CHAPTER FOUR HUNDRED and FOURTEEN
Friday morning — 9:26 A.M.
Ooljee opened her eyes. Every single day of her four and a half years, someone had been there when she had opened her eyes. She blinked. Where was her mother? Where was her funny Irish father?
She realized she was wrapped in animal skins. This meant that she was with her grandparents. Where was her grandmother? Her grandfather? They were always so attentive.
Ooljee listened for a minute. No one was drumming or singing.
What was going on?
Ooljee sat up from where she had been sleeping. A man was lying on a cot nearby. Ooljee got up to look at the man. It was her friend Katy’s father. Ooljee touched his face with her tiny hand and whispered, “You are loved.”
He stirred and Ooljee smiled. She went to where the drummers were sitting.
“It’s time to drum,” Ooljee said.
“But …” their lead drummer gestured to where her grandfather was arguing with someone.
“They cannot work it out unless you drum,” Ooljee said. She gestured to Jacob. “Are we going to leave Katy’s father between worlds?”
The drummers looked at Jacob and back to Ooljee. She pointed to their drums. The lead drummer tapped on his drum. When the grandfather didn’t yell at him, he began drumming in earnest. As he did, other men came from around the backyard. They picked up their abandoned drums and joined the lead drummer. Ooljee smiled at the men.
The lead singer returned to the deck. He checked Jacob before sitting down. Ooljee nodded to the man. He grinned at the little girl before clearing his throat. He waited for the right beat before beginning to sing. She joined him in song. They sang together for a while before a woman came onto the deck. She scowled at the grandfather and grandmother before sitting down next the singer. The woman took a long drink of what looked like tea and began to sing. When they were harmonizing, Ooljee got up.
Humming to herself, she went to where her grandmother and grandfather were arguing with a pregnant woman and a man. Ooljee went up to the strange woman and held her arms up. Without hesitation, the woman picked her up.
“You are Ooljee,” Abi said.
Ooljee nodded, and Abi smiled.
“You are grandmother to all,” Ooljee said.
“Sort of,” Abi said. “That’s what we are arguing over. I am not your grandmother as I was here long before even the bees and alligators. This is my brother and friend. We call him, ‘Gilfand’, now, and you may call me, ‘Abi.’”
“In honor of Queen Fand,” Ooljee said.
Abi scowled the question of how Ooljee knew this.
“I met her when my friend Katy was getting brothers,” Ooljee said. “Katy is the best friend of my cousin, Paddie. I have to tell you that I didn’t like this Queen Fand very much. Paddie had to threaten her with his shiny sword to get her to leave Katy alone.”
“She is a fairy,” Gilfand said as if he was making a point. “Fairies are …”
“Interested in what catches their attention,” Ooljee said with a nod. “But not all of them. I like Edie. I’ve met her sister … um …”
“Aife?” Abi asked.
“The one who is blue,” Ooljee said.
“Aife,” Abi said. “She is acting as the blue fairy right now.”
“She’s different,” Ooljee said in a voice she thought might make them laugh. She grinned when they laughed.
“Jacob believes that he is related to the Queen,” Gilfand said.
His eyes squinted and his brow dropped as if they were asking a question.
“This is not a problem, sir,” Ooljee’s grandmother said to Gilfand.
“I still don’t …” Ooljee’s grandfather started.
“Grandfather, this is the first woman and first man our myths speak of,” Ooljee said in Navajo.
“How can you be sure?” Ooljee’s grandfather replied in Navajo. “They may be demons here to capture you or our charge! We must be ever diligent.”
Finally understanding the problem, Gilfand turned his whole attention to the grandfather. As Ooljee watched, the first man read her grandfather’s entire history. Gilfand gave her grandfather a kind smile. He put his hand on her grandfather’s shoulder.
“I have no ability to show you that we are not demons,” Gilfand said. “I will tell you that the man lying there is of my lineage, not Fand’s. We have allowed them to believe that he is of Fand’s because … how do you explain all of this?”
The grandfather turned and looked into Gilfand’s eyes.
“Abi has only had one other child,” Gilfand said. “We didn’t think she could have children until she fell in love with Fand’s eldest son. It may be magic.”
“As for me …” He smiled. The grandfather gave Gilfand a knowing grin. Gilfand used his chin to nod to Jacob.
“He can move objects,” Gilfand said.
