Oracle of Light
By Cil Gregoire
Alaska Sci-Fi Queen
The Coming of Spring
“You teleport like a New Person, at the very beginning of his longevity, learning for the first time to mentally project his body forward in time and space,” Quaylyn explained. “I’m sure your potential is far greater.” Vince had demonstrated limited ability earlier, by actually teleporting himself forward a few feet at a time. This was only after an intense lecture on Quaylyn’s part to convince him to even try.
“But how?” Vince asked. The group had gathered in the warm spring sunshine warming Rahlys’ front porch, despite the snow still covering the ground.
“I’ll try to explain,” Quaylyn said. “As you know, no two bits of matter can occupy the same space at the same time, but it does not hold true, that when a bit of matter moves from one space to another, the two spaces have to be adjacent to one another. That is because time and space can be bent, or folded. When you are teleporting the short distances you do, you are not bending time and space. You could run, skip, jump, or hop from your starting point to where you are ending up in the same amount of time it is taking you to focus and concentrate energy, to seemingly make the move instantly. That is because you are not only occupying your starting space and ending space, but also, all the spaces in between. Eliminate the spaces in between, and you will eliminate your limitations.”
“What if you can’t teleport yourself at all?” Maggie asked.
“Of course, you can!” Quaylyn came back with such speed and certainly it was difficult to doubt. “Remember the glass you moved across the table? You are creating your own obstacles in your mind. First you must get rid of preconceived notions as to what is possible.”
“But how do we do this?” Maggie asked, her interest definitely whetted.
“It’s like learning to float.” Quaylyn’s enthusiasm held a captive audience as he expounded. “The potential is there from the start. The primary step toward accomplishing that goal is to relax and trust that you can. Whether you are moving a cup across the table or yourself across a continent, the principle is the same. First you must relax and trust that you can.” Quaylyn barely paused for a breath.
“You have an electrical device, you call a computer,” he went on, “that can send audio and visual data instantly to any other computer on your planet. But your brain produces a wave of energy far more sophisticated than your computers use. These energy waves can manipulate the elemental forces and bend time and space making it possible to change the space a bit of matter is occupying instantly, regardless of the distance. By folding time and space, we can place our starting point and our destination, even if it is half a world away, next to each other, making the switch in location happen instantaneously.” Finally Quaylyn paused to give them time to catch up.
Rahlys watched and listened with detached amusement as Quaylyn attempted to explain such mind-expanding concepts. Dressed in a cotton plaid shirt and denim jeans, he still looked inexplicably otherworldly. Quaylyn turned to her, as though drawn by her thoughts. “As for Rahlys,” he said, looking at her, but not addressing her directly, “the protection spell she created to shield us from Droclum is only a minute example of her potential creative abilities. Anthya’s powers were wondrous. While most people can telepath and teleport, the use of creative magic, in which something is not merely moved from one place to another but rather is somehow altered, is dependent on a person’s individual talents and strengths.”
“You mean, the spell really did work?”
“Yes, but it will only hold Droclum back for a while. You should be able to detect the magic yourself though. The spell is charged with your power.” Quaylyn led Rahlys out into the yard away from the porch and together they gazed at the sky. “Gently now, try focusing on your protective shield…reach out to it with your mind.”
Rahlys looked up into the brilliant sun-lit sky. She focused thought energy upward, seeking something vaguely tangible. And then…ever so lightly…she touched it. For the blink of an eye, a gossamer dome shimmered overhead and down to the horizons, before it disappeared.
The next day, Vince decided to take Quaylyn with him to the woodlot to harvest logs for a guest cabin, before the snow gave out. Providing Rahlys with a small guest cabin would give her a needed break from Quaylyn. Rahlys and Maggie’s admiration for Vince’s tree harvesting abilities was mild compared to Quaylyn’s awe when Vince felled the first spruce tree. He was impressed with Vince’s skill, the primitive tools he used, and nature’s gift itself, the massive tree that came crashing down before them. Vince shut off the chainsaw, and with reverent respect, Quaylyn walked completely around the felled tree, examining it carefully.
