The next night I saw Antoine again and was surprised that he’d wanted to meet me outside the revolving doors of a large hospital. He’d mentioned before that we were going to meet with a descendant but I had assumed that they were all fit and healthy. When I asked him what the problem was, he looked at me with tired eyes and shook his head gravely.
“What you’re going to see tonight isn’t going to be easy for you,” Antoine said. He was wearing a long brown coat and a thick hat as it was even more cold than usual. “There are some things, Jack, which should never be allowed to happen. What you’re about to see is something that makes me sick to the core.”
I looked at him with curious eyes but he chose not to say anymore and instead nodded towards the doors. I followed his lead and stepped into the space between the revolving doors before moving past the main entrance into one of
the side corridors. He walked speedily and I had to make an effort to keep up with him until we came across a lift and stepped inside.
My senses had always been highly tuned since a young age and I often found myself capable of picking up small signs in a room that no one else ever noticed. Now I knew this was because as the descendant of Pisces I was exceptionally sensitive to my environment and as the ruler of the unconscious I could pick up on cues that I didn’t even realise until later on. I could tell that Antoine was deeply subdued tonight and clearly troubled about where we were going.
“Out of interest, who is the descendant?” I asked. He didn’t answer straight away and stepped onto the fifth floor without a word. I was about to repeat my question when suddenly he spoke in a low voice.
“She belongs to the sign Aquarius,” Antoine said, his tone soft and sombre. “You will find she is right next to you in the evolutionary cycle, and a fine advocate for change. She was the only member other than Sagittarius who was actively seeking the Zodiac.”
“What happened to her?”
He shook his head and said: “What they did to her was monstrous, Jack. I would take revenge myself if I thought it would do much good, but I’ve learned better over the years. Come, we’re almost there.”
There were many rooms that were crowded with patients who were almost always old and dying. I didn’t have much chance to have a look inside but occasionally I saw sickly children or babies lying in their beds with depressed eyes and sometimes I had to pull away – the bare reality of life was just too much for me to accept. It made me realise how fickle we were as human beings and how simple it was for our bodies to deteriorate into incurable disease.
I had rapidly fallen into a dark mood and I could tell that Antoine wasn’t going to lighten my mood either. There seemed to be an energy about the place which robbed you of your happiness and I could feel myself absorbing all of the negativity of my surroundings. I could’ve sworn that I was dragging around their burdens like a weight and I began to feel more tired than I’d been in a long time. I almost cried with relief when Antoine stopped outside a small, private room tucked away from the rest and signalled for us to go inside.
It was the smell that overwhelmed me the most. I couldn’t describe the mixture of sickness, death and stench that enveloped my senses but I knew I didn’t want to be any nearer to it than was needed. There was no getting away from the unpleasantness that only hospitals could bring, but I was shocked by its abject foulness. I looked at Antoine enquiringly and questioned why the nurses hadn’t cleaned out the place.
“Oh they have, many times,” Antoine said. He walked further into the room and took a seat next to the bed. “Whatever you can smell, it’s not physical. You are very sensitive to energies, Jack, and likely you are taking in the evil source that lives in this room. Come closer and see for yourself.”
I found it difficult to brush off the nauseating feeling that came over me but I persisted and wandered over towards the other side of the bed. At first I couldn’t see much and my view was restricted by the tubes and machines that surrounded the bed frame, but once I’d gotten closer I saw a girl not much older than myself with her eyes closed. She was bald, scarred and bloodied by whatever had brought her in here, and I doubted I’d ever seen anyone so badly disfigured.
It was worse when I saw burns running down the other side of her face and stitching imbedded into her cheek. There was nothing else to see from the rest of her body, which was covered by her white pyjamas, but when I asked Antoine he told me that there were very few places in her body that hadn’t been touched by the attack. He held her hand and looked solemnly at the machine which beeped slowly to show that Aquarius was still alive somewhere.
“This is…why?” I asked, my words faltering. “Do you know?”
