The Creator's Eye: Mover of Fate, Part I, page 19
It opened its mouth, if one could call it that. It was really just a darker area against its luminous, bulb-like face. It looked like it was trying to say something, but no sound came out. The creature seemed to be more light than matter.
“Why have you been following me?” asked Michael, still threatening to throw the rock.
The creature stretched out a spindly arm and glided towards him. Michael didn’t hesitate. He hurled the stone as hard as he could. It passed right through the creature’s chest before skipping off a boulder and plonking into the river behind.
“Don’t come any closer!” Michael shouted again, but now he had even less to back up his demand with. If the rock had no effect, he was not sure what Moving would do.
The creature backed off a little bit and gestured at Michael with one of its four hands. Michael glared mistrustfully at it. It seemed to be inviting him to follow it, but he had no idea what this thing was or who had sent it. It could be working for the demons, or maybe had its own insidious agenda. However, it had been following he and his friends for days and had not hurt them yet, even though it could easily sneak up on them.
As he could see where he was walking when in the monster’s presence, Michael figured that following it would at least result in something faster than shuffling along until he perished from hypothermia. He took a tentative step towards the creature. It moved a short distance away and beckoned once again.
Michael guardedly stepped towards it once more, wary that the creature did not lead him into some sort of trap. It glided effortlessly, while Michael walked on the stony rise above the water. To navigate the cavern, he sometimes had to crawl over large rocks, or hop from stone to stone where the river spilled onto his path.
They traveled for a long time. Sometimes the cave split, but the creature continued to move steadily upstream. It paused patiently for Michael when he needed to rest or had to maneuver over craggy terrain. After a few forks, Michael realized that he had no idea how to get back to the place where he had woken up. If he became separated from the creature now, he would truly be lost.
They proceeded like this until Michael spotted another light up ahead. He stopped for a moment, fearing that this might be another creature, perhaps many of them, lurking and hungry for him. The creature beckoned to him again, but Michael held back apprehensively.
Then he realized the new light was different. It flickered and rocked against the walls with a much more human pace.
“Sefu! Maya!” he yelled.
“Michael!” he heard Maya shout.
In a moment he saw them running towards him. “Michael!” she called again, a great smile across her face. “You’re okay!”
Sefu and Grant were grinning, too, but then they saw the strange light before him and quickly shortened their lips.
The creature hovered in between them and looked back towards Michael.
“I think its okay,” said Michael tentatively. “It led me here.”
The other three proceeded towards Michael, but very cautiously. They passed by the glowing creature, who was a fair bit taller than any of them, even Sefu. It glowed down upon them as they slipped by. Once past it, Maya threw her arms around Michael in a tight embrace. He was very glad to see her, too, but grimaced from his wounds.
“Your shoulder!” she exclaimed noticing the blood on his shirt.
“I don’t think I broke anything,” he said, “but I wouldn’t mind your healing wand about now.”
Maya rummaged through her pack, while Grant clapped Michael on his good side. “Glad you’re okay!”
Sefu, on the other hand did not take his eyes off the glowing creature, which still kept a safe distance away. “Who are you?” he asked.
The creature did not respond.
“He can’t speak,” said Michael. “It seemed like he was trying to talk to me, but I couldn’t understand anything. If it wasn’t for him though, I never would have found you guys.”
Maya set upon Michael’s wound. She pulled back his sleeve, revealing the meaty gash where the beam had cut across his shoulder. She cleaned it with a bit of alcohol and gauze from her med kit. He clenched his teeth against the antiseptic’s bite. Maya then pointed the wand at his wound and began to concentrate.
Michael’s injury was still swollen and sore, but Maya did manage to stop the bleeding.
“We need to get out of this cave,” Sefu spoke slowly to the glowing creature, as if to make himself clear to a foreigner. “We can’t go back the way we came. There are enemies looking for us there. Can you show us another way out?”
The creature did not nod, but simply turned back down river. This encouraged Sefu enough to follow it with the others in pursuit.
“I’m glad that we found you,” said Sefu to Michael as they passed through the darkness. “We would have been lost without you.”
