‘Round Midnight (135. Multiplicity)

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I awaken in the ambulance. Dave insists on accompanying me, holding my hand the whole time. It’s a long ride to the hospital in Ipswich. The local cottage hospital doesn’t have an emergency department.

It’s probably shock, the Paramedic says. It’s only a flesh wound, the bullet just grazed your side. Dave squeezes my hand. Remind me not to play rugby with you. You knocked Jem completely out.

She’s on the other side of the ambulance. She waves at me weakly. We have a police escort. Eileen is in another ambulance with Nadine’s body.

Did they catch him?

They cornered him on the roof and he jumped. He’s dead. As far as they know, he acted alone, although they don’t know who clocked him on the head.

I did. He’s the same one who took several shots at me in New York.

How do you know?

I chased him. He has a scar on his cheek. I didn’t realize then I could do what I did today.

We need to talk about that.

When we are alone. I have to figure out how to explain it to the police. He slit Nadine’s throat. He must have surprised her from behind.

I won’t ask.

The Paramedic gives me a cautious look. Jem isn’t paying attention. Her head is throbbing. I think she’s concussed. My jacket is torn just above my hip and my white blouse is soaked with blood. They have taped a gauze pad to the wound. I have a saline IV in my left forearm. It’s almost midsummer, so the sky is lightening already. It’s officially morning.

At my request, Dave stays with me in the ED while the doctors assess my wound. As expected, there is little more than a tear of the skin, so they clean it up and will soon stitch it. Akira will be here soon. Dave and I need to talk first. We are alone finally.

You’ve got some explaining to do.

There is very little to explain. I projected myself onto the roof. When you said you saw something, I immediately looked around and he was there. I whacked him over the head with my trumpet case and that caused him to pull the trigger before he was ready. That’s when I noticed he was the same guy.

You took your trumpet up there with you?

My trumpet is part of me. I think of it, and it is there. You might want to open the case. I hit him as hard as I could. Twice.

He opened the case and found a crease in the bell as well as two broken joints. Don’t worry. I’ve got a guy who can fix it in Cambridge. When is your next gig?

Tonight, but it’s on piano. I’m actually doing a composition masterclass in Cambridge in a couple of days before I go to York. Then I go to Manchester and finally to Birmingham, where I will need it again. Obviously, I’ll need to practice, but no trumpet gig until Birmingham.

Are you going to be up to playing tonight?

Let’s see what the doctors say.

You still haven’t told me how you did that.

I can’t really explain it, or at least not in a way you would ever believe. I’ve never before quite done what I did tonight.

In what way?

Usually, I look at a place and project myself there. Tonight, I had to take two actions at once, and rather than choose one of you, I chose both, and conked the shooter over the head at the same time. I didn’t think. I just acted – two bodies springing from one. Because my actual body went towards Jem, I was forced to reveal myself to you, like I did to Timothy. I stayed with you until I passed out.

Longer. I was putting pressure on your wound, and it wasn’t until Eileen carried you to my side of the road that I looked up. She placed you down right where the other you had been. The blood on my shirt is where you bled onto me, not from the you that tackled Jem. How can you be multiple yous at the same time? What does it feel like?

I can feel what any single one of me is feeling in all of me.

A second me stands next to him and puts an arm around his shoulder. It still hurts when I move, and I’m not totally assured on my feet. I kiss him on the cheek. Ouch!

I can feel your hand holding my left hand, while I can also feel my right arm over your shoulder. Others can’t see me unless I allow them. So far, only you, Timothy, and my friend Maria can see me this way, although you are the only one who has seen two at once. Tonight, I was four places at once, I have been more, a couple of times, just on a whim, while I was testing myself.

Why me?

I trust you. Not consciously. I trust you deep down in my subconscious.

Akira and Alayne come bursting through the door.

I’ll go check on Jem and leave you to catch up. If she’s okay, I’ll head home. I think Becky and Jon are with her. My husband is probably wondering where I am. Should I take your trumpet for repair?

Yes, please.

I don’t have my card with me. I should write down my number for you.

Just tell me. I’ll remember. I’ll text you later to confirm. Timothy can contact me, if you need to reach me before then.

He tells me his mobile number and leaves.

Alayne is afraid to touch me, but I hold out my arms to embrace her. She’s crying. She knew as soon as I had been hit. She felt the pain. Akira thinks I should cancel the tour. I won’t. I don’t give up that easily. I’ll play tonight. The sniper is dead, so they will have to send someone else. That could take some time.

My real enemy is not trying to kill me. They are trying to kill the concept of me.

That was a thought that took a long time coming. The sniper was not the existential threat. He was related to the Senator’s attacks. This was to create fear. Whether or not he succeeded, it didn’t matter. You can slow down the Truth but killing me won’t erase it.

