He cut a dry piece of wood, carved a strange knob at the end of it and, as the void, bound the staff with energy. Robbie asked the astronomer to hold it in his hands while Robbie adjusts the energy for it to bind with him and on one mental command to respond.
“You will only be able to use it once in self-defence. Point the staff at your attacker and form the mental command I showed you and the energy will be discharged in the direction you’ve aimed at.”
Shiyra was solicitous of him and stayed by his side. She was also nervous (in the beginning) about the way he will react to the changes in her. As with her Ii (so she said), he soon showed her he approves. We withdrew to allow him time to adjust to his body with her help. When they delayed, we went to the taverna for supper and it was there they found us.
“Your language is very limited compared to that of my people, so I ask you forgive me if I do not make myself clear at all times.” Robbie soothed him on that score and he turned to us and bowed. “Shiyra has told me you will give this body a name.”
Tina asked quickly. “Robert, can we call him Merlin?”
“Despite appearances he is a great astronomer, not a magician my love.”
She looked disappointed and Shiyra explained to her companion. He bowed to Tina. “A wise choice, what Robert asks of me will require magic for us to succeed. Merlin then?”
Robbie pulled out a chair for him. “You are not confident of finding your own systems?”
“If you are able to reverse time to the period I lived in I might have about one chance in a hundred of recognising anything. We travelled vast distances in the void and then in normal space before coming to rest. We changed directions many times in our flight from the ….”
“Shiyra, you help us out this time. We need to have a name for the people of Dark Cloud that we can pronounce. You choose a name.”
“Meéjeira? It is the closest I can translate our word for goldness.”
“Goldness? There is no such word.” He was smiling. “We understand what you mean. It can also be used to describe you. Merlin, from our planet, our galaxy looks like a ribbon of light across our skies. If we should jump from there to another solar system elsewhere in our galaxy and have no record of our route, we too will be lost. If however we rise far above our galaxy we are able to recognise the spiral arm within which our system is located. As long as you can recognise even one galaxy, we will find your planets.”
“You jump in time to cover such distances?”
“We do not know, though I do not think so. It may help if I explained that we mostly travel within the void where I am able to fold it so that by moving a fairly small distance we can cover spans occupied by galaxies. The scientists will explain it to you.”
Seltwe made a gesture of amusement. “Robert promises the impossible on our behalf. For instance Robert, when you fold the void - since normal space is within the void, why is it that space does not also fold, destroying entire galaxies? We will explain what we do understand, which is very little.”
Once they began talking it was not long before we lost Merlin to the scientists. When Robbie saw them moving away, obviously on their way to their laboratories, he called to Ashiir who was close by. “Before they take Merlin away, please see to it that he eats here first. He will not be able to eat your food.” She rushed off and took care of it while we chatted.
“Shiyra, are you happy to have one of your own with you?”
“Happy? Nervous I think. Even during my lifetime he was remembered as one of the best minds of our long history. I had to study about him as a child.”
Robbie was tempted to ask her which of her original souls she was referring to, but wisely kept quiet. Nothing that disturbs the growing together of her soul can be allowed. We reasoned that if one of the slivers has the memories it is likely all of her new gestalt soul remembers as one.
“How does he feel about being here, out of the Ii I mean.”
“I think it pleases him. When he saw my suffering and felt my pain from Dark Cloud, he said even that is preferable to boredom.”
“I think he is a gentleman.” Dommi said.
“Yes, he is very gentle.” Shiyra replied and then wondered why we laughed. We left it to Claudia to explain to her.
“Shiyra, getting information out of you is like extracting…haven’t you realised we are all curious as to how the Ii reacted to your experiences and the changes in you?”
“Changes Robert? What changes?” She laughed at the expression on his face. “So, you are not a god, you do not know everything?” She let us have our laugh before continuing, her face anxious now. “I think the Ii is waking up Robert. It is worrying to feel it. Since we came to rest, this is the first time.”
“You are saying when we met it, it was asleep?”
