Thursday, February 3, 2011

The Website is DONE!!

Finally I have finished the Story of Markus and the website!! Please feel free to go and check it out!! I will be posting the different chapters and parts as I finish the art illuistrations for them..

I am sooo excited though. Hope you like it, if you do, you’ll be happy to know there will be many more stories to come after!!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Part Eight: Nature Begets Nature

    The next day I get up and put on a shirt and a good pair of pants. It’s Sunday and the family is going to church. Ever since yesterday I can’t stop thinking of my angel, the legend, the prophecy and Eiden. As we get into the car I’m thinking of how to deal with things. I’ve been focused on trying to remember my angel’s face, but it’s all a blur. I know what her face looks like, but I can’t seem to focus the image in my mind. I wonder, is this Eiden’s doing? We arrive at church and so now I have to put all these thoughts on hold.
     The pastor and his wife greet us at the door and we all go inside and take a seat. My family comes to church every Sunday. It’s very rare that we don’t attend service. It feels good to be here today and I’m actually looking forward to hearing the pastor’s sermon. Then, suddenly a strange feeling comes over me. It’s a sensation I’ve experienced before and I know immediately what it is. I only have this feeling when he’s nearby. So I start frantically but cautiously looking around. Then I spot him. It’s Eiden walking into church.
     I feel so enraged I want to rush up and beat the daylights out of him. But I’m in church and service is starting. His beating will just have to wait. Eiden walks up the aisle right past me and sits down three rows in front of us just a bit to the right. He turns his head toward me, smiles and nods knowingly. I want to rip that grin right off his face. I don’t know why I’m so angry. I should be afraid. After all, this guy is the entity that controls hell! But I’ve got only one emotion to spend on him right how and that’s anger.
I’m counting every second since the pastor started talking. I need to talk to Eiden. The sermon is about love and forgiveness, but I’m really not paying attention. I’m just waiting for it to be over.
    Finally, after what seemed like forever, the pastor concludes his sermon. The first thing I do is look three rows up and to the right. But he’s not there. As the congregation files slowly out of church I get lost in the crowd and break away to go find him. I go into the corridor leading to the Sunday classes. There I see him walking toward one of the classrooms. I seize the chance and pounce toward him. The second my hand almost grabs him from behind something that feels like a force field pushes me off of him and throws me to the ground. Eiden turns, walks over and looks down at me.
     “Well hello there. Nice to see you again Markus,” Eiden says full of pompous sarcasm. “What are you doing on the ground? The Earth is no place for someone of your stature,” he says with such calmness that it almost disarms me. For a brief second so many thoughts rush through my mind – torment, torture, hate, anger, death. Then I hear a voice whispering, “Sweet pain never enjoyed, beautiful suicide of angels fallen from heaven.” What was this? I snap myself out of it.
“I know who you are,” I say accusingly.
“You do Markus?”
“Yes I do, Eiden. You’re the silver-tongued devil!”
But Eiden seems to have no reaction to any off this. He just smiles and stretches his hand down to me to help me up.
“The silver-tongued devil,” he says, “Is that the name of some character from an RPG game Markus?”
“Don’t play with me, Eiden,” I say flinging his hand away from me. “I know who you are and there’s no use denying it!”
“Silver-tongued devil,” Eiden says glancing up stroking his chin. “I haven’t been called that for centuries. Well,” he continues, “I suppose it’s no use hiding from you then, now is it?”
    The corridor then suddenly becomes darker. The shadows in the hall begin to move and I hear faint voices. No, I hear screams. Distant screams of people suffering. Then pain started seeping through me. It’s like my very essence is being drenched with suffering and mayhem. This is Eiden’s doing. He starts to change as well. His eyes absorb the darkness of the moving shadows and change from stark blue to sinister black. I lose my focus, the pain is getting too great. My body is paralyzed. I can’t move.
“So, Markus,” Eiden says ominously, “Are you liking what you see?”
“What’s going on here?” I ask. “What are you doing to me?”
“Just giving you a taste of what’s to come.”
“What are you?” I manage to ask terrified.
“I am Eiden,” he replies knowingly. “Nothing more and nothing less.”
    I feel the need to sleep. I can’t focus on anything not even my thoughts. My body is still paralyzed. My angel’s face flashes in my head and I know I must not give in to Eiden and lose control.
Struggling, I manage to say, “I’m here to tell you… the deal is off!”
“Oh, is that so Markus? You’re here to tell me the deal is off. Well. I’m afraid it’s not that simple you see. The deal has been stuck Markus. It is done. You have no more say in the matter.”
“YES, I DO!” I scream seething in anger. “I’m telling you the deal is off!”
    “Markus, Markus, Markus! Why so angry? Why so rude?” Eiden said full of mockery. “Why I’ve done nothing but help you and this is how you thank me? I grant you the peace of mind of knowing your loved ones will be taken care of. Tsk tsk tsk, Markus. You Hiciousites are so ungrateful. But I am always willing to forgive, Markus. That is my nature. So what can I do?”
    Am I losing my mind? I can’t think. I want this to stop. The pain just keeps coming. It’s consuming me. What have I gotten myself into? I sitting immobile and powerless barely propping myself with my trembling arms behind me. I have no strength to do anything, not even lift my head. Eiden senses my pain. He leans over and looks at me.
“Oh Markus, what ever is the matter?” he says with scorn. “You don’t look so good my boy. You should enjoy yourself. After all, there’s much more to come.”
I then sensed someone else at the end of the hall and closing in fast on us. Eiden’s face and tone suddenly changed as well. Now he is angry.
     “We shall continue this another time,” he said in a controlled rage. Then he turned, walked away and disappeared into one of the classrooms. With that my body and mind turned normal again. I can move again. The pain vanished and the voices of the people in agony disappeared. The shadows on the wall are again still. Then the person who entered the hall walks right past me and into the classroom where Eiden went. I get up and rush to the door to open it, but it won’t budge. Through the glass at the top, however, I can see Eiden inside. He is talking to the woman who just walked past me. When she turns and I saw a familiar face. But I can’t exactly place it. I’ve seen her before. But where?
“Markus!” a voice from behind me suddenly breaks my focus. It was mom. “Markus, what are you doing in here? Come along. We’re going home,” she said.
    I turned to her. “Oh. Okay mom. I’m coming.” But before I leave I turn to look one more time through the window. But this time the door was open and I can look right into the classroom. It’s empty. In disbelief step inside. They are gone.

“Markus?” I heard mom calling from the doorway. “Are you okay?”

“Y . . .yes mom. I’m, I’m fine.”

   Mom stepped in and walked over to me. She leaned in and kissed my forehead. “Come along honey. Let’s go home,” she said putting her arm around me. I feel safe again.
    Back outside getting into the car I was silent. I was thinking that things were going to be more difficult than I had imagined. If what Eiden did to me in there is a taste of what he is capable of then I shiver to think what else he could do to me. And that woman in the classroom. I know I’ve seen here before. Who is she?

