Warning: some readers may not find this tale tasteful.
It took him only a fleeting moment to determine that he hadn’t awakened again in the bed from which he couldn’t arise. He could move about, but the surroundings were vague. Had his eyesight become even worse? He decided, no, his environment was just not substantial, and neither was his body, though his mind seemed to be working as well as ever. After a moment, he amended that to perhaps not as well as it had three-quarters of a century ago or even a quarter-century ago: however, he couldn’t tell that it was deficient in any way, and that was satisfactory to him, given that the mind was ninety-seven years old. His aches and pains appeared to have disappeared, at least the physical pain; however, he still had the deep agony that had suffused his soul for the two years since the most important part of his life had been absent. Ideally, they would have expired at the same moment, but, given that they hadn’t, he was glad that she had gone first because it spared her what he had experienced since her death.
He stopped his musing and brought himself back to an awareness of his surroundings, and he realized quickly with more than a jot of surprise that he had died and that some part of him had survived the death of his body. He sensed the presence of others similar to him and almost immediately sensed her, the important one, but she was being kept apart from him, far from him, just as some force seemed to be keeping him from going to her. Although he certainly didn’t believe in the religious concept of hell, existence apart from her would be hell, just as it had been the last two years, and whoever was playing this trick would soon find that he would move heaven and hell and destroy both if necessary to get to her. He was sure that was no more than she would do for him, and he had full expectation that, working together, they would overcome angels or devils and whatever was keeping them apart. Although he didn’t know how to exert any force on the external world at the moment, he would learn, would spend an eternity learning if necessary.
Seeing and hearing were not the correct terms for what he sensed, but the words served well enough for the moment. Time appeared to pass, bringing several entities to appear before him, but, since he and she were still being restrained, he gave these beings only a portion of his attention. He did sense that some of the entities projected maleness and some femaleness, concepts that better expressed the feeling he received than did masculinity and femininity.
One of the entities spoke or at least made some of its thoughts known, “Ian, what occurs now may determine your future, at the very least how you will spend a very long period of time. Sometimes it all ends with a bang, never right here up until now, thank some power. If you don’t end that way, we aren’t sure just how long that future may be, and we don’t even know how the process works, but it does seem to work. We are among those currently just waiting around at this energy point, and, while we await the one or ones with whom we may unite, we serve as a board to help you along the way. There is one who has awaited you and is eager to unite with you, but we must be certain as possible that joining can be done safely before permitting it because, if you end with a flash, it may destroy not only you and her but this entire energy point.”
“What right do you have to keep us apart?” he asked.
He realized that he had accepted the reality of a life beyond death and that renewed life might include a reunion with the one who made life worthwhile for him. Actually, it would not be life without her. Since these self-appointed judges believed they could keep him and her apart, he emphasized ‘might’ to himself although he didn’t accept the possibility of their being able to do so. Not without complete death, not merely this pseudo-death, they couldn’t separate the pair of them for long.
“The right to ensure our survival as long as possible,” one of the group answered and then asked, “Ian, are you sorry for doing what society says is wrong and becoming intimate with your sister? We are not being judgmental, but it's important to know.”
“She is not my sister biologically; she is a step-sister, but much more than a sister. I’m not sorry for anything I ever did with her.”
Another posed, “Some of us have relationships while we wait here. We know they are sexual in some manner because we get the same response in our minds and emotions that we got from the actual act when we had bodies. Some of those having relationships here become emotionally tied together, and, with others, the relationship is just for pleasure. If a couple becomes emotionally tied here, they may become a joint entity, and that could lead to a disaster when or if a person from the prior earthly relationship of one is attracted to this spot and shows up since absence of the body doesn’t appear to change our human nature. Even having a relationship here can lead to a problem. Would you be less eager to unite with your former partner if she had engaged in a relationship while awaiting you here? In human terms, would you love her less if you discovered she had an affair while you were both embodied? We ask the last because you will have no secrets from each other when you unite. If I touched you or even got within a few centimeters of you now, we couldn’t hide our thoughts from each other.”
Ian returned, “Then, why didn’t you get these answers by touching me? As to the other questions, first, anything she did here was because she needed it. If she and the other person were merely giving each other a bit of comfort and happiness, it certainly makes no difference to me. Since you have said she is eager to come to me, my only concern, should she have been in such a relationship, would be the pain it might cause her to leave the one with whom she was having the relationship. But that is all beside the point because you said emotionally bound persons usually join to become a single entity, and I can sense, even at a distance, that she is alone. Also I know she is no more likely than I, meaning zero possibility, to indulge in anything of that nature with someone else because sex to us was one of our special links. She won’t care if I tell you that, even in our nineties, we had those feelings for each other although we couldn’t often do all the physical part. Since she’s been gone, I certainly haven’t had the urge with anyone else, nor would I have at half my age.”
