Disclaimer: I don't own Dogsbody, or any of the characters associated with the book. They all belong to DWJ. So please, no suing.
"They're complaining again you know. About your absence of a Companion."
"Let them complain. I have no intention of getting one anytime this millennim."
"They're threatening to appoint one themselves for you if you don't get one yourself."
Sirius blazed green fire. "Appoint me my own Companion!" he roared, but his roar had grown less considerable that it had been before the Incident, as it was now known throughout the heavens.
Sol shook his head. "I'm only repeating what they told us," he said. "They've been after you for years. Now they're tired of letting you get your way. Fools," he added. Sol was not one for committee meetings or judgments. He only attended the recent one because it concerned his friend.
"They can't do this to me Sol," said the fiery luminary. "I won't let them. I'll fight them…" his voice drifted off. Lately he was not motivated to fly into one of his fiery rages.
"How?" asked Sol. "They want you to get one within the next ten years. They won't wait any longer than that."
"Ten years!" Sirius asked. He had meant for his voice to rise several more decibels than it did. "Only ten years? Who can I possibly get with only that amount of time?" His voice betrayed his true feelings. Sol knew what the trouble was.
Sirius had wanted her for his Companion since he returned to the star world. She was almost twenty eight now. Sirius had managed to hide his changes well, but everyone heard his fierce roar rip through the heavens much less often than it did before the Incident.
Everyone had their own theories on that as well. Since no one believed that Sirius could ever truly change by himself, some claimed that he was being controlled by his Companion somewhere, that she had never truly died. Others claimed that he was so devastated over the treachery of his Companion that it had addled even his great luminary brain. A small faction believed that it was not truly Sirius, but another, identical luminary brought in to solve the political crisis in the heavens at the time. That faction was still searching for Sirius on Earth whenever Sol's back was turned. Only five entities knew the truth. Earth, Moon, Sol, Polaris (the only Effulgency outside of Sol that Sirius trusted these days) and Sirius himself.
Sol had been worried about the change in his friend of late. Sirius wasn't himself, even less so than after his return to the star world. He sulked about his sphere and brooded, and hadn't lost his temper in years. Sol didn't think it was healthy.
"You're lonely," he had told Sirius one day. Sirius gave him a look that would have had the fiercest luminary begging for mercy. Sol just stared right back.
"Don't be ridiculous," had been Sirius' long awaited reply.
Now they sat in Sirius' sphere, discussing the latest meeting which Sirius had not attended.
"I have to go," declared Sol. "Think about this. You need a new Companion soon. Polaris and I can do nothing if all the luminaries rise up and demand it of you." Sirius did nothing but sigh. Sol left, shaking his head, and returned to his sphere, bringing light back to Earth once more.
Sirius got up from his seat and wandered to the lower levels of his sphere. He looked down and opened the floor to reveal his other sphere, the sphere he controlled as opposed to where he lived and controlled it from.
Below thousands of spheres of light sparked different colors and intensities. Blue and red and green and purple and white. He turned away from the white ones and instead looked into space. The vast blackness of the universe lay like an enormous road, the end of which seemed so far away and yet so near. The music of the spheres soared in his ears, and he closed his eyes and willed the music to take him far away. The music swelled and dipped and flew. But there was no where to take him. Sirius slowly opened his eyes again.
He saw the smaller spheres within his own; the first he saw was a sphere slightly less bright than the one he called home. Here was Polaris' sphere, which had become the brightest in Earth's sky for a brief time seventeen years ago.
He looked at his other spheres, and the spheres outside his own that belonged to ones of equal or greater rank as he, Sirius. Some spheres drifted along without purpose. Here was where Polaris' brothers lived, what she had called the Big Dipper. And Antares and Betelgeuse and all the others. Next to him, a ways off, was Andromeda's sphere, spiraling so much like his own. He almost smiled when he remembered what they had called his sphere on earth.
The Milky Way.
It was a childish name for his proud sphere, yet because she had called it this, he now referred to it by the same name.
Finally, his eyes fell upon Sol's sphere, and the tiny, pretty green and blue sphere inside it that was called Earth. Here was lost a year of his life. A year that, despite how long he had existed before it, was the first year that he had truly ever lived. And the last.
He had died in more ways than one that night.
Who are you? She thought to herself as she stared into the mirror. Who were you? What are you to become? She touched her reflection.
"You aren't who you were. I'm tired of looking at you," she said aloud.
