The conversation with Kent regarding the first revelation was exciting Oriana. She decided that instead of heading directly home from the library she would take a detour through the park and thus allow herself the leisure of reflection. Profound questions echoed through her mind as she walked through the forest.
“Why is there something instead of nothing? What caused the first event? Why can’t logic answer this question? Why are the laws of physics the way they are? The laws of physics never change even if our descriptions of them do: so does this mean that we can have some moral certainty too? Is this universe the creation of a demiurge? What is that which we call God? Is honesty the only way of getting closer to God? What prevents me from being honest?”
The more the thoughts tumbled through her mind the more she found herself thinking that there was something, even if her mind’s eye was too far away to ever see it clearly, there was something. Something which Kent called God, and did she, Oriana the atheist, suppose that she might have been convinced that God really existed? Albeit not like the being she had had described to her many times before but a being that existed just on the boundary of her capacity to imagine?
The thought was tempting to her, which also frightened her, especially just how easy it seemed now to look at a tree, a mountain, or a cloud and then suspect that their existence wasn’t entirely by accident but part of a celestial creation beyond her comprehension? Would studying science, mathematics, physics, and philosophy bring her closer to this creator like Kent had said? These thoughts were both exciting and frightening: Exciting to see the universe with fresh eyes, but frightening because she wasn’t sure if she would know herself anymore if she started to believe in God again. She wasn’t even sure anymore if she had ever actually believed in God before now.
Oriana eventually arrived at her house and was surprised to see a police car waiting outside. Fearing something was wrong she ran up to the front door to find it was already open, but this served only to heighten her fears. She rushed into her house and there at the kitchen table was seated her father, a policewoman, and Peterson.
Peterson was now clad in the uniform of a policeman and his body language was rigid in the way typical of policemen. He looked so natural wearing the uniform Oriana found herself thinking maybe she had been wrong, maybe he really was a policeman?
Her father signalled for her to come and sit down at the table and slowly she edged closer but she didn’t want to be near Peterson. Her father asked her again to sit down. She moved closer but still hesitated a metre away from the chair meant for her.
“Please come and sit down Oriana,” said Peterson in a voice that while authoritarian was not menacing, it actually had an oddly reassuring quality that she hadn’t heard from him before.
Oriana grudgingly complied and shivered looking up at Peterson sitting at her dining room table in her home. He had the air of a predatory spider sitting in wait at the centre of his web and right now she felt like the proverbial fly. She looked first to her father who looked a combination of sad, worried, angry, and tired all at once, then to the policewoman who just glared at her as though she was a statue, and finally Peterson whose face was inscrutable. She had trouble recognising the same man she’d met twice before.
“Officer Peterson has just been telling me more about what you’ve been getting yourself into recently. About this man Kent you’ve been talking to.”
The lack of a question from her father left Oriana bewildered as to what she should say next, yet from the tone of his voice an answer was expected from her.
“Well?” Snapped her father, “have you been spending time with a strange man called Kent?”
“No,” the word dropped out of her mouth before she had time to think, “I spent my time with Paul and Kelly today.”
“But you have spent time around this character Kent?”
“Yes,” said Kelly, discovering the limit she was prepared to lie.
“Well did you know that he’s part of some kind of religious cult?”
Oriana took too long to answer and her father interpreted this as confirmation.
“Oriana!” He continued his voice saturated with strained emotions, “what are you doing hanging out with crazy madmen who kidnap children, build secret hideouts in the woods, stockpile weapons, and have brainwashing camps?
Oriana felt her jaw slacken and felt air being sucked into her lungs. Before she could speak her father started to continue with a long self-pitying rant about how hard done by he was by her mother, her brother, and now her. Oriana had heard it all before, her father often talked about the divorce as though it were yesterday and she had long ago learned to cope by just changing the topic; something she was good at doing but in present company she dared not speak and so her father’s rant carried on unhindered. The policewoman huffed impatiently at times during his sobs while Peterson just looked on impassively. Oriana started to fear that he would embarrass her and so she tried pleading with her father to stop talking so quickly and to wait for her to have a chance to speak but he didn’t seem to hear her this time as he drawled on. Eventually Peterson interjected and asked the agitated man to calm down and allow him to explain the situation to her. Oriana’s father stopped talking and buried his faces in his hands to sob quietly to himself. Peterson resumed talking.
