Dana had lived with the family for a few months. She quickly realized how big Joe’s family really was. The Epps family consisted of Joe Epps, the elder of the family and his children. The eldest being his daughter Ida, who lived with her family just a few blocks away with her husband and three children. Oday was the second oldest, who unfortunately died in the war referred to the War of the Mystics, he left no family behind. Amber was the next, a widow with two children ages six and four. Finally, there was Joseph; he had a twin brother who died at a young age of a deadly epidemic. This same disease would eventually claim the life of Abigail Epps, Joe’s beloved wife.
There were of course countless other relatives. Both Joe and Abigail grew up with large families. Dana had yet to become aquatinted with the extended family. Holidays used to be a whole event for the family. The apartment would be so packed with people, according to Joe, that it might as well have been a sardine can.
Dana stood in the live-in room and ran her fingers over the ivory keys of the piano lightly. The feel of them was oddly soothing to her. The keys seemed to hold the energy of joy and love, with notes of sorrow that only added to the beauty of it. In her mind, she could almost recall the notes last played as a sweet melody had once hung in the air.
A sudden cry and crash of glass from down the hall pulled her back to the moment. She sprinted to the hall and ran to Joe’s room where Joseph struggled to calm his father. Joe was having more and more episodes where he would slip into the past. Sometimes his mind would revert to a few years back, sometimes it would go so far back that he became almost childlike and fearful. Those days he would weep and call out for his mother. Watching the decline of Joe’s memory and mind was hard on everyone.
Dana could feel the changes in Joe’s mind. She had grown so keen to the fluctuations in Joe’s mind that she would be able to warn Joseph. Joseph called them her instincts, and she had always been right in her perceptions.
All her life, Dana had been referred to as a sensitive child. She had always been able to read the emotions of others. This strange instinct of hers had been part of the reason she was able to survive on her own for so long in a strange land. She was able to feel a person’s intentions towards her and avoid the most dangerous. She could feel a person’s mood and gauge how she could safely interact with the person. Sometimes, she could feel something in a person that felt like something had been broken in them. It almost felt like broken glass or a deep and painful scar. She could feel the sensation of broken glass in Joe’s mind, like the drinking glass shattered on the floor.
Dana stood in the doorway and watched as Joseph struggled to keep his father on the bed and clean up the glass and water on the floor. Joseph turned and saw Dana watching, her eyes wide and her mouth open. He nodded to her. “Hey kid, come help keep Papa Joe calm, will you?”
He knew how much his father adored the little girl; even in his worst state, he always seemed to find serenity when she was near. Joseph found their bond curious, but without malice. Still, Joseph would often feel some jealousy towards their closeness. He knew it was a childish feeling, and he often hated himself for feeling that way. He knew the girl only knew kindness in her heart, he often felt the same calmness she seemed to emanate.
They needed her soothing aura now. Joseph was growing so fearful for his father; he had known elders to fall into this maddening state, which would eventually lead to their demise. It was as if his father’s mind was rotting away, slowly killing him like the plague that took Joseph’s mother. Instead of drowning in his own blood, he was being pulled away from the world and into memories of long ago.
Joseph felt terrible to subject the little girl to such an abysmal thing. He watched with a heavy heart as the little orphaned girl slowly moved into the dark room.
Dana cautiously tiptoed around the bed and sat at the side furthest from the door. Joe shivered in his bed, weeping softly. It killed her to watch her friend suffer so. She felt so helpless on days like this. Was she really so helpless? Was she so limited in her talent that she could do nothing to help him?
She did not know.
However, something in her seemed to pull at her soul, telling her she could indeed do something. Still unsure of herself, and what her heart was telling her to do, she scooted close to Joe’s head and leaned over him. “Shh, Papa. I’m here to help you.” She said quietly.
Joe opened his watery eyes and sniffed hard, his chin quivering like a distressed child. “W-what are you going to do to me?” His voice was soft and almost childlike.
Dana swallowed down the urge to cry and forced a smile. “I’m going to make you whole again.” Dana moved her hands towards Joe’s face and he flinched, cowering slightly. “May I touch you?” She asked in a soothing tone.
Joe nodded after a moment and closed his eyes, the remaining tears rolling over his temples. Dana reached out slowly and placed her delicate hands over his wet temples. She could feel his mind; it felt sick and somewhat broken as she felt her mind touching his. She could almost see something dark and oily infecting his mind. Her mind, like her soft fingertips, gently began to wipe away the sickness. It took effort to do this, but after some time, she was left with the scars and open wounds it seemed to leave behind.
She reached out again and ran her mind along the wounds like a mother gently wiping away her child’s tears. Slowly, she could feel the wounds healing, knitting together parts like stitches, while the deeper parts began to fill with a healing warmth that felt like it was filling the holes with her love and spirit.
As the wounds finally healed, and the sickness was dispelled, she felt light inside, but also exhausted. She was suddenly aware of her own tears running over her pale cheeks. She felt heavy, wanting to just lay herself down and sink into the warmth and comfort of her bed. Her body shivered slightly as she let her eyes remain closed, feeling the gentle pull of sleep.
A familiar voice pulled her out of her exhaustion. “Sweet child, you can’t possibly be a simple girl,”
Dana opened her eyes and looked at Joe as he began to sit himself up. At the side of the bed, Joseph knelt on the floor looking at the two, dumbfounded. “I think you might be an angel sent to save me.” Joe wrapped his thin arms around Dana and hugged her tighter than she would have thought possible.
