Kiah's Soul-Shifting Journey: (1)
Author: Ann Denton

Chapter 4
Chapter Four

Chapter Four

 

            I’m lying on Toby’s bed, I guess from old habit, when Ryker comes in. I pat the bed, and Ryker lies down with his hands behind his head. I turn over and rest my head on my hand. I gently touch his lip. It is swollen and seeping blood. “Does it hurt much?”

            He takes my hand and holds it tight to his chest. “Kiah, my injuries are nothing, compared to what you had to endure.” He has tears in his eyes. “Can you ever forgive me for not protecting you from that animal?”

            At first, I am confused, but then I realize that Ryker thinks Ralph succeeded at what he had planned. I sit up and hold his face in my hands. “Ryker, it’s okay, it didn’t happen. He didn’t… he didn’t rape me,” I am not really wanting to talk about this. “I fell and I pretended that I was dead. He thought he had killed me, so he left, and I followed him to find you.”

            I see hope and relief come to his eyes. “Don’t tell me this to make me feel better. I don’t deserve to feel better.”

            “I am telling you the truth. Ryker, even if he had succeeded, there wouldn’t have been anything you could have done to stop him. There were eight men. No one person could have fought them all. There would be nothing to forgive you for. I know you did everything you could. I’m just glad you didn’t get yourself killed.”

            He pulls me into his arms and holds me tight. “When did you get so strong?”

            “When I found someone to be strong for…” I gently kiss his injured lip.

            We walk into the kitchen, holding hands. Sally is cooking at Mom’s stove. She looks up and smiles. “Max killed a rabbit, so we have fresh meat. And thanks to the troopers’ supplies, we have potatoes and biscuits.”

            Max snorted a laugh, and I am sure he is going to make a comment about the biscuits. I glare at him, and he quickly looks away. Sally and Ryker both laugh.

            After cleaning the dust from my mother’s old tableware, I set the table while Sally serves the food. “This is great, Sally,” Max says. “I feel like it has been forever since I have eaten.

            “Thanks.” Then Sally turns and looks at me. “Listen, Kiah, I hope you know I didn’t mean anything, when I told that creep that you weren’t ‘right’ in the head. I was hoping he would just let you go if he thought something was wrong with you.”

            I smile and nod my head. I knew Sally had only intended to help. She was trying to ‘reason’ with Ralph as a human, but all the fighting and killing has turned Ralph and his friends into animals.

            After we clean up the dinner mess, Ryker tells Sally and me to sleep in my mom and dad’s room. He and Max will take turns keeping watch in case the troopers happen to find the house. “We will leave early in the morning,”

            Sally was exhausted and went right to sleep. I feel strange laying in my mom and dad’s bed. Memories of my mother, wrapping her arms around me under her big, fluffy comforter, bring tears to my eyes. Soon, after I fall asleep, I leave my body and float above the bed. I had not entered my room since we arrived at the house.  My room holds so many memories of my mother. When I was seven and I heard her voice in the night, I remember thinking that I was losing my mind. After hearing her voice again today, I wonder if she really had been speaking to me back then.

             I float through the wall to my room and sit on the top of my dresser, as I had done so many times as a child. Suddenly, once again, I am not in control of my floating. I am pulled backwards so fast that everything is a blur. When I stop, I am in my mom and dad’s room again. Only, Sally and I aren’t in the bed. My mom is sitting at her vanity, brushing her long dark hair, and my dad is sitting on the bed talking to her. “Paul, I have to go, and I won’t be back. She will need guidance. She will be confused by what she sees.”

            “Lilah, you know I don’t believe in this crazy nonsense!”

            My mother moves to the bed beside my dad. “Paul, denying the truth does not make it any less true. You and I both know why she didn’t drown. She is ‘The One.’ Her destiny is to do great things, but she will need help. You have to tell her why I didn’t come back. You have to tell her that I will be with her to guide her. Paul, promise me!” my mother has panic in her voice.

            My dad says nothing but gets up and storms out, slamming the door behind him.

            Suddenly, I am pulled forward again, and I find myself in my bedroom. I float back to my mom and dad’s bedroom. Sally is still sound asleep. I focus and pop back into my body. I pull the covers around me, trying to make sense of what is happening.

            What was my mom talking about? ‘She is the one.’ The one, what? What is this destiny thing that she was talking about? Why did I even float there?  Why am I floating to these strange places? Am I seeing the past? The future? No! The scene with Ryker and Sally can’t be the future. It can’t happen. I roll onto my side, trying to forget the scene where I saw Sally die. I sit up and look at her. She is my friend. That had to just be a nightmare. She can’t die!  Maybe I am going mad.

