By: John F Zurn
After years of traveling throughout his world, Uriel felt weary and disappointed. Despite all his remarkable adventures, he still remained alone and lacked satisfactory answers for his life and for his dilemma with relationships.
Uriel eventually decided to travel beyond the borders of the northern territories and venture into the ancient region of the Muralian people. Long ago, he remembered hearing from an old missionary priest that there existed a mystic mirror in the mountains of Mural. This sacred artifact was rumored to be the property of a master yogi who could utilize its miraculous powers. However, Uriel never discovered the secret nature of the relic. All he could recall from the conversation with the missionary described Mural as a remote village in the far north. Uriel’s disillusionment with the world – that only intensified over the years – offered him a new opportunity to explore another enigmatic town in the hope of settling there.
Uriel sojourned for nearly three months before reaching the isolated village called Mural. As he approached the edge of town, the darkness of the long winter night enveloped him, so he waited until daybreak to explore. In the daylight, he followed the main road, and then began slowly studying the people, businesses, and landscapes. Mural seemed relatively small, but there still existed a wide variety of villagers walking around the town square. Some appeared to be quite cheerful while others looked despondent. Not knowing the culture, Uriel initially decided to avoid asking questions about the people or the mystic mirror, in case it might look suspicious.
It soon became obvious that Uriel was a foreigner. Whenever he conversed with the villagers, they didn’t recognize his slight accent although they could easily understand him. Finally, Uriel gathered his courage and began asking more in depth questions about the village and its mysterious mirror.
Passing a clothing store, Uriel politely engaged one villager. “Are these clothes in this store very expensive?”
The young woman, surprised but flattered, replied, “My name is Sila and this is my father’s store. The store has very fine clothes. But you don’t mind if I ask, what’s wrong with your health?”
“I am very sensitive to sunlight,” Uriel lied. “But I’ve been told sunlight is quite limited here.”
“Yes,” Sila asserted. “People have journeyed here for many years. But you’re the first traveler I’ve met who is sensitive to the sun.”
“Lucky me. I’m Uriel by the way,” Uriel said introducing himself. “But why else do people sojourn here?”
“They wish to visit our shrine,” Sila replied. “Afterward, most people return home, but some visitors choose to live in Mural.”
“What’s so special about the shrine?” Uriel wanted to know.
“The shrine possesses a sacred object that offers individuals in town a chance to understand their future,” Sila answered.
Sila didn’t appear ready to further discuss the shrine at that moment, however, she added, “Meet me here tomorrow, and you can accompany me to the shrine. There you can meet many of the congregation members.”
Uriel expressed his gratitude to Sila and as she disappeared down the square, Uriel couldn’t believe his good fortune. It felt like his many presumptions and questions could be addressed much sooner than he would have dared anticipate. As Uriel wandered through town waiting for Sila to appear the next day, the night seemed long and tedious. Frigid but hopeful, he continued to study the town of Mural, and he felt the distinct impression that the more upbeat citizens stayed out late despite the arctic cold while the more dejected villagers retired early. Although Uriel couldn’t discern why this odd situation existed, it did confirm his earlier observations.
The next morning, Uriel waited for hours for Sila to return, so he felt reassured when she did arrive. After a short greeting, Sila directed Uriel to the shrine at the far end of town. Then she stopped and gave Uriel some instructions. “First, she began assertively. “You must not speak or ask questions in the shrine. Second, no one walks to the front unless Brother Janus invites them. Finally, it is considered a crime to view or discuss the mystic mirror.”
“But why?” Uriel asked disappointedly. “Does Brother Janus ever allow for exceptions?”
“No!” Sila replied angrily. “Now do you still want to visit the shrine?”
“Yes,” replied Uriel. “Sorry about my impatience. I’ll follow the rules.”
Before long, the two companions reached the shrine; just as many other townspeople were arriving. Everyone remained exceedingly quiet while they entered front vestibule of the sacred place. The outside of the shrine looked rather ordinary with its stone walls and gently sloping timber roof. However, the inside looked extraordinary. The walls appeared to be gold, and the raised platform appeared to be blanketed in blue and white satin. The entire shrine created a mystical feeling of beauty and grace.
