The Holy Ground Highlander Forum Midweek Challenge
Archivist’s Note: The stories and vignettes offered here from various Forumlanders have not been edited or changed other than having a spell-check performed and being reformatted for this website.
The Challenge by Leah CWPack
Now and Then by Palladia
Jung at Heart by Leslie Fish
Therapy by Ysanne
Password of Time by Leslie Fish
Time Heals All Wounds by bookmom
An Unexpected Meeting by Friend of Methos
MID-WEEK CHALLENGE: FOREVER JUNG
Your challenge, should you decide to participate:
Write a short story or scene involving a Highlander Immortal or Immortals, and a psychiatrist or psychologist. Any mood will do.
Remember to include "MWC" in the subject line of your entry, before the title, if you wish to have your effort archived online.
MWC: Now and Then
"So, Mr. Pierson, let's start with the easy stuff. How old are you?"
"Fifty," Adam replied, and silently appended, "centuries."
Dr. Jackson's eyebrows shot up in surprise. "You're certainly holding up well."
The man sitting across the desk seemed quite relaxed, and smiled deprecatingly. "Good genes."
"Evidently. So, tell me about your father."
"I never knew him."
"Well, then, your mother," the psychiatrist went on.
"Doctor, I'm afraid I was a foundling."
"Well, but somebody raised you."
"I was a village's child. You know the saying? 'It takes a village. . .' "
"Where was this village?" Jackson was feeling somewhat wary.
"Uzbekistan. We were nomads." So there were no records, Adam smiled inside himself, no addresses, no maps, and nobody to verify or dispute my tale.
Dr. Jackson favored the man whose legal sanity he was supposed to evaluate with a wry grin. Pierson didn't fidget, he showed appropriate affect, he seemed perfectly affable. . . and perfectly opaque.
"Mr. Pierson, do you know why we're here?" Dr. Jackson prided himself on a partnership in therapy.
The faintest knowing smile curved the mouth of the man on the other side of the desk. He relaxed into a slouch, stretching long legs toward the desk, and interlaced his fingers across his flat belly. "We are here to determine whether I am of diminished capacity to stand trial for murder."
Jackson mirrored Pierson's position, slouched in his own chair, and laced his fingers over his own regrettably more ample belly. In for a dime, in for a dollar, he considered, and asked, "Are you?"
"I'm afraid I'm rather thoroughly compos mentis. Alas."
"But you decapitated a man."
"You are familiar with the phrase, him or me?"
"Are you claiming self-defense?"
"Yes." Adam Pierson looked at him with disconcerting directness.
"Then why are you here?"
"It seems that my attorney considers this a more viable defense."
There was a pause in the conversation as the men considered each other. To give Jackson time to look him over, Adam pretended to consider the diplomas and awards on the office wall. Impressive.
"So, Mr. Pierson, what did you do in Uzbekistan?"
"I was a horseman."
"In this day and age?"
"In any day and age. That's what we did."
"You used horses for transportation? Mr. Pierson, it's the twenty-first century."
"Just a few years ago, it was the twentieth century. What's a century, more or less? There are places, I assure you, where the twenty-first century has yet to make an appearance."
"Some paleoarchaeologist thinks that horses were first domesticated in Uzbekistan. I saw a review of her book."
"Yes, I saw it, too," Adam replied. And I told her just where to go look for the proofs. GPS systems are so handy in places like that.
"What do you think?"
"I think it's very probable. The steppes, the horses, the nomads: we were made for each other."
"So, Mr. Pierson, as a horseman, what did you do?"
"Cared for the mares and foals. Saw to their matings. Rode in races sometimes. Played the odd game on horseback. Hunted game. Flew falcons. Drank a lot of kvass. Killed people."
"What do you mean, 'killed people?'" It was all Jackson could do to keep from sitting up alertly.
"Oh, you know. Now and then. For sport, for wars, out of boredom. Don't you want to know about the racing, the falconing? They're really interesting sports."
"We're not here because of horseracing or falconing. We're here because you killed someone, and evidently you don't deny it."
"I can't very well deny it. I was caught red-handed. Literally."
Jackson had no reason to think the heating in the room had suddenly failed, but he was nonetheless chilled. "Just how many people have you killed?"
"I have no idea." Pierson's face was still, watchful. Here was where the truth would serve far better than a lie. He'd spent a few years in some of the world's best - and worst - institutions, and perhaps another vacation was now in order.
And the truth shall set you free, Adam decided, and began calmly to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.
He could almost read Dr. Jackson's report on him before a word was put to paper, and it certainly ought to show him to be a madman nonpareil.
He could taste the bad cooking already.
MWC: JUNG AT HEART
Posted By: Leslie Fish <email@example.com>
Date: Thursday, 13 June 2002, at 7:03 a.m.
The shy young man standing at the back of the crowd of post-lecture questioners was oddly familiar. The lecturer found himself drawn to that face, and brushed off the rest of the crowd as quickly as he politely could. When no one was left but his secretary, who was occupied with fetching their coats, the young man finally stepped forward to introduce himself.
"Dr. Jung, I'm William Adams, and I'd like to ask you a few questions about...the Collective Unconscious."
"Adams..." That name rang a bell. Dr. Jung let his associations collect. What they gave him was a solid image, but not from his waking life. Just to be certain, he asked: "Have we met before?"
The young man frowned and studied him carefully. "I'm sure we haven't, sir," he said.
Yet that voice too was familiar. *The psychic phenomenon of 'deja vu',* Dr. Jung considered. "Ah. And what is your question, young man?"
William Adams smiled fleetingly. "I'd like to ask your opinion on the archetype of immortality," he said.
The doctor smiled. "The obvious meaning is simply the desire for life. No one wishes to age, sicken and die. Who would not wish to enjoy life forever? It is a universal desire."
"Then there's nothing more to it than wishful thinking?" The young man's smile was back, and there was something subtly ironic in it.
