Great stories about good people caught in difficult situations.


Chapter Four Hundred and eleven: Ready

CHAPTER FOUR HUNDRED and ELEVEN

“We were born on the same day,” Blane said. “Close to the same time.”

“What?” Sam and Valerie asked in unison.

Blane’s words were so unexpected that Sam actually stopped working. He stood up to look at Blane.

“What are you saying, son?” Sam asked.

“I …” Blane said. “Well …”

“Well?” Valerie asked.

“You know how we drank that tea?” Blane asked. When Valerie and Sam didn’t say anything, he pressed forward, “Well, I had a vision.”

“You mean like this one?” Sam asked.

Valerie grinned and nodded.

“Yeah, I guess so,” Blane said. “Do you wonder who is having this vision?”

“I think we all are,” Valerie said. “I had a very cool vision by myself. Sounds like you did, too. Dad?”

Sam nodded and dropped down to test the strength of the raft.

“What happened in your vision?” Valerie asked.

“I remembered being in the hospital, I guess right after I was born,” Blane said. “You were there, Valerie. Jacob, too. When you left, he would reach for me. I reached for him, too.”

Valerie looked off in the near distance for a moment before his eyes flicked back at Blane.

“He was always on his side when I got there,” Valerie said, with a nod, and then she shook her head. “I’m sorry, Blane. I don’t remember you.”

“You were five,” Blane said.

“I just think it would be nice to have some confirmation, you know?” Valerie asked. “From someone other than these visions.”

“I know it’s true in my heart,” Blane said.

“Then it’s true,” Sam said. “Enough said. When we get out of here, we’ll ask Delphie. There weren’t that many women having babies that day. This is great information. We’ll find out what happened, not just whatever we can make up about what happened. And, well, you know Delphie.”

Sam nodded as if that was enough to say.

“So I think I have to go in,” Blane said. “We share the same birthday, plus Jake really saved my life when we were about eight.”

“He did?” Valerie asked, but Sam nodded. Valerie was so surprised at her father’s nod, that she asked, “Dad?”

“You remember the Red Scooter?” Sam asked.

“The one Jake didn’t buy?” Valerie asked, with a nod. “Mom was furious for a long, long time. Took the pressure of me.”

“He used the money to pay Blane to get medical care,” Sam said without looking up. “Were you hurt bad, son?”

“My super Christian foster father … uh …” Blane felt the wind go out of his lungs. He gasped a breath. “Assaulted me. Tore my anus and intestines. Jake paid for my part of the surgery fees. But if Jake hadn’t found me, I would have died from blood loss and sepsis. That’s how I got AIDS.”

“From the blood transfusion?” Valerie asked.

“From the super Christian foster father,” Blane said. He felt a flush of rage, and then he shrugged. “I guess that’s over now.”

“How so?” Sam asked.

“He’s dead,” Blane said. “Died on his own after being thrown out, finally, by his wife and abandoned by the good Christians of their evangelical community.”

Blane shrugged.

“Huh,” Valerie said with a shrug. “Red Scooter. It’s a pretty good metaphor for what he actually spent the money on. You think Jake knew, you know, that inner knowing?”

“Probably,” Sam said and Blane said, “Who knows?”

“Did mom ever know?” Valerie asked.

“No,” Sam said. “Jake didn’t want her to.”

“Any idea why?” Valerie asked.

“You know how Celia could be,” Sam said. “She was just as likely to believe that Blane was taking advantage of her poor baby. She might have missed the horrific situation Blane was actually in. Jake had wanted us to help Blane, said so at the time. He didn’t want anything to get in the way of that.”

“So it kind of has to be me,” Blane said with a nod.

“How will you protect yourself from …” Valerie visibly shivered. “ … that?”

She gestured to the orange lake. Blane grinned and gestured with his chin toward the lake. Hedone, the goddess form of Heather, was walking on the surface of the Sea of Amber. As always, Hedone’s skin, hair, and body were the radiant gold of love. She gave off a glow that brightened this horrible dead place.

“I know the current owner of Sea of Amber,” Blane said, with a smile. “Hedone!”

At the sound of his voice, Hedone looked up. Her face broke into a pleased and surprised smile. She positively radiated a warmth they could feel where they were standing. Even the beaver basked in the glow. The Goddess moved quickly in their direction. Hedone held Blane tight before letting go. She gave Valerie a long, curious look and smiled at Sam.

“Sam,” Hedone said.

“Nice to see you again, ma’am,” Sam said with a blush.

Valerie looked at Blane sideways. Blane shrugged his “I don’t know.”

“Heather asked me to come here,” Hedone said. “You can imagine my surprise to see you.”

“My son is in the lake,” Sam said.

“Yes,” Hedone said. “I noticed that. There should be a ‘lake’ here. Who called the lake into being?”

