Topaz Bond – The Creature, continued (7)

This story begins with Topaz Bond – The Call (1).  To access installments in narrative sequence, click on an entry title, then click on “Next” at the end of that installment.

Abelard looked down, heaved a sigh, and spoke with his mouth again. “Sorry. But how…?”

“Why do you keep switching the side of your head that you use to look at me?”

He gave a full-body twitch. “The left side receives, the right side projects.”

Unsure of how to interpret this answer but not wanting to display ignorance, she answered his repeated question. “I hear voices that no one else hears.”

“Ah. I think they used to call that schizophrenia, right?”

“What do you mean, ‘used to’?”

He didn’t answer at first. Instead, he ambled in a circle around her, keeping his head down, trying to decide something. She rotated to face him as he walked. When he had circled twice, he asked, “What year did you come from?”

“2017. Why?”

“Common Era? I wasn’t even born then.”

“You mean… you’re from the future?”

“We’re outside of space and time, remember? Aum touches all of human history.”

“Only humans?” Eileen felt weak. “What about… aliens?”

“Haven’t run into any of those yet. Maybe they’re across the ocean. Nobody makes it across the ocean, I’ve heard.”

“What happens when you try to cross the ocean?”

“You get bored and turn around. It’s easy to get bored in Aum. We don’t even have weather here.”

“Yeah, it was pretty quiet before you showed up.” Eileen considered her options. Send him away and explore alone? As a general principle, safety in solitude, but Abelard seemed friendly enough and maybe the next being she would come across would have worse intentions. She still didn’t know too much about Aum. Abelard seemed willing show her the ropes. And she could always part ways with him later if he got on her nerves. So, safety in numbers then. “Okay, I’ll walk with you.”

His animal face twisted into some kind of smile. “All right, Opele, let’s walk.” He fell in beside her.

For a moment, she wasn’t sure whom he was talking to. Then, she remembered giving him her alias. She decided on the spot to start thinking of herself as ‘Opele,’ rather than ‘Eileen.’ “Hey, weren’t you going…” Opele peered in the direction of his previous amble, wondering what he might want to avoid.

“Well, like I was saying when we kicked off this little tutorial, Aum’s geography isn’t fixed. The coasts are fairly stable, but they’re hemmed by a set of mountain ranges, and once you get inland of those, the regions just phase in and out as you travel, with no order I’ve been able to grasp. It’s a right mess. A couple of the beasts I’ve come across tried making maps when they first started out, and it drove them batshit until they stopped.”

Opele furrowed her brow and rubbed her forehead. “So that means…”

“If you were walking this way, I can walk forward with you, and for all we know, we’ll still end up in the Feathered Forest, where I came from. It’s a very peaceful place. Beautiful trees.”

 

Thank you for reading!  In my next installment, Opele and Abelard discover an unwelcome surprise.

Previous Aum stories include “Globe Without Goodbye” and “Masked.

If you are enjoying “Topaz Bond,” please support my writing on Patreon.

Topaz Bond – The Colors, continued (3)

This story begins with Topaz Bond – The Call (1).  To access installments in narrative sequence, click on an entry title, then click on “Next” at the end of that installment.

 

How long had she stood at the base of this dune? The constant light level made it difficult to mark the passage of time. She could count off seconds, but suspected doing so would require too much concentration. For a moment, she had wondered if she dreamt, but had immediately discounted the notion. No way would she have fallen asleep so soon after hearing the news from Rod of her mother’s death, and while she might have fainted, she had fainted a couple of times before in her life and had never experienced anything like this as a result. She felt curiosity now. What had happened? How had she come here? Where was ‘here,’ exactly? Had someone brought her here deliberately, using some kind of magic? If so, why?

She felt no hunger, thirst, nor any other bodily need, including desire to sleep. Her initial surprise and fear over discovering herself transported had ebbed. She had adjusted to her bizarre surroundings. So much so, in fact, that she started to feel boredom. It did not seem that she would get answers to her questions from the sand, no matter its beauty. She needed to explore.

The desert looked the same in all directions, so she started walking forward.

The colorful sand felt as warm as her feet. It collected between her toes as she walked. She skirted the dunes lazily, watching the blue and magenta streaks intertwine around her. She might want clothes eventually, but had begun to feel confident that if she encountered anyone in her current state, she need not apologize. For now, the desert stretched on, sands and sky out to the horizon. Her eyes longed for something to break the monotony. A cactus maybe. A house? Something else moving, besides her.

The chiming voice and the cello voice had been making pleasant conversation in her mind for a while now. She tuned them out, like she would with the static on a normal day, until they said in loud unison “LISTEN! LISTEN!”

