by Craig Yack
July 2002

The first thing the Soul saw was four pillars jutting skyward from the marble platform he was standing on. The marble was polished absolutely smooth. Around him was a dark land that stretched out indefinitely in all directions. The ground itself was covered by a layer of wavering mists, and the entire horizon had a purplish light coming from some unknown source. The sky was very dark, but in the depths of it was a deep blue canvas, and it was full of stars and nebula clouds, drifting slowly across. The sky reflected off the platform and the pillars, which seemed to add strength to the reflections.

"Welcome", said a female voice.
The Soul turned and saw a female spirit standing at the base of the platform. She stood there, waiting patiently for him to speak.
"Is this where they arrive?" he asked.
"What do you mean?" she said with a confused look.
"Is this where all of us arrive?" he tried to clarify, without really knowing where he was.
Her face straightened. "No, this is your platform, yours alone."
He approached the edge of the platform, went down the stairs, and stopped on the step just before the rest of the stairs that disappeared below the mists. He tested the mists with his foot, or whatever it was he was testing the mists with, and didn't feel any different. He continued down until he was knee deep and finally reached the ground. It had a very solid feel to it, and felt like it was infinitely solid.
He turned again to the female spirit. "So, what do I do now?"
"Whatever you wish. Just know your platform will always be here for you."
He looked out around him. No matter where he looked, everything appeared the same. He saw no destinations, no paths, no indications of what he should do or where he should go. He took another look at the spirit and the platform, and began to slowly walk in the first direction that seemed reasonable to him. After a little while, he turned and saw the female spirit in the distance, silently watching him walk away, still standing next to the platform. Perhaps she was some sort of guide?

As the Soul wandered, he felt the nature of his own existence, and came upon what might have been memories of past existences. He felt as though he was once a man discovering the rewards of owning a business and the life changing impact of having a family. Another life, it seemed, was that of a hawk that glided high upon the thermals, calling into the air from the tops of great trees, and peering out from a chosen perch over the surrounding land. And, somewhere within the Soul's awareness, although he couldn't quite be sure, there seemed to be the impression that he might have even been a rose in a garden. A simple existence, to be sure, but with a gentle and intangible yet very significant meaning.

His mind returned to his exploration. It didn't appear as though he was getting anywhere, although the platform itself was no longer in sight. How would he find his way back if he needed to? Why would he even need to, he thought to himself. He looked up and saw the drifting sky. It felt like it was sort of a companion to him, keeping him company during his walk. It occurred to him to wonder if there was any way he could visit that sky. He looked back down at the swirling mists and noticed they seemed to exist as separate flowing streams. He ran what would be his hand through them, and the mists seemed to respond. He stopped his hand and lifted it slowly away, and the mists drifted back off his hand and back towards the ground like tendrils, disappearing into the gently swirling patterns. Looking deeper, he saw other patterns even farther below, and reached his hand toward one of them. It began to crawl up his arm, and his awareness became very focussed on that one mist. In fact, he could no longer see anything else around him. His whole awareness was surrounded by the whiteness of that mist.

He suddenly realized he was on a stone walkway. Heavy mist obscured his vision in both directions. There was a sense of beckoning from up ahead. Slowly and curiously the Soul proceeded forward. Eventually, the mists became more dispersed and separated into individual shapes, meandering slowly across the walkway. To either side were what could only be described as large plants. Some bore bright fruit and were large and healthy. Others seemed weaker and slightly withered. A few also bore fruit, but not as well as the larger plants. The Soul ran his hands across the leaves of one of them. He sensed an awareness in the plant, almost as if it was waiting to be asked a question. The Soul felt driven to evoke a question of his own when a sudden rustling broke his concentration. A single female spirit was collecting fruit into a basket, and had seen the Soul for the first time. She regained her composure and gave a happy wave of her hand, and bounded away with the basket of fruit at her side. What was this place the Soul had found? He continued towards where the female spirit had disappeared into the mist. Finally, a large cloud of mist gave way to a majestic sight. A huge white marble Oasis, laced with walkways, balconies and curving staircases, illuminated with gentle blue lanterns filled the bulk of the Soul's vision. A stream was running through the garden and at various levels of the huge structure, and other stone walkways wound their way around the plants, ending at the base of the staircases. One particularly wide staircase lead up the center of the Oasis, and a number of spirits were making their way down it and heading towards the Soul.

