By Chelle

(Kill me later, please!)
Ye Old Disclaimer Thingie: So yeah, this is a fan fiction type story, meaning it's for nonprofit sh!ts and giggles only, (teehee), and no guarantees of political correctness are implied. The characters and stuff from "Xena Warrior Princess" were temporarily cadged from MCA/Universal and Renaissance Pictures/Studios USA, or whatever. This story was written for the Bards of the Xenaverse's "And Eve was given the news" contest in March 2003, but it didn't get finished in time. Oops. Rest assured that I've already taken revenge and made it longer, (grin), but there are no illustrations this time. So anyway, all the comments and constructive feedback goes to Chellesok@aol.com
Additional Disclaimers: Geeez, alright folks, by the very nature of the subject, it's a reasonable gamble that there'll be some hurt feelings. After all, the story is about the revelation of a mother's horrific death to her daughter. It's like, also the aftermath of the demise of the series' oft tormented lead character, (yeah, Xena), whose life fulminated with traumatic events, (hehe). There'll probably also be some violence too. I hope y'all like the music! So, like anyway, I think that this pretty much disclaims everything.
Editor's Note: I don't really know how to prepare you, the reader, for this "work". Michelle has alluded to a lack of political correctness. That statement tends to minimize the impact of certain passages. In all sincerity, I was horrified by some aspects of the author's insensitivity. I can only recommend that adult readers approach this story with an open mind and a thick skin. (Quite honestly, I don't know how much longer the publisher will continue to indulge Michelle in non-profit writing).

"Madhji, if your soul is pure, the God of Eli will know you have love in your heart and you can be healed," the Messenger earnestly told the leper, (though realistically she had her doubts). The man shook his head in respectful disagreement, slinging epidermal scales and sloughing off a few shreds of tissue. Through her years as Livia, Eve had reveled in the horrors of war, but her confrontations with pestilence still gave her the creeps·after all, in growing up with Augustus Caesar, her upbringing had been distinctly upper class. Bubble baths in human blood ain't cheap, her hindbrain reminisced.
"Daughter of Peace, my sickness comes from my karma," Madhji told her with calm acceptance. Eve's eyeballs whispered to her midbrain that his skin was peeling as he spoke. Her hindbrain cringed and her olfactory bulb muttered, something smells rotten. Be nice, he can't help it, her midbrain admonished. "It is simply a debt I must repay, in this lifetime, for my deeds in the last," he declared with certainty, "and I have tried to live a good life. It is all I can do. My soul will go through many rebirths before it is truly pure. There is no shortcut to enlightenment." It was all so illusory anyway, this life·this suffering. He gummed a small smile at her, (while discreetly spitting out a tooth), and shrugged.
Eve had encountered Madhji's attitude over and over since she'd come to Indus. She could barely believe that this was the same land where Eli had healed and taught. It hadn't even been thirty years since The Founder had performed miracles here, but the people seemed to have forgotten him entirely. And yet, the few who could actually understand her agreed with her message, Eli's Way of Love, and they called her the "Daughter of Peace". What a hoot, her midbrain chuckled·I was the Bitch of Rome and my mother was the Destroyer of Nations. I won't even mention Callisto's past·. Eve's hindbrain sometimes longed for a good kill, while her forebrain pontificated about morals. (Typically, the Messenger was mortified by the conflicting impulses).
Somehow she'd known that teaching in Indus wouldn't be easy, but she'd thought the difficulties would come from hostile and cruel people, not the poor, ignorant peasants with their stubborn disbelief. All the people here seem to be marinated in fatalistic traditions·like bad souvlaki, her petit intestine complained, verbalizing for the first time with a sharp gas pain. Eve grimaced. They constantly deferred to fate, and though they called it karma, her forebrain conjectured, it was all just another rationalization for abstaining from exercising their free will. These unfortunates were defeated before they were born, by a helplessness that they ultimately accepted. Eve's years as a warrior made her viscerally reject that attitude. This was culture clash. She couldn't suppress a sigh.
"Do not feel badly for me, Daughter of Peace," Madhji comforted, as he scratched at a weeping sore, "yours is the way of devotion, ours is the way of acceptance. You see, even on the day I was afflicted, I knew that things could always be worse·."
Then, defying gravity and the restrictions of his handicaps, Madhji rose and twirled on his stumps, shuffling in a footless 'old soft shoe' routine, and breaking into a song. The appropriate instrumental accompaniment arose from somewhere unseen, causing Eve to quickly glance around. Even the quality of lighting had become more theatrical.
It happened on one of those Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah days
Now that's the kind of day when you can't open your mouth
Without a song jumping right out of it
Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah Zip-A-Dee-A
My oh my what a wonderful day
Plenty of sunshine comin' my way
Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah Zip-A-Dee-A
Mister blue bird's on my shoulder
It's the truth
It's actual
Everything is satisfactual
Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah Zip-A-Dee-A
Wonderful feeling
Wonderful Day
Yes Sir
Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah Zip-A-Dee-A
My oh my what a wonderful day
O plenty of sunshine comin' my way
Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah Zip-A-Dee-A
Mister blue bird's on my shoulder
Its the true--------------UH HUH!!!
Its actual
Everything is satisifactual
Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah Zip-A-Dee-A
Wonderful feeling
Feeling this way
Mister blue bird's on my shoulder
It is the truth
It's action
Huh........Where is that blue bird?
Everythin' is satifaction
Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah Zip-A-Dee-A
Wonderful feeling
Wonderful Day
(Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah The Walt Disney Company)
Madhji had punctuated his final line by sloughing the taste buds off of his tongue.
"May Eli and the One God bless you, Madhji," Eve softly said, while thinking, satisfactual? Is that really a word? Still, by the end of the number, she'd been humming along. There was really nothing she could do for him, (he was definitely a goner and Eli aside, he was already falling apart before her eyes), so she wrote him off and slowly walked away, shaking her head to rid herself of that catchy Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah thing.
Eve had come to the ancient land of Indus to teach the Way of Love. At least, that's what she told herself. In a dim corner of her mind, the Messenger still wondered where that inspiration had come from. (It hadn't felt like Michael's doing·or Eli's either). She'd blurted out the names, "Indus and Chin", in the Amazon village, and sometimes she suspected that she'd really just been trying to claim some independence from her mother. It made her feel a little like an ingrate. (It wasn't like I ever had much pleasant time with Xena·and Gabrielle had always been an impediment to that, Eve spitefully thought by reflex). You still resent being shorter than your mother too, Eve's hindbrain chided. I do not, her midbrain replied a bit too vehemently. It's the Message, her forebrain claimed in complete denial. You left her because you were afraid she'd leave you again, this time for Gabrielle, her midbrain deduced. Shut up, the lot of you, Eve begged her innards.
At unpredictable times, she'd become immersed in memories of her arrival. Her fugues.

