Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Alex chapter 2 and 3

Here's a really rough Chapters 2 and 3.  I don't know how much of this will actually make it to the book form but I'm enjoying exploring Alex's story. 

Chapters 2 and 3
I hope that you understand why she doesn’t talk about him.  Why all your questions went unanswered for so many years after this.  Why I’ve never pressured her to tell you, why I pushed it away whenever you brought it up.  For so long, I’ve been afraid of him, of his memory.  Not that she’s ever done anything except love me since the day she said her vows, but I’ve always accepted that I was her second choice.  I wanted her to forget- for how could you love a candle when it is compared to the sun? 

I never told you because it was hard.  It is hard.  It’s like cutting something out of your soul to admit how you’ve failed those you love the most.  I feared that you’d love me less, that you would feel the same sort of disappointment in me that I feel in myself. 

I was selfish.  I still am. 

I’m afraid you will hate me. 

And I’ll no longer be your hero. 

All my life I’ve wanted to be a hero; the kind of man they told stories about after their death.  My father was that kind of man, my grandfather was too, before the sickness took his mind.  I looked up to them and I wanted to be like them but I killed my sister when I was eight and I have wanted to make it up ever since. 

My mother said it was an accident but I knew better.  I  was the oldest and I was in charge.  I was supposed to be her protector, and I knew we were never supposed to go to the lake but we did all the time.  It was our place, we were careful to keep it a secret and stay dry lest momma notice our wet clothes and whip us. 

That morning we were bickering as usual, Catherine was smaller and meaner than me so she pushed me.  I got my trousers wet to my knee.  I was so angry that I pushed her in.    If I was going to get a licking then she was even more so! I knocked her off the dam, the deepest part. 

She went completely under.

She never came back up. 

At first I thought she was playing.  I screamed and jumped in, thrashing in the water.  Daddy heard me and came running and Will ran for momma.  It seemed like an eternity before he pulled her out. 

She was already gone.

Can you imagine holding your child’s lifeless body in your arms?  It’s one of those things that no one should have to endure.  Now that I am a father I suppose I could imagine how it would feel.  I remember him crying as he held her.  I had never heard him cry- before or until the day he died and it’s a sound that haunts me still. 

Along with the questions: “What were you doing here? Why didn’t you watch out for her?  You are the oldest it was your job to protect her.”

And so, I learned that it was my fault.  My father said as much.  I was the oldest and I got the idea that things happened because I allowed them.  I promised myself that I would always do my best to protect my family.   

My mother fell into a depression so dark and deep that we all worried she would succumb to it entirely.  She would stand in her room and look out toward the lake.  She said that during that time it was almost as if the water called out for her, inviting her to join her daughter in death’s embrace.  We tried to make her happy, but there was no light left in her anymore.  The only thing that seemed to calm her was those dark waters, almost as if a part of Katherine was still there.

I knew that Katherine wasn’t in that lake because the Preacher told us at her funeral that all good little children went to Heaven to be with Jesus.  I reckoned that I’d never get there no matter how hard I tried and it made me sad. 

It must have made her sad too, even way up in heaven because she would come to visit sometimes when everyone else was asleep.  The first time I saw her I thought she was really alive and all the rest had just been a bad dream.  I jumped out of bed to run to her but she was gone.  I ran through the house looking for her.  I woke Daddy and when I told him he told me it was just my imagination and to go back to bed.  She came again several nights later and when I told him he said I was being naughty and forbade me to tell momma.  He said if I said anything more about it then he would give me a whipping for sure.

Nobody believed me about Katherine and I felt terribly alone.  I found my solace in Grandpappy.  He hated me calling him Grandpappy because it made him sound old, which I thought was funny because he was old.  He had gotten so old that he could hardly get out of his bed anymore and he was the only person in the family that seemed to understand me.  He told me stories about when he was a boy and things he did when he was young.  I especially liked the stories about his family before the war.  He didn’t talk much about the war and I asked often. 

