Great stories about good people caught in difficult situations.

Chapter Five Hundred and twenty-three : with ghosts from the past


Hedone found Nelson standing just inside the carriage house where he lived. He seemed to be in some kind of dissociative fugue. He didn’t or possibly couldn’t see her. She opened her hands and her arms causing golden light to flood him. She let the light do its work. When he seemed to be waking, she put a golden apple in his hand.

As if he hadn’t eaten in a year, he devoured the apple with giant bites. He ate the apple core and seeds. She put another apple in his hand. He ate that down.

His entire body shuddered. His eyes closed for a long moment. When he opened his eyes again, he was awake. Seeing her, he instinctively dropped to his knees.

Hedone wasn’t sure what caused this reaction in others. The fairies had started doing this when she transformed into a full Goddess. The longer she was the Goddess of Love, the more beings fell to their knees. Hedone was not comfortable with this kind of prostration.

She held out her hands and helped him up. They stood face to face.

He gasped.

“Hedone,” Nelson said, recognizing her for the first time. “I didn’t recognize you.”

He started to drop to his knees again, but she held him up.

“Please don’t,” Hedone said.

“Is it possible to have another apple?” Nelson asked.

“Of course,” Hedone said.

This time, Nelson seemed to savor every bite of this apple.

“This is the best apple I’ve ever eaten,” Nelson said. He held the apple to his nose. “Just the smell is divine.”

“Apples are my thing,” Hedone said.

“Now that you’re a Goddess?” Nelson asked.

“Always,” Hedone said. “It was a long time before apples were common fruit. Most of history, they were something people could only dream about. But then again, some apples are worth dreaming about.”

“I will dream about this apple for as long as I live,” Nelson said. “Have you ever thought about trying to grow them?”

“Of course,” Hedone said. “There might be a tree behind the Castle — a giftin homage to the Oracle.”

Nelson suddenly looked surprised. Hedone smiled.

“Am I still alive?” Nelson asked as he looked around. He was standing in a white walled room with a beautiful blue sky above him. It seemed to be day light, but he was sure that was artificial.

“You’re in the in-between,” Hedone said.

“What is the in-between?” Nelson asked.

“The in-between is a place that humans fall when they’ve been dislodged from their lives and aren’t sure what will happen next,” Hedone said. “Everyone sees it a little differently. Clearly, you see yourself in some kind of medical exam room.”

“It does look like an ED exam room,” Nelson said with a nod. Nelson pointed to the blue sky above. “I’ve never seen one like that though.”

“Fair enough. This is a place in the mind as much as it’s a place in the world,” Hedone said. “You may be here for hours or many days, even years.”

“What ends the time in the in-between?” Nelson asked.

“You decide that you’ve had enough of life or you commit to life again,” Hedone said. “You’ve done this before.”

“On the bus to Georgetown,” Nelson said. “Yes. But then I had this great future ahead of me — college, medical school, being an ER doctor. It wasn’t hard to commit to life then.”

“And now?” Hedone asked.

“I …” Nelson started and then stopped. He nodded his head. “I have nothing to look forward to. I’ve blown it with Blane and I’ve been sick and my career is …”

He stopped talking and looked horrified.

“I have to be in court tomorrow morning,” Nelson said. “I don’t have time for this.”

Hedone smiled.

“Why do you look so smirky?” Nelson asked.

“You only have time for this,” Hedone said. She gave him a kind look.

“I need sleep,” Nelson said. “I’m exhausted. I don’t have time for an existential crisis!”

“You’re in the middle of one anyway,” Hedone said.

Nelson scowled. Hedone lifted a shoulder.

“It’s bent time,” Hedone said. “I can put you back to where you were when you walked into your home. You can go to bed and …”

“No,” Nelson said, shaking his head. “If I go back, I’ll go back to … the darkness.”

Hedone nodded.

“Can you help?” Nelson asked.

“That’s why I am here,” Hedone said.

“What needs to happen?” Nelson asked.

“We need to look into the dark spot that has consumed your life,” Hedone said.

“You mean that cretin M.J.,” Nelson said with disgust in his voice.

“No,” Hedone said. “He is merely a screen for the real darkness, your real pain.”

“A screen?”

“Like a metaphor,” Hedone said. “He did something awful that you remember. You then hang all of this emotion on it. Some of the emotion belongs to what M.J. did. But let’s be honest …”

Nelson looked into her eyes.

