Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Week 12 - Making a Difference

Michael Salsbury
(Note: I've officially shelved this story.  I've had trouble figuring out where it's going.  Until I sort that out, we don't have a full story.)

It happened as it always did, unexpectedly.  The glint of light off the cake knife matched the glint of a jungle knife I’d held in Belize forty years ago.  It opened a crack through which many lifetimes of memories poured into my head.  Even though I was familiar with the feeling, it still overwhelmed me.  I saw the room grow dark and felt my legs collapse.  I let go of the knife and let it happen.  Fighting only made it much worse.

I awoke in a hospital surrounded by the family of this lifetime, with the memories of families of dozens of lifetimes before.  I could only look at them.  It was too hard to form words.  There were too many languages mixed and mingled in my thoughts, too many words for the same things.  I had to meditate, to focus, to bring this lifetime back into focus while pushing aside the rest.  I smiled to let them know I was OK, and closed my eyes.


Integrating the experiences of several lifetimes takes time and mental effort, but less than you might imagine.  You run through the memories in your head, considering each as current-me orold-me.  You cycle repeatedly through the current-me memories to give yourself a focus.  You envision the old-me memories as thoughts fading into the distance.  You need them, they’re part of you, but they’re not part of the you inhabiting the world now.  In time, you become whole. 

I opened my eyes again.  They were still here.  Tears and concern on their faces. I mimed the need for a drink, and they brought me water.  I sipped.  They smiled.  I put the glass down on the nightstand next to my hospital bed.

“Honey, are you OK?” my mother asked, grabbing my right hand and patting the back of it.

“Yes, mom,” I nodded.  “I’m sorry if I scared you.”

“Never mind about that.  What happened?  One minute I’m taking video of you cutting your graduation cake, and the next you fell to the floor.”

“I’m not sure I can really explain, but I just felt myself lose consciousness.  But I’m fine now.”

“That’s for the doctor to say.”

“No, really.  I know I am.”

At that moment, a woman in a white coat with a stethoscope around her neck entered the room.  She looked at me, smiled, and walked to the bedside.  “Awake again, I see.”

I nodded.

“The fMRI we took of you when you first came in showed massive brain activity in the areas associated with long-term memory.  We can’t find any actual cause.  We can’t find anything similar in recorded medical history. Can you tell me what happened?”

“If you’ll ask my family to wait outside, I’ll try to explain it.”

“How old is he?” she asked my mother.


“Then I’ll need to ask you all to leave.”

I could see the hurt on some of the faces, confusion and worry on others.  If they heard what I was about to tell this doctor, they would probably demand that I receive psychiatric attention.  I wasn’t even sure the doctor would believe me, but I stood a better chance of convincing her than the others.

“What did you want to tell me?” she asked.

“I know it’s going to sound a bit crazy,” I told her, “but I experienced a flood of memories during the blackout, as though I was watching several lifetimes unfold.  I can remember most of it, but not all of it.”

“I see,” she rubbed her chin and stared out the window. “Are you experiencing that now?”

“No, not anymore.”

“None of your tests show anything out of the ordinary anymore.  I don’t see anything abnormal in your blood tests, nothing wrong in the CT or MRI, and your EKG appears normal.  I’d like to keep you a few more days for observation—“

“Please don’t.  I promise you this is a one-time event.”

“I can’t be so sure.”

“I can, and I am.”

She seemed to consider this for a moment, then turned toward the door and walked out.

When my family returned, there were lots of questions.  I gave them answers that implied that maybe my fainting was caused by a lack of sleep, dehydration, or hunger.  I didn’t want them to know the truth.  I’d tried that on previous lifetimes and it had not gone over well.  In one incarnation, it caused me to be burned at the stake as a witch.  In another, I was locked away in a mental institution.  In others, ostracized from the community.  I’d found it easier to simply not share the real story.  I’d hoped sharing it with the doctor would result in a more-rapid dismissal, though she might well decide I was insane.


The doctor stuck to her guns.  She kept me in the hospital for three days, running any physical and psychological tests she could think of.  I passed them all, of course, because there was nothing wrong with me.  For me, this was normal.