My mother said that he filled my head with harebrained notions and I should take any story Grandpappy told me with a grain of salt.  I didn’t know what that meant, but sometimes he would call me at night and he would beg me to bring him a drink. 
              “They’re cryin’ out boy, go get me a drink so I can sleep.”

      “Who’s cryin’ out Grandpappy?”  I asked him.

      “Them boys in yonder field.”

      I went out on the front porch to look.  I didn’t see or hear anything but it bothered me enough that I told my daddy. 

Daddy shook his head sadly. “His mind is back in the war, son, back on that battlefield.  Those boys he hears crying out are only in his memory.  Don’t worry boy, they’re not real.  Try your best to ignore him and go on back to bed.”

But they were real, or had been at one time.  Maybe he could hear them like I could still see Katherine sometimes.

“But he says he wants a drink Daddy, can’t I get him some water?”

My father lowered his newspaper.  “It’s not water he wants but moonshine.  If your mother knew we gave it to him she would be angry.  Besides, I don’t know where he’s hidden it.”

I did.

It was under a lose board in the barn. 

A knowing look passed between us and my father raised his paper again.  “I’m not opposed to it given the circumstance.  Just don’t let your mother know.”

“Them boys…”  Grandpappy moaned.  “Make them stop…”

I slipped the jug into his hand and discovered that it not only made him stop crying it seemed to make him happier as well. 

“My older brother was supposed to fight but he refused.  That was James' daddy. He refused to go, Daddy said he brought shame on the whole family.  I wasn’t but 13 but I lied about my age.”

He never spoke about the war, but I was right at that age where I found those sorts of things irresistible. When the moonshine worked its magic he would start to tell me things.  Most of them were horrible and I realized that was why he never talked about it. 

“Chickamauga.”  He told me one night.  “So many boys… dyin’ so far from their homes… callin’ out for their mommas… begging for water… and not one of us went to help… lest we be shot too…”  He wept and took another drink.  “If I could only do it again… Mebby I’d a been kilt… but mebby the Good Lord would a watched over’n me too…”  He told me before he dozed off to sleep. 

That night Katherine came to visit me.

“Too much death.”  She said.  “Too much death… to live…”

I pulled the covers over my head.  Too much death to live.  I pulled the covers over my head but I knew that if I ever looked back out she would be sitting there. I barely slept all night torn between wondering if she was still there and the fear that she would be.  My bladder was near to bursting when the first light peeked in through my window and I decided I didn’t want to see Katherine anymore.

My father left on business after that.  I didn’t like him being gone but I did like it when he returned.  He always brought us gifts, and we had been hinting for quite some time that we were both old enough for some coon hound puppies. 

He told us he would only be gone for three or four days and to watch out over our mother.  It had been 8 months since Katherine passed and he said he wouldn’t have gone but Uncle James said it was urgent.  He said when he came back he would bring us something special.  We could almost feel those puppies in our hands.

This trip however, he didn’t come back with puppies. 

He brought home a boy.

Chapter 3.

Momma hit the roof. 

I don’t imagine Daddy anticipated a reaction like that.  Momma always had such a kind heart, taking in almost every stray kitten or puppy we came across, I suppose Daddy thought she’d be the same way with a person.  I’m sure he imagined her taking this boy right in her arms like one of those orphaned kittens. 

She didn’t though. 

She looked at him like he was some alien thing.  I suppose, he was.  He was several years younger than us but he was especially small.  He was dirty and disheveled, covered in some sort of bites.  His clothes were little more than rags.  William and I wrinkled our noses when we got close enough.  He stunk like a pig.

My momma glared at my daddy like he was the devil. 

“You want to replace Katherine- our baby- with that thing?” She howled in accusation and my father stood dumbfounded. 

William and I looked at this stranger and wondered why he had brought home a little boy when a coon dog puppy would have been so much more fun. 

