Teacher

Debra Fran Baker





Why was there a wolf in the library? It was a magnificent wolf , gray and white with power running through all of its muscles and intelligence gleaming from both of its blue eyes, but it didn't belong in the library.

For that matter, why was *Blair* in the library? The last thing he remembered was Alex Barnes and a gun in his new office. This was too weird. And this wasn't any library he'd ever seen before. He and the wolf passed rooms of books and rooms of scrolls and rooms of computer terminals, and even rooms of what looked like storytellers. If Blair believed in a heaven, and that heaven didn't include Jim, this would be it. Was he in heaven? Was he...?

"Yes, and no." Blair jumped.

There was a man standing next to him where the wolf had been. He looked vaguely familiar - a short man with blue eyes behind glasses, a professorial gray and white tweed jacket over faded jeans and a gray shirt. Then Blair saw the thick greying ponytail, and touched his own head.

"Who are you?"

"You know." The man smiled.

Blair realized the man was right. "You're the wolf. Jim talks about his spirit animal changing into him as he was in the jungle. You're *my* spirit animal."

"You know."

"Okay, so let's figure this out. I'm in heaven but I'm not in heaven. I'm dead and I'm not dead?"

The man/wolf nodded.

"Man, I hate riddles like this. Okay, I love them, but not when it's *my* life. It's not purgatory, right? It's too nice here. And it's not hell because there isn't any hell."

"Not in your worldview, Blair. *Any* of your worldviews."

"Okay, so I'm between life and death."

"You are on the threshold. Here your journey changes."

"Do I have a choice?"

"There are always choices. You know that, too."

"Yeah. Free will."

"The gift humans have been given. Please, go in here." The man/wolf indicated a door.

The room was like and unlike the others they'd passed. There were long tables, stretching to infinity. Along those tables were pairs of people and piles of scrolls and notes and enormous books on bookstands. The people were all talking at once. There were men in robes surrounded by other men in circles on the floor. There were women sitting alone or in pairs at what looked like kitchen tables as well as at the long ones.

"Where are we?"

"The house of study. Your chosen path parallels this. In another time and place, you could have spent your time here." The man/wolf had changed again. He was now in a dark suit, his face framed in a dark beard with long curls by his ears. The glasses were gone, and the hair was short. "Now you have another choice to make." He gestured to an empty pair of seats. They sat facing each other.

"Could I have been a rabbi?"

"Do you know what rabbi means?"

Blair was going to answer something about a minister, but then something surfaced, something buried beneath a layer of statistics and field work.

"Teacher. It means teacher."

"And what are you?"

Blair was silent.

"What are you?" The man/wolf spoke urgently.

"A...shaman." He felt awkward using an ultimately pagan term in this place.

"And what is a shaman? What does he do in those tribes you study that no one else can do?" Suddenly, the man/wolf was dressed in red paint and skins.

"He speaks to the spirit world."

"And then?"

"He passes the knowledge on to the tribe."

"He does what?"

Blair's eyes grew wide. "He teaches." He'd always been a teacher. He'd always known that knowledge was to be given to others, and he'd always known how.

"And what else?"

"He learns. He gathers knowledge so that it can be passed on. As I do."

"And what else?"

"He guides." Blair was confident now.

"What does a Guide do?" Now the man/wolf was dressed like *him* - old jeans, many shirts, long loose hair.

What does a Guide do? He plays it by ear. That wasn't it. Think, Blair. What does a guide mean?

"He leads. He finds the way and he shows it. Or he helps others find it for themselves."

"Have you been leading?"

"Me? Jim leads." He said those words without thinking.

"And where does that lead him?"

"Destruction."

"Have you been guiding?"

"I don't know how to guide! I don't know how to be a shaman! I don't know if I have the right to do so."

"You have more right than any other. What is the job of the Sentinel, Teacher?"

"To use his senses to protect the Tribe."

"What is the job of the Guide, Teacher?"

"To...serve the Sentinel."

"What is the job of the Guide, Teacher?"

Wrong answer. What was the right one? What was his job? Teacher, Guide, Shaman, Rabbi - what was his job?

"To take care of the Sentinel."

"How do you feel about the job?"

"Frightened."

"Can you do the job?"

"I've taken care of him for years."

"Why?"

"It's my job."

"Why?" The man/wolf looked at him.

What was the right answer? Blair looked into his heart. The answer was there and it surprised him.

"It's what I have to do, but I would do it anyway. I love him. His pain is mine." Something was freed by that statement.

"What would you give up to protect him?"

"My life."

"What would you give up to protect him?"

"My career. My dissertation. My doctorate."

"Can you do the job?"

"I have no choice."

"There are always choices." He became the Rabbi again. "You are on the threshold. You can remain here."

"Here?"

"You can spend eternity learning and teaching."

It was tempting. Something told him that all the collected and recorded knowledge of humanity was in this place. He thought of everything he could learn, of everything he could teach. He felt a wave of desire more intense than he'd ever felt for any human being, with one exception. But Jim wasn't here. "Do I have another choice?"

The man/wolf appeared as Blair. "You can go back, and keep things as they are."

With his dissertation between Jim and himself; both alone together. Jim without proper guidance.

"No. I want to go forward. I will be the Shaman."

The Shaman appeared. "What would the Shaman do?"

"Give it all up. Just be with Jim as Jim needed him - nothing between them - no dissertation, no studying, no university. Take care of Jim and take care of Jim's Tribe."

"And then where would Blair be?"

"Blair doesn't matter. Jim does."

"Do you think Jim thinks that way?"

"I...don't know."

"Listen."

Blair heard his voice - Jim's voice - in the distance. It was an almost animal cry of pain.

"I have to go! Jim needs me! Let me go!"

The Shaman held him. "You must make your choice. You must know your choices before you make them."

"There is another choice?"

"There are always choices."

Choices. He could stay here, but there would be no Jim. He could go back to how things were, but things weren't good, and he had to fix them. He could give it all up and live for Jim, and that seemed *so* right, but he'd lose himself. Or...the Professor was sitting in front of him. Blair as he'd always known he'd be, before he'd met Jim. Could he be that and still be with Jim?

"Who are you?"

"Jim's Guide."

"Who are you?"

"Shaman."

"Who are you?"

"Teacher?"

"Who are all these people?"

"Me. Blair Sandburg. And I have to be Blair Sandburg to help Jim."

The Professor nodded.

"How? How can I be me without it hurting Jim?"

"You know."

He did know. "I have to let him love me. I have to let him know who I am. I have to Guide with knowledge. I have to teach. 'If I am not for myself, who will be for me?'" The Rabbi smiled. "Will you help?"

"You have chosen. It is not the easy path."

"Did I make the right choice?"

"You made a choice." He should have known that his spirit guide would give nothing for free. He felt something begin to change around him. He heard Jim again.

"Come on, Chief! I know you're in there. I can hear you. I can feel you. Don't hide from me, buddy, please. Please! I need you. Don't make me go back to that empty loft alone." Jim was saying "I love you" in the only way he knew.

Blair found it hard to breathe. He became cold and wet. The house of study began to fade away.

"Wait! Will you help me?"

"Call on the wolf and he will be there for you, Teacher. Until you return."

He was in Jim's arms and struggling to breathe. Jim was talking to him and everyone was around him, and he tried to say something but he couldn't. Then Jim kissed him so fast he almost missed it and other hands were taking care of him. Just before he blacked out again, he saw his wolf standing next to a black jaguar, a panther. Side by side.



Copyright 1998 Debra Fran Baker and NightRoads Associates.

Back to Sentinel page.
Back to Fanfiction page.
Back to Main page.