Femina’s sleep was restless. Sometimes she does not even know if she is actually awake or dreaming. Reality and dream are like confluent rivers without boundaries or demarcation. It is a state where all could be real or, a dream. She believes Dan is beside her and that commotion and voices have jolted her into wakefulness but she may as well have dreamed it or she may even suffer hallucinations. Her senses though seem to work fine and her mind seems to be intact too but having not only lost the sense of time she cannot differentiate realities. She leaves it at that. Once again, she just has to accept that she walks in the unknown, dream and reality one as good as the other.
She wonders where the moon may have gone and why the night suddenly has become so dark and where all the stars are. Has Dan closed off the window may be? She reaches out to her side only to find he is not there. She gets up feeling her way to the light-switch. Indeed! The shutters are shut but Dan and Ger are not here. They must have come and gone which may actually have filtered into her dreams distorting them and bending reality. But….! She pricks her ears. There are still noises and even voices though faint and more like an echo on its way out. She switches off the light and listens. Odd as it may be, they seem to come from below, the floor. Maybe there is somewhere an air vent close to the ground, obscured by things so it is not easily seen. Slowly, making no noise herself, she probes her way into the next room from where she thinks the sounds are coming and nearly stumbles over something uneven close to the door as she enters the other side. This is very odd because she cannot recall any doorstep or ledge or anything of that kind in any of the rooms.
She kneels down and as she feels around the floor she finds a hard ridge. Running her fingers along there is a groove that steadily widens to a small gap hardly wide enough to put half her fingers in but sure the place where the noises come from. This can only be a trap door, opened and, most likely unintentionally, not shut tight again. She fiddles around, pushing to and fro and indeed she manages to open what is a rather thin slab that does not even need much strength to move, even without shrieking or other revealing noises. Clearly, it is well maintained, running smoothly on its axes and tracks and, fitting so perfectly into the floor that when shut, there is no inkling of it being there. Once again, it is entirely baffling and so clever, she can only be impressed, leaving her wondering how it opens from the fully shut position. At the moment however it allows entry into a dimly lit and narrow shaft with a short ladder, landing on a tiny plateau from which a tight spiral stairway leads further down. It lets only one person move up or down and there is no view to be had because the stairs run between solid walls.
Femina of course wants to know where this secret pit leads to. She is not surprised about it but to find it right under her nose, is surprising. Then again, Oliver is Wilson’s darling which must have some perks and makes a lot of sense too. Be it as it may! Though she does not want to be found out, she thinks it quite safe to go and investigate. After all, she only follows Oliver’s trail that he left behind and, her companions are likely there with him!
Carefully, slowly, and barefooted, she climbs down the ladder and follows the winding stairs without the slightest noise thanks to the solid concrete ground. Now and then she has to stop because it is warm and tight and, the round and round makes her dizzy, and also her knees need the occasional rest. The voices get increasingly louder and it gets lighter too. And then the stairs end at an opening in the wall, exposing her to the shine of neon lights as bright as day. Fortunately, the opening only leads to another little platform from where more stairs go further down, this time straight, with rails at the side for safe keeping. From below come all the noises and voices and because there are solid high walls all around, it explains the echoic nature of the sounds.
Crouching down, she sticks her head out the opening to investigate and then on her belly like the caterpillar she wiggles out on to the platform, as far as it appears safe to stay hidden. She looks down into a workshop, fully equipped as it ought to be for its purpose, with workbenches and shelves along the walls, tools, appliances and bits and pieces of dismantled or, half assembled motorbikes and, a big work-table in the center. On discs near its edge neatly lined up all around stand life-sized figures, which can be turned and, lowered and raised due to hydraulic pressure operation. A group of men busy themselves working on them. She makes sure before settling down to find out what is going on that the railing gives enough cover to prevent being seen at once should anyone look up. Though she believes this to be rather unlikely except, she would draw attention to herself by moving too quickly, too much or making a noise.