Then Vince picked up the chainsaw again, balancing it on the horizontal trunk of the fallen tree before pulling the starter rope. “I’ll remove the branches, then you can start peeling the log,” he told Quaylyn. Vince started up the chainsaw and set about debranching the tree. Soon he noticed that not only the branches he had cut, but even those he hadn’t reached yet, were cut and the bark peeled away. A bare log stretched out in front of him. Vince looked around to see Quaylyn standing at ease, patiently waiting for whatever was next.
Taking advantage of the situation, Vince moved to the next suitable spruce tree. After cutting all the way through, he took a step back just in time to see the log magically cleaned of branches and bark. Vince shut off the chainsaw.
“How did you do that?” he asked impressed.
“When you peel a log, or an apple, you are severing molecular bonds within the object which require a certain amount of force, depending on the strength of the substance.”
It must take a lot of energy to magically de-branch and peel a log Vince thought, but Quaylyn was still standing, raring to go. It was not until he had cut down their fourth tree Vince noticed Quaylyn was looking a bit tired, but Quaylyn never complained.
“We are making great progress,” Vince explained. “We should be able to get a couple of cabin logs out of each tree…but we won’t be able to put in a foundation till the ground thaws.”
Besides helping Vince in the woodlot, Quaylyn also teleported over to Vince and Maggie’s nearly every day to pick out books from Vince’s contemporary collection, or to teach them how to tap into the elemental forces. Quaylyn was unwavering in his efforts to teach, however mixed the results. Even Raven wasn’t exempt from Quaylyn’s efforts.
Vince could teleport himself and other objects, but his range proved to be very limited. “It is sort of like sending your computer to page twelve of a ten-page document…nothing happens,” he said, when he tried to go further. Maggie, try as she would, still could only move the smallest, lightest objects.
Rahlys made tremendous progress under Quaylyn’s tutelage, but she relished the time alone when he was out of the cabin. It was not that he was a bad house guest, quite the contrary, it was just that he was a house guest at all. She had moved into the woods to be alone, and coveted that solitude. Plus his constant drilling for her to shield her thoughts, and her constant failure to consistently do so, was driving her crazy. She knew it was an important skill, and Quaylyn was only trying to help, but she just wanted him to go away and leave her alone so she could paint.
Then one night when they gathered once again at Vince’s cabin to indulge in Maggie’s cooking, Rahlys was startled out of her thoughts by Maggie. “You know, Rahlys, we’ve been thinking,” she looked at Vince who nodded a smile, “when was the last time you’ve been out of the woods?”
“Me? I don’t know, why?”
“Yes, you. The last time you were out of the woods was Thanksgiving, and here it is already April.” It sounded like a reprimand.
Rahlys knew it was true that she had avoided leaving the woods. But with Vince and Maggie picking up supplies and the mail for her, going out hadn’t been necessary. She had a stack of paintings that needed framing and marketing, but she was having a hard time reconciling the magical person she had become with the mundane, outside world she had escaped. Avoidance had been the easiest and simplest path. “And you are bringing this up because…?”
“Well, Vince and I need some things, and probably so do you, and Vince is too busy working against a deadline, so I thought maybe you and I should go out on a supply trip together. If we left this Sunday, we could come back on the first Thursday train. That would give us three full days to get things done.”
“Alright, sounds like a plan.” Rahlys couldn’t believe she had just agreed to leave the woods for four days…departing in just two.
Rahlys and Maggie were cruising down the highway on their way to Wasilla, soaking in the signs of spring. Snow still loomed deep up at the cabins, but here, a hundred miles to the south, snow was replaced by bare ground. Warm sunshine caressed the straw-colored grass, leafless brush, and bare ground, arousing ferns, trees, bushes, and grass back to life. Evergreen spruce trees orchestrated the greening of the forest, offering encouragement by example. Cresting the hills, the highway offered panoramic views of mountains and majestic waves of purple- crowned forest, the plump leaf buds on the birch trees ready to burst. This is what the landscape had looked like when she and Rahlys had first arrived in Alaska a year ago, Maggie recalled.
