Gently we lifted off and passing through the double walls of Freddie we entered the void and from there Robbie took us to normal space and down to the lace world.
We returned, a very quiet and subdued bunch of girls. We were also all starving as we had spent all day at the lace world. Alki, Allan and some of our other friends were at the taverna waiting for us.
“What is wrong?” Alki asked. They had been feeling our anxiety and the pain in Cherine. We explained.
“It is not a good idea Roberto mou. You cannot leave pieces of yourself all over different realities and different galaxies. Surely you have learnt by now that there is a price to be paid for everything you do.”
“How else can I protect this jewel Alki.”
“Why not bring here some of our spaceships Robert. Allow us to colonise the dead planet and allow our people to be your guardians.”
“Thank you an Presus, I know you mean well but I cannot agree. If another species arrives here and you try to enforce my rule and they will not listen, it could mean war.”
Allan said, “I do not see this as a temporary problem Robert, as the various planets develop their resources, the wealthy will want to visit here. I can see entrepreneurs wanting to build satellites and luxury hotels. This will become a very busy corner of this galaxy. You might have to bend the rules slightly”
“Galaxies do not have corners Allan.” A female Anadir scientist dryly informed Allan. He began to answer when he realised she was pulling his leg.
“No, I will not. If I have to I will sheath the planet, preventing anyone from landing.”
“Not a good idea Robert,” a scientist said. “surely the energy would filter the sunlight. You could cause the damage you are trying to prevent.”
“An Fisp, could you prepare a large number of satellites? They must be self-sustaining and I want them to broadcast messages in all known languages, warning intruders away.”
“That could be done Robert, but it might be better for you to ask the Anadir to create metal ships. Ours die.”
“Robert?” Chantel said softly, as if not wanting to interrupt. “There might be a solution if you wish to grant us a home.”
“This sounds nice, tell me.”
“Make this solar system home of our people. We will preserve and nurture it for you Robert.”
“Not for me Chantel, for all of life, for yourselves also. Did the beauty affect you?”
“It pleased me.”
“Can someone ask one of the Eminixx to come here please?” Within minutes they arrived.
“Thank you. There is at least one representative or more of every species we have met till now present. I ask that you vote whether to grant this system in perpetuity to the machine species. This will be their home and none may trespass without their permission. In return they will care for and guard this world for all of us.”
Eddie said, “I do not like having to ask their permission Robert. We cannot know what the future brings.”
“Meli, get a pen and paper and write out a Deed. As the terms and conditions of such Deed are agreed upon, pen them in.”
On Robbie’s insistence they were granted the right to prevent anyone entering their home area if they have any reason to suspect the motives or intentions and so on. Robbie was equally strict about the rules regarding their responsibilities. They are not allowed to interfere with the planet, out of good or bad intentions. If they think they see a need for it, they have to call for a meeting and the forum has to include at least one of every species known to exist at that time and if we are available at least one of our family. The document ended up being eleven pages long and Robbie frowned, not liking it.
“Alki, Elia, Nicko and Eddie, you all have experiences of signing long-winded documents - especially when borrowing from banks. Would you agree with me that the more clauses there are the more opportunities for disagreement? Thank you, I was starting to wonder whether it was just me being crazy. Friends, take a copy each of this document and consider it. Please return it for signing when you have brought it down to a maximum of three pages. Dark Cloud, you and a few others here are not Cherinians, but we ask that you all sign on behalf of your people. I am confident the others will, but I do not know what you wish. Will you sign, giving these people a home of their own?”
“We have no argument with them Robert, I will sign. What does sign mean?”
“It means you mark the paper with your name showing you were here and agreed to whatever is written in the document.”
“I understand written means they are words; you do not use pictures as we did. Can I be taught to understand the words?”
“A good idea. Who would you wish teaches you?”
He smiled. “You have understood or guessed that whoever teaches you will have to open their mind to you? Who were you thinking of?”
“I know I may not choose you or Cherine…”
“I am not excluded, you may choose me.”