“Lost without me?” Michael scoffed, thinking how he had felt completely alone and adrift just a short time ago.
“Actually yes, if anything happens to your father, you may be the only hope we have against Acheron.”
“But I was practically helpless without you!” Michael protested. “I barely know how to Move!”
“Not yet,” said Sefu, “but you’ll get there. You’ll have to.”
They traveled through the cave for several hours, branching from tunnel to tunnel. The river provided a constant soundtrack to their meandering.
The creature floated onward tirelessly. A couple of times someone in the group had to call for it to pause so they could tie a bootlace or rest their shoulders from their heavy packs. Eventually though, Michael saw light ahead. The fresh sunshine was a huge relief. As they neared the egress, the creature faded against the growing radiance and when they finally walked outside, it was hardly visible at all.
Maya threw her hands up and thanked the summer for the blue sky and the green trees. The sun was low in the sky now, casting violet shadows across the western hills. Bees and dragonflies darted between the trees and pink- blossomed honeysuckles, filling the air with their fervent hum.
They took a moment to gather their bearings while the now barely luminescent creature continued to hover a short distance away.
“Thank you,” Michael told it, “whoever you are.”
Without any reply, the creature simply disappeared.
“Do you think it’s gone?” asked Maya.
“I doubt it,” said Sefu. “That thing hasn’t been following us just to help us through that cave. It wants something more.”
“We shouldn’t linger here too long,” said Grant. “If the demons know where the cave exits, they’ll be here soon.”
“We need to go southwest to Caral,” said Sefu, divulging their plan to Grant. “We have to find a boat and get Michael out of Arimbol.”
Grant shook his head. “It’s too far to reach Caral today, especially if the demons are looking for us. I know a safe house nearby. My friends will appreciate your predicament and may be able to help.”
Sefu cautioned Grant, “The nature of our predicament is best kept secret. We do not want Michael’s whereabouts getting to the demons.”
“Trust me,” said Grant, “this is exactly the kind of thing my friends would love to help with.”
Michael was pleased that Grant’s safe house was not far off. He was anxious for the possibility of sleeping somewhere soft and clean after several days on the road and river. Despite being washed down stream, Michael swore that he still reeked of sphinx bear. Unfortunately, as they reached a rocky cliff at the base of the hills, Michael disappointedly realized that by “safe house” Grant did not mean an actual house.
Grant skulked along the base of the cliff searching for something. “It’s amazing that even though I helped build this thing, I still have trouble finding the door.”
He came to a slight protrusion in the rocks bordered by a few leafy bushes with yellow
The door opened into a dark hallway with smooth stone walls.
“Right this way,” Grant bowed sarcastically.
Michael thought how lucky it was that they had met Grant. He helped them get down the river and now was providing them shelter and possibly even a way off the island. It felt beyond serendipitous.
Grant slid the door shut behind them as they proceeded into the hall. Michael was not particularly thrilled with being somewhere so confined so soon after his ordeal in the cave, but then another door opened ahead of them and a warm yellow light spilled into the corridor.
“Who’s there?” called a heavyset bearded man silhouetted against the bright doorway. Michael noticed that he was brandishing a long knife.
“Put that away,” said Grant with a wave of his hands.
“Buddy!” beamed the man as he pushed past Michael to embrace his friend. Being rather slight, Grant gulped for air as he was submerged in his friend’s enthusiastic embrace. “Good to see you safe, my brother! Who are these strangers?” Grant’s friend asked, looking over Michael and the others.
Michael could just make out his face against the silhouetting light shining from the doorway. He was tall and stout with a square jaw. He looked old, but Michael suspected that his knotted red beard and weathered skin made him look grizzled past his years.
Grant introduced Michael, Sefu, and Maya. “These refugees could very much use our help.”
“Well, we have a lot of those here, but we can squeeze in a few more,” said the man giving a gap-toothed grin. “My name is Harbin,” he said, extending a calloused palm to Michael.
“Harbin helped me found this club a number of years ago,” Grant explained. “He is one of the most avid explorers I have ever met.”
“Explorers?” asked Sefu.
