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Andy Meets Jonathan and learns of the Amulet.
To The Closer
| Category: || General Fiction |
Posted:|| February 21, 2012 Views: 102|
While Andy was exploring his inner world, Harper had poured over the results of the tests on Andy's deoxyribonucleic acid taken from blood and tissue samples from every major cell type in Andy's body. There was abnormality noted in each cell, but it seemed that the major alterations for the moment were more prevalent in Andy's brain cells.
Harper recognized it as the same abnormality that affected him and Samuelson. It was the effect of exposure. Somehow Andy's brain cells seemed even more distinctly altered. They were almost unrecognizable from Andy's other cells on the molecular level. The difference appeared to be self-proliferating, continuing to alter itself by its own momentum.
Harper was concerned that Andy's brain cells would eventually become so dissimilar from Andy's other cells that the body's natural defense mechanisms might recognize them as an intruder. Then he discovered that when a cell from any other part of Andy's body was put in close proximity to the altered brain cell, the rate of mutation in the other cells increased.
On the basis of his analysis Harper felt that Andy had already become something that on the cellular level was not even human. For that reason, he needed to be kept in isolation.
The extreme aberrations were not present in Harper or Samuelson. The manifestation of their exposure to EMD's seemed to alter the brain activity but not cellular change. They concluded that the ability to perceive alternative realities was not alien at all but was a dormant ability that all humans have in varying degrees. Harper did not know how the configuration of Andy's essential brain structures would affect this. Was Andy evolving or devolving? Would it be manifest in his appearance as well or would it be confined to the sub-cellular level?
Shifting about had left Andy wanting to get out of the darkness to which he had to invariably return. There was no way could he get the computer to override Terry's command directive that there be no light in his room. On every whim or stray thought, revisiting points of decision, Andy came and observed.
The fruit of changing the past notwithstanding, he wished to avoid further frustration and confusion. He didn't always like what he observed in the past although he let it be. Everything that did not threaten him directly remained as it had ever been.
* * * *
Shifting rarely lingered for more than moments in a place, the multiple perceptions creating a montage of event flows along the branches of decision within a specified span. Past, present and future had never happened. He observed strangers. Shifting was not as limited as he had once thought. From his chamber he shifted from darkness into a lighted worlds; every time except or the most recent.
A change in ambiance alone defined the shift from what he had wrongly felt was an absolute value of darkness to another even deeper level, one more grossly absent of light. When his awareness stabilized, he again realized that there was some light left. Except for its presence he could not have made out only the most immediate outlines. Still he could hardly define any of the details. There were heavy drapes drawn shut over a nearby window; the source of the only real illumination were the pinprick dots of light filtered through worn spots and spread through the darkness as stars might seem to faintly illuminate the nighttime. His eyes adjusted, faint outlines of furnishings emerged from the shadows, the soft presence of bed coverings and rugs, and then too the softness of the furnishings muted the ringing echo of his breathing.
It was an old, dusty, musty place. He shuffle-stepped toward a bed, hoping that he wouldn't trip over anything that was as yet indiscernible from the darker shadows that vaguely defined the floor. Complaining against rust, a key rattled and then turned in a lock and a door opened, squeaking at the hinges as it swept back.
An old man entered the room carrying an antique, glass, kerosene lamp. He sat it down gently on a nightstand at the head of the bed. Shadows danced around the room and finally found expression along the walls and continued to the rhythmic swaying times to the flickering flame. The old man sat down on the edge of the bed. He took up a framed picture from the nightstand, glanced at the picture then as if overwhelmed with the emotion that the picture elicited, he held it close to his chest, hugging the icon when it was his desire to embrace who it represented.
"It is almost time, now," he muttered.
Andy stood silent in the shadows, not knowing whether to answer or even if the old man could perceive him at all.
"Decent people knock before they enter rooms," the old man said as he turned and looked directly at the darkness where Andy hid.
"I'm not sure why I'm here, how I got here or how long I am staying."
The old man chuckled. "It is the 'mandorla'." Apparently he believed that Andy would understand. "That is why you are here. It is unstable at times, especially with the presence of the key so near."
"If it is unstable, then I will not be here long," Andy apologized.
"When the next cosmic tide washes through from the other side, you will likely leave with it," the old man confirmed.
"You have experience?"
"Of course," the old man said. "This is my home, and it will continue to be for what little time there is left to me." He looked down at the picture once more, sighed and expressed openly, "I loved her."
"Is she your wife?"
"In a sane universe, she would have been," he said. "We never married. There were issues wedged between us quite apart from our feelings or desires - at least my feeling and my desires, anyway."
