“Dangerous? I do not understand.”
“Why not suggest he does so because he loves her more than any of us? Fe’jene, neither is true. He protects her because she is dangerous.”
“Dangerous? I do not understand.”
“Who has been the target the last two times we were attacked - apart from Roberto? Was she not the prime target for Baritte, didn’t Dark Cloud choose her as her first target?”
“No Dommi, Dark Cloud did not. Cherine attacked or defended the girls with her powers and what happened to her was a direct result of that.” Ordinx was uncomfortable with correcting Dommi, but she nodded, agreeing with him.
“Still, it is Cherine who has suffered more often than any of us. Sam is cautious and will try to think her way out of a difficulty, but Cherine focuses only on one thing, the safety of those she loves.” Dommi looked at both of them and her eyes were filled with love as she spoke softly and with pride. “If I were to go into danger, Sam and Cherine as a team would be my first choice as companions.”
Annavi piped up, “Dommi, I think you forgot Jade.”
“And Aganthi.” A number of names were called out. I kept quiet, feeling their hearts.
“What about you Robert, who would you take?”
“Me?” I stared at Cassie. “Are you trying to get me into trouble girl? Whoever I don’t mention will feel hurt. Okay, I’ll give you one name. Goldi. Somehow she’ll charm her way out of trouble without violence.”
Goldi turned and looked at me, so did the others, which implied they had all been listening. I saw that funny smile on Cherine’s lips while it did not surprise me to see a thoughtful look in Sam’s eyes.
I called out to them. “Please pass on my instructions. From tonight I want the two of them to take turns joining us at meal times. Shiyra should come for lunch and Dark Cloud for supper. Next week they can swop.” They all liked the idea, but I wondered how they will feel after having Dark Cloud spoiling our meal a couple of times.
As far as I am concerned, there is nothing to keep us here anymore. Latreia has given in to her love for us and the matter of Agapi needs to be addressed with her family so that she too can relax. Lynda is just as likely to take years or even never decide to join us with all her heart. Cherine though prefers we stay until our daughter is born. Solomon has brought a soul he claims will bring us great joy. It is already feeling the pull to enter the foetus. Without saying anything I decided to get up very early the next morning.
I jumped to Dark Cloud. At first she was startled by my appearance, but her beautiful face became a thing of ugliness as hate blazed from her. I let her have her say for about two minutes and then I blocked her from speaking.
“I’ll visit at some other time to listen to your loving compliments, but I do not have the time today. I have come to offer you two choices. Either I put you to sleep for three of our days, or else you agree to control yourself for this time. A new soul is about to arrive, a new daughter for myself and my wives. I will not let your hate be the first thing she experiences.”
She was startled by my news and then a crafty look crossed her face - I guess she has not learnt how to hide her feelings yet - and she startled me in return. “I will accompany you.”
“I wish to see how this happens with your species, I will accompany you.”
“Dark Cloud, you are planning something to hurt us. I’m warning you, you do anything to my child, good or bad without my permission, I will destroy your people. I will take them to the soul eaters and you will be all that is left of your people. Behave yourself and I’m willing to talk to you about releasing them.”
Her face flushed with anger. “You lie without purpose, do you think me so stupid because you gave me the body of a child?”
“I need to stay here for a few months and you have given me an idea. I will show you what I can do for your people and then you decide whether I am lying.” I stuck out my hand. “I am willing to shake your hand on this. Once I give my hand on it, my word will be kept.”
First her revulsion at the thought of touching me became obvious and then with a cold haughty look she touched my hand. I sighed.
“It is done then. I will trust you and take you to the welcoming of my child. Sam will help you sense her arrival. It really is a moment of beauty for all. Dark Cloud, it is the same for every species, a new life is something to be treasured.”
Her words were cold. “She will grow up to be one of you.”
I laughed. “Yes, that’s true. Reason for you to pity the new soul then?”
Dommi and therefore all the girls were doubtful about allowing her to be present, but Cherine backed me, taking my side. When Solomon advised us that he is about to release the soul, Sam opened her mind and showed Dark Cloud how to enter. She helped her and then made her own gift available, willingly sharing the moment and her joy. As the soul arrived and entered the foetus, a baby girl to us now, Dark Cloud attacked.
