The Page

A tale of intimacy and loss

Tag: Coven

Helga

LostThe shore is as I remember it, when Sarah and I came here, the first time, at Gabrielle’s invitation. Unlike that day, Helga is now wearing her best London suit, business-like and sober. Then, she had worn the toga loved of high members of the Coven.

“It’s nice to see you relaxed and happy, Julian…” Helga looking at me with her enigmatic smile. I think that she is right, relaxed I am, having left behind those dark memories, and my little ghost.

“But how about you, Helga, what is new in your trade?”

Helga stops, turns towards me: “And what trade is that, Julian?” Her dark eyes are reflecting only the deep blue light of the sky. “The art of disseminating peace in the Universe,” I reply calmly, adding: “As a doctor, this is your ultimate role, isn’t it?”

We resume our walk on the water edge. “Oh, my medical ambitions are more modest.” There is no trace of irony in Helga’s voice. Nonetheless we are here, and I sense she’s waiting for me to ask, how and why. But I won’t be trapped in a game of cat and mouse, with this beautiful, very beautiful, woman, who I suspect to be more than human…

“We are overwhelmed by the stress in your society,” starts Helga, then correcting herself, “I mean our society…” No, you did not mean that, I think, but I won’t take you on for this. “Every period of change has its human cost.” I remark, philosophically. “And now this is mental health, your domain, dear Elga.”

I omitted the “H”, but she does not give any sign of noticing.

“Yes, in previous ages, it was self-flagelling, and all sorts of religious hysteria, now it’s drugs and other abuses…” She adds matter-of-fact: “And we, doctors, can no longer cope.”

I am about to ask if this is a question of economics, or simply sheer numbers. Helga’s mind is racing ahead of me. “It is about demographics. You have long realised yourself that the present inequalities are self-destructive. Extreme wealth corrodes the body of society, and the fact that ninety percent of the world population lives, or rather survives, on one percent of the revenue of the top ten is an engine of destruction. We can do very little about it… from strictly a medical standpoint.”

Now I want to ask: “But peace…” Helga is prompt to cut me off: “The state of war is merely one way to extend military imperialism beyond its shelf date, whatever chaos and misery result from it. The Cold War is over, but there had to be something to take its place, anything. The corporate lords cannot live in peace for very long. They need war and destruction: it is part of their system,” After a pause, she continues:

“For most of us, the resulting stress converts into either extreme poverty, or extreme distress, or both, depending on where we live.”

“If you believe this, then what is our destiny?” I ask, suddenly worried at Helga’s gloomy outlook. “I think there has to be a big change, another great transformation. But we may have to wait for that. In the meantime, people like myself, or Gabrielle, in our respective capacities, are struggling along…”

Those words leave me silent. Helga takes my arm: “But you know also that there is nothing new. Over history, societies have aged, gone sick, then somehow managed to transform themselves, or had to disappear, be absorbed in something bigger, sometime better. There is always a choice…”

We have come to the end of the walk, and I recognise now where we are. “I’ll give you a lift home,” Helga says. “And if I may, I’ll pop in to say hello to Sarah…” We laugh.

Advertisements

Lost, without you

Jacqueline Devreux Melissa ~ It is my turn now, to roam those streets, to visit Viktoria Park in the cold mornings, alone. Petrified, cold, ugly, I stand in the street where Sarah and you stayed. You made me beautiful, and without your presence, without your patient love, I am just that: an old woman, a witch without broom, a useless ghost.

How beautiful, how warm was that summer, how gracious and handsome you both were, you, in love with Sarah, and in love with me, the one who could not exist without you, other than as a wreck. This is what I am now, a wreck, haunting the streets you walked along, before your mind lost its way, or, perhaps, before reality set in. How can I know? If I am an illusion of your memories, if my existence is in your mind, a little mirage of those synapses, then I cannot judge if the same mind rejects me, decides that, after all, I do not exist.

This is Sarah’s silent revenge, the triumph of virtue against the lewd creature from your past. She, the wife, the loyal companion who had to endure what she calls your illness. Your illness was me, intrusive reflection of a doubtful past, of your lost youth.

