The Amazing Adventures of Sara Corel
A novel by Toomey
Chapter Thirty-five: Down In
magnificent stag emerged regally into the meadow from beneath
the treeline, alert eyes searching the shadows, tasting the
slight breeze, sensitive ears twitching. It commingled
confidence and caution -- master of its habitat, yet still prey
should lifelong vigilance relax for even a moment. The forest
afforded more natural cover, but the open expanse was a waiting
banquet that allowed the use of its great speed if threatened.
Satisfied that no
danger was near enough to matter, it began to search out favored
morsels in the thick grasses. Gradually, it worked his way to a
little clump of bushes sheltering a shallow depression near the
center of the field. Within the pool of shadows they cast lurked
another shadow, unmoving, patiently waiting, feeling the
approach of the animal without betraying the slightest clue of
Sara slowly descended
from the air over the edge of the trees, trying to decide
whether or not to interfere in what appeared to be a potential
life-and-death struggle. In another few seconds, the hunter
would spring. While she hesitated, the deer detected the slight
rustling sound of her cape and turned its head to look straight
into her eyes. It was a distraction the watcher had been waiting
for, and Sara kreened the sudden release of tension in his legs
as he pounced.
Bambi," she cried out, "Run!"
The stag needed no
translation and bounded away for the safety of the trees with
astonishing swiftness. But it vectored away from Sara rather
than its real threat, and this proved to be its undoing, as Sara
watched, horrified that her warning had had unintended
The hunter was hardly
less swift, and had the proper angle on its prey, leaping
unerringly upon the back of the beast, twisting its head around
by wrenching its spreading antlers -- its pride turned into its
downfall. The end was mercifully quick, as a stone knife found
its mark in a practiced move. Spurting blood stained the grasses
as the great animal's life drained away.
The triumphant hunter
raised himself over his kill, spread his arms wide and began to
sing. He sang his praise for the beautiful animal he had killed,
and his thanks for the bounty of the earth. He wept for the life
he had taken, and honored its memory. He dedicated its remains
to the endless cycle of life and celebrated the joy and
happiness of a successful hunt.
The haunting passion
of the song touched Sara, stopping her in her tracks as she
approached him from behind. Her heart had gone out instinctively
to the doomed animal, but she realized that there was a
rightness to this act that transcended sympathy. It was an act
as old as life itself, pure in its intent and in perfect harmony
with the great web of existence. The ending of one life
supported another. The joy was not in taking a life, but rather
in accepting it as a precious gift.
The ceremony ended
and the work began. Transfixed, she watched as the nearly naked
savage began the practical affair of butchery, skillfully
stripping the hide and dismembering the carcass, taking care
that nothing would go to waste. He was powerfully built, tall
and brown, with straight black hair to his shoulders, radiating
a manly beauty and inner strength that was unearthly in its
intensity. She could sense that he was aware of her, but chose
to attend to his duties before acknowledging her presence. She
couldn't bring herself to spoil the sacrament in which he was
Finally, the job was
done and he turned to her, the light of his countenance as it
was revealed to her causing an involuntary feeling of reverance
for this Great Spirit who honored her with his presence.
"I know you did
not mean to," he told her bemusedly, "but you flushed
my deer with the skill of a she-wolf. I will give you the liver
and heart, and as much venison as you can eat. I will keep the
you," Sara stammered. Conflicting emotions tore at her. Was
this another angel, she wondered? The effect he was having on
her was -- very strange. He was obviously no mere mortal. Her
kreening of him revealed no human form, only essence and light
made somehow tangible.
then," he told her, "Help me take this to my camp. You
have a great many questions to ask -- which is a shame on such
a good morning as this."
He wrapped most of
the remains in the hide and slung it over his shoulder, letting
her carry the trophy antlers, still attached to the head.
