‘Well, that is a bombshell of a declaration if I have ever heard one.’ Caroline stammered. She looked thoughtfully into the distance. ‘That explains so much!
Eidolon looked startled. ‘What does it explain?’
‘It explains why Moll knew Winston and Emma so well. I had been wondering what the connection was. And now I know that it was you.’ Caroline looked at Eidolon with narrowing eyes. ‘But it doesn’t explain who you are or how you got into the Raven Society!’
“Not one to live in the creation of the Raven Society, I see.’ Eidolon laughed. ‘You have asked two questions requiring a long conversation that I do not have enough coffee for. Why don’t we take Beacon back home, and then you can buy me a coffee to replace the one that your dog drank for me?’
Beacon looked up from Eidolon’s lap, silently agreeing to the plan of continuing his nap on his favorite living room chair. Caroline gathered her belongings, and they started the short journey back to her home. Caroline was relieved that Eidolon didn’t seem upset with her direct questions. Once the words were out, she had half excepted him to get up and walk away. But instead, he was walking beside her, chatting about something that she was having a hard time paying attention to. She hadn’t realized how tall he was until they stood next to each other. His presence seemed almost overwhelming. He had a mystical air of E.A. Poe, the sensuality of Johnny Depp, and Sean Connery’s presence. He was the perfect man. Caroline’s hands were started to sweat; she would be out in public with this man who seems carved out of the movies.
“I will wait here.” She heard him state. He had stopped walking, and she was five steps in front of him before she noticed that she was alone. She turned around and saw him and Beacon silently laughing at her as they stood in front of her apartment.
She looked in surprise. How did Eidolon know where she lived?
“Beacon stopped right here. I assumed that it meant that he was home.” He answered her silent question.
“Yup, this is my home. I should get him inside and settled.” Caroline wondered if she should invite him inside for a cup of coffee. Being in public with him scared her. She knew that she would make a fool of herself. Pouring salt into her coffee, tripping over the chairs, or maybe she would somehow dump the coffee down herself as she was drinking. The ‘public’ was never a safe spot for her when she was nervous. Or she could invite him inside and panicked at the thought of a man coming into her home and seeing the mess of two sleepless nights.
‘What would Kostova do?’ She thought to herself
“Would you like to come in for that cup of coffee?” She heard herself say. ‘I must be crazy. He is going to think that I am crazy.’ She thought as she waited for him to answer.
“I would love to. Shall we Beacon? You can show me your favorite chair.” He laughed as Beacon’s tiny legs ran up the stairs, eager to show his new friend his toys and the best place to take a morning nap.
“I warn you; it is a mess,” Caroline warned him as she opened the door. “Beacon and I don’t get many visitors.”
As Caroline made coffee, Eidolon walked around the home with the host, admiring everything Beacon showed him. He noticed that Caroline’s apartment was filled with the world of books and history, but there were very few things to showcase the life that she was living. It was as if she was the backstage manager of a play. She observed the world, watching it as it played out, but never fully being involved in the storyline. He wondered what had happened to her to make her want to be in the shadows. He wasn’t one to question. He found that living in the shadows has given him a freedom that many wouldn’t understand. He smiled and settled into the couch next to Beacon as Caroline came in with two coffee cups and offered him one.
“You have a great place here.” He started. He suddenly noticed that his mouth was dry, and she sat down across from her. He had observed her the last night and was taken aback by how much he had wanted to pull her away from the lively conversation and talk to her himself. The moment that she walked into the room, she glowed. You could tell that she was nervous and unsure of her place, but when faced with the staring eyes of Eidolon, Emma, and Winston, she had found a strength that surprised them all.
He had been sure that she would choose a character in literature who was typical and well-known. He had pegged her for a Scarlett O’Hara but was thrilled that she had chosen Kostova. He needed a solid person to help him in his mission, but he didn’t think it would be someone that he found attractive. He pulled himself back from his thoughts as he noticed that she was looking at him waiting.
“I am sorry? What did you ask?”
“I was asking why did you choose Eidolon? It is not a person, but rather a thing if I remember correctly. A shadow of a person or a thought.”
Eidolon shifted in his seat to get more comfortable. He was strangely aware of his body sitting in her home. He had never told anyone the reason for his name. As the Raven Society leader, most new members just accepted it and were too afraid to question him. Most people in his life skated around him; they knew that he was there- his presence, Eidolon had been told, was overwhelming, but no one wanted to get too close. As if they knew if they were to draw in, that the answers would lead them down a road that they did not want to travel.
“It is a nickname that my grandmother gave me when I was just a child. My parents had disappeared when I was small. They had left me with the neighbors and were going to get dinner together. Hours later, the neighbors got worried when my parents didn’t come to pick me up at the time they said that they would be back. The father walked over to the house to see if they were home, and when he arrived, all he saw was the front door wide open and the house destroyed. He called the local law enforcement, but there were no clues. The car was not at home. The owners of the restaurant that they said they were going to never saw them. They looked for a month, but it was a cold case. They just disappeared.
