Inside The Eyes of Providence Chapter One (not sure of correct genre listing for this) Critiques welcome

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JJL
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Inside The Eyes of Providence Chapter One (not sure of correct genre listing for this) Critiques welcome

Post by JJL » July 20th, 2020, 2:38 pm

Chapter One

to cast a fly


The shooter unpacked and carefully assembled the AXMC sniper rifle high up on his vantage point on top an empty building for sale, to the east of the parking lot.

Ex Special Forces, he now ran his own security company for the elite. He offered high end protection work, expert advice, hardware/software systems and even banned word vehicles.

A cropped, military cut of dark blonde hair, lived in features, piercing blue eyes and an athletic frame gave a strong a hint of his background. Wilkins was careful though to look casual and unassuming with nondescript style and drab colours.

He was in the final stages of his set up.

Always discrete, always precise.

His reputation for getting the job done efficiently and unobtrusively was faultless. But for those who wanted more and could afford it, he also offered an alternative service.

As one of the SAS's top snipers, he had been here dozens of times before. In fact, to the few who knew, Matt Wilkins was a legend.

Necessarily meticulous, he had checked distance, wind direction and speed. He had checked humidity too in the cold, dry air.

He had accounted for the decreased muzzle velocity due to the special silencer commissioned for the rifle.

He had tested this new piece of kit beyond all doubt in the vast wilderness of Flathead National Forest, living rough for an entire week in freezing -20C conditions.

The solitude and crushing endurance reminded him of his brutal former training. A simpler time.

Wilkins had used Steyre and Barrett rifles before as well and they were superb too, but after making successful kills at over 2000 metres in Afghanistan with the British made AX, this was now his weapon of choice.

He was calm.

He was ready.

His pulse rarely went above 65 - even now.

Lying on his front, he adopted the familiar, stable, flat position of the professional, the rifle set on its stand, the silencer just an inch above the parapet.

He was at 450 metres.

He made one final touch of adjustment as his target came into focus again through the 'scope.

A clean shot to the head.

A steady stream showed in the frigid air as he breathed out slowly … and squeezed the trigger.

The AX coughed. Just once.

“That's just incredible - It's Eden!”.

Steve was amazed by the unfolding scene on the iphone in front of him.

He waived to the HD camera high above them.

Jack urged his drone even higher and further up the valley against the bright day.

There was no sense of the rushing, still or tumbling life of the river below. Just a glassy, shining, silver thread wandering through the pine, stone and lush meadows.

The two fishing friends were meeting for the first time in months. It was mid May and their escape to this beautiful spot on the Welsh Dee once again, was liberating.

It lifted the soul.

Jack brought his new toy safely back and stowed it away carefully.

Now to select a fly. What was that rule? Bright day, bright fly? Dull day, dull fly? For years, decades even, Jack had never really understood this until an ancient, dour, Scottish ghillie, fuelled by tots from Jack's hip flask, explained.

They were venturing out at night on the Scottish Dee to an island in the middle of the river, wading across the fierce current in darkness.

Jack stumbled after his guide, both of them eventually arriving dry and unscathed on the island bank in the swirling waters. After setting up, Jack asked as to which fly? Mckidd flashed his torch at a battered old tobacco box.

“This wee bugger”.

The old ghillie was pointing to a tiny, black, bushy bit of nothing. Jack could hardly believe it, let alone see it. They were in total darkness now and he was being told to use this miniscule black thing?

“How the … hell are they going to see that?” Jack was careful to reign in his language, not something he did so much when talking to himself.

“Lookee here."

Mckidd held it up in his tweezers against the night sky. Amazingly, it made a strong, clear silhouette. The penny dropped - the fly was darker than the sky itself.

Jack told him he would have picked a gaudy, bright fly if left to his own devices.

McKidd, a man of few words, was shaking his head,

“They'll nay see it”.

That was the start of the best fishing in Jack's entire life. They struggled back a few hours later through the rising water, wading sticks angled against the full force of the rising water.

