Book excerpt: Lights Around Her: The Girl Who Sees Angels by Aum Nicol

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From the Blurb:

The year is 2040 and Jemmy Sterling is born able to see angels. It’s been decades since a pandemic swept across the planet and humanity is trying to embrace the ideals of the “Highest Good”. Growing up is anything but normal, especially when a nefarious organization learns that Jemmy sees angels and wants to perform psychological research on the child.Human and angelic guidance intervenes and life seems to take on a new normal, but only for a short while. At sixteen years of age, angels make a request but Jemmy doubts her ability to help humanity. She barely has time to consider what the angels ask when she discovers the strange organization is a real threat and in pursuit.Humanity’s evolution towards the Highest Good hangs on Jemmy’s ability to handle the organization chasing her and decide if she is capable of answering her angel’s request. Written two years before COVID-19, the author has altered her storyline to include challenges faced by people during the 2020 pandemic. This story represents a vision of hope even when facing consequences to current actions.

Chapter 35

Tour to Lake Louise

Canmore and Lake Louise, August 2062

The condo in Canmore overlooked a park and had an amazing view of a mountain range called the Three Sisters. The owners of condos and houses around the town took advantage to make a few dollars during the Summit Of Human Awareness, offering accommodation while they holidayed.

News teams arrived in droves from around the world, heralding the summit as a hugely multicultural and international event. The influx of people caused an explosion of activity for tour companies that took groups into the mountains, white water rafting, and to enjoy nature’s wilderness. Visitors were in awe of the abundance of black bears, elk, deer, mountain sheep, and mountain goats.

The day before the summit, Jemmy, Vi and Matthew left early for an excursion to Lake Louise. They were the first on the shuttle which drove to different hotels or bed and breakfasts to pick up passengers. The first stop of the twenty-four-passenger shuttle was at a beautiful lodge. Several First Nations Elders climbed the few stairs of the bus, returning Jemmy’s smile with kindly nods. Aside from a few deep wrinkles on their foreheads or cheeks, their bronzed skin was smooth and their eyes wise and gentle. Two of them had delicate tattoos on their faces which indicated they weren’t from the area. Vi and Matthew turned around to chat with the newcomers and learned the group came from various areas throughout Canada, the United States, and South America.

The driver continued on as the sun started peaking over the purple-hued mountains. A young German couple came on board, smiling with excitement and equipped with maps and binoculars. A husband and wife boarded with two children and a baby. They emerged from a family hotel that featured a waterslide sticking partway outside of the building before it returned indoors to a pool. Their accent gave away that they were from England. A small party of middle-aged Asians entered at another stop wearing warm sweaters. One spoke English and was clearly their Canadian translator. The last group were four young women carrying small backpacks and wearing hats that proudly named them as Australians, as their accents soon confirmed.

The drive was a dreamscape with walls of evergreen forests along both sides of the highway. The silent hydrogen fuel-celled bus made for a peaceful and relaxing journey. Mountain peaks and blue lakes flashed through breaks in the trees. The exhilaration of Rocky Mountain grandeur expanded everyone’s hearts and the enormous windows allowed people to embrace the exquisite beauty of row upon row of pyramid-shaped mountains with jagged blue peaks capped in summer snow.

Anyone who had a camera began taking photos. The bus- load took them to traditional sightseeing stops in the township of Banff which sold excursions to shops and various roadside views. The group eagerly got on and off the bus many times, and as tiring as that was, they all felt reinvigorated as they neared Lake Louise. In fact, everyone buzzed with excitement. The driver turned off the Icefield Parkway and drove through a small refuelling station and gift shop area only a short distance from the actual lake. The passengers left the bus to find themselves in a large parking lot surrounded by trees. The driver pointed to cement paths that lead to the lake and a hotel nearby.

“Remember coming here when you were younger,  Jemmy?” asked Matthew, handing her an information brochure.

“Barely,” she replied. Preoccupied, she asked, “I wonder, do we have to stick together? Could I walk around by myself? I’ll actually only be by the water.” Vi and Matthew nodded and smiled, then she picked up speed and headed to the lake.

