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.
Responding to the comfort of being held in loving arms, she shut her eyes and drifted off into a light doze.
“She will heal herself now Roberto, do not fear, she will soon be as she was - filled with questions that drive you crazy.”
“How that will please me Dommi. I have never felt her to be more my child than right now.”
Within ten minutes she mumbled, tried to turn and woke up. Lazily she stretched, smiled sweetly and taking my hand put the palm to her soft lips. She sat up, smoothed out her skirt and saw Dark Cloud. She looked away from her and turning to make certain each girl caught her eye she gave them all her smile. Then she surprised us by turning back to Dark Cloud. “They have told you?”
She only stared back so we all clamoured within her mind, wanting to know what they (her souls) told her.
“How could they be part of my mind without letting me see them also? I know as much as she does.” She looked up at me with sorrow. “Robert, they know very little, they have forgotten, leaving everything behind with their humanity.”
Cherine kissed her. “Sam, you put me to shame. After everything…you are filled with grief for them.”
She giggled. “I think they could not stand my feelings and drew away. It saved me.”
“Do you feel well enough to sit with us and eat my love? The girls have a storytelling ahead of them.” I saw dismay in her eyes.
“Robert, please, no golden circle. I feel it will break me right now.”
“Of course Sam. The only love you’ll feel tonight is that which fills the hearts of those who love you.” Cherine said.
She gave that lopsided grin of hers. “I’m starving!”
“You shouldn’t be, you’ve been in stasis.” I admonished her. She knew I was teasing, that I needed to, to show her how much I love her, but she pretended to shrug it off and with a dozen hands touching her she stood up. “Let’s eat.”
I cannot seem to help myself. I seated her next to Dark Cloud, knowing it will cost her, and all the girls had glints of anger in their eyes when they looked at me. Sam sat down and turned to Dark Cloud.
“Thank you, the girls have let me see you took your souls back without forcing Robert to give anything in return.”
“You of all of them know I give nothing without reason. I have understood he will be forced to give far more this way than he would have if I’d tried to negotiate.”
Sam grinned and then giggled. “You are getting to know him well.” The smile died when Dark Cloud stared back with her ice-green eyes. She bit her lip, sat thoughtful for a while, even her hunger forgotten and then she turned to Dommi.
“I want to adopt her. Can I?” Not noticing the consternation she’d caused she added, “Shiyra too! Then they can be sisters!”
God knows what Dark Cloud would have done if she’d had her powers. The first words of Sam had angered her greatly, but the second idea drove her wild. She was far beyond just regretting she’d released Sam. Dommi spoke quickly to forestall her.
“Sam, it is agreed, the family will consider them your daughters.” I groaned and Sol and Ordinx (who’d come running) showed their shock. To them also, the word of Dommi is law.
This period is important. Neither of our ‘guests’ are yet fully accustomed to the Terran bodies they are using and emotions they both prefer to hide, still play unbidden across their faces. We did not need to stare, for we can move from one of us to the other, the rest watching through that one’s eyes. We had impressed upon Shiyra the importance of her staying apart from Dark Cloud and though she heard of Sam’s declaration, she did not come closer; I suspect she’d have moved even further away if it were possible.
Dark Cloud left our table and we sensed she was searching for an Fisp. Her patent anger stood as excuse for her to leave us without explanation. an Fisp made certain she saw him and withdrew as if being careful of discovery. He introduced her to an Presus. This part of the deceit we did not like. an Presus has not, cannot be informed of the truth. He has been asked to play his part by an Fisp, pretending it is a request by me to link Dark Cloud for the storytelling. It means he has to refrain from linking to others of his species as they enjoy doing at such a moment. It is crucial we open Dark Cloud, Shiyra too, to the gifts of empathy, but we felt tainted by our dishonesty.
Our feelings, the undercurrents, made it difficult for the girls to draw strength from us and giving up they left us for the beach. On cue I created the platform for them and soon as they stood upon it I raised it nearly a foot above the water.
The girls took their time, giving our friends the opportunity to find friends and seat themselves. A space was left for my family and we joined the others on the beach. Dommi had the girls carry large towels for us to sit on.
Cherine left the girls and came to the edge of the platform and spoke aloud. “Robert, you better choose another, we want Goldi to join us tonight. It is about time she discovers in which way her gifts can contribute to the storytelling.” I pulled at her face to kiss her and saw the wide-eyed look of awe and joy. She did not bother walking to Cherine, jumping to her side. Hand in hand they walked back to the center with Cherine talking urgently to her. When they joined the others I was surprised to see her being talked to by Jade and Wendy, not Meli as I’d expected.
