Wendi Hirschy-Boutwell


    "I don't think you're giving this thing a chance."

    "If they don't know what's wrong, how can it help? It's like they're grasping at straws." This was an old topic which had been worn smooth with discussion.

    The two young women possessed an uncanny beauty. They shared the same high cheek bones , the same slightly squared jaw line, the same slender fit frame, and the same rich golden complexion; which revealed they were sisters. Differences, however, were prominent. One, the older, was as the night. Her eyes a dark indiscernible color and hair the shade of the sky on a deep moonless night; and in the prime of health. Her younger sister was as a bright summer day, with golden hair and bright eyes which rivaled the clear blue sky. Though she had the same build as her sister she seemed to be less healthy. A slight hesitation between the movements of one side of her body and the other gave an indication that something might be amiss. It was almost as if the left side did not wish to participate in the doings of the right.

    "Listen, Ashleigha" the first exclaimed. "I know that, you're tired of everyone trying to help but, if you don't at least give it a try, this will be the best you can expect things to be," she made a sweeping gesture encompassing the other woman. "Please "'Leigh, this could be your last best hope. They told you it would help, and they should know. I can feel your frustration with your inability to move like once you could and, as young as you are, there should be no strain lines around you eyes, or winces of pain when you move. They say the Qua can tell what the problem is and how to repair it simply by being in the water with you. You've already gone through so many tests, can one more really be any worse? And hey, you can go swimming and didn't you tell me the only time you feel like before is when you're in the water? If you don't give this a try, a day will come when you can't enjoy even that."

    "Frankly" Ashleigha sighed "I don't know how much more disappointment I can handle. This has been a vicious circle, first tests, then 'we just aren't sure what the problem is' to 'we could try this' to more tests...' They don't have a clue and I feel like a fool, falling for every glimmer of hope."

    "Just once more and I won't ask again. Please?"

    "This is the last time! I don't want my hopes raised and dashed again."

    About three years prior to this conversation Ashleigha had had a stroke. The medical profession was baffled. There seemed to be no reason for the stroke and all of the traditional treatments had no success in repairing the damage done to her physically. Even non traditional practitioners had no answers.

    Jessica and Ashleigha Branch were two of three children. Their younger brother, Marshall, lived across the Atlantic Ocean in Scotland. However, the sisters loved the warm weather of southern Florida , and being closer to the place they were all raised. Their parents, Steve and Fionna, wanted all of their children close; especially after Ashleigha's stroke. Jessica was a teacher who worked with young children, which was very rewarding and not near as freighting as it was fifty years ago, in the last part of the nineteen hundreds. Ashleigha was an artist, she barely made just enough to not be a starving artist.

    In the ground transfer shuttle the two women sat on the cushioned seats, both women wearing black wetsuits, with black slippers on their feet. Their hair was pulled into tails at the nape of both necks. Jessica patted Ashleigha's hand, "Everything will be fine. We swim everyday and we'll just have company today."

    Through the small port hole an expanding horizon of crystal blue was visible as they neared the ocean. Individual objects could now be distinguished as the rate at which scenery passed slowly and finally, a large dome occupied the center of the view. As the shuttle slowly came closer to the compound, a mechanical voice that seemed to come from every direction said "What pod please?" Jessica told it to enter the twenty-third pod and the shuttle made forty-five degree turn to the right and proceeded into the compound. They traveled down a corridor lined on both sides with large cavernous openings and opaque screens blocking the view of what each contained.