So, facing my fate, I am receding into darkness. I have erased my page, those photos I collected, of the fugitive moments of this life, the life that once was. A few snapshots survived from last summer: Sarah in the Tiergarten, a triumphant smile on her lips, radiant; you, near the Airlift Memorial, your bike and rucksack lying on the grass, the Bundestag… There is no photo of me, or at least of the person who was at your side then. The being who may have taken those pictures.

Your sister Jane has already forgotten me. Our encounter was a sort of dream, at a time when I was struggling to reach you. And now, I will never again attempt to approach your life. Never again will I stand near the shore at Chi, waiting for you, and meeting Jane.

The mirage is fading, so fast I soon will be unable to summon my own image, the tall red-haired girl who walked at your arm, the parted lips, ready for a kiss. Soon those fleeting instants will be forgotten. Yet, what will endure, will be the need for me to roam those streets, for I will stay in Berlin. Not that I entertain any hope to see you again, merely to exist, as a wraith, in the city you love so much. A passing mist, in the anonymous crowd, ignored by all.

And I’ll wait for the night, when entropy finally reclaims me, a wretched remnant of a lost soul. And if the Coven takes pity of me, they may give me another chance, far away,  on another world…

Searching

~ Julian

Otto Steinert Looking back at the past year I have to ask myself: where have I been, and who am I, in reality? On this word, reality, hinges the whole question. As I look out of the window at the January rain falling on the already water-saturated garden, I try to make sense of my failing memories. What comes back to me, in small clouds of sights and sounds, is that what my reality was?

Sarah says “yes, and no”, and I am tempted to call my wife a sophist. But I don’t. I know she’s right, as some of those remembered instants were once real for me, for her husband, the man called Julian. Julian walked on Regent Street, he had a phone call, he visited her page on Facebook… He went to Brooklyn, to Paris, to Berlin. He saw  the missiles on the compound, in the dark pine forest, he saw the blond guards on duty at the new Chancellery. He ran with his wife and his sister around the Tempelhof airfield. All that happened, but other fragments may have only existed in his mind – or did they? How do I tell the difference between what happened, and what could have happened? For me, now, I cannot tell.

So, the question who am I? – That question is legitimate. If part of my life is an imaginary story, am I the writer, or, am I the story? And who writes that story? Am I a character in someone else’s book? And what’s her name? What is the writer’s name?

There is another question haunting me: was the writer, if that was the way it was, was she human? As she wrote those episodes in Julian’s life, was she looking on his past, or her future? Was she anticipating a life not yet in his, her – reality?

Sarah listens to me, from time to time asking me to retell a scene, a dialogue, as if she was analysing this work: “her” novel. But it is all disjointed, my memories are not contiguous, there are gaps, and many, many inconsistencies. Some characters appear in distorted roles, not their “real” functions, or professions. Take Helga, for example. In my memory she’s “Elga” – and she is not from this world, she’s from a far away galaxy. But Helga is our doctor, she is real, she exists not merely in my reality, but Sarah’s, and our friend Gabrielle’s too.

“It will all make sense, finally,” says Sarah, with the smile of patience itself.

“Yes, but even if it does not, does it matter?” I ask in reply. We hug.

Image: Otto Steinert, via Inner Optics

I was a baby…

Jane ~

Seeing you It is sad to say this, but I do see my brother now, as never before, as an ageing man. His wife knows, even better than me. The change, in the past three months, since they returned from Berlin, has been so worrying. Finished the laughter, the jokes, the amiable flirtation: he’s now behaving like a much older man.

What has changed him? Sarah says that his illness has progressed rapidly, overwhelming him at times, in a hopeless daytime melancholy. Perhaps I never realised how serious this illness was for him, as I always played his game, around this absurd story of his lost sweetheart. How I now regret all that nonsense, on the island of Chi and the lady in the cloak.

In Berlin, he lived in a trance, in a fictional world of his own that followed vaguely his reality. He weaved the story of the “Coven”, even using poor Gabrielle as one of the main characters in the plot. When we visited the Bundestag, he pointed out to Sarah the special uniforms and badges the official staff wore. At the time she did not see the significance of it, and thought it was only her husband’s imagination at work, the writer in action, gathering odd facts and details, to use later in his story. Since then, he has become a character in his own novel. I find it frightening. Is he playing the part of the doomed lover?

