Blue Lightby Walter Mosley
It is the mid 1960s, and the people of San Francisco are ready for transcendence. One night, beams of blue light streak down from space, killing some, driving others mad, and lifting a lucky few to a/b>
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A cosmic blue light shines down on Earth creating a race of gods—and demons—whose battle for supremacy will determine the fate of the planet
It is the mid 1960s, and the people of San Francisco are ready for transcendence. One night, beams of blue light streak down from space, killing some, driving others mad, and lifting a lucky few to a state of blissful brilliance. For the surviving, newly evolved super race of “blues,” the powers of the universe are within reach. Under their guidance, Earth will either be raised to heaven or dragged to hell.
Horace LaFontaine is also touched by the light—but instead of advancing to a higher state, he finds his body inhabited by a vicious intergalactic visitor known as Gray Man. Horace must watch, helpless, as Gray Man turns his body into a weapon and uses it to target the blues, who will need every ounce of their immense power just to survive.
If Mosley's premise sounds like the John Travolta film Phenomenon writ large, however, it's both darkened and broadened by the shadow of the impending battle between the Blues and their nemesis, Gray Redstar, aka Horace LaFontaine, a hideous hybrid of blue strength and death's fury. Once the Blues, joined by such demi-Blues as Folsom Prison warden Gerin Reed and Ord's miraculously gifted daughter Alacrity, retreat into the surrounding woods and, ringed round by killer butterflies and sentient redwoods touched by the light, give themselves over to spiritual and carnal love, Mosley's fantasy develops distinct superhero overtones ('Alacrity was the greatest warrior in the history of the world. She was bold and kindhearted, savage and ruthless'). At the same time, the story, already heavily burdened with Chance's oracular meditations on history, racial difference, and the intertwining of violenceand love, begins to drag, as months turns into Grayless years, and to stagger under the weight of its apocalyptic premise, whose every manifestation demands a new set of superlatives. The finale is likely to leave readers as unsatisfied as Chance.
The result is an ambitious mess, inventive and visionary as Mosley's greatest admirers might wish, but torn between windy prophecy and comic-book heroics.
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Read an Excerpt
By Walter Mosley
OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIACopyright © 1998 Walter Mosley
All rights reserved.
Ordé stood atop the flat stone in Garber Park — talking.
It had been four years since I'd cut my wrists. I still carried my woodbound book, but the title had changed to The History of the Coming of Light.
"You are but a base stock." Ordé spoke in a commanding but intimate voice. It was drizzling on and off that day, so his audience was smaller than usual — fewer than eighty of his open-air congregation were there. Winos and unemployed clerks, dark-skinned nannies and their wealthy charges, the few blue novitiates (those who learned from the light but had not witnessed it), including me. And Miles Barber.
Miles was a homicide detective who dropped by about every other week or so. He usually came after the sermon. He didn't seem to like hearing Ordé's words.
Barber was investigating the deaths of Mary Klee, Carla MacIlvey, Janet Wong, and a man whom people in the park knew only as Bruce. They were all victims of a poisoner that the police had privately nicknamed Mack the Flask. They were also regulars at Ordé's sermons, friends of mine. Among the first friends I'd ever known.
"You are but a base stock," Ordé said again. "Vegetables cooked down in an earthen pot. Soup with only the slightest hint of flavor left. One after the other there is no difference in you. You live and die, come together and fall apart, you have children and give them empty names. You are barely there and fast dissipating; like the shit in a chamber pot spilled in the sea, you are flotsam having found your way to the edge of a decaying pier."
Everyone stood close around Ordé's stumplike rock. For all Ordé's certainty, his voice was soft. His followers, acolytes, and devoted friends found that they had to push closely together to hear the words. Down in Berkeley, even in the city, they called us the Close Congregation.
We crowded together because the sermons he gave captivated us. There was something so true in his words that we clung to one another as if we were holding on to his voice. We were lulled and exalted because in some way the truth he told was him, not just some abstract idea.
