Michael continued in school until he got his law degree. It wasn’t a challenge like it was to the other students and the work left him unsatisfied. While he dated relentlessly, no woman could push Marjy from his thoughts. He kept trying to replace her with every girl he went out with, but none of them were her and he hated them for it.
He would often mused that maybe it would have been okay to be normal if she was still with him. But would she still love him if he was normal? Or was it the inner fire of being a Nephilim the thing that had made her attracted to him. How heartbreaking would it have been to become normal to keep her, just to have her lose interest in him.
What was the point of all this if he was miserable. Could he back out? Would it be like dying? Would he remember anything? Whenever his merry-go-round of thoughts would spin out of control, he would get blackout drunk, waking up the next day more disgusted with himself than ever.
He perpetually felt like someone was watching him and never felt comfortable. He thought he was always one tick away from rocking and scratching himself like a drug addict in need. Tina stayed woven into his life. Coming and going, as she got bored with wherever she’d been, or with him. There were moments when he felt something to her that was akin to his feelings for Marjy, but it was different. She didn’t have… He wanted to call it purity, but that wasn’t enough.
After Michael graduated he passed the bar first go and started bouncing from one political campaign to another. He was a wiz with campaign finance, advertising, and voter registration laws. He could plug himself into any campaign and go immediately to work. He was able to make a lot of contacts, without having to get involved too closely with anyone. He was a hard worker, neutral character and stayed out of trouble, so he was in demand and campaigns were always glad to get him.
Unbeknownst to Michael, there was another man living a long arch that would some day make their paths cross. A man born on the same day as Michael. Of course thousands of boys were born on the same day, but the same second, same instant? There was only one of those. Jacob Halston.
Jacob had ended up an orphan as a young child. His parents had died in a fire. Unlike Michael, Jake was blond, and had soft features surrounding his green eyes. He was neither especially handsome, nor plane. But there was something about him that made him memorable, in his eyes. Possibly it was the pain of the night his parents died in the fire. A night he had fully suppressed in his mind. Or it could have been a lack of malice that you would expect to see in a difficult child’s eyes. There was an openness that would cause you to lose your concentration for a moment when you looked directly into his eyes. Though you most likely wouldn’t see his eyes if you gave him a quick glance. They seldom looked up. He was so locked inside himself you could come into a room and leave again without ever realizing he was there, hidden behind a book.
Couples looking to adopt often wanted to meet him after seeing his picture, but became hesitant and changed their minds after meeting him. He was pail, thin, and it was difficult to get him to engage. He always answered questions with as few words as possible. It was going to take someone special, someone willing to take the time to reach him, for him to open up.
At forty, Bill had figured out he was never going to keep a wife. It’s not that he was unfaithful, or mean, or a bad drunk, he just had too much fun being a kid. He was a big man who like to rough house, be impulsive, and drive his motorcycle on cross country trips.
He looked more like a Hell’s Angel than a college professor. The physique served him well when he was cutting his way through a rain forest, searching for lost cities and forgotten tribes. His freewheeling life style made him initially attractive to the fairer sex, but the attitude that came with it turned women into Popsicles once they realized Bill’s roller coaster had no stops, it only had exits.
His second wife had been madly passionate when they met, but after getting married she expected Bill to settle into a calm collegiate life. Not be constantly embarrassing her at dinner parties with bawdy jokes and public slaps to her bottom. She left for Europe, the day after he to Mexico to take part in an international dig.
He came back at the end of the summer. She did not. She took up residence with a broom stick of a professor, she’d met at a brick of a party, on a fashionably snobby estate, outside of London. No one would ever be rude to her again. Not at a party of peers and not when she was shedding tears. No one would ever pull up her blouse or scare her with a mouse. She would never again have to put up with that louse. And when she cried about that, her new man would ask no questions, he would hold no interrogation. Though he would sometimes stair at the ceiling as if he wished it would fall and kill us all. He knew to stroke her gently and tell her over and over again, everything was going to be all right and that she was safe in his house.
She did not send for her things, anything of importance, she’d already moved to her sister’s place before she left. She sent him his marriage pink slip and he signed it and moved on. All the things that had made him popular with women as a young college professor, were now repulsing women, of his age, like concussion grenades launched from third world Russian tanks.