She split herself into the number of souls she is made of and some of them dug into Sam’s mind, while one used her to enter the new soul. She could not send any of the souls to any of the girls or myself, as we were instantly on guard, so she had enough left to keep her own mind/body aware.
We felt the agony of Sam and our baby and Dommi immediately tried to also enter and protect the new soul. She cannot, just as no one else can enter Sam.
Triumphant, Dark Cloud cried, “If you attack me they die.” She stared at us without hiding her hatred. She pointed her hand at me. “You kill our enemy or else I kill these two.”
“And then what? You expect me to believe you will let them go?”
“I do not care what you believe. What you do know is that these two will suffer and die right now!”
I looked down at my little Sam, her face, even though unconscious showing her constant agony. The thought of what this is doing to our baby also, I tried to avoid - it was bad enough feeling her.
I knew I will be attacked by my own, so I left my body, became the void and returned. Coldly I informed everyone what I am about to do. “Solomon, send a Sparkler to the void to collect Sam with whatever she brings with her. The Sparkler must volunteer to be placed in stasis with the possibility it will never be released. I have to kill Sam to prevent the other one in our baby from returning through her.”
I turned on Dark Cloud and the anger, the power that flashed in such a turmoil that it can destroy all of us, was not a pretence. “I thought my revenge on you will be to destroy your mother soul. I think not! I have decided to give your enemies the heaven they search for. You will not be allowed to die. I swear I shall hold you in eternal pain while you see your enemies happy and alive.”
“Robert, my baby?”
“Cherine, you will not resist me. Listen to me without fighting or else you will only cause more harm. No baby of ours will be allowed to live with hatred, it must die. Her soul will be taken by Solomon and held until the end of time. When we can release her into the mother soul, the hatred will be wiped out and thrown away, that soul totally destroyed. Our daughter and Sam will be part of us someday, just not for now.”
While I talked I delayed acting on Sam. The girls all cried, begged and I was also attacked, but I refused to change my mind. As I turned to take Sam, we felt the other dark soul leave the foetus and return to Sam. Instantly I trapped them within stasis and took Sam to the void. If not for stasis (how can I double her suffering if I have no way to control it?) I could not have done it, I owe John a great debt of gratitude, for the idea came from what he intended gifting me with.
I had no time for weeping or self-flagellation, I had to deal with Dark Cloud first.
When I returned, Wendy ignored the storm of energy and touched me.
“You are the Avenger again Robert? As with my father?”
I refused to answer her. I reached for Dark Cloud, my voice cold and hard. “This is the last time you will know what it is like to be in a body, to feel life flowing through you. I am taking you out of your body and then you and I have a trip across realities and time. I will feed you, soul by soul to the soul eaters and you will no longer exist to betray anyone again.”
Terrified Meli screamed, her fear palpable as she vainly tried to make me change my mind. She feared they will get me too, but I pointed out to her they cannot, I am going there as the void. I vacillated, searching in my anger for something terrible enough for Dark Cloud to find unbearable.
“She has taken our Sam from us Meli. I have changed my mind, I will not destroy Dark Cloud now. If their mother soul holds a trillion souls they will not be enough to avenge our lovely Sam. They will all die and this devil will watch as I give their souls to be consumed one by one. Only when her people are all gone will I feed her to them also.”
“No Robert, you will not do that.” Jade stood with her hands curled up in tiny fists. “You will not feed her to the soul eaters. Let her watch her enemies be given new life and then her people destroyed, given the final death instead of eternal life as you’d promised. Then you give her, the souls she is made of, eternal life. Let her forever pay the price of her breaking her word.” Her lips stretched in a tight grin. “She will be there to see her enemies become gods and our Sam and the baby live, and she will know she did this without winning anything!”
Dark Cloud snarled; it sounded more like the laugh of a hyena. “I will have won! He will be like us. He-will-be-like-us!!”
Cherine stepped forward and hit her with her fist. “He will never be like you. When this is over we will take his pain from him and he will be as he was before we met you. You have won nothing and you lose all, because you did not even have pity for an innocent new soul.”
The girls had decided to back me now, reminded by Jade and Cherine that they must trust me. That they should do so when I had already lost did not reduce the pain their love filled me with. I returned to my body - I wanted a cup of coffee, a cigarette and to be able to feel my beloved family. We jumped to the taverna and all our friends followed us there.