Grimacing, she gingerly held it as far away from her body as she
could and followed him into the woods. The camp was not far,
He washed himself
unselfconsciously in the river, kindled a fire by twirling a
stick on a piece of dry bark, set strips of flesh to dry into
jerky, spread the hide in the sun, spitted a chunk of still-warm
meat over the flames and offered Sara some ripe wild berries and
mushrooms, which proved to be delicious. His chores had a
naturalness and rightness to them that relaxed Sara, making her
feel that she was somehow at the center of a sublimely primitive
universe whose spiritual guide was one with Nature itself. When
all was put right in his little world, they talked.
"You are not of
my people," he said, sitting comfortably cross-legged under
a beech tree. "I do not think you are of their
people," nodding at the far rim of the shallow valley
visible through the branches.
"No, I'm from
another, uh, star, I guess," she said. "I hope you
don't mind me saying so, but I don't think you're exactly a
not," he replied. "I am what they make of me. You were
sent to live with the human beings, though. You have their
spirit, but are not one of them."
"I try to
be," she said.
"And you are not
one of us."
"I don't know
who you are, and I don't think I've met any others like you --
except maybe the angel, but that was before I got here." So
long ago, it seemed.
"Who are you,
anyway?" she asked. "And what's up with all the
soldiers being brought here? Everybody up there thinks this
place is full of demons and there's gonna be a war, like the end
of the world and everything."
he said, greatly amused. "That is their own doing. I am not
"Are you a
"Do you think I
she said slowly, "that you're part of something that is
being made up by my freeze-dried alien alter-ego. You're some
kind of character in a virtual reality dream..."
he said, laughing. "Have you not had dreams before? Were
they like this?"
usually," she admitted. "Once, though -- it was as
'real' as this."
"But you were
alive then," he told her.
"I'm not sure
what I am, now," she said.
"Don't you know?
In this place, all the people believe they are dead and that
they are here to struggle with their spirits. I am here for my
people, to honor them."
"Then what am I
"You are on a
spirit journey. You must find your real name and your
"I already have
a name," she said. "Two of 'em, actually."
"Yes. A given
name and a revealed name. Your true name comes from within you,
and your spirit quest is to discover its meaning."
"Oh, I think I
know its meaning..."
"But you have
not accepted it yet. It is linked to your totem, which you have
not fully embraced."
"The symbol of
it is upon your breast."
"That? The 'S'?
It's the Cryptos idea of a joke. I never asked for it."
"You cannot ask
for a totem that pleases you. It is not a whim. It is the token
of your spirit guide, and takes its power from that source. Is
not the inspiration for your true name and your totem taken from
a creature of power?"
"It was taken
from a comic book -- you know, made up, not real, just a
"A creature of
the imagination. The very best kind, I think. Like me," he
"Look, you may
as well know that I'm having a very difficult time taking any of
whole Armageddon thing just turns me off. I don't believe in it,
even if I might believe anything else. I guess that maybe I'm
supposed to learn something from all of this, but I don't see
why it has to involve war and death and everything. I mean, even
if everybody's already dead around here -- whatever that means
-- having to put them through that kind of ordeal again isn't
fair. All those people I've met -- there's so many of
them! -- believe they're who they are, and even if
they're some kind of bogus simulation, I still feel for what
they might have to feel and I don't like it. I don't want
to believe any of this, but it just doesn't go away. If I'm
dreaming this, then that tells me something about myself that I
don't like -- and if it's somebody else's imagination, then I
don't much like whoever it is for this, either."
She finally ran out
of steam and lapsed into a sullen silence.
He sat thoughtfully
for a while, then told her, "I think I see your problem.
You are trying to think too much."
Sara was exasperated.
"Well, what am I supposed to do?"
"Try to do less
thinking. You should feel, instead. Watch and listen.