“Dad, can we get something to eat on the way?” Nathan bellowed.

“What would you like son?” Dad asked.

“Anything. I’m just hungry.”

“How about we stop at Java Lava? Would you all like some coffee and breakfast there?”

“Yes sir!’ “And how!” “Sounds great honey,” everyone answered at once dreaming of their lattes, pumpkin muffins and Denver omelettes.

Java Lava. That’s it! Now I remember. That woman is the waitress from Java Lava. But what was she doing with Eiden? And why did Eiden get so upset when she came in? Well, we’re just a few blocks now from Java Lava. I guess I’ll find out.


Part Seven: Tortured Mind, Brotherhood

     Valery understood that I wasn’t in a good state of mind so she walked me home before going on her way. Before today I thought that this was all just a bizarre series of coincidences that I found fascinating. But now I’m angry and upset. I was duped by Eiden!
     Lying on my bed back in my room I’m trying to make sense of it all. It seems the more I know about all of this the more I don’t understand. And I don’t like what’s happening to me. Not one bit. I’m jolted alert by a knock on my bedroom door and in come Jonathan and Nathan.

“Hey little bro. How are you feeling today?” “Yeah, dude, what you been up to?” they ask in unison.

What is up with my brothers? Sometimes they are actually nice to me, but not this often. I can’t take it anymore.

“Why are you two being nice to me? Are you plotting something?” I ask. “You’re going to get me in trouble, aren’t you?”

“No no,” they said again at the same time. “Actually, mom put us up to this. She thinks you’re going through something,” Jonathan confesses.

“Yeah, since you fainted at the Binyamin’s she’s been worried about you,” Nathan added.

“And you know,” Jonathan says sarcastically, “A happy slave is a productive slave.”

“Yeah, dweeb, we want you happy so you can do a good job doing what we say,” Nathan adds in.

“Well,” I shoot back, “You two can tell mom I’m fine. So get out!”

They looked suddenly at each other. Then Jonathan turned to me.

     “Markus,” he said, “What’s up? Why are you angry? Okay, sure, we hassle you a lot, but it’s because you’re our brother. We were just kidding about the slave thing. Well, actually, maybe we weren’t cause being the youngest automatically makes you our slave, right? Come oooon,” he pleaded. “Smile already!”

“Well Jonathan,” I replied, “Your sense of humor is as funny as a brick.”

“Ooh harsh. Very harsh.”

“Nathan,” I argued back, “It’s not as harsh as you throwing me around just for fun! How would you like it if I did the same to you dork head?!”
    I don’t know what’s gotten into me. For a brief second, I totally forgot who I was talking to. Oh boy, I’m going to get it now. But at this moment I’m so angry I don’t care. Let them bring it on.

    But nothing happens, I can’t believe it. Usually I’d get a beating right about now. I see Jonathan and Nathan have a look on their faces, a look of concern. Ok, now I’m starting to think I’m in an alternate dimension or something. Either that or there really is something wrong with me.

    “Markus,” Jonathan says, “We know we pick on you a lot, but that’s what brothers do. We’re really worried about you. You’ve been acting differently the last few days. You’re like totally distracted and it’s like you’re not even there. It kind of takes the fun out of joshing with you, ya know?”

“Yeah, Jonathan is right. You’ve been zoning out a lot,” Nathan added.

“Well,” I say, “I’ve got a lot of things on my mind.”

“Oooooohhhhh,” they cooed in perfect unison as they turned to look at each other.

“I think I know what’s been on your mind,” Nathan goaded.

“I don’t think you do Nathan,” I shot back, “but just out of curiosity what do you think it is?”

“You’ve got a girl!” he said tapping his finger to my chest.

     They must have seen me blush cause then they started getting all wound up like they do, like two high-charged atomic dorks bouncing their idiotic comments off each other. I tried to act cool, but I sense they smelled blood.

“Ooooh,” Jonathan chimed in, “I think you’re right Nathan. So, is that what’s been keeping you so preoccupied dweeb?”

“Oh,” Nathan added, “most definitely, Jonathan, what else could it be?” Then he turns to me and asks, “Why didn’t you share, dweeb? How come?”

    Nathan grabs me and starts tickling me rough, which is totally annoying. I guess their being nice can only last for so long.

“Stop it!” I said loudly, “Besides, it’s more than that.” Oh my god. What have I just said? Talk about leading the wolf to the sheep.

“Well bro,” Jonathan says seriously, “Let me tell you something. Regardless how hot this girl may or may not be, she has someone very special in you.”

“Yeah,” Nathan adds, “And by ‘special’ Jonathan doesn’t mean ‘special aid’ or anything.”
“Okaaaaay. Thanks . . . I think,” I manage to utter hesitatingly.

“And if you need anything, you can always count on us bro,” Nathan said getting up from my bed.
“Thanks Nathan. Thanks Jonathan,” I say as they head for the door.

     In a flash, an image came rushing into my mind. It was them, my brothers, in warrior armor, bizarre looking armor. But then a feeling of security comes over me too. What just happened? Jonathan and Nathan turned and smiled just before they closed the door behind them.

     I don’t really know what’s going on, but I’m starting to have faith that maybe things are going to be okay. But I still have a lot to deal with. I need to get to the bottom of this legend and find a way out of the deal I made with Eiden. I have a feeling this is the start of a long adventure. I just hope it doesn’t end in tears.


Saturday, April 3, 2010

Part Six: The Prophecy of Shimbala

I woke up late today.  Last night working on that book report it took me a long time to decipher Val’s notes.  I don’t remember dreaming at all last night, probably cause I was so exhausted.  I’ll get dressed and meet Val outside soon.  Today we’re going to pay our new neighbors a visit.

Back on the Binyamin’s doorstep, Val rang the bell and Mrs. Binyamin answered.  She’s so happy to see us.  Mrs. Binyamin’s just great.  She’s always so cheery and glad to see you.  She sees us to the living room and goes to get Mr. Binyamin although it would have been nice if she’d actually gone get him instead of shouting from the bottom of the stairs.  The Binyamin’s, we’re learning, are a loud family.

“So dears, what would you like before Avi comes down?  Some cookies?  How about a sandwich?”

“It’s okay Mrs. Binyamin. We’re fine!” Val politely replied.  But Mrs. B. kept on trying to feed us.  I think she either had too much food in the house or she thinks we’re too skinny.  Before we knew it though there are chicken sandwiches and Cokes in our hands!

“Oh, the young scholars!” Mr. Binyamin bellows coming into the room.  “And what can I do for you two today?”  Then shouting to Mrs. B. in the kitchen he yells, “Erm! Bring them some potato salad.  And pickles.”

“Coming!” she yells back.  Ugh.  I don’t know how much more I can eat! Val turns to me with a look of panic that only I can recognize.  

