Aphelion Issue 220, Volume 21
August 2017
 
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Transitions

by Andrew Massey




One

Atop the rise the Southern Lord cast his gaze to the camp of the Lord of All Lands, his opponent. He fancied he could see him smiling, self-satisfied. As well he should be as this, the fifth day of battle, belonged to him. The featureless plain between them, barely a half hours ride across, formed the narrow waist of all the known lands. To either side lay the harsh oceans with their monsters and devils; to the North the lands of his opponent, rich, fertile and warm; and to the South his cold, harsh and unforgiving home, once part of the Lord of All Lands kingdom until he had wrested it away. It seemed fitting that this place should decide two fates, bringing all the world again under one hand. God willing it would be his.

He shifted slightly, his mount gently snorting at the change. God wiling indeed, if God was still willing he thought. The smoke from funeral pyres rose lazily as both sides tended their fallen, piles of swords and sandals growing as the dead were relieved for the living’s needs. With the day’s battle over and the counting yet to be done he knew that for the fourth time he had been bested, and although not broken it was becoming more a question of when than if. Only the setting sun betrayed hope, its blue rays seemingly painting his standard on the clouds. A small portent, not grand or clear, but a portent none the less. He hung his head in silent prayer, dedicating the day to God in His glory, himself to His service, and begging for the doubt to go.

A gentle cough interrupted his thoughts. “M’Lord seems troubled.”

He looked down at his priest, a wizened old man of forty winters, and sighed. Had his brother not said he resembled this one’s visage? Indeed, the cares of campaigning weighed heavily.

“The day has been lost, as have those before.” He looked around to see no one else within earshot. “I have asked again if my cause be just, if God be for me. Again, I have had no reply.”

The priest frowned, pulling back the shroud from his cassock. “To doubt is our lot m’Lord, but our cause is without doubt. Do you question the vision?”

“No, and it returns atimes.”

“And should we not stand closer, should one not be oppressed by the other unjustly? Have you not been chosen by God to remove the yoke of the northerner from all our necks? These things you know, these things the very voice of God gave to you m’Lord, and you doubt?”

He leant down in earnest, pained speech. “Yes, all things are as you say, in my bedchamber in solitude do they come, yet in the light of day I am abandoned.” He straightened, pointing out across the plain. “I see not the hand of God in mine but with the oppressor. It is not his fellows that outnumber in death but mine. My arrows do not fly true, my sword is not sharpened but theirs are! Is that the hand of God upon my shoulder?” He leant back towards the priest. “Why is this?”

The priest smiled. “God tests those that are chosen, and as the testing so the choosing. It is clear that tested you are, and the greatness of the cause lies hand in hand. Is it for nothing the metal is heated, hammered and chilled? Does a sword arise gently from the field? No m’Lord, no and again no, and as they so you. The hand of God lies heavy upon you, and to your enemy’s pride shall come desolation. This is the truth of God m’Lord.”

He leant down, one hand on the priest’s shoulder. “Your counsel is wise, as always. Pray forgive my lack of faith.”

“Forgiveness m’Lord is always yours. But you must attend vigil tonight, not only for your sake but for ours. For as your faith so the faith of those who follow.”

He wheeled around. “I will keep vigil with you tonight priest, and faith God is with us.” With which he cantered off the ridge, back to his encampment, the priest jogging after.

Dismounting on his arrival he was greeted by his master at arms. He bore the marks of the day in the field, a combination of sweat, caked dust and grass, still wet blood splattered across chest and arms.

“M’Lord, m’Grace, God favours us with your safe return.” He bowed his head quickly, but not fast enough that his fatigue and doubt went unnoticed.

Tiredness and doubt -- the Southern Lord thought -- the seeds of defeat. He clasped him firmly on his shoulders. “Ludwig, the favour falls to me. How went the day?” “Fairly but not to us.” Ludwig smiled, noting his Lord’s appearance to be worse than his own. For each mark and furrow he bore, his Lord’s were double and deeper. “We have new arrivals, more men from the far steppes. If it pleases m’Lord after you have reviewed them your tent is prepared.”

“No Ludwig, tonight I keep vigil. So to the review.”

“As m’Lord pleases. Is it” with which he became hesitant, “again the dreams?”

