Pauline felt a strange pulse begin in her mid-section, which seemed to repeat every thirty seconds, rippling through her like the reverberations of a bell being struck. Something told her that this was not a good omen but she had no idea what to do. Her mind was scrambling like a beheaded chicken racing through a barnyard. The men were all talking at once, trying to figure out what to do with the body, now that Lixian was permanently eradicated.
Pauline looked down at the sweet face of the young prostitute, which seemed to be at peace, but she was irritated by the panicked voices over her shoulder – mostly in Chinese. She was now able to understand what they were saying as they argued with each other.
“This happens all the time. We can dump her in the river. They’ll say it was a suicide.” The guard advised excitedly.
“So stupid! Even the deaths of sporting girls are investigated!” The servant snapped.
“They’ll trace it back to us if they find it was poppy!” The attendant stated in a growing panic.
Pauline stood up and started backing towards the door. Her servant noticed and came shuffling towards her, while the other clients stared in a daze from their floor-beds and chaise-lounges.
“We will take care of it. So sorry, Mistress.”
Pauline remembered the higher rank of this emanation and used it in her favor, while trying to ignore the urgent pulses.
“Yes, do take care of it. I’m counting on you!”
She turned and charged through the door, deciding to get back to the table – hoping against hope that returning to the initial entry point would open a portal to the library. She assumed that her failure was already known to the emissaries and there was no telling what they would do.
Once in the room she made her way to the table and slumped down hard in the chair. She could still hear the men arguing and moving about, obviously doing their best to get the body out before anyone else saw. Soon she realized that nothing was happening and the fear began to build. She reached for the wine glass and took a sip. Nothing.
She frantically rustled the newspaper and tugged at the black satin table cloth in a temper. Still nothing. When the familiar sound of distant trumpets hit her eardrums, she burst into tears and started calling out to whoever – or whatever was listening.
“I tried – I really tried! Please, it’s not my fault!”
As the trumpets got louder, the pulse grew stronger and the arguing in the hallway became more urgent. She put her forehead on the table and collapsed into a fit of tears and self-pity – unaware that a butterfly was dancing through the open window on a ray of sunlight. It fluttered over to her and as soon as it landed softly on her exposed neck, she noticed the pulse disappearing.
When she looked up she was no longer at the table. Confused and enchanted at the same time, over the buoyant feeling that was now permeating her being, she realized that she was flying.
She no longer heard the threatening trumpets, but the sound of sweet music was distracting. It was like pleasant folk music from an era long ago. Looking down she saw what appeared to be a magical fairyland. Had she died and gone to heaven?
At that time, Ka had taken flight on one of his ships with Nazat – his most trusted assistant. They didn’t stop until they reached the invisible mezzanine that was suspended under the realm of the Prism of the Godhead. Nazat was slightly smaller than Ka and was silver. She had a slim, flickering tail and was also featureless. They both had the same characteristics as all the emissaries, in terms of their gestures and movements making up for the fact that they didn’t have faces.
The lotus-like ship lowered one of its petals, then they alighted and began floating along the mezzanine, on their way to speak with the Godhead’s Viceroy. As they made their way to the upper level, where many assistants floated in and out of the Prism, Ka addressed Nazat in his kind, cottony voice.
“As you know, we are not often called to the Prism, so something important must have happened.”
Nazat effortlessly kept up with Ka’s swift pace as she answered in a light, feathery voice.
“It is sure to be something about Doelanda and her infiltration. Even though she’s working as an emissary for us, her skills leave a lot to be desired.”
“I understand your concerns, Nazat – however – I stand by my decision to approve her contract.”
Even though Ka spoke these words in his usual gentle fashion, Nazat felt a pulse of shame for sounding like she was questioning her superior.
“Of course, Ka. Please forgive my insolence.”
Before he could respond, an assistant appeared like a spark of electricity escaping a conduit. It buzzed and zapped as its wire-like body glowed electric blue. When it spoke, it sounded like morse code tapping on glass.
