The next day I got through very little and attended my lectures as normal. Mostly, I found it difficult to focus and I wasted much of my time in the library, after having written some general notes about the presentation we had planned. Tomorrow I’d be seeing Anna and Tom which would hopefully take my mind off recent events but before that I would have to meet up with Antoine.
Time went slowly and I was counting down the hours to meet at the church. Despite my interest in Theology I wasn’t especially religious and more curious than anything about the origins of humanity. Antoine seemed to sense this because he had left an address at the bottom of the letter which directed me to the spiritual church, which I guessed had some differences to a normal place of worship.
Occasionally I moved back to the book on astrology and read more into the signs. I also looked into the Age of Aquarius with great interest and wondered if that time had already begun, although I wasn’t too sure if it mattered. Humanity had achieved some real advances in the last sixty years, but we still had a long way to go, and I didn’t think I’d see a new humanitarian age before my time was up.
I returned home earlier than usual and read up about the formation of the Zodiac. The Eleven had once been a powerful group with real authority and had been widely regarded as guides elected to enlighten the whole of humanity. This birthright had eventually lost its meaning and for years the Zodiac had been lost. All I did know was that both Cancer and Sagittarius had passed on and could not be replaced for a good few years yet.
How much of it I believed was hard to put into words and I didn’t think it mattered. If the Zodiac were important it would soon come together without my approval and that was what mattered. I sat there for some time in deep thought before I checked the time and got ready to meet with Antoine.
It only took about ten minutes and I was surprised by the modest size of the church. It was much smaller than I expected and was only just bigger than an ordinary house. I stepped inside and could barely hide my nervousness while I walked past the aisle of seats. I nodded at the old ladies who were sat near the front and at the five representatives who were waiting at the top of the room. I assumed they were the healers.
Antoine wasn’t anywhere in sight so I took a seat and waited in silence. At first I thought I was paranoid but then I saw several of the healers looking in my direction and wondered why I had caught their attention. They didn’t say anything, but whenever I looked up I saw their eyes darting over towards me and that added to my discomfort.
More people arrived and slowly the rows were beginning to fill when Antoine finally came. He looked older than from what I remembered, his hair now fully grey and much longer than before, falling all the way down to his shoulders. His face was lined and tired, while slightly redder than last we met, which I guessed was because of high blood pressure or alcohol. Nevertheless, when I stood up and looked into his eyes, I could still see the bright spark that had lived in them before.
“You’ve grown!” he said with a hearty laugh. Despite all the questions I had I gave him a long embrace and felt genuinely moved to see him again. He was the only connection I had left to my old days on the ship, and for that I was grateful. “You must be what, twenty three?”
“Twenty one,” I said. “Just. It’s been too long, Antoine. I never really got chance to thank you for what you did.”
“And you will never need to,” he said, clapping me on the shoulder. He twirled his finger and pointed towards the healers. “Now, if there’s anyone you need to see it’s these guys. They know how to ease a worried mind, I tell you that much. Come, I’ll introduce you!”
We moved towards the front and Antoine told me the names of each and every one, though I wasn’t sure I could remember them all. There was Jean, the old woman and head of the church, who shook my hand firmly but without meeting my eyes. She seemed almost distracted by my presence, and when I looked at Antoine, I could tell that he was studying me intently as well.
On her left was another woman who had blonde curls and a wide, welcoming grin. She was chatty but I didn’t sense much else from her, and quickly moved onto the others. Next was a man called Morris, who was both bald and slightly overweight, but there was warmth in his eyes that I trusted. On the right of Jean were two other men, one who was skinnier and dressed in casual clothes, while the other was slightly bigger and wore a blue shirt. They were called Chris and Mark, and I felt it necessary to speak with them both before healing began.
Minutes must have passed when Antoine tapped me on the shoulder and suggested that we take a seat. I nodded and followed him to the first aisle. I leaned in and asked when we would be able to talk about the letter.
“Soon, Jack,” Antoine said brusquely. “We’ll talk soon, but I want you to see this, too. You will know what I mean afterwards. When they call us up, I want you to pick out the healer that you feel drawn to the most.”
I was not at all interested in the prayers and hymns that followed but I went along with it all the same. During the singing I took a moment to look around the room and, unsurprisingly, I noticed that most of the people in attendance were elderly or volunteers at the Church. Once again I felt out of place but I tried to put aside my reservations and put my faith in Antoine.