Towards me, he is still the older, protective, loving, brother. His voice is deeper, his gestures slower. On the telephone, he sounds far away. Face to face, he is not quite present, almost fading. Sarah wants Helga, his therapist, to prescribe him a tougher treatment. Apparently Helga’s resisting this, saying that the risks of serious damage to Julian’s persona are real. She favours patience, a lot of rest, and no dramatic change.

As his sister, I tend to agree with Helga. But who knows him best? I was a baby when he left the family home, and I never caught up with that period of his life, as a young man, until, many years later, he reappeared, so completely changed, our mother thought. Then, the young girl I was, saw him as her hero. The strong brother, the one who knew about all the things I was curious about, and not a little frightened of. The one who would protect me as I took my first timid steps into this wild world. I admired him, but I did not know him, and still don’t. Only Sarah knows her husband.

Once Upon A Time

Erasmus Melissa ~ I have succeeded to an extent I could have never dreamed of. I, the girl who was left for dead, live again, have a handsome lover; soon, I will morph into Sarah, the gorgeous wife, I will become her, and will have him for ever. At what price? Yes, I know, the boy I loved, is soon to become a bestseller, a famous writer, and with that he will change. But he is so much enthralled with the adventure…

Gabrielle, my Teacher, can be proud of me. I have followed my destiny, and yet, sometime, I think I am just in one of Julian’s dreams, perhaps in one of his novels. As I write, the conference is only a few days away. I cannot believe how quickly those weeks have past, the long evenings with Sarah, Jane and Julian, Helga’s visits, our rides around Berlin, the long hours of work… This is coming to an end. Julian has agreed to the experiment, he and I will soon be attached by more than our feelings – our genes will mesh, and something extraordinary will happen, I will then bear in my blood the blueprint of a new being, the renewal the Coven wants so much. You see, my success will be also their future, their salvation. What a fate for a girl from a small village, lost in time…

Sarah has been a marvellous companion, her mind open to new ideas, however challenging, or even provocative. Of course, emotionally, she is so much more for me: she’s opened the gate to a love I never thought I could attain, another miracle. She’s the sister I never had, and she’s his wife. She knows now what the experiment is about, she understood everything. At first she was worried for him, and that reawakened my fears. Then she changed, perhaps under Helga’s influence: I suspect those two share a lot, in ways I cannot yet fathom. But later, when I have become her, her double, her true twin, then I will know…

The city is colder, we are now wearing warm jackets and hats. Jane looks lovelier than ever, and her eyes on me tell me the story of a young woman who too understood everything; it was so soon, after our first meeting on the shore of Chi. Jane knows the truth about me, about her brother, about us. She’s the only human who could stop the wheel turning. Maybe she will.

Jane ~ Yes, I know you know, Melissa, dear Melissa, the one who claims to be who you are not, not quite, almost; that part of you that is missing is that I would truly believe in. But you are wrong about Julian: he won’t change, not in the sense you mean. He will continue to love you, the person you are still in his mind. But, you will see, I hope, he is much stronger than they think, those who think they are now in control. And you too will realise that mankind cannot be so easily trumped. I know, the Great Power is here, their president will attend the final day, and so will his counterpart from the Great Power To Be… So will many others among the rich and powerful of this world. But me, I will hit the catwalk in Moscow, as this happens, and before the three of you fly back to London. Unless Sarah and my brother decide to stay – and keep you – in Berlin for a while. After all it is their city…

On the threshold (preamble to Book 2)

les-sources-du-nil:  Akira Satō  佐藤 明  From  Elga ~ We know we can win, overcome the objections and fears that obscure our collective judgment, and get the result we want: shape humans to our image, and save ourselves, project ourselves into a new future… But we have not shut our eyes to the dangers. Humans are a clever species, primitive, in their science, in their awareness of their wider surroundings, but clever in the way wild predators are. Many of us think that they cannot be trusted. But on the scale of our own evolution, up to where we are now, what does “trust” mean?

We have engaged with their planetary organisations, we are communicating with their leaders. They have an innate sense of where profit can be, so they are interested. Removing their weaponry under their very eyes did it, such a simple thing. Their best corporate minds are exercising themselves to think of possible applications! We know that some of their scientists are almost in the state of denial about it all: it cannot be done, it’s against the laws of physics. Others are already working, silently trying to decipher what we have given them: the first steps towards the truth.