“What now Robert?” Ordinx asked. I only shook my head, not willing to reply.
“Kyria Maria, see to it that girl also has something to eat and drink.” She nodded and returned with fruit for Dark Cloud who sat lost in thought, only her eyes darting around as if she was observing us.
“Robert?” I stared back. “You should not have played my game.” Somehow she made it sound like a threat.
“And you should think before you speak. There are games within games and your words show you understand nothing.” Meli shot back at her.
Very softly Ordinx whispered, “May I try Robert?” I nodded my assent. Ashiir hugged him and then he left us. I pretended not to be looking, but saw him bend and whisper in her ear. Abruptly she pushed back her chair and stood up. The two of them walked away, along the beach.
They’d left us at about eleven in the morning and when they returned, twilight was dulling into darkness, vague shapes becoming dark outlines. As they drew close to us he gestured, said something and she turned away to stand by the edge of the water. Ordinx came to us and in the light of the taverna we saw he was exhausted.
He sat opposite me and took a long swill of beer.
“I had not realised how difficult it is to negotiate with someone who cares for nothing but revenge.” He sat silently for a time and we kept quiet, allowing him time to organise his thoughts.
“She told me something remarkable. She said it is the souls of the innocent, she meant children, whose cries for revenge are the strongest. I asked her whether she meant that the cries of the children were being magnified by the adults and she agreed it is possible. I suggested it was those who welcomed the bombs who have the strongest need for revenge and feel their betrayal of the children strongest. She did not answer.”
He looked back at her dark form. “Robert, I have negotiated for you, I hope I have not presumed too much.”
“A cunning old politician like yourself?” I gave our friend a smile.
“Teacher Robert, not politician. I have proposed that from here we go to a world that was destroyed by the fire-world. She will see the destruction and how you save that species. Once she is convinced of the truth, we will choose a planet and it will be terraformed to suit her species. She will assist you in releasing five million souls of her people. Once she and others who act as leaders of their mothersoul see their children alive again, they will agree to withdraw from Sam and stop their quest for revenge on condition that you bring them all back to life and, this is important Robert, you undertake not to do the same for the Ii.”
I felt the joy in my family. “You have done well Ordinx.”
“Are you certain you understand how well Robert?”
“What does that mean? Have I missed something?”
“I think so. They are willing to sacrifice everything at this time. Once they see their children alive, they are bound to change, same as Noname did.”
“Perhaps. What you are indirectly saying is at that time I can make my demands and help the Ii. I am not convinced of that Ordinx. I do not trust them and never will again. They have lost any ability to feel empathy. A few small changes to your terms and we have an agreement.
First of all, we get Sam back now, not later. They must prove to me they are acting in good faith. As for the Ii, all I am willing to agree to is that they are not brought back in the same galaxy or perhaps, not in the same reality. I will also see to it that they are only brought back a few thousand years after the dark souls.”
Ordinx stood up without arguing. I called out to him, “Ordinx, no negotiations. Tell her my conditions and then bring her back here. She must eat something and have the night to think and rest. Agree to meet her here in the morning.” He nodded and left us.
Freddie and the protector stayed on watch so that we can relax. I know very little about stasis and understand even less. I was haunted by a feeling that our Sam is locked in an endless moment of agony, acid burning through her mind. It was no wonder none of us were in a mood for loving.
“Cherine, Sam will understand, so please do a golden circle of love. Keep it gentle for our baby and send it all to her. She is the first Cherinian child to be born with knowledge of hate, we must show her more of love.”
“She is dreaming Robert. There is enough love already for her dreams to be a comfort. We’ll do what you ask later, when she is more aware.”
Jodine, having become a toddler, was in the arms of Bernie and she was carried to me. I looked in her eyes and sent her my love and encouragement. She found the courage to ask the question all the others worried about.
“Have you changed Robbie, can you really kill them?” She shuddered. “Would you really feed them to Meli’s soul eaters?”
“They are not Meli’s, my love.” I kept my face and smile gentle as I can, for all of them. “My loves, I’m proud of you, you did a good job of fighting me. Jodine, the truth is that I really did want to do all I said, I was struggling to find something even worse to do to them. It sickened me that even as I raged for a way to cause them pain, I knew inside me that I will not do anything, that’s why I kept on changing my threats. Once you decided to trust me again, the change in your attitude helped convince Dark Cloud, or so I think anyway. I am worried though.”