Jean stepped up and asked us to once again be seated before beginning a brief meditation. I didn’t think my overactive mind would ever settle but as the calming music played in the background and her soothing voice fell upon the room I couldn’t help but feel myself being lured into a deep trance. Her voice was almost hypnotic and I was certain that the sound of it was somehow alive, as if I was being pulled one way or another by an unseen energy.
Very little time must have passed but when I came to I felt far more replenished than I had in many months. I turned to look at Antoine and I could see there was a look of peacefulness in his expression.
Jean moved towards the second aisle where an old man with a hearing aid had fallen asleep. She smiled, her glasses drooping nearer to the rim of her nose, and gently called out his name to bring him back from his slumber. For a moment I didn’t think he was going to react until finally his eyes opened after the third calling and a faint grin appeared on his lips.
Soon after we were told to sit beside a healer and let them put their hands on our shoulders to begin the process. My eyes met Antoine’s and he gestured for me to go forward, before leaning in next to me and saying once again: “Remember to go to where you feel drawn.”
To my surprise there was no immediate scramble to compete for the healers and I didn’t have any trouble getting out of my aisle so that I could make a choice. A few seconds passed as I stood watching them all and thought about what felt right. It was a funny experience, trying to analyse your own feelings with such self-awareness, and I wasn’t at all sure what I was here to do, but my feet eventually seemed to know what they wanted and walked towards Chris, who was sitting on the right next to Jean.
At first he was sitting there in silence with an unreadable expression. I sat opposite him and wondered if I should say something while he stared whimsically into nothingness, as if lost in his own memories. Then he was once again conscious of himself and looking at me with a knowing smile and lively eyes. He didn’t seem the type to make small talk, but seemed to make a special exception for me, and said: “You haven’t been to a place like this before, have you?”
“No,” I said confidingly. “I haven’t felt the need to come before, but I thought I’d give it a go.”
“Bless,” he said good-humouredly, but without being patronising. “It is good to be sceptical about everything you come into contact with. Still, it is also good to be curious, too! This is not the first time you’ve been interested in the spiritual side to life, though, is it?”
“I have an inquisitive mind.” I said, failing to hide my surprise over his insight into my personality.
“You must pay me no mind. I talk too much and get very little done because of it. Okay, you are bound to have your own expectations, but all I will say is don’t rush back from the healing. You might find yourself in a lower level of awareness, but don’t worry that you’re asleep. You’ll come around when ready. May I put my hands on your shoulder?”
I murmured my assent and without wasting another second Chris rose from his chair to start the healing. He had looked like an ordinary man until that moment when suddenly there was almost a saintly look about him. There was surprising warmth coming from his fingertips which travelled down into my body and right into my feet. I felt as if I was being suspended in midair until suddenly I relaxed and the next minute I was somewhere else within my own mind.
My relationship with the physical world seemed to distil itself as if I was capable of seamlessly making the transition into a pure mental state. All of the normal sensations in my body disappeared and was replaced by dreamlike imagination, though I didn’t think it was at all unreal or illusionary.
For some time I might’ve wandered in this sphere without knowing it. Time no longer mattered and I was sure that I could move through this place without feeling bound to the rules of my own earthly existence. At some point I became aware of a presence nearby and wondered if it had been there all along. I couldn’t see anything with my eyes but then again I was certain that I was no longer seeing with my physical senses and so that made room for hundreds of new possibilities.
In the end it didn’t really matter that I couldn’t see a form or shape, because the feeling I was getting from this energy was more loving and reassuring than anything I had ever felt before. There was no animosity or ill-feeling coming from this thing, but rather an unconditional need to nurture and build me up as if I was a small acorn in need of growing. And suddenly, although I felt small and insignificant in comparison, I felt that I truly belonged to whatever vibes this being was emitting.
Then, much to my surprise, there was a voice being channelled right into the heart of me, even though there was no noise or words as I would’ve known them. All I remember it saying was: “You are a gift to the world.”
Almost immediately there was a surge of emotion which was overwhelming in its intensity. I had never been given such words before, and I was immensely grateful for them, to the point of developing a neediness to hear more. Instead, the presence remained and offered me an all-encompassing embrace that must’ve linked to every bone in my body on a spiritual level, because I was more than content to stay like that forever.