Not only Oliver and her two friends are down there, there is also Wilson and his bodyguard. Femina is not so much surprised by Wilson’s presence, but about the other two she is. Probably they are his life-line, having more enemies than friends or, like in the wild, as a pack leader he is constantly challenged, - why would it be different here? Different is only that he can hire people who do the battling for him.
Femina is more than intrigued by the pains the men take with their work on these figures. There they screw and file and polish as if they wanted them to shine, even as if they wanted to win a prize with them, so eager do they work and pay attention to details; and as they turn them to and fro, she realizes that these figures are the spitting image of the person attending to them and, to confuse her even more, it is the figures who talk, not the men who work on them. Though the voices sound a bit hollow it is no problem to know to whom they belong. But, there are also other voices which come through a speaker. Femina is puzzled and wonders, if these are all holograms because it is so bizarre. Who or what is real, that is, who is of flesh and blood, she cannot work out because, while the figures are highly polished and look life-like, the ones who work on them look rather derelict, red-eyed, red skinned, disheveled and unattractive and, they don’t do the talking. However, what they talk about is more or less everyday-business and, it is mostly Wilson who speaks to other Desperados from somewhere outside, giving them instructions or listening to their reports. Oliver gets sometimes involved while her friends and the bodyguards hardly ever participate.
Though Femina finds it all extraordinary, it is peaceful. It reminds her of men sitting together in the garage, engaging in a hobby they share and, while the house-owner is able to attend to some of his business affairs over the intercom, he can still enjoy ‘buddy time’. It does not interest her at all and she decides to leave when a “Mac” announces himself for a report.
“Hi, Mac here”, he says. “Just want to let you know, we are all back and okay. They were Devil infiltrators. Took the few appendages with us, the rest is normal goods, fine quality.”
“How many have you got and how willing are they?” She hears Wilson’s voice asking.
”Twenty”, comes over the speaker, “and two of them fully intact.”
“Nothing of concern. Three rats took a flight from the roof, one is under examination. Five hang-ons will be sold, the two freshlings are for auction. The rest is happy to play with our friends. Transport back for some tomorrow, the others as it goes.”
“Okay!” Wilson’s voice sounds pleased, adding: “Send the Devils a souvenir! Throw the rest to the dogs!”
Femina starts choking. She retreats immediately and tries hard not to make any unsavory noise. She wants to leave, no run off, but she feels sick and trembles all over. She needs to calm down first and so she takes a few deep breaths.
Another voice comes over the speaker: “Wilson, some of us want to know, what the plan is for the strange one. Is she available? Maybe, if not now, then later?”
Femina freezes. He is talking about her! Or is she already paranoid?
Wilson’s voice is sharp and menacing: “Let all know, she has my personal protection! That’s all! Over and out!”
The speaker falls silent.
“She definitely is not safe! Do not let her alone! Not even in your quarter, Oliver! Too many interested!” Wilson’s voice is adamant.
Femina jolts into action. No time to lose. No matter how sick she feels. As she hurries upwards her nausea worsens but that is more due to her breathlessness than anything else and this time the way back seems to go on forever. Finally she is at the ladder and with last strength she pulls herself up. There is fortunately enough adrenaline in her blood to not lose sight of caution. Everything should be just the way it was when the men left, also the trap door. She ensures she keeps it just as much ajar as she found it. Then finally she can let herself rest, creeping back into her bed. Now she must calm down as quickly as possible. So she concentrates on her breathing. She is certain somebody will turn up any minute to keep watch on her.
However, not only her body is in turmoil, so is her mind. After all, she was right with all her suspicions. Of course, why wouldn’t she! Here, you won’t get anything cheap. Nothing here is for free. Every pleasure has a price tag and you pay more for it than you may think. Wilson’s protection will sure be costly, if he even sticks to it…. His word is no better than yellow mica. And so is his charm. Everything just sits on the surface. Unfortunately, she also realizes now that he and her friends have far more in common than she thought and likes. How else were it possible that they sit harmoniously together down there in the cellar, polishing their image, while they don’t seem to care for themselves much at all? Poor girls! Unlucky infiltrator! Their fate is sealed, as it is for all opponents and, more so for their enemies because, if one pays more attention to appearance than valuing himself, nothing and nobody is valued. Neither is life itself! Wastage, garbage? Who cares? That’s how they create their gruesome world but blame others for it because, they would never admit to have faults of their own.
