Clynthia Burton Graham
Grace glides through the lobby of her apartment building unaware of Uriel’s presence. The waiting doorman stares at her statuesque presence, accentuated by the stride of her long, bare, ebony legs. She stops to gaze in a large gold framed mirror, near the front entrance. Uriel braces for detection, but she offers no hint of knowing he is there. After pulling off sunglasses nestled in her afro, she pats her hair back to perfection, slides the glasses up the bridge of her nose, then continues towards the revolving doors. Uriel seethes at how enamored she is with her human cloak.
The sweltering throng of people crowding the city sidewalks enclose Grace, muffling the quick clacking of her high heel shoes on the concrete. Her swift gait pushes her black pencil skirt up and down like the shifting skin of a panther, as she tries to make haste. The visible contours of her small breasts pressing against her red silk halter top, draw audible sighs from onlookers. With the sleekness of an animal tracking prey, she moves through the city towards her intended destination.
Uriel is in sync with her, as she moves through her chosen haven. He stops when Grace stops to listen to the harmonized voices of street performers. Uriel feels the rhythmic beat of their song through her tapping foot and the melody floating through her head. After a few moments, she drops folded bills into a hat on the ground. The lead singer looks into her dazzling brown eyes and smiles, then bows to her as she passes him to enter a nearby corner store. Uriel growls at the continued attention the singer gives to the feline curl of Grace’s earthly form.
Entering the coolness of the store, Uriel feels the goose bumps rising across Grace’s naked arms. The wafting aroma of decaying substances triggers his addiction to human culinary delights and at the same time intensifies his hatred of the place Grace has selected as her base dwelling. He watches her pick up all the items he has requested for their meeting. At the check-out counter, the store owner inquiries as to how Grace is suffering the heat wave holding the city hostage. She answers, “It’s better than some places I’ve been,” while taking a credit card from a zippered pocket in her skirt seam. Swiping the card, she waits for the receipt before picking up her bag. Uriel watches the man’s smile widen as Grace leaves the store. The scent of his profusely leaking pheromones almost sends Uriel into a rage.
Within a few steps, Grace is absorbed back into the late afternoon hordes of people avoiding suffocating heat in their apartments. She chooses a path through a park, where she is enveloped in the reason for wanting to be on Earth. Lovers sitting on the concrete edge of a water fountain, touch hands, knees, and finally lips. She turns to see a mother and father swinging a toddler between them. Friends playing Frisbee with energetic laughter make her laugh too. A solitary man sitting on a bench reading a book, lays it down when a young man walks up. They hug before strolling to the other side of the park, where she is headed. Just to be near love satiated her desire for it.
As she leaves the park and nears the meeting place, she becomes aware of Uriel’s presence. A few blocks from the park, she enters an alley between two apartment buildings. Despite the late afternoon summer sun, it is dim in the passageway. She leans against a brick wall, preparing for transition and engagement with Uriel. Inhaling, Grace closes her eyes until a low throbbing hum emits around her. She exhales and within seconds, vanishes.
A small child, staring out of a fifth floor window, in the building on the other side of the alley, sees Grace disappear. She watches as a silhouette moves across the wall towards a shadow emerging from the opposite direction. The two spots join, then dissolve. She rushes to tell her mother what she’s seen, but her mother’s delirium, from sickness, makes her daughter’s excited gabber seem nothing more than an imaginative tale.
Grace endures the sensation of nakedness, after her physical presence is shorn of all vestiges of humanness. Uncloaked, in pure spirit form, she enters the Transporter Inter Universe holding area. Only the Source and the Transporters could detect the constant activity of souls from one universe to the other. To all other forms of being, it would appear to be illuminated nothingness.
“Alco Enfamay! You’re late, Semyazza,” says Uriel, as the molecular particles of earthly delights move from Grace to him.
“You welcome me and berate me at the same time. Ugh! Alco Enfamay, Uriel. As you already know, since you were following me, I was fulfilling your request.”
“Why can’t we meet at some other portal? Of all the places in the universes, you pick the one with constantly leaking pheromones, reeking garbage and foul gases of all kinds,” he snarls.Grace bristles at the claustrophobic oneness of their joining, “It is my home, Uriel.”
“It is not. You belong to The Source, not here, and praise be to The Source that you’re on the journey to reach the final gate by conveying souls.”
“Where I choose to call my home, while I journey, is of no concern to you.”