Arriving in Indus, Eve had been assaulted by horrors. Her amygdala still shuddered, recalling her first night amid the teeming slums of a great city. She'd stumbled over the fodder of a screaming troop of monkeys. It was the ripening cadaver of a child, though whether a boy or girl she couldn't tell. Bacterial freeloading and small teeth had granted the little body complete anonymity. The stench had actually been abominable, but everything in the city had smelled putrid and she just hadn't noticed. The monkeys had retaliated by pelting her with their feces to protest her trespass. A passing group of girls had giggled at her, having watched the drama unfold, but they didn't even give the child's body a second glance. Eve hadn't even bothered trying to talk to them. No one she'd met there had understood a word she said. She'd been so horrified and lonely that the idea of slaughtering them all hadn't even crossed her mind, though she soon hated monkeys.
Being penniless, she'd slept on a bare stone platform by the river, after being chased from a park by yet another troop of simians. They'd screamed at her. She'd tried to ignore them at first. She'd been peed on from the branches above, taunted, struck with rotten fruit, spat on, and finally attacked and bitten. The Bitch of Rome had fled, crying.
In the morning she'd awakened on the cold ghat to the stench of something foul cooking. On the stone platform nearby, a group of beggars had been simmering something in a kettle that was settled akelter atop a bed of coals. After its miasma had plugged her sinuses, Eve had moved closer, hoping to warm herself at their fire. They'd regarded her with curiosity. The one stirring the pot with a stick had lifted something just high enough for her to catch a glimpse. She'd immediately turned away, sinking to her knees and heaving up a mouthful of stomach acid and bile. Behind her the beggars crowed with laughter, commenting in their singsong language as she'd retched. A splash from the kettle had signaled that someone's afterbirth would continue stewing for a while.
Eve had staggered away from the abominable breakfast preparations with her head reeling. She'd nearly tripped over a young girl who was leaning against a thorn tree nursing a baby. The Messenger noticed that the girl's thighs were streaked with blood. She was dressed in rags and couldn't have been more than thirteen·and she was terrified. Only a dozen paces away, a ring of monkeys had gathered, chattering and edging closer, eyeing the baby. The girl had looked up at Eve beseechingly, and the Messenger had offered the poor wretch a fear grin that the young mother had interpreted as a smile. She'd offered a smile in return, which Eve had interpreted as a fear grin. Then, while the monkeys closed in, she began to sing plaintively. Eve's hindbrain giggled, still guiltily relishing the pathos.
Somewhere Over The Rainbow...Way Up High There's A Land That I Heard Of Once In A Lullaby. Somewhere Over The Rainbow...Skies Are Blue And The Dreams That You Dare To Dream Really Do Come True.
Someday I'll Wish Upon A Star And Wake Up Where The Clouds Are Far Behind Me. Where Troubles Melt Like Lemon Drops Away Above The Chimney Tops... That's Where You'll Find Me.
Somewhere Over The Rainbow... Blue Birds Fly Birds Fly Over The Rainbow--Why Then Oh Why Can't I? If Happy Little Blue Birds Fly Beyond The Rainbow... Why Oh Why Can't I?
("Over the Rainbow....." The Wizard of Oz)
The weirdest thing had been the translation subtitles that had crawled across the bottom of Eve's field of vision. (She still couldn't understand a single word anyone there said.)
Well, I can't blame her, what with the stress and all, but she's definitely insane, Eve's midbrain had opined, regarding the girl after she'd fallen silent again. (The Messenger's cochlea had noted that she'd also been flat on the high notes). She was staring forward, bug eyed, and desperately hugging her baby. The monkeys, who had been swaying with the melody during the young mother's recital, had resumed their chattering and stalking. The Greater Good had awakened Eve's wrath. The whole situation had just been so wrong. It must've been a forebrain thing. She vaguely remembered snatching up a stout stick and spinning into action like an avenging angel, but then, well, the rest was still a mysterious blank.
When she'd come back to her senses it was already afternoon and she seemed to have acquired plenty of friends. The girl was sitting huddled against her while several monkeys turned on spits over a small fire. The same half-dozen beggars sat around them salivating with hunger. Eve still had no clue as to how this had come to pass and had finally given up trying to recall the events. No one spoke her language, so she really couldn't have asked. Her first "flock" had joined her and the girl eating monkey roast. She'd preached at them. They'd grinned at her while ravenously chewing. Somewhere along the line, Eve had noticed that the girl's baby was missing. As she'd wondered about that, she'd absently glanced at the remains of the monkeys' carcasses. Her brow had furrowed. Did one of their proportions seem a bit different? Was its head a little larger and its dentition less prognathic than the others? Were its limbs a little shorter? Was it missing a tail? Well, like duhhhhh. All of her questions could be answered with a definite "yes". She'd been eating·.Ewwwwww!!!
With a shriek, Eve had leapt up and begun scolding the beggars. They'd giggled and continued eating, certain now that the silly foreign woman was insane. They decided that it was probably the stress. Eve just couldn't believe how rude the whole situation was; how discouragingly uncouth her experiences so far had been, and how little regard for normal decency she'd seen. She'd been so affected that she hadn't even thought about killing them all. She'd been intending to chastise them for their comportment. Instead, a bizarre impulse had compelled her, happy music had started playing from somewhere, the quality of light had shifted, and she'd begun to sing·very odd, since she couldn't carry a tune to save her life. The dance steps had been an even more alien obsession. Even as she'd performed the childish number, the Messenger couldn't believe she was doing it.
Would you like to swing on a star
Carry moonbeams home in a jar
And be better off than you are
Or would you rather be a mule
A mule is an animal with long funny ears
Kicks up at anything he hears
His back is brawny but his brain is weak
He's just plain stupid with a stubborn streak
And by the way, if you hate to go to school
You may grow up to be a mule
Or would you like to swing on a star
Carry moonbeams home in a jar
And be better off than you are
Or would you rather be a pig
A pig is an animal with dirt on his face
His shoes are a terrible disgrace
He has no manners when he eats his food
He's fat and lazy and extremely rude
But if you don't care a feather or a fig
You may grow up to be a pig
Or would you like to swing on a star
Carry moonbeams home in a jar
And be better off than you are
Or would you rather be a fish
A fish won't do anything, but swim in a brook
He can't write his name or read a book
To fool the people is his only thought
And though he's slippery, he still gets caught
But then if that sort of life is what you wish
You may grow up to be a fish
A new kind of jumped-up slippery fish
And all the monkeys aren't in the zoo
Every day you meet quite a few
So you see it's all up to you
You can be better than you are
You could be swingin' on a star
(Swinging On A Star Big Dee Irwin and Little Eva, Words by Johnny Burke, music by Jimmy Van Huesen)

"Oh Gods, Eve, what are you doing?" A familiar voice exclaimed in horror. The Messenger shook herself, looked past the cook fire and the circle of cannibals in her memory, and almost died of embarrassment. Eve was just amazed at the timing·why, she could almost believe in karma. There stood her Auntie Gabrielle, with a panicked look on her face. "You know you can't sing, Eve! What are you doing?" As she blushed a hemorrhagic red, Eve overheard the blonde muttering, "the girl can't dance either."