“You felt this way long before you met M.J.,” Hedone said.

Nelson opened his mouth to respond. Looking into the Goddesses eyes, his excuses and defenses seemed like a waste of time. His head went up and down in a slight nod. She smiled at him.

“But …” Nelson said.

“It is frightening to look into the darkest places of your psyche,” Hedone said. “Terrifying. At least it was for me.”

Nelson didn’t respond.

“I can allow you someone to go with you,” Hedone said. “Someone to be your witness and help you when it’s too hard.”

“You’ll be there,” Nelson said.

“I will,” Hedone said. “But I will need to be impartial. I cannot comfort you or help you in anyway. I cannot give you advice. If I do, we can get lost in the web of time.”

Nelson squinted at her. She sighed.

“It’s like the Christmas Carole,” Hedone said.

“I love that play,” Nelson said.

“You’re in that play right now,” Hedone said.

“Oh, I get it,” Nelson said. “The ghosts can only show Scrooge things. They cannot advise about them. Some of them say some snide things but …”

“Exactly,” Hedone said. “You may want someone there to be on your side. To help you and only you.”

Nelson nodded his head. He looked down at the ground.

“Can it be someone who is dead?” Nelson asked.

Assuming that Nelson was thinking of his mother, Hedone gave him a soft smile.

“I would like …” Nelson took a deep breath. “Jackson Theriot.”

“Jax?” Hedone asked in surprise. “From the Fey Special Forces Team.”

Nelson nodded.

“He was like a brother to me,” Nelson said. “If you have sex with your brother, which only really happened a couple of times but it felt weird because he really was like a brother to me. Plus, he got serious with Roger and … M.J.’s dad … You know Michael? He introduced us. Jax was there with me every step of the way when I was at Georgetown and then he and Roger were there when I was in medical school and… I see Roger every year when …”

“October 8,” Hedone said.

Nodding, Nelson began to cry.

“My name …” Nelson looked at Hedone. “Nelson. It means ‘son of Neil.’ It was Alex Hargreaves’s idea because Jax’s middle name was Neil. He was like my friend and brother and father, all rolled into one. When I got sick, Roger came to Denver take care of me because we promised to be each other’s family since Jax was gone.”

Nelson sniffed without making a dent into the snot and tears running down his face.

“Roger gave me …” Nelson held up his right middle finger where he always wore a gold band. “It was Jax’s. He wore it every day. He was wearing it when he was killed. Roger got the wedding ring that I helped Jax get him, so he figured I deserved this one.

Nelson nodded.

“I … miss … him.” Nelson said. “He would know just what to do with all of this. He’d love Blane and Heather and the kids and … Can you?”

“I can try,” Hedone said.

Hedone nodded.

“Give me a minute,” Hedone said.

Nelson stumbled to sit on a nearby stool. Bending forward, he cried into his hands. A minute or maybe a couple of years later, Nelson felt a hand on his back. Nelson looked up. Jackson Theriol stood next to Nelson as really as life. Seeing his friend, Nelson stood up into Jax’s arms. The men held each other tight for a long time while Hedone watched. Jax broke off first.

“What are you wearing?” Jax asked.

Jax was wearing jeans, a T-shirt, and a light orange zipped hooded sweater. He plucked at the inexpensive suit that Nelson was wearing. He pointed to Nelson’s thick glasses and shook his head.

“Glasses? Again? Really?” Jax asked. “Those are you back up glasses. Don’t deny it.”

Nelson shook his head.

“What happened to your hair?” Jax asked

Jax plucked at Nelson’s glasses. Nelson opened his mouth to defend himself, but Jax continued.

“Did you buy this suit?” Jax asked Nelson.

“Yes, why?” Nelson asked defensively.

“No, you actually spent your hard earned money on … this?” Jax asked.

Jax tipped his head to the side. Jackson pointed to Nelson’s face. Nelson took out a handkerchief and wiped his face.

“You got that suit at the Good Will,” Jax said. “Those shoes, too.”

“Uh …” Nelson said and blushed.

The men laughed.

“Do you ever get laid?” Jax asked.

“No,” Nelson said, laughing.

Turning to Hedone, Jax asked, “May I?”

“Be my guest,” Hedone said.

