There’s a small cabin in the pines by a secluded lake in north Ontario. I had rented it for two weeks every summer for the last twelve years. The Belvedere it is called. When its owner passed, his wife wanted me to have it, so we made a deal and it is mine now. Its shingles are puckered and mossy, and the mortar between the cut logs is crumbling away. I’ll fix it though, because one day I hope to live in it.
I have furnished it with esoterica from my cluttered mind. Mementos from the movies, and music that I adore. A stuffed raccoon with a ray gun and ammo vest. A Palantir, its globe of glass ensconced in carved briarwood. The mother ship from Close Encounters. Cellophane flowers. An onion made of glass. A parking meter, and a guitar with a face painted on it (crying). Many more where those came from.
Some of these things had cost me dearly. Others I had bartered for. One that I got for nothing was a broken park bench. Its frame is of cast iron, still intact. All that was needed was some good stout lumber to fix it up. This I have done, and it is bolted solidly onto a flat rock near my shoreline.
It was early fall, and I had arrived quite late the night before, straight from my job in the city. I had not slept well, even though the peace here is immutable. I awoke, still in darkness, then stoked the fire and relit a couple of kerosene lamps (I am pretending to be a pioneer). Putting the percolator on the stovetop, I waited for the precious cup to warm my hands and my spirits.
As soon as the soft glow of dawn gave shape to my flagstone steps, I put on a warm sweater and jeans and went down to the bench by the still lake. It was that enchanting moment when the sparkling stars settle more deeply into midnight blue, and are then chided by our own star into cerulean.
A shallow blanket of mist hung above the waters, and I heard the eerie tremolo of loons conversing. Feathery breezes, competing for direction, were like warm caresses, and I wished a yearning wish to be part of some great story.
Just before full light, as I was searching out the singing loons, I spied a dark thing that seemed to swim quickly and aimlessly. Now in a line, now in wide circles. Noiseless, making little disturbance to the placid waters, it approached the sandy shoreline near me. When it rose from the lake, a scant distance away, I was surprised and taken aback by the silhouette of a woman both tall and lithe.
She came toward me with purpose and, as I rose in inquiry, she stood next to me, uttering not a word. Stupidly, I said “hello”, expecting a reply. Instead, she searched my face. I felt not a little discomfort, but could not help but return her gaze. I am usually good at telling a person’s age. With her, it was different. Dressed in a cotton shirt and shorts that had curious designs on them, her body appeared to be that of someone perhaps thirty years old, in the bloom of health. But her eyes, at once haughty but kind, gave one the feeling that they had seen many lives.
“Can I help you?” I said. Her eyes softened, and she gave a smile. “No” she said, in a silken basso voice. “But I may help you. May we sit?” As if in a dream, I remained standing, thinking, thinking. All at once I realized my rudeness and motioned her to sit. I had seen this person before. The long blonde hair. The tan legs. The inscrutable eyes. But, I thought, it is ridiculous. That was thirty years ago, and still she looks the same.
“I am Sarah”, she said, and I knew. I did not say my own name, for she knew.
“I will tell you some things”, she began. I knew not to speak, neither to answer nor to ask, as my night’s wishing grew in wonder.
“Scoop up some sand. Let it fall slowly between your fingers. Know that each grain is different from its brothers. Now, as you sit in this world with its wonders and its wars, its loves and its hate and its beauty, consider the sand. I tell you that there are as many worlds of life in God’s great galaxies as there are single grains of sand on every beach of this old Earth. Those that believe otherwise are mistaken.”
“Some of the peoples have been here. Some walk among you. Many more know of you, but do not come because of the savagery. Know that your Earth is on a knife edge between survival and cataclysm. There are many here that would give their very lives to save her. Find them. Join with them. This is your great story. Have courage. Prepare. The day is coming.”
With those words, Sarah rose to leave. Putting her hands upon my shoulders, she touched her forehead to mine. I could say nothing, but cupped one of her hands within my own.
And so she turned, and went back into the water. In the full day, she dove into the gentle waves. I never saw her surface.
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