I'm am bless this season by having my wife home, safe and sound. Last Christmas she was in the hospital. We enjoyed ourselves this year in our on home surrounded by family, friends and pets. Gifts were piled high under the tree, food was abundant and laughter supplied by the grand kids was joined by the adults alike.
I have to work Christmas Day so we had our presents and gathering X-Mas eve. It was great having Alice home, I am so blessed!
Merry Christmas and Happy Yule to all!
FROM THE BEGINNING
The slap was loud and unwarranted as the sting from the woman’s hand immediately began to show its welting print on the young boy’s cheek. The boy was no more than six years old. He tried to rub his right ear, but the woman continued to violently shake him by the shoulders while screaming at him. She was angry about having been prematurely awakened. The frightened child did his best not to cry out because he knew that always angered her even more.
Just as she raised her hand for a second blow, another boy jumped in between them both. The nine year old shoved the younger to the ground making him skid to a fall a few steps away. The older boy shouted, “Leave him alone! Run little brother, I’ll hold her off.” With that the thin blond-haired boy on the ground scrambled to get away, but not before catching a glimpse of her beating his rescuer. The tall dark haired hero then fell to the floor and curled up as the angry woman began furiously kicking him in the back and ribs, shouting, “So you think you can handle this instead - alright!”
Crouched behind his nearby bed the younger boy could only watch in silent horror as the beating continued until the woman grew tired, then quitting on her own accord.
Jacob woke up wide eyed and breathing heavily from his dream. Its realism was disturbing as he sat up on the side of his bed rubbing his ear, and the sleep from his eyes. His sleeping wife rolled over and continued to lay undisturbed. Jacob seemed to have suppressed so much in his life; amazed by how a single nightmare could have resurrected a host of unremembered emotions - long thought forgotten. But, the haunting vision of those two boys -- his mind strained to put their faces back into focus. He almost knew their names, but the attempt to recall them was futile.
The phone rang.
“Hello? Morn’, James. Yeah, go ahead and order three black and four baby blue ones, they seem to sell a lot. Alright, yeah, I’ll see you at regular time tomorrow. Bye.” Then, just like that with the phone returned to its cradle it was gone again; his dream and any concept of its recollection.
Jacob had always thought that it was his fate in life not to have a family history, because he had been in and out of orphanages and foster homes for most of his life. He had no memory of his mother, and only the vaguest flashes of a brother and father watching Star Trek in a dimly-lit living room. Yet those nearly forgotten happy thoughts were overshadowed by layers of darker experiences.
The first foster dad that Jacob ever remembered was an alcoholic bum who lay about the house in boxers barking out orders to him and his three other abused foster-siblings. By his second family, Jacob had decided to be a loner among four foster sisters who showed him no interest whatsoever.
Creepiest of all was his third foster home, which had luckily only been a three week stay with an elderly couple. They smoked constantly, had a million cats, smelled of Ben Gay, and saw his teenage years as a sign of their own coming deaths. Their mantra was, “I remember when we used to do such and such, we’ll be long dead and buried before you’ll even recall our names.” Ironically, years later he never could remember the pronunciation of their Austrian names.
Three days after Jacob’s sixteenth birthday, he was finally adopted into his fairy tale family. Even though his new parents, Patricia and Charles Douglas, belonged to an ultra conservative “thou shalt not” religious group, they at least loved him. They were caring and accepted him with all his flaws, such as still being afraid of the dark, a bit reclusive, and a chronic nail bitter. They had two other sons who accepted Jacob into their family as if he had been raised among them the entire time; Marcus and Mich. In appearance they could have been twins, but were as different as night and day. One was a rock-n-roller and the other a sci-fi nerd; Jacob himself fell somewhere in between the two.
It was during the time he lived with the Douglas family that Jacob began dating a red-headed girl named Arlene Stapleton. She didn’t have a father, but lived with her mother and grandmother across town. After meeting her, Jacob would peddle his ten-speed bike over to her home and spend his every waking moment visiting with her; whenever he could steal away the chance.
One day, before his senior prom, after Jacob return home from one of his best visits with Arlene, everything changed. The entire evening had been marred by one of the worst thunderstorms he would ever remember. Leaning his bike against the wall of the leaking car port, Jacob arrived home soaking wet. Standing just outside the back door fumbling with his house keys, he could hear the seventh ring of the kitchen phone. Entering as fast as he could hoping to catch the ringing before it stopped he nearly slipped.
Jacob almost yelled into the receiver, “Hello?” The A/C had been left on, yet the conversation turned his spine colder than his dripping clothes.
“Hello, Jacob?” Came the familiar voice in an awkward tone.
“This is pastor Conner. I’ve got some bad news for you son.”
“I’m so, sorry to be the one to inform you, and like this over the phone; we‘ve been trying to reach you all afternoon. Jacob, everyone in your family was involved in a really bad car accident. They - they didn’t make it.”
“They’re all dead Jacob. We’re here at the…”
Just like that he was all alone again. Hollow and numb did not begin to describe the emptiness that had swallowed him whole. His entire family had been killed by a drunk driver and now he was alone.
Nothing was the same after that.
He didn’t graduate, moved into a friend’s house, and gave up on God, the church, and the whole world. Had it not been for the love and support of Arlene’s friendship, Jacob would have ended it all that day.
Yet, through it all, Arlene was there for him. The funerals, studying for his GED and job searches. She became a constant presence for him, and continually reassured Jacob that he would find his own place in life; and God willing one day even the family of his good memories. Jacob had found his lifeline in her, for Arlene had become his only solace and a reason for getting up in the morning. A few months later they were married in the very park where they first met, on his way to school.
Jacob tried hard to get on with his life, which meant everything revolved around making Arlene happy. He found work in a local tuxedo rental shop measuring and doing inventory, for the very peers he should have graduated with. After a few months of putting in long hours, he made his way into upper management; just to scratch out a meager living for them both. They rented a one bedroom apartment on the not-so-good part of town, drove a ten year old Ford Mustang, with its rusted floor-board; saw cheap movies when they could, and ate rice and beans - a lot. Though money was tight, at least they had each other and that was all that really seemed to matter.
On their first wedding anniversary, when she was twenty and he was nineteen, the nightmares began. They seemed like memories at first, but fastly progressed into something far stranger. Jacob’s disturbing dreams had begun to keep Arlene awake, leaving her exhausted and feeling inept to help her husband cope with them. The following six nights, Jacob found himself waking up screaming in a sweat-drenched bed. On the seventh night, as he lay embracing his wife, Jacob once again drifted off into what had become a familiar terror-filled landscape.
Drifting away from his reassuringly soft pillow, Jacob found himself fighting the fatigue of the day. Dressed in a powder-blue tuxedo, he saw himself floating against the backdrop of a yellowish parchment-colored sky. Just as a wisp of purplish, creamy black clouds began to populate the scene, Jacob felt himself slowing down to a soft landing. He was standing on a huge moss covered stone, that barely broke the surface of a calm ocean by three feet.
The air was heavy with the taste of salt and the stench of rotting fish. As his eyes searched the horizon, the skies turned a royal sapphire, eerily giving everything a hazed-bluish tint. Then, out of that clouding-blue sky, a beautiful woman appeared. She was dark skinned, in her mid-thirties, with waist-length bright red hair. The woman wore a layering of wrap-around cloth, like that of a sari from India. Though her head was covered, Jacob could still see her unveiled face, and the detail of a small mole on her neck, just beneath her chin.
After she landed on the rock where he stood, they both faced one another and she began telling him about things that made no sense. She spoke passionately of a twisted-tree on a distant hill, pointed out a flock of white cranes flying overhead, and observed the brewing of a massive storm cloud in the east.
Suddenly the heavens boiled with rolling thunder and brilliant displays of lightning as that very storm approached. The bolts scampered on the water’s surface all around them as Jacob crossed his arms and seemed indifferent to their threats. He felt detached, like an unconcerned observer only. Yet, the woman flew into a state of sheer panic as the violent winds shoved her over the edge of the great rock. She struggled to regain her footing on top as Jacob simply watched her slide deeper into the crashing waves that lapped over the massive stone. Like a movie whose outcome was predetermined; he did nothing. It was her fate to die.
Moments later all he saw of the woman was a fear-stricken face, haloed in a fan of bright red hair, mingled with a curtain of silent bubbles. She slowly sank beneath the surface of the calming waters, leaving Jacob once again standing all alone. The stench of dead fish filled the air as a strange feeling began to gnaw into Jacob’s waking thoughts; that something very serendipitous was yet to come. Then he looked out onto the horizon and saw an enormous square ship with no sails.
Suddenly, Arlene woke up to thrashing arms and the sound of a horrible scream. Sitting up with a start, blocking her husband's flying arm, she yelled his name several times. As his eyes popped open Arlene asked, "Wet dreams would be one thing, Jacob, but this waking up screaming is too much! It's been going on a week now. Enough's enough! What's wrong?"
