Castle Roland

Shadow of a Soul

by MultiMapper

In Progress

Chapter 12

Posted: 17 Mar 16

The Shadow of a Soul

By MultiMapper
Copyright © 2002-2016 MultiMapper
All Rights Reserved

Choosing Sides

When I awoke, I found that Enoch had scooted the mirror back into place, so that he could watch the progress of the rift.

I went to his side and talked quietly with him, before moving the mirror out of the way so that we could try again.

Although the rift seemed to be somewhat wider, and the speed at which it was opening seemed to be accelerating, we held little hope of making more progress than we had the night before.

I supposed that it was just me being self-indulgent, but I stayed in my room far later than usual and didn't make my way downstairs for breakfast until my stomach could no longer be denied.

Mom had left a note for me on the kitchen table, telling me that she was going to be back late and to expect Grandpa to be stopping by to pick me up for dinner.

I threw together a little something to eat, then returned as quickly as I could to my room.

Enoch and I didn't go to the dreamscape, as we normally would, both of us feeling that we'd rather hold on to each other 'in the flesh'.

Conversation was sparse, and while I think that both of us were trying to appear optimistic, neither of us was very good at it.

At a point later in the day, I had to leave for a few minutes to make myself something for lunch.

When I came back, I brought Enoch half a sandwich.

That confused him at first, but then I explained that I could put it in his hand and that he could pull it through and eat it on his side.

He explained that during the whole time that he had been on the other side, that he had never once felt the need to eat or drink. However, he was excited by the prospect of really 'tasting' something for the first time in nearly a hundred years.

I almost cried when I saw the expression of bliss as he ate the BLT that I had prepared for him. I could tell that the long absent sensations were nearly overwhelming to him.

We continued on after that, holding hands and gently talking, until I heard a knock at the front door.

It was only then that I remembered that Joe Bob was going to drive us to the LGBT resource center to get our test results.

I asked Enoch if he wanted to go, but he said that he would rather stay and keep watch on the progress of the rift.

I gave him a quick kiss, then hurried to change into something presentable before going downstairs.

"Did we wake you up?" Joe Bob asked cautiously, when I climbed into his car.

"No. But Mom's in Santa Fe and I never got dressed this morning, so it took me a few extra minutes." I said seriously.

"Do you really think our tests are okay?" Jim Bob asked nervously.

"Yes. I really do." I said assuringly, then added, "Like I told you last night, this is how they do it. They call you in, sit you down and tell you the results. That way you've got someone right there in front of you to answer any questions that you might have. And they can be sure that you understand everything before you leave."

"But you've never done this before, either, have you?" Joe Bob asked cautiously.

"No. But I've heard enough about it to know what to expect. Back in Michigan, they're really good about teaching us about stuff like this so we won't be all scared about it or believe some of the stupid stuff floating around on the Internet." I said frankly.

"I think the schools here ain't allowed to talk about it." Joe Bob said thoughtfully.

"Yeah. Some people seem to think that ignoring it will make it go away. But I'm pretty sure that it works just the opposite." I said honestly.

"What do you mean?" Jim Bob asked curiously.

"All the sex stuff, not just the gay part, if you ignore it and don't teach kids about it, then they do stupid stuff because they don't know any better. They do stupid things that hurt and spread diseases and they get pregnant just because someone somewhere is too embarrassed to talk about it." I said seriously.

"Or because the bible says it's wrong." Jim Bob added quietly.

"I'm not sure that the bible really says that." I said thoughtfully, then continued, "I mean, they were all about raping the little girls... and probably boys, too, when one bunch would conquer and enslave another. I know that parents wanted their girls to be virgins, so they could get a good price for them when they sold them off for marriage. But I don't remember hearing anything anywhere about the bible saying not to tell kids the truth about sex. I think that part was made up later by the priests and preachers."

"Sounds 'bout like 'em." Joe Bob said absently.

We rode in silence for a few minutes after that. It wasn't uncomfortable silence, at least, not that I was aware of. It just turned out that no one had much to say.

It was Jim Bob who finally, quietly asked, "Is your Ma really going to make you move away?"

"Yeah. It's looking more and more like she is." I reluctantly admitted.

"You know, some kids get to go visit relatives on their summer vacation, while their parents are still busy working and stuff. Maybe you could talk your Ma into something like that?" Jim Bob suggested cautiously.

"I hadn't thought of that. It sounds like a really good idea. I'm pretty sure that Mom has it planned for me to go with her to get moved in. But maybe after we're all unpacked, I could talk her into letting me come back here until the end of the summer." I said thoughtfully.

