The Jacob Chronicles
THE LEARNING CURVE
by Vincent Peters
Jacob completed his journal entry and blew across the page to set the ink. He had been journaling for over ten years now and found that the activity was incredibly beneficial in helping him put words to feelings that he may better understand them.
He had known since his birthday, that it was only a matter of time before he and Sarah could be together as they were meant to be. While the physical distance between their worlds still caused no end of longing for them both, to their credit, they had learned to manage it as best as anyone in their exceptionally unique situation could.
He picked up the framed photograph of her from his writing desk and gazed fondly at the image as memories of the pleasant times they had shared danced across his mind’s eye. Intermixed with those memories came the yearning, as it always did. To combat these feelings of separation, and not to succumb to despair that might have attempted to take root, he drew comfort from words of advice that his father had passed on to him which had served Vincent well when he, too, faced this yearning; that every moment Jacob and Sarah share is a triumph and a gift, each moment a complete lifetime unto itself.
He set the photo back down in its place of honor, placing the two fingers of his right hand to his lips before lowering his hand to place an I wish you were here kiss on the photograph with them. “Be well, Sarah”, he said with a wistful sigh at then end which echoed the feelings of his heart.
He rose from his writing desk and walked about his chamber, putting out the candles one by one until only the light at his nightstand remained. Adjourning to his changing room, he removed his clothes piece by piece, separating those garments that were still wearable from those that he would need to wash that week. Stepping out from the wardrobe alcove in his night clothes, he turned the lantern at the entrance of his chamber to its privacy setting and closed the curtain separating his chamber from the corridor beyond.
His evening routine had been almost unchanged since he began to live in his own chamber and yet, as he went about this and that, the warm and pleasant memories and feelings of his beloved remained strong in his heart and mind. He had to admit that he did not mind their lingering presence in the least.
He had walked barely half the width of his chamber when he paused as the room felt somehow unfamiliar to him. It was as if his once familiar surroundings had taken on qualities previously unnoticed by him. Jacob looked around the dimly lit chamber for any sign of what it might be that had drawn the full attention of his senses, but no matter how hard he searched the room, whatever it was that he had become aware of lingered just at the limit of his perception. He neither heard, saw, nor smelt anything out of the ordinary but as the seconds passed, he became more keenly aware of a feeling that he was not where he should be. He closed his eyes when he began to feel light headed, his chamber fading in and out from his field of vision when he reopened his eyes.
Jacob stumbled toward his bed as everything began to spin. The very real possibility that he was on the verge of passing out guided his every move. If he were to faint, he would rather fall onto his mattress than run the risk of hitting his head on solid rock. He collapsed onto his bed as everything around him began to blur and become a swirl of unfamiliar colors. The only thing clear in his mind was his thoughts and feelings for Sarah and he found himself drawn to them like a Moth to a flame. The last thing he clearly remembered was looking up at the stone above his bed and then, everything went dark as his chamber seemed to recede away from him.
* * *
With her grandmother out of town on business, Sarah had the rather substantial house all to herself. She had cleaned and put away her dishes and made her way upstairs to relax for the remainder of the evening.
When she entered her bedroom, she picked up her phone and gently tapped the screen. When her phone came to life, she smiled at the lock screen image. It was a selfie she had taken with Jacob when she had visited him on his birthday. Whenever anyone had asked her about the photo she simply told them that Jacob lived Manhattan and was in costume for a show he was performing in at the time. To date, everyone that had ever asked her about Jacob was satisfied with that answer, which suited her just fine.
Before she powered the phone down for the night, she too, placed an I wish you were here kiss to the screen. “ Good night, Teddy”. With the phone tucked into its charging stand, she went into the bathroom to polish her fangs, as she now called the activity, having adopted the expression from Jacob after their last visit. While she went about her evening routine, she smiled as many, many pleasant thoughts of him crossed her mind. She had often reminisced about the time they had spent together, but tonight, it seemed all the clearer in her mind than it had ever been before and she cherished this difference.
* * *
Jacobs head cleared almost as quickly as it had clouded over and he opened his eyes to see, not the carved stone he had expected, but in its place was a high, smooth ceiling. This unexpected sight now mingled with other information being provided by his senses including scents he had never before encountered and the feeling of carpet beneath him.
