Well Hello again! Goodness, has it been over a year? I am so sorry to keep you all hanging like this! And with such a mean ending to the last chapter. I was re-reading the story, since that always gives me new inspiration and when I came to the last chapter I yelled at myself for not posting another one! My deepest apologies!
Well, seeing as I am now a college grad who is unfortunately unemployed, and having to wait a year for grad school, I find myself with ample opportunity to see this story through. I want to get to the ending as much as you do. And while I can't be consistent with my chapters, I am making a gargantuan effort to get this story done for all of you. Thank you to all of my reviewers who have been with me from the beginning, and the new ones I have picked up along the way. You all mean the world to me. So without further ado, the next chapter!
Chapter quote: "Think of it this way, you know the analogy of what came first, the chicken or the egg?"
Chapter 50: Onward Does the Battle Go
The week before the fall equinox, my hope of ever being able to find a way back was beginning to wane drastically. Other than theories and scientific tales, there was no recording of time travel. It appeared a hopeless dream that I would return and I was beginning to wonder if I had in fact done everything I believed I had. Maybe it was a dream, a long extensive dream that was still cruelly punishing me. Somewhere I must have erred against a powerful being and they decided to selfishly toy with my heart to the point that I didn't know how to stop feeling. For years, I had locked my heart away beneath my façade of an angry smartass, and in the matter of a few short months those walls had be irreversibly breached. If indeed I had not been dreaming, or willing myself away from whatever captors possibly held me.
Since my awakening in the hospital in Charleston, I would have random flashes of a horror I did not remember. It was as if two people were residing in my body and one was struggling to escape. At times, the images I had seen scared me worse than any event I had witnessed within the war. The tribulations that had come with fighting for my country were images I would not soon forget, but those that entered into my mind in the deepest stretch of night, or when I was rundown were unnecessary torture brought on for the thrill. Luckily the episodes were few and far between for the most part, but the more and more research I did into getting back, the more those phantasmagorias entered my mind and I had to wonder what all was going on.
With my frustration nearing its peak, I set out for a walk after dinner, intent on exorcizing my demons from my mind. I was almost punishing in my stride as I marched along the road, putting distance between myself and the useless books I obtained. If one, just one could help me I would not feel so despondent, but nothing helped. Tommy was trying to be as supportive as he could, but even he couldn't drive down every weekend to help me. He had a life in Boston, and a dream job that he was focused on. I couldn't be selfish and expect him to utilize his free time helping me, no matter how much he remarked I was his baby sister. I wasn't a baby anymore, and I hadn't been for a while.
The twilight sun was sinking behind the horizon as I wandered through the thickening foliage. My hand ideally brushed the leaves of bushes and trees that lined the small path, acknowledging the satin texture of the changing foliage. The soft soled of my suede boots were paddling softly as I wound deeper and deeper into the forest; the singing of birds and scampering mammals were soothing to my frazzled mind.
I could not figure out the puzzle that would lead me back to 1780. There was nothing on time travel except fantastical theories and works of fiction! Not one piece of solid evidence existed. In truth, I wasn't too surprised; I didn't think that by 2010 they would have figured out time travel. The developments made since I disappeared such as an African American President and the iPhone were pleasant surprises, but useless for my quest. I was a fool to believe that I would return. I allowed my brother to get my hopes up and now I was aching with disappointment.
I sighed morosely as I entered into the clearing lying at the heart of the little woods. Trash of various forms littered the area. Empty beer cans were scattered about along with cigarette and joint butts. A rusted, aluminum sink laid cocked in one corner with a warped bike frame sprawled on top. Shaking my head at the litter, I ambled over to the dead logs spread-eagled around a cold hearth, dropping to sit on the rough bark. My head fell into my hands as my elbows rested upon my knees. Silently, a single despairing tear landed with a soft plop on the leaves below. Suddenly a stiff wind blew up, seemingly out of nowhere, rustling the canopy of leaves and brushing across the grasses. With quiet determination, the wind whistled around my head, swirling my hair and bringing my skull up to stare curiously at the random gust. As my gaze wondered around the clearing, one lone leaf shifted its position somewhere in front of me, shooting the blinding glare of the setting sun into my eyes. With a small cry, I brought my hand up in front of face, trying vainly to block the dazzling luminosity.
