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* The Library - Fiction for the Heart *

The Gathering
Ch. 8 - What Terror Protects

Magda rose early one morning and went walking alone. She went to a hill overlooking the far edge of her valley and sat on the grass to think.

She was more content and whole than she could ever remember being before. The healing she'd found in this secret glen, she never expected to have. She remembered how slow and fragmented her thoughts were when she first found this place. It had taken time and many many tears but slowly she began to heal, and little by little she was remembering. She knew there was much more yet to be remembered. Mara and Mabel, as the little woman asked to be called, would help her remember, but it wouldn't be easy.

Even though the valley was safe, Mabel seemed to clench around her terror and hold onto it all the more. And Mara had been in an agitated state, ever since Mabel's arrival. She couldn't seem to hold still. She would run up to Mabel and stare in her face, then run away again. They would see her running in and out of the trees, then she'd dart back and stare at Mabel once more. It was as if she was both drawn to Mabel and repelled by her. Magda had asked her about it but Mara just shrugged.

Just the day before, as they walked beneath the trees, Magda talked to them about the Voice. She had half decided to call him and see if he could help them find the Lonelies. But as she was describing her encounter with him, Mabel began to gasp and choke. She grabbed at Magda's sleeve and squeaked "No, no, please, NO!"

At the same moment, Mara jumped forward. "Look!" she shouted, jabbing her finger at the center of Mabel's chest. Magda stared at the glowing, pulsing pinkish light emanating from the old woman. Mabel stared too, horrified, and gave a great cry. She clenched her teeth and pressed both her fists to her chest, and the pink glow began to fade.

"No!" cried Mara. She gripped Mabel's fists, trying to pry them away from her chest. "No, you can't keep her there, you have to let her out!" She burst into tears and sobbed, "Let her out, let her out!"

Mabel threw Mara back with a tremendous shove, surprising them all with her strength. "I can't," she shouted at Mara, sprawled on the ground. "She'll call him. She loves him still. It's for her own good, she doesn't understand."

Magda gaped at them, trying to feel what was going on. A series of images flashed before her and she struggled to understand.

A beautiful young girl stretched out her hand, reaching, glowing with pink light, filled with love and hope; a great explosion, a shattering, sparks and great flashes of light and horrible pain; a dark room filled with arguing women, one by one most of them leave; one small hunched figure remains alone in the corner, shivering and weeping.

"Don't go," Mabel had sobbed as she remembered them all leaving. "You'll all die, horrible deaths, you don't understand, you don't know what I know..."

Magda had wrapped her arms around Mabel. "It's alright Mabel. You were right to be afraid - horrible things have happened. But it's safe here. We can heal it all now."

But Mabel had retreated behind a stone wall and wouldn't speak to them for the rest of the day. She kept her fists clenched over her chest, holding onto her terror and holding the pink light captive.

This greatly distressed Mara. She cried and cried, feeling that the pink light was another of her sisters, and a very important part, someone she dearly loved and needed near her. And to be held captive by terror, Mara couldn't stand that thought! She imagined constriction and choking and getting smaller and smaller and not being allowed to move or dance or breathe. As she cried by the fire that night, Mabel had finally come to sit with them. She listened to Mara's grief and fear and dissolved into tears of her own. "I'm sorry, I'm so afraid, I can't let go, you frighten me, I'm so sorry..."

In the end they had held eachother and vowed to keep crying each day until Mabel wasn't so afraid. It was an uneasy truce that Mara wasn't entirely happy with, but Magda counseled patience. They had all gone to the cave and finally fallen asleep in the wee hours of the morning.


As Magda sat alone in the morning mist she fingered all these puzzle pieces in her mind, trying to see where it all fit together. She realized she had only a small corner of the puzzle... there were many pieces missing, but she began to get a sense of what the picture might be.

She closed her eyes and silently called to the Voice.

"I'm here," said the deep voice, undeniably male.

Magda paused, uncertain what to say, now that he was here. "Did you cause the great burning?" she finally blurted out.

The silence was anything but empty. She knew she had shocked him with her question. Good, she thought.

Finally he said, "Yes, a part of me was responsible." There was another silence and then he said, "You are remembering."

"Yes," she said. "But there is much I don't understand. Why would you, why would even a part of you, do this?"

"I don't yet fully know," he said. "That part won't speak to me."

Magda let her truth-sense chew on that one and decided he was speaking the truth.

"I can only tell you that I was wrong, and that I want to help make it right."

"There's more, isn't there?" she asked. "More horrible things. Tortures, horrible deaths, disease..."

"Yes," said the Voice, and it was the saddest he'd sounded. "And it hasn't stopped yet. You are right to fear going into the world."

"Are we safe here?" she asked.

"Safer than anywhere on earth," he replied. "I am helping. Even though you didn't ask for it, I am standing guard. I know, I know," he said as she started to protest. "You don't want me here unless you invite me, and I respect that boundary. But I needed to know you would be safe to heal here, so I stand guard, outside the borders of your valley. Nobody can find this place." He seemed to chuckle to himself. "It keeps disappearing."