Kathleen stood alone in her bedroom in her long blue nightdress, staring at her reflection, disgusted. She had woken from a dream in which she was young again. Before she came to England. When her father and mother were both still alive. She had been wandering through a field of flowers with both of her parents. They were picking flowers and putting them in her hair. Then a giant Duffie had appeared out of nowhere. Kathleen woke up screaming.
Sleep was no longer an option, which is what led her to staring at her own reflection. On the surface, no one would see any reason as to why Kathleen would feel this way. Kathleen had become a very pretty woman. Her face had a more mature look to it, but still retained a child-like cuteness. She had a slim figure and beautiful hair that had curled slightly and hung around her face in waves. Yet she felt like punching a fist through that mirror. Instead she turned away.
"Everything has been going wrong," she thought. "Ever sinceI left Ireland. I don't belong here." She sighed. She hadn't acted like this in a long time. She never would have acted like this before…
Sirius watched from his sphere as Kathleen shook her head and went to go watch television to try and fall asleep. It killed him to see her so depressed. He couldn't help but blame himself. If he hadn't been so hell bent on getting that Zoi, if he had just stopped to think for a minute what it would do to him, and what that in turn would do to Kathleen. But he hadn't. He had thought only of himself, and now they both had to pay for it.
Ever since he had returned to the star world he had watched her. He had done his best to try and keep Kathleen happy, and where he could not interfere Sol had for him.
Kathleen had been dealt a double blow that day. Her father had died, been shot even, and the one thing that could make her forget her pain, help her regain some sense of sanity, was gone. Leo was dead.
Sirius and Sol had done their best there, providing her with both a new home and a new dog, which she named Milky, after the band of stars she had suddenly and mysteriously grown so fond of. But though Miss Smith tried, she couldn't replace Kathleen's mother and father. And Milky was no Sirius. Still, she loved both dearly.
Then Sol had come to Sirius five years later and informed him that Miss Smith's heart was failing. She had maybe two years left. Sol had dragged out those two years as long as he could. And when it had happened, he made sure Kathleen was out of the house. Sirius could do nothing but watch in horror as Kathleen collapsed into sobs in the hospital waiting room when the doctor had come to tell her. Someone had let Milky in, and she licked Kathleen's face and wondered why her young master was crying. She snuggled up to Kathleen in the waiting room and Kathleen put her arms around her neck and cried into her curly brown coat. Sirius couldn't help but feel jealous. Comforting Kathleen had been his job.
Sirius had decided to come to Earth in human form for the funeral. He showed up in a black tux with dark green pinstripes, and stood in the back as Kathleen gave the eulogy with tears streaming down her cheeks.
He returned to his sphere after the funeral and continued to watch her. He watched as she inherited Miss Smith's house. She fell in love with the man of her dreams and was happy once again.
Her wedding was small. Her husband's immediate family on wide side in the big, lofty church, and Robin on the other. Both Mr. and Mrs. Duffield were dead by this time, not that Duffie would have come anyway, and Basil was off on an archeological trek in Egypt somewhere. No one walked Kathleen down the aisle.
No one that could be seen at least. Sirius had been there the whole time, walking down the aisle next to Kathleen, and when they reached the end everyone thought it was the wind that lifter her veil. Kathleen even tried to brush off the small kiss she had clearly felt on her forehead as a trick of her mind. But she was glad her mind had tricked her. It filled her with encouragement and happiness, and her wedding day ended up being the happiest day of her life.
Not even Kathleen could see Sirius. She gained and lost her ability to see luminaries in one night.
He watched Kathleen be happy with married life for five years. Then Sol had come with news again. Kathleen had something called 'cancer.' Sirius hadn't understood what it was, but it involved Kathleen being cut open and things taken out of her belly, and then losing her beautiful hair and looking pale and sickly for a long, long time afterward.
Throughout all of this Sirius had been worrying constantly, wondering how he could turn this around and make it happier for her. He distanced himself from everyone during this time, and had even raged at Sol for telling Sirius that there was nothing he could do. Sirius could never remember being this concerned about anyone, not even his Companion when she had been alive.
Kathleen had recovered, but she was not whole. The surgery had damaged her, and she could never have children of her own.
Sirius was there when she cried again over the children that she would never have and had never existed. Milky died of old age during this time, and Kathleen never really emotionally recovered enough to be ready for the next poor hand life dealt her.
Her husband was having an affair.
Some nurse he had met at the clinic where Kathleen went. Kathleen was too shocked for words when she found out, and Sirius had flown into another one of his rages. This one was worse than before, and the scientists on Earth took note of the strange color of the Milky Way during this time, a bright, glowing green.