Two sandwiches, potato salad, chips and a weird fish thing later we finally start our conversation with Mr. Binyamin.  Mrs. B. has left to go pick up their two boys.

“Mr. Binyamin,” I start, “First of all I’m really sorry for what happened at your party the other night.  I must have been over tired or something.”

“No no, Markus, it’s quite alright.  I’m just glad you’re okay.  But you should eat more protein!  This would give you energy for the day and help keep up your stamina.” 

Again with the food!  “Well thanks Mr. Binyamin, I’ll keep that in mind.”

  Val, cutting to the chase, chimes in, “Actually we’d like to ask you more about the painting there and the Shimbala Legend,” she says. 

“Ah, two inquisitive minds,” Mr. Binyamin says with an eager smile.  “That’s a nice attribute to see in young people such as yourselves.  So tell me, what is it that you want to know?”

“Everything!!” I said.  “Tell us whatever you can about Shimbala and Amir and Ariana and . . . ”

“Okay okay, Markus, slow down.  I can see you’re keen on learning.  That’s a good thing.  You remind me of myself when I was younger.  I always wanted to learn about everything.  But I loved listening to stories most of all.  That’s why I combined my two favorite things and came to study mythologies.”

Very nice Mr. B., I’m thinking, but tell us about Shimbala.

Val again goes right to the point.  “So Mr. Binyamin.  We’d love to hear that all you know about the legend, so please tell us everything.”

“Well, Valery, I told you the other evening most of what I know of the legend. What else exactly are you interested in?”

“Is there anything more to the legend?” I ask.  “I mean any more to the story other then what you told us?”

“Well, yes Markus, I think so.  It’s a complex legend really.  Other than the story I told you there is also a prophecy.”

“A prophecy?” Val asks restraining her impatient curiosity. 

“Yes, the prophecy of Shimbala says that the guardians of Gaia and Hilious will one day find Amir the traveler and also the Lima Ariana.  And when they find them the guardians will separate them forever.  This is to be their punishment for going against the teachings.  Other than the prophecy there’s nothing more that I know of the legend.”

“What do you mean nothing else?” I ask.  “Isn’t there anything more to the prophecy?”

“Well Markus, this is a very old legend that was passed on orally as stories before it was ever written down.  There could be more to it.  But I don’t know that anyone has ever found more.”

That’s it?  This is not what I needed to hear.  This is so frustrating.

“Okay Mr. Binyamin,” I said. “But can you tell me about the Limas? And can you tell me about Ariana?   Do you know why she was chosen to be a Lima?” I hoped some specific questions might coax more information out of him. 

“Well you see Limas are considered by the Somarans to be the purest of souls.  They are believed to be full of innocence and joy and they bring happiness to the kingdoms they are sent to.  And when a Lima falls in love they give the purest love in return.”

“But wait,” Val cut in.  “Didn’t you just say that the Somarans sacrificed the Limas?” 

 “Yes and they did.  You see the civilizations before Somarans, the even more ancient ones, in fact did not sacrifice the Lima.  But the Somarans believed that love corrupted the Limas by polluting the pureness of their souls.  If a Lima became corrupted by love then it turned into a Katia, which was a monster that did nothing but wreak havoc on the world bringing death and destruction to Hicious.  To prevent this from happening, the Somarans sacrificially killed the Lima at the age of light before it had a chance to be corrupted.  In doing so they also believed that Gaia or Hilious would then favor the Somarans and usher in an era of peace and prosperity.  The ancient scrolls of the story are old and many parts are missing.  It is possible, and I would say probable, that some aspects of the story might have been lost to us.”

“Wow,” Val said mesmerized.  “Mr. Binyamin could you tell us more about the Somaran beliefs like more about the three realms and the guardians?”

“Surely Valery.  Like I told you before, the ancient Somarans believed in the existence of three realms – Gaia, a sort of heaven; Hilious, which we might think of as hell; and Hicious, which is Earth where the Somarans lived.  They believed that when souls are born they were sent first to Gaia for a transitional period.  There the souls chose their parents as well as the place and time they want to be born in Hicious.  Once born, if the soul, or person, chose to live according to the teachings of Gaia then after death his soul would return to Gaia.  But if he chose to follow the wicked ways of Hilious then his soul was taken to Hilious to be enslaved for eternity by the silver-tongued devil of Hilious.  The whole Somaran belief system was based on a delicate balance of those forces – the light of Gaia and the darkness and Hilious.  The Somarans on Hicious lived between these realms.  Interestingly, the Somarans didn’t necessarily judge either realm as good or evil.  They viewed each as necessary to achieve balance in the universe.  And each opposing side of this delicate balance had a guardian.  For Gaia it was Magaia, the mother angel of Gaia.  For Hilious it was Eiden, the silver-tongued devil who torments humans and strikes deals with them.”

After hearing that name, Eiden, I am in shock.  A very bad feeling comes over me, like I’d drunk poison and just realized it.  I really don’t feel so good right now.

“Mr. Binyamin,” I said getting up.  “Thank you very much for seeing us and telling us the story of the prophecy.  But we have to go now.  And thanks again so much.”

All I know right now is that I have to get out of here.  I just have to leave.

“Oh, okay,” Mr. Binyamin said a little surprised.  “Leaving so soon?  It’s almost lunch time.  Wouldn’t you like to stay and have a bite?”

“It’s okay Mr. Binyamin.  We’ll definitely be coming back to hear some more about the ancient Somarans,” I said.

“Val let’s go,” I said giving her the look which means NOW!  I grab her arm and we head for the door. 

“Markus! Markus! Did you hear that?” she says as we get outside.

I think Val knows what I’m feeling.  If what Mr. Binyamin told us in there is true, then while waiting outside the principal’s office I sold my soul to the silver-tongued devil. 


Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Part Five: Cafe Latte Conversation

I’m starting to freak out.  Am I losing it? Or is this just some kind of phase I’m going through?  I’m not sure if any of it is real.  Okay, Markus, get a hold of yourself.  You’re not crazy . . . yet.

In school today I can’t focus at all.  Class after class the only thing I can think of is my angel and all the strange experiences I’ve been having.  And Val’s been asking me nonstop about what happened last night.  I don’t know for how long I can fend her off.  It’s weird enough that I lived, or maybe dreamed, another person’s life.  But how do I explain that I felt I had lived the life of Helen, a woman!  Too weird.  Should I go to the school counselor?  Better not.  I don’t need things getting any more complicated than they already are right now.  I see Val waiting at our lunch table.  I can see the questions in her face before I even sit down.

“Markus,” Val started in right away, “You’ve been dancing around my questions all morning.  Last night you were so excited to tell me about it.  Why all of a sudden you’re avoiding it?”

“Well,” I started hesitatingly, “It’s pretty weird and, honestly, I don’t know how you’re going to react to what I experienced last night.”