Once all the worshipers were packed inside, everyone waited patiently until Brother Janus finally appeared from behind the platform. “Our town has been protected and blessed because of our mystic mirror and your hard work,” he said proudly. “As you know, the mystic mirror first appeared to me many years ago. The wisdom and protection of this sacred mirror has taught me to understand the world and our place in it.”
“Tonight,” Brother Janus spoke solemnly, “we wish to accept into our flock two new villagers as full members of our congregation. Would Mr. and Mrs. Halit please come forward and step up to the platform.” When they stood before him, Brother Janus blessed them both and said, do you two worshipers acknowledge and accept the counsel of the mystic mirror?”
“Yes,” they both replied nervously.
“Very well. I will now consult the mystic mirror and return with the mirror’s holy decree.”
The crowd waited uneasily for a long time before Janus returned. When
Brother Janus did finally return, he looked solemn and grim. “Mr. Halit, your son might drown within three years if you don’t rescue him.”
The worshipers gasped in surprise, but the Halit’s were humble and fearful. Then Brother Janus turned to Mrs. Halit, “Mrs. Halit, you are correct. Your sister
did die of pneumonia because you gave her the wrong medicine.”
By the time Brother Janus had finished delivering his terrible message, both Mr. and Mrs. Halit were sobbing uncontrollably.
The meeting finally ended, but the couple left the shrine without making eye contact with anyone.
After the meeting, Uriel who rarely took things at face value began to vigorously question Sila. Naturally, she expected questions, but she refused to answer them in a rush. Sila waited for Uriel to calm down, and then, she escorted him to the forest, and began to address his doubts as best as she could.
Uriel’s first question sounded almost predictable. “Why do you believe the mystic mirror actually exists, and why does it it frighten people? And why is Brother Janus the only one permitted to control it?”
“You’re asking many essential questions, Uriel,” Sila began. “But I only possess some answers. I accept that the mystic mirror exists because I remember seeing it, many years ago. When I was a small child, I ventured behind the curtain at the shrine. I saw Brother Janus in a very dark room seated next to a large circular mirror lying on its side. My mother noticed I had wandered behind the platform so she scooped me up before I was seen.”
“To be honest, I’m not sure how the mirror operates, but I believe Brother Janus summons a villager by name three times, and then the mirror reveals something about the individual that includes their past and future. It seems these visions reveal both auspicious and troublesome events. Some people appear to be delighted with their personal vision and become joyful. Troublesome visions, however, are usually followed by sadness.”
“Is that why I observe villagers with such different states of mind,” Uriel asked.
“Yes,” Sila replied.
“If this is all true, then why is Brother Janus the only villager who can retain the mirror?” Uriel inquired.
“Brother Janus has always been our spiritual leader,” Sila explained. “He arrived in Mural many years ago with his mystic mirror and built our beautiful shrine. He has always protected us, and since we see him in town almost every day, we seek his guidance and trust him.”
“Can I meet him?” Uriel asked.
“When you’re ready, Brother Janus will contact you.” Sila replied. “He always studies people at a distance until he feels they’re ready to meet him.”
“When can I meet him? ” Uriel pressed on.
“Brother Janus discerns the right moment for your meeting,” Sila continued.
“Can you tell me, at least, how does the mystic mirror actually operate?” Uriel asked.
Sila sighed but still answered her friend’s question. “Once a year, Brother Janus explains the mystic mirror and the visions that appear to him. After announcing the name of the person, he taps the mirror three times with a ceremonial rod. Then he stares into the mirror and chooses the most relevant visions to disclose.”
“But how does Brother Janus decide what visions and events are important?” Uriel asked suspiciously.
Sila finally felt provoked. “Brother Janus is our devoted spiritual guide, that’s how he knows. I’ve told you all I know, so either stop interrogating me about the shrine or walk away.”