Members of the local church took me in until someone could find any of my relatives.. No one knew who my family was; my parents never talked about where they came from or who they belonged to. So, I was alone in the world- no one to claim me. I was taken care of, feed, and clothed. I was sent to school with the other children, but they never really included me. It was as if they believed if they got too close to me, they would be alone too. I remember recesses and lunches when all the kids were sitting together talking, playing, and having a good time, and I was sitting alone at a table. The teachers tried to get them to include me, but they were wary of me also.’
‘That is when I started writing and reading. Lost in other people’s worlds made me forget that I had no one to ground me in this world. I was no longer lonely when I imagined that other families could belong to me. I would read stories and pretend the author was my mother or my father, and they were reaching out to me. I just had to find the clues in words.” Eidolon drank the last of his cooling coffee and looked at Caroline. He had been talking to Beacons sleeping form, who had settled on his lap while he told the story. He was worried about what he would see in her eyes. Would there be pity? Instead, he found interest, not sympathy. It was as if she heard a story that would have an ending that justified the beginning. This gave him a warm feeling of hope deep within his soul. Maybe he found someone who could understand finally.
“Would you like some more?” That was all she said as she stood up with her coffee cup. He knew that she was giving him a moment to collect the words for the next part of the story.
“Please,” he said, handing her his coffee mug, noticing that it said ‘Write Drunk, Edit Sober.’ Laughing, he asked, ‘So is this the reason why your book did so well? You were drunk.’
“Stephen King doesn’t even remember writing some of his books because of the alcohol and drugs, and now he is the most recognized published writer in the world. I just happen to drink more coffee than I do alcohol, but I have been known to enjoy two thumbs of vodka when I am stuck. Oh, and I smoke when I need to work out a plot.” Caroline responded as she went into the kitchen to make them both a fresh cup of coffee.
“You smoke?” Eidolon asked, surprised. “I would never have guessed.”
“Don’t judge,” Caroline said as she came back into the living room. “I have a doctor note that says that I can until I get my stress under control. I have the original on my desk, but I sent a copy to my mother the day that I got it so she would stop yelling at me.”
“That is funny and a little sad at the same time.”
“I know; I am working on it.” She handed him a new coffee mug that said, ‘If cigarette taxes are meant to discourage smoking, wouldn’t income taxes discourage working?’
“Point taken. I won’t mention it again.” He said, laughing, before taking a sip.
“So, what happened next?” Caroline asked as she settled into her favorite chair and pulled her grandmother’s blanket over her legs.
“I was 12 when I started to have ‘visions.’ They came only at night, but I remember walking in another world and seeing the souls of the people in my life. They would try to talk, scream, plead…. but no words would come out. It was someone stuck in a world of in-between, and I couldn’t help them. I would try to talk to them, but they just stared at me with glassed-over eyes. It was like they knew I was there but couldn’t see me. I would wake up in the morning covered in sweat and terrified. No! Not terrified. I was sad. I knew that something was going to happen, but I couldn’t stop whatever it was.
I tried to tell the people who watched me, but I didn’t know how to put it into words. So, I would start writing down who I saw and what I had seen them doing- the night that I knew that Mr. Martin was going to lose his battle with cancer or the vision of Mrs. Robinson’s husband leaving her for the secretary. But these were people that I just knew in passing. Their lives did not affect me personally; they were just a series of unfortunate events in the scheme of life.
That is until I started High School. The night before the first day, I had another dream about the football team captain and his girlfriend. I had known them since grade school. Thicker than thieves, those two were. They had been neighbors, friends, then lovers. The magical love story that you find only in Hallmark movies. They were planning on going to the same college, becoming doctors, and saving lives in 3 world countries. They were two who never made me feel unwelcomed. They always tried to include me in conversations or invite me to their birthday parties as kids. They may have been the closest thing that I had to a ‘friend.’
But that night, I knew that everything was going to change for them and their families. I saw them; they were standing on a cliff, holding hands, shivering, and looking over their shoulders, trying to call out to me. I ran to where they were standing, but the distance kept getting longer and longer. Their screams. I couldn’t hear them, but I felt them in my stomach. I knew something was going to happen, but I couldn’t save them.
That morning, the principal called an assembly and told the school that the football captain and his girlfriend were in a fatal accident the night before. They had been driving home from a movie, lost control of the car while driving around a bend, and went over a cliff; they had found their bodies and the car early that morning.”
Caroline looked at Eidolon in amazement. She had heard stories about people who could predict the future but had never meet any of them. And she hadn’t heard of a male being a clairvoyant until last night.
“I just left the school. I felt the walls were closing in on me, and I had to get out of there. I walked for hours with no particular place in mind. Did I allow the accident to happen? Did I know that they were going to die? By the late afternoon, I was hungry and tired, so I went to the local coffee shop. I sat there, writing in my journal, when someone sat down across from me. She was an old lady, with deep wrinkles, salt-and-pepper hair tied back in a bun, and dressed in old but well-mended clothing. Her hands looked like she spent her life in a garden, nails short and stained by dirt, blooms, and black ink. They told a story of a hard life that was beginning to wane. But her eyes, they were young and dancing. A brilliant violet, just like mine. I was looking into my own eyes. I knew right away that I belonged to her.
