“The twins are doing a reading of their works after breakfast in the front room, The Poems of Polarity. Yin will start out with her epic work ‘Concrete Abstractions’, followed by Yang’s equally thought provoking ‘Sequential Living in a Random Cosmos’, the finale culminating in a harmonic rendition of ‘Sensate Intuition’.” Arnold was inviting the group to participate in a community activity later that morning. “They’ll start just after clean up, around nine, and finish in time for lunch midday.”
Tante turned to Baltha and Yanaha. “I’d rather be poked with sharp sticks for a couple of hours than sit through that.”
Yanaha smiled. “Good, you can join me in the blackberry patch! We’ll make pies this afternoon”.
“Can I come too, pleeeeeease?” Baltha produced a great imitation of Tante’s whine, one of the perks of her shapeshifting ability being a gift for mimicry.
Zeus and Juno were stretched out on a chaise together, enjoying a plate of grapes and cheese with nuts and hummus, complemented by a lovely Pinot Gris. Epic poetry suited them just fine, they, like Tante, being of a mind toward minstrels. Ja and Haile both had ear buds in full time and so maintained the option of always keeping their level of attention to things a mystery to the others. Both gave off vibes of keen awareness of everything, always, without ever really listening. Arnold took a lot of pleasure in playing host and the animals joined him when he sat down in his chair next to the wood stove.
“You’ll like blackberry pie”. Yanaha was full of good cheer, as always. “The sharp sticks maybe not so much.”
“The twins could do a poem on the polarity of sharp thorns and sweet fruits.” Tante giggled. Just as B. had the gift of mimicry, Tante had a streak of smartass that seemed to keep evolving as she aged. Perhaps that was her special purpose, her quest, her improbable dream, the summit of smartassity.
She found she enjoyed interacting with Yanaha in the same way she’d enjoyed her mother’s people. Even their preference for being outside and stick poked spoke of their bonds to this world they both occupied.
Forest enveloped them all lovingly.
“The twins are special, the product of love between a man and a mythical image. They came to be in much the same way you did, to take part in the end times, to add their bit.” Yanaha smiled again, a very old smile, not one of mirth but of irony.
“The love of the mythical image is much like the love between Tante and B. The Mongol herder fell so deeply in love with the image of the perfect China doll he saw in the window of a village shop that mere mortal women became something lesser to him, so he eventually stole the doll and ran off into the mountains with it. The Dragons of Fomalhaut b were so intrigued by the contrast the man and his doll presented they decided to produce the twins.
There was a grand mix of DNA from the factory where the doll was produced to work with.” Yanaha had been involved with bringing the group together for some time; Forest had told her who to seek out.
B giggled at that one. “No my friend, what you describe is like the love between Tante and the mythical images of the shapeshifter, not the love of Tante and B.”
“How come everybody but me seems to know what’s going on here? What’s going on here? Just who the heck are you, Beldar? How come Yanaha knows this stuff?” Tante’s crankiness was morphing more and more into bewilderment. The more she knew, the less she understood.
“I am B, the shapeshifter. I am Balthazar the Magi. I am Bathsheba who conquered the giant slayer David. I am the siren of every song of Solomon, Salome and Jezebel and the Whore of Babylon. In this here now I am also midwife and nanny to the Auntie Christ, formerly a nurse living in Baghdad who was called to service by a Higher Power. We had to rush you through a short time warp developmentally, and in many ways, you’re still a child. The twins, too, are children. Ja is a child, Haile is a child. All of you are children in terms of lifespan in the here now.”
“So doesn’t it kind of creep you out to service my baser needs by pretending to be Atticus?”
“Hey, you’re the one who came up with those games. It’s not like I’m doing anything other than hitting your button with that love frequency. And it’s not like we ever play that game with me as Baltha.”
“I’m not in to women. But you know it’s you I love B.”
“Of course, my dear. A woman’s love is a love of mind and soul and emotion more than body, and my body is not serviced by our love, only my heart is.”
“It’s mostly about the body servicing for me, but then I’m a sworn virgin, and face it, you kind of get around.”
“I know dear, and you are still a child, even if you are an old woman.”
They sighed together.
“Perhaps someday you’ll find your pound of flesh, that which a man can provide and Baltha cannot”. B decided it was time to have the talk with Tante. After all, she was almost 9 months old.
“A pound? That seems like an awful lot!” Tante was shocked.
“A half-pound is more than enough.” Yanaha chimed in. “There’s no joy in being beaten with a club.”
“Hell, a couple of quarter pounders can be even better.” Baltha winked at Yanaha, who winked back.
“But I’m a sworn virgin.” Tante was getting insistent about it, images of sausages getting to be too much for her. The imaginary lovers brought forth by her shapeshifting friend were cerebral, ethereal, masculine in their manner but androgynous, lacking the fleshy stuff of masculinity.
“That’s just a story you tell yourself.” Baltha said it, but Yanaha simultaneously nodded in agreement.