“Yes,” said Harbin gesturing for them to enter the bright room. “Welcome to the Kerouac Club!”
They entered into a large atrium. While the walls were carved out of the stone cliffside, the room was extravagantly attired with ornate rugs, softly cushioned seats, and shelves full of books and artifacts. Just at first glance, Michael noticed dozens of ornate knives, crystals, sea shells and animal skulls. Table tops were crowded with crafts from the far corners of Arimbol. Lemurian rugs covered the floor and sparkling glass mobiles from Gwaeold hung from the ceiling amid dozens of taxidermied birds frozen in mid-flight. There were parrots of myriad colors from the jungles of Ogygia, the famous blue and violet spotted doves of Faralon, and several species of striped magpie.
Amidst this veritable cabinet of wonders sat dozens of people. They filled almost every available chair or parcel of floor. Michael recognized immediately on their faces the same worry of displacement and loss that he witnessed on the prisoners in Alexandria.
“They’re all refugees,” said Harbin. “Some of them are friends and family of our members. Others are just people we found fleeing the raids. We’re lucky to have food here, but its not going to last forever. We tried calling the capital for help, but nothing goes through.”
“They’re jamming communications,” said Sefu. “That is why we need to catch a boat in Caral.”
“That might already be impossible,” said one of the refugees, an older man wearing a brown vest over a stained yellow shirt. He sat on the ground with his back against a book shelf. “Those monsters are amassing on the road to Caral. There’s no way through the canyon. There’s nowhere for any of us to go.” The despondency in the man’s voice made Michael’s heart sink.
“There’s always a way,” asserted a plump woman sitting across the room from him, clutching two young children. “Before I was invited here, I had no money and no family to turn to. I was out of work for months and was going to lose my home. Then I received an invitation to come to the islands. It was a gift from God,” the motherly woman emphasized by pulling out a gold crucifix strung around her neck and planting a thankful kiss on it. “God helps those in need.”
The old man wasn’t having any of the woman’s argument though. “God helps those who help themselves,” sulked the old man, “and we can’t even do that! We have no army and no way of calling for help!”
The mother turned to Michael and explained in a sympathetic whisper, “His daughters are trapped in Caral. That’s why he’s so upset.”
“I have to know if they’re okay,” muttered the old man.
Maya knelt by him. “Don’t worry,” she said. “I was imprisoned by the demons and managed to escape. They were avoiding hurting people, especially children. They’re just looking for someone.”
“Who?” asked the man, eyes glistening, suddenly irate. “I’ll give them whoever they want!”
Maya backed up. “I… I don’t know,” she stammered, looking at Michael for help.
“Calm down, Gregory!” beseeched the mother. “Would you really turn someone in to those monsters?”
The man sat up straight. “Calm down? I would do anything to know my daughters are safe!”
“Hey!” interrupted Grant, cheerfully trying to change the subject. “Would you guys like the grand tour?”
“Yes, please!” exclaimed Maya, following Grant into the next chamber.
“Pay them no mind,” Harbin whispered to Michael as they left the room. “They’re good people. They’re just stressed by the situation.”
But Michael did pay them mind. He realized how lucky he was that Grant had turned out to be sympathetic to their situation. Gregory’s wanton desperation was very dangerous. Michael decided he had to be very careful about what he shared and with whom.
Grant showed them the kitchen and the pantry.
“We’re rationing food,” explained Harbin. “Daniels and I are in charge of that, so please don’t go into the kitchen by yourself. We have a lot of mouths to feed, but if we’re thrifty it will get us through the next two weeks before we have to go foraging.”
“Fortunately we have some of the best hunters and gatherers around,” said Grant proudly.
“It’s also fortunate that we have a lot of water,” added Harbin turning on the tap in the sink. “There’s a spring that we draw from that runs down the cliff. We have enough water pressure for the kitchen and showers all year round.”
“You have showers?” asked Michael, excited at the prospect of cleaning up and tending better to his wounds.
“We have everything!” Grant pronounced with another delighted twinkle in his eyes. He almost levitated with pride for the house he built.