‘Round Midnight (134. B-day, D-day)

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Except for the shock of Akira bringing Alayne and Nabuko, today was uneventful. They flew into Stansted and rented a car from there, avoiding the vagaries of public transport, and arriving in time for lunch, which we ate with the orchestra. Aside from looking like Nabuko’s twin, Alayne was blue. It was only the slightest tint, and you would have had to know to look for it, but she perked up when she saw me, not leaving my side until the dress rehearsal began. Akira must have sedated her for the long flight. I was completely unaware that she was en route. I felt some unrest in the hive, but the secret was well hidden.

Almost as surprisingly, Timothy’s parents brought Jemima Clarke, another old friend of Gaia’s, who was initially cautious of me, but as soon as she saw me, embraced me as if I were Gaia herself. Benjamin Sexton “loved, loved, loved” my concerto and was amazed at my playing of it.

Another friend of Gaia’s, Dave Keillor, drove in from Cambridge where he teaches horn, to hear my performance at the behest of Becky and Benjamin (separately).

Akira took Alayne and Nabuko back to the B&B to sleep off the trip. Both are staying until I finish the British leg of my tour. The rest of us are in the beer garden at the Cross Keys celebrating the premiere as well as my birthday. I didn’t take the opportunity to get out of my dress blacks after the concert, so I look far more formal than I should. Both Nadine and Eileen are on duty, as the threat seems to be heightened since the car accident.

My enemies know where I am.

No one will let me buy a round. I’ve come to the conclusion that I won’t meet my mystery man here. Benjamin is married and Dave is gay. Timothy is the only option, and I’ve come to the conclusion that nothing is going to happen there. He seems inhibited by his friends from the orchestra.

He still wants to get in my pants, though.

Everything seems surreal: a group of someone else’s friend treating me as though I am one of them. Jemima even waxes lyrical about Ezzie’s gift. Her friends call her Ezzie.

The bell for last orders rings. Jon, Becky and Benjamin decide to leave. Jem and Dave encourage me to stay. Timothy is already out on the beach with his orchestra friends.

Jem takes my arm. Let’s go for a walk. We head south towards the Martello tower. Who are these people, she asks, nodding at Eileen and Nadine who have taken position ahead and behind.

Security. I’ve been targeted several times.

You know Ezzie was murdered, don’t you?

I was aware of that. I thought it was some wacko that did it. They said he had no ties to any organization. He didn’t like that she blogged about being a Goddess incarnate. He had no room for anyone other than the Christian God.

Her blogs were a bit crazy, but there was an air of truth in her fantasy world.

What do you mean?

She knew things I couldn’t explain, and I would swear that she visited me in spirit to say goodbye the night before her death.

She was an extraordinary person, Dave added, and a fabulous horn player, but she rubbed people the wrong way sometimes. I never was involved in her mumbo-jumbo. She had a habit of saying the wrong thing at the wrong time, especially after a few drinks. Her heart was in the right place though. Those of us who really knew her thought the world of her.

She had an interesting take on her mumbo-jumbo, Jemma explained. She distrusted it, yet there were times when she just knew things. She used to have dreams in intimate detail, meeting people. Near the end, she said she spoke to people’s spirits. I think she may have been doing it all along, but not actually realizing it.

I knew a certain amount of this was true, just from my spiritual interaction with her, but I kept silent. They wanted to talk about her, and I was OK with that.

I think she met you.

What makes you say that?

She told me about some of her dreams. There was one when she was at Guildhall after a concert. This blond woman came to her. She thought she was looking at herself, but she knew she wasn’t. She asked for help, but didn’t know what from. Does this ring any bells? Did you have a corresponding dream?

Maybe. (I don’t want to give too much away.)

It was before she was cured of her stammer.

I may have had that dream, I confess aloud. Nobody had mentioned her stammer until now.

She said you had a blue aura, and she was right. Your daughter does, too, I noticed.

I turned to Dave. Don’t look at me, he said. I can’t see auras.

Ezzie couldn’t either, except in that dream. When did you have the dream?

Last week.

That doesn’t line up.

It doesn’t have to, I said. She had the dream before I was born.

How do you know that?

She had hers between 1978 and 1984. I hadn’t been born yet.

How could you possibly know that? I think she told me around 1983. What do you remember from it?

She was walking home from a gig with some friends, her boyfriend …

That was probably Slav.

Becky, Jon, and Benjamin. There was one other who I didn’t get a look at. They walked into Baker Street station. She asked the others if …

I was the other person, Dave interrupts. I thought it was weird, but Becky seemed to take no notice of it.