“The Viceroy is waiting.”
They followed the assistant through one of the many windows of the Prism, then whizzed past the trillions of hexagon rooms and finally zoomed up to the Viceroy’s level. Nazat never grew tired of seeing the busy assistants tending to the rooms and records. It was like watching a swarm of bees pulsing like neon lights. The energy was truly electric in the Prism.
The Viceroy’s level was markedly different. Endless darkness was only partially illuminated by the brilliant white, pyramid-shaped platform in the center. On the top was a simple, crystalline throne – where the formidable Viceroy waited patiently. Nazat was once again overawed by its presence. Humanoid but completely egg-shell blue, it had a hairless head which displayed multitudes of faces that scrolled like a movie projected on a screen.
Wearing a simple gown that appeared to be made from white smoke, it looked down as they approached. The assistant emitted a few beeps then flew back out of the level. Ka and Nazat stopped at the Viceroy’s feet and bowed their heads in obeisance, waiting to be addressed by the Godhead’s mouthpiece.
When it spoke in a voice like a verbal violin – sweet and high pitched in the purest tones – Nazat felt her cells realign themselves in a pleasant fashion.
“There is a ripple we cannot ascertain.”
Ka responded quietly, “A ripple, your Highness?”
A pleasant, feline face hovered over the Viceroy’s head and settled into place.
“The simultaneous death of an emissary and an emanation has occurred.”
Nazat knew that this was more serious than they’d anticipated. Ka shuddered and nodded slowly.
“I understand, your Highness. I am at fault.”
The feline face disappeared and was then replaced by one of a concerned old woman.
“It is not your fault. Remember, Ka – blame is anathema to our purpose. What we don’t understand is – how many emanations have been affected.”
“Your Highness – the emanation was a human from the Earth – on the 5th ring.”
The Viceroy waved its hand and then pointed to the space behind the emissaries. They turned to see a vast, three dimensional map of the Universe. Nazat could see the Parallel Portals entwining each other like DNA – curling through space and time. It was like looking at millions of threads which were beaded with multi-colored jewels glistening in space. The 5th ring was all shades of blue, with the Earth standing out and glowing as the Viceroy waved its hand again to enlarge the image.
The colors of the planet shimmered in variations of emerald and cobalt.
“One of the realms we have been concerned about for a long time.” The Viceroy said with a hint of dismay.
“Yes, your Highness. All of the entities’ emanations have been wiped out.”
The face of a weary old dog came over the Viceroy’s face. It waved its hand once more. Many different portals lit up along the threads – to indicate the realms where all Lixian’s emanations had existed. Nazat was disheartened to see this, as she knew it meant that once again, the Godhead had been deprived of knowledge and experience.
“We are at a loss.” The Viceroy exclaimed sadly.
Ka and Nazat nodded and repeated the sentence.
“We are at a loss.”
Then the face of a grey alien came over the Viceroy.
“The emissary has been sent to the lower realms, where he will serve a sentence of a thousand years in servitude to the lost souls.”
Ka and Nazat nodded solemnly. They both understood that this was a light sentence for Balo, after all he’d done.
“You will send Nazat to apprehend the infiltrator and bring her to me. I understand that you have already sent some of your finest to find her, but they will not succeed.”
Still exhibiting the grey alien face, it continued to advise the emissaries on what to do.
“The time for a new paradigm shift is approaching. We will soon send a pulse through the portals, which will bring forth a new renaissance. This is especially important for Earth. No longer will they be ignorant to each other and the Universe. They will finally see the true face of God. It will not be what they anticipated, however it will not matter.”
Ka and Nazat stood in amazement. They were both speechless. A new face descended onto the Viceroy. This time it struck fear into the emissaries’ hearts. Neither human nor animal; it was more akin to a creature borne from the darkest realm – almost menacing.
“We will no longer refrain from interference. We cannot afford any more ripples or obliterations. The Godhead is beginning to starve. Now – go forth and do as we bid. Find the interloper and bring her to us. Then the shift will begin!”