Sadness and tears well up in her. Of course, they neither help the afflicted nor would they stir the tormenter but, at least, she can send her thoughts away until they are cleansed by the flow, with nothing left but sediment for the beautiful water lilies and colorful fish.
How black the night is without a light, locked away behind thick stony walls and blocked out windows. She carries on to listen to her breath, hearing only how it moves with it’s in and out. The breath is her cradle and her lullaby and, the voice a soft wave, - what really does it matter that the night is so dark without moon and stars.
For a moment there is also silence but how long a moment can be is relative. Disquiet, noise and voices are suddenly back, urging themselves into her mind. The light of a torch dances all over her. She does not move just carries on with her peaceful breathing. Strands of hair cover part of her face, like a curtain catching the sun’s shiny rays to keep the dreamer dreaming.
“All good,” she hears somebody whisper, then the noises of a door opening and being shut. The light is switched on, a sign that everything is back to normal. Then shuffling of chairs and a conversation begins, very softly spoken, interrupted only by the clanging of bottles on the table when Dan or Ger have a few sips in between talking.
Femina cannot really understand what is said. She gets words, fragments, which help her to piece things together but it is too tedious and tiresome and after all not worth her while. One thing she is quite certain to have heard, is that Dan wants her to take the necklace, not only because everyone expects him to put it on her but somehow that it would show her feelings for him too, or loyalty or, what the heck what else. He is ‘burning’ or so she thinks he has described his feelings for her, whatever that may mean.
She rolls over to get some sleep. So far she did not get as much rest as she would have liked. Who knows how the rest of the night will be. And so it is. Just when she was on the brink of slipping into the bliss of sleep, Dan reels her back into wakefulness by sliding on to her side and cuddling up, one arm right over her and sweet tempting kisses at the back of her neck. And she thought at one stage that he would only drop into bed like a drunken sailor to sleep off his grog. Of course, his recovery is only due to the pills Ger gave him before they made their way back home from down town. While she is not quite sure yet what his intentions really are, hers have made their choice, - he feels too good. Therefore it is green light for her senses and green light for Dan, but poor Ger in the other room, he might feel less pleased. After they settle again she mentions these thoughts to Dan but it turns out that Ger was not even present. Oliver had asked for him, so he left and has not returned since as she well knows. They laugh, though probably not about the same thing.
She notices Dan being somewhat restless assuming, it was due to the drugs he had on board. But he assures her that this is not the case rather, he has to talk to her about something and it does not sit well with him. He says he has never been confronted with such an issue, besides, he does not like to talk about ‘things’ anyway, particularly not ‘these kind of stuff’. She looks into his eyes and sees nothing than the dilemma most men have when it comes to the point of having to address delicate agendas or personal problems. Whatever! She knows anyway what he wants to talk about and, what her answers will be. Though it speaks for him that at least he tries to talk to her. After all, he could force her to do what is expected of him that he does and what he ought to do for himself, that is, to put her in chains. She may make it hard for him to succeed but in the end, she cannot expect help from anyone, while he has his world standing in solidarity right behind him.
“Okay” says she, “what’s up? What is troubling you?”
He rolls over grabbing his jeans, searching through the pockets. Turning back again he holds his arm out to her, hand closed to a fist holding something. While slowly opening it, he watches her closely. Obviously he wants to see her reaction. There it is this necklace about which everyone makes so much fuss. She smiles surprised because he certainly has come up with something quite unique, probably out of necessity.
“I strung up some buttons from my jacket so I can fit it nicely around your neck and it can sit snug. Was the best I could do at present but it serves the purpose nevertheless. Take it”, says he, “it is a symbol of love. It is an honor for every woman to wear one. Women without are outlaws! Besides, our men give something like that only to women they value.