It all began to happen quickly after that and at first I thought I was coming back to my senses. Images flew past me and I thought I was watching a gallery of cinematic events though I couldn’t say that I recognised any of the figures which came into my vision. I remained uncomprehending until I saw the Ram and the Bull appear and then I knew I was being guided through the whole Zodiac. I was deep in thought when suddenly Aiden was clapping me on the back and smiling widely, and all the warmth that I had been feeling from before fell like a stone tumbling into a gushing river as I didn’t at all believe what I was seeing.
There was still no sound between us while I occupied an empty black space devoid of any colour or identity. Despite this Aiden walked beside whoever and whatever I was and sat next to me with his legs crossed, moving his mouth as if he was talking. I desperately wanted to hear what he was saying but there was no sound at all and I was becoming increasingly anxious about my circumstances.
This didn’t seem to faze Aiden, however, and he simply smiled like he did all those years ago. At one point he even cupped his ear and I wondered if he was sharing an inside joke with me, though I still didn’t believe he was real, preferring to think he might be a fragment of my imagination. I had never considered the possibility I could ever see him again after watching him die in front of my eyes.
Suddenly his eyes changed and there a great sadness in them, though I knew this was for me and not for himself. Then it suddenly hit me that he knew my thoughts and was talking with me on a telepathic level. The next moment I could hear his thoughts flowing into me and for the second time I was moved more than I’d ever been in all my life.
“Now you believe,” Aiden seemed to say, though he was not using his mouth anymore to talk. “You can hear what I’m saying now because you’ve accepted what you do not understand. I’m so glad, Jack, to see you again.”
“Aiden, what’s happening here? Where am I?”
“Only where you have always been, and where you will go to again when your work is done here,” Aiden said. “Though for you, Jack, that might not always be the truth. You are better than all of us, and worth a whole lot more.”
I didn’t understand what he was saying and didn’t believe a word of it. He seemed to know this because he brushed off my silence and added: “There’s a good chance you won’t remember much of this when you wake up, though a part of you will always know what took place, just as some of you knows you are so much more than what you know. I’m sorry to talk in riddles with you, Jack, but sometimes it’s impossible to simplify the complexity of being alive.”
“Aiden, I’m so glad to know you’re well.” I thought with more happiness than I had felt in a long time. He smiled at me distractedly but this idea wasn’t new to him, and so I was the only person who was truly surprised.
“We will meet again before the closing hour, my dear friend,” Aiden said as stood up and looked at me with watery eyes. “If I could, I’d be there to help you with every step, but this is something you have to do alone. But I will do what I can for you, Jack, know that. Know that.”
“I don’t want you to go,” I said pleadingly.
“I’ll never truly be gone. If there’s one bit of comfort I want you to take from this it’s that the spirit always lives on, no matter what. It’s time to wake up now – you have a lot to do!”
“What’s going to happen out there? Aiden, there was this old man who called me Pisces and said that he was me and…I’m more confused than I’ve ever been in my life.”
“I’m not going to ruin your fun, either,” Aiden said, his mouth curling into a mischievous grin. “Everything is coming together and you’re at the heart of it
all. We could never do it without you, that’s what always held us back before…but now we have all the pieces in motion. I will still play my part, too. We must all do what we can. But, Jack, be careful who you trust!”
“What do you mean?” I asked, but it was already too late and Aiden was slowly disappearing into thin air as if he’d never been there in the first place. Before he was totally gone I heard him repeat his warning and then there was nothing at all.
I don’t know how long I was out but eventually I was once again aware of my surroundings and the sound of faint music in the background. Slowly I opened my eyes, despite still not really feeling awake yet, and saw Chris looking back calmly. Gradually my senses returned and when I wiped my face I noticed tears had been streaming down my face.
“Here,” Chris said. He handed me a glass of water and then added: “You went very deep indeed. The healing lasted a lot longer than usual.”
“I’m sorry to have taken up your time,” I said, wiping my eyes with the palm of my hand.
“Think nothing of it. Do you remember much of what you saw, if anything?”
“Only bits. It’s still all very vague and it doesn’t seem like two seconds since we were last talking. I do remember speaking with my friend, though, and a few other things.”
