CHAPTER 2 - WE FIND OUT PROFESSOR EDEN IS ‘THE GREAT PRETENDER’
Troy and I spent more time together during the weeks that followed, and I was over the moon. Admittingly, not in the way I had hoped, but ever since I shared my story concerning my mom, he felt he could open up to me about the things he had gone through in his life. He and his older brother, Jamie, hardly got along. Jamie was sporty, carefree and reckless, which got him into a lot of trouble with the authorities.
Troy revealed that his brother was caught smoking at the age of thirteen, but got a whole new meaning of trouble when he was caught with drugs when he was in Grade 11. Jamie was expelled from High School and was sent to live with his father’s sister, Audrey Becker. I totally understand why she never got married. Miss Becker worked for an institution where the unruliest of kids were sent to when their parents felt there was no other way to deal with them. Seeing those kids would probably have put me off having children of my own, too.
On the other hand, Troy was studious, loved reading, and listened to classical music. Whenever we got together to study for history tests, he would play Mozart in the background. He explained that according to surveys, listening to classical music helps relax the brain and increases concentration.
I could only give him a tight smile, but at the back of my mind, I asked myself, “So why then did Mozart die at the age of thirty-five and wrote his own Requiem Mass on his deathbed?” But I kept that thought to myself. Over those few weeks, Professor Eden would ask both of us more questions than any of the other students, which began to annoy me. Firstly, it meant I had to listen to her and secondly, (which I’ll never admit to anyone), I began enjoying the lessons. The way she spoke about the tales of old made you want to become Julius Caesar’s BFF. I was rather curious as to where this woman came from, or how the school allowed someone like her to teach instead of retiring at the coast.
One afternoon, Professor Eden asked for Troy and me to stay behind after class. Uh oh, what did we do? If we were accused of kissing, then it wasn’t us, because no matter how much I would flutter my eyelashes or gave Troy the not so eager thumbs up for choosing Mozart to study with, or any other terms of endearment, Troy was clueless. Once everyone had left, she closed the door and slowly turned to us.
“I have a question for both of you.”
Again, with the questions!
“What does history mean to you, personally?” Troy and I gave each other a nervous look, but luckily Troy answered first, as I hit a total blank.
“I believe history is a lesson that people should learn from, and make sure the same failures aren’t repeated. As for the successful things, we learned how to make it better.” Troy puffed out his chest as if he had answered all the questions on ’Who wants to be a Millionaire?’
Miss Eden studied him for a while, then said, “Interesting.” I gave Troy a side glance and could see that he wasn’t thrilled with the response.
“And you, Tristan? What does history mean to you?” Oh, fantastic. Nothing seems to escape this woman. I had to be frank with her.
“I have to be honest, Professor Eden. I don’t know.” There was no point in making up a story just to say something as I could see this woman couldn’t be fooled.
“I see. Well, why don’t you two sit down and let me tell you a thing or two about history.” We sat down slowly and waited. I wasn’t sure where this was going, but both of us went on high alert. Miss Eden paced up an down in the front of the class, with her hands clasped behind her back.
“So, kids, why did I ask such a question? Well then, I will answer that for you.”
Smiling, she began…
“History is not just a subject, or a class you attend at any University to gain the knowledge of one day becoming a Historian or Archaeologist. It is alive! It still speaks to us today, and even when people think what’s done is done - or as you put it, Troy - we learn from them and move on. The truth of the matter is that it is still going on. So many don’t know, but even as we speak, what has passed continues in a parallel time with ours.”
Okay, it was time to phone Troy’s aunt Audrey, so that she could pull strings and book Miss Eden into an anonymous asylum. Preferably somewhere in the desert, with an underground bunker that has no key. All Troy and I could do was sit and stare.
Professor Eden gave a wide grin when she saw our expression. “No, I’m not mad.”
What? Does she read minds too? This woman was beginning to freak me out. Troy looked at me and shrugged.
“So, what you’re saying is that history is still running, in another world?” Troy asked carefully.
“Exactly, my dear! The unfortunate part was that history was never meant to run parallel with ours to begin with.”
“How come?” I asked, suddenly curious. Professor Eden had a faraway look. I guess that’s because she had to sift through so many years of information stored in her subconscious.
She turned her gaze on us. “Have you ever heard of Qin Shi Huang?”
“Chinky, who?” She said the name too quickly. My brain couldn’t comprehend the words.
“Qin Shi Huang, Tristan. Chin-Shee-Wung,” Professor Eden said, slower.
Troy’s eyes lit up. “I know him! He was the first emperor of China!”