McKidd, in his 60's had angina and Jack knew this. He was quite a portly man with a ruddy complexion and greying-red, thinning hair under his deerstalker. Occasionally he had to stop and put a pill under his tongue.

Jack said he would carry all the gear and the fish, but the ghillie was having none of it. It was a matter of professional pride. So Mckidd went first, 4 salmon and 6 sea trout hanging from his back, the extra weight and his waders' felt soles helping to grip the treacherous, rocky river bed.

Jack gave him the whole whiskey bottle when they made it back - and a big tip too.

Waking from his day dream, Jack turned to Steve.

“This one I think” and held up a light brown and grey fly called a March brown, but with a flashing silver body - for the sunny day.

His set up finished, Jack looked up to take in the scene around him properly – at ground level this time.

He was sitting on a natural seat of flat topped rock, bedded in the bank – no doubt hurled there by one of the countless violent torrents over the millennia.

The rock was pleasantly warmed by the sun.

His gaze wandered back to the water in front of him.

A rare, fragile thing, seemingly untouched by modern life, this jewel of a river remained and endured, pristine. It really did look like Eden.

“This is just stunning. It almost makes me want to believe in God after all”.

Jack laughed. He knew that Steve was religious and an active member of his local Church. But, as a lifelong atheist, Jack just loved to wind him up.

“Not now Jack, please”. Steve sounded a little exasperated and clearly didn't want to be drawn into it all – yet again.

I'm going to try upstream. I'll catch you later for a brew".

Steve needed his space.

He was a heavy man, some would say overweight. If Steve had been an animal, he definitely would have been a badger. Well, maybe a well fed badger. A dependable provider all the same, shuffling and scuffling about his business collecting worms and beetles for his cubs at home.

Predicable and reliable, you knew exactly where you were with Steve.

Today though he was slow through the long grass in the heat with his heavy gear, but soon found the bare sheep track above the bank to aid his progress.

He disappeared behind a bend in the river.

His friend was taller, thinner - wiry even. Wily definitely.

Jack was a fox, a survivor of life's roller-coaster; the tragic, the euphoric and the mundane.

He too had cubs at home, he too was a good provider, but on his own terms. Jack was his own man. He went his own way and answered to nobody.

They were both mid forties. As friends from school, they had been fishing together for most of their lives and their friendship had survived intact despite Steve's belief and Jack's lack of it.

Jack pushed a hand through his dark, unruly hair, fixed an olive green baseball cap in place and slid on a pair of stylish, anti-glare, dark sports glasses.

He carefully made his way down the bank, slowly edging into the stream.

The heavy fly line described a perfect arc in the air as he laid it gently onto the racing current further across the river. He allowed it to belly out bringing the fly scudding across, just above the blurred stones and wavy green weeds.

Jack tried every fishy looking boulder, ripple and overhang, but as perfect as the water looked, as glorious as the day was, as expertly as he cast his fly, after a few hours, he eventually realised that this was not going to be a day for catching fish. There was just the one hesitant pull on his line from a deep unseen force and nothing else at all.

He began to wonder how Steve was doing. It was time for tea and a sandwich anyway. He navigated carefully out the current.

Just as soon as Jack had made it back to his warm rock and back pack, Steve turned up. It seems Steve had also had the same frustrating experience. The fish had remained elusive.

Sweating in their heavy gear, the pair started peeling it all off down to tee-shirt, jeans and socks for a welcome break.

Steve poured two cups of tea from his flask and broke out the sandwiches his wife, Kate had made for them. There was an apple each and the ubiquitous Kitkat, melting in the sun.

“So what do you want to do?” He was passing Jack his drink and sandwiches.

“I think I'm just going to sit here, watch the water and just be for now, while I can".

Jack would normally scoff at meditation and “mindfulness” and the rest. He called them a “a pile of New Age crap”. In fact he would cheerfully put them on a raft along with a few other pet annoyances, tow it out to sea and sink it unceremoniously.