The breeze continued to blow, heightening its speed to the point where as I was debating whether to head home. However, just as I began to stand up, a shadow passed in front of the sun, halting my progression towards home. The swirling mass paused mere feet from me, blocking the brilliance of light and began to take shape. Taking a few hesitant steps backwards and almost tripping over the log, I watched with slow precision details beginning to emerge within the mass. Shadowy stubble that lined a strong jaw, the shiny buttons of the waste coat, the scuffmarks on the worn brown boots were sharpening slowly as if a veil was being lifted. Finally, a man stood in front of me, as solid as the ground I stood on. Squinting from the continued glare that surrounded the man like a halo, it took me a moment to realize the smiling face beaming down was one I recognized.
"Ben!" I shouted, rushing over and throwing my arms around his neck. He chuckled, a deep rumbling sound that reverberated right through me as his arms wrapped around my small frame. I did not question why he was here in this little forest in Southern Connecticut, or how he came to be there. I only knew that I was beyond ecstatic to see him and if anyone could help me with a problem, it was Ben.
I held on to him for several long moments, only paying slight attention to the sense of cold that emanated from him while the air still held the heat of the day.
"My God I missed you." My voice was mumbled into his chest as I inhaled the familiar scent, tying him to none too distant memories.
"I missed you too, Stephanie," his voice rumbled through his chest. Slowly he released me, gripping my shoulders as he stared into my eyes, his own lined with wrinkles as his face lit with a large smile. "It was boring in the militia camp without you."
My smile faltered with remembrance of the grief he experienced. "Ben, I'm so sorry that you never knew I survived my battle with Tavington. I had no idea you thought I was dead, otherwise I would have—"
"Stephanie, stop," Ben said, placing a finger across my lips to stop my speech. "It's alright. Everything works out in the end. Do not trouble yourself."
"How can I not?" I practically pleaded. "Oh Ben, I feel so lost. I don't know what to do anymore. Everything is unraveling and I can't seem to make it stop."
Shaking his head, Ben brought his hand up to rest against my cheek. "Didn't I say don't worry? I've had this planned for a long time."
My brow quickly wrinkled in confusion. "What?"
"Come. Let us sit and I'll explain everything." Taking my hand, Ben led me over to the log I had previously occupied.
"What do you mean you've had this planned?" I exploded the moment we sat. "What are you not telling me? And how are you even here?"
Ben sighed, running a hand through his hair. "I'm sorry to have waited so long to tell you this. I needed to know if you were ready, if you were strong enough for the events to come—"
"Ben," I interrupted. "Just tell me what's going on. I'm tired of everyone treating me like some piece of crystal, and I deserve to know what is happening."
He nodded, as if confirming something only he knew. "It was I who sent you into my time. I dropped you where Gabriel and Thomas would find you. I waited centuries for you to be born and I watched as you grew up, protecting you where I could. That is how I came to be here today."
I blinked several times, trying vainly for my mind to process what my ears heard. "Protecting me? Wait, I don't . . . what do you mean . . . you sent me back in time? I'm sorry, but I don't understand this."
He smiled. "No I didn't think you would. Maybe we should go about another way. Do you understand different philosophical theories of time?"
"Sure," I shrugged, still trying to process everything I had been told. "I studied them in my philosophy class this summer. I mean the number is endless on how you can think of time, so we only studied a few."
He nodded slowly. "Alright, and did you ever study the idea of backwards time travel and the implication it may or may not have on history?"
"Well, no. I mean that's really in-depth and it was a basic philosophy class. Why? Did my going back in time change something drastic?" I asked, my fear peaking that I had royally screwed up.
"No, no, no," he hurriedly said. "What I mean to say is you were sent into the eighteenth century because you had already been there."
Again, I merely blinked at him. "Huh?"
He smiled. "Think of it this way, you know the analogy of what came first, the chicken or the egg? It is similar to that. I sent you into my world either because you had already been there, or because you were destined to go."
I paused to absorb what he said. "Yeah, I'm still confused."
