I was in for another surprise as I recovered from my drowsiness and saw Anna standing hesitantly at the edge of Molly’s bed. She looked as beautiful as I remembered. Our eyes met and a moment of silence passed between us, which was perfectly natural and heartfelt, until she finally moved to speak.
“I found out you was here and thought I’d stop by on the off chance. I know you come here often.” she said, masking her emotions. She was wearing a leaf green blouse that lit up the room with its simple beauty. There were many questions on my lips, but somehow they didn’t matter, I was so relieved to see her in spite of everything else.
“Anna. You’re okay?” I said, my voice muffled and unclear. I thought I might’ve stepped into another dream, but the sight of Molly lying helpless in her bed was too horrible to be anything but reality.
“It’s been a while. Too long, really. I thought I’d leave you to it for a while, but something happened recently and I had to see you.” Anna said mysteriously. She took a step towards me, her hair knotted at the back, I noticed, which looked different to her usual style. It suited her. I couldn’t imagine any look that she couldn’t pull off, to tell the truth.
Then her words finally registered and I said: “What’s wrong? How did you know to come here?”
“Well, you won’t believe it,” she studied me for a moment, looking serious, and then began to laugh. She raised her hand to her mouth and said: “Maybe you will. You’re mad enough I think. I met a strange man the other day that went by the name of Moon…crazy, right? But he told me about this hospital and where to find you, and here you are.”
“I know him,” I said, the knots in my stomach tightening. I didn’t want Anna to be any more involved than needed. “What did he say?”
“Plenty. I didn’t know what to make of our last conversation, after you told me who you were…but Moon shed light on a few truths. He said what you were and why you were here, and said that I was connected, too. Jack, we have more in common than you think. I’m a descendant. I’m Taurus.”
It was my turn to look shocked as she watched my reaction, a smile coming to her lips. I opened my mouth with effort and tried to think of something helpful to say, but all that came out was an unintelligible noise that didn’t really mean anything. She seemed to understand, though, and took the opportunity to come closer and gently touch my shoulder.
“I promise that’s the truth. He’s an oddball, that Moon, but I trust him. He means well, I think, and cares about what happens here, Jack. Whatever here is. He wasn’t half confusing, and didn’t make a great deal of sense, but I know my history. I know about our ascendants. If we really are descendants, then we’ve got to talk about this.”
“I don’t know where to begin,” I said, taking her hand with my own and holding it. “Molly is one of us, too. I was in a dream, just now. Only it was real, somehow. And I met Moon for the first time. He saved us. Molly helped as well. Without them I might not be sitting here now. I don’t know much, Anna.
But I’m always being guided by others. If that’s what it means to be Pisces, I’m not sure I like it. I don’t want you to be dragged into this, because it’s only going to get worse.”
She tugged at my hand and I took her meaning to stand firmly on my feet. Then she drew me closer and kissed me tenderly on the lips. This time I didn’t struggle, now that our circumstances had changed, and warmth ran through me like a crackling fireplace in the throes of winter.
For the longest time we held one another, her arms clasped around my waist, when a look of mischief crossed her face.
“Now I know what I am, Jack, there’s nothing you can say that will stop me from doing what I must,” Anna said stubbornly. I looked into her determined eyes and knew that I had lost. She was right. I couldn’t leave her out of this, not now. “We’re all in this together. That’s it. You are my damsel in distress,” she said with such a sweet laugh that I couldn’t help but go along with it.
“Well, alright. Good luck with that,” I said, grinning. “I’ll inform you about everything that’s happened so far, but I can’t make sense of it all. You might be able to help me fill in whatever it is I’m missing.”
“I’ll make you wonder how you went on so long without me. But first,” she pulled me in for another kiss. “We’ve got a lot of catching up to do.”
When I arrived for Tai Chi the following night I was surprised to see so few gathered around a table at the far end of the room. Phil paced across a section of the room, offering a few words here and there to the other two that were waiting. I walked towards them with a question at my lips and saw Tom turn around to give me a welcoming nod.
“Hey,” he said, smiling brightly. He was stood next to another student called Phil, who was known by his surname Gray to avoid confusion. I knew him best for his great height, which towered above the rest of us, and the array of tattoos along his arms that were filled with rich and hidden meaning. Despite his incredible strength, Phil was a gentle and compassionate man that took it upon himself to guide me during the lessons. I was lucky to have joined such a welcoming bunch.
