Weekly Wednesday Serial: The Memory Book

Each Wednesday I publish a new scene from the novel I am calling “The Memory Book.”

Beatrix travels the time stream

The Memory Book, Scene 19

A Paddle Boat

Beatrix visited the time stream many times with Dante, but never alone, and she knows this because the moment she stepped into it, she remembered him.

And much, much more.

The ribbons grip her, swing her under and over, turning her body like a stag over a fire. She hears the grumble of time—a steady rolling sound of the cosmos, infinite, divine. The hairs on her body rise as if she is in an electron bath. There is a smell, of ozone and roses. At first, she is blind; only shreds of hues flash uncontrollably in nauseating swiftness. Then, slowly the ribbons accept her, as if they came only to grab and feel and know which one was for her.

The roiling stops. She is moving rapidly. Above is a vaulted ceiling of red that edges over to violet and then to blue before it steadies. A wind pulls her hair taut. She is lying on her back racing down a river of time.

There is someone with her. She can’t hear anything above the universe’s breath, nor can she see anybody, but she feels someone close; a vague touch against her left forearm as it floats beside her.

“Dante?”

Her voice rattles, bounces, pings off the ribbons. Somewhere there is laughter, as if time itself is amused at her bafflement.

There is no answer and Beatrix knows this would be impossible. Dante told her he can’t control time, only manipulate it for travel. He cannot undo what has been done, nor predict her future. But there is no need for that, he taught her, when one knows how useful time is in other ways.

She sits up. Dante had shown her how to move in the time stream. It isn’t easy, but a matter of will and imagination. Just imagine yourself sitting, and there you will be. He told her about any manner of chairs, recliners, thrones, benches or logs she may perch on. She chooses a swivel chair, so that she may face in the same direction the time current takes her. It was then that she sees Rosemary.

Beatrix inhales slowly, letting the fresh, invigorating air of the time stream fill her lungs. She had known Rosemary was following. She hoped that, when Rosemary saw the shimmer and shift of the world as she stepped through the portal, that the mortal woman would be too stunned to act.

But, I should have known better. Rosemary is no mere mortal, one could say.

The Dogs flank the woman. The Dogs do not appear to be perturbed by the time stream, as if they walk here every day. As far as Beatrix knows they do.

Beatrix is happy, however, to see the Rosemary is terrified. Rosemary’s eyes dart everywhere, as if she is blind. Perhaps she doesn’t see the Dogs, or Beatrix, or anything. The ribbons have calmed around her, too, as if understanding through some kind of linking mechanism that the mortal is with the Dogs who are with the angel. But Rosemary quivers and pants; her jaws clamp tightly together as she tries, Beatrix surmises, to control her fear.

“Oh dear,” Beatrix says, her voice echoing and alarmingly loud, “Let me assist.”

Rosemary’s arm flail and she lets out a moan, searching everywhere for the source of the Voice.

“Dogs, please assist this poor women into a chair.”

The Dogs obey, the Bitch gripping one of Rosemary’s shoulders in her massive jaws, and the Dog taking hold of one of her legs. They rotate her like a playground merry-go-round, and sit her up.

She flops back as soon as the Bitch lets go.

“Rosemary, you nearly fell out of your chair. Let me help you.”

Reaching, Beatrix touches the back of Rosemary’s neck and pushes gently.

“It’s very comfortable. A recliner upholstered in supple leather, a sort of mustard color.”

Gradually Rosemary settles, head back, feet raised and bent at the knees, arms limp upon the arm rests. Now, for the first time, she appears to see Beatrix.

“What is this place?” she asks hoarsely.

“A sort of highway. We won’t be here long.”

Indeed a she says this, the blue ribbons slow and separate from the rest. As if they float on river water, Beatrix, Rosemary and the Dogs veer toward where the arching wall seems to touch the time stream surface. This time stream, compared to some of the ones Dante introduced Beatrix to, is narrower than most, perhaps one of the many time stream tributaries that come and go. This one may have been summoned only for Beatrix to use. Dante was like that.

Knowing Dante’s sense of humor as well as she does, Beatrix wonders about the how of where they will emerge, much less the “when”.

“Hold steady, Rosemary,” Beatrix warns. “This might be quite a jolt.”

The ribbons power them through the wall. They tear through the wall like clowns jumping through a papered hoop.

And blessedly this transition was gentle, for when the colors settle, ribbons fade, smells shift and the cosmic rumbling ends, they find themselves floating on a vast pond bordered by a heavy wood.

The downside is that they are in a paddle boat. Their feet are wet, and very cold. The Dogs swim quickly to the shore, and Beatrix and Rosemary must bring themselves in alone.

“Where are we?” Rosemary’s voice is weak, but Beatrix knows this weakness won’t last.

“Somewhere.” The boat bumps against a small dock. There is a boat house, and other paddle boats tied up to it. No other paddlers are in sight. It appears to be winter; snow patches the ground and the air is icy.

As if to order, a column of smoke issues from the boat house. Nice touch, Dante, Beatrix thinks as she climbs from the boat and flips the rope around a cleat.

Rosemary sits frozen in the boat, peering around as if trying to judge the time of day and the latitude. But Rosemary walks away to the boat house, where the Dogs greet her, and goes inside to where it’s warm.

© Jill Zeller, April, 2020

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