“So can Katy!” Ooljee said.
“Can she?” Gilfand asked. He smiled. “I’m glad. That skill is very rare in humans. It comes from me. The skill marks him as one of mine.”
Gilfand held out his hand and the singer’s mug of tea traveled across the deck to him.
“Jacob had to clear a curse that involved Fand before his wife could have their boys,” Gilfand said. “That whole thing was my fault.”
Gilfand nodded. Unbidden, a tear came to his eye. Gilfand sniffed.
“You can see that Jacob Marlowe is a favorite of mine,” Gilfand said. “And my sister’s.”
“We were called here, by …” Gilfand looked at Abi and she shrugged. “We can’t be sure, but it’s likely that Jacob called us to him. Please, let us help.”
“How will you help?” the grandmother asked.
“We will join your sing,” Gilfand said.
“How will you know the words?” the grandfather sniffed. “We sing in ancient Navajo.”
Abi gave the grandfather a kind smile. Ignoring the question, Gilfand continued.
“Abi has a beautiful voice and I can drum. We will strengthen the power of your earth medicine. Together, we will draw Jacob Marlowe back into his life.”
“He has an energetic hole around his heart,” the grandmother said. “Even with your help, our efforts won’t heal him for long.”
“We fear he is lost to us,” the grandfather said each word as if they were painful.
“Do not despair,” Abi said. “He has with him exactly what he needs to heal. He wants to heal.”
“But we must do our part,” Gilfand said. Without asking, he moved toward the drummers. “He needs us to guide him back to this world.”
Ooljee squirmed so Abi set her down. Ooljee went to the sand panting.
“Grandfather?” Ooljee asked.
Her grandfather looked at the child for what felt like a long time, before he nodded.
“Welcome, First Woman,” he said. “We are blessed by your presence.”
Without saying another word, he walked over to where Ooljee was standing. They began to work on the sand painting. Gilfand nodded to Abi before picking up a drum and joining the drummers.
“I am blessed to be here,” Abi said to the grandmother. “Please, let me check on my friends.”
Abi gestured to Sam, Blane, and Valerie.
“I can help,” Abi said.
The grandmother nodded. Abi touched Sam’s hair and Blane’s shoulder. She scowled. Letting go of Sam and Blane, she went to Valerie. Abi looked up to the sky. As if she were speaking to the universe, Abi’s lips moved silently in some strange language. A crow landed on the top of the Castle and a red-tailed hawk flew high overhead. Abi kissed Valerie’s cheek, and then kissed Blane’s cheek. She went around to the front where she kissed both of Sam’s cheeks.
“Is this man special?” the grandmother asked. Not thinking clearly, she spoke in Navajo.
“He is the most human,” Abi replied in Navajo without missing a beat. Abi gave Sam a soft smile. “He loves the most completely.”
Abi smiled at the grandmother before turning to Jacob. Abi touched his foot and his leg. She touched Jacob’s abdomen and his chest. She touched his shoulders and held his hands. She set one of Jacob’s hands on Jacob’s belly and rested the other hand on the first. Abi leaned over the cot to look into Jacob’s face. Smiling, Abi kissed his forehead.
“He is exactly where he is supposed to be,” Abi said. “Now …”
She turned and smiled at the grandmother.
“Where can I help?” Abi asked.
“First woman,” the grandmother started and then faltered. Abi gave the grandmother a warm smile, and the grandmother found her voice again. “If you can, we could use help singing. Will you know it?”
“I will,” Abi said with a smile.
Abi gave the grandmother a slight bow and went to the singers. She introduced herself simply as, “Abi.” They gave her a seat. Abi listened to the song for a while before joining in. The grandmother watched Abi for a moment before smiling. Shaking her head at the entire situation, the grandmother went to get Ooljee and help the child start her day.
Completely spent, Jacob lay with his head on Blane’s shoulder. His eyes slowly adjusted to see the world without the Sea of Amber as his lens. He took a deep breath, and then another. Hedone disappeared from where she’d been watching.
“Where are we?” Jacob croaked.
“Sea of Amber,” Sam said. He got up from where he’d been crouching. “You were in there again, son.”
“I was?” Jacob asked.
He looked at Sam and then at Valerie, who was still holding his legs. He reached his hand to touch Blane’s.