Then there is Julian. The human being with the unique genetic make-up that may make it possible, if we chose to sacrifice him, to regenerate ourselves: a probability in a billion, if left to chance, but we have the science to improve those odds. This science has produced the woman Melissa. So much has already been achieved, and we must be patient. But we know: Melissa and Julian are a unique pair, and if we lose them, we have to restart form the beginning, and, on this world, it may then be unlikely to succeed. Our chance is here, now, and we must take it.

Sarah ~

We have now been in Berlin for four weeks, working on the tasks assigned to us by Gabrielle. We are absorbing the incomparable atmosphere of this city, my city. What a change for us after the long months of anxiety in London and New York… Julian is now deeply engaged in the group that is considering demographics, genetics and gender. He was at first very surprised to see that he was there the only non-scientist. Most of the group members are biologists, medical doctors, or mathematicians. The majority of the participants are female, and originate from outside the US and Europe. The introductory meeting did not spell out who was to head this work, but of course it is Gabrielle herself. We – Melissa, Julian himself, Jane (who has now joined us from her last fashion show in Tokyo) and me – have been discussing Julian’s role every evening in the little flat in Kreuzberg. We have not concluded anything yet. Julian is still only a nearly silent witness to the deliberations. Yet Gabrielle makes clear to him almost everyday how important – essential she says – his participation is.

Melissa and I are part of the environment work group, led by Katsumi, the Naval officer and biologist who is, in our view, someone very highly placed in the hierarchy of the Great Power to Be. This appears to be the larger group and has participants from all over the world, with perhaps a majority from Asia  and South America. However North America and Europe are well represented too.

The daily routine in the Chancellery, or at the Russian Embassy where some of the other strands meet (the military certainly meet there, we are not sure where the diplomatic group meets, it may be in one of the many government buildings in Unter den Linden) is very regular and fixed. The day starts at eight sharp in the same room of the Chancellery we started in with a brief (fifteen to twenty minutes at most) meeting of all groups recapitulating the day tasks, and stating progress made expressed as percentages of the whole work programme. The start of the conference proper is still a month away.

Early morning the four of us ride to a gym nearby and we exercise for an hour, followed by a simple breakfast on the Potsdamer Platz. Jane then leaves us to ride back and work in the flat, chiefly on the phone to her many correspondents through the world, and preparing the next show. She goes out to run for a couple of hours in Templehof most days. Melissa and me then leave Julian and we join our respective groups. The day finishes at five with a short break for lunch.

A pattern clearly appeared in the environment work group a few days after we started. The group was provided with an impressive library of films, documents, videos, interviews and other material and the first task was to draw up a list of the most pressing priorities on climatic changes or suspected changes. The next step, where we are now, is to identify the obstacles to a comprehensive world wide agreement on policy making. In other terms we are trying to plan a redo of Kyoto. This time procrastination is no option.

Katsumi, who turns out to be from a wealthy Chinese-Japanese family from Northern China, holds several PhD’s from Asian and US universities as well as a doctorate in medicine from Tokyo University. With us she wears the most sober and yet exquisite traditional Chinese clothes. Her agenda is clear: to obtain agreement from the participants on an agenda for a follow up treaty on carbon and other environmental issues. Water is also part of this picture. This will become part of the decisions of the conference.

Julian is less clear than we are on the direction taken by his group. However he knows from informal contacts with other participants that Gabrielle is looking for a proposal on demographics and the role of women in the new order. Some participants have strong views as to what this should be. Julian thinks that Gabrielle won’t reveal the  real aim of the group for some time. The UN general secretary is rumoured to be here for most the conference once it starts.

And what of our evenings? Since Jane joined us we meet at the Gendarmen Market every afternoon after work. Jane is waiting for us in a little café which has the merit of discretion and old Berlin charm, near the French Dom. There we take stock of the day and decide the programme for the evening: Jane usually comes up with good ideas – there is so much to do in this city – and often too with cinema or theatre tickets! Invariably we ride back to the apartment to change and cuddle. For we have succumbed to a wave of lust, to an irrepressible desire for each other, which has no bound. We have given up any pretence: I, Sarah, and Jane share Melissa, Melissa and me share Julian. The four of us adore each other in a way which has made me forget all our doubts. One thing intrigues me more and more though: the way Melissa has adopted my way of walking, my style, even my clothes, and, dare I say it? My way of making love. Julian is over the moon. So am I.