Ilene was tending the gallery when Rahlys walked in a couple of days later carrying in several matted and framed watercolors. “Oh good, we were hoping you would bring in more of your work. We’ve sold a couple of your paintings.”
“That’s good to hear.”
“Oh, these are beautiful!” Ilene exclaimed as she looked at Rahlys’ latest work. “I see you’ve been snowmachining, snowshoeing, harvesting firewood, and just enjoying winter in general.”
“It has been quite a winter,” Rahlys agreed. Then in walked the most unlikely person she would ever expect to see in an art gallery.
“Hi, Aaron, I’m almost ready to lock up, as soon as I’ve finished up here.” Then she turned to Rahlys, “Aaron bought one of your paintings.”
Rahlys ate up the embarrassed look on Aaron’s face. “He did! Which one?” she asked.
“The one of the crystal in the night forest.”
Rahlys turned to Aaron, “I didn’t know you were into crystals.”
“Do you two know each other?” Ilene asked, picking up strange vibes as she issued Rahlys a check for the sale of her paintings.
“We’ve met,” Rahlys said smiling, “but I didn’t know he was a patron of the arts.” Taking the check Ilene offered her, Rahlys cheerfully exited the gallery.
“You didn’t say you knew the artist,” Ilene chided him as she locked the doors behind them.
“Does it matter?”
“Well, it seems like something you would say, if it were fact.”
“Sorry, I didn’t think it was important.”
After dinner at the inn, and drinks at the bar, Aaron took Ilene to Half Ear’s pad. He had spent the whole day sprucing the place up, including laundering the sheets, and had cleared off one wall in the living room, removing old dusty calendars and yellowing newspaper articles against gun control attached with brittle, yellowed cellophane tape. Then bringing the painting of the crystal out from under his bed, he hung it where Ilene would be sure to see it as soon as she walked through the door. Otherwise, it would have been hard explaining to her why he kept it hidden under his bed. He had also repaired the front door frame and catch as best he could.
“Oh, the painting looks great there!” Ilene exclaimed upon entering. The crystal seemed to glow in the subdued light of early evening.
“Have you been here before?” Aaron asked, offering her a seat. At first, Ilene did not answer. In the ensuing silence, he lit a couple of scented candles bought from the gift shop for the occasion, then deciding it was too silent, turned on the radio for some music. Ilene quietly sat down on the sofa.
“Once…the night of my senior prom,” she finally said after Aaron no longer expected an answer.
There was a story here; he could sense it. “Ready for a glass of wine?” he asked, heading for the kitchen without waiting for a response.
“Sure,” not that it mattered, she already had had so much to drink. She stared at the crystal in the painting. The crystal seemingly drifted out of the painting and into the room as a glowing hologram.
“Here you go.” Aaron said passing through the image as he handed her a glass. The crystal returned to the painting.
“Did you see that?” Ilene asked.
“See what? It was not the first time Ilene had seen the strange phenomenon. The first time, the painting had been hanging on the gallery wall.
“Nothing,” she said. There was no point in bringing it up, if he hadn’t seen it.
“So, what happened on the night of your senior prom?” Aaron sat on the sofa next to her, a beer in his hand.
“Huh? Oh…well this guy, his name was Drew…he doesn’t live around here anymore…I had a real crush on him, and I thought heaven itself had burst wide open when he asked me to the prom.” Despite the animation of her dialogue, she stopped, took a long pause, and sipped her wine deep in thought.
“And so what happened?” Aaron coaxed her to continue. She still hadn’t gotten to Half Ear’s role in the story. “Did you and Drew go to the prom?”