Grant led them into a grand dining hall with a long banquet table running down the center. The ceiling was carved with intricate patterns and inlayed with seashells and semi-precious stones. The room was lit by a bright chandelier— really a mobile of lights and opulent columns of translucent white crystals. It was gaudy, but beautifully sparkled off the pearlescent ceiling. Much like the sitting room, the walls were covered in artifacts and animal heads. There were some especially large ones here, including a nine-horned hydra deer, its antlers splayed like the branches of a tree.
There were several people gathered around the table that looked almost as weathered as Harbin. Their sun-bleached clothes, worn leather sandals, and ubiquitous facial hair almost looked like a uniform. A slender man with a short salt and pepper beard and receding hairline stood up and embraced Grant.
“This is Daniels,” Grant introduced his friend. He pointed at the others around the table who were now rising to greet them. “And this is Mercer, Feinstein, Turner, and Lopez. We go by last names in the club. It sounds cool,” he grinned.
“So, Grant’s your last name?” asked Maya.
Grant nodded, “No one calls me Christopher.”
Lopez, the one woman at the table, spoke. She had long, dark hair tied up behind her head. Michael supposed that she might be pretty in a rugged sort of way, but it was well masked by her baggy green cargo pants and many-pocketed fishing vest. “We started hearing about the attacks not long after you left. We thought you would be right back.”
“I got trapped behind enemy lines, but these guys helped save me,” Grant gestured toward his new friends. He then scanned the faces of the Kerouacs. “Where is everyone else?”
“Some of them are in their rooms,” said Lopez, “but there are a lot of members that we haven’t seen yet.”
Grant gave her a disconcerted look.
“So where did this place come from?’ asked Maya, still taking in the ostentatious decor.
“We built it,” said Daniels. “It was Grant’s idea.”
“Well, not entirely,” Grant said modestly. “And you guys did most of the work to build this place. That’s a time when Moving really did come in handy,” he playfully jabbed Sefu in the ribs with his elbow.
Sefu grimaced and rubbed his side.
“Back when I lived in New York,” Grant carried on, “the hippies were obsessed with a writer named Jack Kerouac. One of his books inspired a lot of people to explore the world as a way to find themselves. When I first arrived in Arimbol, I wanted to see every bit of it.”
Michael knew that the various cities and landmarks of Arimbol were named after famed lost, ancient, and mythical places elsewhere on Earth. For the settlers it added to the sense of wonder about the islands and enticed them to move there. For Michael however, it inspired curiosity about what lay beyond the Shield Fold. He had never left the island of Ennor and everything on it was built within the last thirty years. He had never seen a city as old as those in Europe, or even America. There were some relatively big cities and skyscrapers on the islands, but many modern devices were missing or outright banned, including cars, movies, and television. Even radio and telephones were rare outside of government facilities. This was usually under the pretext that they polluted the qualities that made Arimbol unique, but he now supposed all of this was part of his father’s plan to hide and isolate the archipelago. It probably did make it a purer Mover’s paradise, and that usually made up for whatever he felt like he might have missed, but after the recent revelations about his father, it just reeked of more manipulation.
Harbin continued the story of the Kerouac’s founding, “People come to Arimbol with dreams of magic and adventure, but in actuality, life more or less goes on as normal. Time passes and few explore beyond their own front yards.”
Grant nodded in agreement. “I wandered all over the islands during my first two years and only met a handful of others doing the same. I decided we needed a base to share stories and souvenirs from our journeys, and prepare for our next ones. I founded the first Kerouac Club for those whose hunger for adventure will never be sated.”
“There are meeting houses and chapters on all of the major islands,” added Harbin.
Grant did indeed look very much at home among his fellow adventurers. Michael, however, felt very far from home. In fact, he was not sure if he would ever be able to return there again.
As if reading his thoughts, Grant generously added, “This can be your home, too, for as long as you need it.”