She knew that Ezzie had had waking dreams when she was a child. They had known each other since school.

She went off into a corner and started talking to herself, and then a train came, he continued.

She was talking to me, I admit. I still haven’t been able to figure out why it was that particular night.

We had just played one of Ben’s new pieces, Dave says. She also broke up with Slav that night for the first of many times. I think that was when she finally saw him as the prick he truly was.

Dave!

Come on, Jem. You know I never liked him.

You know there was more to it all than that.

Nothing that I understood. He was your friend anyway.

I introduced them, Jem explains. It was never supposed to be a relationship. It was an arrangement. It had a purpose, one that never bore fruit. She got too involved, and he liked having sex.

But he never really loved her, Dave says. I sometimes thought that he didn’t actually even like her. Anyway, that is why I remember that night.

I can’t help feeling that I had a hand in that, I think. The raw Truth can change a person. I don’t know where this exchange is going.

You know, Timothy adores you, and he told me how you met.

What did he say?

Something about on a cruise. You were there, but you weren’t.

Is that why you came tonight?

I was in the country anyway. I live in Wyoming. What he said couldn’t possibly be true. Is it true?

I don’t know exactly what he said, but the gist of it is correct.

You can be in two places at once?

My body can only be in one place at a time.

But Timothy said you embraced him. He could feel it. He glanced away, and you were gone.

Even if he can see and feel me, that doesn’t mean I’m there. I can be standing on top of the tower over there. I’m there now, waving, but you probably can’t see me.

I don’t see anything.

I see something, Dave says, but …

From the top of the tower, I look around and see my sniper “friend”. Take cover! I shout from the ground.

Two different me’s tackle Jem and Dave, knocking them off each side of the path, while the other me whacks the sniper on the side of the head as hard as I can with my trumpet case. A shot rings out on impact, but the rifle and tripod spill over the ledge. The sniper is stunned and falls hard onto the stone roof.

I feel a sting on my right side. I’m bleeding. I’m on top of Jem, still exposed, while Dave is shocked to find me on top of him as well. All three of me are bleeding. Eileen comes running up from behind. She can only see the me on top of Jem. I roll off in agony.

No sign of Nadine.

On the roof of the tower, I shout, I think he is unconscious, but I don’t know for how long.

The other me is still on top of Dave, but I was able to propel him into the grass. From the top of the tower, I see Nadine, unconscious about 100 feet ahead, near the wall around the tower. Another of me takes a closer look.

Nadine’s dead, I whisper to Eileen, just up ahead. The sniper is still out for the count. I hear siren’s already, only seconds after the shot. I try to drag Jem closer to the sea wall, but it hurts too much.

How did you do that? Dave whispers to me.

Jem only saw the me that was on top of her. He saw both. Can’t explain. I’ve been hit. The sirens approach.

The sniper stirs. I whack him on the head again. He can’t see me, but he certainly can feel me.

Eileen places herself over the me that she can see. The sniper’s out cold on the roof of the tower, there is only one exit. Go get him.

I can’t, she says. I have to protect you. Can you walk? We need to get to the other side of the road. I roll off Dave, and he inspects my side. The me by Jem tries to stand. I feel weak, dizzy.

Jem?

‘Round Midnight (133. Memories II)

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I’m not big on birthdays. I’ve had enough of them that they have lost their charm. Today was the day that Timothy and I were only five years apart in age. I pretty much stayed out of the way of his celebration.

I think he wanted to celebrate with me on the beach in a way that I’m not ready for. I think that was the purpose of his text. He stayed out all night and was rather worse for wear at rehearsal this morning.

Perhaps, I was insensitive. He didn’t say much to me today.

From tomorrow, Eileen or Nadine will drive me from place to place. Someone ran us off the road into a ditch today. None of us were hurt, but it was a reminder that we still need to be on guard. I caught the number plate of the car that did it, and we have reported it to the police.

The damage to the car was unfortunate, and we won’t be letting that happen again. We’ve hired a car for the rest of this trip, and paid for the costs involved on repairs. Fortunately, the frame wasn’t bent.

We worked on the middle movement of the concerto in the morning, and played the whole thing down in the afternoon. After dinner with the conductor, I decided to give the pub a miss and work on a few sections of my concerto.

Tomorrow, indeed, today, since it is after midnight, is my birthday. I feel about 50 years older. Much has happened in the past year. I’ve become a superstar, quit my orchestra job, quit White Chocolate, produced two hit albums, rebuilt my band, became a target of some ultra-religious politician, and a host of an alien species, hence the mother of 169 identical girls, all appearing to be 14 years old, finally mourning the loss of two of them.

