Memories in the Dust
They lay in the reclining chair, silently enfolded
in each other’s arms with only the streaks and whorls of space above
them. Minta finally noticed
that Dr. Klictis had slipped away.
“Tell me what you are feeling, Diego?” she asked.
He sighed and sat quietly for a few more minutes. “I feel . . . pain.”
“What?” she blurted out.
Jerking up, Minta stared at him fearfully, as she felt the
muscles of his thighs bunch to accommodate her movements.
She felt power and strength in them, even with the inactivity of
the past weeks. He looked
utterly miserable. “What’s wrong, Diego?”
“I feel the pain of loving someone so much that I have to send them away,” he said softly.
Fear constricted the knot in her chest even more.
“What are you saying, Diego?”
In my dreams. I did
that once. I sent her
“You love someone else?”
“No, not now. I…she meant more than life to me, I thought. I was willing to give up everything, including my secret, to be with her, but I…I remember that someone…my father, I think…convinced me not to.”
“Secret? What secret?” Minta asked.
“I . . . the disguise that I wore on your world.
It helped me remember.” He
paused, trying to sort all of the tiny vignettes of memory, the dreams
and the reveries that flashed through his brain.
In despair, he found that nothing was really clear.
There were no names, yet, except for his and his servant’s.
He had no idea of the order of things.
Now, he almost wished they would all come at once or not come at
all. It was very confusing.
“I have dreams of riding in the night.
Fighting in a mask. It
is a secret from others.”
“I remember you told me of dressing all in black,
of a cloak that flew behind you like the wings of birds.
Do you know who you are fighting?” Minta asked.
“No, except I think they are people who would
hurt others. In a dream, I
saw one man needlessly whipping another man.
And I took his whip away and used it on him,” Diego added,
feeling his arm tightening around her shoulders and pulling her close to
“And this other, the one you loved, she wanted
you to give up something that was a part of you?”
“A part of me?” he asked, looking deeply into
“What you just told me, Diego. This dark fighter of your dreams, the one that battles
those who hurt others. If
you dream of being this disguised person, I can only assume that he has
become a part of you.” She
moved in the oversized chair so that she was lying by his side instead
of on his lap, and was able now able to see his profile while they were
talking, and to watch those deep, expressive eyes.
Right now they looked far away, as though he was seeing something
Suddenly another memory focused, he was in black clothes, chasing
after someone who had beaten a woman.
He heard the name on the man’s lips.
Furious, he jerked the man to the ground, bound him tightly and
delivered him to men in blue and white and red costumes.
Masked and mysterious, quick to dispense justice, but merciful.
That was how they saw him.
Hesitantly, Diego related this newest waking dream to Minta.
He was not sure how she was taking all of this.
His own emotions roiled inside, like a storm tossed ship.
How could Minta make sense of all this when he couldn’t?
was now a name to go with Diego’s alter ego.
Minta liked the feel of it in her mind.
For some reason, it evoked a deep and mysterious power.
In her world where respect and civility were almost bred as well
as taught, the need for such a person seemed practically beyond belief.
Having read and studied a great deal, Minta was well aware that
not all societies were as stable and passive as her own.
Despite his reluctance to talk about it, Minta saw
in Diego’s covert activity a selfless act of sacrifice to help his
people. And for one who
came from a society where the will of the individual was swallowed up in
the good of the entire race, Minta was more than impressed.
Knowing that self-reliance and individualism were something
highly prized on his planet, she was awed by his decision.
She began to think that Jerintas had no real idea of what he had
done by kidnapping Diego. Seeing
that Diego was remembering even more of his past, she said nothing. The silence became long and then longer.
Minta was content to feel his warm body next to her as he pulled
her close and pulled in more memories of his previous life.
“I am thinking that there are times when I want
this Zorro to…to be gone, so that things will be at peace . . .
normal. But I suppose you
are right, he is a part of my life, a very dangerous part of my life.”
As he turned his head to gaze thoughtfully at her, she almost
wondered if he could read her mind. “You belong to a peaceful people,
Minta. I can tell that,
even though the Rantiri captured me and took my memories.”
“But I…” he paused. “I
Minta said nothing.
He had killed other beings like himself. The idea of taking another’s life repulsed her.
But on a world such as his, how could it be otherwise?
If there were people who were so cruel to each other that it
needed a masked hero such as Zorro, would not killing be part of it.
But this was the world she wanted to share with Diego?
Her thoughts dashed about, here and there, leaves blown about in
the winds of her fear and indecision.
Diego saw the emotions in her eyes and felt fear of
his own, fear that Minta would now draw away from him.
Yet, such a decision must be made now, before they became even
more attached to each other. “Minta...”
Minta felt his body almost imperceptibly draw away
from her; saw the sadness in his eyes.