The Messenger realized that she'd been singing the song and staggering through the dance steps, reliving that strange day so many months before. She'd caught herself absently reenacting that incident more than once·a morbid fascination, she told herself. She knew damn well that she couldn't dance any better than she could sing. It was the last activity that she'd have revealed to her mother's soulmate. She'd have preferred to be caught masturbating. With a terrified spasm, she searched her surroundings, but saw no sign of her mother anywhere. Praise be to Eli, Eve reflexively thought; she'd have just about died if Xena had witnessed her performance. Explaining to Gabrielle would be bad enough. She collected what dignity she could and took a deep breath to settle her bowels.
Eve was sincerely mortified to speechlessness, and in that respite, she realized that she wasn't the only one in an unusual state. Gabrielle appeared to be by herself, as in, alone. The Messenger could barely remember the last time she'd seen Gabrielle without Xena nearby. (Maybe it had been when she'd taken the blonde prisoner, before she'd killed Joxer·a mercy killing, her hindbrain still claimed). The two had been joined at the arm and leg, (metaphorically as well as literally, at least they had been briefly in Amphipolis). She also suspected that they'd been joined in some more private places on occasion, but she refused to go there·Xena was her mother, after all. Then again, you'd been contemplating marrying your foster-father, Augustus, her midbrain annoyingly recalled. (And if rumors are true, you'd been mating with your grandfather·yeah, Ares, a reproductive organ or two fondly remembered). But today there was even more out of the ordinary than that·enough to make her liver shrivel in her abdominal cavity. Today, Gabrielle was carrying an unfamiliar sword, (something she'd never done in all the time that Eve had known her), and she was wearing Xena's chakram on her belt hook.
"Gabrielle, uh, I was just, um·" Eve was still blushing furiously and couldn't come up with a plausible sentence to save her life. Meanwhile, Gabrielle had noticed the direction of Eve's glance and she unconsciously reached down to touch the chakram. For an uncomfortable, no, totally awkward moment, the two women stared at each other. Then Gabrielle seemed to crumple. Oh my god, I've killed her, was Eve's panicky first thought, I know I can't sing or dance, but was it really that bad? (Come to think of it, she did remember how she'd regained her senses to find the young mother and the cannibals slaughtered, lying at her feet after her first performance. She still wondered about that.).
Eve looked at her mother's collapsed soulmate, suspecting an angina monologue. The blonde had sunken to her knees and covered her face with her hands. Tears were leaking from between her fingers as she sobbed. The Messenger quickly moved forward to comfort her, (the touchy-feely side of Eli's message), but Gabrielle waved her to a halt and slowly struggled back to her feet. She blinked to clear her eyes, looking at Eve and gushing waves of regret and pity.
"What's the matter, Gabrielle?" Eve asked, while trying to keep from hyperventilating.
"Oh Evie, I'm so sorry," Gabrielle softly said, "I have some really awful news. Not only are you obviously insane, but your mother·Xena·she's, uh·well, she's dead again."
Eve stood still, trying to digest what the blonde had said. She already suspected that her own mental state was less than optimal·she had for some time. (I mean, what sane person would try to teach Eli's message in Indus, her midbrain asked. Her hindbrain whispered a petulant, see I told you so. And I'm doubtful that Chin will be any better, her forebrain added.) She had it on reliable authority that Xena had been dead before, and at first her mother's current demise really didn't register with much finality. It was probably shock. She could only think to ask the bard, "but she'll be back soon, right?"
Gabrielle sadly shook her head, no. "She convinced me that she needed to stay dead this time, Eve. It was a part of her plan. You know how she is·was. I don't know how she convinced me to go along with it, but I did, and now it's too late to bring her back. At first I was almost okay with it, but now·now I feel like I've made a horrible mistake."
"We all make mistakes, Gabrielle·" Eve automatically patronized.
Suddenly, violin music for a maudlin ballad wafted in from a cosmic karaoke machine, and the lighting changed to a melancholy sunset. Eve found the process wretchedly familiar. Then the blonde cleared her throat, took a couple of hesitant jerky steps, and launched herself into a tearful song. In a detached way, Eve noted that for the first time she could remember, Gabrielle looked comically awkward. She was doing an amateurish apery of cocktail lounge singing.
I'm sorry, so sorry
That I was such a fool.
I didn't know
Love could be so cruel.
Oh oh oh oh uh-oh oh yes.
You tell me mistakes
Are part of being young
But that don't right
The wrong that's been done.
(I'm sorry) I'm sorry -
(So sorry) So sorry.
Please accept my apology,
But love is blind,
And I was to blind to see.
Oh oh oh oh uh-oh oh yes.
You tell me mistakes
Are part of being young
But that don't right
The wrong that's been done.
Oh oh oh oh uh-oh oh yes.
I'm sorry, so sorry
Please accept my apology
But love was blind,
And I was too blind to see.
(I'm Sorry Brenda Lee)
By the time Gabrielle had finally let up and finished her lament, both of them were in tears. The unabashed sentimentality was just pathetic. The bard was so tortured with remorse and guilt. Eve was just beginning to register the shock of her own loss.
She was intending to question her Aunt Gabrielle about her mother's death, but now the blonde was staring off into space, tears silently rolling down her cheeks. Before Eve could say a word, the lighting shifted again, soft-spotlighting the bard, (who had dropped to her knees), and music sifted in from the ether. The blonde swayed into another heartbroken and plaintive number. Gods, has she always been inclined to this sappy stuff, Eve's midbrain complained. Bet she was insufferable every time mother died, her hindbrain snorted. Stop being so insensitive, her forebrain chastised, she's lost her soulmate and she blames herself. Fuck you, her hindbrain retorted defensively, as the song began. It really was a tearjerker, and before it ended, Eve found her own eyes jerking out tears. Just for atmosphere, a slow drizzle wept from a single cloud in the sky.
Why does the sun go on shining
Why does the sea rush to shore
Don't they know it's the end of the world
'Cause you don't love me any more
Why do the birds go on singing
Why do the stars glow above
Don't they know it's the end of the world
It ended when I lost your love
I wake up in the morning and I wonder
Why everything's the same as it was
I can't understand, no, I can't understand
How life goes on the way it does
Why does my heart go on beating
Why do these eyes of mine cry
Don't they know it's the end of the world
It ended when you said goodbye
Why does my heart go on beating
Why do these eyes of mine cry
Don't they know it's the end of the world
It ended when you said goodbye
(The End of The World Skeeter Davis)
"I just don't know what's come over me," Gabrielle whispered when she was done. (Her voice had sounded like she was all of fourteen years old, and Eve realized that after 7 years traveling with her mother, the blonde was still only 24. And I'm 26, her biological clock fretted.).. She slowly shook her head in confusion and finally glanced back at Eve, looking for all the known world like a lost soul. "I just feel so sad and lost. She's really gone this time. My Xena's gone."
"But she'll always be with us·in our hearts," Eve replied by reflex. Somehow the sentiment seemed insultingly empty even as she said it. Gabrielle reacted by sobbing.