She stopped walking and addressed them. “It would be easier to listen if you would leave me alone.” Then, she heard what they must have heard first: singing.

 

Thank you for reading!  In my next installment, Eileen discovers, and is discovered by, the singer.

Previous Aum stories include “Globe Without Goodbye” and “Masked.

If you are enjoying “Topaz Bond,” please support my writing on Patreon.

Topaz Bond – The Call (1)

This story is dedicated to my Patrons; special thanks to Adam, Bill Hawke, Donna Amburgey, Emily L, Linmayu, and Roger Kotecki for their ongoing monthly support at $3 or higher.  This story is also dedicated to Cassandra Walker and the Hearing Voices Network for input on the character of Eileen Jackson.

Eileen stared at her smartphone. Its edge peeked out from where her long, cotton skirt dimpled between her knees. How long had she waited here on the edge of her bed? Looking up from her lap, she saw her lonely coffee cup no longer steaming as it rested next to her laptop. She could cross her studio apartment and reach the table where she ate her meals and checked her newsfeed in just a few steps. The pride that came with living independently had a price tag of hundreds per month. At the moment, she missed her mother’s house. She looked at her phone again, her stomach knotted in fear. Mama had pride too. Had it brought her down in the end, when the Man had failed so many times?

She placed her phone on her unmade bed and pointedly ignored it as she poured the cold coffee down her sink drain. She washed the cup, then the rest of her dishes. Detergent bubbles popped against her warm beige hands, trembling beneath the faucet. She imagined her mother’s hands, much darker than her own, going about daily business in the kitchen. Scrubbing vegetables. Grating lemons. Those hands – still warm now? Or cold, like tree trunks in a forest?

The medication kept the static buzzes of the voices dull and far away. Their noise usually got louder when Eileen felt pressured, and she knew if she focused on them now she would start to pick out individual words. She chose not to focus on them, and imagined herself to be made of granite. Resolute. Remote. Removed from pain. Of all the strategies she’d tried in groups over the years, she liked visualization the most.

The few dishes in the sink from the past day didn’t distract her for long. She drained the hot water and the bubbles, then smoothed back the tendrils of her hair that had puffed out. In high school, she had flat ironed her hair, but now she preferred natural volume. Sometimes, her hair reminded her of cumulus clouds floating free in the sky.

She realized she wanted to pray.

Eileen didn’t pray often. Her mother had brought her as a child to the local Baptist church for Sunday school, but hadn’t pressured her in her teenage years when she had resisted further attendance. By the time Eileen had turned seventeen, she and Mama had both started to joke about attending ‘the Church of Sleeping in on Sundays.’ So to whom should she pray? Recently, she had started to explore her ancestral religion of Ifá, thinking it might explain the voices in a way psychiatry could not touch. Eileen wanted a better explanation, but could not say she truly believed yet. So where could her prayers go?

She found her old burner and a cone of blended incense. After setting up the burner on her table, she lit the cone and blew on it until it burned as an ember. Soon the incense tinged the air of her apartment with the scents of musk and myrrh. She inhaled deeply and closed her eyes. Please, whoever is listening… I need Mama to live. Please don’t let her die just because she couldn’t afford another medical bill. Who dies from the flu, anyway?

The static of the voices crackled louder in her mind, and she caught a couple of words: “EILEEN – STUPID! –“ As she grabbed hold of the scent of the incense as an external focus, glad she hadn’t gone noseblind to it yet, her phone rang. The screen identified the caller as her uncle Rod.

She answered. “Yes?”

Rod choked on his words, his voice thick and hoarse. “I’m sorry, LeLe… Your mother…”

“Don’t say it!” Of all the times to be called ‘LeLe.’ Mama had given her a white name for a reason! A leg up. A way to get Eileen’s résumé past the recruiter’s inbox, to give her the option to pass. The rest of the family had never approved.

“They didn’t listen to her. They didn’t figure out how bad it was. They sent her home. She died in her own bed, LeLe. We’re gonna sue…”

She stopped listening to Rod. A moment later she ended the call, with him in mid-sentence. A lawsuit wouldn’t matter and the hospital could afford better lawyers anyway. And what good would money do? Would it bring Lashonda Jackson back to life? Of course not. The hot tears welling from her eyes began to spill down. She felt like an uprooted weed left to die on garden earth by a lazy gardener. How would she survive?

Thank you for reading! In my next installment, Eileen discovers a realm of existence that is completely new to her: Aum.

Previous Aum stories include Globe Without Goodbye and Masked.

If you are enjoying Topaz Bond, please support my writing on Patreon.