Thinking…

It’s been a while. I’ve been thinking about where and when I will start publishing my second book (continuation of Working Title – Dark). The first book now has a name, and I’m thinking of getting that on paper too.

Also, another thing that I have been thinking about is starting a technology and entertainment news blog. There’s zillions out there, but it might be fun to throw another one out there… We’ll see. I just wanted to add an entry to this one now, just to let you know I’m still thinking about it.

Chapter 6 part 6

Michael had arrived at the main shopping mall area to find a wave of shoppers now noisily moving towards the exits, chatting loudly in relief and complaint as they left the building. He paused for a moment to consider what had just happened. Helen was in the building still. She was possibly in danger, but was most likely eating Mandrake and Ray alive. The main thing was that he knew that she didn’t want him dead or alive. It was over. Everything was over. Now he just needed to leave.

 

*****

 

Jane’s flight arrived 25 minutes late the following day. Michael’s head and stomach kept churning. He had mixed feelings as he stood waiting. Once the flight arrival monitor displayed that her flight had landed, Michael realised that he felt relieved to finally be seeing Jane, and also sickeningly empty. His friend was dead. At least the one he had known and there was no going back.

When he spotted Jane through the opening in the customs gate, he saw immediately that she was also stressed. As the ginger haired beauty walked through the sliding doors her eyes were glassy from the lack of sleep, and her skin was flushed with stress. Michael ran to hug her. The stiffly rigid Jane tried to act pleased to see him but she had other things on her mind.

“So, what’s going on?” was her first question.

“Hang on, aren’t you glad to see me? I’m glad to see you.” Michael asked indignantly.

“Now you need to tell me what’s happening with Helen. Why isn’t she here, and why didn’t she make it to the flight?”

“I’ve kept you up to date. And as far as I’m concerned there is no Helen anymore. Let’s go somewhere to eat. You must be hungry.” With this Michael bent down to grab Jane’s bags.

“I want you to tell me what’s happening,” Jane stubbornly demanded.

“Let’s talk more when we’re sitting down somewhere.”

Jane didn’t respond to this suggestion, yet stopped battling with Michael as she let him take her bags. As they walked towards the terminal exit, Jane saw something through the sliding doors and stopped.

“What’s wrong?” Michael queried.

A large smile grew on Jane’s face as she suddenly began to run towards the glass doors. “It’s Helen!” She shouted behind her.

Michael stood still, his blood running cold. There wasn’t enough time to react, to pull Jane back. All he could do was watch in apprehension and amazement as Jane and Helen cheerfully embraced each other, then the taller and apparently fitter looking Jane drew back suddenly shaking Helen. Michael made a move towards Jane, but Helen looked over Jane’s shoulder at Michael, subtly raising her hand as if to say “it’s ok.”

“Where have you been and what have you been doing?” Jane yelled, in a punishing, yet relieved voice. “We’ve been worried sick about you. You didn’t even make it to Fiji! I came here for you… you stupid girl!” Michael could hear fury in Jane’s voice.

“I’ve been alright,” Helen sighed, and continued in an exhausted yet calm voice “I’ve been alright. I’ve gone through a few changes…” Michael interrupted with a gasp. Helen didn’t change composure, even though Jane turned around to glare at Michael. “It’s been a rough ride. But I feel stronger now that I’m this side of the journey.” As she ended her words she smiled at Michael.

“Jane, sweetie,” Michael tried gaining Jane’s positive attention. “I think we should go now. Wasn’t it nice to see Helen?” He recited in an uncomfortable voice, casting a smile at Helen. “Now we need to let her get back to her new life, and we can get on with ours. Let’s go and eat.”

“Oh, can I join you?” Helen pleaded exclusively to Jane.

“Of course you can, can’t she Michael?” Michael could see the angry pulse pounding in Jane’s forehead.

“No she can’t. Aren’t you on a different diet these days?”

“Not that I’m aware of Michael. Thanks for asking.” Helen added between her teeth.

Jane suddenly took two steps back to look at the both of them. “What’s going on between the two of you?”   

“Nothing!” Michael cried in amazement. “Where the hell did that come from?”

“I came back early because I had a feeling about you two. I got the feeling when all this drama bullshit started happening that you two were having an affair. And now that I’m seeing you, I know something’s there. There’s something between you, I know it, and I’m not going to stand here acting like a blind fool. I’m going home.” Jane grabbed her bags from a stunned Michael and started moving towards the queue of waiting taxis.

“Wait! Let’s talk about this.” Michael shouted in desperation.

“There’s nothing to talk about!” Jane was moving as fast as she could.

“Yes there is! At least let me take you home.” Michael stopped, exhausted, as Jane had already jumped into a taxi and begun to head off.

Michael turned, completely broken to face Helen and pleaded, “Why the hell did you come here? What do you want? Don’t you have more monsters to drink from?”

Helen silently smiled, “I’m just warning you.”

“Warning me about what?” But with this Helen had vanished.

Chapter 6 part 5

Helen was in a trance-like state. Ray was in the same state. He knew that Helen should kill him, but he didn’t have a feeling of fear. Instead, he had an unbearable longing for Helen, the same as always. Helen was calculating, wondering how she would do it. In what way could she eliminate Ray without missing him? She continued to move closer to him as he was still frozen to the back wall of the space. She had finally reached him, and as she stood in front of him with her body barely touching him she moved her mouth closer to his, then without any hesitation she began to kiss him passionately. Ray’s kiss back was equally as intense. The energy force around them was so static that both of them felt as though their bodies would explode.

Helen drew back and gasped “now you can’t pull back.”

Ray’s eyes were hungry as he responded “now I don’t need to.”

Helen gave a semi-smile with deepened, colder eyes “you know it’s him you should thank for your powers.” Ray looked at her bewildered, as she kicked back her head towards Mandrake. “It was he who started it all, and I’m just wondering what to do with him.”

Mandrake stared coldly at Helen. As Helen turned around to see him, he pulled a face of disgust.

Ray stayed silent as Helen resumed, “it was this man… oh no, I shouldn’t say man, at least, not anymore. It was this being who didn’t want me dead. He wanted me to live forever. Or, should I say, to remember my lives forever… So that I would never forget him. The problem was, and always has been that I have never been his.” Helen smirked as Mandrake huffed in disgust.

Suddenly Mandrake began to speak, “Ah, but you are mine. I have made you, and I can break you just as easily.”

“I’d like to see you try.”

With this Mandrake stepped easily away from the wall. “I don’t have to.”

In shock, Helen’s concentration let go of Ray who clumsily fell to the floor. With no hesitation Helen moved with all her force to push Mandrake to the floor. At the same time all the exits to the building flung open, and in a kick back reaction Helen’s force managed to shove Ray out of the space. A hollow whispered voice could be heard in the wind of the force telling Ray to “run.”

Chapter 6 part 4

Helen had followed the direction in which she felt Ray and Michael had gone. Whilst she could remember everything that had happened in every life as if it were yesterday, and she knew what her powers should allow her to do, she didn’t exactly know what she would do once she found Ray. Would she deal with the situation or would Mandrake take over? She almost had them this morning when they had fled from the children’s activity place. At that stage she could feel how close they had been. She’d even had a hold of Ray’s energy for a moment there, but he had escaped. How the hell had he got this strong this soon?

“The equilibrium” Mandrake’s voice entered her thoughts.