He sat bolt upright into a crouched posture on his haunches as he surveyed the room he found himself in. Nothing that met his eye looked the least bit familiar which did little to calm his nerves. Yet in all this unfamiliarity there lingered in the air something he did recognize. Sarah’s scent was here all around him; why, he did not know.
He stood cautiously and walked to the large, double-sashed windows at the far end of the room. Looking out into the night, the cityscape he expected to see was nowhere to be found. He could make out a large lawn which wrapped in a crescent shape around a white gazebo and beyond that vast tracks of woods as far as he could make out . “Where am I”, he thought.
He had little time to ponder this question when the silence of the room was broken by a startled and very welcome voice.
He spun around to see a very confused looking Sarah standing in the doorway across the room from him.
“Sarah?” he replied, his tone equally surprised.
She set the glass of water she had brought with her from the bathroom onto the dresser beside the door and approached him. “It’s not like I’m not happy to see you but, what are you doing here?”
“I’d like to answer that question, Sarah, I truly would , but first, where is — here?” He gestured at the room with his arms, turning full circle for emphasis.
In a rather flat tone of disbelief she answered his question. “You’re in my bedroom.”
“Your bedroom?” Jacob’s eyes widened with a sudden realization. “Then I’m …”
“In my home. In Vermont.”
“I think I need to sit down”, he said, making his way over to the bed.
Sarah sat beside Jacob, as they shared a moment of stunned silence. Slowly she slid her hand over to touch his. If this was all in her imagination, then she should only feel the sheets. To her surprise she felt his hand, exactly where is should be.
When he felt her touch, Jacob turned his hand over and clasped hers affectionately. “As strange as this whole turn of events is, it’s nice to be able to hold your hand again, Sarah.”
She smiled back at him and squeezed his had lovingly. “I would like to think I was just conducting an experiment to see if I was imagining all this, but, honestly, I missed holding your hand too, Teddy.”
He had no idea how he came to be here or how, for that matter, he was going to get home, but in this moment he put all that aside and looked into her eyes and lost himself there. He drew a little closer and rested his forehead to hers.
Sarah, perhaps on instinct or driven by some other unknown force, followed his lead and simply lingered in the moment. She knew from experience how meaningful and comforting this gesture was to him and she certainly didn’t wish to ruin the moment, but she couldn’t help but notice something odd when he came closer to her and eventually her curiosity would win out. “ Um…Teddy?”
She fidgeted nervously trying to formulate her thoughts so as to be not as blunt as they sounded in her head. “It’s not that I’m not happy to see you — I’m delighted to see you actually — but — the house is locked up and the alarm is set. There’s no way you could have just walked in here without setting it off any more than someone else could have and then left you here and walked away. Something’s not right here but I can’t quite put my finger on it.”
“I am very inclined to agree with you. As pleasant as it is to see you again, I have no memory of how I came to be here.”
“What do you remember before you were just — here?”
“I had finished writing in my journal for the night. I got into my night clothes and doused the lights in my chamber. On my way to bed, I began to feel very strange and then I blacked out. When I opened my eyes I was here”, he said, extending his arms out to point to the space around him. When he did, Sarah instantly realized what had been off about him.
“It seems that every time I mention a classic book, chances are you’ve read it, so I am going to throw this out there. Have you read any of the Sherlock Holmes stories?”
“I haven’t read the stories in quite some time, but yes, I have read all of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s works about that character.”
“I just noticed something about you that brought a quote to mind from those stories and it might shed some light into how you got here. That is assuming I haven’t gone completely bonkers and this is all a result of my my imagination going gonzo-banzai on me.”
Jacob sat up and his already undivided gaze fell on her. “I substantially doubt that you have gone completely bonkers, Sarah. If that were the case, then it would appear that we have both lost our marbles at the same time. I suspect that there is something else at play here, but I am at a lost to say what it may be. If you have any insights into what is happening then you have my complete attention.” He smiled warmly at her. “Not that you don’t already have it whenever opportunity permits us to be together.”
Sarah returned his smile while she reviewed things in her head. “Okay this going to sound a little weird but bear with me. How much do you weigh?”
