I am a vampire. For centuries I believed I was the last vampire on Earth, that I was the most powerful creature in existence. That belief gave me great self-confidence. I feared nothing because nothing could harm me. Then one remarkable day, my supposedly dead creator, Yaksha, came for me, and I discovered I was not omnipotent. A short time later another vampire appeared, one Eddie Fender. He had Yaksha's strength, and once again I was almost destroyed. Yet I survived both Yaksha and Eddie, only to give birth to a daughter of unfathomable power and incomprehensible persuasion– Kalika, Kali Ma, the Dark Mother, the Supreme Goddess of Destruction. Yes, I believe my only child to be a divine incarnation, an avatar, as some would describe her. In a devastating vision she showed me her infinite greatness. The only prob?lem is that my daughter seems to have been born without a conscience.
Actually, I do have three other small problems.
I don't know where Kalika is.
I know I must destroy her.
And I love her.
I don't know which of these dilemmas is worst, but together they make a very dangerous combi?nation. There is another child who has recently been born to rival my daughter. I don't know the child's first name, but he is the son of my friend, Paula Ramirez. The power of this child is still a mystery to me. I only know that a tiny vial of his blood was able to bring my closest friend, Seymour Dorsten, back from the dead. I don't know where Paula and her son are either. I don't know if they're with Kalika. If they are, I do know they are both probably dead. Above all else, my daughter wants this child.
But why? I don't know.
I am beset with problems.
They seem never to stop.
I stand outside the Unity Church in Santa Moni?ca, Seymour Dorsten by my side. Three months have passed since we were last in Santa Monica, on the pier. On that day Kalika first chose to spare Seymour's life, but then threw a stake into his spine while he thrashed in the ocean water below us. She said she did so to make a point.
"Do you really need to know?"
"The knowledge will cost you."
The question I had asked was who Paula's child was. Killing Seymour was her answer to the ques?tion, a very curious answer. Had Kalika not killed Seymour, I never would have thought to use the child's blood on a dead person. I never would have known just how special the child was. Yet Seymour does not remember any of this. The shock of being impaled has dimmed his memory of that night's events. He remembers being thrown off the pier and into the water–that's it. Of course he is still pressuring me to make him a vampire. He thinks then we will have great sex, or at least some sex. I don't sleep with him because I am afraid it would destroy our delicate balance of love and insults.
For the tenth time Seymour wants to know why I have dragged him to a New Age lecture. It is entitled: The Birth of Christ–an Egyptian Proph?ecy Fulfilled. The speaker is to be a Dr. Donald Seter, founder of the New Age group, the Suzama Society. I want to attend Dr. Seter's talk because of two incredible facts he has publicly announced. On a radio talk show he stated that Christ has been reborn–his birth took place on the exact day Paula's child was born. Of course he makes no mention of Paula and does not know to whom the child was born. The second fact is his claim that he has in his possession an ancient Egyptian scripture that supposedly gives details of this rebirth.
I would immediately discount the latter claim if the date had not been so personally coincidental, and if I had not happened to have known the original Suzama when I was in Egypt almost five thousand years ago. At one point Suzama was my teacher, and I know for a fact she was clairvoyant.
Yet I have never heard of the Suzama scripture before.
I wonder where Dr. Seter obtained it, and how accurate it is.
But these things I can't explain to Seymour without telling him that he was brought back to life by the blood of a three-hour-old Hispanic infant. I feel there is a reason for his memory block, and I hesitate to tamper with it. Besides, I am afraid he might not believe me if I told him the truth. Who would? It is difficult to contemplate God and His Son and immaculate conceptions without feeling like a potential fanatic. Especially since Paula was not–in her own words–a virgin.
"We could be at a movie," Seymour says. "We could be having dinner. Besides, this whole Christian thing bores me. They have been waiting two thousand years for him to show up. If he was coming back, he would be here already."
"Krishna promised to return," I say. "He said he would not be recognized."