“Then I do!” She felt the fear in everyone and her eyes lit up with her triumph. Robbie of course was the only one who was pleased. She frowned again, “You said my name to sign. Which name?”
“Dark Cloud is only what we named you for ourselves. Have you chosen a name that your own people would accept?”
“I will use a word that describes me, as you did. Dark Avenger.”
He smiled at what he thought of as her childishness. “Agreed. If you wish us to call you that, then we shall. You have noticed we shorten each others names when speaking, would you mind if we shorten yours to Aven?”
“Aven from Avenger? If it suits you.”
“Thank you.” Not even Empathia dared let her know Robbie had tricked her, the way we pronounced her name sounding a lot like Haven.
Alone at home I told Robbie. “I’m willing to be first.”
“I know love, you always are.” My silly wives laughed at me, but I did not take umbrage. “On which planet Robert, which alternate?”
“What are you talking about?
“I’ll let you,” (by ‘you’ I meant Robbie, Cherine and Dommi), “block my memories and you can give me to foster parents to live as a Normal. Not on our Earth Robbie, on some other, so that the years I live there are not years to the family.”
There was a clamour of protests, but he ignored them. “Are you serious about this love?”
“How do you think it would affect you as future leader of the Cherinians?”
“That’s nonsense, you will always be our leader. To answer your question though, theoretically speaking, if I were to be leader, it would widen my horizons and make me a better leader.”
He shook his head. “I cannot fault your logic Sam, however, I wish it were your heart deciding.”
“If I want to open my heart so that I understand people I presently cannot - not as I should, you think it would be more commendable if I want it for impetuous reasons?”
He knows when to change the subject. “For how many years Sam?”
“Whatever my lifespan is. If I live to old age that would teach me a lot also.”
“Jesus! What are you saying Sam! You could live eighty to a hundred years! You would return a completely changed person. No my love, for our sakes, no.”
Nothing would be happening immediately, so I dropped the subject, plenty of time for all of us to think it through. Some of the girls went with Robbie for their shower and the rest of us used our second bathroom. As I stood towelling myself, Wendy said, “What you want to do is stupid!”
“I agree.” Cherine and Dommi said.
“You fear my experiences would change me so that I no longer feel part of our family?”
“Yes. Whether you live as a male or female, you would not be attracted to someone, fall in love? What if you have children? You would not want them to be part of us? What about your husband?”
I grinned. “Cherine, what if Diana came with so as to be my husband?” I’d deliberately chosen her and we all laughed at her instant shock and rejection of the idea. “If not Diana, it could be any one of you - even Robbie himself.”
“I hate the idea!” Dommi said.
I found it interesting that every single Normal born girl agreed with them while Cherinian born were split, the majority agreeing with me. The only one who kept her opinion to herself was Empathia. I had the impression she was not even thinking on it, her mind furiously engaged elsewhere. It did not take long to find out where her thoughts had taken her.
She waited until Aven came out for her walk and joined her with a bright smile, pleased to have a small smile in response.
“What amuses you Thia?”
She pretended to be upset. “Who told you?” She then explained that ‘thia’ means aunt. “I suppose if Sam adopted you, then I am your aunt.”
“It was not meant that way. I thought if you can shorten my name then I can do the same to yours. Empathia, never speak to me again of what Sam did, it makes me so angry I could forget my strategy.”
“You can shorten my name to Athia, I would like it. That name will be only for you to use, everyone else must call me Empathia. Aven, I had an idea I think you will enjoy. Can we sit down?”
She asked Aven to straighten out her legs so that the back of them touched the grass. “Close your eyes and concentrate on feeling your skin and how it senses the grass.” Aven did so for a few seconds and opened her eyes.
“What are you trying to do - is this another strategy?”
“Yes and no. Not for fighting the Qkwesinitie. This is for your own people Aven. You have learnt how to control your body, you dislike it, but at least you feel you can control it. Do you know why you dislike it?”
