Monday, June 19, 2023

The Perils of Prejudice


Chapter 3 – An Unexpected Visitor


When we arrived home after our twenty-eight days in Ireland and Great Britain, the vision of those statues in Dublin still haunted me. I began accumulating and reading any books about Irish history that popped up on my Internet searches. As I worked my way through this first seven I’d bought, I became more and more appalled at the stories they revealed.

          Over the course of almost a millennium, England had considered Ireland a country of barbarians, and many even called the Irish sub-human. The Irish Problem was a preoccupation of English Monarchs from the fourteenth century onward. Some of the atrocities committed on both sides seemed unbelievable.


          One night, as I lay in bed trying to sleep, images of some of the things I’d read bounced around in my mind. Lord, I wish I could have been there to help those poor people. Or at least to see for myself what they went through.

          ‘I think that’s what I’m here for,’ came a voice in my mind.

          What? Am I going crazy now—hearing voices?

          ‘No, I’m really here in your mind.’

          I glanced over to see my husband sleeping soundly, and sat up in bed shaking my head. This shouldn’t be happening. Lord, help me!

          Then a bluish light appeared at the foot of the bed. Within its glow I saw a face with piercing brown eyes, surrounded by a halo of brown curly hair. I covered my eyes to clear my vision, but when I looked again, the vision was still there. “Who are you?” I whispered.

          ‘My name is Cinda,’ said the voice I’d heard in my head before. ‘I’m one of your descendants, born in 2064.’

          “But that’s forty-two years in the future. How can you be here?”

          ‘It’s called crossing the GAP, a way of jumping across vast expanses of space and time.’

          “I must be asleep and dreaming all this,” I murmured.

          The light suddenly disappeared, and I sighed with relief. Until I heard the voice again. ‘You don’t have to speak aloud to me,’ said the voice that had called herself Cinda. ‘I guess you could call me a time-traveler. I think I’ve been sent here to take you back into your ancestors’ lives.’

          You think?

          ‘Things like this have happened to me before, Emilia. Another GAP-crosser took me back into lives of some of my ancestors. Now she’s told me to do the same for you.’

          I closed my eyes and lay down on my pillow. When I opened them, all I saw was the dim ceiling of our bedroom. All right, if this is a dream, I’ll go with it. And if it’s real—well, I’ll have to go with that, too. Did you hear that, Cinda?

          ‘Yes, I did.’

          My heart pounded and felt like it would jump out of my chest. So am I dreaming, or not?

          ‘Does it really matter?’

          I hadn’t thought of that. Maybe it didn’t make any difference. “I don’t know,” I whispered to the ceiling.

          ‘Just trust me,’ said Cinda in my mind. ‘To start with, I’m only going to take you back 50 years, into your own past. Maybe you will remember this—'

          Strange yellow and amber lights began flashing over my head. When I closed my eyes, the lights were still dancing before me. I felt like I was falling through the bed, then the floor, and at last floating in nothingness. My hands began to tremble. Soon the sensation filled my whole body. Just as I was about to cry out, my vision cleared.

           I was sitting on a soft blue sofa in a sunlit room. Across from me was my grandmother, Mary Emilia, sitting in her favorite rocking chair. Grey hair framed her wrinkled face, but her brown eyes still had the twinkle I knew so well.

          “So you saw Killarney,” Grandma smiled. “Did you also get to tour the Ring of Kerry?”

          “No, unfortunately. I ran out of time and had to get back to Edinburgh for school.”

          “Ah, too bad. It’s a beautiful place.” She had a faraway look in her eyes. “I heard so many memories from my grandfather of times he spent there in childhood. I even got to visit there once with my mother and father, when they went back for a tour.”

           She had a faraway look in her eyes and lapsed into silence.  At last, I spoke, just to break the uneasy feeling in the room. “The weather was dreary and rainy when I was there in 1973, Grandma.”

          “Yes, it often rained, my grandfather Thomas Cantlon told me. The worst was the bitterly cold winter of 1846, when it snowed for weeks on end.”

          “Were you there. Grandma?”

          “Heavens, no! I wasn’t born until 1889, long after my parents and grandparents had made their way to America.”

          “When did they come?”

          “I believe it was 1847. My father John Cantlon was a child of only three ,

          “What was that like?”

          “I’m sorry, dear. I should have asked my grandfather more about it, for my father was too young to remember much. The only thing he remembered was feeing sick and hungry as the boat tossed and rocked in storms on the sea.”

          “I wish I could know what it was really like.”

          “Oh, child, those memories are terrible, I think. Whenever I asked my grandfather, all he would say was: ‘Those times are best forgotten. My mind recoils from them when I try to remember.’ 

          Shining tears appeared in Grandma’s eyes.

          “I’m sorry,” I murmured. “I didn’t mean to make you cry.”

          “Oh, I cry at the drop of a hat these days. I guess it’s the price of having lived eighty-five years. Each morning I ask the Lord if I can go now—to see my dear departed husband Frederick.”

          I stood and moved toward her, taking her quivering hand. “I’m sure the Lord will take you home soon, Grandma.”

          She pulled one of my hands to her cheek. I felt the softness of her flacid skin. “I pray God hasn’t forgotten me,” she whispered.

          “The Bible says He will never leave us or forsake us,” I murmured.

          Her head nodded against my hand. “Yes, well I’m ready whenever He is.”

          I stood there a long time, just holding one of her hands with one of mine, while she pressed my other hand against her cheek.


          Then the room around me began to swim before my eyes. Those amber lights flashed in my eyes again.

          Are we going somewhere else, Cinda?

       ‘Yes, it’s time for you to see the Potato Famine for yourself.’

          After all I’ve read I’m not sure I want to.

      ‘Admit it, Emilia, you do want to deep in your heart.’

          Yes, I suppose so. What year are we in now? I’m all confused.

          ‘You were just back in time with your grandmother in 1974.’

          She died in 1976, I think. Are we going back to my own time now? To 2022?

     ‘No, we’re going backwards again.’

     My stomach churned, and I tried not to be sick. I failed, though. Soon I found myself vomiting into a stinking bucket.     


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