The doctor let his 'internal sense' flow, certain that once again it would lead him to the truth. "Indeed there is," he answered. "There are many kinds of immortality, when one thinks about it."
"Such as?" Young Adams hadn't moved, but somehow his posture now expressed intense eagerness.
"Certainly. There is immortality of the genes, which all living things possess. There is immortality through works, which humans -- particularly artists -- strive for. There is immortality in the body, which is the legend you speak of--"
"Ah, then you don't believe it was ever real?" Adams' smile took on something more than irony.
Dr. Jung felt distinctly the pull of his internal sense, what he privately called 'the well of synchronicity', and let it guide him. "If it never was," he answered, "Someday it will be. Our understanding of nature increases by the year, and what humanity strives for so passionately, it will eventually possess."
Adams nodded to himself, as if reassured.
The doctor felt impelled to ride his internal vision further. "And there is also immortality of the soul, which all cultures have believed in."
"More wishful thinking." That ironic smile was back.
"Possibly not." Now the doctor knew where he'd met this man before. It was impossible, of course, unless his private theories were correct. "I have studied, with great interest, cases of reincarnation."
"Cases?" Adams suddenly looked wary. "Verifiable cases, sir?"
"Indeed." The doctor smiled. "There is a surprising amount of evidence for it -- not easy to find, I grant you, since modern science cannot admit to it and therefore ignores such evidence whenever possible. Nonetheless, I have seen enough to convince myself."
Adams gave him a wary look. "You're certain this isn't wishful thinking, again?"
"Not on my part." Dr. Jung shrugged. "Frankly, I would prefer to believe in Heaven and Hell. I assure you, it was the evidence that convinced me."
"But doesn't convince your colleagues," Adams guessed.
*Gamble,* thought the doctor. *Leap boldly into the unknown, and trust him.* "My colleagues, sir, do not even admit to evidence of psychic phenomena. Yet again, I have found it convincing."
Adams blinked, looking distinctly off-balance. "I am...surprised to meet a modern rationalist who believes such," he murmured.
Jung snorted. "Modern rationalists, my earnest friend, have as many prejudices as medieval witch-hunters, only tending in different directions."
Adams laughed. "I won't dispute you there, sir."
"It is prejudice, and nothing else, which ignores evidence," the doctor went on. "A rational person must examine all the evidence, no matter what its relationship to his own theories. Even the supposedly irrelevant or trivial can yield surprising information."
"Such as?" Adams cocked his head, definitely intrigued.
*Now,* said the doctor's internal sense. "For example: all my life I have had visions, daydreams if you will, of other times and places. These seemed to be nothing but self-generated fancies -- until I made the effort to record them in detail, and then check the details against historical records."
Adams went utterly still. "And what did you find, sir?" he asked quietly.
"I found that my daydreams had been amazingly accurate -- and they concerned eras and places that I had never studied. There was no way I could have gained such information save by psychic means: either by access to some vast psychic record of all the lives ever lived, or else by reincarnation. There is no other logical conclusion."
Adams gave him a long fathomless look. "You're saying that...either there is 'magic' or there are...immortal souls."
Something in his stance told the doctor that this man badly wanted proof, at least solid evidence, and he would ruthlessly resist anything that smacked of 'wishful thinking'. Again, that internal sense told him that he had the answer. Dr. Jung relaxed into the feeling and let his words flow.
"Consider: in one of my visions I saw none other than yourself, sir -- different in dress, but identical in features and voice."
"Me?" Adams had gone dead still again. "And just when and where did this vision place me?"
*Flow...* "Heidelberg, medical school, almost exactly 300 years ago. Then, too, you were called Adam."
Adams turned white as a sheet.
Dr. Jung knew that his internal sense had struck truth again. "Ah, and have you seen the same vision, then?"
Adams nodded slowly, staring at him. "I...remember something like that, yes."
"There is your evidence, then." The doctor smiled. "Make of it what you will."
Adams nodded once, jerkily. "Either psychic power is real, or souls are," he whispered.
"Or both," the doctor shrugged. "Does this help answer your question about immortality?"
Adams visibly shook himself. "Actually," he murmured, "It raises others."
"Excellent," Jung beamed. "The mark of a true scholar."
"Thank you," Adams mumbled, turning away. He didn't appear to move fast, yet his stride ate up space.
The doctor watched him go, getting the impression that Adams wasn't truly so young after all. He had the feeling of an old soul. A very old soul, indeed.
“Want another?” asked the doctor, tilting the flask of single-malt toward Duncan.
“Nah, I’m fine. You often bring along your own medication?”
“Physician, heal thyself,” quoted the doctor with a smile.
Duncan stretched his long legs out in the sleeping bag and folded his arms behind his head, gazing upward. The stars were starkly bright in a cloudless sky, beautiful to see after living in the city. On the other side of the campfire his friend rustled around busily, then Duncan heard the doctor draw up the heavy zipper to close his own bag.
“Fine,” said the doctor.
Duncan could sense him ready and listening in the silence. After a few moments Duncan said quietly, “Glad you were free to come.”
“You know that I like to camp.”
“I know that you always make time for me. Sean, I don’t mean to get in touch only when I have something on my mind. I hope you know that.”
“I do. We’ve spent many a dissolute evening together though the years, or are you trying to forget those red-haired twins in Vienna?”
“I swear, if you bring them up one more time…! Aren’t you supposed to be building up my ego instead of embarrassing me to death?”
“Immortals don’t die of embarrassment,” the doctor chuckled, “though I suppose there’s always a first time.” After a moment the deep voice spoke again, infinitely gentle. “They don’t die of broken hearts either, Duncan. Need I remind you of that?”
Duncan swallowed hard, blinking back the quick, hot pressure of unshed tears. “No,” he said, forcing the word through the tightness in his throat.