He thought back to all those many years ago when they began to become one.
“Tell Ian hello,” the woman who had told the young boy he could call her Mom whenever he decided she was worthy of the name told the girls to whom she was bringing him home.
The five girls chorused “Hi!” and “Hello.”
The man who had gone with ‘Mom’ to get him and who would be Dad put in, “Since you’re a male like I am, Ian, you probably don’t tie people’s names to their faces. These girls are Vivian, age ten, Frances, nine, Anya, seven, Jane, five, your age, and Ivy, three.”
He was correct that, although Ian had met everyone several times while the family was going through the process of adopting him, he had vivid memories of only Anya and didn’t remember any other girl’s name at the sight of her face or vice versa, although all the girls looked familiar. He greeted them in a shy manner. That was his introduction into the family that he would be part of for many years, and, while he didn’t know it at that moment, he would soon begin to call the woman Mom and the man Dad because they bestowed love and attention on him just as they did on their daughters.
It was probably a miracle because they were not hesitant to make their views known; however, none of the girls told him at that moment that his joining the family had been the cause of some unwelcome reshuffling and sharing of bedrooms, changes to which they had finally agreed without further complaints because they wanted to have a brother in the family. Although there were bedrooms upstairs in their house, no one was then allowed to sleep upstairs away from the parents and would not be permitted to do so until she was twelve, more than a year away for even Vivian, the oldest, and the arrangement was for Ian to have the smallest first-floor bedroom alone, Vivian and Frances to share a fairly large bedroom, and for the three younger girls to use the largest bedroom not used by ‘Mom’ and ‘Dad’. The arrangement was questioned only once as he was installed in his bedroom.
“Why can’t I share the bedroom with Ian instead of having two sisters in the room with me?” Anya asked.
“Because boys and girls don’t sleep together,” Vivian, sure of her elderly wisdom, answered, and the parents accepted that answer for them without comment.
Although Vivian may have expressed the parents’ intent, she was not correct because Anya did sleep with Ian, beginning the very first night, and shared his bed as well as his bedroom. She had threatened to send her younger sisters, with whom she was supposed to room, to the lowest level of hell if they told Mom, Dad, or the older sisters, although that was not exactly the way she phrased the threat. She always began the night in her own bed and slipped into his room through the bathroom they shared and made it back to her own bedroom through the same route by the next morning. Since Ian had fixated on her as the one to be his idol, her nightly presence helped him to adjust to his new life with the family much faster than would have been possible if he had been alone.
At their ages, neither had even thought of sex, but neither could help learning about the other’s body as they snuggled together almost every night as one would with a puppy or teddy bear or a new family member who was totally fascinating. They were almost as inseparable during the day when it was the world and how they fit into it that occupied their attention. Although Ian was quite intelligent, he was probably a bit behind normal in development when he first came into the family; however, under Anya’s tutelage, that state was not long-lasting, and, although she was always a bit ahead of him while they were growing up because of her extra years, their thought processes were soon so similar that one could almost finish sentences for the other.
Anya was soon sharing with Ian everything she learned in her classes, and by the time he began school, what was being taught to his group was old hat; however, although he was always studying and learning a couple of grade levels above his age group, school officialdom never allowed him to skip ahead to be with her.
Throughout their young lives, Anya and Ian challenged each other’s minds, and each pushed the other when they were exploring new topics and helped the other when there were problems. Together they could overcome almost any difficult situation thrown at either. The unusual closeness between their daughter and adopted son worried their mom and dad that one of them might pull the other into an incorrect gender role, although the parents would have accepted it and still given their full love if she had said she was interested in girls or if he had said he was interested in boys. Anya did affect Ian in that he read girl-oriented books with her and learned knitting, sewing, and cooking just as she did, and, for her part, she reciprocated and was as interested as he in fixing up an old car for them to drive and enjoy and played male-oriented sports along with him, including football until both gave up that game after she was not allowed even to try out for the high-school team.
Lest one believe physical matters had no importance, it wasn’t long until their snuggling together revealed differences in their bodies, difference that they proceeded to explore. All of it took place over not only many nights and days but even a matter of years because they might not complete a phase for many months; however, after the passage of many years, they were unsure of the pace of discovery or sometimes even the order of events.