Nazat knew that their meeting was over and she quickly followed Ka after they both nodded – trembling and panicked.
In the nether world, Jon and Roman were scrambling to get up the cliff face. Other demonic guards saw this and started flocking towards them. It was now obvious that Roman wasn’t chasing down an errant soul to throw him back in the whirlpool. He was helping him escape.
A large demon with long fangs screeched and hissed as he flew closer to the two.
“What you do, brother? Throw him back!”
Roman whimpered for a moment but his protective nature came to the fore. He turned to the large demon and began to growl. The combination of his own emanation’s canine personality and the characteristics of the demonic body he’d overtaken fused into a formidable attack. Jon was horrified but also appreciative. He watched as Roman lunged at the demon and sunk his fangs into the dark grey flesh.
A high-pitched howl filled the airwaves as the demon struggled against Roman’s onslaught. The other demons stopped in their tracks on the cliff face and watched in horror as Roman began tearing the demon to pieces. He or Roman couldn’t have known that another obliteration was affecting the Godhead. All they knew or cared about was getting out of there and back home to safety – wherever and however it could be done.
When Jon raced over to grab Roman’s leathery tail, a puff of smoke enveloped them. Jon felt an instant wave of calm wash over him. He was amazed to see Roman in spirit form to his right. He was like a green shard of light but still obviously a dog. When Jon looked down at himself he saw that he was a bolt of orange lightning. Then he heard Roman’s voice in his mind – speaking in human words.
“What is happening?!”
He could also hear whimpering, but there was no time to answer. A flash of pink light distracted them both. The sensation of falling at an alarming rate came over them. Jon panicked and thought that they were dying for real this time. He did not expect to be teleporting into yet another emanation.
When the sensation of falling stopped and he opened his eyes, the confusion mixed with elation put a smile on what he thought was his own face. He saw a land that seemed to be straight from a child’s fairy tale. Perfect, rolling green hills stretched out before them. Dense forests lined the horizon and sweet little cottages were dotted here and there in the distance. They were in a gorgeous meadow with precisely created flowers and trees. There was a glistening blue lake about half a mile ahead of them and large, colorful butterflies danced in the air overhead.
When he heard Roman’s voice he was startled. It seemed to be coming from the mouth of a mischievous pixie.
“What a fantastic dream land!”
Jon turned his neck but felt like there were no bones or his usual muscles doing the work. It was like he was made of rubber or silicone. Looking back and seeing that he was wearing a large snail shell – complete with a window and door – made him scream in a kind of wet, slippery voice. The little pixie slipped off his back and stomped around to speak to him.
He was wearing the usual garb seen in fairy tales: strange slippers with extra room for the toes, red tights, a green tunic and a gum nut for a hat. His cheeky face and dancing green eyes were almost comical. The familiar voice chastised him good-naturedly.
“What in the blazes is making you scream?!” Then the pixie shook his head in confusion. “There’s a dog in my head!”
Jon suddenly understood that – once again – they were in another world. It terrified him but he was at least grateful they weren’t dead.
“Roman! We’re in another realm! It’s me – Jon – your master!”
The pixie frowned. It was obvious that Roman was having difficulty controlling this emanation.
“My master?! Well – excuse me! I think you’ve been eating too many petunias again, Joxelthrot!”
“Joxelthrot? I’m Jon – and you’re Roman!” He replied angrily.
The pixie’s face became haughty and cross.
“I am not a Roman! I am Roddletat – seventeenth generation Pixie – if you don’t mind.”
Roman was then distracted by a huge shadow overhead. He grinned from ear to ear and rubbed his little hands together in excitement.
“That’s a big one, Joxelthrot! Where’s my net?!”
He scrambled over to the shell house and flung the door open. As he rummaged around inside the shell, Jon began to weep – until he saw the beautiful butterfly dipping and fluttering around the pretty flowers only several yards away.