"He won't be bringing his flute?"
"I think he will return in humble surroundings."
Seymour studies the poster outside the church announcing the lecture. "You are history. What can you learn from this joker?"
I have to let something slip or Seymour won't attend. Actually, I'm not sure why I've brought him, but I suppose I know that at some point I'll have to open my heart to him and ask his advice. I always have in the past. I want him at the lecture so that he'll have all the facts when I need his advice.
Yet I hesitate before speaking. Every time I bring him deeper into my life, I bring him closer to danger. Still, I remind myself, it is his decision to stay with me, even after he has seen what my daughter can do. He at least knows that I am searching for her, even if he doesn't realize I am also desperately seeking Paula and her child. Yet Paula hasn't called the number I gave her to call. She should have tried to contact me two months ago, a month after I said good-bye to her. It worries me that Kalika may have gotten to her first. I am at Dr. Seter's lecture in the hope that he can give me some clue as to where they might be. It is unlikely, I know.
"Dr. Seter says he has a copy of a scripture Suzama wrote," I tell Seymour. "She was a real person, a revered priestess of the Church of Isis, a high adept in ancient Egypt." I pause. "I knew her, I studied with her."
Seymour is impressed. "What did she teach you?"
"How to bring the white light above my head into my heart."
"She taught primarily esoteric forms of meditation. She had many gifts." I grab his arm and drag him toward the church door. "I will tell you more about her later."
On the way in there is a registration table and a donation basket. I throw a few dollars in the latter. A young man in a dark blue suit and a red tie stands near the door greeting people. Actually, there are a number of people similarly outfitted– young, handsome people, males and females, wear-ing navy blue clothes and shiny faces. They are Dr. Seter's followers, I realize, but I hesitate to make the judgment that the man has formed a cult. Not all New Age groups, or Christian groups for that matter, signify sects. Besides, I don't care if he has formed a cult or not. I just care if he knows what he's talking about.
The young man greeting people pauses to say hello to me.
"Welcome," he says. "May I ask how you heard about our lecture?"
"On the radio," I say. "Yesterday night. I heard Dr. Seter's interview."
"KEXT?" he asks.
"That was the one," I say. "Have you known the doctor long?"
"I should say." The young man smiles and offers his hand. "James Seter–I work for my father. Have since I can remember." He pauses. "And your name?"
"I'm Alisa. This is Seymour."
"Hi," Seymour says, shaking James's hand when I'm through with it. But James Seter only has eyes for me.
"Have you read Dr. Seter's book?" he asks me.
"No," I say. "I was hoping to obtain a copy here."
"They will be on sale after the lecture," James says. "Fascinating reading, if I do say so myself."
"What allowed your father to predict so accu?rately the birth of Christ?" I ask.
"The Suzama scripture. It contains very detailed knowledge about the next coming of the messiah. It predicted Christ's coming the first time very accu?rately."
I smile. "And you believe all this?"
He nods, "Suzama had a great gift. Studying her words, I have never found her to make a mistake."
"It sounds like a remarkable document," I say. "Why haven't modern archeologists, linguists, and theologians had a chance to study it?"
James hesitates. "My father will address all these questions in the lecture. Better to ask him. His knowledge of the scripture is extremely compre?hensive."
"Just one last question," I say. "Has he brought the original scripture with him tonight?"
"I'm afraid not. It's a priceless artifact. We cannot risk it at a public lecture."
I detect no deceit in his words, and I have a sharp ear for it. Also, there is an ease in his manner, a naturalness. He does not act like a fanatic. His dark eyes continue to study me, though. I think he likes me. He is remarkably handsome, and cannot be more than twenty-two years old.
After muttering my thanks and taking Seymour's hand, I step into the church and search for a seat. The place is crowded but we manage to squeeze in near the front. The audience is remarkably diverse, made up of old and young, tramps and profession?als. I am disappointed I will not have a chance to study the scripture. I am certain I would know if it were authentic. Suzama had a fine hand for hiero?glyphs. I remember her work well.