The existential threat is still a mystery. Eileen doesn’t speak much at the best of times, but she is even more close-lipped about the danger. The shooter remains free, but it is unclear if he was part of the conspiracy or someone just trying to do the Senator’s dirty work.

The airbase is empty, and it looks like they evacuated in a hurry. I have found a vacant home to live in on the base. There are a number of rusted out cars and heavy vehicles discarded in a nearby field. They look ancient, but they appear more modern than anything I know.

A craft sits on the runway. I recognize it. I’m Amelia again. It says RAF Bentwaters on an old sign, a newer sign on the gatehouse says MoAD Bentwaters. The runway is massive and long. You could land an SST here.

What is an SST? She asks.

A Supersonic Transport. A fast commercial jet from the twentieth century. It could fly up to Mach 2.0. There weren’t many of them, and they stopped flying when I was a teenager after one crashed on takeoff.

You say I’m Amelia? How do you know?

We have met before. Once after you lost your memory, and twice before. Your name is Amelia Hurst. I think we are in England, near the east coast. In my time I am nearby.

I hear a heavy rumble in the distance. It is happening again. We need to take cover immediately. There must be some kind of shelter nearby.

There is a safe room in the house, she says as we start running. The craft roars overhead just as we close the front door. There is an odor of a spicy musk, and we are out.

It’s dark, but shafts of moonlight stream in from a nearby window.

Where am I?

Where are we? I am here, too.

Who are you?

I am the Truth. At one time, you knew me as Cassandra Sommer. We are in England, at MoAD Bentwaters, an airbase on the east coast. You are Amelia Hurst, concert pianist and spy for the … actually, you never did tell me who you spied for. I don’t know what the government of the day is. You are way in my future. There is an organization that was based in Carthage that protects us. It is called the Protectorate. They were attacked and have fled, just like this base has been abandoned.

What just happened?

Our enemies are blanket seeding a combination of a chemical and a bio-agent. We are immune to the bio-agent, but the chemical causes loss of memory. We don’t know if it is permanent.

How do you remember?

I am only here with you in my dream. I have no body to be affected by it. I don’t know whether the agent acts on contact or whether it must be breathed in. I could smell a spicy smell just before we blacked out.

Is there anything else you can tell me?

You know who I am, right?

You are my inner voice.

An inner voice that persists through time, since the beginning of it. We are almost unique. There is one other like us that I know of. She is known as Gaia. I suggest you write this all down when you have a chance. I don’t know when we will next be seeded. I will probably be back in my own body. Find Gaia, if you can. You need her help.

How can I find her?

I don’t know. She normally lives in England, where we are, although she did live in the United States during my lifetime. Neither may exist as political entities now.

Anything else?

There is something else I am supposed to tell you, but I can’t remember it. It is something hidden so deep in your soul, that not even the Truth can find it. Apparently, even the Void is vulnerable.

The Void?

It is our haven. We have met there once. It is a place outside of time and space. There is nothing there. It is a singularity, infinitely large and infinitely small. All times meet there, yet there is no time there. I can’t tell you how to get there, you must find it. Within us, there is also a universe in the shape of a tiny globe a couple of inches in diameter. It is our domain. We are its creator and can be its destroyer.

Search within yourself, ourselves, for there are many of us throughout time. Search for the Truth. Our enemy wishes to destroy the Truth, pervert it, or replace it, perhaps wiping out all memory of it. I don’t know. I haven’t discovered that yet.

Look, there is a notebook on that desk in the corner. Write down everything important. In fact, the first thing you should write down is that you should write everything down or you will forget it next time. You are our future, and I haven’t seen anything beyond you in this universe.

I bolt up out of bed. There was a noise. Eileen heard it, too. Someone walks down the hallway past my bedroom, opens a door, closes it. We wait. A toilet flushes, the door opens again, steps the other way down the hall, a door opens and closes.

Did I tell Amelia everything I needed to?

First, we need to make it to her time. It’s up to Amelia now.

‘Round Midnight (132. Hiding out in the open)

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Why insist on a train journey? If I act like a target, I will be a target. Eileen understood, I think. She didn’t like it, but if someone is going to kill me, I would rather have witnesses.

Witnesses to the Truth.

I made a point to stay away from platform 9 3/4. Too many tourists. Anyway, I’ve been there and had the picture taken when I was young enough for it to matter. Dad was with me. We always did the fun stuff together, while Mom did the real touristy things. Buckingham Palace didn’t interest me, so Dad and I went to become part of the Harry Potter mythology, while Mom and Ophelia went to Buckingham Palace and Trafalgar Square.

I got to those places eventually on another trip, when Harry wasn’t so much in the forefront of my mind. I wanted to be Hermione. She got all the cool parts. Ophelia thought the books were scary.

