This is Installment One of the novel Rose and Justice. It includes the Prologue, Chapter I.i, and Chapter I.ii. It is 3,406 words long. As other installments are posted, links for each will be added under the tab labeled “The Novel” at the top of this page. Enjoy!
Art thou gone so, love-lord, ay husband-friend?
I must hear from thee every day in the hour,
For in a minute there are many days.
O, by this count I shall be much in years
Ere I again behold my Romeo!
I will omit no opportunity
That may convey my greetings, love, to thee.
O, think’st thou we shall ever meet again?
I doubt it not; and all these woes shall serve
For sweet discourses in our times to come
Romeo and Juliet, Act III, Scene v
Oxley sat on the edge of the footstool transfixed by the vision of Lord Montague sitting in the chair before him. Oxley’s face was a muddle of consternation and anticipation.
Lord Montague spoke. “For I will raise her statue in pure gold, that whiles Verona by that name is known, there shall no figure at such rate be set as that of true and faithful Juliet.”
In less than an instant, the figure of Lord Montague morphed magically into that of Lord Capulet. “As rich shall Romeo’s by his lady’s lie – poor sacrifices of our enmity!”
Lord Capulet’s image disappeared into the face and caped splendor of Escalus, the Prince of Verona. “A glooming peace this morning with it brings. The sun for sorrow will not show his head. Go hence, to have more talk of these sad things; some shall be pardoned, and some punished; for never was a story of more woe than this of Juliet and her Romeo.”
The Prince faded slowly away like lights going down on a stage and Maria Claricy now sat in the chair before Oxley. She slowly closed the book on her lap and crossed her hands on top of it. “You’ve had your story. Now off to bed.”
“No!” Oxley cried out and stood on the stool, his arms akimbo. “I don’t like that ending. That’s a horrible way to end a love story!”
Maria Claricy smiled, and it seemed that so did the Snowy Owl perched just behind her left shoulder. “But, that is how it’s written.”
“And why, I ask? Why should there ever be anything but happy endings? Whose idea was that?”
“I believe we can blame that on humanity. They have such little capacity for understanding that stories never really end.”
Oxley sat back down and crossed both his legs and his arms. Tucked tightly behind his back were two translucent wings which shimmered purple and pearl in the firelight. “And it’s just a story, right, Maria? It’s not really real.”
“Oxley, I’m surprised at you. Of course, it’s just a story. Evvv-erything,” she drew the word out dramatically, “is just a story. The human imagination is so much bigger than their rational minds, however, that they have difficulty accepting that their thoughts are as real as their experiences. More so, in fact. So, they have visions of other realities, ascribe them to pure fancy, and sometimes share them with others and call it fiction.”
Oxley tapped his index finger against his right temple, just in front of his slightly pointed ear. “And so, if the human imagination is as real as anything, and if stories never end, then this story, Romeo and Juliet’s story, is not . . . over?”
Maria Claricy smiled. Her green eyes sparkled a little more brightly. “Oh, my dear Oxley. It has only just begun.”
The Snowy Owl hooted, a deep, hollow, reverberating tone.
She awakened, but not from sleep.
She awakened from an absence of consciousness. It was a slow awakening, perhaps taking years. She had no concept of time. Her awareness began with the knowledge of a soft light. It was light seen through a fog, and she couldn’t quite tell where it began or ended. The light had no source; rather, it enveloped her completely and seemed almost to be a thing of substance. She felt the light as much as she saw it. The light grew gradually brighter until now it was so radiant that it should have burned her eyes, but it didn’t. It had a crystalline sheen, the most beautiful vision she had ever seen, yet somehow familiar.
She sat up and tried to see beyond the light. There was nothing. She looked behind her to see what she had been lying on. She simply wanted to see something, anything that would give her some sense of her surroundings. But all she saw beneath her, beside her, all around her, was the light.
She seemed to be nowhere.
