Bane of DeathA woman whose presence prevents Death from taking a person. She also can pass on the ability to see Death to others if she touches another while in the presence of Death.
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About the Story
"She's here!" Alex announced excitedly to the older man sitting hunched over an equally old desk.
Reverend Golms looked up from the letter he was penning to the young man at his office door. "What was that?"
Alex was practically jumping up and down. He waved his arm fiercely with his first finger extended and pointing towards the floor. "Here! Here!" he repeated quickly, trying to get Reverend Golms to understand. "She's HERE!"
Golms laid his quill down. "By she, I assume you mean the Light?" he asked patiently.
"Yes sir!" Alex's face brightened again at Golms' understanding.
Golms set aside his letter to let the ink dry on what had been written so far. He opened the desk's only drawer and carefully pulled out a package wrapped in brown paper sealed with packing tape. He had sent for it the day the Light had proven she knew what she could do. It had arrived from the master church two days ago. Golms had not yet opened it, he knew what was in it and its contents were not for him. It was only proper that the Light be the first to receive it.
"Come on, come on," Alex said, as if he could somehow infuse the Reverend with his enthusiasm and get the man to hurry if only he tried hard enough.
Golms' smiled at Alex. "You should not rush things of this importance."
"How can you be so calm!" Alex nearly yelled, using both his arms to express the frustration his anticipation was causing him.
"Truely," Golms replied in the same pleasant educating voice as before, "she is not going anywhere."
Alex's face fell. "Yeah, but...." He looked out the door, back to the Reverend, out the door, and back again.
Golms chuckled to himself. The impatience in Alex mirrored the same Golms' himself had felt the first time he had met the Light. The last Light that was. He had been about the same age as Alex was now. He understood the restlessness of youth, even if it occasionally grated on him these days. He found comfort in knowing that it would be tempered by time, as his own had been. But until then he was up against youth, and to youth Now was more important than time.
Golms stood. He had made the poor boy wait long enough. "Let's go meet her," he said as he walked around his desk.
Alex grinned from ear to ear. "She's in the sanctuary."
In the sanctuary Alicia was looking around. The most noticeable difference was all the carpeting. Every surface that was a floor or a stair was carpeted, thankfully, as without her shoes her feet would have gotten cold on hard wood floor. Otherwise the place both looked like her church's, and did not at the same time. It was as if the church's set up had been rearranged. There was a typical alter, with a white cloth over it and several candles on it in matching intricately designed candlesticks, but it was in the center of the sanctuary and not on the dais. There was also a symbol embroidered in white on the alter cloth. A set of concentric circles that became so small it was uncertain if a circle or a point was at the center.
In the longer direction of the rectangular room there was a pulpit to one side of the alter, and a podium on the other. They were spaced half way between the alter and the respective walls. Though the podium was made of marble instead of wood like everything else in the room. At what would have been considered the front of the sanctuary, were the dais was, were choir lofts and an organ. The few windows the place had where made of stained glass, though the scenes were not of anything readily recognizable to Alicia. Most of them seemed to be just a myriad of colors and shapes, with an occasionally recognizable tree or cloud or halo of light. The pews where standard; made of wood that matched the room's walls, hymnals resting in holders built into the back, no divisions to separate families nor fancy boxes for the better off. But they were placed all around the sanctuary facing the alter in the center. On the walls without windows were electric candelabra, and small shelves currently occupied by flowers. Various flowers, potted and cut, were arranged around the pews as well. Eventually Alicia realized the most significance difference between this church and her own was the lack of a cross at the front of the sanctuary, or anywhere in it for that matter.
When she looked up, she found ornate chandeliers of electric candles hanging all around the place above the pews. But where the pews ended so did the chandeliers. In the center of the room the wood ceiling was painted white, and directly above the alter was a skylight. When the sun shone down through the skylight there was a stark contrast between the center of the sanctuary and the rest of it, which seemed shrouded in shadows.
Alicia tried to picture what the place would feel like at night, when the electric candles would be on. Or even how it might be when the moon shone through the skylight! She imagined it would be beautiful. The thought of that made her smile slightly, and she started to feel somewhat at ease. Even after her thoughts returned to how she had been brought here.
She turned to look back at the sanctuary's main entrance, large wooden double doors. Her two "escorts" were still there on bended knee, but they weren't so reverent that they wouldn't jump up at her approach.
The woman held up her hand with her palm facing Alicia and her arm fully extend. "What can I do for you?" the woman offered.
Alicia took the gestured to mean she should stop coming closer. "I can't leave, can I," she asked more as a statement seeking confirmation.
"Please do not leave," the woman implored Alicia. "You have not met the Reverend yet. He will answer your questions. I promise."
From the tone of the woman's voice, Alicia wondered if she would be allowed to leave if she forced the issue. But she was not sure enough yet to test.