“Apart from it being of your species? I do not know - it limits me!” She had only just admitted it to herself also. “In the void I am free, but here…material bodies are…disgusting.”
“So your body is your enemy?” Aven nodded, agreeing. “Don’t you think you should get to know your enemy? Just because you are using it, does not mean you should not learn to understand it and what its limits are. Always get to know your enemy, it makes you stronger.”
“What must I learn about it?”
“You are using it as a tool, you even think you can control it. Aven, until you experience your body in every way you can, you will not know it. There are some things you may think are disgusting about it, but there are other things it can do, for instance, it can affect your mind, sending chemicals to your brain so that you feel sad or angry. If you do not know what it is doing to you, how can you control it?
I saw in the minds of adults that when soldiers are trained for battle, one of the things they have to do is learn how to use their weapons. I guess that makes sense. Part of learning how to use their weapons is the knowledge of how to maintain them and how, with eyes closed take them apart and reassemble them. If that is true of a rifle, then why not of your body?”
“You want me to take my body apart?”
Empathia laughed, delighted. “Wouldn’t it be great if we could? Maybe someday we will be able to. In broad terms, as a Normal, your body has five senses. Sight, hearing, smell, taste and your tactile sense. Let’s begin by learning all we can about them. Aven, we may have to take things to an extreme at times and you may decide you do not like what we are doing. Remember at those times that what you are experiencing is part of a strategy.” She smiled, “It will also be interesting.”
They agreed to begin with hearing.
“While we are sitting here talking I also hear leaves rustling when there is a breeze - even the breeze makes a sound as it whispers against my ears. At times I hear insects chirping, a bird calling to its mate or flock. There are hundreds of little sounds and for me it makes my world very rich and full, like a beautiful song. I know it is not what you care about, but let’s try an experiment. I will block my Cherinian ability to sense you and sit on a rock. Your job will be to come close to me from behind without me hearing you. If you touch me without me turning to see you first, you win, because it means you could have killed me. I am not allowed to turn and look just in case you are creeping up on me, I have to hear you to do so. If I do turn and see you because I heard you, you get points according to how close you were. Okay?” They agreed on the distances and points.
Aven tried it four times and each time she was almost at her starting point when Empathia heard her. She did not pretend to encourage her - as soon as she heard her, she would turn and say so. She then told Aven to sit while she tried it. The first time she covered about seventy percent of the distance, the second time she startled Aven by touching her on the shoulder. Angry, Aven told her to try again. She touched her again.
“There are two problems, two ways of controlling your body you need to learn so as to touch me or to stop me from touching you. You have to learn to listen, hear how the world reacts to my approaching you. Insects, birds, they will hesitate when I appear, until they decide I am no danger to them. You also have to learn how to move silently. When you step on a brittle dry twig, it snaps and makes a noise that is not natural, not part of the cacophony of life surrounding us. We will try this tomorrow again. Let’s check another sense. Sight.”
Aven waited, wondering what she would do. “Close your eyes. Now, describe the area we are sitting in with as much detail as you can. Please include shades and colours.”
The description was dry, almost mechanical and correct. Details though were sparse. Empathia kept on prompting her, asking for more detail, but Aven opened her eyes. “I was right, I did describe everything correctly.”
Empathia closed her eyes. “Let me try. Aven, you remember your own words, compare what you saw or see with what I tell you.” She raised her arms so that they stuck out from her body. “I will ignore what is behind me for the moment and only deal with what is in front of me.”
Our light is constant so shadows stay exactly the same, even during the ‘night’. Empathia began describing from the left of her, beginning from close to her body, the blades and clumps of grass, pebbles or stones, their shapes, the tints and how shadow subtly changed the hues. Empathia was quoting from memory, but she was cheating. She was sharing with Latreia and Latreia was providing her with the ‘eye’ to see the beauty, feel the textures and see how it all blends so that whether looking at it microscopically or taking the grand overview of it all, there are pictures of beauty within pictures. An hour later the place she was describing was about ten metres away from her. Aven was standing at that spot to see what Empathia was describing. She interrupted her.