Electrified with excitement, Jemmy got glimpses of blue-green water through the trees. Soft gasps of joy escaped her lips when she reached the open space. Lake Louise’s turquoise waters sent invisible waves of vibrant energy through her, and she was certain everyone was feeling something unique. Jemmy soon noticed several directions one could go. As she walked towards the lake, a cement path veered left to canoe rentals. Some people ventured behind her, most likely to buy postcards at the Fairmont Hotel, which stood like an alabaster fortress with hundreds of windows facing the lake. Yet another cement path hugged the lake travelling around to the right which eventually gave way to a narrower pebbly path. Jemmy knew Vi and Matthew would want to walk on the two-kilometre trail.

She stopped to read signs about the animals and mountains in the area and why the water looked like a turquoise gemstone. She read about rock flour. It was fine silt that ran off of melting glaciers, and when suspended in water, gave the lake its exquisite colour. Jemmy smiled at the intricacies of the beauty around her and walked towards the shore to stand directly in the middle of the vista. She couldn’t help but embrace the whole view like everyone else. Reading the brochure that Matthew gave her, she learned the names of the mountains in front of her. Glancing up, she admired an almost perfect V-shape of two mountain ranges meeting at a center point on the lake. Mount Fairview and Mount Whyte stood on the left, meeting the Beehive and St. Piran on the right as they angled downward. The reflection made her think of a butterfly. Mount Victoria with her white glaciers glistened in the centre.

The Indigenous Elders from her bus began making their way along the path. This was once their sacred lands long before Europeans came to Canada. Jemmy followed respectfully behind. One by one, they stopped to rest on benches or sat on boulders surrounding the lake. Jemmy wondered if they wanted the vibrant energy of the lake to penetrate their every cell as she did. Stopping at one particular spot, she placed her sweater on a cool boulder and sat down. Other people walked further on to find their own perfect space.

With no breeze, the lake mirrored the mountains above her. Smiling, Jemmy imagined her soul as an angelic sprite, skating on the turquoise surface, leaping up and swirling in the air above or swooping up the sides of the mountains that bordered the three sides of the lake. She soared and swooshed down over the cerulean waters, then in and out of trees, and back up the sides of the mountains. Her heart thumped in her chest from pure joy as she felt an exhilaration under her ribs. Closing her eyes, Jemmy allowed the energy to surge through her body, envisioning a kaleidoscope of blue and green colours mixed with golden flecks.

Deciding to meditate, Jemmy began relaxing her shoulders, breathing in the fresh cool mountain air. Surrounded by peace, her mind’s eye filled with a dazzling, crystalline light and Jemmy felt her guardian angel. Her Lady was vibrating joy, but suddenly, Jemmy also felt another presence. It was vibrating stronger than she ever felt before. With her eyes still closed, she saw a new angel. She instinctively knew he was a healer, a leader, and he came to her, warm and brilliant like the sun above. He spoke directly into her mind, clear and commanding, yet loving. She was not frightened. Jemmy felt as though she was positioned inside an orb of light with rays radiating out in all directions.

Be not afraid, Jemmy Sterling.

Years ago, a profundity locked down the Earth. There was much suffering.

Humanity was forced to change its beliefs and ways of living.

Jemmy’s mind became filled with images of people suffering in hospitals, she saw empty streets and heard cries of grief and death. People began demonstrations in front of legislative buildings, shouting in anger only to have others get sick again.

The changes were made for the Highest Good of Humanity.

Now, that good work is being threatened. You are chosen to share our angelic presence with humankind.

Very soon, people will writhe in anguish. This misery will cause death in the spirit of man unless they are saved.

Jemmy saw people tossing and turning in their beds. They experienced such terrifying mental torment that when they woke, their cries were fierce, their eyes wide with fear, and a disturbing emptiness filled their bodies.

You must reveal that we are here. People must turn to us for aid.

We are ready to teach humanity the transcendence of Love;

Love from One.

