“We are reaching the end of the Gihon”, Raphael announced.
Neo and Mykia looked out the cabin windows. The river opened up at the west coast of the African continent into the ocean, and did so rapidly. The water glittered as sunlight reflected off its surface, the tell-tale sign of the river’s rapid current.
Mykia wondered what form Neo saw the angel in. For her, the Spirit Essence manifested in the form of an elder healer of her tribe, a kindly grandmotherly figure wearing a vial of elixir around her neck. It was a warm, comforting image. Neo, being from another universe, probably had a different perspective on what the Essence of Healing would look like.
What Neo would have seen, if he bothered to look, was a man wearing a white coat with a stethoscope around his neck, with a filled syringe. This, of course, is the standard stereotype of a doctor from London. And before we forget, with a bowler hat too.
As it happened, Neo was transfixed with the scenery outside, and Raphael’s notice gave him a jump.
The angel was not amused, and manifested a frown on their form.
Mykia tugged Neo by the arm; it was generally not advisable to irritate an angel, especially not an archangel. The angel manifested a sound that sounded like a sigh, and beckoned the children to follow them onto the deck.
The wind blew their hair up as they stepped outdoors. Mykia took a minute to sweep her hair to the side, and looked disapprovingly at Neo who had failed to do the same. The angel manifested a click of the fingers and the boat’s anchor launched itself into the water, just as the vehicle reached the end of the river. The anchor landed on the riverbed with a loud thud.
The angel manifested two vials of glowing yellow liquid and handed each to each of them.
“You need to ingest them, so you gain the ability to breathe underwater. My colleague will assist you from here. My domain ends here; I shall return to Eden shortly.”
“Underwater?” Neo asked.
“Underwater,” the angel confirmed, and then added, almost as an afterthought, “do you not have Atlantis in your version of Creation?”
Atlantis … Neo had some faint memory about some story about some old man who wrote a story about a sunken city or continent in ancient Europe. He had heard this story in school, and had discussed it with his father afterwards, only to be told off for entertaining superstitious mythology. He should study the thinkers of the Enlightenment instead, his father had advised him.
Mykia saw his confusion and offered him an impromptu history lesson. In the ancient history, there was an epic battle between Babylon and Atlantis. Babylon was gifted in science and technology, whilst Atlantis was gifted in the mystical and the arcane.
Over time, Nimrod, King of Babylon, grew jealous of Triton, King of Atlantis. Against the information given by Babylon’s guardian angel, he insisted that the source of their gifts was the Cup of Light at the heart of the Great Temple of Atlantis; and conducted an invasion to seize the artifact. His soldiers were commanded to kill Atlanteans at will.
Triton’s wife, the Chief Priestess, was meditating in the Temple when Nimrod’s general intruded and passed an electric saber through her body. Triton witnessed this and furiously slammed the Cup of Light into the general’s head. At once, a giant wave burst forth and consumed the entire city.
Neo remembered a similar story from sometime back, but with a slightly different version of events that he could not quite place.
His thinking was interrupted by a head that popped out of the water. Mykia went down on her knees, and pulled Neo down with her. To her, the angel was in the form of a rainbow-striped fish with a halo. It looked nearly as intimidating as the Rainbow Serpent back in the Outback. Neo, however, peeked curiously at the angel. For him, the angel had manifested as a creature that was half-man, half-fish. Neo had the vague recollection of a word that started with “m”, and a movie whose name had that word in it.
The angel manifested a sardonic laugh, “that amount of respect is not needed. I am Uriel, the disgraced patron angel of Atlantis. Although, I am only disgraced, and not fallen. I am actually honoured that anyone at all would visit this watery grave.”
“I am here to find any piece of my memories that may have dropped into the depths,” Neo automatically responded.
“Yes, indeed, Child of the First Patriarch,” Uriel said, “the archangels have explained your situation to me. I will guide you through Atlantis.”
The two children dived in after the angel. Uriel led them down into the murky depths, where the only thing either could see was the shining light emanating from the angel’s manifested tail shape.
As they approached the ground, the angel told them, “stay close to me, you who yet live.”
“Why?” asked Neo. The angel pointed down at the ground. For a while, there was nothing, and then two figures popped out. Neo recognized them as some sort of soldier. One figure carried an ornate staff topped with an orb, and his breastplate had a symbol of a swirling whirlpool. The other figure carried a sword with a blade of light that split in two every now and then; and wore an insignia of a castle gate. The two were battling ferociously, and did not seem to notice the trio approaching.
Neo glanced at Uriel questioningly.
The angel obliged an explanation, “These are the shades of Atlantis. They are the spirits of those who died in the Great War between Atlantis and Babylon. Because they were cursed with hatred, they live on in the tomb of the ancient city, unable to move into rest in the Paradise Gardens. Instead, they relive the war and the moment they drowned over and over again.”