Someone who knew the truth about me, a very open-minded priest, told me what he believes I am.  He believed that when we die, our soul returns to the place from which it came.  There, our souls share their life memories with the others.  When it’s time to be born into a new body, we leave behind all memory of our past life so that we live our next lifetime unencumbered by the experiences of that lifetime.

“There are stories about children who seem to know how to play musical instruments, having little or no experience.  People under hypnosis report past-life memories.  We get feelings of déjà vu in places we’ve never been.  Whatever erases our souls’ memories must not always do a thorough enough job.  Where most people get small glimpses of a past life, like leftover files on a computer hard drive, you must somehow be able to ‘unerase’ the disk and recover all your old memories.  God must have something special in store for you.”

That’s the closest description to myself that I’ve ever heard, though I place no stock in the God part.  After a few lifetimes, I found religion more a burden than a comfort, and abandoned it.  I suppose it’s strange that I believe in a soul but not in a deity or an afterlife.  Then again, as far as I know, I’m the only one of my kind.


The familiar gnawing feeling was coming back.  I can ignore it now, but with time it will grow in intensity.  Right now, all I knew was that a group of people somewhere south of me was suffering.  I needed to help them.

Over my lifetime, I’ve made, lost, and spent more money than the leaders of the world’s governments.  Making money can be time-consuming, so I decided to take a shortcut a few lifetimes back.  I established the KnightStar Foundation and signed my fortune over to it.  I have a foundation like it on every continent, and people running each for me.  These aren't my only financial safety nets, however.  They're merely the most convenient.  

When I awaken, as I have now, I visit the KnightStar Foundation office and answer a series of questions from a sealed envelope I left behind on a past visit.  The foundation’s charter requires them to give me any amount of money they have if I can answer those questions. It’s a financial security measure that serves me well.

With my money situation sorted out for this lifetime, I was ready to address the gnawing within me to help those to my south who are suffering.


I gave my family of this lifetime the fiction that I'd won some contest with a huge cash prize.  They didn't believe it until I paid off my parents' debts, and gave them a large nest egg for retirement.  This threw them off balance enough that they didn't argue much when I told them I wanted to help the less fortunate in Venezuela.

I took a plane to Caracas, then hired a driver and guides to take me into the jungle.  I didn't know who was suffering in the jungle, but I could feel their pain.  I had the sensation that, as a race, they were about to die off.  I didn't know who they were or what they needed, but I would do what I could to help them.  With the resources at my command, that was quite a lot... I hoped.

Eventually, the feeling led me to the Warao people.  The tribe suffers from a high rate of tuberculosis.  Many of them die because there isn't enough medicine and medical care available.  From my hut in the largest village, I use my satellite phone and Internet access to hire doctors, buy medical supplies and arrange for a small clinic to be built near as many of the Warao settlements as possible.  Two months later, the gnawing feeling changed.  It no longer drew me to the Warao.  I had helped them. The feeling pulled me north now.


I followed the feeling back to the United States, finding myself at a pharmaceutical company's headquarters.  Research showed that the company, which effectively had a monopoly on certain cancer and heart medications, had been rapidly increasing the prices of their products.  Patients who had been able to purchase a pill for fifty cents found it marked up to $100 per pill.  Insurance companies refused to pay the inflated prices, and many people had died without the drugs.

I checked my KnightStar funds and realized that I might have enough, if I pooled three continents' funds together, to purchase the company and lower the pricing on the drug.  I hired an acquisition attorney and reached out to the company.

I'm glad I was sitting down when the CEO and his assistant entered the room with the corporate lawyers.  Something about the CEO and assistant sent a shiver down the back of my spine.  There was another feeling, too. It was more vague.  I couldn't put a name on it.

The two of them looked at me.  The man spoke.  "I'd like my counsel to leave the room for a moment. Are you willing to do the same?  I have a question I'd like to ask you."

It was an unusual request.  "Fine.  Mr. Stephens, if you'll step outside with the other lawyers for a moment?"

He looked at me as if to say "I advise against this," but stepped out anyway.

When the door closed behind them, Barker smiled at me.  "I know what you are, because I'm one, too.  So is Miss Sanford here.  This isn't your first lifetime, is it?"

I stared at them, my jaw hanging open limply.  I'd never met anyone like myself in dozens of lifetimes.  Here, all at once, I'd met two.  I looked at the man and shook my head.  He smiled wider.