To advance, to reconnect to One, humanity needs to learn how.

Old traditions do not work.

Help is always with you, Jemmy Sterling, always. No matter the circumstance, you are always safe.

I will help you tell humanity when the time is right.

Her inner mind beheld the angel’s golden glimmer as it filled her with incredible peace, joy and love. When it gradually dissipated, she heard the breeze rustle nearby trees, smelled the scent of evergreens, felt the cold stone through her sweater, and noticed the sun’s warmth on her skin. She wiggled a bit and opened her eyes. To her surprise, she was not sitting alone.

“Have you heard what you must do?” asked an old woman who glowed so intensely it was hard to make out her form. Jemmy blinked several times before returning her awareness to her surroundings. Seeing clearer, an Indigenous Elder was sitting on a stone nearby, the brightness still around her. Her face did not have tattoos like some of the Elders on the bus. Still, she saw a kind face creased with wisdom.

“Were you given an order?” asked the Elder, dazzling in brightness.

“Yes, I heard a voice telling me I had to tell people about angels,” said Jemmy, looking around at the empty paths. Where is everyone?

“Good, good. Now repeat it over and over in your mind. Do it now, to remember,” said the woman. “Close your eyes now and repeat it to memory.”

Jemmy closed her eyes again and repeated exactly what she heard. Reveal angel presence… a profundity… changes…misery… share angels… humans need to know… to transcend. Over and over, she reviewed the directive in her mind until she memorized it. When she opened her eyes, her Mom was trying to hop from stone to stone towards her while Matthew waited on the path. People were milling about.

“It’s time to go, our bus is leaving soon,” said Vi, wobbling with her arms outstretched for balance.

“But we just got here,” balked Jemmy standing up stiffly and rubbing her numb bottom. “I need more time here.” Looking around for the old Indigenous woman, Jemmy almost stumbled on a boulder, but then teetered and stood firm. Turning and turning, she could not locate the Elder. Following Vi carefully, Jemmy returned to the solid path that was full of people.

“Honey, we’ve been here over an hour,” said Vi. Jemmy’s eyes widened; she was surprised at the passage of time.

“You’ve been meditating,” said Matthew. “We let you have your moment of bliss.” Matthew offered his elbows, linking them to his two ladies as they returned to the parking lot.

The beautiful scenery and especially the soothing thrum of her angels put Jemmy more at peace and after 15 minutes she was relaxed enough to think about her other encounters at the lake. Watching everyone board the bus, she did not see the woman from the lake. Perhaps she is from a different bus. Or did I imagine her? The drive back to Canmore was quiet. Jemmy sat alone, looking out of the tall windows. She recollected the voice of the angel and that of the old woman but where was she? Who was she? Suddenly Jemmy whispered, “Grauntie?”

This was the second time an angel had given Jemmy directions. The first time was at Tanglewood Ridge during spring break. Now, the directive was to tell people that angels existed. During her whole life, she had kept angels a secret and now she was being asked to tell humanity. That meant the world! She leaned her head on the window and thought about Grant. You knew how to put things in a worldly perspective. You understood when my angels visited. Why aren’t you here?

Looking at the heads on the bus, she noticed many people had their eyes closed while others talked softly. She looked out at the passing scenery feeling tired from the day’s outing and the powerful occurrences at the lake. Leaning her head against the window, she was about to ask her angels about a feeling that she was being watched, but the motion of the bus eased her into sleep.

36

In Broad Daylight

Canmore, August 2062

The next day after breakfast, Vi helped Matthew choose clothes for his session at the summit. Jemmy dressed in layers for the breezy weather, wearing a light green sweater over a button shirt and tank top. She left her parents to walk around Millennium Field near their condo rental. A cool wind was tempered by the sun, allowing a clear view of the blue and purple mountains of the Three Sisters. Hundreds of visitors took advantage of the town’s trails and grounds to play soccer and frisbee or toss a football. Jemmy looked about for a space to be in solitude and walked past the crowds towards a row of trees that emerged by the swift-flowing Bow River.