"You're way out from the heart of your origin, cut off from the bloodline that could provide the nutrients of true life. You are dying, unpollenated flowers." Ordé looked around with a kindly expression. "Your death means nothing. Your lives are less important than spit on the sidewalk. I can't even call you the seeds of something larger, better. You, who call yourselves living, are really nothing but the dead flakes of skin that some great shedding beast has left in his wake. The pattern of life is in you, but it is inert and decaying. "
It seemed true to me. I felt lifeless; I felt inconsequential.
Just months after his bout with the blue light, Ordé had come upon me in the quad at Berkeley. He saw my sadness, named it, and told me that it was true.
"You are born dying and so are your children. And even though your leaders claim that you are making advances through the generations, you know in your heart that it isn't true. You get better at making mechanical things, chemical things, but you can't make better art. You can't understand the real in even a stone. The stone exists, but if I were to ask you what it was, what it really was, you wouldn't even understand the question. And if you did understand, you would pull out pencil and paper, microscope and atom smasher to try and answer. You would attempt in words to explain that it would be impossible to know the nature of being stone."
A breeze kicked up just then. Ordé raised his head and smiled.
"You would be better off putting your finger to the wind, my friends. Lick your fingers, everybody," he said.
Most of us did. One old woman named Selma licked all four fingers from top to bottom.
I still remember the first time I did this exercise for Ordé. I held up my hand and felt that most familiar and exquisite sensation. The air cooling my finger, drying it and moving on into the sky with the moisture of my life.
I was desperate back then.
"It feels good, doesn't it?" Ordé asked.
"It's like the cold kiss of a spirit beyond your ability to see. You can feel her only for a brief moment and then she's off."
We nodded some more.
"You are lost," Ordé said.
He stepped off his rock, walked into the crowd, cleaving the congregation, and went up into the trees. Feldman and Alexander, two of Ordé's larger acolytes, blocked the way to anybody who wanted to follow him. He would be gone for the rest of the day. He'd probably go down to San Francisco, in the secondhand brown suit I'd bought him, to look for a woman.
It was time to look for a mate again.
Many of the Close Congregation followed him up to the point of the large carob trees into which he disappeared. They pressed up against the large bodyguards and called out, "Ordé! Teacher!"
I didn't go running after him.
I had been with Ordé for nearly four years by then. I'd left everything behind me and joined the Close Congregation. Ordé and his words were my only connection left to life. The day we met I'd intended to kill myself. I'd been with him ever since. I knew he'd be back. I was one of the few who knew where he lived in town. I collected donations from the Close Congregation, kept his bank accounts, and paid his bills.
Ordé had a lot of money in the bank, the large donations he collected himself in private interviews, but he spent very little of it. I controlled the checkbook, but all I craved was his truth.
Ordé's words were the truth. You could see every image, feel every sensation he described. His metaphors (what we thought were metaphors) took on a palpable reality that hung in our nostrils, stuck in the back of our throats. Halfway through any sermon I would notice that I was no longer listening to his words but instead experiencing the phenomena he described.
"Hello, Chance," Miles Barber said.
He had come up behind me while everyone else drifted after Ordé.
"Where's your boss gone?" the policeman asked.
"I don't know," I said. "He doesn't check in with me every time he splits."
"He go off like that often?"
"You know as well as I do," I said. "You come up here enough."
"He always go alone?" Detective Barber asked.
"We're never alone, Officer."
Barber's hair was thick and black, but his eyes were light gray. He wasn't tall and he always wore an odd-colored suit. That day it was an iridescent gray-green two-piece suit with a single-button jacket.
He looked and sounded as if his entire life were just off the secondhand rack.
"I don't care about your blue light bullshit, kid. I wanna know if your boss disappears with people from this group into the woods."
"You asked me that before," I said.
"I can arrest you anytime I want, kid."
"Yes, you can, Officer."
Barber took me in with his eyes. I had known many policemen. Ever since I was a child they'd been rousting me. I knew when a cop hated me — my big frame, my black skin. But Barber didn't have time for that kind of hatred. He had a job to do, that was all.
I would have liked to help him. But I could not.
I couldn't, because helping him would have condemned the dream. Barber was a cop, that's all. He found out who did wrong, uncovered the evidence to prove it, and sent the wrongdoers to jail. He wasn't concerned with the subtleties of truth and necessity. He couldn't see above the small laws that he worked for.
