Glenn’s Dilemma

“Strange,” I murmured. That was my reaction when I arrived at the hospital. Strange as in the circumstances surrounding a young woman’s death, not the woman’s name which was Alice Strange.

Dr. Jake Sanders delivered two babies, born within minutes of their mother arriving in A&E; twins named Cairn and Ruby. He glanced at me and quietly said, “The children’s mother died shortly after their birth. Social Services phoned a few minutes ago. A foster father is on his way. Alice Strange was a healthy young woman ― albeit waif like ― with an upturned nose, rosebud mouth and icy blue eyes resembling the leaves of a weeping willow in shape. Definitely not pretty, but attractive in an ethereal way.

“No obvious cause of death,” he muttered.

I was stunned by the foster father’s close resemblance to my late father. When I glanced at the twins Andy said, “Such beautiful babies, don’t you think?”

His laughter, when I quietly responded, was contagious, “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.”

The coroner was perplexed when we entered the mortuary. “Jake, where is Alice Strange’s body.” Despite an extensive search of the hospital itself and the grounds, her body wasn’t recovered.

When Samuel summoned me to his office, I accepted that yet again I failed to gain promotion.

“Congratulations,” Samuel said as he dropped an envelope onto the desk. “The damn job is yours but before I leave, I must explain a mysterious unsolved case. Nearly twelve years ago my boss asked me to look into an unexplained death in the maternity unit and subsequent disappearance of the body.” Samuel dropped a heavy file onto the table, “Check out the photographs, then we’ll chat.”

Our attention turned to Sandie when she brought two packs of ale, pizza boxes, salad and brownies into the office. As we finished off the brownies and coffee, I flipped through the file.

“This woman resembles Alice Strange.”

Samuel nodded as he pointed to two filing cabinets, “As do all the cold cases. My boss assigned them to me, now it’s your turn.” As Samuel pulled on leather gloves, and wrapped a thick woollen scarf around his neck, he glanced at me and smiled. “Take the time to read each file. Good luck, son, you’ll need it. See you later.”

Just over fifteen years later three missing person reports appeared on my desk. Andy, Cairn and Ruby had vanished. The children’s bedrooms were pristine, somewhat unusual for teenagers. Despite launching an intensive search we failed to find them.

“Yet another cold case,” Sandie sadly claimed as she locked the large cabinet.

Nearly two months later, Cairn strolled into the police station and asked to speak with me. “I am ready to return to our homeland, but first I was asked to explain my mother’s disappearance.”

Though I listened to his tale, without interrupting, I wondered if Cairn aspired to be an author of the fantasy fiction books that I loved.

“Why am I surprised, you asked. Your mother died following your birth. Her body mysteriously vanished during the night. There was no sign of life, yet you claimed she…”

“This is frustrating, I thought while gently massaging my forehead.

“Cairn, what was the word used?”

“Ascended,” Cairn patiently responded.

“Ascended… as in abandoning the body occupied throughout life? Okay, Cairn, but if this is the case then how did her body disappear? CCTV revealed no one left the hospital mortuary during the night.”

“A locked door appeared to open of it’s own accord?”

My eyes closed as I strived to restore calm and make sense of this ludicrous tale. “This is yet another dilemma that I doubt will be solved.”

“Glen, my mother didn’t die. Her body changed after she was taken to the mortuary. She left the hospital shortly afterwards.”

At this point, I gave up all hope. “Surely its impossible,” I thought while watching Cairn. When I queried why they didn’t raise their own young, he smiled.

“We are human at birth. Girls are raised by their mother, while boys are raised by their father. When twins of a different gender are born, either the mother or the father ascends.”

“Do you all have those strange icy blue eyes.”

“We do.” Andy’s laughter echoed around the office as he glanced at Sandie. “It’s time for me to leave but I hope to meet you both again one day.”

Five years later Sandie resigned and I retired passing the cold cases to my deputy. Joel was delighted as it was his dream to succeed where others had failed.

We journeyed to my father’s smallholding in Scotland with the brood mares and a handsome black stallion bred from the horses he loved.

My father vanished without trace on the day I joined the police force. Excited upon my return home, I hoped to discuss my first day at work with him but the house was empty, devoid of life other than my own.

As we headed north, I glanced at a photograph of my birth mother. Mama was beautiful and even though she died within minutes of my birth, I felt a deep abiding love for her. I shivered as the cold reminded me that we would be spending the rest of our lives on a remote Scottish island.