Andy emerged from the shadows, walked over to the bed and sat down beside the old man. He took a good look at the picture and was immediately stunned that he knew her. Where had he seen her?
"God was she beautiful," the old man broke down into sobbing.
At the end of the bed there was a trunk. Curiosity compelled Andy's attention toward it. He had a vague memory of it, a memory from his uncontrolled shifting. He stood and approached the trunk; the instant of arrival he laid his hand upon the lid and immediately thunder shook the house. Wind driven rain lashed sheets of precipitation attacking the windowpanes with a vengeance. He was alone in the same room but it was very different in a way that unsettled him. In frightened response, he leapt away from the trunk and tried to adjust to the dramatic change.
It was a different time, he decided. The room did not seem quite so old as before and the freshness of recently exchanged air displaced mustiness he'd /associated with the darkness before. He begged his sensibility for reason. This had to be the past; it was all the reason that he could come up with. Andy nudged aside a portion of the drape and peered out along the seam.
Outside raged the sort of summer thunderstorm for which the Midwestern United States was renowned. How he knew where he was troubled him but not as much as his knowing the house and having distinct memories of it. Whether memories were from dreams or from experience, they were tangible.
There were voices out in the hallway and abruptly the door to the room opened. A young man carried a cloaked woman into the room. Rain dripped from her cloak as he set her down onto the floor and quickly closed the door behind.
"No one saw me?"
"Of course not," the young man responded, pushing back the hood of her cloak. "Who'd be crazy enough to follow you out of town in this kind of storm?"
"I'm crazy enough to come here," she protested. "This is all craziness, what we are doing."
"How can it be crazy?" The young man asked as he helped her remove her cloak and then hung it up on a coat tree.
"You didn't come all this way to simply turn around and leave?"
The shape and curves of her slim body stunned Andy. She was the lady in the old man's picture. Still, she looked familiar to him in another way.
"Lana?" He whispered her name but was immediately concerned that they could hear him.
"What if they find out?" She asked.
"So, they find out," the young man persisted fearlessly. "For now we are all alone. That's all that matters."
This elicited a mischievous laugh from her.
"I missed you," the young man drew her waist closer, nuzzled into her shoulder and then kissed her beneath her right ear, nibbling on her lobe and causing her to giggle.
"That's the idea."
She was obviously older, it was only half a dozen years. He was barely a man. Yet, each captivated the other's undivided attentions.
He swept her up into his youthfully strong arms and carried her to the bed. She hugged tightly around his neck and pulled him down upon the bed beside her as he attempted to deposit her on the satin sheets.
"How much did you miss me?" She asked.
"You will never know," he said. "You are my goddess! You should know everything that is in my heart and in my mind. You already possess my soul."
"A goddess, am I?" She giggled like a girl more his age.
"How could I ever lie to my darling Ela'na?"
She sighed, feigning her distrust. "You'd better not lie to me," she warned.
Andy felt like an uneasy voyeur as the young man began to disrobe Ela'na. He turned his back on them to afford some privacy to their passionate interlude but still he could hear every moan of their pleasure from only a few feet away. His imagination filled in images conjured to associate with each sound. Why was it necessary for him to be there, to witness what?
When the heavy breathing finally subsided into satisfied sighs, they remained in one another's breathless embrace, whispering secrets confessions and words of affection to one another.
"I love you," he said. "Will you marry me?"
"I asked you to marry me."
"Silly!" She pushed him away. "Look at us, will you. I'm older than you, for one thing."
"So, only a few years."
"And you're not."
"I'm a ..."
"You're as much one as the other."
"My skin is dark. I'm 'colored' to your people."
"You are beautiful for that very reason!"
"Thank you but you are biased."
"I'm human. So are you. Humans are my people, not any trivial, narrow subdivision of our common race."
"Where is your head? It is just not done," she said with the finality of a guillotine's blade.
"Your parents were mixed..." He offered as logic.
"That was different. They never..." She sat up, but never finished her thought. After consideration she changed her thought altogether. "That was the islands. This part of the world isn't ready for it, Jonathan; not your family or your society."
"Ask me if that matters, because it doesn't."
"How could it not?"
"Ela'na, it just doesn't," Jonathan said defiantly.
She gathered the clothes that had been cast aside in the throes of passion. "I'd better go now." She began putting her clothes back on as she got out of bed.
"It's still pouring outside!"
"The thunder and lightning have moved away. The rain is no worse than when I came," she said. "Besides, I have to catch the next train."