The river’s blue topaz water rolled over smooth loaf-sized stones. She felt an urgency to connect with her angels and beseeched their help with her thoughts. Absentmindedly, her hands gestured as she asked them questions about the message from the new and vibrant angel. Don’t you have other people who can see you, who are better at speaking in public? How about the Pope or a Prime Minister? Why me? Who Am I?

Why me, indeed. It was a typical response from anyone asked for an enormous undertaking. Her memories flooded her as she threw a pebble into the water that frolicked and gurgled over the round stones. You’ve been setting me up for this my whole life haven’t you? The pebble bounced on a large stone and flew back at her. Touché.

What am I supposed to do about the angel’s request? she asked, raising her arms into the air. Who am I supposed to tell that you exist? Where do I go? Will you tell me? She carried on this way, walking along the stony riverbank. I know, I know, I’m impatient, but this is new for me. Who am I to share your existence?

~

a few paragraphs skipped here where Jemmy’s angels warned her of a perilous journey, and details about Matthew’s speech, her father, at the Summit in Canmore.]

~

Matthew spoke for 45 minutes and led the audience in a fifteen-minute guided visualization. After he finished, Vi and Jemmy found him to congratulate him on his great session. Reporters flocked to Matthew to take his picture for their papers or television stations. Participants wanted to thank him for his words, and soon a small group crowded around him. Jemmy and Vi stood proudly beside him while he shook hands. Suddenly, Jemmy stepped behind Matthew to hide. Vi noticed and casually stood closer to Matthew. She leaned behind him to find out why Jemmy was hiding.

“Mom,” whispered Jemmy, her eyes bulging with fear, “that woman is here! The one who came to our door.” Vi felt a rock hit her stomach, but she bravely smiled and nonchalantly looked around at people leaving the ballroom. She recognized Dr. Troy Pratt even after having not seen him in 10 years. His face looked bruised, but she knew it was him. He was walking along the chairs in his row until he reached the aisle. The lady from Jemmy’s video walked behind him. Her face was galvanized in Vi’s memory from their first encounter at Dr. Pratt’s office. She reached for Matthew’s hand and gently squeezed it. As he glanced at her in mid-sentence, he saw a fearful look in her eyes and realized Jemmy was hiding behind him. He apologized to the person he was talking with and waved to an organizer who helped lead his family out of the hall to the small room in the back. He quickly followed.

“Dad, I spotted that woman!” Jemmy exclaimed. She and Vi relayed what they saw.

Matthew spoke carefully, “I agree it is very peculiar that they are together here. I’ll call Alec. He is here, too. Now listen, from our video, his team knows what this woman looks like. Alec won’t make any moves unless they show they are up to no good. I’ll call him in the car.”

“Skye,” said Vi, suddenly remembering her cousin was arriving later. “We have to tell her where we are going to be.”

“I’ll call her, too,” reassured Matthew, placing his hands on their backs as they left the ballroom from a back door. Fortunately, they had parked nearby. Vi began driving towards their condo rental as Matthew called Skye and Alec. He told his friend Jemmy saw the woman who had come to their door that summer, plus Vi noticed Dr. Pratt.

“Vi,” said Matthew, after he made his calls, “Skye is delayed at the ranch with Rick. I told her just to stay there. Instead of the condo, drive us to the Greek restaurant we were going to tonight. Alec said he’d meet us there and that it’s best not to go to the condo in case someone follows us there.”

“I don’t know how to tell if anyone is following us,” said Vi. “I probably sound paranoid, but a part of our past is coming back and it’s really scaring me. It’s all my fault! I should never have taken Jemmy to see Dr. Pratt!” Matthew turned in his seat to look behind them as Vi turned down a quieter street to head towards the restaurant. Jemmy’s alarm bells were ringing inside her head. At a stoplight, Jemmy turned around to look out the back window. Vi stared into the rearview mirror while Matthew was still looking over his left shoulder at the light traffic behind them. As they searched for suspicious cars, they weren’t prepared for what happened next.