Okay, Eve thought, she's just a step from suicidal, definitely stressed, depressed, and well, sad and lost. I need some time to cope for myself, Eve realized, and I can't do it while I'm worrying about her. How very uncharitable, her forebrain scolded. Fuck you, Eve retorted defensively, I've just learned I've lost my mother. Yeah, fuck you, her hindbrain added smugly. Can't we just get along, her midbrain plaintively asked. I was thinking of getting her crawling drunk for a couple weeks so she doesn't get herself into trouble, Eve clarified. Oh, her forebrain, midbrain, and hindbrain collectively replied. I thought you were going to kill her, her hindbrain added hopefully. Fuck you, you stupid little reptile, Eve spat.
I guess I may as well start by asking her to explain what really happened, she decided, pulling a wineskin full of Eve-R-Clear and a sack of blueberries from under her robes. It was 200-proof rocket fuel and the Messenger knew it would do the trick.
"Here, Gabrielle," Eve gently said, handing the items to her aunt, "have some berries and wash them down with this." Gabrielle absently did as she was told, choking on the pure ethanol, but repeating the procedure absentmindedly several times. She's gonna be soooo sloshed, Eve's hindbrain cackled as she watched. "Now, please, tell me what happened to my mother and how she managed to die again," Eve tenderly asked.
"We had gone to Japa," Gabrielle had begun, (soberly enough at first, though that quickly degenerated into slurred speech and reversion to a Texas drawl), "stinkin islands, 'cause some manip'lative lil dead minx played on yur mama's sense uh guilt, whinin fur help 'n such. So I went with, hafway 'cross the wurld. Xenaaaa got some i-dee-er in'r hay-ed 'bout lib'ratin more day-ed folks, an she wound up gettin hersef kilt inna big 'ol showdown. Got hersef be-hedded, darlin'." Here, the blonde wobbled and listed over, leaning against Eve and taking another swig of Eve-R-Clear. She continued her ramble, staring into Eve's eyes with dilated pupils. "Bein' the sidekick 'n all, I hadda pick up the pieces·inna rain, uh'course. Hadda built a pyre all by my lonesome an burn 'er kay-dav-er, an stuff 'er ashes inna jar."
Here, Gabrielle paused to rummage clumsily in her shoulder bag, fumbling out a small dark stoneware urn. Eve gently took it from her, since she appeared ready to drop it at any moment. "Thas whas lefta Seeeena, Evie·jes that thay-re jar." The severely drunken blonde broke down sobbing again, hugging the Messenger and crying piteously with her face hidden against Eve's chest. Eve stroked her back and made soothing sounds.
"I's s'pposed ta take'r ta Mt. Fooogee, an dump'r inna fount'n, but she hadda fight this here deem'n first. So, Seeena be-hedded 'im, an all them day-ed folks's float'd outta his neck straight away. I's gonna dump'r inna fount'n an she stopted me. Said she hadda stay day-ed this time, darlin'. An I let'r purr-suede me she hadda stay day-ed. An so she's day-ed, Evie, stubb'rn ol goat." Gabrielle lapsed into a loud glottal snoring and passed out cold.
For about half a candlemark, Eve just held the debilitated bard, thinking over what she'd said. It was a typical story of her mother's self-sacrificial obsession, she thought, another chapter in Xena's search for redemption. She was sure there was more to the story·a few pertinent details that Gabrielle had been too drunk to reveal, but they wouldn't change the theme or the outcome. Eve was pretty sure of that. It wasn't really all that surprising, and in a way, it was an appropriate end to the Warrior Princess' saga. On the other hand, Gabrielle was a mess, and Eve felt cheated.
I should never have run off to Indus, she bitterly thought, I should have stayed and traveled with them. That's right·you knew how they were, her midbrain accused. Yeah, her hindbrain agreed in hindsight, always going around looking for trouble. And you thought they might have been safer without having to constantly rescue you, silly girl, her forebrain reminded. You're a miserable little ingrate, Lucifer's voice chuckled from a great distance, and after all Xena did for you, you may as well have beheaded Xena yourself, Livia! So how do you feel now, Eve, her conscience asked, have you made Eli happy while your mother died, abandoned by her child? Noooo! Stop it! Stop ganging up on me, Eve pleaded silently with herself.
"Oh what have I done?" Eve brokenheartedly wailed, (for the second time in her life).
It was in this self-debasing state of mind that the music started again, and a spotlight brightly etched Eve's figure in the light of an artificial evening. Eve jerked to her feet, dumping the unconscious bard bonelessly onto the ground, and crooned out a broken hearted song as she staggered clumsily through a few choreographed moves. (A clinical fragment of Eve's consciousness noticed that she still couldn't carry a tune or dance).
When the evening shadows fall
and the lovely day is through,
Then with longing I recall
the years I spent with you.
Mama, I miss the days
when you were near to guide me,
Mama, those happy days
when you were here beside me.
Safe in the glow of your love,
Sent from the heavens above,
Nothing can ever replace
The warmth of your tender embrace.
Oh, Mama, until the day
that we're together once more,
I'll live in these memories
Until the day that we're together once more.
(Mama Connie Francis)
Just as the song ended, and she thought she was home free, the music shifted, and Eve felt her body forced into a succession of supplicative postures; awkward, aberrant, and wholly abiogenic. Oh for crying out loud, her midbrain complained, here we go again. "I can't believe this·oh God of Eli," Eve whined, just before her lyrics began. If the first number had been maudlin, the second was pure regressive whining.
Oh I want mom that will last forever
I want a mom to make it all better
I want a mom that will last forever
I want a mom who will love me whatever
I want a mom to take my hand
and make me feel like a holiday
I want a mom to tuck me in at night
and chase all the monsters away
and if I ever get scared
to hold me when I cry!
Oh i want a mom that will last forever
I want a mom to make it all better
I want a mom that will last forever
I want a mom who will love me whatever
I want a mom to read me stories
And sing me a lullaby
and when I fall asleep to tuck me in so tight!
Musical interlude:
So where are you my Dearest mom
I want you so much
I need you to take care of me
So please hurry up and say la la la do dee
(I Want A Mom Artist: Disney)
The ex-Bitch of Rome just couldn't believe the words that were being forced out of her mouth. Vomiting kerosene, hot peppers, and talus would have been preferable, her midbrain commented. She had been able to order hundreds of crucifixions, the slaughter of whole villages, and the taking of helpless prisoners, but the public airing of her most secretly held desire, even if only to an unconscious bard·was no easier for Eve than it would have been for Livia. Rome had never really fulfilled her longing for a mother.
Eve had just finished her performance and she was catching her breath, relieved to see that Gabrielle was still passed out on the ground, senseless. Directly in front of her, a ghostly figure shimmered into view. Oh fuck me, Eve's midbrain exclaimed in horror. Her stomach gave a lurch and suddenly her usually well behaved bladder whined about being full. The aqueous humor in Eve's eyeballs swelled 17%, leaving them bugging in their sockets, cartoon style. Xena's ghost appeared with a bemused expression on her face. The Messenger was mortified more than amazed. Gabrielle hadn't mentioned anything about being haunted.
