‘What in the world did you think you were doing?’ Elaine demanded anxiously, shaking her sister and roommate awake. Béla sat up and looked at her sister, sitting on the bed next to her. Elaine looked upset and angry. They were back in her quarters on the great ship.
‘How’d I get here?’ Béla asked, looking around her shared quarters. Then she understood. ‘You’re dream-walking!’ Béla exclaimed. ‘I’m still asleep outside the farmhouse!’
‘What farmhouse?’ Elaine asked.
Béla slid off the bed and held out her hand to Elaine. As Elaine reached for her sister’s hand, she found herself standing next to Béla’s sleeping body outside a farmhouse. She looked around, her eyes wide with wonder.
‘This is incredible!’ Elaine exclaimed. ‘Just trying to see the horizon makes me too dizzy to stand up!’
She noticed Béla looking at the farmhouse. Béla looked disturbed about something.
‘What’s in there?’ Elaine asked, puzzled.
‘Death,’ Béla replied. ‘There is death and disease here.’
Rather than take her sister into the farmhouse, she simply showed Elaine the image of what was inside.
‘He’s still alive?’ Elaine asked. ‘Why did you feed him your blood?’
‘Because our blood can heal people,’ Béla told her. ‘Didn’t Hank tell you that? That’s why the Earth people killed him. For his blood.’
The two sisters found themselves back on the bed in their quarters.
‘That was gruesome,’ Elaine said, shivering. ‘That must be why father stopped the disembarking after the first few platforms went down to the surface. He’s not allowing any of them to return to the ship.’
‘Disease is no reason to quarantine us,’ Béla said, thoughtfully. ‘We don’t get sick. As far as I know, father’s people don’t get sick either, and there aren’t any Earth people on board.’
‘If we can do what you say we can, using our blood, we should all be down on the surface, helping the people down there who are sick,’ Elaine firmly stated, starting to feel upset about the situation. ‘I’m going to go talk to Father!’
Elaine vanished. The room faded. On the surface, the clouds raced away, allowing the crystal sun to bathe Béla in its warmth as she slept, not dreaming now.
‘Angel, Goddess, whatever you are, please, wake up!’
Béla moved her shoulder, attempting to disengage from whatever was pushing her back and forth. The movement became more insistent, shaking her awake. Something close by smelled really rotten. She opened her eyes and was blinded by the sun.
'The sun’s up! Why doesn’t my head hurt?' she wondered, confused about where she was.
As she woke up, she remembered she was millions and millions of miles from Earth, falling through the sky and landing here. Here, there was a huge, terrible, foul smelling creature towering high above her, swaying unsteadily as it gazed down upon her. Béla blinked rapidly as she stared at it, her sleepy mind gradually giving it human features.
“Don’t be frightened, Goddess,” it said. “I won’t hurt you.”
Béla recognized it as the man in the deathbed from earlier. He sat down next to her on the blanket.
“You should probably cover yourself…” he said, shyly averting his eyes from her naked body.
Béla, more awake now, felt him inside her mind. His mind was empathically receptive, like people used to be before Earth got so crowded and the people became obsessed with ‘things’.
He had arrived nine years ago on the great ship. He didn’t remember the time before he arrived. None of the dozen others who had arrived with him knew who they were or where they had come from. Once in this impossible place, he was trained in the operation of the equipment used here and given this farmland and the materials to build a house.
Several of his new neighbors, happy to have a new arrival, helped him complete the structure and even gave him pieces of their used furniture to put in it.
There was a large family on the next farm, a few miles away. He met and fell in love with their youngest daughter Greta at a social dance in the nearby town of New Hope. He married her and moved her here with him.
The great ship that had brought him and many others to this place stayed for three years, unloading its cargo, then left. Four years after it left, the sickness began, sweeping from town to town and from farm to farm. No one knew what caused it. Only one out of ten survived.
The two children Greta had blessed him with were now dead. They contracted the wasting illness two months after this last winter darkness began. Greta was already ill by then, and when their children died, she simply lost the will to live, and lingered on, heartbroken and bedridden for several months before passing on.
