The Secret Garden

Chapter Nineteen: "A Year in the Life"

New Kids on the Block

Part I

Sunday Dzikamunhenga looks back over the year that has been, recollecting the day that he checked his two million year-old monkey out of quarantine at Ringway airport. And he thinks further back still, to his grandmother, and the training in the secrets of the Uzoma that she gave him.

For Valerie Lamp, the past year has been no less bewildering. One year ago she was studying for her masters. Now she is an employee of the Grimsfen Research Facility, decoding coma brainwaves under the auspices of the formidable Dr. Himiitsu.

Rodney Nymes can remember little of the last year – an unending stream of drugs has seen to that. His strongest memories are of the weekend that he moved into his student home – a vast expanse of bare floorboards and an enormous grand piano. The house seems to have revolved around it ever since. That and the computer.

The year had seemed innocuous enough when it had started, but Antonio di Marciani was not known as “The Smart One” for nothing. He has known that his father would call him to heel sooner or later and bring him into the family business. Sitting in his still-unpacked apartment on Deansgate, he broods on the tasks that have brought him here: Clementine’s business problems and the ambition of the local Triads.

Sunday goes to meet local community wise-woman Delilah, who tells him that she knows of a young woman having trouble with the spirits. Sunday is introduced to this Louise Blyth and hears of her involvement with a cult of anarchists that sparked a nervous breakdown of sorts. Rodney meets Jessica, currently screwing her dealer Strat. They hang out and become friends. They spend the night at Club Eat Me.

Antonio finds his feet and is shown around town by Edgar Clementine, son of his boss Julius. Recent troubles with the Tongfa Tong came to head when two members of the Tong died in suspicious circumstances. Antonio pays a visit to Chun Yee Martial Arts Centre, known for being a front for the Yizhang Tong, rivals to the Tongfa. There he finds that Chun Yee has also died in similarly odd circumstances (spontaneous combustion). Louise stops by, looking for Chun Yee and is referred to Delilah by Chun Lu. Edgar is unnerved as he recognises Louise as a journalist who exposed double-dealings by the Clementines back in 1995.

Valerie wakes at her keyboard, having dreamed of Terry Gould walking in a garden. He asks her what she is doing, if she will wake him and why. “I like it down here. I never really wanted to live”. She wakes to find that Himiitsu has left a note on her monitor to see him in his office the next day (a Sunday).

At Club Eat Me, Rodney learns more about Jess. She tells him of her brother Terry, comatose since being trampled by mounted police in the Heyhead riots in ’95. Now he is all but forgotten, a special patient at Grimsfen Research Facility, under Dr. Himiitsu. A journalist called Louise Blyth is doing a “Where is he now?” story on him.

Sunday is shown Louise’ bare house and she tells him her tale, bizarre as it sounds. She even shows him the video cassette of the “alternate” Louise and explains how it prompted her breakdown. Now she believes it was a delayed reaction to the death of Clive. At least, she would, if it were not for the ghost. She sleeps and it seems to emerge from her, a wave of psychokinetic force, accompanied by the stench of soured milk, that rushes from the room, opening and slamming doors and setting off the car alarms in the street. The next morning, Himiitsu tells Valerie that a journalist is coming to do a story on Terry and he wants Valerie to do the talking. She is also to help make Jessica Gould feel comfortable – this should help her heal as well as raise public awareness for her brother. During the day, Valerie examines recordings of Terry’s rambling, and realises that it is a scrambled expression of glossolalia that seems to contain grammar and syntax. She begins attempting to decode the words.

Rodney dreams of his imaginary friend from childhood, Benjamin, not seen since the days of the clinic. Benjamin wants to know why Rodney left, why he went away and grew up. He shows Rodney a dead rabbit in a field and asks if they can play with it.

Valerie meets Louise and Jess and does her interview. Rodney comes along to give Jess moral support. During the interview, Louise reveals the existence of the military base affiliated and attached to the Grimsfen research facility. Valerie can say little, as she has never heard of this branch of the facility up until now. Louise asks to see Terry and seems to know him from some earlier time. She suggests that she and Valerie meet for an off-the-record chat.