"Ya know the dead can hear everything ya say," Xena pronounced smugly, as her daughter hid her face in her hands. She had never felt more humiliated. "That was sweet, Evie, but ya gotta learn ta breath with the lyrics. We'll talk about your control an' range later·ya hit a couple embarrassing sharps an' flats." (Author's note: When in comfortable company, Xena's speech exhibits a distinct apocope).
"M-muh-mother·" Eve stuttered out, looking up at the ghost in shock and desperately hoping to change the subject, "s-s-so it's re-really true? You're re-really dead for good?"
"Oh yeah, Eve," Xena replied with a slight smile. "I see that the rumors of my death have preceded me," she added, looking closely at her indisposed soulmate. Gabrielle hadn't moved from where Eve had dumped her before her last recital. Eve glanced at her as well, noting the wavering columns of alcohol fumes, rising miragelike from the blonde's skin. "Ya got her stinkin' drink, I see," Xena absently noted, sniffing at the cloud of rising solvent, "probably a good thing too·she's been so insufferably morose lately." Xena's ghost regarded Gabrielle for a while, and as she did her expression softened.
"There were so many times I really didn't treat ya right," the ghost softly whispered, while sadly shaking her head and looking down at the bard. As if her words had partially counteracted her prodigious intake of Eve-R-Clear, the blonde raised her head and then staggered to her feet. Xena met her eyes, taking her hands in her own. Eve didn't even notice that their surroundings had changed. Suddenly they were in a sunny spring meadow and even the air smelled fresher than any that she'd breathed in Indus. For the first time, it seemed natural when the music started up. Xena sang to her soulmate, staring steadily into her bloodshot orbs while interlacing the fingers of both their hands.
If I could save time in a bottle
The first thing that I'd like to do
Is to save every day
Till Eternity passes away
Just to spend them with you
If I could make days last forever
If words could make wishes come true
I'd save every day like a treasure and then
Again, I would spend them with you
But there never seems to be enough time
To do the things you want to do
Once you find them
I've looked around enough to know
That you're the one I want to go
Through time with
If I had a box just for wishes
And dreams that had never come true
The box would be empty
Except for the memory
Of how they were answered by you
But there never seems to be enough time
To do the things you want to do
Once you find them
I've looked around enough to know
That you're the one I want to go
Through time with
(Time in a Bottle Jim Croce)
"That was so sweet," Eve sighed, a silly smile pasted on her face. Her mother's song of devotion for Gabrielle had been the most moving thing that she could remember hearing since, well, she couldn't remember when. Xena had really expressed her feelings in that poignant little number; intimate, bittersweet, and hinting at the promise of destiny. The simple eloquence was impressive; and the keyword word "love" hadn't appeared even once in the lyrics. You're such a sap, her hindbrain muttered, that was like having cane sugar tamped down your gullet. Eve ignored the petulant little voice.
"Ya see, Evie, that's how it's done," Xena remarked to her daughter with a self-satisfied smirk. She'd released Gabrielle's hands and the blonde had slumped back down to the ground, her eyes rolling up in her head, unconscious again. "Ya gotta emote!"
"Uh, okay," Eve agreed, glancing at the fallen Gabrielle with some concern. (She was lying flat on her back and would be in danger of aspirating her own vomit if she got sick). As if reading her mind, Xena gently rolled the blonde onto her side with the toe of her boot. "I guess I was always just too surprised that I was performing at all to really concentrate on how I was performing," Eve stated self-consciously. "I mean, I learned how to kill and lead Rome's legions pretty easily, but I never learned to sing or dance."
"Slaughter and mayhem comes naturally, Eve. It's in your blood," Xena confidently told her, "this singin' an dancin' stuff, well·that's just 'cause you're in Indus now. It's a whole different reality; different food, different language, different customs, different gods, different everything," she'd been ticking the points off on her fingers. "Chin's even weirder. Ya see, reality's what ya make it, an the people here have created this."
"What? You mean the God of Eli doesn't have anything to do with Indus?"
"Tartarus, Eve, he doesn't really even exist in Indus," Xena said, "I know this from my afterlife perspective. Ya had any luck preachin' here?"
"Well, actually no," the Messenger revealed, "it's been horrible here. I think I've been wasting my time. People think I'm crazy. They believe all sorts of bizarre stuff and almost no one understands a word I say. And·and, well, I really despise the monkeys."
"So there ya have it, Evie. Ya don't belong here any more than I belonged in Japa. Ya see, I thought I could do the Greater Good thing like back home, even if I had to die to do it. What I didn't know was that the folks there get off on slaughterin' their heroes. It's a cultural thing with them. They revel in conflicting duties, twisted plotlines, despair, and disaster. Guess I never had a chance." Xena sighed in resignation. "I think ya oughta go home, Eve. Ya might be able to do some good there. Take Gabrielle with ya," she added as she started to fade out, "an if she starts in about the Land of the Pharos, ignore her. Ya go there an you'll be doin' stand up comedy or impersonations."
"I suck at those," Eve admitted to the disappearing ghost.
"I know," Xena's ghost agreed as she vanished. Her voice seemed to come from a great distance, "and keep your nose clean." Eve automatically wiped her nose on the sleeve of her robe. Ewwww! So gross, her midbrain exclaimed. It was just a reflex, okay, her hindbrain whined. What she said was metaphorical, her forebrain smugly stated.
Two weeks later, Eve stood at the railing of a ship that would take them back to Greece. Eve was looking back at the harbor, happily thinking, good riddance. Next to her, Gabrielle was draped over the railing, so drunk that she was almost constantly heaving and barely knew where she was. Seasickness hadn't crossed her mind and eating squid would have seemed simply repulsive. As they sailed ever closer to home, Eve started watering the Eve-R-Clear and Gabrielle began her decompression. By the time they'd reached the Mediterranean Sea, she was hallucinating and shaking·the classic DTs.
Somewhere in the Mediterranean near Crete, Xena appeared beside them at the rail. She glanced at Gabrielle, suppressed a chuckle, and winked at Eve.
"So, I see you're easin' her back down to earth," Xena commented to her daughter, "ya think she'll be back to normal by the time we dock?"
"I think she'll resemble Gabrielle somewhat," Eve said with a lopsided grin. Gabrielle turned to look at them, having heard their voices. She grimaced and squinted at Xena.
"Well, howdy there, pardner," the blonde mumbled, having finally identified the warrior with her bleary eyes, "but what cha doin' in these here parts?"
"I decided to join ya for landfall, figurin' you'd fall flat on your face as soon as we make land," Xena declared, reaching out to catch the blonde as she tripped on her feet while staggering over. Looking down, she noticed that Gabrielle's bootlaces were tied together.
"Hey, I dismember tha' Reichsmark," she declared, slurring her words, "an yur an hallu-shin-a-shun, Mish Warr-yer Prinzess." She collapsed against Xena, who held her up as she shivered and muttered to herself.
"I'll be happy to be back," Xena happily claimed, "ahhh, Greece, with all its bandits and sleazy gods, and violent senseless tragedy. Home sweet home at last."
"So, will you be sticking around on the earthly plane more once we're back?" Eve asked her mother hopefully. "It's really great being able to see you."