Shaking his head, Sam shrugged.

“Crap,” Hedone said to their surprise. “I wonder if time is slipping again.”

Overhead, a hawk made a piercing cry. An enormous red tailed hawk flew above the Sea of Amber. Looking up, Hedone smiled at the bird.

“At least, Jacob is loved,” Hedone said. “That will help. Now, how might I be of assistance?”

“I need to go in to get Jacob out,” Blane said in a matter of fact tone.

He expected Hedone to tell that he couldn’t do that, but she nodded and looked at Valerie and then Sam. As she looked at them, the large crow appeared. It seemed to bat its eyes at Valerie before taking off to fly in the high wind with the hawk.

“Oh look, the grandmother’s crow,” Valerie said.

Hedone gave Valerie an ironic grin and Blane laughed.

“What?” Valerie asked.

“The crow is your animal thingy whatever,” Blane said.

Valerie gasped and took a step back. She shook her head.

“No, I’m more like a beautiful song bird or maybe a robin or a majestic owl or …” Valerie said.

“Or a smart, problem solving, resilient, gorgeous crow,” Sam said.

“What’s Jake?” Valerie asked, putting her hands on her hips.

“A mountain lion,” Blane said with a nod. “How do think I feel? I’m the super masculine bunny.”

Blane gestured to the rabbit standing nearby.

“But that makes sense,” Valerie said. “Rabbits are one of the most common prey. They feed entire ecosystems. You make everything happen for everyone around you.”

“Sounds about right.” Sam nodded. Blane blushed.

“Who’s the hawk then?” Valerie asked.

“Mike,” Sam and Blane said in unison.

“And Dad?” Valerie asked.

“Beaver,” Sam and Blane said in unison.

“How come Jake gets to be a mountain lion?” Valerie asked in a tone more whiney that she would like.

“Crows are wonderful creatures,” Hedone said. “Powerful, ancient. You are too young to know what you are yet. You’ll find the crow inside as you age.”

Valerie scowled at the Goddess as if she was crazy.

“Fine, what’s Delphie?” Valerie asked.

“I can’t be sure,” Sam said. He gestured to an insect hovering around them. “But that’s the biggest, most beautiful dragon fly I’ve ever seen.”

“She has a few hundred of skirts in those colors,” Valerie said with a nod. “I have to be a crow?”

“You’ll need the hawk to find Jacob. The crow will determine the best way to get him out,” Hedone said. “Blane is correct. He must go in, and I will be able protect him. Only the rabbit is capable of being protected completely by love.”

Hedone smiled at Blane.

“Brave bunny that you are,” Hedone said. “Now, Heather told me about those serpents. If time has indeed slipped, they may be here. Have you seen any?”

Hedone scowled and scanned the area.

“I haven’t seen a serpent,” Sam said. “Aren’t they dead?”

“They jump time,” Hedone said. She let go of her scowl and smiled. “I’d rather not run into them. It’s not that they are dangerous, certainly not to me. It just would be a big waste of time and energy. Although …”

Hedone pointed up. High above the hawk and crow flew a large iridescent serpent.

“Bestat?” Blane asked.

“The daughter, Neuth. They hop time as well,” Hedone said. “She would only be here if what we do is important to her and them at some point long in the future.”

“Any ideas what?” Valerie asked.

“No,” Hedone scowled.

“They are irritated by forecasting,” Blane whispered to Valerie.

“Best left to those who do it well,” Hedone said.

“Delphie,” Blane mouthed to Valerie. Valerie nodded.

“Now, the fact that she is here means that we need to get this show on the road,” Hedone said.

“What do we need to do?” Valerie asked the Goddess.

“What were you going to do before I got here?” Hedone asked.

“Head out on the raft,” Sam said with a shrug.

“Let’s get going,” Hedone said. “Jacob will need each of your power to get through this. That is why you are here.”

Hedone turned to Valerie.

“He needs you, Valerie, possibly most of all,” Hedone said. “You were there when he came into this world. He needs your guidance to get out of this dark pocket. Something has drawn him back to this place. He must release it before he will truly be free of it.”

“What’s going to happen when we get him out?” Sam asked. He was already onto the next problem. “You will return to your home.”

Hedone smiled.

“I know it feels like you are alone in this desolate place,” Hedone said. “You are not. Those working at your home to heal him are about to meet the most ancient of us all. We need to do our part. They will do theirs. Together, we will get this done.”

Hedone nodded.

“How’s that for vague?” Hedone asked in a very Heather like voice.

They laughed.

“Are we ready to go?” Sam asked.

“No,” Valerie said in jest. He laughed.

“Ma’am.” Sam held up the raft in front of Hedone. She touched a corner and, like water moving over a surface, a gold layer covered the raft in gleaming protection. Sam nodded his thanks.