Femina listens intently. Every word is closely examined. Every tone in his voice, every vibration of what and how it is said is noted and carefully analyzed by her alerted mind. She purses her lips. What he says sounds inviting but that is not all what she can hear and understand. Too much still needs to be clearly defined. She concedes that he sells his wares well because he probably believes himself what he says to be true. However, he omits details and fails to mention important facts. But who cares, - he has to put the necklace on her, this way or that way, if only for one reason, to safe his face. Nothing he said got anything to do with love.
“W h a t does it mean for me to wear the necklace?” asks she.
“It will give you respect and security within our society. Should anyone insult you he is in the wrong and he will have to face me. It is my duty to protect you.”
“W h a t does it mean for you when I wear the necklace?” She asks again.
“That you belong to me. That I am proud of you and that I love you.”
Looking thoughtfully at him as if she saw him for the first time she takes a deep breath. As attractive as his wrapping is, he is raw chocolate that is bitter to eat. Her response comes slowly and her voice is gloomy:
“You speak of love but you mean ownership. The necklace is a symbol of submission. Love does not require symbols, no matter of what kind but particularly not one for this. Necklace, chain, possession, safe-guarding, honor, duty and what not, what has that got to do with love!?”
He rises up in a sudden starring at her as if he had been bitten by a tarantula.
“You don’t understand!” he exclaims. “You don’t understand me! Not a bit!” He stops briefly then continues: “….but of course, how could you? After all, you are a foreigner!”
“No,” she replies, “I understand! I understand you and your society! And yes! I am a stranger! That means you may not understand m e ! Maybe I should tell you something from my world and then we may decide, if we can understand each other or not.”
He nods in agreement but Femina has her doubt that he is actually interested, or, maybe she has ruffled his feathers and he is just too busy with himself. Whatever! She can at least try to raise his interest.
“Well,” she begins. “Let’s start with love which was mentioned before: Love does not mean for me to give myself away. It simply means for me giving, freely, generously, without expecting rewards. It is also more important for me that I love, than being loved. Of course, don’t get me wrong, it’s perfect if somebody loves me back, everyone wants that, but if I don’t love a person and the person loves me, that love would not have the same value for me. To love however, does not mean one acquires any specific rights. Love does not demand nor expect nor bind or obligate. Love makes me free not, putting me on a leash or in chains. I am not owned by anyone, nor do I wish to own someone! A couple is together because they want to be together. Of course, it does not have to be love for that matter. Very often it is for procreation rather than love though, nature has not left it to chance to ensure succession, cleverly regulating it with hormones. Only, nowadays you don’t have to couple up for it. One can have sex for pleasure and to get an heir you can go to the deep freeze storage bank. Love is no prerequisite. However, love has been and still is misunderstood and misused. But, I object to talks about love when there isn’t love because, love for me is the “All and Everything”, it is an elementary force, without which nothing exists. Love, therefore, is universal and that’s where the problems begin because, every society puts its own stamp on it according to their own convictions and the morality they want to propagate. Sadly, nothing good comes of it, only confusion and worse.” She pauses briefly, no longer than a breath but enough to put emphasis on another point she wants to raise.
“Now to society: your society as I see it is still firmly anchored in the traditional animalistic ideology, where the body or, better, where matter and everything materialistic is the all-important, while the other dimensions of life, overrated or undervalued as they may be, but always misinterpreted, are kept at the back row and left to vegetate with little or no real care. That is not just wasteful but no longer feasible either. If you like it or not, evolution enforces change. If something or someone does not accept that or even refuses to change, it or they will simply perish. Add to that the problems arising from division: Your society divides the world into “Either – Or”, creating opponents that constantly fight each other: Man or woman, body or mind, good or evil, life or death! One tries to dominate the other, one is overvalued while the other is at best ignored. It always ends in quarrels and confrontations. No surprise then that you need guns and warriors. In my world we have the two parties too but they have an interconnected relationship. We have the “AND”: Man and woman, body and mind, good and evil, life and death ! We speak of humans, of life, elementary forces and existence. The “And” underpins unity, it makes us whole. In fact, the AND has to replace the OR, it’s a given. If it does not, there will be children no more, created naturally as good as in the lab.”