“Markus, I’ve known you since middle school… since the day you moved in for Pete’s sake.  Who else could you trust?  Besides, I know you’re weird and I’m okay with it.  So, are you going to tell me now or what?”

It’s hard to argue with someone who knows you so well.  And she’s right. Val and I have shared everything these past years.  I guess I can be honest with her about having been Helen in my dream.

“Ok Val,” I sighed, “But after classes meet me at Java Lava for a coffee and I’ll tell you all about it there.”  

“Deal,” Val said. “But you’re buying since you’re making me wait.” 

After school I head over to Java Lava which is Val’s and my favorite café and hang out spot.  We go at least twice a week.   Java Lava is a cool artsy place with paintings from local artists on the brightly colored walls.  It has an industrial look with concrete floors but at the same time it’s so cozy too.  But most of all, they have the best frappacinos in town.   

Val was there waiting for me on one of the overstuffed chairs in the corner.    Now I’m nervous again.  How do I start this conversation?  Oh heck, I’ll just jump right into it.  So I sit down and spill the whole story of how I experienced a year in the life of a woman named Helen who lived in the 1940s.  Val sat there listening carefully and quietly as I gave her every detail from where Helen worked to how she met Frank, got married, and was killed in a car accident with her new husband.  When I finish Val is still sitting there across from me.  That should be a good sign. I think.   

“Well,” I say, “That’s all of it. That’s what I experienced while I was out cold on the Binyamin’s living room carpet.  So, what do you think Val? Tell me.”

“Markus, that’s the most romantic story I ever heard,” she finally said. “You know I’m a sucker for these kinds of stories.  Why do you think I cry like a baby every time I see Titanic?  But this story of yours was so beautiful.  It really was.”

“Val, whatever, but this is really freaking me out!”

“I think you’re lucky to be having these experiences Markus.  I mean, it sure beats the heck out of my boring life!  But, well, yeah, I can see how it is weird and kind of freaky too,” she said.

“But as nice as you find the story, Val, I’m sure it’s all just in my head.  It has to be.  I mean who are these people?  Helen and Ruth.  Their friend Alice. And Anna, Anna Van Ordt.  Or Anna Hooks, actually, after she got married.”

Suddenly Val went white.  She tilted her head slowly and fixed her eyes right onto mine.  I can see her jaw dropping before me. 

“What Val?  What is it?”

“Hooks!” she says.  “Anna Hooks?  Markus, that’s my last name and, you’re not going to believe this, but my grandmother is Anna Hooks and, Markus,” she leans in close, “Before that she was . . . Anna Van Ordt!”

Now this just can’t be.  I can’t speak.  I’m stunned beyond words.  Val’s face too is frozen in disbelief.  I’m also starting to get a bad feeling.  I don’t know how to describe it. It’s like the feeling I got yesterday when I was at the principal’s office.  And I felt it as Helen in the car right before she crashed.  Then, something even more weird happens.  I look out the window and across the street and my jaw hits the floor.  That black suit.  That red tie.  It’s Eiden.

“Val!” I said in a screaming whisper, “Look across the street.  It’s him, it’s Eiden!”

“Where,” Val asks swinging her neck around to see out the window behind her.  “What, you mean that guy in the red tie?”  

“Yes! Val, that’s him.”

Across the street Eiden was looking at us.  Then he smiled, waved and started to walk away.  The further he got down the street better I started to feel. What the heck is going on?

“So that’s Eiden?” Val asks bringing me back to the moment.  “The new guy?”

“Yes,” I said. “And every time I see him I get weird feelings.”

“You’ve had a lot of weird feelings lately Markus. Anyway, just pay no attention to that creep.  Now, what about my grandmother?  Markus, she’s Anna Van Ordt Hooks.  And this Helen you’re talking about I’ll bet was one of her friends.  Markus listen, next week we’re going to drive up to see her.  Why don’t you come with us?”

“Gee, I don’t know Val. It might be kind of awkward going on your family outing.”

“Are you kidding Markus?  My parents have all but adopted you.  You’re like family to us and so you should come meet my grandmother anyway.  You can talk to her, ask if there really was a Helen and a Ruth and an Alice.  Maybe you could find out what the heck’s been going on.”

“Well, maybe it would be okay,” I answered.

“Good, then it’s settled. Besides, we’ll have a fun time up by the lake where my grandma lives.”  

“Yeah,” I say, “It’ll be fun I guess.”  Only now I’m getting super curious about my friends from back during the war. What happened to Ruth and Alice. I hope Val’s grandmother knows something.

“Markus,” Val says leaning over the table to get closer.  “I can’t stop thinking about that Shimbala legend, the one Mr. Binyamin was telling us about.  Do you think there is a connection between that and what you’re going through?  Today during my free period I looked that legend up.  I found some articles about the basic story, but nothing as detailed as Mr. Binyamin told us.”

“Oh yeah,” I say, “The legend.  I forgot about that. Well, I don’t know Val.  I mean there could be some connection.  We need to talk to Mr. Binyamin again and get more about that story.”

“So I’m guessing we’re going to give our new neighbors a visit tomorrow?”

“Yes, Val, we will,” I said finally being able to smile again.  

“Excuse me,” the waitress said cutting into our conversation.  “Anything I can get you two?  We have a wonderful new caramel latte that you might like to try.”

As I looked up and listened to the waitress I find I can’t stop looking at her.  She’s so cheerful and she seems familiar too.  I feel a calmness coming over me like a familiar blanket.  I just had to ask her . . . .

“I’m sorry, but have you always worked here?”

“Oh no,” she said breaking into a smile.  “I’m new. In fact this is my first day.”

Then I must not have seen her before.  But there was something so familiar about her and, like most of the things happening to me lately, I can’t put my finger on it.  I’m starting to get really frustrated.

“We’ll try two of your new caramel lattes,” Val chimes in.  

“Coming right up,” the waitress says.  She then turns to walk away.  I keep thinking that I saw her when I was younger maybe.  Not sure and more than likely it’s just my imagination again.  

“So, what would you like to do now?” Val asks.

“Well, I’ve got some reading to do Val. I’ll do that now and when we finish our lattes then I need to get home and start that book report on “Tale of Two Cities” that’s due next week for English Class.”

“Yeah, you better catch up on that cause Mrs. Schneider takes no prisoners when it comes to her book reports.  And you seemed really zoned out in class today.  Here, take my notes home with you and copy them.”

“Val, you’re the best,” I said with relief.  “Great, here come our drinks.”  I don’t see the new waitress.


