When I began writing my award-winning metaphysical novel, SNOOZE: A STORY OF AWAKENING, at the start of 2013, little did I know this paranormal, coming-of-age tale about a boy learning to harness the power of lucid dreams would include important themes having to do with Dewey Larson’s Reciprocal System of physical theory, Elisabeth Kübler-Ross’s Five Stages of Grief, Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey, and Lloyd Pye’s revolutionary theories on mysterious hominids like Bigfoot.
It also hadn’t occurred to me I would ultimately be writing a novel about ascension, enlightenment and unity consciousness—hot topics in the spiritual traditions so many of us die-hard modern-day mystics are drawn to: shamanism, Hermeticism, Tibetan Buddhism, esoteric Christianity, Gnosticism.
I was encouraged by SNOOZE’s early rave reviews to begin submitting the book to contests. In 2014, soon after the novel’s publication, SNOOZE received an honorable mention in the Beach Book Festival Prize Competition. I was especially pleased with this result because SNOOZE placed in the general fiction category and I was eager to demonstrate that this book merits a wide audience.
SNOOZE’s breakthrough came a year later when it won the 2015 National Indie Excellence Award in the category of new age fiction.
Awarded since 2007, the NIEA competition is judged by experts from all aspects of the Indie book industry. This includes publishers, authors, editors, book cover designers and copywriters. Winners are determined based on “overall excellence of presentation in addition to the writing.”
In SNOOZE, the mind-bending tale of one gifted boy’s awakening, we follow Max Diver, aka “Snooze,” along the razor’s edge of a quest to rescue his astronaut father from a fate stranger than death in the exotic, perilous Otherworld of sleep.
The two chapters excerpted below detail Max’s spiritual initiation. This section takes place on the heels of a series of truly otherworldly adventures in the Otherworld, with Max’s twin, Maxwallah, and the latter’s mother, Artemisia, acting as mentors.
In the second half of this excerpt, Max’s telepathic Bigfoot guide, Zana, appears. Portrayed sympathetically as an intelligent yet animalistic humanoid displaying wisdom and a sense of humor, she and her fellow Almasty—to use the Russian term for Sasquatch—play a decisive role in Max’s navigating the slippery reality of the Otherworld.
Jorks are flying dinosaurs similar to pterosaurs; jubes are giant edible glow-worms. Both were sacred to the Heywah people, from whom Maxwallah and his mother are descended.
Max’s power or totem animal is Dolphin and he himself is considered the second coming of the divine being known as Leaping Dolphin.
Check out a lengthy excerpt and request your complimentary review copy of SNOOZE here.
Max’s initiation began late that afternoon in the adobe office with only Maxwallah, dressed once again in his raven poncho and buckskins, in attendance. “Are you absolutely sure you want to go through with this, Maxwell?”
The twins stood facing each other over the examination table in the middle of the room. “Okay,” said Maxwallah. “Get undressed.”
“Initiation constitutes a rebirth. It is important to begin this experience in one’s birthday suit.”
“Right. Got you.” Max sat down in a nearby chair to remove his boots. He noticed his hands were shaking slightly and wondered if it showed.
“There is no reason to be nervous, Maxwell.” “Were you nervous?”
“Just tell me one thing. Does it hurt?”
“Only a little bit at the start.”
When Max had completely undressed, sand dollar necklace and all, and his belongings were neatly stashed in one of the room’s cabinets, Maxwallah instructed him to lie on his back on the examination table. “Are you comfortable?” he asked, covering his twin with a wool blanket.
“I wouldn’t say comfortable. But I’m okay.”
“Good. I will fetch Artemisia.” Maxwallah knocked on the double doors from inside. Immediately, they opened and in strode Artemisia with her hair down over her shoulders.
She was wearing an elaborately beaded buckskin dress and carrying a smoking knot of sage with which she smudged first herself, then her son, then Max three times from head to toe.
“Great Spirit, we willingly offer ourselves to serve you in the Way of All Things,” she said while smudging. “We ask that you watch over this initiation and hold young Maxwell in the palm of your hand, now and always.”