“ENOUGH! ENOUGH!” Dan interrupts her angrily. “What on earth are you talking about? Aggression amongst humans is nothing new but that does not mean extermination! And yes, maybe you can get kids fabricated in a lab, but I won’t have any of that! I want to generate offspring the way nature intends it to be! I want a family with a woman who is happy to spend her life with me. I am a man who cherishes what is his. I am strong, I can take care of what is mine and I will defend it, fight for it, if necessary to my death. Sure as hell, this woman is not you! Obviously not! – But we talked about the necklace! And you talk about things that are of no concern or importance, not now nor as far as I can see! Besides....... I don’t even know what to call it……nonsense, idiocy, blasphemy, or all of it…….I have never heard of a society that objects to and dishonorates the body and the laws of nature! But, never mind….,” and he makes a dismissive hand gesture, “one thing is certain: If you decline the necklace you say no to me and generally, to men, family, law and order! Indeed! You are crazy! No worse! You are my enemy not just a stranger! Let me make it very clear for you: Without the necklace I don’t want you! You can go to hell, for what I care!”
Easy Rider? Not really! More likely, action from the war zone! Male insanity! To hell with it!
“Well,” says she sneeringly, “as your enemy did I not give you much pleasure just before? And you, my enemy, did you not just before throw bombs without causing damage? Where do you see me disliking your body or all physical and where did I show hostility? Indeed, is this kind of enmity a problem?”
He stares at her wallowing in grim silence as if he did not know what to say. He reaches for his cigarettes, lights one and takes hastily a deep breath. Blowing out the smoke long and vigorously he continues to smoke in haste and silence. She wonders if she should carry on talking because there is still much to say, but then again, she may just leave him stewing in his own juices while she takes stock of her situation. She always knew that this affaire would not last. It sure makes more sense to pay attention to the practical side of separation than ponder about the in and out of a relationship as it takes its last breaths. Now, does she need him to get out of this precarious circumstances? Maybe! Maybe she has to compromise. His confused feelings for her are not the problem. Wilson is. Considering this aspect, she and her friends sit in the same boat. It is far better to work together instead of stubbornly insisting on principles.
“Okay!” Dan is back and has obviously something to say after finding his speech again. “As you don’t want to take the necklace, obviously not loving me enough……and believe me, neither did I initially had in mind to offer it to you, but mind you, I also never intended to force you to take it…….and though I have changed my mind since, or better…….I had……anyway, what I want to say…..it is not the all-important.” Short break, still looking for the right words it seems, but then he continues with strength and certainty: “You probably do not know h o w dangerous it is here for you! I do, but I care for you and I like you too much to see you get hurt. However! I need to leave you, just now is not the right time. I cannot repeat often enough how dangerous the Desperados really are. And believe me, only because Wilson has cast his eyes on you, does not mean, you are safe. Even he knows that. Said so himself!”
She stops surprised. What did he say? Wilson i s the danger! Does he not see that? Once again, she asks herself if Dan is really so naïve or what is going on in his head, but she does not want to argue and so she leaves it at that.
Her voice is frosty as she replies: “I have no illusions, Dan. But why not talking to me straight and openly? And yes! Our journey ends, but first we have to get away from here as you said. Besides, I never had in mind to spend my future with you. I thought this was clear for both of us. Now I wonder, if you ever actually saw me as I am. Probably not! Was no need for it, wasn’t it? But now I insist, in fact, I owe it to me! Not only do you reject me for not accepting this thing voluntarily, I too reject you for even expecting from a woman to do so. You see, I love you for what you are but that is it! We could never live together, not as a couple that is. Though, we understand each other, as travel companions, no more.”
He remains silent, then he rolls his eyes and shrugs his shoulders. He seems to take on board what she said without too much anger, somehow condescending but also a little relieved. And he did become curious: “What is it really you hold against me and my world as nature has intended it to be? I am no monster and you love me, so you say. It does not make sense, I don’t get it….” Brief pause, shaking his head. “Oh well, never mind! Too complicated! But as we are talking, what is it really that bugs you so much that it sets you off against our ‘ideology’ as you call it? Are you, by any chance, one of those lab kids?”
