Revisited: “Listen; there’s a hell of a good universe next door: let’s go.” ~ e.e. Cummings
Ch 10 ~ Falling Up the Galaxy
It was oddly out of sorts for Dryst to feel a chill running down his spine when Spence talked of witches. Dryst was not easily spooked, nor was he predisposed to believe in fantastical tales. But he had seen a great deal in the past few hours (which were beginning to feel increasingly like weeks and months), and at this point, Dryst wasn’t about to rule out anything.
As he walked carefully among the uprooted and upended redwoods that hung from the sky and created this forest, Dryst was fairly well convinced it was quite very likely that even the most fantastical of things could happen here…and if they happened here, they would somehow be beyond more than powerful. If the witches did exist here and did show themselves, they would carry with them all that much more potency. Something in the tone of Spence’s voice implied as much. And while Dryst still didn’t know all that much about what that meant or all that much about the man, Spence had, in fact, led Dryst this far. He had gotten Dryst to this world where Mya waited and where she was still very much alive. Dryst could feel this truth in his core. And he knew it was true that he could not have reached this dimension without the help of the crazy old man. So his talk of witches Dryst tended to believe, even though he had yet to come across one…much less, all of them.
His mind poked idlely with speculating how many witches might be in this Source clan. Dryst raised his head and scanned the air. He fully expected to see them in the storied way in which they were always presented — flying through the wind on broomsticks — but the atmosphere was proving difficult to penetrate at least in terms of sight. The light was strangely captured in a filter of purple-gray darkness, which had the effect of adding to the mystery and compounding the creep-factor. Dryst half wondered if witches would appear out of seemingly nowhere and seemingly nothing…right in front of them as the leaves crunched under their heels while they walked. Because appearing magically is what witches do, Dryst reasoned, and this was their domain. So being able to alter the fabric of existence here seemed entirely within the realm of probability. But beyond all of that, the greatest probability was that the witches were already very much nearby, Dryst realized, since he had on his person something that belonged to them. Or at least they thought it did.
“What is it about Forests,” Spence muttered, more to himself than anyone else.
“What is it about strangers in a strange land,” a voice replied with a bit of play and a touch of irreverence. Dryst and Spence both paused to look at each other before turning to follow the voice. A colorful butterfly circled and bobbed around their heads before darting down to the ground in a pleasingly chaotic pattern.
“Strangers in a Forest who might fly but who don’t…what is it with that,” the butterfly whispered, startling both men. But what they saw on the ground of the forest startled them even more greatly. The ground shifted. Its upper most layer glistened and knitted its way back a long way down below the plane of the ground to a glowing swirl that completely mirrored the Milky Way galaxy. The milky soup sang of its origins of time and space and life…and it did so in a soothingly, endlessly deep purr.
“My. God.” Spence gasped.
“If you believe in such things,” the butterfly whispered back and traced its flight along the purr of the swirling ground and the sparkling galaxy. It dipped and lifted several times, mimmicking the gentle dance of other butterflies just on the other side of the galaxy’s glistening pool. Dryst stared, transfixed. The gently and brightly colored, softly curved and flitting wings of the butterfly puffed at the air around Dryst’s eyes. He stared at the jewelled creature. And the butterfly flapped its beautiful wings and stared back at Dryst. And the galaxy purred and watched both. And the butterflies on the other side of the galaxy danced and flitted through floating stars. And somewhere inside each of them, inside all of them, they smiled.
Except for Spence. He peered over the slowly rotating galaxy that lay on the bed of the Forest, and he nearly fell in.
“How odd that would be to fall up through the galaxy,” the butterfly whispered. It danced and lit upon Dryst’s being. “How odd, how odd, how odd that would be,” it just about sang as it flitted. And while Dryst smiled softly again, he couldn’t help but notice what had stolen Spence’s attention away from a talking-singing butterfly. Further down the spiral of the glistening, purring primordial soup, they saw traces of the house. Still jutting and duplicating itself, still throwing off sections and pushing out new creations, still mounding and heaping.
“How odd, indeed,” Dryst whispered. The dooryway between both worlds, he thought. The threshold. But not the source. His hand grazed the side of his thigh, where he instinctively felt for the presence of the portal. Its own vibrating swirling glow had settled itself. “How odd,” he gasped and wondered at the similarity between the galaxy on the floor and the behavior of the portal.
“One man’s junk, another man’s treasure,” the butterfly whispered. “Treasure, treasure, treasure!” Spence looked up now, from the galaxy on the Forest bed and into the space between the uprooted redwoods that dangled upside down in the air. His eyes fixed themselves on a talking butterfly. Dryst had the sudden urge to laugh hysterically. And he would have if for no other reason than because of the wonders of it all…because of the stupendous unknowables that were presenting themselves so gracefully to the two men. But his delight cast itself upon Spence and for the first time since he met him, Dryst detected something close to a scowl on the man’s face.
At last he said, “I didn’t realize we brought something with us.”
“Not anything that wasn’t always there,” the butterfly whispered. “Always, always, always!”