    Both women knew of the Qua; a dolphin-like race that had helped the people of Earth since the beginning of human history. These creatures, that saved lives, brought peace of mind and hope to so many, and had so long been thought of only as highly intelligent mammals of the sea were actually a more advanced race from a galaxy billions of light years away. The Qua had recently revealed their identities and there had been mixed reactions to this news; some believed their goal was to do harm and others took them as they appeared, as good Samaritans. The original Qua who settled on Earth, were exploring space with their human-like companions, the Intimatallia also of the planet Quantion. The relationship between the Qua and the Intimatallia is one of profound companionship, they are each others most intimate companion. When they entered Earth's atmosphere and saw the beautiful blue planet third from the sun, they decided this would be where they would settle. They discovered that there were already inhabitants, in the waters and on the land. Being that the most intelligent, man, was very primitive; they agreed it would be best that they not reveal their extra-terrestrial origin until these inhabitants were more advanced. Because the Qua were aquatic and the Intimatallia could live outside and in the water without difficulty they settled in areas where the two meet. The Qua blending with the already present dolphins and the Intimatallia merging with the humans, near the shorelines where their interaction with the Qua would not be to unusual. From the time they arrived they have helped mankind as well as all other creatures; they would rescue sailors shipwrecked or lost at sea, they would lead dolphins beside sea vessels, helping to keep sharks and other predators away from swimmers and in the late nineteen hundreds the would help the emotionally and physically troubled with their presence. The Intimatallia mostly became sailors, and helped guide the way to many technological discoveries. In the years since they had settled on Earth physically they changed little, they kept hidden records of the technologies they would later help Earth's inhabitants with. Unfortunately fear of discovery to soon kept their technical advances to a minimum. They decided the time was right to reveal their presence and help these inhabitants openly. Jesse and Ashleigha both had some reservations, however, both felt there was little else to do.

    Finally the shuttle came to a halt and a portion of one wall slid back to reveal a walkway extending from the doorway to one of the large screens. The voice instructed them to depart the craft and to stay on the walkway until otherwise informed. Once they were standing on the walkway, it began to move bringing them closer to the screen. When the screen was about two meters away part of the screen disappeared and the moving walkway carried them through the opening, while descending.

    As the sisters passed through the opening they saw that they were entering a large cavern. The majority of it was occupied by water which appeared to continua out a large entrance, to the ocean, directly opposite the women. A smooth rock shoreline snaked from either side of the entrance to where they stood. The opening they had entered through had disappeared. In front of them a tall slender man with a face that was neither old or young stood. He had eyes that sparkled and a slight smile that on most would seem condescending, but lent him an aspect of humor and generosity. "My name is Xton, you must be Ashleigha and Jessica Branch. I will call Mariah now and help you with your preparations." Xton stood very still and closed his eyes.

    Jessica turned toward her younger sister and raised her eyebrows "what is he doing?" her expression asked. Ashleigha gave a lopsided shrug.

    Xton opened his eyes and smiled. "I am sorry, I have to concentrate a bit when she is not very close to me. Did you bring your oxygenators?"

    The ladies shook their heads. "We weren't sure if we would need them or not. It wasn't clear if this would be a consultation to let us know what was next or if she would actually start today."

    "That is quite all right, Mariah will do whatever is necessary, most likely you will not need them, we have plenty if needed.'

    A squeaking drew their attention to the water and just offshore was a beautiful gray Qua. The Qua answering Xton's call was the color of dusk on a winter night with eyes as dark onyx and must be Mariah. She dolph-grinned at her companion, opening her mouth and squeaking at him again. She then turned toward the women and exclaimed "You are here at last! I hope Xton has taken care of everything. I am ready whenever you are. As Mariah spoke, Jessica marveled at how perfect her voice was and then realized that the voice she admired was in her mind. She had forgotten, momentarily, that the Qua were telepathic, and wondered if she was being invaded. Her stomach knotted itself as the horror of this thought hit her full force, she felt lightheaded and thought she might faint. Mariah replied to her unspoken fear. "Xton and I can only pick up what is projected to us, as you are projecting now. If the two of you will join me, we can try to find the problem and the answers."

    The sisters glanced at one another and shrugged. they removed their slippers and eased into the water which was a bit cool but not really uncomfortable. Mariah swam to Ashleigha and gave her a slight push into more open water and Jessica followed them. Xton busied himself on the shore, going into a different hidden room the contents of which we not visible from the water.

