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[um_loggedin show_lock=no]Five weeks later. As she lay in bed fading into consciousness, Allison Rhode felt a poke on her shoulder. Then another one. “Don’t open your eyes,” he whispered as she stirred. Then, when he didn’t understand her mumbled response, he poked her again.
She brushed his hand away. “I’m surprised you didn’t just cover my eyes,” she repeated after a luxurious stretch.
“Wouldn’t have helped,” he replied. “Well, I guess I could have used a blindfold or something; if I covered them with my hand, you’d see it and I’d cease to exist.”
Allison nodded, and breathed. “So you are really here then,” she wondered, “or am I still dreaming?”
“You tell me.”
Allie felt around her bed, felt her familiar bedsheets and bedstand. “I’d say you’re the one who’s dreaming.”
Aaron laughed. “I just hope I can remember this dream when I wake up; I’ve been searching for you for weeks.”
Allie smiled, as he traced his finger along her lips. She had missed Aaron, and was glad to have this chance to see him again. Well, not see him, per se.
“You’ve been well?” he asked, taking her hand. It felt cool as it enveloped hers, and she gave him a flirtatious squeeze in response.
“Yeah,” she replied, letting her mind wander over the events of the last month or so. “I’m into fiction now. Wrote a short story about an evil corporation that snatches people from other dimensions.” Aaron chuckled. “What’s going on with you?”
“I’m doing well,” he replied, not entirely convincingly. “I’m out of work though, thanks to Grace.”
“Yeah?” Allie asked, somewhat saddened by his tone. She had hoped, well…
“Yeah. She wrote the article, wrote about our experience that night, and people believed her, which was shocking. She has your old job now because of it, actually,” he mentioned off-handedly. “Anyway, once the public found out what we were doing, the government shut Ex Nihilo down and confiscated the research. Been out of work ever since.”
“I’m really sorry, Aaron,” she expressed, stroking her thumb across the back of his hand. “It had to be done, though.”
“I know,” he spoke, a smile appearing in his voice. “Besides, I’m a billionaire now. Made sure of that days before the article circulated.” Allie gasped, then flicked his arm. “Ow! What was that for?!”
“You know what that’s for,” she grumbled back. “That money had to come from somewhere.”
“Yeah, it came from the mob again,” he replied. “And hey, maybe it makes me a bad guy, but I don’t exactly lose sleep over that.” Allie did accidentally let a restrained smile slip onto her lips, and she heard Aaron’s replying chuckle. “Actually, this one got blamed on Slim Richards too. The guy can’t show his face in any northeast cities without risking a bullet.”
The conversation mellowed into a serene, comfortable, yet somewhat despondent silence. There was a slight stiffness to Aaron’s grasp, and the tension in the air – well, you could cut it with a knife. Or with a direct question.
“So if you’re so wealthy,” she asked, “then why do you sound so unhappy?”
Aaron breathed, laughed, and then kissed the back of her hand. “There’s something that I don’t have, Allie, someone whose kindness far exceeds the value of money.”
She gave him a thin half-smile and squeezed his hand, even as she felt a tear growing within her eye. “I am nothing more than a figment of your imagination, Aaron; I’m not real.”
“But you could be,” he insisted. “I know enough about the research; I could start from scratch, rebuild ENIIC, fix the problem with sight.”
“And meanwhile life would pass you by,” she replied. “And me.” Aaron’s breath faltered for a moment, as though he was surprised by her response. “Listen,” she squeezed his hand. “This isn’t really all that new; it happens all the time, in so many lives.”
“What? A man literally falls in love with the woman of his dreams?” he laughed. “Not that often.”
“Well, some people play video games; others watch movies,” she noted with a shrug. “Some people read fiction; that’s my vice.”
“And you think there’s something wrong with that?”
“Only if those things become substitutes for a real life, for a real friendship.” She cradled his face in her hands, and felt the remnants of a tear that had flowed silently from his eye to his beard, that weeks-old stubble that hadn’t been there when she last saw him. A new tear washed over her hand.