“I suspect you’ll be here again before too long,” Chris said softly. He took a mouthful from his own water and waited a moment for me to come round. Then he said: “I’m glad that you were able to see something for yourself, at least.”
“I’m very happy to know that there’s something else.”
“Oh, much more. Well, we’ll talk again soon I have no doubt.”
I shook his hand and tentatively moved out of my chair back towards my seat next to Antoine. He looked to be in deep thought until I brushed by and distracted him. His eyes met mine but he didn’t say anything, perhaps already knowing what I’d seen.
There wasn’t a long wait for the others to finish and when the clock struck half past everyone returned to their seats and said one last prayer. I joined them in this and felt relieved to have seen Aiden once again. Afterwards Jean stood up and informed everyone about what was coming up. She wrapped it up and told us all that we were welcome to stay for a hot drink but Antoine was already getting up to leave. I stood up with him and followed him out of the aisle.
I took a moment to look behind in Chris’s direction and waved him goodbye. He did the same and for a split second I was certain that I could hear a thought channel through me which said that we would meet again. I wondered if it had just been my own thoughts and trailed after Antoine, who was now waiting at the entrance.
We walked out into the cold air and I tugged at my scarf so that I was a bit warmer. Antoine stood on the pavement with his hands in his pockets until I asked: “Where have you been living these past years?”
“You should know me by now. I’m never in one place for too long. I may have served my sentence but you aren’t really free after passing through those doors, so I find it’s always better to keep on the move.”
I nodded and said: “We have a lot to talk about. Do you know anywhere suitable?”
“Of course. I was thinking of taking a pit stop at the Wheelbarrow Inn, if it does ya?” Antoine said, having not lost the long drawl in his accent.
“Straight to the pub after going to church? That didn’t take long.”
“Nonsense. They used to serve mead in the old monasteries, you know. Come along. I’m getting old now and I don’t want to be getting pneumonia.”
It didn’t take long to reach the Wheelbarrow Inn which was situated in the town centre and only five minutes away from the church. My glasses steamed up as we stepped inside and moved towards the bar. Antoine insisted on buying the first set of drinks so I moved across the room and found a small table in the corner. The place had an old feel to it with its low ceilings and homely interior, which I thought was a fitting theme for the evening.
I looked around the room and was pleased to see that there were only drips and drabs of regulars scattered about, so that we would be able to catch up without worrying about being overheard. Antoine came back with the drinks and sat on the stool opposite from where I was sat.
“Will you go again, then?” he asked me while taking a long mouthful from his pint.
“I think so. I have a feeling I will have reason to go a lot more in the next few months. It is very reassuring to know that there is more to our lives than meets the eye.”
“You can’t die for the life of you,” Antoine said hoarsely. He sat with one hand on his pint and the other loosely on his lap, with small droplets of sweat still waiting listlessly on his forehead from the coldness. “Though many make the mistake of thinking that nothing you do here matters, and that’s where they’re wrong. For some, it takes more than a lifetime to learn the same lessons.”
“What did you mean in your letter when you said that I might be in danger?” I asked, intrigued by the conversation but anxious to hear some answers.
“You see, Jack, it’s like airwaves out at sea,” Antoine said, without making much sense. “At first, you don’t hear anything, and wonder if nothing will ever come from it. Then, some time passes, and suddenly everything comes thick and fast. There have been some vast changes since we last spoke, and there are plenty more about to happen. You need to have some awareness of what’s going on, kid.”
“This is the problem, I don’t know anything. You seem to know more about me than I do.”
“Well, there are reasons for that,” Antoine said sympathetically, his eyes no longer wavering across the room. He leaned in and gave me his full attention. “We have our free will to make our own decisions, and much of our purpose is concealed from us for reasons I don’t know. Sometimes, though, events in our lives are fixed…and cannot be tampered with by outside forces. You have been allowed to come of age, but now your time is coming.”
“It’s no mistake that I have been reading into the Zodiac a lot lately, is it?”
“I suspect you’re already beginning to have your suspicions, but you won’t understand everything for some time yet. Listen, Jack, I think it’s very important that I give you some context. In your readings, have you come across the age of Aquarius?”
I nodded and told him about what I’d read into. He seemed impressed for a moment and then carried on talking.