When she kicked her husband out, Sirius and Sol made sure he would never come back, or go anywhere again.
Kathleen was so removed from the sweet girl that had taken in a small puppy and volunteered to become a virtual slave for the privilege of keeping it. Life had beaten her down, cast her aside, and she was tired of looking in the mirror.
Only recently, Sirius began to suspect something else was at work. It didn't seem right that someone he was trying so hard to protect and prevent anything from happening to was suffering so much hardship. "A rift in the balance," Sol had called it, trying to explain to Sirius that every creature on Earth suffered hardship, some more than others.
"You try to do everything in your power to help her. It causes a rift in the balance and things have to go wrong in her life for the balance to right itself again," Sol had explained.
"But it seems as if there is another rift in the balance," Sirius had shouted back. "Now to much evil is happening to her. Its more powerful than I am." Sol, for once, had nothing to reply to that.
And now here she was. It wounded Sirius to see her like this.
"If only I hadn't left… Sol told me himself he would have found the Zoi eventually. If only I hadn't been so blind," he lamented. "If only."
Sirius looked away from Sol's sphere. Instead he looked and wondered if there were problems to solve elsewhere. Preferably problems that wouldn't be so that he felt that he would rip his own wings off if only it would make the problem a little better.
Earth had barely turned on her axis seven times when Sol came to visit Sirius again. To Sirius it seemed like hardly any time had passed at all. In truth Sol was very worried about Sirius, and had some disturbing news for him. They stood in the lowest level of Sirius' sphere, with the entire galaxy below them.
"Sirius," began Sol slowly. "It's Kathleen again." Sirius rounded on him, his eyes blazing green fire.
"If anyone's hurt her again I swear…"
"Do you think I'd let that happen again?" asked Sol, indignant. "No. It's the cancer. It's back and this time…" he didn't finish his sentence. He didn't need to. Sirius knew what he meant.
"No… Sol… NO!" he raged. It looked like he was about to completely lose his temper and Sol braced himself for the impact. He was used to this by now. But the fiery blast did not come. Instead the green blazing fire around Sirius faded, and his great wings drooped.
"Is there… anything you can do?" he asked imploringly, almost pathetically. Sol was reminded of the day he had been asked if he could open the gate to Sirius' small backyard prison. He was just as touched and embarrassed as he had been back then. Why should a great Denizen like Sirius address him so? Sol turned away and the light around him flashed and sparkled as he struggled to cover up his feelings.
"I'm sorry Sirius," he said, turning around. "I can do nothing to stop her from…passing on."
"Then she will travel to her Afterworld and I shall never see her again!" cried Sirius. A bright green liquid suddenly tricked from his eye. Sol immediately turned away so his friend could collect himself.
When he deemed it safe to turn around again he spoke. "But Sirius," he began. "I think we might be able to solve two problems at once."
Sirius picked his head up. "How?" he asked, and Sol saw a long gone spark return to Sirius' eyes.
"You want to see her again, and you don't want the Committee to appoint you a Companion. Don't pretend you wouldn't want her as your Companion. You are a lonely wreck without her, and it seems like everyone but me is blind to it, even you!" Sol burned white hot, and was more than a little taken aback at his own recklessness. Had he addressed any other Effulgency as such he would have been formally tried and executed.
Sirius said nothing, but the small ember of fire that had been in his eyes glowed brighter, almost as it had before the Incident.
"How will you do it Sol?" he asked. "How can it be done!"
Sol knew that there were flaws. His plan was flimsy, and he hadn't expected Sirius to get this excited or for his fire to come back. But seeing his enthusiasm, Sol plodded onward.
"It would take all the time I have in the day to do it. But I could fill her soul with enough energy that instead of going to her Afterworld she would continue up into space, where her runaway soul could be apprehended. Of course, it would need a body identical to the one it had come from to house it, but that shouldn't be a problem for the Sirius Zoi."
Sirius wanted to shout with joy at the top of his lungs (something he had never done before) or give Sol his entire sphere as a thank you. Instead he did nothing but stare at Sol with his wide eyes blazing.
"But," Sol continued. "There is only one day I would be able to accomplish this. She would have to die on the longest day of the year, giving me plenty of time to fill her soul with energy before and after she dies."
"And if she doesn't die on the longest day of the year?" questioned Sirius, almost afraid of the answer.
"Then she is lost to you forever," replied Sol sadly.
"How much time do we have?"
"Her expected life span from now on is 181 days away. The longest day of the year is 182 days away."
"That's cutting it pretty close," commented Sirius.
"Don't we always?" replied Sol.