“We did.” Slowly, pensively, she told the tale, reliving it in the telling. “He hardly paid any attention to me throughout the dance,” she pouted, “then on the way home he pulled off on this little service road to the railroad tracks that ended in a deserted parking area surrounded by trees, and proceeded to try and rape me…only he didn’t succeed, because literally, out of nowhere, Half Ear came to my rescue.” Again Ilene fell silent, a tear rolling down her cheek.
Aaron moved over, closer to her, to give her a shoulder to cry on. Half Ear, a knight in shining armor, rescuing a damsel in distress. Aaron had to adjust his take on Half Ear; the man seemed to be full of contradictions. His colloquies on woman did not correspond with the champion for women persona.
With relative ease, Aaron eventually led Ilene to his bed. They were both still snoring in an alcohol induced slumber when the train blew its whistle leaving the depot the next morning, conveying Rahlys and Maggie back north.
Taku found herself suddenly surrounded by cold, damp darkness. Frightened, she reached up to touch the underside of the bed for reassurance, but her hand met cold hard stone instead. The stream that ran through the cavern sounded like it was right beside her ear, but it was so pitch black dark, she couldn’t see it. Cautiously, she explored her surroundings with her hands, and discovered she was enclosed in a tiny cave, barely large enough to shift position in, the stream just inches away. The cold dampness on her exposed shoulders, seeping through the thin red dress, quickly chilled her to the bones.
Not bothering to hike up the already damp dress, Taku braved the cold, shallow stream, crawling in under the low ceiling of the cave. Feeling her way around, she blindly searched in the darkness for an exit, but the stream was tightly enclosed, and there was no opening in the stone walls large enough for her to pass through. Unless you were water, there was no way in, and no way out. Drenched, and in total despair, Taku curled back up onto the cold, damp rock shelf, crying and shivering.
It’s so cold…and so dark…Please, someone help me.
Minutes turned into hours, and hours turned into days, but there was no means for Taku to denote the passage of time as she laid cramped and cold in the unrelenting darkness. She wiggled down deeper into the dress, which had dried somewhat from her body heat, working her slender, bare arms and shoulders into the bodice, seeking even that minimal layer of warmth. Stay awake, she told herself, if you fall asleep you will never wake up. But would that really be so awful, she thought; sleep, especially perpetual sleep, would be an escape from the cold and darkness…and all the emotional pain she couldn’t face.
Despite her intentions, Taku fell repeatedly in and out of consciousness. Sometimes she cried deliriously, moaning hopelessly for help; other times she dreamed she was on a fishing boat in the sound, breathing in deeply the fresh smell of the sea, misty rain obscuring the forested mountains in the background.
Over the timeless hours, hunger tormented her. She tried desperately to ignore it, turning her focus on trying to remember her name instead, and her family, for surely she must have one. Then falling asleep again, she was back on a fishing boat, the reassuring fishy smell of nets on the deck filling her nostrils. And there was someone else on board. “Papa!” she cried soundlessly.
Break-up was finally here. Rahlys felt downright giddy over the longer daylight, warmer temperatures, and melting snow. Each day the sun popped up earlier and earlier, arching higher and wider across the sky, its hot rays turning the dwindling snow pack into mush during the heat of the day. Ever-widening bands of bare ground expanded around trees emitting heat of their own in the flush of spring.
Expanded circles of exposed ground mottled the landscape white and brown. The snow-free circles grew, creating islands of straw colored grass, old brown leaves, and dark earth in the thinning, retreating snow. Already there were large areas of snow-free ground around the cabin and other out buildings, and grass was turning green up against the sun-warmed wood of the cabin skirting. But at night, as soon as the sun let up its guard and sank below the horizon, the cold quickly stole back in, turning the remaining undefeated snow mush into ice as temperatures dipped below freezing overnight.
