Part Three: Transcendence
The warmth of the light within Mark flooded his mind, his body, his soul. He was filled with the deep, inner euphoria that he remembered from so long ago. It had seemed like an age since he had felt this way, though only a year ago. Now, as the ecstasy of his transcended self filled his senses he closed his eyes and delighted in the simple pleasure of existence, of being.
He stepped out into the back garden, letting the light of the sun catch his upturned face and letting the light zephyr breeze alight on his skin. It was late afternoon and the coolness of the day washed over him, his worries, his cares, all his concerns drifting away into the cool day’s airstream.
The garden was beautiful, the ragged grass filled with life, the crickets chirping as the light faded, the golden light flooding the plants as they turned their leaves towards the sinking burning sphere, nature filling the space almost to overflowing, the hand of man unseen, unneeded, as though no one had ever seen this place. The trees pumped their sap, slower now as they settled down for the night, their roots settling in the deep, damp earth and birds flapping lazily across the open sky, their wide wings outstretched, barely flapping as they drifted languorously on the summer breeze, letting the gentle updrafts of the cooling ground carry them across the horizons, their keen eyes scanning the hazy ground below, for a last meal, and for home.
There was a movement from the path to the side of the house. Mark turned and smiled as he greeted Angela. She stepped round the corner of the house and made her way towards where he stood.
“This is wonderful,” she sighed. “I’ve never felt so good in my life.” She stepped out onto the grass, bent and ran her fingers through the stiff, green shoots.
“It feels…different. More…real. Stronger, brighter, more alive. Everything does.”
“I know. It looks different too. We’re seeing what’s really there, not just reflected light. Look at the sun.”
Angela turned her face upwards and squinted from habit as she stared up at the hanging ball of fire. Slowly her eyes widened in wonder as she looked up.
“Wow,” she gasped. “It’s beautiful.”
Mark just smiled at her expression. “Wait until you see the sunset.” He told her. She turned back and stared in awe at him.
“How long were you like this?” She asked softly.
“I don’t know. A long time. I didn’t pay much attention to the years. It didn’t seem very important. I never grew old, or sick, or weak, or tired. Every day was the same, but it never got boring, I enjoyed every sunrise as much as the first one I ever saw. I didn’t care about the future or ending, just continuity, constant, unending harmony.”
“You bought the house in 1927.” Angela pressed.
“Did I? I didn’t realise it had been that long. “
“So you’re about a hundred years old.”
“I doubt it. It was a long time before I moved here. Before, I tried to teach people what I’d found. A few believed but the authorities chased me away. I got weary of trying to live alongside the world and just hid myself away to enjoy what I’d found.”
“Did anyone else manage to transcend? “
“No. Sean and yourself are the first.”
Sean stepped round the corner of the house to join them. He didn’t speak but just stared around him in wonder at the beauty of the overgrown garden. Angela stepped up to him and kissed him gently on the lips.
“How do you feel?” she asked quietly.
“Wonderful.” He answered. It feels like I’m walking on the air. Like I’m a cloud in the sky. It’s indescribable.” He turned to Mark, “How did you get out here so quickly?” he asked.
“Through the back door.” Mark answered casually.
Angela turned to stare at the old wooden door, its rusted lock still encrusted with cobweb and dirt. She stared at him questioningly.
Mark grinned and stepped up to the old wooden door. He reached out and let his hand drift gently through the old oak, the door giving as much resistance as fog.
“We’re not flesh any more,” he explained, “just energy, a force.”
Angela stared in shock at the door. She stepped up to it and pressed her hand against it. The door felt as solid as it had always been, if not more so.
“It’s solid,” Mark explained, “you’re not. Don’t try and force your hand through it, let the door flow through your hand.”
Angela relaxed her fingers and her eyes widened in surprise as her hand became as substanceless as smoke and the solid wood let her hand drift between its component atoms.
“That’s amazing.” she exclaimed with awe. “What else can we do?”
“We’re made of energy I think,” Mark answered. “It’s up to us how much force we can become. It’s quite hard to control, that’s how I…how I killed that policeman. I was scared and hit him harder than I meant to do. It wasn’t as hard as I could have hit him but it was too hard just to knock him out.”