“No,” repeated the doctor kindly, “your mind is clear on that point, but your heart is still uncertain of the truth of it. An uncertain heart, and a broken one, Duncan, is a heavy burden. Lay it down. Lay it down and let me watch over it just for tonight.”
In the circle of firelight there was silence broken only by the rise and fall of insect voices and the pop and hiss of flames. The doctor closed his eyes, waiting. Finally, he heard a deep sigh, and the rustle of a sleeping bag. He opened his eyes to see Duncan looking at him from the other side of the fire. He met the dark, troubled eyes, warm affection clearly showing through the professional mask of calm interest.
“Sean, did I ever mention Jakob Galati? He and his wife Irena were gypsies, and I spent time with their clan.”
“You’ve been friends for many years,” Sean said.
“Yes. Now they’re dead, and I have Jacob’s Quickening.” Duncan’s voice held a mixture of anger and sadness.
“No! No, you don’t. I didn’t fight him, but I was there when he was murdered. Mortals. They cut off his head and I was there.”
“And his Quickening found you.” Sean’s sharp eyes saw the shudder that moved through the other man.
“God. That’s one way to put it. It was my fault that he was there. I trusted someone that I shouldn’t have, and he delivered Jakob right into the hands of those murderers. He and someone else.” The last few words were husky with suppressed emotion.
“You cared about Jakob, and about the others, too.”
There was a rough breath of humorless laughter from Duncan.
“Yeah. When will I ever learn?”
“To stop trusting, or to stop caring?”
“I dunno. Maybe both. Either way brings disaster to someone I love.”
“Disaster is a human condition, Duncan. Do you think you can protect the people you love from disaster?”
“Why can’t I? What’s the point if I can’t make a difference? What’s the bloody point?”
“You make a difference because you care, and because you trust. It’s who you are, Duncan.”
“But it’s not enough, Sean! I tried so hard to make it all right, but it all fell apart. I trusted them, but they didn’t trust me. Except Jakob. He trusted me and he died for it.”
“You tried to tell the others what to do, and they wouldn’t listen.”
“Why should they listen to me?” Duncan said with heavy sarcasm. “I’m only their friend.”
“Friends listen to one another. They trust in each other.”
“Yes! They’re supposed to! Why didn’t they?”
“Did they say why?”
Silence filled the camp once more. The doctor looked up at the stars, not at Duncan, until the hesitant voice came.
“They said…they said it was him or me.”
“And they made their choice,” said the doctor, holding Duncan's gaze, “which meant death for Jakob, and life for you.”
Duncan nodded, and turned his face away.
“You’d rather make those choices for yourself,” Sean said quietly, “even if it means risking your life.”
“You understand. Why didn’t they?”
“Perhaps they did,” Sean suggested, feeling a moment of empathy for the nameless friends who had chosen life for Duncan, even at the risk of their friendship.
Duncan turned to his side and stared into the fire. The doctor knew that Duncan would spend weeks thinking things through. It was his way, just as forgiving his friends was his way. He sent a little prayer of thanks into the starry void for Duncan’s friends.
MWC: PASSWORD OF TIME
Posted By: Leslie Fish <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: Friday, 14 June 2002, at 2:30 p.m.
Sean Burns shoveled some more coals onto the grate, set down the scoop and returned to the sofa beside his guest. He took care to lift his glass and take a ritual sip of the brandy before saying anything.
Sure enough, the comfortable silence prodded Methos into speech. "I hope you're no longer overcrowded with casualties from the war," he ventured.
"No, thank God," Sean agreed. "We're back to mostly civilian cases now. We even have room to spare, for a change." *No more hint than that. Under that suave exterior he's incredibly skittish.* "What name are you using again? I have trouble keeping track of them."
"Adam Walters, for the moment." Methos smiled briefly and took a reasonable sip from his glass.
*Some variation on 'Adam' for the past century now,* Sean considered. *The barest clue to his real identity. He's slowly growing less paranoid.* "So, what merry adventures have you had since I saw you last?"
Methos favored him with an arched eyebrow. "You know I avoid adventure like the plague. Given a choice, I'll always choose the quietest place I can find."
*Try another approach. He wants my help, or he wouldn't be here, but he's still painfully cautious.* "Well, what marvelous knowledge have you studied, then?"
Methos gave him an arch smile that only an experienced eye could have called brittle. "I hope you won't be jealous if I tell you I've been keeping track of developments in psychiatry."
*Aha!* "Not at all," Sean laughed. "If you get a degree in it, come work for me. We can always use another resident. And, being a religious hospital, this is holy ground." *Reassure him, but be subtle.*
"I don't think I have the temperament..." Methos carefully set his glass on the table. The tension in his neck was noticeable. "Simply as a study, though, I find it fascinating. What can you tell me about techniques for regaining...lost memories?"
*So that's it!* "There are enough to fill a book, and new ones being discovered every day. The trick is to choose one that fits your situation. It would be easier to show you than to explain..." *Careful. Wait for it.*
But Methos only laughed and looked away. "I'll have to wait for the book then. When you finish it, be sure to give me an autographed copy."
*Evading, but not running too far.* "Gladly," Sean promised. "What else interests you?"
Methos gazed at the fire, his fingers unconsciously knitting together. "Finding the causes of inexplicable phobias," he said expressionlessly.
"Same problem," Sean said, very gently. "One has to choose a technique that fits the problem, and the sufferer. Give me an example." *Careful!*
Methos drew a deep breath and turned to look at him. "I'm afraid of the sea," he said, all in a rush.
*Breakthrough!* Sean nodded sympathetically. "I suppose you've already looked for painful memories connected with it."
"Yes, and found a few." Methos laughed dryly. "A woeful tendency to mal-de-mer, for one thing."
"Understandable," Sean chuckled with him.
"And a nasty incident with a boat-load of Irish monks, in the eleven-hundreds, for another." Methos grimaced, and took a quick mouthful of brandy. "I had the bad luck to heal in front of them, and they promptly fell to arguing over whether I was a witch or a demon."
