Worlds of imagination by Sara B. Gauldin
Terra’s work with the trainees was progressing quickly. Of course, that was the bonus of working with individuals specifically intended and designed to achieve a purpose that they are fully aware of. In that manner, guiding trainees was very different from guiding the mortal entities.
During each session, the trainees could tolerate and impressively manage more of the onslaught of mortal feedback that was second nature to Terra. Their innate curiosity drove them to ask the right questions; they asked exactly what they needed to know, which made it easy for Terra. She did not have to anticipate and prepackage as much information; the exchange was more natural.
When Terra had begun training the two new guides she had dreaded the assignment; but she found, over time, that she enjoyed their visits more than she thought she would. Of course, instant gratification when guiding someone was a seductress in its own way. However, there was more to it than that: she began to value their insight. The way they saw her, and the job she did, was open and so very different than the way she saw herself in the role. She found that she did not look forward to releasing them to their own purpose; but this was selfish of her, and she knew it.
During one such training session, Brendan asked Terra the one question that she did not really care to answer. His expression was grim when he voiced, “Have you ever questioned your guidance?”
Terra froze abruptly. Had Brendan seen some sign of self-doubt that she did not realize that she was sharing? She kept her response simple: “Why do you ask?”
“So much rests on decisions you make for others. You see the outcome, but they live it.” He paused while his fingers gripped his knees in agitation, and then rephrased his question. “Has there ever been anything that made you feel like you made a mistake? How do you deal with that?”
Terra considered the question carefully. A few years ago there had been a situation that had caused her to hesitate, caused her to have to doubt. She pushed it away from her thoughts. She was not sure that she was willing to open that door; but in fairness, Brendan’s was a legitimate concern. That much she could never deny. She braced herself, and slowly began to retell the scenario.
“Yes, not too long ago there was a family that had to be faced with a difficult situation. I thought it was for the greater purpose, so I didn’t hesitate. Even so, watching the situation play out, the pain it caused and the relationships it affected, gave me a new perspective.”
“Will you share it with us?” Elise asked.
“I will, but I need to clarify the situation,” said Terra. “I can only recall a few moments that I questioned the guidance I had given. In those situations I could see that the result would be agreeable to the plan, but some costs seemed too high. There were cases where human perceptions and emotions seemed to reach out to draw me in. The bonds between some mortals were so strong that they seemed to draw those mortals to one another across the divide between the mortal world and The Tweens.”
“You mean soul mates?” said Brendan. “We studied that phenomenon. Some say it is not real: that corporeals are either driven by hormones, or that the relationships are symbiotic to the task they are to complete but no more than that.” His voice trailed off.
“Is that what you truly believe?” Terra asked. Her voice sounded hollow. Brendan hesitated. She could tell he was worried about sharing his true opinion. “Go ahead. I’m not here to judge you, tell me what you think.”
“No, that’s not what I believe. I think there’s something to another theory; one that’s not taught in class.” Brendan’s voice sounded fragile.
“You mean that soul mates are created to complete one another? That they are meant to be?” Brendan’s face revealed a small sense of relief as he realized that Terra was aware of the rumor. “I’ve given the matter quite a bit of thought actually,” she admitted. “I would never have believed it myself, but I’ve seen situations play out that screamed the truth of it all. Yes, I do believe that soul mates are created for one another. I’ve seen connections on Earth transcend so much more than a symbiotic union.”
Elise’s interest was piqued. “Please tell us what you saw,” she asked. “At least then we can make an informed judgment.”
“Alright; but you will have to listen carefully and not reach any conclusions until I have shared all the facts with you.” Terra was determined to retell the story objectively. “Once, I placed the soul of a young woman during her family’s journey in a wagon train across the prairie of the United States. Her underlying purpose was to change the way that the mortals placed as pioneers and the mortals placed as Native Americans saw one another. It was plain to me that both groups were of the same origin. They were created for an individual purpose within their own groups, and were intended to live in harmony with one another, yet they lived at odds. They competed for finite space within a world that is no more than a speck of dust in an infinite universe, and hated one another simply for the differences in the flesh that contained the immortal spark. Their mortal bodies only let them see the differences in their worldly forms and practices; they could not see the commonalities between them. They could not see love and respect, a common need to survive, the mother’s need to nurture her child. Instead, they were blinded by differences that never really mattered. The pain they inflicted on one another was endless. One culture eventually overtook the other, but it was a blight to both.”