“I will go with you,” Hedone said. “It’s not every day you get to see a rescue.”

Hedone smiled. Knowing Heather so well, Blane could tell that her Goddess counterpart was worried. Heather and Hedone had a lot of God and Goddess friends. He vaguely wondered who Hedone would call if she needed help.

Sam laid the raft on to the still Seal of Amber. By some miracle, it floated.

“Ready?” Sam asked.

Leaving one foot on shore, Sam stepped onto the raft. He extended his hand to Valerie and then to Blane. The Goddess waved his help away as she stepped onto the raft. Sam leaned over and picked up the rabbit. He gave it to Blane. The beaver gestured to a thinner, straighter pole he’d made from a tree. Sam picked up the beaver and the pole. He set the beaver down and looked at the pole. With a shrug, he put the pole into the water and found that he could push against the bottom.

“Hang on,” Sam said, and they set out into the Sea of Amber.

~~~~~~~~

Friday morning — 5:37 A.M.

“I think we have …” Jill said to Honey. She was bent over with her head inside the refrigerator. “Three, no, make that one …”

“No!” By some improbable miracle, Jill heard Katy yell.

“I have to …” Jumping up, Jill started. If she finished her sentence, it was lost as Jill ran through the main Castle living room.

“Jill?” Honey called after her, but Jill was gone.

“No!’ Katy yelled when Jill was on the stairs.

Jill rounded the corner and into the large den where the fairies had moved the children overnight. Jill grabbed Katy a moment before the next “No.” Surprised by her mother, Katy paused her nuclear tantrum countdown. With Katy in her arms, Jill took the basement stairs two at a time. She retraced her steps through the main Castle living room. She took the tight turns through the kitchen.

“Jill?” Honey’s concerned voice asked.

Jill didn’t bother to turn or explain. She was surprised at how hard it was to get up the stairs. Somehow she made it to the loft before Katy said her final “No!” Panting and sweating, Jill slid across the wood floor toward her bedroom where she set Katy on the bed. Only then did she realize that by some miracle, her boys had attached themselves to her hips. She set them one at a time on the bed and dove in herself. Delphie had helped them set up this room so that unintended psychic energy diffused through the ceiling and into the solar panels where it was converted to electricity.

“No,” Katy said in a small meek voice.

Katy began to weep. As she had when it was just her and Katy, Jill pressed Katy against her chest. She tucked Tanner and Bladen tight against her thighs. She wrapped her left arm around Katy and her right arm around the babies. It was more instinct than plan. Jill profound love for her children made it work.

Katy screamed at the top of her lungs, and the boys joined in her call. As Jill held on, her children vented their rage and sorrow.

Where was their father?

Why was their mother so distracted?

Why were they left with all of these fairies?

Jill had no answers for them. She knew what it felt like to be shuffled around as if you didn’t matter. She also knew that these children would be the most affect by the outcome.

Jill could only love them.

Jill held them for what felt like hours. Katy was breathing evenly when Jill heard a knock on the loft door.

“No fairies,” Katy said with a sniff in a voice hoarse from yelling.

“Jill?” Noelle’s voice asked from the entrance.

There was an odd scratching noise and Sarah jumped onto the bed. The dog dropped down behind Jill. Noelle came running in behind her.

“I’m sorry,” Noelle said. “She showed up last night. I mean, she needed a bath and was starving. We fed her a whole chicken and she pooped and …”

Noelle realized Jill was lying with the children. Embarrassed for interrupting, Noelle pressed on.

“She ate again this morning, and pooped and stuff,” Noelle nodded. “She was really, really hungry and tired too. She was sound asleep. Then she jumped up and wanted to come up here. I tried to stop her but … She’s too big for me. Nash too.”

When Jill didn’t say anything, Noelle came around so that Jill could look at her.

“Are you all right?” Noelle whispered.

“Thank you, Noelle,” Jill said, “for taking such good care of Sarah.”

“That’s my job,” Noelle said with a nod. “Wanda and Tink’s too. They’re just more shy about … you know, breaking in here. They’re out there.”

Noelle dropped down to a crouch.

“Can I help?” Noelle asked.

“Can you tell Delphie that we need brownies?” Jill asked.

“Oh,” Noelle’s face blanched. “It was that bad.”

Katy’s dark, tear swollen eyes opened. She gave Noelle a sad nod. Noelle put a steadying hand on Katy’s shoulder.

“We’ll take care of it,” Noelle said. “If Sarah needs anything, just call us. We have our phones.”

Noelle got up.

“I’ll be back with brownies,” Noelle said.

She touched each of the boys with her grounding, human hands before leaving the room. They heard Noelle update Tink and Wanda in the entryway to the loft.

“Oh, how awful,” Tink said.

“Poor Katy,” Wanda said as they left the loft.

The door to the loft softly closed. For a moment, no one moved. They lay on the big bed and held each other. In their own way, each of them knew that Jacob was in trouble. They also knew that there was nothing they could do to help.

“It’s going to be okay,” Jill said in a low tone.

“How do you know, Mommy?” Katy asked in her strained voice.

“I know the man,” Jill said. “I see him in you and the boys. I know that he will fight like hell to get back to our sides. I see all of these people who are willing to give of their time and their love to help our Daddy come back to us. And …”

Jill stopped talking. She didn’t say anything for such a long time that Katy leaned up to look at her. Seeing Katy’s face, Jill gave her a soft smile.

“And?” Katy croaked.

“And I know that there is no stronger force in the world than love,” Jill repeated something her mother used to tell her. “Do you love your Daddy?”

Katy gave Jill a sincere nod.

“Do we think the boys do?” Jill asked.

Katy nodded.

“I love him, too,” Jill said. “We will focus on loving him and, one way or another, he will return to us.”

Katy lay back down and they snuggled on the bed. After a few minutes, Sarah raised her head and sniffed at the air. The dog barked on loud “woof” in greeting.

“Hello?” Delphie’s voice came from the door to the loft. “I heard someone requested brownies. But I think I’ve forgotten the recipe. I sure could use some help.”

Katy leaned up to look at Jill.

“Go ahead,” Jill said. “We’ll be right there.”

Katy jumped up and Sarah joined her. Jill gathered her strength for a moment before sitting up. The boys were looking at her. Bladen nudged her breast. She picked up the boys and made her way into the loft. Delphie’s back was to them as Delphie rummaged around in their refrigerator. Katy was sitting on the counter drinking a glass of milk.

“Go ahead, Jill,” Delphie said from inside the refrigerator.

Jill went into their sitting area. She settled in to breastfeed the boys. When the boys were done, the brownies were cooking and Katy was back to her happy self again. Jill brought her sleeping boys to the counter. Together, they waited for the happy moment when the brownies arrived from the oven.