"Ah. At least they could't burn you at the stake."
"They actually considered it, but the Captain refused to allow it -- in no uncertain terms. He also objected to their spilling my blood on his deck. So they ended by throwing me into the sea." Methos took another, more leisurely sip. "I wouldn't have minded so much, if the water hadn't been freezing cold. I froze, then drowned, a dozen times before I finally reached land."
"Nasty indeed," Sean agreed. "I should think that would also give you a serious dislike of cold water, small wooden ships, and Irish monks."
"I've always disliked cold," Methos shrugged, "But I'm not afraid of it. Or of ships, or monks -- Irish or not."
"So that's not the reason, then."
"And I don't know what is." Methos fixed his eyes on the fire. "I've searched my memories, and all I've found is...a lot of gaps."
"I see." *Traumatic amnesia, doubtless.* "Then there are two possibilities. Either some unpleasant incident is hiding in one of those gaps, or else the sea is only a symbol of something else you fear. Which do you think it is?"
Methos rested his chin on his interlaced fingers and thought for a long moment. "I don't think it's symbolic," he finally answered. "For me, the sea doesn't represent anything else. It's entirely itself, its own creature..."
*"Creature"?* Sean's ears picked up. "Does it have a mind of its own?"
"Yes," Methos whispered, staring at the fire as if hypnotized by the low blue flames.
"What is that mind like?"
"Treacherous!" Methos hissed. "Looking so calm and peaceful and inviting, just waiting for you to come within reach, and then it--"
He flinched violently, knocking into the table. The brandy sloshed indignantly in its glass. Sean reached out and wrapped an arm around his shoulders, feeling him shudder. It took long moments for his breathing to quiet.
"What did you see?" Sean asked softly. "What did it do?"
"I'm not sure." Methos gave him a quick glance, revealing a mix of fear and determination. "I didn't see anything, as such... Only an impression: the sea, turning into a giant monster, reaching out to grab people and crush them." He shivered again.
*"Crush"? Not drown? And twice now he's said "reach".* "Think. How can the sea reach out and grab people?"
Methos flinched again. "--n'retre-- I don't know!" he gasped. "I don't know!"
"Easy, easy..." Sean squeezed his shoulders comfortingly, mind racing. *You don't know? When even I can make a few guesses? And what was that word? Latin roots... 'Ne', negative: 'no'. 'Retre...' Return, back? 'Don't' something 'back'? "Don't go back" or "don't look back"?* He could all but see the edges of the barrier. Now to get around it. "Gently now, pull back, back to a safe distance."
Methos nodded acquiescence and reached for the brandy again. He drained the glass before he set it down again. "Obviously some nasty incident I've carefully forgotten," he muttered. "Raiders from the sea, perhaps."
*Not people: the sea itself,* Sean corrected. "There are other ways to come at this," he said calmly, pushing the table away. He pulled a small throw-pillow up from the corner of the sofa and set it on his lap. "Here, kick off your shoes and make yourself comfortable. Off with that jacket, and the tie. Loosen your collar and unbutton your sleeves."
"Comfortable?" Methos snorted, but did as he was bid. "There," he said, wriggling his liberated toes. "What's the next step?"
Sean patted the throw-pillow. "Lie down and put your head in my lap."
Methos gave him an almost offended look. "Lie down on the psychiatrist's couch, is it? How clichéd."
"Sofa, actually," Sean grinned. "And it's simply more comfortable than the floor."
"What's the point of lying down, anyway?"
"Just so that you can relax and concentrate."
"Hmm..." Methos looked around the room, eyes staying briefly on the sturdy latched door, the walls lined with floor-to-ceiling bookcases, the modest crucifix above the fireplace. Obviously he was reminding himself that this was Sean's private study, no one would come in, the walls were effectively soundproofed, and this was holy ground. Last, his eyes rested long on Sean, judging him to be an old friend, and trustworthy. He sighed, stretched out on the sofa and laid his head gingerly on the pillow. "Now what?" he asked, partly flippant, partly afraid.
"Next," said Sean, holding out one arm, "Take hold of my hand."
Methos gingerly took it, gripped briefly, then relaxed. Sean gently rested his other hand on Methos' forehead, and waited to see if the man complained or tried to twitch it away. Methos didn't; he only kept wary eyes fixed on Sean's face.
"Now, do you trust me?" Sean asked.
Methos blinked, but his gaze didn't waver. "Yes," he said -- then smiled wryly. "And not just because we're on holy ground."
Sean grinned back, accepting. "Now the big question," he said. "How much do you want to lose this fear?"
"Very much." Methos frowned. "It...interferes with my ability to travel, and in this day and age that could be dangerous." His expression shaded into anger. "Besides...I'm ashamed of it."
"And angry at it?"
"Good." Sean stroked his hair, once, then returned his hand to its starting-point. "This fear is an enemy, and you want to fight it. That means you don't obey it, don't let it command you, don't let it stop you until you've dug out its roots and destroyed it. Can you see it that way?"
"Yes..." Methos' eyes narrowed, as if fixing on an opponent. "What's my weapon?"
*Good! Very good.* "We'll start with imagination," said Sean. "Close your eyes and imagine that you're sitting in a cinema-theatre."
Methos raised a questioning eyebrow, but dutifully closed his eyes.
"You're the only person in the audience, because this is a private showing. You're talking to me through a telephone headset, and you command the projection-booth through a series of buttons on a board." Sean gently squeezed his hand on Methos'.
"How very modern," Methos muttered, smiling, not opening his eyes. His fingers pressed and Sean's hand, as if poking buttons on a board.
"You can run the film forward, or freeze it at any particular frame, or rewind it, or speed it ahead to the next scene." Sean carefully noted which of Methos' fingers pressed his hand at each suggestion. "You must tell me everything that's happening in the film. You understand?"