Dommi looked troubled. “I hope they know what they are doing. Goldi does not like the painful parts and she may influence them to skip those.”
She filled the empty space Goldi had left and as I tightened my arm around her I whispered back, “Don’t worry about that. Knowing the girls I’m more afraid of them using her specifically to heighten those painful experiences.”
I had an idea of what the girls had planned, before calling Goldi, and had decided they will fail. The two they were targeting have minds blocked by their millions of years of guilt and hatred respectively. By now what the Ii and Shiyra had done to us had been rationalised by our empathy. Imagining the endless time of looking inwards, lives and emotions becoming sterile, unable to love each other or themselves, we can understand how they had stripped themselves of their humanity, replacing it with a group insanity. To us they are just sick and need to be healed. As for Dark Cloud though, we were still too raw with the pain they had inflicted and I at least will need some time to open myself to them and try to be empathic. My Sam, what a wonder our little girl is (she looked at me, sensing my thoughts were of her, but only snuggled closer), how she came up with the idea of asking to adopt them! I shook my head and calmed my thoughts, ready to have my emotions put through the wringer by my loves.
The stage darkened, the dome of Sparklers just above them faintly spoiling the effect the girls wanted. I started, not expecting the scene. The figure of a little boy alone, figures of a man and woman walking away, fading. Wendy hummed the sadness, fear and loneliness of the little boy. They were really beginning their telling at an early stage! I half closed my eyes and watched without showing my reactions again.
The inclusion of Goldi made all emotions too raw for all of us. When Cherine was sad, it was Goldi emoting, making of our empathy a compulsion to get up and do something to help her. When we found Wendy it was more real than reality had been and they tore at my heart. When Wendy spoke those words that sent me racing to destroy her father it was Goldi who stood calling to our hearts and I nearly left my body in my urgent raw hate. Having an audience of this size emoting as they shared emotions we had never before made them so boldly a part of, made it unbearable for me. I do not know how any of them can bear it and it was now my Dommi and Sam who held me tightly, trying to soothe and calm me.
Usually the girls will take a break after four to five hours. This time they had to take one within the first two hours for the sake of their audience. Audience, is that a fit word anymore for a people who become part of the storytelling?
I jumped to Cherine, my face, mind and heart anxious.
“Cherine, the baby! This is too raw for such a new soul!”
She drew me into her and let me feel the emoting of our new daughter. I stared at her. “How?”
“I have been filtering what I allow her to feel Robert. Do you think I will have empathy for all, but not for the one being who is at this time closest to me?”
“I cannot bear to sit through this any more my love. Are you monitoring your audience?”
“Of course!” She hesitated. “Dark Cloud lowers the average impression I get of their emotions, I try to keep that in mind.”
I picked her up and darkened again the stage, bringing a glow to the two of us. All movement ceased and they waited to hear me speak. “There is a magic in my loves tonight, making it impossible for me to sit for even another hour through the emotional wringer I’ve suffered the last two hours. Will you forgive me for asking that we end the storytelling now and continue tomorrow?” I smiled ruefully. “I’m not certain how much I’ll be able to bear tomorrow either, we might end up needing many nights. If you prefer the telling to last longer each time, I might have to leave for the void. If I do, I hope I have your understanding.”
Almost my first priority, after seeing to my loves, was meeting an Presus. Dark Cloud left immediately after my little impromptu speech. I needed to know how sharing with her affected him. I sensed Goldi dash off with Bernie and Sam to Shiyra. I wondered why, with so many people emoting so strongly, I cannot see how they’d sensed her. “Kyria Maria, it seems I’m to be stuck here for a while. A coffee please?”
I’d expected to be holding (if the girls let me) Sam in my arms, but when she returned it was with Shiyra and I knew she was taking her adoption too seriously for her to leave Shiyra and join me. After talking for a while, Sam got up and taking her hand brought Shiyra to me.
“Shiyra has a question to ask, but she thinks you will not want to answer her. She expects you to think she wants the information to attack you. I have answered with what I know, but I’ve never heard you explain it properly so I’m also curious.”
“Ask me Shiyra, if you are right and the knowledge is a secret I will tell you so. I must tell you that I cannot think of anything I know that is a secret.”