"I borrowed this time. Really, I have to go."
"I can't stay."
"Then I'm coming with you."
She laughed. "Jonathan, it can't be any other way than it is. Okay? We have had our times. It was dangerous and forbidden. It was exciting and wonderful. Cherish the times that we shared, okay?"
"Then why did you even come here?"
"You have to ask? You wore through my resistance with your damned letters. I'm promising myself not to open another letter from you. I can't handle it, not now." She groped behind her for the doorknob, then donning her damp cloak. She stood in the doorway smiling.
"Then you do love me," he rushed toward her and pushed the door shut again behind her.
"Of course I love you!" Tears ran down both her cheeks.
He held her in his arms. Her struggle to pull free of him faltering, she melted into his embrace. "Then stay with me or let me come with you," he insisted.
"Maybe sometime later. Not now."
"There's someone else?" Jonathan asked. "Master E?"
Ela'na laughed slightly as she looked up into his eyes. "No, he's just a very close friend, never anything more than that."
Jonathan sighed his relief.
Ela'na chuckled to herself. "You really thought that... and you were jealous?"
"Hey, you travel with him."
"It's an arrangement of convenience," she explained. "He has the wagon; I draw the crowd." She opened the door again and finally stepped out into the hallway.
Andy followed them. He was curious as to what possible importance any of this might be but also felt that he had no choice but to follow them.
"I was good with the tricks. I fed the animals..." Jonathan said.
Ela'na kissed him. "Jetta never liked you, though."
"Jetta was jealous of you ever since the first time that you and I kissed.
"That was supposed to be a secret."
"Yes, she's a smart cat."
"Raja never approved of me either."
Ela'na smiled as she confirmed. "They both hated you, I guess. Or, rather they envied you. They don't trust anyone with me," and then she pushed away. "I'll write to you, Jonathan. I promise. Just don't bother writing to me anymore. I won't even accept the letters."
"We are meant to be together," Jonathan challenged. "You must know that even as I do."
"Then we have nothing to worry about." She took one last look at him and then turned toward the stairs. He followed her down the winding stairway into the foyer. He reached out for her hand but she permitted him only a brief touch. She pulled up her cloak's hood and opened the front door stepping out onto the porch and then out into the gusty winds and rain.
"At least let me ride with you to the station."
"No, I can't keep saying goodbye to you," Ela'na blew him a kiss. She turned into the wind and the rain and used the cloak to protect her lovely face as she descended from the front steps and hurried to the shed where the horse awaited. She led the horse out into the rain and mounted.
Jonathan stood on the porch helpless to prevent the growing pain within as she coaxed her horse onto the muddy road. With some dispatch the horse carried her down the road toward Jamesburg, round a curve, behind a wooded area and out of sight. In a few intervening moments the rain had slackened and gratefully the thunder and lightning were distant as the storm was moving on.
Andy tried to follow her but he was anchored to the house. When Jonathan returned inside the house, he followed him, back up the stairs and into the room.
Jonathan sat quietly, in the suddenly gloomy room for some time, occasionally holding his head in his hands. Andy felt intense empathy for him.
He too had once known forbidden love. He couldn't console him, as Jonathan could not even sense that Andy was there. Ela'na was as special to the young man. As much as Angela had been to Andy. Andy couldn't get over her voice and her look. She could have been Lana's twin.
Jonathan flopped back onto the bed. He could still smell Ela'na's perfume. He buried his face into the pillow where she had laid and he sobbed, heartbroken. Enraged by the frustration he felt, he pounded fists into the bed.
Then something bounced up and he felt it land on the back of his arm. When he looked up he saw the Amulet that Ela'na always wore. It was the source of her magic, or so she always claimed. She never went anywhere without it. He had to get it back to her. He had to get to the train station in town before she boarded the train.
There were no horses to ride. He had only his feet and so he set out running in the remnant drizzle that lingered behind the storm.
To Andy's amazement he was now free of the house. He could follow Jonathan.
It was more than two miles to the edge of town and perhaps another half mile to the train station on the other side of town. It was farther than Jonathan had ever run before but he forced the effort, pushing beyond physical limits of endurance. It was imperative for him to deliver the Amulet to Ela'na. She needed him to do it for her. Maybe it was a test of his love for her.
The railroad defined the southern edge of town and so he would come to the tracks first and he intended to follow them toward the station as a short cut. He could only hope that he was not too late. He had not yet heard the train whistle. It was all that he could do to keep running. Panting, his lungs ached.