“This is pointless! What you are doing is giving me an aesthetic description. I am not studying to become an artist, I am a warrior!”
“Move to the tree with a branch that sticks out to the left of it, longer than the rest. Do you see under it a small bush with tiny leaves, dark green and yet they almost appear to be a burnt red? To the left of it, look down at the ground. Do you see a change in the grass? Do you know why? When Robert ripped the soil and rocks from a planet to bring it here, he did not place it here in the same order. He only formed these shapes later, the valleys, hills, mountains. That soil you are looking at, it has a high concentration of copper in it. Copper is a ductile malleable reddish-brown corrosion-resistant diamagnetic metallic element and has the atomic number 29 in our listing of minerals. It is one of the most common minerals in our soil, but here it is concentrated and affects the plants. If you have an army to feed, would you plant crops to feed them in such soil? Plants absorb minerals, is it healthy for your kind to eat such plants. Perhaps your species need crops that have been grown in areas of high copper concentration? Aven, I keep telling you, knowledge is power. What seems an unimportant fact could make the difference between survival or death.”
“This is nonsense! You know my battle with Robert and then with my enemies will be in the void where we do not have bodies.”
Empathia looked shocked. “Aven, you would chose to fight Robert in the void!! You choose to fight your enemy at his strongest, you know Robert is the void! How can you fight the void from within the void?”
“How can I fight him here - I am at my weakest here.”
“If you do not know his strengths and his weaknesses, how can you know your own strengths? Surely you have to know what his weaknesses are for you to determine what your strengths are? What is the point of pitting what you perceive as being your strengths against him if those strengths are not effective? They become your weakness, not your strength! Perhaps what you see as your weakness is your strength, because your weakness is what can defeat him?”
“It is nonsense because you have avoided understanding your enemy. I promise you Aven, allow me to teach you all you need to know and you will learn exactly what is his weakness, how you can defeat him.”
“There is no logic to your promise - you would teach me to destroy him, but you say you would also fight me so you would know how I intend fighting him and have a plan prepared to beat me anyway. This is a waste of time!”
“You do not have to tell me how you intend fighting him, you keep your strategy secret if you want. I am not teaching you how to destroy him, Aven, I am only teaching you how to fight him. Perhaps I will not mind you winning. Perhaps if it is by knowing what his weaknesses are, by exploiting them, if I have taught you well, he will not mind you winning either.”
Aven stood battling with herself. Finally she said, exasperated, “You are cheating. You cannot have known so much, why would you know all about copper.”
“Of course I cheated, if you think of it as cheating. Aven, I know a lot for a baby, but I am a baby, I’m allowed to cheat. I was interested. I asked the scientists. The point is I noticed there was something wrong with that grass and knew enough to ask a scientist. You did not, because you are not interested.”
“Tomorrow. I need to think.”
When Empathia jumped back she went straight to the arms of her mother to hide. Cherine helped her by dampening our admiration and the love we were emoting.
“Chantel, come here please. You have watched with us till now. I suggest you stop from today. When Empathia has finished with Aven you should ask her to teach you the same lessons. Would you like to develop with her help?”
“I would Cherine. I should not watch so that her teaching is effective?”
“I could do them both at the same time mum, if you help.”
“Not me love, ask Latreia.” She paused as Latreia sent her a blast of love.
As always, when we get too emotional, Robbie jumped to the taverna to pull himself together with a coffee and cigarette. We decided not to help him and sent him a blast of love that must have made him glow like a golden circle. He paid us back and the whole family was totally incapacitated for many minutes - Dark Cloud could have won any battle if she had known to choose that moment.
At lunch the next day Chantel sat with us, but it was as if she was not there. Latreia sat next to her, ready to do as Empathia did. Us girls sat in a protective ring around them as they had to be insulated from any chatter or noise; emoting should also be considered noise in this instance. Robbie explained to Allan and Eleni what is happening. To Eleni it felt like we are doing magic.