“So be it,” said Maxwallah.
“So be it,” echoed Artemisia.
“So be it?” repeated Max when it became clear he was expected to contribute.
Artemisia extinguished the sage with a quick, fearless pinch and smiled. “Excellent. Maxwell, did you remember to bring the pouch containing jube and jork eggshell like I asked?”
“Yeah. It’s in one of the front pockets of my jeans.”
“He means his pants,” whispered Maxwallah when Artemisia looked confused.
“Right. Would you please get it out for us, Maxwallah?”
Artemisia took a marble tray from the cabinet and set it on her desk. Then she produced a stone mortar and pestle and placed them on the tray, tapping the tray twice, and poured some water from a pitcher into the pestle before adding the contents of Max’s pouch.
She ground the ingredients together with the pestle as the tray—like a flameless Bunsen burner—heated up the mixture until a curious, not altogether pleasant scent like chocolate eucalyptus filled the air.
Separating out half the concoction into a wooden bowl to cool, she added more water and something like powdered clay to the mortar and instructed Maxwallah to continue mixing. Meanwhile, she approached Max with the bowl and a wooden spoon. “Please sit up.”
“Are you really going to make me eat that?” asked Max, sitting up and staring at the indigo paste made of glowworm and the shell from a dinosaur egg.
“I am not here to make you do anything.”
“I take it this stuff is a pretty potent hallucinogen?”
“Toh-pey is whatever the initiate requires it to be. The Heywah referred to it as Great Spirit’s Tears.” “Why?”
“It was said that when Great Spirit first beheld the world he had brought into being by way of his sons, Black Thunderbird and Star Mirror, tears of joy rained from his eyes. These tears were drunk by jorks, whose bodies were eventually broken down and changed into light by jubes.”
“I think so, too. Toh-pey, in the final analysis, is merely a guide to new levels of self-awareness. Do you wish to drink of Great Spirit’s Tears, Maxwell?”
Max accepted the spoon and ate. Surprisingly, the taste—distantly related to black truffles—was quite appetizing. Before long the bowl was empty. Instantly, he felt the stirrings of butterflies in his stomach. “How long until this takes effect?” he asked.
“That varies,” replied Artemisia, placing the spoon in the bowl and the bowl on the desk. “You should feel something immediately, but it could be hours before your perceptions become significantly altered.”
“Is there anything, like, an antidote—just in case things get out of hand?”
“No. That would entirely defeat the purpose.”
“This will pass. Consuming liquids is not a good idea at this stage. Try to still your mind, Maxwell, and relax into the experience.”
This Artemisia said while assembling a variety of what struck Max as surgical tools and arranging them on a wooden leaf she pulled out from the examination table: gauze, paperstones in different sizes and shapes, vials of strange liquids both clear and opaque.
“Are you preparing to do what I think you’re preparing to do?”
“What do you think I am preparing to do?”
“Give me a tattoo?”
Maxwallah laughed. “You should see how enormous your eyes are!”
“Is getting a tattoo necessarily part of a Heywah initiation?” asked Max.
“Only for young men,” replied Artemisia. “It was considered inappropriate for young women to permanently alter their skin.”
“Do I have a say in what kind of tattoo I get?”
“Of course. What kind of tattoo would you like?”
“I assume you’re good at this—meaning you’ve at least done it before?”
“I am—and I have,” smiled Artemisia.
“Mother gave me my tattoo during my initiation,” said Maxwallah reassuringly.
“No kidding? I like your tattoo.” “Thank you,” said Artemisia.
Max thought for a moment, biting his lip. “I’ll have its … twin,” he said at last with a forced wink that belied how frightened he was of getting a tattoo—any kind of tattoo.
“I hoped you would say that,” said Artemisia.
“What other choice do I have?”
“None really—when you think about it.”
There were some preparatory steps before Artemisia could begin the actual tattoo. First, pulling his blanket down to his waist, she soaped and shaved Max’s chest. “That tickles!” he exclaimed.