Terra felt herself sinking into the situation that had given her so much to ponder. “This baby was born into a cruel world. Even as she entered it, so helpless and pure, her source of comfort faded. My heart broke for her as her mother cradled her while bleeding to death from her birth. I held her mother’s hand here in The Tweens while the child’s father sobbed over the loss of his wife. The mother realized that, in conceiving the child, she and her husband had completed their earthly mission.”
Terra’s work space seemed very quiet. Her trainees seemed very far away; they were experiencing the situation vicariously. She continued. “The baby did not seem to thrive. Her source of warmth and sustenance was gone. There was no other woman among the group who could nourish her. They dug a shallow grave for the mother; they could not bring her remains to their new home; then lingered at the camp for days. It was obvious that the husband did not want to leave the place where he had lost his wife. As they lingered, the infant began to fade away. The father could barely stand to look at the child whom he could not save. She was the image of her mother’s earthly form; the symbol of the act that had brought her into the world and taken her mother from it. He was conflicted between the need to protect and save his infant daughter, and the resentment that she lingered on in exchange for her mother’s life. At last, the child seemed to succumb to the lack of basic needs. In truth, she was still only fading away; I could see that she still lived. She did not make the return to The Tweens. The father believed his daughter to be dead; he believed he had failed to keep her alive, just as he had failed his wife. He wrapped the child in her mother’s favorite quilt, intending to bury her remains next to her mother; however, something stopped him. He could not bear to put the beautiful baby into the darkness of the ground. Instead, he made the decision to leave the child behind. The wagon train pulled away; it would never return to that forlorn place. After the group was long gone, the infant awoke and found herself alone and at the mercy of the prairie. The father’s grief served as a reminder so strong as to brand the immortal part of him permanently. The mother looked on, torn, from The Tweens. She could no longer nurture the child she had borne, or ease the grief of her soul mate. The parents’ path was not an easy one, but this infant was meant for far greater things. They could not see the greatness ahead of their daughter. They could not see the changes she could make in the lives of others. They saw only the tragedy that they were living during that moment.”
“Was it then that you doubted your decision?” Elise asked. Her musical voice seemed to quiver. She hid behind the veil of her pale hair to mask the grief on her face from Terra, who saw it anyway.
“It was the start of the seed of doubt, but it did not bloom until I saw more,” Terra answered Elise as honestly as she could. Brendan put his face in his hands; it was clear he was still involved in the story.
“I’m not sure I could have lived with letting that happen, even if it was meant to,” Brendan whispered.
Terra resolved herself to tell more of the sorrow she had witnessed; the sorrow that she had caused with great intentions. She felt ashamed.
“I could feel the pain of the parents. I could feel the sense of loss of the father and the helplessness of the mother. I could feel a scale of emotions: anger, fear, regret, hopelessness; and I wished that I could change the course of their lives. I knew that the pain was a step along the paths they were meant to take, but they would never have chosen these paths for themselves. Free will would have sent them running in the opposite direction to prevent the tragedy at hand. I could see the whole picture: I knew the strength of the young woman who was entering the world, the difference that her mortal life could make. She was part of the master plan, but I felt torn, and my confidence began to waiver as I comforted the child’s earthly mother.”
Both Brendan and Elise remained motionless as they attempted to take in the gravity of the story they were being told.
“Of course there was more. I was not just witnessing earthly pain,” Terra continued. “I watched the woman as she reconciled her human life with her immortal memories. I saw her gain the perspective of the immortal. She began to remember her existence before her birth, and recalled the lives on Earth that she had experienced. I felt her sadness at the turns her mortal life had taken, and her pain and loss from being separated from her love. Although the human ties of maternal hormones had faded away, her love for the child she had borne did not dissipate. She longed to change the ending to her story even as she relished her immortal success.”