“Blane,” he said in a soft voice. “I was trying to help you with your self-loathing, and I was flung …”
Blane kissed Jacob’s cheek and unhooked his legs from around Jacob’s waist.
“Are you naked?” Jacob asked with a laugh. “How did you get so golden, brother?”
Laughing, Blane kissed Jacob’s cheek again and let go.
“Why am I wrapped like a burrito?” Jacob asked.
Smiling, Valerie squeezed Jacob’s legs. Sam held out a hand and Valerie got up. Valerie and Sam hugged before holding out their hands to Blane. He hopped up.
“Clothing,” Sam said with a gesture toward Blane’s stack of clothes.
“Good idea,” Blane said with a smile.
They walked away from Jacob. Blane went to his clothing. Sam went to look at the Sea of Amber, and Valerie looked up for the crow and hawk.
“Hey!” Jacob said. “You can’t just leave me all bound up here!”
Valerie started laughing. Sam grinned, but Blane continued to put on his clothing. Valerie turned to look at Jacob.
“Okay, okay,” Jacob said with a laugh. “You’re right. Thank you for saving me from that horrible Sea of Amber. I clearly owe you my life and most certainly my sanity.”
They kept looking at him.
“Please forgive me for …” Jacob looked up and screamed.
The battered mountain lion was standing over him. The mountain lion sniffed at Jacob’s face. Terrified, Jacob tried to get away from the creature, but he was trapped by the swaddling. After a moment, Jacob stopped screaming. He and the lion locked eyes.
For Jacob, the world seemed to stop moving. Jacob felt like he could see the universe inside the mountain lion’s eyes. After a few minutes, Jacob felt like he was going to pass out. He blinked and then blinked again.
“Jake!” Blane screamed.
Half dressed, Blane ran to where Jacob lay. Jacob felt Blane’s arms tight around his shoulders. Blane shook him.
“Jake!” Blane screamed!
Jacob couldn’t keep himself conscious. His eyes still on the mountain lion, Jacob lost consciousness.
“What the hell?” Blane asked.
Jacob was beginning to fade. Sam and Valerie ran over.
“Jake!” Valerie and Sam yelled in unison.
Blane shook Jacob again. The second shake Blane’s arms were empty. Jacob and the blanket were gone.
“We’ve lost him,” Sam whispered.
“No!” Blane screamed.
Blane hopped up and looked in the lake again. Shaking his head, Blane started to strip. He was about to dive in the Sea of Amber.
“No!” Valerie yelled. She ran to stand in front of Blane. “He’s not there!”
“I need to …” Blane started.
“You already have!” Valerie said.
“What?” Blane squinted at her.
“They’re at home right now working to bring Jake’s soul back to his physical body,” Valerie said. “We saved him. You saved him with our help. Now it’s up to the shamans at home and Jake.”
“She’s right,” Sam said. He nodded to Valerie, and added, “You really are the crow.”
“Thanks, I think,” Valerie said with a smile.
“If Jake’s not in there, why are we still here?” Blane asked.
Blane put back on the clothing he’d just taken off.
“I have an idea,” Sam said.
Valerie turned to him. Blane went to his other stack of clothes and dug for his underwear.
“It’s kind of crazy,” Sam said.
“Look around you,” Blane said. He pulled on his underwear. “Does it get crazier than all of this?”
Sam smiled, but didn’t say anything.
“Dad?” Valerie asked.
“Well …” Sam said. With his hands on his hips, he looked out to the Sea of Amber. “From what I gather, this stuff is collected here from people’s despair.”
Sam raised his eyebrows to the others. Valerie shrugged and Blane shook his head that he didn’t know.
“I was told that this was a natural caldera where these feelings are pooled,” Sam said.
“Isn’t it?” Valerie asked.
“No,” Sam said. “Well, three sides. There’s a dam.”
Sam nodded to Valerie and Blane. Completely dressed, Blane went to Sam and patted his back.
“How ’bout if you just tell us what you’re thinking?” Blane asked. He went to get his shoes. “I have question.”
Valerie and Sam turned to look at him.
“How did you get down here so easily?” Blane pointed to Valerie. “I fell in so many quick sand traps I felt like I was in a 1970s sitcom.”
“I followed your footsteps,” Valerie said. “Didn’t already ask me this?”
“If I did, I don’t remember,” Blane said with a shrug.