“A transporter has no home. However, I do envy your ability to experience such culinary divinity every day. There is no other place in existence with sustenance like this. How prophetic I found you in a kitchen,” he says, before consuming the bread, cheese, prosciutto, and wine in one large inhale.
“I do not remember.”
“Semyazza, all transporters retain first life memory. It’s one of the perks. I remember my own origins, even though the food was foul.”
Grace’s thoughts turn to the moment she gave herself to Uriel.
She’d been fourteen-years old, when she entered the kitchen to see her grandfather on the floor gasping for breath. Her straight A report card slipped to the floor, as she ran to him, gathered him in her arms, and called his name. His unresponsiveness was eclipsed by a sudden flash of light and sound, like the burst of a burnt-out light bulb. A repetitive booming began to fill her ears. Increasing darkness spread across the wall near where her grandfather laid. A thunderous drumming sound replaced the booming as a band of naked electricity stretched from the wall towards her grandfather. Grace instinctively drew her grandfather’s limp body closer to her, causing the bright white light to connect to her and her grandfather. The impact of the energy surge shocked her into the purest feelings she’d ever experienced. Without the movement of her lips, she said, “I understand.”
The cord wavered when a voice said, “Tell your grandfather to let go.”
With the force swirling within, Grace did as the voice instructed. With one last look at her only living relative, she said, “Go Grandfather. I love you.”
The sound and light stopped as abruptly as they’d started. She placed his head down and watched his soul rise from his body and disappear into a pulsating spot on the wall. Grace reached over to close her Grandfather’s empty eyes, unaware a shadow was encircling her.
Uriel performed the standard assessment according to Transporter guidelines, that stated, “When a childling is present during the taking of a soul, the transporter must investigate the childling for possible drafting. Innocence and intellect provide a sound basis for a fledgling Transporter. The best recruits need to possess short memories that are less encumbered by first life attachments.” Delving past the girl’s sadness, Uriel assessed Grace’s essence to see the strength of her connection to The Source. If it was stronger and healthier than the normal polluting strands of human existence, he would take her, only if she agreed and she did.
Uriel snaps Grace from her reverie, “You do remember. You wanted to go with me.”
“I was young. I was consumed with sadness and fear. Regardless, stop reading me, Uriel.”
“Another privilege of being connected to The Source and you. Still, Semyazza, even in the pending time, where you could have chosen not to be a Transporter, you didn’t.”
“I hoped, then, I would see my grandfather again, so I stayed.”
“And after you saw him in Atta, you changed. Whatever that change was, do not let it take your focus away from The Source. This body you chose to adorn to attract attention. Why do you do this? Beauty is in the eye of The Source. This life you salivate over, none of it means anything. It is fake. You’re journeying inside of a lie. Why do you choose to pretend you are something you are not?”
Grace remembers how much of a shock it had been to discover the concept of love, as it is on Earth, did not exist in the same way in other dimensions. She thinks about her visit with her grandfather in Atta. Their meeting provided nothing more than a photographer’s rendition of a moment in time. Echoed sweetness coupled with wisps of familial knowing lasted but a second, not for the eternity she’d been promised in Sunday School. It was then she decided to live on earth, to be immersed in a world of love with all its incantations, to experience what she had lost and what she never had a chance to feel.
“This is my body, before your taking. It is what I know and love. It keeps me tethered to memories of my family, my friends, my life as a brown girl among people with a capacity to love beyond measure. Where I learned my strength and my compassion. In any case, how I exist is of no concern to you.”
“But it is. You are not human anymore, Semyazza. When I took you, I knew you were closer to The Source than to the talons of humanness. I know I was right. Yet, here we are, with you clinging to a life that no longer exists and jeopardizing your path to The Source.”
“Uriel just tell me who I am to visit next,” says Grace, desperately wanting to shorten her time with him. Even though she knows Uriel can’t leave behind the ugly, violent, Hidessiat dimension, where he was created, she still bristles at him and her memory of her Transporter training there. It was a sphere of unrelenting rage and the place where Uriel declared his feelings for her, when he asked her to be his journey partner to The Source. She denied him.
“Ahh! Impatience, a truly human trait.”
“You speak of impatience after admonishing me for being a few minutes late?”
“Ach! Enough. Look across the alley at your next assignment.”
Grace scans the many windows before settling on one where a child seems to be staring straight at her and Uriel. The girl is small with eyes the color of melting chocolate.
“Not the child.”
“Why not the child? You’ve asked for reassignment every time it’s been a child. Well, your luck continues. You’re here to take her mother. She is so sick she can barely care for herself, let alone a child.