Jacob slowly lay back down into his damp pillow. It was then he realized that he had never seen Arlene look so distressed before, she was always the consummate image of patience, and this outburst worried him.
The distant gaze of his glazed eyes told Arlene that her husband was trying hard to recall his quickly-fading dream.
"There was -- this girl. She -”
"Okay." Arlene’s blue eyes were focused on her husband's face as she nodded, waiting for him to continue.
"She -- she was drowning. There was a huge rock jutting up out of the waves, like a raised platform, and I just stood there watching her go under. She was screaming for help. Pleading for me to do something, anything, and I - I just stood there watching and did nothing!" Arlene felt his damp, trembling arm in the cold air-conditioned darkness.
"It's ok, it was just a dream. It's over now." She told Jacob, as she rubbed his shoulder reassuringly, feeling a little upset with herself for snapping at him like she had. As he gradually sat up again, Arlene thought he had returned to the bedroom's comforting moonlit surroundings. She shot a quick glance behind his shoulder to the radio alarm clock, whose red numbers announced 3:21 A.M.
Glancing back, Arlene was startled by how her husband’s face was contorted with a mixture of emotions. Jacob’s twitching eyes were huge as if he had just witnessed the electrocution of some convicted criminal. His curled lip and trembling chin betrayed her husband’s churning desire to vomit. Reluctant to act, but sensing that something was definitely wrong, Arlene edged closer with, “Jacob, what’s the matter?”
Turning to face his now staring wife, Jacob’s voice cracked a little, in a sluggish creepy tone, "She wasn't alone, Arlene. There were others, as far as the eye could see. There were - bloated bodies floating everywhere, as if the ocean was covered in them. Even the coast was lined with pale green, bleached bodies everywhere!" Jacob's breaking voice and tearing eyes were now mirrored in that of Arlene's frozen face. “The stench was unbearable, yet it was all somehow -- deserved.” She leaned forward and drew him closer to herself as he broke down and sobbed uncontrollably in her arms.
After a few moments, Jacob was able to regain his composure. Feeling more awake, he shook off the effects of the dream-world and said, “I know it sounds silly, but it seemed so real. I mean, it was like I was right there watching it first hand.”
Then, as if the answer was there all along, Arlene simply asked, “Why don’t you try to help her the next time you have the dream?”
Shocked by the fact that he had not thought of it, Jacob sounded stunned, “What?”
“Yeah, why don’t you reach out and take her hand and see what happens.”
“You can do that? I mean, you can change your dreams?”
“Sometimes. Hey, it’s worth a try.” Smiling, that she had finally been able to break through, and give him something pleasant to ponder, Arlene quickly added that they get some more rest before the alarm sounded. Tomorrow would have its own set of problems, and they needed all the rest they could get.
A few hours later the alarm rang. They got out of bed and did their usual morning routine of personal hygiene and breakfast. Coffee was the order of the day for Jacob, struggling to come to life, as Arlene rummaged up pancakes and sausage. By 7:30 Jacob was out the door and headed off to work. Arlene began her day by taking their dog, a silver-haired terrier named, Franklin, for his morning walk in the nearby park, next to a beautiful over growth; it was really just an undeveloped three acres of woodlands, but it was a nice venture outdoors.
Afterwards, Arlene cleaned up the apartment and fed their small zoo; a lonely beta in a ten gallon aquarium, a parakeet named Samwise, and two ferrets: Luke and Leia. Jacob never had any pets of his own growing up and so Arlene wanted to share a little of what she had as a child. Shopping was next on her to-do list as well, that and making a few gossip phone calls to her best friend, Nita, about the goings on at church.
At The Men’s Tailor, Jacob had begun his own routine of opening the store for business by readying the cash register’s tills then redressing a mannequin in the window front. By 8:00 A.M. the doors were unlocked just as one of the salesman, James Zero, arrived. James was a little younger than Jacob. He came from a well-established family in town, but thought of himself as a hippie, even though disco was well in fashion those days. He sported a ponytail, earrings, and a spiked watch-band.
After the other staff arrived and they had their morning meeting-chats with coffee and donuts a few customers had begun to pick up their orders. A woman came in complaining that her husband-to-be had noticed his buttons were loose, and demanded a refund. James quickly gathered supplies and mended them, threw in some cufflinks as a gift and cut the price in half, sending the bride-to-be off with a smile. Admiring his style, Jacob pushed his glasses up the bridge of his nose and complimented James on his deed as he headed for a rear storeroom.
About that time a few other customers came and went with their garments. It turned out to be just another regular uneventful day. Jacob had forgotten all about his restless night and was glad things were going well. It was the height of prom season again, and the measuring and refits were in full swing with no time to think of sleepless nights. As the day wound down, Sarah, Jordan and James left for home as Jacob was eager to lock up and leave too. Just then a man came up; Jacob waved the others along letting them know he would take care of the last customer of the day.
The man was a well-dressed African-American, in his mid-thirties. Though his clothes were casual, something about them told Jacob they were out of style by a few decades. He wore a tweed golf cap half cocked on his head, and one hand in his pocket. After introducing himself as Allen Carter he asked, with a broad smile, “Evening sir, I’m here to pick up Dale Hines.”
Jacob shook his head, “Sorry, there’s no Dale here.”
Disappointed, the man glanced down the street with an odd look then answered, “Damn. Chris said to pick him up after work.” Then, half to himself, looking at his watch, he said, “We’re suppose to leave for overseas tonight, sorry mister.”
Jacob stood there watching as the man turned away and began walking down the side walk. Then about fifteen paces away the man called to Jacob saying, “Don’t let her die, mister, don’t let her die.”
Jacob asked, as the man turned away and kept walking, “Who? Don’t let who die?”
Quickly locking the shop’s front door, Jacob turned back around suddenly noticing that the man was nowhere to be seen. Biting his nails, Jacob thought it odd that he had disappeared so easily, but just assumed he had turned down a side street.
Getting in his own car, Jacob headed home across town to his wife and waiting zoo, glad to have another day over and that much closer to the weekend. Even his night went smooth, and for the first time in a long time there were no dreams to interrupt his sleep.
The next day Jacob was awakened by his alarm clock, and thrilled to have had yet another night of uninterrupted sleep. They went through their mundane activities and work with no reflections of nightmares.
Six weeks passed then, something odd happened in the middle of Jacob‘s routine at work. A man in his mid to late twenties came into the shop, to get out of the heavy downpour of rain. He began meandering about, frequently checking his watch and looking out the large rain-washed windows. His dry clothes looked out of style by a few decades; thin belt, tie and suede jacket. When asked if he needed assistance he only mentioned that he was waiting on a friend named Christopher. Later, Jacob looked up just in time to see the man, standing in between a family group and a display rack, turn back to him and smile a nodding good-bye before he went outside. Jacob could have sworn that the man walked right through the wall without even opening the door. Suddenly the next moment he was outside talking to the same man wearing the tweed golf cap that Jacob had met a few weeks earlier. They chatted for a moment as Jacob handed a receipt to a woman paying her grandson’s bill.
The older woman, noticing who Jacob was staring at, replied, “Oh, I’m so sorry, that gentleman told me to tell you to save Miriam, and -- to give her the key in order to read it?”
A cold chill ran up Jacob’s spine as the hairs at the base of his neck unexpectedly stood on end. He quickly ran to the front of the store and went outside. Looking down both directions of the side walk for the two men, Jacob froze in his tracks. They were nowhere to be seen. Just as the older woman and her grandson left the shop, Jacob asked her what the man’s name was, but she only stared at him strangely as if she remembered nothing of their previous conversation.
Jacob thought he had had enough issues in his past to handle without adding more to his life by having people think he was crazy too. Later that evening, he went home as usual and decided not to say anything to his wife about seeing the two men. Arlene was not home; and according to a note she had gone out shopping, so Jacob eased himself into his recliner and turned on the television. He needed a good distraction, and a show on PBS about the History of Rome was good enough.
The episode vanished with an electric flash. Just as Jacob felt the need to cover his ears, they were silenced by the aftermath of a thunderous roar. His blinding view softened into the surroundings of his own dimly lit, cluttered car garage. As they grew accustomed to the dark once again, Jacob’s horrified eyes widened at the sight of his brutally beaten, naked wife. Arlene lay in an unmoving bloody heap in the middle of the concrete floor. He began to run to his wife’s dead body when all of a sudden she sat up, and turned around, facing him. He saw the blade of a sword sticking out of her chest. Blood ran down both corners of her mouth, her dead eyes were solid black. Staring up at him, she said in a gurgling voice, “To know your family you must save Miriam, don’t let Miriam die. Don’t let her die, Jacob.”
Everything burned away with yet another brilliant flash of lightning and the sound of his living room windows violently rattling. Jacob suddenly realized that he had been dreaming all along when a thought came to him, “we don’t have a car garage.” His awakened thoughts whirled in his aching head as he sat up with a start. His clothes were drenched with sweat.