I wondered, as he interrogated me for the fifth time, if he knew how close he stood to his precious truth. Did he know that three and a half years earlier I had been summoned from my Shattuck Avenue dive by Ordé?
A man, I forget his name, who lived two floors below knocked on my door a little after 11:00 P.M.
"Phone," he said. Before I could get the door open he was already going back down the stairs.
There was a pay phone on the second floor that we all used to receive calls. I was surprised because no one ever called me. My mother never even knew the number.
"Teacher?" I asked. I had never seen Ordé away from the park except for that first time we met. It had been only a short while since I'd been a member of the Close Congregation.
"Come to me," he said and then he gave me the address.
I was flattered by the call. I didn't ask why or if it could wait till morning. I just told him that it might take a while because I had no car or bike or money for the bus.
"Hurry" was his reply.
I found myself running down the nighttime streets of Berkeley.
Ordé lived in a small house about six blocks down from Telegraph. There was no path through the uncut lawn to his door. I could feel the wet blades of grass against the bare sides of my sandaled feet.
He opened the door before I reached it.
The small entrance area had a doorway on either side. The room to the left was empty and dark except for a single flickering flame that I thought must have been a candle. The room to the right had an electric light burning behind a half-closed door. I turned toward the brighter light.
"No," Ordé commanded. He gestured toward the flickering dark.
I obeyed him not because I felt I had to. I wanted to please him because when he spoke he seemed to understand all the pain of my life. He never blamed or made empty promises; he simply explained and left me to make my own choices.
We sat on the floor in the dark room on either side of a fat candle. He wore black slacks and a loose collarless shirt that was unbuttoned. The light played shadows on his shallow chest and gaunt face. His blond hair was in shadow, making his bronzed skin seem pale.
"You are half of a thing," he said, speaking softly and with no particular emphasis. But I felt the words wrap tightly around my mind. "The lower half," he continued. "The tripod, the foundation, the land below the stars."
I wanted to get up and run. Not to escape, but to work off the elation I felt upon receiving his words.
"You are sleep before waking, like I was before blue light. I look upon you as you would see a man who used his head to hammer nails. Poor fool."
The image was so clear in my mind, I worried that it might be a flashback to an old acid trip.
"Do you understand?" Ordé asked.
"I think so."
"The blue light is God," I said.
"No. I don't think so," Ordé said with a little wonder in his voice. "No. Not God, but life. Not lies or hopes or dreams. Nothing that is to come later, but right now. Right now. Here."
I had never experienced anything like sitting there receiving his words. The only thing even approaching it was an early memory I had of my mother's trying to show me the San Bernardino mountain range. I was three or four, and she held me in one arm while pointing off into the distance. All I could make out was "far away" and colors. But as she kept explaining and pointing, I slowly made out the mountains she described. The elation I felt at realizing mountains for the first time was a weak emotion compared with what Ordé made me feel there in the darkness.
I'd heard him speak many times before, but it never had that kind of impact. It was as if I were transformed temporarily and for a brief moment I saw through his eyes, shared his expanded awareness.
"Do you understand?" Ordé asked again.
"Can you see what I'm saying?"
"It's like the whole world," I said meaninglessly. "Everything."
"Everything must change," he said, making sense out of my nonsense. "But in order for that to happen we must multiply. We must grow until every animal and fish, every rock and drop of water is one. Everything must merge."
"Like an explosion?"
"Yes. But slowly. Over thousands of years. But it will never be unless we can mate."
"Why can't you?" I asked.
"I don't know. I try," he said. "But my blood is too strong. It devours the egg."
My eyes had adjusted to the darkness by then. There was a wooden bench behind Ordé and a pile of clothes or rags on the floor.
He stood up and walked toward the door with the electric light shining behind it. I followed him into the light.
It was a small dinette separated from the kitchen by a waist-high wall of shelves. A large table, topped with red linoleum, dominated the room, but it was the small corpse slumped back in one of the chrome chairs that captured my attention. It was Mary Klee, one of the Close Congregation. Head thrown back, dark foam down her chin. One eye was wide- open while the other was mostly closed. She wore jeans and a T-shirt.
There was a bowl half filled with what looked like congealed blood on the table before her. I'm sure I would have been sick if I wasn't still stunned by the power of Ordé's words.