It took a lot more to scare me.

I miss Dad. We lost him not long after the next trip. Mom loved all things British. Dad loved traveling. We never got to Sweden together, where his family came from. I’ve played a gig in Malmö, but I was only there for the day. We stayed in Copenhagen, across the border.

Soon we were on the fast train to Ipswich, and from there, a local train to Saxmundham after an annoying 30-minute wait on the platform. The train to Saxmundham pulled out as we arrived. Timothy warned me about that. He said it has been that way as long as he remembered.

He has been here since Sunday. Rehearsals began on Monday, but I wasn’t needed until Wednesday afternoon. Someone from the Festival office picked us up at the station and drove us directly to the rehearsal at The Maltings. We read down the first movement and rehearsed the last. The kids loved it.

I call them kids, but most of them are in their low-to-mid-twenties. Some of the principals, like Timothy, were a little older, and then there were some older players on the more exotic instruments, like contrabassoon. It’s a training orchestra, consisting mostly of recent graduates.

I ate dinner with them, mostly cafeteria food, perhaps a little better. Timothy insisted I eat the banoffee pie for dessert. Fantastic!

Then I was off to my host’s house in town to drop off my things and back to Snape for a concert by the BCMG, who were premiering Benjamin’s Horn Concerto. I was impressed. He was able to draw such a variety of sound from only 12 instruments. Gaia would have loved to have played it. Benjamin introduced me to Michael Thompson at the end of the performance, before we all joined the younger musicians at the Cross Keys.

In spite of Eileen’s protestations, we stayed until after closing, moving out back, and then onto the pebble beach, a beach I recognized from my dream. The light from the town didn’t reach to the water, so I walked there and waded in.

The hive wanted me to go further, but I thought better of it. The moment I touched the water, the Instinct awakened. No sun, very little sand, and probably too cold. Not ideal conditions, fortunately. Having two of me here would be awkward.

Timothy mostly spent the time with his friends, with or without me. Although I’m a night owl, they were still going at 1 am, so I decided to turn in, much to Eileen’s relief. There must have been other Opus Dei members around, but she was my bodyguard for the day. Nadine will be back at my side tomorrow morning, and then Akira joins us on Friday morning.

I haven’t seen her in two weeks. I miss her. Although I can hear Alayne in my head, it will be nice to hear how she is doing on her own, or a semblance of being on her own. She sees Akira, Asami, or Ophelia every day, and spend much of her time with Nabuko, while Akira is at work.

Ophelia doesn’t understand her.

Could beauty, my lord, have better commerce than with honesty?

Hamlet, William Shakespeare

Have I lost my trust for Ophelia, or has she in me lost hers? She has asked several times why Alayne refers to me as Mom. She also stole her away for dinner with our mother, Alayne’s grandmother. I warned her against that reference. Her hair connects her better with Ophelia, depending on which color it is dyed this week. In looks, Ophelia favors our father. The thin gene is the only one I inherited from him, otherwise I have Mom’s blond hair and oval face.

Who is Alayne? Mom asks in an email.

I don’t have a good answer, so I ignore the question. Mom is afraid of phoning overseas, so I’m safe on that account. Ophelia inherited that from her.

Timothy texts. He is still on the beach. Come see me.

Not tonight, and I would rather not be around the others. They won’t see me. You’ll be talking to a ghost. See you tomorrow morning.

He told someone about me. A girl, probably. He’s popular with the girls and doesn’t need me. He was showing off. How do I feel about that?

‘Round Midnight (131. Fantasy)

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Electric, our concert was. A day, this was. Backwards, do I speak.

Upside down
Boy, you turn me inside out
And ’round and ’round

Upside Down, Nile Rogers and Ben Edwards (Diana Ross)

To me, something happened, last night. A dream, I cannot remember. Wrong with me, something is. Upside down, I’m turned.

Our set list was completely different tonight, and totally electric. I sang, I danced, I let my hair down. I was “uber-Cassie”. I wore that brown, almost nothing outfit. Tempos were hot and fast, like Return to Forever on steroids, except for the ballads, which were slow, sultry, and sensual.

Sex.

No, not with Timothy. Not with anyone that I remember, but I reeked of sex when I awoke this morning. It had something to do with my dream last night. If only I could remember it. Truthy was there, and another. I have a message for Amelia, if only I could remember it. Next time I see her, I will tell her. I think. Maybe the message is for me, from Amelia, but she wasn’t there.