A dark shadow descends on her. She looks past him and through the walls and far beyond the horizon. It has been a long time since she was pushed to face up to her nebulous origins and it feels as if she was pushed to the brink of a deep precipice short of falling down into it. There she may find her long lost memory but it won’t be of much use if the fall would cost her life. And what memory she got up here has still more holes than tangible material, - apart from a few essential clues, threads that hold it together, she still has no idea as far as her origin is concerned.
Staring into the abyss as if there could be some hint to be found she feels her face being touched by a faint cool breath. Is it deception or is it a sign that down there indeed is life with warmth that dissipates as it rises upwards from the depths? She waits, her senses like satellite dishes in wait for signals out of space. But there is no more than the faint breath of the lightless silence, comforting though, prompting her to hold on motionless, to let it permeate through her pores in exchange of her inner turmoil. Though it does not bring her the specific answer she is looking for it is quite enough. Maybe not enough for her discerning mind which always wants to have all the details, food it graves, but it is good enough for now. She is just glad to know that her memory in its completeness lives and that it feeds her with intuition after it does not, for whatever reason, give her more than fragments and refusing integration as a whole into her consciousness. Now! Has she been generated in a laboratory? Maybe, though her gut feeling says ‘unlikely’, which still means it is possible. She realizes that there are two things which intermingle but are better kept apart: The HOW of her reproduction is therein not the most important, at least not for her, but the circumstances of her origin are. Of course, she wants her memory back, all of it, without holes! And it is not even for the sole reason to satisfy her hungry intellect; she herself wants to feel whole, not like a perforated creature that has no place to where it belongs.
She comes back from the distant horizon, eyes big and wide. Everything is hazy. Dan squeezes her hand. “Are you okay?” She hears him asking.
“Yes! Yes, yes! I am okay.” He appears in her vision and she sees his startled face.
He squeezes again her hand. “What happened? Suddenly you were gone! You just froze and your pupils went wide open and you white as!”
“Ah,” says she. “So sorry to have scared you but one of your questions reminded me of something far too unexpected. Not to worry! To come back to your questions, - I certainly have nothing against Mother Nature and neither against men or family. And indeed nothing against children out of a lab. Life is life after all! I am also for children having fathers in their life, but, Family Culture and Space-Time Era compare to each other like Stone-age to the Age of Enlightenment.” She waves him off before he can say something. “No judgement intended, only comparison! Furthermore, men are not obsolete, only patriarchy is! The reason why I brought evolution into the conversation, was to point out that change is inevitable, compulsory. It includes ideologies. Your society must change! No qualms about it! Family alone does not do it anymore. The human race is at a critical point. It is a question of survival. Pedantry has no place in it and neither have power struggles. Your society is but full of that. And worse, she is deficient of love! Even if you, or Ger, have the best intentions, you cannot safe your children without shifting the points. And no! I am quite sure I was not generated in a lab though I cannot exclude it.”
“You are very much mistaken as far as family goes,” insists he utterly convinced. “Family is the best place to raise them, keep them safe and secure their future. But say, don’t you know who your parents are?”
She hesitates how to answer this question, deciding after all, to stick to the reality they have in common. All else is her problem not his.
“Oh, I have parents,” says she somewhat unsure that she can keep the answer simple. “But! My origin is still a mystery. I consider myself as adopted, with all the bureaucracy that was involved with my arrival, but for ‘my parents’ I am their child and they believe they are the real deal, because that’s the way how it is done there if you want to have children.” She shrugs her shoulders. “Different countries, different customs!”
He shakes his head. “Unbelievable! No surprise then why you are such a crazy lady. Obviously you have never experienced what a real family is or means. These parents are not your flesh and blood, you are not really related with them!”