Allan said, “Robert, it might not be a bad idea to have them do the same for everyone. Perhaps all Cherinians, of every species should organise courses like this. We all feel so alive with our bodies being so healthy, we forget and dampen the stimuli our worlds bombard us with. To be reminded how to see, even if once in a blue moon, would be good for us.”
“I have noticed we become more observant in the void. We spend so much of our potential in enjoying the emoting of those we love, we do not pay our bodies the attention they deserve.”
“Not entirely true Roberto,” Dommi said, a lilt of laughter to her voice, “not when you are in bed with us.” If an adult woman had used sly innuendo as Dommi had, Robbie would have frowned. With her he gave a grin.
The next day was a weird one for all of us, all the aliens included. Empathia asked Freddie whether the light in our world is based on the light of our sun. He agreed it is so. She then asked if he could emulate the light of a red sun. He did so and everyone stopped whatever they were doing to look at our world. Everything looked so different! When colours change it is almost as if shapes and textures do. Perhaps it is only our eyes and brain that are playing tricks with us, but we felt as if we had landed on another planet. We were still caught up in the wonder of it when the light was changed to that of a blue sun. Everything was too bright and we had to adjust to the change; we were eating and our food definitely did not look as appetising anymore.
She asked for a white sun, but Freddie refused. He gave her a green sun and as the last one for the day an orange one. There were cries from the fields surrounding us and Robbie joined them to find out what had excited them so much.
“Robert, in this light we see what we could not before. It is as if we are suddenly in a world we were born to!” Emmie cried out to him.
Robbie asked Themi and Dr Maria a few questions. “No wonder you have such large eyes. This light is dimmer than ours - Emmie, you must have been suffering in our sunlight. If we had known we could have supplied you with sunglasses that would mimic for your eyes an orange sun. I am glad this crazy day has brought us something good.”
“We owe this to Empathia then.” Indripp said.
“No, you owe it to Aven and maybe Chantel. It is funny, we were just talking, saying we should all take these lessons the two girls are being taught, as we all need to be reminded how to see our world with fresh eyes again. Little did we think it was to be taken so literally.” He looked up, as if it made a difference to Freddie. “Can you change our normal light to something in-between, comfortable to us, but not so uncomfortable for the Eminixx?”
“If you say so Robert, but I do not think it is a good idea. The difference would not be enough to help them and it might affect the ecology.”
“In that case, can you give them an orange sun at the end of each day? The light on Earth also changes at that time so it should not affect the ecology and the Eminixx can have that time as theirs to enjoy.”
It is amazing how such a simple thing can bring so much joy. Empathia explained to Aven and told her the Eminixx thank her for this boon. It left Aven a little flustered, but she did not tell Empathia it was nonsense.
“How long will we be staying here Roberto?” Elia asked.
“If you are not bored, then it does not really make a difference does it? We can return to within hours of leaving home.”
“I meant, could it be weeks, months or years? If it is to be a long time then we should adjust ourselves to being here. At the moment we are all acting like tourists. If we will be here for some time, I would rather find something useful to do.”
“I agree.” Dimitri said. “If there is anything we can do for you. I have lived most of my years on a farm and idleness does not suit me.”
Robbie looked lost. “I don’t know what to suggest. This is your home, do whatever pleases you, as long as you don’t put up factories or skyscrapers.”
Alki pretended to be upset. “No factories? What can I do without factories? There is so much to do here Robert. You need roads, cars, ships and aeroplanes. I can’t create those without factories!”
Allan was grinning. “Actually I can suggest something. I have a backlog of tourists who have paid to come here. If we are to stay here for a while, why not bring them?”
“We agreed they only come while the family is not here Allan. This is our home!”
“So? Create a camp for them on the other side of the world. When they are brought to this side we control them, small groups that have to follow their guides.”
“Bullshit Allan, tourists are nosy people and you’ll always get those who try to poke their noses where they are not welcome.”
“Robert, they are Cherinians, you are saying they would act as Normals!?”