I’m so confused, and so is everyone around me. It’s fantasy that I inspire. Everyone wanted to touch me, and everyone that did was rewarded. Even Eileen wasn’t immune. The orgasm she had was unexpected by both of us, like a bolt of lightening. A hand on my bare shoulder was all it took, and a deep, unearthly moan (by her). She fell to her knees.

I had pierced her armor, she said.

The waitress at breakfast was next. She touched my hand, and held it just a couple seconds longer than was appropriate. We received more attention than I ever have at a restaurant. She smiled, and she kept putting an hand on my shoulder while she chatted us up. Eileen was suspicious, but I could tell. It wasn’t an orgasm, but a feeling of euphoria, fantasy, like she was living a dream. She worked the lunch shift, too. Same thing. I wasn’t allowed out until our afternoon rehearsal and sound check.

Nadine was next, as Eileen’s replacement. An adept, like Eileen, her armor was also shattered. She kept taking my arm to shepherd me through crowds. All who touched me couldn’t resist a smile.

Dinner with Timothy, a fist bump with Etienne, a hug from Jamar. The autograph-hounds received more than they bargained for.

I was the antidote for writers block, the sexual release, the fantasy, everything everyone had ever imagined, in physical form.

I still smell like sex.

No, don’t get me wrong ain’t gonna do you no harm, no
This bomb’s made for lovin’ and you can shoot it far
I’m your main target come and help me ignite
Love struck holding you tight (hold me tight darlin’)

Sex Bomb, Tom Jones

Nadine isn’t allowed to sleep, but I have an aversion to clothes tonight. They are mostly off.

Uber-Cassie, super-duper-uber-Cassie on fire, neutron-Cassie.

I have that perpetual fan stage right, blowing my hair in slow motion, running towards you like Bo Derek in 10, a movie I’ve never seen, but I have seen that famous clip.

Today I did that to people, and that is the way I felt, the way I feel.

I can’t keep it up. To the void, I go, but I don’t feel any different. I need that giant sun and stark diamond planet.

What has happened to me?

I don’t know. You seem to be more you, and less of the Instinct. It isn’t gone, but your body seems to be rejoicing in its liberty. The Instinct hides.

It was still there during my gig, clarifying my thoughts. Purifying my intention, building a complex architecture. Did it have something to do with last night’s dream. Why can’t I remember it?

You have chosen not to. You … we have hidden knowledge away for a purpose. I can’t remember it either.

Was it so astounding that it has made me feel this way? Will it wear off?

Soon, I suspect. It feels temporary. You never felt like this when you were fully human. You could divide now.

No. I’m done. Alayne has assured me.

You have been purified, either by the dream or by time.

By time?

That dream happened in the future, not in the present or past. We were there together. Something happened there that the Instinct couldn’t control without weakening itself.

Could it have tried to take over, or did it help what we were trying to do?

There is no way to answer that, except that I think it must have been complicit in an act of last resort. That is the only way I can explain it.

We are in serious danger for us to have done that.

We are.

What could the danger be?

What could endanger the Truth?

Falsehood? Lies?

The Truth will always win out over those. Perversion of the Truth? A Lie that seems more true than the Truth and is embraced by humanity?

A complete absence of Truth.

The question, if that is the case, is how could it happen? There is only Life and Truth. What would take its place if the Truth was erased?

What does Opus Dei know?

We must find out.

How?

That is easier said than done. We must get them to tell us.

They won’t.

We must draw it from them. We must find something that makes it necessary to tell us.

I won’t hold my breath. They have kept their secret for centuries, and we didn’t even know they existed.

What else don’t we know?

If we knew the answer to that, we wouldn’t be here.

‘Round Midnight (130. Droplets of Blue, a Death Foretold)

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Drip.

A spot of blue splatters onto the keys in the middle my solo improvisation. It is accompanied by a feeling of profound sadness: the hive mourns. Thoughts are jumbled. I can’t untangle them.

Dona’s host died today before giving birth, Alayne’s voice explains, arising from the wailing masses.

Can anyone see my ears dribbling? I’m in the middle of a gig, for Heaven’s sake!

This isn’t the first tragedy of the day, and I felt that one happened this afternoon: a jellyfish sting. The hive is allergic to the venom. CS27 died a painful death in anaphylactic shock. Their pet doctor couldn’t save her.

That was the hunky doctor that carried me to the Urgent Care Center when I cut my foot. He is in their thrall. There is no telling how many minds they control.

Another drip from my nose. Etienne looks at me nervously. I have my hair down tonight, so maybe the blue trickling down my neck is hidden. My top is shoulderless, though, and I can feel a drip pass my clavicle and ooze towards my left breast, the side away from the audience, fortunately, but Etienne sits close by. He can see it.

I do my best to let him know it is OK.