He tried dating younger women, but all his time in the sun and on his bike, was not kind to him. His skin looked like it had been on the bad side of a knife fight with some serious ultra violets and he already had hints of gray showing up in his chestnut hair. Women just ten years younger, looked too young for him and drew uncomfortable stares.
He was hansom in a lumber jack sort of way, but his wide, six two, frame standing next to a women exaggerated any age differential and made them look like children next to him. He’d wrestle a bear, but couldn’t handle the idea of someone looking at him as a sad old professor that used his position to seduce inappropriately young women.
The closest thing he had to a relationship was a younger woman he had dated, who found his wildness fun, made him self conscious when she jokingly called him daddy. It didn’t take long to feel so uncomfortable, about their age difference that time had to be called, though the thought of being alone kept him from doing anything about it. Plus they did really get along well together and liked each others company.
It was her that decided to move on. There were no illusions about the relationship being something long term. When she was ready for the next experience life might have to offer, he was almost relieved. They had a friendly parting of ways. And sometimes she would call him when life threw something hard at her, or she broke up with a boyfriend, or if she was just feeling lonely and they would go out for dinner and a night of warm friendly sex.
He noticed that each time they seemed a little closer in emotional age, but physically she had one of those eternally youthful faces and he would always look 20 years older than her. She always did the calling, he never called her, except when it might be expected like Christmas. Though he did write to her whenever he traveled to a dig as she enjoyed his stories and adventures.
It was an arrangement that left Bill feeling a little more than empty at times. But he’d just made up his mind he’d rather be there for her, than not be available because of chasing something else that was never going to last as long as he was Bill. Part of him held out hope that after she’d had her fill, of chasing the next rush, they might come into alignment again some day. But that didn’t help with his loneliness.
It did get the better of him from time to time. These events never really got solved, they just sort of ran their course. He’d take himself out to a bar to just be around people. He’d choose a place that faculty and students co-mingled, because he could be fairly assured that their would be a low pressure conversation around that he could become a part of. He’d dust off his travel stories to impress a lass if one became available. But mostly he just talked Archaeology and current events with other professors, students, and Alumni that still showed up to the bar.
It was during one of these nights that he had been set on his current path. It was the reason he was sitting in a blandly painted state office. He had begun talking to a younger woman, he wasn’t really sure how old she was, because she seemed a lot older than she looked. He wasn’t even sure what they were talking about, when they were talking about it, until he suddenly told her how lonely his life could be. That he didn’t really know how to fix it. She smiled and said that was why she was there.
“How’s that? Are you going to come into my life?” Bill asked.
“No, not me. A child.” She said with a smile and gave him a card for a Big Brother office.
Bill looked at the card. “You work here?”
“Me? No, not me.” Then she spoke and everything got distant again. Bill’s head swimming as if he were much drunker than he was. What she said to him, put him on his current mission, though whenever he tried to recall her exact words they were always bits and pieces. Even after talking to her for a least a few hours, he couldn’t have pick her out of a line up of three women.
Bill couldn’t even remember her name. She did occasionally touch him, as they talked, on his shoulder, or tracing the lines on his face, with her slender fingers. Bill had never wanted a woman more, but he could tell there was none of it there. She almost seemed like his adult. The last thing she said was, “Find the purpose for the child in you, you need that to talk to him, you’re the only one who can help him.”
“You’ll know when you see him.” She stood up and turned away.
“Who are you?” He asked almost pleading. She turned back to him.
“I’m an Angel.” She lightly stroked the side of his face with the back of her hand. “You’re a good man, but a little lost. I’m here to help you find your way and save a very important little boy.” Then she kissed him on the forehead and walked away.
It puzzled him for days. He struggled to remember her features. Every time he would try to focus on her face she would sort of dissolve to a blur. He thought she was blond, but couldn’t be sure. It was as if he were looking at her through the bottom of an empty glass. He needed to answer this riddle. After trying to make sense of the experience for several days, he went to the Big Brothers office joined the big brothers program.
When the woman, who took his information, asked him why he had decided to participate in Big Brothers, he answered.
“Some one special said this is what I needed to do and gave me your card. The more I thought about it, the more sense it made. At my age I’m never going to become a father, but I’m educated and have seen a lot of the world. I think I could make a difference.”
She studied him for a moment that was long enough to make Bill squirm a bit. “Would you be willing to take a child that needed a little extra help?”
Bill shrugged. “Sure, that’s why I’m here.”