He remained silent as they walked through the camp. His men, his army, each one a volunteer. Each one had willingly laid family and life aside to follow him, to follow the voice and hand of God as it led him on. And all the time he was pursued by the dreams. Visions of a world with men and women unshackled from a life of being owned and bought to being their own masters under an enlightened and honest ruler. Where what a man was meant more than who a man was. They all knew this of the dreams, but none save the priest knew of the balance. The vision like smoke, generated by the fire of bloodshed and toil, of death and obedience and sacrifice under him. The dreams never wavered, never shifted, the one followed the other, smoke after fire, war before peace and victory, death before life. And between, always between, the symbol rising up, two blue crescent moons touching back to back above the fire to be consumed, then returning and purging the lands. Neither he nor the priest could account for the symbol, what it meant or portended; that lay for God alone.

“Yes Ludwig,” as they reached the knot of new soldiers, “the dreams remain.”

At their approach, the men had fallen into rough lines. The three of them walked slowly in front of the assembly as he spoke of the vision, the reason for the fight, the hope that kept them here. He was nearly finished when he was pulled up short by a person in the third rank.

“Master at Arms, that man,” he called, pointing, “bring him forwards.” The assembled men froze as Ludwig moved, appearing shortly with one of their number in tow. The man was hardly that, barely two thirds Ludwig’s height, dressed in what seemed like rags bound across waist, skin hardened, calloused and cracked. One arm was covered by a leather sleeve, the knife in its scabbard nearly reaching from shoulder to elbow, the pike carried on his back nearly touching the ground. It was not this that caught the Southern Lord’s attention but the hair; the left half of the head bore shoulder length braided locks, the right peach fuzz newly grown over shaven skin.

He leant forward to the now bowed head in front of him and folded the right ear forwards. He sighed and lifted the face up gently by the chin. As I thought, a child, and a refugee at that.

Softly but clearly, as if to his own son, he asked “How old are you child?”

“I think I am eleven winters if it pleases m’Lord” the voice quiet but strong.

“And from which estate did you escape?”

“The vineyards of Cultharen on the north sea m’Lord.”

“You came to fight?”

The eyes lit up. “Yes, my friends remain, unable to flee m’Lord, I would fight to free them.”

Eleven. Four winters from manhood. Too far. “You may not fight.” And, seeing the crestfallen look on the boy’s face, “You are but a child! There are other ways to fight without the sword.”

The child now threw himself prostrate on the ground, but even in that act there was an air of defiance. “M’Lord cannot! I have been sent by God, I have heard Him command me! How could I escape my masters, how could I travel if not God is with me? Already I have baptised my dagger with northerner’s blood, I have pledged my life to your service and fight! This you cannot do.”

The priest crouched close to the child. “As your Lord commands, so must it be done. You are too young, this is men’s work. If you have pledged your life, so must you have pledged your obedience.”

The child paid him no heed. “No m’Lord, I beg of you. I have been sent to fight, I have been sent to bring you victory, you must permit me!” with which he reached forwards and took the Southern Lord’s left foot in his hands. A shocked gasp was broken only by the sound of Ludwig’s sword being drawn and readied. The Southern Lord looked down and blanched, raising his left hand.

“Stay your weapon!” he commanded, staring fixedly at the child at his feet. In reaching out the child’s sleeve had shifted up revealing his forearm. There, in plain sight, were two blue crescent moons touching back to back atop a pillar of fire. Exactly as his dreams; was this the sign he had asked for? He continued to stare until he became aware that all eyes had shifted to him, expectantly.

“Child, get up. Now” facing the bowed head, “look at me. The mark on your arm. Where did you get it?”

“It has always been with me. I cannot remember not having it, m’Lord.”

“And when did God command you come?”

“Two winters ago, m’Lord, God commanded me to seek the sun rising in the south and to bring victory to His chosen, m’Lord, to you.”

He looked to the priest who showed no emotion, then back to the child. “Do you have a name?”

“Eous m’Lord.”

“Then Eous, you will fight for me.” He motioned to one of his officers. “Gaplan, take Eous with you, he is to fight with your ranks.”

When at last the three of them were alone again the priest turned to him. “M’Lord, the mark was the same as your visions?”

“One and the same priest. He is sent, of this I am sure.” Turning to Ludwig he continued, “See to it that Gaplan does not spare Eous from the fight. Take a care to watch over him and bring me word at the close of the morrow. Now priest, lest us to vigil. I believe I shall not sleep this night.”