“No, I would not say so, but that does not mean they won’t.” He walked away from them laughing. He stopped and called back. “Prepare your camp and I’ll fetch them for you. We need the money since Alki can’t work.”
The Five Senses Training Course continued, sight for a further day with the girls being told to examine closely the intricate ways of nature within a single blade of grass and leaf. They had to look at colours and combinations, deciding for themselves which colours clash and which they find pleasure in. Then came the sense of smell. They had to explore those of nature, crushed leaves, flowers and so on. They were both brought to the taverna and they were given spices to smell and then taken into the kitchen where Kyria Maria was busy cooking a number of foods. They found the blended aroma pleasant, but the foods individually were often not pleasant to them. Empathia put a slice of bread in the toaster and burnt it badly and then took some of the food and burnt it. Kyria Maria was not too happy about that, complaining the smell will affect her food. Chantel loved the smell of a freshly cut raw tomato and Aven decided she found the smells of origanum and celery pleasant.
They stood outside and Empathia lifted her arm and asked the girls to smell her armpits. Her scent was sweet and fresh. She asked them to smell mine. I had been asked to not bathe and order my healer to concentrate all bad chemicals being disposed of in that area. Self-consciously I allowed them to smell me and then jumped home for a shower. She then suggested they smell their own. We hoped this means Aven would be showering more often. To stress the point, Empathia asked that they be allowed to smell me after my shower. Lynda allowed them to smell her makeup and scents.
Empathia had told them they should not only concentrate on the actual scents, but also on the reactions of their bodies. Chantel added some humour to the day by admitting she likes the smell of cigarettes and that she tries to be close to Robbie when he smokes.
Kyria Maria is still a bit of a mystery to all of us, but she confounded us all the next day. It was the day of taste and she had prepared a huge buffet with hundreds of plates. Whatever we eat was there. The Anadir, Eminixx, Inguel and Elabetians brought their own foods from their own ecological areas - some of it quickly going rancid in our atmosphere. Before anyone was allowed to eat, the two girls walked up and down the table tasting. Allan and the husband of Kyria Maria walked next to them with buckets as Empathia had ordered them not to swallow, only taste. We were pleased when Jess followed alongside Allan, but it soon transpired she was interested in tasting also. She enjoyed herself and learnt of things she had not known she liked. She was not allowed to taste the alien foods and the other two had to wash their mouths.
None of them wanted to eat that day, but the rest of us had a feast.
They jumped from place to place for them to taste wild herbs and plants, some of them poisonous. At the end of that day Empathia told them to take off the next few days, she needed a rest.
“I’m not sure how to go about the last one. The body has so many tactile sensations. I can handle most of them, but what about those feelings that really make us love our bodies? Do I ask Robert to massage them? Do we stimulate them sexually and bring them to orgasm? How do we do it if they are not loved yet?”
Robbie was sympathetic. “Chantel I could be tender and loving with, but Aven is a problem. If I have to be defensive, how do I open myself to her, sensing what gives her pleasure?”
“I could.” Empathia said. “But I don’t want to.”
“Robert, if Empathia trusts her, why not make love to Empathia while Aven shares with her?” Cherine asked.
“She could still attack me through Empathia - it would be worse love, she could damage Empathia also as we would be closely linked and open to each other, I can’t risk it.”
“I think you should not stimulate her sexually. She is already being overloaded with sensations she has never experienced. Both girls should first have time to adjust. If it softens their hearts we can discuss loving them at that time.” Everyone gratefully agreed with Dommi.
I got them laughing when I said, “Why do we automatically look to Robert? He already has so many girls, why not bring in Allan, the poor guy only has one girl.”
Rosie looked like her grin was about to split her face in two as she suggested, “Why don’t you tell Eleni of your idea? I’m certain she’ll show you how grateful she is.”
Her grin died when I did exactly that. I did not tell her straight out of course. I told her what I’d suggested as if it was a joke and she surprised everyone by thanking me for thinking of Allan.
“It might also help open him to Jessie. He is so terrified he hardly touches her, even if she comes to him to be touched.”