Something about the butterfly tugged at his heartstrings, but when the pixie jumped down from the shell house and started running towards the butterfly with the huge net billowing in the breeze, panic set in.
“What are you doing?” Jon yelled in dismay, even though he wasn’t sure why he was so upset.
The pixie looked back and shrieked enthusiastically.
“We’ll get at least fifty gold pieces for this beauty!”
The butterfly seemed to be unaware that it was being chased. Jon watched in horror as the pixie lunged and finally caught it in his net. It tried to buffet about but the net restrained it.
“Ha ha! Hurrah!” The pixie yelled. “Gotcha!”
Jon called out, “Roman – gain control of that pixie! Remember who we really are! Heel!”
He couldn’t help that last command, but it worked. The pixie turned to face Jon and shook his head like a dog.
As soon as he said that, they heard another familiar voice.
Back in Melbourne, Nax and Rylo had their own problems to contend with. Not only had a colleague been sent to the nether regions under their watch, but a human and all her emanations in the parallel portals had been obliterated. When Roman’s body came back to the house, they had no idea which emissary had been sent to spark his body. An animal finding their way into the portals was a rare event, so only a special emissary could be sent to be the automaton.
Roman’s body sat patiently at the front screen door, although he was glaring at the two of them as they stood in the hallway, wringing their hands.
“Who could it be – especially in a dog’s body?” Rylo asked nervously.
“It has to be an emissary from the Elite Guard.” Nax replied as she tried to contain herself.
Their voices had returned to the usual clicking they exhibited back in Vagvur, now that their nerves were frayed.
The dog lifted its nose in the air and spoke in a gravelly – yet superior tone.
“You will open the door at once. There’s no time to tarry!”
Nax went over and let him in; standing back like she was afraid he would bite.
“The two of you have made a right, royal mess of this situation, haven’t you?” He snapped as he made his way inside.
Nax went back and stood to attention next to Rylo, who’d already decided to take the blame.
“Excuse me, sir – but Nax had nothing to do with this. I was the one who let it – get out of hand.”
“May I ask your name?” Nax blurted anxiously – then blushed – making Pauline’s cheeks seem even more plump than they were.
The dog circled them and then went into the kitchen to sniff around. He soon addressed them over his shoulder while tapping the linoleum with his long nails.
“I am Manop Botho – a top level creature wrangler from the Elite Guard. As you should be aware, you are only to address me as Roman in front of other humans. When we’re alone, you may call me Sir.”
Rylo was obviously trying not to smirk, which was something he’d inherited from Jon’s repertoire of gestures. Manop ignored him and went over to sniff Roman’s bowl. It was only partially filled with dog food.
“Good heavens, what is this muck?”
He swiped the bowl out of his way and continued searching through the house with the emissaries following in his wake.
“When was the last time you clipped this dog’s claws, Rylo?” He snapped as he stopped every now and then to tap the floorboards for emphasis.
“I’m…I’m sorry, Sir. The dog never stayed still long enough for me to do a good job.” He replied.
Manop sat next to a statue of an African tribesman in the hallway and shook his head.
“That is an excuse – not a reason.” He responded dryly. “Now, listen carefully, both of you. First, you will feed me. This body has gone long enough without food or drink. I will not lower myself and eat the garbage these humans feed their animals. If I recall – from my time here in 1902 as a Shetland pony – I require French champagne, white orchids and Beluga caviar.”
Rylo and Nax briefly glanced at each other in shock before Manop continued.
“You will go and retrieve these items at once. When you return, I will let you know the strategy that comes down straight from the Viceroy. I was melded with the news on my way to you. Now – chop chop!”
He waved his paw at the door and then made his way into Pauline’s room for a nap.
Nax whispered in a trembling voice, “What are those things he mentioned?”
Rylo sighed as he grabbed the car keys. “Fancy human things. I know where to get them, but I’m telling you – I cannot wait to get back to Vagvur. This has become a bloody nightmare.”