That night, Rodney dreams again, but this time it is not of Benjamin. It is of the Gaunt Man, the Hollow Girl and the Bleeding Boy, three hideous spectres that crowd around him ever closer. “Nobody to help you now. All alone, poor little Rodney. No friends to save you now…”

Louise’s ghost comes forth from her again. At Grimsfen, there is the sudden stench of soured milk and Terry sits bolt upright, eyes snapping open, and says “Valerie”. Valerie runs, screaming, from the lab, as Terry continues to gibber incoherently at her. He attempts to follow her in a raging fit and facility guards are forced to administer a quadruple dose of tranquillisers to him before he is felled. In her room, Louise awakes, speaking words she cannot understand: “A tongue is for teaching the paths to the garden”.

When Louise meets Valerie the next day, Sunday is with her, keeping an eye on her general condition. They trade tales from the night before and elect to pay a visit to Delilah, to see what the wise woman makes of these events. Antonio is likewise on Delilah’s trail, having heard her name at Chun Yee’s and decided that she might know more about the deaths of Chun Yee and the Tong members. Delilah’s house, however, turns out to be have been gutted by fire, as if Delilah has succumbed to the same fiery death that engulfed Chun Yee and the two men from the Tongfa. Antonio approaches the others, curious about their curiosity. Louise states that it was Clementine who lent funding to the development of the Heyhead redevelopment project – the very cause of the riots that left Terry in a coma. She also indicates that both Clementine and Himiitsu have dirtied their hands in the pasts and suggests that Valerie and Antonio both look into this further. Also near Delilah’s house, they encounter Xan. This scruffy young teen would also appear to have been seeking the advice of the Moss Side Witch and is equally dismayed at her apparent incineration. When questioned as to what the cause of the deaths might be, he states that he has no idea, but admits that a group known as the Ravenscrag Oathcircle might well know more. Xan claims that they have the “serious mojo” in the area. The group agrees to reconvene that night to visit Ravenscrag.

At home that afternoon, Rodney is visited by a bruised and battered Jess. Strat tried to take payment from her in flesh but she refused and he returned the favour with his fists. Rodney seeks out Strat and confronts him. Strat shrugs the incident off and tells Rodney that he is “welcome to the skanky little bitch”. As Rodney is leaving, Strat takes a bizarre fall from the front steps of his house and gashes his leg on a fence nail. Bleeding from an artery, he is rushed to hospital. Rodney can only stare at the steps, where he sees, as if in the flesh, the smiling form of Benjamin.

The group visit the former mining town of Ravenscrag in the West Pennines that night. With Xan as their guide, they enter the disused mine shafts, where Xan soon abandons them. Relying upon their instincts, they soon stumble across an inner cavern, inhabited by the much-vaunted Oathcircle. The Oathcircle is comprised of Uncle Freolaf (aged, bone-white with nails like talons), Patricia & Persephone (mute twin girls, thin as skeletons, playing with insects in their own filth) and The Element (a bald, muscled man with skin of the deepest blue and eyes like pale pearls). Uncle Freolaf tells them that Xan has already let him know that they were coming. He offers to answer their questions, in return for the smallest of payments.

He tells them that the Dark Millennium has ended with the final days of the decayed. Now the waters rise. The eldest perish first, in the fires of their own hubris and soon there will be only children, playing in the ruins. The Sleeper in Stone (whom Valerie surmises is Terry) walks both shores, straddling the rising flood and holding open the routes between lands now sundered. The Waking Woman (clearly Louise) is waking to great power, but her heart has been poisoned by those who woke her. It rages and seeks to ease its pain. To find success, our heroes must unite these facts and bring both Louise and Terry to a state of healing. As for their elders, the group is told to forget them – the world belongs to the children now.