In the Chancellery

The Chancellery, Berlin We are at the entrance of the long steel and glass building that adorns the long perspective in front of the Bundestag. Sarah and Melissa are standing, superb in their sober grey suits and white silk shirts: they have adopted the same hair style, and today they are both dark red, and wear sharp black high heels. They also wear black lipstick. There is today an unforgiving coldness to their beauty. We walk slowly to the gate, welcome by a platoon of  dark-blue clad officers. I notice their badges which I do not recognise, I notice the blond hair tightly held under the strict berets: the Chancellery is guarded by women warriors.

We walk in as part of a small group of  about twelve guests. Classical music – is it Schubert? – floats through the endless glass corridors. Late afternoon light filters through the large windows. We are all assigned specific seats through specific doors. We are shepherded by the silent guards to one of the larger conference rooms in the building. As we enter the room one guard invites Sarah and Melissa to follow her, while another guides me to my seat. My wife and lover disappear through a side door.

I sit back and look at the audience which slowly fills in the large auditorium. Guards in uniform stand at all corners. Large flags of the United Nations and the Federal Republic, as well as the Union’s, ornate the wide stage. The auditorium is large enough for three or four thousand people. Schubert plays on. Sarah’s and Melissa’s seats remain empty for another half an hour. I then remember that we were given portable audio guides as we entered the building. I connect mine. There is a live broadcast, and on the little screen one can observe the speaker. It is a man, in USAF uniform, and I immediately recognise the officer who was our host in Brooklyn. He’s introducing the programme for the conference and explains the purpose of this pre-conference meeting.

I stand up to let a group of journalists access their seats a little further on the same row. They are all women. I notice an insignia on their jackets. Soon Sarah and Melissa join me, smiling, stunning in their suits and shiny makeup. Sarah kisses me lightly on the cheek and insists for me to sit between her and Melissa. Melissa briefly touches my knee. As I turn toward her I see she wears the same insignia as the journalists. So does Sarah. Then it comes to my mind that this is a smaller, more discreet version, than the one worn by the Chancellery guards. It’s an eagle seizing a small sphere. In the middle of the sphere is a heart.

On the stage now stand four people. One of them is Gabrielle. I also recognise the Chancellor herself, the same US officer, and a tall woman in a Chinese military uniform, perhaps a navy officer. As the four of them stand to attention, Schubert stops and the audience stands up for the German national anthem. The three of us know the words and the melody well. It is a moving moment. As the audience sits back a film appears in the background of the stage, silent. But the Chancellor stands up and speaks. She introduces the conference, states its main purpose, which is to launch a universal movement for peace and the end of all wars. The film shows the horrors of recent conflicts, then switches to views of recent meetings and diplomatic events. The Chancellor introduces Gabrielle – I hold my breath – as “our friend from the East”. No mention of the Coven or of Andromeda… The eagle and the sphere emblem appear on the screen. As the Chancellor concludes her introduction Gabrielle stands up. Her voice is high and clear, without accent. Her German is perfect, the online translation equally so. The portable audio device gives us fifteen language options. Gabrielle’s words reach my consciousness as Sarah takes hold of my hand. There will be four strands of work for the conference: diplomacy, military disarmament, environment and, demographics and “gender”.

I feel dizzy. Gabrielle explains the purpose of each strand, and expands on the diplomatic work undertaken by the UN, the Great Power and her competitors since the last crisis. Then the USAF general talks about the military side of the conference. Fluently he describes the work done so far, since the “disappearance” of the missiles in East Asia. He mentions the recent crisis in the Middle-East and how this is being resolved “to the best interest of mankind”.