Two

Three nights hence the Southern Lord sat again on the rise, dusk casting long shadows as his men prepared to commit their dead to the heavens by fire. Today, as the last three, he knew he had bested his opponent and greatly; yet for all it was worth his mood and that of his men was subdued. Today is mine but the remainder may be yours I fear he thought, as he saw the Lord of All Lands’ funeral pyres ignite. You have lost five men to each of mine, but oh what men I have lost.

The priest slowly gained the top of the rise, wiping bloodied hands on his cassock. “M’Lord, all is ready.”

Silently they turned down to his men, living surrounding the dead piled carefully on their wooden heaps. That the naked corpses were his he was of no doubt, but recognising individuals was hard, the work of the enemies’ blades and cudgels being thorough. If it were not for the right gloves laid before each, patterned and inscribed with the clan shield, some may have yet remained unnamed. Save for the small, pale body atop the smallest pyre, arm drooping across his brothers in fallen embrace, the gash to his side evidencing the blade that took his life. Even at this distance the Southern Lord fancied he could see the two crescent moons. Eous.

Had it truly only been three days he was amongst us, he thought, and such a change wrought? He had watched as Eous first joined in battle, the unconventional, eager – yes, even fanatical – way he had driven into his opponents, scything down the best and bravest of them without pause, seeming unstoppable and unbreakable. How this had drawn his men to the same place, infusing his army with such energy and vigour they wished that the sun would never set, that the day’s work could continue until the enemy was routed. From the Southern Lord, his men had learned to believe that their cause was right, that victory should rightly be theirs; Eous had raised them to a place where no other reality could exist, where their very countenances showed only victory and strength. Until dusk, at the very end of this day’s contest, to the one chance blade unseen that cut their champion down.

Smoke curled from the base of the pyre, an oily black snake barely discernible against the rapidly darkening indigo sky. A small flicker and a red orange glow licked at its base, seemingly dodging in and out of the kindling in dance macabre. The Southern Lord lowered his gaze.

“Men’s hearts” he opined to the priest “are brittle things in war. More is gained or lost in belief than most think. I fear this may be enough.”

The priest was silent, measuring thought and word in equal part. His mood was one with the men, one with his Lord. To him the smoke was transporting his hope, maybe even his faith, on zephyred fingers into … what? What fills a void created by the loss of something that has filled another void? A man without a trade is still a man, but a priest robbed of his faith, now what is that? He felt a dampness on his cheek, confirmed by touch a tear. Funny, he thought, not since a whelp. He let his hand fall back within his cassock.

“M’Lord, I fear I have built too much on this one child, the sign, my ignorance and lack …”

“No, there is no fault in you or in God.” He shifted his gaze back to the pyre, now a ruddy bright orange blotch against the blackness of night. The flames had leapt, claiming their prize, greedily fingering the small frame of Eous. A gush, a roar, and his body disappeared behind a crimson veil.

“Sign he was and sign he remains, living or dead. His leaving can only mean that our course is not in God’s plan, our blessing passed. It is at my feet that the blame is laid, why I do not know but it is the same. It was my vision, my calling.”

Across the valley the Lord of All Lands’ pyres burned bright, outnumbering and outshining his. He knew it did not matter, how many more dead were there than here. In one small body, his men’s hearts were entombed, to be turned to ash. He laughed, a coarse, hacking, cynical bray to which all ears were drawn.

“It is one thing to win with blood on your hands but to lose is another. My reckoning and judgement to come will be great. We cannot lay our arms down; we cannot undo what we have started. I may not win the day but fight on I must. Yet to carry others to death for a cause I think right …”

The cry of thousands of voices drowned him, silenced him. A shaft of piercing blue white light fell from the heavens on Eous’ pyre, bathing the valley in blue ice. Shaking, as were they all, the priest could see clearly the Lord of All Lands and his army caught in the light, riveted solid. Their faces mirrored the fear in him and in his Lords men. All eyes were locked on that shaft, barely wide enough to encompass the pyres base, a seemingly unbreakable bond cementing heaven to earth.

The pyre shattered to a golden orb, ascending slowly, gracefully, to tree top height. Glowing ever brighter it stopped, seeming suspended from the shaft of light. The orb shivered, rippled, spread to a disc, a square and then, as the cry caught in the Southern Lord’s throat, to a shape, a figure, a man …Eous.

The cry from his men was silenced, all eyes locked on Eous bright golden and smiling, arms outstretched and whole. Bearing no scars of battle, no would or bruise, no shadow was cast as the light fell through him and out within the Southern Lord’s men, across the valley to the Lord of All Lands’ camp.

