The Pilgrim of Cele — 2
“Hey Sister Diane?”
“Remember when you said that the Navigator prophecy was a load of asteroid cruft?”
“Watch your mouth, Kai.”
“But you said-”
“What about it, Kai?”
“Well, they’re saying they found him.”
Diane slowly looked up from her painting, her dark golden eyes narrowed as she regarded the young boy fidgeting with glee in front of her. “Come again?”
“The guy they found, the one in the pod that was running a collision course with us yesterday.” Kai tilted his small head to the side as he swiped the long black bangs from his face. He smiled a victorious gap-toothed smile. “Brother Stephen says Brother Kelly says he said his name is Samuel.”
For a moment Diane said nothing. She turned back to the painting she had been working on. It was of a galaxy she once dreamed of during what she liked to call her “second life”. It was a beautiful tapestry of sapphire and magenta and golden lights on the tails of comets flying across the paths of thousands of stars and planets, all within the embrace of an endless midnight expanse. And its sun, a magnificent blue orb that burned so bright it was almost white was placed at it’s center, in command of the space and the eyes of the viewer. She had been working on it for months, at times putting it down because she was discouraged that she couldn’t get it right, only to pick it up again in fear that she would forget such a sight.
She put down the paint-heavy brush that had lain dormant between her slim fingers as she stood from her chair. “Thanks for letting me know, Kai.”
The boy’s smile turned sly as he placed his fists on his hips. “Now where’s my 1000 bits?” At her confused look, he explained, “You said you’d give me 1000 bits if we ever found the Navigator.”
Diane laughed quickly as she walked over to ruffle his hair. “You only get 1000 Bitcoins if he actually does bring us to the Hidden Dimension,” she said with a good-natured grin. “Until then, he’s just some random guy with a convenient name.”
“Aw c’mon!” Kai shook out his unkempt mane with a pout. “He was even found inside a silver egg and everything, just like the prophecy!”
“It was an escape pod — hardly an egg,” Diane said. She picked up her dark blue scarf from where it rested on the back of her abandoned seat and tied her full, frizzy mane back from her small, round face. Turning to the window of her room that looked out into the empty space beyond, she used her reflection to tuck away the stubborn curls beneath her scarf.
“You can’t believe everything you hear, Kai,” she said as she worked. “You’re too young to remember, but this isn’t the first Samuel that Brother Kelly has found. He’s too trusting in hundred-year-old stipulations and too focused on finding the best in others to remember that some people will say anything to get you to trust them.” She met her own dark gaze in the reflection of the glass. “Whomever this stranger is, we’ll know soon enough. But there’s no way I’m going to fall for some asteroid cruft.”
In the euphoria of his new beginning, Paul Kane, now Samuel Creed (the name he had christened himself in honor of his fresh start), had fallen back asleep shortly after Brother Kelly had left him alone. For the first night in years, he slept without nightmares, and felt a hope that had died the moment he saw his name in the newsscan with the tagline, “The Man who Designed Weller’s Destruction.” Dyed-black hair and a clean-shaven face made him unrecognizable from the red-headed, heavy-bearded monster they depicted at first glance, but Paul never before could outrun his name or the tattoo on his back. Not until now.
However, the moment his eyes opened to the dim light cast by a small lamp in the corner of his small haven, the doubts flooded back as the kind, albeit rather strange, older man’s words echoed in his mind.
And his name shall be called Samuel…. Whose name? He thought as he slowly sat up and ran his rough hands over his tired face. Is it some method he has to remember names, or is the name Samuel rigged somehow? He shook his head. The paranoia from running for his life for so long wouldn’t disappear easily, but it’s what kept him alive for so long. So, as he changed into the simple clothes that were left on the chair next to his bed, he decided to move forward cautiously. For all he knew, he could be on a ship of disguised pirates. It certainly wouldn’t be for the first time, he thought with a wince as he rubbed the back of his hair.