Sandie turned out the horses while I lit the log burner and prepared dinner. Betty and Joe snuggled into their bed set before the blazing fire, sniffing appreciatively at the lamb hotpot cooking on an old-fashioned stove. Dumplings for us, biscuits and a little lamb for my JRTs.

As dawn approached, I cradled Sandie in my arms and proposed marriage.

“Only if you hurry back,” she quietly responded.

Betty and Joe yapped impatiently as I saddled Zen and headed into the wildlands accompanied by the terriers. A fire, set within a circle of stones, warmed my chilled body. Thankfully, the aromatic Columbian coffee with a tot of whisky revived me.

“Time to head for home,” I thought as snowfall quickly covered the rough ground. Though I whistled for my JRTs, they failed to respond. The terriers yapping and sound of familiar voices drew me towards the rocky hillside.

A fire burned in the centre of a huge cavern; comfy chairs encircled the fireplace and assorted dining chairs were set before a long oak table. A huge flat-screen TV was given pride of place; doors opened out into smaller caverns furnished with easy chairs, bookcases, desks, laptops, mobile phones and beds adorned with soft downy pillows and thick quilts. The shower rooms and large kitchen were sleek and modern. A cavern filled to capacity with racks of wine, spirits, ale and cider attracted my interest.

“It resembles a maze,” I murmured.

Joe’s tail wagged manically as he jumped onto a huge leather sofa, clearly enjoying having his ears scratched.

Cairn sensed my confusion. Everyone was wearing stylish clothing and other than their hair the parts of their bodies that should have been visible weren’t. Patiently, he explained the changes.

“This is the form taken following our deaths. While we aren’t visible, in all other respects our bodies resemble humans.” As Cairn placed his hand over mine, he whispered. “You can feel my hand is touching yours. Look closely and tell me what you see.”

“But when you visited my office, you weren’t invisible.”

“We apply make up before venturing into your world.”

Laughter echoed around the cave when I quietly said, “Okay, I understand. You are invisible, but not transparent. I can see the outline of each person.”

“Glen, I despaired but finally you have joined us,” my mother murmured as she gently embraced me. “It’s so good to see you again.”

I was mesmerised as chairs were drawn back from the table and excited voices could be heard as they conversed about the terrible weather.

“Lamb cobbler and my favourite red wine.” Gratefully, I took the seat beside my mother and our family.

“Although we have ascended, we still enjoy a flavourful cobbler followed by a zesty citrus cheesecake with Scottish black raspberries.”

Joe and Betty tucked into the lamb and biscuits as my mother poured red wine into a glass and placed a plate of cobbler with mixed veggies in front of me.

“Eat, then we can chat while enjoying a cup of espresso.”

I was surprised when my father greeted me, taking the chair next to mine. Confused, I said, “I assumed you didn’t marry.”

“We come together when puberty is reached. Nature takes its course and eventually we marry. Glen, it isn’t difficult to understand. It’s simple: you are aware that when a female child is born, her father ascends. When a male child is born, his mother ascends.”

“But I’m not a father…”

“Sandie conceived last night. For some inexplicable reason you are different. You should not have ascended until your daughter was born. It is possible that you ascended before your child was born due to your age. Sandie was heartbroken when an old friend explained that you drowned and although we attempted to recover your body, we failed. An escort offered is accompanying her to your home in Wetherby. Calum, only rarely are twins born; when this happens, one parent ascends, and the second parent raises the children.” She smiled, albeit briefly. “Do you understand?”

“I don’t really understand the differences between our race and humans or your definition of to ascend. Mother, what happened to my Xen and the mares?”

“They are staying on the island with us. At the moment, they are enjoying freedom in the field. Your father will settle them down for the night.”

Published by llamamemeg

I love creating stories; in many ways since I returned to the UK in 2015, it has taken over my life. Until recently, I ran a blog covering my journey through research through writing/editing/publishing my first novel but I discovered that one my somewhat unusual short stories had been "plagarised", I deleted all the content and closed the blog. Something I now regret but regrets are pointless. I recently changed the Eldern Journals from three full length novels to six shorter novels. The books have been extensively revised and I have compiled a book of short stories, title: How Bizarre. Hopefully, when I manage to sus out how to publish my books on KDP, the books should be published before the end of 2022. Getting back into writing articles on my website may take a little longer as it has been so long since I last visited the site. TTFN, for now.

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