“Yeah,” Sean piped up, “when you pushed me away in the hospital it was like I’d been hit by a train.”
“That was you? “ Mark exclaimed. “I’m sorry, I wasn’t paying much attention, I was in panic at the time.”
“Yeah, what was with that, why did you try and get your…whatever…?”
“I call it my sleeper.”
“Yeah, why did you try and steal your sleeper. We were trying to help.”
“We may have transcended our flesh but we’re still connected to it with a kind of link. The link seems to get shorter when certain things happen. I’m not sure why, but when you attempted to revive my body you… managed to pull me back into it.”
“Oh.” Angela exclaimed, suddenly realising. “We took you away from this! I’m so sorry.”
“Don’t worry about it, you weren’t to know. I didn’t really know myself before I ‘rescended’. I just knew something was wrong when I started to feel what my body felt again, when I started to feel pain.”
Angela imagined what it must have been like for Mark, being dragged back into his agonised flesh, suddenly feeling his emaciated body’s pain for the first time in decades after so long without it. She shuddered, suddenly feeling cold.
Anyway,” Mark continued, “the link means that wherever you are or wherever your sleeper is you can get to it.”
“What do you mean?” Sean exclaimed. “teleportation?”
“I’m not sure. It’s more like just snapping your consciousness back to another place. I tried doing it to other places than my sleeper but I couldn’t seem to focus anywhere.”
“How do you do it?”
“Focus your mind. If you concentrate you should be able to feel your body. If not the flesh itself then just the link, and its end.”
“I‘ve got it!” Angela cried. “It’s like a lump at the back of your throat, just at the back of your consciousness instead.”
“Concentrate, try and see it in your head. “Angela closed her eyes and focused on the small, niggling presence she could sense. She saw herself, thin and pale, lying on the bare bed, barely breathing. She shuddered at the sight and it focused more clearly. She felt herself moving forward, almost as if she was slipping back into it. It was a horrible feeling, like on the edge of a slippery mud slope and feeling the ground slowly slide away beneath you.
She pulled back, breathing heavily, even though she didn’t need to. She opened her eyes but the scene didn’t change. Angela stared around herself in a panic, disoriented, scared. Suddenly she calmed. She was in the darkened bedroom upstairs. Beside her own sleeping body were two more beds, one containing Sean’s body and another containing Mark’s.
She stared around, calming herself down until, a minute later Sean appeared, standing beside his sleeper. He didn’t fade in like a ghost, just one moment he wasn’t there and the next he was standing, unconcerned by the bed next to Angela. He didn’t show a sign of the disoriented panic Angela had felt but grinned broadly at her.
“That was fun.” he exclaimed. Mark winked into existence on the other side of Angela and stepped over to her.
“Well done.” he exclaimed, “that was very fast. You’re obviously a very quick learner.” Angela glanced into his eyes, bright and open, without a care in the world. He was back in tranquil paradise without a cloud on the horizon. Like Sean he seemed to have no worries in the world. She grinned back at him.
“I must be,” she smiled. She decided not to tell him of her concerns, perhaps it was normal. But in the back of her mind she couldn’t help wondering what would have been at the bottom of that slippery slope if she hadn’t pulled herself back so quickly.
*** *** ***
The doorbell startled Jane Killick out of her daydreaming. George had left for work at the same time he always did, slightly late, complaining that he’d lost his comb, or his wallet, or his identity pass. Jane had found it in a pocket or a drawer or thrown into a corner, and had stood in the kitchen as he left with a call of goodbye, rushing to the car that choked hopelessly for a few seconds before starting on the second try, the old second hand car that would most likely break down in the next month or so. It wouldn’t be scrapped immediately however, no first, like all the others before it and all the others they would get after it, the car would have the dregs of its life squeezed painfully from it. Sitting in the cold they would pull at the choke as the frost clutched at the windscreen, they would take it to the local garage, the mechanics greeting them with a familiarity that was pleasant if not a little irritating that they should know them so well after only a few years. And then it would finally go under, stranding them in an out of the way place and forcing them to go through the long process of getting a new car at a time they could ill afford it.
It had been a daydream about Nick, imagining his strong hands lifting her onto the kitchen table, raising her skirt, sliding into her with a gentleness he had never shown in real life. He was different in her daydreams, his clothes were neater, his body more toned, his face kinder, the sex less animal, less need, more love.