"You could probably stay with Grandpa Harlan, but if you can't for some reason, you could stay over at our place. Somehow, Ma and Pa always find a way to make room for one more." Joe Bob said casually.

"Thanks, guys. I was really upset and depressed when it looked like I was going to be moving away and might not be able to see any of you again. I don't know if I can get mom to go for it, but this has a lot better chance of working out than anything I came up with." I told them honestly.

What little conversation followed, ended when we arrived at the LGBT resource center.

Much to my surprise, Joe Bob automatically got out of the car when we did and walked inside with us.

"Hi, Boyce. We're here for our results." I said as we walked up to the cash register.

"I'm glad you were able to stop by so soon. Who wants to go back first?" Boyce asked happily.

"I'll go, but would it be alright if Mark and Joe Bob went with me?" Jim Bob asked hopefully.

"Of course. You can bring whatever support you want with you. Just so long as you know that it's entirely up to you. We'll never tell anyone else about your results and you don't have to tell anyone that you don't want to know." Boyce said firmly as he looked into Jim Bob's eyes.

"Whichever way it goes, I want Mark and Joe Bob there with me." Jim Bob said decisively.

"Good enough. Go on back and Hugh will be right with you." Boyce said cheerfully.

We walked into the back room together and stood around.

I'm sure that Jim Bob was thinking the same thing that I was, and didn't want to sit in the chair because he associated it with getting blood drawn.

"How're y'all doing today?" Hugh asked as he walked into the room.

"We're good. We just came for our test results." I answered simply.

"Who wants to be first?" Hugh asked as he picked up a pair of file folders.

"I will." Jim Bob said timidly.

"Do you want for me to give you the results in private?" Hugh asked to be sure.

"No. I'd rather have Mark and Joe Bob here with me, if that's alright." Jim Bob muttered.

"Whatever makes you most comfortable." Hugh assured him.

Jim Bob nodded, then waited expectantly.

Hugh opened one of the folders and reviewed its contents before saying, "Rather than go through this line by line, let me just tell you that you tested negative for everything."

"Is negative good?" Jim Bob asked cautiously.

"Yes. It's very good." Hugh assured him.

Jim Bob smiled as he wilted with relief.

"Before you get too happy, I need to tell you that if you've been sexually active in the past three months, then it's still possible that there's something going on that the test wasn't able to detect. You'll need to come back and have another test in about three months time before we can say, one hundred percent, for sure, that you're completely disease-free." Hugh said seriously.

"But him passing this test means that it's still pretty sure that he doesn't have anything, right?" I asked, just to reinforce the point.

"Yes. If you come out clean on this one, then it's almost certain that you'll be clean on the next one. We just want to be sure that you know that we're not 'one hundred percent' sure, at this point." Hugh said carefully.

"Thank you. I understand." Jim Bob promised him.

Hugh then looked at me and asked, "Would you like to receive your results privately?"

"No. I'm good. Go ahead." I said easily.

After a moment to look through the other folder, Hugh said, "Your tests are all negative, too."

"Good." I said happily.

"Let me go ahead and give you these, so you'll be able to look at what all you were tested for." Hugh said as he handed each of us our results.

"Thank you, Hugh. I'm really glad that you're here." I said honestly.

"I'm just glad that I was able to give you good news. You boys remember to be safe. You hear me?" Hugh asked as he looked from me to Jim Bob.

"We will." Jim Bob assured him.

"Then we're done here. You boys go on and enjoy your day." Hugh said with a satisfied smile.

"How much do we owe you?" Joe Bob asked cautiously, speaking for the first time.

"We operate completely with donations. If you want to contribute, Boyce will be happy to take a donation at the register." Hugh said simply.

"Thanks." Joe Bob said before leading the way out of the room.

By the time Jim Bob and I were out in the lobby, Joe Bob was already talking to Boyce at the register.

We never saw any money change hands, and I wouldn't feel right about asking, but I was understandably curious as to whether Joe Bob had made a donation or not.

Once we were back on the road, heading back to my house, something that had been bothering me for a while finally found it's way to the forefront of my mind.

"Why are you guys living in a trailer instead of out at the big house?" I asked curiously.

"We lived out there, two different times." Jim Bob said honestly, then explained, "Once, it was before we got the second trailer. We were packed in so tight that we needed more space. The other time was when the furnace went out."

"But I still don't understand why you don't just live in the big house where there's plenty of room for everyone and a big yard and... stuff." I said frankly.

