Monday, January 17, 2011

ix. The Rounding Place

I woke this time to the sound of the sea. Opening my eyes, I expected to see the girl, the last remaining child, the boy having disappeared where all the others had gone. Instead, I found myself once again in the blue tent. All the wounds from the boils were gone, all save three lined up down the center of my chest.

Voices murmured outside the tent. I rose to meet them. Tossing back the flap, I stepped outside. Grey sky greying to black; grey sea in dreary reflection. On the beach sat Fas, Ra, and the woman in blue. With an uncharacteristically bold and wry smile on his face, Fas lifted a black patch from his left eye and tossed it into the fire in front of them. With a courtesy I thought beyond him, Ra bid me sit on a yellow blanket beside the woman. I still had no name for her, nor did I expect to ever get one.

She gazed out into the grey greying black. Such a beautiful and yet impassive face I had never seen.

I played the next card in my fool's deck.

"So then all this was just a dream?"

She spoke into the grey, not looking at me.

"You dismiss dreams with that
just, brother. They are not puppet shows put on for your pleasure. Or your terror. But no, not a dream at all."

"But, the girl, the other children -"

Before she spoke - was it a trick of the eye? - the young girl's face flashed across hers.

"Girl? There was no girl."

"Then you."

"Nor I."

"Neither girl nor you, and yet not a dream either."

She turned her goddess eyes on me; with her gaze, I felt a sadness well up from depths I felt completely beyond me. It was as if the sky itself poured its greying blackness within me. I felt wracked by a despair that threatened to pull me under.

"Is that a dream then, too, my brother?"

Ra spoke, whispering in a tone of beseeching: "Sister -"

"He can handle this." Her eyes still upon me, she continued: "Brother, you have lived your life in one tiny crease of what we know as the world, a crease we would call the hell your sainted men go on and on about, with no sense at all that they are standing in its very midst. Golden eggs offered to all those slaves who will most pander to their lickspittle visions. Visions? Bedtime stories for infants. You have lived your childhood to its fullest, brother. Childish boy at play on the playa, but your body cried out for more. We heard you. We know the other creases."

I felt a rage - my father's, in truth - rising within me. Fas must have felt it, too, as he rose to meet me.

"No need, Fas," said the woman. "He can meet it."

I feared the coming explosion, but I also felt a hatred for the woman and her infernal certainties.

As I reached to strangle her, the girl's face flashed repeatedly cross hers, and the two of them spoke in unison: "Three labors remain -"

Instantly, the grey scene melted away and I found myself back in the pine forest, strapped within my traveling encasement, under a dying sky. Alone, but for the sound of jackals in the nearing distance. The left side of my body was once again paralyzed.

I prayed the sound of the jackals was in my head alone. As the moon rose, I found my prayer had not been answered. Not by a long shot. Illuminated behind a lone jackal were three bodies hanging in the limbs of another tree: Fas, Ra, and the woman.

Despite my paralysis, despite the fear of the jackal roiling within me, I had but one thought:
I must cut them down.

With the thought, a blade appeared in my right hand: my father's knife. I cut the bonds of my encasement and rolled out onto the ground. All I could do was drag myself slowly towards the tree. As I neared it, the growl from the jackal's belly was the sound of hell.

But a crease, my brother
. The woman's words resounded within my head.

The jackal is assuredly no crease, my sister.

I see that, even in your misery, your arrogance still travels with you.

The jackal - the
crease - leapt. It's vice-like jaws upon my left arm were as nothing, what with my paralysis. I reached to stab it with all the vicious rage I could summon. As the blade pierced its flesh, I found that I was holding a young boy, me, at the age of nine, me, now, by my own blade, dead. The blood that rained this time transported me nowhere. I simply lay, howling with despair, in the flood that ran upon me. I sat up and held the boy tight against my chest.

With both arms.

All strength returned.

Bathed in the boy's blood, I stood and approached the tree. No transformation of the corpses this time: all three bodies still hanging from the limbs. For the next two hours, I labored to bring them down, carrying them with a strength I had never felt in my body before. Given the creases, I kept awaiting the moment when all would shift, the woman's eyes would open, Ra give a mighty crack to my spine, or Fas offer me something to drink out of his magician's hands. But, as the three bodies lay in the dirt side by side, nothing. I felt death crowding in closely, attentive, peaceful, oddly comforting.

I wept. Even the tears did not wash away the
crease before me. Nor did the four fires I built, standing sentinel over the pyres that took my three travelers and the young me off to their places of rest. I had the strongest impulse to throw myself into the boy's pyre, but something - the woman's touch, her voice in my head - stilled me.

As I finally lay down to rest, the sun was just beginning to light the horizon in the east.



Blogger Teresa said...

Well, we rounded a corner or fell into another crease, but I don't think we have quite reached the end. I suspect the journey is never-ending.

1:12 PM  
Blogger murat11 said...

One more to go in my head, Sister T.

1:51 PM  
Blogger anno said...

had a hunch some blood was going to be spilled, and was dreading the moment ... am hoping there's a moment of tender salvation yet to come. My sympathies are all with the "I".

1:16 PM  
Blogger murat11 said...

Anno: Some blue salvation on the horizon, I'm sure. Gotta get back to it for, I think, one last chapter.

1:24 PM  

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