“Please be still,” she ordered. “I do not want to cut you.”
“Not yet anyway,” put in Maxwallah, still mixing the paste in the mortar.
“Ha, ha,” said Max.
“That was a very kind thing you did for Mardah,” commented Artemisia while patting Max’s skin dry with a cloth.
“You know about that?”
“The whole village knows by now,” said Maxwallah. “I was at the harbor with Karul when she showed up practically screaming the news.”
“Well, it wasn’t out of generosity,” said Max. “I couldn’t help myself.” “I do not understand,” said Artemisia.
“Mardah is my best friend’s twin.”
“Really? Does your best friend also suffer from congenital deafness?”
“No. That’s what was so … traumatizing. I had to do something about it.”
With Max’s chest thoroughly dry, Artemisia applied a clear, odorless oil from one of the vials. “What’s that you’re putting on me now?”
“Kimbu tree oil. We will let it sink in for a bit. It will sanitize and anaesthetize the area—and also greatly accelerate the healing process.”
“I could accelerate it with the energy.”
“That will not be necessary. You should conserve your energy. Unless I am mistaken, you will need all your strength tonight for other things.”
“What other things?”
“Who can say? Whatever they are, they will be revealed.”
Max tried to relax while Artemisia prepped her equipment. But he felt restless, a little lightheaded even, possibly owing to the toh-pey, and couldn’t get his mind off the day’s events.
“You mentioned in your note you were getting the Ily-bintu seaworthy,” he said, addressing Maxwallah. “I take it you were referring to a ship?”
“My father’s ship, yes. It has not been out to sea since … he undertook the Great Crossing. But it is still in fine condition. All it needed was a deep cleaning.”
“If you don’t mind my asking, why was it so important to get it seaworthy right now?”
“Because we are going out to sea.”
“As soon as you are ready.”
Maxwallah and his mother looked at each other with sober expressions as if communicating silently.
“Tell me what’s going on,” demanded Max.
“I am not sure now is the best time to discuss this matter,” said Artemisia.
“Maybe not. I still want to know what’s going on.”
“Sailors have reported that the wildfire has grown and moved closer to Blue Lake,” said Maxwallah.
“How much closer?”
“Meaning my father’s in even greater danger?” Maxwallah nodded.
“Is that why you were in such a rush to prepare the Ily-bintu?”
“It is like this,” said Artemisia. “If we leave before dawn and the wind is with us, we can be at the mouth of the Loud River by early evening.”
“That is the closest we can get you to Blue Lake,” added Maxwallah.
“This doesn’t change the fact I’m still going to have to fly the last leg, does it?”
“No,” said Artemisia. “But at least the last leg is a short one.”
“Less than three miles as the Leaping Dolphin flies,” she grinned.
It occurred to Max that his own fate wasn’t his own anymore. His fate had been braided together with these friends from a mysterious land like the sage Artemisia had used to smudge the three of them.
Psychologically, they each had a different reason for desiring to see the man trapped in a cave above Blue Lake saved. Artemisia still wept for her husband who was lost at sea. Maxwallah had been deprived of a role model in his Renaissance man of a father. And Max, for his part, was simply ready to have his father back.
“Well,” he sighed, closing his eyes in surrender to his destiny. “We’d better get this tattoo show on the road.”
The tattoo over his heart—a perfect replica of Jonah’s fresco of Leaping Dolphin holding the moon between his teeth—was the least remarkable thing about the image that greeted him.
Possibly, the toh-pey in his system made the moment more surreal than it actually was. Be that as it may, having just been plastered from head to toe with paint made from jork and jube powder, he found himself gazing into the eyes of the blue Max from his dreams!
“Whoa,” he watched himself say as if in slow motion.
The only thing different was his tattoo, which thanks to the kimbu oil, was already healing around the edges. Otherwise, Max was the blue Max: down to his bindi and the loincloth he had been given to wear.
“Is everything okay, Maxwell?”
His twin’s disembodied voice, nearly indistinguishable from his own, reverberating through the door, startled him. “Yeah. Everything’s fine.”