“Grace,” she told him, “once gave me a piece of advice which I will now pass on to you.” His face shifted as he sat up, so she let her hand drop. Allison shrugged. “I’m nothing more than a dream to you Aaron, and you can’t keep living in your dreams. You live in the real world. You find a real woman, an imperfect woman, and you find a way to forgive her flaws; if she has any degree of character, she’ll do the same for you.”
Aaron collected his breath. “You’re right,” he agreed, standing and withdrawing his hand. “I shouldn’t have come here; I’m sorry.”
“No, Aaron, wait,” she pleaded, holding out her hand. He took it, and eventually knelt down beside her bed once more. “I’m glad you came,” she flashed him a quivering smile; she was now the one holding back tears, silently grieving her own loss. She really would miss Aaron Wright, brief as their friendship was.
“I suppose this is the last I’ll see of you,” he whispered, brushing his other hand across her cheek; she instinctively nestled into it.
“It should be,” she agreed, then wept as he kissed her. Tears flowed from her as freely as the oxygen between them, until finally, with the lingering taste of spearmint chapstick on her lips, she opened her eyes.[/um_loggedin]
[um_loggedin show_lock=no]The next evening, when she lay her head upon her pillow, Allison dreamed about Grace. She chuckled at the girl’s nervous excitement as she chatted with a man on the telephone. They made plans for coffee, and when she finally hung up, Grace stood in front of her closet forever, asking herself which outfit Aaron would like the best. And Allison smiled.[/um_loggedin]
[um_loggedin show_lock=no]Hey :-). Thanks for reading Ex Nihilo, my first shot at a mildly dark, fast-paced sci-fi thriller. If you’ve enjoyed it, do me a favor and share it with a few of your friends, then like redeemedalive.com on Facebook for more of my writings delivered straight to your timeline. If you’re looking for a lighter story with a slower, more developed pace, check out Empathy Weeps below.
Before Allison leaves your imagination however, I wanted to speak with you about a few of the things she said, areas of thinking where I don’t think she’s quite in line with objective truth, though I think she’s heading in the right direction. I have tried speaking with her privately on these issues of course, but as you know, she can be fairly strong-willed, at times to a fault. She keeps telling me not to waste time debating with imaginary people.
So I’m here speaking with you. You live in the real world; you have a real destiny and destination toward which your life is progressing. What you do with that life will have great implications not only for your own story, but also for that of your friends, your nation, and mankind as a whole.
I wrote Ex Nihilo primarily in response to the amount of time that people in my generation seem to spend pursuing fiction — the experience of living someone else’s idea of a successful, meaningful, or exciting life — often as an escape from the pain or tedium of our own. Some people play video games; others watch movies. Some enjoy recurring characters; television shows are my vice.
Certainly fiction can be used in a way that fosters positive change in the world, by causing us to reexamine false ideas that we have accepted, beliefs which would otherwise go unchallenged. Harriet Beecher Stowe was a Christian and abolitionist of slavery who wrote the single most influential fiction book in American history, Uncle Tom’s Cabin; her examination and challenge of chattel slavery was so impactful that Abraham Lincoln jokingly blamed her for the civil war. Modern abolitionists like myself will also use stories to fight the evils of our age, and Jesus’ use of parables to both hide and highlight truth is unparalleled in its impact on human history.
We live in an day however when fiction is primarily being used to distract people from the truth, and propagate a negative set of ideas which are slowly destroying our civilization. Collectively, this ideology is known as secular humanism, a philosophy which has ravaged cultures throughout history since its inception. The basic idea is that in some form or another, mankind (man and/or woman) places himself as the ultimate authority, definer of right and wrong, and source of his own good, rather than look outside himself to his creator, God. Christianity on the other hand says that man apart from God is inherently evil, and incapable of producing good for himself or the rest of creation.