Grant and Harbin led them down another long hallway with several doors on either side. Through the open ones Michael could see families sitting on the beds and on the floor. Some were talking while others read quietly. Some of the children laughed and played games with a small crystal-like ball. Its mirrored surface flashed across their faces as they rolled it back and forth. They stopped and looked up as Michael passed, probably wondering who the new refugees were. It was then that Michael uneasily recognized that he too was a refugee. The term always bore a stigma to him of someone who was at the mercy of more powerful forces. Even as he was buffeted about by stormy waves over the past week, he was buoyed by the belief that he had some modicum of control― some ability to paddle, however helplessly, in the direction he chose. Casting his lot with sallow-eyed refugees like Gregory or the fatalistic mother in the other room seemed to suggest otherwise.
“These are all the bedrooms,” said Harbin pointing down the hall. “We had to convert them into dorms. We’ll try to find you beds if we can, but I don’t think there are many left.”
Michael and Maya thanked him.
“Normally we keep this clubhouse private for our members, but these are extraordinary circumstances. Fortunately, that means that very few people know this place exists, so you can sleep easy trusting that you’re safe here.”
These were kind words, but Michael doubted that this place would go unnoticed by the demons for long.
Harbin showed them to a set of four washrooms before heading back to the banquet hall. Sefu and Maya closed their doors behind them, but before Michael could go into his, Grant grabbed him by the arm.
He spoke in a low voice, more serious than Michael had heard him before, “I know you’re tired, but I need to ask you something. While we were in the cave, I asked your uncle about why the horn-headed guys are after you. He told me a long-winded tale about giant beasts at the dawn of time, Creators, and magic eyeballs. Then he said that you’re next in line to be one of those all-powerful dudes. I think I told you how I’m not particularly fond of religion,” he said gruffly. “It rubs me the wrong way, but I spent the last few days with you and you don’t seem like a fanatical nutjob proclaiming he’s God.”
Grant’s harsh tone caught Michael off guard. He stared blankly at the normally jocular explorer before he went on.
“If it wasn’t for you guys, I’d still be stuck in that tree, browning my brains out, so perhaps I owe you one, but I need to know where you stand on all this.”
“Well, I actually just found out about all this myself,” said Michael, a little uncomfortable about being accosted when he really just wanted to wash up.
“So, you believe that there were actually two giant space monsters slap fighting each other so hard that they caused the Big Bang?”
“I don’t know,” said Michael, anxiously glancing at the shower. “I haven’t really had time to think about it. There were a few other things that kind of took my attention.”
“I can imagine, but what do you think about it?” Grant pressed.
Michael thought for a moment. “Um…I guess there couldn’t have actually been two beasts fighting at the beginning of the universe. It must be a metaphor for something, like two powerful, opposing forces.”
“Fair enough,” said Grant, “but what about the Creators? You spent your whole life with your dad. Do you really think he’s some kind of a deity that can Create things with his mind?”
Michael sighed. “If you asked me a week ago, I would have thought that was impossible, but it seems like there are a lot of things about my dad that I didn’t know. There was a huge secret bunker under our house, the entrance to which was in a kitchen cupboard that I must have opened a thousand times. I can’t imagine how he even built that without anyone knowing, without some kind of Creative power, or at least some incredible ability to Move.”
“But do you really believe he could have Created these whole islands?”
“I couldn’t say,” Michael shrugged, “but all of a sudden we’re invaded by an alien race of horned people that no one on Earth even knew existed. They’re here for something and that something supposedly is me. All I wanted was to go to school and learn how to Move. I didn’t ask to be a Creator.”
Grant released his arm. “I’m sorry to be so skeptical. It’s just that if I’m going to risk my life and my friends’ lives to help someone, I need to know what your intentions are. I appreciate that your newfound status is not getting to your head.”
Michael smiled, “Believe me. I don’t want to be a Creator. All I want
Grant nodded solemnly. “I’ll speak to the other Kerouacs to see what we can do.” He was about to walk away, but turned back to Michael and wrinkled his nose, “By the way, you should really take a shower. You smell like a sphinx bear.”
“There are only two ways to get to Caral,” began Harbin the next morning, unfolding a map on the broad wooden banquet table.
Michael, Sefu, Grant, and Maya stood around him while the other explorers sat nearby.
