20. Hopeless

"Come on, Ward," the Wizard said after a while. As I lay there I felt no more full of power than I had ever felt. "We can't beat around the bush anymore. It was one thing to coax you there in the InBetween, to let you come into your own at your own pace, but here in this Reality the Beast will be upon us and we will all be doomed to being slaves like the Duke, and our beloved Queen will be forced to watch us all suffer, and in the end she will have to become his bride and be ravaged by his lust. We cannot wait any longer. You must use your power. Captain Rogetto must save us."

My head was aching. I longed to return to that nethertime where time and space and reality where only as fixed and certain as the passing moment. If only I had realized how free I had been there, it would not have been so confusing. But here, this was real and I was someone named Rogetto who had responsibilities and obligations, and a whole world was counting on him, declaring him their savior; but I had no idea how to save them or to use the power they claimed I possessed.

"Use your Power!" the Wizard commanded.

"I can't!" I screamed, frozen in a moment of confusion and uncertainty. Time raced on around me. The rising dawn broke the wizard's spell and the men and women around me stirred.

The Wizard had climbed atop a ghostly white horse. "Go home," he told them with a sigh as they looked to him for guidance. He seemed old and withered and stooped over in the new morning's light.

I did not move.

They left, downtrodden, helpless and hopeless, and I wanted to help them, but I didn't know how. The sun rushed across the sky and I felt myself fading back to that Nethertime. I heard the whispers and voices that called to me there. The Good and the Evil who fought over my fate. They stood in two clusters of passion, both urging me to find my Power and use it for their cause.

I staggered home to the Duke, with my head floating in the clouds of confusion.

"The Beast is upon us," the Duke whispered through the haze, as if he were begging my forgiveness for his role in the downfall of the Kingdom. "Please, send me to that Timeless Place you once showed me in that othertime."

He reached inside my compassion, and found the memory he was searching for. "May I?" he begged as it dangled before him. The Voices of Good and Evil whispered louder. I nodded. He smiled and disappeared to an existence without time or space, where he was all, and none would ever disturb his peace. "Thank you..." I heard the Voice whisper through my soul.

Had I delivered the Duke's wish? How had I done it?

The whispering Voices grew softer and further away.

The sun set, and the defenders of liberty fought the Beast as he approached the walls of the City. I could hear him pounding the walls in his fury. I saw nothing but destruction and despair, and I heard the scream from the tower, and I ran and hid in my closet as the roar thundered in my mind.

I huddled under a pile of covers on the closet floor and tried to block out the pounding roar that filled the air and shook my mind.

"Go away I begged."

I heard the closet door creak slowly open and I began to tremble as I clutched the blanket closer over my head.

It opened wider and something tugged on the blanket.

I felt my heart would stop.

Time passed by and nothing happened. I opened my tightly clenched eyes and saw, to my surprise and delight, Maya kneeling in the shadows beside me. "Sshhh," she whispered as I opened my mouth to speak.

"Listen," she breathed, and I listened to the airy passion in her voice. I listened. The pounding had stopped.

"But..." I began, but she placed her finger on my lips and whispered, "Shhhh..." again.

I stared at her in the darkness, and a warmth washed over me, wiping away all my fears and uncertainties. Bathing me in hope and determination. Then slowly I heard the faint tinkle of voices.

"Listen," Maya whispered again.

I listened to the sound of my own voice, outside the closet door. I peeked out of the covers and saw not the desolate rubble I had expected, but a jubilant, joyous scene.

The kingdom was together, seated in the Royal Hall. Somewhere in the distance, there was the smell of the feast that would follow this simple ceremony. The smiling faces that stared up at the Queen, were looking forward to dancing in celebration as they had never danced before.

And standing before the Queen was Melnor, and another me at his side. "Our Kingdom is forever in your debt, dear Captain Rogetto," the Queen was saying to the me in the Hall.

"But your Highness," Captain Rogetto laughed, "I cannot take credit for all of the amazing things my wonderful friend Melnor here has said I have done. He forgets to tell you how bravely he and all your subjects were in this time of crisis."

"But..." Melnor objected. "We didn't do anything. You saved us with your magic."

The other me shrugged. "Ah but it was your noble hearts that acted as the instrument for my Power."

The Queen rose and bowed low before the other me, before I lifted her hand and begged her to let the festivities begin. There were tears in her eyes as she smiled and clapped her hands and everyone cheered, and the dancing began.

"But Maya," I stuttered from under the covers. "I didn't save the kingdom..."

As I spoke the words I heard the pounding roaring though my mind again. The scene outside the closet door began to fade and all I could see was the rubble of destruction and all I could hear was the pounding of the Beast.

"Ward..." Maya's voice whispered far in the distance.

Crying, I buried my head in the blanket and waited for it all to fade away.



©: 1992-2015 Robert Alan Silverstein

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