Batresh arrives at 1977
The door slid closed behind her, leaving her standing on soft ground. As her eyes adjusted to the darkness, she saw pieces of limestone and broken glass. A single light bulb on a wooden pole cast dim light into the cold night. She heard drunken male voices, laughing in the distance. The winter wind howled around the corner. An abandoned engine sat on twisted tracks in front of her. It rested there like a hulking beast from more prosperous times. Its paint bleached by strong sunlight and rusted by humidity, it cast a dark shadow northward. Grasses and weeds blocked her way. To the left, she saw a rail way, still in use, its shiny surface reflecting dim light. A gust of wind pulled her unbuttoned coat open. She wished Sister Ahatu were here already. Turning, she pulled her coat closed and walked towards the rail way. On the elevated highway above, a truck exhaust fired like a weapon. She froze. Her heart raced. Even after realizing it wasn’t weapons fire, she stood motionless. She could hear her heart beating.
Looking back, she saw her vessel was safely hidden in shadows of twisted metal from the collapsing roof. She moved through weeds, stepping over warped rails, negotiating sharp gravel and wooden slats. She reached a clearing. Looking ahead, she saw white slabs, steps leading to street level. She pressed a jewel on a wrist band. A light activated. She held her wrist in front of her, shining the light onto the ground. Stepping over shards of glass and tangled rebar, she reached the steps. She grabbed hold of a rusted metal railing to steady her steps. Reaching the top, she stood on a flat surface. There should have been a green station wagon here waiting. She turned and walked towards Market Street. Reaching the corner, no longer protected by the structure, the full force of St. Louis winter wind, hit her. She had never experienced this kind of cold. Looking across the street, she saw statues, a man and a woman facing each other. The fountain, turned off for winter, was a reminder of the faded stately beauty of the abandoned train station, the statues representing the Meeting of the Waters, the confluence of the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers.
She heard the beep of a car horn, and turned. Sister Ahatu was pulling up.
She sat down in the warm station wagon and looked at the aged nun. She was middle-aged and thin. She wore a cotton shift and a plain, gray wool coat. On her short gray hair, was a modified veil held in place by bobby pins.
Thin hands grabbed the steering wheel and turned the vehicle sharply to the left. “I’m breaking several traffic rules here,” she laughed as she made a U-turn, and headed west. “I don’t think you are dressed for this weather.” She added. She reached up to the dials on the dashboard and turned the heat up.
Batresh turned to her. “I need a better coat.”
“Welcome to St. Louis winter,” the nun responded. Batresh admired her easy manner. She had been in the order for centuries and seemed completely human. “Your audition is set for tomorrow afternoon at 4:00,” she nodded, smiling. The skin around her eyes creased and wrinkled. Judging from dark spots on her hands she spent too much time in the sun. “Will you need to practice?”
Batresh shifted position, sitting forward. “Not really, I’ll just warm up my voice beforehand.” Looking to her right, she saw a multi-story yellow building that could have been a factory or a warehouse. The sister turned the car onto the highway.
“I’ll drive you to Powell Hall tomorrow,” she added.
Batresh looked at her, “I am supposed to be Jewish.”
“OK,” Ahatu responded, realizing she would be recognized as a Catholic nun. “Then, I’ll get one of the girls to drive you.”
A park appeared on the right. Empty benches were fixed to the ground around a baseball diamond. To her left she saw a parking lot, and a semi-circular structure with be shortened minarets at each of the front corners. She saw lettering that read, Checkerdome.
The nun turned on her signal, and exited the highway. “You can stay at the dorm tonight, and get a room at the Chase tomorrow.” She looked over at Batresh and smiled, “It’s an honor to host you, Princess.” She continued looking. Her eyes went up and down Batresh’s body. “We have your clothes ready. I think we found the right size.” She stopped at a signal light. Batresh saw a diner with large windows, its dining room brightly lit. “Of course, you can stay with us in the dorm if you want.” They turned to the right onto Big Bend Boulevard.
Within a short time, they were turning onto a small college campus, St. Hypatia College for Women. They turned into a U-shaped drive. There were three primary buildings all made of rough-hewn brownstone. Protected walkways between them were covered by roofs of green ceramic tiles. At the center of the drive was the library. They drove into the curve of the circle and Batresh saw, at the center of the small campus, a statue of a woman wearing ancient clothing, a long toga, a drape covering her head falling onto her shoulders and down her back. Her palms were facing upwards in the traditional Tayamni greeting. A flood light, fixed to the ground in front of the statue, shown upwards, centering on the oval face. There she stood, the Queen of Heaven, the Blessed Mother, the Matriarch of the First Ones.