"Welcome to the Oasis", one of the spirits said. "Follow us up to the main landing and we'll show you around!" The Soul followed them up the staircase. He stopped and glanced at a stream that was dumping into a larger pool below, which was full of lily pads with white flowers. A single lily pad with its own flower was in the stream, slowly making its way towards the downspout that dumped into the pool.
"Are you coming?" the spirit interrupted. The Soul regathered his attention and looked at the spirit, and continued up the stairs. On his way up, he looked again for the water lily, but it had already dumped into the pool below and mixed in with the other flowers, no longer discernable from the others.

The landing had balconies that overlooked the garden. The mists created an ominous atmosphere that kept the meaning of this place mysterious. Tables were against the walls with bowls of fruit laid out for the taking. The female spirit was just finishing up placing the fruit she collected into another bowl and bounded towards the staircase with her empty basket, passing by the Soul with a smile.
"Have one", one of the spirits said, picking up a fruit and tossing it to him. The fruit was deep orange. "Just squeeze it hard near your face." The Soul lifted the fruit up to his face and, not sure if he would get sprayed by juices, or exactly what would happen, gave the fruit a hard squeeze. With enough pressure, it collapsed suddenly in his hand and felt like a sponge, and sweet energies were exuded from it. The energies entered the Soul and he felt a charge of energy within him, as if he had just taken a large dose of sugar. "It's part of what sustains us here", one of the spirits explained, as they also took fruits of their own and absorbed them, as they talked and laughed and giggled to each other. There were barrels near the tables where the empty rines were tossed.

"We'll show you where you can stay, and tomorrow you can help us collect fruit from the garden." They lead The Soul to a small chamber at the end of a walkway, just down a small staircase. The Soul was eager to find out more about this place, but right now, after his long wandering, he was ready for some rest. As he laid in his chamber in his rest area, he looked out the window and watched the starry sky drift by, knowing that beneath it, the garden was waiting for him the next day.

When the Soul arose, he was lead to the main landing and was shown where to find an empty basket for him to collect fruit in. While he was being taken down the main staircase, he saw some children manipulating the mists into various shapes and showing them to each other. He asked to stop for a moment and walked over. He felt as though he understood how the children were shaping the mists, and figured he would take it one step farther for them. He formed some mist into a ball, and moved it with his will to one of the children. They all smiled and gathered into a circle to pass it back and forth to each other. After a few exchanges, though, one of the children ran forward, grabbed the ball and ran proudly away from the group, playing keep away. Some of the other children happily chased after him and a few even wrestled with him to get the ball away. The rest of the children shyly stood there, not sure what to do. The Soul was a little disappointed, but maybe after he was done in the garden, he would get another chance to share with them.

The Soul was lead into the garden and was given a few plants to tend to. "Collect enough fruit to fill your basket and take them up to the main landing. That's all." a spirit said cheerfully, and walked away. The Soul stared at the first plant and, in a way, almost felt sorry for it that it would be giving fruit that would be picked. But, that was the plant's purpose, he resolved to himself, and removed the fruit from one of the plants. The rest of the plants he was assigned to, though, didn't have any fruit. He looked into his basket and had only filled a quarter of it. He looked at the other spirits diligently filling their baskets all the way and wondered where they were getting all the fruit from. Maybe, he thought to himself, he was assigned to plants that didn't give so much fruit just to break him in, initiate him into the Oasis? But when he paid more attention to one of the other spirits, he could see him whispering to one of the plants. The plant shivered and suddenly produced more fruit. As he looked around, he saw other spirits doing the same thing. Two spirits seemed to actually be hiding what they were saying to their plants from the other, and they were smiling at each other about the competition.