“If she does not accept our terms I will show myself to be weak in her eyes when I do nothing. If she does accept, I know she will do so while planning not to keep her end of the bargain. I’m hoping she does agree because she has thought of a way to renege and destroy us. That is why I gave her the night to think about it. Our first priority is to get Sam back, I’ll worry about her treachery later.”
Without warning Cherine took what I held secret and passed it on to all our loves. I was dismayed and upset, but when I saw her face I kept quiet. It made no difference to her. She came to me, stood before me with her fists clenched and then tears began to fall and she sobbed. I pulled her to me and rocking her gently, caressed her hair and back as I held her tightly. My love still has her compulsion to protect me and despite my sorrow at all of them sharing my fears because of her, her unchanging devotion touched my heart and remains my deepest, as always, comfort.
Though I did not sleep I closed my eyes. When I opened them it was to find Goldi staring at me so I gave her a smile.
“I feel sorry for Sam.”
“She is not suffering love, I really think so.”
“No, I meant for tonight. You are going to make her suffer.” She gave a little smile to herself, mischief in her eyes. “I guess we all will.”
Laughing I hugged her to me. “That we will my love, it’s guaranteed.”
We waited in vain, even Ordinx getting tense as the day passed without Dark Cloud putting in an appearance. Of course we knew where she is and what she is doing, but we did not know what she was thinking. For some reason it did not make me angry, just anxious, but that I can control. Let her play her games, I thought, I’ll win.
“Roberto, if she does not agree, is there a way you can get Sam back without those souls in her?”
I nodded. “Yes. I will have to destroy them though.” I looked at them all, waiting for even one to suggest I do so.
Claudia sighed but it was Aganthi who spoke. “Our Sam would not want that. She would say we must wait.”
“Robert, may we cancel the meeting?”
Quizzically I looked at him, curious as to his thinking. I could sense he has a plan. “Whenever you want Ordinx. You have thought of an alternative?”
“No, just following your own admonishments to your family and all of us.”
“Now you have confused me.”
“What is it you always say Robert? Get to know your enemy and then you will have less reason for hating them. Is it not true for the one you have so badly named Dark Cloud?”
Meli eagerly cut in. “You mean we must have a storytelling?”
He nodded, pleased.
I stood up, a ball of fear churning away within me. “No! I will not allow it.” I looked around and saw a sea of puzzled faces, not even my Cherine understood. “Meli, how do you do your storytelling?” She did not answer, not seeing what I was trying to get at. “Empathy. For it to be effective, for the audience to live it, they have to open themselves and become part of the storytelling. That is how we got into trouble. She will use it to hurt more of you. I will not allow it.”
an Fisp stepped forward. “You may be wrong Robert. May I speak my thoughts without disappointing you?”
“I’m damned if I know what you mean by that, but go ahead.”
“When you returned to us in the future, the Inguel were a happy people; our civilisation had stabilised, we were growing, expanding from solar system to solar system. There was no hunger and our people had settled on a philosophy that suited us, making our lives peaceful and happy. Then you arrived and disturbed us, forcing change on us. The result was deaths of children, civil unrest and the breaking apart of our people into two camps - those who resisted you and your Cherinian philosophy and those who joined you. I am one of those who joined you, but I always had doubts. Many things I saw troubled me, indications that you are not a people of love and empathy as you claimed. This business with Dark Cloud and her people has convinced me you are a liar, ambitious and planning to rule not only your galaxy, but all realities throughout all of time. Would it be natural for me to ally myself with Dark Cloud in the hope she is able to overthrow you and free my people?”
At the start most of my girls were aghast at his words, but they quickly picked up from the more perceptive ones what is going on. “Hmm, you will have to be very convincing, she will grill you and try to trip you up on your own words. an Fisp, she is not a little girl, she is made up of the souls of a number of mature persons. We have no idea how they think.” I looked down at my hands. “What will you do if she believes you?”
“I will tell her of your plans to have a storytelling. I’ll explain you have a double purpose for doing so. One is for the pleasure your own family derive from it, but I will suggest it is also used, so I think, as a form of propaganda, brain-washing you call it(?), against those of other species who may have lingering doubts about you. I will offer to allow her to use the mind of one of my people, one who fully believes in you…”
“What if she demands to use you? She will see you are double-crossing her.”