“When you are ready, we will leave for the zoaz forest.”
“I’ll be right there.” Then, in a whisper to himself: “You can do this, Max.”
Artemisia and Maxwallah were waiting for him by the double doors. “You look magnificent!” she exclaimed.
“Thanks. I wish I felt magnificent.”
“How do you feel?” asked Maxwallah.
“A little nauseated.”
“No longer thirsty?” wondered Artemisia. “Not anymore.”
“Good,” she said. “If you need to purge, do not be concerned—but do not force it.”
“How long am I going to feel like puking?”
“As long as it takes. But probably not long. Walking will help.”
Outside, despite his thick layer of paint, the crepuscular air was nippy enough to raise goose bumps on Max’s exposed skin. But he had very little time to focus on his discomfort. He was immediately distracted by the most outlandish sight he had yet seen in the cosmic sector—and that was saying something.
Standing perfectly still like a shaggy tree trunk in the twilight, a beatific look on her face, Zana was clutching a purring Fey-leh to her bosom.
“Zana and Fey-leh have always been practically inseparable,” commented Maxwallah with a hint of jealousy on remarking Max’s agape expression.
Seeing Max, Fey-leh made it known she wanted to be set down. Zana obliged. The hefty bobcat sprang forward and gently butted her tufted ears against Max’s bare shins.
“Nice to see you, too, Fey-leh,” he said, scratching her furry head. Then, approaching Zana, who actually smiled at him: “And really nice to see you. I’m glad you could be here.”
“Zana would not miss it,” he heard her say in his mind.
“Enough pleasantries,” said Artemisia. “Let us walk.”
They followed the path up into the hills toward the zoaz forest. Fey-leh trotted along for a good ways beside Max—until she seemed to tire and Zana scooped her up without missing a beat.
It was some time before Max realized he wasn’t even wearing shoes. Strangely, he was no longer the least bit chilly, not even with night setting in. As for the soles of his feet, the cobbled path was smoother than it looked.
As they crested the third of five hills, a full moon rose above the shadowy tops of the zoaz trees. By Max’s calculation, barely a week had passed since the full moon that illuminated his perilous river crossing with Zana—a realization that invited amazement (yet again) at how much had happened in so short a while.
If anything, this full moon seemed bigger and brighter than the one in the jungle—more like a miniature sun bathing the world with silver light. It occurred to Max, not egoically but matter-of-factly, that this particular moon was shining for him.
With this thought, he remarked a heightened awareness of the countryside: the cicadas keening away in the tall bushes flanking the path, the rustle of nocturnal creatures in the underbrush, the brief exhalations of wind in the grasses.
Walking virtually naked through the autumn night had all the qualities of a lucid dream, he mused as they crested the final hill and entered the forest proper, where spears of moonlight stabbed down through the swaying foliage in blinding shafts.
Here the path continued and—except for the occasional root or twig—was as soft as a shag carpet covered with layers of yellowing leaves, the size and shape of which reminded Max of elephant ears.
Somewhere off in the woods murmured a creek. Max could hear it plainly, though he never managed to see it. But every now and then, the innumerable limbs overhead suddenly opened up and the moon glowed like a curious eyeball in the seam.
Before long they came to a clearing with a casita in the middle similar to Artemisia’s office. Without any trees obstructing the moonlight, everything was so bright it might have been merely a cloudy day. “That was my father’s studio,” whispered Maxwallah, nodding in the direction of the casita. “He claimed he painted better near the trees.”
Max recalled Jonah’s portrait of Artemisia with a zoaz in the background, then finding her misty-eyed on the bench gazing at the forest. Clearly, this place had meant a lot to the Ily-bintu family.
The strobing twilight returned as the group reentered the woods on the far side of the clearing. Either there was something magical about this zoaz cathedral, or Max was really starting to feel the toh-pey, because he half expected to encounter fairies in the moonshine.
The image of fairies reminded him of the Bradelring, then Tuesday by association, and eventually Mardah. From there it was only a hop, skip and a jump to an appreciation of the circularity of existence—how his past and present, like a snake biting its tail in the eternal Now, formed an electrical circuit to empower his evolution.
