Last night as I lay in bed waiting to see the manifestation of my decision in Heartland, I sent up a few words to the man of light, letting him know I chose him. When I finally drifted off to sleep, Heartland as I knew it began to change.
Immediate darkness overwhelms me, far darker than I have ever experienced before in Heartland. Light begins to filter around me like a rapid sunrise. A natural green door appears before me, its doorknob a burl. I walk forward and reach for the knob, which turns easily in my hand. The door opens with a slight push. I force myself forward, entering a dark, leafy room with an earthy smell to it. The door behind closes and vanishes.
The room glows a dark green and as my eyes adjust, another door becomes visible. This one looks even more ancient than the first, its hinges rusty and its wooden planks faded and smoothed with age. This door, I am convinced, is the entrance to Heartland. I nervously run my hands through my hair, unsure of the changes which await me. I open it as it releases a drawn out squeal, like the hinges are rusty and the door long since unused. I peer through, not surprised to discover the unmistakable darkness of Heartland in contrast to the portal’s dim light.
I pause. I have made my initial choice, but the man of light’s warning about Heartland becoming even more real freaks me out in this strange place. But if I back out now, I’ll always wonder what might have been. As I push the door further open and cross the threshold, the door slams shut behind me and an invisible wind kicks up. I nearly choke on the surrounding, dismal darkness.
I close my eyes and take deep breaths. A strong voice speaks beside me, “Courage. This darkness is only temporary.” The man of light is here. A tremendous boom and an explosion of light force me to my knees. I cover my face with my hands. A moment later a second sound, like that of a hundred trees falling, shakes the ground where I kneel. The ground stills and the man of light leans down and helps me to my feet.
I hear a trickle of water across rocks. The sound soon expands into a gurgling creek, then a rushing stream, growing louder and louder into a pounding, rushing river and finally into the tumultuous roar of multiple waterfalls. An image of Niagra Falls comes to my mind, but this is nearly double, no triple, in volume.
Without warning, we are standing right above the falls on a rock. Panic seizes me. I scramble to jump to a rock farther back from the edge. The man of light holds me in place.
“No, we need to jump into the falls.”
“What? Are you mad? We’ll be crushed!”
He smiles back and says firmly, “Trust me, we won’t.”
I spy a trail of rocks leading safely to shore above the falls. I’m pretty sure I can reach shore if he lets me go. He interrupts my thoughts of escape.
“That path does lead to Heartland, but I cannot go with you that way. If you wish to travel in Heartland with Me, we must jump over the falls. That way lacks the Spirit, and without the Spirit, Heartland will remain mostly unchanged.”
I’m not entirely sure what he means by the Spirit but something in the way he speaks of it makes me long for it. The man of light holds out his hand to me. I take a deep breath and reach for his hand. As our hands make contact, water barrels into us from behind, knocking us over the edge of the plummeting, pummeling falls. The roar of the water powers through my very being and knocks the air from me.
The water is warm, much warmer than I had expected. In a minute we are at the bottom, and instead of being crushed, the water pounds down on me like mere feathers. I easily wade over to shore, the water lapping at my feet by the time I reach the bank. My clothes are drenched while the man of light isn’t even wet.
“Why aren’t you wet?” I ask.
“Because the River is My Spirit and I am the Spirit of the River.”
I don’t even know how to respond to that so I ask a question that’s been running through my mind for a while. “What is your name?”
“I am known by many names, but you may call me Kristof.”