Chapter 14 of 21. If you haven’t read the earlier chapters, please read them first. You can find them here: The Willow, a serialized novel.
For ten years, they sat face-to-face for one hour a day, two days a week. Their eyes always locked in a confrontation of wills, each having an agenda, and each finding amusement in the others’ attempts at defining their relationship. Marcus asked the questions and Beth watched Marcus asking the questions. Beth sat patiently waiting for Marcus to hear her on a subtle level, always tugging at a part of his consciousness that he wasn’t even aware existed.
Although it seemed as if no progress was being made, for Marcus, seeing Beth was the best part of his job. There was just something about her that he loved. She was certainly not interested in acting in a way that the world could understand. She would not adapt herself to any kind of social conformity, nor would she take any of the steps needed to check out of the psyche ward. But Beth’s spirit was all love. Marcus could feel the love dripping off of her and pouring into him. He knew that she was not interested in leaving the psyche ward, and in truth, he was not interested in having her leave.
Marcus worked on a purely physical level, letting his mind formulate thoughts and he sent those thoughts out into the world as words. Beth absorbed his words as energy and fed them back into him on a subtle level as pure emotion, in an effort to soften the wall he’d built up between his mind and spirit. The flow was constant, and was bringing about subtle changes within Marcus that he barely recognized. Though he was aware that he was always on the verge of tears, he usually chalked that up to his blood sugar, or stress levels.
For years they did their therapy dance to the rhythm of questions, stares and love. All the while, Marcus was sure that Beth had a plan that she was not sharing with him. He had brought it up with her a couple of times, in an effort to see the big picture from her perspective.
“What is it about this place that you like?” he’d asked sincerely.
Do you think I like it here? she thought, making a sarcastic grin.
“You say so much with a smile, Beth. Maybe you could try using your words.” Marcus said it as a joke. He had long gotten over any expectation that she might one day start talking again.
Maybe you could try listening to me on the level that I’m communicating with you. Beth had returned to her blank look. Marcus needed to focus. If she gave too much away with visual clues, he would never open his mind.
“Don’t even try hiding it. You love it here.”
Our time together is nice, but I wish you would make a little effort, Beth thought.
“Our time together is nice, Beth, but I wish you would make a little effort.”
That-a-boy. She couldn’t help but smile again. Stay on my level.
They did the therapy dance until the day Marcus told Beth he would be taking a vacation.
“I’m going for a week to Seattle to visit my wife’s father.”
Beth was stunned. She felt a pain in her gut and reached over and took Marcus’ hands in hers. Marcus was taken aback at the show of affection. It was more than she had shown in all of their time together. Beth began shaking her head back and force. I don’t think this is a good idea Marcus. There is a black cloud around you.
“Don’t worry Beth. I’ll be back next week. We’re only going to be missing a couple of sessions together.”
If you go to Seattle, you won’t be coming back.
Marcus placed Beth’s hands back on her own lap. “Don’t worry. My Father-in-law is a surly son-of-a-bitch, but I can handle it.” Marcus let out a fake laugh, “For a week, anyway.”
With that, Marcus walked Beth back to her room. Beth knew that she wouldn’t be seeing Marcus again, and that the chance of his sight returning in this lifetime was over. This meant that he would not be the one to lead her to Willow. Beth, however, no longer worried about her. Willow was lighting the path at her own pace, candle-by-candle, and Beth would take the next step whenever it was shown to her. With a heavy heart, Beth said good-bye to Marcus, knowing that she was losing a friend and would now be stuck alone in the psyche ward with no further work to be done.
“The only thing that will come out of killing Matthew,” repeated Willow, “is the destruction of everything you spent a lifetime building. Though you may only see evil in it now, you still have the power to put your organization to good use. No need to throw your life’s work away, just because you have been funneling it in the wrong direction. Your people are all inherently good, they just lack understanding. Though you are all yearning for knowledge, you first have to walk into the light – then only will you be able to see clearly.”
“As long as he is alive, you will never be free,” said Benjamin.
Willow laughed. Benjamin had no time for philosophy. His world was black and white and he was unable to see in shades of grey. Benjamin had fallen in love with Willow, but he couldn’t begin to understand her. Though he felt there was something divine in her, he was unable to subjugate his ego long enough to listen to what she was saying. When Willow spoke, Benjamin continued to view her words and actions through the filter of right and wrong, power and weakness, mine and yours. A world where freedom was not bound by physical laws was beyond his comprehension.
All of Benjamin’s men were in the same boat, traveling down a river that flowed through the banks of likes and dislikes. They were ready to die for Willow, but Willow had no need for their deaths. She, however, couldn’t force them to listen to her and allowed them to play their games, believing that only the strong survived, and not realizing that Willow was indeed the strongest of them all.
“We will take you from this cage,” continued Benjamin, “and allow you to share your light with the world. You don’t deserve this. No one ever deserved this.”