“Ms Windemeer, although we have met earlier I was without my uniform or badge which you can now see that I have. This was because I was under cover at the time and it would have been embarrassing, rather dangerous, if I were found with a policeman’s badge while working at infiltrating a cult you know as the Aeshir. I understand that you have been spending considerable time with one of these cultists: namely a man calling himself Kent.”
Oriana shuddered at the last six words, she was beginning to feel an out of worldly experience, as though everything she thought about the situation was being turned on its head. She listened to Peterson continue as the uniform appeared to give him a new sense of authority.
“The Aeshir is a cult which has been growing steadily in recent years by a wide variety of dubious if not illegal activities. Often they will attempt to groom pretty young women such as yourself; but they are not above attacking orphanages and kidnapping the children to indoctrinate into their cult. There was one such incident over fifteen years ago when they attacked an orphanage and kidnapped over fifty children. They carried out the attack with military style assault rifles and killed several people including the parents of some of the children.”
Involuntarily Oriana’s hands moved to cover her mouth. It was hard to doubt anything Peterson was telling her.
“They have secret bases spread across the country, sometimes deep in the forest, sometimes underground, and sometimes cleverly concealed in the middle of suburbia. We believe they carry out unsanctioned medical experiments on people in these facilities so if you know anything about the location of one of these bases it could help us to save and protect lives from these sinister manipulators.”
Oriana felt her skin turn cold and clammy while she imagined that her feet were falling out beneath her and if it weren’t for the chair supporting herself she would be lying in a lump on the ground. She looked again at each stony face glaring at her coldly. It was some time before she could get an intelligible word out.
“You said they kidnapped children?”
“Yes. This cult has two paramilitary groups associated with it: the rangers and the knights. Members of these two groups are quite well armed and experts at killing.”
“Killing?” repeated Oriana feeling her stomach turning.
“Yes, the Aeshir have this paranoid obsession with the idea that the government, police, and other cults are trying to destroy them so they encourage their members to arm themselves. Like all paranoid people they are extremely dangerous and should you be in contact with them your life will be in grave danger.”
“But..,” Oriana stuttered on the realisation that maybe Peterson was right about them. Kent looked uncomfortable whenever the Rangers or Knights were mentioned. What if he was frightened of them? Maybe Kent was a prisoner of their madness? Oriana thought about Suvarin and how kind she was too. Surely these people couldn’t be part of a cult who kidnapped children from an orphanage? Doubts poured into Oriana’s head.
“Wait, officer Peterson,” she said affirming Peterson’s assertion that he was indeed a policeman, “you said that they killed some of the children’s parents in this attack on the Orphanage, if these children were orphans how come they had parents at the orphanage?”
Peterson’s left eye twitched for a few moments then he pulled out a photocopy of a newspaper article titled, “Gunmen kill six in attack on orphanage”.
“Why don’t you read about it, maybe do some Internet research and confirm the facts for yourself.”
Oriana took the sheet of paper passively, Peterson spoke again.
“The Aeshir can be charming and may even sound convincing in their ideals but in the end they’re dangerous paramilitary cult bent on world domination by whatever means possible. If you know where we can find one of their secret bases let us know, if any members of their organisation try to get in touch with you call me right away. Do not go along with them, do not listen to them, do not get involved in their activities or you might be charged as an accomplice. Think long and hard about what I have just told you, and listen to you father, he just wants to protect you.”
With that Peterson stood up to leave, the policewoman looked relieved that her boredom was finally coming to a close and moments later the front door was closed behind them. Oriana’s father waited at the window watching police car had driven away behind before he glared at her pointing a finger close to her face and speaking in low slow tones he said, “If you cause me anymore trouble you are out of here miss. You can fend for yourself. Your mother ruined me, and I am not going to let you ruin me too.”
Oriana couldn’t take it; she burst into tears and ran for the refuge of her room. Once inside she pulled a chair over and used it to barricade the door, then throwing herself face down on her bed she wept.