(update: I won’t go into details (boring, to say the least), but the last week or so has not been fun. Worse, my left eye is once again totally out of commission so typing has slowed to a crawl. I seem to be, as well, crawling from one physician’s appointment to the next, but at least one of them is offering me a C19 vaccine next week – so hallelujah! Come Alive has dominated recent output, but as soon as Chapter 21 concludes my next efforts will swing back to the Eighty-eighth Key, because Harry’s story is far from over. Two chapters should close out 88, so CA ought to wrap up in short order after that. Still, I’m assuming progress is going to be slow. After CA wraps, I feel it’s time to return to my “cop” novel – which at 1500 pages already written ought to be considered finished. Yet…I’m going back to page one, aiming for a total rewrite and an attempt at publication – so I may post a chapter here and there but not the entire work. Other short stories will be posted, including revisions to existing works, while work on the novel rolls along. Anyway, fingers crossed here…that is the plan…)
Food for thought: The Raven That Refused to Sing
Rolf was aft now, down on the swim platform helping a thoroughly flummoxed Anton back onboard, while both Mike and Dina stood, transfixed, after ‘Pinky’ merged with Henry. Moments later Anton and Rolf were back in the cockpit, Rolf’s face an open book full of questions, Anton’s a vivid mix of confusion and paranoid fury.
“What the fuck is this shit?” the Russian aviator bellowed, pointing at the shimmering amber-pink aura pouring out of Taggart’s every pore – and by this point even a few passersby on the canal tow-path were stopping – and gaping – at the spectacle.
“Be quiet!” Dina snarled. “Don’t interfere – don’t say another word!”
Anton took the towel Rolf handed him and shook some stray water from his ears, all the while never taking his eyes off Henry Taggart – until, a few minutes later the swirling sphere emerged from Henry’s face and simply winked out of existence…
…and as suddenly Henry seemed to phase back into the present…
He saw Dina and reached out for her – and she intuited that Henry was now suddenly very unstable and about to pass out. “Mike! Help me!”
Yet it was Anton who reached out for Henry, Anton who caught him as he started to fall, and Anton who helped Henry onto the helmsman’s seat and held him there while Henry caught his breath and regained his bearings.
But even so, everyone could see the change that had come over Henry.
He seemed physically diminished, palpably weaker now, and Dina rushed to his side and began a quick assay of his vitals even as Henry seemed to wilt into her gathering strength. “Rolf, some water, please,” she said to her grandson.
“This is some seriously weird shit,” Anton muttered.
“You got that right,” Henry sighed.
“Henry,” Dina said, sudden concern clear in her voice now, “this must not happen again. Your pulse is now very low and you are as white as a sheet…”
“I didn’t exactly ask her to do this,” he sighed.
“What happened?” Mike asked. “Did she tell you why?”
“I’m not sure. She had a bunch of questions and she’s looking for answers…”
“Did she know how this would effect you?” Dina asked.
“I don’t know. Next time you see her why don’t you ask…?”
“What is this?” Anton asked. “You speak of woman, yet I saw no woman…?”
“Well, she’s a woman alright,” Henry smiled. “And she has an attitude, too.”
“But,” Anton barked, “what is she?”
Mike chimed in now: “She’s not from around here, Anton.”
“No shit she’s not from around here. The question is, does anyone know where this thing is from?”
Mike pointed at the sky, which caused an audible gasp from the startled crowd of onlookers still gathering on the tow-path…
…yet as if on cue a gust of hot wind blew threw the crowd, reminding everyone of the approaching danger, and even Henry sat up and took note of the change in the air.
“Rolf, let’s get the latest weather updates pulled, okay?” Henry said, ignoring the questions written all over Anton’s ruddy face and as he took the bottle of water from Rolf. Henry looked at the compass and then tried to visualize their physical orientation to the English Channel – and he figured they were almost bow-to the north, so tied-off to the west bank of this canal. So, they would be beam-to any gusts that came up the Channel and hit the Belgian coastline.
And then fragments of the dream returned. The red skies, the coiling clouds and the rows of medieval buildings burning to ash and cinders…
‘Yes, just like those right over there,’ he said to himself as Rolf bent over the plotter and got to work.
He looked at the lines Rolf had set, and while most were well-placed he could see a few weak zones that would need reinforcing if the winds were truly apocalyptic. Then again, if the storm was packing both extreme heat and wind speeds probably nothing would save them – aside from fleeing to the south.
Pages started appearing on the plotter and he leaned forward, fought through the light-headedness and the pulsing light that rattled his vision; Epsilon’s eye was now in mid-channel, about halfway between Brighton and LeHavre and headed directly for Calais – and just beyond, Bruges.
And he wondered then… ‘Should I send them away? Get them to the train station and send them to Geneva?’
“What are you thinking, Henry?” Anton asked.
“It might not be safe here.”
“Da, no kidding. Maybe best we go south?”
“And what about you, Henry?” Dina asked. “You won’t leave, will you?”
Henry shook his head. “No, I don’t think so. There’s something I’ve got to see here.”
“Well,” Anton said quietly, “that is that. We stay, then.”
Henry looked at Rolf, then Dina…
“Don’t you dare say it, Henry Taggart!” Dina hissed before she turned and went below.