Jacob tilted his head to the side when she asked him about his weight. To him, it seemed a rather odd question, but if it potentially provided a solution then he was more than willing to put aside his confusion and proceed. “How much do I weigh? Last month was my yearly physical and at that time, Papa said I was 311 pounds. Why do you ask?”
With that bit of information, pieces began to fall into place. “Okay I have one clue, now on to the other. I need you to stand up and then sit down beside me again when I tell you to. Completely bizarre, I know, but humor me.”
Jacob stood and faced her, an unmistakable look of confusion on his face. She then put her hand where he had been sitting and felt around, before patting the space beside her for him to sit once again.
He took a seat beside her and asked,” What have you found, Holmes?”
“I’m so sorry. I really, really am but, I have one more potentially dumb question.”
“I don’t think there are any dumb questions to be asked at the present time, Sarah.”
She already felt bad about breaking the cardinal rule about asking someone’s weight and she felt equally awkward with the next question. “What’s your temperature?”
“In Fahrenheit or Celsius?”
“My normal body temperature is 101.3 degrees on average.”
“Thank you for being so patient with me, Teddy. Here’s what I’m thinking. As whacked out as it might sound, everything seems to fit. I felt no disturbance of the bed when you moved closer to me and when I watched you sit down just now; the mattress didn’t depress at all. Given how much you weigh, you should have made a noticeable dent in it. On top of that, you’d been sitting there for over 10 minutes, give or take, but the bed sheets are cold. To quote Sherlock Holmes, ‘Once you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, no matter how improbable, must be the truth.’ I don’t think you’re really here, Jacob — not physically anyway.”
“Not here? But — but I touched you. It felt no different than any time we’ve ever touched.”
“I felt it too, you’re warm to the touch and everything about you is just the way it should be but…”, her voice tapered off as an idea came to her. She stood up and went to her dresser and picked up a hair brush, then returned to the bedside. “Put out your hand.”
Jacob did as she had asked. She first placed her palm to his and pressed gently downward. She felt his hand dip before his reflexes kicked in and his hand pressed back against hers to hold its position. “Now, I’m going to drop this brush and I want you to catch it, okay?”
Jacob nodded and splayed his fingers in preparation to catch the falling brush. When Sarah let it fall they watched as his fingers clamped down around the falling brush which, to their amazement, fell through his hand and landed between his feet.
Jacobs ears shot bolt upright in surprise as he looked at the brush. He opened and closed his hand several times to reassure himself that it was still a part of him.” Now I know how Kristopher feels sometimes.”
“That is a very long story, Sarah. How can it be that I’m real to you and yet not real to everything else around you?” Before they could work toward an answer, the room dissolved into shades of gray and Jacob found himself looking up at the carved rock of the ceiling of his bed alcove.
* * *
The next morning, a very weary looking Jacob walked into the Wells family dining chamber well past the end of breakfast. Father was still seated at the table reading a medical journal that Peter was kind enough to have had delivered to him from above. When Jacob entered, Father immediately took notice of his condition and all interest in the journal was instantly dismissed. “Jacob? Is something wrong?”
Even in his somewhat sleep deprived state, Jacob could sense Father’s surprise and concern. “My apologies for missing breakfast, Papa. Last night was quite something”, he said as he took a seat on the bench beside his grandfather.
Father knew that Jacob, like his father before him, was known to occasionally venture topside to offer help to those the world above had cast aside. “Were you above?”
“No, Papa. I experienced something and I’m not sure whether it was a dream or whether it really happened. I spent part of the rest of the night writing it all down before I forgot any of it. When I finally tried to go to sleep, I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I finally passed out sometime later and the next thing I know I’m being awakened by the timing pipes and it’s well past breakfast.”
“What kind of an experience?”
“I was getting ready for bed and then I felt a little dizzy, then things started spinning and I think I passed out or at least it felt like I might have. Then…”
His grandfather cut him off before he could go into any further detail. “You’ve never passed out before. I think you and I should take a trip over to the hospital just to be on the safe side. If nothing else, it will calm my nerves and, possibly, yours too.”
Jacob nodded in agreement and then looked over longingly at the remains of a plate of biscuits that sat on the serving table. Knowing his grandson as well as he did, Father handed him the plate with a warm smile. “You can snack on these on the way.”
