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In the world of The World of Acuthan

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Chapter 1

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"That's enough Joziah. I cannot take this anymore. I won't listen anymore. For three years I have been patient, been supportive. But we have a one year old child now and she is our focus. You know better than anyone that in this world our people are preyed on. Our daughter may die if we do not direct our entire attention to her well-being". For the first time, Shelendra momentarily paused for breathe.

Joziah jumped in. "I can hear them Shel. I can hear them all singing so happily. I recognise the song and its calling to me". Joziah closed his eyes listening. It was broken by the voice of his wife.

"That's just a memory. It was a song they all sang to you when you were a baby. It's a wonderful memory, but that's all it is. But your daughter is real, and so am I". Shelendra felt love and pity for him but her voice was harsh. She had to be.

"Shel, I love you and Aly more than my life. You are both my world". He feared to the point of knowing that this would not be accepted by his wife, it had never been so in the countless identical arguments they had repeated over the last two years, as Joziah's problem became more acute.

"That's not enough Jo", at least she was now using his short name. Perhaps, he hoped, she was softening. "I am tired. We are going round in circles and you are not getting better. These delusions are progressively worse. You need help".

"There's nothing wrong with me. How many times must I say it?" It was Joziah's turn to increase the heat into the argument.

"That's not what Evan says!" Back to shouting, Shelendra stared with fierceness in her emerald eyes that would have frozen a ghoul in its tracks, but Joziah was blinded to her by his own relived emotion.

"Evan is a charlatan. He's no more a doctor than I am. Fillian understands more than Evan ever could". A mistake to mention his uncle and he regretted it straightaway.

"Fillian! Fillian this, Fillian that. Your uncle doesn't tell you what you need to hear Jo. He's too much of a mouse to tell you. So let me spell it out one final time. Joziah, your family are twenty-three years dead. No amount of...memories or dreams or visions can change that. Why are you doing this to us?"

"Shel, I'm doing it for you, you and Aly".

"No, you are not. This is about you and your uncle, no-one else. And you can never explain how it's for us. If you want us to stay together, the family you have right now, you must accept that so we can move on". Her voice became quieter and softer as she wearily exhaled her final words.

Joziah's voice followed her lead. He was barely audible in sound but his words resonated in meaning like the hammering of a temple bell.

"I'm sorry Shel. I cannot accept something I know is not true. They are alive, all of them. I know that more clearly now than ever. I must find them. Shel, I'm sorry". His mind felt dark and the thought of his family was the only light, the only hope he had to cling to. He couldn't let it go even though he had wanted to for the sake of his wife and child.

"Then it's done. Goodbye Jo". Shelendra, eyes lowered, turned and walked from the room. As Joziah watched her slender frame head towards the door he could see that she was moving slowly, as if inviting him to stop her. His own voice was screaming in his head to say something to her, to go to her, hold her. But he didn't. He couldn't. He was forcibly stopped from doing so by something he didn't know what, let alone understand. As he thought of reaching out to his beloved, pain seared through him again. A physical pain the origin of which had always been a mystery to him since the first time he experienced it. A pain that had grown throughout his adult life and had now achieved an intensity he could no longer defy. His head pounded to a relentless rhythm. This time, only when he resolved to find his family did it recede and finally relent.

Joziah Kai lowered himself to the floor, tears mixed of physical and emotional pain flowing unhindered down his sharp features into his short, well-kept beard. The fight was lost. He succumbed to the inevitable.

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Having overheard their argument, Fillian entered the main living area of the small house, taking in the usual scent of roses so loved by Shelendra. She was at home here but Joziah could never find his place. He had friends, yes, but for some reason he found no true feeling of connectedness in the community. Something always prevented him, and the ties Joziah did have had become too weak to overcome the pull to leave. Fillian saw that now. Shelendra, he thought, this time Joziah will not falter in his conviction to seek his family. He felt an overriding sense of relief at the thought that the real journey had finally begun.

He stepped deliberately to Joziah's side and looked down at the blubbering mess at his feet.

"Jo? Come, stand up my boy. More than ever you need to be strong. At last you see there is no option here. You must leave and find them. Shelendra has held you back for too long".

"No. I'm sorry uncle but don't speak of my wife in that way. She has stood by me for longer than any woman could be expected to". Joziah looked into his uncle's eyes. He observed the usual doubt that his uncle felt towards his wife. Fillian had never truly believed Shel's motivation to be sincere. He even believed his uncle suspected her of some form of deceit. But that was irrelevant now, with his mind made up.

"Have you seen her?" Despite the impact of what was happening to his marriage, his question seemed a little detached.

"She'll come round. In time". Fillian was strong in the art of negotiation and could even lie convincingly when required, but he knew Joziah would see through this one.

"No, not this time. Where was she?"

"She had Aly and was headed to Rossia's place by the looks of things. She had bags. Of all the Koushan Mai in Kaien, Rossia knows how to avoid trouble with the Authorities. Shelendra and Aly will be safe with her". Fillian tried his best to sound more convincing this time, he was desperate for Joziah to leave here in search of his parents and end this.

"And the Red Hand? You've said they may have us on their list. Can Rossia shield my family from them?"

"If the Red Hand decide to act there is little protection for anyone, including your wife and daughter. But that's no different if you were here with them, you know that. It should not affect your decision. Come on Jo, you need to make this final decision and begin your journey. Only then can you find peace and a future with them".

"I know I must go, and besides the pain is now too much to withstand. The visions still pull me, and to the same place. The image is so seared in my mind that I see it with my open eyes practically all the time. And as you know, sleep brings me scant release". Joziah raised his eyes to the east, staring at his destination as if it were not fifty yards away. An opening that led into the mountain, barely visible through the snow that laced over the range and the surrounding terrain, newly laid and clean. He felt the bitter cold bite his senses. The visions were no longer only visual.

Fillian's eyes flared. He had seen Joziah do this many times although never was he so focused on the place than now. But beyond the general location he never told his uncle where exactly this place was. Never the landmark itself. As ever frustrated with this lack of information, he resisted to ask again, knowing it would be fruitless. And he did not want to do anything that may, in any way, deter Joziah from the course of action he had pressed him to follow.

"So we go in the morning nephew?"

Joziah felt a calmness, his mind less inflicted with pain, conflict, and confusion. In fact, all of a sudden he didn't feel a thing, and he did not know what was worse. "Yes uncle. To the Teeth".

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3 Dec, 2020 12:43

Really interesting start to the story - I feel so sorry for Shelendra. That must be so hard.