20 juin 2015

Chapter 17

“Whatever could you mean?” I ask coyly, fighting off a blush that never comes. That’s still very unsettling. 

“Oh, you’ll see,” he promises with a smug wink and total obliviousness of Nirav, who’s still standing right there. 

Ah, so flirty innuendoes are okay, as long as there’s no touching? We’re going to have to talk about this, eventually.

Meanwhile Vlad takes a few steps away, then slowly lifts his forearms like a T’ai chi master, and seems to be pushing air forward with his palms. A disturbing second later, an arcade-shaped, rippling blue veil appears right in front of him. 
And in one step forward, he disappears. 

“How did… Where…?” I mumble.
“This is a big place! He just stepped into another room,” Peter indulges.  

It’s bigger than this?!?
“You saw how we could build things, in the Chronophora, remember?” he explains, looking all excited again about teaching me the ways of his world. 
I nod.

“We can also make them disappear and reappear at will. Vlad overdoes it, like he does everything else… But it comes from a good place, I guess. He wants most of his Space to be a memorial for our Elders,” he motions toward some of the statues, “So he keeps his own rooms hidden, in respect.”

“Um… Can I do this? Build things?” I can’t help but ask.

“Oh you’ll learn! We all have. There’s a… school for this, run by two of my closest friends. We’ll pass through their Spaces on the way.”

“Shall we?” Vlad asks, reappearing all too quietly, and comically waving backwards to make the veiled entrance disappear. He’s carrying what looks like a long, maroon cloth bag, bean-pod shaped, with ends twisted like a sultan’s slippers. He hoists it up to his shoulder.

“Is that food?” I whisper to Peter, “’Cause I’m starved, honestly.”

My words stop him dead, and he stares at me, puzzled. “You’re hungry?!” he asks a little too loudly, drawing a mystified look from Vlad. Nirav, however, seems indifferent. It’s his thoughtful candy gift that has kept me going so far. …What does he know?

“But… we don’t get hungry!” Vlad blurts.

The only word I like in that sentence is the “we”. It shows I’m part of the group. But the rest suddenly depresses me. “You don’t eat?!” I ask with exaggerated woe. Yes, I said ‘woe’. This seemed the dramatic moment for it.

“Well… yes we do, but for… pleasure. It’s part of our baser needs,” Vlad goes on, murmuring that last part as if it were dirty.

No food?! I hate this place!!!

Peter’s worried knuckle goes back up to that juicy lower lip of his. “I don’t see how we can find things to eat anytime soon… Are you still capable of physical effort?” he asks, as if addressing a human again.

“’Starved’ is an exaggeration… I’m okay,” but the residual distraught look on my face convinces no one.

“We’ll hurry and find you something, I promise,” Peter intimates, worriedly.

He then turns to Vlad and speaks in their airy, elegant language. The vowels seem longer – some even doubled – while the consonants sound more labial than anything else. It’s fascinating to listen to, and it seems like they’re discussing the route again, so I’m not too frustrated to know what’s being said, as long as it leads us to chow.

As I stare on and grab my rumbling tummy, I feel Nirav’s imposing presence, looming, somewhere to my left. Another very strange aspect of this place: everything and everyone is teeming with so much energy that I could feel it against my very skin. I wonder if it’s the nature of things here, or mine.  My “new nature”, unknown to everyone, including me…

I lightly lean towards the tall, intimidating Elf, and speak as low as I can. “Did you know? That I would need to eat, I mean?”

He gazes at me, as if unsure whether or not he should answer that, and then raises three fingers to his mouth.

What happens then is both icky and beguiling: a trail of luminous, orangish sparks follows his fingers, as he does a soft, pulling movement. They gradually bundle up in an irregular sphere which levitates in front of his lips for a second, then lightly glides over to me. 

Wow… If that’s his Lume, it’s absolutely beautiful.

I carefully do as Peter taught me, ushering it toward my ear, while cautiously glancing at the other two. Should they be seeing this?

To my surprise, I feel Nirav’s fingers still my hand mid-motion. He faintly shakes his head, and lifts my fingers to my eyes.