“What do you mean when you say she comes to him to be touched?”
“I think it is her timid way of showing she wants him to give her a hug or to feel his arms around her. She needs a daddy.”
“You have told Allan?”
“He knows, he can sense her, but he also senses her fear. He does not realise part of the fear is her fear of being rejected.”
Allan obviously heard us, but did not speak. He had his coffee with Robbie and then went to Jessie.
“I’m going to Meli’s world for a short holiday. Would you like to come with? We could also go for a swim if you want.”
She glanced at Eleni who smiled at her, nodding her agreement. “Okay.” Timidly she put her hand in his and with a gentle smile on his face they closed their eyes. Meli let me join her mind so that I could watch - very soon her mind was filled, first Eleni and then the others came to watch also.
When they arrived, Allan wavered, his body not taking shape or becoming solid. He could not decide, he wanted to appear as a child, but also felt she may need to adjust to him as an adult. He settled on being an adult.
“Why did you look funny?”
“I was thinking of making myself about your age so that we can play.”
She looked around, at the forests and long meadow that stretched ahead of them. He understood her fears.
“Jess, this is a magic world, the only one anywhere. On this world there are no bad people or animals. Come, let me show you something.” Taking her hand he led her to the raspberries. He let her taste some first. “Look at the thorns Jessie, they look like they could scratch you badly?” She nodded, pulling her hand back. “No, don’t be afraid. Put your finger on the tip of a thorn. See how soft it is? Meli does not want anyone to be hurt on her world so she even made the thorns soft. We can find a rose bush later and you’ll see, even those are soft.”
They walked around for a while, Allan pointing out things of beauty to her.
“Shall we go swimming now? Would you prefer to jump there or should we ask one of those clouds to carry us there?”
“You can’t talk to clouds silly.”
“I can. Watch.” They went out to the clearing and he called out, pointing to a smallish fluffy cloud that had the shape of a bunny. “Hey Miss Cloud, can you give my friend Jess and me a lift to the beach please?”
As his arm came down so did the cloud and it almost rested on the grass before them. He picked up Jess and stepped onto the cloud. They seated themselves on top of it and this time he kept his arm around her waist. The cloud gently rose back into the sky.
Allan really is a show-off. When she talked about seeing cartoon figures riding clouds, he asked her if they are able to make their clouds turn pink. He did it and then putting his fingers into it pulled away a tuft of it and held it out to her. “Taste it. Have you ever had it before?”
“It’s candyfloss! Eleni buys me some when we go out. They also have blue candyfloss.”
“I think the cloud is already shy because we made it pink. We shouldn’t embarrass it by changing its colours again. Unless you really want to.”
“No.” She patted the cloud under her and looked at her fingers. “Why isn’t it sticky like this piece?”
“The cloud is not made of candyfloss love, it just changed a small piece for you to eat. Think, if it had all changed, then our bums would be stuck to it.” He clowned around, pretending he was struggling to get his bum free and she giggled. Since Eleni he has not clowned around for us so we watched, enjoying it, but garnishing our pleasure with a thin slice of envy. Eleni felt us and was amused and proud of her man.
“Do you want the cloud to set us down on the beach or should it dump us in the water?”
She did not answer him, her eyes peering into the distance. He looked, but could not make out what it was. “Shall we check it out?” She nodded and the cloud moved towards the speck just off the beach.
Not only Allan, all of us stared with wonder. It was an old wooden ship, a three-masted galleon beached in shallow water. The cloud softly came to rest just above the water in front of the ship. Allan turned to look at Jessie, as if to ask her for confirmation of what he saw.
She squealed, “It is a statue of Meli! She doesn’t have legs, she looks like a fish down there.”
“A mermaid.” She nodded, excited.
“Is this what she looks like in this world?”
“I don’t think so. Actually, perhaps she does,” he added maliciously, amused, thinking to himself that she would never appear like this to Robbie as she has no way to have sex with him in this form. Meli sent him a wicked smile, reminding him they are not alone.