She studied him for another long moment. “Okay.” She wrote down an address and handed it to him. “You want to see Nancy. She’s in charge of the home. Tell her I think you’d be a good fit for Jacob.”
Bill looked down at the address. “Okay, sounds good.” Bill went to the state home for children. He didn’t think he was great father material, but he felt loaded with big brother qualities and was very confident he would be a success. That was until he saw Jacob for the first time.
He sat in the office of the headmistress’ of the orphanage. Bill had already privately nicknamed her the warden. She’d appeared immediately suspicious of Bill. Bill suspected, she was that way toward men as a rule. Jacob was in the day room. Bill could see him through the glass window that separated the office from the general populace.
“What’s wrong with him?” Jacob did not move. He sat straight and stared straight ahead. The other children played around him as if he were not there.
“Medically, nothing.” She said with a little sigh.
“Does he speak?”
“If you press him. More often, he’ll comply with whatever you ask him. Sometimes he’ll look at you. Sometimes not.” The warden was very flat in her description. She had several children’s cases filed away in her all business mind.
“Was he always like that?”
“Since he’s been here, yes. I’m told that he was perfectly normal before the fire.”
“Fire?” Bill turned away from the window to look at the woman.
“He was in a fire…” The woman showed her first hesitation. “His father got him out, but died going in to save the boy’s mother. Neither of them came out.” The woman looked at her hands and pushed her lips into a mushroom. “His mother was screaming loud enough to be heard over the fire. Then part of the roof collapsed and the screaming stopped.” The woman looked up at Bill. He was looking through the window again. “Perhaps you could try… a less difficult case. All the children need care.”
“No.” Bill faced the woman. “I have a feeling this is what she was talking about.”
“Excuse me?” The warden returned to her guarded, cross, self.
“Some one told me… Nothing. It’s nothing.” Bill took a deep breath. “So, can I meet him?”
“That’s why you’re here.”
Used to spending time alone pouring over chips of ancient crockery and bones, Bill felt no need to fill the silence with inane pointing and descriptions of things the child wouldn’t care about. He took Jacob to the movies the first day. The highlight of their conversation came at the concession stand. Do you want popcorn? Eye contact. Jacob’s head turned to the popcorn, returned to Bill with a slow nod. Cola? Not much interest. Root beer? A faster repeat of the earlier procedure as Jacob scanned the bright sign for conformation of root beer.
Bill had never outgrown his love of kung fu movies and thought Big Trouble in Little China would be a fun movie. It was exciting and very silly. Bill saw Jacob’s expression change for the first time, by the light of the movie showing on his face, when he smiled at something Kurt Russel had done.
Though they saw each other twice a week, their conversations did not lengthen much. Nodding was still the most common response. Some days Jacob would just walk around the huge work rooms where Bill spread the artifacts of his current studies. Jacob would carefully handle many of the objects, but never leave them out of place. His wandering among the tables would often bare fruit in the form of matched pottery shards and bones. Eventually he placed things together without consulting Bill. People thought they were like two ghosts. You could go into the room and leave without hearing a sound from either of them, not being sure either of them had even been there.
So it did not distract Bill in the least when Jacob came up and placed a missing piece into the Aztec water jug he had been trying to assemble all morning.
“That’s good, Jacob. If we’re lucky, maybe we can this pot whole.” Bill did not look up at Jacob immediately. He felt the familiar warmth on the side of his face and set down his magnifying glass and looked at Jacob. “What is it?”
Jacob studied Bill’s face. He looked down, then looked and Bill again.
“What hurt you?”
Bill stared at Jacob. His eyes blinked a few times, but registered no new information. “What do you mean, Jacob?”
“You’re the quietest adult I’ve ever met.”
Bill’s mouth fell open, but his vocal cords weren’t on duty. Jacob continued.
“I know why I’m quiet.” Tears began to seep from Jacob’s eyes. “I was just wondered what had hurt you that bad.”
Bill stared at Jacob. “I don’t know. I know that it’s there, but I don’t know what it is.”
“I saw, heard… my mama die.” Jacob began to sniffle.
Bill felt as if his heart would implode looking into the child’s eyes.
“She… burned… alive.” Jacob let out a sob. Bill carefully picked up the boy sat in a chair and rocked him in his massive arms. Jacob just kept repeating, “She was screaming… My dad… he… went in… he didn’t come out.” Bill kept rocking him and comforting him and he learned not only could he be a big brother, but he could be a father as well.