“Correct!” Miss Eden beamed.
“Oh, he was the guy who built the Great Wall of China,” I added.
“That’s right, Tristan,” Troy smiled at me.
“And then he left the bodies of the people who built the wall, inside its construction.”
“Yes, Tristan,” Troy’s smile dropped. I saw he wasn’t too happy with the knowledge I had based on this guy. I couldn’t help myself.
“And he commissioned the Terracotta Army.”
“Yes, he did.”
“And he unified China.”
“And he was known as the Dragon Emperor.”
“And he was afraid of death!”
“AHA!” Miss Eden exclaimed, causing me to flinch. I momentarily forgot she was still standing in front of us. “And that was where the problem came in.”
“How so?” Troy asked.
Miss Eden let out a deep sigh. “Children, what I’m about to tell you will seem like pure fantasy and fiction, but it is all true.” We both looked at each other and then back to Miss Eden. Nodding our heads, we listened to her tale.
“Many eons ago, the Greek goddess of Wisdom, Athena, searched for someone to document all the knowledge of the Greek world, as her brother, Apollo, the god of prophecy, knew the time of the gods was coming to an end, and that man will inherit the earth, and all that is within it. Athena came across a young woman named Clio, the daughter of Zeus and the Titaness Mnemosyne, the goddess of memory. Knowing she was the person she was looking for, Athena imbued her with godlike qualities. She became the proclaimer, glorifier and celebrator of history, great deeds and accomplishments. She documented some of the most famous accounts of the Greek world during her time. But, not all things stay the same.”
“What do you mean?” I asked her.
“When the Twilight of the gods came, Athena proclaimed Clio to be the first Guardian of History, knowledge and wisdom, and that it was now her duty to record all events, and scour the world for a new successor, when the time came.”
Miss Eden paused for a moment. “Clio then left the Greek world and travelled all across Europe, central Asia, Africa, and parts of India. She gained numerous students, but found none who had the intellect to be her successor, until her travels took her to China, where she met the famous Dragon Emperor.”
“Clio met the Dragon Emperor?!” exclaimed Troy. Miss Eden gave a sad nod.
“That is correct, and in the beginning, a friendship sparked between the two. Clio and the Dragon Emperor shared many secrets with each other, and for the first time in her quest, she believed she found a worthy successor. Then one day, with her other students, she proclaimed to heaven and all of China that Qin Shi Huang would be her successor.
“For the people of China, it was a glorious day. For her students, however, it was the opposite. Many suspected that the Dragon Emperor had a hidden agenda. That realisation came too late for Clio when she discovered all her students were executed by him.”
“What?!” I didn’t mean to shout, but I was not expecting that. “Why would he do that?”
“During his reign, Emperor Qin Shi Huang tried to re-write history, so as to make him be seen in a better light. He had many scholars buried alive and burned all the history books that could be found.”
A shiver went down my spine. Since I’m claustrophobic, being buried alive seemed a horrible way to die.
“Horrified at what her successor had done, she marched into the Imperial Throne Room and demanded to know why he would do such things. He said nothing, only to laugh at her anguished expression, to which she declared that he will be remembered as a murderer. He simply responded with the notion that History is written by those with power and authority, and above all, the winners.
“A fierce battle took place that nearly destroyed the world. As a result, Qin Shi Huang was made mortal, and Clio was left poorly weakened. She knew she had to go, but before she did, she cursed him, vowing he will die a painful death and never know peace.” Miss Eden noticed that her students were staring at her with transfixed eyes. Her story had captivated their attention, just as she always had with all her students.
“What happened next?” I asked her.
“Since Emperor Qin Shi Huang was famous for his fear of death, he sent his acolytes in search of something that would keep him alive forever. Do you know what it was they were searching for?” She gave me a look as if I knew the answer.
“The Fountain of Youth?” I guessed.
“Not quite, but close.” Miss Eden gave a huge smile, as if a dog had just learned a new trick. “He was searching for the Elixir of Life. Although it was never discovered during his lifetime, his acolytes - ever loyal to him - continued to search for a way to bring their beloved emperor back from the dead.”
“Beloved? The people hated him!” Troy frowned.
“Oh, yes,” Miss Eden mused. “But then again, evil people look up to evil rulers as saviours. To continue dabbling in things people shouldn’t be caught up in, acolytes like his dabbled in many things, and no sane ruler would’ve allowed them to continue on what they were experimenting with.” Pausing for a moment, Miss Eden continued, “Since the Elixir of Life was never discovered by his acolytes, they tried to find an alternative way to resurrect the emperor.”