Right now though, he had to admit he was feeling mightily chilled and had decided to savour it all. He'd let his mind settle for once. He'd always had trouble sleeping, but he knew he would sleep tonight.

“Ok, well I think I'll have a few casts further down then. I'll leave you be”.

Steve was off again down river and soon out of sight. He wasn't going to give up that easily.

Jack continued his trance-like commune with nature. He gradually felt his blood pressure drop to Zen - and it hadn't been there in a long time.

A peripheral flash of blue amongst the reeds on the opposite bank caught his eye. Jack focused. A kingfisher! - the first one he had ever seen.

But soon their day was over.

Steve was back empty handed, red faced and and hotter still, his short, washed-out blond hair plastered against his brow, glasses steaming up.

The day had made him realise he was really out of condition and he made a pact with himself to start riding his bike again.

He used to ride every day. For a while, Jack rode with him.

Steve sat heavily on Jack's rock as his phone blipped an incoming message.

He pulled it from his coat pocket

“Still Ok for Sunday evening? Usual time? T x”

“Yes okay”.

“Kate wants to know when we'll be back”, he explained hurriedly.

The pair gathered their gear and started the long trek up the steep meadow to the pull-in off the lane where Steve had left his Volvo.

After stowing their gear in the back, they set off on the hour and a half journey home.

A purple-red sunset began to emerge in the rear view mirror outlining the charcoal mountain peaks.

Jack's house on the outskirts of Manchester was on the way back, so Steve could drop him off without going out of his way.

They were both quiet now, but Steve had been mulling over the day.

After a while, he felt compelled to say something.

“It was incredibly beautiful out there today. You saw what I saw. Surely you can understand now why I believe that this is God's creation?”.

Jack was dropping off. A half remembered song on the car radio seeped into his consciousness as he drifted back to an earlier time.

“So how can you tell me you're lonely
And say for you that the sun don't shine?”

He sat up suddenly to gather his thoughts.

“Um, well yes, I can understand why you would think that".

Jack's head was clearing. He turned down the volume.

“But to believe that some existential, non existent, supernatural, supreme being did actually create that, to my way of thinking, is just naïve and I'm afraid, completely delusional”.

“No, there has to be something behind it it, there just has to be".

Steve was steadfast and pursued his point.

“I feel that I'm looking at God when I look at his creations, whether it be in the faces of my children and the love we have for each other or the wonders of nature as we saw today".

“Listen Steve, evolution and science created that and everything else in the Universe. With time and billions of possibilities, life really does find a way – all on it's own".

He'd got Jack's attention.

Steve was undeterred.

“For me, these things are proof God exists. I mean, what about the Bible? Surely you cannot deny it's a force for good and a blueprint for the way we should live our lives?”

“It's interesting you say that actually," Jack was off again

This was like a red rag ...

“I happened to come across a YouTube clip of Ricky Gervais being interviewed by Stephen Colbert on the Late show the other day".

“He mostly gave the standard atheist answers to Colbert's questions like; “there has to be something? etc". and answer; “why does there have to be something?” and so on. But one thing he did say, struck a chord with me".

“He was alluding to the fact that the Bible evolved over time. Bits were put in, others taken out, altered slightly and so on. It's just human nature".

“So over 2000 years, the effect of these changes or “Chinese Whispers” is pretty dramatic and may not have much in common with the original draft".

“But you also have to remember that the original draft itself was also what a bunch of people thousands of years ago decided it should be.”

“They decided what to put in and what to leave out. It's a totally fallible process”.

At this point, Steve was really beginning to regret opening his mouth in the first place. They had been here before.

Jack ploughed on regardless.

“Turns out, they missed out a load of so-called “lost scriptures," some of which have debunked a lot of what is now accepted as being the truth by Christians".