Dr. Seter enters five minutes later.
He is a small man with white hair and an unassuming manner. As he walks toward the podi?um, I estimate his age at seventy, although he appears less than sixty. It is his vitality and bright gray eyes that make him seem younger than he really is. He wears a medium-priced gray suit and expensive black shoes. He is not so handsome as his son, though. Indeed, I suspect he is not the biological father, that James is adopted. There is a scholarly air to Dr. Seter that I find interesting. The lines on and the planes across his face show intelli?gence and extensive education. I see all this in one penetrating vampiric glance.
James Seter comes forward to introduce his father. He lists a number of academic achieve-ments. Dr. Seter has Ph.Ds in both theology and archeology, from Harvard and Stanford respec?tively. He is the author of numerous published papers and three books. For the last decade, James says, his father has been studying the Suzama scripture and bringing the knowledge contained in it to the world. James does not mention where his father obtained the scripture, probably to leave his father something of interest to discuss. The intro?duction is brief, and soon Dr. Seter is at the podium. His voice is pleasant, although somewhat reedy. He starts by welcoming us and thanking us for coming. Then he pauses and flashes a warm but shy smile.
"It is quite a claim for one to make," he says, "that one knows that the messiah is in the world. That he has been born on such and such a day in such and such a country. Had I attended this lecture as an observer ten years ago, I don't think I would have sat through the introduction. For as my son James has pointed out, I come from a fairly rigorous academic background. Until ten years ago, I never thought of the second coming or even, quite frankly, much of Christ himself. This may come as a surprise, since I hold a doctorate in theology. But the truth of the matter is my studies of religion were purely academic, I was an agnostic. I neither believed nor disbelieved the world's religions, yet I found them fascinating.
"Now this is where I may lose half of you. In fact, when I first began to lecture on the Suzama scrip?ture, it was normal for a quarter of my audience to get up and leave at this point–my introduction to the scripture. Since those days I have managed to decrease that number by initially asking all of you to please set aside your doubts for the next few minutes to listen to what I have to say. You can form your judgments later. There is plenty of time, believe me."
Dr. Seter paused to sip from the glass of water on the podium. Then he cleared his throat and con?tinued.
"The Suzama scripture comes from the culture of ancient Egypt. Carbon dating and an analysis of its hieroglyphic style place it back approximately five thousand years, in what is commonly called pre-dynastic Egypt. I did not find the scripture in Egypt, but in a country in Western Europe that I cannot reveal at this time. The reason for this secrecy may be obvious to some, and despicable to others." He pauses. "I took the Suzama scripture back with me to America to study, without the permission of the country where I found it. In that sense I am guilty of stealing, but I make no apolo?gies. Furthermore, as long as I refuse to name the country from which I took it, I cannot be legally prosecuted for the act. But with my background, I felt I was best equipped to study the scripture.
"Now many of you may feel that is the height of egotism on my part. By keeping the original scrip?ture to myself I immediately bring into question its authenticity. What reputable scientist would do such a thing? If you had told me ten years ago that I would be guilty of this behavior, I would have said it would not be possible. I would have said that every ancient artifact belongs to the world. Noth-ing should be hidden away and kept secret. That is a basic scientific credo. And yet I have hidden this document. Why?
"Because I believe the Suzama scripture contains information that could be dangerous if publicly revealed. Dangerous to whom, you might ask? To the Christ himself, as an infant, and to the public as a whole. For Suzama, a powerful clairvoyant of her time, has set down information that might allow one to find the Christ before his time. Also, the scripture contains information on powerful forms of meditation that are, in my estimate, dangerous for the inexperienced.
"Who am I to decide what knowledge is too dangerous for mankind to receive? I can only say in my defense that I have experimented personally with many of Suzama's instructions, and almost lost my life in the process. From my point of view, it would be the ultimate in irresponsibility to throw all of the Suzama material out there.