“Quiet one tonight, Jack,” Gray said, his brown eyes studying me closely. “The others couldn’t make it for different reasons. We’re not sure if there are enough of us to train tonight.”
“Actually, mate, I think there’s something you need to know,” Tom said, suddenly serious. I listened with concern written across my face. “There was a strange group that sought us out earlier, while we were doing the fast form. They asked after you and said if we knew where to find you. We shrugged them off, but I think they’ll be back soon.”
“That’s odd,” I said, a number of thoughts running through my head. Nothing came to mind. “I don’t know who would be looking for me.”
“Be careful there,” Tom said protectively. He had been the first to take me under his wing during classes, and I noticed he was keen to watch out for me – it reminded me so much of Aiden. “There was a woman and two men. They said they needed to talk with you urgently, but we didn’t know where you were anyway.”
“Shall we begin, Jack?” Phil said after appearing behind me and clapping me on the back. I smiled, still distracted, while he moved towards the front of the table and bowed. “I thought we might treat this class as a chance to study the art more closely, and talk a little about what Chi might mean, too. It’s good to understand the philosophy as well as the form.”
We moved straight into the form and went through the different sequences with slow precision. I showed some progress since my last session, though I still lost track half-way through it and watched uselessly while the others finished their movements. After several rounds of trying to adapt to the gentle eloquence of the form we were placed into groups and I was once again paired with Tom.
The two of us were immersed in our actions while we merged seamlessly with our environment. There was a rhythm to our movements as I threw the punches and Tom blocked. Each action invited a counter-move that captured the essence of Tai Chi principles. We engaged with the laws of cause and effect where every attack triggered a necessary response, with each move blending perfectly into the other and never interrupting the endless flow. Slowly, but consciously, I saw that between us we were generating the power of Chi and interacting with the source that governed Universal Intelligence.
Training was beneficial, but I would never have guessed that it opened the pathway to self-discovery and led to a ricochet of memories that forced themselves upon me with full force. I fell into the movements and soared to heights I never thought possible, with the flickering of my subconscious coming forward and revealing truths that I had long forgotten. And then, in that moment, I knew that Tom was the descendant of Leo. There was no reason or rationale behind that knowledge, but I knew that this was the case, and I resolved to tell him as soon as our sparring had finished.
Suddenly the parallels between us became visible as we grew more confident in our actions and paced through the different scenarios around attack and defence. Tom moved with robust energy and sustained his defence with fiery precision. The intensity of his training was tempered by my gentleness, trickling towards him like water and occasionally gushing at him in waves, though the harmony between our elementary bodies was never lost during the dance. We were two opposing forces coming together to form a bigger concentration of chi that enabled us to connect on levels beyond the ordinary physical realm.
He seemed to sense the changes as we practised. We were descendants and within our energy fields carried the history of our ancient tribe. I couldn’t articulate my experiences with language alone, but as we charged through the form I could hear the voices of my ascendants flowing into me, as if they were calling out and revealing their many secrets. Our interactions opened new gateways that had been closed before, and while we pushed onwards I began to appreciate the vast ocean of potential within the Zodiac. By ourselves we were representatives of one ideal – together we were receivers and messengers for the collective stream of universal consciousness.
Still, I didn’t know the catalyst for my sudden awareness or the reasons for my self-assurance. These ideas channelled into me while we practised a form linked to very traditional martial arts, and yet I knew all of the thoughts I was having were being fed into me from a highly intelligent source. My past doubts surrounding Tai Chi gradually fell away as I grew closer towards its unprecedented potential. I couldn’t prove my newfound suspicions to a single person and yet I knew that this was the truth, or at least my own truth, and that I had to place absolute faith into the belief that through the form I would find more meaning to my existence.
Then, without rhyme or reason, I had to put an end to our training. I threw my punch half-heartedly and quickly pulled away while Tom stared at me with open concern. For a moment I was speechless as emotion flooded into my body with the maximum level of passion afforded to my watery sign. There was no other descendant as receptive to such strong feelings overcoming their senses and before I could stop myself I was flung forward onto my knees. Tom rushed towards me until I placed my hand in the air, urging him to stop, and tried to rationally explain what had happened. I couldn’t explain the powerful surges of grief that terrorised my body, but I wanted more than anything to will away the great sadness that hung itself around me like an evil presence festering within.