Taggart nodded and looked at Rolf: “Get some line, son. We’ve got some work to do…”
The large female was with Eva when she felt the disturbance growing along the shore across the bay. Men were gathering in the water and in the air and in an instant she knew who the men were looking for. She reached out to Eva and passed along images of her concerns…
As Eva processed these warnings she reached out to Henry, but she felt danger gathering all around him and pulled back. Not knowing what else to do, she wondered what would happen if she reached out to one of Them.
And a moment later a pinkish orb appeared in front of her, a fiercely glowing shimmer perhaps a foot beneath the water’s surface. She ducked under the water and almost instinctively placed her hands on the sides of the sphere, and in the next instant she felt Pinky probing the deepest reaches of her mind.
And when she felt traces of Henry in this new place she closed her eyes as his warmth enveloped her.
She turned and looked around, saw that both she and Britt were no longer in the sea. Then she realized she had been holding her breath, so she inhaled – slowly – until she relaxed as fresh air washed through her lungs.
And then she turned to Britt…
…who was clearly not amused…
“What happened?” Britt cried as she struggled with the idea his new place, then she was screaming: “Where are we?” over and over
Eva went to her, reached into her mind, let her feel Henry all around this place until she too relaxed.
“Do you know where we are?” Britt finally whispered.
“No, but I think Henry does.”
“I don’t know if I can do this anymore, Eva,” Britt said to Eva while clutching frantically at her belly. “I don’t understand what’s happening to us…”
Eva grabbed Britt, pulled her close and told her everything would be fine, but she could feel Britt’s trembling uncertainty. “You have to trust Henry. You know he won’t let anything bad happen to us. Trust him, trust him…”
She felt Henry just then, felt his probing thoughts, then he felt her moving-on to Britt, then Britt growing warm and soft again as his thoughts caressed her…
…and only then did Eva pull back and look at her surroundings…
They were in a tank of some sort; huge, smooth and cylindrical, made of some kind of black resinous material, but one area was full of viewing ports. She focused there, tried to move but found she couldn’t, then realized they were weightless and had nothing to push against.
Then the cylinder began spinning, very slowly at first, until gravity began to assert itself and they both began drifting to what must have been purposed as a floor. Once she felt something solid underfoot, Eva walked over to the viewing ports…
…in the space beyond the ports she saw dozens of glowing orbs moving about some sort of control room, all heedless of her presence – aside from one pinkish orb spinning there just on the other side of the port.
Then she felt Britt standing by her side.
“I’m okay now,” she said.
“I know. How is Henry?”
“Worried. That storm, Epsilon. It’s coming right at them…”
Henry and Rolf stood on the tow-path looking over the web of lines they had wrapped around Time Bandits, hoping they would be enough to secure her to the canal. Both banks were lined with small craft now, and crews were frantically running lines to every available tree or bollard in sight. Henry looked at the mess and shook his head, knowing that if even one or two boats broke loose the end results would be ugly.
“I wonder how my mother is doing?” Rolf asked.
“How do you know that, Henry?”
Taggart looked around, saw a bench in the shade of an old Linden so he walked over and sat there; not knowing what else to do, Rolf followed and sat beside him.
“Do you think we’ve done all that we can do to secure the boat to the tow-path?” Henry asked.
“I think so…yes.”
“So, your mind can be at ease about that. Is that right?”
“I suppose so.”
“Fair enough. With your mind at ease, can you imagine going to a place where you think of nothing at all?”
“Nothing? No, not really.”
“Close your eyes, Rolf.”
“Concentrate on the blackness you see now, and only on that.”
“Just listen now. Don’t think, don’t even try to answer me. If you feel something strange, just concentrate on the blackness and ignore everything else.”
And just as Winky had shown him once, he reached inside Rolf’s mind until he could feel the uncertainty gathering all around him…
“Listen to the wind in the trees. To the sound of my breathing, to the earth, breathing.”
He could feel Rolf relaxing, letting go.
“Your mother is here, Rolf, in this place, in this darkness. Imagine reaching out for someone in the dark, someone you know is there, only use your mind to reach out, not your hands.”
He felt an image of Britt forming in Rolf’s mind, watched the image resolve and grow.
“There she is. Keep reaching, reaching until she is close enough to hear you…”
He could feel Eva with him now, and then Britt and Pinky were there too – all of them watching Rolf, willing him on.
“I’m here. Come to me, my boy.”
Dozens of wildly spinning orbs were gathered at the viewing ports now, watching this next most important phase of the experiment as it unfolded.
“Where are you?”
“I’m with you, my son. You’ve made it to me and we are together now!”
“How is this so?”
“Take my hand. See? I’m here with you…”
He watched as Rolf reached out for his mother’s hand, then he opened his eyes.
Even before he heard Dina’s screams he knew Rolf was gone, then he took a few deep breaths before he tried to stand. He pushed himself up from the bench, then the earth started spinning wildly and he fell to the ground, grabbing at the earth with his fingers to slow the nauseous gyrations.
He heard them running for him even as the darkness came for him again, then he was under the cool blue light of the vast ringed planet, but this time everything felt different…and very dangerous.
© 2020 adrian leverkühn | abw | this is a work of fiction, pure and simple; the next chapter will drop as and when circumstances allow.