Part Four: A Song, a Swing and a Kiss

I was just getting off the factory floor and walking outside to go home when I noticed the stars shining up in the sky.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen them so bright.  It looks like they’re almost smiling down at me.  It’s been five months now since the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, and the war effort is gathering steam.  It was a long day at the factory, making army tank engines.  I am covered with metal dust by the time the day is done.   On the bus home I notice the driver glancing at me from time to time.  He looks sad, worried, but when our eyes meet he manages a closed-lipped smile.  You see that look a lot these days; like we’ve lost our innocence, or we surely will soon.  I’m certain he’s wondering what the future will bring, how long this war will last, how bad it will be, and whether we’ll survive.  I know because I think these things all the time.  But no matter.  It’s Friday and I have to get home.  I’m meeting the girls at our favorite place, Harry’s.  Some Jitterbug dancing will lift our spirits.   

I’m all dolled up now and ready to go. I hear my friend Ruth letting herself into my apartment.  She’s one of the three girls I pal around with.  Alice and Anna, my best friend, are also coming here first so we can head over to Harry’s together.  Anna and I are the two singles of the group.  Ruth and Alice are married and their husbands are already overseas.  Ruth’s man was shipped off just last month.  They both act so brave.  But, I can see it in their eyes.  The longing and the worry of seeing your heart’s love go off to face the dangers of war.  It must be unbearable.  That’s why I promised myself I wouldn’t do it.  I’m not going to fall for a man just to lose him somewhere in the Pacific or in Europe.  Anyway, Ruth is calling and I’m in the mood to go dancing!

“Hi Helen,” Ruth coos as I emerge from my room.  “Don’t you look sweet.  Are you ready for some fun tonight?”

“Am I ever!” I reply.  “Oh look, I see Anna and Alice coming up the walk.  Let’s go.”

We get to Harry’s and our favorite table is free.  Harry’s has the best big band sound in the neighborhood.   Glenn Miller and the Jitterbug are our favorites.  Me and the girls can boogie woogie until late into the night.  It’s the only thing that makes us forget the war.   

“Are you gals ready for some Chattanooga Choochoo?”  Anna asked as we grabbed our table.  Anna is such a dear best friend to me.  What a gal.  And boy does she like a party!

“Anna,” Alice chided with a smile, “It’s blues night tonight... jug head!”
“Oh yes, so it is.  I forgot. No matter,” Anna shot back, “Just so long as there are some cuties and a Whiskey Sour then I’m happy."  Classic Anna.

We are lucky to get our table tonight.  The club is more full than usual.  I see several soldiers and a few sailors already dancing with their girls.  Harry, the owner, is an old man now, but he sure knows what the kids like.  I see Harry behind the bar serving. The band is playing one of my favorite Billy Holiday songs, “I’ll be seeing you.”  I just love this song and it . . . wait a minute.  I see eyes staring at me.  Two baby blue eyes.  What is this?  My heart is racing. Why is this happening?  There’s a soldier.  And a fine man he is.  He’s with a friend who’s making his way over toward our table.  

“Hi there Mrs.” one of the soldiers says. "Would you give a soldier a dance?”

Anna, her cheeks flush but surely thrilled, replies, “It’s Miss Anna actually and, while it’s very nice of you, I don’t think I should.”  She’s like a cat playing sadistically with the live mouse it just caught.

“Well Miss. Anna, me and my buddy here will be shipping out overseas in a few days and it would make me so happy to take with me the memory of a dance with a beautiful lady like yourself.  My name is Earl, Earl Hooks,” he said holding out his hand.   

Anna smiled coyly to us like a Cheshire cat as she put her hand in his and rose up to head to the dance floor.   

Hours later I noticed Anna again.  “She seems to be having a good time!” I said.  Anna and her new man were still cutting up the dance floor. 

“She sure is,” Ruth said.  “Helen, it’s getting late and I think Alice and I are going to start walking home.  Besides, all these soldiers aren’t good for our lonely hearts.”

“Okay, doll.  Will you two be all right?  I’m going to stay a bit and wait for Anna.”

“Sure honey.  Enjoy now and don’t stay too late,” they said getting their coats to leave.  

“Sure will girls.  Night Ruth, Night Alice,” I said.

Just before she turned to go, Alice leaned in to say, “Good night sweetie.  And be careful in here with your heart.  I see that soldier still has his eye on you.  If you fancy him make him sweep you off your feet.”

“Oh Alice,” I said with a blush, “I don’t think he has much of a chance tonight or any other night,” I laughed it off as they left the club with a wave.  But I felt something stir in my heart and stomach. Those eyes have been following me all evening.  Then, no sooner had I put my hand down on the table when those baby blues found me again. I could feel them on me and was mesmerized by them.

I turned around to look at them again and . . . but wait . . . where did they go?

“Hi there!” a deep and handsome voice said from behind me.  “Did I scare you?” he asked?  I was caught totally off guard. 

“Well, you did give me a bit of a scare,” I said smiling in relief.  I’m not sure if I’m relieved that the startle was just a voice, or that I found those baby blues again.  “You shouldn’t sneak up on someone like that,” I mildly admonished him.

“I’m sorry Miss.  But I was just wondering . . . would you care to dance?”

“You can call me Helen,” I said, “and, yes, I’d love to dance.”

“Helen… what a beautiful name for a beautiful angel.”

He took my hand and my knees went weak. My heart is about to jump out of my chest. What is it about this man that’s making me feel this way? I keep feeling butterflies in the pit of my stomach. His eyes, those baby blue eyes are stealing my breath away. We are dancing, but I don’t feel the floor underneath me. It’s like we’re dancing on air.

“So, Mr. Soldier, what should I call you?”

“My name is Frank.”

“Frank . . . a very handsome name for a handsome fella.”

What are you doing to me Mr. Soldier, I wondered.  I honestly feel like Cinderella the night of her ball.  Are you my prince charming?

“So,” I start to say, “Your friend over there tells us you’re both being shipped out soon?”

“Yes,” he answered. “We got our orders to leave in two days.”

“Two days! So soon?”

“Well,” he starts saying, “Before I used to think the sooner the better.  But now I’m regretting that decision.”

“Why’s that?”

“Well, Helen, when I was first drafted I didn’t have anything or anyone here to miss or anyone to miss me.  I know what I’m about to say sounds like a pick-up line, but I swear it’s true.   I want us to win the war.  I guess my love of country was my only love at the time.  But at this moment, I think there’s another love growing in me.”

I am lost for words.  I’m totally being swept off my feet. I think I’m falling in love.  But this can’t be. I shouldn’t let it be! What about my promise to myself? I’ve seen Ruth and Alice both come to work with extra make-up on trying to cover their tear tracks from crying that morning and probably much of the night too.  But I can’t seem to help how I feel about Frank.  It’s so strong. I’ve never experienced this before.  Frank is just sinking deeper and deeper into my heart.  Then I heard the words of Billie Holiday echoing over the dance floor to my ears. They only confirm what I’m resisting, trying to deny.

♪ “I'll be seeing you,
             In all the old familiar places,
             That this heart of mine embraces,
             All day through . . .” ♪

Oh Billie! I don’t need real-life blues. My heart is already aching. But I can’t stop myself.  My heart has a mind of its own and my body isn’t obeying a word from my head at all.