Sitting up in his oversized recliner was Jacob’s silver-haired Terrier looking up at him. The dog’s head was cocked to one side, questioning his master’s abrupt movement. As Jacob began to lower his foot-rest, Franklin leapt down with a bark into a pointing stance staring at the front door’s clicking knob. A moment later Jacob found himself just as excited as his pet to see his grocery-laden wife enter the apartment. He quickly moved to help place her treasures on the dining room table, and hurriedly embraced her, half picking her up off the ground.
Arlene’s startled exhale returned her husband’s eager kiss and greeting.
“Wow! So what was that for?”
“Just missing my best girl. Let’s blow this place for a movie and dinner out?”
“Are you crazy? It’s raining cats and dogs outside. I almost got washed away on the freeway coming home. Let’s just make it a cozy one in tonight instead, alright? Look, got some wine coolers.” Taking off her raincoat, Arlene put her purse strap down, over the back of the chair, and headed for the kitchen to make supper.
Pushing them aside, Jacob found himself looking out the blinds and seeing his apartment complex’s parking lot awash in a flash flood. “Man! You weren’t kidding; it’s coming down in sheets out there.” Startled by a flash of lightning, Jacob jumped back a from the window’s reflection to see Allen Carter staring back at him. Another flash shook everything and the image was gone.
Turning to see his wife hard at work putting the groceries away, Jacob announced, “Hey, dear, I need to tell you something…” Then, after he had told her everything from the dreams to seeing the two vanishing men he asked her, “Am I going crazy, Arlene?”
To which she answered with a grave hesitation in her voice, “No, Jacob. I’ve seen the same two men. Once at church, and then again at the store following me tonight. I thought I was the one going crazy -- I‘m sorry I didn’t say anything to you about it. I don’t know what it means, but I don’t see how we can both be going crazy at the same time.”
Over dinner their conversations turned to other matters that seemed more important and less fantastic. Bills that needed to be paid, the dog’s vaccinations were due, and the car’s need of new tires; they were all better topics than strange dreams and silly ghost stories. As the night wound down to its normal routine again, they headed for bed to conclude another exhausting day.
“Even then men learned from these two, magic by which …evil was the price… they sold their souls.”
All that week Jacob had had no memorable dreams. In fact, the weeks collected into a month, and before he knew it the holidays had rolled past as well. Then another year came and went. Before he knew it, eight years had flown by since Jacob had his first dream of the red-haired woman. It was strange, because it seemed he only dreamt on the night of his wedding anniversary, and then it was always a replay of the drowning woman. Jacob had tried to realize that he was sleeping, and in doing so change the course of events in his dream, but never could; only to wake up in a pale cold-frantic sweat.
Then, on a beautiful day in April, about a week after he and Arlene celebrated their eighth wedding anniversary, an even stranger event occurred that seemed to echo his previous experiences.
After another exhausting day of work Jacob came home to his wife and family of pets; by now four hamsters and two finches had been added to their little zoo. They went through their usual evening meal and television watching and finally bedtime.
Later, as Jacob was lying in bed reading the novelization of Jaws, he could hear his wife’s heavy shallow-breathing. She was on her side facing away from him as his eyes followed the curves of her half covered body. Seeing her beautiful form asleep next to him set his mind at ease, thinking how lucky he was to have such a wonderful life. Though her black-lace teddy was more than enticing, something drew Jacob’s thoughts back to his reading.
Thumbing back to where he had left off, his eyes scanned through the paragraphs searching for; his thoughts wondered. A slight distraction in his attention made Jacob look over the edge of the paperback novel to the pictures on the wall across from him. They began to smear and drip as if they were melting like candle wax. Suddenly the corner edges of the bedroom itself faded away as a tarnished, yellow sky eroded into view.
Jacob felt himself lift out from under the covers of his bed and begin to float toward the ceiling. His tie-dyed night-shirt morphed into a baby-blue tuxedo with multiple ruffles at the collar and cuffs. It was just the kind of outfit he hated most. Again the puff of clouds came, as he landed on the huge bolder in the middle of a calm sea. So too did the beautiful woman appear; dressed in an Indian Sari of various colored layers. Then, Jacob noticed for the first time, the distinctive fin of a great white shark cutting through the surface of the still waters as the skies began to boil overhead.
Reading Jaws was just the catalyst Jacob needed as he suddenly realized that he had been dreaming all along. He had been trying for a week to do so, and in fact had not even been able to recall a single dream in all that time. Yet, the sound of the howling winds brought him back into his present reality of horror, for the clouds continued to boil overhead as the fierce lightening began. The red-haired woman screamed as a violent gust threatened to blow her over. It was in that moment that Jacob reached out and grabbed her hand at the wrist.
Instead of pulling her back onto the platform rock, they both now stood in the middle of a clearing, in a green rain-forest. The midday sun shone through as shafts of hazed light filtered onto the floor of the open glen, and the quiet sound of exotic birds could be heard off in the distance. The realism of everything around him overwhelmed Jacob’s senses. He noticed that he was now dressed in a more traditional tuxedo, with no ruffles. The woman’s sari was light blue and her hair was now a soft, jet black with no veil. She appeared neither distressed nor confused by their new surroundings. Actually she seemed quite at ease with herself and totally unaware that there had even been a change of location.
She looked at Jacob as if it was the first time she had ever laid eyes on him, and suddenly dropped to her knees bowing her head saying, “My lord what would you ask of me?” Her words carried a heavy accent, Russian maybe?
Stunned by her remark, Jacob asked, “Excuse me?”
Looking up with a slight smile she asked again in a slower, softer tone,
“How may I serve you my lord?”
Again, Jacob reached out offering his hand, as she slowly accepted it, he asked, “Stand up for one, where am I?”
The woman averted her eyes from his and found herself looking at Jacob’s highly polished leather shoes instead; she asked, not quite understanding him, “My lord?”
Motioning with his open palms to their surroundings and looking about the forest, Jacob rephrased his question, “Where are we?”
Still averting her eyes away from his she answered, “The woods of Uruk, my lord.”
Getting a little annoyed with her reverence, he admonished her politely, “It’s alright, you don’t have to call me that, my name is Jacob.”
Looking him in the eyes for the first time she eagerly offered, “I am Miriam, my -- Jacob.”
His eyes widened with recognition, but he smiled back at her for using his name and for not looking so scared of him. Actively looking about at his new surroundings, Jacob slowly took a step in her direction; Miriam suddenly became startled and began to kneel again.
Jacob quickly injected, “You don’t have to bow down to me either, what place is this?” While pointing to the ground.
She smiled, and tried not sound as if his questions were silly, but answered, “Place? Eriduah, the Great Lands; the middle earth beneath the heavens. I thought you were one of the gods, for you do not appear to be one of the Fair Ones from the West.”
Wondering what her original language could be, Jacob was trying to place her accent, “Fair Ones, who are they?”
Realizing that the stranger before her was indeed out of his element, she tried to educate him a bit, “They were fair at one time but proved false in their friendship among my people, my lor -- Jacob.”
Frustrated, and trying to grasp exactly why this dream was going the way it
was, Jacob started to explain when he first met her, “We were stand -- never mind.” Then decided on another approach, “Why are you here, in the woods I mean.”
As if the volume had gradually been turned up in response to his question the soft gurgling sound of a running stream could be heard. Jacob only now noticed the banks of a river, through the tree trunks on his left. Miriam pointed in the direction of the river and said, as if it should have been obvious her visitor, “I come here every evening to fetch water for my household.”
“Ah, I see.” He conceded by blushing a little.
Then Miriam continued with a more detailed explanation, “Tonight I lingered in heavy thoughts and prayer, and then you appeared. At first I thought you were a Fair One, or the Guardian himself, but you carried no flaming sword --.”
At that point Jacob shook his head and interrupted, “I’m sorry, Miriam I
am at a loss here. What do you mean, Guardian?”
She took a deep calming breath, and began an almost memorized answer, “It is all but a legend now. I am the last of the Scroll Keepers of Eriduah. Years ago my grandmother’s grandmother, Lilith met a Guardian atop a great hill in the distant lands of the white cranes. With a flaming sword in hand he forbade any to near the Great Twisted-Tree, nor partake of its blessed fruit and spring, save his kinsman alone. My fore bearers wrote the tale of meeting that Guardian, and from that day till this have all the firstborn daughters in my linage so carried it. I am the last to protect its words. Yet, am I grieved with shame as I have no husbandman of my own nor a daughter by which to deliver those scrolls unto.” With that she looked a more than a little upset.
An older woman with no children, Jacob understood now but pressed on, “You said you were praying, for what exactly?”