"Yes, oh theatre-critic," Methos smiled. "What's the film about?"
"Curtain going up. The opening scene is, from the camera's point of view, you're sitting on a low hill overlooking a beach, in bright daylight, looking out at the ocean. It's calm, low waves, nothing's happening."
Methos frowned slightly, but didn't move. "I see it."
"Let the scene progress, viewer. Tell me what else you see."
Methos barely twitched one eyebrow. "People," he murmured. "Digging up clams, crabs...with sticks. Some horses grazing nearby. Seagulls diving for fish."
"It sounds lovely and peaceful. Keep watching. Tell me what happens."
"Nothing yet..." Then a long silence.
Sean waited, noting a slight pressure from the "forward" finger. Then a sudden tightening of muscles--
"Saliot!" Methos shouted, lunging under Sean's hands. He snapped his eyes open, and they were wide with panic.
*Latin? Something older?* "Freeze the scene!" Sean commanded, gratified to feel Methos' hand clench on his. "Tell me what you see."
"It jumped!" Methos fixed his eyes on Sean's face, struggling to hold the memory clear. "The sea-- The horizon-- It jumped up! I saw it!"
"Scary film," Sean soothed, stroking Methos' forehead. He didn't dare let himself tremble, though he could guess what was coming.
"I don't think I want to watch this film anymore." Methos' voice was a little calmer, but still shaky. "I think I can guess the rest of the plot."
"Don't let the fear win," said Sean, meeting Methos' eyes. "Don't let it drive you away. There's knowledge to be gained here. Don't let the fear keep you from it."
Methos took several deep breaths, visibly fighting his chosen enemy. Finally that determined look spread over his face, and he pressed his head back into the pillow. "Now what?" he whispered.
"Close your eyes. You're back in the theatre. Roll the film forward, and go on reporting."
Methos closed his eyes, and his fingers pressed briefly. His breathing was still fast and harsh. "It's coming," he whispered. "The sea, rising up...rushing toward us. Everyone sees. They turn, run..." His body tensed, legs twitching. "I'm running. The horses-- Seize the nearest by his mane, leap on him. Kick hard. Gallop. Up the slope. Run. The roar..."
His body tensed and began to twist blindly. Sean strained to hold him. A thin wail threaded from between his bared teeth.
"Don't let the fear stop you," Sean whispered. "Go on."
"So loud," Methos gasped. "Like thunder. Shadow on the ground-- Cold spray-- Look-- No!" He arched up under Sean's hands.
"Freeze the picture!" Sean shouted, bending close to wrap his arms around Methos. "Tell me what you see."
"IT'S RIGHT BEHIND ME!!!" Methos' scream rattled off the fireplace.
He thrashed wildly in Sean's grip, pulling them both off the sofa. All Sean could do was hold on and try to make the landing soft, then pin Methos against the carpet and wait until the struggles slacked down.
"Freeze the picture," Sean repeated in Methos' ear. "What do you see?"
Methos groaned in exhausted terror. "Mountain...moving mountain...black water...arched up like a hand...and it's coming down."
"Tidal wave," Sean gave it a name. "And you had never seen nor heard of such a thing before."
Methos shuddered, but said nothing.
Sean took a deep breath and tightened his grip. "Roll film," he said. "Tell me what happens."
Methos shuddered again, harder, and began struggling vaguely. "Water..." he sobbed. "The water...crushing..." Abruptly he went limp.
*He died, that time,* Sean guessed, and loosened his arms. He lifted Methos' head into his lap and stroked his forehead, gently, repeatedly, waiting. The hiss and crackle of the fire sounded loud in the silence.
Eventually Methos stirred. He blinked, and looked up at Sean with puzzled eyes. "What happened?" he asked, as if he'd forgotten.
"The tidal wave caught you," Sean said, very calmly. "You drowned."
Methos flinched, then trembled hard, remembering. "Yes..."
"Tell me, which was worse: the dying or the instant before?"
Methos thought that over for a long moment. "The instant before," he decided. "The terror... Gods! The dying was only pain, and it didn't last long."
Sean took hold of Methos' hand again. "Was that your first death?"
"No," Methos said absently, "I'd been fans-theauna for a long time before..."
*'Fans-theauna'?* Sean filed that away for future reference. "Roll film," he said gently. "What happened when you revived."
Methos squeezed his eyes shut. Tears leaked out of them. "Wet...cold...fog everywhere...mud...desolation. Uprooted trees. Bits of brush. Seashells. Dead fish. A dead horse. Seaweed. Everything stinking of the sea... Silence. Nothing moving. Nothing alive...but myself."
Sean paused, wondering if this was the right moment to venture into Survivor’s Guilt. He could see no way to avoid it. "And...those people? The ones on the beach, digging clams..."
"Gone!" Methos groaned. "All swept away! I outran them, and they all died. I ran..."
*Yes.* "And you died, too. The only difference is that you revived, and they didn't. You ran, and they ran, and you all died just the same. It didn't matter if you ran fast or slow, on foot or on a horse; you all died."
Methos trembled in waves, absorbing that. "It didn't matter..." he murmured. "We all died... But I found no other bodies! The sea ate them all, but I stayed on land because I was faster-- got to a horse before they did--"
"How do you know? How thoroughly did you search for their bodies?"
A long pause, then a slow look of surprise dawned on Methos' face. "I didn't search at all," he admitted. "Walked uphill...away from the sound of the sea. Standing trees...forest... I finally reached dry ground. Found berries, a stream. Slept under a pine tree."
"Speed the film forward. Did you ever go back to that beach, see what had changed?"
"No!" Methos winced and curled into himself. "They were all dead. That life was gone. No past. Look only forward. I went on, other lands, other people. Dry lands, new language. Start again..."
Sean recalled an earlier mystery. "What does 'n'retre' mean?"
