rock slides even during the day, at night he would never see danger coming. The night was so bright though, he knew he was smarter than those hikers; he’d be fine. Besides, he felt an urge to climb, like he was being pulled by a magnet. Any time he looked back toward the receding town he felt a tug, deep in his gut, telling him he needed to press onward.
The moon was high overhead, it must have been near midnight and Frank had turned so many times and climbed over so many peaks that he no longer knew where he was in relation to the Ridge.
“Great, eighteen years, and on my first day out I get lost in the mountains. Way to go butt head, you’re gonna die as a statistic.”
Still the urge to press on pulled him. Just one more peak, maybe then he’d be able to see one of the roads running past the town.
Frank came over a ridgeline and froze. Below him was a small hollow, shaped like a bowl in the center of the towering mountain tops. In the center of this area stood dozens of stones. They weren’t just stones, they were columns. Two rows of them, stretching almost the width of the bowl valley. They appeared the color of dried blood in the moonlight but Frank knew they would be a rusty brown. He was shocked to find that he was moving forward again, almost running downhill to reach the columns.
“This can’t be real. This can’t be real.” He chanted it like a mantra as he moved.
The columns were very real. He touched each as he walked among them. The stone was warm and he swore he could feel a vibration in each as if it were a tuning fork vibrating a note he could not hear.
Frank pinched himself, hard. The pain and line of blood now trickling down his arm assured him that he was actually awake.
“Welcome to the Temple of the Gods.”
A voice boomed above him. Frank yelped and spun in circles looking for the source of the voice but he was alone in the valley.
“Who are you?”
“We are the Gods. We are your family.”
Frank’s knees buckled and he landed hard on his ass.
“Say what? I have no family; my mother died when I was born.”
A glowing shape appeared above the columns. It shifted and changed as Frank watched. It was like a cloud caught in conflicting winds which tried to give it form and then pulled it apart again. Frank was uneasily reminded of a writhing pile of worms.
“When the forces of the multiverse are aligned, one of us may enter your realm and cause a female to be with child. It is how we reproduce. The females never live beyond the birth of our child as the energies of the Outside are more than their bodies can withstand. Now, you are matured in your human form and it is time to embrace your true self.”
Frank wanted a family; had dreamed of it all his life, but this was too much. This writhing light in the sky was too terrifying, too alien to comprehend.
“No, I want to go home.”
“You are home,” a chorus of voices echoed among the columns.
A thread of light lashed out from the writhing mass above him and penetrated Frank from head to toe. He screamed in pain and ecstasy as every emotion, every sensation, every stimulus he had ever experienced recurred at once, amplified a thousandfold. His body glowed. He stared at his hand in wonder and then cried out when it became transparent. His entire body became ethereal and then stretched out until it became a tendril of light like those above.
Frank felt everything in the world. He could feel the children at the Orphanage. He felt the lives of adults in the Ridge and even the city far beyond. He knew the burrowing feelings of the animals throughout the mountains. The magnetic field of the Earth was a caressing wind and cosmic rays racing through space tickled his mind. He was one of the Gods. He laughed with his power. He knew his destiny. His destiny to make more like himself until the Gods were so numerous and powerful that they could finally rip through the barrier between their Outside universe and this one and consume it, making all reality part of themselves until they alone existed in bliss and harmony. Frank laughed with the other Gods as the light faded from the sky and darkness reclaimed the mountainside.