♪ “In that small café,
 The park across the way,
 The children's carousel,
 The chestnut trees,
 The wishing well,
 I'll be seeing you,
 In every lovely summer's day,
 In everything that's light and gay,
 I'll always think of you that way.” ♪

Oh Billie, all what you’re saying is true. I will be missing you Frank when you’re gone.  But what can I do other than just say I hope I’ll be seeing you?

“Frank,” I looked up and said, “This might come out wrong, but I’m just wishing right now that you don’t go.”

“Why would that be wrong Helen? I feel the same way.”

“I think I’m falling for you,” I said looking into his eyes and drawing my arms tight around his shoulders.

He smiled down and then kissed me. My knees weren’t the only things that gave way, my whole body did.  It was a kiss from heaven like I’d never known before.

“Helen,” Frank says, “Let’s go. Will you come with me?”


He took my arm and led me off the dance floor toward the door.  I grabbed my purse as we swept past my table and then a new feeling suddenly came over me.  It was an uncomfortable feeling and it stopped me.  As we headed for the door I noticed a man sitting at the bar.  I’ve seen him before.  I’ve seen that red tie before.  He was looking at me with a glass in his hand.  He raised it up as if acknowledging me.  Then Anna suddenly grabbed my arm and turned me around.

“Where are you going?” she asked. 

Her question just made me look at Frank.  Baby blue was looking at me and all seemed beautifully clear.  I just answered, “I don’t know and I don’t care.”  Anna smiled but still played the role of worried friend.  “Just don’t go too far, Helen.  Not too far,” she said looking me in the eye then winking. 

We walked outside and strolled into the empty field across the street.  Frank was leading me somewhere but I wasn’t sure where, and with all honesty I didn’t care. He walked me over to a beautiful big tree.  I looked up and saw the stars I’d noticed earlier after work. They were even brighter now, almost blinding. 

“Helen, I know this is fast and must seem awfully strange, but I feel like I’ve known you all my life.  And I can’t stand the thought of heading overseas…”

I interrupted him and put my finger over his sweet lips. “You don’t have to explain anything to me. I have the same feeling,” I said.

Then Frank got down on one knee, and looked me straight in the eyes. “Helen,” he said, “Will you marry me?”

I can’t breathe. There was only one answer in me.  Nothing else but that answer came into my mind, the words that were in me waiting for years to be uttered.

“Yes.  Yes, Frank, I will marry you.”

He got up off his knee, lifted my chin toward him and kissed me warmly.   These are not kisses, they are spells.  Enchantments that could never be broken and I would never want them to break.  

At 11:00 a.m. the next morning we were married at City Hall.  Our wedding was the most amazing day I ever had.  The amount of love we shared I think could have stopped the war itself.  The day after, however, wasn’t as sweet.  That was the day Frank had to leave.  I saw him off at the bus station.  My love, my husband is going to war. I can’t believe it. I promised I wouldn’t do this to myself but I did.  I’ve just joined the Ruth and Alice club.

I’ll miss you more than you can know Frank.  But I will see you and feel you in my heart.  ♪ “I'll find you in the morning sun; and when the night is new. I'll be looking at the moon, but I'll be seeing you.” ♫ Those words from Billie expressed everything I felt.  I just wish I could stop crying. 

That was six months ago since the wedding and Frank’s departure.  I’ve been getting his letters, almost one a week.  Despite my longing for Frank, these months have also been among the happiest of my life because even though he’s not here I found my true love.  Last week, Frank wrote that he’d be coming home on leave in November and that he’d be here for my birthday on the eighth.  I can’t imagine a better gift for my twenty-fifth birthday then a kiss from Frank.

Just a few weeks later I’m at the bus station with Ruth and Anna.  It’s a big day because all of our men are going to be here today.  We’re waiting for Anna’s fiancé to arrive home from leave as well and Ruth’s husband Raymond who will also be on the same bus.  So will my Frank.  Only there’s a pale over our happiness.  Alice didn’t come. She got the news last week that her husband Ralph was missing and presumed dead in the Pacific.  Poor Alice.  Despite it all, we’re trying to be excited for each other, Ruth and Anna, especially Anna, the soon-to-be Mrs. Earl Hooks.  It’s so exciting to see her so happy with her fiancé Earl.  They’re wedding is set for tomorrow at the church.  Alice insists on going.  She’s so brave.  Ruth is also anxiously awaiting her Raymond.  She had not seen him for nearly a year and I’m so happy for her. We all held our breaths as the bus appears from around the bend.

As the bus stops and the door swings open it was Raymond who was the first one off.  Ruth jumped and ran to him, her eyes sparkling.  Then Earl emerged and Anna threw herself on him.  Then the rest of the passengers starting streaming off.  I stretched my neck to look for Frank.  But he’s not there. Then, two baby blues walk off the bus.  I can hardly believe it.  My heart stopped, I’ve died and gone to heaven.  This is the best birthday a woman could ever have.

“Hello baby blue,” I said cradling my hands around his face.

“Baby, before you say anything else, can I kiss you?”  Frank asked.

“You sure can soldier,” I replied just before being lost in his wonderful kiss.  I am in heaven. I can’t describe it any other way.

When we got home Frank said he had a surprise for me.  There was a knock at the door and Frank insisted on answering it alone.  He spoke to someone and I heard something jingle. Then the visitor left.  Frank returned to the living room.  He asked me to come with him outside and he put his hands over my eyes. He is so gentle, guiding me slowly, step by step through the door and outside.  Then he removed his hands from my eyes and told me to look straight ahead.  It was a 1940 Chevrolet Clipper!  It was burgundy red with shiny silver trim and whitewall tires.  As I ran to look at it I noticed that it also had an exclusive vacuum power shift, silent valve-in-head engine, synchromesh transmission, and new sealed beam headlights. Working in a tank factory, a girl can pick up a thing or two about engines!  What an amazing gift! Even with the war in full swing, at this moment my life couldn’t be any better.

We took the car out for a spin.  This will be a special night. The sky couldn’t be any clearer. The moon is smiling away. And I’m driving with my beautiful baby blues. We’re cruising down a quiet country lane surrounded by nothing but trees, the star-filled sky and us.  Then in a flash I see him again – the man with the red tie.  He’s waving at me, quietly yet knowingly, from the side of the road as I pass by.  It’s as if he’s waving good-bye.  Then just as suddenly a huge thud.  An animal, a deer darted in front of us and hit the car.  I lost control in a flash.  Everything went blank.

“Frank?”  I’m coming to.  What happened?  I’m wet. It’s blood.  Frank?  Where is Frank?  Good heavens, I see him. He’s laying close to me but not moving.  I’m in pain but somehow I crawl toward him.  I touch him.
“Frank?  Frank?”