Thirty minutes later, the examination was completed. “Well, your heart sounds to be in excellent condition, your blood pressure is right where it has always been, you’re not running a temperature so we can rule out infection and you passed your equilibrium test with flying colors. Whatever it was you experienced last night, it would appear to have been very transitory.”
“At least it doesn’t seem to be cause for concern medically, but I just cant help thinking about the rest of it.”
“I’m sorry, Jacob. I did interrupt you before you could tell me the rest of the — experience”, Father said as he sat down on the hospital bed beside his grandson. He listened intently to Jacob as he retold the events of the evening prior. As he listened, it reminded him of something Vincent had mentioned to him years ago, but only in passing. It was nothing more than a fleeting memory of a conversation but something in his grandson’s words brought it to the fore. “If what you experienced was real, I am sad to say that it is well beyond my field expertise.”
Jacob took his grandfather’s hand. “It’s all right, Papa. Now that I know that it isn’t a medical issue, I think it’s time to pay a visit to a certain empath I know who might help shed some light on it.”
* * *
Jacob looked over the edge of the landing and knocked on the metal railing in front of him. “May I come in?”
Vincent looked up as he marked the page in the book he had been reading. “This chamber is as much your home as it is for mother and me. You need not knock, Jacob, you are always welcome here.”
Jacob descended the ladder and was met with a hug from his father. “You and mom never really had much in the way of privacy all those years Cathy and I lived here and I guess I was just trying to make up for it.”
“I can assure you, Jacob, that the light you and your sister brought into our lives, more than made up for the occasional inconvenience.”
Catherine emerged from their dressing alcove clad in Toplander attire. She was already smiling from hearing his voice from the next room, but the smile warmed all the more when she entered the main chamber. “There’s my boy!” She found herself wrapped up by her son as he hugged her in greeting. “I was beginning to wonder where you had gotten yourself off to.”
“Hi, mom. I’m Sorry I missed breakfast. I need to talk with you two about something that happened to me last night. It’s the reason I was absent this morning.”
“Of course. Please, sit down”, his father said as he pulled out a chair for his son and a second for Catherine.
Jacob took notice of his mother’s clothing. “Oh, you’re heading up today? I don’t want to keep you from your appointments. I can come back this evening if it would be more convenient.”
“I don’t have to be at my apartment for almost two hours yet. What’s up, kiddo?”
Jacob took a seat and began to talk with his parents in the hopes of finding an answer to this puzzling turn of events. “I hope this isn’t too personal a question but, when you two began growing as close as you are, did your bond with each other allow you to be in contact as if you were physically present even though you weren’t?”
Vincent sat back and thought about it for a moment. “There was one instance of something that seems to be of which you speak. It was a little over a year after I met your mother.”
Catherine’s eyes lit up when Vincent triggered a memory of the event. “Yes. Yes, I remember. I had gone to Los Angeles to interview a witness to a music pirating scheme. One morning I was walking along the beach by myself, and the next thing I know, I’m talking with your father . It was almost like a dream but it was so vivid, so real, Vincent might as well have really been there. I remember we held hands and walked down the beach and then it all just seemed to fade away.”
Vincent leaned forward and took Catherine by the hand, looking at her with the same affection that he did when they first met all those years ago. “Later, while your mother was still in California, I had a dream in which I saw her in great danger. I remember calling out to her in my dream right before I awakened. As it turns out, she was in danger and she did hear me calling out to a warning to her. Since that time, we have rarely been separated by that great a distance which may explain why it never happened again.”
Jacob felt a bit of relief when he discovered that this was not just unique to Sarah and him. “This is starting to sound like it wasn’t just my imagination playing tricks on me. That is very reassuring news.”
Vincent turned his attention to his son. “You and I share abilities of the mind that are beyond anything most people have ever experienced. As you’ve grown up, your abilities have come to match and, in many ways, surpassed my own. I would not be at all surprised if you did, in fact, appear to Sarah; how, I cannot say. But, if this is something your bond with her allows, then I would encourage you to develop it. This gift you possess could mean freedom for you both, from the longings of your souls that you both must endure given the distance between your world and hers at the present time.”