"Then why should you believe anything I have to say? Why should you even believe there was a Suzama? Well, you don't have to believe me. I don't ask that you do. But as a measure of proof I have turned over numerous slides of the original scripture to eminent archeologists. Because I have not allowed them access to the original artifact, they are unwilling to state unequivocally that the Suzama scripture is authentic. But many of them are willing to certify that as far as they can tell it is the real thing. A list of these experts is recorded in my book.
"What does this long dead woman have to say about the birth and rebirth of the Christ? For one thing Suzama states that Christ has not come just once, but at least four times in our history: as Lord Krishna of India, two hundred years before Su?zama's birth, as Adi Shankara of India, five hun?dred years before Christ's birth, and finally as Christ himself. The Suzama scripture predicts each of these births, and says that the soul of all these great prophets and masters was identical. Further-more the text predicts that this same infinite soul took birth in a human body recently, in the last three months. The exact date is given, in fact, as last March fifteenth, and the child was destined to be born here, in California."
A loud stir went through the audience. Dr. Seter pauses to have another drink of water. He deserves one, I thought, after the mouthful he had just said. Clearing his throat once more, he continues.
"What proof do I have that Suzama knew what she was talking about? If I accept her scripture as authentic, a product of ancient Egypt, then I am forced to accept that she has had a pretty good track record so far. But beyond that is the inner validation the material has given me. Following her prescribed instructions, I have been given an intui?tive insight into the hidden meaning behind certain of her verses. Now I see many eyebrows rise with that statement. Are her instructions and her pre-dictions presented in an obscure form? So obscure a form that their meaning is open to interpreta?tion?
"The answer to both these questions is yes and no. Suzama is often specific when it comes to dates. She says when Shankara and Christ were to be born. But as far as esoteric practices are concerned she can be very subtle. A study of her text requires a study of one's own mind, and it is this last point more than any that has stopped me from letting the whole of the scripture become public. Scientists demand that knowledge be objective, empirical, when the very nature of this type of study, the search for the soul, for the God, is in my mind almost entirely a subjective exploration."
Dr. Seter pauses and scans the room. "I never like to lecture too long without taking questions. I will take some now."
Many hands shoot up. Dr. Seter chooses a middle-aged man not far from where we are seated. The man stands to speak.
"How did you manage to find this religious text in the first place?" he asks. "What led you to it?"
Dr. Seter does not hesitate. "A dream. I simply dreamed where it was and I went and dug in a certain spot and found it."
The man is stunned. "You're not serious?"
Dr. Seter holds up his hand as a murmur goes through the crowd. "Believe me I would like to give another answer. Unfortunately another answer would not be true. This is how I found the scrip-ture. There was no research involved, no tedious digs lasting decades. I found it as soon as I started looking for it."
The man continues to stand. "So you believe God directed you to it?"
"I believe somebody directed me to it. I don't know if it was God himself. Actually, Suzama never speaks of Christ or Shankara as God. She calls them masters, or perfected beings. And she believes we are all evolving to the same heightened state of perfection." Dr. Seter pauses. "It was an especially vivid dream, unlike any I had ever had before. It would have had to be for me to act on it, I assure you." A pause. "Next question."
He chooses a young woman at the back. Even before she speaks, it is clear she has a chip on her shoulder.
"What if I were to say that you made this all up? That the Suzama scripture is a complete fraud?"
"I would say that's not a question." Dr. Seter pauses. "Do you have a question?"
The young woman fumes. "There was only one Christ. How can you dare to compare him to these heathens?"
Dr. Seter smiles. "It is questions like this that reaffirm my decision not to make public everything I know about the Christ's birth in our time. Each of the others I spoke of was a great spiritual leader in his time. Had you been born in India, even today, you might follow their teachings. It is largely because you were born in this country that you are a Christian." He pauses. "Don't you agree?
The young woman is uncomfortable but remains defiant. "I hardly think so. You twist the teachings of Christ, comparing them to these others."
