CHAPTER 16: Death and taxes

If you’re coming in late, the novel starts here: CHAPTER 1: Some bugger steals my sushi

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I turned to the Dean suddenly. “So what is this thing, this Vortex?” I asked. “Is it what you people call the Devil? Because I’m starting to believe that anything is possible right now.”

“As for me, I think you’re all clinically insane,” interjected Daniel. “I mean, yes, I accept that we’re travelling in time. When we walked through the Cathedral garden just now, the trees were shorter, and I can’t dispute the fact that the Crypt, in our time, doesn’t exist any more, yet there it was. But that doesn’t mean we’re fighting anything more sinister than a bunch of whacked-out scientists and religious nutjobs who think the world has gone crazy, simply because they’re suddenly able to skip through time.”

He rubbed his nose, and I realised he was afraid. “Besides,” he added. “All this talk of evil and Vortexes, and Devils has me freaked out. I think someone…or something…has somethng to gain from scaring the pants off all of us.” He looked at the Dean, sitting serenely on her chair. “No offense intended, your Majesty.”

The Dean actually laughed at the “your Majesty” thing, but her face was serious. “I wish we were making this all up. I also wish, in a way, that it was Satan, because then at least we’d have some idea of what we’re dealing with.

“No – this isn’t Biblical evil. If it were, the theologians of the Order are certain they would recognise it as such. No…this is something quite new. Or, to be precise, quite old. Older than the Bible, or Satan, or Christianity.”

Athena nodded in agreement.

“I thought you Christians didn’t believe anything was older than the Bible?” I said.

The Dean shifted in her seat awkwardly. “We’ve had to make certain…concessions…in recent times,” she replied. “There is nothing in the Bible that necessarily disagrees with the conclusions the Order is drawing from the events that have been happening, both here and elsewhere.”

“But what is happening?” I demanded to know. “None of this makes sense to me. Can you just explain it, please? Like, in Layman’s terms, or something? I’m right in the middle of this, I’ve been dragged right out of my own time, at pistol point, and I want to know what the hell is happening!

The Dean swallowed uncomfortably. “The Vortexes are places of power, and they’re linked with people who have strong associations of place with them. As the Vortexes grow in power, so too are the people linked to them. You’re one of those people. Doctor Papadopoulos has been tracking you, watching the field expand as we knew it would. But prior to that, my daughter has been watching you too, keeping a check on you from within your own inner circle, and watching for signs of change and growth.”

Now I knew why the Dean’s face seemed familiar. It was like someone switching a light on in the evening: not until that moment had I noticed how in the dark I had been. Yet now, with the lights on, I wondered how I could ever have sat so contently in the dark.

The round face, the way she sat and something about her shoulders. The same way of talking, and even the movement in her hands.

She saw the recognition in my eyes, and smiled. “Yes, my daughter is Tina. Her father and I married when I was in Asia on missionary work. He knows I will die tomorrow. He will be here with me. We will end our lives together – Athena has told me this is true.”

She regarded Athena, who nodded, then the Dean continued. “Tina will never know me. But I hope – and pray – that we will keep watch over her, all her life.”

The Dean smiled grimly. “In a way, I am jealous of you,” she said. “I wish I could come back into the future with you, and see how my daughter has become a grown woman. I hope I would be proud of her.”

“She’s brilliant,” I said softly. “She’s bloody brilliant.”

“Tina has known about you from the beginning, known of your connection to this place,” said the Dean. “She knew that, sooner or later, it would call to you. I left instructions that she was to act unknowing, to play the innocent – but to always, always support you.”

“I still don’t understand,” I said. “What is my ‘link’ to this place? That my parents sang here? That they met here?” I shook my head, not comprehending.

“No,” said Athena quietly. “That you were born here, here at the Cathedral.”

“No I wasn’t,” I disagreed. “I was born in Mosgiel hospital. I wasn’t born here. You’re mistaken.”

“You were born here,” repeated Athena Papadopoulos. “Your birth certificate is incorrect. After the quake, the whole city was in ruins. Three quarters of the houses were uninhabitable. All four of the major hospitals were unworkable. People lived where they could find shelter, and birthed where they lived. You parents, being choristers, naturally came back here – to the place they’d depended on – for a place to stay.

“Half of the Cathedral was devastated, but the front section, the older part, was fine. Your mother and father, along with some other parishioners, lived in the choir room for well over a year.

“And you were born there, right between the two sets of pews that face each other, right at the place that the old altar had stood in old St Paul’s – the church that had been on this spot before the new Cathedral was raised.

She looked at me, speaking slowly, as if she were doing so in case I missed the significance of her words.

“You were born right at the place that Ryecroft killed himself. You were born at the Eye of the storm. At the mouth of the Vortex. That point in space is a co-ordinate where ley-lines converge, and time condenses, and power ignites, throwing energy in upon itself, multiplying over and over, creating a spiraling field of power that is growing exponentially.”