The lady in Navy uniform then introduces the environment part of the programme. She’s evidently an expert. The screen displays a series of views describing threats to the planet, as seen from space. The speaker describes the mathematics of carbon reduction. I wonder how many in the audience follow her exposé. Suddenly Gabrielle is back to the fore. I must have missed the last minutes of the environment presentation, lost in a dream. At first I do not understand what Gabrielle is saying. The screen is again full of equations, this time about demographics. Sarah holds my hand tighter. Melissa says something, very low, in my ear. I shiver. Gabrielle is talking about her people. She talks about their ancient history, how they overcome the threats to their survival, how they conquered Space. She says that it is now mankind’s turn to make the choice: survival or self-destruction through dark ages. The audience is totally silent. No one moves. The film is now showing old newsreels. Soon Gabrielle concludes that one of the objectives of the conference is to achieve agreement on population control, a condition of peace. As she sits down, smiling, the Chancellor rises, wishes the audience a positive experience during the conference, and explains that we will be individually called in, in small groups, for the follow-up debriefing.

As I am called in my companions stand up with me and escort me holding my arms along the corridors. I cannot believe what I heard, what is happening. Sarah and Melissa guide me through another corridor and a flight of steps. Melissa knocks at a door and walks in, followed by Sarah who ushers me in. We follow another short corridor and stand by another door. Gabrielle opens the door. She smiles at my companions and shakes my hand.

“You are a lucky man, Julian”, she says in her softest voice, “thanks to your friends your conference will be only hard and interesting work.” At those words Melissa hugs me. There is a new strength in her taking hold of me. I am invited to sit down in one of four comfortable leather chairs that face a wide bay window opening toward the Bundestag. I feel my destiny is no longer mine to control. Gabrielle was not threatening me, but merely stating a fact.

“Julian, you may not have followed all of the presentations this afternoon, there was a lot to absorb. You have been attached to the demographics strand of the conference. You should know that you are one of a very small number, a minority, of non-expert male participants, invited to join us for this project.”

What Melissa said to my ear a few minutes back was: “Trust us.”

Kreuzberg

1 Near Viktoria Park

DSC_0490 So much has changed… Those roads are now perfect, thin ribbons bordered by trees; and today the flow of traffic is out of the city, towards the northern coast and the forests of Brandenburg, it is Friday. Driving from the North-West easing the car into Kreuzberg is light work. Soon we find the street, and with her usual flair, Sarah navigates me to a parking space just in front of our door. I feel her eyes on me: it is her city, and she awaits my reaction to the new Berlin, now at peace.

We pick up our bags. Bicycles are locked randomly on railings and scaffoldings on the wide sidewalk. The air is warm, the street quiet. Sarah unlocks the door which closes silently behind us, and we walk up to the third floor. Melissa is standing at the entrance to the apartment, smiling. She and Sarah kiss for an eternity. We walk in, drops our bags, and then Melissa hugs me. The apartment is delightful, airy, a small balcony opening on the side street, trees and small shops, bicycles, summer dust…

Keith Jarrett plays in the background. In white shorts and a green T-shirt that reads NO SURRENDER! Melissa looks stunning. Sarah thinks so too, and soon the two of them disappear to the bedroom and shut the door. I find the stack of documents from the federal government I am expected to study closely in the meantime. I feel elated: the dread that overwhelmed me during the journey is now gone. Sarah said before we arrived that, here, in this city, she felt invincible. Her new intimacy, or should I say, her deeper intimacy, with Melissa, is for me an enchantment. What else could a man ask for? Two beautiful lovers in love with each other…

The documents set out the role of the support team – us among others – in the Coven’s conference, named “Towards Universal Peace”, and the supervising role of the German authorities during the proceedings. I understand that the main conference is taking place in Unter den Linden, in one of the government buildings, with working sessions in other places, including the Russian embassy. The three of us have separate briefing notes in sealed envelopes. I decide to wait for the women to reappear before I open mine. I walk to the kitchen, open the fridge, and observe that Melissa has done a clever shop of everything Sarah and I love, inclusive of dry Mosel wine. I pull three lovely glasses out of the rack and walk back to the lounge, setting the glasses on the table. Then I fall asleep on the couch.

Sarah wakes me up. Melissa is behind her opening a bottle of Mosel. The two of them  are not wearing much, and I am stunned. We toast to our success and a happy outcome to the conference. For dinner in a few hours Melissa has invited us to a local Turkish restaurant a block away. Sarah sends me to refresh and change in the bathroom, while the ladies get dressed. Suddenly, I realise I have surrendered – to them.