Shiyra was about to speak but stopped, looking at Sam in surprise. I was also surprised. She was furious. “Cherine, come here.” Cherine came from behind her and I saw her funny smile, so I knew I was in for something or other, but could not think of what had triggered this anger in Sam.
“Did Robert tell you he never lies to children and those he loves?”
“He said friends I think, Sam.”
“I have taken Shiyra as my daughter. Does she not enjoy a status equal to friend at least?” Shiyra looked away, not liking what she was hearing.
“Sam love, stop making such a big production of it and tell me straight out, how did I lie?”
“May I call Solomon so that you can tell him how to become the void?”
“You know the answer to that.” My voice was chilly now. “You are willing to offer the lives of Aganthi and Irene for the sake of making a point?”
“You know I wouldn’t! Why did you lie to Shiyra about not have any secrets then?”
“For god’s sake Sam, you’re being pedantic now. All you had to do is remind me I do have a secret. It has been so long since the subject has been discussed that I forgot.” I felt her open her mind to me. Sorry Robert, the display is for her benefit.
“Shiyra, Robert does have secrets, secrets that would be wrong of him to divulge. I think his words are a form of apology, do you accept them?”
“I don’t know what this is about Sam. To tell you the truth, I am so angry about you calling those creatures my sister I don’t really care whether Robert lied or not. I expect him to anyway.”
“Shiyra, they are your family; just as we are and the Anadir and every other sentient race. We all have souls and souls do not belong to any specific species. Usually we tend to return to the same planet we last died on, but often the void takes souls and sends them on to other planets, other species. If you do not know whether a person of another species might have been your ancestor, how can you deny them the rights to being called family?”
“Sam, look at her face, she doesn’t know what you are talking about.” I asked Shiyra. “What do your people believe happens when you die?”
“We know about the void, obviously, since we are souls without bodies. We also know that many souls are judged by the void and destroyed while a few are sent to other worlds. “
“Maria, another coffee please, we have a long night ahead of us. Girls, those of you who are tired, go to bed.” I looked at Sol and she came forward. “We need you here as Solomon. Do you mind?” Within minutes Solomon was with us.
“Please explain to Shiyra about the void and what happens to souls.”
“Our battle will be in tomorrows telling, why not let her find out the same way I did?”
“She needs to know tonight so that she understands us - especially why Sam adopted her.”
“This adoption, Sam is adopting the little girl we see or the souls she is made up of?”
“Let’s keep it simple Solomon, the girl we see.”
He chose to explain by doing a quick telling of our meeting, the battle and how we resolved it. He spoke of their despair for they’d thought they were saving souls from the void and my explanation had become self-evidently true soon as I spoke.
“Shiyra, the secret Sam spoke of, it enables Robert to know what we can only postulate. He also has another reason for knowing, but it is a painful one. Let that wait for the telling.”
Shiyra looked shattered, devastated. “I knew most of what you told me, but was unable to see what it meant! If what you say is true our crime was far greater than we thought. We may have killed our own parents, children…what have we done! What have we turned them into?”
“May I speak for you Robert? Shiyra, do not ask only what you have done, ask yourselves what you can do. Sam has called you sisters. Why not start from there?” Solomon is getting to know me too well.
Cherine spoke gently. “You thought your people had achieved all there was to achieve and tried to become one soul. Shiyra, you were wrong and that is why you are suffering. We have not been able to understand the Ii, we thought you were one and then found out that you are, or can be, many. I am guessing, but I think what you were meant to be is a Kaleidoscope World, not one soul. Do you have an entity that is made up of all your souls while still being able to be individuals?”
“In that case I think I’m right.” Cherine said. “Robert, we must show them our World, it may help them.”
“If you say so love, but you have not thought it through.”
“Do they stay in their World permanently? If so, then they might as well stay as they are. If they want us to restore their planets and give them bodies, then it makes sense.”
Shiyra was being overloaded with concepts contrary to all they’d believed in and looked lost. Sam put her arm around her shoulders. “That is what Cherine meant Robert, of course we have to bring them back.”
“Then we have to collect the Inguel and machine people - or were you expecting me to do the job on my own?”
“She did not mean you Robbie…” I looked at Nicole surprised and Alexis finished for her. “You are too lazy.”
Everyone laughed, myself included. My heart swelled with love and happiness. It is so rarely the twins jointly make fun of me. The more frequently they do, the more I see they are growing, strengthening as individuals and the fears I hide in me grow weaker. My laughter was a good excuse for the tears in my eyes.
