Chapter 11 of 21. If you haven’t read the earlier chapters, please read them first. You can find them here: The Willow, a serialized novel.
“Make yourself at home in the back room,” said Benjamin sarcastically to Willa, as he pointed to a bedroom towards the back of the cabin. The front room was big with a kitchen on the side and a counter dividing it from the rest of the room. Willa could see that the eight men who were in the cabin with her were on edge. They had all experienced being frozen in place and didn’t know what to make of it. All they knew was that right afterwards Matthew had called for Benjamin and they started discussing plans in secret.
No one in the group, except for Matthew, ever felt quite right while living in the pockets in the atmosphere. When entering the pockets, the black and white world that they all lived in disappeared and anything was possible. They even thought that maybe the cabin, which had been built to Matthew’s explicit specifications, could be haunted. Most of them didn’t trust a world where the lines between right and left were blurred. They relied on Matthew’s calm, and Benjamin’s determination to keep everything in order.
“I’m fine staying right here with you all,” said Willa, as she sat in the middle of the floor. If they were already uneasy, then she would force them to live in her world. For Willa, there wasn’t anywhere that wasn’t normal. All worlds and planes of existence were simultaneously clear to her. If these men felt uncomfortable in the pocket, then she would give them a safe place to rest.
Benjamin watched Willa and shook his head in trepidation. He and his team had done this job many times before. It was always the same. They went into an unsuspecting home and took the child they were after. They brought the child to a remote cabin. The child always hid in their room until they were able to accept their situation, at which point they would begin learning about the Guardian’s mission from Matthew. This time was completely different. This time people had been killed at the abduction, while the child taken remained fearless.
What troubled Benjamin the most was not Willa’s lack of fear, but the fact that she seemed in control. From the point when Benjamin first laid eyes on Willa, nothing seemed to surprise to her. Now, at the cabin, she was not hiding away, but demanding that her captors notice her. Benjamin could see that they were all fascinated by her. It was only day one, but even Benjamin found himself in awe of the little one.
Willa knew that she couldn’t do her work while they were awake, so she sat with her captors and meditated, sending loving energy to them; drawing them into her world. Since there were additional guards outside, the ones inside the cabin were more at ease. Eventually they began sleeping at normal hours, leaving the girl’s security to the outside guards.
Occasionally Matthew would visit Willa inside, but he could see right away that she wouldn’t break. She wasn’t afraid of him, and she would not be swayed. He didn’t even try. The Guardians’ mission was not to destroy the high borns, but to keep them out of the way. If she wasn’t willing to help him, then she would have to spend the rest of her days in seclusion. As far as Matthew could tell, Willa seemed content with that. Still he didn’t trust her. The astrologers had foretold that she was born to destroy him, so she must have a plan. He didn’t know what more he could do short of keeping all of his affairs in order, and staying alert.
Matthew’s global organization had taken a hit, because of the massacre of the astrologers. He needed to see his people and assure them that they were still the good guys. For this reason, Matthew left Benjamin in charge of Willa. Benjamin was not willing to leave the inside of the cabin, however, so Matthew was forced to put someone else in charge of daily affairs. He chose Gabriel, affectionately known as the cowboy, one of his most trusted disciples. He tasked Gabriel with maintaining the ground security, and supervising the watch of local authorities and their investigations. Gabriel was also in charge of overseeing those keeping an eye on Willa’s family and the children that were in the daycare during the time of her abduction. They were also closely monitoring the one who had witnessed their activities in the cabin and who they now knew as Marcus; they feared he might also have the sight, having been able to wander upon the cabin in the first place.
While most of the men were clearly loyal to Matthew, many of them were also very attached to Benjamin, who was the no nonsense relatable one. Matthew, however, knew however, that Gabriel had never cared anything about Benjamin. Gabriel’s only concern had always been about being in service to Matthew’s vision. With Benjamin having been acting wildly erratic over the last six months, Matthew needed someone that wouldn’t be swayed by whatever truth suddenly dawned in Benjamin’s head. Matthew knew that Gabriel had no interest in ever using his gun, but would take it up in an instant if it were for the purpose of defending Matthew.
During the six months Willa had been in the cabin and under their supervision, Gabriel had never swerved from his post. He was happy to sit in his chair, on guard at the door. When the next guard came to relieve him, Gabriel would sleep on the porch, only leaving to shower and use the toilet. Matthew felt confident that everything would run efficiently in Gabriel’s hands and so left for a tour of the world and image repair.
Matthew also wanted time alone for meditation and reflection, so he could wrap his own mind around their current state of affairs. With Benjamin more concerned with Willa than the rest of their organization, Matthew would have to decide what their next steps would be on his own.