“So that made it okay, knowing she had succeeded?” Elise was being earnest. She could not see how to resolve the two ideas.
“To be honest: no. I began to lose myself in the situation,” admitted Terra.
Brendan took his head from his hands. His face revealed a particle of surprise. “I thought that once you learned to separate yourself, you would not be overwhelmed by these events?” he seemed genuinely concerned.
“I thought so too.” Terra paused. “Even so, feeling this glut of emotions was overwhelming to me. Normally, I could experience the thoughts and feelings of my charges, but I could keep them separate from myself. This was something else. The situation seemed to drag me in. The strength of emotions, the pull of bonds I could never really have, seemed to swallow me up. I felt myself slipping, and I fought it. I held on to the vision of the greater good, clung to the success of the mother in her divine purpose, pushed the pain away.”
“How could you possibly overcome something like that? Elise’s voice showed more and more strain.
“I saw it resolved,” Terra answered. “I held the mother’s hand and encouraged her to see that her mortal daughter was not meant to die there in the prairie. Even as the day began to wane and the sunlight faded, taking with it the infant’s last source of warmth, there was hope. In spite of the insects that found and bit her; even as the carrion animals began a slow descent, there was hope. The mother looked at me with pleading eyes. ‘Why do you make me watch her end?’” she asked. “Will she be with me here soon? Will her suffering end tonight?’”
Terra continued her story. “I felt her resolve slip again. Her pain made it impossible to focus on the hope in the situation. Her desire to see her infant safe and to end the pain of her love was so great. She found no peace here, despite being spared from the physical pain of life. That is when the doubt overtook me. I realized the cost that my guidance had brought upon this woman. We observed the child together; she was so alone and vulnerable.
“The cadence of footfalls that approached could only be that of a galloping herd animal. The rhythm slowed, and a horse carrying a native scout came within our view. I felt the mother’s terror. She still could not see him as a fellow soul that was on a mortal journey; she saw him as an intruder, a threat to the delicate infant lying abandoned with only the arching sky and the endless waves of grasses for protection. Even as I felt her terror, I could also sense that her husband’s grief was deepening. He recognized that he was responsible for not only the death of his beloved wife, but now the death of his daughter also. He vacillated between the desire to return to the remains, and the desire to join them both on the other side. He had no way of knowing that his daughter was not dead, and was oblivious to the fact that a stranger now reached out to her in compassion. The stranger, whom he would have seen as an enemy, would be strong enough to do for her what her father could not do: save her life.”
“So he had to live with his grief?” asked Brendan.
“Yes. All who spend any amount of time encapsulated in the mortal form must eventually live with grief, or die with it. It’s part of the process.” Terra continued her recollection of the events. “The ironic part in all of this is that, to the family, this native brave would have been perceived as a savage; yet he lifted the child, weakened from exposure, with care. He held her tiny body close to him as he remounted his pony and returned to his village.”
“So there is a happy ending to this story after all. You were right in pursuing the path, despite the pain of the family,” said Elise.
“You’re partly right,” Terra paused. “Stripped of mortal blinders, the mother began to understand that her little one was safe. We watched them return to the village. A woman named ‘Golden Feather’ welcomed the child. Her own young one was a toddler now. He scarcely needed the warm milk his mother offered. Now the infant, whom she named ‘Found a Flower’, was warm and fed. She would raise the young one as her own child in the ways of the Great Indian Nation. The baby would grow to be a strong woman who would help the people during the troubling times that lay ahead.”
“And did the father overcome his grief?” asked Brendan.