"Partly, because Pa wants to be close to his work. It's way on the far side of town from here. But I think mostly it's because Pa wants to provide for his family." Joe Bob said seriously.

I looked at him with surprise at the statement.

"I guess he's proud because even though we ain't got much, we earned every bit of it. Now, if it was to happen that any of us was doing without or suffering because of it, he'd swallow his pride and accept help. But until he has to, he ain't gonna do that." Joe Bob said seriously.

I thought about that for a moment, then realized that, even though I wouldn't have thought it possible, my respect for Joe Bob had once again increased.

As we approached the house, I invited the guys in, but they said that they had to get back home to watch the kids, so that their mom could go to a lamaze class.

I know it was rude, but I couldn't help but ask, "Hasn't she had enough kids to know how it works by now?"

Joe Bob laughed at the question and Jim Bob smiled.

"I suppose she has." Joe Bob finally said, then continued, "In fact, she's had so many kids that now she's teaching the class."

"Oh!" I said with surprise.

From my brief meeting with Lindie, I could easily see how she would do well as a lamaze instructor. Not only would her easygoing nature serve to put people at ease, but no one could possibly deny that she spoke from a wealth of experience.

When I got back to the house, I went immediately upstairs to see how Enoch was doing.

Just as I expected, he was sitting on the floor, in front of the mirror, watching the rift.

"How's it going?" I asked cautiously.

"I think it's opened some more. Would you like to try again?" He asked hopefully.

"Yeah." I said as I dropped the file folder on the desk inside the door.

Before I could even cross the room, Enoch had already scooted the mirror out of the way and taken his place on the opposite side.

"Are you ready?" I asked cautiously.

"Yes." Enoch said anxiously.

I put my hand in the proper place in mid air and waited for the expected contact.

I had to shift a little to my left, but my flesh finally met his.

"Pull." Enoch instructed, as soon as he had a firm grip.

As gently, yet firmly, as I possibly could, I once again tried to drag him through the opening in reality.

There was no doubt that more of his arm was coming through. This time, I could make out part of his shoulder. But no matter how many different ways we twisted or turned, it soon became apparent that he wasn't going to fit.

"I'm sorry. I really thought it was going to work, this time." Enoch said as he settled into place and held my hand.

"I know. We got a lot closer." I said gently, then added, "If you had little girly shoulders like mine, you probably could have gotten through yesterday."

"If there were any way to make them smaller, I would." Enoch said frankly.

"Don't you dare." I said with a smile, then added, "I LOVE your broad shoulders. Even if they take a little extra work, I wouldn't change them... or anything else about you."

We sat like that for a while.

I don't know how long.

It got dark.

I didn't leave to have dinner, but I wasn't much worried about that.

There was nowhere else that I wanted to be.

A sound from downstairs finally drew my attention.

When I got up, I realized that I had been sitting for quite a while. My legs had fallen asleep.

To make matters worse, I had never lit the oil lamp, so I was stumbling around in near darkness on unsteady legs.

"Good. You're up." Mom said as I walked down the stairs, still not feeling entirely steady on my feet.

"How did things go?" I asked cautiously, automatically hoping for the worst.

"Well, I'm now officially employed AND, I found us a place to live." She said happily.

"Great." I said unenthusiastically.

"I know you don't want to go. You've made that abundantly clear. But, it's up to me to keep us going, so for now, you're just going to have to do as I say." She said firmly.

Although there were things that I could have said at that point, I'm pretty sure that none of them would have improved my situation.

"I need for you to go through your things and pack what's most important to you." Mom said firmly.

"Right now?" I asked in shock.

"Yes. We'll be driving out in the morning. You'd better snap to it! We'll be leaving well before sun up." Mom said seriously.

"When will we be back?" I asked cautiously.

"I don't know, yet. When we can find the time we'll come back to finish moving out. But for right now, you need to get moving. Pack your bags, then get to bed. Tomorrow is going to be a very long day."

My head was swimming.

Admittedly, some of that might have been from skipping supper. But I was overwhelmed by what this could mean for me and Enoch.

If he were to go with me and we couldn't get back in a reasonable amount of time, then the doorway might close again and we might never have another chance.

And, what if he didn't want to go?

What if I ended up going to Santa Fe without him?

What if he came with me and somehow got lost?

What if he stayed?

How would he cope with being alone?

How would I?

While I was standing there with my mind racing, Mom must have gone off to handle her own packing.

On unsteady legs, I started up the incredibly tall flight of stairs.