Uriel considered it might be advantageous for him to leave Sila and continue investigating on his own. He considered Sila a friend, and sadly, he believed she might be his only friend. When they parted, he gently thanked her for all her help.
In addition, the shrine clearly had nothing to do with him, and he felt he should consider abandoning his attempts to discover its secrets. Despite his doubts, however, the shrine proved to be too intriguing for Uriel to forget. In order to ascertain more about it, Uriel decided to hide in the forest behind the shrine and then simply kept watch over the scene.
Uriel really wished to discover if the visions actually appeared in the mirror, and if so, how did Brother Janus explain their meaning. If everything Sila described proved to be accurate, Uriel would remain silent and probably leave Mural. But if some treachery existed, Uriel would most certainly expose it. Uriel studied the shrine for nearly a week and, he recorded Brother Janus’s movements.
Yet Uriel knew he must locate the mystic mirror and determine its function, before he could determine the truth. Fortunately, during the time he monitored the shrine, he could also participate in the congregational meetings. At one meeting, he watched three villagers shuffle up to the platform and accept their interpretive vision. Just as Uriel suspected, some villagers received positive reports about family, careers and relationships. However, some individuals received personal visions that seemed to leave them heartbroken and despairing. Events like accidents, transgressions, and painful truths appeared to truly frighten them.
The villagers seemed to steadfastly believe every vision they heard, but Uriel found it naive for them to change their entire attitudes about life based on Brother Janus and his prognostications. Uriel became more skeptical as each week passed until finally he felt ready to devise a strategy to expose Brother Janus. The next morning, he put his plan into action.
Uriel noticed that Brother Janus left the shrine every day to visit and counsel the villagers. He left promptly at 8 am and returned in the late afternoon. Since he didn’t appear to have a back door, Uriel finally realized that Brother Janus employed a narrow tunnel that led from the back of the shrine to a thick clump of spruce trees near the shrine. Uriel’s plan therefore, involved finding the tunnel and following it back inside the building.
Early the next morning, after Brother Janus had departed for town; Uriel discovered the hidden tunnel in the trees and entered it. When he reached the trap door under the floor, he stealthily opened it. The room remained nearly opaque inside, but when Uriel’s eyes adjusted to the darkness, he discerned what he believed to be a mirror. In fact, the object resembled a large circular mirror except it was horizontal, and suspended without visible support. Figuring it must be the mystic mirror Sila had described, he drew closer and when he was about to examine it more closely, he detected the trap door opening.
Uriel understood instantly that the door had been opened by Brother Janus. Janus must have returned to the shrine to pick up something he had forgotten or to return to some task. In a panic, Uriel bounded up the nearest crossbeam and then climbed to the top of the ceiling. He waited breathlessly for Brother Janus to look up, and when Janus didn’t notice him, Uriel studied the spiritual leader’s movements carefully. Brother Janus now sat next to the extraordinary mirror. He tapped the mirror crisply with a silver rod and sharply repeated the name “Sila” three times. Miraculously, the mirror transformed into a series of silent moving pictures. Brother Janus then seemed to focus on several specific images of Sila’s parents holding her at birth. Then, almost immediately, Brother Janus and returned to the tunnel.
As soon as Brother Janus left, Uriel jumped down from his hiding place. He felt eager to escape, however, he also felt extraordinarily curious about the unusual mystic mirror artifact. He approached the strange object, sat down, and struck the side of the mirror with the rod. Then three times he uttered, “Brother Janus”. Just as before, images appeared, but this time it showed Brother Janus in the in some past time running from people who try to incarcerate him. Of course, these visions could be interpreted in a variety of ways; however, Brother Janus running from angry people did appear suspicious.
Uriel decided to return to the shrine and attend the meeting, so he could learn more about Brother Janus and his mystic mirror. The first worshiper, Brother Janus called was Sila. She seemed very excited to learn about her vision, so she could become a full member of the congregation. She raced up to the platform and waited for Brother Janus to speak. However, after he spoke, Sila didn’t want to learn any more. “When you were a baby,” Brother Janus said assertively. “You seemed to be unwanted. Your parents wished for a boy. Now they consider you a burden.”