Somewhere deep within her chest she felt an ache that was painful and comforting at the same time. It seemed that, for now, this ache was the only thing she possessed. Her awareness of the light and the ache made her aware that she was a thinking being, but knowledge of anything else eluded her. She didn’t know her name or even if she had ever had a name. She didn’t know her most recent memory or even if she had any memories.
She stood. Looking down, she saw that she was standing on the light. She felt awake and yet knew that the awakening was still happening. She could hear her breathing, feel it rush back and forth between her lungs and the light, and with each new breath she felt as if she was becoming more and more aware, more and more awake. She took a step, then stopped. She stood still for several moments or several hours or several days, she wasn’t sure, and pondered the idea that the same solid light she stood on was the same ethereal light she moved through.
As the breath moved in and out of her, each breath a conscious act, the light seemed to grow brighter and at the same time soften such that she believed she could see figures moving about in the distance. She tried to call to the figures, but the sound of her voice disappeared in the light only inches from her mouth. The act of calling depleted her energy immediately and almost completely. She rested for awhile and watched the figures dancing in the light. When she felt her strength return, she called again and thought that this time the sound had moved further, perhaps the length of her arm.
She began to ask herself questions, focusing as much on the asking as the search for an answer. What is my name? Who am I? Where am I? What am I? Is there a you? Who are you? And then she felt her mind shift into a new and yet familiar place. Wherefore art thou? That question sounded more comfortable somehow and she repeated it to herself again and again. Wherefore art thou? Wherefore art thou? She could make words, sentences, questions, and thoughts, but she couldn’t seem to make any answers. She pondered this for several moments, or several hours, or several days; she wasn’t sure.
She saw the figures now as beings who looked as she thought she must look. She called out to them again. Her voice seemed to travel much farther now, and she thought that one figure even turned to look in her direction. But the figure turned back and kept dancing in the light. She began to have the first traces of a memory. It wasn’t much, but she was certain that she had experienced an awareness of this light before. She thought that it might have been when she first came here. But, where was here? And from where had she come? That, she did not know.
She danced for awhile as she saw the figures doing. She thought that perhaps they would see her and join her in the dance. Then she could ask them the questions and see if they had any answers. It was not a dance, really. It was more of a dance-walk. The other beings were moving deliberately, yet did not seem concerned about getting anywhere. Arms moved in huge swinging arcs leaving light trails. Legs kicked high with the methodic motion of marching yet seemed as fluid as flippers flying through the surf. She tried to dance-walk toward the other beings, but they seemed to remain the same distance from her no matter how fast she moved. She intuitively knew that her own dance-walk was jerky and disjointed. She rested. For moments, or hours, or days. She wasn’t sure.
She tried to call out to them again. Three of the figures stopped dancing and looked in her direction for a long time. She called out repeatedly as loudly as her strength would allow, but they stood like statues, looking her direction as if they weren’t quite sure there was someone there at all. Her strength depleted, she sat on the light to rest, and the figures resumed their dance.
Her chest ached fiercely now and she clutched her hand to her heart. Her heart! She knew that she had a heart and in the same instant knew that it was the representative for all her feelings. She looked to her chest. She saw her own whispery form among the light. It was difficult to tell where she began and the light ended. It seemed as if she were not separate from the light, but rather a particle of the light itself.
She held her hand in front of her face. The closer she held it to her face, the more distinct the features became. But, when she held it too close, it disappeared altogether. She stood there for a long time moving her hand from the point of too-close non-existence to as far as her arm would reach. At the full length of her arm, her hand did not appear too distinct or too hazy; it simply looked like a hand. She held up both hands. She crouched down and examined her feet. She touched her feet and experienced the sensation of feeling. It seemed electric, even though she was not quite sure what electric was. She decided that electric was the feeling of form on form. She wondered if it would be electric if she touched one of the other forms dancing in the distant light. She ran her hand slowly from her toes, up her legs, across her torso, over the hills of her breasts, and finally to her face. The feel of her hand on her face was almost overpowering. Even the light seemed to intensify when her hands were on her face. She spent a great deal of time doing this. It was much longer than moments, hours, or days. It may have been years, decades, or even centuries that she spent discovering herself, relearning who she was and what she was.