    "I understand that you have had an injury to your brain but your healers have been unable to correct the damage because they do not understand the exact cause. Is this correct?" When Ashleigha nodded her head, she continued. " I believe I can see the problem and it happened between three and four years ago." Then, with amazement in her tone, she continued "You are very sensitive, you could even be an Intimitalia! After a pause, Mariah continued in normal tomes " The damage is not Physical but let me explain before you close your mind to me. I see no physical problem but your mind has convinced you body that there is a problem. It appears that, not known to yourself, you were near a someone who was involuntarily being put under great physical and mental stress resulting in an injury of some type. Because you are a sensitive, you experienced what that person experienced and the shock caused your mind to convince you body that it too had been injured. Your mind needs only to isolate t area of your brain which thinks it has been damaged and visualize it being repaired. Do this often in a day, six or seven times. This will take time and a great deal of hard work, but gradually you will find it less difficult to move. In your own words, 'you have nothing to lose' and everything to gain." Xton by this time had rejoined them and he and Mariah worked with Ashleigha, while Jessica 'listened in" for several hours, teaching her how to do what was needed. As they were leaving Mariah said "After three months come back to us and we will gauge you success."

    The sisters left in much the same manner as they arrived. Both felt they had wasted their time and Jessica apologized to Ashleigha for putting her through more possible disappointment. Jessica had always felt she should protect her younger sister and that she had let one more crazy idea make 'Leigha'a life more difficult. Mariah's word, however kept echoing through Ashleigha's thoughts..."you have nothing to lose". She decided to do as she had been instructed, she had followed other kooky treatments in the past, might as well give this one a try to. She felt it would be best to do so in secret, at least until she found out whether it would work or not, no reason to upset Jess, Marshall, Mom and Dad.

    The change was gradual but it was happening and every day, she noticed improvement and had to struggle less and less to walk, pick things up or do other normal day-to-day activities. People would comment on how good she looked, not railing that it was really a difference inside her, and in her attitude toward them as she improved. On her frequent visits, Jessica also noticed the change but, knowing the real reason, did not want to mention it for fear of upsetting he sibling and destroying all her progress, so she said nothing, but was barely able to contain her joy and amazement that it was working.

    The trip back to see Mariah seemed much the same as it had been three months before, except Ashleigha glowed with new found vitality. Xton and Mariah were waiting and Mariah said "I see you took my advice. You have improved so much I can tell even without you being in the water. But come in and lets see just how much you have improved."

    Ashleigha did as she was bid and Mariah let out a squeal of delight. "There is no damage apparent, you have healed yourself and your sensitivities are stronger than before! Have you thought of becoming one of our companions? There are many young Qua who do not have a companion yet since people with the proper kind and amount of sensitivities are very rare. And here are two such since your sensitivities, Jessica, are nearly as strong as your sibling's. You should come present yourselves and consider becoming a life companion like the Intimitalia. The Qua and the Intimitalia are both very loyal and loving companions to each other but not mates so becoming Cera, which our name for these mentally and emotional bonds, would not interfere with your hopes children in the future. Xton and I have mates and he has several children, I adore Pamela and the children are the most wonderful children ever born." Mariah, followed by Xton, started swimming toward the far entrance saying " Come with us and we will see the younglings."

    The far entrance was protected by another of the opaque screens and led to the sea. The four of them swam out into the open sea and Mariah led them through another screened entrance a short, distance away, which led to another cavern. The humans being strong swimmers and the currents being mild made for a very pleasant swim. The cavern they entered was similar but many times larger than the one where the two women had met with Mariah and Xton and bustled with activity. Many Qua, and humans, presumably most of which were Intimitilia, swam in the water while other humans went about activities on the shoreline.

    Two Qua raced toward the new comers, each stopping in front of one of the sisters. The smaller said "We have been waiting for you. I am Nadha and I choose you Jess, as my Cera, if you are agreeable." Jessica felt an overwhelming sense of contentment and agreed with a grin and a nod.

    "And I am Marlow and, if you are agreeable, I choose you 'Leigha."

    As thoughts and emotions raced and echoed through their heads, the Sisters were crying, the Qua were cheering and each of the two pairs knew they had found their life companions and that life had just begun. There would be a great celebration that night, as always there was when new members were added to the families. Nothing would be the same, again.