The self-devouring serpent brought to mind Professor Icarus’s Halloween lecture, delivered seemingly years ago. “The Hero’s Journey is ultimately not about strength of arms or courage under fire,” he had emphasized. “It is, far more simply, about creating a circle, not only in space and time, but in consciousness as well.
“This is the Great Circle,” he had continued, “the continuity of existence, the Ouroboros that swallows its own tail as it enacts the underlying unity of creation. Upon completing his or her journey, having faced his or her demons, the true hero sees separation for the illusion it is, and embraces the reality of a unified self inhabiting a unified cosmos.”
As they walked and walked between the great trees in the iridescent moonlight, Max thought and thought about the implications of Professor Icarus’s words. He was describing—it seemed patently obvious now—enlightenment.
Light wasn’t merely conscious, as some theories maintained, Max realized. Light was consciousness. To become “enlightened” was as simple—and as challenging—as filling up with light.
Despite the night’s chill, he was sweating from so much walking. A bead of perspiration rolled down his forehead and splashed on his tongue. The salty taste made him think of Great Spirit’s Tears. Perhaps there had been a mistranslation and Great Spirit had actually sweated on the world.
Max’s laughter echoed through the forest, whose towering trees, like colossal antennae, seemed to amplify the sound. Convulsing with mirth, bending over and clutching his knees, he was happy to note that his nausea had passed.
He was generally happy, in fact, happier than he had ever been—and for no good reason. He should have been miserable in nothing but a loincloth in a strange forest in the dead of night. But instead, he felt like dancing.
So he did. The faces of his companions spun and spun around him, blurring together with the trunks of the trees, as he whirled like a Sufi, giggling hysterically and sweating profusely.
The feeling was less like chemical intoxication than being drunk on life. Spinning round and round, he experienced absolute bliss—unadulterated and unconfined—in which he transcended his own personality and became one with everything he perceived.
The air was his mind. The trees were the hairs on his head. His companions were the fingers of his hand. The ground was his feet.
He could never leave Max behind—because Max was everywhere. Who he had been would remain part of the ever-expanding universe of the new Max, at his galactic core, the primordial stardust from which he was shaped.
Somehow, dancing like a spinning top, he had wobbled his way back into the moonlit clearing. It had been a long, circuitous journey, apparently without end—until it simply ended.
Fortunately, his companions were still with him. “So when do we get on with my initiation?” he asked, standing still at last while sucking for breath with his hands on his hips.
“You have already gotten on with it,” replied a grinning Artemisia. “Look at your skin.”
The sweat was already evaporating off Max’s damp skin, where it had formed little drip lines in his paint. But what really stood out was that hisskin was glowing—actually glowing—much like that of the blue Max in his dreams. “What’s happening to me?” he asked.
“You are unifying your consciousness,” replied Maxwallah. “The paint is a vibrational sensor that begins to shine when you reach a state of oneness. Do you remember what I told you?”
“Everything is one?”
“Now we are truly brothers. But this next part you must do alone.”
“What next part?”
“Think of yourself as a young bird being pushed out of the nest by its mother,” said Artemisia.
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“The young bird almost certainly feels it is not yet ready to fly, but its mother knows better. Otherwise, she would never push it from the nest.”
Recalling his first dreams of flight when he was a small child, Max acknowledged that his entire existence had been building up to this tipping point where he could finally choose to release his self-imposed limitations.
In the spirit of the Alpha and the Omega, in the way the Alpha was the Omega, and vice versa, he knew the beginning was also the end—and that the end was just another beginning.
“Remember,” said Artemisia, “all you are doing is going with the flow of levity. If you think about it, it is really quite natural to fly.”
“You can do this, Maxwell,” said Maxwallah.
Maybe they were right. Maybe he could do it. Initiating the protocol for working with the energy, Max intuitively grasped that he wasn’t just working with the energy; he was the energy. That seemed to make a big difference.