Jacob fell asleep cradled in Bill’s arms. Bill took him home and put him on the bed in the guest room. He left the light on in the hall and the door open, then went into the kitchen and called the warden, who he now called Nancy. He told her what had happened and heard her quiet tears on the other end of the phone. It broke his heart again to hear the warden melt. Her ramrod posturing had given him comfort while he struggled to get through to Jacob. It was reliable and dependable. He said, he thought it was time that he became Jacob’s foster parent and arrange for adoption if it was possible. She said, she believed that quite possible. He thanked her and said he would be in to see her the next day.
It was a good match. Jake being reader, and curious, served him quite well. He loved history. Especially civilizations that had once been the rulers of their part of the earth that no longer existed. He dreamed of their lost secrets and accomplishments, of how they lived, of how they died. Studying alongside his adopted father was the perfect place for him. While he was never really sure why history seemed so paramount to him, it was more than following Bill’s lead. It did make him an outrageously good student. This did not make him the most popular kid in school, though it did make it easy for him to get the necessary scholarships to go on to college. When a lot of his compatriots, from the home, grew up in the social worker spin cycle of foster homes and were going down dark paths to nowhere, he was going on field trips to Egypt.
After graduating, he stayed on at school until receiving a PhD. Then went on to win private funding to do research, in Peru, on his own. He spent his time searching the existing ruins and interviewing the people for some kind of clue, some sign, that would lead him to his highest ambition, to discover a lost Inca city. He wanted a fresh find. One that hadn’t been trashed by thieves or trampled by less skilled, primitive, archaeologist.
Driving through the mountains with his guide, Jacob would stay in villages for days at a time to question villagers about legends, and rumors, of cities the jungle had reclaimed. The guide was a wiry younger native Peruvian, named John. His father, a big fan of American westerns, had named him after John Wayne.
Jake had been concentrating on the north eastern region of Peru, for two fruitless summers, when the worm finally turned. A boy, John stopped in the street to ask directions, wanted to know why they were so far out in the country. John explained what they were doing and the boy’s face twisted in concentration, he smiled and asked if there might be a financial reward for such information. John said he could count on a little grease for his monkey and the boy smiled. He said that many years ago his grandfather had been hired as a porter to go to a city in the mountains. Heavy rains drove them back and the expedition didn’t have a chance to make another try and never come back. His grandfather repeated the story occasionally, because he had hoped to make enough money to expand his farm and was very disappointed he didn’t get the work.
Jake understood enough Spanish to comprehend the gist of what the boy had said without translation. He jumped out of the jeep and crouched down by the boy.
“Does his grandfather live near here?” Jake asked, his eyes examining the boy in a slightly crazed way that made the boy step back.
John asked and the boy replied. “Yes, he’s not far.”
“Take us to him.” Jake reached in his pocket and took out enough money to make the boy’s eyes light up and held it up. The boy shook his head and Jake slapped it in the boys hand. He nodded his head and they all got back in the jeep.
Although Jake had his hopes raised many times before, he was getting that tingling his gut that almost made him nauseous. He was sure that they were onto something. After a short distance they came to a block house. It was light blue with pealing paint and a corrugated roof. In the front of the house, was an old man sitting cross legged. He was smoking a pipe and looked up slowly. His skin darkly tanned and creased. His movements slow and thoughtful.
Jake sat down opposite him, folding his legs. Bowing to him, he began speaking in English as John translated.
“Your grandson tells me that you know of a city in the mountains.”
“Why are you here? are you a treasure hunter?” John’s translation.
“No, I’m from a private university and I’m sanctioned by your government to search for Inca cities and explore them.”
The old man stared at Jake for a long time, probing his eyes for a lie and trying to figure how well funded he might be.
“I know of such a place, but it is very hard to reach. I went there the first year I was a man. I could find it again.”
“I would like to hire you to do that and I will pay you well.”
Not replying to the statement, the old man tapped his pipe and filled it, watching from the fringes of his vision. When it was filled, he closed the tobacco pouch and held it to his lips. Looking up at Jake, he made a motion with his right hand.
“Lighter.” John prompted.