Athena paused, taking a breath, then: “When I say you were born at the Eye of the Storm, perhaps I am mistaken. Perhaps a better way to express your ‘link’, as you call it, to all this is – you are the Eye of the Storm.”

I could feel myself shaking at her words. Oh, I understood the significance, all right. or I thought I did. Until the Dean said quietly:

“But there’s more.”

I stared at the Dean, wondering how any news could be creepier than this. I had shivers running up and down my back, and I was real glad I was sitting down, or I think I would have fallen down.

“What more is there?” asked Daniel faintly.

The Dean looked at Athena as though gaining permission to speak, and Athena nodded in acquiescence. The Dean spoke, slowly and thoughtfully, as if uncertain how to say what she had to say to me, in a low, quiet voice:

“You were conceived tomorrow, right at the moment of the great quake. After the quake, friends asked your parents where they were and what they’d been doing. They were…cagey, but clear enough to confirm facts, especially when you were born exactly nine months later.”

“What does this all mean?” asked Daniel.

“It means,” said Athena. “That what is happening here is planned. It hasn’t just occurred spontaneously. The build-up of energy has been happening for a long time, for decades, centuries even, and the knitting of lives and actions and even deaths into the Vortex has been intentional, created. None of this is coincidence. Everything is connected, everything!”

I remembered the Bishop saying exactly those same words, it felt like aeons ago, back in the meeting room in our own time, and I felt afraid. The same thought was apparently occurring to Daniel.

“And the Bishop’s place in all this?” asked Daniel, his voice shaking.

Athena paused, considering her words carefully. “There are…those who would deny that we are facing occurences beyond anything we’ve ever dealt with. There are those who would like to…encapsulate this within a Biblical framework, and eliminate the human reference points that seem to have been selected by the Vortex.”

“Huh?”

“The Bishop, and others like him,” said Athena. “Would like to pretend that what we’re measuring is the work of Satan, and that those who are now linked to the Vortices around the planet are Satanic in nature.”

“What – that I’m some sort of mini Anti-Christ?” I said incredulously.

“Something of that sort,” confirmed Athena. “And thus, of course, you must be terminated. As more information about the Vortices around the globe has come to light, and especially information about those who are connected to them, the deaths have been, as we discussed in the choir room back in our time with the Bishop, horrific.

“However,” she went on. “The Dean and I are not willing to believe that these deaths are accidental or natural in any way. To us, at least, even if not to others of our Order, it is quite clear that there are a series of targeted murders going on here.

“Thus my immediate concern was to remove you from the Bishop’s presence and remove his knowledge of your whereabouts as soon as possible.”

You really think he’d kill us?” I asked. “Dean? What do you think?”

“The others throughout New Zealand and the Pacific Rim are all dead,” the Dean replied, as I’d directed my question to her. “You are the last. As the other linked people have been murdered, theor associated Vortices have subsided in strength, shifting their energy along the ley lines to those Vortices that are still growing. Every death – every murder – strengthens those human hosts that still live.”

“Overall, the global energy field is still growing at exactly the same rate,” said Athena. “So murdering people has achieved precisely nothing. It has simply strengthened those human cells – human hosts, such as yourself – that remain.” She sighed. “Of course, the Bishop’s faction plan to simply eliminate all remaining human hosts. He, and his like-minded friends, believes that if you’re all dead, the energy growth will be, effectively, killed off with you.”

“And you disagree?” said Daniel calmly, while I sat there, trying to wrap my head around these intrigues and factions planning my murder as easily as one might plan to chop a rooster’s head for soup.

“We disagree,” said Athena. “Murder is not the way forward, no matter what the outcome of these new forces may be.”

The Dean looked at me, and touched my hand. “Slaughtering innocents may have been the way of the Church in the distant past,” she said. “But it is not the way of Christ, and it is not the way forward now. There are those of us who believe that what we are witnessing is a new beginning, and we will do whatever it takes to protect you.”

“How can your death tomorrow protect me?” I said, shaking with fear.

“Nothing comes without sacrifice,” she replied. “When time travel first became possible, we tried to change the fall of the Cathedral. We cancelled the funeral commemoration, and do you know what happened?”

I shook my head, and so did Daniel.

“More people died,” she said. “The Cathedral fell anyway. But all around Otago, buildings that had remained secure and safe fell instead, in the different time-line. And when we checked, and double-checked, we found that all of those who had died in the Cathedral died elsewhere instead on the secondary time line. All of them. Every single one. Including myself.”

She smiled grimly. “So I have made peace with my destiny. I am destined to die. There is nothing I can do to avoid it. Instead I will take comfort in my faith, and in the knowledge that I died in the place I love best, with the people I have served for much of my life. And that maybe some things are worth dying for.”

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READ ON: CHAPTER 17: Showtime

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One thought on “CHAPTER 16: Death and taxes

  1. Pingback: CHAPTER 15: Entering the Vortex « Leanne's NaNoWriMo

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