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A reprint in the Los Angeles Times from the Canadian broadsheet Vancouver Sun caught Chris's attention. He scanned it, and dismissed it. Something about a guru on the street. Yet, after reading the sports pages, Chris came back to it and reread it though he himself was hardpressed to know why. Something catches in the subconscious, and you just do things.

The official stance of the media is secular, yet when confronted with the mysterious, there is a terrible inadequacy and often a fear of trying to explain it. The example of street guru John Smith was just such an example. The reporter was at first skeptical, yet left the encounter with Smith with a very disturbing sense that he was more than he seemed. There was a small photo of Smith and the more Chris studied the photo, the more interested he became. Smith was a long-haired man, with a strangely ageless face, though the article said he was in his fifties.


Today, a teenage punk girl tried to outstare John. She eventually felt like ants were crawling over her body and left, very disturbed. John felt she would be back. He did not know when. But who could say for sure? Three others sat with John on Vancouver's Granville Street, waiting for him to say something. But he did not. He simply looked at each one. The first was a middle-aged woman who realized from her first encounter with John that he knew everything about her, though she could not begin to explain how. She was a fairly recent "visitor" as John called them. The second was an autistic teenage boy who said nothing but felt good being with John. The third was Frank, John's "Simon Peter": a fundamentalist with no faith and little integrity but a growing obsession with John. John knew that if he asked him to do anything short of killing himself--rob a bank, murder someone, give away all his possessions--he would do so without question. A loyal but dangerous personality. The kind that begins churches.


When Chris arrived on Granville Street, the photo of John Smith in his hands, making inquiries, he found no one really knew John. Perhaps it was just a waste of time.

Then, there he was, staring at three others with him.

Chris approached cautiously. John looked at him even before he got near.

John looked at Chris intently, neither smiling nor frowning.

Chris sat down on the sidewalk, opened his duffle coat, and placed his fedora on the ground. John smiled at the delicately sculpted silver corn-rows of Chris's hair.

Chris looked anxious. He didn't know what to expect. 'Ah well,' he thought, 'at least if he was a fake, Vancouver was a nice place to check out.'

"You will find the city very enjoyable this time of the year," said John, knowing Chris's thoughts, then turned to his other visitors, making Chris do a double-take.

"I'd like to speak privately to my new visitor, please," John said to his visitors.

"Aw!" said Frank in disgust. The other two looked depressed as well.

"Please," said John softly.

"When can we come back?" said Frank.

"I don't know. It depends on how long I need to speak to this gentleman. There's always tomorrow."

The three shuffled off, leaving John alone with Chris.

John turned to Chris and studied him. Chris was obviously old, but like many blacks, especially someone as attractive as Chris was, he could have been sixty or eighty and no one would know. But John knew.

"How are you?" said John softly.

"Not too bad, thanks," said Chris.

"I realize this is not one of the most comfortable places to be. But it is private, even moreso than a coffee shop. But we can go to one if you prefer."

Chris nodded. John had a point. "It's all right," he said.

"And please. Only the truth with me," said John. "How are you?" he repeated, firmer than before.

Chris visible wilted, like a plant.

"Not too good, sir," Chris said softly.

"Call me John. You need someone to talk to." A statement, not a question.

Chris nodded, anxious.

"I don't know how much longer I have," said Chris.

"Nonsense. You're in perfect health."

Chris frowned. It was true, but how could John know?

"I saw the Sun article reprinted in the L.A. Times," said Chris. "I live in San Francisco, but still read that thick tome daily." And Chris chuckled.

"Los Angeles Times," John mused. "Fancy that."

Chris just looked at John, trying to think of what to say.

"You're here to investigate me?" asked John.

Again, Chris was caught off guard.

", sir, not really."

"As a scientist, that is your job, isn't it?"

Again, Chris was taken aback. But his old self came to the fore. "You know my profession?"

"I know who you are, Mr. Cross. I studied Modern History in high school once."

Chris swallowed, embarrassed.

John cocked an eyebrow and deadpanned with only a hint of irony, "You were very attractive in pink turtlenecks."

Chris cracked up despite himself. "It was the 70's, man! We could pull that sh*t then! Hell, we could do anything then! And did."

"I do have one question, though. How did the clothes transform?"

Chris became serious, and leaned over to John.

"The fabric was made of unstable molecules. The science was worked out by a dude named Reed Richards who had his own gig. He wasn't too happy showing his work, so he gave hints to a team of U.S. army physicists I was with at the time. I discovered the solution to the fabric myself and showed Richards the genetic transformation work I was doing. He was impressed enough to give me some tips. That was before I first started the gig. I was only twenty-nine then. But don't tell anyone. It's still a secret."

John smiled. "My lips are sealed."

"You're probably wondering why Christy isn't here," said Chris.

"It's all right, Chris," John said softly.

"No, it's not, John. She died. She died..." Chris faltered, "...when she was only forty-five. She's gone, John! And I killed her!"

John was still as a stone. He watched the tears forming in Chris's eyes.

"The...the genetic change shortened her life!" said Chris. "I wish I'd never done those experiments! Christy'd be alive today!"

"No, Chris," said John quietly. "You don't know that. Stop torturing yourself. Did you coerce her into the experiments?"

"No," Chris said. "She wanted to, as much as I did."

"Did she feel wronged or cheated before her death?" John continued.

"No!" said Chris. "She had no regrets!" But the tears continued. "But I did! I wanted to kill myself! Half of me died when she did!"

"I know," said John. "What did you do after her death?"