“I know enough,” Antoine said. “Her name is Molly. She’s been wearing scars almost all her life, in one way or another, and I’ve never met anyone braver than Molly. She stood up to men more powerful than her by half, and fought relentlessly for a better world. A true Aquarian down to the bone.”
“Do you think she’ll live?”
“There’s no way to tell right now. She’s as tough as old boots but there’s only so much the human body can take. For years she worked hard to represent the Zodiac movement and be a thorn in the side of the powerful, but eventually they found her and turned her into a human experiment. They stopped at nothing to find out what made her a descendant, Jack, as if she was nothing but cattle! She would have died in their hands if I hadn’t interfered…”
I sat in silence while Antoine recounted his story and filled in the gaps that I didn’t know about him. It came as a surprise to me that he was in charge of an underground network, and that he was capable of infiltrating the government to protect his own. Deep down, I think I’d always known that Antoine was a complex and mysterious character, but I hadn’t really questioned the extent of his operation.
Whatever his means, I couldn’t help but sympathise with his reasons for rescuing Molly. It was too idealistic to imagine that the world was simply black and white, without any grey hues, in which outlaws were branded as criminals for going against the government. Many in those branches of policy were innocent, I had no doubt, but it only took half a dozen experts with decision-making skills to make some really inhumane choices.
“It’s human to fear what you don’t understand, you see,” Antoine said, sighing. He laid his hands on his knees and stared at the window longingly. “For years that’s always been the way of it. There’s been so much research on the zodiac with no understanding of how descendants are chosen – and that’s the key to its prestige, really. It’s like a birth right that the kings and queens didn’t have, and that’s why our current government is so afraid of your return. There is no place for those traditions in our democracy.”
“But I have no desire to rule,” I said, having not even considered the idea.
“Oh, I know that. That’s not what will happen if we’re successful. You and the others will be experts in your own fields, and provide sensible advice to those elected into power. In many ways you would concern yourself with the more spiritual aspects of life. But there are those who must imagine the worse and fear what might happen if you were to return.”
“So, what about Molly?” I said, nodding towards the girl.
“They gave up on her in the end, after two years of testing her through illegal means. I found her after one of my agents spotted her disappearance and tipped me off. If I hadn’t have come, she would’ve been left to die on the streets. I don’t know what type of torture she was put through, but I don’t think they succeeded in their scheme. Believe me, Jack, I’ve thought about murdering them every day for what they’ve done.”
“How would you get close to them if they belong to the government? Surely this must’ve been done in secret?”
“Yes, I think so…” Antoine said, turning his attention back to Molly and holding her hand gently. His eyes were still blazing with vengeful thoughts. “I would lose all faith in humanity if I thought any different. Likely it was some senior executives with a lot of money invested, and a couple of weak-willed politicians who haven’t a conscience. At any rate, I’m more interested in getting you up to speed and preparing for what’s to come.”
I nodded before remembering what he’d told me during our last talk, and then added: “You said something about Molly being at the heart of the Zodiac, what did you mean? What happens if she doesn’t wake up?”
“She’s held on this long and isn’t showing any sign of giving up. Feel comfort in that. Not all forces are against us, Jack. There are some who are still keeping us alive. As for the rest, well, I don’t know much about that myself. It won’t be long now before you’re all together again.”
“Until then, I guess we have no choice but to wait…” I said. I could still feel my energy being sapped by the low vibes seeping out from within the building. I didn’t think I could stay for much longer without losing all of my will to live.
“There is something else you can do in the meantime,” Antoine said, his eyes brightening up as he spoke. “You have some things on your mind that I can’t answer, but I do know someone who can. You’ve been booked in to see Chris next Wednesday, I suggest you go and see him first.”
“Booked in?” I said, failing to hide my surprise. He simply smiled knowingly without revealing his source. “I knew I’d be seeing him again.”
“Of course you did – you’d do well to get to know the descendant of Capricorn.”
My eyes widened in shock while Antoine’s grin grew larger. For a moment he reminded me of a Cheshire cat. It looked like we were all coming together at a faster pace than I’d ever imagined, and I had a feeling that I wouldn’t have to wait long to meet the others.
I just hoped that we were all going to get along.