Methos winced again. "'Ne retre vide'," he whispered. "Don't look back."
"For fear of what you'll see?"
"Yes!" Methos curled tighter, and sobs began shaking him.
Sean gathered his friend into his arms and rocked him gently, riding out the spasm of weeping. *Terror, grief, survivor's guilt,* he considered. *Grief is winning out. Follow there.*
He waited out the long minutes until the sobs sank away, then said: "Freeze film. Now roll it back. Bach beyond the tidal wave. Back before the people came down to the beach and started digging clams. Go to where they're just starting down toward the sea. Can you see them?"
"Yes," Methos whispered, relaxing out of his tight curl.
"Who are they? What people?"
"Djana-os-gen..." Methos started, as if surprised to hear himself say those words. He thought for a moment. "Related to the Carians, I think. West of Caria, on the south shore of...Anatolia. We knew of Troy, and Knossos..."
"Where?" Sean puzzled at the unfamiliar name.
Methos gasped and sat up, eyes wide. "My God, I think I know when that was! Knossos hadn't fallen-- The tidal wave-- It must have been from the eruption! It couldn't have been... No later than 1250 BC, if the archeologists are right. It could have been earlier..."
*3800 years ago.* Sean marveled. *A long time to carry a phobia around!* "So now you know when, and where, and who. All that remains is, what were those people to you?"
Methos bowed his head. "My people," he said softly. "A gentle and kindly people. They accepted me. I was happy there."
*"Accepted"?* "For how long?"
"Six generations. I was..." Methos froze and stared blindly at the wall, jaw dropping.
"Six generations?!" Sean gasped. "Then they knew-- Methos, what were you to them?"
Slowly, Methos managed to shape the words. "Fans-theauna," he whispered. "Child of the Goddess."
"You were their god?!"
Methos shook his head slowly. "Divine Hero," he corrected. "Priest, war-chief if they needed one, official risk-taker -- because I could. People knew about immortals in those days. They knew, and they weren't afraid!"
"Then all the old myths, about gods and divine heros and-- and--"
"Yes. They were us."
Sean stared at his old friend for a long time. "When did it change?" he finally asked.
"Not long after." Methos gave him a look full of ancient sorrow. "New people, coming down from the north. New ideas -- conquest, might-makes-right, male supremacy, overthrowing the goddesses... And iron. The Age of Iron. It wasn't just the technology, it was a whole different way of thinking. The philosophical beginning of the modern age, with all its cruelties."
"I recall an ancient Greek myth to that effect.."
Methos pulled up his knees and rested his forehead on them. "There's more truth in those ancient myths than you'd believe, Sean. The symbolism..." He shuddered. "It's too damned apt! The shadow that fell on me that day fell over the world in centuries after. The wave that swept away my people also swept away a whole age of the world. It's been a darker, meaner world ever since. No wonder our kind had to go into hiding. No wonder...a lot of things."
Sean rested a hand on Methos' shoulder, hoping it gave some comfort. "I'd love to know what that earlier world was like," he said.
"I'll tell you some time," Methos promised, "Some time when it doesn't hurt so much."
He raised his head and looked around him, seeming surprised to find himself on the floor. He pulled himself back onto the sofa and began slowly rolling down and fastening his sleeves.
Sean got back on the sofa beside him. "Do you think you'll still fear the sea?"
"No," Methos sighed, reaching for his shoes. "I'll just dislike it, and never trust it, and now I'll know why."
"And have we filled in that gap in your memory?"
"Yes..." Methos thought for a moment. "There are still others, but now at least I have some notion of why they're there."
"Whenever you're ready..." Sean hinted, and stopped.
"Eventually," Methos promised. "Maybe next year. One...'scary film' per year is all I think I can take."
"Same time next year, then." Sean smiled. "I'll schedule it on my appointment calendar."
"I'll make a note of it." Methos worked his way into his tie, then jacket. Only when he stood up and moved toward the coat-rack did Sean realize that he meant to leave.
*So soon?* he thought sadly. *Still so afraid, my old friend?* "Before you go, could you answer one more question?"
"If I can." Methos stood poised, close-faced, unwilling to give away any more of himself.
Sean sighed. "You said the tidal wave was caused by an eruption. What was it that erupted, can you tell?"
Methos smiled humorlessly. "A volcanic island, near the shores of Greece, as I learned later. I'd been there myself, in earlier centuries. An odd place: three concentric rings of land, with circular harbors between them, surrounding a central island famed for its hot springs. The soil on all the rings was wonderfully fertile, and the people had grown wealthy off the sea-trade. Of course, nobody at the time realized that the soil was fertile because it was volcanic -- or that those rings were the cones of previous volcanoes, or that those springs were hot for a reason."
"Fascinating," said Sean, thinking of maps in his books. "Do you recall the name of the island, or precisely where it was?"
Methos' smile grew tighter as he shrugged into his coat. "It stood where the Santorini Group of islets lies today; you can find that on a good enough map. Of course, it had a different name then -- and it was supposedly under the protection of a goddess. Don't bother to get up, Sean; I'll see myself out."
*Running again,* Sean sighed. Simply to prolong the conversation, he asked: "What goddess was that, do you recall?"
"Atalanta," said Methos, as he stepped through the door. "Au revoir, Sean." He closed it behind him.
Sean was pulling the large world-atlas book off the shelf when the implications of that name hit him. By then, of course, Methos was long gone.
MWC: Time Heals All Wounds
Posted By: bookmom <email@example.com>
Date: Saturday, 15 June 2002, at 12:34 p.m.
Gregor wandered aimlessly through the maze of corridors and found himself in the west wing again. The sound of his hard - heeled boots echoed hollowly off the bare walls and tiled floor. It was a lonely sound. It matched his mood.