Two days after she died, the crystal sun began to shine, heralding the beginning of spring. Too weak and ill to bury his young wife or even take care of himself any longer, he lay down next to her and waited for the wasting illness to consume him, too.
As he lay, weakened and hallucinating, he watched as the Storm God commingled with the Goddess of Light, causing her to give birth to a naked angel and deposit her in his front yard. In his delirium, he saw the angel awaken and take her first faltering steps.
The angel noticed him watching her with his mind and came to him as he lay dying. As she sat, gazing upon him, she fell madly in love with him and offered her life essence for him to drink. He did so, and was healed.
The angel, having taken his sickness into her own being, and mortally weakened from her generous offering, collapsed, dying, in the yard where her mother, the Goddess of Light, had birthed her. The Goddess, seeing her daughter’s plight, bathed her in her radiant light, healing her and bringing her back to life as a mortal girl.
Béla stared at the young man as she absorbed the information about his life here, in awe at the amazing tale he’d invented in his mind to explain her arrival and her very existence.
‘This man is certainly not a techie,’ she decided. ‘But, he has the most innocent and inventive mind I’ve ever encountered. I could probably, actually and for real, fall in love with him like he thinks I did!’
“Are you a bard?” she asked, wondering why his imagination was so inventive.
“I don’t think so,” he replied, gazing at his savior. “I’m a farmer. I don’t know what a ‘bard’ is, Goddess.”
Béla smiled and suppressed a laugh. The thin young man blushed, not knowing if he had violated some protocol she might expect.
Béla glowed ‘peace’ at him and suggested in his mind that he could talk to her and not offend her. She noticed that he was trying very hard not to stare at her naked body.
‘So, they have taboos on nakedness, here, too!’ Béla thought, annoyed. ‘Well, if he’s upset with the way I look, he’ll just have to deal with it. The name of the place is “Eden”, right?’
“A bard is a minstrel that travels from town to town telling tales to entertain the town folk,” Béla explained patiently. “They tell stories and legends of gods and heroes and their great exploits. Some of them sing songs and play musical instruments.”
“That sounds pretty exciting,” he told her. “But we don’t have anything like that, here, Goddess.”
“You do, now,” Béla said, laughing. “I can’t imagine you doing anything else with that marvelous, inventive mind of yours.”
‘The goddess is assigning me the task of spreading the word of her coming,’ he realized.
Béla could feel his readiness to cast away his sadness and rise up to walk the long path.
‘Before he just walks off, I’d better prepare him a little more for the task of saving his people,’ Béla thought to herself.
“We should put to rest what lies in the house,” she suggested, “and get you cleaned up.”
“Are you destined to travel with me, Goddess?” he asked, not knowing if part of his divine destiny was to be a companion to the Daughter of the Goddess of Light.
‘I wonder if this is how my brother got started,’ Béla thought, amused. ‘I’d better nip this in the bud before too many people start worshiping me… or crucifying me.’
“I’m not a goddess,” she explained. “If you must classify me, I guess I’m a vampire, or maybe a phoenix.”
‘After all, I did rise from my own ashes…’
Béla watched his mind work as he absorbed what she had told him.
'Well, the Goddess of Light restored her to life as a mortal girl. She must have also rejected her daughter’s heritage because of her love for a mortal. The newborn goddess calls herself a ‘vampire’ – a type of fallen woman, perhaps? She fell from the sky – perhaps that’s what she means. Is it possible that she doesn’t know where she came from? The Storm God must have stolen her memory like he stole mine, and others. I wonder if she knows her real name…'
“Béla,” she replied. “My name is Béla. Do you know who you are?”
Startled, he looked at her. “Jeff,” he said. “Geoffrey. That’s all I remember from before I was here, Goddess… Miss.”
“Do you know where you are?” Béla asked.
Geoffrey, rather, Jeff, shook his head.
“This place is called New Eden,” she told him. “I named it after the original Garden of Eden. Jeff, do you remember the story of the Garden of Eden?”
She could see him thinking. It was buried deep in his memory. If he had been mind-wiped by the Praetor, which was likely, then his memories were accessible by asking direct questions, like this one.