During this time, Viv had reached age twelve and had been allowed to have her own bedroom and bath on the second floor, and, when this occurred, Anya deviously put the idea in Fran’s head that her freedom would be greater if she shared her room with the youngest daughter Ivy instead of with her, Anya. So it was Fran who presented the idea to the parents, and Anya had only to say that she didn’t object too badly to rooming with Jane, whom she had already brow-beaten to silence about the true state of affairs, the sharing of a room with Ian. Thus, they had no problems from that quarter. Even when Anya moved to the second floor herself at age twelve, she continued to sneak down and spend most of her nights with Ian and didn’t allow a few close calls to upset her sufficiently to stop her visits. In truth, after a while he began doing some of the slipping around between bedrooms to visit her upstairs. The older sisters knew all by the time the elder three were upstairs, but each of the trio knew secrets the others didn’t want told, and all were held back from snitching by mutually assured destruction.
Anya and Ian had the serious talk just before she was sixteen. Viv had already gone away to college, and Fran would be entering college in the fall. He would be in the ninth grade in the same school she was attending.
“What do you want to do about us?” she asked him.
He didn’t even think before replying, “I want to be with you forever. From the first time I saw you years ago, I felt some special bond with you. I love Viv, Fran, Jane, and Ivy as sisters, and they are good sisters for the most part, but I feel something deeper for you.”
“Yeah,” she responded, “I can almost repeat your words. From the first time we met, I knew you were the part of me that had always seemed to be missing. I didn’t know that what we had would develop into what it has become, but I’m not sorry that it has. I’m not sorry for anything we did together so long as it didn’t harm you. I may have forced you into things a bit early, but I believe it was what you wanted also.”
He didn't even need to pause a moment for thought before replying, “Everything we have ever done was exactly as I wished it. I want to share my mind, my body, my soul with you. You may already know that, during the last few months, Fran has sort of tried to get me to do with her what I do with you, but there was no way it was going to happen. I’m not sure she even really wanted to, more that she just felt jealous of both of us for what we had that she didn’t have with either. I attempted to tell her that it wouldn’t be the same with a brother or sister, and she tried to say you and I were sister and brother also. I told her we were more.”
Anya nodded and said, “I know what you mean even if she didn’t. I saw what she was doing and considered kicking her butt but decided she might have about equal chance of kicking mine. Still, I wouldn’t have let that stop me and would have kicked hers into next week if I had believed she had a chance in hell of grabbing you.”
“That would never happen, and, as long as you are willing to be my special someone, it won’t ever happen with any other girl because that wouldn’t be the same as with you either. Okay, we know where we both want to go. How do we get there? Sometimes I ask myself if this is something that a fourteen-year-old boy should even be thinking about, but then I remind myself that you are not quite sixteen and approach life with more maturity than Viv or any of her friends I’ve met. So, to be with you, I have to work at a level a bit above my chronological age. Maybe that word is!”
She answered his question of how they would get there.“As soon as Fran goes away to college in a few weeks, you and I go to Mom and Dad and just tell them the whole story. Then, we’re together openly, for them, if not for the general public.”
“Jane and Ivy already know, and I suspect Jane at least is somewhat aware of what our being together all the time means. She’s my age, after all.”
“But blissfully unaware of anything she doesn’t choose to focus on. Yeah, she probably knows, but our special relationship has no particular significance to her,” Anya replied.
“Yeah, that seems to be correct, not that she's not as smart as either of us, just not sensitive to the signals the way we are,” Ian opined.
They did go to the parents and tell them about their relationship and their intention of not only continuing it and but becoming more to each other. The parents already suspected they were enjoying sex with each other but had been able to suppress thoughts about it after being assured by all their children that they would never engage in unsafe sex or do anything to harm another person.
Everything that had occurred in his life from the time he first met Anya passed through Ian's mind, but all that he said to the being who made up his examining board was, “Anya and I were one from the moment we met, and only death could make us incomplete. We had to fight the system, but, when she was finishing high school, she, I, and Mom and Dad browbeat the school administrators into letting me skip levels in school. We had tried for years, and they finally allowed me to test out for a type of high-school diploma that let me enter college along with her, although I was two years younger. We lived together, studied together, loved together, and graduated together. As a matter of fact, except for trips necessary for our professions, we were never apart for more than a few hours any time in our lives. Although some couples might have found such a degree of togetherness overly restrictive, for us, every day spent apart was a day we felt incomplete. That was our lives, the way we lived and loved until her body wore out two years ago, at ninety-seven. We will be together again or die trying, if death is possible in this condition.”