The Southern Lord felt his spirit rise, linked to his men as if they were now one body, one being, one mind. He heard -- no he felt -- the priest transfixed beside him, could sense every fibre of him, of his men, seeing through each and every man’s eyes as he knew they could through his. The quiet in his camp was total, drenching, not even the sound of breath to disturb. Across the valley wailing cries of terror roiled, rolling and battering useless against the walls of his camp.

Eous smiled, voice gentle but strong, cutting through the valley, the peace, the noise. To the Southern Lord and his men no words were needed, but rather Eous was within their minds, feather light. The rising wail across the valley spoke of a greeting of fear rather than peace.

“I am of you …”

“Eous” the camp whispered.

“… and together we have struggled, we have fought. Do you think our cause lost, our path unjust? You are flesh and blood as was I but now, now I am more …” with which his light grew, turning night into day, “… and this too awaits all of you.”

“I was sent to bring victory. I was sent to raise your hearts and spirits, I was sent to affirm your cause as righteous, to bring the rising sun from the south to all lands.”

The Southern Lord felt drawn up, fuller and stronger, leaning towards Eous with outstretched arms and eager eyes, heart seemingly bursting from his chest, as around him his men were the same, as one.

“I am sent, you are called. Hear me! It is God’s will that you lift the northern yoke of oppression from His people, to rend the veil of darkness!” The light, now blinding white, intense, painful, held them still. Eyes wide open, unable and unwilling to move, Eous filled their vision and minds, hearts and souls, his voice now a crashing ocean demanding to be heard, a visceral, tangible force.

“You are chosen for this work. Victory is yours, all you need do is grasp it, take it! Remove doubt from your hearts, God is always with you, his hand upon you and his spirit guiding!”

Eous started to rise again, arms still outstretched facing them even as he climbed higher and higher. “Behold I go to join our brothers, to prepare your place, to stand! And I leave you with a sign, a remembrance of me for all to see!” All eyes followed Eous up until all that could be seen was a spot, a dot where the light ended. A blazing flash horizon to horizon, accompanied by a thunderclap, and Eous was gone. Across the valley could be heard the sounds of men screaming, weapons thrown aside as they fled in headlong panic away from the Lord of All Lands, away from the Southern Lord, away from the spectre of certain defeat.

Around him the Southern Lords men’s’ eyes burned blue grey, as did his, the lasting mark of the chosen of heaven. Weapons held aloft, faces bright burning, they turned to him. He unsheathed his sword, and, as one, they ran forward to claim the victory now theirs.


Three

A polite but warm round of applause broke around the cruiser Aristarchus’ operations room. The last flickers of the high-altitude detonation had faded, the planet below returning to night. Commander Shelby leant forward, removing her skull cap.

“Well done. Textbook execution and delivery. Stand down watch, relief until tomorrow’s de-brief. It’s all yours OpsCom.”

Stepping down from her dais with a nod to her second in command, she walked aft to her cabin. Her first full Transition in command, a tough brief but, in the end, it had come off well. A glow of satisfaction rippled through her. Although part of prior Transition teams to actually lead one from end to end was something else. Four years work, time, commitment and sacrifice of her crew to a project that wouldn’t -- in the ultimate -- see a result for a thousand years? Well, it was a different level, a different plane of existence.

A gentle cough behind her dragged her out of her reverie. Turning she saw the slight form of Specialist Ceruto, not yet 25 and on her first tour. Reminds me of myself -- she thought, not for the first time -- thirty years ago.

“Yes Ceruto, can I help?”

“A minute of the Commander’s time ma’am?”

“Of course,” motioning Ceruto inside, “come in and take a seat.” Not that it was a tough choice in Shelby’s spartan quarters. A desk with screen, bed and two chairs were supplemented by one open wardrobe and a tiny, ostentatious collection of books.

She knew what Ceruto was going to ask. In fact, she expected to have the same conversation with all fifty of her first tour personnel. She had had the same one with her Commander thirty years back. She sat down facing her young specialist.

“So, tell me, what’s on your mind? Let’s drop the formality, speak freely and openly, okay?”

Ceruto smiled a touch self-consciously. “Thank you ma’ … sorry, thanks.” She took her eyes away from Shelby and fixed them on a point on the floor where two hull plates met.

“What we’ve done, I know that we did a good job, we didn’t put a foot wrong as far as I know. I mean the plan was great, we kept to it and the probabilities fell in line. Even the weather was right. So the Transition has worked now, but … .“ she trailed off.

