We have a woman who is dead visiting from the void, our much loved Josephine, or as fondly known, either Jo or Mama. We have two alien races represented by friends who have proven themselves over time and during crisis. We have our families from an alternate world. Has there ever been a gathering as magnificent and of such portent to the human races as this one?” He turned and his eyes bore into those of Lua. “You will please tell Daniel that we knew his heart was with us today. We all hope the day will come when he can come to visit us too.
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I ask that you all recall one thing. Rob has been left by me as the protector. My Cherine is still a child in many ways, but when the matter does not involve my safety you cannot go wrong by trusting her to lead you along the path of love and empathy. Cherine, stand here by me.” She went to him, facing him, her chin high as she looked up at him. He did something and he held a string necklace of golden light. He passed it over her head and then lifted her hair over it so the necklace hung below her throat.
“This is more than a symbol, but it also represents my trust and faith in you.” He turned her so that we all could see. “It will not fade, but it will be absorbed by your body. It holds the key to knowledge of powers you may need. Cherine, upon your love for me, you will not unlock this unless you need to be my cub and defend all our loved ones.”
Robbie did the impossible, he took the one who is as a goddess to us and elevated her even higher. Our eyes shone not only with pride in her, but with tears at the responsibility he has lain on her.
“Solomon, Ordinx. Will you, on behalf of your people transfer your loyalty to Cherine during my absence?”
Solemnly they approached her and as the necklace was reflected on her face they gave their oath. She took their hand in hers and bringing them to her lips kissed their hands.
“I swear to do all I can as your servant.”
A pair of hands clapped and a chill went down our spines. A figure stood behind us, his face was hooded and even when he walked between us and light should have fallen on his face, it remained in darkness. He reached Cherine, standing still a moment as if studying her, then his hand grabbed the necklace and ripped it off her. He crushed it in his old dry hands.
“You have done well in your choice of Cherine, but this is not for her. Her gifts will be destroyed by this necklace you gave, Robert. If you would leave her as your replacement then trust in her gifts and heart.”
Robert stood stiffly. Then he bowed his head to the old man. Nobody else dared move, the power emanating from the old man holding us all silent.
“I was not wise in my gift and my fears. Thank you.” He raised his head again and his eyes, deep and stern looked at the old man. “Words and acts of wisdom do not suffice in themselves. Bare your face for all to see as a friend would.”
“You may see Prime Robert, but the knowledge is not for the others, not at this time.”
We saw that a glow lit his face, but none saw even a shadow of his features. Robbie took a step back in surprise.
“That is why you knew I would leave?”
“Look into my mind.” Transfixed we waited, hardly daring to breathe.
Our Robbie sank to his knees, covering his face as his voice called out in anguish. “Why did you show that to me if the future cannot change?”
As urgently as we needed to rush to him, hold him to us, not one of us dared to move. Only Cherine put her hand on his shoulder. “Robert! Stand up!” she commanded. He did not turn to look at her, but he rose to his feet.
“You are aware there is not one possible future. I called you Prime. It is not a title. You are the prime Robert, all alternates springing from you. Fail and you destroy all alternate Roberts.”
A gnarled old hand reached out to Cherine, turning her chin to face him. “You asked I wait for six o’clock. We have time to share the cake. Will you offer me a slice?”
I am sure that if he had touched me I would have pissed in my panties. Cherine looked at the darkness where his face was. “And I suppose you want a cup of coffee and a cigarette.”
“Just a coffee please.” I noticed she did not ask how he wanted it and I rushed to the table and made two cups, one for him and one for our Robbie, both the same. My hands were trembling as I was about to carry the cups. I felt the eyes of Robbie on me, gentle with love, and I took hold of myself and carried the cups without a tremor. I handed a packet of cigarettes to Robbie and lit his cigarette.
The dry voice of the old man spoke clearly, “Where is the Mother, will she approach me?” None of us misunderstood him. Dommi stepped up to him.
“There is a choice and it is for you to make on behalf of all. None may speak till you have answered. The first choice is, you will feel the link to Robert, wherever he goes, and know that he lives. If he should die, you will feel that too. I cannot foresee for you whether he lives or dies. I cannot even promise that his soul can find its way back to your Kaleidoscope World.
The second choice, and this will sound tempting to you, but will be more like a curse later on; you are permitted to stay in contact with his mind, to see what he is seeing, to feel what he feels. Where there is suffering you too will suffer - all of your family and such friends as choose to share this. If he dies you will suffer his agonies with him and it might destroy your family if you forget to remain strong. If you and he survive, the second option means you will have all learnt and grown with him.
Think carefully Dominique, Mother of all Cherinians before you answer.”
She turned her head and looked at all of us then turned to Cherine. We could all see Robbie was struggling, trying to speak, but was held silent.
“I know you all want the second choice. I cannot agree to it unless I see strength in Cherine to protect our loved ones. If you falter at the wrong moment and allow Cherinians to die, my choice will become a curse that haunts my soul.” Cherine did not answer, she only looked at Dommi and her eyes seemed like pools of darkness where deep below flames burned. She reached her hand to the face of Dommi and her fingers touched her lips. Her hand dropped.
