From the 2nd book, Batresh arrives in St. Louis



Rewritten excerpt from the 2nd book, chapter "Union Station, 1977." Batresh arrives in St. Louis

The door slid closed behind her. She stood 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 voices laughing in the distance. The winter wind whistled around the building. An abandoned engine sat on twisted tracks resting there like a hulking beast. Its paint bleached by strong sunlight and rusted by humidity, it cast shadows northward. Grasses and weeds blocked the path. To the left, she saw a rail way, its shiny surface reflecting street lights. The wind pulled her coat open. Sister Ahatu should be here already. She pulled her coat closed and walked towards the rail way. On an elevated highway above, a truck exhaust blasted. She froze. Her heart raced. Even after realizing it wasn’t weapons fire, she stood motionless.    

Looking back, she saw the vessel was hidden in shadow and shards hanging from a collapsing roof. She moved through weeds, stepping over warped rails, negotiating stones and wooden slats.  She reached a clearing. Looking ahead, she saw white slabs, steps leading up to the street. She pressed a jewel on a wrist band. A light activated. Holding her wrist in front of her, she shone light onto the ground. Stepping over broken glass and tangled rebar, she reached the steps. She grabbed hold of a rusted metal railing to steady herself. Reaching the top, she stood on a flat surface. There should have been a green station wagon here waiting. She turned, walking towards Market Street.

Reaching the corner, no longer protected by the structure, the St. Louis winter wind, hit her. Her eyes watered, her skin burned from the cold wind. Looking across the street, she saw statues, a man and a woman facing each other.  The fountain was turned off for winter, a reminder of the faded stately beauty of the abandoned train station. An inscription read, Meeting of the Waters, the confluence of the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers.

She heard a car horn, and turned. Sister Ahatu was pulling up.

She sat down in the warm station wagon and looked at the woman. She was elderly and thin. She wore a cotton shift and plain, gray wool coat. On her short gray hair, a modified veil was held in place by bobby pins.

Thin hands grabbed the steering wheel and turned the vehicle sharply to the left. “I’m breaking traffic rules,” she laughed as she made a U-turn, and headed west. “I don’t think you are dressed for the weather,” she added, reaching over, turning up the heat.

Batresh turned to her. “I need a better coat.”

“Welcome to St. Louis winter,” the nun responded. Batresh admired her. She had been in the order for centuries and seemed completely human. “Your audition is tomorrow afternoon at 4:00,” she nodded, smiling. The skin around her eyes creased and wrinkled. Dark spots on her hands showed 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.” Looking to her right, she saw a 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.”

“Oh,” Ahatu responded, realizing she would be thought to be a Catholic nun. “I’ll get one of the girls to drive you.”

A park appeared on the right, empty benches fixed to the ground around a baseball diamond. To her left she a parking lot, and a semi-circular structure with be shortened minarets at front corners. Bright lettering proclaimed, Checkerdome.

The nun turned on the signal light, 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, Princess.” She continued looking, her eyes moving up and down. “We have your clothes ready. I think we have the right size.” She stopped at a signal light. Batresh saw a diner with large windows, the dining room brightly lit. “Of course, you can stay with us the whole time if you want.”  They turned to the right onto Big Bend Boulevard.

Shortly, they turned onto a college campus. A white a gold sign read, St. Hypatia College for Women. They turned into a U-shaped drive. Three primary buildings made of rough-hewn brownstone abutted protected walkways between them, covered by roofs of green ceramic tiles. At the center of the drive was a modern, white plastered building, the library. They drove into the 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 faced 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 Blessed Mother, the Matriarch of the First Ones.

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