“There’s no way of telling when it begun, but I am certain that there have been a lot of changes in that direction for some decades now. Of course, I don’t want you to believe everything you hear, but the basic principle of the change of an astrological age indicates the development in humanity’s evolution as a whole.
The astronomers believe that the earth rotates on an axis, and that this line in the centre of the earth has a slight wobble in it. This line has been broken up into the twelve parts that you’re familiar with, depending on which constellation the axis is leaning towards.”
“For the past 2,000 years we’ve been living in the Age of Pisces, though we have not seen a descendant from that sign in centuries. That is why we always referred to our guides as the Eleven. Already we’ve seen a massive step up in global consciousness, with civil rights movements and independence at the cornerstone of all political battles. What all this means is that we are expanding and growing on an unprecedented level and what’s to follow is very important for mankind.”
“So do you think that the descendants will return?” I asked, thinking about his daughter Isabelle who I had met six years ago. I wondered what she was doing now.
“They are already coming to meet at a fixed point in time which is soon to take place. What will happen after that? I don’t know. Certainly there is no place for kings and queens in this day and age, but they may continue to exist as wise guides and reminders of our purpose here on Earth. Or, perhaps, we will find that there is no real need for them in the new Age. What you need to remember is that this place is a training ground for our souls to evolve and pass onto the next learning curve. Now I suppose you’re wondering how you fit into all of this?”
“What can I possibly know that others don’t?” I said, sighing. “I’m just an ordinary student with an interest in books.”
“Jack, you have lived through more emotions and experiences than I can count on both of my hands,” Antoine said, smiling now. “You are Pisces, the last sign, and a born peacemaker. Your wisdom will counsel anyone sensible enough to listen and more importantly, you will help to bring about the most necessary changes needed from a new Age. No other descendant understands the importance of universality more than you, and with your evolution, we may begin to understand what lies beyond our own realm.”
At first I considered denying everything that he had just told me but then relented and said: “You’re not the first person to tell me that I’m Pisces, but I can’t see how that can be possible.”
“Naturally. I don’t mean to frighten you, but you were always going to find out the truth eventually. I need to prepare you for what’s to come, and quickly. Do you want to know why Sagittarius kept you under his wing for so long?”
“I always thought it was because an orphan child and he thought I was useful enough to have around.”
“He knew what you were before anyone else. He wanted to keep you within his sight for as long as he could, and helped your friend Aiden by doing the same.” My eyes widened at this as I realised that the Captain had been keeping me safe all this time, even though he’d sometimes appeared cold and disinterested. “Their descendants have already been born again, Jack, and will take on their roles when the time is right. All the signs are special, you see, but the circle has never been complete until now.”
“So what happens now? What can I do with this new found knowledge?”
“Everything will come to you, don’t worry about that. Only I wasn’t lying when I said your life is in danger. There are some who don’t take kindly to the changes you can help bring about, and I’m talking about very powerful characters from realms we don’t even understand. Fortunately, there are many who are on your side, too. I urge you to be cautious for now and wait for the Zodiac to come and find you. Some of them are already coming.”
I paused and reflected over his words before asking if his daughter Isabelle would also be coming.
“She will have no choice in the matter and will find that events force her to find you, no matter the inconvenience to her own life,” Antoine said, failing to hide the emotion in his eyes. He lowered his head slightly and added: “I’ve heard from others who I know that she has been living abroad…though I don’t suppose she will want to speak with me again. No matter. She will come through in the end.”
I finished my drink and asked if Antoine wanted another one, but he was already grabbing his coat to leave.
“I have a lot of work to do, my friend, but we need to meet again in a couple of days. There is someone who I would like you to see. A descendant. I can’t yet figure her out but I am certain that she is central to all of what will happen in the future. From now on you should expect everything to start moving very quickly…”
“What will happen in the future, Antoine? I still don’t know what you mean.”
“Neither do I, Jack. We have no choice but to play the card we’ve been dealt, and hope that it’s a good hand. All will become clearer with time, I hope. All things aside, nothing takes away the truth of your origins and where you stand in the evolutionary process. We may not see another Pisces for some more centuries, you see!”
We moved back outside and shook hands again before Antoine stalked off in another direction. I told him I’d see him again at the weekend and then headed back home, engrossed in my own thoughts and still uncomprehending everything that had just taken place.