Although he was healthy and physically strong like any other young man that lived on a farm, he had never been much of a runner. Never before had he had a reason to run and certainly not at the pace he was maintaining. Whenever he faltered or wanted to take a rest, he looked at the Amulet and suddenly he felt that he had to go on a little further.
Andy found it easy enough to keep the pace. He did not tire in this disembodied state. Still, he wanted to help. He felt sorry for Jonathan. Andy did not understand why it was necessary for him to be witness to these events but he was interested in the outcome. It was as if he were watching a movie or reading the best part of a book. He could not avert his eyes or distract attention toward anything else. He had to know. He had spent several moments in other places and had even spent many hours or sometimes days in places that he had never wanted to be. The present was rare enough that he wanted to know everything.
Previously he'd known nothing about Jonathan. Perhaps the connection was Ela'na although that was equally strange, as she merely resembled someone he knew from another shift of aspect. Besides, he was following Jonathan not some voyeuristic interest in Ela'na. At least that was what Andy told himself.
In the distance they heard the expulsion of excess steam, the cycling of the steel wheels gaining friction against the steel rails enough to pull away from the station. Jonathan's heart sank. He could not reach the station in time. The train was pulling away. The whistle blew. Redoubling his effort accomplished nothing but gaining a better view of the train passing by as it pulled away from the town and away from him.
In his failure he sat down on a rail to cry as much as to catch his breath. The thought of being with Ela'na again, even if it were for a moment had compelled him. There was only the cold realization of failure to accompany the fear that he would never see her again.
He dangled the Amulet by its white gold chain from his hand. The late afternoon sun was emerging from behind the cloudy trailing edge of the passing storm. It was silly perhaps to think that something so small could possibly imbue magical powers of any note. It was the sort of fantastic story told to a wide-eyed child. Maybe it had been nothing more than that when she had told him that the Amulet was the source of her magic. Still Ela'na had always worn it. At times during her act she would clutch it. He wanted to believe that there was something to it, that the magic she performed was special, not just ordinary tricks.
He wanted to find out where Ela'na had gone. He went on to the station with the hope that they would remember her or have a record of the ticket. He had a little money. Maybe he could follow her if it wasn't too far.
No one remembered her. To him it seemed unlikely that no one would have noticed her. She was anything but ordinary. There it was, though. He had to accept the reality of it; Ela'na was gone.
If she wrote to him perhaps he could send her the Amulet, expect that she said she would not accept any letters from him. When she wrote he hoped that she would tell him what to do with the Amulet. If she wanted the Amulet she would come back for it. He also clung to that hope.
Jonathan again held the Amulet out by its chain. It sparkled in the sunlight, creating the illusion that there was fire burning within it. Andy studied it as he was impressed by the perfect clarity of the crystal. It surely was worth something, not merely some bauble to augment the costume of a magician's assistant.
The light flashed in Andy's face and the next instant there was darkness again that surrounded him. A kerosene lamp's flame flickered from the other side of the old man.
"I'm back." Andy was so surprised that he blurted it out.
"Back? You never went anywhere," the old man said.
"I was in the past, in your past. I saw her..."
The old man smiled as he returned the picture frame to the nightstand.
"The Amulet," he chuckled. "It's the key to the 'mandorla'. I never understood it really. She was sent here to deliver it to me. I doubt that she even understood the purpose she served to them."
"The Amulet; you mean the necklace that you tried to return to her..."
"You know all about it then?"
"I was there, observing."
"I respected your privacy as much as possible. But, yes, I know the whole story."
The old man fell back onto the bed and stared up at the dark ceiling. The flickering of the kerosene lamp's light danced across the plaster. "It was intended that she leave it here," the old man finally said. "I'm not sure what will become of it when I'm gone. When that time comes, I don't reckon it will matter much to me anymore. But there is some purpose for it beyond the moment and it will see to its own affairs. It has a mind of its own, you know. Someone will end up with it and their life will be... well, altered forever." The old man paused as if he were listening for something. "The tide comes," he sat up and reached out his hand. "It was nice meeting you stranger."
"Andy's the name. You're Jonathan?" The old man chuckled. "Yes, so I was. No one calls me by that name anymore. My friend Brent comes to see me almost everyday. He calls me Jonathan. Everyone one else could care less."
In a moment darkness replaced the flickering of the lamp; Andy recognized his prison. He had returned.
This obviously another bridging piece between series. The term 'mandorla' is borrowed from Medieval religous art. A mandorla is depicted as an oval in which transdimensional beings such as dieties and angels are always contained. Jonathan suggests that there is one closeby.
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