“I think so,” Jeff said, squeezing his eyes shut and trying desperately to remember, so he could please his new goddess. “There was a paradise, long ago. Mankind was thrown out because of his sins against nature, or something. I don’t understand why, really.”
Béla smiled at him. If the Garden of Eden ever did really exist, mankind would have lost it, in her opinion, because of his unrelenting desire to overpower and control his fellow man. The man she was looking at didn’t seem to have that base desire. His mind existed in a world that was much more magical. Béla felt him adding more to her already fascinating legend. There was going to be no stopping him once he got started.
'The Goddess of the Land, the Daughter of the Goddess of Light and the Storm God, named our land New Eden, after the original paradise, the Garden of Eden. She has come to aid us in our desperate time of disease and pestilence to keep us from losing mankind his second chance for paradise.'
Béla shook her head to clear it after watching her new bard’s mind work. He was generating odes to her even as they spoke. His minds was so flexible and creative that she didn’t believe even meeting her father would be a blow to his understanding of ‘how things work'.
Béla helped Jeff wrap his wife in a blanket and bury her in the hard ground behind the house next to her children. Afterward, they wept together for his loss, kneeling in the cold, freshly turned earth.
Once they had Greta out of the house and under the ground, they opened all the windows and cleaned the house thoroughly with strong cleansers they found in the storage room. They burned the bedding she had died in, outside. When they were finished, the only things that smelled bad were Béla and Jeff.
Béla walked around outside while Jeff showered. She looked up at the roof, examining the water heater. It was sun powered, like most everything else on this strange little world. There was a collector tank beneath it, under the eaves of the house, to hold the water after it was heated. When it was used up, a valve would open, letting freshly heated water flow down from the heater on the roof. Then a solar powered electric pump would refill the water heater. It looked incredibly crude and inefficient, but the water was hot. It had been a very long time – years, even in her recent memories – since Béla had taken a hot shower.
Finally, she heard the water stop running and nearly ran back inside. Jeff was drying himself off. He still smelled, so she pushed him back into the shower and scrubbed him down fiercely with a brush, making sure all the smelly dead skin was scrubbed off of him and out of his hair.
After she was satisfied with how he smelled, she shoved him out of the shower and began to wash her own smelly body. She hadn’t spent the last month in a deathbed, so she didn’t spend as much time in the shower as she had made Jeff spend, but she did wash her hair three times, and made sure she was clean between her legs, just in case…
After her wonderful, refreshing hot shower, Béla walked into the kitchen, dry, but still naked. Well, she wasn’t entirely naked as she had a towel draped around her shoulders that unintentionally hid her breasts. But from her belly down, she was completely bare.
Jeff was in the kitchen, preparing a meal over the heating element. He had put on some pants made from a synthetic material Béla didn’t recognize. The leggings went down to just below the knees. He stood before a food preparation area chopping frozen vegetables and tossing them into a pot on the heating element.
Jeff looked up from the meal he was preparing and smiled at her. Then he averted his eyes away from her nakedness. He had never seen a woman that was completely hairless below the neck.
'The Goddess of the Land is newborn; she has no hair down there. Perhaps she doesn’t know about clothes.'
Béla sighed. She knew that once they began travelling, he would learn the truth about her identity and would be made to look the fool by his ignorance. She was going to have to tell him the truth before his imagination caused any more trouble.
“Geoffrey,” she said, sitting down at the table, “there’s something I need to tell you.”
Jeff noticed the goddess’ special use of his name and knew she was about to impart something of vital importance to him. He stopped chopping up frozen vegetables and sat down across the table from her.
“Jeff,” Béla continued, “I’m not a god or a goddess. I came here to this place on the great ship; the same way you did. The main difference is, I still have my memory of what’s happened to me. The Storm God didn’t take it away. The reason I fell into your yard is that…”
'How am I going to explain that I can fly without him starting all over again about me being a goddess?'
“Well, I fell off the ship,” she finished, lamely.
That was as close to the truth as she believed he could manage.