Breathe the air. Enjoy the morning -- and then enjoy the
afternoon. Your journey is not ended yet. You should go to the
city and see what you can see there. But don't expect to learn
something. Just experience whatever happens and try to trust
thanks," she muttered. "Everybody who oughtta be able
to tell me something always talks in riddles."
he said, smiling at her as if she were a favorite child who just
didn't understand what the grownups were trying to tell her,
"Maybe you listen in riddles."
set her on a narrow path through the woods that led straight to
the city, cautioning her not to stray from it. There were many
branches forking away, all seemingly much easier than the one
she was on, but they invariably ended in brambles or pits,
There were other
creatures or beings to be glimpsed as she went. A hairy drunken
man-thing with horns on his head and cloven-footed goat-legs
scampered between the trees, in lecherous pursuit of a young fat
girl riding a centaur. An ancient oriental fisherman tottered
by, flashing a snaggletoothed grin at her, his catch dangling
from a pole over his shoulder as his wooden sandals clop-clopped
on the path's cobblestones. A great, black shaman, headdress
wreathed in glowing smoke, intoned a mysterious ritual over a
pile of meaningful bones. Tiny membrane-winged creatures of
light and mischief flitted through the overhanging branches. A
green-garbed, red-bearded midget with buckled shoes, a derby and
a pugnacious expression smoked a wee pipe under a giant oak. The
trees themselves sighed with intelligence, and half-buried stony
boulders by the side of the road were sensitive to subtlety and
These were signs and
portents, she realized, visitations and apparitions from a
tangled mess of folklore, some unrecognizable and others merely
silly. If she was indeed on a spirit quest of some kind, then
why not encounter bizarre omens? The deerkiller's advice
mingled with the angel's -- 'trust your imagination' and 'try
to do less thinking'. It seemed to be good counsel for now, so
she just smiled and waved at the occasional dragon and pop-eyed
tribal boogeyman. They had their own ritualistic business to
attend to and either ignored her or waved back.
The forests and
meadows were not extensive -- a mere anomaly in the otherwise
barren rockscape and riparian marshlands -- so she came to the
city soon enough. It straddled the river that flowed through the
bottom of the valley, its high wall enclosing it completely. A
riot of bright buildings in every conceivable style of
architecture peeked over the parapets. The gate at which she
arrived was ornate beyond reason, inlaid with silver and gold,
gems and pearls. It was closed.
Under an awning
beside the gate, a distinguished-looking bearded patriarch was
perched on a high stool behind a podium that supported an
enormous old book. He was obviously the gatekeeper, keys
dangling from the sash of his robe. He appeared to be dozing.
Sara approached him
carefully, not wanting to startle him, and not wanting to be so
rude as to simply fly over the gate and into the city. Since
there was a custodian, she would honor their customs.
Maybe he could tell her where she might go in the city, who to
talk to, or give her a clue as to what was going on.
cleared her throat politely. His head bobbed up and his eyes
flew open, clearing slowly as he focused on her. He blinked a
few times and shook himself slightly, then sat upright, trying
to affect a businesslike demeanor.
sir," she responded. "Sara Corel."
He thumbed through
the book, muttering, "Corel..." several times, peering
closely at her at intervals as if to confirm some identifying
She tried to be
helpful. "That's Sara with no 'h', Corel with a 'C'."
After a few minutes
of apparently fruitless search he announced, "No Sara Corel
scheduled. Date of death?"
"Um, I'm not
really sure I died, exactly. I'm probably in some kind of
suspended animation, or I'm just imagaining this."
birth?" he tried.
"Well, I wasn't
really born, either. I just sorta thawed out one day."
exasperated. "Place of origin?"
"Wish I could
help you. Certainly not Earth, though." She was beginning
to enjoy being the one with all the nonsensical answers for a
Species?" he demanded.
vegetable or mineral?" he went on, practically in
"None of the
above, I'm afraid."
He paused to consider
for a moment, then asked her, "Mortal?"
Now it was her turn
to be stumped. "I don't really know. Guess I won't find out
until I actually drop dead someday. Which," she laughed,
"I might be, huh? So maybe you can tell me..."
my time," he snapped, annoyed. "Who put you up to
this? Michael? Gabriel? I should have known right away you
weren't a human soul."