What…? His Lume is read differently?... I stare at him, befuddled, and it’s seconds before I finally understand.
Oh no… I can’t even bear the thought of putting a contact lens in there, and this guy wants me to push a fireball into my eye?!

Ugh… Okay, here goes… Good thing it’s not actually fire. I barely even feel the impact…

At first, nothing happens. But then, slowly, gracefully, gleaming shapes start forming, too close for me to see clearly. I instinctively screw up my eyes and concentrate, as if adjusting the focus of a camera lens. It’s intense enough to make me dizzy. I have no idea if these shapes are seen on the outside, or if they’re only reflected against my own cornea. What are they?

A few seconds later, they start making sense.

“Suspected it. I had to check”.

The incandescent words scroll before – or within – my eyes, then slowly disappear, as if their job is done.

I blink a couple of times, quizzically tilting my head. How is a Lume really made? And how could he have written those words without even using his hands? What I would give for a crash course in Elf!!!

But I try to stick to the subject at hand.

“Oh… so the candy was a test?” I ask, although the answer is obvious. He nods, shrugging apologetically.

My next question catches him off guard.

“But then… what am I?”

If what’s supposed to be an optional, “base” need to them, is a primary necessity for me, then how “Elven” could I possibly be?...

The sudden silence that follows puts an end to the conversation. From the corner of my eye, I notice Peter watching me, warily.

“Ready?” he asks, addressing only me.

For some reason that goes against all my feminist principles, I nod, obediently, and scurry to him, like a child who’s got caught stealing from the cookie jar.

And my question just hangs there, unanswered.

Vlad guides the group to one side of the colossal hall, where two statues, one male and the other female, seem to be floating in perfect synchrony. I observe as the lot stop to briefly bow in respect. I clumsily do the same, although the only admiration I feel is for their obvious reverence toward their forefathers slash mothers… I wish I knew their history, and what these figures have actually done to deserve all this…

Vlad slides one hand sideways, and the statues part, leaving a wider vacant space in the sandy wall. And very gracefully, Nirav and Vladimir step forward into the glittery powder, disappearing on the other side.

Now that we’re alone, Peter turns around, surprises me with a very swift, happy-teenager kiss – the hiding game again. Why? – and takes my hand.

“Remember what you did back there, with the ground?” he asks, with a tint of awe. I nod. “You’ll have to explain to me just how you figured it out so quickly! We all fall a few dozen times at first!!... But for now, just know that the principle is the same with this wall: feel the Energy of the particles, and just… float into it. Ready?”

I blink. Can I do this again? I’ll just have to think of Danielle’s Lume perhaps…

Peter squeezes my hand encouragingly, and slides through the sand as if it were water, keeping a hold of my fingers. But his dragging me with him barely gives me the time to concentrate, or even ask him to slow down. And so, soon enough, I find myself swallowing sand.

I cough in panic, and take a step back into the mausoleum, losing grip of Peter’s hand.  Damn it!

I ogle at the wall, fuming. It won’t get me that easy!

And just as I take a small but determined step forward, I see Peter’s forearm comically sticking through the sand, with an open, expecting palm. I chuckle at the sight of it, before a sneaky thought hits me. I delicately put my own palm underneath it, bend forward, and kiss the soft skin between the thumb and the index finger. It’s entirely his problem if he can’t keep a straight face on the other side, isn’t it? I snigger, proud of my flirting techniques, when his fingers softly reach up to my cheek and caress it in the sweetest of ways. I feel my insides shiver then loosen considerably… That man is very, very dangerous.

I straighten up, take a deep, uncertain breath and grab his hand. I can feel the vibration; it’s everywhere, and it never stops, so all I have to do is focus…

I close my eyes, and march into the wall, feeling only a slight tickle, as I somehow try to push the vibrations away, and try to… “glide” through them.

“You did it!” Peter whispers, letting go of my hand. “Now open your eyes…”

I do as he says, and my heart violently drops all the way to my feet.

Sweet mother of…!!!

We seem to be standing on a hill, with Elysium at our very feet.