At that precise moment a horrible buzzing, like a gigantic swarm of bees sounded and a tremendous earthquake rumbled everything awake. Jacob sat up with a start noticing Arlene quietly rising from off the edge of her side of the bed to silence the alarm clock. Smiling back at him she sleepily said, “Sorry. Good morning, didn‘t mean to wake you up on your day off. It‘s Saturday and I have to go in today. I’m glad you weren’t having one of those weird dreams again.”
Then, later, over breakfast and coffee, Jacob filled her in on his latest ‘weird’ dream. Arlene was at least grateful not to have been beaten awake to hear it. With the kitchen cleaned up they both started their morning routines and became lost in the responsibilities of the day.
A few hours later Jacob entered his upstairs apartment. After being unleashed, Franklin eagerly began lapping up water after their long morning walk. Jacob tossed a pile of mail, which he had retrieved from the box, onto the dining room table. As he headed to make a cup of freshly brewed coffee for himself one envelope caught his attention. Among the scattered credit card bills from Exxon, Target and their rent-reminder, was a curious letter with a Texas address on it. Having lived his entire life in Oklahoma, Jacob had no idea who in the world would be writing him from Texas. Just as he had begun reading the hand scripted letter, his wife came in through the front door.
Arlene was a Nursery worker at the Church of Christ a few blocks away. Today was their congregation’s regularly scheduled Saturday morning cleaning day, and she was in charge of over seeing things for an upcoming event. Even though Jacob did not attend religious services anywhere he did not discourage his wife’s desire to worship or be active as she saw fit. They had a mutual understanding that sooner or later one of them would eventually see the other’s light. Their love for one another was enough. “God” was another conversation altogether and best left for others to battle over.
After Arlene’s arrival home they exchanged kisses and brief news about their respective morning activities. She then poured herself a Diet Dr. Pepper and sat down in the tan recliner by the window. Setting his coffee aside he showed his wife the curious envelope, “Hey, babe listen to this.” Then unfolding the one page letter Jacob read it aloud.
Dear Jacob, April 22, 1991
I wish there was a better way of introducing myself than in a letter, but maybe we could work towards a more personal meeting later.
My name is Stewart Moran Townsend, and I believe that you are Jacob Lee Townsend, my younger brother. We were separated when we were very young boys. After years of searching through genealogical and public records I am happy to say all my efforts have paid off.
You were born on May 13, 1963 in the small town of Ballinger, Texas. Our parents were divorced when I was eight and you were five years old,
in the summer of 1969. Our mother, Lucy Sarah Price won custody of us, but soon afterwards became homeless. We were taken away from her and placed in the Buckner’s Children Home in Dallas, Texas. Our father, Robert Tracy Townsend remarried, moved to another part of the state and lost contact with Lucy.
Six months after our placement, due to an “administrative mix up” you were transfer to the Westview Boys Home in Hollis, Oklahoma, and lived in the Sweetwater cottages for three years. Four days after your transferee, dad was able to locate me and regain custody. We lost contact with you because of the sealed court records.
Just yesterday I came across the best lead yet, and only after years of researching various documents, do I now believe that I have finally been able to locate you once again. Please reply to this letter if this is in fact you, and that this information validates your understanding. I do not wish to lose you to another nine years of searching.
My deepest love,
Your brother, Stewart
Jacob’s face went blank for a moment. After he finished reading the letter to Arlene, whose eyes were now huge beneath her raised brows, Jacob sounded skeptical, “Wow, what am I suppose to make of that? It looks like someone has gone to an awful lot of trouble to see if they know me. Is this a joke or what?”
Cautiously trying to dispel her husband’s suspicion, Arlene said, “Sounded like he knows quite a bit about you already, dear. It couldn’t hurt to write him back and at least ask some questions. Maybe he is who he says he is. Remember I told you, you would find them someday? God works miracles you know.”
Unable to discount the letter in his hand, Jacob smirked off Arlene’s invocation of Deity with, “Yeah… well.”
Then, with a big smile on her face for making points in her own favor, she headed down the short hallway to the bedroom, and changed into more comfortable clothes, leaving Jacob standing there rereading the letter from Stewart, thinking, “Miracle, hum?”
The sons of god from
righteous lands they came
to take for themselves
the daughters of men
with wicked hearts proclaimed
as teachers of the truth
they were lords of lies
fallen-ones who ruled no more
the day the rains came.
Uruk Tablet No. 3-3
Transliterated by Martha Paske-Townsend
Dwalen-dane Dwarven King of Mount Ipstha
THE GREEN FOOTLOCKER
In trying to compose a reply to Stewart, Jacob unexpectedly found himself becoming hopeful, that he had in fact gotten in touch with his long lost family. A wave of questions came to him as Jacob wrote, asking if anything was known of their mother’s whereabouts, or about his father. He also asked if Stewart knew anything about the smell of moth balls, because they always seemed to induce a feeling of nostalgic melancholy in him.
Then about a week later he received a reply to his letter.
Dear Jacob; May 5, 1991
About two years ago, I read in the Abilene News Reporter, that our mother had drowned in a boating accident; I never had contact with her before her death.
As for the smell of moth balls, funny that you should remember that. Our grandmother, Mamie Newsome-Price, Lucy’s mother, use to pack up their winter clothes in a cedar chest, and layer them in moth balls. She was a sweet person who unfortunately reeked of the smell.
Our father had been struggling with health issues for several years, ranging from lung cancer, then a brain aneurism; he had to be readmitted into the hospital two weeks ago, and I am devastated to inform you that he passed away last Tuesday, from complications with pneumonia.
Being the executor of his estate, and holder of his Will, I wanted to let you know that you were mentioned, and if you had ever been located prior to his passing; you have a claim. Along with a check for $142,000, you are to receive the deed to a large three bed-room house, on the northeast side of Witcha Falls, as well as a foot locker.
The steel footlocker is somewhat of a well kept family mystery. It was discovered at the time of our grandfather’s death, in 1975; with a note attached; saying that if and when you were ever located, it was to be given to you, (if not, then to me). I remember playing in our grandparent’s attic as a child, and being told not to open it, even though it was always kept locked. It should be arriving at your home in the next few days. If possible, I would be interested in knowing what it contains.
Instead of a few days, it was three hours later, after Jacob had received Stewart’s letter in the mail; that a UPS van drove up, and after awhile of waiting for the driver to get his paperwork together, Jacob gave his signature. Along with the steel footlocker, Jacob also signed for an enveloped package, again addressed from Stewart. Inside the envelope was a small brass key, and a single-page note, with yet another envelope, addressed: To Jacob and Stewart.
The note from Stewart read:
This was the letter we found taped to the locker in 1975, and its key.
Then reopening the faded envelope, Jacob read the following letter:
To my beloved grandsons, July 12, 1974
Jacob, if you are reading this know that you were very much loved, and that your loss from our family was a grave tragedy; please contact your brother, Stewart, letting him know what you have inherited. Stewart, if you are reading this, then I know you have not yet found Jacob, please do not fail to continue searching for him.
The secret of the scrolls were too controversial for the academic community to take them seriously; yet, it was and remains my firm belief that they are, in fact what they purport to be, an authentic record from the antediluvian period.
Do not be alarmed by the dreams, by now you have both come to know who Miriam is, and have a thousand questions yet to ask. Let her answer them in her own way and time. Remember the key; also, I have kept several old correspondences, in hopes that they may yet be of some use in filling in other gaps either of you may have as well.
Christopher Moran Townsend
Jacob was beginning to feel as though he had stepped into a bad Twilight Zone episode. The unfolding of one strange event after another had his thoughts all in a whirl, but his curiosity about the trunk got the better of him as his pulled it into the apartment, from off the patio. The trunk was a green, steel footlocker with silver corner-protectors and padlocks. The one in the middle was clasped shut with a Master lock on it.
After heaving it onto the living room coffee table, Jacob turned around and placed the envelopes on his desk behind him, then turned his attention back to the trunk. Retrieving the key, which he had slipped into his pocket for safe keeping, Jacob opened the steel footlocker.
A cluttering of items met his searching eyes as the smell of moth balls became less offensive. He saw a few photo album-sized books, a bundle of letters, a castle-shaped jewelry box, a small ornately-carved wooden box, a black-leather jacket, some letterman sweaters, and finally an unusual looking hard-leather tube-like case. On top of everything was a large manila envelope, which Jacob opened first.
He removed a photograph, that had obviously been an enlargement of a smaller older picture, because in the corner it was dated June 1923. In the black and white picture were five men dressed in three piece suites and two in work clothes. Jacob’s interest peaked as his eyes grew upon seeing two faces he suddenly recognized as the same two men he had seen in his shop.
Flipping the 8x12 picture over, Jacob noticed, written on the back in a spidery handwriting, was: (L to R), Townsend, Hines, Morgan, Roberts, Carter, Stapleton and Martin. Setting out for Egypt. East Baker Street, Brownwood, Texas June 27th, 1923.