Without Benjamin constantly in his ear, Matthew’s mind was able to wonder about the darkness and what it had said to him. The only link from Matthew’s time fasting in the desert, where the darkness first came over him, and his present circumstance, was Benjamin. Matthew knew that his mission was a noble one, but he now realized the level of darkness that surrounded him was extraordinary. He would have to clean house and make his mission pure again, and if that meant that Benjamin must go, then so be it. With Benjamin occupied in the cabin, Matthew first turned his attention to making sure that the rest of the Guardians were still on board.
When Matthew left the cabin grounds, Willa felt it instantly. Matthew was the only one who was sensitive enough to be able to figure out what Willa was up to, so she had to wait for him to leave before she could start her work. Now that he was gone, she was free to travel at will. The others were too dense to understand when she was no longer in her body, and was out building up her own organization.
When Benjamin and the other in-cabin guards fell asleep, Willa’s work began. Her eyes rolled back in her head and her body hardened like stone as her spirit drifted out of it to find her partner. Willa only had to think of Sneha and her spirit shot off to where Sneha’s spirit currently resided, in the body of a cute little blonde girl, with no sense of her true self.
Willa found herself standing on a lawn in the back yard of a house with adults milling about making casual conversation. There in the middle of all of them was Sneha. Willa knew that in this birth, like many others, Sneha had taken the name of Beth, so she called out to her.
“Beth,” said Willa with a smile, excited for their reunion.
“My name’s not Beth it’s Bethany,” said Beth with all the indignity that a four-year-old could muster. Willa laughed to herself, What happened to you, my dear?
“Huh?” asked Beth’s mother. “Who are you talking to?” Willa could see that she had already created problems for Beth.
“That little black girl,” said Beth. Hearing that, Willa laughed out loud. Willa could see on Beth’s mother’s face that she was horrified. Not only was Beth talking to the wind, but she was stumbling with a cultural faux pas while she was at it.
“Bethany!” chided her mother. “We don’t talk like that.” Willa was amused at both seeing Beth treated as a child, and Beth actually acting like one.
“But mom,” pleaded Beth, “look at her hair. What a mess!” Willa was on the ground laughing now. It had been a long time since she had had this much fun. Beth was totally lost in her new identity as a privileged, suburban child. If her mom was having trouble with her now, she was going to be in for a serious shock when her daughter and Willa started spending time together. Willa knew that this would mark the day for Beth’s mother when the Bethany she had known died forever, and a strange new creature started to take her place.
Controlling her laughter for a moment, Willa tried to help out. “They don’t see me Beth.”
“I told you, my name is Bethany!” she shot back.
“Bethany!” yelled her mom, “you go to your room right now!”
“Don’t you talk back to me! Just go.”
Willa followed Beth as she stormed into the house and up the stairs to her room. They sat together on the floor staring at each other. Willa was waiting for Beth to make the first move.
“What are you looking at?” asked Beth.
“I’m looking at myself,” said Willa, not bothered that Beth wouldn’t understand the philosophy.
“What? Are you crazy?”
“We are crazy,” Willa nodded, “the two of us. At least by the world’s standards.”
“You talk worse than big people,” Beth answered.
“We are a team, you and I.” Willa understood that she would have to try and talk down to Beth’s level if she were going to lift her back up to her real glory. “One day we will be together for real. But for now, I will come to you like this. Not everyday, but when I need to talk to you. There will be moments when I will need your help.”
“You need my help?” Beth asked, a smile coming over her lips.
“I’m trapped, but you are free,” said Willa. “So when I come to you, you have to help me. You have to be my hands, and my voice. Beth? Do you understand what I’m telling you?”
“Why do you insist on calling me Beth?”
“Because we’ve spent lifetimes together. You were always Beth to me. Just Beth. Nothing more, nothing less. Your parents could feel the name, but they got it a little wrong. So, I’m giving it back to you.”
Willa could see that Beth felt the power in the truth she was being told. Beth sat up a little straighter; ready to take on the responsibility she was being given.
“Okay. I am Beth. I am ready to be Beth. Again.” Beth took a moment to breathe in her new name before asking, “What is your name?”
“I gave you a name, so you can give me mine.” This was Willa’s test. She had to see how far off Beth was. Willa had to see whether Beth could remember when she tried.
Beth sat up straight and looked deeply at Willa. Beth reached out and touched Willa’s hair. It was thick and puffy and fell heavy on to her shoulders. “Your hair is like a willow tree. Beautiful. Can I call you Willow?”
At last, my proper name has been returned to me, thought Willow. “If you like, then that will be my name,” she said with satisfaction.
Willow then returned to her cabin and her captors. She saw that they were all still asleep, so she decided to visit the rest of her group, those she’d initiated at the daycare, and see what they were up to. She knew that the others had not yet learned to use their sight and wouldn’t be able to see her, but at least she could try and nudge them in the right direction, as the future was now in their hands.
I’ll see you next Friday for chapter 12.
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