"I think so, yes," Xena told her seriously. "I've got some theories to test out after having seen so many afterlife setups. Indus wasn't any better for me as a ghost than it was for you as a messenger. Ya know, without Gabrielle, heaven or hell just doesn't appeal, the Amazons still look askance at me. Valhalla's boring, Chin·well, I've got too many dead enemies there, and the afterlife in Japa sucked. We'll see when we get home."
In the afternoon two days later, the lookout in the crow's nest hawked and spat, and then cried out, "Land-ho!" The crew dragged themselves into action, trimming the sails to fill as the captain set their new heading towards the port of Thessaloniki. Gabrielle squinted into the sun, which made her head throb, but she was glad to have left the tremors and hallucinations behind. Eve wiped the stinking mouthful of phlegm that the lookout had spat off of her hair. Oh disgusting, her midbrain hissed in disgust. How vulgar and uncouth, her forebrain declared. He's a lookout·when he comes down, put his eye out, her hindbrain suggested reasonably. "Sounds like a plan," Eve muttered.
Up in the crow's nest at the top of the main mast, a voice loudly cried, BOOOO!, while unseen fingers goosed the lookout. He shrieked, jumped clear over the railing of the crow's nest, and leapt into the air, chaffing his way down a line as he fell, and finally landing headfirst in the scuttlebutt. The mates had to crack the barrel with an axe to free him and he came out sputtering, soaking wet, and swearing that the crow's nest was haunted. Eve laughed.
Gabrielle and the Messenger gathered their meager possessions and debarked. On the dock, the blonde promptly fell flat on her face, having no recollection of her land legs. Eve helped her up. Xena walked down the gangplank and stood next to them, snickering, "and that's why they call it landfall." The warrior scoped out the waterfront streets.
"Let's walk up to the 'Flea-bitten Sailor' an get some grog," Xena suggested, pointing out a seedy tavern up the hill. "It'll give us a chance to acclimate to movin' on land again, an we can get some lunch too." Gabrielle groaned at the idea of drinking again in this life, while Eve eyed the disreputable establishment with trepidation.
"Do you think that's a good place for the Messenger of Eli to be stopping?" She asked.
"Don't go puttin' on airs, missy," her mother scolded, before chuckling, "an maybe ya can preach to the heathens inside while Gabrielle and I eat." Eve rolled her eyes and groaned.
They reached the tavern just as a body flew out of the door. Inside, they could hear a brawl in progress; furniture breaking, bodies crashing, bottles shattering, and patrons cursing. Of course they went in anyway. The ambience was perfect.
"The Flea-bitten Sailor," Xena explained warmly while slamming the heel of her palm into the face of a body that hurtled towards them, "just like I remember it." Eve winced.
"Is the food any good here?" Gabrielle asked hopefully as she dodged a flying chair.
"The best," Xena assured her before spinning and kicking two sailors with the same foot. "Let's try for that table in the back corner." It was the only table still intact.
Xena and Gabrielle fought their way across the common room while Eve dodged bodies and spun, evading her assailants. They finally seated themselves as the last of the earlier patrons were being thrown out by the owner and several of his friends. A pug-faced serving wench limped over to take their orders while straightening her skirt. Gabrielle noted that her blouse was missing several buttons and her upper chest was hairier than most of the sailors'. She blanched. Xena and the serving wench greeted each other warmly.
"Scrotalia, how's the syphilis ya old ship's cat," Xena teased, while rising to giver her a hug. Gabrielle and Eve looked on in horror.
"Arrrrgh, jes' a few wee sores, an the mercury takes care'a those," Scrotalia complained good naturedly in a rasping tubercular voice, "'sides, the sailors don' mind a bit. I see yer still doin' multiples, Xena, ya 'ol pirate." She was leering at Eve and Gabrielle who both cringed. Scrotalia winked at Xena.
The Warrior Princess chuckled and made the introductions before ordering three "Land Lubber's Specials" and three tankards of grog. When the food arrived, Xena dug in while Eve and Gabrielle nervously approached their platters like clinical specimens.
"Go on, eat up, my little dumplings," Xena encouraged, "you must be famished." Eve obediently started shoveling in her food. Gabrielle's eyes bugged out at the familiar words and she choked. Xena started laughing. "There's nothin' wrong with the food, Gabrielle, and you've missed the whole point of our bein' here anyway. My theory was right though. Comin' back to Greece was the best thing we could've done."
Gabrielle looked blankly at her soulmate over her plate. The gears were slowly starting to turn in her head. Next to her, Eve was thinking about what her mother had just said and she realized that a whole midden pile of details had gone right past her.
"Mother, you're eating and drinking, and that server could see you and touch you·"
"And you hit those brawlers when we came in just like you used to," Gabrielle stated, "and you came through the door with us, instead of coming through the door·or a wall."
Gabrielle plucked a sai from her boot and gave Xena an experimental poke in the ribs. The warrior choked on a morsel of gristle and recoiled away from the jab. In an instant, the blonde was shrieking and had landed in Xena's lap. She was babbling and gibbering and spackling kisses all over the warrior's face. Eve was giggling. She leapt up and threw her arms around both of them, upsetting the table.
"Oh, mother, you're alive again!" The Messenger exclaimed. "Praise Eli."
After they'd paid for the damages and been thrown out of the tavern, they decided to leave town immediately. They knew of a few good campsites outside the city, and soon the three were trudging down a dusty country lane.
"How can you be alive again?" Gabrielle asked seriously. She was so happy that she'd practically been skipping ever since they'd left 'The flea-bitten Sailor'. "We didn't perform a ceremony, or get the help of a god, or burn an offering, or sacrifice a child."
"Or pray to Eli," Eve added, looking askance at her Auntie Gabrielle. The blonde was a hopeless pagan at heart. Probably her peasant upbringing, her forebrain hypothesized.
"Well, ya see, I figure it's like this," Xena began, "in Indus I told ya that it's the people that make their reality, right Eve?" Eve nodded her head in agreement. "That's why ya did all those song 'n dance numbers, an why Gabrielle was so depressed·cause the people in Indus tend to helplessly accept their fate and they love the escapism of musicals. Well, I died in Japa and I had ta stay dead, 'cause that's what the reality there demanded; the death of the hero. It sucks, and it never woulda happened here. In Greece, people love heroes. I mean, just think of all the times we died an didn't stay dead."
"That's right," Gabrielle agreed, "we never stayed dead before·even when we should have. That's part of why it was so hard for me to accept that you had to stay dead in Japa."
"Exactly," Xena confirmed, "well, now that we're back in Greece, no one would believe that I stayed dead·just 'cause I was shot with arrows and beheaded, then burned on a pyre. Ya know how reality works here·the hero never dies. At least, we never did."
"Well, I'm just glad to have you back," Gabrielle happily declared. "I was so miserable without you, Xena. Please don't leave me again, okay?"
"I'm just amazed," Eve added, "I really thought you were gone for good this time. I mean, I read about your adventures, (right before Gabrielle stabbed me in the back), so I how you've both been resurrected, but I thought that this time it was over. I thought I'd missed my chance to spend time with you, mother."