A sniffle stems the tide for now, but I can’t avoid the keys I’ve dripped onto. It’s all over my fingers. Unlike blood, it is slippery, and doesn’t coagulate. It isn’t blood. Mine is still red. I know from the cut on my foot.

Timothy is stage left. I couldn’t get him tickets. They sold out within minutes when the review of Intimate came out. Jamar has noticed and motioned for a stagehand, and he quickly returns with a box of tissues, setting them discreetly on the music rack of the piano. I don’t need the rack, but they couldn’t remove it at the rehearsal this afternoon. At least it is coming in handy tonight. I take one and wipe my nose. We are supposed to be going directly into The Honest Truth, so Etienne vamps with a little bass solo.

I’m ready and Jamar counts it off. The two of them had a couple of weeks off from me, spent playing in Paris, where Etienne grew up. They are back and firing on all cylinders. I may be bleeding blue and deep in mourning, but I’m focused, partly in thanks to that blue ooze that flows in my body, that alien part of me which clarifies my thought and purpose when I am performing.

Are you alright? Etienne asks at the end of the set. I am. What is that blue stuff?

I could tell him it was red, just a nosebleed, and he would believe it. Hey everyone! Blue is the new red. It is a good thing I’m dressed in blue tonight. Did I foresee this somehow?

No, Etienne, don’t worry about it. I do my best not to exert any mind control. The Instinct would want me to protect myself. Can I turn it off even if the Instinct demands it?

And round about her tear-distained eye
Blue circles streamed, like rainbows in the sky.

Dona’s host dying is a huge loss. Dona was born from an imperfect host, and that has killed her perfect mate. The Instinct tells me that the death of a perfect mate is very rare. It doesn’t bode well for the future.

It means the entire species cannot expect mating to work every time. They have a mortal fear of heights, an adrenaline intolerance, which the human part of the body creates naturally, and a severe allergy to jellyfish venom.

Earth isn’t quite the Goldilocks planet they imagined.

We give the audience our hits in the last set, then Timothy and I share a taxi home. He expects me to invite him up. I don’t.

Why? Because I like him too much. If anything is to happen between us, I don’t want to rush it. I’m six years older, and I’m damaged goods. Someone wants me dead. I can’t do that to him, and I won’t put him in danger.

When am I?

I’m in my universe, standing on a sand beach of a planet that is starting over. How do I know this? There are few signs of life, just some old broken shells. No birds. The beach seems more like a desert, with just some grasses here and there, a few mottled small trees in the distance.

Go to the sea, the Instinct whispers.

I was afraid of that, and make myself even more like you? No.

That’s not the Instinct.

Truthy? Why go to the sea?

All life comes from the sea. It is time.

Truthy doesn’t usually visit me when I’m in the future, and this is way into the future. Why here? Why now?

In the weave of time, this is the stitching of the hem. Many times cross here. Think of this as the tornado safe room.

Why should we need a safe room? I have a cousin on my father’s side who lives in tornado alley. They had a near miss a few years back, so near that their neighbors on the other side of the street all had their houses flattened.

It’s just a contingency.

Why after all these millennia do we need a contingency?

We have never faced a threat like we do now.

Someone shoots me and I’m dead. I reincarnate in a few years or so. We play the long game, right?

So does our enemy. They have been preparing this for a long time. If your contact with Amelia is something to go by, this battle will last beyond this life. At least, if we survive this life, her battle may have a chance to be fought.

How did we reach this decision? Has something changed?

Have you not noticed that Eileen is here? The woman who was with the man on the plane is gone. We haven’t seen her since Tuesday. Eileen has taken her place. Did you not see her?

Eileen is a lot better at blending in. I don’t see her unless she wants me to.

You need to pay better attention. You passed her on Tottenham Court Road this morning. You almost touched her.

I review the walk in my memory. Yes, she was there. I almost ran into her.

She’s a white-robe. She isn’t an ordinary bodyguard like the others.

You think there is something up that requires her presence?

Yes. It’s time to resurrect this planet. Go to the sea.

How is stepping into the sea going to kick-start this world? In the past I have been impregnated by the native flora or fauna.

Or flora-fauna. That was until Alayne. Walk into the water. All the way in.

It is quiet here and the water is crystal clear. I am like that jellyfish; the water permeates me. I am one with the sea. The saline content is high, but not enough to hurt me, but too high for the Instinct. It withdraws. What now?

Just wait.

I feel my awareness expanding, feet, then yards, then miles, hundreds of miles, all the way down into the depths, awakening a leviathan. It swims up to the surface, reaching a tentacle towards me, daring to wrap it around and round my body like a lover rather than a threat. He and I are one with each other and with the sea. We explode into millions of tiny creatures of all sorts.