She had had the feeling that Mandrake was tracking her every move, and now he was entering her thoughts. His persistent presence was beginning to irritate her. But she couldn’t ignore the equilibrium, although part of her wanted to. The next evening Ray’s force would be as strong as hers and she needed to stop it from happening. He would remember not just his own past lives but hers too, giving him that added advantage. Helen scanned everyone she walked passed. She entered cafes, restaurants, bars and office blocks searching for even a glimpse of Ray or Michael. She felt a mixture of excitement, exhilaration from the sensation of her powers and stress caused by her constant escort of shadows. She tried moving faster and changed directions frequently, but there seemed no way of shaking them.

She was mindful of what people were thinking as they passed her on the street, and tried not to draw their attention. She noticed that she could literally hurt the shadows by back-handing them and kicking out as she walked. It was just as if she was walking with body guards on whom she could inflict any amount of injury, just because she could. The more frustrated she got from their persistence and the more longing she had to find Ray the more brutal her attacks on the shadows became. People did start noticing when doors were flying open, walls were thudding, and people themselves were falling back, as what seemed like gusts of wind were colliding into them. The shadows started closing in on Helen as she was walking ever more violently. Helen could feel the annoyance projected in Mandrake’s presence.

 

*****

“Shut up!” Ray ordered Michael.

“What?” Michael asked.

“She’s near. I can hear and feel the force… she’s pissed off.”

“Let’s leave!” Michael panicked.

“We can’t! Think of a person who looks as different to you as anyone can look” ordered Ray hastily.

“Why?” Michael had to question.

“Just do it!” with that Ray went silent.

Helen casually walked down the stairs leading to the café. She entered the door, smiled at the waiter and counter-hand, then walked around the space as if she were looking for an old friend. In the first booth she saw an older man, slouched over a newspaper, coffee in one hand, biro in another. The next booth was empty. In the next were two lovers absorbed in each other’s gaze. Helen paused for a moment, the woman turned to look at her and Helen moved on. Another old man with a moustache and glasses was sitting in the corner with what must have been his granddaughter. Like the woman lover, the old man had turned to stare at her. He reminded her of the old man in the barbershop from the movie Coming to America. She then resumed her search, finding nobody but giggling school girls and mothers who were possibly enjoying the down-time while their children were at school.

The waiter approached her, “Can I help you m’am?”

“No” Helen turned towards him, pulling a saddened facial expression she continued, “It doesn’t seem my friends are here. Perhaps it wasn’t this café we were supposed to meet at.” The old man turned to look at her again. With this Helen turned to look back. The little girl suddenly cried, “Granddaddy, look at this!” and pulled a ridiculous face as the old man returned his attention to the girl.

“What was the name of the café?” the waiter asked helpfully.

“Actually, I can’t remember, that’s the problem. I know it’s around here somewhere though so I’ll keep looking. Thanks for your help.”

“No problem m’am, and welcome back another time” the waiter then resumed his cleaning of tables, and Helen made her way out of the café.

The door closed behind her but the little girl demanded that her grandfather keep looking at her tricks. The old man turned towards the little girl again, “She’s g…”

“Her friends have stayed to play,” the little girl giggled. “Play with me for a little while until I tire. When I place my baby cup, on your dirty plate the game’s over.”

The old man sat still watching the girl play with the knives and forks on the table. It took about five minutes before the little girl placed the cup on the old man’s plate. “OK, you can relax” Ray said.

“How the hell did that happen? And why couldn’t we relax until now?”

“She couldn’t see you because your thoughts projected you as someone else. But the shadows had lingered after she left.”

“Do you think they sensed anything?” Michael asked.

“I don’t know, let’s go.”

 

*****

 

Helen’s pace had slowed down. She had enjoyed the moments when the shadows had stayed behind in the café, she was finally alone, but the old man. Why the hell had the old man stared at her? Michael! She stopped. Coming to America was one of their favourite movies. The shadows had finally caught up to her but by now she had turned back and was moving at a rapid pace towards the café.

“Hi again m’am!” Helen heard as she burst passed the familiar waiter. She moved directly to the corner table and was aghast to find it empty. How did they get passed? In panic she moved like lightening towards the front door of the café, flung the door open as she charged up the steps to inspect both directions of the street, and moved back down the steps to approach the surprised waiter. “Is there a back entrance?”

“Yes,” he gulped “it’s over there” he pointed towards a door that looked more like a restroom entrance.

Helen rushed to it without thanking him. The door led to a corridor of what appeared to be a modern shopping mall. She moved down the corridor to enter the main traffic area of a multilevel shopping complex. There were people everywhere. She scanned intensely but did not pick up any signals or images of the two. She started scurrying through the space and remembered her power. With that she closed all the exits to the mall. She could hear and sense panic from the people in the distance who were trying to exit the building. The sound of people’s voices was increasing in volume as they voiced their concern. “Was there a fire?”, “Was there a bomb?”, “Was there a robbery, are they trapped inside with a criminal?” and “How could they help or get help?”

As she approached the second floor she heard a voice-over message on the PA system reassuring the customers that they were having minor technical difficulties, which would be resolved in just a few minutes, “Please relax and treat yourself to a coffee or ice cream at one of our fine cafes and  kiosks while waiting.” She then caught an image of the two men running through the nightwear section of the main department store. It was on the third floor. Running up the escalator, scattering people left and right, Helen caught a glimpse of another woman’s thoughts, a sales assistant had seen them running towards a back exit. They were trapped. Her pace increased.

“Shit!” Michael panicked as Ray tried forcing the door open. “You’ve got powers, do something!”

“I can’t!” Ray yelled “She’s still stronger than me!”

“Fuck! What are we going to do?”

“Hide!” Ray demanded.

Helen’s pulse quickened as she approached the fire exit corridor that she saw through the sales assistant’s thoughts. Her pace slowed like a cat’s as it approached its prey. The shadows closed in around her and she felt Mandrake’s breath on her neck. Rounding the corner of the corridor her stomach dropped to the floor as she saw that no one was there. The exit door was still fastened tight. She checked for any other door and then spotted the man hole in the ceiling.

Michael had hold of Ray’s shoulders as Ray pulled the both of them up numerous ladders towards the roof. Every level looked the same, and on every level Ray slightly paused to consider as to whether or not he should try hiding there. They eventually reached the last set of steps, a smaller ladder leading to a door with an illuminated exit sign, just as he went to move to the steps he suddenly changed direction mid-air. They seemed to fly behind a ventilation fixture just as Michael caught a glimpse of Helen, blurred by the presence of the shadows. Helen flew up the steps and grabbed hold of the doorknob. Once she had confirmed that it was still locked she turned around self-satisfied.

“I know you’re here boys. I can sense you.” Michael quickly looked at Ray as if to ask “Can she?” and Ray replied with a slow, silent shake of the head. “It’s only going to be a few moments now before I have you. In case you haven’t noticed… you’re locked in. There’s no way out. Are you going to come out from where you are or are we going to have to force you out?”

The sound of one of the shadows snickering could be heard. “I’ll give you to the count of three before I come after you… one… twoooo… three!” On ‘three’ the added fixtures and objects in the building started shaking. Anything that had been standing upright had now been knocked out of its position, including the ventilation box Michael and Ray had been hiding behind. With this Ray stepped forward. A calm knowingness radiated from his face, which puzzled Helen. Whilst this was the moment she had sought, it was also the moment she had dreaded.

“Get it over with!” Came the hiss of Mandrake’s voice as he became visible behind Helen.