The Soul turned towards the plant in front of him and tried to think of the right thing to say. He cleared his throat and moved in close and said, "Could you please create some fruit for me?" The plant moved some of its leaves very slowly, seeming stirred, but nothing happened. The Soul tried again. "Generate fruit for me!" Nothing happened. He gave out a sigh and wasn't sure what to try next. He wouldn't have to get harsh, would he? He took in his surroundings and absorbed the feel of everything that was happening here, looked back at the plant, and suddenly noticed a certain cuteness about it. He leaned in closer and said teasingly, "You know, this is my first day here, and you're starting to make me look bad." He cocked an eyebrow and one corner of his mouth grinned. "I'd really appreciate it if you could help me impress everyone!" The plant started to shiver, almost violently, and then suddenly, out popped eight brightly colored fruits. The Soul tried to understand exactly how he had accomplished this, but focussed more on filling his basket. He thanked the plant and stroked its leaves, and could almost feel the plant smiling back at him. It seemed to like him. He moved to the next plant and tried the same tactic, but it didn't work. Apparently, every plant had to be coaxed a different way, but he slowly got the hang of it.

With his basket full, he was making his way back to the stone path when he heard some bickering in the next row. Glancing over, he heard a spirit laughing at and criticizing another spirit for producing smaller fruit from his plants.
"This is so embarassing, what were you thinking?" the spirit said, with a gleeful look on his face.
The other spirit just stayed on the ground on his knees, looking at the ground silently.
The Soul figured this was a good opportunity to make a difference. He approached.
"Hey", the Soul said in greeting.
"Hey", the other spirit responded.
"What's going on?" the Soul asked curiously, with a flair that encouraged the other spirit's antagonism.
"Look at the fruit this one is collecting, isn't this pathetic?" he said with a smile.
"Yes, as a matter of fact it is pathetic", the Soul responded, showing off his basket full of fruit to the spirit on the ground. "But you know what, instead of criticizing what he actually accomplishes, you might find it more useful to make suggestions and encourage him. After all, we're in this together, aren't we?"
The other spirit seemed to realize what he had done and quickly tried to cover his falter. "I was just... I mean isn't it... oh forget it..." The spirit dropped his basket, held his hands up shaking his head and walked away.
"What's the problem?" the Soul said as the other spirit strode through the crowd and walked up the main staircase alone.
That spirit will have to work this out on his own, the Soul thought to himself.
Looking down at the other spirit, the Soul said, "I know you can't control what others say to you, but you don't have to give what they say so much substance. You know what is right. Make use of what others say, but don't let them have that kind of position with you."
The other spirit glanced up at him, and, with a slight indication of feeling encouraged, nodded and looked back down again.
This one might take some time to come around, the Soul thought to himself. He gave a polite goodbye and headed towards the main staircase. Reflecting back, he realized he had made his first meaningful contribution to the Oasis. He thought to himself that there was much more to this place than gathering fruit. And it gave him a feeling of pride knowing he could contribute in more than one meaningful way.

The Soul took the fruit basket up the stairs and emptied it into a bowl on the table. He looked over and saw a group of spirits standing in a circle. They were laughing, all listening to someone. He strolled over to see what the attraction was, and he heard a voice say, "And then he said, 'You might find it more useful to make suggestions and encourage him. After all, we're in this together, aren't we?'" which was immediately followed by laughter and applause. Some spirits were bringing their hands to their mouths and bending over in silent laughter, as if to seem embarassed. The Soul didn't know what to make of this. A feeling within him stirred up and caused some anxiety, at which point some energy was exuded from him. He looked down and saw it drifting slowly to the floor like mist. He quickly dispersed it with his hand so noone else could see, and a spirit walked by with a bright smile on his face as he went to take fruit from one of the bowls. The group had broken up already and the spirits were either walking away or forming smaller groups. He figured it wasn't a good time to try to mix in with them until he sorted out his own feelings, so he instead walked to the edge of the landing to reflect. Perhaps it was just a simple misunderstanding and would blow over. The Soul felt certain of that.

As the Soul leaned on the railing of the balcony overlooking the garden, another spirit arrived next to him. "It's a wonderful place, isn't it?" The Soul nodded in agreement, although feeling a little hesitant. "The plants do so well for us, and give us exactly what we need. Somehow, that makes the whole difference here. I sometimes stroll through them, just appreciating what this whole place does for us. It all just seems to provide to us so freely." The Soul could see what he meant. This Oasis certainly had a sense of completeness to it. But there were many other things about this place that had a lasting impression. The smooth white marble, the mist that slowly meanders across the setting illuminated by the sconces, the stream flowing through the whole Oasis, and the starry sky drifting by high above added their own meaning as well. Perhaps, the Soul thought to himself, this spirit at times thought one of those things brought the actual meaning to this place. But he didn't want to disrupt the appreciation he was having right now, so he figured not to bring it up.