"Now, wait a
minute," Sara protested. "Maybe I was some kind of
robo-freak back on Earth, but I think I was just as 'human' as
anyone else, at least as far as my feelings and everything. I
mean, give me a break, here. I'm sorry if I'm not in your book
or anything, but nobody 'put me up' to anything. I just came
down here to see if I couldn't try to talk to someone about
what's going on, and the hunter guy in the forest back there
told me to follow the straight and narrow path to the city and
here I am."
He looked her up and
down. "You're not a supernatural manifestation?"
creature, diety, power, principality, attribute, demigod,
archetype, karmic essence, apparition, anima, demon, shade,
specter, phantom, faerie, legend or idol?"
completely," she said uncomfortably. "I'm an artifact
that's maybe based on something kinda mythological -- but I
think I'm human, mostly."
stroked his beard. "That might be different. You came here
with the people up there?"
not one of us, and you're not in the Book." He sighed,
"And that's all I have to go on."
He thought for a
moment and finally shrugged. "I'll tell you what I'll do.
I'll provisionally pass you inside, and you can talk to some of
the Higher Powers."
sounds reasonable to me, uh... What did you say your name
"I am called
Peter," he replied, as the gates opened wide to the
accompaniment of a silvery fanfare. She entered the city.
was a city of heart-stopping splendor. The golden streets were
lined with beautiful houses of every possible kind, row upon row
of stately mansions and finely-wrought villas, neighborhoods
filled with elegant manors and courtly estates. There were
colorful gardens and tree-filled green parks everywhere, with
fountains and statues in abundance, each more glorious than the
Quaint shops offered
every delectable treat imaginable, gorgeous clothing in styles
from every culture and era, books and trinkets, diversions and
pleasures, needful things and triviata -- all unattended and
free for the taking, an endless cornucopia.
playgrounds, but no schools. There were theaters, but no police
stations. There were bicycle shops, but no garages. There were
libraries, but no hospitals. There were bandstands in the parks,
but no factories. There were public forums, but no offices.
Neither were there
houses of worship -- no churches, mosques, temples, synagogues,
altars, pagodas, seminaries, stone circles, sacred groves,
mystic grottos, shrines, cloisters, kivas, ashrams, sanctums,
monastaries, chancels, adytums, chantries, convents, abbeys,
priories or cathedrals. Perhaps none were needed here.
It was a shining
place, a place of peace and fulfillment, a reward unto itself.
There was grace in its design, and perfection in its
accomplishment. Nothing was broken or incomplete or less than
As Sara wandered the
boulevards and thoroughfares, she passed Roman courtyard villas,
Tudor wattle-and-daub oak-beamed townhouses, Park Avenue
brownstones, Hollywood movie-star haciendas, columned Greek
palaces, Babylonian hanging gardens, dry and cozy caves, Nordic
greathalls, onion-domed dachas, grand yurts, nomadic tents of
silks and fine brocades, exquisite Japanese rice-paper
teahouses, mosaic-embellished Arabesques, ornate Victorian
gabled gingerbreads, wrought-iron balconied French Quarter
shotguns, Gothic stonewalled keeps, Ante-Bellum plantation
houses, and thick-walled adobes.
She did not, however,
encounter any inhabitants. The streets were empty. The shops
were deserted, the parks abandoned. There were no locks on any
doors, but Sara could kreen that the wonderful houses were
unoccupied. Everywhere, there was silence.
It was a colossal
ghost town -- with no ghosts.
Maybe there's an
air raid drill, thought Sara. What with all the ordinance
surrounding the valley, it wouldn't be a bad idea. It was hard
to imagine that such a place would have bomb shelters, though.
There was still the
inner city, a place of splendid monuments crowning a tall hill
overlooking the residential outer environs. The unseen, inhuman
power she had felt the first night -- that had always been in
the background of her special senses -- emanated from there. It
was her obvious destination, and she wondered how she would be
greeted by the 'Higher Powers'.