To his surprise, he found that the spot that had busted open in the life-pod was bandaged, and as he ran his fingers over the carefully applied dressing, he felt a part of him relax. Well, probably not pirates. Peace-loving people, right?
The clothes he wore were simple and comfortable, a welcome change from the stiff uniform he had stolen for his last survival attempt. The new clothes were a bit large on his lean frame, but he was grateful for the tan, woven shirt and dark pants that were placed aside for him. A pair of sandals, also a tad too big, sat on the floor beside the door, and he slipped these on before leaving the room.
As he stepped outside, Paul was surprised to see that the hallway was empty. He had no idea how big the Ark was, but he was sure it was nowhere near the size of the S.S.Arcadia. And yet, this ship seemed more empty than the other. There used to always be footsteps on the Arcadia, or barked orders or the whirring of a robot’s chassis, but now, not even a whisper of a moving camera could be heard. At the thought, his training kicked in and he checked the ceiling, suddenly on high alert. He walked down the hall to his right, all the while sweeping the walls and ceiling for any cameras, habit from several past missions.
While he had travelled to several different corners of the galaxy in his life, he had yet to see a ship as quaint as this one. Only by virtue of the fact that they were already in transit did he know that the ship was space-travel worthy. It looked as though someone had tried to give a first generation Tesla flier a “homey” feel, with wooden door panels and doors next to reinforced steel panels that did a bad job of hiding the piping and circuitry that ran through the ship. And was that a ’36 model plasma energy generator? He chuckled quietly under his breath at the dated technology. No, he thought as he continued his surveillance, this definitely is not a pirate ship.
By the time he had turned a third corner, he had found the mess (set up for a meal), a latrine (an educated guess from the smell that leaked from it), and a couple of what looked like doors to personal rooms or perhaps storage. But no surveillance cameras. No robots. And no people.
He was starting to wonder if he had imagined the whole thing and that he was stuck on an archaic ship as some kind of glorified torture method, when he began to hear a faint voice to his left. Turning, he saw at the end of the hall a light spilling from a door that was slightly ajar. As he silently approached, he started to hear clearly what the man was saying.
“… strangers, so do not be surprised when you are reviled, for they hate those whom they do not know.” Paul peered through the gap to confirm his suspicion: he had recognized Brother Kelly’s voice, and it looked as though he was speaking to a small group of people. From his vantage point, there seemed to be at least fifteen or twenty others in the room, mostly men, but he also saw a few women and children. This gathering explained the emptiness, and given the small number of people, Paul surmised that this must be a pretty small ship. They all wore clothes like his, and the women had their hair tied back in a modest fashion. Even more surprising to him was that they looked as though they were from all different parts of the galaxy. Like a small band of misfits.
“For we know what we are reaching for, and we are assured of our hope in our faith. And so I will encourage you all, dear brothers and sisters, to not let yourselves be discouraged during this time.” Paul’s eyes wandered past Brother Kelly, who was standing before the assembly in green robes with a golden scepter embroidered down the right side. In the back was a woman he had missed before, sitting at what looked like an instrument screen. She had deep, olive skin and a wild mane of black hair tied beneath a royal blue scarf. Yet it was as though she could feel him looking at her, for the next moment her golden eyes looked to where he was hiding behind the door, and her thick lips turned to a frown.
“… now we have cause to believe that our hope may come to fruition very soon.” Stunned, Paul took a step back, only to feel the blunt tip of a weapon at his back and hot breath against his ear.
“One false move and you’re dead, Stardust.”
Well, so much for peace-loving people.
Editor’s Note: Thank you for this awesome chapter Tobi Amos. We’re excited to see what happens next. Here is the line-up for the next chapters.
Chapter 3 due May 5th — Joe Rodriguez
Chapter 4 due May 12 — Kathy Hussey
We’ve only got these two chapters assigned so far. If you’d like to write a chapter for The Pilgrim of Cele, please comment below and we’ll get you signed up. Thank you!