* * *
Jacob reclined on his bed, contemplating what Vincent had told him earlier that morning. What had happened between his parents all those years ago, had happened between himself and Sarah less than twenty-four hours ago.
He opened his journal and reviewed the entry he had made when he came to that night and was about to add to it when Catherine poked her head through the entrance to his chamber. “Special Delivery.”
He swiveled around in his chair and stood to greet her. “Special delivery? I haven’t had one of those is a while”. He took the mailer from his mother and smiled with a hint of a chuckle. “This doesn’t come with furniture moving like the last time, moving does it?”
Catherine smiled at her son. “This one is a freebie. Besides, if Sarah just so happened to send you a same day delivery letter the night after you potentially appeared to her, you may not have imagined it after all.”
“We shall see. Thanks, mom”, he said giving her a head butt.
“Any time, kiddo”. With that she returned to her chamber to afford him some privacy while he read the letter.
Jacob sat down at his writing desk and opened the mailer as quickly as he could. When he removed the letter, he could smell her scent on the paper and allowed himself a moment to take it in.
I hope this letter finds you well. I miss you like crazy. I always do.
With that out of the way, now on to business.
Were you in my room last night?! I’m not going to lie, I daydream about you being here sometimes, but it is NOTHING like what I experienced last night. My daydreams are just that, dreamy. Last night I felt you. You were real, like really real, real. Real to me anyway but not to anything else in the room. Then, just like that, you vanished. Well you didn’t really vanish, it was more like you just faded away.
Is this like one of your empathic things? Did you know you could do this or is this as out of the blue for you as it was for me? I have so many questions I barely slept at all last night.
They say patience is a virtue but right now, I am not feeling that virtuous so I have included a prepaid return envelope with this letter for your reply.
I love you!
Jacob sat back in his chair and set the letter onto his desk. “You nailed it, dad”. He set his journal aside and retrieved some writing paper from the center drawer of his desk.
My Dearest Sarah,
I had been half certain that what I had experienced last night was merely a dream brought on by my desire to be in your company again. After speaking with my parents about the experience, and now having read your letter, I am firmly convinced that what we both experienced was as real as it gets.
It would seem that mom and dad had two similar experiences years ago. I am now certain that what we experienced is an offshoot of my empathic abilities; one that, up till now, I was utterly unaware of.
If this aspect of the bond we share, enables us to be together, even in spirit, then I will attempt to master it as quickly as I can.
I will attempt to visit you again tomorrow at noon or shortly thereafter depending on how difficult this may be to accomplish. If I do not appear to you, I promise, Sarah, I will continue to try until I do.
Until then, I am , as I ever was and ever shall be, yours.
He placed his reply in the envelope and, with the help of Catherine, it was on its way to Vermont within the hour.
* * *
Sarah sat on the edge of her bed as the Grandfather clock downstairs chimed twelve. Her phone buzzed a moment later and the per-programed reminder flashed on the screen in her hand. DATE WITH TEDDY? it read.
She looked around the room, but all was still. Only the breeze blowing in from the half open window of her bedroom caused any stir. Sarah looked at the selfie with Jacob and smiled fondly at the thought that if he could pull this trick of his off on a regular basis the possibilities were limitless.
Noon had come and gone. She continued to look around the room but she was still by herself. “Maybe he overshot his landing?”, she said as she got up and walked to her bedroom window to look outside. She giggled a bit at the thought of him hanging upside down from a tree branch in the yard but no such thing appeared to her eyes, to her relief.
Sarah spun around and there by the bedside stood Jacob. She ran over and hugged him tighter than she ever had before.
Jacob held her, purring deeply. Suddenly the purr changed into a bit of a laugh.
“Whats so funny, Teddy?”
“It just occurred to me that since, in this state of being, I am only real to you and we’re hugging, it would look rather strange to anyone else.”
“If anyone ever asks, I will just tell them that I have suddenly taken an interest in the art of Mime and, possibly, talking to myself.”
“A sound plan if ever I heard one.”
“So do you think you have it figured out?”
“Only time will tell for certain, but I studied my journal entry on what had happened that night and I believe I have a working theory as to what might have happened to cause it the first time.”