In payment for this he demands a kiss. Only Antonio has the chutzpah to take the bait, and he gives Freolaf what he desires. However, to his horror, Freolaf takes him in a vice-like grip, immobilising him. The ancient figure then bites Antonio’s lip, drawing blood and spitting the tiniest sliver back into Antonio’s mouth. So swiftly does it occur and so complete is Antonio’s immobility that no-one sees it happen and Antonio does not share his secret. Freolaf bids them farewell and the group stumble their way back to the surface. Patricia and Persephone wave their farewells and Benjamin waves back. Under the night air, our heroes throw themselves flat on the grass and let relieved and joyous laughter fill the evening. Success or failure aside, for those moments it is truly enough to be alive, and in this is wisdom to nourish the soul throughout the ages.

Part II

In the coming days, the group concentrates on focusing its abilities and information. Antonio flexes his financial muscles and joins a racing club. He also begins to investigate deceptions in Clementine’s book-keeping and the Clementine organogram. He discovers that Clementine has made covert payments to the Grimsfen Facility, which Clementine states are tax dodges in order to repay loans made to him by Himiitsu during the Heyhead debacle. Antonio replaces the current administration systems with systems of his own devising and informs his father of his findings. His father compliments him on his success so far and asks him to try and find out who else might be pulling Clementine’s strings.

Valerie, in the meantime, begins to expand the staff of Centurion Security, her own company. She also works on AV filters for her camcorder intended to pick up any traces of activity linked to Louise’ “ghost”. Additionally, she begins covert sweeps of the lab’s computer network in order to locate any data related to links to organised crime. She finds that, in addition to assisting Clementine in his less-than-savoury business practices, Grimsfen partners (Commonwealth Trio Laboratories) have also been implicated in leaking pharmaceuticals to local drug-dealers

Himiitsu meets with Valerie and asks her to provide him with a full report on Terry and come up with suggestions on how to protect him from exotic influences. He introduces her to Judith Heilinger, an expert in cutting-edge membrane theory. Judith theorises that Louise may be exerting some kind of unconscious influence over her local subspatial surroundings and begins research with Valerie. A translator arrives and helps finish the decoding of Terry’s glossolalia. He is repeating the same words spoken by Louise: “A tongue is for teaching the paths to the garden”. Gilbert is highly concerned at hearing this phrase. He has heard them before, in a time before Humanity. Gilbert gained his immortality due a backlash from a magical battle taking place between two great spirits. One spoke those selfsame words. He has heard them once again since then, in the glittering temples of the titans who came before Man. Hearing this news propels Sunday into a strange hallucination. He squats in the sun, in straw and filth with cold iron about his neck. Someone pulls the chain attached to his collar and he looks up into an alien reptilian face. With the hallucination over, Gilbert suggests that Sunday get in touch with some of the local spirits.

Clementine and Antonio discuss strategy. Clementine wants to probe Himiitsu’s dealings with the military as a way of re-establishing financial control in the region. He instructs Antonio to put together a “sponsorship package” as a way of getting an insider view into the goings-on at Grimsfen. Antonio is also to look into recent reports of open fighting in Chinatown.

Sogo (Rodney’s insane Thai drug-buddy) visits Rodney and Jess with an wad of Dutch skunk and a stack of Jackie Chan films. While he and Jess crash in front of the TV, Rodney and Benjamin talk in depth. Benjamin comments that nobody seems to know what to do about Louise or Terry. He states that when Rodney grew up and wouldn’t play with him anymore, he found another place, a secret place, where a very wise woman lived. Maybe she might have some answers?

Sunday, meanwhile, develops a drumming ritual linked to the beats of Manchester and the Orishas of his home and makes contact with the spirits of the city. Initially, he is only able to attract some rather dim spider-spirits but eventually manages to draw a symbiotic swarm of cockroach gafflings, whom he questions. The cockroach spirits tell him that Louise’ spirit has awoken but that she refuses to accept this. It therefore seeks a path back to the Garden on its own and is drawn to Terry, who is like an open door to the secret heart of creation. If the problem cannot be addressed, then either Terry must wake or Louise must return to a sleep of the spirit. If not, none can predict what the consequences might be for all involved.