“Pa? What…” Joseph trailed off, the pile of glass forgotten.
Joe reached out to his son and pulled him into the hug. “I’m finally whole again.”
Dana sat with the man at the corner of the street. The former soldier had been struggling, even more so than usual, with his trauma from the war. Ed Dillard had been well known in the community to quickly go from job to job, only to repeatedly return to living on the streets and surviving on the bottle.
He shivered as he sobbed, the bottle tossed into the street in a fit of rage. He shot the young woman a glare. She sat there, not reacting. Just a young know it all in his mind. The girl was only seventeen; she had no experience in what the world was really like. He examined her for a moment. She was small with an hourglass figure starting to look more like a woman’s body. Her long dishwater blonde hair hung loosely about her shoulders, as she sat in her blue floral dress, a cream sweater keeping her warm.
Ed looked away with a scoff.
Dana had been trying to find Ed for months, hearing about how his mind seemed to be broken from the struggles after the war. She remained a silent companion for a long and terrifying hour, watching the man fly into a rage and suddenly collapse on the sidewalk and weep like a lost child. She knew he would not hurt her, but she still felt fear as many others did as they quickly passed them by.
Ed let out a painful cough as he choked on his own saliva. Dana reached out and patted the man gently on the back. He lifted his head from his hands and looked at her with red-rimmed eyes. “What the hell do you want from me?” He asked accusingly.
Dana fought the urge to back away and kept her hand on his back. “I only want to help.”
The man made a rude noise and rubbed his snotty nose on his sleeve. “No one can help me.”
Dana moved her head to stay level with his and try to hold eye contact. Her dark blue eyes locking in on his red-rimmed hazel eyes. “Would you let me try?”
He sneered angrily. “What the hell can some little girl do for anyone?”
Dana was taken aback for a moment. She had not been called a little girl in a long time now. Although she supposed to this man, she seemed very much a child in comparison. “You won’t know unless you give me a chance.”
Ed sneered. “What are you going to do? Give me money? Food? A place to sleep? It doesn’t matter. I’ll just fuck it up, like I always do.”
Dana shook her head. “I hope it can be better than all that.” She gave the man a weak smile. “And the only one who can fuck this up is me, and I haven’t done so yet.”
Ed let out a hiccupping laugh and scratched his filthy red beard. “I don’t know whether to be relieved or worried.”
Dana shifted to face the man, her arms held up level with his head. “May I?”
Ed rubbed his hand over his chapped lips. “I suppose you can’t make me worse, right?”
Dana smiled genuinely at Ed. “See? Already looking up.” She reached out at let her fingers touch Ed’s temples.
Ed closed his hazel eyes and felt himself fall backward. At least it felt like he fell back. Instead of hitting the pavement, it was as though he fell into a shallow pool of warmth and calm. It was a strange feeling, but not unpleasant. It felt like falling into mother milk, or a sacred promise.
When his eyes opened, there was no sky above him, as expected for someone who fell onto their back. Instead, he saw a young woman standing at the end of a porch overlooking a dry patch of land. The fabric of her dress reached to her ankles and blew lightly in the breeze. A pale cream with yellow and pink flowers floating along the waves of cloth. Silky locks of rich brown hair curled neatly were teased in the cool fall air. He could see the woman cross her arms tight against the chill.
“Lilly?” Ed whispered.
The woman turned and gazed over her narrow shoulder, green eyes sparkled as she smiled brightly back at him. “Eddie, it’s good to see you.”
Ed stumbled as he tried to move forward on the porch. He felt a hand reach out and hold his elbow, saving him from falling to his knees.
“Easy, Ed. It’s a memory.”
He looked up and looked into the sapphire eyes of the strange girl from the streets. “What? What the hell is this?”
Dana held him securely, helping the man stay steady in this jarring moment. “The war was hard for you. Seeing friends die. The same guilt felt by you and all the other soldiers when the war was lost. But nothing hit you as hard as learning she died in childbirth while you were oceans away.”
Ed felt a wave of calm trying to wrap him tighter while the pain of the memory seemed to open anew. “Why? Why are you showing me this?” Ed demanded.
“She was all you had left. She was so proud of you. You know she couldn’t blame you for their death.”
Ed watched the girl’s eyes fill with tears, rolling down her pale face freely as she seemed to emanate pure and unconditional love that he only felt with Lilly. “I should have been there…”
Dana shook her head slowly. “It wouldn’t have changed their fate.”
Ed felt himself go slack and he fell into the girl’s arms. She gently held the man as they wept together.
“You never failed her, you were her hero. She left this world proud of you.” Dana put her hands on Ed’s scruffy face, making him look into her eyes. “Don’t let your guilt and sorrow kill the man she always knew you could be.”
Ed gasped hard and fell backward onto the cold sidewalk. Pedestrians had paused on their journeys to watch the strange spectacle. Ed let the tears fall without embarrassment as he sat himself up, feeling warm and new inside.
Ed jumped as a hand touched his back.
Dana gently stroked his back, tears still on her cheeks. “Hello, Ed. Welcome home.”
Ed looked around slowly, seeing the people around them murmur to each other. As he listened closely, he could hear the same word whispered over and over amongst the crowd as the realization set in. He turned and looked at the girl in awe. “You’re a Transcendent.”