As if there was amber sea inside, Blane turned his hand over and patted the other side. Valerie grinned at him. They turned to Sam.
“Dad?” Valerie asked.
“I think we should destroy the dam,” Sam said. “There, I said it.”
Valerie looked at her father and blinked. Shrugging, Blane dropped down to put on his shoes.
“Any ideas how to do that, Dad?” Valerie asked.
“Sure,” Sam said.
Sam nodded. He went to the edge of the Sea of Amber again and looked out.
“No one should ever be stuck in this horrible place,” Sam said.
“You remember that Heather and the girls destroyed the sea,” Blane said.
“Then why is it back?” Sam asked. “It’s back because the dam is still here. I’m saying that we have to make it so human despair can’t be collected here.”
Sam nodded. He turned back to them.
“Kind of a radical thought,” Sam said with a nod. “What will all the dictators do?”
“There aren’t so many of those now,” Blane said in a low voice.
“There are enough,” Sam said. He turned to look at Blane and Valerie. “What if there was no longer a store of human despair? What if we made it impossible?”
Sam’s eyes glowed with fanatical passion.
“Are you with me?” Sam asked.
Blane and Valerie gawked at him. Seeing their faces, Sam laughed.
“Did you really think that Celia was the only crazy one?” Sam asked. “It was me who saved Delphie from that disgusting Levi. Ask her when we get back. It was me who started the company. We couldn’t get jobs and …”
“Okay, Dad,” Valerie said.
She gave him a “you’ve lost it” look which caused Sam to laugh out loud.
“Look at it,” Sam said with sudden rage. He pointed to the Sea of Amber. “No, really look at it.”
Valerie and Blane turned to look at the Sea of Amber. From this angle, it looked like a high mountain lake.
“In there — right there — lives Delphie’s pain from being raped and tortured and having her mind turned inside out by that horrible man,” Sam said. “Our sweet Delphie.”
Valerie turned to look at it.
“And all of your pain over Wes and whoever else,” Sam said. “Your desperate pain from losing your child and Mike and Mom in the same week. And it’s there for those horrible creatures’ amusement.”
“Sam?” Blane started.
“And you, Blane,” Sam said. He pointed to the Sea of Amber. His voice rose with passion. “Every time you were raped — every single time — it’s all right there. For these serpents to enjoy. Well I say ‘Fuck them’! Or Sandy! Imagine all that she’s been through and she’s not the only one. That creature Otis sired had thousand, no, many thousands, children raped and tortured and … Children! And all of their pain and horror and … Gacy or Bundy or that horrible Karesh, who burned his own children alive, remember them? All of his victims and their pain just right there for those serpents to relish and…”
Shaking with emotion, Sam was in such a fevered pitch that he had to stop to catch his breath.
“But …?” Blane asked.
“But what?” Sam asked. The very question set Sam off. “But nothing! I will not tolerate a place like this existing in the world. I simply won’t. If you lack the courage to get this done, then I’ll do it myself. I could use your help, but to hell with you! You might be able to live with little kids … and … pain …all stored up … and …”
Sam scowled. Valerie shook her head and started to speak. Blane put his hand on her shoulder to hold her back. It was clear that Blane had seen Sam like this before.
“You done?” Blane asked.
“No, I’m not done,” Sam said. “How dare you?”
“We want to know …?” Blane said the words in a slow, even tone. He raised his eyebrows.
Sam scowled and put his hands on his hips. He nodded to Blane. Valerie started to speak again, but Blane shook his head. They waited. After a few minutes, Sam nodded.
“Sorry,” Sam said. “I really lost it. I just get so … furious … that these things would …”
He pointed to the Sea of Amber.
“And then use it for their enjoyment,” Sam said. “Or to torture … even Gods …Well, that Zeus, he kind of deserved it.”
“It didn’t affect him at all,” Blane said.
“Oh really?” Sam asked. “He’s probably a serpent inside.”
“Done?” Blane asked.
“No, I’m not done,” Sam said. “Are you with me?”
Valerie started to speak but she looked at Blane. He gave her a slight nod.
“We want to know ‘how,’ Dad,” Valerie said. “That’s all we were asking. How are we going to keep it from storing up here?”
“Oh, that’s easy,” Sam said with a grin. “We’re going to destroy the dam.”
Denver Cereal continues next week…
This work, unless otherwise expressly stated, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.