He wasn’t surprised to see where his feet led him. Gregor opened the French double doors and welcomed the peace he felt as he stepped into the room. There was nothing in the room to indicate its one time use, but Gregor suspected it had been hastily consecrated to serve as a Chapel in WW1.
Late afternoon sunlight streamed in the windows. Gregor sat down on the chintz sofa and watched the dust motes swirl in the golden haze. It felt good to be here with the steady thrum of holy ground beneath his feet. He had been living a reckless life for too long now. The blackness of despair had all but swallowed him whole. He leaned his head back and closed his eyes. The glint of his own sword high above Duncan’s head flashed jaggedly through his mind.
Gregor hadn’t been expecting to feel the abject terror that had knifed through him when he knew it was over. He’d yelled at MacLeod to take his head. It would be a blessed relief, but the sound of MacLeod’s roar and the deadly sound of the final stroke was enough to release all the pent up pain of the last hundred years. It flooded through him along with the certainty that he did not want to die. He’d never forget the resigned but determined look in his friend’s eyes as the sharp blade bit into his throat. Duncan had been prepared to help him die or live.
They’d spent the rest of the night talking. Duncan talked candidly about his own pain and losses. Self - imposed exile on holy ground was not an option he would choose, but Gregor was glad it had worked for his friend. Talking to an Immortal shrink hadn’t appealed to him either but Duncan had been persuasive and here he was.
“Ah, I thought I might find you here.” Sean Burns’ presence and voice intruded on the unwanted vision.
Gregor opened his eyes to see Sean standing in the doorway.
“You’re not alone in this, Gregor.”
“I’ll always be alone, Doc,” Gregor said bitterly. “They all die, mortal, immortal. It doesn’t matter.” Gregor got up from the sofa and walked to large bank of windows.
“You’re not alone, not now, not ever,” Sean said quietly. He perched on the piano stool, hands on his knees. “Duncan cares and you hold that in your heart. It was what brought you here in the first place.”
“I came because he wanted me to.”
“There are many more in your heart. Listen to them.”
“I did!” Gregor said hotly. “I heard them every day!” His eyes scanned the manicured lawn drinking in the calming green expanse. Willing himself not to bolt as strong emotions threatened to overwhelm him, Gregor took a deep breath.
“The pain and anger consumed you and it found an outlet in your photography.”
Gregor’s voice was muffled behind the hand that rubbed compulsively at his beard. “It was like a drug. I searched out more and more violent subjects as I began to feel less and less, hoping, trying to feel something.”
“You conveyed those feelings so well, Gregor, that it got you national recognition. But that’s not how you want to feel is it?”
Gregor spun around. “How many have you buried, Doc? How many lives have slipped through your fingers? How many centuries can one man stand knowing that he will live and they will die no matter what he does?” He asked savagely.
“Everybody dies, Gregor.” Sean’s blue eyes were full of compassion. “You chose to be a doctor. How many lives have you saved? How many would have been lost if it hadn’t been for you?”
“They still died!” he screamed.
Sean’s intuition told him Gregor was talking about a specific incident.
“What was her name, Gregor?” Sean asked quietly.
Sean had to strain to hear it, but with this small admission, he knew that in time, Gregor would heal.
An Unexpected Meeting--not exactly qualify for MWC, I guess, since
Posted By: FoM, <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: Tuesday, 18 June 2002, at 11:10 a.m.
the characters isn't an immie...I think she's pre-immortal, but there are
immortals we all know and love involved.
It's just a start...
“Your turn.” The young receptionist smiled a brief, plastic smile at Paula and indicated the door to the doctor’s office, her gesture revealing a flash of burgundy colored fingernails.
Paula noticed and thought, At least they match her hair, then felt instantly guilty at the slightly snide nature of her reaction. The girl’s appearance was unorthodox to say the least, not at all suitable for a professional office, or so Paula thought. What had come over Felix to hire such a person? Paula nodded at the girl and collected her purse.
The smell of fresh paint nearly overwhelmed Paula and it exacerbated the headache already pounding in her temples. The office had been redecorated since her last visit. And about time, too, she had thought, while waiting to go in. Felix just did not think about those things. He neglected the office so long that Peggy, his secretary of fifteen years, had finally given up and left in a huff. Felix had let her go, fully believing she would be back. After all, she had left five times in twice as many years and she always came back. But not this time, according to Vega, the hip young receptionist who seemed to enjoy telling the story. As the days passed and Peggy did not show up, the imminently respected, albeit somewhat absent-minded psychiatrist, began to wonder. A month came and went, and he grew worried. After suffering through six weeks and six temps, Felix finally realized this time Peggy's leaving was different and mounted a full-fledged campaign to woo his veteran secretary back to her old job. But she would have none of it. She had found a position as office manager for a clinic owned by two yuppie psychiatrists, both recently returned from studying in Germany. The pay was better, she was allotted a month’s vacation, and best of all, the office was brand new.
Felix, or ‘the Head Man’ as Vega referred to him a few moments before, had mourned Peggy’s departure for two more days, staying holed up in his office, refusing phone calls and seeing no one. Then out he had come, Vega said, and ordered her to get a decorator in to re-do everything. He told her to choose whatever paint and wallpaper she wanted.
That explains the cannabis-and-peace sign border on the walls, Paula had thought wryly.
Then he told her, Vega continued, to take, like, two weeks off, but only after the remodeling was finished. The painter had rolled up his drop cloth last night, and come Saturday morning, Vega declared, she was headed for the beach. Paula was lucky because she was the only patient on the Head Man’s list today. Vega paused for a moment of significant silence while staring intently at Paula, hoping she would pick up the cue and reschedule. Paula returned the stare, silent and unyielding. Vega sighed and finished her prepared speech, saying it was too bad, since he had split, like, only a few minutes before Paula walked in.
