Michael Brown

The Paradise Wars and Clark Ransom Thrillers

The Mystic, The Clairvoyant, and the Politician’s Kids

The Mystic

Eleven years in the final sprint. That is how long it took me to write my first novel, after a strange mystic encounter.

The novel, however, had its inception forty years ago.

I had been sick for the last part of 1975 and the first part of 1976 with hepatitis both A and B, bedridden for a couple of months and weak for several more after that.

Going to the Vineyard to recuperate

Going to the Vineyard to recuperate

As a vacation to recuperate, in early summer that bicentennial year, I went alone to Martha’s Vineyard . I stayed in Oak Bluffs, hung around the beach, soaked in the sun, walked around the Gingerbread Methodist camp, and talked to the piano man at my hotel’s bar. He claimed to be a mystic and said I had to go to Provincetown next day. “It’s your destiny,” he said in prophetic tones, overlaid with corny.

Next day I took the ferry and a bus to Provincetown, not because I believed the guy, but because Oak Bluffs had become boring.

Again more beach, more sitting and people watching, still tired, still recovering. That night I went to the Atlantic House Bar, said to be the oldest gay bar in the US (in competition with New Orleans’ Jean LaFitte’s similar claim). What happened next changed everything, but before getting into that, I need to tell a little story.

Before that summer in Provincetown, since eighth grade when the nuclear threat, the Cuban crisis, was enfolding, I had had this recurring nightmare. In biology class we learned how to stock a fallout shelter — all absurd and silly now — but then everyone was scared.

In this nightmare — repeated at regular intervals from eighth grade until that day at the Atlantic House bar in 1976 — I was sitting on the floor of an old New England barn. The barn was converted into a dance studio. The wooden floor had a bit of give, and around the perimeter: mirrors and a barre.

I sit on the floor, legs crossed, and scan the room. I see everone I know and have ever known. There is absolute silence: not a breath, not a rustle, even with this multitude.

Then, as my youngest brother, age 3 or 4 in the dream, comes running to sit on my lap, there is a flash of light and heat. As if the dance studio becomes a giant x-ray machine, everyone becomes a skeleton. I look down and watch the skin on my little brother’s face blacken and his eyes become dripping pools.

I fill with the worst horror I’ve known and always wake in confusion.

The Clairvoyant

However, to get back to our main course, I am sitting at the Atlantic House bar in Provincetown. It’s early, much too early for a gay bar, maybe eight o’clock. There are ten other people in the room, including the bartender. I have a sudden urge to swivel and look towards the door. A man is entering: not handsome, with a round Irish face common around Boston. But his bearing, his green eyes, the light he seems to radiate, make me stare.

Without hesitation he walks across the dance floor until he stands in front of me. He says, “You’re one of the two hundred I’ve been looking for. You, like the others, have had this recurring dream. You’re in an old barn, now a dance studio. Everyone you know and have ever known …”

He knows my nightmare in detail. I freeze, both fascinated and scared. I have to hear more, have to know how he knew, but I also want to run. To get out of there. To go home to Tom and safety.

But I stayed.

That evening began the strangest three days of my life, during which I learned more about his mission.

The two hundred of us would form a commune near Lake Winnipesaukee. There was high likelihood of nuclear devastation in the next two decades, and we were to salvage what we could of world culture. I was to be librarian, and he wanted me to start thinking about which thousand works would best encapsulate who we as humans had become.

I, like the rest of the two hundred, had been chosen and observed since birth from another plane.

The Politician’s Kids

Why didn’t I up and leave? Why didn’t I run?

Because, even if he were mad, there was nothing threatening about him. Quite the opposite. I felt safe around him.

Also, bizarre events validated his “powers.” Besides the fact he knew my dream in detail, we also didn’t sleep for three days, as he imparted his lessons, and not once was I sleepy. He took me to a party thrown by some of Bobby Kennedy’s kids, and they all knew him as William Buckley’s nephew. Finally, he gave me fact after fact about his life, about his family’s history, facts I could check out at the Brown library when I got back to Providence.

Three days of hearing that I had been chosen to survive! How could I resist staying and hearing the details?

Then the three days were up, and he was gone.

I remained in a kind of fevered ecstasy. I felt mad at this point and bought my bus ticket back to Providence with shaking hands.

I was told a month later by Tom and friends that when I got home I muttered craziness about a wizard I had met then locked myself in my office to write down everything I could remember.

I typed for a straight week, eating and sleeping only as much as I had to. Finally, I had three hundred pages of the first draft of what would become, thirty years later, my first published novel, The Consecration of Jacob Jordaens.

If It Was All True, Didn’t I Have to Get it Right?

Then, its title was Beggar’s Tomb (from a Grateful Dead Song, “Uncle John’s Band,” which I listened to again and again as I typed, capturing my bicentennial 1976).

A handful of paragraphs remain of that draft in the final novel: William Buckley’s nephew is Judge Santoro’s son, institutionalized for uncontrolled mania.

Between 1976 and its final incarnation, my novel went from Beggar’s Tomb to Children of the Dust to Hidden Children to Dust and finally to The Consecration of Jacob Jordaens. Each version the result of many drafts; each version a rethinking of plot, purpose, and character.

The eleven years only account for the years from Dust through The Consecration of Jacob Jordaens. Forget the two decades preceding. For those years, I held on to the notion that I had to get it right. I was writing something that was going to be part of the permanent record. But no bombers ever flew overhead. We two hundred never ran to Winnipesaukee.

In the end, I relaxed and told a story.

Somewhere in all of this, I think there’s a lesson, but you know, I’m not sure I’ll ever know what it is.

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4 Replies

  1. There is no permanent record, it shifts and pivots like we all do as we age…

  2. Esther Davis

    Strange and interesting. I just got back from a three and a half week driving trip and going through parts of Mississippi we felt like we were on the Twilight Zone! After getting home, it made for a very weird dream of a long, widing road you could see for miles, as we did, taking it then returning to a conference time after time. Very weird feeling. Dreams and encounters are very thought provoking.

  3. Carol Walk

    Yikes! The part of all this I wonder about is the psychic abilities of an individual. Is it electrical impulses that certain people have the ability to pick up? I have had experiences with people who are ‘senders’ and have been able to pick up their thoughts. Does every thought ever generated exist permanently in the ethers for others to read? Perhaps.

  4. Chris McCaskill

    Great comment by Carol Walk.

    As for your dreams, I Had many dreams about the “Russians” coming to get us as well as the whole bomb shelter scene. Had a very wealthy girlfriend whose family had an entire underground house (near their above-ground mansion). She used that extremely elegant “bomb shelter” for all of her sleepovers. But I was never approached by anyone who knew my dreams.