Just to be on the
safe side, Sara decided to clean out an ice cream parlour before
journeying on. There was a corner shoppe featuring a lot more
than 31 flavors, and they all proved to be amazingly delicious
-- her idea of Heaven, anyway. She didn't think anybody
Halfway through her
project, nearly lost in rapture, she kreened something flying
close overhead and rushed into the street, hoping it wasn't some
kind of military hardware launched prematurely by a trigger
happy and nervous soldier on the valley's rim. She caught a
glimpse of the hurtling object and rose to follow its flight --
then stopped suddenly in surprise only a few feet off the ground
as she got a better look. If she'd been any lower, it's possible
Sara's jaw would have hit the pavement.
The flyer sighted
Sara at the same time and quickly reversed course, dropping from
the sky to land in front of her. Sara sank slowly to the ground
as she stared unabashedly. They eyed one another.
The woman in front of
her was unusually tall and statuesque, gloriously blonde and
blue-eyed, incredibly fit, tanned, and appeared to be not much
older than Sara. Her clothing left little to the imagination,
emphasizing her voluptuous curves in a manner just short of
blatant. It was mostly white and short, adorned with highly
polished silvery ornamentation stylistically representing a
warrior's fighting harness. Her demeanor was proud and haughty,
and her stance bespoke power and determination. A voluminous red
cloak swirled behind her.
astonished. The girl had flown unaided, executed a better-than
20-g turn and landed hard enough to cripple a human. And her
Sara thought, reminded of one of her favorite popular Internet
story sites. A Velorian.
A mythical supergirl
by another name, born of humans bred to genetic perfection by an
imaginary alien race, whose fantastic exploits were chronicled
by a world-spanning group of voluntarily obsessed authors whose
stories were read by thousands -- including Sara, a devoted
fan. Could it be?
"Hi. I'm Sara Corel. Boy am I glad to see you! I was
beginning to think there wasn't anybody around here at all. Do
you live in the city? Where is everybody? You know, you remind
me of me, sort of. Did the Cryptos send you, too? Or are
you really a Velorian? Or maybe an angel? That would fit in with
some of the others I saw in the forest. This is really
great..." She babbled on, feeling like an idiot, while the
other woman regarded her imperiously.
When Sara finally
shut up, the woman let the silence build to a crescendo before
disdainfully inquiring, "Is it good?"
Sara realized that there was a considerable amount of ice cream
on her chin, mostly raspberry fudge ripple. And her hands were
replied, not knowing what else to say. "You want
"If you have
left any," said the golden warrioress.
followed Sara back into the shoppe. Between the two of them, its
stock was doomed, since her appetite proved to be nearly the equal of
Sara's. They indulged themselves in a silent orgy of high-calorie
bliss. After all, sharing a meal is always a good way to get to
know someone. She eventually introduced herself between tubs of
"I am Brunhilde
Odinsdottir, Sara Corel."
"Pleased to meet
you, Brunhilde. You fly pretty good."
"An attribute it
seems we share. It is not a common one for those lacking wings."
Listen, I've seen some of the other 'manifestations' wandering
around, and from what Pete told me at the gate, you guys are
based on myths and superstitions and stuff, right?"
"Aye, but I am
unfamiliar with yours."
"Well, I came in
with the humans up on the plateau..."
Brunhilde exclaimed. "You?"
maybe not exactly. Human spirit and all that, but artificially
made up to resemble someone who seems to have a lot in common
with you. Jeez, we look like we could be related or
figured I was modeled after this comic book character, because
of the 'S' and everything. But if you're mythological, the
closest I can figure is that maybe you're Velorian, which I
wouldn't think is old enough to qualify. And anyway, they were
originally modeled after the same comic book -- unless there's
a deeper inspiration that I don't know about."