No! No matter
what, I want to be with him. She
put her finger against his lips to stop him. “Diego, I thought
as much. But knowing you, there must have been a reason.
I know you would not do anything wantonly, but what I don’t
understand is why, if someone loved you so much, why that person would
want you to give up something that was so important to you, that is so
important to . . . your people.”
He sat quietly for a moment, and then he began
chuckling. “She did not love me.
She only loved Zorro.”
Minta looked at him in bewilderment.
“But I do not understand.
Both are you . . . Diego and Zorro, the same person.”
“No, the mask.
It keeps my secret safe.”
He paused again. There
was something else, something about his two personas, but it was too
tenuous and he couldn’t catch his thoughts enough to figure out what
it was. “She did not know
that I am Zorro.”
His look was intense, as though he were trying to
remember and trying to find the right words at the same time. After a long pause, Minta could stand it no longer.
“Diego, please don’t ask me to leave you.”
He slid his arm under her shoulder and pulled her
closer to him. “The
thought of you in a…cuartel, or dead, because of my secret.
I simply could not bear that, Minta,” he said softly, his voice
almost a murmur.
A deep sadness tore into her heart.
“But the thought of you bearing this burden alone is almost
more than I can stand. It
is too much for one person.”
“Someone else knows…
My servant. My
“I do not know about servants or fathers, except
for what you have told me about yours.
However, I am thinking that a father cannot help carry such a
burden as well as a lover can.” Diego
still looked dubious. Minta
remembered a time long ago with Loris, when she thought she knew what
real love was. She remembered the words of the union with him, but instead
of his face in her memory, she now saw Diego’s.
“ ‘I promise to care, to share, to put your life before mine.
My thoughts will be for your welfare, my loyalty to you, your
burdens will be my burdens.’ ”
“What is that?
It sounded like something you learned.
The words are very nice,” Diego said.
Minta realized that she had spoken the words aloud.
“They are the union words that we say to each other when we
form bonds. I bonded with
another once,” she said.
Now it was Diego’s turn to look surprised. “You were . . . in love before?”
“Like you, I thought so, but when he transferred
to another city, he decided that it was not a good union.
We said the dissolution words and that was it. I felt there should be more than that. I felt that a union should actually reflect the words.
And now I know that it can.”
“You just said the words to each other?” he
asked, incredulous, not hearing her last sentence.
do you do it on your world?”
“I . . . am not sure, but I do remember that
there is someone to say words, someone who has . . . um . . . power to .
. . bond two people. I see
in my mind, great. . .” Diego
paused, as though trying to find the right word.
“…seriousness when the words are said and then there is great
joy, much happiness after the . . . union.”
Diego gazed up at the star streaks, deep in thought, trying
desperately to remember. He
shook his head. That was all he was going to get right now, just pictures.
“Did you really mean that…’your burdens will be my
“Yes, Diego, I meant it with all my heart,” she said softly, her hand caressing his chest. She thought about a communiqué that she had received while she was looking for Diego. “Jerintas is already discussing my return to Rantiri and it fills me with grief. It fills me with black despair. I don’t want to go back. I don’t want to be alone again. I don’t want to be without you.” As she squeezed her eyes shut, trying desperately to keep from crying again, Diego did something that took her totally by surprise. He leaned over, put one hand gently under her chin. Then he tenderly placed his lips over hers, and did something with them, more than the simple touch his lips had made on her hand, seemingly so long ago. It was like a caress without hands and an extension of the feelings of their hearts. She felt a thrill run through her body, an excitement she had never felt before. Letting his actions guide hers, she soon found her lips moving to accommodate his.
When he finally pulled away, Minta asked
breathlessly, “What was that?”
“It is something that is done when two people
love each other. It is besar
. . . kissing.”
“Oh,” Minta said.
“It is wonderful.” Then
she pulled his face back toward hers and they kissed again.
Finally, he chuckled softly. “You learn quickly.”
“I have a good teacher,” she quipped.
Then a sudden, startling thought occurred to her as she
remembered the looks Diego received when they had gone out for the first
picnic. “Diego, is
everyone on your world the same as you?”
He looked puzzled. “Are you…making compliments?”
I mean does everyone on your world have white skin and dark
hair?” She looked
imploringly into his eyes. “Is
that another reason you are afraid?”
“I did not think of that.
No, in my dreams I have seen people with very dark skin, almost
as dark as yours, although most of them also have dark hair. There are people who have light hair. It seems that sometimes those differences are important to
some people. I do not
understand why.” He
pondered for a moment, his brows creased in thought.
Then he shook his head. “People
will get used to the differences on the outside.
As you told me once…it is what is under that skin that counts. My . . . family and friends will see that.”
Minta gazed at the far wall and then realized the
full implication of what he just said.