Sarah sat on her bed and pat the mattress beside her. “I figure since this was there we began to unravel this mystery, it is only fitting that we continue to put the pieces together here.”
Jacob sat beside her and shared his thoughts on this new-found gift. “The night it happened, I had been thinking of you quite often through the day; so much so that by the time I finished journaling about it was was filled with a strong yearning to be with you. “
Her eyes widened with surprise.” Me too! I had been thinking about you and about the times we’ve been able to be together, but the longer I did the more — real the memories felt. “
Jacob smiled when he learned that she had been having nearly the same experience. “ I am beginning to suspect that between your yearning and mine that some kind of connection was made that night through the bond between us. Something akin to a bolt of lightening.”
“When conditions are right, a positively charged Leader branches out from a cloud looking for a negative charged Streamer rising from the ground. When the two make a connection the current flows from the cloud to the ground.”
“Exactly. It may be that our shared yearning for each other may have, somehow, formed a link and brought a part of me to you.”
She smiled at him and gave him a sly look. “I guess you could say we are taking the phrase ‘mutual attraction’ to a whole new level.”
“I do believe we have, Sarah.”
* * *
In the days that followed, Sarah enjoyed several visits a day as he learned to hone his new-found ability. Soon, Jacob was able to establish a link with Sarah at will, with little to no effort at all. Through it all, Jacob, ever the prolific journal writer that he was, recorded every little detail for posterity — and his own, personal, reference when the occasional glitch would raise its head.
April 21, 2009
I have been excited may times in my life, but I can honestly say that discovering this aspect of the bond which Sarah and I share will remain at the top of that list for a very long time to come.
I am happy to report that we have, at long last, managed to vanquish the nearly persistent yearning arising from our geographical separation. Yesterday, in broad daylight, we took a long, celebratory walk in the woods behind her house to mark the happy end to that part of our relationship.
I have never felt imprisoned here below, but now, I find the prospects of sharing places and experiences with Sarah in her world to fill me with a sense of Liberation the likes of which I have never dreamt possible until now. To be with her, in her world ,fills me with an indescribable joy akin to the way I felt when I first saw her in person —
April 25, 2009
Today, I was afforded a rare treat to behold. Sarah and I were walking through the garden of her grandmother’s estate when the weather began to take a turn.
The wind began to pick up and the warm, spring air grew cooler. I had to laugh at myself, for when the temperature began to fall, I instinctively went to offer my cloak to her to help shield her from the wind, only to ,then, remember, that neither was I wearing it — as force of habit would have otherwise dictated — but I was also struck by the sudden realization that even if I had, as a mere projection of myself, my phantom cloak would have been of little use to her.
As the sky darkened, off in the distance, a low rumble could be heard over the singing of the birds in the branches above us who, one by one, fell silent as the storm approached us. Sarah took my hand and, together, we quickly made our way back to the Gazebo behind the house. There, in the shelter of its awnings, we enjoyed a brief, but angry Thunderstorm pass directly overhead. I have seen a few here in Central Park, but I must say, that they are far more awe inspiring when the lightening is not obscured by massive towers of glass and steel, or the thunder muted by the sounds of a bustling metropolis.
May 1, 2009
A new discovery! I was helping Nana in the sewing chamber this morning, when I began to hear Sarah’s voice. At first I thought that, perhaps, it was someone outside in the passage that, due to the occasionally strange acoustic properties of the tunnels, only sounded like Sarah.
To my surprise, the voice became clearer and was, beyond all doubt, hers and addressing me directly. I excused myself for a moment and found a quiet spot in which I could link up with Sarah. I appeared in her Living Room, to her delight, and asked if she had been calling out to me. It turns out she had. She was curious to see if she could ‘back channel me, as she put it, through our bond. Needless to say, she was thrilled to discovered that she had made contact with me that way.
I told her that I would return to the tunnels and asked that she try it again and that I would attempt to answer her.
I came to back in the nook I had found for myself and shortly thereafter, I heard her call my name. She had told me what she had been doing when I heard her the first time and I began to emulate it. Sure enough, she could hear me. We spoke briefly that way, but my chores and hers beckoned us away from this new discovery.