The front windshield suddenly blackened and so did Matthew’s passenger window. Still at the stoplight, a dashboard sun protector blinded them from seeing what was happening. It also diverted their attention just enough for a muscular man with a shaved head and a slicked black ponytail to punch through the back passenger-side window, reach in to pull the door handle, and drag Jemmy out of the car. It all happened within seconds. Her terrified screams pierced the air then abruptly stopped as a vehicle’s door slammed shut at the other side of the intersection.

Vi was stunned. She didn’t have the wherewithal to give chase: she couldn’t see. Matthew tumbled out of the car to remove the sun protector. He barely saw the blue van speed through another stop sign, turn a corner, and disappear. People nearby ran towards Matthew and Vi saying they saw it all or asking how they could help. Someone began calling the police. Vi burst into tears while Matthew stumbled down the street towards the direction of the escaping vehicle. Stopping, his chest was tight with the sourness of fear for Jemmy’s life.

~

The big man shoved Jemmy into a seat. Loud voices erupted from inside the van. He slammed the sliding door shut, quickly drowning out her screams.

“Go, Prentice! Step on it and turn right at the next block,” ordered a short woman in the front passenger seat. “Shay, tie the girl’s wrists.”

A young woman from the back seat reached through the bucket seats and took hold of Jemmy’s wrists, binding them in front of her with a nylon cinch strap. The more Jemmy pulled, the tighter it got. She cried out in pain, but there was no way to loosen it. The driver of the van erupted as he sped down the road.

“What are we doing?!” he shouted, accusing the woman beside him. “This is kidnapping!”

“Shut up, and do what I say!” growled the woman. “Turn down this back alley and go into that parkade. I need to make some calls.” The van swerved then slowed down as the man drove into a darkened cement car park. Jumping out of the van and slamming the door, the woman looked around and pulled her phone from her purse.

“What’s this all about?!” shouted the driver, turning around in his seat to look at the big man. “This wasn’t supposed to happen.” His eyes were wild. Jemmy saw that he was an older man with bushy eyebrows and a goatee. His face blanched and his eyes flashed from the woman to the big man. “Ted, I can’t be any part of this!” he shouted, reaching to unbuckle his seat belt.

“Stay right there,” shouted the large man as he pushed the flat round tip of an emergency window breaker into the driver’s ribs. The tool, the size of a small wrench, cuts seatbelts or shatters windows and fit perfectly into Ted’s hand. It felt like a gun to Dr. Kirsch and he gasped in pain as Ted pressed it into his side. Jemmy spun her head around to see the woman on the phone deliver Prentice a thundering glare and curled back lips. Finishing her call, she entered the van and stifled an angry explosion.

“Now listen, doctor,” the small woman slowly growled, “I’m the one running the operation. You will drive us where I tell you and how I tell you. Fast, slow, left or right, whatever it is you will do what I say. You are now part of this.” Ted pushed the hammer end into the driver’s neck. “Do you understand?” she asked. “We will make our way out of here towards Banff. Now go!”

The shocked doctor began driving and exited the parkade, sweat beading on his forehead. The van disappeared down another back road, making several turns to get on the Banff-Jasper high- way. Breathing heavily, fearful sounds escaped Jemmy’s throat. She was sitting behind the woman giving orders, who now turned around to face her.

“You!” The woman’s icy eyes and pointed nose narrowed onto Jemmy, her real prey. “Keep your screeching mouth shut and buckle up.”

Amidst the frightening scenario and her thundering heartbeats, some part of Jemmy’s mind became angry. I wasn’t screeching! Buckle up? You kidnap me and now want me to buckle up?     I can’t buckle up; you’ve tied my hands. Jemmy defiantly held up her hands to show the woman. Behind her, the girl named Shay reached forward and gave the seatbelt to Ted to secure for Jemmy and pulled the wrist synch tighter for good measure.

“Ow, that hurts!” shrieked Jemmy. She gritted her teeth and glared at the young red-haired woman. Suddenly, she recognized her from the ticketing office when her angels tried to warn her.

