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:Penultimate Chapter
A serialised novel in progress if you missed the first eighteen chapters go here to start

The Great Beyond Chapter X1X
Brodie Parker

awoke in gray mist. There was nothing else but the mist; I was mist. I hung weightless and floated without direction or effort at the whim of the laws of entropy. There was no time or place of any consequence there in the fog. There was no desire or ego. There was only the mist.

Yet, something nagged. Something pulled as if from far away and it would not stop. Slowly I began to remember where I was and how I had gotten there. I breeched the boundary and brought us into the Gray Area. The tear did not last. Once we were through it imploded and then…darkness, and then…fog. I reached out for my companions without finding them. I became aware that I was isolated in a large cube. It had perfectly even proportions and no hint of an opening or an exit. I exhausted every possibility of producing my own way out and pulled myself out of mist and into a more familiar shape. I still had my sword and the few personal affects that I brought back from the other side. They were all essentially a part of me and could not be removed easily.

As I meditated on my predicament I became aware of another presence in my cage. The fog could be cleared with a wink but I found that I was more comfortable in it; its concealing embrace was most welcome. Besides, I didn’t need to clear it to know who I was facing. My shadow stood up and regarded me with the same scrutiny with which I looked on him. Then he smiled and I felt cold all over.
"We meet again" he said in a loud whisper "and again you seem to be stuck."
"It would appear so. Are you here to offer me another ride on the shadow road?"
"Not this time. I’m here to file a complaint." He gestured and the fog between us parted like the Red Sea billowing against the walls. "You’ve been doing well so far but you keep ignoring some of your latent talents and it’s holding you back."
"You mean your talents?"
"Our talents. I am a part of you. If you keep neglecting that fact, if you refuse the darker part of yourself you’ll never be complete. You’ll never be whole. You’ll never get out of this box." He was laughing; playful. There was something behind his words that disturbed me. He was absolutely correct. I had been shunning him, the darker part of myself though I had to admit upon reflection that I had been tapping into it by instinct.
"It’s you." I said in a flash of recognition. "You are the reason no one can see me. You are the factor that keeps them from seeing my future."
"You’re a sharp one. It was only a matter of time before you realized it. Sometimes you just need a small shove in the right direction." He moved closer and put out his hands with the palms forward and fingers spread out.

His words were my own. We were the same being. He was not acting independently; I was in control of everything that was happening. But I was seeing it as if from outside of myself. I found that I could look through his eyes and hear with his ears. The conversation was not between two distinct bodies, it was with myself. There was only one thing left to do. I put my hands out and touched my fingertips to his. They began to meld and fuse into each other followed by hands and forearms and so on. We merged into one being and in doing so the full force of this dark aspect flooded into my psyche. At first it was overwhelming, the entirety of every dark and frightening place in myself came fully open and alive. It struggled against opposing forces in a fierce internal struggle for dominance. As it happened I saw the extent of the power I unleashed by opening myself to its reality. Too much power for anyone to possess. Cold panic gripped my mind as it began to take control, then slowly it receded and a balance restored my senses. I felt complete in a way that I never had before. And I felt strong. The shadow was no longer there, it was where it belonged. It was with me inside and it filled me with raw power. There was no longer a struggle within. An equilibrium was established that gave me control and left me perfectly centered. I took a deep breath and the fog disappeared. I could see the transparent walls of the cage covered in mist on the outside. I gave a wink and it too vanished, but the mist didn’t rush in. I was in the center of a cube which held it back as it boiled around me. Another wink and it began to clear and figures began to appear.

My companions were there with a few familiar faces and some not so familiar or amused. One old looking man in a pair of dirty coveralls sat looking particularly perturbed in my direction.
Urimaru turned to someone I recognized from the council and said "Pay up."
He kept quiet and passed him something while looking at me in awe.
"Took you long enough." said Jerry.
"What happened?"
"His nibs the Caretaker didn’t take too kindly to our barging in from the other side." he indicated the angry looking fellow.
I faced him and spoke. "Sir, I humbly apologize for our intrusion into your domain, and I do beg your pardon. I assure you that it won’t happen again, and if there is any recompense I can afford you, you have only to ask."
He looked sternly at me for several moments, then his face broke into a smile. "Son, you’re the only one of this bunch with an ounce of manners. Apology accepted. The name’s Ben."
"A pleasure Ben. Call me Sloan." We shook hands and the mood suddenly lightened palpably. "We won’t be staying long. There’s a lot to do."
"Not so fast." said one of our new companions. "We need to plan our next move."
It was one of the aids I had seen at the council meeting before we fled. He was saying something about a meeting and other members waiting, but I was looking hard at a beautiful feminine face that seemed oddly familiar. She was looking at me when she interrupted him. "Might I have a moment alone with him before we begin?"
They all looked at her then at me. "Certainly madam."