"I hoped that if we shared blood, her cells might have been strengthened." There was no apology in Ordé's voice. "But even just to drink some of it, she died."
He stood for a long time then, pondering, I suppose, the future of his race — the generation of blue divinity. I sat down across from Mary, looking into her cockeyed stare. I'd never seen a corpse before, but then again, I'd never believed in God before Ordé told me that there was something higher than God.
The silence continued for half an hour or more.
"Can you drive a car?" he asked finally.
I must have nodded.
"Put her in the car in the backyard and take her somewhere," he said.
There was a junkyard in Alameda I knew. No one patrolled it at night and there were no fences. All the way out I wondered why I obeyed him.
"It's only words," I said out loud. "Only words, but Mary's really dead."
But I knew the answer. Those words had transformed me, made me believe in something that I could be a part of. Ordé didn't mourn Mary. How could he? People were, at best, coma victims in his eyes. He hadn't murdered her; he had tried to elevate her life.
Detective Barber interrupted my thoughts.
"I know you think that he's your friend, kid," he said. "But you knew those people too. If you think he cares more about you than them, you're wrong. MacIlvey was his girlfriend and she's dead."
"We're all dead, Officer," I said. "Some of us just don't know it yet."
Barber shook his head at me. He was a good guy. At that moment I wanted to be like him. I wanted to forget the sad truth of Ordé's prophecies.CHAPTER 2
Phyllis Yamauchi was an astronomer working at Berkeley when the shaft of blue light came in through her laboratory window. A year later she heard about a fanatic who claimed that knives of blue cut through heaven to enlighten us. She came the following Wednesday. I had no special senses then, but I could tell that the meeting between Ordé and Phyllis Yamauchi was monumental.
The tall blond fanatic came down from his rock and took Phyllis in his arms. She was crying and he made sounds and faces that expressed no emotion that I knew.
Ordé picked up Phyllis, hoisting her with one arm as if she were a child and said, "God is not alone on this earth."
At first there was silence among us. Then I started to clap. After that the applause came, applause and cheers.
It was Ordé's power to see the past as it moved toward the future and to rouse the hearts of men with this knowledge.
But others had seen the blue light also. Gijon Diaz, a man who loved puzzles. Reggie and Wanita Brown. Eileen Martel, who brought home dozens of wounded animals, all of whom recovered even from the worst injuries. And there was Myrtle Forché, who was a playwright before blue light and a monologist after. They, and others, showed up at Ordé's Wednesday sermons. They didn't all come to every sermon, but there was a loose association that kept most of them coming back from time to time.
They were the Blues. Men and women who had transcended the human race. Part of their mind had lived among stars so far away that our science hadn't even imagined them.
That I moved among them, shared smiles and drank from the same cups, elated me. I believed that I was privy to a pantheon of gods. Though only children in the first months after their creation, they heralded an evolution that would become the divinity their mortal lower halves had always dreamed of.
Doctor Edward Marie at the Alameda County Jail infirmary didn't expect Winch Fargo to survive his wounds. But while Ordé made his prophecies, Winch's wounds slowly healed. After seventeen months on a hospital cot Winch opened his eyes to confusion and his mind to pain. He asked for painkillers, but Doctor Marie saw no reason to comply. The wounds were mostly healed. Edward Marie couldn't see into the half-life that infested Fargo's mind and body, the fragment of that divine equation that flitted through him like a curse from some long-forgotten victim.
Excerpted from Blue Light by Walter Mosley. Copyright © 1998 Walter Mosley. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Meet the Author
Walter Mosley (b. 1952) is the author of the bestselling mystery series featuring Easy Rawlins, as well as numerous other works, from literary fiction and science fiction to a young adult novel and political monographs. His short fiction has been widely published, and his nonfiction has appeared in the New York Times Magazine and the Nation, among other publications. Mosley is the winner of numerous awards, including an O. Henry Award, the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award, a Grammy, and PEN America’s Lifetime Achievement Award. He lives in New York City.
- New York, New York
- Date of Birth:
- January 12, 1952
- Place of Birth:
- Los Angeles, California
- B.A., Johnson State College
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