            I am unable to go back to sleep, so I get out of the bed. I have to find Ryker. He will bring peace to my soul. I throw a blanket around my shoulders and tiptoe out of the bedroom. Ryker must be on “watch” because Max is on the floor, sleeping by my mom’s rocking chair. I should have known that he snores. His snorting, in his sleep, sounds just like his obnoxious laugh.

            I slip out of the front door and find Ryker sitting on the porch. “Ryker?” I whisper.

            I startle him a little. “Are you okay, Kiah? Why aren’t you sleeping?”

            I shrug my shoulders and sit by him. I have never mentioned butterfly-dreaming to him, and I’m not going to now. I’m sure my dad was right. Butterfly-dreaming is the one thing that will convince everyone, even Ryker, I really am weird. So, I can’t tell him my butterfly-dreams are keeping me awake. I sit beside him, and he puts his arm around me. “I don’t know, maybe too many memories.” I take his hand in mine, and I want to change the subject. “Do you think we’ll have any problems getting home, tomorrow?”

            “Max and I agree that we should stay off the road and go through the woods. The journey will take longer because the supply cart is full. We’ll probably be safer and not as likely to run into troopers.”

            “Tell me about the Quadrant War.”

            “What do you mean?”

            “The Quadrant War… why are they fighting? If the troopers, in town, are Southern Quadrant troops, then why are they killing and… harming the innocent people, they are fighting to protect? Their actions don’t make sense.”

            Ryker smiles, and I know what he is thinking. I know, I had to take the same classes that you did,” I see amusement in his eyes. “You know I hated history, and I paid no attention to anything that went on in that class.” I can’t tell him that I escaped the boredom of history class by butterfly-dreaming everyday.

            Ryker stands up and gets the lantern. He takes my hand and pulls me to an area under a tree. The night air is warm and humid, so I drop the blanket from my shoulders to the ground and sit on it. The woods are fairly quiet except for the occasional-croaking of a tree frog. 

            Ryker picks up a twig and places the lantern on the ground. He sits down on the blanket beside me and uses the twig to draw a picture in the dirt. I have seen this picture in our history books. It is an outline of the territory that makes up the four quadrants. He outlines each quadrant. “This is Northern, Southern, Eastern and Western.” He points to each outline.  “Each quadrant has something that the other quadrants want.” He points to the Southern Quadrant. “This is where we live. We have mild weather and a lot of farm land. We can grow just about anything in our quadrant. The quadrants, on all of our borders, battle to take over our farmland. The Southern Quadrant troops battle not only to protect our farmlands but also to take over the other quadrants’ natural resources. The battles amongst the quadrants make up The Quadrant War. As to why our troops are killing, looting, and raping our own people, I don’t know. I believe that many of them don’t even know why they are fighting.  They have been fighting and killing for so long that fighting and killing is all they know.” He looks at me to see if I am paying attention.

            “If they don’t know why they are fighting, then why are they there?”

            “They were recruited with the promise of food, shelter, and a small wage to send home to their families. Fighting in the war is the only way many of them are able to keep food on their family’s table.” He almost sounds like he is defending the troopers.

            As I listen to him explain all of this, I realize why I chose to escape our history classes. Not so much that it was boring, but that this whole war-idea doesn’t make sense. “Ryker…” I interrupt him. “If they are promised food and wages for their families, why are there so many kids in orphanages? Why is everyone we know starving? None of this makes sense… why are all the quadrant citizens required to send the troops all the money that they earn and the food that they grow? Who is in charge of all the troops? Who leads these quadrant battles?” Questions are forming in my head faster than I can ask them.

            “Whoa!” Ryker holds up his hands and laughs. “One question at a time. It took me sixteen years to learn all of this. I don’t know if I can explain all of it in a couple of hours. As for who is in charge, the highest official of each quadrant is The High Council Overseer. Overseer Jonathan Meyers is the overseer of the Southern Quadrant. The overseers lead their troops through a chain of command. The overseer’s Chief Officer is the liaison between the overseer and the troops. The overseer never speaks to the troopers, but there is no doubt that the troopers do exactly what the overseer wants them to do.

            “Well, I think we need new overseers!” I wonder why no one else has considered that the overseers who are leading the battles aren’t competent.

            Ryker takes both of my hands in his. From the look in his eyes, I know he thinks my reaction is humorous. “Getting new overseers is not that easy. We, the people of the quadrants, don’t choose our overseers. When the overseer dies, someone from his bloodline, usually a son but not always, becomes the new overseer and rules until he dies. We have generation, after generation of overseers from the same bloodline. The overseer orders the troops to collect the money and food from the quadrant citizens, as repayment, for protecting them from the other quadrants.”

            “And we, the quadrant citizens, are okay with this?”