Jake reached into his pocket and pulled out a Zippo lighter and handed it to him. It was one of the stainless steel types and had his school emblem on the side. The old man smiled, he flicked it and watched the flame, bringing it closer, he drew the flame into the pine. His expression became serious and he pointed the lighter in Jake’s direction. Jake aware of proprieties waved his hand to indicate he should keep it. This caused the smile to return, and he quickly tucked the lighter away and began to speak while John kept a running interpretation going.
“Our people are often asked to work as porters and guides. We do the work you can’t do or don’t wish to do.” He paused to draw on his pipe. “If I tell you where the site is, you’ll no longer need me, yet without me, you have no beginning.” He paused again. The old man had a theatrical flare. “If I show you what you want, you must give my grandchildren a good chain of life.”
“Tell him I’m in agreement as long as we can reach a reasonable figure. Is that all he wants?”
Words were exchanged and John turned to Jake. “He wants the porters to be paid on an American wage.”
The tab had just taken a big leap. He had funding, but not the type that went to the better know archaeologist. If he was successful and it turned into a successful site he wouldn’t be able to maintain that sort of outlay. The phrase balanced budget buster came to mind. “I tell you what I’ll do. I’ll pay the first ten porters a salary based on minimum wage for an eight hour work day. Once the site is cleared, I pay twice standard local scale.”
John presented the offer, then turned back to Jake. “He has four sons. He would like them to be hired with the first ten porters.”
“Fine, I can live with that. Is he satisfied?”
“Only one more thing, he has a fondness for American tobacco.”
The old man smiled when he heard the word tobacco, Jake smiled back at him. “Sure, why not. I can handle that. If we can’t get it locally, it will be a while before I can get any down here.” The old man understood the response. He told John where the could get some in the village. A few more words were exchanged, and John replied nodding his head, but he didn’t say anything. They both grinned and looked at Jake.
“What did he ask you?”
“He asked me if you were and honest man.”
“I told him, that you lost money at your own games when we played cards.”
“That satisfied him?”
“Certainly. Hey boss, if your going to pay these people so much, why not pay me more?”
Jake had to laugh, the budget committee was going to be screaming like a punk rock band as it was. “I’ll take it under advisement.”
“What does that mean?”
“That means I’ll do what I can.”
After conversing with the old man at length, Jake formed an equipment list for the trek into the jungle and hopefully history. It took two weeks to assemble the supplies. Jake left the old man in charge of getting the porters, this delighted him and gave Jake one less thing to worry about.
So they began, ten porters and mules, the old man, John, and Jake. Cutting through the jungle with machetes. At the high altitudes it was exhausting work. Jake was in pretty good shape, but recently he’d spent a lot of time riding around in that jeep and his dogs were barking like rottweilers when they made camp every night. The first thing he would do is take off his shoes, spread his toes, and let his feet throb. This journey made previous expeditions seem like day trips with the Girl Scouts. After a few days he gave up noble intentions of swinging a machete with the porters and just followed along behind.
It was an eternity of scrambling over fallen trees and being the soup du jour for everything that buzzed. He felt like he was losing a pint of blood a day. No amount of chemical warfare effected the veracious, carnivorous insects. All the misery evaporated, like a cold drink in a Louisiana summer, the moment they broke through the jungle on the edge of a wide ravine easily two or three miles across. At the opposite side of the ravine was a cliff that rose about a thousand feet. The old man pointed into the gorge and Jake fell to his knees and gazed upon his holy grail.
Mixed with the tangle of jungle below were ancient buildings, poking through the green like rocks in a stream. Enough of it showed so that there was no question Jake had found his lost City. His heart pounded out a samba and for the moment he was so overwhelmed he knelt and gave thanks. He took his sat phone out of his back pack and called Bill.
Bill picked up after a half a dozen rings. “Yeah? Why you calling me on the expensive phone?”
“Because I’m looking down into a valley at a previously unknown city and I think I’m going to need a little backup.”
“Seriously?” Bill held his breath.
“I haven’t even begun to explore and I can see enough from here to know it’s going to be the biggest thing I’ve ever been a part of.” He heard Bill laugh with joy.
“I’ll start circling the wagons.” Bill said, full of animation.
“I’ll call you back tonight with details. Talk to you soon.” Jake looked around then back to the others. “Well let’s go!” Jake shouted and pulled his machete out of it’s sheath and started hacking his way down the hill, toward the city. He was suddenly not the least bit tired.