He came back to me…

Sisters Teacher, I do not know how to express the joy and happiness I feel in myself, for Julian has come back to me, he loves me, he is mine. I know how important this man is to you and your cause, Teacher, but at this instant he is mine, my lover, the one I sought for all these years, the one I was desperate to find again.

He is as he always were: a young knight, with now the experience and strength of a grown man. He gave me everything I always wanted from him, and I have already forgotten the bad dreams, the pain, the torture of not reaching him, the solitude I had to endure in life and death, until you saved me. In that quiet street, in the little room with sunlight filtering through the thin white lace curtain he took what has been his all that time: the woman in me, my heart, my mind, my soul, for I belong to him in ways that I cannot explain. All I can say is that he loved what he found, and he knows how to please me, to the depth of me.

Later we walked the streets till early morning: every ten steps I had to kiss him – did I tell you how much I want his mouth, his lips, his tongue? My body, my arms, my hands did not leave him a second. We walked along the river, across the bridges full of light and history. Other couples smiled at us… In Saint-Germain we went to Café de Flore – you remember how keen on literature he’s always been… I, who never drinks, shared a bottle of cool Loire wine with him. We walked back through the Arénes but the little park was closed when we got there, it was already morning… Back to our room we made love till sleep overwhelmed us, enlaced, exhausted, belonging.

I want to say, Teacher, I know he is the Path, the human being you need. And I have promised to help you. I will be loyal to my promise, but I want to say this: I will die defending him if he is in danger – whoever wants his death will have to kill this woman first. One last thing, for I want nothing to be hidden from you, Teacher: I told Sarah everything, and she said she was more than happy that Julian had at long last found me. She also said she was prepared for me to go and live with them two. As you know she and I are already very close. As I write, he is asleep next to me, it will be soon the end of our second day. Then he will go back to London, and when we meet again we will be on our way to you, and to Berlin…

Immersed in the myriads of  combinations and second order equations, and woven in the fabric of the Coven, Gabrielle is thinking, all the time observing the young woman who’s writing to her, next to her lover asleep. How beautiful she is, her Melissa. Yes she, Gabrielle, will continue to protect her. But Julian, of course, is another matter. Melissa led them to him, and he’s proven a little tough, not as pliable as she was. But was Melissa pliable? Or did she understand that her way back to humanity and her man was through them? “We don’t know”, reflects Gabrielle, “if a human being can survive this ordeal. When we tried with specimens of other species we failed: they all died.” And she adds to herself: “And this why we are so cautious here…”

This sombre thought annoys her. Gabrielle has invested so much in this, she and Elga. Their voice was heard, they got what they wanted, the wheels are turning. They are about to change the course of history on this world, and on theirs. And the path to these futures, the renewal of the Coven itself, is dependent on Julian, and for now, on Melissa. What irony, she thinks, remembering the young woman, dying in a pool of her blood, her dress soiled, hideous wounds in her chest and throat, the dying green eyes…

Longing

Longing She misses him: since coming back from New-York Melissa is longing for Julian, more so than ever – and she’s been longing for him for ever. She’s no longer sure of his thoughts, of how he sees her now, of his feelings towards her. In Brooklyn she must have appeared to him as part of the gigantic plot that he now knows involves the Pentagon and the Coven, and probably others. She read the terror in his eyes, she saw him gripping Sarah’s hands as they both understood the implications of what the general was saying. Has she lost him?

She ought to call Sarah, cool and loving Sarah, but she dares not. What would happen to her if Sarah rejected her? For Melissa knows that Sarah’s her friend, maybe more than just a friend, for as long as she does not see Melissa as part of the threat. Being a threat to Julian: that would turn Sarah into a formidable enemy. And Melissa knows that, for the Coven, Sarah’s role is essential: she is the key to Julian, and Julian is the path. On that Melissa knows the truth: she was chosen because of Julian, her ancient friendship with Julian. Gabrielle seized the opportunity, and so Melissa survived, did better than survive.