            Ryker looks at me when he hears the sarcasm in my voice. “Of course, we’re not okay with it, but this has been going on for almost a hundred years. The quadrant citizens have no way to defend themselves from the other quadrants.”

            “That still doesn’t make sense to me. It wasn’t the other quadrants’ troops who attacked us today. It is our own troops that we are hiding from. It seems to me that when it comes to war, there are no good guys fighting the bad guys. They are all bad guys. Why don’t all of the quadrants’ citizens just revolt against all the troopers, and keep what belongs to them? Then, they could sell or trade their own goods and feed themselves.”

            “It’s not quite that easy, but that is exactly what we are training to do at our meetings. We want to take down the troops and give back everything that has been stolen from the quadrant citizens.

            I look at him, and I am sure my mouth is dropped open. “You must be joking.”

            He looks stunned, so I’m sure that my comment came as a surprise. “What? Why must I be joking?” he reacts defensively.

            “When you say, we, are you talking about the kids at the orphanage? The ones that go to your meetings?” I can tell from the look on his face that he is talking about his small group of followers, the sixteen-year-old kids at our orphanage that go to his meetings. “What are there, twenty-five or thirty kids? The idea that a small group of teenagers is going to become freedom fighters against all the quadrant troops is ridiculous. We came up against only eight men, and we couldn’t fight them off.”

            “We have to start somewhere. I was hoping you would have more trust in me. But why would you? I couldn’t even protect you from one freakin’ animal!” I can see the hurt in his eyes.

            “Ryker.” I take his hands in mine. “This doesn’t have anything to do with trust, this is about numbers. There aren’t enough of us for this kind of fight. You know I trust you. You are the only person I have ever trusted. I just think there has to be another way for us to take a stand against The Quadrant War.”

            “Will you help us, Kiah? Will you be a part of this, and help us find a way to take a stand?”

            I put my arms around his neck and kiss him. “I will always stand by you, Ryker,” I whisper.

            He holds me quietly under the tree. A gentle breeze is blowing the branches causing them to create shadows under the moonlight. “What is this thing about an ancient ancestor’s predictions of how the quadrants will be united?”

            Ryker is quiet for a minute. “Are you sure you want to hear all this? You will probably think it is all nonsense.”

            I turn and look at his face. “If I do think it’s nonsense, do you promise not to get mad at me?”

            He smiles and kisses me. “I promise.”

            He takes a deep breath. “Okay… where to begin? This territory…” He points to the outline of the quadrants. “…was once known as the United States of America. The history books say that when the Great Nuclear War destroyed most of the earth, the United States had many survivors. Without the aid of other landmasses, it became a very desolate place.” He looks at me to see if I am keeping up.

            I smile. “Keep going.”

            “The Americans were used to being led by their government, but after the government fell, there was no technology, no food, and no hope. The people of this great land had no idea how to care for themselves and many people died. They were starving as well as killing each other off. During that time, The Great Monarch took control…”

            “A butterfly?” I ask, incredulously.

            I see Ryker smile and make a coughing sound to suppress his laughter. “A leader.”

            “I knew that!” I try to hide just how stupid I feel.

            He smiles again. “Anyway, The Great Monarch brought this land, which used to be known as The United States of America, back to peace and prosperity for many years. As he grew old, he made many predictions about what would happen to this land after he would die. He predicted that after another one hundred years, the land would be split into fourths and that there would be almost a hundred years of Quarter Wars. Many people, over the years, have interpreted Quarter Wars to mean our current Quadrant War. He also predicted that a beautiful Monarch will emerge from her cocoon and will lead an army of young peers to bring peace and to unite the Quarters.”

            I look at him, and I have to say it. “…Are you sure it’s not a butterfly?”

            “It’s a metaphor, Kiah. We interpret ‘monarch’ to mean a young leader obviously a girl or woman since he called her beautiful. She will lead a group of young people that will bring peace and unite the quadrants.”

            I sit quietly until he can’t stand it any longer. “You think it’s nonsense don’t you?”

            “No, not really. Not unless you tell me something stupid, like you think Molly is the beautiful butterfly… or leader… or whatever. You don’t think that, do you?”

            Ryker laughs harder than I have ever seen him laugh.  When he can finally speak again, he takes my hands in his. “Of course, I don’t think it’s Molly. She is beautiful, though.” He starts laughing again when he sees the look on my face.

            “You are horrible, you know that?” I get up and start to walk away.

            He grabs my arm and spins me around to face him. He holds my face in his hands and kisses me. “How many times do I have to say it? You have no reason to be jealous,” he whispers.

When Max opens the front door, I am in Ryker's arms. Max is eyeing me curiously. “It’s my turn to take the watch.”

            We walk to the front door. “Uh, you can keep me company, if you like,” Max says.

            “She don’t like,” Ryker pushes past Max.


 

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