I stand on the beach facing a jellyfish version of myself. It looks like me, but clear, not a vestige of blue.

And she speaks, too, my jellyfish twin says. And I am not a jellyfish. I will live on the land. Kiss me.

We kiss. Tongues! Like with Truthy, I feel both sides of the transaction. We are indeed two aspects of a single being.

Except that I will give birth to a new race. We will populate this planet. We will make it safe.

I am back in my bed. I feel I have been torn away from myself. Part of me is missing, lost to a tiny corner of my universe, at the far end of time, a place I must forget, forget until I need it.

Ketumati.

It is the forgotten place at the end of time.

There is a knock at the door. At this hour? Eileen is there. From now on, one of them will be with me at all times, an adept. They will alternate 12-hour shifts. Everyone close to me will be watched, including Timothy. I’ve gotten him into it, whether I wanted to or not.

I’m in deep trouble.

I find it hard to fall asleep. What was I thinking about before? I was having a dream, an important one. I can’t remember. When is the last time I’ve said that?

Never.

I feel almost human tonight. The Instinct is still there, but it feels like just a memory. I wonder what caused that.

‘Round Midnight (129. Stravinsky)

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I told Timothy too much. He must think I’m crazy.

If I can appear in his bedroom without opening any doors or windows, while remaining in my own bed, there must be something to what I am saying.

I should still be careful about what I reveal.

Sometimes the Truth is too much to handle. I like him. I like him a lot. He’s honest, and I don’t want to hurt him. I won’t lie to him, but I may have to withhold some of the truth from him.

I can name that piece in one note. It’s Le Sacre du Printemps, The Rite of Spring. I’m sitting in on principal trumpet. I’ve never been so lucky. Stravinsky is conducting. I can’t see the other 85 or so musicians. They are there, but I am not. I sense them; I feel the others breath as an ensemble. Stravinsky is notoriously hard to follow, and I need to see the others to be temporally accurate.

Why that word, Cassandra? He likes saying my whole name as if it a puzzle for his tongue to navigate. I have felt his tongue navigate before. It is well-practiced.

It is much easier to coordinate my entrances with the others if I can see them. The trick is not playing together. It is starting together. I can play in tempo and in time, but it is easier if I start at the same time they do.

The 28-year-old Stravinsky sits next to me while the septuagenarian conducts. He is trying to distract me. His hand strokes my thigh as I play.

I adore touching you, my dear.

How am I supposed to do your music justice, if you are causing me to make mistakes.

You haven’t made any yet, have you?

Other than allowing myself to dream about you? I’ve had a long day.

What? Do you mean, eat, practice, eat, go to his parents’ house, practice piano, eat dinner with him, fantasize about him, compose a little, watch some telly, compose a little more, fantasize about him a little more, go to bed? That was a rough day. I wish every single day of my life was like that, although I would rather fantasize about you.

Be quiet! I need to count rests. Why did you have to make it so complicated? It’s harder to count rests than it is to play. Watch where you are touching.

Gladly.

Pervert. You like the fact that I dream without any clothes on.

You and your long day. What was so long about it? It was the same length as any other day, or perhaps your unique relationship with time causes eddies and loops. Maybe your day lasted a hundred years or a millennium.

Don’t sound so patronizing. You are only doing this, so you can touch my bits while my hands are busy. You really are a pervert.

You sound so British today. I’m touching your bits. Is that what it is called? I love your bits.

You could say it in … careful! … French, but that wouldn’t change what you are doing. Stop kissing me there! My next entrance is coming up.

That’s isn’t the only thing that will be coming if I have my way.

Why bother with the orchestra, if that is what you want?

You are so sexy when you play trumpet, but …

Stop that! I’m finding in difficult to breath properly. Ah …

You almost missed that one. You don’t have to count. You know this piece backwards and forwards. Shall we play it backwards?

I … uh … ohh! … wait, I’ve got to …

Play? But we are approaching the climax.

Shit! … Oooffff!

You missed that entry. Everyone is looking at you.

But I didn’t miss the climax.

Indeed.

You said, “but” before. What did you mean?

You are sexier when you compose. I love they way your mind works.

I bet you said that to all the woman.

I have said it only to you. That is why I want you to write an opera.

I’ll think about it.

Think harder. You don’t have much time.

Much time?

All our lives are limited.

What are you saying?

Nothing, simply that we never know how much time we have left.

Are you saying I don’t have much time left?

I can’t see the future, only what you can see. Write the damn thing before you run out of time. See, the ballet is over. It has used up its time. Don’t make that mistake.

I’m back in my bed, soaking down below. He is jealous of Timothy. He wouldn’t even say his name.