She dreamed of him almost constantly now, and saw him almost every day, unable to resist the strong musk of his smell as his lips pressed against hers with a force that almost hurt, and his hands clutched her soft flesh with a lust and a want that made her melt into his embrace.
She knew it was wrong, she knew it would ultimately destroy her, but equally she knew she could never stop. She would continue her slide into self-destruction until she lost everything, her life, her home, her husband that, despite his faults, loved her more than she deserved. Yet thinking about it, she realised that she loved him almost as much. Yet despite her love for the gentle yet boring, staid and disappointing man she had married, she realised that, just as she couldn’t stop herself destroying her own life, she was unable to stop herself from bringing his down in flames as well.
Nick was a drug she could not be weaned away from, not by any force of will, especially since, she knew now, she didn’t want to stop. Temptation was too hard to resist, especially when you didn’t want to.
The doorbell rang again. Unimpatient, the second call seemed only a reminder. Jane left her reverie and, flustered and blushing, as though caught in a compromising situation, hurried to the door.
The first thing Jane noticed about her visitor was her eyes, they sparkled. Angela had always had beautiful eyes. Yet now they positively shone. Her hair was different too, long and flowing, like a waterfall of gently cascading gold over her shoulders, framing her face with a softness that suited her perfectly and complemented her looks. Her skin was smooth, unlined, unblemished, a rich peachy pink, healthy and soft. She wore a low, flowing thin summer dress that skimmed and brushed around her ankles, rustling gently in the slight breeze of the overcast day. She wore soft white shoes on her feet, simple yet perfectly suiting her.
Jane looked on the friend that she had worried over almost constantly since she had seemingly vanished two weeks ago, standing, softly smiling on her doorstep, with a blinking wonder, speechless at the angelic transformation of her friend. There was nothing physically different with Angela’s looks, she had never been stunningly beautiful, merely with girl-next-door good looks, yet just as her twinkling eyes and expression of breathless excitement on her face had once, before the miscarriage, leant her a beauty far outweighing her physical looks, now the light in her face and glowing skin gave her something almost unnaturally stunning.
She lit the doorway emitting a warm glow into Jane’s hindbrain, lighting her mind with happiness and contentment as if it were transmitted merely by Angela’s presence into Jane’s life. Quite simply, standing before her in a slightly overcast, not especially nice day was the most beautiful woman Jane had ever seen.
“May I come in?” Angela’s voice, though softer, clearer, less hurried, was still the same as well.
Astonished, a thousand questions whirling in her mind, Jane meekly stood aside and let her friend step indoors. As she brushed past Jane was caught up in her scent. It was light and clear, refreshing like a soft breeze in the cool of the day. It was nothing like any of the perfumes Jane had stocked her life and her dresser drawer with, strawberry, vanilla, rose, no scent that she’d bought, initially to attempt to kick start the passion she dreamt of from her husband, and then to titillate and excite her lover. Jane could not help but breath it in deep, the presence of her friend calming her, the fevered lusts of before ignored as Angela passed her.
As Angela swept past her the hallway cleared and Jane’s worries melted away. It seemed everything was going to be all right. She followed, her mouth open in surprise as her friend stepped softly, almost gliding into the sitting room.
Jane stared in incomprehension as Angela sat demurely on the edge of the sofa and smiled up at her, waiting for her to ask the barrage of questions she knew was coming. Jane finally spoke the question uppermost in her mind, “Where the hell have you been?” she cried. “I was a bit concerned the first few days when you didn’t show for our coffee at The Alex but just thought you’d forgotten. Then after a week I was terrified. I couldn’t get you on the phone, you wouldn’t answer your door, and Sean was missing too. No one knew where you were at the hospital either.”
“Sean was with me. We were at Mark’s house.”
“For two weeks? What were you doing for two weeks?”
Angela smiled serenely, the smile, on anyone else would have been exasperating, on Angela it softened the room, the tension drifted away and Jane realised she wasn’t angry, not really, it was just shock, and fear, the anger wasn’t at Angela, but at how Angela had made her feel. Now Jane was merely curious, not angry.