You can see this tension most pointedly when Humanists and Christians discuss the foundations of morality. Humanists will typically claim that morality (if it exists) is defined by human constructs such as civil government or societal norms — man turning himself into the highest authority over right and wrong. When this is believed however, one can never view particular governments or societies as being immoral, because they are inherently moral by definition. If there is no objective truth which transcends the institutions of man, then we are required to conclude that governments and societies like Nazi Germany and antebellum America were in fact acting morally when they mass-murdered Jews and enslaved millions of Africans.
Christianity on the other hand recognizes that man is valuable, not because of his own self-elevation or autonomous authority, but because he is created in the image of God. The reason that it is wrong for Darnight to rape and murder women is not because some human government happens to outlaw rape and murder, but because those woman are valued by God, because they bear His image as His representatives on the earth. The reason it is wrong for parents to murder their children through abortion is because children are created in the image of God, and are valued by Him. We know these things because God has revealed them to us (Gen 9:6) as an unchanging standard of right and wrong that is provided externally, from outside of our own human thinking and resources, not defined internally by our own imagination.
The problem with objective morality of course is that none of us is moral by God’s standard. We like to pretend that we are good, or at least “good enough” to pass some test based on our own shifting standard of what “good people” look like. But according to God’s word, we all fail.
“All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.” (Rom 3:23-26 ESV)
This is why I believe that Allison’s advice to Aaron was somewhat lacking, though certainly representative of how people in our generation will think. While speaking with Aaron she identified a real problem — he was looking for perfection in a world of his own imagination, just as many of us do when our real lives and relationships fall apart. However Allison’s solution was to point Aaron to another woman as his source of good, an imperfect woman, and then tell him to “find a way to forgive her flaws.”
In and of itself this isn’t terrible advice; it recognizes that we are all imperfect, and that we all need forgiveness. But she doesn’t provide any foundational understanding of where that forgiveness comes from, leaving it to Aaron’s own human resources rather than encourage him to look to God.
Contrary to the foolishness of humanistic ideologies, the Bible understands that we are all jerks who inherently hate God and hurt one another, and that the just penalty for our wickedness is death (Rom 6:23). Because God wants to forgive us however, He made a way for both His justice and His love to meet, on a wooden cross in Israel, through the death of His Son Jesus. If we confess (i.e. agree) that we are evil, and trust in Jesus’ work to take the penalty for our sin upon Himself, then God will forgive us, and through His Spirit give us the capacity to forgive others.
The foundation of every healthy relationship between humans is a right relationship with the God who created us. The denial of this fact is humanism’s fatal flaw. If you are living in a world of fiction, believing that you will find good in yourself or other people while rejecting the true and the living God — the God who holds your very breath in His hand — then I would encourage you to wake up, and spend some time in the real world. People will fail you. Friends will fail you — spouses, pastors, civil authorities, Christians and non-Christians will all fail you at one point or another, because we are all sinners. What endures without failure through the fires of this life, and what will save you from Hell in the next, is a humble reliance on the faithful forgiveness of Jesus Christ — a change of direction that produces within us a radical love for God and for our fellow man — genuine love for people that humanism can never produce.
If you would like to learn more about the paradigm shift that is Jesus Christ, then pray to God, and ask Him to send someone to you who can walk alongside you as you learn and grow. Look specifically for a Christian who measures his/her life by the Christ of scripture as a foundation that will never change.
If you’re already walking with Christ, then I would highly recommend as a next step that you learn about an aspect of Christianity which I view as the single most critical issue of our day wherein the gospel of Jesus Christ is being brought into conflict with humanistic ideologies — false ideas that are quite literally destroying millions of humans in America every year. To learn the principles and Christian duties of abolition, visit AbolishHumanAbortion.com.
Thanks again for reading Ex Nihilo; I truly hope Allison will remain long in your memory as a reminder to live in the real world, and most importantly, to live consciously in the light of your eternal destiny.[/um_loggedin]
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