The spirit added, "The Creator provided us all the means necessary to provide for ourselves". The Soul saw meaning in his statement and cherished it within him, and thought to glance up at the sky to watch the stars again.
He could sense the other spirit watching his interest in the sky. The spirit leaned over and asked, "Tell me, how far exactly, would you go, if you could get up there?"
The Soul thought about it for a moment, and said what he thought was the most reasonable response. "I suppose that... I would only go as far as others could." What was the point of going somewhere where things couldn't be shared?
"That's a good answer", the other spirit replied. He flicked a pointing finger at the Soul and said, "Think about that.", and walked away.
The Soul thought about it a moment, and looked out over the mist, the stream, the garden, and the white marble balconies, and all the spirits here. Somehow, it all seemed to work. Perhaps the Soul could learn and discover more here than what he originally anticipated? What a wonderful world this is, he thought to himself. He looked up at the sky one last time to cherish his final thought of it as a dream. He knew he would occasionally refer to the sky again for guidance, but he was finally beginning to believe that this was the place meant for him.

On his way back to his quarters, he saw a female spirit leaning on a balcony looking up at the sky. She had a wondrous look on her face, one the Soul could really appreciate. He slowly approached and leaned on the handrail next to her.
"Hello", he said carefully.
She was slightly startled and embarassed, but greeted him back.
"What are you looking at?" the Soul asked, although he already knew the answer.
"I'm just wondering what's really up there", she said. "I feel so small under it sometimes. And it seems so far away."
The Soul knew exactly what she meant. He replied, "I think it plays an equal part to each of us. There's plenty for everybody. And don't ever think you can't reach it. It seems to me, that's part of what it's for."
It seemed like she really needed to hear this. In a nervous rush, she embraced him in an appreciating hug. He felt a little awkward, but returned the sentiment. It seemed appropriate at the time.
She loosened her grip and looked up at him with a bright smile, and he smiled back. Then she took his hand and was trying to lead him somewhere. She was heading towards her door. This wasn't exactly what the Soul had in mind, he was just trying to promote some belief. Had he gone too far? Not knowing the right thing to do, he resisted and tried to pull his hand back gently. She didn't let go. In fact it seemed she was pulling harder and wasn't saying a word. Finally, the Soul had to speak.
"This wasn't what I intended", he tried to say tactfully. She stopped motionless in thought, still holding his hand. He pulled his hand away as smoothly as he could, and was going to comfort her, but she slowly walked away without saying a word, walked into her chamber, and slammed her door.
The Soul looked up at the sky one more time and sighed. Being here was going to take a while to get the hang of.

He turned to go to his own quarters when he was stopped by three male spirits that had seen what happened.
"Just what exactly do you think you're doing?" one of the asked.
The Soul replied nervously, "I didn't mean to cause any trouble, I think it was just a misunderstanding."
"Well, we don't go for newcomers waltzing around hurting others. We think you'd be right to go set things straight with her."
"Yeah", another soul added.
They all stood there, eyeing him silently.
"I think she'll be ok, fellas", the Soul said. He honestly didn't think that knocking on her door was a good idea. Not tonite, anyway.
"You just don't understand the way things work around here, do you? We take care of each other. All wrongs are undone. If you let this go, it will be a long time before it's forgotten."
"How exactly do you propose I make this right?" the Soul retorted.
"Don't take that tone with us. You're the one who caused it, you figure it out."
"I'm sorry, I don't agree."
One of them approached and spoke in a vindictive tone. "Whether you agree or not is irrelevent. This place doesn't run on your thoughts."
This was all getting too complicated. The Soul finally resigned to say, "Look, guys, I just want to turn in. Do you mind?"
The third spirit finally spoke and said, "Actually, yes, we do."
The Soul just walked by them without saying anything. He could just barely hear them saying things to each other. About what, exactly, he didn't know. He forced himself to believe it didn't matter as he approached his door, but the problem left an imprint in his thoughts.

When the Soul returned to his chambers that night, he was very confused. He didn't know how to help the spirits with anything that they were doing or hoping for without getting himself into some kind of trouble. He didn't know what he was doing wrong. He laid face down in his rest area, and buried his head in his arms. He felt his heart asking the Creator for help. He didn't know what question he was asking exactly. It didn't feel like he was asking for things to be a certain way, just to somehow make sense of it all. He sensed himself going into deep thought, but still found himself being very aware of himself as only the Soul, in that rest area, in that Oasis.