“But, Goddess,” Jeff explained, becoming agitated. “Surely you are mistaken! Your life essence cured me of the wasting disease. And if you were mortal, you would have died if you fell all that way!”
“Jeff,” Béla said, “I am special. My blood can cure people, and I can’t be killed. I’m not mortal, but I’m not a goddess, either. I’m a different species than you. I was made in a laboratory to look like a woman, but I’m not human. I was created to help people get better and to improve the human condition.”
Jeff looked like he was going to cry. Béla quietly listened to his mind, ready to help him understand if she could.
‘The goddess says she’s not a goddess, but she says she was created and not born. She can’t die and her life essence heals others. She says she is here to help humankind, but she is not human, herself. Instead, she is cleverly disguised to appear human.’
“There isn’t any difference,” Jeff explained to her, being very patient, “between what you’ve told me you are, and a goddess. If you do not wish to be called ‘goddess’, I won’t call you that. But, Goddess, that’s what you are. If you tell me how you wish to be addressed, I will remember it this time, and use it to address you from this time forward. But,” he sighed wistfully, “it would have been wonderful to introduce you as the Goddess of the Land…”
“My name is Béla,” she said quietly. “I would like you to call me that.”
“Yes, Go… Béla,” he said.
“So,” Jeff continued, soudning lame now, “do you, um, have any family, or anything?”
Béla smiled at his nervousness. He was willing to give lip service to what his goddess wanted him to believe, but he had his personal doubts and his own private opinion and his opinion was that she was a goddess.
“Yes, actually, I do,” Béla told him. “My father is the Regent, Sibilius. He has twenty-eight other daughters like me, and one son.”
“You have twenty-eight sisters?” he asked, incredulously. “Are they all like you?”
“I mean,” he continued, earnestly, “they can’t die and they can heal others, like you?”
Béla nodded, again. She noticed he was radiating a great deal of relief.
“Then I don’t have to do it all myself!” Jeff exclaimed happily.
He laughed in relief at his release from his self-made task. He wasn’t going to have to save the world, alone. He would have a lot of help!
“Goddesses don’t get hungry, either,” Béla mentioned, “and I’m starving.”
“But, you won’t starve to death?” Jeff mentioned, humorously daring to test the boundaries of protocol regarding his new (not a) Goddess.
He was in a much better mood, now that he realized he wasn’t some major cog in some vast, eternal plan. Béla folded her arms across her front, pressing her breasts closer together, and scowled at him. Jeffery could easily see in her mind that she wasn’t serious.
Jeff got up and looked at the pot of vegetables on the heating element. There was some foam occurring, so it was finally starting to get hot. He looked in a cabinet for something. Béla, curious, started to reach into his mind to find out what he was looking for. She stopped herself, knowing it was a bad habit to get into, especially when, if she continued to do it among her own people, she would inevitably get caught at it, and have to face her father, or worse, the Praetor, for personal invasion of privacy.
Jeff found the sack of meal he was looking for and sprinkled a handful into the pot, then stirred it in with a wooden stick. It was starting to smell good. He mixed more meal in a skillet with some water and put it on next to the pot of soup. Then he sat back down.
“It’ll still be a little while,” he said, hoping his goddess wouldn’t be too disappointed.
They sat silently, his mind broadcasting a dozen questions he didn’t feel it was proper to ask her.
“I can feel what you want to know,” Béla told him. “I know things in my mind, like you do. It’s okay to ask me what you’re thinking.”
“Really?” he asked. “And you’re not upset about what I was thinking?”
Béla shook her head. ‘No,’ she thought at him.
He heard her response in his mind. She had been in his mind when they met. That’s why he thought she was a goddess.
“That’s not really what happened,” Béla said. “You were very sick and feverish. It was your mind that came to me to warn me away so that I wouldn’t catch the sickness that you had. Don't you remember?”
Jeff frowned, thinking back. “Yes. I do remember,” he said. “I could see everything that was happening. Even outside the farmhouse. I saw you falling, way up in the sky…”
He stopped talking and stared at her. “You had wings!” he exclaimed, almost falling over backwards. “You were flying!”