“No, no!” exclaims she emphatically, “I know what family is. Adopted or not, we are all flesh and blood and related. We are all family! Indeed, nature herself is a laboratory with a pot full of chemical broth. We all come from that pot, just maybe not from the same kitchen. These parents I have are good parents, similar to what you would call good parents. But what I mean to say is, biology is after all not the only importance….., ah so what, ….. you are right! It’s too complicated! I am tired. I sure need some sleep! How is it with you? Still high?”
“No, have been coming down for a while,” says he. He turns on to his back, wiggles his arm under her head so it can fit snug into the groove between his shoulder and chest when she turns round to cuddle up to him. “Go on, just sleep. I shall try too,” says he, putting a good night kiss into her hair.
Happily she closes her eyes. It would be pointless to keep talking. He has his opinion and nothing and nobody will get him to change. Patriarchy makes him a king and no king will give away his crown voluntarily. They all have to be forced. But she has neither an interest in trying to persuade him by talking her tongue to a pulp nor does she intend to start a war. After all, h e has to change, not she him.
The stream of her thoughts breaks up as if reaching the edge of a cliff. There the sand-man stands waiting with his big and full bags of dreams. In big sweeping motions he throws wondersome dust and glittering sands before her, luring her to walk on it and as she does, she wanders into strange fields and bizarre worlds, timeless, aimless, from one place to another and sometimes through black empty space.
Thick clouds appear, their bellies heavy with rain. They take away the light of the sun and she stumbles over roots and stones. It is only a short distance to the summit but the wind blows relentlessly making it difficult to push on. So she looks for some shelter to protect herself, from him and the approaching storm, but there is nothing but black clouds, low scrubs and, on the steeply sloping hill side scattered randomly are a few small and weather bent trees with needle thin leafs if any at all. And there are lots of stones, big and small, pebbles and round rocks, some sitting half in the ground, some arching their backs up high. She lets herself down behind one of the tall ones though it hardly offers real protection. It seems however that she won’t be alone. Another person, wrapped in orange cloth hurries towards her and to her surprise it is BABA! She could not wish for anyone better to be with but, poor man, he must be really cold! The lungi covers his body only scantily and his skin looks really pale but, as he approaches she realizes, he has ash rubbed all over him in defense against the antagonistic forces of nature and his eyes shine warm as ever or maybe, the sun is hiding in there.
He takes off his turban, a long piece of plain cloth, handing it to her, gesturing that she may use it to shield them from the wind, while he retrieves a few items from his bundle and prepares a shilom. That is not an easy task, nor is it easy to get it going but when he finally has, he puffs on it until it is evenly glowing. As he hands it over to her, he grabs the cloth and wraps it over their shoulders. So here they are, sitting in unison, watching the clouds as they are pushed by the wind to form a massive blanket. Soaking full with water it becomes so heavy that it starts to sink downwards until it comes to rest below them, looking like a dark grey blue ocean, out of which their mountain top rises like a pointy hat island with a blue sky above and again a sun friendly smiling. Suddenly the leaden blanket beneath comes alive with flashes of lightning and crackling bangs of thunder, swallowed up by the clouds as they both race down to the valley below. They sure will slice open the bellies full of water and will teach all caught in the storm fear, if not despair. She and Baba would not know because they sit above it all, watching nature’s magic performance and marveling at the display. They laugh and clap in delight as the lightning flashes and the thunder explodes. They vie with each other who guesses right, where the next flares will appear though, sometimes there are a few happening in different places all at once. And above is blue sky and the sun! The wind however has not given up to blow and whirl, not with the same fury but strong never the less and cheeky too. He grabs the shawl from them and carries it away dropping it again not too far from them. Femina jumps up to get it but just as she reaches out, he blows it a bit further, and he keeps her chasing after it until she has enough of his game.
“Okay,” says she, “as you wish”, and turns her back on him to return to Baba.
But nothing is left from what was and from what she had been lured away. Instead, she finds herself standing at the backside of the stage of the chess play in her waiting room. The waiting room itself lies in the dark and from the stage nothing much is left still standing. The chess field is intact but all the walls are in ruins and most of the roof is gone with only some big beams still holding parts of it together. The little table and the two chairs at the front side of the stage, they are there and on one of it sits Dan. He is in a grey robe and wears a crown but he looks lonely and lost, like a king without a land of his own.