“I see a rope ladder, think you can climb it? I’ll be under you to make sure you don’t fall.” He lifted her and she clambered up fearlessly. On deck they stood looking, Allan puzzled. He thought to us, *Not much weathering and no damage. What is going on?* No one answered, Meli smiling to herself only.
Allan called out a couple of times and Jessie quickly came to his side, putting her hand in his. He smiled at her in reassurance and led her to some steps. They went down, the door opening with a creak. They walked around and examined the cabins. One was obviously the captain’s. The rooms (sorry, cabins) had all been stripped of all small and loose objects. They entered a cabin that was a dining room and sitting room in one. The large table the captain must have used for unrolling his maps on was dusty, but otherwise, it was as if the occupants had just left.
Screwed to the wooden wall a frame held a map. Allan let go of Jess and went to study it. Having seen the coast from the air he recognised it so he was able to gain an impression of the scale used.
“Whoever was on board came from very far. On the other side of the sea is another continent and this must be a city. Robert, if you are watching, did you know there are cities here?”
Jess looked around, as if expecting Robbie to appear. There was no response though, so he turned away from the map and went to a roll-down desk. He opened it and searched the drawers. In one of them he found a black and white sketch of a woman and a man holding a little girl. It took him a few moments to recognise the man. It was Daniel!
“Meli, what do I do? Will it cause him more pain than joy? Should I leave it here?” Again he did not get a response - he expected it by now. “You lot really are shits, you want me to decide? If this was mine I would want it, we’ll take it to him.” He placed it on the table and turned to Jessie. “Time for our swim?” She agreed.
He turned his underpants into swimming trunks and did the same for her so that she would not be embarrassed. She was not too pleased though. He had created a full body swimming suit whereas she had wanted a bikini swim suit. Hand in hand they ran into the water and he was soon playing the fool again and tirelessly placing her on his shoulders and throwing her into the water over and over again until she’d had enough. He taught her to swim with her eyes open under water and had to be careful of her as she does not seem to have any fear.
Once on the beach, he rose to a coconut treetop and collected two green coconuts. He sat next to her and a thin ray of light shot out from his finger and sliced the tops off. She mimicked him and tilted the coconut and drank. She smiled.
“It’s nice! Why doesn’t Kyria Maria have any?”
“It only grows in this climate love. Coconut trees need lots of sun and heat. They also grow by the beach alongside the ocean. We don’t have seawater on Freddie.”
“I’ll ask Eleni. She’ll get me some.”
“She will certainly do everything she can to get you some.”
Her voice confident, she asserted, “She can.”
Softly, his eyes tender, he looked at her and confided. “Yes, she is wonderful.”
He dug a trench and got her to lie in it and then buried her in white sand. He tried to build a sandcastle over her, but without a pail it was a flop. She thought it was hilarious so he dug another trench, lay in it and told her to bury him. Afterwards they went for another swim, got dressed, he collected the picture and hand in hand they jumped to the forest clearing.
“Welcome Allan and Jessica. I think you’ve been in the sun too long Jessica, you look red like a raspberry. Would you like a fruit juice?”
The clan kids took Jessie and Daniel and Allan sat on a bench in the shade, a mug of ale before them. Everyone else drifted away, as if they sensed Allan needed to talk to Daniel alone. Allan desperately wished he had a cigarette.
“Daniel. How did your people come here?”
“Lady Melina brought us.”
He looked puzzled, an elusive memory teasing at the edge of his mind. “I seem to recall we were on a ship, in trouble, when Lady Melina saved us and we arrived here. How did you know?”
“I found the ship.” He went on to describe it. “Did your ship have a figure of a mermaid at the prow?” He nodded. “Did it have the face of Meli?”
“I do not think so. Perhaps. No, I don’t think so.” He looked confused.
“Daniel, I found something on board which may cause you pain, but I think you would want to have it anyway. Forgive me my friend if I make you suffer.” He handed over the picture.
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)
8th December, 2019