There for the first time, Jacob made a connection to a family he never knew he even had, for he saw the face of his grandfather; a youthful twenty-five year old with his friends and peers, ready to set the world on fire as explorers. His heart raced.
Next to Chris Townsend was Allen Carter, he was wearing the same outfit and tweed golf cap, half cocked on his head and giving the camera a huge smile. Next to him was the other man, Jacob had seen smiling at him in the shop, named Dale Hines. The other two men on the right were dressed in pin striped shirts and dark-baggy pants and scuffed up work boots, the one on the end, Roberts, dangled a cigar from his mouth; trying to either look older or more prestigious than he really was. Jacob smiled thinking, This is so cool, a real piece of history, my history.
Returning the photo to its envelope, Jacob picked up one of the over-sized, white sweaters with a large yellow “P” on the front. Holding it out in front of himself, Jacob smiled, then put it on. It fit a little loosely and so kept it on as he continued to go through the treasures before him. After a quick try of the jacket, Jacob took it off and laid it aside.
Taking the castle-styled jewelry box out, he began going through it. It had a lion-headed pull-ring on the lid, and two smaller velvet-lined drawers at both ends. Opening the lid, Jacob noticed a shallow velvet-lined tray where some military medals were stored; a gold Masonic pinky-ring with the Square and Compass set in an onyx stone, a sergeant’s patch, six Silver Star Medals, along with fourteen Indian-head cents. Beneath the tray were six spent shells with names scratched on them, each rubber-banded to a rank patch; beneath them were single head-shot photos with the same bulleted-names scribbled on the back of each, as well as a train pocket-watch with its chain. In the left drawer were three weapons-expert pins, in the right drawer, Jacob saw six identical Engineer Battalion crest and Unit citation pins.
He had no idea what the items were, but was duly impressed by them. Jacob carefully replaced them in their original order; then set the jewelry box aside. Picking up a bundle of twelve letters, Jacob randomly withdrew one, and briefly scanned through.
It was a letter from Jacob’s grandfather to Jacob’s dad; one part caught his attention:
“…looking back on it, Robert, had I not gone on those middle-eastern digs I might never have met your mother, because she was one the best linguists available. Martha and I spent hours and hours pouring over the ancient artifacts and scrolls we found. It was while we were trying to decipher the scrolls that we fell in love. I was the better man for having won her away from my two best friends: Jacob Morgan, and Stewart Roberts.” Jacob figured these were the two men that he and his brother were named after.
In the folds of the letter was a black and white photo. It showed two men standing next to one another, posing beside a stair-step excavated-hole, the man on the left was holding up what looked like a small clay tablet inscribed with an eye. On the back of the picture was written: August 1924, Chris and Dale with Tablet No. 1, Inscription reads: “Balthenorn”.
Jacob went through all the letters, reading them from start to finish, in order by dates, and was amazed by the exotic life his grandfather had lived. It turned out that Jacob’s father had been an attorney in criminal law.
Intrigued, wondering what else he would uncover, Jacob went looking in the footlocker again. Next, he turned his attention to the small wooden box. It was ornately-carved with vines and flowers, and stamped on the bottom as having been made in India. He removed its lid to see that it too was lined with red velvet. Wrapped in a white handkerchief was what appeared to be the same clay tablet as from the photograph he had found in one of the letters.
It looked like a fire-baked oval clay-slab 4” wide by 5” long and ¼” thick, with a mixture of sand in it. Having an interest in history, Jacob thought the writing resembled the runes he had seen from ancient Ireland. Atop the writing was a stylized Eye symbol. It looked like a circle with an hour glass in the middle, on the top line was a pointed fish hook facing to the right, and another pointed fish hook design, on the bottom, was facing to the left; like an artistic eye-lid. Taped to the back side of the tablet was a note that said: Inscription/ Khazul; reads: “Balthenorn” (Miriam’s Key).
About that time Arlene returned home from her shopping spree. Food, bags, boxes, and dresses. While Jacob assisted his wife in putting away the groceries, he told her all about his discoveries.
After Arlene finished reading the second letter from Stewart, with its mention of inheriting a house and large sum of money, she handed it back to Jacob with “Oh my God!” Then, catching her excitement, she curtailed her enthusiasm with a more practical tone, “Well, I guess we’ll have to see what’s left after the lawyers and IRS have their way. I remember all the fun we had after the reading of my great aunt Myrtle’s will. The feuding and wait lasted for years, then after all was said and done mother and everyone else got nothing.” Noticing Jacob’s shoulders drop a bit, Arlene injected, “I’m sorry, babe. I think it’s wonderful, really I do - let’s just see how it turns out.”
With that they continued putting away the groceries. After putting a bunch of bananas in a red hanging basket, Jacob leaned against the dining room table, with his legs and arms crossed; smiling as Arlene was bent over, arranging vegetables in the lower drawers of the refrigerator, “I was reading through all the old letters my grandfather left me. He was quite an impressive man: a pipe-smoking storyteller, anthropologist, archeologist, and at one time even a professor at Penn State University, back in the ‘50s.
“He even fought in Europe during World War II, both in the Infantry and as an Engineer. There was this one mission, Arlene, where he led a squad of six men to capture a German machine-gun. His entire squad was nearly mowed down. My grandfather was stabbed in the leg twice, before popping the two German gunners; he was awarded a Silver Star.
“But, from the letters I read, he never liked the idea that the Army brass gave him the Silver Stars of the other men who were in his squad. It was some kind of a secret mission or something. In one letter, my dad mentions that Christopher, my grandfather, had spent years searching for those families of the men in his platoon, so he could give them their medals. I found them still in his jewelry box, and I don’t think he ever got over their deaths.”
Arlene cut a look at Jacob, staring at her backside, smiled and said, “Yeah, like that wouldn’t be traumatizing. Sounds like pretty amazing stuff, Jay. Now aren’t you glad you wrote your brother like I suggested?”
He grinned and winked.
Looking at his new oversized sweater she interrupted him before he could continue; saying as she tugged at his sleeve, “…No, seriously, you need to take that off and let me wash it, ‘cause -- it smells.” Jacob laughed a little to himself as he took it off, and handed it to her for the laundry; he remembered Stewart’s comment about how their grandmother had reeked of moth balls.
After throwing the sweater, and a load of clothes into the washer they both went into the living room, where Arlene began visually inspecting the opened footlocker atop the coffee table. She pulled out the strange looking tube and held it up.
It resembled an Indian’s arrow case, but without the arrows, and was capped instead. It looked like it was made of some type of hide with coarse brownish-black hair in small swirls. A tight stitching ran from top to bottom, with the bottom being capped and stitched as well. A shoulder strap was still in tact. The top cap was locked with a bone-peg and strap device.
Arlene looked at Jacob and asked, “What’s this?”
Looking just as inquisitive as her he answered, “Not a clue, haven’t looked at it yet. Go ahead and open it up.” Smiling at his wife’s interest, he watched as she carefully pushed the ivory-peg through the looped strap and worked the hard cap off. From inside, Arlene cautiously withdrew a bundle of yellow parchments; they were tied with seven thin strips of sinew. The top page was inked in black with the same design as on the tablet.
Peering inside the rolled-tube of parchments, Arlene said, “Okay. It’s just a bunch of blank pages. Well, other than this eye stamped on it.” They both untied the roll, and sure enough all the pages were blank, except the outer facing sheet.
Then, grinning from ear to ear, Jacob sounded a little giddy, “This must be the scrolls my grandfather mentioned in the letters. Some of the men he served with during the war had actually been friends of his during his archeology days, back in the 1920s. His team came across some tablets, jars and these scrolls -- all marked with that design on them. It’s not Egyptian, that’s for sure.” Then reaching over to the ornate box, he withdrew the actual small stone artifact, and showed it to Arlene, “See, here’s the first tablet they discovered.”
She took, and examined its designs, “Weird, feels like sand-paper. Wonder what is says?”
Again, smiling with information, he answered, “ ‘Balthenorn.’ There was a note taped on the back, saying it was ‘Miriam’s Key‘, no telling what that means.” As he got it back from her, Jacob carefully rewrapped it and put it back in its box.
Rubbing her fingers through his hair, like a mother who was pleased that her son liked his Christmas toys; then heading for the kitchen, Arlene grinned and said, “Well, you’ve got quiet a treasure trove to go through there. I’m just happy you’ve gotten in touch with your brother. You need to share all this with him, ya know. Maybe we can visit him sometime or have them come up here.”
While replacing the delicate scrolls back into their hardened container a million thoughts raced through Jacob’s mind. Like, how he needed to buy a Texas map, “Sounds good.” He called back in reply, “Yeah, James could take over the shop for me, while we go; how’s next weekend sound?”
Arlene’s voice smiled back, from an opened pantry, “Sounds good. Guess I’ll get started on supper now, and check on that laundry.”