The first thing that hits me is the infinity of floating, random-shaped, and highly colourful plots – … of land? – spreading as far as the eye can see, and beyond. They’re all woven into what looks like an endless, glowing, raw silk scarf, rippling softly and horizontally, on a supernatural, mellow, unfelt breeze.

The plots are of widely different shapes and sizes, with details I’m too scared to even focus on.

I’m frozen there, winded, with limp extremities and a reeling, overwhelmed mind, staring at what could very well be the heavens.

Everything floats here, even the earth. It’s so full of… Life, or what they call Energy; so much so that it seems animated by an actual heartbeat; a very gentle, immense one, as if this entire universe were built on a whale’s back.

And just when I think I’ve gone to the utter limits of bewilderment, I notice what lies beyond and above the ebbing and swelling silk…

This could be their sky, but instead of a clear, sunny-Sunday blue, it’s made of molten, soft-light-casting GOLD. Massive swirls and eddies of specked, melted gold, that resemble, to the stroke, Van Gogh’s Starry Night – without the blue. They shed a honey-yellow light, which seems to go perfectly with our olive skins, and reminds me of the outdoor scenes in Gattaca, one of my all-time favourite films…

But what good are human, earthly comparisons here? These are sights, colours, textures, and proportions I’ve never seen before, and I suspect no one else ever has.

My breath hitches heavily.

 “Are you okay?” Peter asks softly, but I don’t have it in me to answer.         

I look down and realize we’re actually standing on grass. Such an earthly thing, yet it exists here. I never imagined I would miss simple, uncut grass so intensely. It reminds me of the Luxembourg gardens in Paris. I swallow a threat of tears.

“Is this too much?” Peter insists. I slowly shake my head. My voice sounds hoarse when I finally manage to say, “Is this real?!...”

They all smile, then ceremoniously position themselves side by side in a straight line, with their backs turned to me. I wonder if they’re also contemplating the view, but then the three raise their hands to their mouths. Peter and Vlad whisper a few words in their language, while Nirav stands by. Next thing I see, three dots of light rise above their heads, and float there for a moment. Nirav’s orange-coloured Lume is easily distinguishable. Vlad’s looks more like a weightless, white, glowing snowflake, and Peter’s…. I smile as I realize it’s of the same, adorable green as his eyes. It’s perfectly round and flat, like a silver coin, and flips on itself, constantly reflecting light on both surfaces.

The three Lumes then dart out like shooting stars, towards different plots of land at the foot of the hill, followed quickly by many others the trio keep generating, three by three, in perfectly synchronized motions. There’s something very poetic about it...

In my daze, a faint thought slowly dawns on me: they’re informing everyone of our coming, or as Vlad put it, “politely asking permission from the landlords” to go through their Spaces.  But... what excuse could they possibly come up with to explain... me?! When I got Danielle’s Lume, Peter said it meant that everyone “knew”, but knew what exactly?...

 As I tensely watch the firefly-like messages head for their intended destinations, a kind of route is drawn by their light, like dots on a metro map; a route that looks anything but straight. The direct way to Danielle’s castle must have been too much to ask of the Pathavane...

A few seconds later, the Lume ritual is done, and the three Elves turn to see if I’m ready to start the journey, only to find a deep, worried frown.
“What did you tell them... about me?” I ask feebly, still choked up by the overwhelming sights, information, and worries that seem to have washed over me in a matter of minutes.

Peter glances playfully at the other two, and his slight smile aims to reassure.

“I told them I drew you, and you came to life,” he states simply.

My jaw drops.

“C-can you... actually do that sort of thing?” I ask, unable to hide the tinge of freak-out in my voice.

“No... but skills evolve here,” – They do?! – “so with a bit of bluff, I think I can pull it off... As long as you...”

“Don’t screw up?... I... How?...” I mumble, more overwhelmed by the second.

 Vlad whispers something in Elvish and Peter nods.

“Come, we’ll talk about it on the way. We’re running late. Danielle is not overly fond of waiting.”


