C. W. Kesting's 
FreshMuse
This Garden of Souls

"The sad fact remains that regardless of our naive and mystical beginnings, we eventually evolve into idiots. Quite frankly, it’s embarrassing. But I believe, in the end, we truly deserve ourselves."

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This Garden of Souls is an existential tale that speculates on the essence of human awareness, the consequences of free will and the origin of mankind. Set within the Institute for Human Studies – an enigmatic Collective that claims to devote its vast resources toward improving the human condition - the story chronicles the lives of three mysterious individuals.

Alternating between interview excerpts and first person oral histories, we follow these characters through a sequence of progressive dialogues. Their tragic and fractured pasts are revealed, their human frailty is exposed and the very significance of their lives is questioned.  As the tale unfolds, they begin to understand that they share a suspiciously high degree of synchronicity with one another.  Over time, they come to terms with the consequences of their choices and the circumstances of their shared realities, realizing that their world and the people in it are not at all what they seem.

In the end, traditional versions of the Story of Mankind are shattered—replaced by a radical, yet elegant new paradigm of the Universe, forever challenging how we conceptualize our reality and ourselves.

~Selected Excerpt~

You know that feeling you get when you’re certain someone’s watching you? That sense of eyes on you.

Or the dread that swells in your chest when you know you’ve just done something that you can’t undo and you suddenly feel icy fingers gently stroking the inner surface of your ribs.
That’s guilt, the pros will say.
That’s bullshit, I say.
Those watching eyes, they’re real. They belong to the Forms.
And that chilly tickle of fear within your chest, your belly—that’s them too. It’s their breath as they sigh in disappointment. It’s the sweat evaporating off of their shadows.
Have you ever noticed that whenever you’re alone—or think that you’re alone—you almost always talk to yourself? Why do you think that is? You ask yourself should I be doing this or that? Should I have said that or this?
We question ourselves constantly because we simply don’t know what else to do.
The pros call that your conscience.
Again, I call bullshit.
Children almost always have imaginary friends. Do you know why?
Well, I got news for you.  They’re not imaginary.
I think the Forms are with us from birth. They are the ones that guide and teach us when we most need guidance and teaching. But, somewhere along the way, we lose our capacity to interface with them, and then that lost primitive part of us begins missing them. So, we scramble to recover that comforting sense of the magical, yet all the structure and logic and reason of our world becomes so overwhelming it eventually suffocates the fantastic.
We soon lose our faith—and then our belief in them. In doing so, we render ourselves insensitive to them.
Unreceptive. Repellant.
And then they lose their importance—their influence over us—so that the only way they can get our attention as adults is through our narrowly perceived world. So they engineer coincidences, occurrences, accidents, ironies, déjà vu
Synchronicities.
But, that’s just what I think. I believe Albert’s on board, too.