"I gave up the gig. I couldn't do it anymore. I couldn't do it without her!" Chris took out a handkerchief and blew his nose. "I joined a team of research scientists. Pure research. Genetics. It doesn't matter now, man! I keep thinking of her, now more than ever. For a long time, the work kept me going. I've retired now. It's been over five years. I did some travelling. But it doesn't matter where I go! I can't stop thinking about her! What...what we did together!"

"Why are you here, Chris?" John said sternly.

"'Cause I wanna die, man! I wanna be with Christy!"

"You don't know what you're saying! But why would you want my opinion?" said John, furrowing his brows.

"I...I don't know, man! I don't know!"

John, still stern, said, "As a scientist, why should you be concerned about something I would have to say? You don't believe in spiritual teachers, gurus."

Chris licked his lips, his inner conflict obvious.

"My parents were staunch Southern Baptist," Chris said. "Don't think I don't know about Heaven and Hell! Man, do you know what they wanted me to be? A minister! A preacher!"

"You're afraid, Chris. Afraid of how right they may have been. That religion isn't just a sham."

The tears were forming again in Chris's eyes.

"You're a scientist, Chris. Act like one," John said grimly.

At this, Chris tried to pull himself together.

"Chris, I could tell you all kinds of things to stop your tears. I could tell you the nature of Heaven and Hell, where Christy is, even how she feels, but how could YOU verify it?"

"I CAN'T!"

"Precisely! Why do you think Jesus spoke to his disciples in parables? Because no one knew what He knew! And he wanted to get his followers to rise up by themselves, to grow spiritually by his TEACHINGS, so they too would KNOW for themselves!"

"You...know where Christy is?" Chris said weakly.

"Chris, you're not listening! There are only two possibilities concerning consciousness after death. What are they?"

Chris struggled to think, but was too distraught.

"There either is or there is not," said John. "If there is not, then this talk about 'being with Christy' has no meaning. Christy is dead! Are you telling me that as a scientist, you believe that something of Christy is alive, even after her body has been dead for nearly forty years?"

Chris was barely holding back more tears.

John softened, then nodded. "Science is cold, isn't it, Chris?"

"I studied genetic engineering, not psychology, much less theology or parapsychology!" Chris blurted out. Then the right question followed. "What if there IS consciousness after death?"

"Precisely," said John. "Talk about the ultimate Catch-22. We don't know until we get there. And there's no coming back to verify it with your colleagues. But more to the point, THAT is why you are here. You wanted me to give you soothing words, that 'Yes, Christy is smiling down from Heaven,' and blah, blah, blah. But what if Christy is no longer the Christy you know? You keep hoping that her consciousness is the same as when she was alive. What if it's not? What if she is part of a massive group consciousness with no more individuality? What if she can't recognize you, even if she wanted to? Our conception of ghosts may very much be wishful thinking. You in fact may be far better off never to think of Christy again."

Chris broke down and cried deeply into his hands. John gave him time to grieve.

"What is the other alternative, Chris? This time, you must figure it out."

When Chris spent his tears, he simply sat and looked at John. John also looked at him.

Seconds passed to minutes, and minutes to hours. But Chris did not become tired, did not even notice people passing by them on the sidewalk. Time was slowing.

Chris felt himself growing emptier and more alone than he had since Christy's death. A part of him was in terror, but John's eyes spoke in a language which went beyond words, which the body knew and could interpret instantly.

When Chris felt at his weakest, right on the verge of collapse, he saw--or thought he saw--a light around John. John's fixed stare was like a snake, paralyzing him. Chris's body railed inside, wanting to get up, jump around, anything, but John's eyes fixed him there. The perception of light around John grew, and it grew greater and greater. Chris wanted to shield his eyes. His body told him he would go blind if he did not shield his eyes! Another part of him, the scientist, dismissed all this as if saying, 'What are you talking about? He's not doing anything to you! He's just sitting there.' Chris's body: 'The light! The light!'

In a flash, Chris saw all the bodies in the universe--human, animal, insect, even species of beings he'd never seen before, all in a circle around the intense light, heads bowed, looking at it. Only at the light.

The face of Christy Cross was in that infinite crowd. Chris saw her only because her head moved from the light to look at him. It lasted half a second of physical time. A curious expression of surprise and wonder, but also recognition was in her face. Chris fell unconscious.

When Chris's eyes fluttered open, John had wiped away Chris's tears. John was cradling Chris's head in his lap and touching the silver corn-rows of Chris's hair.

And in the manner of a real Southern Baptist, Chris looked into John's face and said softly, "I know my Redeemer lives."


Chris took John to a nearby restaurant and bought them both dinner. They sat at a corner table out of line of sight of other customers. After the waiter left with their orders, John discreetly pulled his own finger and stretched it nearly a foot in length, then it retracted to normal. Chris gasped, his eyes lit up with wonder and delight. John quickly silenced him, putting a finger to his lips.

"Science also transformed me," John said quietly. "Medical experiments with test drugs. But don't tell anyone. It's still a secret." John at first had an amused ironic look, but it slowly changed to one so grim it made Chris shudder. Chris realized from John's look that there was something horrible about this fact.

"My lips are sealed," Chris said quietly.

For a man who seemed to be a street person, John ate slowly and ate with impeccable manners.

After they finished their meal and coffees, Chris said, "Come back with me to San Francisco. You don't have to sit on the street. You can be comfortable at least as long as I live."

"Quite a temptation. One is almost inclined to react with 'Get thee behind me, Satan,' but that line's been used before. It's all right, Chris. I'm right where I need to be. Besides, I won't be around much longer."

Chris gasped. Shocked at the very idea.

"Who will die, Chris?" said John. "Who ever dies?"

And Chris took John's hands. And smiled.





The Holy Insurgent of Uncertainty