Béla nodded, trying to look bored so as not to frighten him further. “I told you I’m a different species than you are.” she said, flatly.
“I thought I was hallucinating from the fever!” he cried, astounded that the goddess admitted that what he saw was real! “Then you really are a goddess?”
Béla curled forward and lowered her head to the table, radiating frustration throughout the room. She actually managed to knock several times on the table with her forehead.
“Mnoooo…” Jeff heard her say, mostly to herself, then sighed, not knowing really what to believe.
‘She’s behaving like a human, right now. But she can fly, and heal people like a goddess. And she always knows what you’re thinking. Only a goddess, or maybe an angel, can do that.’
Jeff didn’t know what she was, but he knew he really liked her, and it wasn’t because she was naked. He had seen inside her soul and he liked who she was. He got up to check on the progress of their meal.
After supper, Jeff helped Béla move the bedding she’d earlier slept on into the kitchen. There was another spring storm on its way and she wouldn’t be very comfortable trying to sleep outside in the rain.
Béla curled up on a pile of blankets he brought her and tried to go to sleep. It didn’t feel like night with the crystal sun lighting up the low-flying clouds above the farmhouse. She could feel Jeff’s unease as he tried to make a place to rest in the bedroom. His wife and both his boys had died there, not long ago, and his memories were still fresh in his mind.
He was through grieving for Greta; he had done that while he lay beside her, believing he would follow her into death. He suspected that, perhaps, the goddess in the next room had helped to ease the burden on his soul in that respect. It was even possible that his loving wife, Greta, was destined to die so he could companion the Daughter of the Goddess of Light and the Storm God on her quest to save the second paradise.
‘But she said she wasn’t acting alone; she had her sisters to help her!’
The idea of the Daughter of the Storm God with sisters reminded him of a play he’d seen before his ‘abduction’ and arrival on this strange world. The delightful memory of the Muses stirred every hair on his neck and arms as he recognized a rare, cherished memory of his old life on Earth.
‘I remember! Michelle and I went to see that at the Pan…’
The memory began to fade as his excitement awakened his psychic blocks and the memory faded like a dream. In another moment, he couldn’t remember what he’d been thinking about, but knew that, somehow, he had forgotten something of vast importance; a truth replaced by a different truth.
'What’s happened in the past in done and gone. Wishing for what ‘was’ is a waste of resources and a source of emotional distress. ‘Now’ is what is important…'
Jeff’s thoughts were interrupted by a great blast of thunder. The wind whipped through the open windows, stirring up the faintest smell of death mixed with lemon-scented cleaner and the fresh smell of new greenery outside. Although the windows were designed to prevent rain from entering if they were left open, Jeff padded barefoot across the room and closed it, shutting out the brisk wind and most of the sound from the storm.
He looked out the window to the west. He couldn’t see the edge of the storm as it swept overhead. The reverse horizon was occluded by the low hanging storm clouds. This was a big storm; larger than that which had brought the goddess to him.
In the back of his mind, he could feel her presence in the next room. She didn’t like being alone. She had told him she was the daughter of the Regent. If that were so, then the goddess was also a princess. A princess would be accustomed to being comforted and cared for, while at the same time insisting on her independence and freedom to behave as she pleased.
Despite the humor he saw in his observation, It was wrong to leave her huddling naked in a corner of a darkened room during a thunderstorm. He turned to go into the kitchen, not sure what he was going to do. He wanted to hold her and comfort her; give her back some of the strength she had so selflessly given him. He stopped suddenly, startled by her naked form standing in the doorway, eerily illuminated by the lightning outside.
“I’m sorry if I frightened you, Jeff,” Béla said, quietly.
“No, No! It’s all right!” Jeff exclaimed, surprised to see her. “I was just…”
He exhaled, anxious and afraid that she might reject his offer to comfort her.
“So was I,” she said softly. “I was… just…”
She held out her hand to him, knowing better than to say more and frighten him away. Despite the fact that she was resolved to stay out of other people’s minds, he was broadcasting so heavily that she hadn’t been able to get to sleep. Now, both Jeff and the storm outside were keeping her awake. There was only one solution that would allow her to get some sleep. She would have to sleep with him.