They filed out of the room followed by Ben. We continued to study each other from a short distance long after they were gone. I searched my memory while the silence prevailed until I recognized her. It was the guard who escorted me to the cell where the council kept me after I brought them Shugg. The woman with the spear and the helmet that covered her eyes. A shame I thought, because they were enchanting.
"You look like your great grandfather." She said suddenly. "The same eyes and mouth. The same far-away look. The same posture, ready for anything."
"I don’t think we’ve been properly introduced." I said.
"Call me Hazel." she said.
"I’m Sloan. It’s a pleasure to meet you."
"I know who you are. Not surprising as nearly everyone knows who you are now. But I knew you before you were born." She motioned to a bench and we sat down.
"I’m one of your ancestors Sloan. A great-great grandmother or so. I’ve been watching you for a long time now. Like a number of our line I was born with a gift. I have a touch of premonition, an insight. I knew that you would be born and what you would be for years before I could comprehend it. I can’t see you anymore than anyone else can, or what will become of you, or what you will accomplish, but I knew that you would be, and now here you are."
"Am I what you expected?"
"More so, I should think." She took my hands in hers and looked them over, as well as my arms and legs and the rest of me. "Yes." She said at last. "Yes, you will do. You are a fitting end to us. You will make us proud."
"An end to us?"
"You are the last of our line Sloan. You had no brothers or sisters, and your mother will bear no more children. You are the last and you represent the end of a line of individuals with an unusual quirk of exhibiting rare abilities. I just wanted a moment alone with you to see you for myself."
I felt her sadness as if it were my own. I wondered if Urimaru or Jerry felt it too. I put out my hand and she took it. I let her see into my deepest and innermost self. I opened up to her completely and let her explore my entire being. She held on for a long time, savoring the experience and looking fondly at my development and growth into what I had become. She embraced me for long afterward when we broke the connection. "Thank you." she whispered.

We joined the others in a large room where exiles from the council were plotting an attack to reclaim the compound and overthrow the new seat of power. Bad ideas followed worse ideas as they whipped themselves into a righteous frenzy. Jerry was moderating, but soon gave up as order completely broke down. Ben seemed very amused. He was enjoying the chaos with the objective mirth of a boss of the Gray Area. He existed outside of their bickering, and felt obliged to ridicule it. I finally interrupted as it appeared to be going nowhere rapidly. When I had their attention, I spoke openly to all of them. "If you’re all finished for a moment, I have a proposal to make. Follow me from here and call all of our allies to us. Together we will return to the compound and we’ll set things right again."
"Impossible. We’ll never get near the place. They’ll swarm all over us as soon as we leave the Gray Area."
Objections and postulations flew for a while until they agreed to humor me with silence once again.
"I am not commanding you or ordering you to follow me. I am simply inviting you to join me. I am leaving for the compound now. When I get there I’m going to renegotiate with management at the council and put an end to the exile. You are welcome and encouraged to follow. I promise that if you do, you won’t be disappointed." With that I turned and left, followed by Jerry, Urimaru, Hazel and a few others. More and more followed as we moved out of the Gray Area and headed for the council. A general call to arms went out and our numbers grew into an army as we closed in. The enemies came and went, unorganized and unable to penetrate my defenses. I exuded an aura of force that covered every soul that marched with us. It grew as the mob grew and the resistance that they expected never came as we poured into the compound. There was no fighting. I expressly forbid it. The council members who had assumed control were in a meeting of their own when we broke through the doors. I pushed forward and pinned them all to their seats with a small effort of will. I could sense the impotent outrage but paid little attention to it. Any lingering bad blood between us was now moot.

"I still have a lot to do, so I’ll make this as brief as possible." I began. "This institution exists because it is necessary. The venerable council must be maintained to preserve a balance, and therefore you will cease all petty squabbling and return to the brotherhood which once united you all in wisdom and virtue. The divisions between council members are old and deep. They were manifested themselves when I arrived, but they existed for much longer than I have. These must be put aside now, and order must be restored to your ranks. You need not worry yourselves with me or what I will do from here on out. I have urgent business that I have to finish with the opposition, and I don’t have time to explain. Let it suffice to say that I am no longer your concern. You may feel compelled to contest this, but to do so is futile. I will not be controlled or commanded. I have grown beyond your abilities to do so, as individuals or as a collective." With that, I released my hold on them. No one moved, or even considered trying to confront me. The simple demonstration of power was apparently enough. "The exile you have imposed is now at an end. Let all who were banished return without fear and without ill will. Your work is too important to be shirked for a grudge." I turned to Jerry and the other members of the council who followed me in. They moved forward and took their seats as a communion began. To my relief there was no hostility or bickering. There was still some doubt as to what would happen after I left, but they all seemed able to accept it as fact. I joined in the communion and felt old disputes being resolved without malice, and a new sense of companionship spread over them. It seemed that the exile had taken a toll on the remaining members. Their problems had multiplied exponentially since the schism, and they welcomed the exiles’ return wholeheartedly. They needed each other more than they realized. When it was over a calm swept through the compound. A reverent silence followed for a long time after the communion was over. Whatever divisions there had been were now hardly noticeable.

Afterward Urimaru and I found an empty room and shared a drink.
"If I hadn’t seen it for myself, I never would have believed it." He said. "Things haven’t been this calm here for centuries, or longer. They’ll be talking about this day for the rest of eternity."
"There were some members missing. Are they still waiting for exiles to return?"
"No. Everyone has been accounted for. After the split a few tried to seize power and were destroyed. They had been dealing with the other side, spreading poison and generally making a nuisance of themselves. If there are any left they won’t stay hidden long. What are you going to do now?"
"I have to take Shugg and find his master. I can’t stop with the council. I have to face the other side and let them know I mean business."
"What do you have in mind?"
"I’ll think of something." I said. We let the room get quiet. There would be plenty to talk about after the last big battle was over.
© Brodie Parker December 2005
Begun May 10th 2004 - this Chapter December 2005

Missed Chapters One & Two of our serialised novel - it begins here
Chapter Three here

Chapter Four here
Chapter five here

Chapter Six here
Chapter Seven here
Chapter Eight here
Chapter Nine here
Chapter Ten here
Chapter Eleven here
Chapter Twelve here
Chapter Thirteen here
Chapter Fourteen here
Chapter Fifteen here
Chapter Sixteen here
Chapter Seventeen here
Chapter Eighteen here
Chapter Nineteen here 12.01.05

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