“How will Dark Cloud react if we bring them back Robert?” Claudia asked.
“It might be a good idea to do it. They will be forced to allow us to do the same for them since the Ii will no longer exist.” I said.
Sam reacted, almost in a panic. “No, you must not do it!” Even Shiyra looked at her with surprise. “If you do it Robert, Dark Cloud will want to have bodies again and there will be another war. They must not have bodies until both of them have empathy and learn to forgive - each other and themselves. Only these two can cure their mother souls, if they still hate us and each other their mother souls will fight us if we try to take souls from them. They won’t believe we really intend bringing them back to life. Why will the people of the Ii want to return if all they face is the same despair that made them want to die?”
“Sam is right.” Cherine added, unnecessarily.
Shiyra asked us to let her be alone. We watched her walk away.
“That is one very troubled daughter you have Sam. I hope the question she came to ask me was not too important, she seems to have forgotten it. It looks like we’ve turned her world upside down once again.”
Solomon chuckled. “Any species that meet you should expect it. I must tell the thinkers of this development and then I’ll be back as Sol - unless you’d prefer me to sleep with you?” He left us to the sounds of merriment and the girls teasing me.
“I wonder if he has a penis? Does he make a real body?” Elpida asked. That set them all off again, visualising impossible scenarios.
I smiled at Dommi, amused by my girls but also by my thoughts. “Listen to them. They do make a good case for the anti-paedophiles, don’t they?”
“You are wrong Roberto. All children use their imaginations in outrageous ways.”
Freddie woke us up just before dawn. “Dark Cloud is standing at the edge of a high cliff. I think she intends jumping off.”
“Okay, let her.” I turned over as if to go back to sleep. The girls were furious with me, even Sam!
“Stop shouting at me and use your brains. Why do you think she is doing this? Come on Gina, you’re a big girl now, tell me, what will be the point of any of us doing it? Can we die as Normal people do? If you are a Normal person, but you know of souls and the void, why would you do it?”
“To go to the void?”
“Bravo! Why will Dark Cloud do it?”
“God I’m stupid! Of course! She wants to release her souls.”
I smiled at Sam. “Good, now you’re using your brains. What happens if we stop her? She tries again? Freddie, let her jump, but soften the impact, let her hit hard enough so that she is badly hurt. It is time she remembers what pain feels like. My loves, I know it sounds cruel, but I have to do this.”
Sam looked at me with suspicion. “For how long do we let her suffer?”
“It depends on the amount of pain.”
I guessed they needed to see for themselves so I got the girls to leave their bodies and I carried them to the cliff. We watched her as she jumped. The cliff was not straight down and her body bounced once as it hit a jutting rock. By the time her body was at rest on the rocky ground, we saw blood on the rocks and cuts across her arms and chest. Her face looked a mess. My healer was under strict orders and only checked for fatal damage. Strangely she was suffering more pain from a rock sticking into her back than from any of her wounds.
She did not cry out and when she moved the groans were involuntary. Her disappointment at not having succeeded in freeing herself was obvious. She was not interested in the pain or damage to her body and was determined to try again, to be rid of her body, thinking that if she becomes souls again, she can regain her powers. The body had other ideas though and when she tried to stand up she doubled over and collapsed again. I returned the girls to their bodies.
“I’ll join you a bit later. Have breakfast and relax my loves. I’ll keep an eye on her. Freddie kept her fall too gentle and she is going to try again.”
“Please Robbie, please don’t let her.” Dommi pulled Laura and Elpida to her and motioned for me to leave. I hoped she finds the words to help my loves see I have to do this, even if it seems to be cruel of me.
I sat for over an hour watching her try to summon the strength to overcome the pain to climb again. Then I began to wonder whether the old puppy trick with a small variation can be of any use here. With her being alien it might not, but I went ahead anyway, since anything I try is better than doing nothing. I materialised the body behind some rocks and ran to her joyfully, yipping, tail wagging. Without getting too close to her I played around her. She ignored me after seeing I was not a threat.
I wanted her to touch me, hoping the soft cuddly fur will appeal to her, so I approached her. She lashed out with her foot and kicked me. Even as her foot sped to me I withdrew protection from the tiny body and the impact threw the body against a rock. I caused internal injuries and left the body lifeless after blood flowed out of the mouth. She hardly bothered to look, concentrating only on gathering her strength to climb up to jump again.
