“This windmass is new to the world. This – ” he gestured with his jaw to the tornado “- this wasn’t a common sight. Not until recently.”
She pulled her eyes away from his – the eyes she had seen in her window – and steered her vision past the aristocrat, who remained completely mummified in cement. Near the encased form, Flowering Heaven slept soundly. Kennedy smiled inside; the dragon certainly didn’t do anything halfway. The Suburbanites and the Unicorn were another matter. They wandered aimlessly, slightly agitated and confused. She thought she heard them squeaking “ooo-whay es-ay our-yay od-gay ooo-whay es-ay our-yay od-gay ooo-whay es-ay…” until she lost their ramblings as they blended back into the dustcloud at the base of the tornado.
With some trepidation, Kennedy studied the whirling mass that rose into the sky. (Or was it falling from they sky. Did the perspective really matter, she wondered.) It rotated fiercely and quietly. Ominously so. It almost seemed to be waiting.
“You…,” he said quietly, but loudly enough to break through her thoughts, “…are new to this world.”
“I suppose,” she nearly whispered, entirely aware of the undertone in his voice. It was gentle yet filled with intent.
He floated on a glimmering wisp to her. He was tall, with a broad frame that she could see contained a great deal of strength despite the fact that he moved quietly. He controlled his power well. In spite of his large size, he sat like a murmur next to her.
Vystar paused and evaluated Kennedy. She met his gaze and held it. She saw in him the eyes that contained the origins of universes and time and space. She released an inaudible sigh. And then it happened. Kennedy watched as sundust and moonstars streamed out of the corners of his eyes, and flowed into rivers of sparkling, miniature universes that wound themselves into a translucent cocoon around Vystar and Kennedy…she, who released a surprised breath. She, whose eyes peeled back wide with wonder.
“Here, it is a different world,” he murmured. “Filled with possibilities, where anything can be made to happen. Anything can…be.” He paused and studied Kennedy, the edges of his face lined with memories of days before, days now, days to come.
“We Whispered In as explorers. Like you…new.”
“Newt,” Flowering Heaven growled between snores, then snorted with obvious self-satisfaction. Kennedy turned in the dragon’s direction. Her mind flooded suddenly with understanding. “Newt,” she whispered slowly. Vystar smiled softly, then continued.
“We could do anything. Be anything. Create. Re-create. Redefine. Define.”
“Still can,” the dragon interrupted sleepily. “Just…well…” then trailed off.
“Just…just what?” Kennedy asked.
Vystar seemed to weigh the moment, coursing over her being, searching out…something. She could sense it. But didn’t know what. Before she could ask or think of how to phrase what was purely instinctive, his voice gently filled the silence.
“Just the atomic culture,” his lips tightened, his eyes swept over Kennedy and worked to ignore the cluttered adverts in the background behind her, the endless cookie-cutter stripmalls of sameness stacked onto the horizon like an advancing army, “somehow it’s seeping in. For some, it’s more than seeping.” He nodded to the aristocrat. “That tornado is tied to the aristocrat’s story. Somehow. She was here. But she was very much there,” he gestured in the stratosphere to the lip of the atristocrat’s window.
Kennedy shook her head slightly as if that would help her to understand. “But isn’t that true for all of us. That no matter where we go…there we are? Along with our values?”
“And your little dog, Toto, too,” Flowering Heaven snarled at Kennedy. She pulled back slightly, entirely unsure why the dragon’s words dripped with sarcasm. Vystar waved a hand at the hostility, brushing it aside. Flowering Heaven huffed and puffed before curling tighter around himself, before mumbling “MF” in a low voice that trailed away from the conversation but that wrapped around the dragon like a blanket.
“It’s complicated,” Vystar sighed. “We aren’t empty shells when we come here. Not in either world. That’s true. But…” he paused, “The will to create a new culture is coded into this world. Think of it as digital DNA that links to – we think at any rate – that it links to the creative impulses in the atomic world.”
Links to the heart, Kennedy thought immediately, instinctively. As if seeing her thoughts, Vystar eyed Kennedy even more deeply in that moment. His pupils dialated.
“Something is happening,” he murmured, then added, “Look at the aristrocrat.”
“She’s not here. And she’s not entirely being there either,” Flowering Heaven grunted, unable to disengage from the discussion.
The three sat in silence until Kennedy finally said, “I hate to ask the obvious…then where is she.”
Agile and powerful like a lion, Vystar pushed off of the ground. He released his form – a butterfly’s wings flapping – and caused the universes to undulate around them. He seemed to have arrived at a choice.
“We’re going to find out.” His voice was level, deep. “When it comes to change,” – he held his hand out to Kennedy, encouraging her to place her hand in his – “nothing is more difficult to change than belief systems.” He smiled gently at her. “Even when the possibility for revolutionary change is coded in. And it is here.”
“Oh bleh,” the dragon yawned, “The aristocrat somehow lost the freedom to challenge herself. Simple as that. And dragged in all of those atomic world prejudices, sensibilities, labels, group think, social structure. Dragged it all in here. Like a dump trunk. It was to much for her. It crushed her. She lost the freedom…”
“That can’t be entirely true,” Kennedy said. “The freedom is here. Everywhere.” Vystar paused and smiled softly.
“It’s the will.” Vystar’s voice and Kennedy’s voice weaved together, in unison. “It’s the choosing,” Kennedy said while studying Vystar’s open palm. She put her hand in his. They stood together, facing each other. Under the surface, Kennedy’s blood pushed through her veins. She knew she wasn’t suppose to be able to feel that. But she did. Through her very digital DNA…and atomic DNA. Both. She marveled. And wondered. And gazed into the universes he presented.
“Okay,” she said breathlessly before corralling her insides, “how are we going to find her?”
The corners of Vystar’s mouth lifted. The edges of his eyes crinkled. “Religio,” he whispered.
“God. Belief system. A rose by any other name, it’s all the same. And we all have it.” He squeezed her hand, so very small compared to his. He extended his arm, and with his free hand, pointed a finger to feather all the glistening universes that spun, expanded, contracted, expanded again around them. He landed his fingertip on the brightest, biggest system. He winked slightly at Kennedy and said, “We’re chasing dogma.”
And in that instant, Vystar and Kennedy whispered along the universes.