“It’s not so much your body the flesh of man services; in fact I’m sure B. is much more adept at that than one’s average weenie waggler. It’s the circuit that’s produced by the bonding, the energetic flow of love.” Yanaha made the statement matter of factly. “You can see it if you pay attention to lovers from afar. When engaged, one is too distracted. The energy flows from head to heart to groin of woman to groin of man and from groin to heart and head of man, gets us seeing eye to eye. But you have to switch positions sometimes, get it going back and forth, in an infinity loop. That’s when it’s really powerful.”
“Wait a minute, back up. Isn’t the whole Auntie Christ thing just a story I tell myself? Aren’t I really Zoldak of Taphao Thong just dropping in for a little adventure? Don’t I have another life that involves……..” Suddenly Tante was hit with the sick realization that although she had a story of self as Zoldak, that was pretty much all there was to it, a name, a vague idea of a home planet, and her side kick Beldar aka Baltha, as being part of it. Things suddenly got very strange.
“Okay, I remember there was this party at Uluru and Mom and Josef were there and Mom was in a trance and me and you were there kind of above it all and we thought it would be fun to check out Mom’s dream in her trance state and I went in and you left me there. Then I was born. There’s nothing before the party, nada, zip.” Tante was suddenly in full tilt existential crisis.
Baltha smiled. “And what other stories have you told yourself? Which of my stories are real and which are dreams? For now, we have names and lives and interactions, and there is a plot line in which we find ourselves. For most of my adult life that was a plot line in a land torn by war, part of a world in which environment is being destroyed by forces we cannot seem to stop, greed that knows no bounds, and the insanity of the man we saw on the monitor screens in the airport. I was called by a Higher Power which I do not understand, somehow bound to the strange creature who calls herself Tante. I only do what feels right, and try not to worry too much about it.”
“So how do you know about Bathsheba?”
“I had a past life regression done in Sedona. They’re quite useful for EDs.“
“You get around; Iraq, Sedona, Australia.” Tante was learning about sharp sticks, but had already had a taste of the fruit Yanaha showed her. Pie would indeed likely be good.
“My father is rich as Croesus”. Baltha was learning about the value of sensible shoes and blackberry stains.
“But you and I are poor.”
Tante had realized that they were lacking in some way ever since the incident in the restaurant with the bill. There were those who had funds and those who did not. She’d seen lots of those who did not, both in the Outback and in cities. It was different in those two worlds, odd in that latter world of shekels. Most folks in the Outback were have nots and not haves, the haves mostly just visited. While they’d not spent much time there, it was formative time and the model of group life Tante had grown up with among have nots was not impoverished. Things were different in cities. While they’d been fortunate to enjoy the good graces of Haile and their other hosts, most of the have nots they’d encountered in the world had not been so lucky. They often lacked good food and shelter, and the wine they drank was really awful.
“Daddy wasn’t real happy with my report on the Whore of Babylon thing when I got back to Iraq from my time in the states. When I died in the bombing, he was unaware of it. When I recovered, I went home, but left again immediately for Australia to help birth you, and he disowned me completely.”
“But what about the Higher Power?”
“Of that I know nothing.”
“Don’t look at me; my people’s gods are different from yours.” Yanaha had been listening to the exchange intently.
“What about Beldar? Does Beldar have a life on Taphao Thong?”
“Not that I know of. That was part of my NDE. I was severely wounded in an attack by the invaders, found myself up above the party at Uluru with you after discussing my fate with the bright light at the end of the tunnel. The offer of survival and shapeshifter was too good to pass up; you seemed like a nice enough spirit.” Baltha smiled warmly at Tante. She had grown to love her deeply, crankiness and all. Love had been part of the deal, too. She’d been childless at the time of her NDE, the regret that weighed most heavily on her heart as she faced the All.
“I can’t imagine that the coordinates of my birth and its date and having the given name Auntie Christ and that you were one of the Magi to the original Christ child in a past life can be a coincidence. The elders at Uluru told me that I was the anti of the guy in the story in lots of significant ways. ”
“Oh, there’s no such thing as coincidence, I’m pretty sure of that.” Yanaha was dumping all of the blackberries they’d collected into a common bucket. “Arnold and I met up with some folks from Taphao Thong back in the day. They were the ones with the acid.”
It had been a very full morning, one that the women hoped had been valuable in helping shape Tante.
“So have you learned anything today?” B asked her.
“Yes. I have a name and I’m in a place time and everything else is just a story. Even though this part may be written for me, I still have to act it out, make all the decisions. Nobody knows who or what has written the story or why or how it will end. Mythical lovers produce otherworldly offspring, interesting perhaps, but not well suited to life in this world. Loving Baltha is easy and the animal way apparently has its plus side, as the relationship between Yanaha and Arnold demonstrates. Other than that, nobody really knows what the fuck is going on or what we should do next.”
“And Zeus and Juno; they, too have a good life together, even if they do take other lovers”. Baltha smiled at the memory of Zeus. She really wasn’t much in to thinking about what to do next; she figured that was Tante’s gig.
“What about Yin and Yang?” Tante asked.
“That’s just weird. But they do come up with some pretty profound shit sometimes. They kind of know the Way.” Even Yanaha was a little creeped out by the pair. It seemed building a tribe and adjusting to life in it was a bit more difficult than being born into one. Diverse ways were a challenge, something that took effort to weave together.
Everybody enjoyed the pie; it was a great start.
The End is Near