Feeling like a young schoolboy holding hands with his first date, Jeff reached for the goddess’ hand and let her lead him into the kitchen. She sat down on the corner of her blanket, offering him half of her makeshift bed. He realized that she wanted his protection and his comfort. She also needed his acceptance of her bed. He gazed at her tremulous face, falling into her serene, dark eyes as she gazed back at him.
“Do you kiss?” he asked, not knowing what formalities she might have regarding companionship.
Béla smiled and leaned toward him, her eyes half closed. Their lips met, tenderly, then Jeff pulled away in surprise.
'I can feel what she’s feeling!' he realized, astounded.
At the same instant, by breaking physical contact with her, he was suddenly and acutely alone again. She watched him with her great, dark eyes; hoping desperately that he would accept her special gift for what is was and not deitize it like he had with her other special abilities.
'This is what it’s like – making love to a goddess…'
Jeff wasn’t sure which of them thought that; it didn’t matter, anyway. She was made of love. She was made to be loved. He leaned forward and kissed her again; once again aware of what she was feeling.
They reached for each other in the darkened room, their bodies outlined by the flashing lightning outside. Béla was enthralled with the sensations she was experiencing. There was no vampiric rush to experience maximum sensual overload by tearing and biting at each other. This was pure emotional feedback, something that didn’t occur with her sisters. It only occurred when she made love to pure, untainted humans, like Jake…
Béla broke their passionate kiss, startled by where her thoughts had taken her.
‘Who’s Jake?’ she felt Jeff ask in her mind.
Since they were mind linked, she decided to give Jeff a good dose of reality. It was like they were dream-walking together in her mind. She showed him the great ship, high above their heads, and the shell of this moon that cradled all the delicate life forms inside it, including the two of them. She found that he already suspected the truth of where they were.
Then she showed him Earth.
‘This is your home world, where you were born. You probably grew up in a city or a town on this world,’ she explained as she showed him the sights. ‘The people here live on the outside of this world so the landscape goes the other way.’
Béla thought it was funny when Jeff thought he might fall off this huge ball they were standing on.
‘This was my home for a long, long time. But then people found out how special I was and wanted me for their own purposes. Jake was my companion then, like you are, now. He and others tried to protect me, but they failed. I was killed in a fire created by those who wanted to own me. When I woke up, I was no longer on Earth, and many years had passed.’
‘You miss this place,’ Jeff thought into her mind. ‘I can feel your longing for Earth and for your companion. Will you go back to live on Earth someday? Does your companion still live?’
‘Wishing for what was is foolishness!’ Béla thought bitterly into Jeff’s mind. ‘Now… is what’s… Now…’
Confused, Béla lost her train of thought for a moment, then remembered.
‘Earth is doomed; destined to be consumed by the sun. But to answer your question; Yes, Jake still lives.’
Béla showed Jeff the cabin in the desert. Jake was sitting on the porch, watching another sunset.
‘He mourns for you. He believes you dead!’ Jeff realized. ‘Haven’t you let him know you’re alive? I can’t believe that with the power you have and the love you have for him, you’ve not revealed yourself to him!’
‘I have walked in his dreams many times,’ Béla thought, sadly. ‘He loves, but will not believe… and I cannot physically get to where he is to tell him the truth.’
Jeff finally understood the great sadness he had felt when their minds had first touched each other. His goddess was impossibly separated from her true love by millions of miles and a hundred years, and even then, she was trying to survive and save a world. As much as he wanted to love her for himself and be her companion forever, he wanted to see them reunited even more. If he could somehow cause it to occur, it would be his great gift to his goddess for saving them all.
Jeff held her tightly and at the same time tenderly against him, comforting and protecting her from the violent lightning and thunder surrounding them. When he made love to her, she was sweet and warm and giving. Rejoicing in his unbound love for her, Béla surrounded him with her sensual gift, allowing them both to experience the orgasmic sensations each created in the other.
With no secrets between them, they went to sleep still coupled together, uncaring now about the thunder and lightning crashing around them.