“Helen,” he barely mumbles.  “I love you kitten . . . with all my heart,” he said in the quietest whisper.

“I love you too Frank with all my heart.”  Things are fading.  I’m holding my Frank, and I feel both of us going. What a night though.  I can hear Billie singing my favorite song.

♪ “I'll be seeing you,
In all the old familiar places,
That this heart of mine embraces,
All day through.” ♪

My quiet thoughts of my Frank, me and Billie are shattered suddenly by someone else’s voice.  A mysterious but sweet voice.  “There.  The deed is done and Hicious is balanced. You shall not get your deal with them,” it said.  Who is he talking to? Not me. What is he talking about? Who is he?

Then I hear a second mystery voice.  This a scary menacing one.  “You don’t know the hearts of Hicioulites like I do.  One day I will get my deal!” the horrible voice screamed.  Then only silence.

“Markus!  Markus wake up!”

I opened my eyes. It was Val sitting next to me on my bed.  My mom was also there with me and dad is standing at the door.  Even Jonathan and Nathan are here.

“Glad you’re okay dweeb,” Nathan said.  “Yeah, you gave us a heck of a scare,” Jonathan chimed in.  What’s this?  Jonathan being nice to me?  

“Yeah, dork, don’t do it again,” Nathan snarled but with obvious concern in his voice. Wow.

“Okay, who are you two and what have you done with my brothers?” I asked sarcastically. 

Jonathan and Nathan left and so did dad.  My mom kissed me on my forehead and told me not to over do it as she left too and went downstairs. It was just me and Val.

I turned to her.  “You won’t believe the dream I just had Val!  It was so real… so …”

“It’s okay Markus.  I’ll see you tomorrow and you can tell me all about it.  I’m glad you’re okay.”

“Yeah, that makes two of us.  Sorry for the scare Val.”

“It’s ok buddy.  What are friends for?” she smiled and headed out. It was getting late. 

This dream was so weird. I can’t believe it. I can’t get my head around it. But wait.  Frank looked familiar. Those baby blue eyes.  Even the kisses seemed familiar. And what was Earl’s last name again, the finacé of Anna.  I forget.  Why am I wondering this?  I don’t’ know.  Anyway, I think I should take mom’s advice and get some rest.  I can think about all this tomorrow with Val.


Part Three: History Party

A wise man once said that if talk were made of silver then silence is surely gold. Whatever he was talking about he obviously never lived in my house.  I wasn’t even back in my room for ten minutes getting dressed for the new neighbor’s party when my golden silence degenerated into silver.  And fake silver at that!

“Markus!” my annoying brother Jonathan was shouting.  “Dad says get a move on!”

“Yeah, you dweeb.  Get a move on!” my other brother Jonathan chimed in with his two cents.  Now isn’t this just great?  Not only are mom and dad on my case but so are Jonathan and Nathan, my wonderful older twin brothers or Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dumb as I prefer to call them.  I’ll just answer something back and hope they’ll go away.

“Ok, whatever guys.  You two go ahead.  I’ll be right behind you,” I shouted from behind my door.

Just because they’re older they think they can boss me around.  It’s hard being the youngest, always getting picked on.  For most people it’s bad enough dealing with just one older sibling, but lucky me who has two copies to contend with.  Those two are into nothing but mischief and are more trouble than they’re worth, which would be about a buck and a quarter if I could find some sucker to buy them on the black market. Since they’re twins they look alike, but that’s where the similarities end.  Jonathan is comfortable being the brains while Nathan is the muscle.  So all in all I can say that they do make one big menace to society.

Ok, I’m dressed and ready.  Finally!  We’re heading to the Binyamin’s house.  They’re the new family that recently moved to the neighborhood.  Mom says they’re from Israel and that Mr. Binyamin took a job here.  He’s some kind of archeologist or historian or something.  Anyway, it has to do with ancient history.  So at least they might be interesting.  Nevertheless, neighborhood parties are usually – correction, always – boring, and I mean the mind-numbing kind of boring.  Oh boy, dad’s yelling for us. Ok, time to head out.  Let the fun not! begin.

“Hello there.  You must be the Baylocks. Welcome to the Binyamin house,” the man at the door said with a heavy but friendly accent.  That must be Mr. Binyamin.  He’s a big guy alright, right around the belly and with a big mustache too.  I wonder what Mrs. Binyamin looks like.

“Oh Avi, don’t hog the guests,” a lively voice from behind him said.  “Aaah welcome… welcome to our home… I’m Erma Binyamin.  Do come in, there’s lots of food inside and many of the other neighbors are already here… feel free, our home is your home,” she said.

Mrs. Binyamin had dark red hair and was wearing a green sleeveless dress.  Whereas Mr. Binyamin could stop a bus, his wife was a tiny thing – short and wafer thin but with boundless energy.  But in an odd way Mr. and Mrs. Binyamin seemed a perfect fit like they were made for each other.  It was sweet. But no sooner were we in the door when Jonathan and Nathan pushed me out of the way to head inside.  They probably smelled the scent of a girl or a buffet.  Mr. Binyamin took dad inside and mom got busy chatting with Mrs. Binyamin and the rest of the lady neighbors.  Their house sure was different.  There were lots of trinkets and knick knacks all over, things you could tell that they had collected over the years.  It was like being in a museum or an art gallery or something.  There were colorful paintings on the walls, old statues, pottery, and boxes, and what even looked like an ancient scroll.  They must be things from Mr. Binyamin’s work.  While looking at the cool stuff I could hear the chatter of the rest of the party around me; the voices of different neighbors coming from different rooms of the house and the backyard.  But one voice stood out among them all. It was Val.  

“Hey Markus, glad you made it!” She said with her usual cheery voice. 

“Well it’s not like I had a choice, is it?” I said.

“Oh just chill, it’s not that bad.  And just look at all this stuff!  I wonder where the Binyamins got it all?”  Val was reading my mind, as usual.  It really was like being in a museum. 

“Yeah, they must have lived all over, or at least visited lots of places from the looks of all this stuff,” I said.  “Those paintings over there look Asian.  And those statues next to the stairs are African.  And that painting there…”  I stopped dead in my tracks.  I was frozen.  What I saw totally stripped me of my thought and speech.

“….And? … What, Markus?” Val asked while nudging me with her elbow.

I started to snap out of it.  “Val, look at that painting on the wall over there where the twin knuckle heads are hitting on the Fischer girls.  That face. I’ve seen that face before.  It’s . . . Val, it’s my angel!” I started walking toward it and Val instinctively followed.

“GET OUT!” Val said from behind.  We both stopped side-by-side right in front of the painting, staring.  “Oh my god,” Val said in a low voice, “Look at the boy sitting in front of the angel.  It’s you!  Markus, it looks just like you,” she said in a frantic whisper.  We both just stood there as in a trance. 