“Double-crossing?” He gestured, shrugging it off. “I have planned for that. I will tell her you suspect me and if you see she is using me, it will strengthen or confirm your suspicions.”
“You may be risking the life of one of your people…”
“What people Robert? A Cherinian?”
I ruefully grinned as everyone laughed. “I apologise.”
“We are all in this together Robert. It will be an honour for us to tell others at home that an Inguel was able to play a part in solving a problem for our Robert.” Normally I would have objected at the implication, but I kept quiet - is that how it happens, the soft slide into being treated as someone special? I looked into the warm eyes of Dommi and saw her understanding, so I tucked away the question in my mind for later. As if he’d sensed my disquiet, he added, “If she is friend of aliens, is it not apt that aliens, Ordinx and us, help release her?”
“Try it then. Good luck my friend. Just keep in mind that if you do this, the storytelling will only be the first part of many deceits, be sure you can bear them.”
“You do not see an early end to this?”
I could not answer, as if words dry and rasping with promises of pain, suffering and deaths I cannot bear to witness choked my throat. I saw the diamond sparkle of tears in the eyes of Tina, alone of all my loves and it frightened me. My mood drove our friends away and the girls sat waiting patiently while I drank my bitter coffees and smoked silently. Cherine and Dommi came to either side of me and their hands made me rise and we walked along the beach.
“Robert my love, a sacrifice may be needed. Please bring Allan here. He should know of our need from before.”
“His sacrifice Cherine? We do not have the right to ask it of him. Are you forgetting it will include the sacrifice, the loss of one of us?”
“If it becomes necessary, then it shall be I, Roberto mou. What better than, if we are to have a god, that a part of it should be a mother?”
Her words stopped Cherine and I. Before Cherine had time to protest, I asked, “You will be a good god, you and Allan?”
She stared me in the eyes. “I think so.”
“There are no good gods, Dommi. There are gods who are indifferent and gods who interfere. Perhaps those that are indifferent come the closest to being good gods.”
“Dommi is not leaving us with Allan!!” Her fists may have been curled tightly, but there were also tears in her eyes.
“Cherinaki mou, think! Even as the Kaleidoscope World we will not be safe. We will have to hide like the Ii. That is not a future any Cherinian, much less our family deserve.”
Angry, almost savagely I pulled them before me so that they will have to face me.
“If Allan can do this alone, any Cherinian alone, we will not agree to this, for the absence of that one soul, that one brave heart will be a wound in us and we will remain incomplete for all of eternity. Stop making plans for defeat and think of ways to dispose of this problem forever.”
Her voice almost sounding insolent and angry, because she was forcing herself to speak them, Cherine said, “If she releases Sam, you can end this by placing Dark Cloud in the same place as her mother soul.”
“For all remaining time Cherine, no hope of redemption?” My heart was breaking with her effort to shut off her empathy. “We will not be able to live for long with that weighing our hearts, my love.” Her hair covered her face, a curtain trying to hide the tears and I pulled them both into my arms. “Sam will not allow us, so why are we discussing it?”
I waited until I sensed they agreed. “I do not know why I foresee this contest lasting for a long time, but it does not mean we should despair. We are a match for her.”
Cherine sniffed. “We are not. We can’t think bad things like she does.”
I made myself laugh. “You sound as if you think evil is stronger than good. It never has been and never will be. The only strength evil has is its ability to be born and regenerate constantly. We will resist it wherever we find it my loves. Wherever.”
As we returned to the taverna I knew that my loves despaired at my refusal to face facts and yet they were also heartened by my refusal to give in to them. That night, I made certain none of them used their healers and lay in the dark listening to their soft slow breaths and their dreams. I thought of my sweet loves and how lucky I am; I have so many of them while the poor little darlings only have me. As much as I loved each one of them though, my heart was in the void with my sweet baby Sam.
We spent most of the next day at home. I wanted to relax while the girls secretly schemed for the storytelling.