I blinked. In my mind, if a person died, that’s it. No come backs, no resurrections, no ‘staying behind due to “unfinished business’. A person had one shot in life and that’s it. If you die, it’s game over. Now, Professor Eden is telling us a brutal emperor is going to be resurrected? I began massaging my temples as I could feel a headache coming on.
“Of course, back then, travelling wouldn’t exactly take a few hours as it would in our modern world,” Miss Eden explained. “Means of travel was either by horseback or boat by sea. Keep in mind that during their time, many lands had not yet been discovered, and the acolytes weren’t too keen to venture into the unknown.
“After the emperor’s sudden death, the acolytes went back to their hideaway and began dabbling in mysterious alchemy and the dark arts, to which they themselves were limited in its knowledge. They created a golden gemstone that had the potential to change time. Their goal seemed simple to them. Create a permanent answer for the emperor to gain immortality.”
“Uh huh,” I muttered, still rubbing my temples. “Do you have any aspirin on you?”
“However,” Miss Eden continued, taking no notice of my discomfort, “during one of their experiments, an accident occurred. The magic backfired and caused a tremor.”
It took all my will power not to look at Troy when Miss Eden mentioned the word tremor.
“The explosion didn’t kill them. Instead, the magic imbued itself into the acolytes, but the gemstone shattered, causing a portal to open. Realising they opened a chasm to a realm where history would literally repeat itself, their leader, Xu Fu, took the shards and enchanted them. He then tossed the shards into the portal - known as the Shards of Chaos - scattering them along the timeline of history. They resurface every now and then to tamper with history.”
I could feel the throbbing increase behind my eyes. This was too much to take in. So far, everything I had heard was bogus, and I couldn’t believe I was still sitting here, actually paying attention. I let out a soft groan.
“What happened to the acolytes?” Troy asked, intrigued.
“When they died,” Professor Eden said, “their souls merged with the timeline. Since they are linked with the timeline and the Shards of Chaos, they create a disturbance. If evil triumphs over good, the stronger the emperor becomes. Before Xu Fu died, he infused spells around the emperor’s tomb. That is why no one today can enter the tomb. If the balance of history is tipped, then chaos rules.”
“But, there is a loophole to all of this,” Miss Eden continued. “If the shards are collected and made whole again, the emperor will rise, along with his faithful acolytes.”
“If they wanted the gemstone to be whole, why did Xu Fu throw the shards into the portal?” Troy asked, perplexed.
“It was a guarantee that no one would take the shards and destroy them,” Miss Eden explained. “Rather have them scattered in history than have them altogether in one place. Tristan?” Miss Eden frowned at me. “Are you alight?”
“Oh, I’m finding my brain expanding with all this deluded information. Don’t mind me, the pain should subside any minute now.”
“Tristan! How can you not find this fascinating?” Troy was exasperated.
“Fascinating? It’s a load of hogwash, if you ask me. How could the acolytes just tamper with history and cause it to run in a parallel world with ours?” I used quotation hand signs when I said parallel. “And also, how would you know history was being tampered with?”
Before Troy could answer me, Miss Eden cleared her throat. We looked into her sea-green eyes.
“Did you not feel the tremor?” She asked, almost mysteriously. Troy gave me a side glance, while I tried to act casual.
“Tremor? What tremor?” I asked, suddenly interested in my nails.
Miss Eden waved her hand as if dismissing the question. “You know very well what I am referring to, Tristan,” her eyes had a glint of amusement in it. “And I’m right to presume that only you two felt it.”
I leaned back in the chair. “Rats!” I thought. “She knows!” Sitting a little straighter in my seat, I asked, “Why were we the only ones who felt it?”
“Because I chose you,” Miss Eden said in a serious tone. ”And if it’s any conciliation, I too, felt the tremor,” Professor Eden said.
“Wow!” I said sarcastically. “It really makes me feel a whole lot better that it wasn’t two people who felt it, but three,” I looked at Troy. “We can sleep well tonight, knowing a professor felt the tremor, too. As for being ‘chosen’, I really feel honoured.”
“Tristan O’ Doyle!” Miss Eden yelled and whacked the blackboard with a ruler, causing us both to yelp at her sudden outburst. “This is a serious matter! The tremor was an indication that something in history is changing for the worse. The tremors are the warning signs that were accidently created by acolytes! Fortunately, a man, who became known as the Father of History has been watching over history and all it stands for.”
“Father of History,” Troy repeated slowly, almost in a daydream. “You mean, Herodotus?”
Professor Eden smiled. “Yes, Troy. Herodotus, famously known as the ‘Father of History’.”