I decided she needs to feel so much pain that she will not try this lightly again and waited about ten minutes before materialising a fully grown female dog. I walked towards her, sniffing at the ground. As I came into view I stopped and looking at her, stared into her eyes, turned my head and looked at the puppy. I went to it, sniffed, used a paw to nudge it, whimpering as I tried to make it wake up. I raised my head and howled, trying to pour all the grief a mother feels for the death of her child into my voice.
The fur raised on my back I stared at her again, bared my teeth and growled. She struggled to her feet without turning her eyes away. Slowly I padded to her, half crouching. As I came within reach I leapt at her with a savage howl. I did not go for her throat as my instincts demanded, biting into her arm. I bit deep and yanked, tearing her soft flesh. I let go and in a flash bit her thigh. Dark Cloud fell down and now she screamed from the pain. I tore at her leg, shaking it and letting it go, I brought my face to hers. Mouth open, teeth bloodied I snarled, letting the fetid stink of my hot breath cover her face. Almost eye to eye I stared with murderous rage and I was shocked to find the daylight die on me for a few seconds. I looked up at the sky and then with a few stops to turn back to glare at her I left. Soon as I was out of sight I allowed the body to revert to the energies I’d willed it out of.
*Freddie, what’s the problem?*
*That was wrong Robert, you were allowing your wolf instincts to take over. The girls and I had to fight with the protector to stop it attacking you, she is a child!*
Nobody interferes, you hear me?
He did not reply so I took on my own form within a few feet of Dark Cloud. Freddie was right, the sight of her was sickening. Wolf instincts? That puzzled me for a moment, but I set the worry aside. I knelt next to her, pausing only a moment to look at the dead puppy.
“I’m sending my healer to you, the pain will be gone soon.”
“Leave me alone.”
I sat on a rock. “Okay. I’ll sit here and watch you suffer. I must warn you that I will not allow your body to die. You will stay in our world on our conditions.”
I went to the puppy, picked it up and walked over to her. “Why did you kill it? This was only an infant animal, totally innocent of what any sapient does. Are your people so evil that killing an infant means nothing to you?” I dug at the earth with my fingers and placed the small body in it. I covered it, put a few rocks over it.
“You were attacked by its mother? I’m surprised she did not kill you.”
“It tried to.”
“I doubt it. It can kill an adult human. She must have decided to let you live - I wonder why?” I stood silently, letting her think about it. “Perhaps she wanted you to live with your pain.”
“The sky went dark and it left. It is an animal, not a sentient being.”
“I wonder how many creatures we call animals are sentient to a degree. Whatever its reasons, at least it did not sink its fangs into your eyes or throat. The damage you have is easy to repair.”
“Then do it, this is pointless.”
“You jumped off the cliff?” I waited until she nodded. “Do you me to carry you to the top so that you can jump again?”
“You will let this body die?”
“If you don’t like the body just say so, I can design one to your specifications.”
She stared at me, her eyes filled with hate and rage. She controlled herself and when she spoke her voice was cold and hard. “I hate you and someday I will be strong and you weak. I will make you pay for this.”
I think the future touched me lightly and I shivered. “Yes, I think you will.” I shrugged. “I want to get back to my family. I’ve sent my healer into you and you’ll soon be brand new. I hope you come tonight. By the way, thank you for behaving last night.” I jumped.
“What happened Robert? Why did Freddie darken the sky and why did the protector want to attack you?”
“Leave it Cherine. Let me be.”
They felt that I’d blocked my mind and sat staring at me without speaking. Sam asked. “What about Dark Cloud?”
“The healer is fixing her. She won’t try to die again.” My face felt like a grim mask.
We were all subdued for the rest of the day.
Neither of the two girls turned up for the storytelling and after the day we’d had I called it off.
I tried to sleep and spent hours having nightmare after nightmare. Since I was tossing and turning, disturbing my loves, I gave up trying to sleep and sat up. I saw Cherine was already sitting, her eyes fixed on me. I made a coffee and Milo and we sat in the garden. Cherine sat next to me without speaking, her hands wrapped around the mug, enjoying the warmth more than she enjoyed drinking it. I’m not very good at playing waiting games with her, but I also sensed she is not going to speak if I don’t.
“You’re not going to grill me? You’ve changed my love.”
“You are hurting and you know it means I’m hurting, so it is up to you, if you want me to stay with this pain you’ll keep your secret.”