"Knew it.  We need to get you into our group.  You're one of us."

"Your group?"

"Miss Sanford and I are part of an organization of people just like the three of us.  We remember our past lives, our past knowledge, and our past experience... like you do."

I nodded.  "Why is it I've never encountered any others?"

"As near as we can tell, there aren't many of us in the world.  There are twenty-three in our group.  That's all I can say until you're a member."

"Does anyone not join your group?"

"Some resist at first.  Eventually, they come around and join.  That's really all I can say."

Barker waved toward to the lawyers and invited them in. They resumed their seats around the conference table.

Stephens whispered in my ear, "What was that about?"

"Can't tell you.  But it had nothing to do with the deal.  Personal thing."

We spent the next several hours negotiating a price for the company.  When we'd finally settled the details, Barker asked, "Why do you want to buy Pfilter Pharma anyway?  I never asked."

"Some of your customers can't afford their medications.  I want to change that."

Barker whispered something to his lawyer, grabbed Ms. Sanford's arm, and left the room.

"Where are they going?  We still have paperwork to draw up and sign."

"I'm sorry," Barker's lawyer said.  "We're no longer willing to sell."

I felt my jaw go slack as I looked at Stephens.  He seemed surprised as well.


Later that night at my hotel, there was a knock at the door.  I saw Barker's face through the fisheye lens.  Taking a deep breath, I unlocked and opened the door.  Barker and two large unfriendly-looking men stepped through the door.

"These are my... associates.  They keep me safe."

"Are they members of your organization, too?"

"Did you feel that same chill when you saw them, the one you felt when you saw Sanford and me?"


"Then you have your answer."

Barker's men began searching my hotel room.

"What are they looking for?"

"Any number of things... hidden companions, microphones, listening devices, cameras... can't be too safe."

"Why did you back out of the sale today?"

"I thought you were like the rest of us, but your answer to my question proved you aren't.  I don't want the company going to someone who isn't in alignment with our organization's goals."

"Which are what, exactly?"

"In due time, Mr. Carter.  In due time."

"The place is clean," the brown-haired man said, and resumed his spot next to Barker.

"I'd like to introduce you to the rest of my organization."

"Excellent.  I'd like that, too."

He reached into his pocket and held out a small white pill, then motioned to the man on his right, who brought a glass of water to me.  "Take this.  When you wake up, you'll meet the others."

I shook my head.  "No.  For all I know, this is poison."

"Fine," Barker said, producing another pill from his pocket.  "Follow me outside to the car.  Hand me one of the pills back, and we'll each take one together.  Fair enough?"

I looked the pills over.  They were identical.  On the other hand, Barker ran a pharmaceutical company and could easily have had a placebo or a real medication made to look the same.  I might not be able to trust him, but I decided to try.

In his car, we each swallowed a pill and fell asleep moments later.


We take a different view of our advantage over the mundanes.  We believe it's our destiny to foster and protect our own, to build a legacy for our future selves.  What do you believe?”

“I've thought long and hard about that.  Even though I remember all my past lives, I don't live any longer than anyone else.   I used to spend years of each lifetime amassing wealth so I could retire early an MD enjoy it. After a few lifetimes of that, I focused on building wealth so I could start living it up as soon as I awakened.”

“Awakened? Is that what you call getting your past life memories back?”

“Yes. I got the name from a spy term, sleeper agent.  That's someone who may not even know they're a spy until someone activates or awakens them.  Then they begin behaving like a spy."

"That does sound similar."

"Eventually, you get tired of vacationing.  I started wondering what else I could do with my life. Then I heard about an orphanage that needed access to medicine and education. I helped them. After a few lifetimes of charity work like that, I found myself noticing that I could sense suffering. I was drawn to it. Now, I look for those in need and do what I can to help them. It's rewarding to see the good you can do in the world.”

Before she could react, Barker entered the room.  “Good. You’re awake. I want you to walk with me.”

Sanford excused herself and left us.  I stood up and followed Barker out of the room.

“I'm here to introduce you to the rest of The Committee.  We've been in existence continuously for over nine hundred years.  We've had many names throughout history. The most well known might be The Illuminati.”

I'd heard of the group. They were supposed to be a group of people with the financial, intellectual, and political power to control entire governments.