“In good time,” Helen smiled smugly. “Now Michael,” ignoring Ray standing in the foreground, Helen directed her attention straight towards Michael, “it really wasn’t such a good idea to get involved with Ray was it? I got involved with him and look where I ended up.” Helen burst into a fit of laughter as everyone surrounding her remained still. “At least now I don’t need to go and pick up Jane from the airport, do I?”

Michael had once again forgotten that tomorrow morning Jane would be arriving. A slight wave of relief came over him when he realised that Helen wouldn’t be there, waiting at the airport to cause Jane harm. At least if Helen had what she wanted here, Ray, and maybe him then perhaps Jane was safe. Michael sighed upon remembering that it wasn’t him whom Helen really wanted, it was Ray after all.

“Your thoughts are positively muddled Mike,” Helen laughed. “Now that I have you in front of me I can hear what you’re thinking, and you need to know that rejection’s not all that bad. I should know, I’ve put up with it all these years. Some things aren’t meant to be…” at this moment Helen suddenly raised her arm and an immediate bang so loud it sounded like thunder startled Michael so much he thought he’d been struck by something. Helen turned to focus her attention towards the two figures pinned to the walls on opposite sides of the space.

“Ah hah, Mandrake, thanks for the booster, but I seem to have regained my strength nicely and won’t be needing your help, or very thoughtful advice anymore. You can hang around a moment until I decide what to do with you.” With this she turned towards Ray, “And no, your strength isn’t quite strong enough yet is it? But isn’t this a nice feeling? Now I have you, and not the other way around… hmmm, what to do…” Helen faded off into her thoughts as she slowly approached Ray pinned against the wall.

Michael noticed that Helen’s attention was now completely on Ray, and he felt this would be the perfect time to do something. He almost thought of trying to hit her across the back of the head, but stopped the thought, hopefully before Helen had heard it. Instead, he started silently moving back towards the ladder they had entered with. The shadows were pre-absorbed with trying to help their master. Michael constantly had the feeling that at any moment someone would stop him from escaping, but no one turned around.

Chapter 6 part 3

Lt Hill could not believe how the police officer on duty had let Helen get passed.

“I’m sorry Lt Hill, I don’t know how she did either. She just smiled and went and I thought nothing of it. I’d just lost concentration.”

“How the hell could you have lost concentration on such a simple task, man?”

“But weren’t you going to let her go anyway? She’s not a criminal is she?”

“Yes, she was going to go home. But the point was that I told you not to let her go at least while I was on the phone.”

“Sorry,” mumbled the humbled police officer.

Lt Hill shook his head, as if to let the officer know he was hopeless. “Just get out of here and don’t let me see your face for the rest of the day.”

The police officer left the office. Lt Hill walked back around his desk, sat carefully on his chair, not knowing why he wanted to keep Helen there in the first place. He supposed that she had every right to leave, and just shook his head once more as he attempted to resume his paper work once more.

Helen had arrived at the house she had shared with Michael and Jane. She tried turning the front door knob with her hand, but noticed it was locked. In her mind, she saw the bolt going through the door into the latch, and watched it unlatch and move back towards its unlocked resting position. She now tried the door again and it opened willingly. She entered the front door and stood for a while in the main living room. She scanned the room from where she was standing to see whether Michael or Ray had been there. She could see the particle tracks from where police had entered the house and moved towards the bedrooms. She followed the tracks to her room to see that they had rummaged through her belongings, and based on the condition of her underwear drawer, had found her diary. She looked towards the foot of her bed and saw the packed suitcases, and remembered her intended trip to Fiji. She moved out of the room and towards the telephone, where on the answering machine flashed the stored messages light.

Thinking of pressing the button, the answering machine started playing, “You have…” pause “five new messages… message one, received at five twenty-three p.m… ‘Hi, Michael? It’s Lt Hill, we’ve found Helen. She’s here at the police station safe and sound, although a little shaken up. I’ll try ringing your cell. Bye.’… message two ‘Michael, she’s not on the plane is she? I’m coming home and will be on the flight that arrives at eleven thirty-five the day after tomorrow. Be there! I’ll call your cell.” Helen smiled, that was all she wanted to hear.

She made her way through the kitchen noticing Henrik’s particle trail which had entered through the window, circled the kitchen and moved through the lounge room and had wondered what his mission had been. As she turned around to move back towards the bedrooms she was startled to see Mandrake standing right in front of her. “What do you want? I thought you were waiting at the house,” Helen demanded irritated.

“I just wanted to see how you were going” Mandrake smiled, looking deep into Helen’s eyes to see whether he could see answers before Helen would say them.

“I’m going fine. I have a few leads, and have a feeling that I will find Ray before too long.”

“You have a feeling!” Mandrake snapped and hit the wall beside them. “You shouldn’t have feelings, you should know! You should have them! Why the hell can’t you sense them?”

“I just can’t!” Helen yelled back. The blinds of the windows drew down with full force and a bedroom reading lamp turned on behind them aiming straight at Mandrake’s head.

“How could this have happened? How could this have possibly happened?” Mandrake asked exasperatingly.

“I don’t know. All I know is that as things are I can’t trace Ray. He’s under a shadow and has dragged Michael under with him. I’ve got to do this manually.”

“Get going then.” Mandrake ordered, while holding her close to him so that she couldn’t move, “Go on, we have a deadline,” he repeated, smirking and still not letting her pass.

By this time Helen was getting used to her state, and had begun to feel the same as she had earlier during her life. She looked into Mandrake’s eyes partly irritated and partly disgusted, with no feelings for him what so ever. She could see that he sensed this as the smile disappeared from his face. “Don’t waste time.” He withdrew, “Go now.” He turned and disappeared into the shadows around the corner.

Helen knew she would catch up with Jane, and ultimately Michael, at the latest by eleven thirty-five, now tomorrow, as it was one thirty in the morning. But preferably she would find Ray earlier. She walked over to the telephone, remembered Michael’s number and started dialling. She started seeing the signals running through the wires, being transferred into signals via towers and satellites, which were directed back towards some direction on earth, but by the time it was reaching the suburbs again she would get confused and had no idea of where it was. She heard the ring tone beeping persistently through the handset, but noone was answering.

 

******

 

Michael stared at the phone that pulsed the word ‘home’ on the display. “What should I do?” he turned to Ray.

“Don’t answer it” was Ray’s blunt reply. By now they were resting in the corner of a make shift free time club on the other side of the city. It was where Ray occasionally came to teach painting to under privileged children for one of his good friends. Fortunately he had the spare key that his friend had given him just in case she lost hers. Ray knew they would be fairly safe here as Helen didn’t know about it.

“Why the hell would she be ringing, particularly from our home phone?”

“She wants to get a trace, so don’t answer it.” Ray informed.

“What like the police?”

“Yes, just like the police. She can trace telephone signals, and this is made much easier if you answer the phone. So don’t answer! Don’t even cut the call off!”

“Shit!” Michael threw the phone down.

“Careful!” Ray looked at the phone which was still ringing. He had to admit to himself that he was tempted to answer the phone. Part of him couldn’t wait to see her again, and part of him knew he had to wait.

“Why doesn’t she just leave us alone now? She’s got what she wanted, why would she be bothering us?”

“She wants me.” Ray stated simply with a smile. Once again, Ray’s reverence bothered Michael.

“Why?”

“Just get some sleep,” Ray exclaimed. I’ll tell you more once we’ve had some rest.

“Sleep? How?” Michael couldn’t see how he could get comfortable on the old tiled carpet floor.