The girls are all angry with me. They did not like what I thought about them only having me (maybe they are mostly affected because of my writing of those thoughts in the diary, where the words will remain forever) and demanded I retract it. A number of them gave the argument that they do not only have me, they too have each other. Gently I pointed out to them that whereas my love and comfort is drawn from all of them, most of them remain focussed on me, looking to me for their comfort - as they have struggled for so many years to ensure I believe of them. Their mood changed as they considered my answer and then they played with the word comfort, insisting I meant it sexually and in the end it turned into a free-for-all. We all needed to laugh a little because of our painful need for Sam and not despite it.
I waited until I sensed an Fisp had spoken with Dark Cloud, gave her an hour to wonder about it and then jumped to her. I raised an arm in what I hoped she will recognise as a peaceful gesture.
“I have not come to argue or fight with you. My family have been hurt and it is customary for us to hold a storytelling to remind ourselves of who we are and what we want for our children. I am not prepared to open the mind of any of my people to you again, but using your ears and eyes you will still understand us more than you do now. You are welcome should you wish to join us.” Without waiting for an answer I jumped back home.
“Robert, I know it goes against our rules, but shouldn’t we make an exception and spy on her? If we know what she is thinking we will know what to do or how to protect ourselves when she plans to harm us.”
“Claudia, I was against using our gifts to manipulate others and I made an exception. It was easier to justify a second exception and a third, now we do it with care, but still too often. I will not agree to breaking this rule - no exceptions this time or any other time, my love.” I feel the rebellious thoughts in her, the one particular painful thought that our baby and Sam would not have been hurt if we had used this precaution. My point of view cannot be enforced, she has to work her own way to seeing whether she or I am right.
By the time we got to the taverna we found it surrounded by a sea of faces. I stopped and looked at them, as if it was for the first time. Many had taken on Terran bodies, but many were there in their own multitude of shapes and sizes. Apart from the Anadir, those in replicas of their own bodies were wearing tiny implants redesigned by the scientists to filter our air for them. How often, in science fiction, mankind is depicted as meeting a superior species and by their illogic, their inventiveness they become the top dogs or at the very least respected by all other species. Of course what I speak of are the older stories. It has recently become fashionable to show us as being unworthy of even the contempt of other ‘enlightened’ species. Apart from a certain familiar respect our friends show us as a family, we have found no differences in attitude when they deal with Cherinians of our species. What a sight, I thought, if only mankind could see us, all friends and allies!
“Robert, I have come.”
“Shiyra, are you making yourself more beautiful every time I see you?”
Naively she replied with puzzlement, “I have done nothing to alter what you gave me Robert.” The girls hid their smiles.
I shook my head, not agreeing. “No, that is not the case. I think your personae is adapting and the body is beginning to show your inner beauty.”
Goldi saved her by staring into her eyes and asking if she will sit with her during the storytelling. Forgetting me she walked away with Goldi, who adopted Cherine’s gesture and wiggled her fingers at me behind her back. I knew the girls were all amused by my unsuccessful attempt to flirt with Shiyra. I have to mentioned that both girls are supplied by clothes from the wardrobes of my girls. Bernie chooses the styles and colours she thinks will suit them.
From the way everyone moved, and seeing a corridor form, even a non-Cherinian would have realised Dark Cloud has arrived. Like a princess she walked through the space and I kept my eyes on her as she approached. Though it can be said that Solomon and Sam created her body, it is only technically true, for her own personality has influenced the general effect, Solomons’ creation trying to follow in Terran terms the way she sees herself.
Dark Cloud is very tall for the age of ten, close to my height. Though still adjusting to the Terran body she is forced to use, she has poise and looks elegant. She has a creamy complexion with long almost oriental slit eyes adorned with thick eyelashes. Everything about her is slim and delicate looking. Her hair tumbles past her shoulders in thick midnight waves, earning her the slightly Red Indian sounding name the girls gave her.
A pity she walks with such a disdainful air, ignoring the people she goes past. She only looked around once, trying I’m certain to identify the location of Shiyra. Dressed in an emerald green dress, I think she looks like she is on her way to a photo-shoot for some expensive magazine.
“As you see I came. Am I as welcome as you suggested earlier?”
I bowed to her and extended my arm. She took hold of my fingers lightly as I led her to a seat. I mindspoke to Bernie, complimenting her taste and then turned all my attention on Dark Cloud, careful not to show my amusement at her acerbic remark, spoken with double meaning.