One of the others replied, “Yes, destruction of our structures, which probably means the end of existence for the one destroyed, is possible. Someone mentioned or hinted, at least, that joining of two can cause this destruction if one or both are angry enough or become angry enough at something revealed in the joining, and the extent of the destruction depends on the degree of anger and the mental force of the angry one. There are tales that entire gathering points like this one have been wiped out by rogues, who have become unstable because of some hurt, real or imagined.”
Another put in, “You could not protect yourself now and need to learn quickly because rogues seem to be drawn to newly arrived entities. Since we have all had to learn how to resist these rogues, we might be able to protect you by forming a net around you, but we couldn't repel a rogue whose hatred was sufficiently great. While we have talked, we have been probing you, and you seem to be getting a bit better at pushing our probes away, but it will take some time for you to be strong enough to be effective.”
Ian responded, “I thought I detected some force pushing at me. How long will it take me to become strong enough?”
“It depends on the person, but never less than a few dozen times the period you have been here.”
“When will you stop trying to keep me and Anya from joining? You can't stop us, you know, because we will learn how to evade you.”
One of the group answered, “Ian, even if there is no reason for you and her not to unite, as you assure us and she has assured us, you don't want to do so before you have the strength to repel a rogue because those who have recently united have lower resistance than even the weaker partner alone. It takes a while for two to learn to be one.”
Ian wanted to know, “Doesn't the rogue get destroyed too?”
“Yes, but they don't seem to care if they can destroy others, with several others being their aim. Anger and hatred!”
Another spoke, “Speaking of rogues, one has already sensed our new arrival and is coming here. It must be very strong to have reacted so quickly. The entire group here will try to protect you. If we can hold it off long enough, it will give up and go try elsewhere.”
Ian sensed that Anya and all the others at this energy point, as they had called it, had joined forces to form a net around him, and, although he didn't want to distract her in her efforts to protect him, he and she couldn't stop themselves from exchanging thoughts, thoughts that seemed not to be understood by any of the others.
After a while, Ian could also sense the rogue that the more sensitive entities had detected earlier. He could smell, taste, feel the hatred it held for everything in existence in this world and wondered what had caused such hatred. As the rogue drew nearer, it began to push at the defense surrounding each member of the group, moving swiftly from one to another, and Ian could sense that the protective net around him was weakening as each entity had to use more and more of its force to protect himself or herself from this super-powerful hating machine. No, that was not totally correct. Anya devoted more and more of her power in defense of the one who made living worthwhile.
“Protect yourself,” Ian sent to her.
“I have my net around both of us,” she projected back, as he sensed the entity that contained the essence of Anya very close to him. “The rogue is still gaining because the net is too diffuse when it has to form a sphere around both us.”
“Protect yourself,” he told her again.
She snapped back, “No! When we go, we go together. We'll have time to express our love one last time before it can destroy us.”
He felt their entities fuse to become one, felt them forming into the one they had been in life, felt them becoming even more complete than they had ever managed to be in life, though he would have believed that impossible. What could only have been an instant seemed to stretch into an eternity as they gave their souls to each other and prepared to be destroyed by the rogue.
Suddenly, although everyone knew newly-united pairs were no stronger than the weaker of the pair, he sensed the rogue being flung far away and realized that the entity formed by their union had enough power left for Anya to strike the rogue so forcefully that it exploded far enough away to harm no one else.
She didn't have to put it into words, but he knew she was telling him, “We had the power because we didn't have to learn to be one. We learned that long ago and have practiced being one all our lives. I directed our efforts then, but you will soon be able to do it also. We are joined forever.”
He didn't have to tell her; she knew he was pleased by that fate, as was she.
They knew they could spend years – an eternity? – exploring this world, trying to solve its puzzles, discovering what was out there beyond this energy point. They would learn to interact with the other beings in this world, those who waited at this energy point and other energy points and those beings that consisted of two – or more – individuals joined to be one, with most of the joined entities being far from the energy points they came to after the end of their earthly lives. Probably, given the limitless time ahead, they could look forward to finding other members of the family they had loved, all of whom they had outlived.
All that would occur, but, first, they intended to revel in being together again, more intimately than ever before, even for them, and to test the potential offered by their new existence. Even if this place was heaven, heaven could wait.