“Lean against me,” Ray offered. Michael winced. “Don’t worry, I won’t try anything. The extra warmth will help us both sleep.” With that, Michael steadily tried to find a position against Ray’s shoulder. He found a spot where his head rested nicely whilst his body was comfortably far enough away from Ray’s. Ray in turn rested his head against the wall under the window.

Before long Michael started dreaming. Everything was back to normal with him, Jane and Helen again. They were organising snacks in the kitchen in preparation to watch a movie. The lights were on and Michael could sense that it would be dark outside. He looked at the kitchen clock and saw that the time was thirteen minutes past two. He began to think that maybe it was too late to start watching a movie but Helen and Jane were finalising the popcorn and beverages and had no intention of changing plans. The next moment the three were sitting on the lounge room sofa, then in the next flash Michael was passionately kissing Helen, getting ready to put himself inside her. Jane was nowhere in consciousness or sight. Suddenly he realised that they were a part of the movie, and that Helen was Ray. Michael was staring directly at Ray, whom Michael knew was Helen. Ray smiled as he mentally pushed a biro Michael had been using into Michael’s stomach. Michael woke before he had the chance to feel the pain.

He woke up to realise that he had still been resting on Ray’s shoulder. Ray seemed to be fast asleep. Michael knew it had been a dream but didn’t feel comfortable about resting back on Ray’s shoulder. He spotted an old comfortable chair at the other side of the room next to some bookshelves. He got up and took his phone with him. As he rested down on the chair he checked his phone to see what the time was. He viewed the missed call text showing “1 new number,” which then displayed “home,” and was presented with the time. It was two thirty five. As he put his phone back in his pocket he looked up to see that there was clear view from the chair to the street outside. Thinking he’d seen a flash of Helen looking in the window, he looked again to see that noone was there. Even still, he ended up taking the seat cushion off the chair and laying it directly under the window, a little away from Ray’s feet to ensure that noone looking in the window could see him. He rested his head back down on the cushion and fell to sleep once more.

Michael opened his eyes to see that he was staring straight out the window from the chair next to the book shelves. He was certain that he had moved to be under the window, and became very fearful of what he would see out the window, and much worse, what could see him. As he attempted to gain strength to get out of the chair before someone could spot him, he realised that he did not have enough energy to move. He couldn’t even turn his head away from the window. To his terror Helen was staring straight in the window, with white to blue skin and black pupils. Her hands were outstretched reaching towards him.

Somehow, although he could not move his gaze from Helen, he could see that Ray was no longer in the corner of the room. He panicked for Ray’s safety, and tried to scream to warn him that Helen was there, but his mouth didn’t move and nothing would come from his throat. Suddenly when he was granted the movement of swallowing he saw someone approaching from behind Helen. He thought at first that it was one of those shadow men but then with clarity he saw Ray as he hooked his arm around Helen’s throat. Suddenly Helen’s undead looking face was in the room, directly in front of Michael’s. He felt the wet, cold texture of her skin and jolted from his sleep.

He had been dreaming again. Michael woke to find his hot, sweaty head resting against the old cushion and heard the clattering and clunking of a bunch of eight year olds streaming through a not so distant door. He sat up with a start to see whether Ray was still sleeping. Ray was nowhere to be seen. However, before long Michael heard Ray’s cheerful morning voice, and smelled some freshly brewed coffee. This was a relief to Michael, who couldn’t think of a decent way of explaining to the child care worker exactly why he had been sleeping in their activity room.

“You know how it is,” he heard Ray say in a carefree fashion.

“Yes,” said a doubtful but also cheerful older female’s voice “…or at least, I know you dear.” With that they both laughed.

Some kids had already entered the room in which Michael had just woken up. Two boys, a short chubby boy with scruffy short-cut brown hair and a taller skinny African-American boy with a huge afro hairstyle, spotted him immediately and started approaching, staring at him as if he were an alien. Just in the nick of time Ray and his friend entered the room, his friend introducing the boys to Michael.

“Boys, Michael is here today to tell you one of the Old Norse epics.” Ray gave her a quick glance as if to ask “What?”

Michael, almost as shocked thought quickly, “Yes, I will tell you the tale of Thor.” Ray looked at Michael bluntly as his friend continued to smile. “Or at least, today I’ll introduce you to Thor, and even some of the history of the Old Norse epics. But because the stories are so long I will have to return to tell the full tale.”

Ray’s friend clapped her hands, “Oh good! Oh, and by the way, I’m Veronica, Ray and I go way back.” Michael looked at her, a thin woman, with sun blown aging skin and a sporty greying hairstyle. Then he looked at Ray, “Oh, it wasn’t like that! Oh dear, Ray had other priorities unfortunately.” She laughed, and Michael laughed as if it was what he was meaning by staring.

“I’m sorry Veronica, we don’t have much time,” Ray exclaimed.

“But surely you do have time enough for Michael to at least introduce the Old Norse epics. You are an English lecturer, am I right? That’s what Ray introduced you as…” Veronica’s smile had changed into a worried and disappointed gesture.

“Ray,” Michael started, semi-speaking to the boys, “we are here after all to speak to the kids. I can start now while you go and get me a cup of coffee.”

Ray paused for a moment, “OK, I’ll get the coffee and you get a move on.”

“So,” Michael began, “Can anybody tell me what the term ‘Old Norse’ means?” The children by now had sat down on the floor around him. They were silent for a few moments, confused by the term, so Michael decided to break the term down, “Old… what does old mean?”

“Like a grandma!” a little girl with white-blond pig-tailed hair began and giggled.

“Yes!” Michael said “Old, that has been around for a few years, old, not young. When someone is about eighty years old, maybe like your grandma or great grandma, then sometimes people call them old. You are young. Great! Now, how about Norse?”

“It rhymes with horse,” a bigger bullish looking boy chuckled.

“It’s almost like Porsche,” a ginger haired girl with freckles giggled.

“Isn’t it a code that they used when the Titanic was sinking?” a tiny, scraggly-haired girl queried.

“No, not quite, that was Morse… Morse code,” replied Michael.

“North?” said the scruffy boy who was one of the first two to see Michael that morning.

“Yes! North! That’s excellent! Good work, and why North? Well…” Michael began, describing where the epics had come from, and how members of his own family had migrated to the United States from Sweden in search of a better life, bringing over with them the tales of the mother land. These were tales which included characters possessing great powers over natural forces. As he mentioned this, he almost choked on the coffee that he was by this time sipping. Powers over natural forces… the pagan gods, pagan ethics… the Nordic countries had not been the only ones to believe in these.

Michael went on giving the background descriptions of the stories until his coffee cup was completely empty, and Ray was almost hitting the roof with anticipation. Just as Ray was reaching down towards Michael, Michael concluded “And that was the background of the stories, next week I’ll come back and we’ll commence the Thor series!” By this time Michael was basically flying through the air, handing his empty cup to the gaping Veronica, and moving out of the door before he knew what was happening.

“We’re moving so fast, what the hell?” Michael was astonished by Ray’s strength and speed, particularly considering his size and age.

“We have to move away from here this instant! We were there too long, Veronica’s thoughts are sending out a trail for Helen to grab onto.”

“What the?” Michael couldn’t get his legs together let alone his thoughts. He also realised that he had left his phone back at the activity place. He’d taken it out of his pocket as he was sitting on the cushion. “My phone!”

“Too late!” Ray shouted, “We’re moving.”

“Why don’t we take a cab?” Michael yelled back.

“Not enough time!” Still running at a speed Michael couldn’t comprehend, Ray added “Hold on to me and just relax your legs and thoughts. You move faster that way!”