Jax snapped his fingers. Nelson’s glasses were gone exposing his amber colored eyes. His tightly shaven hair grew into dark wavy curls that fell to his shoulder. The bad suit disappeared and was replaced by brown wool slacks and a pastel green fitted cotton dress shirt. Without his ill-fitting clothing, Nelson looked taller and fitter than he had before. Jax was nearly six feet. Nelson was just a smidge under that. Nelson’s battered dress shoes became ankle boots. Jax leaned back to look at Nelson.

“One more thing,” Jax said.

Jax snapped his fingers. Nelson’s scraggly mustache and goatee disappeared exposing Nelson’s jutting jaw line. Jax nodded and looked at Hedone.

“Better?” Jax asked.

“Better,” Hedone said. “He no longer hides his shine.”

“I’m a serious scientist!” Nelson defended himself.

“Seriously ugly scientist,” Jax said, quickly.

They laughed and embraced again.

“How long do I have?” Jax asked.

“We have permission for you to stay as long as Nelson needs you,” Hedone said. “I have also received permission for some extra time so that you can see Roger and Alex.”

“Like I have before?” Jax asked.

“In their dreams,” Hedone nodded.

“Good,” Jax said.

Jax was so fit and youthful that even Hedone smiled at him. Catching her smile, Jax grinned in return.

“We need to find the source of the black hole inside Nelson’s psyche,” Hedone said.

“Guy.” When Jax said Nelson’s birth name it sounded like “Gee.”

“I feel so much better now, why …?” Nelson asked.

“Because this dream will end, and you will be stuck in the dark again,” Jax said. His voice caught with emotion, “Don’t waste your precious life in the dark. Let’s get this done so you can live in the light.”

“So says the soldier,” Nelson mumbled.

“So says someone who died before he was able to live the life of his dreams,” Jax said evenly.

Tears appeared in Nelson’s eyes.

“Please,” Jax said. “You have life — let’s get this done so you can live it.”

Jax grabbed Nelson, and the men hugged. Rather than wait, Hedone took them where they needed to start.

