The Bend of the River

Only Emma knew that his best friend was a ghost.  Or not a ghost but an echo, the fraction of a spirit that remained tied to a place it had loved so well that it left part of itself behind.  Emma told him that she had seen her guiding spirit, Raun, because the two of them were so deeply rooted in the land in and around the pyramid and library she and Joe had discovered.

This dock by the river was Jimmy’s place, the first place he had ever known the true peace of a satisfied soul.  The music of the lazy-flowing river, the mourning doves and busy day-birds, the crickets, frogs and owls calmed him and replaced whatever cacophony the day had planted in his brain. The window on the sky framed by overgrown, protective trees blocked all signs of civilization and showed him only the cosmic passing of time measured by the weather of the sky and the movement of the stars. The gentle lapping of the water at his bare feet cooled him from the toe to head and purged him of the detritus of the day, even if only briefly.  Here and only here, his mother’s face existed in his mind’s eye as the loving, smiling caretaker she had been when he was young, not the tortured, horrific Greek drama mask he had identified on the cold steel slab of the coroner’s autopsy table.

He often came to the dock after a busy day to sort his thoughts and calm his mind.   Today in addition to the revelations of the People of the Green Hills, he had to find a place for his thoughts about Sophie.  He hoped his friend Able would come as he often did and sit silently with him, the river flowing undisturbed through his dangling ghostly feet.  Come he did, but the expression on his pale glowing face twisted Jimmy’s gut as though it had tightened a screw.

“What?” Jimmy said aloud, though he only heard the words of the spectre in his mind.

Danger.

Usually Able’s speech floated into his consciousness like the fortune of an 8-ball, but tonight the word shot through his brain like a bullet.  “What?” he asked jumping to his feet, knowing Able would never violate the peace for less than looming disaster.

The storm is coming.  She has brought it.

“She?  She who? Sophie?”

Yes.

“What is it that she has brought?  Able, what do you know?  And how?  How do you know it?”

She wears it like a cloak, though she doesn’t even know.

Jimmy was by nature slow to anger, but rage boiled up from deep inside him.  He clinched his fists, although he knew any punch would swing right through the pale vision.  He realized in that moment that he already loved Sophie and had since he saw her that afternoon in the kitchen dusted with flour and cocoa.  “What would you have me do?” he growled tightly.  “Send her away?”

The air around him sparked and flickered as Able shook his head.  No.  The danger she reveals already looms.  With her you can see it coming.  Without her it will take you all by surprise.  You will have no time to prepare your defenses.

The focus of Jimmy’s anger shifted from Able to the phantom menace.   “I will kill them if they try to touch her.”

Not just her.

Startled Jimmy drew back.  “Not just her?  Then who?”

Everyone.

“Everyone?  Emma? Joe? Louise?  Everyone?”

All of them.

“Who would do this?  What are they going to do?  How do we stop it?”

I can only help you see what you already know in your heart.

Able’s calm, sad words diffused Jimmy’s anger.  “Including the fact that I already love her.  After one busy, crazy night I already love her.”

Yes, including that.

“So what do I do now?  If I am not supposed to send her away, how do I protect her?  How do I protect us all?”

It’s hard to fight an enemy you cannot see.  Keep her close.  Keep your eyes open. Follow your instincts.  Look for danger everywhere.

Able began to fade.  Jimmy pleaded, “Please don’t leave, Able.  Help me figure this out.”

But he was gone.

Jimmy’s peace was shattered.  He had to tell Emma and Joe.  They would know what to do.

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