Michael did as he was told, and to his surprise he found himself in automatic running mode, which could have passed for flying at the speed they were going. Not a thing, person or landmark could be seen as they covered, what must have been kilometres. At one moment Ray’s head and body seemed to hit turbulence as they seemed to suck back towards the direction from which they had come. Ray managed to escape this suction by running faster. After several more minutes of this, Ray and Michael came to a holt in front of another cellar café. Michael had no idea where they were.

“So this is today’s spot!” Ray introduced. “Do you have the notes from yesterday, and the pen and paper?”

Michael had forgotten completely about what he was doing with Ray in the first place. He then started panicking when he couldn’t find the notes on him. “It’s alright,” exclaimed Ray “I have them here,” he patted the inside of his sports coat. “Let’s go in.” As Michael followed Ray inside he suddenly started feeling guilty that he hadn’t remembered to give the waitress back her note pad and pen. Then he realised that she must have gone home before closing time and wouldn’t have been there anyway.

Once inside, Ray found another corner booth at which they both sat down. As Michael grabbed the breakfast menu, Ray reached into his inner jacket pocket, in search of the pen and paper. In only a moment he was placing the writing equipment in front of Michael, under the menu that he was reading. A waiter approached.

“Just an espresso for me” Ray ordered, “and a glass of water.”

“Umm, I’ll have…” Michael was still trying to decide “scrambled eggs on toast, orange juice, sliced grape fruit and a café latte.”

As the waiter left, with amusement Ray needed to comment “You’re hungry.”

“Well, we didn’t eat yesterday. And I just wonder how the hell you could have run like that and still just ordered an espresso? That’s just not natural.” Michael shook his head.

“It’s not. It’s supernatural, or hyper-natural, depending on how you see it.” Ray suddenly burst out laughing.

Michael wasn’t amused “What the hell do you mean?” Michael half whispered, half shouted.

“I mean,” Ray commenced “that what you felt was part of the Enertha force.”

“But you’re running away from the Enertha force aren’t you?” Michael sat staring at an unspeaking Ray, “Well, aren’t you?”

“I’m running from Helen and her shadows, yes. But, it’s not the force itself that I need to be afraid of. In fact, the force may be very kind to me indeed.”

“What are you trying to say?” Michael queried.

“I’m not trying to say anything. In fact, I have part of the Enertha force… enough of that… Let’s continue with the story!” pushed Ray. Michael sat back in a huff. “Well, now I had found Helen, but I had no idea as to whether she had anything to do with Helena. It was just pot luck that I was attempting when I handed her the pile of books with the diary included. As I was saying yesterday, she was gradually returning the books to me one by one. She said absolutely nothing astounding to me. Perhaps sometimes she tried to guess the contents by commenting on what had been written in the blurb in pretence that she had read the books. She even handed the diary back at the same time as another on 20th century British architecture.”

“And she didn’t say anything?” Michael questioned.

“Not a word. I was stumped. Everyone else had commented on how nothing had been written, but she didn’t even comment on what had been written in it. I didn’t know whether to ask her about it or wait for her to say something. I figured asking would be out of the question so I decided to wait. Fortunately I didn’t have to wait long. Helen started working more productively than normal. I mean, although she was obsessive, it was usually more being obsessive about being in the studio than actually concentrating on work. While she still took her day dreaming and coffee-drinking breaks, it seemed that more papers started accumulating around her cubical. There were many small studies and then finally she started working on a larger picture. I was curious, but only tried to see the image when she wasn’t there. Sometimes I sent Henrik into the studio to take photographs. What had caught my eye was a type of ‘map,’ if I can call it that, which she had used to structure the image. It seemed to be an exact replica of my back garden in Mable Falls.”

“So somehow she had tuned into your garden?” Michael asked in disbelief.

“Yes. And as she drew, it dawned on me that she may have been sketching some kind of illustration in regards to where the source was hidden. I wanted to see how it progressed and fermented, so I left it a while. But I started pondering over how this thirty-something year old woman, Helen, completely goofy and unique, could have been the one I was looking for… Helena. I wondered how I wouldn’t have recognised her the second I had seen her. The more I thought about her, the more I saw the similarities between their looks, their habits and manner, but I just hadn’t placed them together. They were two unique, if that’s the right word, individuals… you know…”

“I know” Michael butted in.

“Of course,” Ray gave a slight knowing smile, then continued telling his story. “Life continued as usual. I started wondering about whether or not Helen’s picture was a coincidence, and that maybe she had based it on another yard she had seen. I was beginning to lose patience with anticipation. I wanted to get Helen or Helena to my house so that I could become re-acquainted with her. I began to really yearn for her, even though life went on as normal in the studio. I couldn’t make another Yvonne mistake again. Helen continued to return the books I had lent her, one-by-one. I was amused by the contents she invented when she handed me the books. Some of the comments she’d made were as if she had woven stories from the pictures and nothing else. Furthermore, I began to get Henrik to once again enter the studio at night when noone was working there. I left one of the windows in the far corner away from Helen’s cubicle open.”

“What made you kidnap Helen, then?” Michael had changed back to his original notion of scorn when thinking of the way they had taken Helen.

“Originally I had absolutely no intention of ever doing such a thing to her. It was weird, I wanted to be near her so badly, but at the same time I was terrified… what would you say to a dead love? ‘Hi, let’s start off where we left off, no hard feelings hey?’ I don’t think so. What had actually changed my mind was the diary. Out of curiosity I wanted to see whether the pages I could read were still there, or whether maybe at this stage all of the pages had appeared, thus the reason why Helen had not thought it strange… As I picked up the diary once more, and sat down in my library in my regular house, a bungalow closer to the university…”

“I know” stated Michael, in a less impressed manner.

“Oh, of course you do… Well, I was there. I had placed my glasses on to ensure that I could see any fine detail that I hadn’t seen before, and to my surprise the diary more or less opened itself. It opened itself to the page at which I had left off, even though I felt that I had read the entire book… but obviously I hadn’t. It stated that the source had found her, Helen that is, and that it was now tracking her.”

“But how did this Elizabeth know about Helen already back then?”

“She didn’t” exclaimed Ray, “the diary did. As I had explained yesterday, Elizabeth had channelled her powers into the diary, thus the diary was a form of incubator, or storage facility for the powers of a witch… Elizabeth. But they were also working as a warning signal for me. The diary told of how the source had been buried in my back garden, and that the location was undisclosed to any who weren’t Helen. Or, in other words, if anyone else dug in the back garden, whether they were looking for the box or not, if the digger did not dig directly above the box, the source would re-hide itself, knowing that the digger was an intruder.”

“So the diary writes itself continuously, is that what you’re suggesting?” Michael questioned as he thanked the waiter for his scrambled eggs.

“That’s exactly what I’m saying” Ray turned the small espresso cup on the table in front of him. “The diary seemed to be pleading to me to find the source in order for me to destroy it.”

“So how the hell would you be able to destroy this source, if it’s this kind of force thing that is an accumulation of some spirit’s lives.”

“By burning it in such an intense fire, hot enough to melt the hardest metal and bright enough to burn the shadows to the walls.”

“And the diary told you this?”

“Yes” answered Ray directly.

“So you get hold of the box, burn it with a fire that you’ve got to have the right equipment to create, and then what?”

“Helen’s life goes on as normal.”

“And what about yours? You have the force too…”

“Everybody else’s lives go on as normal.” Ray prevented Michael from finishing his sentence. “Earth doesn’t turn into hell and hell doesn’t turn into Earth.”