“So, they are like projections?” Neo asked.
“They are the actual lost souls of Atlantis, doomed to wander around their watery grave forever. The final curse the King of Atlantis uttered against the Babylonians is that they would always strive, and never gain full control, of Atlantis; he bound his own people into a blood oath to forever protect the Cup of Light. Such was the tragedy … “
Mykia’s piercing scream interrupted the angel’s recollections. As her feet touched the ground, a slimy arm had reached out to grab her leg. But her shriek was because what was attached to the arm was just the torso of a soldier. Her shrieks attracted nearby shades, who paused their endless fight to regard her. Those who noticed her began to move towards her. She shivered when she realized that these figures had eyes that were completely black.
The angel sped down towards the ground to scoop Mykia up. When the shades beheld the angel’s glory, they cowered back into their positions. Uriel addressed the souls in a language incomprehensible to the children; although Mykia immediately decided that this must be the secret language of angels she had heard the shamans of her tribe talk about. Some could apparently speak it, though it wasn’t one of her own talents.
The angel brought Neo and Mykia to an empty corner of the town square. “Let’s wait here for a while for the wave, and in the meantime discuss what we are doing here.”
“We are here to look for my memories because your boss thinks it is important.” Neo didn’t mean to sound rude, but it just happened at that moment that a strong pain struck his head.
The angel manifested a stern countenance.
“What my charge means,” Mykia clarified, “is that he has the ability to sense his memories when we get close to them.”
The angel relaxed its countenance and said, “So are you sensing anything now, son of the First Patriarch?”
The pain was excruciating, but Neo could feel something else too: a warm, gentle smell from a particular direction. He pointed it out.
“Hmm”, the angel commented, “that is the direction of the Temple. Let’s wait for the wave first, as it is some distance.”
“What wave?” Mykia asked curiously. “Wait and see. It will come in ten-nine-eight-seven-six-five-four-three-two-one … NOW!”
The two teenagers’ eyes widened as a wave ten-feet tall came tumbling down from the mountain peak far off in the distance. As the wave hit the shades, each of them dissolved. But it passed through the angel and the two of them. “That is the spirit echo of the wave that sank Atlantis,” said Uriel. “Right now the coast will be clear for a while, before the curse resets the scenario. Let’s not tarry here.”
“Whoa!” exclaimed both teenagers as the angel enlarged its manifestation to be able to carry both of them. Mykia and Neo climbed onto the shoulder manifestations of the angel and held on tight as the angel sped in the direction of the temple.
Uriel landed them on the steps of a structure that looked majestic despite its horrific decolouration. At the top of the steps was a portico wide enough to hold ten people, held up by firm pillars that were probably made out of marble. The Grand Temple towered above the two children.
The angel pushed open the locked bronze doors of its entrance and ushered the two children inside.
The façade of the temple was very broad. Neo stopped to admire his surrounds, but the Angel hurried them along. The angel brought them behind a tall screen to the inner sanctum, where there was a tall dais in the centre of the chamber. The dais was completely made out of gold.
“There!” Neo suddenly exclaimed.
“What?” the Angel asked.
“I sense … a memory. A very large one.”
Uriel manifested wide eyes, “At the top of the dais?” “Yes.”
The angel turned to Mykia, “Please stay here and try to distract the shades of Triton's wife and Nimrod’s general if you see them. Use this.” The angel materialized a long shiny golden lance in Mykia’s hands. She yelped, because it felt rather hot.
Uriel manifested a sigh, and materialized gloves onto Mykia’s hands. The angel turned to Neo and said, “Let’s go up”. The angel manifested a new form: a creature with appendages that looked like wings. The thought manta ray flitted through Neo’s mind.
Uriel scooped Neo up from the ground and soared upwards at a very great speed. Neo had to grip on to the feelers on the angel’s “head” in order to keep from falling. The angel stopped in front of a table. It let Neo alight before shifting manifestations to a humanoid form. This form now was that of an elderly man with reddish-brown skin who wore a white feather on his forehead. The feather resembled the form Neo’s detached memories took.
Neo reached out for the shard of the Cup in the middle of the table. The angel pulled his hand back.
“Wait,” Uriel said, “before you proceed you must know something.”
“The Cup of Light is more than an artifact, even a mystic artifact. It is a key.”
“A Key?” “Yes. In the Beginning the Echthros was the purest of Thrones who presented the Cup of Light to the Creator regularly. When he rebelled, the angels who did not join him captured him and sealed him in an ethereal prison sealed by the Cup of Light as a key. The secret responsibility of the Atlanteans was to keep this prison sealed for eternity. Now that the Atlanteans are dead, it has become my responsibility.”