“This is presumably why the Vatican keeps them under lock and key. Let's face it, they've got a lot to lose. All those gilded Palaces and fine silk robes. It's like Am Dram - they just love to dress up”.

(Amateur Dramatics was on Jack's scuttled raft too.)

“Anyway, to get back to what Ricky Gervais said. Think about it like this. Let's imagine the Bible disappeared completely from the World right now, with no copies or text available anywhere in any form. If that magically happened in a puff of smoke but then it was re-written in a thousand years time, what do you think it would be like? Exactly the same? Same words, same message, same format etc?”

Jack didn't give Steve a chance to reply and answered his own question.

“I don't think so. It would be unrecognisable and probably wouldn't even be called “The Bible”. It might even be a book for a new religion altogether that was loosely based on some distant memories from the past”.

“However, if all science books also disappeared at the same time and were re-written a thousand years from now, guess what? They would be exactly the same wouldn't they? They have to be".

A pause for dramatic effect.

“The apple falling from the tree would still hit you on the head. The Earth would still go round the Sun. Quantum entanglement, or as Einstein called it “spooky action from a distance”, however strange, would still exist".

“Science cannot be interpreted or changed just because you feel like it. It's not a matter of blind faith. These are real, cold, hard facts that cannot and will not ever alter”.

“I've heard all these arguments before you know".

Steve finally managed to get a word in before Jack's diatribe continued and when Jack was in full flow, that could be difficult.

“But what about Faith? I have Faith that God exists. I feel his presence in me, in my children and all around me. Everything I see and feel is explained to me by the presence of God".

“He comforts me and completes me. I couldn't imagine a World without him. I have my faith and my faith sustains me".

“You know, I respect that”. Jack sounded conciliatory for a change.

“I might be an atheist, but it may surprise you that I am not actually against your God or anyone's version of God, come to that. If you really need to believe in something and that something is your God, then I say, knock yourself out and go for it".

“If it gives you and millions more like you comfort and peace, then frankly I'm envious. It would be amazing to have that".

“But it's not about the what and the how. For me. it's about the why”.

“Look, I know I go on - and on ... and on,” Jack laughed, “and I love the sound of my own voice”.

“So true". Steve laughed too and broke the tension.

“So I'll just leave you with two final thoughts on this. Yes I love the music and art. I fully acknowledge the good that many involved do and so on - but".

“Time after time Jehovah's Witnesses have come to my door. Now I love a good argument, so I asked each one of them in turn".

“If you were born in Baghdad into a strict Shiite Muslim family from generations of strict Shiite Muslims and were taught the Koran and lived strictly by it's teachings and values, would you not only still be a Christian now, but also a Jehovah's Witness?”.

“What do you think they all said, Steve?”

Steve paused for a moment and thought about it. They were just a few miles from Jack's house now.

“Well, I suppose logically, you would have to say no. It would be impossible for them to be a Jehovah's Witness under those circumstances.”

“Of course later in life, there have been many cases of people converting from one faith to another, but given it's Baghdad and the circumstances you have mentioned, my honest answer is no".

“Well I respect you for being honest and being logical too under the circumstances, but I think you can guess that they all said yes".

“They said yes because they said they knew that God would have found a way of turning them towards their faith, regardless of any circumstances".

“To me, their delusion is so great that it's like trying argue with a brick wall. It's just pointless. Logic does not exist in their World".

“With the last pair though, the guy who was doing all the talking must have been about seventeen. And not only did he give the usual answer of “yes”, he also said to me;”

“What would you know? I've studied these things. All you've done is read the newspapers”.

“I was so stunned by this 17 year old kid's ludicrous naivety, for once I was lost for words and slammed the door in his face”.

“So that's my penultimate point; We are what we are taught to be".

Another dramatic pause.

“You haven't said much Steve?”

“Well it's about trying to get a word in edgeways! Anyway I'm afraid you still haven't shaken my faith. I'm a Christian and believe and trust in God regardless of the what, the how - or the why. I have faith and my faith sustains me and my family throughout my life".