<p><i>They were looking at a handsome young couple sitting with their heads pressed together on a bench seat of a high speed train. They are sitting at the back of the train near the baggage compartment. There was an empty bench seat across from them. The man and woman were both looking down at a strikingly beautiful seven month old baby who was sitting between them. Wide awake, the baby cooed and his mother “Ahhed.” The baby’s eyes were amber. He had a small tuft of dark hair. Seeing his mother’s face, the baby laughed.</i></p>  <p><i>“Il rit!” his father exclaimed that his son had laughed. </i></p>  <p><i>The father kissed the mother’s face. They turned to look at their son again. The two were so transfixed that they barely noticed their surroundings. </i></p><p><i><br></i></p>    <p>“Wow,” Nelson whispered. “My father looks so young.”</p>  <p>“Is that your mother?” Jax asked. </p>  <p>“I don’t know,” Nelson said. He walked up to where she was sitting and leaned down to see her face. “I guess so. I’ve never seen her before.”</p>  <p>“She is very beautiful,” Hedone said. “So full of love. Life. She truly loves you.”</p>  <p>“Sometimes, when I sleep, I have this feeling . . .” Nelson said. “I can hear her voice.”</p>  <p>Nelson hummed a soft tune.</p>  <p>“Dodo l’enfant do,” Jax said. </p>  <p>Nelson looked at Jax and then at Hedone.</p>  <p>“It’s a French lullaby,” Hedone said. “Very traditional.”</p>  <p>Nelson’s hand went to cover his mouth.</p>  <p>“She probably sang it to you,” Jax said. “You’ve never seen her before?” </p>  <p>“Dad didn’t keep photos of her,” Nelson said. “He’s such a bastard that he. . .”</p>  <p>Nelson looked up at Hedone and looked back at the couple in front of them. </p>  <p>“He’s so young, so beautiful here,” Nelson said. “Happy. I <i>think</i> that’s him but I . . .”</p><p><br></p>    <p><i>The mother’s head jerked up. Her nostrils flared as a man walked down the hall. She squinted. By instinct, she turns grabbed the child and wrapped her body him. Before the father can react, a bomb went off in the baggage compartment behind them. The man and the woman were blown forward into the empty chair in front of them. Somehow, the woman’s body ended up between the man and the bomb. When they landed, the baby was tucked between the woman’s abdomen and the man’s abdomen.</i></p>  <p><i>The woman’s head had been sliced in half by a piece of metal from the baggage compartment. Her most of body was shredded by tiny pieces of the metal shrapnel. Only her belly and lap surrounding the baby remained intact. The father was knocked out cold from the shock. His legs and arms were broken.</i></p>  <p><i>Miraculously, the baby was uninjured. Startled by the bomb, the baby began to wail. </i></p><p><i><br></i></p>    <p>The scene changed back to the white medical exam room.</p>  <p>“Oh my God,” Nelson whispered. “Oh my God.”</p>  <p>Visibly shaken, Nelson dropped down on the low stool. </p>  <p>“March 29, 1982 on the Capitale,” Jax said evenly.</p>  <p>“Carlos the Jackal,” Nelson said. He glanced at Hedone. “I watched the hearings on French television the first year I was at Denver Health.”</p>  <p>“Your father testified,” Hedone said, evenly.</p>  <p>“He . . . What?” Nelson broke down.</p>  <p>Jax grabbed him. Nelson wept into Jax’s arms. Jax looked at Hedone, and she nodded. They had time for Nelson to cry.</p>  <p>“I don’t know why I’m crying,” Nelson said. “I don’t remember any of that. I never saw her, met her . . . It’s him! I never saw him without a sneer on his face. He hated me. Always. Nothing I did was good enough for him. He . . .”</p>  <p>Nelson looked at Hedone. </p>  <p>“He is my dark space,” Nelson said.</p>  <p>“One of them,” Hedone said. “Let’s take a look.”</p><p><br></p>    <p><i>“Leave him with me,” an elderly woman said.</i></p>  <p><i>She held her arms out to take the baby. The father jerked his wheelchair away from the woman. The infant was sound asleep on Nelson’s father Pierre Semaine’s lap. Pierre’s legs and arms were in casts. His face was covered in scratches. His head was wrapped in gauze. His eyes were glassy as if he were ill or in terrible pain.</i></p>  <p><i>“I will take care of my own child!” Nelson’s father, Peirre Semaines, said to an elderly woman.</i></p>  <p><i>“You are a young man,” the elderly woman said. “What will you do with a child?”</i></p>  <p><i>“I will love him,” Pierre Semaines said. </i></p>  <p><i>The elderly woman clucked and shook her head.</i></p>  <p><i>“You cannot have him,” Pierre Semaines said. </i></p>  <p><i>The elderly woman leaned over to look at the sleeping baby.</i></p>  <p><i>“He looks just like my daughter,” the elderly woman said, in a soft voice.</i></p>  <p><i>“He is all I have of . . .” Pierre said. “I will do whatever it takes. Whatever it takes . . . He is my child. My blessing. He belongs with me.”</i></p>  <p><i>Time seemed to pass at double speed. The young father and the infant stayed in the hospital. The child was cared for by the nurses and his father. Slowly, Pierre began to heal. </i></p>  <p><i>The elderly woman continued to pester Pierre for the child. Pierre remained firm. </i></p>  <p><i>“My child belongs with me,” Pierre said. </i></p>  <p><i>As soon as Pierre was able to walk, he left the hospital with his child. He went straight to the airport where he boarded a plane to Denver, Colorado where he’d found an entry level engineer job at Martin Marietta.</i></p><p><i><br></i></p>    <p>They were back in the white exam room with the blue sky ceiling. Nelson stumbled and Jax caught him.</p>  <p>“I know that woman,” Nelson said. “She . . .”</p>  <p>Nelson looked at Hedone.</p>  <p>“Is that possible?” Nelson asked.</p>  <p>“Of course,” Hedone said.</p>  <p>“She came to the house,” Nelson said. “Once, twice . . . She was there when . . .”</p>  <p>Nelson shook his head and covered his eyes. Jax looked at Hedone.</p>  <p>“His grandmother was at the house when Michael’s wife informed his father that Guy was gay,” Jax said. “It’s a part of his story — this crazy old lady that started screeching in French at Guy and his father. She’s a part of this story.”</p>  <p>“Why?” Hedone asked.</p>  <p>“She went crazy,” Nelson said. “She screeched at me in French. Hit me. Hard. Across the face and neck. Spit at me. Then she started hitting my father. My father was so angry, enraged. He went ballistic. At me. At M.J.’s mother. He kept saying . . .”</p>  <p>Nelson gasped. His fist went to his mouth and he bit his finger.</p>  <p>“What is it?” Hedone asked.</p>  <p><strong></strong>“He wasn’t speaking to me,” Nelson said. “He was talking to her! thought . . . I thought . . . Oh, God . . .”</p><p><i>Denver Cereal continues next week...</i></p>

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