Later that same evening, I was about to turn in for the night when I heard Sarah ask me ‘ whatcha doooooooooooin?’. At that moment, all thoughts of sleep left me and we talked for quite some time.
* * *
Father entered a small chamber, lit by work lamps and candles set out here and there wherever a suitable ledge could be found. He had come to check up on some repairs to a crucial tunnel section used by many of their helpers on a regular basis. This section resided on the outskirts of The Maze and , as a result, it required long stretches to be timbered up against the weaker rock that was found here. It was not a place one wanted to linger in given the reputation of The Maze but, for many of their helpers, it was a necessary evil to pass through here.
He was greeted by Mathew, one of the best timbering experts below, who had been overseeing the repairs.” Good Afternoon, Father.”
“Ah, Mathew! How are the repairs coming along?”
“We just finished *sistering up all those old timbers and swapped out half a forest worth of lagging, but with all the work we did today, we shouldn’t have to do much to this tunnel for a good ten, maybe fifteen years.”
“Excellent! I’m sure our helpers will all rest a little easier whenever they pass this way knowing that you and your people have done such a thorough set of repairs here. “
“It was a task and a half, I dare say, but with Jacobs help we were able to make quick work of it. Your Grandson is a god send, Father. It would have taken me and three or four of my crew to get just one timber in place. He brought them to us two at a time. One on each shoulder, hefted them up into place like Lincoln Logs then go back for more of ‘em. Darndest thing I’ve ever seen.”
Father looked around the chamber. “Speaking of Jacob, where is he?”
Mathew pointed to the far end of the chamber and there, lying atop a pile of spare timbers was Jacob. “He’s finally taking a breather. I tried to get him to take five now and again but he said he wasn’t tired. I think it finally caught up with him.”
Father chuckled at Mathew’s assessment of his grandson. “I believe the old saying goes — ah, youth “.
As Father walked toward the pile of timbers, Jacob raised his hand to halt his approach. “I wouldn’t come any closer if I were you, Papa.”
“May I ask why not?”
“I stink”, he said flatly.
“Well from what I just heard from Mathew, you have earned the right to find yourself somewhat fragrant. Thank you, my boy, for your invaluable assistance with this shoring project. I will send word to have a bathing chamber readied for you within the hour. How does that sound?”
Jacob sighed at the thought of a nice, long, hot bath. “It sounds utterly delightful, Papa. Thank you.”
(*Sistering: In old timber lined tunnels, means adding new vertical posts and roof beams beside those already in place to help take the lode off the older timbers without having to remove them.)
* * *
Jacob shuffled down the passages and eventually came to his chamber. He paused there only long enough to get his bathrobe and a laundry bag before he made his way to the bathing chambers. When he arrived, he was greeted by the sight of lanterns and pillar candles aglow and the unmistakable smell of new bars of soap.
He closed the curtain behind him and quickly removed every sweat soaked garment he had on. He deposited them into the laundry bag reserved for occasions such as this upon which, many years ago, his sister, Cathy, had written the word CONDEMMED.
He hung the robe up on one of several iron hooks driven into the rock wall near the changing room and made his way to the pool of inviting, warm water.
He stepped down into the pool and waded over to several small alcoves carved into the wall on the far side of the pool. Tucked neatly in them were towels, wash cloths and two baskets, each containing several bars of newly made soap. The aroma of the soap immediately drew his attention away from his mud and sweat covered self. “What will it be pine tar or sandalwood”, he pondered. He finally made his choice and reached for one of the new bars of soap before him. “When it’s time to sink the stink, you cant beat Rebecca’s Sandalwood soap.”
Having gathered his washcloth and soap, Jacob waded back across the pool and set them on a polished stone ledge which flanked the submerged bench seat that had been lovingly crafted by unknown hands long ago and worn by time and water. He sat down in the comforting warm bathwater which sloshed a bit from his presence, some spilling over into drainage troughs carved into the lip of the pool. He reclined against the smooth stone back of the bench and sank down into the water until it was half way up his chest, a very contented sigh of relief escaping him. He lingered there for a moment or two, playfully flicking the water with the tips of his fingers before he sank beneath it entirely.