“I think I prefer my innocent Cherine who openly manipulated me. I found out today that I have instincts I did not know I had - I really turned into a vicious animal! I’m trying to come to terms with it.”
“How can you see yourself as clearly as I can Robert?”
She had a point, even if I hated admitting it to myself. I sat thinking about it for a while. I threw away the stub of my cigarette.
“Come into my mind and see for yourself.”
Fearfully I kept a watch on her, but she only emoted distaste for the actual biting. I had not given that a second thought, my reactions while biting her, my ability to bite her, these had seemed more important to me. I think she was more distressed at my callow murder of the puppy, even though she knew it was only an illusion. Somewhere during all this I realised I had been tricked. All the girls were awake and watching through her. Candy gave the game away by crying when I killed the puppy.
“I’m feeling sort of off balance. How is it none of you reacted to anything the way I expected you to? I expected you to all be horrified.”
“Can you have been looking at what you did the wrong way? Robert, you knew you had to do what you did. It does not seem to have worked and we may need to use even more shocking tactics. If we don’t and get squeamish, we will have a war on our hands. We will do whatever we have to and if anything we do hurts us, we store it away until the day we can show Dark Cloud our wounds for her to heal them.”
“I’m not arguing about that Cherine. I’m worried about the bloodlust. I nearly tore at her throat! If Freddie had not intervened, I don’t know where I would have stopped. How can changing to the form of a wolf change me so much?”
“I thought it more likely you will sink your fangs in her eyes - they really disturb you Robert, don’t they?”
“I had not thought sea-green eyes can be so cold.”
“If she does not have emotions, apart from hate, what can any colour eyes show? Actually, it was horrible, but it also amused me. I’d only read about it and had not believed it was possible.”
I stared at her, waiting for an explanation. She sighed, pushed her hand between my arm and body and then leaned against me. “I’ve read of actors who put so much of themselves into the role they are playing they find it difficult to become themselves again afterwards.” She sent me a soft smile. “Perhaps you should have become an actor?”
I shook my head, still confused and amazed by this funny love of mine and shifted. “I have to go in. I need to hold our Candy.”
“Hold? I thought you are supposed to suck candy?”
When we got back to the bedroom, from the way Candy threw herself onto me I knew she was of the same opinion as Cherine.
We woke up to find Shiyra waiting outside. Sam rushed to go to her, but I sent her a message to tell Shiyra we will first have a shower, get dressed, cook and eat breakfast and only after a cup of coffee will she be allowed to speak. She agreed and Sam brought her in.
As we sat at the table Dommi asked her, “Have you eaten Shiyra? Won’t you join us?” She smiled as she added, “After all, you are family.”
With a pale face she answered. “I know you do not mean to be cruel, but you are hurting me.”
As the girls whooped in their minds I got up quickly and went to her. I made her stand up and then without asking her I pulled her to me and kissed her brow. “Shiyra, this is the best news I’ve had for a long time. The girls and I were beginning to get a little depressed, it seemed nothing any of us did can get through to you and Dark Cloud.”
Claudia stood up and bowed to Shiyra. “I apologise on behalf of all of us. When Robert sees a little girl before him he forgets and treats her like one. We all know you are made of a number of elderly souls and deserve the respect…”
Sam blew a raspberry. “Nonsense. Shiyra, I adopted you as my daughter and while you are in that body we will treat you as a girl, same as us.”
Deliberately innocently, almost poignantly, Cassie asked, “Does that mean we can kiss her and make love to her?”
I decided things were degenerating - out of my control, so I took my coffee and cigarettes and sat outside, the sounds of childish laughter following me. Lynda came outside also.
“Can I have one of your cigarettes?”
I lit it for her. “You look upset.”
“I don’t know whether I’m upset with you or myself.”
“Probably me.” I smiled.
“Hmm, it is much nicer being upset with you.” I chuckled. “I do not know what I want Robert.”
“You want what you see, a family to belong to. You want to go to bed and not fear the next day, because you know it will be filled with love, whatever else happens. You also want to be what you are.”
“And that is?”
“A modern young American woman. You are a product of your time Lynda. If you cannot free yourself, then you are just as much a slave as your grandmother was to her ways of thinking.”
She looked angry. “I’m sick of trying to find Arthur.”
“You’ll never find him love.” She went white and I saw she was now in a fury, thinking I’d sent her on a pointless quest. “You need to find him so that you can say, I am Lynda, a mature woman with a special ability or gift. If I now let myself go and become part of this family I will still be someone special. You are not looking for him out of love Lynda, and he will not be found by determination or in anger. Just as you can never become family until it is out of love, until you see that each of us is special.”