“But my memory is inside your Cup of Light!”
“That is impossible. The Cup of Light whose fragments you see here are just a projection key. If your memory is indeed in the Cup, it has actually travelled to the domain of the Echthros. In that case, you need to be careful, because the Echthros will surely try to manipulate you.”
“Sure, I will be”. Neo took a deep breath; this Echthros being must be some big deal, to cause nervousness in an angel. The angel was not only quivering in voice, but even in its visual form.
Once he touched the remaining fragment, he felt his background swirl around him, and he felt dizzy. When the swirling stopped, he was in a bedroom. And he had a jolt of memory: it was his bedroom. And at the centre of the bed was a standing, shining, golden feather. He instinctively reached out to grab it.
“Are you sure you wish to take that, human boy?” He jumped, for the voice came from under the bed. A gaunt old man crawled out from hence and stood up. He was about half a head taller than Neo.
“Yes, I do.” The old man reached out to touch Neo on the shoulder. His fingers were icy cold, but his palm was burning hot.
“Neo, Neo, you are the hero here in this Universe. You get to see angels and meet with world leaders. Don’t you like who you are?” Before Neo’s mind flashed the various societal leaders he had seen on his journey so far, and the countenances of the angels in Temasek, Chang-An and the Empire of the Rising Sun.
“But I came here to find out who I am?” “Do you really need to? Don’t you like who you already are to the people here? Why do you want to recover who you were over there?” The last two words came out as more of a hiss than speech. Neo realized this must be the Echthros. He hopped a couple of steps back.
“Tsk tsk. I can show you your memory; do you want?”
“Okay?” At once Neo felt a chill around him. And he remembered a name: Stonehenge.
“That’s right,” said the Echthros, “Stonehenge”. The voice sounded far away, but still strong. A darkness descended upon him from the ceiling. He noticed that his surrounds had changed. He was standing by a tall stone structure. He felt a stab in his heart. Loneliness. Confusion. Rejection.
“See,” said the Echthros, “why do you want back your memories? Why do you want back your past? Aren’t you happy with what you have now? Importance? Status?” As if in response, Neo felt a pang of grief. And then he heard a name: Arthur. Arthur. That was his name. His name from the other world. The name his parents had given him. The name of the legendary King of Britain. Because that was who he was supposed to grow up into. A king of philosophy and science, one who would not be cowed by superstition.
That is why he was here, at Stonehenge, for a camp about freethought. But the freethought was not really very free; the camp leaders seemed very mean to people they considered superstitious. There is no way anyone with religion is a good person, one of the counsellors had instructed them. When one girl had protested that her Muslim neighbour was actually very nice to her and even offered her sweets, the counsellor had insisted that that was nothing more than a deception intended on making her leave rational thought for fundamentalist irrationality.
Arthur didn’t understand those big words the counsellor used, but the way he used them made the girl cry, and Arthur thought that was wrong. Luckily, he thought, he had his father’s supposedly magical knife. And so he had come here to Stonehenge, to run away from the cruelty he could not understand. “
Do you like this memory? Won’t you rather just make it go away? Remember, curiosity kills the cat!” The Echthros taunted him.
Yes, Arthur thought, it is best to just leave this memory behind. I can stay here, with Mykia, and the angels, and everyone else. I can stay here where everything is pleasant, and nothing is dark. I can stay here, where nobody will scold me for using a knife to cut the fabric of space-time.
“That’s right boy,” cooed the Echthros, “you can stay in this universe forever. You don’t need to bother about your dad and his girlfriend who are looking for you. After all, they used to mock Popes and Angels, and now they will find that Popes and Angels stand in the way of getting to you. That’s divine karma!”
“My dad is looking for me?”
“Yes, he is, but why care? It is he who sent you to that dreadful, dreadful camp after all …”
Yes, the Echthros was right … Arthur’s thoughts trailed off. But then he remembered. He was here to get back his memories. Uriel and Mykia were outside fighting shades so that he could get this memory. He was given the special privilege of entering the Gardens because the First Patriarch and the Angels cared about his memories. Why were his memories important? Because they were who he was. If he didn’t take back his memories, he would be betraying many people, but most of all he would be betraying himself. The self that everyone else cared about.
“No!” he exclaimed.
“Yes, No. I will take back these memories. It is what I came here for. You will not stop me!” Just as he finished his sentence, he felt a cold, shady hand reach out and run across his shoulder.
Then he heard another, soft voice in his mind. Pray. “I pray …” and at once the amulet around his neck began to glow, and the light spread around his body.
The Echthros and his illusion withered away. Arthur found himself back on the dais, standing in front of Uriel and Mykia.
“Have you got your memory back?” the angel asked. “Yes, I have, “ Arthur smiled.