“I choose the second.” I think she surprised also the old man when she added, “Can you include the protector so that it also learns from our Robert?”
The old man seemed to shrivel, as if he were thrust into a torment or guilt he could not bear. “I thought you would. Robert, it was their choice. Let it be. You will not be able to feel their presence, only they can see through your eyes. Since it has been asked of me, so will it be, the protector will also share while it is here. It is past six, are you ready?
“How can I ever be ready to leave my loved ones? Just do it.”
__ I’m sorry, I can hardly see to type. To just say they disappeared, how can that convey the emptiness left behind, that hollow place of pain. For a short while we were too dazed for tears to flow. The others took us tenderly to their bosoms, carried those who needed to be carried and we all gathered within the house. No sooner had Aganthi begun to weep than we all found ourselves weeping. Not one of us was allowed to cry on our own, all our friends quickly gathered us in their arms. They did not try to hold us when we started to need each other. Soon all Robert’s ‘girls’ were holding each other. It was at this point that Dommi’s choice brought Robbie to us. __
__ I would rather let Sam write of it - she offered when she sensed how the writing is affecting me. I’m sorry, I cannot bear to continue writing. __
My father and sole love suddenly appeared in my mind - as he did for all of us, all the Cherinians, which, for this once, included Solomon and Ordinx. He has been taken to a world so different from ours! He stood still for a long moment, trying to guess where he is. Finally he recognised his surroundings and gave a cry. He was standing in front of our house.
The world he stood in seemed to be leeched of all colour but that of ashes. The moon still shone through clouds, but the clouds were not those of life, but the sickly clouds of destruction. He tried to use his gifts to search for signs of life, but his powers were gone. He tried to sense inside himself and saw that he had nothing left, not even his healer.
Where could he go? Our home drew him, what was left of it. Carefully he clambered over broken bricks and concrete. One slip in this murky darkness could mean a broken ankle. When he realised that he stood where our bedroom is, saw the broken and burnt remains of our bed, he sat and wept. He cried out, “For god’s sake, at least tell me what happened here.”
There was no response, as he knew there would not be. As his face, tight and drawn with grief lifted, a moonbeam seemed to light a mound of rubble, serving to remind him of the steps that lead down to the basement, to our tissue bank. A fear began to grow in him that some of us are down there, trapped.
He dug, throwing bricks aside, pulling at slabs of concrete he could not lift. Hours went by and we felt his exhaustion, but it was as if he was not aware of himself. Tottering he would stop a minute for the pounding in his head to calm down and he would return to clearing the steps. Dawn, a miserable breaking of the darkness that changed the grey to sulphurous yellows, which explained the burning in his throat and lungs, found him still digging, only his head still at ground level.
His body could no longer continue, even with his remarkable will forcing it along. He had pushed it beyond endurance. He collapsed on the steps he had cleared, his head resting on his arms. He rested for half an hour and tried to get up to continue digging and groaned with pain. His body had stiffened and every move was a torture.
It may have looked as if he was sinking into the kind of inner search he uses when about to call out one of his powers, but all he was doing was gathering himself into a blind determination not to allow his body to stop him. The thought that he might find one of us galvanised him and he began to lift and throw out more rubble. The rubble surrounding the space he was working in had grown into a small mound. As he was bending over, some of it began to slide and a brick with a jagged plane of concrete attached to it, fell from a height of two metres upon him. He screamed even as he collapsed. The sharp end of the concrete had slashed into his back and the pain was a fierce fire that took away his last strength.
As if in an echo of his scream a sound came from below him. A cry. “Rob, Rob, is that you Rob?”
At the sound of the voice he raised his head, asking softly, not believing, “Cherine, Cherine?”
The realisation penetrated through the haze of pain and suddenly it was as if he had not toiled for hours, had not been wounded. Blinded and crazed by his need to get to her he dug at rubble, nails broken, skin on fingers scraped raw now bleeding, but he did not feel it. At last the way lay open and he stood on the floor. He called out, “Cherine!”
“Here. I’m in the tissue bank. You came!”
He cleared the rubble by the door and pulled it open. A beam of light cut through the dust blinding him. He yanked at the door again and entered the room.
“Close the door.”
I thought he had not heard her, he just stood there staring and all life seemed about to leave his body. Cherine lay on the floor in a pool of blood. Her skin showed she had been through a fire and it had cracked open, pieces hanging loosely. The agony must have been something terrible, but she was smiling, not even feeling the cracked lips bleeding.
“You look just like my Rob. I knew you would come.”
He saw clouds of the yellow dust coming in and closed the door. Like a broken doll he made himself move till he was by her and he sank to his knees.
“Cherine love, what happened. How can this be!!?”
“Shh. I needed you to come and you came. Oh Rob!!” And now she sobbed in agony. He hardly dared touch her anywhere. “I’m sorry. When my Robert died I could not bear it. I had lost my powers and could not go after him to bring him back. I knew I would never be with him again and I could not bear it. I wished so hard that if there are other worlds, like Rob said, a Robert from such a world would come.”
Poor Robert, he fought so hard to find a link to her, to find his healer. He was tearing away at his sanity, but got no response.
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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)
28th October, 2019
* posted : 28th October, 2019
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