Upon hearing this last, Paula felt irritation sweep over her. She urgently needed to talk to Felix. He was the only person she felt she could trust, especially with what she wanted to discuss. She could hardly believe it herself and she needed his perspective. Felix was never shocked, never surprised by anything she told him. Good old laid back, unflappable Felix. Hmph, I’d wager good money he’ll be shocked this time, she thought, probably even call me delusional. She was feeling more than irked at him for leaving. He had agreed to see her. He should keep his appointments. This was not like Felix at all. Her mind reeled in surprise and her thoughts dashed madly about. He couldn’t do this to her, not now of all times! She needed to talk to him! And who under the sun was this girl with the maroon hair and nails and ye gods! She was smearing black gloss all over her lips! Black!
“’Purple Haze’,” Vega said, and pressed her lips together then opened them with a loud smack. That little gesture had the effect she hoped for: Vega saw two red spots appear on the woman’s cheeks.
Paula willed her thoughts to quietness, composed herself, and forced her face out of a disapproving frown, thinking, Oh God, I’ve become my mother!
“Most people say it’s, like, maroon, but it’s Purple Haze. Could it, like, be any more out there?”
“Yes. I mean, no. I mean, yeah, it’s out there for sure.” The smile Paula was forcing to her lips froze when the girl stuck out her tongue at her own reflection in the compact mirror, revealing not one, but two gold balls smack in the middle of her tongue. Paula flinched then swallowed hard, watching another moment as the hip young woman proceeded to perform what Paula surmised must surely be a new art form. A tongue contortionist, she thought. Why did I not see this coming?
Paula tried again. “Wait, let’s go back a moment. So Felix just left. What time will he be back?”
“He’s gone for what, like, an hour? Like, for lunch?” Oh God, I’m starting to sound like her.
“What…what do you mean?”
“’Us’ ‘hat I sai’. ‘E’s ‘istory.” Vega glanced at Paula and let go of her tongue. “But don’t worry. He knew you’d be over it. He sent one of his boys in to see you instead.”
Paula took a deep breath and swallowed her anger only after biting her own tongue quite hard.” One of his boys,” she murmured the words, as she stood.
Vega nodded absently while admiring her nails. She knew the woman standing in front of her desk was furious, but this was nothing new for Vega. My mother all over again, she thought. I can deal.
Paula felt herself careening into a state of high anxiety. This was not a simple visit to chat about job and stress and surface relationships, or even one of the more in-depth topics of discussion they often entertained in session. There was a new man in her life, someone she thought she could truly care for; in fact, she did not want to admit to herself how much she already cared for him. This was a huge step for her, becoming involved with someone again, something she had sworn to herself she would never do. Given the poor choices she had made of late, this was a promise to herself she had intended to keep.
But this man was different from anyone she had ever known. She shook her head slightly, knowing she would have to think of a different way to say it to Felix. He would not laugh outright at her, but he would think her involved in a mere adolescent infatuation if she used those words. This, however, was no mere infatuation. It had the makings of something serious. Besides, she could not help herself; she had been excited and thrilled, practically giddy with happiness the last few weeks, and she wanted Felix to meet him. And, she grudgingly admitted to herself, she wanted Felix’ approval. Not his permission, she insisted to herself. Felix didn’t even have to like the man, just a nod of approval. That was all she wanted.
How could Felix *not* like him? she argued to herself. He was intelligent, and witty, and sophisticated; and for all his sophistication, not at all stuffy. He was genuine, a trait nearly impossible to find these days, and completely unaffected. And heaven knew, in the circles in which she moved, both socially and in her antique business, she had encountered enough stuffy, affected people to last her several lifetimes. This man was indeed different. He had a sense of humor and a way of making her feel as if she were the only woman in the world. He was charming and thoughtful- -he laughed in all the right places at her stories. He was in terribly good shape, very fit. And his shoulders, Lord! Despite her irritation at Felix, her stomach fluttered at the thought of his broad shoulders.
She inhaled, then exhaled slowly, focusing on the girl in front of her. “Just who …about whom are you speaking?”
Vega jerked her thumb toward the door. “He’s in there. Mr. Adams, or was it doctor? Uh, Dr. Adam Benjamin…or uh, Dr. Benjamin Adams. Geez, I don’t remember. Hunh. Oh, well, knock yourself out…I mean, go ahead, he’s waiting on you.”
“How am I…who…how do I know…--?”
Vega raised an eyebrow, the one with three rings at the end of it. “So go in already.” She made a shooing gesture with her hands.
Thoroughly irked, head pounding, patience gone, Paula glared at the girl, tried twice to speak, and finally said, “Oh …just…never mind!” and strode the remaining few feet to Felix’s office, opened the door, and entered like a whirlwind. She let the heavy door bang closed behind her.
Vega breathed, “Be-atch!” and grabbed her bag, muttering “I’m outa here.” And she walked out.
The sight of Felix’s empty office brought Paula up short. She inhaled sharply and muttered, “That little…LIAR! How DARE she? I can’t believe…!” Paula expressed her anger in a string of colorful epithets. She punctuated her sentence by flinging her purse at the back of Felix’s tall chair. Her aim was dead on and the purse smacked the chair with a thud.
“Bulls eye.” The word floated into the air, shocking Paula into speechlessness.
The chair swung around. “Except your target’s out there, I believe?”
Paula stood, openmouthed and breathless. She gasped, then croaked, "I didn't know there was anyone...I mean, I thought nobody was really here."
"Obviously." The young man in Felix' chair gave her an affable smile.
"I'm so sorry. I mean, I apologize for the tantrum. I--"
"No apologies necessary. I've heard far worse, I assure you." He noted her flushed face and trembling hands. "Are you quite all right?"
"Yes...no...um, I'm not sure."
He rose. "Do sit down for a moment." He stepped from behind the desk and took her elbow, helping her to the sofa. She sank gratefully into the thick, overstuffed leather cushions. So he's British, she thought.
"Please allow me to introduce myself. I'm Adam Benjamin. Felix asked me to meet with you this morning."