She just looked at me. I just sat there staring back at her. Then she started talking about nothing in particular. She spoke about the weather, movies, favorite coffee, and debated tea drinkers vs. coffee drinkers’ argument. She had my mother’s voice. I heard my mother without remembering what my mother sounded like.” Eidolon whispered
“Who won the argument?” Caroline asked
Eidolon looked up in surprise and chuckled. “I think coffee drinkers, but she did acknowledge that tea drinkers had their place in the world.” He shifted a bit and restarted his story.
“She looked at me, and after some time, said the words that I had been waiting my whole life to hear- ‘It was not your fault. Let’s go home and see what we can do about those dreams of yours.’ That was it. ‘Let’s go home.’ Magical words. As we walked out of the coffee shop to head to the house I had been staying at; she told me a story about a young man who wrote a poem about a world that ghost and dark angels haunted, a terrifying landscape, and a phantom who sat on the throne and watched over his lands. The phantom was called an Eidolon. She explained that the young man was not scared of the shadows; they comforted him once he understood who and what they were. That is when she looked at me and said, ‘You are an Eidolon. You are watching over a world of shadows. It is your choice to either be afraid of the dark or to embrace your presence in two different worlds.’ He looked at Caroline with a sly smile. “Obviously, I embraced the darkness. My grandmother and I moved here. At first, I was afraid to leave. What if my parents came back and I wasn’t there? How would they find me? I think that Moll understood; we walked to the police department and talked to the detective that had been on the case and left a forwarding address. He was kind. He took the information, but as we were leaving, he gave me a small hug and told me to go and start a new life and learn to do what I was meant to do. I understood his meaning- my parents were not coming back, and I needed to move on.”
Eidolon gently pushed Beacon off his lap and got up to stretch his tired limbs. “I have been doing all the talking. I think that it is time that you and I get some rest. Everyone is meeting at the house at 6:00 p.m., and Moll would like to talk to you before they all arrive. Can you come at 4:00 p.m.?” Caroline was surprised at the change in the man standing before her. Five seconds ago, he was a gentle soul talking about the loss of his parents, nightly visions, and a long-lost grandmother, and now he was severe and business-like in his movements and tone. The change was like looking at two different people in the same body.
“Of course,” Caroline said as she got up and took his coffee mug. “Let me see you out, and I will see you tonight.” She said, matching the no-nonsense tone of Eidolon. They walked to the front door together, and as he was walking out, he turned to look at her.
“Thank you. No one has asked me my story in a long time. I had almost forgotten what it was, caught up in everyone else’s plot.” And with that, he was walking out into the spring sun. Caroline slowly closed the door and looked at her living room which had seemed so small and warm with Eidolon in it. Now it appeared large and lonely.
Caroline spent the rest of the day working on her novel; she had been stuck for weeks. Ideas floating in and out of her mind, but none seem to stick. Her conversation with Eidolon gave her the push that she needed to add a taste of fantasy with reality. A mixture of truth and the unbelievable. Why can’t fact sometimes be impossible? Why did everything need to have an explanation? It was while she was writing that she realized- she still didn’t know Eidolon’s name.
At 3:50pm, she stood outside the Raven Society, peering at the walkaround deck and the pots of colorful spring flowers. The white rocking chairs, outdoor checkerboard, gardening tools left on the railing, looking like a Norm Rockwell painting. To the outsider, it was a typical home. Nothing out of the ordinary. How many people had walked by it and never really noticed its existence? Except that Caroline knew that as soon as she walked through those doors- reality changes. She could change. Her once safe place in the world, largely unnoticed and forgettable, would be instantly transformed. She could be Kostova- a world traveler, a professor of historical events, a private detective. She could be a Nancy Drew or Velma from Scooby-Doo. Was she ready?
Caroline had to be honest with herself. She enjoyed being largely unnoticed. There was no pressure, no need to exert herself. If she chose not to go out, then no one would notice. If she did, it was usually only to solidify that she shouldn’t. If she was honest with herself, she was a little lazy. She liked working on her books, taking solitary runs, working on her projects that did not include someone’s else presence or input. Walking through that door would mean that she would be giving up her comfort and security in some way or another. She would be forced to interact and engage. She would need to be the person she wanted to be but was too afraid to become.
She could walk away. Go back home, take Beacon for a walk, make a salad and then still eat five Oreos. She could make a pot of coffee and finish her book, relying on the past to recreate another story. She looked down at her watch – 3:59pm. ‘Make your decision,’ Caroline thought to herself. ‘Be safe, or take a chance.’ Caroline walked up to the door just as Winston was opening it.
“Hi, Winston. Do you have coffee brewing?”
“I just made you a fresh pot, Ms. Kostova. Would you like to come
“Yes, please. I think that I would like to, very much so.”
Somehow, we’ll find it. The balance between whom we wish to be and whom we need to be. But for now, we simply have to be satisfied with who we are.Brandon Sanderson