“Well you might be a bit late for that,” Michael chuckled.

“It’s no joke. It’s not even the undead that we’ll be dealing with, it’s the living dead. Just think of the scariest nightmare you’ve ever experienced… imagine not being able to wake up. Think of the most dreadful thought that ever crept into the back of your mind that you tried to block out… well you can’t block it out if it’s real.”

“So, all of this is in the name of power?” Michael asked, still not being able to grasp the heart of what Ray was saying.

“Well, not exactly, it is more along the terms of all of this being in the name of Helena, or Oridella, or Ophelia, or whatever her name is, or was. The idea was rather to stop her from becoming what she is, or was.”

“But how did you get some of this source, or force?”

“Let’s get on with the story.” With this Michael was once again irritated, but obediently got his pen into position and began writing on Ray’s word. “So, as I said, I didn’t particularly feel confident about being with Helen, let alone kidnapping her. What I had decided to do, was send Henrik around to her place, sorry, your place, to keep an eye on her. To make sure that she was safe, and that no boxes came flying in mid-air towards her.” Michael suddenly laughed at the absurdness of the idea, but quickly silenced. “Anyway, I guess what we were also trying to do was make Helen aware that she was being watched. I didn’t know how much she knew about the source, and how much of the diary she had actually read. But I wanted her to know that she would not be able to do anything without somebody seeing.”

“Well that’s logical.” Michael nodded with his pen in one hand, fork in the other, and a mouth full of scrambled eggs and toast. “We certainly saw that someone was watching us. And it honestly freaked the shit out of us!” Michael said as angrily as someone with a mouth full of food could speak.

“We really weren’t trying to capture her. In fact, what I wanted to do was see whether she could pin-point the source without us taking her anywhere. I hoped that she wouldn’t need to read any more of the diary, and I hoped that we could see where the source was, in her drawing before she did. Even if that sounds ridiculous,” Michael shook his head and gave a sarcastic ‘nah’ gesture. “I figured that if I saw the source in the drawing, I could dig it up and destroy it before it found Helen.”

“But, what happened? I heard something about an old 1970s car, and how the guy who had driven it had snatched Helen… this is what the neighbours across the road told the police.”

“Yes. Henrik had followed Helen home. In fact, he just narrowly escaped being seen by Helen at the studio earlier that night. So far, everything seemed as peaceful as usual, she had finished talking on the phone… apparently to you…”

“I had told her to take a taxi.”

“She would have been safer than had she been in a taxi!” Ray had to add. “As I said, everything was normal, despite the hour of the morning. Henrik always kept a distance in order not to stun Helen. He slowly turned the corner on the home stretch and just as he did so, he saw the old bomb of a car tear off from outside your gate. Henrik followed the car from a distance to ensure that he wouldn’t speed up. He was quite astounded in fact to see that the man had pulled into the drive of my bungalow, not even the summer house at which the source was buried. Henrik told me of how he had recognised the driver immediately when he pulled up beside the car. It was the man who had bought the diary from Mr Watergate, the same man who had given me the diary in the junk shop. Henrik thought of him as bad news and decided to terminate him, immediately.

“During this time Henrik was using another of my employees as his driver, mainly as a decoy for when he was going to be watching Helen. Unfortunately, Henrik had worked as a soldier earlier on in his life, and tended sometimes to get carried away with the ‘roles’ he was putting on in my service. As the three, my driver, Henrik and Helen had just stopped in the car in front of my door, I heard a bang, and peered out the front window to see that the driver had been shot. Henrik explained to me later that he was trying to prove a point, to make Helen fear him so that she wouldn’t try anything stupid.”

“This is just sick” Michael had to comment, “those were human lives and you talk about them as if they were nothing.”

“Oh they were something alright. They were the lives of all of us who are living on this planet at the moment.”

Michael just shook his head, “This is such propaganda.”

“We thankfully got Helen into the house while she remained unconscious. She had passed out as a result of a combination of the chemical that man had given her, and the shock of seeing two people killed.”

“Murdered” Michael broke in.

“Anyway, it was lucky that she was unconscious, as I could feel something happening as soon as the car had entered the yard. In fact, Henrik remarked at how difficult it was to get her in the front door. Something was pulling at her, and wanted her to remain outside.”

“The source?” Michael raised his eyebrows.

“Yes, the source. Somehow, it seemed almost too easy for the source… at least I got that feeling immediately, and wondered whether we had done the right thing after all. Perhaps I should have never bothered her and the diary, or maybe I should never have pursued Helena after all. But, now we had her. Things seemed to be normal when she was inside the house. The source didn’t seem to be able to reach her, at least, not at that stage. I put her to work on the drawing in hope that she would reveal the source soon. I didn’t tell her what the whole thing was about, I just let her know that the sooner she finished typing up the diary and ‘translating’ it into pictures, the sooner she could go home… to you.” Ray said carefully, examining Michael’s vacant eyes.

“Did anything happen while she was there with you? I mean did you do anything? Or…”

“No!” snapped Ray, “As I told you, I was terrified of her. Absolutely petrified, I had loved Helena to death… I had killed her in my jealous rage. What the hell was I going to do with Helen?”

 “You didn’t touch her? I mean, hadn’t you finally found Helena?” Michael asked in disbelief.

“Helena, yes… and more, and gosh I wanted to.” With that they both sat in silence.

“So, what happened? Obviously the source got to Helen, or Helen got to the source.”

Ray began, “The source seemed to have strengthened with every moment Helen was in the house. The reason why Helen couldn’t return home or leave the house was because that small box buried in my back garden was acting like a vacuum. With any open window at all Helen could be sucked out of the house towards it.”

Michael sat listening, still in disbelief. Then he needed to question “But, you have some of this source, how did that happen?”

“I don’t know.”

“Why didn’t you stay and fight Helen and those shadows when we were still at the house if you had some of it?”

“I didn’t know I had any at that stage. I was still me, I mean, my strength was still my own…” Ray was now a little confused.

“So, are you getting stronger?”

“Yes, it seems so.” Ray said with a smile as he sat back in his seat.

“And Helen’s after you? You could sense that she was after you at the activities place we were at. How the hell did you do that? How did you know that she had tracked Veronica’s thoughts? Why isn’t she tracking us now?”

“I just knew, I could feel her getting closer when we were there. She could track us because Veronica’s thoughts and anyone who knows me or us, gives out images through their thoughts. Their minds send out waves of our names and memories, everything someone thinks of when they see a familiar person. This makes it easier for Helen to track us. Naturally, Helen can also search other people’s thoughts, it just takes longer. She needs to try to find someone who is particularly interested in us, who actually is listening into our conversation or staring at us… forming their own images.”

“Why can’t she just tune into you, or us?” Michael wanted to know.

“Because she can’t” Ray grinned.

“Why can’t she?” Michael asked carefully.

“I don’t know…” Ray continued to smile, “I guess it’s something to do with this force.” By now Michael could sense that Ray was pretending to play innocent.

“What about that man… Henrik… why did he come back to our house? Why did he seem to be searching for me?”

With this Ray stopped grinning, “He came back?”

“Yes, I saw him in our house. I had caught him searching for… well, me… and I heard him speaking on the phone. I assumed he was talking to you.”

“No.” Ray was both a little taken aback and slightly curious.

“Oh, well… what about that old guy? Why would he have been pursuing Helen and why the hell would he have given you the diary if he wanted to track her himself?” Michael started feeling that this was an uphill battle.

Stunned at the naïve ignorance Michael displayed, “Didn’t you see him at all?”