“There is no one who can cage me,” laughed Willow, “for I am not this body that you see before you. This cover of flesh, blood and bones do not define nor confine me. Our physical body may pay for the deeds we have done over countless lifetimes, but even those sufferings need not trouble us. To liberate a girl, lifetimes ago, I imprisoned her. For that I am temporarily imprisoned myself. When that karma is exhausted, God will show the way for me to walk out of here. Before that, I will stay put.”
“We are the way that God has shown,” said Benjamin to growls of approval from his men.
“Violence is what got you into this mess,” said Willow.
“And violence will get us out of it.”
“I understand that you are ready to die. And your men are also ready to die. But why are you okay with allowing their deaths when there is another way.”
“What other way?”
“I can turn Matthew.”
“You don’t know Matthew like I do.”
“And you don’t understand the laws of men like I do. Matthew is confused. He spent the whole of his life being led by darkness, while believing that it was the light of God. He let anger cloud his judgment.”
“I know that!” yelled Benjamin. “I was the tool that clouded his judgment! The devil used me, and I turned Matthew into a monster. Right now Matthew is out building up an army to protect himself against you. This I know, because I made him paranoid. I made him believe that he was the only light of the world. But my influence with him is over and he will listen to no one now. We will only have one chance to stop him and I’ll be damned if I’m not going to take it!”
Benjamin was shaking with anger. He carried the weight of a lifetime of evil on his shoulders and saw only one way out of the darkness. Willow kept quiet seeing that Benjamin’s fate was sealed.
Beth paced the length of her padded room. The lack of space no longer made her claustrophobic. When she first entered the facility, she felt that if she was not already crazy, the walls and the jacket were going to make her that way. To begin her time in the psyche ward, she had to put on a good show, but after awhile the show became her reality.
Whenever Marcus’ reactions to her show were too slow or non-existent, she would become angry. Between the medication and the walls, her anger seeped into every space of her consciousness, twisting her thoughts and emotions until she had no more control over them. But Willow had come from time to time to encourage her on, and remind her to continue her meditation, and remember her purpose. Now she no longer saw the walls, and they no longer used the jacket, because she had reigned in her outbursts.
On this day however, Beth was not worried about herself, she was worried about Marcus. They had become close, and although her mission might have failed, she couldn’t stand the thought of Marcus suffering. Beth was overcome by the feeling that there was something she could do. Her suspicions were confirmed when Willow appeared before her.
Sarah opened the door to her father’s apartment. The air was thick with the smell of mold and dust. Sam felt dizzy as he stepped over the threshold, as if he could feel the pain that existed within the walls of Sarah’s home. He watched Sarah as she moved clothes from the floor to create a path for them to walk. “How do you live like this?” he asked her.
“My room is clean,” Sarah said defensively. This was a part of her world that she had never shared with anyone. She and her father had always been alone in the world. She took care of him. She was embarrassed by it, but she was not old enough to understand why. She only knew that she had to protect her father, because he was unable to protect himself. Sarah knew that she was the only thing standing between her father and his demons. She had to be around to give him something to believe in – to be a ray of light in his darkness. “I stay out of his way. He has a hard enough time as it is.”
“A hard enough time with what?” Sam asked, not being flippant, but in search of specifics.
“Just living, I guess.”
Sam put his hands on top of his head, and looked up at the ceiling. The paint was bubbling and cracking. There had been a leak from the apartment above at some time, and the stain was still there. Out of the corner of his eye he saw a cockroach hurry across the floor.
“Where do you think your father went?” asked Sam.
“I don’t know. But the way he was looking… What he did in the park… I don’t think he’s coming back.”
Either way, your time together is over, Sam thought.
Sarah found the key in her father’s dresser drawer, right where he had told her it would be. She looked at Sam not wanting to use it. Sam waited and watched as Sarah brought the key to the computer table and sat at the chair behind it. She looked at the drawer beneath the table. She had never given it a second thought before her dad had mentioned it to her. Even after learning that the drawer contained secrets, Sarah never really wanted to know what they were.
Sarah took a long breath and inserted the key. With purpose, she unlocked the drawer and slowly opened it. Inside, five papers sat alone. Sarah realized that this was the space her father had kept clean. Sarah picked up the papers and gave them a quick look through. They were all handwritten in her father’s script.
“It’s some kind of story or something,” said Sarah as she handed the papers over to Sam.
Sam took the papers and started reading them. It was a short autobiography. Sam realized that he was not only going to learn the where, but he was going to learn the why as well. Taking a moment to process what he was about to read, he looked up and saw Sarah staring at him. He was moved by her plight: trying to live with a father that she knew nothing about, raising herself up while her father was getting lost in drugs and depression. “Shall we read it together?” he asked.
Sarah nodded and they sat down on the couch.
“It all started,” read Sam, “when Benjamin approached me in a coffee store. He had heard about my less than honorable military career and thought I might be interested in a job.”
Beth and Willow sat together on the floor staring into each others’ eyes like they did when they were five years old. Now, in their forties, they still felt the same comfort with each other. Willow looked the same as she always had, vibrant, eyes shining with knowledge. Beth’s eyes had become wild, and the pain of her service showed in the lines on her face.