~~~~~~~~

Friday morning — 5:37 A.M.

“I think I was pregnant longer with the first one,” Abi said to Gilfand in answer to his question.

They had knocked on the Castle side door. When no one answered, they’d let themselves in. They were standing in the Castle living room when Jill ran through the second time. Abi snapped her fingers and Jill’s twins appeared on Jill’s hips. Gilfand didn’t comment until Jill was long past.

“I don’t think so,” Gilfand said. “This is a long time.”

They had spent many thousands of years in each other’s solitary company. Now, they rarely had time alone together. The trip to Colorado had been a joy for each of them.

“You’re just jealous,” Abi said. “You wish you could do this.”

“You’re right,” Gilfand said with a laugh. “I do.”

They weren’t sure why they’d been called here. They only knew that it was important.

“Hi,” Honey said, as they entered the kitchen. “I can’t believe you’re still pregnant!”

“I can’t either!” Abi said.

“Is the baby all right?” Honey asked.

“We’ve done all the modern science stuff,” Gilfand said with a wave of his hands. “The child seems just fine.”

“Will you induce?” Honey asked.

“Induce?” Abi asked with a scowl. “I don’t know what that means.”

“The doctors give you a hormone that makes the baby come,” Honey said. “It’s really common here. Busy women do it so they can keep to their schedules.”

Gilfand grimaced and Abi shrugged.

“This is magic,” Gilfand said.

“Likely the Queen’s magic,” Abi said. “She doesn’t want me to have my baby before she has hers.”

Honey gave Abi a startled look.

“What?” Abi asked at the same time Gilfand said, “Are you all right?”

“You just seem like siblings,” Honey said.

“That’s because we are,” Abi said.

“Or as close as you can come,” Gilfand said. “I was created, and then she. Same creator. Same time.”

He shrugged. Honey nodded.

“Can we help you with something?” Gilfand asked.

“Jill was helping me take an inventory of our food,” Honey said. “Katy was about to lose it so she ran off. I can do all of the rest of the inventory, but I can’t do the refrigerator.”

“You’ll find the list on your pad,” Gilfand said. “May I help with something else?”

“No, that’s great,” Honey said, looking at the list. “Thank you.”

Gilfand nodded.

“I believe we need to go out here,” Abi said.

Immersed in her list, Honey gave them a distracted nod. Gilfand and Abi continued along their way. People moved around them as if they weren’t there. They moved past the picnic table where people were eating and the barbecue grills that were just being started for the day. No one bothered to look up at them, which suited them perfectly. Gilfand nodded toward the deck. They walked across the grass and up the steps.

Gilfand put his foot onto the deck.

Everyone on the deck stopped what they were doing to stare at him. The drummers stopped drumming. The singers stopped singing. Everyone turned to stare at Gilfand and Abi.

“Hello?” Abi asked.

Denver Cereal continues next week…

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