Sirius had six months to prepare. The first thing he did was use the Zoi to create an identical duplicate of Kathleen, only because it didn't have a soul it didn't function at all. He had even dressed it in Kathleen's current favorite dress. Sirius kept it deep within the lower levels of his sphere because it pained him to look at it.
But he now had something he hadn't had in a long time. Hope.
Robin came to visit her almost every day now and Basil only when he could find the time. She knew she was dying. She could feel her one time seemingly infinite life force slipping away from her, bit by bit.
"It's not fair Robin," she had told him one day. He simply sat on the chair next to her bed and nodded. "I haven't experienced enough of the goodness of life to die yet. This is not how it was supposed to go." She turned on her side.
"What do you want out of life Robin?" she asked him suddenly. Robin looked at her strangely. She had only asked this question once before, many years ago, when she had been a different person. He hadn't had an answer for her then.
"What do I want?" he repeated. "I want to go to my grave knowing that I influenced everyone I met in some good way. I don't care if I'm remembered or not. Just that people learned something good from me, and never forgot it. I want my legacy to live on." Kathleen smiled at him.
"You've influenced at least one," she said, taking Robin's strong hand in her thin, frail one. "You've changed too Robin. You're stronger than you used to be. In many ways."
"What did you want?" he asked her. Her smile faded.
"I don't know. I never did know what I really wanted out of life. I suppose I'll never find it now." A grim smirk flitted across her face. "Darkness in life has seen to that."
"Don't say that Kath," he said. "You know there's a reason for everything. The bad and the good. You'll see down the line."
"What line!" she cried as loud as she dared. "There is no line Robin. This is the end of the line for me. This hospital bed in this stupid room."
"What about Heaven?" he asked her simply.
"Who knows if that's even real?" she replied, softly and bitterly, as if she herself didn't want to admit it was even a possibility.
"Of course it's real," he said. "I wouldn't lie to you Kath. Heaven is different for everyone, but it exists." She smiled at him again.
"Alright Robin. I believe you."
Tomorrow was the longest day of the year. Kathleen highly doubted she would life to see it. Her systems had been shutting down. Her life force was drained down to almost nothing. It was all she could do to keep her eyes open enough to stare at the curtain that separated her bed from the new patient's.
He was a bit of an enigma. They had brought him in during the night, and Kathleen hadn't heard a peep out of him since. Not even a rustle of the bed sheets.
Her curiosity overwhelmed her, and she made a secret pact with herself that she would not die until she had seen the stranger's face. For some reason it seemed important to her.
It was the only reason she was not afraid to close her eyes that night.
"I won't die," she told herself as she felt sleep taking hold of her. "I promised myself I would see him, and I won't die until I have done it.
She traveled away to her dreams. She stalked in and out of gray and black nightmares, with black and deep blue things clawing at her and threatening her. In these dreams someone would always show up, or sometimes it was just light. The green fiery someone or the green light would always beat back the darkness and leave her path clear. But in the next dream the darkness came again, with more of it, and somehow darker than before. As time went on she sensed the green person was losing control of the situation, and he stopped showing up altogether. Not that he could have seen anything anyway. It was to dark to see anything clearly.
But though the darkness seemed threatening, Kathleen was not afraid of it. Though it dug its claws into her she felt no pain. Somehow the light and the darkness were working together to bring her somewhere. Or to learn something. But as long as the dreams might go on, she never seemed to get to her destination.
She opened her eyes the next morning, relieved that she was able to stare at the blank ceiling of the miserable room. She turned her head and saw the curtains covering the bed next to her were drawn back, and there was no one in the bed. There had been someone there though, she was sure of that.
She turned on her other side and stared out the low window. Below her she saw the small, sunny yard that was available to recuperating patients. It was like a very small park surrounded on two sides by tall, gray hospital walls. One of the sides that was not covered by a wall looked out onto the small town, and when the day was clear a person sitting on one of the benches could see all the way to the blue sea.
In one corner was a small Japanese garden complete with Koi pond. In another corner rose bushes climbed the walls all the way up to the third floor. She was sorry she would not live to see them all in bloom.
As she stared into the sunny yard she felt a growing sense of strangeness. Her bodily systems were shutting themselves down, she could feel that. But it seemed as if another energy was filling her. She felt almost giddy.
As she continued to stare out the window the morning's light fog lifted and she saw the rooftops of the town below. She was not at the right angle to see the ocean. And she wanted to. She desperately wanted to.
Kathleen pressed the call button on the side of her bed again and again until one of the nurses came in.