“I thought the illuminati were a myth.”

“Like most myths, there's a basis in fact. We used to take a much bigger interest in what the mundanes did than we do now.  Today, we step in only in it affects our interests.”

"How often does that happen?"

"Rarely, not even once a year.  Our interests span the globe, but they're immune to most market and political pressures."

"Why didn't you let me purchase Bellows Pharmaceuticals?"

"I thought you were buying it to build your investment portfolio.  It's made me a lot of money, but I'm ready to move on to a greater challenge.  When you told me you wanted to slash our profits by cutting drug pricing, I couldn't let you have it."

"Why not?"

"The Committee protects its own.  What you were proposing might have required our other members to respond in kind with their own pharma companies.  Profits would have tanked, and we'd all have taken a bath."

"But what about the people who depend on those drugs?"

"What about them?  They're mundanes.  They'll get sick and die.  That's life.  Why worry about it?"

"I don't think I like this group of yours."

"Give it a chance.  I think you'll come to see things our way in time,"  he stopped outside a pair of black double doors with shiny brass knobs.  "Behind these doors you'll meet the rest of The Committee.  Take your time talking with them.  Get to know them.  When the night's over, you'll have a decision to make."


My evening with The Committee was overwhelming, to say the least.  For centuries, I had never met another person like me.  Now, I know twenty of them.  It reminded me of those stories where a child grows up in an adopted home, with no memory of a family, to suddenly find they're a part of a large family with many siblings and cousins.

They asked me more questions than I could remember.  We talked about past lives and experiences.  We talked about how sad it can be knowing that a family member or good friend will pass on, without their knowledge and experiences continuing as ours do.

As I got to know the members of The Committee, something became uncomfortably clear.  They were a completely self-focused group.  They nurtured and protected one another, but also felt that the rest of humanity were little more than cattle.  Although they were the closest thing I'd ever encountered to true brothers and sisters, they seemed more foreign to me than most of the ordinary humans I'd ever met.  They cared little about making the world a better place for others, only for protecting their own wealth, privilege, and power.  Perhaps I was kidding myself, but I felt that I'd grown beyond that.

Karen Sanford must have sensed my growing unease.  She walked up to me and hooked her arm around mine.  "Walk with me."

She walked me out of the ballroom we'd been in, and through a series of corridors.  "Are we underground?"

She stopped and looked up at me.  "Yes.  How did you know?"

"Windows," I told her, "or the lack of them."

She nodded.  "The Committee has worked hard over the centuries to protect itself against every conceivable disaster.  This facility is one of them.  I heard Barker say that you'd have to drop a nuclear weapon or two directly on this place to even start to damage it."

"Ah," I told her. "You seem different from the others."

"In what way?"

"For one thing, you're taking me away from the group to talk to me."

She squeezed my arm, "Maybe I just like you a bit more.  The others want to grill you, figure out where you fit in the group."

"And you?"

"I want to know more about you as a person.  I want to know if you're the sort of person I'd want to associate with."

"How is that going?"

"Tell you later."

We continued to walk around the facility for a long time.  There weren't any clocks, so I had no idea how long.  Karen told me about the facility, the history of The Committee, and its vast resources for its members.  They were better protected, better organized, and more financed than probably any government on the planet.  The Committee seemed to genuinely embody the Illuminati myth.

At the end of our walk, Karen brought us back to the ballroom where the rest of The Committee had gathered behind a semi-circle of tables and chairs.  A lone chair sat in the middle of the semi-circle.  Karen motioned me to sit in it.

"Jeff Carter," Barker said, standing.  "You have been recommended for membership in The Committee."

"Thank you."

"Before we can grant you full membership, however, we need to be sure that you will accept our organization's charter," Barker nodded to Philips, a man I'd met earlier in the evening.  Philips brought me a piece of paper.  It contained The Committee's charter.  I began reading.

The charter required members to recognize The Chairman as the final authority and arbitrator for all Committee decisions.  It required members to sign over all their financial holdings and real estate to The Committee, in exchange for which they had access to The Committee's general fund.  Expenditures up to one hundred million dollars could be self-authorized, while larger expenditures required approval by The Committee's Finance Director.