“It is that element to this story that held my attention the most. The father was not far behind his wife in death. Being separated from her seemed to starve him on a deeper level. He could not fill the void of loss in his life. He seemed to waste away and died of grief. His wife’s force seemed to draw him from beyond the grave. Free of the burden of guilt and maternal loss, she requested to view him daily. I allowed her. I felt responsible for the situation between them. As she looked in on him, I observed the strangest thing. She would talk to him; and, although surely he could not hear her, he seemed to respond. He would stop what he was doing, and his heart rate would increase. His thoughts would flood with her memory, his emotions would ebb and flow with love and grief.”
“So he could not share in the joy of completing his part to the plan? He could never feel comfort?” asked Elise.
“To be honest I began to wonder if, by allowing the wife to observe him, I was making his pain worse.” Terra remembered how conflicted she had become. “I wondered if I should stop the observations because of the negative health effect it seemed to have on him, but I found that I could not deny her this one simple request. Within three months, the husband joined his wife in The Tweens. It was as though they had willed themselves to be reunited so strongly that it could not be avoided.”
“Could he forgive you for the pain that he endured when he understood the purpose?” asked Brendan.
Terra considered his question carefully. “Once here in The Tweens, the tenor of their emotions seemed to shift immensely. Their love for one another seemed to emanate between them like they were meant to be joined. His guilt remained; that part of him would be forever changed. The two of them would look over their earthly daughter. They beamed with pride at her every accomplishment. Their love seemed to sustain her through the hard times, through hunger and conflict. She flourished, and was a source of strength to those around her. I wondered if she gained strength through her parents’ love, just as her father had seemed to be in tune with his wife while she was already in The Tweens.”
“If you had it to consider again, would you do it differently?” asked Elise. “I know that it worked out, but you said that the pain changed them?”
“To be honest I want to say yes; but now I know that some bonds, and some pains, span more than a lifetime, I am not sure I can act as blindly in the future. With this family, I had no reason not to believe that, so long as the plan was completed, all would be well. In reality, it was partly well; but some pain cannot be erased with time, space or transition from mortality. Some songs cannot be rewritten once they are sung.”
“And then,” ventured Brendan, “did you just send them forward?”
“In some ways, yes,” Terra paused to reflect. “But the question you asked of me earlier, about soul mates, became an inclination that I wanted to understand more. I found myself drawn to observing these individuals, and the love that they sustained for one another. They had formed bonds that transcended mortal constrains. They could now remember multiple lifetimes of finding one another. They needed one another; their part in the plan was forever intertwined.”
“Why would you bother trying to understand? You aren’t mortal? I can’t imagine wanting to be somebody’s soul mate,” said Elise. “Tied to another entity; more like fettered…”
“I don’t see things that way,” suggested Brendan. “To me, it is more about being aware of the bonds that charges have before you choose their scenario to carry out their plan. If you could avoid splitting them in such a wrenching way, then you may avoid doing more harm than good.”
“How do you see it?” Elise demanded. Her pale eyes looked at Terra expectantly.
“Some small part of me felt envy,” Terra admitted. “My responsibility was to guide. I cared for my charges, but the love that I felt was from afar. I didn’t have the deep sense of belonging that some corporeals feel for one another; I assume that I never will. A seed of self-doubt began to grow inside me while watching these soul mates suffer with one another; or in spite of one another. On some level I wanted to repair the pain and grief that it caused them, I wanted to understand it. Surely a mortal life was difficult enough without the torture of love and separation. Loss is not born well by the living as a general rule, yet here I was witnessing a sword with two edges. The two souls were broken without the other present to complete them. There was nothing that I could do to guide them or change that for them.”
“So you agree then? Brendan demanded.
“Yes, I think that you are right about this one,” Terra acknowledged. Elise widened her eyes in surprise; she was confident in her correctness. Terra would have felt the same way at one time.
“The connection these individuals had was too strong to happen accidentally. Had I considered the bond before the placement, I may have been able to spare them some of the pain that they found as mortals and beyond.
On the surface, Terra had done exactly what she was meant to do. She had guided her charges towards a specific result, but she did not calculate the degree of difficulty and sorrow that they would experience. She had caused more grief than she had imagined or set out to accomplish. Could it really be ethical and correct to pursue a result at such as cost?
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