He sighed quickly, then gripped my shoulders as if willing my stubborn mind to comprehend the facts he was laying out for me. "You were meant to enter into my world, my time, Stephanie. There are events and people there that would end up on the wrong path without you. Your influence has kept their destinies in line."
"Okay, that's all well and good, but what about mine? I don't know what to do anymore. I don't know who I am or if I'm going crazy. And the fact that I'm talking to you right now isn't supporting that assessment."
"Your future has never been altered by what you do. Everything had already occurred by the time you were born. Everything you were supposed to do, you have already done."
"Okay then, how? You're just a movie in my world . . . er . . . time."
Ben nodded. "That is true. You see, time is not a linear sequence of events and occurrences. It is in fact more similar to a tree. It branches off in different directions, connecting at times and then separating again, intertwining a whole network of dimensions. In your time, my life is merely a two-hour long movie, and in others, I do not exist at all. There are times where you don't exist. Stephanie, there are so many different worlds, different dimensions that no two are exactly the same. Now, I understand that you are probably full of questions," he continued as I began to open my mouth. "But trust that I know what I am doing and that in time you will come to understand."
Slowly I closed my mouth and paused, deep in thought. The story Ben gave me was so far-fetched that a rational person would have had a hard time believing such a tale. However, I was not a rational person, and after everything I had been through, I could not help but believe him. After all, he was sitting on a long next to me in 2010!
"Okay, fine, let's say I believe you," I placated, standing up and turning to face Ben. "Why me? Why was I the one chosen? There have got to be more beautiful, smarter, more accomplished people out there."
He smiled, as if knowing that someday I would ask this of him. "Because there are things you must learn as well."
"Yea, okay Yoda. Like what?"
"The answer is in you, for you to discover. No one can tell you."
"That is completely frustrating and cliché, you know that right?" I snapped, crossing my arms.
Ben laughed, but did not say anything.
"Fine, be that way, but you have to answer me this," I gripped, sitting back down and leaning forward. "How am I supposed to accomplish these supposed "tasks" destined for me? I can't even figure out how to get back! Let alone what I'm going to do when I get there."
He nodded slowly, turning his attention to very last rays of sun on the speckled horizon. "Our destiny is not always the easiest path in which the answers are freely given. However, that does not mean you cannot be helped when you need it. I will assist in bringing you back to my world, but the rest is up to you, Stephanie. You are a smart girl and you will find the answers you seek. Just trust in yourself, but most of all, trust in the love given to you by others. With that, you can accomplish any task laid at your feet."
Rolling my eyes, I retorted, "Again with the clichés Ben. When did you start sounding all wise and full of riddles that make no sense? Should I start calling you Obi Wan, or Gandalf?"
He just smiled, and that is when I realized that Ben was slowly fading before my eyes. As if the darkness of the coming night would erase all trace of him. Panicked, I reached for his arm, only to watch my fingers sail through thin air.
"Wait! I'm not done talking to you!" I shouted as he faded. "There are things I need to know. I still need your help: your guidance. You can't leave me alone!" Vainly I reached for his jacket, his shirt, anything that I could possibly hold on to, but he was merely a wisp of air.
"You're never alone, Stephanie. Come back when day and night are equal and I will return you to where you belong. Your path will then be made clear."
"Damn it, don't speak in riddles!" I snapped standing quickly as the same gust of wind blew up, as if forcefully pushing me to my feet. Ben just smiled and waved, and then was gone as darkness enclosed the clearing.
"Well that was maddening unhelpful," I muttered to myself as I stared at the empty log. 'Come back when day and night are equal? What the hell did he mean by that?' I thought as I meandered around the clearing, looking for any clue Ben might have left behind to help me. Upon finding nothing, I huffed indignantly, crossing my arms against the sudden chill that arose with the fading daylight. I glanced upward towards the slowly emerging stars that twinkled into the existence. "How am I supposed to do this, Ben?" I whispered, not expecting any answer to be forthcoming. When none came, I nodded my head in confirmation of my earlier assessment and began the slow trek home, knowing there was a very important phone call I needed to make the moment I got into the house.
