A Soul Pilot Story by SFX
I am walking by the shores of a large inland lake that is grey, churned, forbidding. It is bitterly cold; the landscape is covered in snow, the sky is grey and sharp, hard sleet is hissing down, forced sideways by biting, icy winds.
I am walking on pebbles which are slippery with snow underfoot, and close to the water's edge, I see a single tent, animal skins over poles, battered, old, forsaken.
I look around but there is nothing here; there are pine forests, dark and foreboding; in the distance, there may be hills or mountains. I see no life, no sign of life, and there is nothing about this landscape that is even remotely supportive to my kind of existence in any way.
I sigh deeply, shield myself more profoundly against the ice cold, wet wind and sleet, and walk towards the tent.
As I come closer, I can see that it is shadowy; shape shifting; immaterial. The tent is hardly holding together, it will blow away soon, disappear, become nothing but a shadow and then nothing at all, and this time is close at hand.
I walk towards the tent on the lonely, bitter shore, and become aware that behind me, there are spirits; I don't need to turn around to know that these are elders, following me, come to give me support. I know that they have been here all along, watching and waiting, growing ever more sad as the tent becomes more and more fragile, immaterial, but there was nothing they could do - apart from put out a call for someone like me, someone who can bridge the divide and enter there, to see what they might find.
I tune out the elders and focus on the tent. As it shifts and flows, sometimes it reveals a little of the interior; it is so unstable already, even I can't enter into it any longer, I have to do something to hold it firm, strengthen it for at least as long as it will take me to do my work here.
I put out my hands and stabilise the tent. It takes a lot of energy but I feel that the elders behind me are feeding me, willing me on; I let this happen and I am glad of their support. The tent becomes more clearly defined; I can now see how old it is, how worn and patchy, how windblown and time sanded. I can feel the texture of the old dry animal skins beneath my hands and then it clicks into place and has arrived here, is holding its time/space here, but it is touch and go.
I enter the tent.
I see a young woman and three very young children, huddled close together under some skins, and they appear to be sleeping.
There is an old, dead fire; it is very cold in here, and there are but few possessions and even fewer furnishings; all they have is what they wear and what now covers them.
I awake the young woman.
She opens her eyes, looks at me, looks around, looks at the children closely snuggled to her and she says, "I am dead, aren't I."
I am shocked, for it is rarely so that those we go to find and help would have any awareness of that fact, or even be so present, and so very real.
I look into her brown eyes and say, "Yes, you are dead."
"And my children, they are dead also," she states, it is not a question.
"They too are dead, indeed. And have been for a long time."
She takes a shuddering sigh, sits up carefully and strokes the children, one at a time.
"It is my fault," she says. "I should have done something, I should have taken action. I was waiting for my husband, the father of the children to return with food and supplies, but he never did.
"And there was a moment when I knew I should do something now, that it was the last time I had to try and leave, try and find food or help, but I let that moment pass.
"I told the children we would wait for their father, and to go to sleep until he would return.
"It is my fault that they are dead."
Outside the tent, I can feel the icy showers continuing, the wind's hard pushing waves upon waves, like that cold, foreboding water of the lake, and I can sense the elders humming.
I tell her, "You must go now. You must leave here, and at once. Time is collapsing in on itself; if you don't leave now, all your spirits will be lost."
The girl - and she is no more than a girl, she can't be more than 14, 15 summers herself - shakes her head.
"I don't deserve to go. I killed my children. What else can there be for me but to lose my spirit in suffering?"
I tell her sternly, "You made a decision. Whether that was the right decision, or the wrong one, we are not to know.
"This life is over for all of you, for better or for worse. It was, as it was.
"But there are more paths for you to travel, and for each one of your children, too.
"We must go outside, and we must do this now."
As in response to my statement, the tent shivers and ripples for a moment and becomes seethrough; and the girl can see the elders outside.
She draws back sharply.
"I can't go there," she says, fear in her voice making her breathless, "Not after what I've done ..."
I look down at the youngest of her children, a small baby, now nestled in her lap, sweetly asleep or so it seems, a tiny fist in front of a tiny rosebud mouth.
"You can't not go," I say to her. "You must save your children's spirits, if nothing else."
She looks up at me and her eyes are enormous. Pleadingly she says, "You take the children, you take them with you. Leave me here. I have nothing now, nothing left, there is no path for me to travel."
I think about it but I know that's not good enough. They are a soul group. It's all or nothing.
I ask her name.
She tells me that her name is Moon Deer and I get a sense of her being unusual, having visions, having the gift of the second sight herself.
I address her once more and say urgently, "Moon Deer, there are many, many souls out there across time and space. There aren't many of my kind, not in comparison. To be sent here to you means something. It means that someone, somewhere wants you to go on, do something else.
"Perhaps you are to become someone like me one day, someone who helps others because we truly understand what it's like to be so lost.
"I do know one thing though - the instant you step outside of this tent, that life will be in the past.
"Everything about it will be done, and over.
"Just the same as you leave your bodies, all your clothes and the furs, your sea shell necklace and your name behind, you leave all the errors and misunderstandings, all the decisions you made, good or bad.
"That is how it is, and that is what must be done, and done so now."
The girl nods and takes a deep shuddering breath. She picks up the sleeping baby from her lap and invites me to take the child from her, without looking at me.
I take the little bundle which is light as light itself; there is hardly any substance left, just a thin shell with a very small fire burning inside at the edge of extinction.
Moon Deer gently strokes the other two children and whispers, "Wake up my little ones, it is time to go."
The two small children half awaken; they are as though in dreams and the girl comes out from under the old skins, sighs again deeply, then bends to take the children's hands, one either side, and encourages them likewise to their feet.
I step aside to make sure she will go through first, out of the tent, which is moaning and rippling, tearing and so finally, she steps into outside and I follow her.
There is no snow, no sleet. There is no icy wind, no merciless lake here.
All is blue and green, verdant; we step into luscious deep green grass and above the sky is endless, perfect blue, and the sun is shining.
The air is sweet and fragrant, and there are the elders, looking bright and colorful in their traditional garb, in their many decorations, and they are smiling at the girl.
The girl is changing.
Her shape is beginning to unravel, drift away, as though she was made of smoke.
I hand her the baby but the waiting arms are arms no more; they are strands of light as she indeed begins to leave her life of old behind; and as her shape falls away, so do the shapes of the children, and the shapes of the elders too; now, all are made from light and moving towards one another, and I can no longer tell who is old or young, or who is who.
The landscape too begins to fall away now, to resolve to brightest light and this is right and I sigh with pleasure as all of that resolves and everything now finds its rightful place, and just before I leave I think I feel a loving touch, a gift, perhaps a feather.
SFX May 2009