The next morning, he looked out his window and took another look around. A new awareness flooded into him. Something was telling him he had to leave the Oasis. But he felt guilty that he would have to disappoint all the other spirits. They must have assumed that he would stay here forever. After all, they had even given him his own chamber. It was very clear to him that these spirits, once you devote yourself to them, would fully take care of you. But the Soul didn't feel right doing that. And now he would have to find some way out of the Oasis without creating another scene and hurting anyone's feelings. Things already seemed to go horribly wrong whenever the Soul tried to stand for himself in front of them. Perhaps it would be better if he made a quiet exit. He really wanted it to see it work out. Deep within, he wanted to give himself totally to something. But the confusions just didn't seem possible to work out here. Hopefully, the other spirits would understand.

He made his way to the main landing, and saw all the other spirits there talking and gathering up their baskets for the morning harvest. He glanced around to make sure noone was noticing him, and walked down the main staircase without looking back. He watched all the spirits in the garden collecting their fruit, and was partially sorry that he was leaving. But this was for the best, he thought to himself. The stone walkway faded into the mist up ahead. He suddenly felt an exhileration about being back in the open realm again, and questions started flooding into his mind about what he would do next and what it would mean. His mind was overwhlemingly preoccupied with the notions.

"Hey", a female voice said behind him suddenly. He turned with a start and saw a female spirit approaching curiously. "Where ya goin?" she asked cutely.
"Oh, just... out for a stroll." the Soul replied. Why start an argument now? He was leaving anyway, and he wouldn't be coming back.
"It doesn't sound to me like that's what you're doing." Her face was beginning to seem cross, and a male spirit emerged at the edge of the garden and looked upon the situation, serious-faced.
"What's going on?" the male spirit asked sternly.
"It seems we have someone who isn't very satisfied with us", the female spirit said.
"It - It's not like that", the Soul said. Well, partially what she said was true, but he didn't blame them for it.
"Really, and how is it, exactly?" the male spirit demanded.
"Look, I just need to leave." the Soul explained.
"I'm sure we can expect you'll be returning then?" he asked, as the female spirit looked at him with her arms folded. Other spirits were starting to approach.
The Soul gave out a sigh. "Probably not", he admitted. He could see it was becoming more important to leave now, but he didn't want to leave things so open ended.
The male spirit's head tilted toward him suddenly. "Excuse me? Probably not?"
The Soul needed to put a stop to this. "Look, it's best this way. Good luck to all of you." He wanted them to understand, but it looked like that wasn't going to happen without the Soul giving out more information than he wanted to. He turned quickly to take the few remaining steps necessary to leave, and a small child was on the pathway, looking up at him.
"So, you're just going to leave us then?" the child said with a concerned face.
Maybe this child can understand, the Soul thought. At least someone might have a chance to appreciate what he was doing. The Soul leaned down and began to speak to him gently. "I'll do my best to explain this to you. Sometimes, when people make decisions about where they want to be..."
But that was all the Soul had a chance to say to the child, because his guardian had stormed up, took the child's arm and said to him, "We don't talk to ones like this. He doesn't care about us the way the rest of us do." As she dragged the child away, the child's eyes turned to the Soul, raised his fingers to his mouth, and looked away and smiled, tilting his head down cutely, enjoying where he was being taken.
What will she teach that child? the Soul thought to himself.

A prominent male spirit stepped forward. "So this is what you do, run when there's a problem and desert everyone else?"
"I could sort it out if you'd just back off, maybe I'd come back!"
"No, that's not what you said. You said you were leaving and that you thought it was for the best."
"That was before...", the Soul hesitated, trying to find his thoughts.
"Before what? Exactly?"
The Soul couldn't find anything to say except, "Look, I'm just wanting to make the best example of myself that I can."
"Well, at the rate you're going, it doesn't look to me like you're going to amount to much of anything at all."
The Soul's anger welled up inside him, and he turned on the spirit. "And what exactly would you know about what a fine example is?"
The spirit's expressions widened. "Oh, so now the truth comes out. If you speak this way about me, you speak this way about all of us, because we are all in agreement here."