"Ya know, Evie, I think that has to do with your bein' brought up Roman instead of Greek. They're much more mechanistic than mystical·more practical than spiritual. It mighta been workin' against ya in Indus too. But I have to tell ya both that there's a down side," Xena warned, before muttering to herself, "isn't there always, damn it."
"What do you mean?" Gabrielle asked apprehensively.
"Just look back, Gabrielle," Xena coaxed. "How would ya describe our lives? The overall theme?" The blonde looked at her; so much had happened over the years that it was really, really difficult to elucidate a singular theme for it all. She tried though.
"Well, we've had a lot of adventures, trying to help people. We've fought men and gods and monsters. We've hurt, supported, and loved each other·we've lived and died."
"Nawww, you're lookin' at it too closely," the Warrior Princess told her.
"You and Gabrielle have won a lot of battles," Eve stated, "both physical and spiritual."
"Now you're getting' warmer," Xena encouraged, looking back and forth between her daughter and her soulmate. "We won a lot of battles, but we'll never win the war."
"Huh?" Gabrielle asked, blinking. "We can't give up. We're doing the right thing."
"Of course we are," Xena told her, smiling, "but the war's endless and it'll go on long after we really are gone. Ya see, no matter how much we do, no matter how much we make things better, there'll always be another wrong to right, another battle to fight."
"That's why Eli's message is so important," Eve began, "the Way of Love will·"
"It'll work for some people and make their lives better," Xena said, cutting her off, "but mankind as a whole will go on struggling. Good and evil will always be around. Here in Greece, it's tragedy and comedy. That's the reality our people have created, and it's endless."
"Tragedy and comedy," Gabrielle whispered. In her heart she knew it was true.
"But I'm no good at comedy," Eve whined.
"You've been so serious all your life, Eve," Gabrielle stated. "Between being the Bitch of Rome and the Messenger of Eli, it's not like you've really had much chance to be lighthearted. Just stick around. You'll loosen up and then you'll be able to get laughs."
"And actually, those numbers ya did in Indus were funny," Xena chuckled, "seein' ya awkwardly staggerin' around an warblin' all off key. What a hoot." Eve gave her a sour grin. "Don't worry, Evie, I think ya killed everyone who saw ya perform."
Eve gave a startled gasp. The young mother·the cannibals. All dead at her feet. She'd seldom felt so horrified or guilty, and that was saying a lot. She managed to gag a couple of times before her eyes rolled back in her head and she passed out cold. Xena caught her as she fell and checked to make sure she hadn't swallowed her tongue.
"Did ya see the expression on her face, Gabrielle? Now that's funny!"
"Yeah," the bard agreed, snickering, "but it's kind of a dark humor."
"True, but we oughta give it a shot," the Warrior Princess offered, "ya know, try comedy in place of another tragedy." Nodding her head slowly, Gabrielle agreed to give it a try.
Eventually the soulmates placated the Messenger by telling her that "killed" was a theatrical term for being wildly successful. ("Ya know, like 'slayin' em in the aisles'?" Xena had asked). Eve didn't believe a word of it, but it did make her feel a little better.
Several days later the three women were approaching the village of Melanoma and they could see ominous columns of smoke rising into the afternoon sky. Battlecries, screams, and the pounding of hoofbeats announced the sacking of the town by some outlaw band. With a glance at each other, they charged forward, running down the road and into battle for the Greater Good. The village was a sorta post-carnage, ancient world, small town apocalypse. On the main street, the battered (or breaded), bodies of farmers and townsfolk lay dead where they'd fallen, defending their pitiful homes. Men, women, and children: none had been spared.
"Remember," Xena yelled, (instead of sounding her battle cry), "it's comedy!"
Xena drew her sword as she reached a trio of bandits. As the first one swung a sword at her neck, she ducked the blade and disemboweled him, causing his entrails to spring out, (with a "boing-oing-oing" sound effect), and entangle the second one's feet. The second one slipped and stumbled forward, accidentally impaling a third comrade with her sword. The dying third bandit slashed at Xena in desperation, but she'd shoved the entangled second outlaw into the path of his sword. She was cleanly decapitated, blinding an approaching fourth bandit with a fountain of blood. She wiped furiously at her eyes. The Warrior Princess spun and kicked the severed head, watching as it sailed across the street and landed in the lap of a mounted outlaw, and startling him so badly that he fell out of his saddle and into a hog trough. His panicked horse bucked and kicked him as he climbed back up, crushing his skull and sending his cadaver flying into the fourth bandit, (still blinded with the second bandit's blood), who lurched forward to be impaled on one of Gabrielle's sais.
The bard was so surprised that she squawked and barely wrenched her weapon free in time to evade an overhead blow from behind. Her attacker slammed his mace over the stabbed woman's head, stared stupidly at her in surprise, and then shrieked as the blonde stabbed a sai through his boot. He dropped his weapon and grabbed his foot, hopping around in the middle of the street. Gabrielle seized him and used him as a shield against her next attacker, gleefully watching as the attacking bandit slashed at her injured comrade. She was able to stab her in the foot as well, leaving the two hopping in a bizarre dance, gouging at each other with sword and dagger. Soon she'd forced them back into the slippery morass of spilled entrails from the man Xena had disemboweled earlier. They both went down, quickly entangling themselves in the coils of intestines.
Eve had started out pelting the bandits with fruit from a cart, then kicked over the hog trough so they took pratfalls, slipping in the slops. In the confusion, a couple actually cut each other. Eve dodged and wove to evade her attackers, positioning herself so the slashes of one wounded the next. She goaded them with laughter and ridicule, even attempting a couple of jokes. They didn't laugh. Soon, several of them were fighting with each other, having obviously never been the best of friends. Noticing the contents of a nearby wagon, Eve snatched a buzzing box and flung the hive of bees into the fighters' midst. With all the slashing and hacking, the cloud of angry insects quickly stung and chased the bandits out of town. After that, only the three women were left.
"And so that's how ya use comedy in a fight," Xena had commented with a grin after the last few bandits had fled. "Did ya see the look on that rider's face when that head landed in his lap?"
"Or did you see those two hopping around and trying to cut each other?" Gabrielle asked. "They were hysterical, flailing around in those entrails." She was still chuckling.
"You're both right·and I was having a good time," Eve admitted with a trace of guilt, "but it was kind of a dark humor." She thought of the surprise on the bandit's face when he'd missed the blonde and slammed his mace over his dead friend's head. The Messenger giggled.
"Well, technically it was slapstick," Gabrielle clarified.
"Right," Xena agreed, "the dark part is that everyone who lived in this village was already dead when we got here." Nothing moved along the silent street except a few bees and the bandit's skittish horse.
"So what's next?" Eve asked the soulmates a little later.