“Yes. Only a small part stays aware at any time. How else to wait for time to end?”
“You fought me while most of you was asleep? God! I’m glad it was not awake! What in particular is waking it up?”
“Dark Cloud. We had not realised they were so close, that we are not safe.”
“I think you are. I have not made mention of the fact that you moved to normal space.”
“We appreciate it Robert, but we still have to draw energy from the void. If they are sensitive enough, which I’m certain they are, they will notice.”
“They will not notice, they are not actually within the void of this reality but, I do not wish to worry your entity. It is just as well you told us Shiyra, we’ll have to time our return so that our absence is short.”
“When do we leave?” The chuckles from everyone answered her question. “Which direction Robert, how do you know where to go?”
“We are travelling in time Shiyra.” He conferred with Freddie. “We have moved back two hundred thousand years. I can tell you how long it should take if you tell me how far back we have to go.”
Shiyra asked Goldi, “Does he need to know exactly?” I sent Goldi a message that Shiyra was teasing, so she answered he does. Shiyra pretended to think deeply. “Robert, I would say that from Ii time we need to return seventeen million three hundred and eighteen thousand, nine hundred and seventy years (17,318,970 years ) to get to the time I still lived on our planet. The years are those of my planet.”
He kept his face straight, deciding to risk it. “What were you at that time? If there is a prominent part of your soul, which species?”
“What does your question refer to? At which age of me being alive since you brought me back to Freddie? Your question is not clear, which of those I come from did you mean?”
In a whining voice he said to Cherine, “It’s not fair, she’s talking to me as if she were married to me.”
I joined in the teasing and jokes. It was lovely to hear everyone laughing again - everyone except for Claudia. She was staring at Shiyra and there was a speculative look in her eyes. I realised she is suspicious of this sudden change in Shiyra. That sobered me and I tried to think what she can be up to. I decided to stay sensitive to her just in case the Ii had added a part of itself to her for purposes that can harm us. After all, Adam would have if we were at the mercy of another species. That made me wonder, did it see her as a new soul and did it consider her still one of theirs or is she also suspect, seen only as a tool of Robbie's?
It turned out that in our years, we had to reverse through time for just under fourteen million years. Robbie says there is a cost to travelling in time, negligible, but there is a cost. In other words, it takes time to travel in time. It was not really noticeable in our earlier trips because we knew Robbie was being cautious and taking smaller jumps, stopping to get his bearings and jumping again. What he did this time is to get the scientists with their computers to calculate where present systems will be relative to us at our arrival date.
He made his first jump of two million years, checked that their calculations had been correct and did the rest in one long jump. He claimed it is more tiring stopping and starting a number of times and Freddie backed him on his statement. We spent a few days on our trip and then we arrived. The scientists were prepared and they took impressions of space around us and instantly Robbie moved us back to the void.
We were all in an exuberant mood, also a bit stunned by the thought that we are so many millions of years in our past. Having had a few drinks to celebrate, one of the scientists became expansive, confiding in us, “Our simulations were about ninety eight point seven percent correct. We could not take rogue stars, comets and other free matter into account in our model.”
Robbie turned a deathly pale colour. “You risked our lives without warning me?”
“There was almost no risk Robert, statistically I would say none.”
He has never genuinely been angry with any Cherinian. He was angry now, not just angry, furious! We got between him and the scientists and Ordinx persuaded them to leave. Most of his anger was directed at himself so when we saw him take a bottle of ouzo and walk away, along the beach, we understood and let him go without protesting. Dommi is supple enough in her monitoring that he will not feel her. He blocked his healer and got stinking drunk. We were caught be surprise when the protector turned up, asked for another bottle and joined Robbie. They started off both angry, each demanding he take sole blame, somewhere along the line Robbie became sentimental and by the time he no longer knew what he was saying, he was calling the protector his best friend. He fell asleep and the protector sat by him, able to monitor us from such a small distance. Dommi insisted we all go home and to bed. She said we will need to be fresh and strong to look after our husband the next day, so none of us resisted and went to bed. Not all of us slept though.