"So, you've gone mental, that's what you're telling me, right?" my brother's voice said as it wafted through my new iPhone. I had just finished explaining to him what had occurred not a few hours before in the woods near the house. I, myself, was still having a hard time believing everything that Ben had explained to me. I could not be as important as he led me to consider, nor was there any possible way the objectives laid out in front of me could be fulfilled. I was not Wonder Woman after all. Of course, just talking to Ben in general was a sticking point I still had to overcome in my head. I mean let's face it - I don't really talk to dead people that often.
"No, Tommy, I'm perfectly sane. At least I was last time I checked," I snapped, giving a look towards the phone, even though my brother could not see my face. Hearing a snort, my glare intensified.
"You being anything relative to sane has been in question for a while, Monkey," he replied jokingly.
"Yes well we're two apples from the same tree, Tommy. If I'm insane, what does that make you?"
"A genius," came his answer. I swear at the moment, if I had the power to reach through the phone and strangle my brother, I would have. I think he could sense my irritation, for he quickly responded, "Calm down, I'm just teasing. So you really had this Sixth Sense thing occur, with Benjamin Martin?"
Rolling my eyes at the surmised thickness of my brother's skull, I barked back, "Yes. That is exactly what I'm saying. Ben said that he brought me into his time because I was meant to go, or because I already had been there. I forget which. And that it is my destiny to return to finish what I started. He said to come back when 'day and night are equal and I will return you to where you belong.' Whatever that means."
There was silence on the other end, and had it not been for the wheels turning in my brother's head, I would wonder if the call had been dropped. "I think he means the autumnal equinox. It's in a week, isn't it? That's when the sun rises and sets in exactly twelve hours; day and night are equal."
Blinking, I realized that my brother was right. "Yeah, it is. In fact, the day I left to come see you after graduation was the June 21: the summer solstice. Maybe the position of the sun and earth has some impact on time travel?"
"It's possible," Tommy agreed. "I mean some of the biggest pagan holidays involve the equinoxes and the solstices. So why can't you time travel on those days?"
"Physics wise I don't think it matters. But factoring in belief changes the whole ball game," I muttered mostly to myself.
"We're not about to enter a philosophy debate, are we Monkey? 'Cuz I don't know about you, but someone has to be up at six tomorrow." Although it was midnight, I had no inclination to sleep, too excited by the prospect of finally leaving.
"Yeah, fine whatever you old fart," I teased. "I will talk to you tomorrow."
"Night, Squirt. Hey! Before you go. . ." he paused, as if unsure how to continue.
"What?" I asked after a pregnant silence.
"Are you really gonna leave . . . again?"
I could clearly hear the pain in my brother's voice, even though he tried to conceal it. Closing my eyes against the sudden onset of pain and fear I replied, "Yea, Tommy. I am. I need to finish what I started."
"But you just got back. I can't lose you again!" His desperation was almost palpable.
"Tommy, you know you'll never lose me," I tried to reassure. "Just think of it as I'm just going on an extended vacation—"
"It's not like and you know it," he snapped, and for once, I was taken aback.
"I don't know what you want me to say, Tommy," I mumbled into the phone. You were the one who discovered originally that I was going to go back. You've been the one to help me over these last few weeks. You knew this was coming."
"But I didn't think it would happen so fast! I just . . .," again he paused. "I love you, Steph. You're my sister, and just, I love you and I don't want to have to miss you."
With my heart and throat tightening I smiled and said, "I love you, too Tommy. But I have to do this. I have to do this for William, and Ben, and Gabriel. I have to do this for me, Tommy. Or I always regret it."
"I know. I know," he sighed. "Listen, I'll call you back tomorrow, okay? Just, let me sleep on this."
Knowing that we were not going to move any further in the argument I agreed. "Okay. I'll talk to you tomorrow, then."
We said our good-byes and hung up. While adrenaline was still pulsing through my bloodstream with the knowledge I had a way to return to 1780 South Carolina, I couldn't help but begin to feel the pain of what it was going to cost me to leave my family again. I won't be gone always, Tommy, I thought. The battle can't last forever.
I know I don't deserve it, but reviews please? Pretty please? I'll try to be good to get the next chapter out before we die of old age :D