“What do you mean?” Michael asked.

“One of those shadow things. The main one, the one who seemed to be in control of Helen.”

“That was the guy? Didn’t Henrik shoot him?” Michael shook his head.

“Shot, but not killed.”

“Who is he?” Michael wondered.

“I don’t know” by this time Ray had sunk back into his own world.

Chapter 6 part 2

Several minutes after Michael had ended the phone call from Lt Hill and Ray had returned from the restroom, Michael resumed with his questions, intently holding a biro in his right hand. “What honestly, was that the hell about? Why, with all her damned power… sorry, damned control of the forces, would Helen have allowed herself to have been brought in by the police? What the hell would that prove?”

“She’s trying to track me.” Ray replied emptily.

“Can’t she just tune into your forces?” Michael asked, by now thinking that the whole episode was completely ridiculous.

“No.” A giant smile grew on Ray’s face.

“What about me?” Michael asked in slight terror.

“Not while you’re with me, no, but when you’re on your own…”

“Why?” Michael cut in.

“Let’s get on with the story” Ray ordered as Michael sat in a pool of contradiction.

“Helen…”

“Ah yes, Helen… or as I saw it, Helena. I had the house and the diary. I had no idea of what to do after that, but for some reason I felt a wonderful feeling of being close to Helena. I knew that some day, sooner or maybe later, I would meet her again. I had no idea of where she would be reborn and who she would be born as, however judging from the old photograph, I knew that I just needed to keep my eye out for someone who looked like her.”

“So what did you do in that time, while you were waiting?”

“Well… I was working. I kept busy pursuing my academic career…”

“And the diary? What about that?” Michael didn’t want the diary issue to slip by.

“Well, I read the pages that I could read. As it turned out, I was the good character, and was allowed to read the ‘good’ pages.”

“What the hell does that mean?” questioned Michael.

Ray gave a knowing chuckle, “It means that Elizabeth was sharing her secrets with me, and discussed the process of her capturing the source and placing it in a box.”

“This sounds absurd” Michael dismissed.

“It’s not though” Ray retaliated. “Throughout the generations that the Enertha force had been passed down to every second or third generation female in the same lineage, the force and source had been growing stronger. Just imagine it… a total accumulation of many life energies… and Elizabeth knew that she was a carrier. She described how she had been haunted by both the master upstairs in addition to ‘the shadows’.”

“Huh?” Michael was getting tired.

“This Elizabeth’s story was a combination of her own tales and observations, and tales that her grandmother and these shadows had somehow told her. She wrote about how the new master had entered her room repeatedly during the middle of the night, having his way with her. She wasn’t sure whether she enjoyed it or not. But as a result she had found herself pregnant, right in the middle of the process of dispersing the Enertha force from inside her. It was during the earliest phase of pregnancy that she realised she would somehow have to beat it before her child was born. Otherwise, the baby would have most definitely been born as an incarnation of her mother. Somehow she managed to channel the remnants of the force that had been passed on to her, via her dead mother, into her writing.”

“Thus, the reason why only you and one other person can read the diary,” Michael add.

“Yes. At least the power that Elizabeth had placed in the diary was her own… the witch-like power, but the Enertha force that she was carrying inside of her needed to be dispersed in a particular way, or, at least, channelled in a particular way, to be stored in a special box, or container.”

“How did she do that?” Michael queried.

“I don’t know, I really don’t know.”

“But, a while ago you said that you were allowed to read the good part of the book, that you were the good character. What did you mean by this?”

“I meant that, Elizabeth was writing details and instructions to me, in order for me to carry on with her attempt to keep the Enertha force resting. She wrote that although her family line had been broken…”

“Broken?” Michael interrupted, “but you just said that Elizabeth was pregnant.”

“Yes, well, Elizabeth wrote that in the process of channelling the Enertha force into the container she had lost the baby. Whether that was because of the physical and emotional stress of the process, or whether it was because the force was the baby, remains to be seen. However, with the family line broken by Elizabeth never marrying and having children of her own, in addition to placing the force out of harm’s way, the source of the force could not directly be inherited. Her mother’s spirit would still be reincarnated and it would still be looking for the source… or the source would be looking for her… Through the diary she told me that I would not be able to read both pages as the entire force and its resting place would be revealed in the combination of both pages. She wrote, that unwittingly she was writing the other half, as she knew that noone could resist the power of the force, not even me, but that in order to rid herself of her powers and somehow set a path for the removal of the force, she needed to write the other half.

She said that the reincarnation of her mother, if in contact with the diary, would not just read but experience her emotions and memories. This was deliberate. It would be a decoy and hopeful re-channelling of the new incarnation’s potential power through making the reader, or her mother’s reincarnation, believe that she was innocent. But she warned me that it wouldn’t be long before the Enertha would see through the text, and the powers would start working in her favour… calling to her.”

“So why the hell did you seek out to find Helen or Helena? Why couldn’t you have just let her rest?” Michael was quite irritated by this time.

“As I said, I was drawn to Helena. I yearned for her, and thought of our last moments every single time I woke up, or had a silent moment. I needed her, even if I knew that I shouldn’t go near her.”

“So you searched for her amongst your students?”

“I searched for her everywhere, and yes also amongst my students. I felt that if Helena was drawn towards some diary that she didn’t even know existed then her reincarnation would also search for me.”

“How could you be so sure?” Michael’s ego was a little deflated, now realising that the woman he secretly fancied had not really returned his interest after all.

Ray smiled sensing Michael’s agitation, “I waited.”

“I’d heard something about you being involved with some of your young female students.”

“I wasn’t involved with them” Ray half gurgled while sipping on some scotch. “Several had come along before Helen. They looked like her and had some kind of interest in recording their lives. I remember one, Yvonne, she was just gorgeous. She was twenty-years old, and would have been born almost directly after Helena’s death. She had long, dark brown hair, similar features to Helen with her brown, deep set eyes and large smile. The only thing about her was that she was too perfect. Her appearance was flawless, where Helena and Helen had seemingly creamy olive skin, close up…”

“They had flaws… small blemishes and freckles,” Michael finished.

“You have been paying attention, haven’t you?” Ray gave another knowing smile, as if he was entertained by the fact that someone was so into his woman. “Anyway, this woman, Yvonne, was a dedicated and ambitious student who was meticulous about everything from composition to grammar. She was fascinated by the way that people wrote of themselves within their diaries, whether it was directly first person narrative, or whether it was third person, whether they recounted everyday occurrences and feelings, or whether they wrote about dreams and fantasies… Honestly, she was a fantasy…”

Michael sensed, “Was?”

“Is, still is, no doubt. After observing her in class for close to a year, partly convinced but then also partly unconvinced due to her perfection, I got up the gall to start something a little more than just teacher-student. We went out a few times. She was always charming and into listening to what I said, but as I mentioned, she was somehow too perfect. You see, although Helen and Helena were work-aholics, neither of them were perfectionists. They wanted to create the whole picture and experience within the viewer, whereas Yvonne wanted to ensure the work was perfect and carefully detailed within itself. As she would be listening to me I would look at her and see that there was something missing. Where Helena used to drift off into her own world, incapable of fully concentrating on me, Yvonne actually managed to listen carefully to every last syllable of what I said. When I was speaking with Helena I never knew whether she was off in Lady Gaga land, or whether she was hearing or seeing something deeper about me that even I couldn’t comprehend.”

“So?” Michael wanted to move the conversation forwards.