“Shay! You’re going to cut off her circulation!” snapped the woman, “I need her well for what we need to do. Our readings  will be off if her mind is focused on pain. Jemmy’s eyes widened, fearing what they had planned for her. The woman turned around again from the front passenger seat and revealed the aura of someone not to be trifled with, but then gave a sly smile. Jemmy gravely recognized that she was the lady at her front door. Shay retrieved  a pair of scissors from a small duffle bag sitting on the floor and cut the plastic, digging the points into Jemmy’s wrist. She reattached a new but looser cinch strap.

“Ted,” said the woman, “I don’t trust that seatbelt. Tie her to the seat.” He dropped the window hammer while Shay pushed the small duffle bag up between the bucket seats. Ted found a thin rope to tie Jemmy’s shoulders to the seat. Noticing his Blue Jays cap, she recognized him from St. Albert Live Theatre, too. As Shay’s dyed red hair flashed into her memory, all clarity let loose, followed by intense fear. They knew she was coming to Canmore. They’d been watching her.

Sensing someone else was in the van, Jemmy turned her head and glimpsed another man. It was Dr. Pratt, the counsellor she had gone to after her mother died those many years ago. He gave her a sad look, shaking his head from side to side.

Jemmy heard herself breathing quickly. Angels! she called out to them in her mind. They fortified themselves around her, attempting to ease the fear-induced pin-pricks crawling over her skin. As adrenaline coursed through her veins, she could barely hear their guidance. They were relaying to slow down her heart rate by breathing deeply in and out. In doing so, Jemmy’s muscles relaxed, but only slightly. However, it was enough of a pause to remember that at the Bow River her angel warned her people were after her for their personal gain. She recalled she had to stay resolute in confidence. Trying to control her breathing, Jemmy began listening to them again and gleaned strength. That’s what I need to be. Confident. At this moment, I am alive. I am breathing. In my body space, I am safe. I am alert. I receive the energy and confidence to be resolute. She closed her eyes for a moment but then looked out the window to find out where they were going.

***

Aum Nicol was born in Trinidad and moved to Canada at the age of three when her parents answered a call for teachers  from Commonwealth countries. Like her parents and grandparents before her, she too, became a teacher, teaching for almost thirty years. Living in small towns on the Alberta prairies, Nicol  grew up exploring sloughs, woods and being embraced by the wide-open skies. Developing a sense of curiosity was fostered by her mother whose house was full of various genres of books: nature, art, science, crafts, space, history, spirituality, archaeology, and more.

Nicol was influenced by her family’s oral storytelling and practiced it when teaching in the classroom and with her children at bedtime. Now retired, she owns Sunara Press, a new publishing company she registered when she received a breast cancer-free diagnosis. Its first published book is by Pearl Anjanee Gyan, Nicol’s beloved mother. Gift of the Gurus: Mediation Practices for Inner Transformation describes four influential Indian gurus meditational practices.

Her storytelling continues. Nicol is also the author and illustrator of three self-published children’s books, The Tropical Adventures of the Three Little Chickens, My Teacher is Incredible, and A Multicultural Alphabet. Her next projects include rework- ing these books under her Sunara Press brand and illustrating a children’s picture book from a story within this novel.

Lights Around Her is her first novel. Aum Nicol and her words can be found at aumnicol.com.

In My Words:

I began this story in 2018 and it really was about a viral pandemic sweeping the earth from meteors hitting our planet.  When the coronavirus began in March 2020, my son, who had been reading my drafts, said that I had written the current pandemic.  I decided to change the timeline and set the story in the future where the pandemic occurred in the past.     

Somewhat of an idealist and like many people, today, I also hope for people to do the right thing.  Throughout the novel I raise social, cultural, and political issues faced in North America over the past four years.  Humanity, in the world of the main character, is searching to find the Highest Good for All so that people do not slip back into old patterns.  Jemmy is born decades after a pandemic able to see angels, but  little does she know that they want her to help save humanity from something worse than a virus. 

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