When I reached the Code of Conduct section, I began to have some serious reservations.  The code seemed almost single-mindedly focused on maintaining and building The Committee's wealth, power, and security... at the expense of the rest of the world.  Murder was explicitly permitted, provided the victim was not a Committee member but a mundane.

"Is something bothering you?"  Barker asked.

I took a deep breath.  "Yes.  I don't think I've made any secret of the fact that I want to make the world a better place for everyone.  I don't discriminate between mundanes and our kind, partly because I never knew any others of our kind before now, but partly because I see it as our duty."


"Folks like you, me, and other Committee members have been given a gift.  Where others have only the perspective and experience of a single lifetime to see the world, we have the ability to put a lifetime in the context of a long history.  We can see how history repeats in pleasant and unpleasant ways.  We can see ways to help others avoid pain and suffering, either by directly getting involved to end it, or by eliminating the conditions that cause it."

"How would that benefit us?"

"I've been down the path you're all on.  I spent several lifetimes accumulating wealth, and several more spending it in extravagant ways.  Wealth and power become pointless after a time unless you do something constructive with them.  I've spent several lifetimes now trying to make the world a better place for everyone.  It's rewarding."

"I still fail to see a benefit."

"When you look at yourself in the mirror, don't you wish there was more to your life?  Don't you wish you felt a sense of pride at your accomplishments, at how you've changed the world for the better?"

"No.  Most of the world consists of mundane fools who couldn't comprehend us or what we are.  I take pride from knowing we're better than they are.  They're making our lives better without even knowing it.  That gives me satisfaction."

I sighed.  "That's what I was afraid of.  Still, if I joined your group and wanted to continue my work, would that be OK?"

"If you can show how it benefits The Committee, yes."

"It does benefit The Committee."

"I don't see how."

"Eventually, every Committee member dies.  Am I right?"

He nodded.

"You have no control over where you'll be reborn, or when.  Correct?"

Again, he nodded.

"Imagine that you're born into an area where a disease like polio is running rampant, or where the toxic run-off from a factory is causing severe birth defects.  You'll spend that lifetime suffering from the effects of that unpleasant birthplace.  Would you want that?"

"No, but I'd just kill myself and move on to the next body."

"You think that's better than solving the problem in the first place?  Better than making the conditions you're born into healthy and safe?"

"Yeah.  It's not my problem."

"Then we have a problem.  As I see it, it's my problem to make the world a better place.  I want the mundanes to have a good life, because at some point, for some period of time, it's also my life.  I don't see myself as better than they are, just different."

"You're wrong.  We're much better than they are."

"Agree to disagree.  I can't join your group while you believe that."

Barker made a hand gesture.  I felt a needle plunge into my neck and the world went black.


I awoke in the cell, with Karen brushing the hair away from my eyes.  I could see a tear in hers.

"What happens now?" I asked her.

"That depends on you," she said, glancing briefly in the direction of the camera.  "Barker will give you another chance to join The Committee."


"I don't like to think about it."

"What do you mean?"

"If you don't join The Committee," she sighed, "you become its enemy.  You become a threat to us.  We deal harshly with threats."

"They'll kill me, then."

"Worse.  You know that sensation you felt when Barker and I met you?"


"When you've experienced it as much as we have, it becomes like a fingerprint.  Instead of a vague feeling, it becomes more unique."


"Committee members will use that against you.  When you've been reborn, even before you get your memories back, they can sense you.  They'll make sure your lifetimes from here on out are miserable."

"What can I do?"

"Join us," she said, then bent down close to my ear.  "Change The Committee from within.  Others feel like you and I do.  I'll help you."

The door clicked open again. Barker stepped into the room with his goons.  He looked at Karen. "Has he reconsidered?"

"I don't know," she said, stepping toward the door.  "I hope so."

"Well?" Barker asked, turning back to me.

I had two choices.  I could join them and hope to change the group from within, giving up all my financial resources in the process.  I could refuse to join them, and if Karen was right they'd make all my future lives miserable.

<to be continued - >

About the Author

Michael Salsbury / Author & Editor

In his day job, Michael Salsbury helps administer over 1,800 Windows desktop computers for a Central Ohio non-profit. When he's not working, he's writing, blogging, podcasting, home brewing, or playing "warm furniture" to his two Bengal cats.


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