Jacob had already gone back to searching through the remaining contents of the steel box. Thumbing through a photo album, he saw various pictures, all with labels beneath them, written in various ink and handwriting styles. Black and Whites, and color pictures that spanned the 1920s up through the ‘70s. Jacob saw a few of himself as a child, being held by his parents, aunts and uncles, and some at play with Stewart. Something odd struck him. All of the photographs of him, his brother and their grandfather together, all had bright spots, like an oblong star burst “standing” behind them.
Putting the album away, Jacob came across two black-leather journals. One was his grandfather‘s diary, with dates that spanned from the 1920s to the ‘30s. In another, he found the same spidery-hand writing, only it was penciled in, and triple spaced. The words were printed instead of cursive, and appeared to be in a foreign language; it was organized with indentions as if it was poetry.
Before he knew it supper was ready, and they were enjoying lasagna, bread sticks and salad with red wine. Jacob was spoiled by Arlene’s good cooking, so much so that whenever they ate out, he always stated how much better her creations were. Their conversations drifted from Jacob’s discoveries to bills, and happenings with friends from Arlene’s church. She tried getting him interested in attending a class on Biblical genealogy, but Jacob didn’t care for her pastor, who would be the one sharing information on the subject.
After the meal they both cleaned up the kitchen and table as the sounds of another thunder storm could be heard beginning its downpour outside. The electricity kept flickering on and off, and nothing on the TV was worth watching, so they both decided to go to bed by candle light. The air-conditioning had gone off, leaving the apartment warm beneath the quiet ceiling fans. After a little romance in bed they both drifted off to sleep.
Just as they had began to drift off to sleep the bedroom suddenly lit up with a brilliant electric-blue flash and a tremendous rattling of windows. Jacob sat up with a start. At hearing Arlene’s loud shallow-breathing he wondered how in the world she could have slept through all the thunderous noise. In another flash of lightning, Jacob could have sworn he saw three men walking about at the foot of their bed. For a dazed second all he could do was sit there, frozen in a speechless stare. A second later, after another flash of blue they were gone. He slowly lay back down and covered up, glad to hear that the air-conditioning had kicked on again.
Through Jacob’s closed eye lids another electric-blue flash faded into the soothing light coming from a misty-grey forest. His breath became even more shallow and relaxed as he found himself walking through the forested area at night. Rounding the blackened-greenery of low lying tree limbs sweeping the ground, Jacob saw the flickering glow of a camp fire up ahead in a clearing off to his right.
Drawing closer to the fire, he saw a group of women dancing around a huge stone slab that was resting on a rough bolder. They were all naked and holding hands singing a song that Jacob could not make out the lyrics to. As those women raised their voices in ritual chant, the bon fire blazed atop the tabled slab, rhythmically changing colors from an electric flash of blue to a bright yellow then orange, and green. A more mature, older woman stood on the table next to the leaping flames chanting out another verse altogether, something about a mighty tree, a guardian of light, and the scribe of the Fair Ones. Suddenly, all the women ended at the same time, and on the same verse they fell to the ground. Then the older woman stood erect holding a dagger skyward in both hands, and began howling at the full moon as its huge bright-orb rested on the horizon.
The fire died down to reveal the figure of a bound and blindfolded teenage girl on the other side of the burning logs. She was assisted down from the table by her sisterhood, as was the senior mother. They all laughed and embraced the younger girl as she was untied and her eyesight restored.
The scene faded into a misty blur as the fully dressed figure of Miriam came into view, and walked toward Jacob. She had a melancholy smile as she quietly informed him, “This is how we were all brought into the knowledge of the scrolls, Jacob; by our eldest mother, aunts and sisters, but it was only the first born daughter who was allowed to carry them. What you witnessed was my initiation; I was sixteen years old at the time. Three days later my mother, IL’brekah passed away, and the whole world was changed.”
He smiled, thinking of the image of her younger self, and asked, “When was this?”
Miriam began to walk past Jacob answering, “I was beautiful then, glad to see you noticed, but that was twenty-seven years ago today.”
Blushing a little, Jacob said, “Happy birthday…”
She had disappeared, but her voice could still be heard interrupting his, “Yes, it was suppose to be -- until the rains came.”
In yet another blinding flash of electric-blue light, Jacob found himself standing on the ledge of a cave’s entrance. A dry heat enveloped him as he quickly realized that he was in a mountainous desert region. About fifteen feet away, in front of him was a group of three men who were hard at work. They were busy packing up huge clay jugs with straw, and hoisting them into large, wooden crates. Their clothes look like they could be out of a 1930s movie, Jacob thought to himself.
They were surrounded by camping gear, tools, and a block and tackle rig. As they continued to sweat in the heat, loading up their supplies and artifacts, they took no notice of Jacob’s presence, but all kept talking among themselves. He knew their faces. But, their voices seemed distant, and difficult for Jacob to make out.
Just then a loud voice called up from far below the cliff’s edge. Jacob’s camera like perspective panned over to see two other men below. They were outfitted in overalls, and stood beside a model-T pick-up truck. Their arms were reaching upward to receive the next crate being lowered down to them.
Shocked by what he saw next, Jacob’s astonished eyes were transfixed as he turned around again. A voice was yelling, “Move Out of the Way, Allen!” Just then, running from the cave’s mouth, Jacob saw his grandfather’s younger self coming towards him. As though he was not even there, Christopher passed right through Jacob, like thin air. He and the two other men all ran screaming, “Carter, No!” For the rope, which two of them had been holding, snapped into two frayed segments with its load falling to a crash below.
Christopher ran and fell to the ground. He slid like a baseball player, landing with his chest and outstretched arms hanging off the edge of the cliff. The rope’s frayed end burnt past his finger tips. Jacob had never seen the epitome of total fear before; he glimpsed it in his grandfather’s face that day.
Seconds later, far below, the white man on the right was scrambling through the shattered mess beside him. He frantically tried to clear away the splintered wood, penetrating pottery shards and the mass of blood soaked straw from the remains of his friend. The man had been unmistakably crushed to death. From their perch above, the men could only watch in helpless horror as the scene below was now forever seared into their collective memories; and now, Jacobs as well.
He forced himself awake. Struggling to climb out from under the damp covers, he realized the air-conditioning had gone out again, and that the rains had finally stopped. Returning from the rest room he was glad the clock had given him a few more hours of sleep. Dreamless rest soon followed.
“If I ever get this published it’ll be a miracle, because at the rate I’m narrating the translation it’ll never see the light of day…”
The Townsend Letters;
Christopher’s correspondence with Dale Hines.
December 3, 1964
[My brother] Ralph’s letter today was a welcomed sight from home with its news that Dale Hines will be arriving soon from the States… I am among the several groups working under Sir Leonard Woolley. We are now on an expedition, jointly with the British Museum, excavating the sites believed to be Ur and Sippar. Thus far we have managed to only move dirt from one location to another! I do feel that our task will not prove to be in vain.
Dr. Woolley mentioned various times that this specific area had under gone a major earthquake, and a massive flooding; as evidence of the rock layers of strata shifting...
Christopher Townsend’s personal Journal
June 28, 1922
THE DREAMER’S TALE
The next morning, over breakfast, Jacob shared his bizarre dreams of the night before with Arlene. She gave him a resigning look over her coffee cup, “Babe, this is becoming -- somehow -- way, too normal. I wish we knew what they all meant.”
Just as seriously, Jacob answered, after a sip of his own, “Yesterday, you mentioned visiting my brother sometime. How about this weekend, instead of next?”
Accepting the great idea with raised brows she perked up, “Sounds fine to me, I just need to get a few things packed up for the trip, and see if Jillian can watch Franklin for us.” The dog wagged his tail at the mentioned of his friend’s owner’s name. Jillian had a Britney Spaniel named Spencer, and had taken Franklin on several walks with them before.
Smiling at both their reactions, Jacob complimented the idea himself, “She’s been a great neighbor, I don’t think she’ll mind.” Then added an earlier unspoken thought, “I don’t know why, Arlene, but I just have this strange feeling that Stewart has more answers than what he’s letting on about.”
Sounding a little confused, his wife asked, “What do you mean? You -- you think he knows something about your dreams, Jacob?” Then sighed a disbelieving breath cooling her Irish Cream.
With a big grin, he admitted, “That’s exactly what I think. There was that odd comment in my grandfather’s letter about Miriam, which he had written years before I even came across all those letters.”
“That’s right, weird uh? It’d be nice if there were some answers, Stewart could pass on.”
The week passed quickly. That Friday night as they slept, Jacob drifted off to sleep thinking it was be peaceful and uneventful. He was wrong on both accounts. The AC had gone out Wednesday afternoon, and by that Friday they were still without it.
Mid October and it was still hot. The ceiling and box fans were only circulating the warmth about, leaving Arlene more miserable than Jacob; yet, they both found themselves restlessly falling asleep somehow.