“…but” Shelby added after a small pause, “are we sure that in a thousand years it will work?”

“Yes, that’s part of it. I know we have it mapped out, but it’s a long time to live in hope, even if we manage to correct along the way. It’s not that I doubt what the xenosociologists say, it’s just far ahead, so many variables.”

“And everything you’ve learned so far is that we, and in particular the Forecasters, are always sure before any Transition starts? That up until a society becomes industrialised we have a near free hand to intervene, to correct, to put them back on track?”

Ceruto nodded.

“Have you ever talked with a Forecaster, met one?” Ceruto shook her head. “Well you should when you get the chance. They will tell you that even they have doubts, large doubts, over the long-term success of Transitions.”

Ceruto looked up. “Seriously? They do?”

Shelby smiled, gently. “It’s just as they told you at the Institute. We deal with sentient beings not machines. Probability is all well and good but we don’t deal with certainties. All it could take is that one outrider, that one individual and it could be shifted, altered or derailed. And then there’s the rest of it, natural disasters, cosmic events, all that. The universe is not friendly to life, no matter what anyone says. So nothing is certain, least of all the changes we try to make.”

She halted, leant back a little further into her chair.

“So why, Ceruto, why all this,” with which she waved her hand lazily towards the rest of the ship, “why do we bother?”

“We have to try.”

“And that’s what the texts say, but what do you think Ceruto? What’s your opinion?”

Ceruto leant forwards, hands around knees. “It’s so empty, the universe, so empty of life. So easily snuffed out. We have to do what we can when we see it to help it.”

“Which brings us to the question at hand.” Shelby held Ceruto searchingly in her gaze. “Why don’t you tell me the real reason you’re here?”

Ceruto slumped. “That obvious?”

“Only to me. Remember this is off the record so just spit it out, tell me what’s really on your mind.”

Ceruto drew a deep breath. “What gives us the right to choose for them? How do we actually know what’s best for them, for their civilisation? No one’s ever given me a good enough answer for that, it bothers me; it sits in my guts nagging me. It scares me.”

“And so it should. But you know the answer, you’ve always known, you just don’t want to admit it.”

“I do?”

“Yes, and I know you do. You’re not the only one who has asked this, in fact anyone who doesn’t shouldn’t be in the Service. I asked the same question when I started, and you know what? I still do.”

“You?!”

“Yes, me and everyone who’s done more that put one foot on a ship. So again, you know the answer, you just won’t admit it. Tell me now, do we actually have the right to change the path of a civilisation? What gives us that right?”

Ceruto paused, closed her eyes and then, as if coming to decision, opened them slowly.

“Nothing. Nothing gives us the right.”

“Correct. Absolutely correct. Nothing, Specialist Ceruto, nothing gives us the right. So, let me ask you, given this, what then makes us do so? What made us tilt the field so strongly in the Southern Lord’s favour?”

“I, I’m not sure. Maybe we think we know what’s best for them, or for all, maybe we want the whole universe to develop and grow like us.”

“Do you think us so narcissistic we want to make the universe in our image?” Shelby smiled. “A universe of Cerutos, Sprangs, Shelbys and Connors all out there? Not a great place to live. Look, assume we think we know what’s best. Why do you think we could believe that?”

“I’m not sure. If we’re not all narcissists and we don’t want it all to look like us, then I don’t see how we can.”

“It’s very simple, and very obvious once you think about it. It’s because we’re first.”

“First?”

“Yes, first. We, humans I mean, managed to drag ourselves out of the primordial mud, onto land, out of the trees and then on to the stars by whatever means on hand and, in the process, avoid the myriad ways that we -- and the universe -- could’ve wiped us out of existence. And all that by ourselves, fought for and learned the hard way, the long way. Do you recall how many extinct civilisations we’ve catalogued since we got stardrive?”

“A thousand?”

“Just over two thousand is the current count, and that only in the small corner of the galaxy we have explored.”

“So failure is always more prevalent that success, and we are the first to make it?”

“Yes, the first and the only. So we don’t actually have a right to do anything, but instead we have a heavier burden, we have a duty to help. If we don’t and all these fail, how much lonelier a place will the universe be? You’ve been taught Earth’s early history? Pre-Mars?”

“Of course.”

“Then you know what types of society are needed to promote development, science, stability. What would happen to the planet below us if we let the Lord of All Lands prevail?”