Just when I needed it most I felt life summoned back into my body as I was lifted powerfully from the ground. Phil’s hand rested on my shoulder for a moment, bringing with it the reassurance that I desperately sought, while warmth began to pulse right down my spine and along my legs. His sea green eyes stared into my own and seemed to wade through all of my secrets, understanding all of my thoughts and judging none of them; his eyes glistening like they were the descending sun reflecting off the deep surfaces of the water.
In that moment, no matter how much my mind raced and my body ached, I knew I was blessed to have such a compassionate guide. It wasn’t that I had been lifted from the ground – that act alone had been friendly but also natural. Most decent men would help another onto their feet if they were given the chance. It was his honest, searching look that had shook my whole being, followed by his decision not to ask me any questions or inquire into what had happened. He simply nodded and returned to the form, keeping my personal wellbeing and privacy in mind at all times.
“I’m sorry, but I have to leave.” I said hoarsely, still feeling shaken up by my convulsions. Gray folded his arms and stared with inquisitive eyes, but didn’t pressure me with questions. Tom didn’t cloak his emotions as smoothly. He took a step forwards and asked if I was feeling alright. I knew he was worried and I insisted that there was nothing wrong, but had to go nonetheless.
“Fair enough,” Tom said, his shrewd expression giving away the truth within my lies. He sensed that I had been changed in some way. “You did a great job tonight in training. We’ll have to do that again, in the next lesson.”
I thanked him for the compliment and headed for the door, knowing that everything had changed in that moment. The sense of foreboding that had been festering within me finally reared its ugly head and now gnawed away at my thoughts. Through connecting with a realm beyond my understanding I knew that something was deeply and inexplicably wrong, but the reasons remained hidden from sight.
As I walked towards my car I was distracted by an engine roaring to life, a sound that snarled and rattled from only a few feet away. Moments later Liwanu appeared from the side of the white van, his arms spread open in a peaceful gesture, to try and put me at ease. We stood there in the middle of the car park, the breeze bristling against us while rain fell with gathering speed, and I waited for him to make the first move.
Finally he said: “Good timing, Jack. Listen, you’ve got to come with us. There’s trouble. I’ve just come from the hospital.”
“It’s Molly isn’t it?” I said. There was humour in Liwanu’s eyes at our last meeting, but this time I saw nothing, even though he still wore a forced smile. “Tell me what’s happened.”
“She’s…dead. I’m sorry, my friend. We were too late to save her. Antoine wanted to come and tell you himself but I convinced him that you’d be better off coming with us.”
“I don’t understand,” I was surprised by the firmness in my voice, even though every other part of my body felt weak. Molly had been so real after the fight with the Magician. She was strong, and determined, even in the face of death. No matter how much I resisted the idea, I knew it was the truth. That harrowing sense of despair that I’d felt during the training was connected to her passing. “She was getting better, I saw with my own eyes.”
“It wasn’t the injuries,” Liwanu said softly. “She was murdered in her bed by one of our own. Stabbed. We chased him but he got away. You and Molly were linked after I intervened, and that means Mercury can find you, too. You can’t be alone. You have to come with us, so we can get out of his sphere of influence.”
“I’m not going, Liwanu. I’m going to find this Mercury and avenge Molly. He stabbed her – and I wasn’t there when I should’ve been. I don’t believe in killing…but…I, I can’t just run away. I can’t go.”
There were more words that spilled out of me but none of them really mattered as I was trapped within my own thoughts. The Magician’s pallid face etched its way into my mind, his wide grin smeared into a sneer, and the tarot card of Death loomed largely with his scythe. I remembered what he had said, about the fixed signs and the Wheel of Fortune, and how Molly had asked Moon so calmly if she was still cursed. She didn’t deserve to die.
“Jack, please…” Liwanu said, taking a step closer to get me on side. As much as I liked him I couldn’t keep my cool, and I lashed out at him with all the emotion that was raging inside. He stood still, the expression on his face a mixture of sympathy and sadness, but he showed no sign of leaving. He asked me again to go with him while I refused with even greater stubbornness, and before he could do anything else we were interrupted by footsteps. I turned around to see the man with the silvery beard walking towards us, his eyes fixed and determined. That was the very last thing I saw until the darkness came and swallowed me up with its enveloping omniscience.