“Here goes nothing,” he said, echoing his own words from just before he shot through the Angel’s Eye.
With the energy forming a membrane around him, he levitated briefly a foot or so off the ground. The sensation was somewhat unwieldy, like riding a unicycle. But like learning to ride, flying seemed to get easier with practice.
Soon he felt confident enough to increase his elevation to roughly ten feet, judging by Zana’s height. She, along with the others, was staring up at him with eyes bright with expectation.
Going higher still, he felt for a moment as if he were swimming against a current. Flying suddenly seemed difficult. Doubt entered his mind. Realizing he was resisting, he did what Maxwallah had taught him to do: he surrendered.
Instantly, he shot up between the trees, his silver cord following like a contrail. Before he could question the wisdom of such a move, he was sailing through the moonlight with the cool wind in his face above the treetops. He had almost forgotten the beauty of the world at night as seen from above.
The experience of flying while awake was everything he had hoped it would be. In fact, it was no different from flying while asleep. He might have still been a little boy in space-time, dreaming he was a young man flying in time-space.
Reaching the edge of the forest, he beheld the terraced hills undulating down to the coast, the little town of Aru-vato dotted with lights, the rotating beam of the lighthouse in the harbor, and the moonlit expanse of the Inland Sea beyond. “This would have been a nice place to call home,” he thought, suddenly missing his own home.
The lapse in positive emotions made him sputter like a plane running out of gas. With a shout, he steeled himself for a crash landing.
Luckily, he had been angling lower and lower as he approached Artemisia’s office. He ended up simply rolling through the sage—at which point he stood up gingerly with only a bruise or two and twigs in his hair. “That wasn’t so bad,” he said, dusting himself off.
Utterly exhausted, he retrieved his belongings from the cabinet in the office, carried them to his bedroom in the main house, and collapsed on his bed—where he instantly fell into a comatose sleep in which he had a conversation with what appeared to be Great Spirit himself.
“How do you feel now that your initiation is over?” asked Great Spirit, whose face, never still, was like a kaleidoscope of all the faces Max had ever seen.
“Like one phase of my life just ended—and another phase began.”
“That is how you should feel!” exclaimed Great Spirit. His voice, much like his face, seemed a blend of countless familiar voices. “I suppose by now you have figured it out.”
“Figured what out?”
“That the toh-pey you ingested was not—”
“Meaning everything that happened to me was just … me?”
“Quite right. Everything was—and is—just you.”
Max let Great Spirit’s words sink in for a moment, then said, “What a cruel trick to play on someone.”
“It worked, did it not?”
“Yeah. I suppose it did.”
“Do you have any questions before I leave you to your destiny, Max?”
“I was just wondering: what’s it like to be God?”
“Do you really want to know?”
“I asked, didn’t I?”
“Fair enough. Actually, after a while I found it rather boring.”
“Seriously. That is why I decided to become you.”
Copyright © Sol Luckman. All Rights Reserved.
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ABOUT SOL LUCKMAN
Sol Luckman is a pioneering ink and acrylic painter whose work has been featured on mainstream book covers, the fast-paced trading game BAZAAR, and at least one tattoo on a female leg last sighted in Australia.
Sol is also an acclaimed author of fiction, nonfiction, and humor. His books include the international bestselling CONSCIOUS HEALING, which you can read free online, and its popular sequel, POTENTIATE YOUR DNA, available in English and Spanish.
Building on SNOOZE’s deep dive into lucid dreaming, parallel universes and Hindu mysticism, Sol’s new novel, CALI THE DESTROYER, is a page-turner of a sci-fi tale set in an Orwellian future seeded in the dystopian present that radically rewrites Gnosticism as well as the origins of the earth and humanity.
Sol’s popular book of humor and satire, THE ANGEL’S DICTIONARY: A SPIRITED GLOSSARY FOR THE LITTLE DEVIL IN YOU, received the 2017 National Indie Excellence Award for Humor and was selected as a Finalist in the Humor category of both the 2018 International Book Awards and the 2018 Best Book Awards.