“Does that mean that you are willing to take me to your planet
“I am still afraid, but ‘my thoughts will be for your welfare’. Yes, Minta, my home is your home if you want to go there. It may be difficult for you as it was difficult for me on your world, I believe. Maybe even more.”
“Oh, Diego, of course I want to go to your world,
and with you beside me I can get used to anything.
I love you. Hold me
forever and ever. Let’s
say the union words now. Here
. . . under the stars!” Minta
stood up, tugging on his hand, bringing him to his feet.
“Do that kissing again!”
His arms gathered her in a tight embrace and he
murmured into her ear. “Saying
the union words must be in front of someone who has the power to do it.
It does not seem right to just stand in a room and say words to
each other, no matter how beautiful they are, without someone there to
see and hear them, too. It
does not seem right to . . . rush something this important and
special.” He pulled back
to gauge her reaction.
“But we are the important ones, Diego, and if we
know it’s right, why wait?” she protested.
“That is so, but this is something too important
to do alone, I feel. Or
just under the eyes of God.” Diego
blinked in surprise as he suddenly remembered another name.
Names seemed to be the hardest part of his memories to surface.
“Who is God?
Is that like the First Creator?
The Universal Being?”
Diego looked pensive, trying desperately to
remember. “Yes, He
created everything, including us. God
is . . . universal.”
“Diego, who could be more important than God to
witness our union?”
He gazed at her and she could almost see his thoughts turning furiously inside his mind like wheels. Then he began to laugh. “Minta, this is getting difficult to explain. I do not remember everything, but I do know that it is important for there to be someone who represents God to be over a ‘union,’ a casamiento.” Diego blinked in surprise as yet another word popped into his memory. “It is important to take time for this. And there must be a fiesta afterward,” he said, elated that words for his memories were beginning to come into his mind.
“But we can also say the union words?” she
asked. “And can we have
our ‘casamiento’ here in this part of the ship, under the
“Yes, your words are very beautiful.”
He gazed upward at the dancing kaleidoscope of stars.
“Those are stars? They
don’t look like stars on my world.”
“That is because we are traveling a special way
so that we can get to your world faster.
It makes the stars look different.”
“Oh, but even though they are different, they are
still very beautiful, like you.”
He nodded, and turning back to her, kissed her again, this time
more briefly. “Yes, here
would be nice.”
“Thank you, Diego,” she answered, pulling his face down to hers once again to seal their ‘engagement.’ “By the way,” she finally asked, “What is a fiesta?”
“A fun time.”
“Oh, like a party.
That would be wonderful.”
As he kissed her again, feeling the soft touch of her skin, letting the emotions of the moment take total possession of his actions, he saw in his mind, the older man of his visions, the man he now realized was his father. Suddenly, Diego understood that this was someone he had lived with and had known for a long time, but now only barely remembered. Once before, when he returned from a voyage, his father had been disappointed. Would the same thing happen this time when he came home with a wife?
Ay! he thought.
This was not easy, this decision they were making.
Why couldn’t all of his memories just come and lay themselves
before him in their neat and orderly rows? He knew his past was there,
hidden deeply, waiting for the right time to come back to him.
If he could just dig it up now, all at once!
Gazing down at Minta, he knew that Father would
come to love her as well. And
how could Father argue against the fact that she was the reason for his
return home? But there was
something else that nagged him, something that he could not quite figure
is wrong, Diego?” Minta asked, quietly.
She had always seemed able to read his emotions, he
thought wryly, from the moment he had awakened.
“I am not sure,” he answered.
it because the older man, your father, is not here?” she speculated.
That is it! Diego was chagrined that he had
not thought of that himself. “Yes,
I think he would want to be with me during this time.” Gently he kissed her.
“How did you think of that and I was not able to?” he asked.
“I am not sure.
I know very little about fathers, but I do know that close
friends do things together. It
only seemed natural that someone like a father would want to be with his
son at his union. Do you
wish to wait?”
“You said that Jerintas expects you to return to
Rantir after I go home, yes?”
“Yes,” she answered.
“If we are united before we get to my planet,
then he could not expect you to leave me.”
“Perhaps, perhaps not.
Diego, a union is as easily broken as it is made,” Minta
“Not to me,” Diego declared. “If we make a union, it is forever. We have to take that chance.
My father will be disappointed, but I believe he will understand
why we are doing this.”
you, Diego,” she said softly, then asked.
“Can we be united soon?”
They stood arm in arm, silently watching the stars
above them. Suddenly, Diego
felt the rumblings of his empty stomach.
He began to chuckle. “Minta,
I know you are eager, but surely we can delay our union until I have
eaten dinner? I have
had no breakfast or lunch, and I am very hungry.”
She laughed with him. “Of course, my beloved.” It felt so very good to say that word--’beloved.’