Her lips tight she retorted, “I know the girls are.” I did not know whether to laugh or be insulted, she said it with so much anger. I had to order the girls to stay away. “I’m sorry Robert, that was a cheap shot; I meant it as a joke, but it came out different. God but you are so easy to hurt, you’re worse than a child.”
“Is that why I need children to love and cannot love adults?”
“In a way that may be true. The trouble is, I know you love the girls as adults also. Tell me, don’t you feel more comfortable, find it more exciting loving them as children?”
“I feel safer loving them as adults. The female body, an adult one, is made for being loved. With children I have to hold myself back, always gentle and careful not to hurt and always monitoring their hearts so that we only do what they want, not what any need that may be driving me. That also pleases me Lynda, anything that makes me gentle and tender, it makes me feel I’m a better person.”
“You’re laughing at me.”
“Why do you feel I’m laughing at you Lynda, what fears do you have that make you feel that way?” I left her and returned to the girls and Shiyra.
She looked at me as I entered and smiled. “They have explained they were teasing you.”
“One of their endearing qualities. At least, they like to think so.”
Of course they laughed at me, only Dommi her eyes dark with her thoughts staring at me. She’d listened in to Lynda and I, and her mind was churning along. I gave her a smile and turned to Shiyra.
“You came to us for a reason?”
“How do we help the people of Dark Cloud? It is time we make reparations instead of hiding from what we did to them.”
“You want to help them? To do so first you have to help yourselves. Shiyra, if you do not love yourselves and all life, how can you expect them to love you? I know, you want them to forgive you, but for them to do so, surely they must find something in you worth forgiving? What is worth more than love?”
“Are you not placing an unbearable load on them Robert? If they already are torn by guilt, how will they bear their guilt if they learn to love them?”
“Are you saying you did not Sol?”
In a low voice she replied, “I don’t know.”
“You do not love Ordinx, Ashiir, the Anadir?”
She did not answer, too busy looking within herself.
“As you see Shiyra, even we are troubled and are still busy learning how to live with love. Perhaps if your people join us they can someday teach us also?”
She turned to Dommi. “Please, can you help me? I find it easier to understand Sam and all of you, but him, he confuses me. I, we, are not like the…like Dark Cloud, we remember our past, who we were. We saw many wrong turnings in our history and despaired. Are his words offering us hope?”
Dryly Lynda answered from the doorway where she stood. “Yes, he offers hope.” Somehow it did not sound so good from her and she wilted under the look Dommi gave her.
“I feel like a yo-yo. I’ve changed my mind again. Girls, you have to finish your storytelling. Make it a good one for Shiyra. You know everyone finds it easier to understand at the second telling. Straight after that we return to the past. Let’s go take a look at her people as they were before they forgot to be human. I like what I’m beginning to see in her.”
“You are going to bring them back?”
“We’ll face that problem later love, we first have to convince the Ii that we are friends, not just souls to be used by them.”
Sam nodded. “I’m not worried, Shiyra will do that for us.”
This time Shiyra sat with us while it was Dark Cloud who stayed out of sight - but she was there and she sat through the whole telling. The part she found most interesting was the battle with Doris. I wondered how she will react to the battle with Noname, both of them. Will she see Sharipya as being weak? She’s not spent any time getting to know him.
Sam insisted on Shiyra staying with us from now on. She was withdrawn, lost in her thoughts and did not object when she was taken to the guest bedroom. Sam kissed her cheek and returned to us.
“I think she is changing very fast. She comes from a very old people Robert, I’m surprised at her willingness to learn from us.”
I said, “We’ve learnt a lot from her people Sam, it is only fair she learns from us the little we have to teach.” Sol laughed with a snort and then giggled.
“Sam, I think I better join you from now on, in looking after Shiyra. She will need us if Robert is bent on teaching her.”
While I was having a shower I heard the twins asking Sam what I’d meant when I said we learnt a lot from the Ii. She asked them if they remembered how I always fought against us staying in our World, saying it was too early? I meant that they had shown me I was right. As they went ‘Oh’ Cherine told Sam to stop dawdling and go for a shower. I turned my back to the curtain so that she can surprise me, but I must have been too obvious for she came in giggling.
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)
3rdt December, 2019
- posted: 3rd December, 2019
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