Alicia continued to meander around the sanctuary. This time she stopped at the first potted plant, noting they were lilies, her favorite flower. These happened to be Tiger lilies, easily recognizable by the red-orange pedals with black markings. She bent over to inhale their fragrance, smiling at the scent even though it wasn't that of Stargazer lilies, then moved on. As she passed the next set of flowers, she noticed they were lilies as well. Simple orange in color. She stopped walked, and looked around the room again, this time specifically at the flowers. She saw yellow lilies, the soft pink color marking Asiatic lilies, the beautiful red fading into white coloration spotted with darker red that signified Stargazer lilies, more orange lilies, and more Tiger lilies. Every flower in the place was a lily of one variety or another. And the ones on and surrounding the alter were pure white Oriental lilies.
For a moment Alicia stood in awe. When she regained herself she headed directly for the alter. The sweet smell of the white Orientals greeted her. She paused a moment to appreciate them, then scanned the sanctuary for the nearest Stargazer lilies. She quickly headed for them, and smiled happily.
"I'm glad you like them," a new voice said from behind her.
Alicia turned to see two men entering the sanctuary, one getting up there in years, one noticeably young. The younger one Alicia recognized as the driver of the car that had brought her here, he was carrying a package of some kind. The older one was wearing some sort of robes that Alicia could only assume where religious in nature.
They walked over to Alicia, the younger falling a couple steps behind. The older started to extended his right hand to her, but on seeing her cast quickly switched and held out his left as an offer to shake. "I am Reverend John Golms," he introduced himself.
The other three people in the room looked very surprised at Golms' action. Alex stifled himself from protesting, but his face indicated quite clearly Golms' had done something wrong.
"Alicia Monroe," she said, accepting his offer of shaking hands with him, glad someone was finally treating her like a person. As they let go she looked around. "Please tell me you can tell me what's going on here?"
Golms nodded. "I apologize if any of this has been unsettling." He moved to the stand next to a pew and motioned for her to join him. "You have to forgive us all. We have been trained to act in specific ways to you." He sat and looked to Alex. "It is hard for some to know when it is better to not stand on ceremony."
Alicia sat next to him. But couldn't think of anything to say just yet.
Golms turned a smile to her. "This is one of those times, for you do not yet understand."
"No, I don't," Alicia agreed. "I've had too many surprises in my life as of late. Please just tell me."
"Of course," Golms' nodded. "You have been brought here because you are the Light. The one we wait for, and when you arrive, the one we worship."
Some part of Alicia wanted to jump to her feet and get away. But she forced herself to sit and look Golm's in the face. She was tired of all the big news that kept changing her life, and wanted answers. "The Light?" she prompted.
"Yes. The one who always wins the fight against death," Golms' explained.
Alicia nodded slowly. "So you know."
"Oh yes," he answered. "More than you, I'm sure." He motioned to Alex for to package. "This is for you."
Alex came only close enough to hand the package over to Alicia. As he held it out to her he held up his opposite hand palm facing her with his arm fully extended.
Alicia accepted the package from him with a dubious look on her face.
"Something wrong?" Golms' asked.
"Why do they hold up their hand like that at me?" she asked.
"Ah. It is only proper when addressing or presenting something to the Light," Golm's explained. "It is a sign of our respect of your abilities as well as a reminder that we are not to touch you without permission, lest we see what we should not."
"You mean D?" Alicia replied. Then she nodded. "Yeah, apparently D doesn't like others being able to talk to her," she said thinking back to the encounter between D and Martin at the hospital.
Alicia looked down at the package in her hand. There was a UPS tracking label on it. Curious, she peeled off the tape and opened the paper. A simple, unmarked, but quite sturdy wood box was inside. She found the top lifted easily off the box, and so opened it, setting the top on the pew next to her. Inside the box was a small leather bound book that looked almost like a journal. On its front was imprinted a symbol that matched the one on the alter cloth.
"That is for you," Golm's told her. "In the front is some information on your abilities. The rest is blank, for you to fill in as you desire."
Alicia lifted the book out of the box and opened it. The pages that were written on were done so in elegant calligraphy, and apparently by hand. Someone had spent a lot of effort preparing it for her. Suddenly realization sunk in.
Alicia snapped her attention to Golms', trying to hide her concern. "Is this," she waved her hand around to indicate the sanctuary, "a religion?"
"Based on me?" Alicia asked, her face starting to betray the panic that was growing inside her.
"It is based on the Light. Who currently is you, yes," Golm's answered.
Now Alicia did stand up and step away from him. She shook her head slightly for several moments while trying to figure out what to say. "You can't expect me to-"
Golm's stood to face her. "We expect nothing from you. Except that you do what you were created for." He indicated the door. "You are quite free to leave."
Alicia looked towards the door, but instead of rushing to it she first looked back at Golms. "This is too much," she told him.
"Alex will drive you wherever you wish to go," Golms said, not giving any indication to what she had said. "You know where we are if you wish to know more or if you need somewhere to clear your mind." He paused. "Or if you need somewhere to stay."
Alicia frowned at him. "Why would I need somewhere to stay?"
"Your friend Martin will not be the first to figure things out," Golms answered. "It is only a matter of time. And there is no telling what the reaction will be in this day and age."
"How do you know about Martin?" Alicia demanded to know.