“Society based on slavery, women and children treated as goods, inequality and oppression would continue. I guess no development, only stagnation and ossification.”

“Yes, and the briefings gave an expected outcome of collapse to barbarism in two to five thousand years. Another failure, another archaeologists’ PhD, but only if …”

“…if we did not interfere.”

“Exactly. Do you see it now? Because we’ve made it, we have an obligation, we have that duty. We build these horridly expensive ships, travel for years at a time like this” motioning to her room, “live without family or comfort, make decisions about another civilisation’s future and change its course without them even suspecting we are here. Some of us pay with our lives and sanity for the privilege, and …”

“And?”

“…and” Shelby continued quietly, “we’ll never know if our decisions are exactly the right ones, never live long enough to see if in fact they were right. Someone’s great-great-great-great-great-great grandchildren will be able to make that call, sure as heck we won’t.”

“I understand, but it’s not much comfort. I don’t think I’m going to sleep any easier.”

“Welcome to the Service. If you’re not bothered and haunted by this you shouldn’t be here. It’s on my mind constantly, always, it’s a burden we can’t escape. As the only naturally evolving space faring sentient species we have a duty to help, but we will never have the certainty to know if we are actually helping. It’s either this or give up. And I know which I prefer.”

Shelby studied Ceruto for a moment. She was leaning back in her chair, arms folded and head down, lost in thought. She’ll be fine Shelby thought, like all of them an intelligent and honest kid, exactly what this job needs, exactly what I need.

“It’s a hard fact of Service life, Ceruto.” she continued, “It’s only when you do the job it hits home. The Institute’s good as far as it goes but nothing can substitute for the real thing. No one knows how they’ll react when they actually see what it means to force a Transition.”

“I thought I knew what to expect” Ceruto whispered, “but seeing all those people die like that because of us, the disruption and pain, the impact of our sound and light show, the levitating droid, even Sprangs voiceover as we detonated it …to see what a Transition means to those going through it...I think it was the right thing to do but I’m still not happy with our right to do it. I still feel unsettled.”

“Of which I’m glad. It keeps you honest, keeps you real, stops you from going too far, lets you remember these are real, living beings we are talking about, not some simulation or normal distribution.” Shelby got up, motioning Ceruto to the door.

“I still lose sleep thinking about it, I still ask the same questions as you, still feel as unsettled. But that’s how it has to be, that’s how it keeps us on track.” She put her hand on Ceruto’s shoulder.

“You’ll be okay, you’re not the only one. Get a bit of rack time, think about what we’ve said, and come back a bit later and we’ll talk some more.”

Ceruto smiled. “Yes, for sure. It’ll still need some working out.” With which she left, closing the door.

Shelby locked the room, lying back on her bunk staring at the ceiling. One down, forty-nine to go. Always lose a quarter of them, just can tell which way they’ll turn before. Not that one though.

She rolled to one side. Still bothers me after all these years, but we’re the first--the only--civilisation to have evolved unaided, it’s our obligation, our duty to help.

An old book across the room caught her eye. It had belonged to her great grandmother, a Eurasian refugee who’d died before she was born. Somehow this book had found its way to her. Her mother had said it had given her great grandmother a sense of comfort and relief, although why this was so was never made clear. Shelby sat up, reached across and pulled it off the shelf.

It was one of the few personal items she kept, a link to family now present only in memory. What the book was she had no idea, it was written in a language long since passed into oblivion and, in an era when the written word no longer existed but had been replaced by thought transplant, it was a jarring anachronism. She loved the feel of the book, the cracked leather cover holding thin, aged yellow sheets of paper seemingly edged in tarnished bronze. Here and there throughout the book was her great grandmothers hand writing, small and precise in the margins. All lost in the mists of time, Shelby thought, a link to generations past and a broken promise to future generations she would not provide. She lay the book open on a chair and, dimming the lights, fell into troubled sleep.

Had she been able to read it, the last passage on the open page would only have added to her troubles.

“ …shall be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the end of the earth. And when he had said this, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. And while they were gazing into heaven as he went behold, two men stood by them in white robes and said ‘Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven …”

THE END


2017 Andrew Massey

Bio: Mr. Andrew Massey is 50ish, married, and has no ankle biters (unless you count a paranoid delusional cat). He lives in Brisbane Australia, and when not stargazing or trying to write sci-fi, tries to earn a few dollars as a pen pusher with the government..

E-mail: Andrew Massey

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