When she finally looked up from her body, she was startled to find that the figures were dancing much closer to her. She could almost reach out and touch them. She watched them dance, then took a deep breath and called to them, desperate to have someone hear her. The dancing stopped, and all the figures turned to her.
“You don’t have to yell,” one being retorted.
“Leave her alone,” another said. “She’s new at this.”
“Well, she doesn’t have to yell,” said the first, a rather ill-tempered creature.
The second being ignored the first and turned to her. “How do you feel? The awakening can be quite exhausting.”
“I… ” she hesitated, feeling odd that she was actually communicating with another being. “I think I’m going to be alright. Where am I?”
The kinder being smiled. “You are Here.”
“Where is Here?” she asked.
“Here is …Here. Here is everywhere, but mostly Here is here.” The being smiled again and she knew that this being would be kind to her. His kindness radiated but seemed to originate in his green eyes, the first color she recognized Here.
“How did I get Here?”
“She’s still yelling.” the combative one complained.
The kind being turned to the other and communicated telepathically, “She doesn’t understand yet, Malcolm. She hasn’t learned to share herself through thought. Besides, no one could yell as much as you did when you first arrived.”
“Oh, yes. Pick on Malcolm. It’s so easy, isn’t it, Hal? Just because I demand a little order around here.”
“Malcolm, quiet yourself.” Hal, the kind one, said.
“How can I quiet myself when I’m not making any noise.” Malcolm countered.
“Then stop thinking,” Hal said. “I’m trying to welcome our new guest. Besides, remember what Aristotle told you.”
Malcolm quieted his mind and slunk back into the growing crowd of twenty or thirty beings. Aristotle had told him only that morning that an attitude like his would get him sent back time and time again. Anyone who arrived Here knew that this was the best place to be. Only an unlearned lesson could send you back against your wishes, and only a passion would make you volunteer for reincarnation. Very few ever chose a return trip to the physical world and most of those who did met with pain and tragedy. They were either assassinated or ridiculed for being heretics, demanding of the physical world what had been so easily attained in the spiritual world. Malcolm had been through wars in his earth-times, and the memory of the incarnate struggle was still fresh in his spirit. He would never choose to go back to a world that had caused him so much pain. However, he knew that if he did not show love and wholeness, he would be sent back against his will to learn what every being must learn in order to live Here forever. He had been warned once, and now Hal was warning him again. If he was warned a third time, no being’s petition could keep him from going back.
“Now, my dear,” Hal directed to her. “I believe your question was how did you get Here. You were always Here, you just didn’t always know it. At times your mind was preoccupied with being incarnate.”
“I don’t understand,” she said.
“I know you don’t, but you will soon. Why don’t we take a walk, and I’ll explain everything to you.”
“But, who am I? I have to know that now,” she said.
“You are you,” Hal smiled.
She was feeling exasperated. “O.k., I am me and here is Here, but that doesn’t really tell me much.”
“You want to know who you were.”
She hesitated. “Yes, who was I?”
Hal smiled. “You, my dear, were Juliet.”
Hal and Juliet departed from the crowd, Hal dance-walking gracefully, Juliet flailing about like an eaglet trying to fly for the first time. Where there was only light before, Juliet suddenly saw plants and trees, animals and birds and bees, mountains and streams. Color came alive and was becoming more vibrant with each breath she took. It was a perfect world. There was no survival of the fittest. Everything survived and everything was fit. If a fly happened to land in a spider’s home, the spider patiently set the fly free then invited the fly to stay for tea. Alligators offered rides across the river to piglets. A lion sleeping in the shade offered his hind quarters as a pillow for a lamb. It was the most beautiful place Juliet had ever seen, even though she really couldn’t remember seeing any place else. Peace seemed almost tangible. Peace was the law of the land, and love was the justice.