The Soul looked about the area, and could see some spirits eyeing him coldly, some concerned. Others had their arms folded and were looking at the pathway or the plants, listening intently. Some were having conversations, seeming oblivious to the situation. Others were moving to and comforting each other. The Soul turned back to the spirit addressing him, who had not changed his stance or expression in the least.

His mind an uncontrollable whirlwind, and his heart empty, still not sure if he was doing right or wrong, the Soul turned one final time to leave.

And there, on the path, blocking his exit, was the child. He looked up at the Soul with a proud smile and his hands behind him and said, "So, you're just going to leave us then?" The Soul could hear spirits behind him giggling.

The Soul lost his will and dropped to the stone pathway. He had the desire to stand, but could not see a good enough reason for the effort. The surrounding spirits were saying things to him, but he couldn't quite comprehend them. They were directing words to him, but they seemed more to be talking amongst themselves rather than actually talking to him. The sensation penetrated deep into him and caused him to exude energies out around him. He couldn't contain it. As he looked up with what feeble strength he had left, the spirits were running their hands through the energies and absorbing them, barely paying him any attention. He felt drawn to look over into the garden, and as he did, his waning awareness felt the plants regarding him sadly. Somewhere within his vision, he felt himself finally come upon the truth. These plants, these providers for the Oasis, were transmuted spirits. And as time went on, he could see them as the spirits they are and once were, caught within ground they could not escape, uncontrollably submissive to the wills of anyone who spoke to them. The world around him was crumbling, and if he didn't act quickly, his reality would become one suited only to be placed in that garden to serve these spirits for the rest of his existence. He had to escape. With his last remaining strength, he clutched the ground and began to crawl. He could feel the hard grasp of the surrounding spirits standing over him, but he couldn't be certain if it was their hands or their words, thoughts or feelings he felt gripping him. As much as it wrenched his heart to know he was cared about so little, he needed out. He pulled with all his might. The world around him continued to swirl into an unimaginable chaos, and his movement forward became labored and started to lose substance, until finally, the last wisp of awareness left him.

As awareness slowly crept its way into his consciousness, he found himself in a world of absolute gray. He saw no other spirits around him, and heard no words. He must have made it out. But to where? He could see a river of life nearby, and could see swirling essences gliding along its surface, occasionally taking streams of energy from it. He placed his hand in it, and felt the warmth of life flood into him. But when he removed his hand, the warmth left, leaving him as before. The warmth wasn't accepting him. Had he failed this badly? Who would help him now? He couldn't help but feel a rage towards the spirits of the Oasis. How could he let himself be so fooled, be so sympathetic to them? Is this what this world would be like? How would he find his way in this world, wanting to avoid becoming one of those submissive plants in a garden, and having to care about the spirits that control and use them? How could this be the meaning of existence, the truth of everything he and everything else is for?

He felt so deceived. He had such high hopes. For what he would become, the meaning he would express. And this is what he is left to. Had he stayed in the Oasis, he would have at least had the purpose of providing fruit to the spirits, but it wasn't a purpose he wanted. How could he let himself be such an empty minded slave? And yet, it seemed the only way, ultimately, that he could fit in. Every attempt to make a developed attempt to contribute always failed. Was it because he didn't properly appreciate the grand scheme of things? What had he missed? He was so willing to learn, yet this was allowed. He anguished at the Creator and cursed him and stared around him at this infinite empty grayness, this river of life that no longer nourished him, these wordless entities swirling by. How long could he exist like this, before he ceased to be? Or worse yet, would he exist forever and go mad?

He went through it all over and over again in his mind. He couldn't sort out the initial sympathy he had towards the spirits, his sense of wanting to satisfy their anger for some higher purpose, and how everything had fallen apart and lead to this. And the plants. How could this be allowed to happen? Somehow, it all seemed to fit together, but he never would have imagined it like this. Not when he first arrived. When he first arrived... what were his thoughts when he first arrived? What was he appreciating, believing? Deep within his confusion there was a nagging question trying to surface through all the other questions... What was it... that... he was trying to do... all along?

And with that thought, the world around him transformed and he found himself back at the platform.