From out of the warm, unknown darkness his hazed vision grew as a lingering smoke rolled in across the land. The sight of a strange battle lay before him, and became a vivid scene. It looked like the carnage the day after a major combat on some ancient battlefield, or maybe the lull before its second wave was to attack. The grass was blotched with pools of blood that glistened beneath the smoldering haze. A putrid stench inescapably filled the air with the aroma of death. The realism of it all was beyond belief, no matter where Jacob looked, he was there in real time.
Whether it was near dusk or early dawn, he couldn’t tell from the blackened burnt-orange sky. Silhouetted heads mounted on pikes jabbed at the red glowing horizon, with their expressions glaring in silent screams. Beneath each pole were the mangled remains of the unfortunate victim. They had apparently lost their fight against a formidable enemy. The entire field was littered with mutilated and charred body parts of the half dead who beggingly reached skyward, for a mercy that never came. Their fateful demise had been cruelly sealed.
Jacob felt like vomiting as he could almost discern distant moans gaining in volume from behind him. Suddenly the ground underfoot had begun to vibrate with the approach of the advancing onslaught. As his panoramic view turned to the left, he saw the defending armies screaming and gathering strength as armored knights rode out onto the field. The army's eagerness to engage was in stark contrast to what had obviously been an earlier defeat, just days before.
Someone was beginning to shout a speech of encouragement, just as another group entered the fight. They bore down, against what appeared to be a barbaric horde of monstrous club welding beast. Without warning, out of the corner of his eye a shiny, black armored figure came rushing toward Jacob. The warrior’s green eyes were wild with rage, as both hands griped a huge bastard sword, raised for its killing assault. Jacob's heart pounded in his chest, as if it were about to burst. A voice called out to the running knight, "Barad, slay that creature!" When the sword came down a pain shot through Jacob’s entire body and everything went black.
Out of the blackening silence, Jacob made his way through the low lying tree limbs, trying not to get hit in the face again. Up ahead he saw a twisted mangled-forest. It was smothered in the smoky-haze of a moonless night, with only a lone cricket‘s annoyance sounding nearby.
All too human eyes stared back from their embedment within a tree’s rough trunk. Jacob’s sleeping mind whirled with a horribly throbbing head ache. As his dreaming eyes tried to focus in on the tree before him, he saw a contorted grayish-face beginning to stare back at him.
From out of a mouth that had not yet formed came a wicked, hoarse laughter. Its ensuing roared louder as though it hid knowledge of some cruel joke about to be played out. The laughing grew into a growling yell of rage as its tooth decayed mouth blared open. The tree faded away while the face slowly began to be flushed with color and a long, unkept beard grew, and its face morphed with aged features.
From out of the flickering shadows a torch’s light drawing closer, revealing that Jacob was now standing at the end of a long stone-corridor. With the increasing light about the wrinkled face, he saw a bearded man’s crouched figure; sitting in the corner of a cold, sandstone-tiled prison cell.
Through rusty bars Jacob could see the small figure, dressed in tattered worn-rags, looking up at him in utter shock. At first, Jacob could not tell if the crazed prisoner had seen him or had looked through him. Then -- jumping to his feet, the ragged man leapt toward Jacob in an almost vicious attack. He was there in a single motion at the wall of bars, which stood between him and Jacob; grabbing the rusty cage with his face struggling to press through. He shouted, “Why are you here?” Both of his bleeding ankles were shackled to a chain laced through a ring in the middle of his cell floor. The wild, hairy little man was half Jacob’s stature.
A Little Person, Jacob thought to himself, as him moved back with a start asking, “What?”
“Don’t play dumb with me, you heard what I said! Why are you here, Dreamer? I thought I was the only one who could enter that way.” With a panicked half-glance down the hallway the dwarf interrupted any reply Jacob might have had with, “You have to leave at once. If they find you, it’ll be too late! Don’t be a fool and get trapped here, like me.” Then yelling, “Trapped I tell you! Get me out of this hell hole!”
The little man began violently shaking the locked door of his cell, and shouting at the top of voice, “Leave - leave before it’s too late you fool!”
The flickering light grew brighter and brighter as everything became illuminated with its own inner glow. Within seconds the blinding white consumed everything.
Jacob now saw himself appear to walk into a formless sterile-white room of nothingness, and stopped. Alone, and emotionless he stood there for what seemed like hours. Then, as if from the other side of a stage, Miriam approached across from him. They were both dressed as before, and were standing in the empty void of white, just a few arms length from one another.
In a flat, monotone voice Jacob asked her, “Miriam, I won’t be seeing you again after this, will I?”
But she only smiled slightly, and ignored his question, “After the flooding rains, we came out of the ark, that my father-in-law had built. My husband, Shem, found my mother‘s book, and was angry with me that I had kept something from the old world, and forbade me to speak of such things again.
“Then a man came secretly to me in the woods. He was called, Silvermane, and wanted to see the scrolls I carried. In returning them to me, I saw that they were all blank, and began to cry at their loss. He bade me not to worry, saying that a concealing-mark was placed on them, and only when a messenger came to me would my words be revealed to him. For he would proclaim them before the world as a requiem of our time.
“Afterwards, I hid the scrolls of my mothers lore away in a jar, and sealed it with the Eye of Silvermane, in the hopes that one day his words would come true; that our lives before the pouring rains, would not be forgotten -- even though they are now forbidden.” She was quiet for a second, then added.
“For me, that was seventeen years ago; but for you, Jacob I fear a greater amount of time has passed. I believe Silvermane’s prophecy is now fulfilled, and that you are that messenger. Answer me this: Who is the key?”
Without hesitation, Jacob held up the tablet and said, “Balthenorn.”
With that the dream ended.
Jacob sat straight up in bed, fully awake.
No screaming. No sweating.
Just an instant feeling, knowing that he would no longer dream of Miriam, and somehow that knowledge made him feel sad. Looking over to Arlene’s empty side of the bed, he turned as the fresh smell of brewed coffee entered the room.
Beaming a smile at his uncombed hair, Arlene greeted her husband with the offering, “Morning sleepy head. Need some wake up juice?”
He bemoaned, “Oh, you’re an angel.”
Blowing its brown-creamed surface, she reminded him, “Well, today’s the day.”
“Yeah, just wondering what they’re like: Stewart and Casey?”
“Stop being so insecure, they’re probably wondering the same about us.”
“Hey, if nothing else at least it’ll be a trip out-of-town, right?”
She smiled softly back with, “Yeah, it’ll be a great visit.”
Hurriedly putting the cup down and beginning to dress like a fireman responding to a three-alarm call, “Speaking of which I guess we had better get ready to go.”
They rushed around getting dressed, packed a few bags, and with the green footlocker slid onto the back seat on their Dodge Neon, they were off. Starting down Interstate 44, a stop over for breakfast at McDonalds, and four hours later they found themselves heading south along 183.
After getting the directions on the phone; Steward had facetiously mentioned to Jacob that the suburb of Early had recently gotten The Heart Land Mall, and that after seeing it on the left they were to turn right at the next up coming intersection.
The small, central Texas town of Brownwood was a lot quieter than what either Jacob or Arlene had anticipated. Not long after that they found their way down Austin Avenue, past Coggin Park into a fairly nice neighborhood, they located the quaint stone house on Elizabeth street. Jacob mentioned to Arlene, as they were getting out of the car, that he had not seen so many patched pot holes in all his life, and was glad he had replaced the shocks before they had left home.
While both were grinning from ear to ear the front door was being opened by a heavy set man chewing the butt of a thick, smelly Cuban cigar. Jovially he grinned back at them as his huge legs waddled out on to the porch with great effort, “You must be, Jacob, and this -- your lovely wife, Arlene.”
Jacob reached out for a hand shake but got a bear hug instead, “Right on both accounts. Stewart?” To which the man in blue slacks and pink shirt affirmed with a chuckle. His color blind eyes appeared tiny through their coke bottle Armani lenses, as his other hand‘s finger tips secured the smelly cigar bit.
The slim goddess next to him radiated, with a hiker’s thumb, “That’s him, and I’m Casey.” She looked like a Barbie doll come to life, looking down and picking up an enormous black Persian cat. “Yes, and this is Geronimo. Come on in, guys.” Winking to them both Casey turned to lead the way into their sparely decorated but lavish home. Her shinny short shorts caught both Arlene and Jacob’s eyes.
Stewart and Casey made an odd couple, yet their affections toward one another appeared genuine to their arriving guests.
Putting the monstrously bloated feline down, Casey motioned an extracted gesture toward the dinning table, as if she were a Price Is Right model introducing it like the next item up for bid, “You guys must be exhausted after your trip. Let’s have a seat in the dinning room.”
Stewart interrupted, “You have to excuse her. I bought the table last month, and Casey’s still showing it off like a prized birthday gift.”
She beamed, “Well, it was.” While continuing to set silverware for everyone.