When he broke the surface, he shook his head from side to side, water cascading from his long, dark hair which now hugged the contours of his head. He guided the wayward locks back behind his ears and, once more, sank down into the water, his head resting on the lip of the pool.
“Scrubbing can wait a little bit, I think”, he said, closing his eyes and letting the warmth of the water work its magic on his work weary muscles. His contentment with this serene scene was abruptly interrupted by a voice he did not expect to hear. It wasn’t in his head, it was only a few paces behind him.
Sarah suddenly found herself standing in a small chamber, illuminated by candles and awash with the smells of water and soap. While she had no idea where she was, the silhouette of his head was unmistakable. “Teddy?”
The instant she spoke, the water erupted into a plume as if a depth charge had gone off, as the unsuspecting Jacob flailed in the pool, frantically turning himself to face the person calling his name. The waves of water put out several of the candles, but still enough remained to prevent the chamber from being plunged into darkness.
There, in the twilight before her, Sarah could make out two hands taking hold of the stone headrest as Jacob slowly raised his head above it, his hair, once again, strewn across his face. He blinked a time or two before he spoke. “Sarah?!”
“Hi, Teddy. I was trying to talk with you and then I was here. Where is here?”
Still in a bit of a shocked frame of mind, he answered her question. “You’re in — my family’s bathing chamber.”
“Bathing Chamber?” Her eyes widened with a sudden realization,” so you’re…”
Jacob raised himself out of the water just high enough to show that where the waistline of swim trunks should be nothing resided. “Like the proverbial Jay Bird”, he said before lowering himself back into the safety of the pool.
“Oh — I am so sorry. I thought I could only speak with you through the bond. I had no idea that it could bring me to you too.”
“Neither did I — until now that is”, he said giving her a reassuring smile. “Would you mind turning around for a moment, please?”
“Turn aro – oh, uh , yeah, sure. No problem.” With her back to him, she heard movement in the water as he climbed out of the pool. This was followed by a sound that reminded her of dogs drying off at the dog park back home as Jacob shook as much water from himself as he could.
“There, that should do for now. You may turn around now.”
When she did, he was in his robe and seated on a bench carved into the wall. He patted the open space beside him and she gladly accepted the invitation. “I can’t believe I popped in right in the middle of your bath. “
“It could have been worse.”
“At least this isn’t the Water Closet.”
“Good point. Maybe we should come up with some ground rules?”
“I agree, that may make things easier in the future.”
“Do you see where you’re going to appear before you get there?”
“No, I seem to appear within a few feet of you, but where I appear only becomes apparent to me after the fact.”
“That won’t work then.”
“I think I might have a solution.”
“Lay it on me.”
“From now on, before either of us wishes to appear to the other, why don’t we send the thought ‘knock-knock’ first.”
“I like it. It’s simple, but effective.”
* * *
Jacob lay asleep in his bed as did all but the night owls and sentries of his world. His journal sat open on his writing desk with its latest entry visible by the light of the candle at his bedside.
August 5, 2009
The two accidental manifestations aside, our ability to be together has proven to be a true blessing.
I am born of two worlds. I have never regretted the life and circumstances into which I was born; I never intend to. However, through this gift, I have been allowed to not only be with Sarah, but to satisfy my curiosity regarding what my life may possibly have been like, had I been born into my mother’s world.
Since discovering this aspect of my abilities works in both directions, Sarah and I have shared moments we never thought possible in the beginning. We have whiled away many hours enjoying things as simple as walks in the sun, to things as awe inspiring as lightning in the night sky.
I have walked, hand in hand with my Sarah, through the streets of her home town as carefree as if we were walking in the tunnels. Now that she , too, has mastered the ability to manifest to me, I have, likewise, been able to share with her, many more wonders of my world such as concerts in the park, musical recitals and plays put on by my munchkins and even an introduction to Kristopher who, not surprisingly, was able to see her.
When she first wrote to me, she said that if I ever got the chance to visit Mammoth Caves, that I should do so as it is something not to be missed. As intrigued as I was by her descriptions of the caves the letters which followed, I knew that those descriptions would be as close as I would ever come to experiencing it. That is no longer the case. Sarah is planning a return trip to those caves so that I may see them for myself — with her.
~ J. C. Wells