Antonio asks questions around Chinatown and discovers that the fighting has led to a death – and at Chun Yee’s Martial Arts Centre again. Talking with Chun Lu, Antonio learns that Chun Lu’s colleague Hiroto was found beheaded in the shower. The likeliest culprits, the Tongfa, deny responsibility, but state that members of their Tong have recently spoken out against alliance with any groups, other Tongs and the Clementines included. This breakaway group (dubbed “The Crimson Storm”) may well be behind the fighting and the death of Hiroto. Antonio spends the rest of the day investigating this, but with little fruition. That evening, however, as he returns to his flat in Deansgate, he is set upon by three hitmen wielding uzi submachine guns. Finding an almost esoteric understanding of the interplay of trajectory and probability, Antonio fells one gunman and flees into his attic, pursued by the others. Cornered, he finds himself suddenly rescued by none other than Freolaf, who rips the other gunmen in half before spiriting Antonio away into the night. He deposits him in Manchester’s labyrinthine sewers, unhappy that Antonio refuses him a second kiss. He promises that a time will come when Antonio will call upon him.

Benjamin takes Rodney’s face in his hands and asks him: “If you could go anywhere, where would you go?”

As Rodney forms the answer within his mind, the world warps and billows to envelop him. It swirls about him like a great shifting tapestry. And then it splinters, and he is drowning in shimmering light, drifting deeper and deeper into a blinding sea of luminescence. He surrenders himself to the moment, allowing his dreaming heart to take him where it will. And then he is rising, like some god being birthed by the void, rising into air and sunlight and the green and silver of the woods at night. He pulls himself from the glimmering waters and finds himself on the grassy shores of a shining lake at the heart of a lush and verdant forest. Rodney pulls his sodden clothes from his body and lies there, revelling in the warm night air.

And as he lies there, panting for breath on the soft verge, she comes walking towards him from the treeline, barefoot, dark-eyed, pipes at her belt. She offers him a soft, dark robe to cover his nakedness.

Once he has caught his breath, Rodney finally finds words. “It is beautiful, this place.” She regards him solemnly before answering.

“It is yours, this place. You are the first newcomer to walk these shores and I have been waiting for you for a very long time indeed. Be at peace. Be at home. This place is yours.”

“Why am I here?” the youth asks.

“I am to give you gifts that must be taken forth from this valley and used. Knowledge and power. Answers to your questions and dark steel to gird your arm.”

She tells him that, if he can but find a way to reach her, he might bring Louise’ ghost to this very place, where it could find peace. He need only seek inside himself for the words that are already there – “For it is not the singer that matters, it is the song”. Then he and the young maid walk along the shore of the lake, coming at last to a deep and shadowed grove, lost in the heart of the woods. A sparkling spring rises here, welling up beneath the roots of a monstrous tree that towers some 200’ overhead. And nestling in the darkness under the roots is a grotto – the entrance to a greater series of caverns. The maid points towards the grotto entrance. “What you seek lies within.”

Without further questions, Rodney descends into the darkness. Wandering through the labyrinthine caves, he comes at length to a vast cavern, dominated by the great and glistening egg that sits at its heart. Shimmering light buds from the huge egg, sending spirals of unformed flame into the cold cavern air. And halfway between Rodney and the egg, lying on the grey stone, is a sword. Five foot or more in length, it is a black leaf-bladed broadsword, rune-carved and with a surface that seems to mirror a deep, starry sky. Without taking another so much as another step, the boy knows that the sword is his. He stoops and claims the weapon, feeling it writhe in his grasp as if alive; feeling its sentience merge with his own. And then he becomes aware of a sound – a gentle susurration emanating from the egg. Words. Whispered words: “Wake me…”

Rodney is unsure of how to proceed. He casts about himself, searching for some clue in the cavern, but it is bare. However, he is cunning, this boy, and so he looks deeper, seeking the truth behind the whispered word. For a moment, the cavern echoes with battle. Two mighty foes clash here, warring for the fate of the unhatched egg. One wields the black blade that Rodney now bears. As to victor and vanquished, there is no clue – none save the blade itself. Resolved, Rodney takes firm grip about the hilt with both hands and plunges it into the shell of the shimmering egg. The shell shatters and blinding white fire spills forth – the blaze of creation at the beginning and ending of worlds…

And Rodney wakes, naked and cold beneath his bed. It is night.