“Very nice.” Jacob smiled back, “We took a few breaks along the way.”
Arlene sniffed the air, noticing steam erupting above the covered containers atop the stainless steel stove, “Smells great.”
Motioning for Arlene to join her in checking out the spaghetti’s progress, Casey grinned, “I’m glad you think so, Arlene ‘cause it’s just about ready.”
Sitting at the huge, intricately-carved table, across from his newly reunited brother, Jacob marveled at the table’s woven designs with a sigh, “Well, here we are.”
Just as astonished, Steward stared at his younger brother, “Yeah. Man its been worth it all just to see you again, Jacob. I’m really glad you answered my first letter.” He said with a smiling glance at Arlene, “You’re looking good, and married too.”
Jacob gave a raised eye brow nod in his sister-in-law’s direction as well, “Thanks, you too.” He tried to nonchalantly wave the cigar smoke out of his face, without showing his annoyance, but the ladies noticed.
Casey, seeing Jacob’s reaction, gently took the cigar out of her husband’s mouth while waving an index finger at him. Crushing the smoldering butt in an ashtray, she said, “Jacob, you don’t know how many times he rewrote that letter so you wouldn’t think he was a nut.” Stewart blushed a bit at Jacob’s head shaking at the dissipating smoke with a false grin that gave his thoughts away. The blonde headed goddess poured two drinks as her brunette counterpart stirred the meat-sauce mixture.
c-here you go, hope you like iced-tea?
a-love it, hum nice and cold.
So where do we start?
How about we start with this ----dinner
“Well,” Stewart began, “Guess I’ll go first. . . . . . . .”
After Stewart’s summary, Jacob started off with, “I’ve been an manager of The Men’s Taylor, a tuxedo rental shop…” But after a bite of food he gave a delicious moan, then divulged, “I love spaghetti, this is great Casey. My twin foster sisters: Diane and Cynthia use to do all the cooking, in-between arguing and dating every guy in school. They were characters; uh, and there was Rollin, my first dad, a retired Navy cook and drunk, but boy could he cook -- awesome Lasagna.”
Arlene was a little surprised by his sudden burst, she had never heard Jacob talk about the people from his past in such favorable light before, it made her grin for some reason, maybe because the bitterness of his lost childhood was beginning to fade. Arlene had also begun to notice that Stewart’s presence made Jacob genuinely smile more, and that was a good sign to see.
What have you been up to?
- - --,sks scabs’’s sk’b’sk’;sbh skh’ls’ ‘’’skhsfg;ldfl ;
Pushing his empty plate aside, Jacob confessed, “You know Stewart, I’ve had so much going on, that to be quite frank with you, I never thought in a million years I would ever know anything about my real family. Then, the very day I gave up on the idea altogether was the exact day your letter arrived in the mail.” After a sip of iced tea, added, “Strange.”
Stewart’s eyes beamed back through their huge lenses, “I know the feeling. The day I sent that letter off, I had the very same dream I had when I was a kid.”
“Dream?” Injected, Arlene as she shot a sharp glance down the mahogany table. Her spaghetti laden fork poised in the air with its last bite getting cold.
Catching her interest, Stewart elaborated, “Yeah. When I was 12 yrs old-” He started to reach for his ashed cigar, but got Casey’s gaze instead, then continued with his story, “I had a dream on my twelfth birthday that made it clear to me that I had to find you, Jacob. This, overwhelming feeling that I needed you, more than you ever needed me.
“In my dream I saw two boys arguing. The older one was rough, and very independent; said he could do everything by himself. When the younger brother asked about their mother the older brother said, “After all that she’s done to us how could you still love her? She beat us, and contrived stories against us to our father. She even loved her daughter more than us!” Then the younger brother said, “It is not about her, it is about us.”
“I can’t explain it, Jacob, but I woke up thinking about you, and how my life only had meaning when I thought about my little brother. So, I searched for you using every means possible.”
Trying to not let his tearing eyes be noticed, Jacob replied, “Thanks, that means a lot, Stewart.” After a quick sip of tea, he asked, “We -- had a sister?”
Stewart knew it was coming, “No.” Then a strange tone dropped into his voice, “But, it does get a lot stranger than you can imagine.”
Jumping to conclusions, Jacob caught the inference and asked, “-So, um, what other dreams have you had?”
Stewart ignored his wife’s disapproving pursed lips as he clipped the bit off a new Cuban, and ignited its flavor as a reward for his patience in waiting for this very moment to arrive. His jovial rolling voice took on a mysterious tone as though he was sharing a tale of mythical times.
As Stewart began sharing with his brother and sister-in-law all his dreams that he felt might have some bearing on their reunion, the kitchen filled with a light haze of cigar smoke. No one seemed to take notice this time around. For the visitors quickly became engrossed in their host’s stories, losing themselves in the picturesque details. Oddly enough, they not only turned out to be the identical ones Jacob had shared with Arlene in private, but occurred on the same days as well. With each telling the younger couple exchanged bewildering looks, that only validated Stewart and Casey’s exact experience.
Just as Stewart began Jacob’s final meeting with Miriam, Casey suggested a break by clearing off the table, with Arlene’s help, and began a fresh kettle of water for coffee. It was edging into late afternoon, and a cold front had moved in dropping the temperatures outside down into the low thirties. With everyone settling about the kitchen table again, Stewart resumed, then finished his account of seeing the dwarf in prison and Miriam’s parting words.
After a moment of silence, Arlene interrupted Stewart’s melodramatic attempt to accentuate the mood with blowing smoke rings by declaring, “So, let me see if I can get this straight. You have both been having these weird dreams, independent of one another, about the daughter-in-law of Noah; and the scrolls she hid away, that came down to her through her maternal grandmothers, that told about meeting the angel from the Garden of Eden?”
Stewart and Jacob both looked like they had just been hit in the back of the head. Their opened mouths and wide eyes mirrored one another. Trying not to laugh out loud, she asked, “What - you didn’t get it till now?”
Smiling from across the table, Casey retorted, “Oh my God! Arlene, as smart as they are - I can’t believe it.”
Stewart remarked to the chewed bit of his cigar, “Hump. Noah?”
For Jacob it was somehow the missing piece, “Garden of Eden? - Ah!”
But Arlene persisted, “Well, that is what you’ve both are talking and dreaming about -- isn‘t it?”
Casey acted like her years in Sunday School had finally paid off, “I can’t believe it. Neither of them go to church and yet they both dream about the Bible.”
Yet, Stewart seemed to be holding a trump card and played it with the mysterious voice, “They still don’t understand. Jacob it goes deeper than that. Only after our father passed away, did I come across his personal papers, and learned that he and our grandfather both were having these same dreams. Dad speculated that they were all somehow linked to his father’s discoveries in the middle-east. Apparently, grandfather never spoke of the matter to him. Which is one of the reasons why I was so curious to see what was in the footlocker.’
Stewart finished with his point, being, “I believe there are deeper truths left unstated in the Scriptures, and only vaguely alluded to in other Sacred Texts as well.” Smiling, the big man returned to his smoke rings as if he had won a hand in cards. Stewart got up from the table to make himself a harder drink. Vodka and lime.
After their two and a half hours of conversations, and several cappuccinos, they were now all on the same page when, Casey asked, “Wow, and I guess that brings us up to -- what’s in the box?”
To which Arlene nervously laughed, “I was just going to say that, Casey.”
After restroom breaks, and rounds of mixed drinks, Jacob and Arlene found their way to a plushy decorated sunken-living room area. By now Jacob had retrieved the boxed legacy that had brought them all together.
While going through everything in the trunk and sharing what they had discovered or listening to Stewart fill in the blanks with family history, Casey interrupted everything.
Holding up an envelope that had been torn open long ago, she got the group’s attention with, “Hey, Stew, I think you might be wrong about your dad not knowing about things. Here’s a letter written to him while he was still away at college, it’s from your grandfather. Listen to this:
‘…Even more fascinating than the Salun Parchments in the amber box are, what I call: The Nephilim Scrolls; for they seem to be the very essence of everything missing from the Genesis account. You are aware, son, there were far older civilizations, many of which were never recorded in the Hebrew Scriptures… ,but my colleges think I am crazy, and have disregarded the speculations of my nineteen years of work.”
Interesting. Does it mention what his ‘work’ was, that he was referring to?
Yeah. He said it was ‘a narrative of a transliterated poem,’ written in a black leather-bound manuscript.”
This must be it here.
The four of them decided to take turns reading the manuscript aloud to one another. So, Jacob began reading aloud:
“Like the terrified inhale of a sharp gasp,
I saw her life being extinguished and fade
as in the exhaustion of sorrow.
In the inhale of that crumbling moment
my life’s meaning faded away
as sorrow filled my heart with loneliness.
Cradled in my arms, she died so pale
a lifeless shell, void of expression;
yet forever, my only, one true love…”