{How can I leave him here?}

{How can I take him away from here?}

{How can I stay here?}

The questions were flying around in my head like flies around a bloated corpse.

I felt unsteady, unstable and unable to cope.

As my homing beacon somehow led me back to my room, I finally stepped into my sanctuary.

"What's wrong?" Enoch asked with immediate concern.

"Mom. She found us a new place to live... we're leaving in the morning, before sun up." I said, barely able to believe the words that were coming out of my mouth.

"When will you be back?" Enoch asked slowly.

"She doesn't know." I answered absently as I reached under the bed and took out my suitcase.

"What are you doing?" Enoch asked in panic.

"I've got to pack." I said as I opened the suitcase and pulled my empty backpack from inside.

"Maybe, if we go to the mirror and try again, we can try harder." Enoch said urgently.

"Would you hand me my flute?" I asked absently as the swirling thoughts seemed to be on the verge of forming into something coherent.

"I know that I asked you not to make me choose, but I have chosen. Even if it means giving up the chance to return to the real world, I want to go with you." Enoch said anxiously.

I smiled at him and quietly said, "Thanks, E. Thanks for choosing me."

Enoch looked at me strangely, obviously not knowing how to interpret my response.

"My flute?" I asked as I gathered some clothes.

"Yes. Here." Enoch said with distraction as he handed it to me.

I glanced around the room, then walked to my bed and slipped the pillowcase off my pillow.

"Mark? Can we try the crack in the mirror, one more time?" Enoch asked cautiously.

"Yeah. Just a minute." I said as I walked to the dresser, then started gathering all the toy soldiers, very gently, into the pillowcase.

"What are you doing?" Enoch asked nervously.

"Would you move the mirror out of the way? I'll be right there." I asked as I carefully put the pillowcase into my backpack.

"You're going to try?" Enoch asked hopefully as he scooted the mirror.

I looked around the room one more time to see if there were anything else that I considered to be important to me.

When I glanced at Enoch's journal on the desk, I quickly grabbed it then put it into the backpack as I walked across the room.

"Pull really hard this time. I think we can do it." Enoch said as he waited for me to take my place.

"No, E. I'm not going to pull. You are." I said simply.

"What?" Enoch asked incredulously.

"There's nothing in this world that I care about as much as I care for you. Here, take this." I said as I held my backpack forward.

As Enoch's hand met mine, I handed the backpack to him.

"Are you sure about this? If you come through to this side, we may never be able to return to the real world." Enoch asked cautiously as he drew the backpack through the rift and into the other realm.

"I know that. I don't care." I said as I held out my hand and waited for him to take it.

"I would rather continue for eternity alone than to ever hurt you, Mark." Enoch said as he looked into my eyes.

"I love you, E. I don't care about anything else, just as long as we can be together." I said with a smile to convey my tranquil acceptance of what was to come.

As I felt Enoch's hand grasp my wrist, I twisted and pushed with all my might to be able to force my way through to the other side.

"Mark? Are you up?" Patsy asked as she knocked on his bedroom door.

After a moment with no answer, she cautiously opened the door to find the oil lamp burning and no sign of her son anywhere in the room.

"Mark? Did you get up early?" She called out as she left the room and hurried down the stairs.

There was no sign of her son, nor was there any evidence that he had been downstairs at all, since the night before.

"Mark! This isn't funny! Where are you?!" Patsy called out as she started going from room to room.

"Did you hear that?" Enoch asked curiously.

"Yeah. She'll get over it." Mark responded quietly.

"I'm not sure that she will. I know that I wouldn't." Enoch said frankly.

"I guess what I mean is that she'll get over it, because she doesn't have any other choice. What's done is done. There's no going back." Mark said honestly.

"Do you regret your decision?" Enoch asked cautiously.

"Right this minute? No. Not at all." Mark said with a smile.

"But what about in a hundred years?" Enoch asked with concern.

"I don't know. You'll have to ask me about it then." Mark said simply.

"What should we do now?" Enoch asked cautiously.

"Whatever we want. We have forever."

The End

Editor's Notes:

Seeing those words always scares the daylights out of me.

For those of you who, like me, start to worry that MultiMapper has decided to call it quits on this story, I have a feeling that this is only the end of this part of the story.

We have come to the point where the focus of the story is about to shift, and we will be entering a whole new phase.

We just have to sit back and wait for more inspiration to come to MultiMapper, and maybe a little communication from each of us directed at him might just give him the push that he needs to move forward.

Darryl AKA The Radio Rancher

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