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TNA: CHAPTER 3: Stewart's Letter

David DeLane Snow

“Even then men learned from these two, magic by which …evil was the price… they sold their souls.”
The Koran
Baqarah  II:102

  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?”

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