“Are there others to care for the child?”
“That is not your concern. The Source calls, we respond. You know this. In any case, after tonight you will be relocated. You have stationed yourself here much too long. Others have noticed and believe you are in danger of losing your way.”
Before Uriel can continue, Grace ejects herself from the holding space, out of the wall and into the alleyway. Armed with her assignment and fully exhausted with Uriel’s presence, she stands still for a moment to adjust to her fast departure and her entrance back into her human form. She is acclimating, when Uriel says, “Remember you must study the child for possible taking.”
Grace walks towards the end of the alley without responding to Uriel. Before she reaches the street, Uriel enters her being once more.
“Semyazza, I am not a monster. I took you because it was required of me. I wanted you, after your training, when you became full spirit, because we made a good team. I believed, we could ascend together to The Source. But you continue to look back, to want something less, when something greater is before you. We exist on the strands of a spider web, where all threads lead back to the axis. The Source is the love you should be seeking.”
“You know nothing of love. You do not come from a place of love. Each spark of it, no matter how fleeting, is a connection to The Source. However long the spark lasts, it is a step upward.”
“I will come for you in one week. Be ready. Do not veer away from your path. You must be diligent. The Source is our light. Transporting is our Duty. Honor is our praise. Alco Enfamay.”
Grace races to front of the building she must visit. Lightning rips open the night sky, releasing a deluge of rain. She is soaked in seconds. The street is empty as Grace sprints to the front door, where an old man is holding the door open, while trying to disengage his umbrella. She rushes past him. He watches her at the foot of the hall steps, shaking off wetness and weariness. He calls out to her, “Have you come for me?” Without turning around, Grace responds, “No. It is not your time. Be blessed until then, without worry of the moments next, for it will come.”
She climbs the stairs agitated at running into a speckling. The old and those nearing death could sometimes sense her presence, if she was unveiled on her way to a mission. She wishes for more energy, but it takes several moments to fully adjust after a speedy transition. By the time she reaches her assignment, she knows she will be ready to cloak again.
As she reaches the fourth floor landing, the smell of burning food overwhelms her and brings her thoughts back to Uriel. She stops to check for his presence. She senses nothing. Walking up the next flight of stairs, she passes two doors, before standing outside of the apartment of her intended soul. She listens for movement before cloaking, then enters. Her shadow spreads across the wall allowing her a view of the sparse, drab furnishings. The only visible toy is a small teddy bear propped up in a child’s chair. Nearing the bedroom of the little girl, she moves inside to check her status. Grace resists the desire to touch the small, peaceful cinnamon colored face. At the peak of her desire, a stench of decay ripples through the air.
The child’s mother enters and leans over her daughter. She kisses her, after bringing the covers from her child’s knees to a snug position under her neck. When she stands, she turns to look at Grace. She whispers to the dark spot on the wall, “I am ready to go with you. I just need to know my Joy will be alright. Can you tell me that?”
“She will not be harmed,” responds Grace, emerging from the darkness.
“No, I mean will she be safe. Will someone good and loving take care of her and protect her when I am gone.”
“I am not a seer. I am a Transporter. Release yourself. It is your time.”
“Please, my soul will not rest until I know she will be loved and cared for.”
In the semi quiet of the room, the child’s soft sounds of sleep latch onto Grace’s need for love.
“She will be loved and cared for. Let go now.”
Grace begins the soul sync. As the thrumming and white light extend to the woman, she continues to reassure her until her spirit is no longer encased in her failing body. After depositing the mothers’ soul in the holding area, she returns to the child’s room in human form. She sits on the edge of the bed allowing her breathing to match that of the childs.
Caught in the fading sensation of the love shared between mother and child, she lifts Joy up into her arms, whispering in her tiny ears, that she will be loved. In the midst of her rocking the sleeping child, she detects Uriel’s presence. Grace quickly lays the girl back down and moves away without waking her.
For the first time, she is glad about her training in Hidessiat for combatant souls. Harnessing her reserve energy, she begins to disintegrate. Sparks of light fill the room as she prepares to battle for love…for Joy.
“Alco Enfamay, Uriel.”
Clynthia Burton Graham: "I am an MFA graduate from the Creative Writing and Publishing Arts Program at the University of Baltimore. My work has been recognized by the Maryland Writer’s Association, the Hurston/Wright Foundation and has appeared in Persimmon Tree Literary Magazine, Pilcrow & Dagger, Academy of the Heart and Mind, daCunha Global, Auburn Avenue, Pen in Hand Journal and others."