“I did not attempt to make you feel very welcome earlier, I admit it. May I correct that now? Friend or foe, it gives me great pleasure to see you here with us. We have taken a liberty we should not have. My wives and daughters named you Dark Cloud because of your beautiful hair. Do you prefer to give us another name to call you by?”
“It is not necessary.” She gave a smile that showed some inner amusement that was not meant for us. “I prefer to not be called by you.”
I treated it as wit and smiled my appreciation, albeit it being the wit of a young teenager. “You have a sense of humour! I had not realised. There is so much I do not know about you. Dark Cloud, may I be presumptuous and make some wild guesses?” She stared at me, her green eyes like icicles in a northern light and nodded. “If I needed one reason to look into your mind it would be for the purpose of seeing what your people must have looked like. I am certain they must have been a beautiful and very elegant race. I also have a strong feeling that your artistic talents will put mine to shame.”
I saw no warmth in her eyes as she thanked me. She looked away for a moment and then tried to drill into my mind with her eyes as she said, “The idea of you in my mind, of anyone here, is sickening, but I appreciate your intentions were to flatter me so I will not take exception. I shall grant you what you wish for - and it is not the wish you just spoke of. If you have time to take both of us to the void I will call back the parts of myself within Sam.”
There is no way I will take her to the void and she must have known, but I knew enough to understand much of what we say to each other must be a fiction that serves to keep our conversations civilised (at least from my side) while she tries to outwit me. “If your suggestion of going to the void is for that purpose I must tell you I cannot. Sam is in the void in her body made of matter. To release her there will cause her destruction. I have to bring her here.” Now I spoke earnestly. “Dark Cloud, if you have any decency or pity, do not ask me to bring her here if you are to change your mind. She has suffered enough.”
“Suffered enough!” Her voice cut through the air so that everyone seemed to hold their breath. “None of you have suffered enough! I will keep my word because I have to if we are to negotiate the release of my people and the destruction of the monsters.”
“You do that Dark Cloud, return our Sam to us and the girls will, out of their joy, teach you tonight how to handle me.” I kept my voice flat so she was the only one who did not realise my words were chosen for the irony and double meaning.
“I have been told so. Your species must have a strange history if you expect your enemy to believe information you supply them with.”
I gave a big grin and heard a number of giggles and chuckles. “Our history is even stranger than you imagine. Enjoy the show then, but remember one thing. Even if the enemy shows you his vulnerabilities and you are convinced they cannot be real, they should still teach you something about your enemy if you give the matter proper consideration.”
I felt Cherine and Dommi hold me on either side as I left my body. As the void I looked at my baby Sam in a way I cannot from my body. Being the void I can see her from all angles simultaneously. She reminds me of a film I’d seen as a child, of Sleeping Beauty in a coffin of crystal. God, but she looked so beautiful and perfect in every way! I was not surprised, but was grateful, when I saw that a small cloud of Sparklers surround her, keeping her company, or else, are protecting her. Seeing me, they drifted away.
Friends and my girls had cleared a space and I lowered Sam to the floor. It pleased me that they had been thoughtful and placed a cloth for her to lie on. Taking on my form I reached for Dark Cloud.
“Hold my hand and the instant I remove the stasis call to your souls within her. Do not try to leave them within me, I will cast them out and you will lose them.”
She hesitated, not out of loathing this time; she could see I was made of void energies and must have felt the prickling on her skin warning her I am dangerous. She put her fingers to mine and nodded. It was my turn to hesitate. To bring my baby back to such terrible pain was not easy, even if it was necessary. I saw the love in the eyes of all my girls and praying that Sam will forgive me, I let the stasis go.
Dark Cloud kept her word and whatever her reasons I was grateful. The instant I brought Sam back to us, even as the cut off scream of pure agony resumed, she called through me and drew the three souls of darkness. I also know she tried to let them linger a moment in my mind so that I will know how terribly she can wound me. I turned and thanked her with a smile of real joy. My Sam, our dearest Sam was sleeping peacefully. As I shot off to the void I saw the girls touch and hold her with tears rolling down their cheeks.
I returned filled with eagerness to hold my little girl to me, but she was still sleeping. I turned to Dark Cloud and taking her hand I kissed it. “Thank you.” She snatched her hand back and taking a paper napkin wiped it with distaste.