“We found something Jane.” Angela spoke with a simple delight in her voice that made Jane lean in closer, listening intently. The unassuming happiness in Angela’s voice was the best confirmation of truth Jane could have had. Simply she knew, instinctively, certainly, that Angela would not, possibly would never lie.
“We found something marvellous, Mark showed it to us.”
“What?” Jane breathed, barely more than a whisper, already, in her soul, knowing the answer. Somehow Angela had already conveyed it to her what had happened, whether by her mere presence, or by something deeper, more mysterious than either of them could know or even imagine.
“Transcendence.” Angela replied with such awe, such beauty in the word that it conjured a thousand images in Jane’s mind, all of them blissful, all of them wondrous.
*** *** ***
There was nothing blissful about Inspector Farrier’s mind. His career looked as bleak as the sky outside, heavy, looming grey. An overwhelming expanse of grey that hung over his mind day in and day out, unable to be shifted by anything he attempted.
He hadn’t known, when accepting this case, that it would become such a headache. It had seemed such a good idea at the beginning. Easy enough, the house should have been stuffed with forensic evidence, a guy that sick should have been easy to catch, as the papers were fond of reporting. Now, a year on and every lead, real or imagined had died out, sputtering candles each one, like his life itself.
The papers were calling for his resignation and the chief inspector was eager to comply if it meant saving his own neck from the vultures that circled most of Lewiston’s police force. Farrier knew he had little breathing space left. Chief Williams had given him more leeway and more time than he was owed already and his own private hope that the case would die down in the papers hadn’t materialised. Still the journalists demanded his resignation for gross incompetence and there was only so long he could hang on for. Mark had proved uncooperative, the house had been cleaned of any evidence, there were no witnesses, no clues, no hope.
Eventually, inevitably, he would have to admit defeat. Farrier would have admitted defeat many months ago if his career did not seem to be riding on the success of the case. He had never known such a hopeless case and he’d seen a few non-starters in his time. Feverishly, hopelessly, he’d tried to pass it on, first to Stanhope who, though naive enough to take it, wasn’t experienced enough to be allowed to have it. The other Detective Inspectors wouldn’t touch it. Now his colleagues avoided him, as though he had already begun to exude the stench of a doomed man.
Again, his eyes unfocused, his mind like cotton wool, he pored over the case notes, the evidence (pitifully little) the case file, everything he had seen a hundred times before, pored over with a mind that was fresher, not already resigned to defeat. He saw nothing, a nothing that had been there before and a nothing that would never change. It was as if the man who had held Mr Camden hostage had never existed, he had no motive, nor had he left anything in the house, no fingerprints even, it was as if he had spent his life in the house wearing gloves.
Hopelessly, Inspector Farrier placed the too-thin case file back in its drawer. It was over; it had been for some time now, he had just been too stubborn to admit it to himself. He had buried himself in the basement archives in the fevered hope of something, anything. He hadn’t found anything in three weeks of searching. He had hoped a holiday would have cleared his mind, helped him see things in a new perspective. Instead he had driven himself mad with worry all week, thinking about the case constantly and had driven his wife mad until they had had a blazing row and she had stormed out to her mothers two days after they had come back. His life, like his career was sinking fast.
He almost ignored it at first, a crumpled piece of yellowing newspaper cutting fallen from a file to at the bottom of the emptied filing cabinet. He had missed it earlier when cleaning the files out of the drawer and flicking through them distractedly. Even when Inspector Farrier pulled it from the drawer and turned it over in his hands he almost threw it away.
Yet he did open it. He opened it and read it with growing realisation of his discovery. It was printed in small lettering, the majority of the article torn away sometime far in the past. There was enough to make him think though, enough to search the archives again, this time with a goal. Then to the public library where he was let into their old books room, then to the town hall and the public records office. It would take him two days of feverish searching to find what he was looking for, and even then he wasn’t sure it was right. But it was a theory, a new idea, and one that fit the case so well he found his heart was pounding. The familiar feelings as a case opened up to his mind flooded through him.
Now though, he merely stood and stared in the dim electric light at the yellowed, barely readable scrap of paper from the mid 1800’s. Most of the words he would struggle to read later on but one large headline caught his eye at that moment. Part of a larger title that was torn away. It read in bold lettering,