Stina de Borinyone Angelica had been with me for quite some time now, it was a harmless thing really, well not really that harmless. And what harm their was, as usual was most definitely not in that way you might surmise. She was a young woman, a Valerian, tall, and lithe, almost waifish, with long dark black hair to her ankles, the back panel of which was a pale blue, which matched the color of her eyes, almost, but not quite precisely. She was fond (at least with me) of long black dresses, with high collars; the effect of which was to remind me of what was underneath, but to be respectful of who and what I was. Myself, well I was the poster boy for the average Irish Priest, which tended to make things even more curiouser as to how I should come upon such an alliance. But I have found that curious things happen for even more curiouser reasons. The only habit to which she had, a most irritating one, was to pop in and tap me on the shoulder at the quietest moment imaginable. If I was prone to be with pencils in my hand, I would have snapped several boxes by now. Even more irritating was, when she announced her imminent arrival by the release of the musky but terminally sweet phenerome from her gland, and didn’t arrive in the room for a good several seconds afterwards.
Such a day was today. Now you would think that by all I had described, I could figure out when she was to arrive by thinking of when it would be most annoying for her to do so. But, in deference to my sanity I had abandoned that box of reason long ago.
So, I had set myself to cleaning and purifying the communion ware. A task I enjoyed with piety, joy, and a perhaps overly scrupulous precision. As if God would perhaps be able to notice from his throne way above, that little spot to the left which I had missed; or that it would matter in the glorious transformation of the wafer and the wine, to the body and blood of Christ. As if it would somehow prevent it, and wandering into an area which invaded Martin Luther and almost paralyzed him, cause me to drown in my own transgressions. And then the infernal tap happened and I whirled around still with the cup and polishing cloth in my hand, and absently pointed the whole thing in her direction and spoke.
She wrinkled her nose just a noticeable fraction and then smiled.
“Take the Host. Perhaps it would be best if I answered another question. It would not kill me if I did. That is to your satisfaction?”
“Well not really, but I doubt if I am to get more.”
“Perhaps not…but it is time.”
“Surely you did not think my entire play with you was because of your looks!”
She laughed and I found that old Irish temper begin to start at the cheeks and work down, and then she laughed again, and it went away to that place where it goes in all of us, that imaginary drinking establishment with the tempers of the Irish world, sitting on their bar stools and having a pint waiting to be summoned again.
“Well I had wondered, yes.”
I fixed an imaginary problem with the back of my collar and looked up back at her.
“It is time that your question was answered then. Hold me.”
“Yes…it’s not like I’m going to break”, she switched to The Voice, the only time that she ever did so in my presence,”Hold me!”
I held her and she inched even if possibly much much closer, close enough to feel both of our heartbeats, and I also found myself in a near panic, quoting in my head from the Marriage Mass.
“What is to happen next?”
“Close your eyes.”
She said that, shifting back to her normal voice, and I closed my eyes and felt a sudden rush of wind, and in a moment I opened my eyes and…
I was in a billowy bright lit space, the confines of which could not be discerned, the height impossible to establish without some point of reference. I turned to what I thought would be front ways, and I saw a dapper dressed Frenchman, in a well made grey suit, tapping a cane on the ground and a top hat walking towards me. His clothes fit him perfectly and an even more impressive cravat filled the open space. Later on I would find out that it was the ever unstoppable Monsieur Rene Quivremont, the true nature of him never spoken or revealed. Still the inevitable question formed in my brain and I spoke.
“Are you God?”
He laughed, why is it that the members of the Host seem to laugh so much. Is the Universe, are we, really that amusing?
“Well I’m not not God. Let’s leave it that for now shall we.”
He tapped his cane and I reached back and found the most fortunate winged back chair for myself, a choice in furniture that was mirrored by the one sat in by The Gentleman.
“Why am I here?”
“Splendid. I do so like it when you Mortals choose to be direct.”
He clapped his hands in glee and it seemed as if a gold rimmed crystal goblet appeared in the air next to him, and he took a sip of it and set it back, and it just held in the air, and he spoke again.
“I’d give you some, but”, he gave me a slow wink and a smile,”you folks seem to have at least gotten that part right. Also (he coughs) this is a somewhat literal vintage and might not be up to your personal tastes. Oh yes, your question, bless me, but I seem to prattle on so. Shame you Mortals can’t return the favor in punishment when even I, find myself in need of it.”
“Yes, yes, why are you here. Couldn’t help but wonder why you didn’t ask where you were, perhaps that was next, that dratted free will, never can tell what you folks are up to next. Yes, the question. Well I wish I could visit all of my clergy, but that would be most impossible. Some would die before I ever would get a chance to get to them on the list. And that wouldn’t be fair now would it. Let’s just say I make a few selective picks every once and a while. And well Stina…you could say she is one of my Facilitators.”
“Are you the Devil?”
“I was once, and I was a tree, and a mountain, and a stream, and perhaps someday I shall be Fred. I always liked the name Fred. Now if I told you that I thought you were doing a particularly good job with my work, would that Irish pride overwhelm you?”