"I want to go outside," she told her in a scratchy voice. "I want to see the ocean."
The nurse smiled hugely. Kathleen could tell it was fake even in her condition.
"You're not well enough to go outside dear," said the nurse cheerily. "But once you're well again you can look at it all you want!"
"I'm dying," said Kathleen simply. "Can't you find it in your heart to grant a woman's dying wish?"
"You're not dying dear!" said the nurse, feigning surprise. "We would know if you were!" Then the nurse checked all of the machines that were poked into Kathleen and left.
"But I am dying," she protested. "I am going to die without seeing the ocean." She looked at the clock. It read 4 pm.
"The sun will go down in four and a half hours," she said to the ceiling. "That's when I go down to. I'm sure of it."
Around 6 the nurse came back and brought her dinner. Kathleen didn't eat it. She was too worried about not seeing the ocean. The new patient hadn't come back yet. Maybe he was outside, enjoying the sunshine. After a half hour of pushing around the food on her tray, Kathleen heard footsteps down the hall. She hoped it was the nurse coming back to take the food away.
Instead a man entered. A bandage was wrapped around his head and a little blood shown through it. He had several shallow cuts on his face and stitches formed an ugly line from his right ear to the tip of his chin. He could only be the new patient.
He looked at her for a few seconds.
"You want to go outside, don't you?" he asked her. Somehow she wasn't surprised that he knew this. She felt as if she had seen him before, but she couldn't place him.
Without saying another word he crossed the room, pulled the wires and needles out of Kathleen and lifted her into his arms. She wasn't alarmed or frightened in the least. She knew he would not hurt her.
The stranger carried her down several flights of stairs. She chanced a look into his face and saw that his eyes were a deep blue, almost black. She could see those eyes swallowing light and never returning it.
He carried her outside and set her down on the stone bench facing the sea. The sun grew steadily orange and red, and it glinted off rooftops and chimneys. The sea turned the color of fire, and the clouds in the distance were purple, blue, and pink flames.
She leaned against the stranger and smiled. This would be the last thing she would ever see.
Yet she felt, incomplete somehow.
"I never knew what I wanted out of life," she said.
"You didn't have enough time to figure it out yet," he replied. "But you'll see it. You'll find it soon."
"I think I'm out of time."
"You're never out of time. Even when your body is gone, your soul will live. You have all the time in the world to figure out what you want out of life."
"But there is no life without a body. Even if my soul found what it was searching for, I wouldn't be able to act on it."
"Of course you can. You have all time to act on it. That's what this part of our journey is for. To get us to ask ourselves what we want. And in the next life is where we act on it. You have a special task in the next part of your journey anyway. You will find what you are searching for."
"Special?" she said doubtfully. "I wasn't anything ever. What is dying going to change?"
"Dying, like birth, changes much."
Kathleen suddenly shuddered. Her face began to twitch. This was it.
"Goodbye," she told the stranger.
"See you soon, Kathleen," he replied. As the sun set, Kathleen's eyes closed onto darkness.
"Where is she?" thought Sirius desperately. "Sol should have set on her by now!" Suddenly, a golden light shot up from the green and blue sphere. It soared through the heavens, faster than Sirius' wings had ever carried him before. There was something else there, he noticed. It was a strange color, blue and white and hid from him on the other side of Earth. He couldn't be concerned with it though. Kathleen was coming.
As Kathleen's soul sped toward him, Sirius held out his Zoi. The Zoi shot out a thin silvery web, which trapped her soul in its fine cords. Grinning and laughing, Sirius flew off toward his sphere with Kathleen in tow.
He entered through the lower level of his sphere and headed straight for the room that held the duplicate of her body. When the soul met the body, Sirius released the Zoi's hold on her and she embraced her body, entering into it at the same time. The body glowed for a brief moment, and then fell to the ground in a heap. When nothing further happened, Sirius suddenly became terrified that something might have gone wrong and her soul was lost forever.
But at last she stirred. She got up from the floor and stood up, holding out her hands and staring at them, astonished. She turned her hand over and bent her fingers. Then she bent her arms and cracked her neck. Finally she looked up at Sirius and he saw the joy of being alive and in a healthy body fade from her eyes. In fact her eyes were turning colder.
"Do you remember me?" he asked her. He panicked again. Had she forgotten all about him? Did she even have the slightest memory? He began wondering how he could make her remember him again and how he could explain this all to him.
"Of course I remember you," she said curtly. His heart gave a leap.
"I would never forget your face. I hate you. You took away my joy." Her eyes became moist. "You killed him. You killed my Leo."