I follow the small group down the hill, soothed by the feel of wet grass against my soles. It helps me cool down and somewhat regulate my breathing. I discreetly check the back of the hospital gown and heave a sigh of relief: the ties are pretty tight. Imagine the embarrassment ... Hello new universe, one of yours drew me to life, but forgot to cover my rear end!

It’s a steep descent, and all I can see ahead is a weird-looking, grey mist, at the very bottom of the hill. I hope we’re not going through that...

Peter interrupts my musing. “We’ll all need to agree on the same story. Vlad and I were thinking, maybe I should say I drew you in my own Space, in an intensely inspired moment, and was shocked to see you materialize. Everyone knows I’m a Herald to your Garden, so they won’t be surprised I gave you a human language. I’ll explain all that, and how I took you straight to Vladimir’s Space...”

“For counsel, since I’m the expert on our History,” Vlad interferes. I catch sight of Nirav rolling his eyes, and I swallow a smirk. “He wanted to know if this had happened before, which it hasn’t. I then put you in a brooding bubble, just as Danielle’s Lume arrived.”

“What you’ll need to do is avoid, under all circumstances, any reference to your Garden, or your life there,” Peter instructs carefully. “No talk of memories or of people you knew.”

His casual, past-tense reference to my family and friends rips a hole through my chest, and for a second there, I hate him. 

Still, I try my best to keep a neutral face.

“You’ll need to look at everything with wonder, as if you were seeing it for the first time in your life. No comparisons with anything you’ve seen before. And if anyone asks you where you’ve learnt to speak, say you don’t remember that. Or anything for that matter.”

“What were my first images of? If they’re of you in your Space, well... I’ve never been there, and they might ask me...” I ramble.

“No, you first woke up in the bubble, which you know well... Lily, you have to be very careful... We’ll be with you at all times, and try to keep the curious ones away. We haven’t decided what to tell Danielle yet... We’ll have to come up with a plan. But for the others...”

“Okay, I heard you, I just... need to mull this over,” I murmur, staring at my feet as we walk on.

This is too heavy... Am I even up to it? All three of them are implicated, so if I fail...
Great, classic Stockholm syndrome! Why do I even care so much?... Yet again, if they’re in trouble, then so am I. Who knows what the others would do to a hybrid freak.

            I swallow hard.

As we get further away from the mausoleum, I inconspicuously throw a fleeting look backwards, and gasp. The circular outside is a mix of beautiful Indian-looking arcades decorated with floral-shaped silver motifs, and sturdy, pearl-white columns, probably of that same gleaming marble-like material as the ceiling cupolas. The roof is much more massive than the actual walls. It looks like a colossal silver crown, with liquid mercury spikes of all shapes and heights, all reaching upwards.

Vlad notices my stare. “They’re tears.”

“Come again?"

“They’re all tears, or at least they have their shape. One for each Elder who has moved on. Every time one of them leaves, I add a tear to the roof. You could say they’re ‘falling upwards’, to follow the Elders.” His tone falls slightly at the end, as if the emotion were still raw.

We keep walking, with Peter suddenly strangely quiet, and staring fixedly at the fog.

“What is that?” I ask, crossing my fingers for it not to be in our route plans.

“Nothing. It’s a condemned area. We’ll have to go around it, and get straight to Sam’s,” he says broodingly. Something’s off.

As we get closer, the fog becomes less opaque, and I start to distinguish black earth, as if after an extensive fire, and a desolate mess of stone, textile, and some material I don’t even know. And the mist is actually smoke, still oozing out of the ground itself. I can only see a few yards into it; the rest disappears within the fumes. It’s more sinister than a war zone.

“Who would do this to a Space?” I wonder out loud, but Vlad cautions me with a sharp look then quickly peers at Peter, as if hoping he hasn’t heard.

“My brother,” Peter blurts out without looking at me.

We walk on in silence, and I know that for now, this is all he’ll let on. He has a brother?!

Out of the blue, memories of his hospital visits start to come back to me.

Oh my God... his mother was assaulted. And now his brother and... this!

What the hell has happened to his family?! 


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