The 'Sarim' - The Ministers.
Pange, Lingua Gloriosi – Dan Gibson’s Solitudes. Vocalist: [Loreena McKennitt].
Trice, the Consul General’s secretary left presently, with much effusive verbal thanks and obvious gratitude mixed with some relief as well, it appeared, being expressed.
Liz McNeil stood, hands behind herself, holding the door after it had been closed, and she looked for the first real time, at this ‘Sara’ girl who was there with her.
Somehow, something in her mind counselled her not to ask so directly as she really wanted to inquire.
Instead, her mind moved to a more pressing matter. “Now what am I going to do?”
But Sara simply stood there quiet, tight-lipped and non-committal.
“I am supposed to do something before nightfall. Or not much longer than that. Or else I am going to die. Again. This time though, it will really be the end, end. And you show me all these good things, all this power and resource, and I am supposed to jump from how I knew how to operate in life before – which was only really according to the ways that I knew then, and using the paucity of resources I had then – to some absurdly high-level schema now. I don’t even know where to begin. I won’t even be here long enough to meet this woman that y’all want to ‘save,’ or whatever. Xan T-Five will have me dead by tonight because I will have come up with absolutely nothing at all by then...
“And I suppose you’re not going to help me other than let me know if I come up with something you all have ‘never heard of before’ because it is, what – going to entertain you?”
Liz actually felt there were real tears in her eyes now. God, it had been a long while that that had ever happened to her.
“Just look at all this.” She waved her hand around disconsolately. “This freaken’ pad, this view, these, these things... I can’t even really enjoy them because I am going to die tonight.”
At last Sara the young girl spoke. “He told you that? That you had just one day and then he would terminate you?”
“Yes! He told me that!”
“But you don’t want to die now? Just because of all this you see around you?”
“No. Not just because of that. What about what was going on where I just was. Wherever that was...”
“He said ‘one day?’” Sara repeated.
But the younger-looking woman scoffed. “He wouldn’t even know what ‘one day’ is. They have no idea at all about time, all those Xans. What would they know about time!” She seemed genuinely amused at the idea.
“So.” Liz McNeil almost choked the words out. “So. He’s not going to terminate me? I’m not going to die then?”
“Oh he might unless I intervene. Dunno about tonight though, in just one single human day of work time.” She shook her head. “They simply don’t know a thing, those people.” She laughed out loud. “And anyway perhaps they should have given you to a female Shan – by the way, the males are called like this: ‘Zan;’ and the females ‘Shan,’ but with still the same spelling.” She moved a finger like she was writing some spelling.
“So will you help me?” Liz found her usual bravery come back to her.
But the ‘Sara’ young woman person once again just stood there, impassively, giving absolutely no hint at all of what she was thinking.
There was something in her stance though, her strange impassivity that yet spoke absolute volumes and at some profundity too. It was as if she was waiting on Liz herself to come up with ‘a position,’ as it were. To volunteer a relationship stance towards her.
Once again, Liz looked down at her own hands, at her forearms, at the visibly evident fact that she was not the age she recently had been; that her whole physical being – her body – had literally gone backwards in age... Had ‘de-aged.’
So she appealed to the young woman in front of her, and the appeal was not any simple requesting form: “Please. Please will you help me?”
“Of course I shall help you.”
There was simply glittering icy fire in the younger-looking woman’s eyes. It was as though the whole world had stood still with time itself suspended right there and then. There was the satisfaction of a strange and deep desire there being told in her eyes.
Sara continued on: “The reason it is you, you the one that will be able to engage validly with our very young friend who is travelling here even now as we speak - is because you are a human being, having lived a human life with the relevant and real experience of all the pain, all the suffering, all the challenges, all the obstacles, all the ignorance of people. And you will be able to fully understand another human being in much the same sort of situation. You will have authentic empathy if not necessarily the patience now. Except now you will also have other information, much better information than you possessed previously. And so you will know how to apply it, respecting your fellow human being’s position. Taking into consideration her pride...
“You will have her right at the beginning, of that long and winding but essentially dead-end road that you yourself once went down. But it wasn’t your fault, with you; with your situation. I know that. I was with you all the way.”
Liz felt like scolding the young woman. Why didn’t you? Why didn’t you do something, at least?
Reading her thoughts, Sara remarked then, “Because now you are armed with full and proper, complete, uninterdicted knowledge and experience.”
“And I’m alive still now, though, right? I’m not, like, dead or something and I’m a kind of a ghost or something?” Liz thought she had better confirm it...
“Well – you are on the way to being properly alive, and you are certainly much more ‘alive’ than most of the people out there are right now.” Sara waved at the expansive view out the very large window.
“Sorry to keep asking things but, what does that mean – on the way to being?”
“Don’t apologise. You’re entitled to ask it.” Sara stopped speaking briefly.
A green parrot bird had come to the window and was perched on the outside lower edge, and it seemed to be eyeing them, turning its head first to this side and then that, looking with one eye and then the other.
Sara smiled at it.
The bird flew away presently.
“Life...” She began. And stopped again.
And she came up to Liz and took both of her hands into her own. “Life is in created things. But it is, itself, creation. You can be touched by life and become alive. You may be touched by something hot and become warm yourself but you are not the actual original source of the heat. When you come with me you come into life, and you are life, not just are a-live.”
“So where is this Jesus we all hear about so much down here?”
“Jesus is on the right hand of God.”
Liz just found herself blinking. The younger-looking woman Sara continued, raising her eyebrows: “And so is there not someone on the left?” And she winked.
“That music I heard...” Liz whispered. “It made me feel so good.”
Sara laughed out loud. “Toca’s Miracle?”
“No-o-o!” Liz burst out. “Not that one. The singing voices that I heard when I first woke.”
Sara just laughed again, at Liz, and pulled her by the hands a little forward, almost unbalancing her.
“Come with me. Into the kitchen. I shall teach you how to cut limes. Do you know about cutting limes?”
Liz shook her head, bewildered, but magically so; entranced -, very very entranced, and more so than she had already been for a good few hours now.
There were a couple of large chrome wire baskets in there, filled with dozens and dozens of limes. And Sara led her, by the hand there, and then led her, to cutting the limes, showing her how to cut limes, and the meaning of it and what it did.
Outside, the sun was setting from behind them, and the sky all around was a deep fiery golden orange.
And she made Liz come and sit with her, next to her on the large sofa looking out at the wide vista, and as the glittering evening began its own slow dance move of falling down over them into night. Suddenly again, from seemingly out of nowhere, singing voices were there once again -, one sole female voice first and then many males voices and then that one female voice again as a counter-point. And Sara forced Liz’s head to lie against her right shoulder, using her left arm to stretch out across her body and then curl it around and push Liz’s head. Then after a short while next she lifted her right arm and placed that around Liz’s shoulders, pushing Liz’s head further down, right down with her right hand, so that Liz’s head was now resting against her breast.
And tears were pouring from Liz’s eyes and rolling down her face like they would never stop.