"Frankly, I think I compliment all of them by comparing each to the other. But that is beside the point. I never asked you to believe that the Suzama scripture is accurate. I am merely saying that I believe it is, based on my research and personal experience. If you believe it is a fraud, fine. But the text warns that those who profess to worship the Christ will be the first to dismiss him when he returns."
I approve of the manner in which Dr. Seter deals with the young woman's insolent attitude. I have never appreciated religious dogma. It seems to me only a more insidious form of racial prejudice. Yet I am not sure if I agree with Dr. Seter when he says the three spiritual leaders were one and the same being. Having known Krishna personally, I have trouble reconciling many of Christ's teachings with Krishna's, although I suspect the early disciples of Christ distorted what their master said. At the same time I am familiar with Shankara's work, particularly his commentary on the Brahma Su?tras, which I have studied over the centuries. I agree with the Eastern claim that Shankara was the greatest intellect who ever lived. Yet his style of teaching was very different from either Krishna's or Christ's. For one thing, he never claimed to be anyone special, either the son of God or God himself. Yet he worked many recorded miracles.
Nevertheless I find the doctor's words fascinat?ing. I raise my hand and catch his eye, using a fraction of the great power I have in my eyes to rivet a person's attention. He immediately picks me. I also stand as I ask my question.
"You say Suzama gives exact dates as to the births of these various avatars," I say. "Yet the solar calendar was not used in ancient Egypt until two thousand B.C. Suzama surely must have used a lunar calendar when presenting her dates. How did you translate one to the other?"
"No translation was necessary. The dates are not expressed in terms of a lunar calendar but a solar one."
I am disappointed in his answer. "But you realize as an archeologist how unlikely that is. It almost certainly means the scripture you have found is either from a much later period, or that it is fake."
Dr. Seter is not dissuaded. "As an archeologist I was surprised she predicted the birth of these masters in terms of a solar calendar and not a lunar one. Yet if we accept as true her profound intuition, then we must also accept that she would understand that in the future her lunar calendar would not be used. Actually, at least to my mind, the fact that she did not use a lunar calendar supports her claims."
"Did she mention any other avatars besides the three you mentioned?" I ask.
Dr. Seter hesitates. "Yes. But she says they are of a different line."
"Does she mention Isis for example?"
Dr. Seter is taken aback. "I did not discuss that in any of my books. But, yes, it is true, Suzama was a high priestess of a group that worshipped Isis." He pauses. "May I ask why you ask that question?"
"We can talk about it another time," I say and quickly sit down. Seymour leans over and speaks in my ear.
"You're drawing attention to yourself," he warns.
"Only enough to make him want to meet me afterward," I reply.
"Do you think he's telling the truth?"
"He is definitely convinced he is telling the truth. There is not a shred of deceit in him." I pause. "But that is not the same as saying he is right. Far from it."
There followed dozens of questions.
"How did Suzama describe California?"
Answer "At the other end of the great continent across the ocean, where the sun always shines."
"What kind of family was Christ reborn into?"
Answer "A poor broken family."
"What nationality will the Christ be?"
Answer "Brown skinned."
A lot of people didn't like that answer. Of course it would have made me chuckle, except Paula's baby had brown skin, like his mother.
Toward the end there was one question that disturbed me, or rather, Dr. Seter's answer did. He was asked if the reborn Christ was in any danger, as an infant. Dr. Seter hesitated long before respond-ing. Clearly the Suzama text contained a warning of some kind.
"Yes," he says finally. "Suzama states that the forces of darkness will bend even the will of the righteous to try to find the child and destroy him. She further states that it is the duty of the old and powerful to help locate the child and protect him."
My hand is up in an instant.
"Does Suzama describe the form these forces of darkness will take?" I ask.
He pauses. "No. Not really."
It is the first lie he has told all night. Curious.
The old and powerful?
Who on the planet is older and more powerful than I am?