Rene smiled at me.
“I suppose that is my punishment for letting somebody have the instruction book. Horrible mess that has become, and thankfully”, he made a motion as if washing his hands ,”I believe I have dealt with it quite well considering.”
He opened his hand and in it was a cigar, he offered it to me and I looked at him quizzically, and he shook his head, and I took it and lighted up, strangely finding my tools to do so within my hands reach.
“Who would have thought that if I gave you a plant, that you’d get the idea to put it in your mouth, and LIGHT IT!”
The Old Man almost fell off of his chair in his laughter, but righted himself.
“Ah but it can’t exactly hurt you here, now can it?”
I looked at him and smiled.
“Pretty good actually.”
“I like to think I had something to do with it. Although between you and me, a horrible habit, again somebody else’s instructions. Ah yes, there is that prattling again. Yes Priest, or Minister, or Reverend, or whatever it is you call yourself. Too bad I can’t make a revision and tell you just how unimportant what you call yourself is. Like I would get confused about it. But yes you are doing a good job. And please do continue onward. Being serious about this sort of thing, isn’t and shouldn’t be a crime, or something to be scoffed or mocked. Frankly I really wish there was a bit more, Kumbaya indeed! Standing out in the pouring rain to get closer to the divine. Who was the Moron who thought of that? But I think we’re done for now.”
“Will I remember any of this?”
“Yes and no.”
Rene made a little gesture of dismissal, almost as if he was talking to a child, but then again he was, remember. And I closed my eyes again.
And when I opened them again I was still impossibly and painfully close to Stina, and I broke the embrace. Perhaps I had passed out in Stina’s arms from the absolute fright of being in the arms of somebody else other than that which I had been joined to without end. But I looked into what had been a previously empty corner and found the chair I had just been apparently sitting in moments before, and to the side of it were two things; a wooden common cup, a greal of great heft, and what appeared to be a box of cigars with a note on top. I walked over and picked up the note and began to read it, Stina most annoyingly peeking over my right shoulder.
Thought you might enjoy these. Can’t say when I can give you another box, so be enjoyable with it but perhaps a bit sparing -The Tobacconist
I looked at Stina, oblivious to the goings on except for me, and I somewhat casual noticed that the Sexton’s shears had stopped, then I took a look around and noticed that everything had…STOPPED…simply stopped. Cars frozen in their travel, cyclists stuck in mid pump. Leaves floating in the air similar to what Rene’s cup had done. And I gathered my wits around me like a cloak, a very difficult thing for the Irish to do more often then not and spoke.
“Will you ever turn me?”
“No, as much as a certain part of me screams at me daily to do so. But, you are one of the “protected ones”, those set apart from the rest of Mortality. There are others, and Paul, the Uberbeing, is Leader of them all. Have you ever wondered what the strange birthmark on one of your arms meant?”
“I was curious yes, me mum even tried to rub it off when I was a lad.”
I grinned at her for a moment until she wrinkled her nose again, and coughed and betrayed a bit of a blush, as if those voices which were screaming in her head were starting to win their daily struggle.
“It is a Traveler’s Mark, another Race to which you may at some point be introduced to. It means “safe to approach and be near, but not to be harmed in any way“. I could turn you, and I, and the Family De Borinyone support you for the rest of all Days, but I more than likely would be subject to the Will of my Sister Camilla Sira, and she takes to the Rules and Orthodoxy sometimes I fear even more than Our Rene does.”
“Not to mention it would dilute the meaning of our little chats, and well if you truly became a Sympathetica of the Embraced, or a Full Valerian, you would never cease to exist until that day when perhaps all of us will Ascend and go Home.”
She sighed at the mention of the word “Home”, and even in their confines, I could not help but look and see their travel under the tight black of her front.
“I enjoy these chats as well, even if I act like a frightened rabbit sometimes.”
“Good, and I enjoy your company as well, even if it is a job that brings me here to this most curious place. But know this, not that I wish your Death at all, but all the Valerian and The Embraced, will mourn and weep at your passing…perhaps even the Six Parts of the Host of Heaven as well, the Seventh part being that which is Our Father. You have much to do for all of Us. I pray that you will have the time to complete it all. Never waver my…friend.”
“I do try not to, and when I do my wife usually looks me into reality.”
Stina laughed again and looked at me.
“She must be a beautiful woman indeed, and if I can be forgiven, a most generous Woman indeed to be with the likes of you. But I find I must now be going, in about five minutes your Sexton will be coming around the corner. Please for my sake…”, she leaned over and gave me the smallest of kisses on the cheek, or was it merely a wisp of a touch,” do try to come out with a satisfactory explanation as to why you’re standing out in the middle of the lawn.”
“When will you be back?”
“How can I, when I don’t exist, I was never here, we never spoke.”
She began to fade, and soon like the Cheshire, only her scent, still particularly annoying, remained.
I thought for a moment, then heard the sound of the shears again, and looked and saw the world, my world, my tiny corner of the Universe, going back to its usual whirling dervish of existence. Pity most of them would never know peace, real Peace…ah but then again, that’s why I am here after all.