"But, what about the others?" she asked, not quite understanding. "How will they be able to find us?"

"You are the magnets," he replied. "All of you. You'll pull them in, those who need you, who belong with you, who love you, who want to heal with you. All others find themselves in blind alleys and forests that go on forever in all directions. You can call to the Lonelies, gather your power and pull them to you."

Magda sat for a moment, feeling a great excitement begin to grow in her belly. This was REALLY true. She felt it, and what's more, she already knew it. She just hadn't remembered knowing it.

"I'll go now," he said. "Please, tell the frightened ones who come that I will not harm them. I won't spy on them or watch them, I won't come to them unless you invite me here, and I will always, always stand guard over your valley. I promised."

"Thank you," Magda said. "Thank you for all of us."

The Voice was gone, and Magda, filled with hope and excitement, ran all the way back to the cave to share her good news with Mabel and Mara. Magnets! They could call the Lonelies home and never have to leave the safety of their valley!!


They listened as she told them what the Voice had said.

Mara grew excited but Mabel withdrew into a sullen dark cloud. Magda couldn't understand it. She had thought Mabel would be overjoyed at not having to leave the valley.

"What's the matter now?" she asked.

But Mabel turned away from her and wouldn't answer.

"Fine," Magda said. "We'll do it without you."

She and Mara kindled a small fire and sat in the circle. They tried picturing the Lonelies - Mara was best at this since they were her sisters. They tried singing and drumming with their feet and hands. They tried calling out with their arms open, hoping to encourage the Lonelies to come.

Nothing worked. Finally, long after the sun had set and their small fire was the only light, they gave up, weary and frustrated.

"Maybe we're not doing it right," Mara suggested. "Maybe we should ask the Voice."

Mabel started and hissed from where she sat a few feet away. Even though she didn't want to participate, she couldn't ever be far from them.

Magda sat silently, the center of a swirling tornado of thought. Finally she rose and took Mabel by the hand and drew her to the fire. When they were seated she said, "The air in our valley is stuffy and stifled. There are unsaid things here. Why are you so angry?"

Mabel wouldn't look at her.

"Mabel, tell me. This is our sharing circle, and I want to hear what you have to say. Why do you object, what are you angry about?"

Mabel glared at Magda and spat, "You still don't listen to me. You don't care how I feel!"

Magda waited, puzzled.

"You called HIM, even though I asked you not to, no matter what I say, you don't listen to me. You think I'm being a nuisance, with all my fears!" Mabel's voice began to shake and her chin trembled.

When Magda said softly, "I'm sorry. You're right, I shouldn't have done that." Mabel's tears began to fall down her wrinkled cheeks. "But you haven't told us why you're so afraid. It would help if we knew what it was."

Mabel's eyes grew wide and her body began to tremble. "No, I can't!" she said.

"Tell us, Mabel," Mara said quietly, coming to sit on Mabel's other side.
"It's safe here," Magda said, "And you're not alone anymore."

Mabel sat silent as stone for a long while, and they waited with her. Then came a sound - a small whimper that grew to a moan that became a wail that turned into a scream. She threw her head back, "Look, then. Look!" she screamed. And she showed them...

They were ONE then.

From somewhere far away came a great brightness, hurdling down on her like a huge, unstoppable, destruction-guaranteed tsunami.

She is engulfed, broken and swept away, tumbling on the crest of swirling waves of fire and ice.

She is bitten and devoured, flesh torn and ripped away by great fiery jaws with teeth of ice.

Half of her face is still frozen in a hopeful welcoming smile. The other half is completely gone, flesh torn, burnt and blackened.

She is penetrated by the cold blackness, the poison hatred on the tip of this ice-cold knife burying itself forever deep within her.

Time freezes as the knife penetrates and she hears the voice telling her... no, commanding her to die. It is a hatred she cannot fathom, and the shock of it leaves her unable to pull away. The love within her wants to please her lover, to comply and make him happy. Her own desire to live is at war with her love. The voice says "you love me? Prove it... I want your death. Die, NOW!"

She feels the knife of hatred being driven in deeper and deeper and just before she loses consciousness she feels herself exploding, shattering into a million pieces that go hurtling out into space.

Mabel opened her eyes, tears streaming down her cheeks. "Our lover, the one we loved with all our heart, wanted us dead. He didn't love us, he didn't want us... he wanted us dead.

"I took the memory of the poison hatred and hid it. I took the memory of the death-command and hid it as best I could. And I took this little one and hid her," she placed her hand, fingers spread out, over her chest. "She is the one remaining undamaged part of our heart I could find. I kept her hidden all this time. She is Hope and Desire, and she doesn't understand how evil HE is. The rest of our heart is gone, shattered. If they're not lost or hidden, they're dead."

Mara shook her head. "Not dead, not yet. I know it. We have to find them, we have to bring them here, Mabel. We have to save them."

From the darkness surrounding the fire, a sturdy voice said softly, "I will never ridicule your fear again. I had no idea. I didn't know..."

Into the light of their fire stepped a tall, stern-face woman dressed entirely in battle gear.

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