Ordinx spoke to her softly while I pretended to be interested in something else. “That was a gesture of affection. I do not understand why he made it, you did not deserve it! Instead of hating you for hurting a loved one, he thanks you for releasing her from the pain. That girl, Samantha, she is very special and I knew her as friend from before she was born. I may be a Cherinian, but I do not think I can be as forgiving as he is.”
“I do not ask for forgiveness, just the release of my people.”
“You have a very strange way of asking. He has already shown he is more powerful than your entire mother soul, how do you justify in your mind acting so hostile? Surely you should be looking for reconciliation.” His voice grew harder. “He already offered to bring back your people, allowing them to live out the lives that were so cruelly interrupted. What more can you ask of him!”
“That he stand aside and allow us to punish those who killed our children without mercy.”
With a wonder in his voice he asked, “You prefer your revenge to life for your people? Have you lost your instinct for preservation of your species, to the emotion of hate? You prefer to see your enemy destroyed, rather than to hear the sound of laughter of your children, to feeling their small warm bodies in your arms? To giving them a future again? This I do not believe any species can understand!”
Through the girls who were looking at her I saw a moment of bewilderment in her icy eyes. In a very low voice she replied, “We do not recall what you speak of, only the screams and death. They also sinned against our mother world, destroying it!”
Being the politician he is (despite what he says) he nodded with understanding. “Yes, we too lost our homeworld, our mother. We still yearn for her, though she is lost far back in time. Listen to the storytelling and be amazed; he took us back in time and allowed us a final look at our world. What pain! To see your own people destroyed and their world fatally wounded.” He gestured, their sign of blessing. “Each of us carry our own pains within a corner of our minds, but a mature people learn from their mistakes and dream of creating a better future for their descendants. Try thinking of them Dark Cloud.”
Hearing his words I sorrowed. Our closest friends are the Anadir and Sparklers and yet their needs I’ve set aside again and again so as to help strangers. Silently I vowed I will bring them the joy they deserve, as soon as we return.
“When does this telling of theirs begin?”
“It is their custom to first sit together as a family to eat. It is exhausting for the children doing the storytelling. They do not only talk or act out the story. They bring it back to life, using their psychic gifts they make it real for us, so they need nourishment and to be filled with his love before they begin. We will all move away to allow them this moment to themselves.” He gestured his amusement. “You are in for quite an experience. It is shocking for many to see them expose themselves to ridicule, to depict their private moments of loving, to openly acknowledge their mistakes and failures. Is it not strange that when they end, we are filled only with admiration and love for them?”
“They are obviously sophisticated in the art of playing with the emotions of others.”
He chuckled. “Wait until you hear of Arthur, even after so many years, even after all the proof of his existence, we still find it impossible to believe in him.”
“What is this…Arthur?”
“You felt Samantha join with another and become a god? If they tell it true, this Arthur will be as far above the gods they were, as they are above the insects of this world.”
The girls and I joined in laughter within our minds at his words. He truly has not understood Arthur nor the godhood Allan brought to us. They were no more than the insects for they were the insects, part of all life.
“Robert, she will waken within a few minutes. Be next to her to hold her.” I quickly did as Dommi asked.
As I sensed her returning from the mysterious world of sleep, I gently ran my fingers through her hair. As her eyes opened to stare at me I was shocked at the vacant look. I pulled her to me and with her shoulders upon my legs I held her head and caressed her face.
“Oh sweet Sam, have I ever known how much I love you? Feel the girls, the love that threatens to burst their hearts.” Without my expecting it a tear fell from my brimming eye onto her face. Tears of her own began to flow, but though I sensed the effects of the unbearable pain she’d endured, I also sensed she was as a child of three. We all hid our pain and let her see only the tenderest of feelings. Quietly all our friends withdrew to allow us privacy. Ordinx made one attempt to get Dark Cloud to follow them, but gave in, letting her stay to avoid creating a scene that will disturb Sam. I know Jade gave him a reassuring smile to show we understand.
I hope you enjoy reading this story of fantasy, adventure and love - and should some of it be true for our reality, I hope you will love our Cherine.
Αλέξανδρος Ζήνον Ευσταθίου(Alexander Zenon Eustace)
3rd December, 2019
- posted: 3rd December, 2019
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