“Always has, always will. I'm at peace with my beliefs and comfortable in my own skin”.

Steve fell silent now. He felt he really didn't need or care to explain any more. It was what it was, nevertheless he knew Jack was going to finish his atheist sermon come what may.

“As I said, I admire your certainty and I'm actually envious of it, but that does bring me to my last point and I promise you, this really is my last point!” Jack smiled.

They both laughed again. At least they could always find the lighter side of each other's beliefs - or lack of them.

“Ok," Steve said in a long suffering voice. He was tired after the long day and long drive.

“Go on then, let's hear this last point, as long as it really is the last”.

“It's simply this," Jack replied.

“To be human is to be superstitious. It's innately part of us. We are born with it."

"Whether it's the Incas sacrificing victims to please their Sun God and ensure a good harvest or my Dad throwing salt over his left shoulder, it's just the way we are. We can't help it."

"We are also highly intelligent beings who are extremely self aware and being self aware at this level is worrying, frightening even. It's that realisation of the weight of responsibility we have, not only for ourselves, but also our loved ones. It's unsettling".

“But taking a good pinch of superstition and adding it to the mix, there's an obvious answer".

“Let's just shift that responsibility on to someone or something else. Something all powerful, all knowing. That works just great".

"So then whatever happens in your life, good or bad, it's God's will. God will find a way. Believe in your God and be at peace. He will provide, he will show you the way, forgive your sins, etc".

“So that is my last point; people just need to believe".

He'd finished – finally!

Steve started fiddling with his glasses, a tell tale stress habit.

“Look Jack, you have always come up with incredibly convincing arguments - although you do go on a bit. You've always made a great logical case and all the rest of it, but it doesn't really matter what you say or how you say it".

“I feel my Faith. It's a deep, sure feeling that has never goes away. I know that it's real and the right thing for me and my family. There is no answer to faith in science or superstition for me and I don't agree for one moment that people are like sheep and will follow almost anything that's put in front of them".

“Tell you what, Steve,” Jack was thinking out loud.

“What?” Steve was trying not to sound as weary as he really was.

“I'll prove it to you”.

“What!? What do you mean? You can't actually prove it, you can only argue it”.

Steve sounded openly annoyed now for the first time. He was a mile from Jack's house and had had enough of this atheist barrage.

Even a mile was too far for his mood now.

“I'll start a new religious movement”.

The words fell into a brief void of silence and hung in the air. Steve was trying to process them and fiddled furiously with his glasses again one handed while trying to concentrate on the road ahead.

“What? You can't be serious! You can't just start a new religious movement. I think you've finally lost the plot. That's just the craziest thing I've ever heard – even coming from you".

“I can and I will. I bet you I can start a new cult, religious movement, sect or whatever you want to call it from scratch and get ten thousand followers on social media believing in it, in just three months”.

Jack continued, “It won't necessarily be Christian based. It may not be as out there as, say the Scientologists, but it will be classed as a religious movement of some sort with followers and believers".

“Once I've reached reached 10k, I'll just disband it, remove it, let it die. I might even come clean and tell them all not to be so gullible and that I just did it for a bet. But that might be a tad cruel, do you think?".

“You are nuts, Jack. Totally certifiable!” Steve had raised his voice for the first time all day. He was close to shouting.

“You've said a lot of crazy things since I've known you and you've done a lot too, but this is just totally ridiculous. There is no way you could do that. No way at all, sorry.”

And apart from anything else, I refuse to believe that people will just blindly follow anything you care to make up”.

“Ok, a token 50 quid bet”. Again there was a silence

“What!” Steve's voice went up another couple of tones.

“50 notes. You said you don't believe me, so put your money where your mouth is”. Jack threw down the gauntlet again.

Steve turned into the cul de sac and parked outside Jack's house, a smart, largish, extended semi-detached at the quieter end.

