From a chapter called, "The Watchers"
She lay in her bed, still, muscles clenched, but for her struggles to breathe. The rasp of her breath filled her ears. Staring through dim light at mats covering the ceiling, her mind raced from memory to memory. Her own mother’s face materialized above her. Whether it was a vision, or whether she was actually here, in the room with her, no longer mattered.
She had been a little girl. It was soon to be Erudu, the time when the yellow sun, Sig, moved in front of red Aldebaran. The pale orange sky would turn to bright blue. In quick succession, green grasses and brilliant flowers would burst from the ground. The black leaves of subur trees would turn green, and sweet red fruit would grow from ukum bushes.
She remembered her mother had given her a yellow flower to mark the holiday. She didn’t remember its name, but she remembered it was from Terra. They grew everywhere at Mussara during Erudu. She remembered seeing yellow flowers covering the ground like carpets.
It was the first Erudu festival she could remember. It would also be her last. She would be brought to join the rest of her House at the third planet of a new system. In the old language, her mother called the land, Kemet, Land of the Black Earth. Surrounded by red sands of a great desert, it was the land of the Great River, the land made rich and black by deposits of silt. The candidate species were concentrated here.
She wondered that there were only three seasons at Kemet, the Inundation, the Planting, and the Harvest. She thought of the varying seasons at home, the changing leaves, the colored skies, the coolness of Ud, and the rains at Su. But soon enough, these memories would fade. Terra, the land of one sun, would become home, and she would rarely think of Mussara.
Her daughter, Batresh, leaned over her, brushing wisps of white hair from her withered face. She thought it odd, that today, the day she would die, these memories could be so real.
She could smell the sweet yellow flower her mother had given her.
She saw an image of her mother seated on a golden chair. Ten or twenty humans sat in the shade of small trees in front of her. It was hot and sunny. They sat at the spot where the Temple Complex would one day rise. Her mother, Itet, wore a traditional Tayamni toga and a wrap around her hair. Standing beside her, was the Matriarch of the Sumerian Mission, Ninanak. It must have been a few hundred years before the village took form. Humans had advanced enough to look completely Tayamni.
“The Nine were the first to come to us,” her mother explained to the ones seated in front of her.
Ninanka activated a hologram projector on her wrist, and images of the Nine, The First Ones, those who the Tayamni revered as holy, appeared before them.
The humans gasped, some stood, two ran away. Three females bowed down, putting their faces against the ground.
The Matriarch stood, holding her hands out to them. “No, no, they are not here. This is an image, a picture in the air.”
An older female reached out to touch the hologram of Auset, but withdrew quickly when her hand passed through the image. She fell to the ground, hiding her face in her hands. “Neter!” she cried. “You are Neter, Neter.” She pushed her face against the ground.
The Matriarch crouched down beside her, touching her hair, caressing her arms. “No, no, my dear. These are not the Gods. These are simply pictures.
The Matriarch looked back at Ninanka, who turned off the projection. “It’s too soon,” she whispered.
The female, looked up into the Matriarch’s face and whispered, “Neter. You are one who watches. You are.”
She remembered her mother was saddened, she shook her head and looked back at Ninanka again.
The female pointed to the Sumerian Matriarch and continued, “And you. You, also. You are those who watch.” Then she smiled. “You watch, you protect.”
Her mother sighed and looked down at the ground. Then, looking around at the humans, she offered. “Yes, we watch you, and we protect you. But, we are not Gods. We are like you. We breathe, we feel pain. We bleed.”
The kneeling female looked worried momentarily. Then smiled, shaking her head. She reached out and took the Matriarch’s hand, kissing it gently. “This is holy ground. This place, where the Watchers come.” She nodded and looked around at her human friends.
“This is holy place.”
The first time it happened, he slept late on a Saturday morning. Nathan snored on the other side of the bed. Elvis needed to go for his morning walk, whining on the floor next to the mattress. Denny kept his eyes closed, not wanting to get up.
A bright flash,
an electric pop.
Denny turned quickly.
Burnt plastic in the air.
The desk and chest-of-drawers were undisturbed. There was no smoke. He looked at the source of the sound, six feet off the floor at the foot of the bed.
He felt someone watching. Someone dialed in from another place, another time to watch him. Nathan snored softly. Elvis placed a pleading paw on the mattress.
The second time was at a crossroads in Amsterdam.
Crossroads; places where native Americans conducted sacrifices, created totems and constructed altars, where ancient Europeans buried criminals and suicide victims, hoping to confuse their spirits, where witches met to conduct rituals, where Hecate, the Greek Goddess of Sorcery is said to have appeared, with baying wolf hounds at her side.
It was at such a place, that Denny walked from one tramline to another.
At opposite ends, rail lines crossed and curved, trolleys screeched around market stalls. Well-lit shops faced a polished marble floor. At opposing sides, busy streets crossed, their intersections abutting parking lots next to the shopping area. Columns topped with faux-baroque capitals lined each side of covered market.
It was at this small market, with plaster walls decorated with neo-medieval, renaissance, and classical ornaments, he saw them walking towards him.
A tall woman with blonde hair, and two men, all three prosperous, wearing expensive trench coats walked towards him, focused on his face.
Headed towards the other end of the structure, he glanced up as they approached. They were not talking, their faces frozen in slight smiles. They did not avert their eyes. He looked up again as they passed and saw they were still staring, focused on him.
Their leather shoes clicked on the floor behind him as they proceeded towards the other end of the structure. He spun around quickly, and saw they looked away from him abruptly as if caught in the act.
There were other times. In the van, driving through Sicily, Madeline was watching him. The only woman on tour, she talked with him only a few times, but always seemed to be close by, observing. She twirled a strand of red hair on a forefinger, and pretended to read a magazine. But, he saw her watching.
At Palermo, Mauricio held out a glass of wine. “The grapes we bought in Catania,” he began, “This wine was made from them. Taste the volcanic soil of Mount Aetna.”
Denny looked at Mauricio’s rugged face, his square chin, his brilliant smile, but noticed someone standing near the window. Looking up, he saw Madeline, watching. She looked away, and continued down the side walk. She had been following.
He had the feeling of being encircled. Since the tour began, he felt it. In Krakow at the square, at the pub in Edinburgh, malicious entities and protectors both. All, watching.