Dryst snickered and wanted to pet the creature. For some reason, its whimsy made him feel hopeful and a brighter about things…particularly in a place that — aside from the awe-inspiring presence of the galaxy — shrouded itself in a foreboding that worked to wrap its dank grip around every living being, around every hopeful thought. Spence, though, wasn’t amused. But even he could see that the butterfly had journeyed itself to them…to Dryst in particular. And there was some kind of immediate understanding and acceptance there that Spence knew he wouldn’t break through.
“Okay, kid,” he sighed. The butterfly hopped north and south, east and west with no small amount of excitement and no large amount of directional inclination. Spence pulled his eyes up and bore his vision through what he could only think of, with his closed mindset, as an insect, then said, “I wasn’t talking to you.”
Dryst found Spence’s annoyance amusing and laughed while the butterfly twirled around his shoulders and lit elegantly along the top edge of Dryst’s ear.
“It’s a butterfly,” Dryst emphasized. Dryst grinned in amusement and nodded in appreciation. “A pretty spectacular one, I might add,” he said with an incredible lightness of being. And the butterfly purred and whispered in Dryst’s ear, “There are many in the roots. In the air. Eyes watching. And even here. Here, here, here,” the butterfly whispered so softly that only Dryst was capable of hearing the very rushed warning. Evenso, Dryst managed to catch his smile before it receded too quickly and instead, softened its dissolve so as to escape Spence’s notice. Dryst wasn’t sure why he understood what the butterfly was saying, or implying, or riddling out…but Dryst had understood that something wasn’t quite right with Spence and hadn’t been for a while. The man wasn’t envious of the butterfly. That wasn’t the issue. Something else was going on. Something less magical and awe inspiring than a swirling galaxy on the floorbed of an upside down redwood forest. Something less otherworldly than a purple-grey sky that found itself knitted back by the interlaced roots of upended giant trees. Something less unimaginable than a clan of witches pushing their way between the delicately powerful and wonderous feat of those entwined roots…the source of life and growth and being and essence for the magnificent, outstretched leafy limbs that graced the forest space.
Something more basic was happening here, and it was happening nearly imperceptively right before Dryst’s eyes.
“Huhhh,” Spence sighed with some exasperation. He snarled with mild disbelief at the butterfly before rolling his eyes and turning his attention squarely onto Dryst.
“Kid…let’s move it.” He nodded toward a path that flicked its way from their feet, burned itself around a cluster of redwoods, and opened itself onto the backend of the Forest. He gestured his hands with some amount of fatigue. “Take your friend there with you,” Spence said as evenly as he could, trying to remove any sound of mockery. Dryst studied how Spence had placed a screen around himself in an effort to remove the film of intense disquiet that had washed over him earlier.
“Time’s moving. Even here. Even if we don’t feel like it is.”
And on this, Spence was right. Dryst started walking again down the path as the butterfly barely whispered “Here.” And Dryst listened deeply.
Perhaps all that Dryst really had sensed was a grizzly old man who had remembered why they had come here. Not that Dryst had ever forgotten. Mya was always on his mind, perptually in his heart. He had travelled through time and space and worlds to reach her. And he would, he told himself with utter convinction. Nothing would stop him. Not even falling up through the galaxy only to find himself walking lightly across it with the force of a butterfly…one that kissed the air with its wings; one that set entire worlds in motion from the kissing. Dryst had paused from the clarity and complexity of all of life’s connections. He had paused from the ability to feel it and understand the profundity of it, the multi-dimensionality of it all through a gentle smile. But in the pausing, Dryst had never forgotten Mya. Quite the opposite was true. Because of the pausing, the totality of his feeling and understanding for her had become crystal clear. As it always had been and always was…even when it was something utterly beyond words.
They walked in silence. The redwoods glanced along their bodies and hushed their footfall. The purple-grey atmosphere misted itself around them and drizzled a moaning coldness onto their skin. The galaxy rotated in slumber and focused its center eye fully on them.
The place was at once beautiful in its magic and foreboding in its strangeness, and its yin and yang reflected greatly what Dryst felt in the moment, on this path, with this man.
It was oddly out of sorts for Dryst to feel a chill from Spence’s silence. How odd, how strange, how ironic for Dryst to almost wish for Spence to launch into a less than stellar rendition of Flight of the Bumblebees. It was a melody of familiarity that Dryst longed for…particularly when his sense of his friend had been altered suddenly. The old guy’s wild and pitchy attempt to breathe life into an extraordinarily complex piece would have softened the discordant space that carried the two of them, Dryst smiled deeply inside at the feel of Mya — the three of them, he amended if he included Spence…well, the four of them, he smiled again thinking of the butterfly that was perched ever so lightly upon his ear — on this journey in this strange world.
But how very comforted and how very focused Dryst remained from the gentle touch of Mya in his thoughts…thoughts that he always carried deep inside him…thoughts that he knew were mutually carried and mutually realized by her.
National Novel Writing Month: Chapter 10 total wordcount: 2025 (not including this notation). Total total count: 16,000. (omgah … seriously seriously seriously whimpering)