Break-up was a time of waiting, waiting for the snow to melt, waiting for the ground to warm, waiting for green leaves to sprout. In the mornings, the hard crusted snow was strong enough to walk on. Rahlys took advantage of the morning crust, to hike and explore through the emerging spring forest, hopping across patches of snow from one area of awakening forest to the next. The woods were warm and sunny and alive. Rahlys searched the glaring bright sky to spot swans and cranes honking high overhead on their way to their breeding grounds further north and west. Chickadees chirped and flittered about so-much-to-do-and-so-little-time-to-do-it, and the first robin of spring landed on a branch in front of her, posing long enough for her to make a quick sketch. Twice she disturbed squirrels doing their spring cleaning, clearing their underground homes of discarded spruce cone husks, piling them around the base of their tree.
Raven, where are you? Was he off courting, a champion among ravens, driven by instinct and the pulse of renewal?
“Aaaark!” The sudden cry was so close it took her by surprise. Raven landed heavily in a nearby birch tree, the leaf buds on the branch splitting, ready to burst. “Aaaark! Aaaark!”
“Why, Mr. Raven, how have you been?” In response, Rahlys picked up a sense of well-being. The raven seemed especially handsome in the vibrating warmth, and she pulled out her sketch pad. “You know what I would like for you to do? I want you to pose for me, if you will, with your wings spread out a little,” Rahlys actually spread out her arms a little in demonstration, “like you were ready for takeoff, without actually flying away, while I sketch. Do you think you could do that for me?”
Of course, she didn’t expect the raven to understand, or comply, as she commenced to sketch him sitting on the tree limb. But to her surprise, the raven took on a comically serious stance, unfolded his wings partway from his body, and crouched ready to leap as she made the sketch. At one point he momentarily lost his balance, catching himself in a flutter of feathers, which sent Rahlys into peals of laughter.
“Aaaark,” Raven squawked in wounded pride.
When the study was complete, she decided to enjoy the day further and pay Vince and Maggie a visit. And she would apologize to Quaylyn if necessary. He hadn’t returned last night after she had snapped at him.
“You can follow me, if you like, I’m headed to see Vince and Maggie.” The raven took off ahead of her. Rahlys teleported to Vince and Maggie’s yard, and as she expected, found them outdoors in the warm sunshine.
“Hey, look who’s here!” Maggie said, spotting her first. She held an armload of small branches, blown out of the trees over the winter, she had picked up from the yard. Vince turned from his raking and nodded in greeting.
“I see you’ve done some spring cleaning, the yard looks nice.” Rahlys watched as Maggie added the branches to a pile by the burn barrel at the edge of the clearing.
“Can’t wait till it turns green,” Vince said, using her visit for an excuse to take a break.
“Where’s Quaylyn? Yesterday I became highly irritated with him,” she admitted with some remorse. “He keeps interrupting my thoughts every time he can read them…which is every time I let my mental guard down. Anyway, I ended up so aggravated with him I told him to get lost. I hope he didn’t take me literally.”
“Quaylyn said he was going exploring for a while, and not to worry about him,” Maggie said. Rahlys felt a bit hurt that he hadn’t told her what he was doing, yet a bit relieved that he had told someone. Well, she wouldn’t worry about him.
Raven flew in, landed in the yard, and waddled over to Vince’s leaf pile. He pecked and scratched looking for bugs, until he had scratched through, and spread out, the entire pile of freshly raked leaves. Vince rolled his eyes in quiet resignation.
Relaxed and at ease after her visit with Maggie and Vince, Rahlys laid out her paints and the sketch of Raven poised, ready for flight. She clamped a fresh, clean sheet of watercolor paper to her board; the paper stared back at her, waiting to be transformed. Forcing herself to concentrate, she roughly sketched in the forms of the raven and the tree branch, then brushed on some underlying washes before turning away to let it dry.
Quaylyn still hadn’t returned when she went to bed with a book, using light from the crystal to read by. Where had he gone? When was he coming back? Eventually her eyes grew heavy, and she gave in to sleep. Sleep turned to dreaming, and in her dream someone cried for help. The silent mental cries seeped into her brain unceasingly. With the cry for help crept in a feeling of cold darkness. In the dream, Rahlys sought the source of the dark, cold distress, drawing ever closer, the pleas for help becoming clearer…help me, oh, please, someone help me, please help me…the distressed soul murmured and shivered. But Rahlys could not locate the source.