He decided to walk back and soon had to use his healer. Healthy and without a hangover, he got to the taverna, had a cigarette and coffee and was about to continue walking back to us when Cherine told him to stay there. She asked us to stay at home until she gives us a call.
She did not use mindspeak, she spoke in a soft gentle voice. “You were very angry Robert because you were frightened. I do not like seeing you frightened.”
“I can’t say I enjoyed it very much either.”
She put her hand up. “No jokes Robert. No teasing, no play on words, no clever repartees, nothing. This is serious.”
He called to Maria for another coffee and said with a grimace, “I think I’ll be needing it after you’re through with me.”
“Love makes you need coffee? I’m not here to cause you any problems my love. I came to have a little while alone with you and listen to you. Explain in terms everyone can understand why you were so afraid. Some do not understand and they are frightened.”
“If we had come out of our travelling through time and the space was already occupied by any matter, we would have all instantly ceased to exist.”
“Do you know that for a fact or are you presuming again because it makes sense?”
He hesitated. “It does make sense Cherine.”
“Why? While we are travelling, we don’t exist in normal time? I just thought we were moving too fast for anything to affect us, but if somebody is watching and they can slow down time, they will see us.”
He waved his arm. “Cherine, there are stars many hundreds of times larger or denser than our sun out there. However fast we are moving, trying to pass through one will be felt by us and the sun. Boom, both instantly vaporised.”
“Why didn’t we jump from the void? I thought you said it is the only way you can travel in time without switching realities?”
“It was accidental Cherine. We’ve had to jump in time so many times and one time I was not concentrating and jumped while we were in space. After that it was easy. For spatial travelling, the void is faster, for time I’ve discovered space is more accurate, easier and faster. Remember that time is not the same in the void so I cannot aim for the period I want with any great accuracy - not at these vast numbers.”
“You once told me that science is ninety nine parts common sense and one part genius. You’ve also taught the girls and myself that throughout history science had to be turned on its head many times, breaking with what was common sense at the time, because one man made a discovery of a law unknown to them at that time. Thereafter, with that knowledge added, common sense dictated a different belief. Are you so knowledgeable about what you do, your method of travelling through time, that you have achieved final common sense?”
He gave a rueful grin. “That was quite a mouthful.” He quickly added so that she will not think he was being patronising (he actually was admiring her), “Because I can do it, it does not mean I understand it love. Same as with jumping.”
She nodded. “Yes, I recall you telling us about teleportation and the possibility that when we teleport we are stripping our bodies down to the subatomic level and re-creating it at our destination. You claimed it meant we died every time we jumped and no longer had our original body.” She gave a small smile. “If I recall correctly, you held to that theory for as long as you were afraid to jump. Once you mastered it, we never heard your theory again.”
“It was a good theory Cherine, it made a lot of sense.” They both grinned at his words. If I may add my own puzzlement here. Why would it make sense? Surely the atoms will have to teleport anyway, so why add the complication of theorising it will make sense for them to be stripped and have to reassemble themselves again? Nature does like to keep things simple where it can. I suspect his ‘theory’ only exists because some science fiction writer postulated such a theory for his book.
Maria brought the coffee and he smiled at Cherine. “See? I knew I’d need it. You came here to make me eat crow and you’ve won. After breakfast I’ll talk to the scientists.” He paused, obviously deep in thought, “Before we jump again in time, I want proof that I’m wrong.”
“That is one of the most ridiculous statements I’ve ever heard you make. What if they can’t prove you wrong, are you proposing we stay here in the past?”
“No, I will just take smaller and more cautious jumps.”
“Shit! That will take forever Robert! I agree with Merlin, there is nothing worse than being bored forever.”
“Being dead forever is even more boring. No little girls to love, and being a lover of nature, no sweet flowers to sniff at…” He burst out laughing as she pretended to hit him and putting his arms around her he pulled her to him.