He was standing, but stumbled onto his hands and knees again, trembling over the weight of his body and the weakness in his limbs. The guide saw him there and ran up the steps and stopped next to him. She leaned down onto her knees, watching him attentively.
"What happened to you?" she asked.
"I found a place where spirits lived..." the Soul began to explain. "But", he continued, trying to find the words to describe his conflict and failure. "But, it didn't work out."
"There will be other places", she said. "Not all places are the same. Try to forget about it."
"You can't just tell me to forget it. You don't understand!" the Soul bursted.
"Why won't you let it go?" she asked, getting frustrated and concerned.
"Because, I..." the Soul started, but he couldn't immediately find a reason. He felt his mind attempting to realign itself, to make sense of it all, to force its way through the senselessness and come up with a reason. There had to be a reason to hold on to this problem, there just had to be. Instead, he just found himself feeling intruded upon. But he wasn't sure if it was the guide or the problem intruding. Why couldn't she just understand!?
"Look, I know how it is, believe me, I do", the guide said gently. "I was once as you were. Eager to contribute, looking for meaning. I took a few wrong turns myself. Believe me, it gets easier, but not if you follow this course. Trust me on this."
"Why couldn't they be like you are?" he asked, disappointed and hurt.
"I guess... they don't know the things I do", she answered as best she could.

He allowed his awareness of the Creator to exist within everything he experienced at the Oasis. He saw the innocence of the spirits that lived there. Their false assumptions, the understandable desire and need for their own sense of control and power, and the nature of the deception. But as he allowed his experiences there to become more inert, his heart began to ache.
"I understand what happened, but it still hurts." The Soul wasn't sure what to do next.
"I think I can help you with that", the guide said.
She moved forward and gently laid her arms around him, and laid her head upon his shoulder. The Soul could feel a warmth surging through him, giving him comfort. He held her back and felt a sort of transfer taking place, adding meaning to his pain and anger, giving him relief.
He learned a great deal about the nature of this world from the Oasis. He learned some pitfalls to avoid, and some things to appreciate. He hoped that he didn't stray too far from the grand designs of the Creator. But somewhere within him, he knew that if he did go too far, the Creator would call him back. Deep within him, he sensed himself asking the Creator to do so if it ever happened again, and allowed the request be delivered.

They both rose and the Soul looked up into the sky. A thought occurred to him and a smirk came across his face.
"What?" the guide said with a curious smile.
"Have you ever been to that nebula up there?"
The guide looked up, and she seemed absorbed with what she saw. "No... I haven't."
"I'm going to visit there. Would you care to join me?"
She blinked and tilted her head in approval. "Sure, but... how will we get there?"
The Soul let the Creator exist within it all, and the thought came to him naturally. He stretched out his hand, and it began to form into mist, which began to flow towards the nebula on the energy of his will. The guide looked at him with amazement, and with his remaining hand, he took hers. With smiles on their faces, they both formed into mist, and wound their way into the sky.

PLEASE NOTE: I used the concept of the afterlife and the other spirits as a canvas on which to write story that mirrors some of our struggles as we try to find purpose in the world and be part of a larger body. It is very easy to be fooled by a group of people that seem to unconditionally agree with each other that claim they look to something larger without truly doing so. I thought it was important to make the distinction that our spirit, as is NOT suggested by this story, is that part of us that is without pride, fear, or ego. Do not fear the true nature of your spirit. It is that divine part of you that completes your creation in God's image. People falter, but the spirit, if allowed to fully flourish, is perfect in every way. Please don't let this story misalign your concept of that. Most symbolic stories misalign the nature of how things exist in order to make their point from a different perspective, yet still containing the elements of the most relevant truths.

Looking back, the basic point I wanted to make in this story is that our first steps into anything might make us think that the first thing that happens there is what is supposed to happen, and everyone else that is there might be united on that idea, and treat you as if you're supposed to do it, too. But if your heartsong says otherwise, give it credence. It's likely others feel the same way, but this story does not lend that to the people of the Oasis. I did it that way because of the penchant for some people to gravitate towards collectivism rather than individuality, and to illustrate the depths to which people force that collectivisim on others just to see the individual conflict and validate their moment for the stimulus it provides. For some, it's easier and more enjoyable to force others along a collective line just to experience that imposed deprivation, than to admit to their own line and brave walking it themselves, for all the risks, loss and isolation that entails.