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The Red Orb
bibliomaniac
Read more at Giphantia http://eyeattheendofmyhand.blogspot.com/
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photograph © 2011 Vincent Louis Carrella

Soon they began coming in greater numbers; despite the warnings and those few who took ill, they came to seek counsel and for healing. For some it was peace. You would always leave with a sense of calm relief, like after that first drink, but it would persist, that feeling, for days sometimes. There were people who won lotteries and recovered from cancer, and some people saw their dead husbands and sons. So we couldn't keep it a secret any longer. Word got out. They'd march right out into the desert. You'd see a whole line of them stretched out for miles, single file. Orderly and calm, and the strange thing was that nobody spoke at all when they were haeading out to the orb, or coming back. It was spooky quiet, like some holy passage to a shrine. Two lines of hopeful pilgrims, one coming and one going, and nothing but the wind and the sound of their feet in the sand. Some folks would talk to it and others would weep. But there were a few who howled in pain when they touched it for the first time, like they'd stuck their hands into fire. They would run off into the desert, never to be heard from again, shrieking like the swine of the Gadarene. But that didn't happen often. Mostly you'd see people with that expression of beaming hippie joy, like they'd just been let in on some wonderful secret of which they were beneficiary. But some got very sick, as I said. They fell into a coma-like state three days after they'd touched the orb. They didn't seem to be suffering. It was like they'd fallen into a deep, hibernating sleep where there was no dreaming, no brain activity at all. This all gave people pause, but they came anyway, all kinds of people. There were the homeless and downtrodden as you'd expect, but there were businessmen and doctors too. All walks of life. Many said they felt called,  they said they saw the red orb in a dream and headed south. It was like some vestige of a migratory gene got turned on. An ancient homing signal. Bald men grew hair and terribly obese women underwent miraculous transformations. Meth addicts never hit the pipe again. They say it permanently cured depression. Cured it, as in it was gone and never returned. Nobody knew why it chose who it did, to cure or to punish. If there were theories nobody voiced them. There just no longer seemed to be the need to gossip or conspire. People were happy all over, not just in proximity to the orb, but everywhere. The feeling was spreading, and for those who had touched it, and remained unstricken, they found that their own touch could pass the light on. The orb's joy was infectious and it spread. And anyone who caught it would see it in their dreams where it would tell them things, sometimes just a word or two, like believe, and be brave. And people listened. In a matter of months everything had changed. People were no longer afraid. The secret was that each person was given a secret that they believed was all their own, but that it turned out was the same secret for all. We didn't discover that until the no-dreamers awakened. That's what they started calling the coma victims, the sleeping ones. And they told us something else too. They told us that there was a place now were all the stricken had been banished, those who were burned and ran away. And we were to go to them, for it wasn't true, what everyone had been saying. It was never too late to be saved...