~ * ~

When I was eleven or twelve, the neighborhood kids and I, we would camp out in the back yard during the warm summer nights. We had a four-man tent that could sleep six scrawny children. We’d pitch that faded mint-green Coleman canvas as far back from the house as the all-weather extension cord would stretch—that way we could power our scuffed boom-box with the dented speaker as well as the portable black and white TV and still be away from home.
Those nights lasted forever, it seemed, and we usually never slept a wink. Between talking and stalking, there simply wasn’t enough time to waste on sleep. We’d watch late-night TV—usually Carson’s Tonight Show followed by a Creature Feature—until we were sure all the parents were down for the night and then we’d roam the neighborhood.
We never got into much mischief or vandalism. That wasn’t our style. We just liked the way the neighborhood changed at night. It was our world to savor. Everything looked different under a blanket of shadows and the limelight of the moon. It all smelled different, too. I swear you could actually smell and taste the moisture condensing out of the dusty air as the dew formed on the grass.
We would glide across the silvery lawns like silent specters, leaving lazy winding paths of footprints in the pearly glow. Clouds would occasionally crawl over the face of the moon, stretching the shimmering shadows of the taller trees and telephone poles until they morphed into irregular black ribbons that wrapped around the cars and rooftops.
It was the perfect setting for anything magical.
We’d always talk in that comfortable whisper that seemed absolutely necessary in the hours between midnight and dawn. Our conversations were the special kind of exchanges that only occurred during evening adolescence. The subject matter evolved out of the darkness, spun from the shadows, fueled by our fraternity and our overactive imaginations. 
That particular summer I was nearing twelve—Dad was almost a year in the drain and Mom a year deeper into her own depression. I was the youngest of the neighborhood kids that I ran with, the oldest being thirteen or fourteen. According to strategy sessions held in our wooded fort house earlier in the day, we had each harvested a few half-smoked cigarettes from our parents’ ashtrays and a few warm beers from each of our garages and then snuck them out to the tent rolled in our ratty sleeping bags.
What can I say? I’m not proud of our decisions or antics. After all, it was Midwest America in the Seventies: Bowl haircuts, concert jerseys, and bell-bottom corduroys. Rush, Styx and Boston echoed hollowly from scratchy eight-track speakers while Farrah Fawcett graced every bedroom wall.
We were pubescent pioneers. Suburban cultural astronauts.
That particular night we had actually fallen asleep with the TV still on and I awoke sometime shortly before dawn with a full bladder, the soft buzz of a dead channel hissing in the musty tent. The flickering gray fuzz of electronic snow on the small screen cast a soft strobe of light over the mounds of unconscious kids. I gently extracted myself from my bag and slipped out the front tent flap. I stretched in the chill of the pre-dawn air, my scrotum tightening from the cold, yet I remained painfully erect with a desperate pee-boner. I stumbled bare-foot across the cool, moist grass toward the hedgerow that bordered the rear of our modest back yard and separated us from our back-neighbors. In my current non-flaccid state I had to shift and angle myself so that I could effectively urinate on the bushes without spraying my own face.
Guys would understand.
Upon finishing, I packed everything back into my sweat pants and turned back to the tent.
The Forms were there, waiting. Dancing quietly across the surface of the pale green tent.
At first I tried to convince myself that it was just one of the guys who had woke, illuminated from the snow of hibernating TV station, his shadow maybe playing along the inside of the tent. But I knew better.
I wasn’t afraid; I’d become quite used to the Forms by then. Yet, I was concerned. This was the first time I had experienced their presence outside of my room and I wasn’t sure if I was ready to share the experience—or more to the point—explain the experience to anyone else.
The moon had ripened to the pale orange of a split mango and was as large as a golf ball if held inches from your eye. The lunar disc hung just below the ragged points of the tall pines that lined the opposite side of the street in front of my house, separating it from the abandoned gravel pits beyond. I could make out cookie-cut fragments of moon glowing through the gently sighing evergreens.
The evening sky was clear, salted with distant suns and planets, many of which were long dead if Einstein was even half right in his theories.
The Forms—three of them that night—swelled with substance and shadowy mass as they silently peeled away from the surface of the tent, ballooning from two to three dimensions. As is normally expected with their arrival, my world suddenly split into precise individual frames of time, each moment a crisp and exquisite fractal. Then, as in all the times before, I felt myself cleave into infinite, yet complete slices of awareness, simultaneously occupying each separate temporal node. Everything accelerated to the point of near stillness, and I could feel the expansion and contraction of the universe in each and every cell of my body. Weightless time and eternal matter pulsed and ebbed from a single dense point to indescribable vastness and then back, the cycle repeating every nanosecond.
Chaos became order as entropy reversed and reversed again. And then, in a blink, I was once again communing with the Forms:
In a breath, they became real.
Floating before me above the glistening dew frosted lawn.
The succulent moon behind them, behind the trees.
The stars and wisps of night clouds, above us.
The tent, asleep.
The air, thin and electric around us.

Three Forms.

Me.

Their music in my head.

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