“I’m not trying to replace Katherine with anyone.”  My father tried to calm her.  “Your uncle said that we are his only family left.  He said he was your cousin Inez’ son.”

Mother blinked and straightened.  Inez was a cousin that mother often spoke about playing with when she was a child.

“Inez?”  She asked no one in particular. 

Grandpappy threw in his two cents from his window. 

“Inez ran off with some drifter from the railroad!”  He moved to see the fight more clearly and peered from the other side of the screen.  “Looks like he’s a half breed like his father.  He ain’t no Thornhill.” 

My father lifted his chin and stood protectively behind the boy.  He placed his hands on his shoulders. 

“No sir, he isn’t going to be a Thornhill.  When I adopt him he shall be a Bradshaw.” He turned his attention back to Momma.  “Anne, be reasonable. Look at him.  He’s just a baby.  He needs a family.”

Mother made a sound like a mad cat and stomped inside in a flurry of skirts while Grandpappy howled in laughter. 

“Stop fussing girl! Ye already got yerself a bastard and a Damn Yankee- might as well have a half breed.”

Momma screamed some things back at Grandpappy that I’d have gotten my mouth washed out for saying.  William and I stood on the front porch with big eyes and didn’t really know what to do.

The ‘baby’ scampered to the far corner of the porch and hid underneath a table where momma kept potted plants.  

“She will come around.”  He told us just before she yelled for us to come in for supper. 

We scrambled in after her, not willing to incite more anger from her.  She glared past us at Daddy and told him that he was not bringing “that creature” inside our house until “it” was clean and free of lice.

She meant it too. 

She made William and I take their supper out to them and I felt a little bad for Daddy but he seemed to take it all in stride.   

William offered Daddy his plate.  I put mine on the porch several feet in front of the child and backed away as I was sure he growled at me. 

We watched the little boy uneasily as he wolfed down his supper.  He hunched over his plate and ate with both hands like he hadn’t eaten in some time.

“Reckon she’d liked ‘em better iffin he was a girl?”  William mused and Daddy laughed at him. 

“You think so? Well, I couldn’t find a girl this trip.  You want me to look for one next time?”

We exchanged uneasy glances.  We had wanted a coon dog, but that dream had gone the way of the dodo.  

“I reckon you’d better ask momma first ‘afore you bring anothern’ home, Daddy. She’s perty mad.”    

“She’ll come around.”  He assured us as he ate his supper balanced in his lap, but I wasn’t so sure.

“What are you gonna do with him?” Will asked.

Daddy ordered me to take another piece of chicken to the wild boy.  I approached him carefully and he snatched the drumstick out of my outstretched hands and scampered away.

              “Clean him up, change his name, give him a new family.”  He smiled over at us.  “Isn’t that what God does for us sinners?”

              At the words “Clean up” I looked over my shoulder at my poor father. 

              “Momma said she’s not boiling water for a bath tonight, Daddy.”

              He sighed and looked out across the yard and was quiet for several minutes.  I got the idea that he was praying.

              “In that case, I suppose you boys should bring us some blankets and pillows.  Looks like we’re camping out tonight!” 

              We hurried inside to gather the things he wanted.  Momma was crying in their bedroom.  We hated to hear Momma cry and it struck us to our core.  It made me angry that Daddy brought this child and it had made her cry.  I watched him out the window but refused to go out again. 

              Will sat down beside our father and rested his head on his shoulder. 

              “Why’s Momma crying?”

              “Because she misses Katherine.”  Daddy said at last.

              “Did you bring him to replace her?”

              “No, son.  I brought him because he needed a family and I thought we might have room in our heart for one more.  It doesn’t mean we love or miss your sister any less.”  I heard his voice waver and my eyes stung.  “No one can take her place.  Jesus is taking care of her until we get there, I thought I could show Him how much I appreciate that by taking care of this little boy here.” 

              “He got a name?”

              “The Priest called him Bryan.”

              “Can he talk?”

              “I trust he will, when he gets used to us. We’re strangers to him.  It’s probably pretty scary for him right now.”

              Will nodded and patted Daddy’s shoulder as a sign of his solidarity.  Upstairs momma continued to cry and Grandpappy called for his moonshine. 

              “You marrit that Damn Yankee, girl!  You knew all about his crazy ideas about them coloreds!” 

              I went to my room.  I didn’t like it when Grandpappy talked bad about my father.  He might be the only Yankee in Nine Run but I was still convinced he was a heap better man than anyone else’s father. 

              I waited for Katherine to come but she never did show up again. 

              Maybe it was because she knew she’d done been replaced. 

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Alex's Story

For April.
And Jen.
And Carrie.
And just about everybody else that's been asking me when this is going to be done...  Well, work is in progress, though I don't know where it will go.  I think God doesn't so much allow me to write for other people's benefit as much as mine.  I don't know about anyone else but He teaches me through the story He gives me.  I suppose CTMLR2 has been so long in coming because... I've still got things to learn from it. 

Here's a section that I'm working on.  It's pretty rough but the inspiration hit me and I wanted to share it.  I thought we needed Alex's perspective on things in CTMLR2. Despite all that took place in CTMLR1 Alex isn't a monster.  He's just a flawed human being like the rest of us.  A human who, in the absence of a Savior, has done some pretty terrible things.  But don't we all?  The saying  "There but for the Grace of God go I"  applies to all of our hearts, not just the worst of us.  We are all broken and confused.   So here you go, people who have been asking for it... a trip back to Nine Run.  Overlook any typos and forgive me if it changes between blog and written page. 


There have been many times that I doubted his word, never more than in this instance.  He told me he would write to you too, I never believed he would.  Since we married that chapter of his life has been firmly, resolutely, closed.  It was never opened a crack, not when people gossiped, nor when as a child you demanded to know why you looked so much like him and not like Bryan.  I’m sure you’ve come to your own conclusions, though I wonder as to how accurate they could be.   He has never spoken of our life before until that night when you asked me.  He bore the gossip and the shame without ever once defending himself or trying to explain his side.  Our family, as he told you often enough, “Is what it is and nothing more.”  Not that I blame him in the least; I was perfectly content to leave that part of my life buried in the South Georgia soil as well. 

Today I found a parcel of papers, written in your father’s flawless penmanship, tied with a twine.  There was no fanfare about it and since he has not asked me, I have not read it.  I urge you to read it in light of the man he is now, the father that he has been to you and to not let your image of him be swayed by the sins committed by a lost and damaged youth. 

Part 1


I’ve watched her; over the last few months as she’s delved into the hidden parts of her soul.  She’s grieved as much from writing this as she has from missing her first born. 

She’s worried about you.  I see her peering anxiously at the paper, needing to know… dreading it at the same time.  It makes guilt wash over me, too, imagining my own mother doing the same sort of thing while I was gone. 

I knew you’d be one of the first to sign up.  Even before Pearl we fought about it often enough.  Your mother blames me of course, it was that trip to France that got you started.  I had never told you war stories, but you seemed old enough to understand some things… and well… when you leave part of your soul on a battlefield it is hard to never return.  I knew you were getting older and I knew eventually I would have to tell you.  Perhaps, I wanted you to see that even in those days; I wasn’t all bad.

And so, for the first time, you got a glimpse of that reckless youth that I had once been and it only seemed to whet your appetite.  

I told you that it “wasn’t our war” and of course you wouldn’t listen.  The last one "wasn’t our war either", and I watched you like a hawk to make sure you didn’t do the same fool thing I had done.  You were well on your way to being a doctor like your father.  I promised him I would take care of you and I know he would be smiling down on his boy.

Oh, well, son.  I suppose the university will still be there when you return, and the medical skills that you already possess will serve you well.  How could you not go where you not help?  Your mother blamed me, of course when you signed up but I suppose we are both to blame. 

You are, after all, the son of “Gallant Bradshaw” and so how could you do less?  You felt the call.  People needed you.  You are so much like your father in that way.   

He was the real Gallant Bradshaw, Hero of Nine Run. 

And though your mother stews about your not finishing school; he wasn’t a doctor yet either, but that didn’t matter.  God calls the courageous and pure of heart into His service regardless of training.  I know you’ll return to us.  Your father promised to take care of you.  I know from experience that there are angels on the field of battle.  I’ve seen them myself, though not all of them have wings. 

Some do.  I’ve seen them, too. 

I am comforted by the thought that when he left us and gave me the honor of raising his son he went on to meet you there.  I know that while I am here I can do little more than pray for your safety but your Heavenly Father has already sent his angels to protect you.

One of them is named Bryan.

Your real father.  Despite anything anyone says or infers behind closed doors or whispers behind their hands you are his child.   

You are the child of my passion; created in a moment of senseless rage.  I knew how badly that act would scar your mother, I was well aware that a life could result from it as well.  It didn’t matter to me at the time.  It would be a means to an end.  She would have no other choice but to stay with me after that, and a child would only seal our union.

I didn’t want you then. 

I only wanted the power you would give me over her.

Had I succeeded in my plan all of our lives would have been very different.  I wouldn’t have loved her; I didn’t know what love was then. I would have been cruel to her, though I am ashamed to admit it now.  I would have hurt her because she loved him the most and I would have done it to spite him.

I knew he wouldn’t have been able to stand it and the situation would have ended with at least one of us dead.

I would have raised you in the image of the man I was then.  The son of a wealthy landowner from a proud family, a businessman, a man who took what he wanted and didn’t care what devastation he left behind.

Your life would have been a nightmare.

All of our lives would have been.

But God laughed at my schemes.  He stepped in and made beauty from ashes.  He took my sick and twisted plans and he made his own.  He redeemed you; at that very moment of conception He took what was done in evil and started working it for good. 

I had planned to seduce her that night because I knew she was so close to choosing him over me.  Instead, she chose him and I couldn’t let it go at that.  I violated her. I wanted to hurt her as much as I had been hurt. 

I succeeded.  The scars she carries still cannot be seen, but they are deep and she will carry them to her grave.  I had meant to break her, to grind her will until she could do nothing but obey mine.  

But in the morning light I saw what I had done and I could not face it. 

I could not face myself.

I ran. I ran as far away as I could think to go. 

Right into the jaws of death and hell itself.

Then I fell back into the hands of a loving God that saw beyond my sins.

I’m thankful.

I’m thankful for his great love for us.  I’m thankful that He knows the story that hasn’t yet been written for our lives.  I'm thankful that he can see exactly what we need before we even know we need it and that he can forgive us when we try to re-write His story it in our own image. 

I’m thankful for that dirty orphan boy my Father brought home.  That boy that I hated because he had no name, no family of his own.

 He was sent to save ours.

Allow me to introduce you to your true father, David Bleu Bradshaw. 

You were the child of my body and my blood.

You were the child of his heart.

You were the child of my passion and guilt.

You were the child of his love.

I schemed for you.

He prayed for you to be used for God’s purpose. 

I wanted to use you.

He gave you to God and let Him use you.

You are not an accident. You are not a mistake.  You are not the result of a violent and senseless act perpetrated on an innocent girl by a broken and bitter man. 

You are a miracle.

You are everything we needed to heal us bring us back together. 

So, there's what I've got so far... what do you think? I hope that God teaches you as much from this journey as He's taught me.  Blessings Y'all.   

Thursday, March 10, 2016

OHC Writing Contest Entry

A Short Story I submitted to the OHC writing contest in October. 

The Trip

My insides gurgled with nervous anticipation as my guide urged our group to step through the open door.  I had teetered between excitement and outright fear for the last several months and it suddenly dawned on me that within moments I would arrive at my destination.

I felt the room sway and beads of perspiration popped out on my forehead. 

Was I crazy? 

Maybe I was. All my friends thought so. 

It was customary for a person in my position to take a trip at the end of each work cycle, but most chose luxurious destinations with servants and beaches.

None of that held any interest for me though.  I wanted adventure.

The thought of the frontier niggled and jiggled in my mind until I couldn’t be free of it. I applied for a travel permit on a whim. What could it hurt?  I knew it was a long shot but at least I could say I gave it a try.

I was shocked to learn that my application was accepted with uncharacteristic ease and my visit request was approved. I was delighted to learn that I was one of a handful of tourists allowed to visit. 

My acquaintances back home did not share my excitement.   “It’s so far away from civilization,” they argued, “no modern conveniences.  It’s so dark… so primitive...”

So exotic…so exciting… so unforgettable… I felt my spirit respond every time that familiar doubt crept in.  I had the uncanny feeling that this trip was predestined. Everything had worked out just too perfectly to be pure chance.  It was destiny. It had to be. 

I sucked in a nervous breath as I followed the guide through a brilliant beam of light into a dark and alien world.  

“Stay on the path there,” he warned.  “We must respect all the native species.  It was, after all, their home first.” A movement to our left drew our attention and a female behind me gasped dramatically but I only caught a glimpse of movement in the thick brush.

“They’re harmless,” the guide assured us.  “This planet is filled with them.  For the most part, they are shy creatures that prefer to be let alone. There is a scientific research station not far from here where you can learn more about the native life.  Now, if you’ll …” 

“Stay on the path.”  We answered in unison.  Etiquette dictated that visitors stay in their designated areas on any planet we visited. Our “orientation” on the trip over explained how to use the “paths” and the “rest-stops” where we could enjoy the planet without interfering in the natural surroundings.  We had been warned that any attempt “interfere” would result in the loss of our travel privileges. “Stay on the path” and “Take away only memories” was the motto we lived by. 

            I visited the research center as soon as my initial tour was over.  I was anxious to learn as much as I could from the scientists stationed on this planet.  However, the overly dramatic female from the tour group had chosen to accompany a few of us to the research center and she complained incessantly during the presentation. 

“It’s so dark here,” she whined.  “How do they stand it?”

“Their sun has been dying for thousands of years.”  The scientist informed her as we toured the facility.  “Their bodies have adapted to it so they don’t notice.” 

He took us to see what, on our world, would be called a village.  He pointed out the dwellings but we were not allowed to go closer than the path. 

“Just stand back and watch them as they live their lives. It is all very beautiful.”

The creatures flashed around us, unaware that they were being watched.  We are a patient people and even the dramatic female waited quietly as one of their years passed before our eyes.  Some creatures busied themselves by building dwellings while others took them down.  Some grew and harvested their foods while still others worked at tasks that I could not identify.  I was swept up in their simplicity and contentment. 

“Their villages are so… dirty…”  The complaining tourist stated with an air of disdain. “Why hasn’t someone taught them how to clean up?”

If the scientist was irritated by her questions he never showed it.  “Well, they are a delicate and primitive people. There lifespans are but a breath compared to ours.  You see how quickly they flit about? They vibrate on a completely different frequency than we do.  We are, as some would say, in the same physical place but in two different dimensions.  Some of our kind have contacted them, but I’m afraid it only frightens them even more than normal. Look!”  He pointed for us to watch a blur cross the path in front of us.  Of course, the dramatic tourist screamed.  “They can’t harm you.  Since we are on different frequencies, they could even move through us without harm to either of us.”

            There was a general murmur of disgust.

“It’s… disconcerting…like being doused with a blast of very cold air.  It seems to have the same effect on them as well.  Evidently they can sense our vibrations when they come near and it upsets them enough that most don’t venture any closer.  We do our best to stay away.  Our rulers do not look kindly upon interspecies/ interplanetary incidents. I must warn you to be careful when you go out alone.  Though these creatures are harmless, they are not predictable and any contact must be reported to the proper authorities.” 

I returned to the ship with images of this dark and beautiful planet in my mind. I doubted I was tired enough but I found I had the first real sleep I’d gotten since the travel permit arrived.  The following day I packed a few necessities and I embarked on my own journey without guides or tourists.  I traveled to the mountains and found very few of my kind along the path. This planet was exquisite; the mountains were everything I dreamed they would be.  For the first time in years I didn’t feel like something was missing.  I was at peace.   It was strange, for a place I had never seen I almost had the feeling of one coming home. I sat for an entire day on a stone outcropping where I watched the trees change their foliage from green to fiery red and orange then wither away.  I watched the mist settle down in their skeleton arms as a moon peeked above them.  Directly, the ground changed to a silvery white that shone in the moonlight. It took my breath away.

 I waited for the cycle to repeat itself and this time a thick white substance grew from the ground and covered the trees.

It was beautiful.  There were not words enough on any planet to describe it.

“Winter, they call it.”  A voice woke me from my dreams.

I jumped and the male behind me chuckled and I felt foolish for being caught unaware.  I could tell from his uniform that he was a scientist, but his habit was rather ragged and he seemed a bit disheveled.  His name tag read “Jarvis” and he felt no need to introduce himself since it was quite apparent I could read.

Jarvis.  The name sounded familiar but I couldn’t place it.

“This is a beautiful valley.  It is little wonder the natives love it so.”  He sat beside me, even though I did not ask him to.  We watched another cycle begin.  Another year, they would say. 

“I study the indigenous peoples in these mountains. There is the most spectacular dwelling down there. It has always fascinated me.  Would you like to come see?”

A personal tour with one of the scientists that worked on this planet?  Who could say no to that?  Of course I wanted to see!  I wanted to see everything!

I followed him until we stood before building made from natural stone.  It was quite large and the many windows surely afforded a great view of the valley.  My heart warmed to it, almost as though I’d seen it before. 

“Imagine how many of their lifetimes it must have taken to build something so grand!  They must deem it very important for it to stay this long. They are never happy, always building and tearing down.” He seemed to sense my curiosity because he turned to me; a mischievous twinkle in his eye.  “Would you like to get closer?”

It was then that I remembered my training during orientation.  I told him I could not get off the path.

“I have clearance to go inside. You could come with me.  My guest.” 

I shook my head.  It would be too dangerous.  I could get in so much trouble.

“Then you may return and forever wonder. I’m sure you’ll get the chance again- if you ever return to the frontier.” He taunted me.  I knew he was trying to goad me but it turned out to be exactly the right thing to say.  I stepped across the barrier and followed him into the dwelling.

Inside it was dark and stale; I had to be careful not to stumble over the rudimentary furnishings and strange tools scattered about.  Jarvis inclined his head toward some crude steps at the back of the chamber.

“They sleep on the highest level to protect themselves from wild beasts.”  He crooked his finger and motioned me along.  “Follow me.”

The phrase “Interplanetary incident” blared in my head.  I stood rooted in my place.  I had gone far enough.

“Then stay down here alone. It is your choice.”

Stay down here… alone?  I didn’t like the idea of that either.

Despite my misgivings I tiptoed up the steps behind him until we reached the top level. He motioned for me to follow him into a room hewn from the stone. We approached a motionless figure that was bundled in rough blankets on a sleeping platform.   

“Their bodies are so burdensome that they need to rest often.”  He peered at the sleeping being.  “This one’s a female.” 

I approached, eager to see this being that had been, up until now, only a blur of movement to me.  How different they looked when they were still!  I sucked in my breath and stood for several seconds in awe of her untamed beauty; but then the blankets flew aside and there was a terrible shrieking noise. The sleeping female jumped from her sleeping place and in a flash she was gone. 

I jumped back as if I’d been struck by something.

Jarvis laughed as my heart pounded in my ears.  “You scared it!”

“I didn’t mean to!”  I stammered as he continued to laugh and it made me feel ashamed.   I hadn’t even wanted to come up here!  I turned on my heel and rushed back out into the hallway.  I made it to the crude stairway before I heard a voice.

“Why are you here?”

“Because you invited me!” I replied before I realized it wasn’t Jarvis that had spoken.  My heart leapt in fear.  It was the authorities and I was going to be arrested for causing an “interplanetary incident”! I had to get out of here and back on the path before I was arrested!

Then I saw it.
The creature.

I stopped dead in my tracks.  A male creature stood on the step in front of me.  He was standing uncharacteristically still. I could see him quite clearly save for intermittent distortions.

“What?”  Jarvis still had mirth in his voice as he bustled down the stairs behind me.  “What are you doing?  What are you looking at?” 

“Jarvis Hollister.”  The male creature said quite plainly.  My eyes bugged and I looked at the scientist in fear.  He seemed to be unaware of their presence. 

“They’re… calling you…”  I whispered, trying my best not to move.

“That’s impossible! They can’t communicate with us!” Jarvis started to take a step but I put my hand out and stopped him.

A brilliant flash of light appeared in front of us.  Two guardians stood with their weapons ready.

I dropped my head in shame. Interplanetary incident. I could see the headlines now.  I was going to jail. 

The male creature spoke again.  “Jarvis Hollister.  We know you are here.  You don’t have to wait on Esther anymore, she has passed…”

My hearing seemed to stop at “Esther”. 

That was my name!

“You need to cross over.”  The male continued and the look on the scientist’s face told me he not only heard- he understood every word.

“Good heavens! You haven’t crossed over?  I gulped, I thought the stories of the rogue ones were only myths!

I was in a forbidden area with a rogue wanderer and I had made contact with a native creature! I wondered how many more interplanetary laws I had broken today.

The guard strode closer but did not scold me. He did not arrest me as I expected.  Instead he looked at me with compassion. 

“He was your husband once.  He’s been waiting for you, Esther.  It was allowed because his love for you was great.”

I looked back at him.  Jarvis.  That name sounded so familiar, but my husband?  I wasn’t married!  I couldn’t be!  How could I forget…?

My husband…

Jarvis? A feeling of familiarity washed over me as bits and pieces of memory knit themselves together in my mind.  It was like remembering a dream.  Could it really be?

An overwhelming grief began to stir inside me. Oh, how could I have forgotten?

“Our world makes you forget,” the guardian said carefully “for who remembers the womb when compared to the world outside?” 

“Go into the light, Jarvis.”  The creature in front of me commanded.  “Go to Esther.”

A familiar beam of white light welcomed me.  I remembered it all now.  I remembered living here and I remembered losing him. Oh, I was so broken hearted! He said he’d wait… but I never held him to it… All this time- he’d been waiting and I had moved on.

And forgotten.

Well, not completely.  There was still a part of me that remembered.  It was suddenly clear what I’d been missing; why I felt such longing to come here.

I felt the love swell up inside me as I held out my hand to him.

“Jarvis.  It’s me!” 

I watched the revelation dawn on his face.  Had he forgotten as well? How long had he waited after I moved on?  Long enough to forget why he stayed in the first place?

“Esther? Where have you been?  I told you I’d wait… But I couldn’t find you...”

I rushed into his arms.  We held each other for what might have been another year.

The creatures around us made a nuisance of themselves.  I tried to ignore their squawking and darting about like a swarm of angry insects.  That only seemed to anger them, for when we paid them no mind they produced a substance that emitted a putrid odor.  My word, they were annoying creatures!  How had he been able to stand them this long?

 “Come my love. You have waited long enough.”

A breath of fresh air greeted us as we stepped into the light. 

I heard one of the creatures sigh in relief as the portal closed.

“This house is clean now.  They’ve crossed over.”