That night, Louise’ ghost bursts forth once more, only this time there is a full audience. Valerie and Judith have set up dual monitoring systems and both Sunday and Rodney strain their spiritual perception in an attempt to perceive the form of the creature. They have a brief glimpse of a monstrous, trollish beast, lank hair and a mewling cry, and then it is gone. At Grimsfen, Terry bolts into wakefulness, snapping restraints put in place to keep him prone and attacking Pablo (one of Valerie’s colleagues) before being sedated. In response, Himiitsu places a call to his military associates and orders the deployment of a squadron from a force known as the Border Defence Corps. Armed to the teeth with heavy weaponry, these hardnuts seem confident that they can tackle whatever problems Grimsfen might be encountering. Judith’s own superiors (also upper-echelon military) are aghast at this flagrant abuse of resources and instructs Judith to “execute Option Omega immediately”. Judith argues that a solution may well be within reach and her superior relents, urging Judith and Valerie to find a “soft” solution before all the shooting starts. Valerie manages to tease some snippets from the BDC about their activities. They specialise in fighting foes that would shred the minds of lesser men (or so they say) and mention terrorist strikes at a place called Rosedale and the crash of the space-shuttle Atlantis, back in 1998. The latter, they say, occurred during the terrorist destruction of a covert orbital weapons platform known as the NSC. Food for thought.

The group reconvenes and considers its options. Sunday indicates that he has gained understanding of the nature of the problem – namely that Louise’ spirit seeks healing, while she is in denial of its very existence. Rodney tells them that he has undertaken a visionquest and can try to show the ghost a way to a place where it can find peace. When the ghost comes forth that night he intercepts it and begins to sing a lilting, off-key hymn, drawing its attention immediately. Although Rodney exerts himself to his limit, however, he is unable to delay the ghost for very long and it soon streaks northward, heading once more for the Grimsfen research facility.

At the lab, all hell breaks loose. Outraged at being deceived, Louise’ ghost wreaks havoc on the facility with Terry’s body. BDC troops lay down withering fire from exotic energy weaponry and Terry is felled. The lab is closed for refurbishment and Terry is moved to a more secure section of the facility. Valerie is placed on leave in order to recuperate and Judith is recalled to whatever bureau claims her loyalty. When no incidences of spontaneous awakening follow, the BDC depart, leaving Grimsfen to its own devices once more.

And although Louise’ ghost continues its nightly excursions, it is denied any access to Terry by whatever security provisions now shield it from its influence. Who can say where it wanders, roaming the darkling wilds of northern England, seeking solace that it can never know.

A few days later, Valerie’s mobile phone rings at 3am, jolting her into sudden alarm. The voice on the other end of the line is urgent. Controlled, but urgent.

“Hello Miss Lamp? I am a former member of the BDC. Do you understand what I mean? Miss Lamp, I was at Rosedale and aboard the NSC. There is much your employer is not telling you. Do you want to know more? Miss Lamp, I can meet you but I require total discretion. Do you understand? Talk to you associates, Miss Lamp. Brief them. I will call you in a week.”

Part III

The group, not surprisingly, elects to meet with their BDC contact and see what he has to say. He meets them at Blackwater HEP, a disused hydroelectric powerplant at Blackwater Reservoir. A bald, sick-looking man in his late 20s, the contact identifies himself as Phaedrus. He states that he is coming to Valerie for help. The world is changing, he tells her. For technology, government, medicine, economics, media and travel all to function unhampered, the world must be a controlled place, free of the spectre of terrorism. Deviants of the mind, as much as of the flesh must be eradicated. Look at Rodney and Sunday, he states. There can be no place for them in this brave new world. Even things of the spirit have surrendered their territory to the science of subspace, superstrings and membrane theory. He states that Terry Gould is only the latest in a series of experiments in applied M-Theory, abusive and dangerous experiments that have cost dozens of lives at the Rosedale facility and aboard the NSC satellite. He claims to have data, hacked from Valerie’s own labs, that shows that Terry has been kept comatose by way of implants in his body.