“Ok, if it will shut you up, £50 then, whatever". Steve had had enough of this nonsense and just wanted to get home.

“Accepted," said Jack. “I'll let you know how it goes”.

With that, he got out of the car, got his gear together, waved to his friend and headed towards the door.

Steve reversed away from the house and after a couple of turns was back on the main road, thankful to be driving away from all the madness and concluded it was just another of Jack's crazy ideas.

He just wanted to get home, relax and get some peace.

Jack got inside and shouted to his family who were in the living room watching TV. It was 10.30 in the evening now and he was bursting for a pee.

He headed straight to the downstairs loo, pulled up the seat and felt instant relief as his bladder emptied.

“What the fuck have I done?” Jack was actually talking to himself angrily. He had a habit of doing that with increasing regularity.

“Shit!” He nearly missed the bowl.

“This is just fucking crazy! How the hell am I going to do this?”

Jack swore a lot when he was talking to himself. Less so to others. He'd finished his pee and just stood there, suddenly aware someone from the family might hear him. Fortunately the extractor fan was buzzing away loudly.

Maybe he really had lost the plot this time.

Nevertheless, after a few moments, he decided he needed to eat something. Sue, his wife, had left lasagna in the fridge. He put it in the microwave and reached for his laptop.

Despite his concerns over the enormity of the task ahead, the fact was, Jack had spent the last 12 years building up his digital PR firm and he was in solid demand. He knew Social Media and knew it well. That's all his clients really wanted these days anyway.

He knew every short cut, every promotional tag, every way of reaching his target audience. His clients regarded him as something of an expert and with good reason. He got results.

With his meal hurriedly eaten, he fired up his laptop and checked the name he'd dreamed up earlier, “The Eyes of Providence”.

First thing was to check the domain names, TheEyesofProvidence.com and .co.uk for good measure.

They were all available and he made a mental note to register them later.

Then he checked Google for books, films and TV series of that name and found that there were none. There was however a well known religious symbol for the singular version Eye of Providence.

Wiki

The Eye of Providence (or the all-seeing eye of God) is a symbol—used in various religions (and other institutions)—that depicts an eye, often enclosed by a triangle and surrounded by rays of light, or glory, meant to represent the concept of divine providence, whereby the eye of God watches over humanity.[1][2][3] In the modern era, a well-recognized depiction of the eye is that on the reverse of the Great Seal of the United States, which appears on the U.S. one-dollar bill.

Jack already knew about the Eye of Providence and also knew that this was potentially a good thing! It had already been hijacked and used by The Lord of the Rings in a totally different way and he had a another take on it again with the plural “Eyes”.

His experience taught him a little credibility by association always turned out to be helpful, sometimes very helpful indeed.

Then Jack went to Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and the “Chinese Twitter”, Weibo (now 450 million users) and quickly set up accounts as “The Eyes of Providence” on each platform.

Lastly he remembered to register the domain names too ... just.

It had been a long day, it was now midnight and this was the last thing he thought he'd be doing.

Exhaustion was creeping in. Jack closed his laptop.

He hoped to shut off his mind too now, with the sanctity of sleep.

Jack headed upstairs with a tray of chamomile tea for himself and Sue. He'd mention the craziness he had got himself into tomorrow. He could guess her reaction. But Sue had already fallen asleep.

Jack didn't even touch his tea. He was asleep himself within minutes, unaware his actions that day had turned the World in ways he couldn't possibly imagine.

...

DrifterNZ
Posts: 5
Joined: November 3rd, 2020, 2:06 am
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Re: Inside The Eyes of Providence Chapter One (not sure of correct genre listing for this) Critiques welcome

Post by DrifterNZ » November 18th, 2020, 3:54 am

Okay I admit this isn't really my cup of tea, but I tried to read it.
However I got lost with the sudden change from the sniper rifle firing to fishing. I could not make the connection between the two events. It is like reading one book and suddenly switching to another without any reason to.

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