"We sent him the letter," Golms replied simply.
Alicia fell silent, contemplating all Golms had told her. "Okay," she said at last. "I'm going to be okay with all of this, for now." She looked at the journal still in her hand. "There are things I want to know." She looked up a Golms. "But I'm not comfortable being center of a religion."
"You will be," Golms assured her. "There is plenty of time. You'll get used to it."
"You will have to tell me exactly what I will be getting used to," Alicia informed him. "But right now I need to let people know that I'm okay."
"Of course," Golms replied with understanding. "We will be here when you get back."
"Right," Alicia said, and shook herself slightly as if shaking off an unwanted feeling. She looked around. "How do I get out of here?"
Alex held his palm up to her again. "This way," he said, sweeping his other hand around to indicate he would lead her out.
Alicia looked back at Golms. "That," she said pointing at Alex's upheld palm, "is going to get annoying."
Golms just smiled at her. Alicia shook her head, then turned back to Alex and sighed. She walked past him towards the double doors. The woman opened one for her. "Thank you," Alicia said politely as she walked through.
Alex walked behind her. On the other side of the doors he held up his palm again and pointed down a hall. "This way." He led her out of the church and to the car she had been brought in. Then he turned to her again, and held up his palm. "Where would you like to go?"
Alicia rolled her eyes at the gesture. For a minute she considered calling a cab. But decided not to spend the money since it seemed she didn't have to. "Home," she finally answered him.
"No," Alicia said as a thought occurred to her that made her change her mind. "Back to the hospital. In case Martin's still waiting for me." She looked down. "I hope he's not too worried."
Back at the hospital Martin was getting worried. Alicia was supposed to have met him after her conversation with D. Allowing time for it to have gone into deep topics, he still didn't expect what was supposed to have been a few minute discussion to run longer than, what, half an hour? Maybe an hour? After he had been waiting much more than an hour, he decided to go get Alicia. It was getting late and he needed to be getting home.
He wasn't up in the intensive care ward for more than a couple minutes when one of the staff intercepted him. "Sorry sir, you can't be here," Martin was told.
"I'm just looking for a friend of mine," Martin replied apologetically. "Alicia? Do you know her?"
"No sir," the faculty member answered. She held up her arm and began corralling him down the hall. "Now if you could-"
"Have you seen any woman walking around up here?" Martin pushed. "She's a volunteer. I'm supposed to pick her up."
"I'm sorry sir, I haven't seen anyone who's not supposed to be here but you," the woman replied. "If you would please leave...." She let her statement trail off, but Martin knew that the threat of having security called was implied.
"Alight," he agreed. "I'm going."
She watched him as he walked away, to make sure he was leaving.
Martin looked around as he headed out. For a moment he mused on whether or not he'd like to be able to see and talk to D like Alicia could. Then, at least, he would be able to ask what had happened, where she'd gone. But then he'd also have to deal with being able to see and hear D all the time, and that he really had no desire to contend with. He didn't envy Alicia that ability. To Martin, D was passive only when he wanted to be, aggressive by nature, and basically downright scary. It seemed to Martin that Alicia perceived D differently. Martin wondered if D treated Alicia differently because she was different. D had called Alicia his curse, but yet he had acted protective of her. It was a confusing situation in and of itself, and then throwing on top of it that D had some sort of a personality, well things became as complex as real life situations.
Martin next checked in Alicia's department. The staff on duty there told him they had not seen Alicia either, and where sure she hadn't been around in the last hour or two. Martin sighed. Where then could she be?
He headed back down to the hospital's entrance, in case he had some how passed her and she was now down there waiting for him. She wasn't. Martin didn't know what to do next. He couldn't keep waiting all night, and it was starting to get late. If only he had a way to contact her, to make sure she was safe. It was really odd that he couldn't find her, that it had been so long. He was becoming very worried by this point. He looked up at the ceiling, and randomly wondered if there was any way he could have her paged. Having no other ideas to work with, he headed over to the information desk to ask.
Just then Alicia walked in, from outside the hospital. She looked annoyed and somewhat frazzled. Relief swept through Martin. But annoyance of his own was right on it's heels. Why had she been outside? Why didn't she tell him that's where she was going after she had talked to D? What had taken her so long?
"What happened?" he asked to cover all his concerns and questions at once.
Alicia motioned him away from the information desk. They fell into step next to each other as Alicia headed back outside.
"I'm sorry," she said first once they were out of everyone's earshot. Then she frowned. "It's high time I had a cell phone. I'm buying one tomorrow," she commented.
Martin turned a partially confused and partially worried face her way. "A cell phone? Alicia, what happened?" His tone was concerned now where it had been strained before.
"I was kidnaped," she told him. Before he could voice anything to match the shocked expression on his face she shook her head and added, "Everything's okay, for now. Apparently there's a religion based around this whole thing." She gestured off into the distance. "Around me, that is." She sighed heavily. "I'm tired. Can we go home?"
Martin nodded. "But you'll fill me in on this later, right?" he asked in a manner that indicated he expected it whether or not she agreed.