We let them have some extra time to feel each others’ love before our growling tummies made us jump there. Maria timed it exactly right, as she invariably does, and soon as we sat down the food began to arrive at our tables.
When Robbie has a bee in his bonnet, he wants it taken care of immediately. Instead of travelling to Shiyra’s worlds he insisted we experiment. We travelled till we found a huge rock that was totally dead, no atmosphere. He moved us far back so that it was hardly visible anymore. We moved (teleported) slightly to the future, just a day, he collected a rock and returned the rock in time by one day. We went back and moving to the large rock searched for damage. Nothing! We could not find the smaller rock.
“Damn it, I did deliver it here!”
“Robert, find another small rock, take it forward in a platform and send it back to our time here. That way we can report to you what happened.”
“I’m not prepared to risk it. If all the matter in that meteor is annihilated in one explosion, by atoms trying to occupy the same space, the shockwave can damage Freddie and those inside. We are in normal space, not the void!”
“Then let those of us who wish to take the risk stay here while you take Freddie forward in time. We will be safe in a platform.”
Again the result was negative. Nothing was seen to arrive and there was no impact. Robbie was perplexed.
“I don’t understand, I’m certain I brought it here to this time.”
“Can you find a larger rock to bring back Robert. At the distance you insist we stay we cannot hope to see the arrival of the tiny rocks you are sending back to us.”
“What is the point? If it is larger the explosion will be larger so I will have to position you even further away.”
“We are willing to take the risk Robert.”
“I’m not. I may have another solution though. I’ll need some time alone.”
He was gone for hours and we wondered about it, but did not trespass on his privacy. I’m not quite certain of the way to tell this, do I divulge what he intended first or tell it as we lived it? Either way, it is difficult to write of this when I am so angry and hurt.
Robbie returned to his body and took us back to the future by one day. He searched until he’d found another meteor of the right size and leaving us in the future, as he’d done each time, he sent it back by one day. Soon as he returned, even as he was opening his eyes, we could already feel his jubilation.
“You were right Cherine, it got deflected! No wonder nobody has jumped into a space occupied by others when they all jump to our house when we face a crisis!”
We returned to the scientists on the platform and Robbie described to them in detail what had happened. As he spoke, we felt Cherine holding tight rein to a cold fury. Robbie faltered and then stopped talking and looked at her with a question in his eyes.
“Speak of those things you have not spoken of.”
“What are you…”
Cherine had turned away from him. “All of you, leave us alone, this is a family matter.” As Ordinx and Ashiir also turned to leave she stopped them. “You and Solomon were declared family. That includes your people Ordinx, but at this time I ask they leave us without taking offence.”
I’d kept my eyes on Robbie and saw in his eyes he knew what this was about and felt guilt. We no longer notice how incongruous it may appear to others, a young girl facing an adult male and dominating. I wondered what had she seen, what thing so terrible had he done that he stood without protest or an attempt to justify himself. It caught us by surprise when Cherine spoke.
“Do you tell us the full truth, or do I call for the protector?”
“What is there to tell Cherine? I had to take the risk and stay with the rock as I sent it back. How else can we know for certain? There was no danger, I kept my distance and as a soul I would not be affected by the blast if there was an impact.”
“Why didn’t you send me then?”
He answered simply, “You know it is impossible for me to do so.”
“But your life is expendable? So, that is the full extent of your deceit?”
She turned to us and I saw the anger was still there, but so was a terrible grief. “As he did with Rosie, so do I. Robert, I divorce you. To do so I have to divorce all my wives and that costs me far more for they are not responsible for your deceit. Girls, my loves, I divorce you.” She was trembling, but she kept her face high as she steeled herself against our cries.
Dommi went to her. “At least tell us why Cherine. At the moment only you and Roberto understand what are the reasons. Look, even Sam is at a loss. It is not the first time he has risked himself without warning us from before.”
“It is his secret to tell, not mine. Protector!”
It appeared. “Yes Cherine.”
“Build me a new home please.”