Gabrielle and Elga are now in deep consultation with the collective. The Coven is preparing the Berlin conference, one thread among millions, in a whirl of deliberations and mathematical – Melissa wonders: mathic? – computations that even her could not follow. Elga… How strange that she – but she’s no “she” of course, but a conglomerate of particles that long left their living anima, always asexual, far behind – that “she” tried her charm on Julian, after all that Melissa had explained.

“They” have their own blind corners, things they don’t appear to really understand. They have their weaknesses, otherwise they would not need that association with the Great Power, and the Power to Be, perhaps other darker powers that Melissa does not know about. They need the path to conquer this world, Melissa’s world, and for now, the path is one individual in the entire universe: her college sweetheart, Julian. Melissa relaxes a little. She sees several futures, in one of them, Sarah, Julian and herself overcomes the fear, and clear the way for the Coven to exit from their lives, without pain. But there are others, other futures. She knows, and shudders a little. She thinks of Tosca, of the mock execution at dawn, which turns out to be real. She thinks of  Berlin…

Melissa brushes the sinister vision away. At heart she is a positive person, at heart she is not afraid of demons. But Julian may be, always was, even at school, he had that irrational fear of the hidden fiends, of ancient secrets, of bewitched objects… Oh… how protective she felt towards him then, him: her young street fighter, he with the clinched fists… Melissa’s in a dream, she’s moved back in time, to the small town where they both lived, where it all started. She stands in front of the gate, she’s waiting for him, she sees him, joking with other boys – he sees her, waves to his friends and walks towards her, that triumphant smile on the thin lips – a young god… He always knew how to kiss her, and of course she wanted more…

The phone rings and pulls Melissa out of her dream. It’s Sarah. They chat politely, then Sarah says: “My husband is away for a few days and said he will join you in Paris, and please let him know when you want to meet, that’s the message he asked me to give you…” Melissa tries to think quickly, Julian’s away? “Sarah, could you come too?” She could almost hear Sarah smiles: “Mel, the two of you deserve a bit of intimacy, you have to give Julian time with you, just the two of you. I trust you both, and you can understand why I would be a bit of an obstacle – he needs to find you again…” Sarah’s voice trails off. “When he’s back please come to us as soon as you can: then we’ll have a party, I’ll invite Jane too.”

So it is, Sarah has given her the go-ahead, in the city where Julian was born, his city. A thought hits Melissa, a twist she had not thought of before this instant: has Sarah been “recruited”?  Has the Coven enrolled beautiful Sarah? She scans her memory of the meeting in Brooklyn, Gabrielle and Elga, and herself, and then Sarah and Julian, Sarah looking as if she is sheltering her husband. But she also sees Elga and Sarah exchanging a smile, more than once. But why should Sarah be tempted? What does she have to gain? Security for her husband and herself? And if this happened where does that leave her, Melissa, the go-between?

Soon she shrugs off that thought. Sarah’s has one mission: protecting her husband. Melissa knows she would not stop at anything for Julian’s sake, but there is no value in enlisting now, when she knows too little. Later perhaps, after Berlin, when they know. For now Sarah thinks Melissa’s good for Julian, it is simple.

Alone in the little house in East London Melissa’s planning the Paris meeting. She wants to chose the location of their meeting carefully: a public place but not one where Julian would feel crowded. Maybe the old arena, the roman amphitheater? Then they can walk rive gauche, perhaps aim for the Luxembourg? Of course he knows the city inside out, he lived there, and met Sarah there first. Melissa’s troubled by another thought: they did not stay, they moved to London almost immediately, indeed, they got married in London. Was there a reason for Julian to leave the city he loved, so soon after meeting the woman about to become his wife?

She’s soon distracted by the familiar tremor of air and sounds in the house: one of them, may be both – or more – have arrived. Soon she’s faced with a smiling Gabrielle who is still adjusting her human appearance. The fluid contours materialise, the face still indistinct… It takes no more than twenty seconds. “So, Gabrielle says calmly, you and Julian are going to meet one to one?” Melissa smiles, she knows “they” know everything, they hear everything, and her teacher, wise Gabrielle, is a master at sieving through all that their sensors capture, particularly if it involves Julian or his wife.

The two of them update each other, silently. Soon Melissa’s appraised of the Coven’s current state of play for Berlin. She also learns that Elga is in Moscow. The wheels are turning.

%d bloggers like this: