Chapter 6 of 21. If you haven’t read the earlier chapters, please read them first. You can find them here: The Willow, a serialized novel.
Fear was never a part of her make-up, for she saw the whole story from the beginning through the end, before it was ever written. Certain events had to come to pass to shed light on the darkness people didn’t want to know about. Every Rama needed his Ravana, every Jesus his Judas, every Krishna his Kamsa, and every Caesar his Brutes, to create a story that was not only great but epic; not just for the fates to have their way, but for all of humanity to line up and be swayed. Being that she was born to change the course of history, she would have to wait for everyone to play their part, unfolding as she did, each moment, one at a time, until the right moment would allow for the truth to not only be revealed, but accepted.
James and Nicholas walked down the street to get coffee at one of the few remaining family coffee shops in Seattle. Around the block, people stood in lines that stretched out the door to have Starbucks or Peet’s, but James was a musician and supported the arts in all of their forms, including the art of making good coffee. Besides being poor and not needing to pay double the price for half the love, he liked the family owned places that were still struggling to live their dream.
James had asked Nicholas if he wanted to get coffee out of habit. He just wanted to hang out with the kid, having realized their shared history. Only when Teddy – “uncle” Teddy to many, but just Teddy for James – with that grin that only moved on one side of his face, asked Nicholas if he wanted a hot chocolate, did James remember how young Nicholas was. Nicholas’ smile and nod revealed his relief.
They took a table by the window, happy to pretend to people watch if the conversation stalled. “So tell me about your parents,” James said, “I hadn’t seen them in maybe thirty-five years. I mean, if it’s not too painful.”
“No, it’s been two years since their death. I can deal with talking about them now. Actually, I don’t get a chance to really talk about them ever, and certainly not with someone that knows about the gift, so I’m grateful to have somebody to open up with.”
James smiled and nodded his head. “We have all been pretty alone with that.”
“My parents had gone to different schools until high-school. That’s when they saw each other again – Franklin High, ninth grade advanced mathematics. I guess they couldn’t let each other go after that. They’d both had a hard time the previous few years. When they saw each other again, they just decided to not let go. I only know this, because they said that the gift, even though it gives you the power to tune in to the source – to make the world… easier? – it also leaves you in a place where people just don’t understand you, or the way that you see the world. Finally they were with somebody who understood what they were going through. They had each other. They felt like, other than each other, they couldn’t confide in anyone else, because of what happened to that girl -”
“Willa,” James said as he shook his head. Just the mention of her name brought both pain and peace to his heart. Pain because of what had happened to her, and peace because of what she had shared with them. Joy in his life had always been a melancholy experience, because of the memory she cast over everything that he went through.
“Yeah, after what happened to Willa, they were worried to ever let anyone in; to let anyone understand what she’d given to them.”
“To all of us.”
“Yeah. To all of us.”
As he approached their rendezvous point, the place where Sarah went when Dave was in his dark place, he saw the cop first. He then saw his daughter, frozen, staring at the cop, unsure of why he was approaching her. Still trying to pull himself together enough to take Sarah home, Dave couldn’t handle the extra pressure of taking her from right under his nose. Dave just watched them as he tried to make sense of the scene. The fear on his daughter’s face was unmistakable. If he could see it, then the cop could definitely see it. Was she planning to tell him the secret? Dave had told her to only give Sam the message if something bad had happened to him. I hope seeing Daddy passed out on the couch doesn’t qualify as bad.
As if the situation couldn’t get worse, Dave’s cell phone rang. What? His brain scattered and confused, couldn’t understand why he was getting a call. He never got calls on his phone. It was purely for unimaginable, emergency situations, like getting called to the principle’s office of his daughter’s school.
Dave picked up the phone, “yeah.”
“You need to take Sam out.” It was Gabriel. Dave looked up at Sam completely confused.
“Dave! We had a visitor. The girl told her to find Sam. You need to take Sam out before the visitor finds him.”
Dave’s mind suddenly came into focus as he felt the weight of the world falling in on him. He looked at his daughter sitting on the park bench, sad and lonely. He saw the cop stopped about ten feet away. Dave knew that Sam must be wondering how he knew this girl. His daughter must be wondering if she should give up Dave’s secret.
“Dave! Do you understand?” yelled Gabriel.
“Do you know where to find him?”
“He’s standing right in front of me. He’s about to start talking to my daughter. They haven’t seen me yet, but I have a bad feeling.”
“Dave,” Gabriel’s voice was low and reassuring – trance inducing. “Dave, I know this will be hard. It will be a great sacrifice. But you have to do this. This is what we were trained for. If that visitor contacts Sam, it could be all over. Not just for your family, but for the world as we know it.”
“I understand,” Dave said, wanting Gabriel to stop talking.
“These people want to show the world another way. There is no other way, only God’s way. For thousands of years we have been following his way, his traditions. Not only can they bring down the walls of the great religions holding up this world, but our financial institutions, our educational institutions, our societies, are all built on the backs of these ancient traditions. If you let these blasphemers have their way, life as we know it will be over.”
“I know, I know, don’t give me the speech.”
“When the nonbelievers take power away from those following God’s set path, the world will fall into an immoral spiral of sin and wretchedness.”
“I know, I know, just shut up already.”
“Dave! This is your moment. This is your chance to do your part in the fight.”
“Gabriel, I heard you already!” Dave yelled loud enough for everyone in the park to hear him. They all looked over at Dave and he nervously put his phone away. Sam looked at Dave, then back at the girl and saw the girl mouth the word, Dad.
Sarah saw her dad go back to his car, dig around under the car seat, and come back to the park fence. With his head, he motioned for Sarah to move away.
“Go over there, Sweetie. Just go over there.”
“What?” Sarah was confused, but stood up and started to walk.
“Sir, are you okay?” asked Sam.
Dave pulled out his gun and pointed it at Sam, who immediately pulled out his own and pointed it back at Dave. The kids in the park ran in every direction away from the cop, except for Sarah.
“Dad, no! Why?”
“Sir! Put down the gun!”
“Dad, no! You wanted his help, before! You wanted Sam’s help!”
Sam heard his name and his world turned upside down. They knew who he was. How could they know? Sam stared at Dave, trying to read his face. Sam could see how troubled he was. Sam could tell that Dave didn’t really want to pull the trigger, but was trying to work himself up to do it. And then suddenly, as Dave’s eyelids started to flutter, all of the memories came crashing forward into Sam’s mind.
Sam’s mouth dropped open, and Dave understood that Sam had finally recognized him. Seeing the horror on Sam’s face brought back the pain and regret that Dave had always held about his own actions. Dave knew that he was a coward, that he didn’t really believe in the cause, but had wrapped himself around the ideal anyways. He had been too weak to condone the revolution that breaking away from the brotherhood could cause. Seeing his daughter staring at him, tears in her eyes, devastated by the weakness that was her father, Dave decided he couldn’t do it. He couldn’t pull the trigger. He had to go to the Cabin. He didn’t know what he would do once he got there, but he had to see the girl one more time.
Dave put out his left hand, palm up, to signify stop, as he backed away. “I don’t want to hurt you.”
“And I don’t want to hurt you,” Sam said, “but you’re going to have to come with me.”
“I can’t do that. Don’t you want to know what happened to the girl? Don’t you want to know why? My daughter can give you those answers.” Dave continued to move towards his car. “She can lead you to the girl.
“Sir, just stop. You don’t need to go anywhere. Just think about your daughter for a moment.”
Dave backed up till he was at his car door, still pointing his gun at Sam – Sam still pointing his gun at Dave. But Sam didn’t want to pull the trigger. If the guy’s daughter could lead him to the girl he had abandoned so many years before, then he had to find out what she knew. The news that she might be alive was devastating. The thought that this kid would be leading him to a dead body was equally overwhelming.
Dave got into his car and sped away.
Sam turned around and desperately looked at the girl who was slowly walking towards him.
Sam’s heart was racing. He had allowed the memories of his childhood to die many years ago, and wasn’t prepared to house them again.
Sarah put out her hands and Sam took hold of them. Sarah needed to feel the presence of someone safe in her life. She needed to feel protected for once.
“Sam, I have something to show you.”
“So, can I ask you -”
“Anything,” said James.
“What is it – the gift – how do you use it?” This was the first time that Nicholas had someone besides his parents that he could ask. His parents had never been straightforward with him about it, and he had often longed for someone else’s perspective.
James laughed. “I use it the same as you kid. To play music.”
“But. I thought it’s like magic.”
“It’s not magic. It’s truth. It’s insight. Or maybe it’s perspective.”
“Wow, you are about as useless as my parents were.”
“Or like knowledge,” James pushed forward. “Like when you really know something, and everything becomes easy for you because of that knowledge. Like mathematical formulas in algebra, or whatever – it’s hard to workout math the long way, but if you know the short cuts, it becomes so easy. It’s like walking around a room with the lights on while everyone else is stumbling in the dark. I mean that is what I think the potential of it is.”
James smiled. He had never tried to explain the gift to someone before. Normally it was something that he tried to keep well hidden. Now he had a kid eating up his every word, but hadn’t the right words to feed him with.
“I look at it like this,” James tried again. “Music is the language of the universe – the universal tongue. It is the clearest expression of the source in the world. The gift allows us to tap in to this source of consciousness, of which there is no translation, and give a voice to it. Music anyways needs no translation, so it can be a direct expression. As direct as possible.”
Nicholas nodded his head in agreement.
“Besides that,” continued James, “Willa never had a chance to teach us. It’s like she handed us a secret message and then left before giving the code for deciphering it. I think all of us, just used it to become better at what we were doing in life. Music is kind of like a meditation for me, so when I play, I can tap into that power. I never really bothered to tap into it for other reasons, though I could easily see how it could be used as a tool to manipulate, or sway the masses. In its purest, refined sense, you would be able to see on the level of universal consciousness. That’s how it was for Willa. She knew what we thought about, what our next movement or word was going to be. I mean we were just kid’s so who’s to say I’m not just making it all up – just a kid’s imagination.”
“No,” said Nicholas, “my parents told the exact same story.”
“The thing is, when Willa was taken, it was so traumatic that it locked those memories into our consciousness. Maybe I can’t remember anything else about that time, but I remember everything about the moments spent with her.”
“My parents,” said Nicholas, slowly, “never fully told me about what happened to Willa. I have ideas molded together from bits and pieces that they let slip out, but no real account of the event.”
“I can imagine. It was horrifying. This is the first time I’m talking about it in forty years.”
“Well… do you think you can tell me the full story?”
“Of course I will.”
I’ll see you next Friday for chapter 7.