That was my angel and me in the painting on the Binyamin’s wall!  A weird sensation started going through my entire body from my head to my feet. The painting was old, very old, and yet that was definitely my face in it.  In the painting I was sitting on a patch of grass holding my angel’s hands.  The sky was covered in dark clouds and in one corner there was a hooded figure in black.  It seemed like a man. His face was hidden in the shadow of the hood, but two eyes pierced through from underneath.  They were dark and bright at the same time and with a menacing look to them.  In the painting’s other corner was another hooded figure, this one in white.  It was a woman.  Her face too was hidden in a shadow, but it was a shadow of light not dark.  Like the other figure, her eyes pierced though the bright shadow.  They were light pink, gentle and graceful.  At the center of the picture, behind the images of me and my angel, was an ancient stone temple that dominated the surrounding forest in the background. 

“Oh. I’m assuming that you’re Markus and you’re Valery,” Mr. Binyamin said bringing us back to the moment as we turned toward his voice.  “Your parents were just telling me about you two and what inseparable friends you are.”  He noticed what we were looking at.  “Ah, I see you’re admiring the Shimbala painting,” he said.

Shimbala?  What’s a Shimbala? What is this painting and where did it come from?  Who is that angel in it?  I realized at that moment that only Val and I saw the similarity between me and the painting.  Mr. Binyamin didn’t notice anything.   

“Mr. Binyamin,” I asked, “Where is this paining from?  And what’s a Shimbala?”

“Well Markus and Valery, I purchased that in Jerusalem when I was just starting out teaching history and mythology.   It was my first find really.  You see at the time I’d been studying ancient Somara mythology when I stumbled upon this in a small antique shop in the old Arab Quarter.  It’s a depiction of an ancient Somara legend called ‘Shimbala’”

“What’s this legend about?” Val asked, again reading my mind. 

Mr. Binyamin broke into a wide smile and put down his glass.  He came a step closer to us.  “It’s a beautiful story, stoked in mystery and rooted in the ancient religious beliefs of the Somara people and civilization.  You see, they believed that the world and, indeed, life itself was divided into three realms: Gaia, Hilious and Hicious.”   “Gaia,” he said gesturing upward, “translates into heaven.” “Hilious,” motioning downward, “is Hell.”  “And Hicious,” spreading his big hands to either side, “is Earth.” 

He continued, “These realms were believed to be inhabited by different kinds of beings. In addition to the people of the Earth, or the Hicioulites as the Somara people called themselves, there were other magnificent beings from Gaia, above, and Hilious, below.  Each being had different powers and a specific role to play in the universe.  Today, we would think of these beings as angels or devils.  The legend of Shimbala is a tale of defiance centered on the absolute core of all beings – love.  True love.  It’s a simple story about a boy who falls in love with a girl.  And it is the most beautiful tale in the universe.”

“You see, a long time ago, when the world was in its infancy, Hicious, or Earth, lived in harmony with both the heaven Gaia and the hell Hilious.  In Hicious there was a kingdom of the most devoted people, the Somara. They believed, like many modern people today, that there are two balancing sides to the world – Gaia and Hilious.  In order to maintain the balance and keep the favor of the both of these realms, a sacrifice had to be made: a Somara sacrifice.  Those destined to be sacrificed were called ‘Limas’ and they were revealed from birth to fulfill this important role.  Through them the Somara retained the innocence and purity of life by keeping the universe in balance.  Limas were considered the purest of creatures. They weren’t human, but they took the form of Hicioulites.  In this regard, they could be from any class – a slave or a nobleman. 

“One day, the Somara Kingdom was blessed with a long-awaited Lima that took the form of a Somara girl.  Her name was Ariana.  At birth she was recognized as the Lima by the high priests and as prophesized by Gaia and Hilious.  She was the beautiful only daughter of a great king.  When Ariana was about 21 she came into the time of her ascension.  This meant that the Age of Light would soon be upon Somara, when the sacrifice would be made, the balance of the universe maintained, and the Lima returned to Gaia and Hilious. 

“But just then the winds of fate began to blow in Somara.  And they grew stronger and stronger.  The Somara believed the winds to be an instrument of the gods that brought dramatic change to life and fate.  At that time, Ariana’s time, the winds guided to her kingdom a young traveler named Amir.  He had been crisscrossing the land seeking knowledge and adventure.  When Amir and Ariana met, their fates were forever changed.  They first set eyes upon each other at the temple which Ariana frequented while prepare for her duty as Lima. Upon meeting, the two fell deeply in love.  It was an intense passionate love that became the center of their being. 

“But with the Age of Light approaching Ariana was destined to be sacrificed. According to the scholars, this was usually around when the Lima turned 25.  The priests of the temple were furious when they found out about Ariana and Amir.  And for good reason.  Gaia and Hilious were ruled by powerful beings called guardians.  They were promised a sacrifice and would demand it.  If they didn’t get it then Hicious would surely suffer dire consequences. 

“But the lovers couldn’t bear to part.  Desperate for help, they invoked the spirit of Shimbala.  Shimbala was the god of birth and death who transported souls to their lives on Hicious and who also guided them to their next existence after death.  When the being Shimbala appeared, Amir and Ariana pleaded for a way to keep their love alive and to stop Ariana’s eventual sacrifice.  The Shimbala listened intently to them.  He could see the love that they shared and saw fit to preserve it.  To do this, he had to hide the souls of Amir and Ariana from the guardians of Gaia and Hilious so that they would never find them.  He did this by granting the lovers eternal life through reincarnation.  They would be reborn and meet again in different lives for eternity.  This would allow their love to live on and also keep them hidden from the guardians who would pursue them relentlessly over the eons.  And so ever since, according to the legend, Ariana and Amir find each other again in new lives.  And this, Valery and Markus, is the legend of Shimbala.  Except for one additional bit – the foretelling of a prophecy.   But we’ll leave that for another time.  Now, who wants a kosher hotdog? ”

Mr. Benyamin’s  story was amazing and struck something in me. It filled me with awe but also made me uneasy. I think Val felt it too.  She put her hand on my shoulder to comfort me, but inside my head it was chaos.  I wanted these bad feelings to go away. That’s when my angel’s face came into my mind.  I can see the beautiful face so clearly, with all its majesty. It immediately made me feel good.  I also want to call out my angel’s name. In my thoughts I slowly started saying, “Ari-a . . .”  But something is wrong, I can sense it.  My angel is crying.  I can feel the pain emanating from her.  A strange feeling is coming over me. My angel’s face is disappearing from my thoughts and in its place are two black menacing eyes.  Then a song starts to fill me ears, “♫ I’ll be seeing you… ♪ In all the old familiar places . . . ♫”  Suddenly, I feel weak and out of breathe. The room is getting darker. I can’t breath.

“Valery!!” I managed to say before things go blank.

“Markus?  Markus. Are you ok?”  Val said with panic her voice.  “Help!” she yelled out.  “Markus just fainted!”