At first they just looked at her, with the suspicious grins of collaborators about to spring the unpleasant culmination of an evil plot. With an apprehensive, uh oh, the Messenger's stomach gave a nervous tick, a sort of peptical spasm of uncertainty. Then to her complete and utter shock, a night sky, (filled with cheaply twinkling stars and an obscenely brilliant full moon), crashed down behind a burning barn. The afternoon sunlight utterly failed, and the three women were illuminated by blue tinted, tungsten spotlights. Xena smirked and Gabrielle chuckled. Music began to play. It was more confusing than anything that had happened in Indus·because it wasn't supposed to happen here. The soulmates linked hands and twirled in a grandiose dance number, parts of which functioned as a stylized promenade. Eve could only watch in fascinated horror.
We were strangers, startin out on a journey
Never dreamin' what we'd have to go through
Now here we are, and I'm suddenly standin'
At the beginning with you
No one told me, I was going to find you
Unexpected what you did to my heart
When I lost hope, you were there to remind me
This is the start
And life is the road
And I wanna keep going
Love is a river and
I wanna keep flowing
Life is a road now and forever a
Wonderful journey.
I'll be there when the world stops turning
I'll be there when the storys through
In the end I wanna be standin'
At the beginning with you.
We were strangers on a crazy adventure
Never dreamin' how our dreams would come true
Now here we stand unafraid of the future
At the beginning with you
And life is the road
And I wanna keep going
Love is a river and
I wanna keep flowing
Life is a road now and forever a
Wonderful journey.
I'll be there when the world stops turning
I'll be there when the story's through
In the end I wanna be standin'
At the beginning with you.
Knew there was somebody somewhere
Help me alone in the dark
Now I know my dreams will live on
I've been waiting too long
Nothings gonna tear us apart.
And life is the road
And I wanna keep going
Love is a river and
I wanna keep flowing
Life is a road now and forever a
Wonderful journey.
I'll be there when the world stops turning
I'll be there when the story's through
In the end I wanna be standin'
At the beginning with you.
life is the road and
I wanna keep going
Love is a river
I wanna keep going on
Starting out on a journey
And life is the road
And I wanna keep going
Love is a river
I wanna keep flowing
In the end I wanna be standin'
At the beginning with you.
(Anastasia - Life Is The Road Artist: Disney)
As their duet ended, Xena pointed at her daughter and commanded, "take it, Evie."
Though she was still nervous, Eve was actually thinking that she might pull it off okay this time. The night sky backdrop was jerked up into the heavens and the afternoon sunlight returned. This time though, there was a fake looking rainbow arcing across the cloud dappled blue. Uhhhh huh, her midbrain whispered, places everyone. All the dead bandits and villagers struggled to their feet, each of their faces displaying a grotesque rictus that mocked living smiles. They mixed and mingled, warmly greeting each other by grasping forearms. The music started, led by a soulful trumpet. When she began to sing, Eve's raspy, saliva deprived voice was somehow perfect for the number.
I see trees of green, red roses too
I see them bloom for me and you
And I think to myself, what a wonderful world
I see skies of blue and clouds of white
The bright blessed day, the dark sacred night
And I think to myself, what a wonderful world
The colours of the rainbow, so pretty in the sky
Are also on the faces of people going by
I see friends shakin' hands, sayin' "How do you do?"
They're really saying "I love you"
I hear babies cryin', I watch them grow
They'll learn much more than I'll ever know
And I think to myself, what a wonderful world
Yes, I think to myself, what a wonderful world
(WHAT A WONDERFUL WORLD George Weiss / Bob Thiele)
Recorded by Louie Armstrong
As the last note faded away and the rainbow dissolved, the dead bandits and villagers dropped bonelessly to the ground in midstride. Again, the three women were alone in the town. Xena and Gabrielle applauded, beaming proudly.
"Well done, Eve," her mother praised. Though she still felt like a dolt, the Messenger craved the approval and it bolstered her confidence immensely. "Ya see, what 'cha gotta do is pick your material."
"I guess you're right," Eve said, "that song wasn't a torment like the others·and at least it wasn't so, uh, embarrassing."
"So, what has all this taught you?" Gabrielle asked seriously.
"Huh? What do you mean?" Eve asked. And I'm supposed to be the congenitally serious one? Eve's midbrain protested. Damn, she's getting all pedantic on me, her hindbrain complained.
"Look, Evie, what ya learned here is all true, but you're really still lyin' in a flea infested campsite in Indus, and Gabrielle is gonna to meet ya there tomorrow," Xena told her. Eve felt like her heart was about to fibrillate. "I don't have much time, but I couldn't leave ya in the state you've been in, 'cause I'm your mother and all."
That's it, it's aneurysm time, her midbrain wailed. Fuck me·again, her hindbrain added. This is soooo not fair, her forebrain screamed.
"C'mon, Evie, what've ya learned?" Xena repeated Gabrielle's query. "And what're ya gonna do?"
"Well," Eve began, trying really, really hard to concentrate, "reality is what people make it and a person has to pick the material that suits their abilities·and I enjoyed fighting the good fight," she added sheepishly.
"That's the important points," Xena said, "now what are ya gonna do?"
"Get the hell out of Indus, because I hate it here and staying is useless. Get Gabrielle stinking drunk if she's as morose as in my dream. Choose to fight when I need to, instead of resigning myself to pacifism, and bring you back to life, because I want my mommy."
"Sounds like a plan, Eve," Xena agreed with a grin. "Stick to it, and keep your nose clean." The ghost dissolved away, leaving Gabrielle and Eve in the dreamscape of the dead village of Melanoma.
"I'll see you tomorrow and tell you about how Xena died, even though you know all about that now, because this is your dream not mine. I'll have forgotten it by the time I see you," the blonde told her apologetically. "I know it's just the gestalt of Indus, but I have been kind of depressed lately·" she trailed off, shaking her head. Finally she looked at Eve hopefully and softly asked, "do you really think you can bring her back?"
"Gabrielle," Eve confidently said, "if believing I can sing and dance could make that last song come out good, then resurrecting Xena will be easy. After all, once we're back in Greece, reality is what we'll make it and no one there will believe she's dead for good. She's always come back before so she shouldn't have any problem now." Eve looked at Gabrielle and allowed herself just the hint of a grin before adding, "worst comes to worst, we'll sacrifice a child." The bard blanched, and then she too dissolved out of the dreamscape. Dark humor. Eve giggled at the look that had been on the blonde's face.
The Messenger started awake. Sure enough, she was still in the flea bitten campsite in Indus. Next to her, a young mother whimpered in her sleep, clutching a baby monkey. Across the campfire, a leper slowly disintegrated as he snored, waving his stumps in a dream. Monkeys screamed and threw unmentionable things at her from the trees above. Nearby, a half-dozen beggars stewed the young mother's baby in a kettle that was settled akelter on a pile of coals. The river flowed past the ghat, ripe with sewage and bloated carcasses. It sucked, and almost no one understood a word she said. It didn't do any good to teach a good message if no one was listening.
"See you later, suckers," the Messenger whispered absentmindedly, (indulging in her hindbrain's sentiments), while she said to herself, what a wonderful world. The sun was just brightening the reeking blight that was the slum of a great city, while down the street towards her came a small, depressed, blonde woman with a strange sword and her mother's chakram on her belt. And Eve smiled.
The End

Return to the Academy