Where are you? Rahlys tried to connect mentally, but there was no response, just the continuous moaning plea of the subconscious… help me, someone please help me…Finally, by morning, the mental noise ceased, and Rahlys fell into restful sleep.
She recalled vividly the distress calls in her sleep the next morning and a gnawing feeling in her gut told her it was real. The cry for help nagged at her thoughts all day, even overriding her concern over Quaylyn’s disappearance. Who was begging for help, and why?
She stepped out into the warm sunshine with much on her mind. But she needed something to do while she thought. Fetching the rake from the shed, she started raking the yard around the front porch, striking a rhythm as she warmed to the task. The mysterious cries for help haunted her thoughts while bird song filled the forest around her.
Rahlys started a new compost pile with the raked up thatch, leaves, and twigs near where she hoped to have a garden eventually. As the day grew warmer, an occasional large, sluggish mosquito, which she viciously smacked, brushed by her exposed hands and face, looking for a donation of a drop of blood.
Then suddenly Quaylyn returned amidst her leaf piles, offering no explanation as to where he had been. “Come with me. I want to show you something,” he said to Rahlys, offering her his hand. Hesitantly, she reached for his hand. Then they were standing at the edge of the river on a huge boulder overlooking the mighty Susitna River. The forested ridges lining the river’s graceful banks shimmered green in the sunlight. Rahlys gasped…GREEN! The birch forest was leafing out. Zillions and zillions of tiny green birch leaves, forcing their way out of their nurturing buds, painted a spring green wash over the forest. Spring was finally here.
Quaylyn and Rahlys sat on the great rock, soaking up the sun, and listening to the murmur of the river’s wisdom. The gentlest of breezes stirred the sun-warmed air briefly, pushing a lone, unhurried mosquito by Quaylyn’s exposed hand. Fascinated by the insect life form, he lifted his hand, palm down, stretching it out for a landing pad. Naturally, the mosquito took advantage of the offer and landed, sinking its extended proboscis into his skin.
“Kill it!” Rahlys exclaimed. She couldn’t see letting a mosquito bite when you had a chance to smack it instead.
“Why? Her intent is not evil, she’s just hungry. Surely, I can spare a drop of blood to feed her.” Rahlys was so surprised and taken off guard by his sentiment, she didn’t know how to respond. The mosquito sucked its fill, then took off, nearly too bloated to fly.
Tired from the restless night before, Rahlys retired before true darkness, which came exceedingly late these days. Nights were becoming fleetingly short. But it was dark indoors, at least too dark to read. Rahlys conjured the crystal out of its pouch as she crawled into bed and settled into position, propped up on pillows. When she reached for her book, the crystal brightened radiantly over the head of her bed. Rahlys read some, but her thoughts were elsewhere. Soon her eyes were closed with the book draped across her chest and she was sound asleep. The crystal softened its brilliance to a soft glow, and nestled itself back into its pouch.
Rahlys slept for several blissful hours before, once again, she could sense someone sobbing and pleading,…It’s so cold…and so dark…Please, someone help me. The signature was a little weaker than the night before.
Where are you? Rahlys tried again, stretching her mind in an effort to reach the source. The sobbing paused momentarily. Rahlys actually heard a mental, huh?
I don’t know.
Who are you?
I don’t know, the girl cried in despair. I’m so cold…
Where are you? Rahlys asked again. You must give me a clue, so I can find you.
I’m in a cave; it’s so dark and cold. So dark and cold…
Rahlys could feel the girl slipping from her mental grasp. Hold on, she encouraged, but all her attempts to conjure the girl to her, ended in empty air. Then in a desperate effort to save the girl from hypothermia, Rahlys projected all her mental strength into transferring warmth. She was sure she could actually feel the girl’s violent tremors slowly subside.