“Wait!” At last Robbie moved, placing himself between Cherine and the protector. “Cherine, my baby, you do not mean this. Please.”
She stared back at him, her voice low but almost venomous. “I don’t?”
“You know you don’t. Even if you have me die by cutting your link or leaving me, you will not sacrifice all the others to your anger. Stay, I’ll leave after I explain to them.”
Taking it for granted she will stay he turned to us.
“I don’t know how Cherine knows, she did not see it in my mind. As she said, I had to take the risk, I cannot take the chance that we jump in time and I kill all of you. That I have admitted to and is not what has angered Cherine. Those hours I was gone before making the experiment, there was a purpose to it. I went to Freddie”
We saw he was sweating and sensed a fear in him. “I left my body here. When I took the rock back in time I knew that only my soul will be at some slight risk. I left a part of my soul with Freddie with instructions that if I am not back within a certain time, he is to send it back to my body. The…what is the point of carrying on.” he cried out when he saw our eyes.
“You tried to fool us?”
He did not reply, closing his eyes, unable to stop himself from feeling us, he stood swaying. We, I, felt something tear inside him. When he opened his eyes we saw most of him was no longer there. “My loves, stay together, give each other strength. Goodbye.”
His body crumbled as he left. At the same instant an energy shot out of Cherine, enveloping his body. While we cried like babies, she turned to the protector. “Tell Robert he must take his body to the void. He must keep it in stasis - he might need it someday. We’ve made enough sacrifices to keep his original body, he is not allowed to destroy it.” With a nod the protector left. Not long after a spear of energy entered and took his body away. That made it real for all of us and our hearts broke. Those of us who could find the strength, tried to help the others through the night, but it was pointless. By morning we realised we are losing Diana.
She called for Cherine. “My babies are strong enough to stay. Look after them for me Cherine. I’m not angry with you love, I understand and Robert was wrong to do what he did. It was a terrible deception, to plan for us to live without knowing he’d died for us, a shadow Robert left to care for us.” She took a deep breath and shuddered. “However wrong he is, I cannot live without him, my soul fights to join him. Please don’t be angry with me.” As Cherine made to speak, Diana sighed and her head fell to the side and we felt her cord break, her body lifeless and we lost our link to her.
Cherine cried out to Sol and left her body. We barely had time to understand when we were hit with a new calamity. Diana had been right, the twins are stronger, but not strong enough to bear both the loss of Robbie and their mother. As they too died, I foresaw this having a domino effect and calling to Dommi to help, we fought to strengthen those in shock and falling apart. I could not believe it when I felt Aganthi was one of them - I’d thought of her as strong and one of those able to help the others, but she soon stabilised when told we need her help.
Sol opened her eyes. “None of them are lost, do not grieve. Have you forgotten the void is Robert? He has them and Cherine will return them when they are stronger. We must keep their bodies alive.”
That strengthened those who’d been fading away and we each sent our healers into the girls who’d died and placing our arms over their chests we kept their hearts pumping, filling their blood with the oxygen they need.
Cherine’s body was alive, but she had not returned, and though we worried about it, none of us could be spared to go check on her. We monitored her body and left her to her own solitude if that was what she needed. The Sparklers hovered over us anxiously, Ordinx and Ashiir stayed by our sides, talking, cajoling and doing all they can to help. Sol spent most of her time with an arm melded to Alexis, but it did not stop her talking and emoting, doing all she can to help those of us still fighting to save our loves. As the first days passed, I saw Dark Cloud at the periphery watching us, but she did not come closer, not even when she saw Shiyra and Merlin.
One of the first things we did was move back home and without us asking, Maria sent us food using the Anadir, Sharipya and Asimi mostly. By the third day I could see we will lose the battle; those of us fighting to save lives had not allowed ourselves to go into shock or grieve. Insidiously our minds fought us by sinking us into a depression.
“Dommi, you must get Cherine to return, we need her.”
Freddie spoke, “Sam, Dommi, I have been asked to tell you that none of you are allowed in the void for now. I am sorry.”
“Who says so!” I screamed back in a fury.
“Not Robert, Sam.” I’d never heard him sound so sad, as if he was bearing a grief he can hardly bear. It made me stop and think. Of course, he is Robert and watching ‘his’ girls die, it must be breaking his heart.
“I’m sorry Freddie, I know you are suffering with us, I should not have shouted at you.”
We all felt the need to talk about what had happened, to argue perhaps our point of view. Not in general, but one on one. Without anyone saying how it should be, we all treated each other as having posted a privacy sign, allowing the persons talking to air their thoughts without feeling they have to justify themselves to all of us. After the first couple of such chats we realised or recalled that Freddie can hear us so all discussions thereafter were by mindspeak.
I argued with Aganthi and Meli, insisting Cherine was right. I cannot bear the thought of Robbie not being with us, but I said he had to be taught a lesson. He will never accept that any of us die and a sliver of our souls replace us, why should he think we will find it acceptable?
*To try and deceive us, to take the risk of dying a final death without us ever knowing about it - never has he done anything that has hurt me, all of us, as much as this. Trust me he says, and then he betrays the trust we give him. *
*I am more angry that he took the risk of dying Sam. The deceit is nothing compared to that.*
*I disagree Aganthi, it is his role, job if you want, to risk his life to ensure the safety of the family. We may not like it, we may fight it, but it has to be done openly. Even the fact that he lied about that does not upset me as much, because I understand his need to protect us made him do it. However, to try and fob off on us his shadow without us knowing, that I cannot forgive. He knows we still suffer from our guilt at betraying him once, allowing a Robert to face final death again…if we did nothing to strongly show our anger, we would be guilty of allowing it to happen again.*
That night Cherine returned for a few hours. Her body was weakened, but her determination had her moving from girl to girl, a soft caress, a meeting of eyes and maybe a smile all she can offer at the moment. She stood over Cassie and Wendy, her thoughts hidden to us, so we anxiously waited.
“Meli, come here please. You too Jade.” Soon as they were by her she told them what she wants and they stared at her in shock.
“I can’t Cherine. Not now, not without Robert. Please.” Wendy begged.
Her voice was soft, sad, but her eyes were steely. “Now Wendy, you can do it.” She softened. “For me please. I promise I’ll be watching.”
“What do you mean? You will be here?”
“No, I’ll be in the void.”
She gave a bitter smile. “When I tell you, you will decide to stay divorced. I promise to tell all of you afterwards.”
They say curiosity killed the cat. In our case it helped bring back the girls who’d been wavering between this world and the void. Meli insisted we must all be there. We will not have a platform this time so we chose a hillock with plenty of soft grass surrounding it. Meli wanted all of us with them, even the bodies of the girls who’d died. This was going to be a first - a performance to an audience who are already weeping, each species in its own way.
Apart from Dark Cloud that is. This time she chose to sit up front where we will have to see her. I am grateful to her; the sight of her sitting there, her face filled with hate, forced us to stiffen our spines.
“I have no idea why we are here. Our storytellings have always been first of all for our own family, the presence of friends and guests always an additional pleasure for all of us.” She turned to look at us and swung back to her audience. “I must apologise in advance. Tonight our telling will cause pain to our friends, for the joyous parts will not give us joy while the painful parts will tear at our hearts. If you wish to leave we will understand.”
Sharipya answered, “Melina, we are honoured that you have invited us here tonight as your friends. If you fill us with grief, it will only be because we all love your family. Each and every one of your family.”
He stressed his final sentence and his words brought tears to our eyes.
Meli was both right and wrong about the moments of joy in the telling. Re-living those moments brought back the sweetness of those memories, but it was a bitter-sweet remembrance. The painful moments were as bad as she’d promised. All of us could feel the exhaustion after the first couple of hours, but Meli seemed oblivious to it and continued even when poor Jade began to falter at times and the voice of Wendy stopped singing for a few minutes. She was driving herself to a goal we could not see and we were forced to follow.
The telling came to the part where Robbie prophesied we will desert him and Meli stopped.
“We need an hour to refresh ourselves. The telling afterwards might take about an hour. If you do not return we will not feel slighted. It grieves us that you have already had to share our pain.”
Soon as we were alone, Meli spoke to us, her voice firm, determined. “Use your healers and whether you feel like it or not, have something to eat and drink. This telling must be the strongest we have ever done.”
“Cherine was watching us Meli, I felt her weeping.”
“I know Wendy, so make this your best performance ever, we are doing it for her.”
It turned into the worst performance they have ever given. They made the emotions so strong, felt every betrayal so keenly, that they kept on breaking down and weeping. By the time Robbie split himself and sacrificed part of his soul to save the shadow Robert, the performance failed and all of us reached for each other as we sobbed. Candy cried out the name that was in our hearts, “Robbie!” and she curled up, wanting to die.
After some time I looked up and saw our audience were still with us, watching. Aganthi who was holding me whispered, “They are not watching us Sam, they are here to share our grief with us.”
We were so exhausted I think we would have slept on that hill, but swarms of Sparklers descended and without touching us we found ourselves immersed in a sea of emerald green light and then felt our bed beneath us. Our tears had washed away our strength and we all fell asleep with our cheeks still wet.
I think all of us, just like little children, went to sleep hoping all will be well in the morning. I was awakened by Dommi, her fingers to my lips, shushing me. She whispered in my mind that Annavi is drained and I should take her place. I put my arm across Diana’s chest and slowly Annavi’s arm was released, separated by her healer. Gratefully she kissed my cheek and curling up fell asleep.
Sleep was slow to leave my eyes, but then, under the slight light from the Sparklers I found myself looking at Diana. I thought of my grief and pain, of the love I felt for Robbie and was overwhelmed by feeling how this must have hurt Diana. I looked at her perfect beauty and wondered whether we had done right in creating someone to adore Robbie the way she does. Has a sin been committed against this jewel of a soul?
At times that I’m hurting, it is surprising how often I retreat into thinking, wondering about things I normally would not have. It might be that part of me was searching for ways to exonerate Robbie, show to me that he did not take the risks we thought he had, therefore his dishonesty not potentially the calamity we’d thought it was.
I pictured the moment when he prepared to return with the rock in time. Something was nagging me about it. I saw the asteroid he was going to throw the rock at and suddenly I realised something. If it was going to explode one day in the past, it will not be there ‘now’, in the ‘future’ of that asteroid. It means that Robbie had some proof that he will not be killed.
I returned to our present and though I was still angry with Robbie, a small part of me relaxed, accepting his ‘betrayal’ of our love and trust in him. I do not know enough about time and paradoxes to be certain, but even the doubt is enough for me. At least I did not feel as strongly that he’d betrayed our trust in him. It will take a long time for me to settle the issue and see things clearly, as I’m still hurting too much.
Freddie did not lighten the sky as he usually does at about seven. He kept it dark until he felt the girls stirring. It must have been nearly lunchtime. Taking this as a sign, friends arrived with platters of food. I saw the son, but Ordinx and Ashiir were not with. He saw I’d noticed and came to me. He stood for a moment staring at Diana.
“She will be with us again Samantha?”
“Yes. All of them will be returned.”
He bowed his head. “My father has felt your grief. When he saw the final part of the telling he understood what caused this and my mother is at his side, for he is in mourning for all of you.”
I wiped the back of my arm across my eyes. “Tell him no anger lasts forever, we will all be back together again someday. For the meantime we need him to be strong for us.”
I thought about it for a while and then called Sol over.
“Sol love, we need a man for the little ones.” I smiled sadly. “Who am I fooling? We all do. It feels different crying on the shoulders of another little girl. We need to feel the comfort and strength of a man holding and watching over us. Would you mind my love?” She gave me a quick kiss and lay her body next to me. When he took Jade and Cassie into his arms I could feel I’d guessed right for once.