Brunhilde shook her
head. "I know not of these Velorians. I am a Valkyrie,
shieldmaiden to the Aesir of Asgard."
Cool," said Sara. "I know about you guys. You're
supposed to carry off heroes from the field of battle and take
them to Valhalla."
"I and my
sisters," she admitted.
thought you wore armor, with iron bras and horned helmets, and
carried spears, and were -- well, uh, most of the opera singers
who played you all were pretty hefty, if you know what I
"We have no need
of armor, since we cannot suffer injury. And our spears are the
flashing lightning of our wrathful gazes which no creature may
you're strong, too, I'll bet. You sure look it."
"We were created
be the strength of the Allfather's right arm."
said. "You are just like Velorians. I guess we have
a lot in common."
me. Flying bulldozer and everything else." She dug a raisin
out of her waffle cone and flipped it into the air, then fired
off an ear-popping laser blast that vaporized it in a flash.
Brunhilde looked appreciatively at Sara for a moment before
reciprocating in kind, elicting something from her eyes that was
more akin to an electrical zap.
wrestle?" Sara challenged amiably.
offered her arm and Sara promptly engaged her, both of them
steadily increasing the pressure as they took each others'
measure. The Valkyrie's incredible musculature swellied
under the strain to impossible proportions until finally her eyes
widened in astonishment at the apparent ease with which Sara
held her own.
she finally exclaimed. "You could best Thor himself!"
They both laughed and
clasped each other with the delight of meeting a kindred spirit.
They chatted like schoolgirls while they continued to stuff
about her sister Valkyries and the constant ritualized intrigues
among the gods of Asgard, and what it was like to live with
the other gods in the Celestial City. For her part, Sara
recounted the story of her Cryptoalien origins and how she
arrived on the Earth and tried to explain about the character
they modeled her on and the concept of Susan as a robot
Brunhilde shook her
head. "That is of an era unknown to us. We supernatural
beings are more static than mortals, having little need of human
instrumentality. We exist as soulless unchanging archetypes in
the realms allotted to us, serving as spiritual inspiration
rather than mundane genius. It seems your otherwordly creators,
or creatures like them, are not unknown to us, though."
met the Cryptos? What are they like?"
"We only know
that an agency not of the middle-earth appropriated the bodies and
souls of a number of our fairest maidens, promising by their
seed to make them into a race which could challenge the gods. We
know naught of the outcome. Whether it is your makers or an
alternative mythology, we cannot say."
like our own Internet Scribes write about the origins of the
Velorians. And you and your sisters turn out to be just like
they're supposed to turn out. That's eerie. Like what Soloman
called a 'Cosmic Inspiration Resonance'."
They were silent for
Sara finally asked,
"So, where's all the people?"
"It is wonderful, is it not? Ice cream every day, as much as
you want, any flavor you can imagine. Verily, a Paradise in
every way, with no want and perfect contentment."
"It must be
harder to get in here than I thought."
"It is all too
easy. There are few souls who do not try it. Some endure
unending bliss for a time, but there is an inevitable
realization that all come to."
"I think I see
where you're heading," Sara said. "Gets boring after a
is lacking. Once rested, the soul seeks awakening. That cannot
"So they split.
I can see that. Must be some kind of recycling center around
here somewhere, I guess. Any idea what happens to 'em?"
"My father would
know. His attributes include knowledge."
Asgard is on the hill in the center of the city?"
Brunhilde replied, "with the greater portion of the
stuff, right? The Field and Stream types are out in the
boondocks where I met Chief Running Riddle."
"Tell you what.
Why don't we pay your Dad a visit? And maybe the rest of the god
gang up there. I'm on a mission to spy on you guys for the Army
and maybe see if I can work out a deal, and I'm also s'posed to
be on a 'spirit quest'. I was headed that direction anyway.
Maybe you can give me some of the inside scoop on the way and
show me the scenic tour."
They left together
when the ice cream ran out.
© Patrick Hill, 2000