A scraping and scurrying, growling and snarling rises up, coming out of the dark spaces behind the ruinous walls. Femina cannot see what is lurking in the dark because only the chess field is flooded in light. But suddenly without warning all hell breaks loose. A pack of wild dogs encroaches on her from the back and the sides. She sees glowing red eyes and many white dagger like teeth. They are hungry and covetous, fighting amongst each other for the best place to get their prey. The leader, big like a wolf and black as the hounds of hell, lies down in front of her, keeps staring at her, not letting her out sight, not even blinking once and, every so often he snarls at her, showing off his razor sharp set of teeth. She desperately wants to flee but there is no way past the dogs, nor can she move, with legs heavier than lead and an iron chain around her neck.
Shrieking and screaming in the pitch black skies above her tells her of a fierce battle going on there. A body comes crashing down, slamming onto one of the beams before landing on the ground, not far from Dan. He jumps up and rushes to the heap of broken bones and awfully blooded and wounded. Painful moaning can be heard. Whoever it is, is not dead, not yet that is. A big black bird with huge wings and fierce glowing eyes swoops down on Dan, knocks him over and hacks at him with his sharp pointed beak. The attack is but as quickly over as it began. The feathered brute turns to the wounded, sinks its blade like talons into him and takes to flight carrying his prey away. Femina feels the wings’ forceful flap and she crouches down to the ground as close as she can. She hears in its shrieking shrill orders for the dogs and words as if it was talking to her and telling her: “You are mine!”
A dog seems to have closed in on her. She feels his claws in her side and his tearing on her linen vest, ripping it to pieces. She tries to fend him off but, all she achieves is losing her small but heavy waiting room ball she carries in the inner pocket of her west. It falls with a heavy clanging sound on to the chess field and it rolls right across it and over the edge into the darkness where the waiting room lies.
“Femina! Femina!” She hears her name being called repeatedly but does not know where it comes from or who is calling.
Somebody shakes her. “Femina! Femina!” And another shake. It’s not the dogs trying to grab her, it is Dan who is calling and pulling her out of her nightmarish dream.
“Wake up! Come! Hurry! We have no time to lose!” She sits up in a sudden. “Quick! Quick! Get dressed! We have to go! No time to explain! We just have to go, now!”
She tries to get up but the legs are still heavy, she needs a bit more time to get started. Ger is in the other room. She hears him talking with someone she does not know. Dan hastily collects all her belongings, stuffing it into her bag and tugging on her sleeping bag to get her up while he will roll it tight and pack it up. He does not let go urging her to hurry up. Finally, the heaviness fading, she jumps into action. While she puts on her cloths she hears Oliver’s voice but it oddly is more a mumble and muffle.
Well, when she actually sees him she is in fact more surprised that he can talk at all. He is a mess, horribly battered, beaten and bruised. One side of his face is so swollen, that he cannot open the eye, the other being swollen too, he can at least open it though, it is red blooded and sits in an area of livid green and blue. He has blood in his hair and bloody crusts around nose and mouth and, deep blue bruising and fleshy red welts all over his body. One arm is in a sling and sitting limp in his chair he looks feeble and in pain. What kind of monster did this and why?
Ger notices her shock and horror. He says only: “Wilson!” Then carries on with the practical things necessary for their departure. A friend of Oliver is there to help. Though knowing how to get away best, he is in no condition to do anything. He can hardly keep himself upright. He will come with them, a decision he most likely made knowing what Wilson has in store for “traitors” and not because his brother persuaded him to leave. Femina avoids to even question the ‘ins and outs’ and ‘ifs’ of their sudden and rushed flight and what chance they have to succeed. She gladly leaves, the sooner the better! And so it comes that, with the help of one or, maybe even more devoted friends of Oliver, they secretly leave the fortress of the Desperados, though unplanned and in a hurry, but before the morning dawns and, the trap door in their quarters is the “Sesame Open” to the narrow shaft, from where their flight begins.