Shiyra arrived and stood watching me. I gestured for her to come sit by me.
She pointed at my arm. “They have explained to me what you are doing. Is not my body made as yours, may I help?”
I grinned at her. “I’ve been wanting to go the toilet for some time. Half an hour will help, I need to move around a bit.”
“Merlin also asks to help.”
“Let him take the place of Maria, she has been stuck there for longer than I have.”
We had to use my healer to help her, but I was soon released. After peeing and washing myself I felt better and returned to Shiyra. She did not want to let me take over again, so I sat by her.
“Last night…” she hesitated.
“Last night was for Robert? To show him why he was wrong?”
“He cannot see us Shiyra, not from the void.” I stopped and began to wonder. Suddenly a lot made sense and I felt hope returning. The girls all turned and looked at me, desperate to know what I’d thought of.
I pointed at Shiyra. “She let the cat out of the bag. Now I know why Cherine is in the void. She did say we will all be angry with her.” Deliberately I waited, but Cherine did not interfere. “She is there, punishing Robbie.”
“What!!” Dommi was shocked. “What do you mean?”
“His leaving, going to the void, it meant he cannot feel the pain he brought us. She is linked to us and feeling our tears she is passing it all on to Robbie. Shiyra asked me whether the telling last night was for Robbie and I realised that was why Cherine asked us to do it, why Meli felt compelled to tell the story of shadow Robert.”
“Christe mou!” Dommi began to cry. On cue Cherine stirred and opened her eyes.
“What took you so long Sam?” Tina and Rosie rushed to her and soon Laura and Theresa had joined them in massaging her stiff limbs.
“You wanted me to guess?”
“No, I just thought you will, there were enough clues for you.”
“I think you better explain.”
“What did you expect Sam? He goes to the void and then everybody stays miserable forever? I had to make certain he knows, deep inside him where it matters, just how much he hurt us by carrying through with his deception. You girls certainly made it plain to him last night. Now he is suffering and soon he will suffer even more.”
“Enough Cherine, no more!”
She stared back at Dommi until Dommi dropped her eyes. “I will return to the void to collect the girls who died. Diana I will leave for last. He must have time alone to feel what it is like to be without anyone to love.”
“That is cruel Cherine. I think he has suffered enough.” She felt the general consensus was in agreement with what Aganthi said and stood up, her face cold.
“It is your choice. I divorced all of you, he did not. He is your husband. If you insist I will tell him to return.”
I was furious with her. “You are blatantly trying to manipulate us! You know that we cannot be without either of you and you’re using that divorce story to force us to do as you wish. I agree, Robert had to be punished. I was also furious with him.” By now I was standing right in front of her, my jaw sticking out as I shouted at her. “Now you are trying to use the threat of your leaving us to force us to go along with your plans - irrespective of our own wishes. I’ve got a couple of things to tell you about that. First of all, you did not divorce us or Robert either. Just saying you do is not enough! The way you are carrying on though, I’m beginning to think it may not be a bad idea! Cherine, the goddess of empathy!! Is that what you call it Cherine, all those bodies, the broken hearts, that is your fucking empathy? If it is I want nothing to do with it. You are responsible for what you see here, not Robert. You are responsible for the telling of last night, not Robert. You!!”
I do not know what I expected her response to be, but it was not what she did. She put her hand to my cheek and stroked it. “Oh Sam, you of all people? You have not tried to understand?”
“What is there to understand that I do not?” I asked sarcastically.
“Do you think I did not expect this Sam?” She waved her arm around to include all of us. “I knew what will happen and I am the one who will have to live with it later. For now there is only one thing important to us. That Robert never dares to try anything like this again! He has to know I, we, will take things to an extreme if he tries it again. Sam, Robert is weak. You know it, we all do because we are his weakness. He gives in to his need to protect us. That is wrong! He is not allowed to treat his life lightly. Never!” I stared at her at a loss for words. As Dommi had done, I lowered my eyes.
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)
5th December, 2019
- posted: 5th December, 2019
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