Sila couldn’t conceal her utter disappointment, and her parents had difficulty trusting Brother Janus. Yet, they both steadfastly believed that their spiritual leader never made mistakes. When they awkwardly slipped out the shrine door, Uriel discerned the actual facts. Brother Janus did see visions but he interpreted them in ways that somehow benefited him. Villagers who lived in fear might be easy to control, while people filled with joy might show appreciation.
Uriel concluded that he must confront Brother Janus and test his ideas about the teachings of the spiritual leader. Uriel impatiently waited for the service to conclude then bravely entered Brother Janus’s secret shrine. Janus turned to him with a flash of anger and demanded, “Get out! You don’t belong here!”
However, Uriel stood his ground, “Your visions are interpreted in any way you desire. I’ve seen you stare at the mystic mirror!”
Somehow, Brother Janus intuitively knew that Uriel spoke the truth.
“You don’t understand,” Brother Janus complained. “When I first arrived here twenty years ago, this peaceful town relied on violence, murder, and robbery for social order. Then six months after my arrival here, I established the shrine and employed my mystic mirror in order to guide the inhabitants into more peaceful pursuits. If this involved interpreting visions that help the town remain safe, then so be it.”
“But who are you to interfere with people’s lives?” Uriel countered. “You have no right to dictate their fate.”
“Fate!” Brother Janus shot back. “My special guidance provides people with the opportunity to change their lives for the better.”
“What about Sila?” Uriel complained. “You labeled her as a burden to her family?”
“Yes,” Brother Janus interrupted. “Sila is a pampered child who frequently misbehaves. I’m simply offering her a chance to improve her behavior so she will become emotionally mature.”
“What about the Halits?” Uriel asked.
Mrs. Halit already suspected that she carelessly gave her sister the wrong prescription when her sister had pneumonia. She has felt guilty her entire life. Her vision simply brought this event to her attention, so she can finally address it. In regard to Mr. Halit, he barely knew his son existed until I mentioned the drowning vision. Now he will watch over him more carefully if he is to save him some day. You see, I interpret visions in my own way, and it benefits individuals and the society.”
“You aren’t God!” Uriel shouted accusingly.
“I am to the villagers,” Brother Janus exclaimed.
Uriel believed it should be his responsibility to inform the citizens of Mural about Brother Janus and his deceit. He sponsored a meeting at the town’s library, and it soon filled up with curious villagers. Uriel gave a complete account of his observations concerning Brother Janus. Unfortunately, Uriel’s “call to action” didn’t have the desired effect. The town completely supported their spiritual leader and chided Uriel for his pride and disrespect.
At the very next congregational meeting, Brother Janus commanded Uriel to approach the platform of the Shrine. When Uriel attempted to speak, the whole crowd shouted him down.
Then Brother Janus spoke forcefully, “Uriel Fox, your lack of belief and your constant disobedience have caused anger and disappointment among us all. You don’t deserve to fellowship with us. If you ever return you will be severely punished!”
Uriel accepted the spiritual leader’s banishment; however it remained difficult for him to comprehend why the villages treated him so harshly. He felt certain they would be grateful for his assistance. He felt equally certain someone would discover the truth, but apparently nobody did.
As Uriel began the long descent from Mural, he felt alone and unfairly punished. He looked back at the town behind him and considered life to be a great deception. Nevertheless, off in the distance, Uriel could barely see Sila chasing after him. He waited patiently and when she approached she said, “My parents always love me. They didn’t care if I was a boy or girl!”
Uriel smiled and answered, “You’re absolutely correct. Why didn’t you believe Brother Janus?”
“The truth is the truth,” she answered. “I believe I can make up my own mind.”
“That sounds about right,” Uriel replied with a smile.
As Sila continued down the mountain, Uriel decided to let her go. He knew she was destined to find her own way.