Juliet followed silently behind Hal until they came to a grassy bank alongside a stream that seemed a blanket of lush green suede. Along the way, she had tried to hear his thoughts. She understood enough to know that Malcolm’s irritation with her rested in her inability to communicate telepathically. Either she still didn’t get it or Hal simply wasn’t thinking anything. She heard only the quiet noise of whippoorwills and katydids. As they reached their resting place, a panther darted out of the woods and almost ran into Juliet.
“Excuse me,” the panther said.
Juliet nodded and smiled. Then she looked twice at the retreating panther. Had he really opened his mouth and spoken? She didn’t think so. She had heard his thought! And she wasn’t trying at all.
Hal motioned for her to sit on the grassy hillock. “Awakening can be quite difficult. It takes a lot of energy.”
“I keep feeling the need to rest,” Juliet explained apologetically.
“That’s understandable.” Hal smiled. He sure smiled a lot, but Juliet liked it.
“Do you know everything about me?” she asked.
“I know more about you than you knew as Juliet, but I know less about you than you know about yourself Here.”
Juliet laughed. “I know nothing about myself.”
“You know everything about yourself. You’re just still awakening right now.”
“How long does that take?”
“It varies,” Hal responded. “For some, it takes no time at all. For others, it takes centuries. It all depends on how much sleep you need.”
“I must have needed quite a bit.”
“Well, you did take a little longer than normal, but I’ve seen quite a few who took a long time. It took Louis XIV more than 200 earth-years to awaken. He’s back there now. He’s still got a lot to learn. That whole ‘I am the state’ thing guaranteed him a return trip.”
Juliet, oblivious to affairs on planet earth, asked the next obvious question. “How do we get our names here? Why are you Hal and Malcolm is Malcolm?”
“We really don’t need names. Names are only useful when we are talking about someone who is not present at the moment. However, for convenience’s sake, we generally take whichever incarnated name we liked the best. For most, it’s the last one since we are simply more used to that one and since that is the lifetime in which we were usually the most evolved. Malcolm was a soldier, a Scotsman who helped found a little town in Georgia. That’s a place in the New World. It was settled after you went to sleep. I was a writer and philosopher in New England. That’s also in the New World. I died after a long life of trying to get people to understand just a little truth. My sleep did not last very long. I may go back someday, but I don’t have to. Malcolm, on the other hand, is destined to return any day now. If my heart was not ruled by love, I would suggest that we send him back as a mule. Although he certainly doesn’t need to learn any more stubborn.”
Juliet was amused by the stories, but wanted to know more about who she was. “So, was Juliet my name in the … last incarnation?”
“When was that?”
Juliet paused. “And what year is it now?”
Juliet swallowed hard. “You mean, I’ve been asleep for over 300 years?”
“Yes, my dear. You really needed the rest. You see, since time began, you have been an avid supporter of love. It takes its toll. Your last incarnation was especially hard. Passion is always exhausting.”
“So, if I’ve been a supporter of love, then I don’t have to go back, right?”
Hal paused. “No. No, you don’t have to go back. You can stay right here as long as you wish.” He smiled at her, a gentle and loving smile. Her auburn hair gleamed like diamonds resting in the clay. Her eyes were the azure blue of the unpolluted seas. She was without a doubt the most beautiful being he had ever seen. Her beauty was only surpassed by the pureness of her heart. She knew no malice and no shame. She hadn’t felt a hateful feeling since a few hundred years before Jesus was born – and that was only because she was in deeply in love with a Greek man who preferred lovers of his same sex. Even her last hate was grounded in her love and passion. But, the hate had disappeared long ago and her love had grown ever stronger.
“So, I’ll stay,” Juliet said decisively. “I like it here and I like you.” She smiled.
Hal green eyes flashed knowingly. “I like you, too. But, you won’t stay.”
“Why won’t I?” Juliet inquired. “What would ever make me want to return?”
Hal waited a long moment before he said, “Romeo.”
© Deborah E. Moore – 2011