Beth waited for Willow to speak. Beth had given up on asking questions long ago, knowing that Willow would tell her what she wanted to, when she wanted to.
“Marcus was in an accident,” started Willow.
“I suspected as much.”
“He’s in a coma. He needs you to show him the way out.”
“How would I go about doing that,” Beth said sarcastically. After all these years, Willow still found ways to surprise her.
“In the same way that I come here to you, you have to go to him.”
Beth bit her question.
“…because he has a relationship with you,” said Willow. “He’s confused. He’s lost in his own mind. If I go to him, I’ll scare him. I could send him crashing. But you – you are his angel.”
“Willow,” said Beth. She was exhausted, but knew that there was always more to be done. “You know that I don’t know how to travel in that way – out of my body.”
“You’ll figure it out.”
And with that Willow was gone again. It was the first time Beth had spoken to her in five years. She had come, said what she wanted, and left Beth to stumble her way through it. But Beth knew that if Willow had faith in her, anything was possible.
Travis’ daughter, Martha, had a mind all her own. He tried to mold her into a weapon, but she was too busy with feelings to fall for his meddling. While Travis was successful with matching up Elizabeth and Marcus, Sam and Martha had proved to be more complicated. Sam was the cop and if anyone needed watching it was he. But Martha had never understood her duty, and Travis knew that he couldn’t spell it out for her.
Travis believed that if he had been able to stay in Seattle and oversee their pairing first hand, it would have been successful. Unfortunately, he was forced to entrust those duties to his wife Theresa.
Theresa had been a teenager who worshipped Travis, when they first got together. Her life would be cut short by drugs and a lonely heart, but while alive she had served Travis faithfully. When Marcus moved to San Francisco, Travis was forced to follow him there, but he left his wife in Seattle to keep an eye on Sam. God only knew that Russell wasn’t up for the task.
Travis had been so proud when Theresa managed to get a deli job in the building where Sam worked. He coached her up, over the phone, on how to make friends with Sam. Eventually she went all in and invited Sam over for dinner. Sam had wondered why this kind elder lady wanted to have dinner with him, he was a loner after all, but decided it might be time for him to make some friends. When he saw Theresa’s daughter, her invitation suddenly made sense.
Theresa was as shocked as Sam when they all sat down for dinner together. However, Sam and Martha were both at similar points in their lives; they both were trying to make the transition from young adults to productive members of society. As uncomfortable as that first dinner was, they decided to see each other again. Eventually they became friends and then lovers.
Theresa was proud of her work, and loved being able to report back to Travis that the pairing had been a success. She never knew why she was entrusted with these duties, but if it was important to Travis, then it was important to her.
A year later, when Martha decided to leave Sam, Theresa didn’t know how to handle it. Martha couldn’t have known how much her mother had invested in their relationship. She never saw the ways that her father twisted her mother to his every desire. Martha didn’t know that she and her mother were both pawns in the game that he was playing.
Unable to share the truth with her daughter, Theresa was left to take the brunt of Travis’ anger. Though they only spoke over the phone, Travis had a way of tearing her apart with his words that seemed even worse than physical abuse to Theresa. With her daughter out of the house and a husband who was disappointed in her, it became easy for Theresa to lose herself in drugs. Though they called it an overdose, Theresa had been trying to kill herself for years before it actually happened.
When Travis didn’t bother to come back for her mother’s funeral, Martha finally became aware of the kind of man her father actually was. She had always believed that he had left for work, but now she understood that he really didn’t care about them. Martha had completely lost contact with her father by the time she had children of her own. Her kids became the sole focus of her life, and she had no desire for them to ever meet someone as cold as their grandfather.
It took nearly a year of meditation and practice. Beth first learned to throw her awareness out of her body. She then worked on traveling further and further away. Eventually, Beth had enough trust in the process and desperation in the time she had left, that she was able to find her way to Marcus. Throwing herself with purpose and conviction, she found herself inside of Marcus’ own mind, seeing what he was seeing. She was amazed to find that he saw himself in a padded room, similar to Beth’s own room. He was confused and hearing voices.
Marcus, called out Elizabeth. Beth could see that Marcus couldn’t quite make out the sound of his wife’s voice calling his name from his bedside. Her voice was reaching him, but he was hearing her like an irritation that was scratching at him. Beth knew that she had to help him to see.
Beth stared at Marcus, trying to make herself solid within his mind. Eventually he saw her before him.
“How did you get in here?” yelled Marcus wanting to back out of the room he was trapped in.
Beth calmed herself. She knew that this would be her only chance to help him. She had to choose her words perfectly.
“If you want to get out, you’ll need to do it now?” she said.
“You can talk?”
“Of course, I could always talk. You just didn’t know how to hear me.”
“What is going on?”
“Elizabeth needs you. If you want to see her again, I suggest you get out of here.”
Marcus’ desperation ramped up and Beth was forced from his mind. She found herself back in her own padded room, hoping that she had done enough.
“I’m so sorry, Elizabeth,” she could still hear Marcus calling out. “Elizabeth!”
I’ll see you next Friday for chapter 15.
Featured image via http://www.wall.alphacoders.com