“So, after one of our dinner dates I managed to get Yvonne back to my place. I wasn’t really after sex, as I told you before, it was only with Helena that I really actually felt heterosexual, but I wanted to see if there was something on her skin to identify her. I kissed her intensely throughout the taxi ride home. We approached the house, the taxi taking us through the gates and towards the front steps. The whole time Yvonne was so intent with me that she had no inkling to look at the house façade. I paid the taxi driver and took her up the steps. We were practically undressing as I scrambled to find my keys to the front door. Fortunately Henrik…”

“Henrik?” Michael was confused.

“Yes Henrik, my butler, incidentally the same one who worked for Mr Watergate. Anyway, Yvonne and I were pretty fired up and drunk. I remember getting her to my bedroom, I’m not sure completely how… whether Henrik carried her or what… but, there she was, laying on my bed ripe for the picking, and all I could think of was to check to see whether she was Helena. I carefully slid her loose fitting skirt down past her legs and over her feet, throwing it recklessly towards an armchair. I then carefully unbuttoned her white silky blouse, noticing that the breasts beneath her lacy bras were perfect creamy mounds that would make any normal straight man so thirsty he would have to bite down on them in an instant. But I was searching. I kissed her from just below cleavage down the middle of her ribs until I reached her tiny button navel. I kissed her soft stomach skin ever more intensely by now getting completely aroused myself. As I started feeling the inside of her calves with my hands, preparing to remove her cotton underwear, my kisses took me to her left side. I opened my eyes, realising that I was looking for Helena’s birthmark, but it wasn’t there. It simply wasn’t there. The skin on her stomach and side were as unmarked and consistent as the rest of her. My heart sunk and so did the rest of me. I couldn’t continue. As I withdrew myself from her, I could see that it didn’t really matter to her either. She had fallen to sleep and was not awoken by my absence.”

“So then what happened?” Michael asked.

“Nothing really. In the morning we had breakfast together, and Yvonne asked me exactly the same question as you just asked… ‘What happened?’… and I had to tell her ‘Nothing.’ I explained that I couldn’t possibly do anything like that when someone was so intoxicated. I could sense that she was a little disappointed, but she didn’t say anything that would reinforce this. We simply ate breakfast and after that Henrik called her a taxi, and that was it.”

“But she was still your student wasn’t she?” Michael questioned.

“Yes, but we managed to avoid each other as much as possible for the rest of her degree. Universities can be large places you know.”

“And Helen?”

“And Helen… although a few other women appeared over the years, I was much more careful with them than I had been with Yvonne. I generally kept a distance. Once or twice, when I thought there might be some chance that they could be Helena, I would do the ‘diary test’ and lend them the diary for inspiration. Each time they would soon return the diary stating that I must have made a mistake, ‘This is an empty book.’ I would then be disappointed for a week or so and return to normal.”

“So you were basically fishing?”

“Yes,” Ray thought for a moment “I guess you could call it that,” and smiled. “When Helen had joined the programme I didn’t really have much to do with her. She was mainly taught by other staff in her first year at the art school, and then when I came into contact with her I hadn’t even been thinking along the Helena lines. In fact, I’d almost completely forgotten about it. Helen stood out, I’ll give her that. But it was more because she was completely…”

“Eccentric” Michael added.

“Right. Eccentric, whacko and clumsy. You couldn’t actually avoid noticing her. She seemed somehow familiar, but somehow… I don’t know, I couldn’t work out whether she was super attractive in a strange kind of way or super repulsive… there was something about her that noone could quite contain.” Ray began to laugh uncontrollably as he recalled, “I remember one day when Helen had arrived late to the studio and entered during the middle of a still life session. The naked young male model was sitting patiently by the warmth of a small fan heater, and all the students were diligently working to copy the shapes of the model onto the easel framed butchers paper in front of them. Helen had this dopey looking shoulder bag, with handles and loops that came out from all directions. As she tried quietly sneaking past the busy painters her bag hooked onto the edge of an easel ledge. Instead of stopping and unhooking the bag, she kept walking which ultimately spun the easel around and caused it to fall down onto one of the other easels, which in turn fell onto another and another and another. It was a complete domino effect, the end of the domino chain ultimately being the stunned model who received the last easel with full force right in the middle of the forehead. Fortunately, he wasn’t knocked unconscious but was stunned and received a rather nasty bump. I can’t even begin to tell you how embarrassed Helen was, especially when she was running over to help the model that she was simultaneously too embarrassed to look at due to the absent apparel. It was just at this moment that I realised I was in love with her.”

The two men stopped for a moment to look at each other. Both took a sip from their drinks, and Ray seemed to choke a little as he swallowed, his eyes glistening with moisture.

“For the first time in my life I was actually frightened of someone. I was frightened and filled with happiness at the same time. Being in the same room as her was amazing, and fortunately it happened quite often as she was absolutely obsessed with work, or at least with being around artwork.”

“I know, we would arrive at the university together at eight in the morning and she wouldn’t come home sometimes until after midnight.” Michael remembered.

“You must have had some kind of history with her too, am I right?” At this Michael nodded and exhaled with lost energy. “I couldn’t be so obvious or keen, and I also couldn’t really be too close to her. While I felt that I needed to be in the same room, I had a hard time being near her. As a part of my work I needed to approach her to see what she was doing, but it took a lot of energy. Her pictures seemed to have come from nowhere, there were tones, dimensions and shapes that I couldn’t even decipher, but when I asked her what she was working on, she would reply ‘diaries.’ I literally froze. I always kept a composed exterior, but beneath I was shaking like a leaf. Her ever changing Australian accent framing her barely tangible explanations would intrigue me and lose me. In over two years I barely spoke to her, at least any more than I had to. During one of her masters critiques I happened to mention how her ‘diaries’ reminded me of architecture and that I could lend her some books relating to various architecture styles and also that I had some literature on diaries, that she might want to see. I could see that she was lying when she over enthusiastically nodded and said ‘That would be great!’ I didn’t take her for much of a reader. But, the following day I brought in a pile of books and amongst them was…”

“The diary. You were now to the test stage again.” Michael concluded.

“Yes, but strangely it hadn’t even entered my mind before now. Helen was so unique, she was so her, that I didn’t even think of her as being anyone else. However, just out of curiosity I thought I’d ‘lend’ her the diary and see what she said.”

“So, you leant her the diary and discovered she was Helena?”

“Well, it didn’t happen that easily, as I said before, I had mentioned how I felt she was lying when she said it would be great for me to lend her the books. I was quite right, she wasn’t the reading type, and she hadn’t even touched the pile of books I had delivered her for well over two months. I kept going passed her desk to check, when I knew she wasn’t there. She just wasn’t the reading type. So I began to walk by when she was there, knowing that if she saw me, she might feel guilty and at least try to skim through them.”

“So did she?” Michael quizzed.

“Yes, she did. It took a while for her to return the books, as she returned them one by one. To my surprise…” the lights of the pub started flashing on and off. It was the ‘we’re closing signal’ which was followed by a waitress making the rounds to each table stating that they were closing in fifteen minutes. “Is it that time already?” Ray asked in irritation.

“Yes, it’s quarter to twelve, and we close at twelve, so finish your drink and leave,” the waitress’s manners were little to be desired, and Michael couldn’t get over how they had already been at the place for so many hours.

“…to your surprise?” Michael tried to ignore the ‘go home’ message.

“We’ll continue this at another place. Let’s finish our drinks and leave.”

“But where will we continue?” Michael was like a small child.

“Just drink and leave.” Ray ordered.