“A major road runs through the canyon,” he continued, pointing his finger at a line running through a narrow pass in the hills, “but it’s blocked now by the demons. They’re massing their numbers there and are poised to attack Caral. Then there’s the sea road, from the North, but it’s poorly maintained and prone to landslides. It will take you several days to hike around the mountains, then travel back down South. The demons probably have it guarded as well.”
“There is one other alternative,” interjected Daniels. “You can fly down.”
“Fly down?” Sefu coughed in surprise. “We don’t have wings!”
“No, but we have roaks,” said Daniels. “They nest on the peaks above Caral. From there they scavenge off dead whales and sea wolves that wash up on shore.”
“That’s an interesting idea,” said Sefu with more than a tinge of sarcasm, “but how are we supposed to ride giant vultures? They’re bigger than sphinx bears and even more irritable.”
“We don’t ride the birds,” said Daniels, “just their feathers.”
“You must be joking,” Sefu snorted incredulously. He sounded just like Maya when told to ride the bear.
“Not at all,” said Harbin. “How do you think such big birds are able to stay aloft? I’m no physicist, but I figure that a bird that size would need wings far bigger than their body could support, so they evolved something else. They Move with their feathers!”
He turned to Daniels and asked him to demonstrate. Daniels took down a long, brown feather that was pinned to the wall. It was the biggest feather Michael had ever seen, even longer than he was tall.
“We found this in the mountains near here,” said Daniels. He held it over his head and jumped in the air. Instead of falling back to the ground, the feather yanked him several feet into the air as if he was a kite suddenly hoisted by a gust of wind. It slowed quickly before letting him float softly down to the ground.
“That’s a great idea!” said Grant excitedly reaching for the plume. He jumped in the air and floated just as Daniels did. “It’s not really like Moving,” said Grant. “You don’t have to concentrate at all. The power is in the feather.”
“That’s right!” said Daniels with a satisfied grin. “Mother Nature provides everything we need!”
“This is amazing,” observed Sefu. “It’s almost like the feather has a Fold in it.”
“Is this going to be safe?” asked Maya.
“Absolutely not!” laughed Harbin, “but it will be a great adventure!”
“It also seems to be the only option we have,” remarked Sefu. “Roaks are not to be trifled with. They will not care for us poking around their nests and steeling their feathers.”
“That’s why we’ll have to wait until they’re off scavenging,” Daniels recommended.
“But what about flying?” worried Sefu. “Couldn’t a strong breeze send us hurtling into the trees, or out to sea?”
“It’s surprisingly stable,” said Grant as he climbed onto the table and jumped in the air once more, drifting slowly to the ground.
Sefu turned to Michael. “We would only do this to get you off of the island. What do you think?”
It did not look particularly safe to Michael either, but what choice did they have? “Well, I have always dreamt of flying,” he acquiesced with a reluctant shrug.
“Terrific!” exclaimed Grant. “Giant, whale-eating birds it is!”
Sefu stayed with Grant in the banquet hall to work out the final details while Maya and Michael walked back to their respective dorms.
“How do you feel about this?” Maya asked Michael when they were alone.
“It sounds really dangerous,” he admitted.
“It does, but I was actually asking about leaving Arimbol. If we survive tomorrow, we’ll be on a ship heading far away from home.”
“I was thinking about that,” Michael said. “Home already feels a long way off.”
“Right,” she said forlornly, “I feel like I’m just getting farther and farther from the people I want to help.”
Maya bit her lip. Michael noted she often did that when she was worried. It was endearing even though she was upset. “But this will help them,” he told her encouragingly, “and we’ll come back for them. I’m sure this is what my father would have wanted us to do.”
“You believe in your father, don’t you?” Maya asked, placing a hand gingerly on his arm.
“I hate to admit it, but I do,” he sighed. “Even though he lied to me and some of the things he did seem crazy, I still believe in him because…I guess…he believes in me— that I’ll be a good Creator someday.”
“I believe you will be, too,” smiled Maya. “I miss my home and family, but I’m glad that I met you.”
“I’m glad the demons made you my nurse,” he smiled back.
They looked at each other for what seemed like a long time in the dim subterranean hallway before saying goodnight.