To lend weight to his claims, he provides documented proof of something he calls “Project Pogrom”. It ran from the mid 1980s through to late 1997 and was established to “eradicate rogue, deviant and terrorist elements in Europe”. An oversight committee run through the Northern Security Collective (the NSC) delegated regional control to various groups. In the northern UK, the project was co-ordinated by the Greater Manchester Police, who provided field-staff and intelligence via covert connections to the NSA listening base at Menwith Hill in Yorkshire. Project hardware and wetware came from the Human Infrastructure Laboratories in Manchester’s prestigious Trafford district and the Grimsfen Research Facility provided medical support and lab space. Clementine, it would seem, was brought on board in order to help finance the undertaking, in return for business grants and indulgences across the region. Ironically enough, it was Clementine’s criminal mismanagement of the Heyhead redevelopment project that led to the exposure and eventual unravelling of Project Pogrom and its subsequent cancellation.

Phaedrus wants Valerie to help break Terry out of Grimsfen so that he can be taken to people who can help him. However, before any agreements can be reached, brilliant light floods the area and the silhouettes of vehicles and armed men can be seen crowding the edges of the dam. “Surrender immediately – or we will open fire!” comes the barked order. Phaedrus shakes his head. “Surrender or death – they are the same,” he says, and breaks for the edge of the dam. Gunfire, blazing and bright fills the night. Phaedrus dies before he gets half a dozen steps. In the ensuing crossfire, our heroes are sorely injured but manage to flee into the night – and with Phaedrus’ briefcase intact. Inspection reveals that it not only contains the documents referred to by Phaedrus, but also a highly advanced trinary computer.

Valerie decides to keep quiet about these revelations – and thus keep her job. She double-checks her notes and slowly comes to the realisation that Terry has indeed been kept in his comatose state for so long that natural awakening is probably impossible for him now. She also starts work on deciphering the encryption on the trinary – and soon realises that it will take her months to understand. She is not, however, discouraged in the slightest.

Rodney, although a little concerned a depression growing in Jess since his journey to the Lake in the Woods, nevertheless responds to Sogo’s urges that he get out and party. Answering to the urge to rage, he and his drug-buddy dance until dawn. Sogo tells Rodney that Strat was crippled in his freak accident – although he survived the slashed artery, it would seem that nerves were also severed, and Strat is now confined to a wheelchair.

Sunday communes once more with the spirits and they tell him in no uncertain fashion that, despite the apparent end to Louise’ problems, her spirit still roams the world. Sunday must see to it that Terry and Louise are healed, or the Tapestry itself will begin to suffer.

Antonio, in the meantime, contacts his father again with his latest information. The elder di Marciani does some research of his own with this new data and discovers that Clementine has been paying a percentage to a group known as the Wytchwood Consortium, a conglomerate of developers who control most of the property trade in Western Europe. Antonio’s father warns him that these are very big fish indeed and he will need to be clever indeed if he intends to tackle them.

That night, their last before the tale reaches its grim ending, all of our heroes are visited by strange, powerful dreams. Valerie dreams she walks in the Garden with Terry. “Is it true?” he asks. “That I am being kept here? Then this is not my place…” Rodney dreams of sitting in a huge, empty room – empty save for a grand piano. Benjamin sits on its edge. “How will you help the ghost, now that it is loose from the girl? And what about the sword? Will it help us?” Sunday dreams of the ancient city, where he is dragged from the slave pens and taken to a great hall where twin reptilian princes rule from a pair of great thrones. “Our land is dying,” they tell him. “The dreaming spirit at its heart sickens and cries Wake Me! But there are none who can hear. Will you help us?”

And Antonio dreams of his childhood, running through the orchards of Sicily. He dreams of the tall, pale figure in black that came to watch him, playing in the sunshine that day. A figure that told him “I will always be there for you, my son.” A figure whom he only now can identify as Freolaf.

Our companions decide that they are going to attempt to break Terry out of confinement at Grimsfen and bring him for treatment elsewhere. As they are making plans, Rodney discovers that Jess has died from a heroin overdose during the night. And suddenly everything comes to a grinding halt. Now Rodney finds himself suddenly responsible for Jess’ funeral arrangements as well as dealing with the situation with Louise. Benjamin is most unhappy at not being the centre of Rodney’s attention. Nevertheless, they proceed with their plans as circumstances permit.

Valerie takes Rodney and Sunday up to Grimsfen where Rodney and Sunday combine their spiritual energies and devise a calling for Louise’ ghost. So familiar are they with her resonance that the spirit answers and comes hurrying to where they are hidden in the moors around the facility. Valerie, meanwhile, hacks the security protocols at the facility to grant herself access to Terry’s new location. Antonio takes Louise to the seclusion of Blackwater Reservoir, hoping to keep her safe from the anger of the spirit, although he knows that it is a futile endeavour. Louise is numb, barely registering the world around her, her soul literally elsewhere. Valerie is able to move Terry from his secure location to an upper level where Rodney and Sunday are able to reach him with their spiritworking.

With the power of Rodney’s blade and their own enlightened wills, they enter the spirit world itself and are joined by Louise’ ghost, the avatar of her inner soul. And then fear grips them. No sooner is he removed from the secure wing of the facility, when Terry goes into seizures. Although Valerie struggles to save him, it seems that a final security protocol has released toxins into his system and he dies on the trolley before her.

His spirit bursts free from his body as a white dove of spiritual light and is met by Rodney, Louise’ ghost and Sunday. As the dove flies into the ether, Rodney tells Louise’ ghost of a place that he knows that will welcome them both and together, their energies combine to open the way to the world beyond this one. Amidst spectral ruins of the real world, they descend to a shattered shoreline where there waits a dark craft manned by a solitary figure with the head of a great jackal. The dove is already disappearing out across the ebon waves. They embark.

Sailing across the centuries, the boat carries them across a wine-dark sea. In this craft of otherworldly origin, these drifting spirits come at last to a beach of black sand, littered with coves and peninsulas, outcrops, crescent bays and drifting sandbanks. They pass a solitary tower with a wavering light glimmering at its peak; they pass a great and gnarled tree, where hangs a one-eyed man, wolves playing at his feet, ravens at his shoulders and a solitary spearman watching over his suffering. They come eventually to a wide and sweeping bay where immense black walls come almost to the shoreline – walls that are set with twin gates inscribed with the symbols of the hawk, the jackal and the ibis.

The craft beaches and as Rodney and Louise disembark, they see that Terry has arrived first. He is at first loathe to allow others to cross that sacred threshold. In an echo of a future conflict on this selfsame beach, he alone defies the inevitable, while salvation itself beckons. It is Rodney who finds the words to ease Terry’s hardened heart – promising him that he will never be alone again, no matter where his spirit wanders. Louise’ living spirit makes good Rodney’s promise, takes Terry’s hand and together they walk towards the gates. At the bidding of the Boy with the Sword, the portals swing wide, revealing the eternal Secret Garden in all its splendour.

For long moments all gaze at the shimmering forest that leads down to a glade where a deep lake mirrors a starlit sky. Then, Terry and Louise bid their farewells to the world and lose themselves in the embracing arms of the Dream. As they walk into the mists it can be seen that others await them in the gloaming glade: a beautiful flame-haired woman with eyes of silver; an axe-bearing warrior with an arcane crystalline eyepiece and man with sandy hair, a simple grace and the air of the survivor. They welcome the newcomers to their fellowship, hearts and souls united in understanding of what they may make of the world they have crafted.

On the dam at Blackwater, Louise gives one last gasp, and dies in Antonio’s arms. Rodney and Sunday find themselves returned to the land of the living and Valerie returns to her employment, shielded from any culpability by the very science that denies the reality of what she has just experienced. Life, such as it is, returns to normal. Whatever that now may be.

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