“Mizu no kokoro…or ‘mind like water’” ~ a Zen phrase
…in the face of emergency, a mind that is calm, or like still water, more accurately reflects what it sees.
Ch 20 ~ The Unknowable
The two forms had arrived out of an energy that was muffled in smoke and wisped around itself until at last their bodies began to materialize. Their shapes were barely recognizable. They seemed to take forever to outline themselves.
Dryst watched with some apprehension. As the forms echoed around themselves, he wondered at this strange happening in the stream…although he was certain that if anyone could read his expression, they would see his wonderings plainly in his eyes. But not Spence, no. He was caged within his own space, his own mind, hooded and concealed from view. His focus too trapped by what was heading toward them for him to have noticed how Dryst’s brow repeatedly knitted itself together.
“Something tells me,” Spence managed to offer without changing his focus on the happening in front of them, “we’re not going to like this, kid.”
Dryst slowly rode his eyes up each wall of the stream as the smoke churned itself into some type of context before them. He wanted to know what was happening around him while he still had the luxury of looking about his surroundings. Something told him he wouldn’t have that luxury for long.
“Yeah,” he replied in a slow and measured tone, “I have the same feeling.”
Darkness was sweeping in. Silently. Unabashedly. Fully. The brilliant light of the stream was slowly being muddied away by a pinkness that would have been comforting and pure (as pink generally is), had it not been for Dryst’s knowledge that the color was being created by the purple-grey mist: a heaviness that had rolled itself suddenly back across the Origin and that was in the process of absorbing any clarity of light that had emerged just minutes before. Dryst returned his eyes to the smokey figures, who were no longer coiling and twisting as if ambivalent about form. Shape had overtaken them. The smoke and the dust had settled, and there they stood. Only a few feet away from Dryst and Spence.
A man, of size and of presence, stood before them. He was tall and fit, his shoulders squared back, his stance casual yet somehow also readied. He had a glint in his eyes, a baseball in his hand, and a cigar clenched loosely between his teeth. He nearly winked a smile to his son, who was now a much older man (probably as old or even older than the father himself), and as he did, the corners of the father’s eyes traced rivers of lines from the edge of a knowing grin…one that gently held Spence, in someway, frozen in place. His chest — Spence’s chest — was the only part of his body that still had the wits to move. Necessity aside, his breath could not be stopped. In fact, his breath could not be controlled. His chest rose and fell rapidly, as if Spence had had the wind knocked out of him from running too hard and running too fast or from trying to throw a baseball too hard and trying to throw it too fast with all of his might yet without any kind of real strength to put meaning with it, to put power over it, to put control around it.
Dryst heard – but just barely heard – Spence release a quiet sigh that brought with it no small amount of uncertainty. Almost like a teenager who, in a moment of weakness (he would say) or in a moment of truth (the parents would say) could dare to admit to himself (much less others) that he might not actually know everything afterall.
Dryst didn’t know why the cigar-smoking man had shocked Spence, but Dryst knew that Spence had been shocked and still was. Funny, Dryst allowed himself a casual thought in this less than casual moment, Spence wasn’t alone in that regard. Because there she stood. Directly in front of him. With her golden and white hair. With her tall and lithe frame…a most pleasingly slender and graceful build. Clad from shoulders to ankles in a creme colored body suit. There she was…looking at Dryst with eyes as big as saucers, with eyes that cried for some help and rationality, that begged for a return to some sense of normalcy…something along the lines of what they had known before all of this madness had unfolded…something along the lines of anything other than being held captive in this strange and increasingly troubling place. Surely, there must be that, her eyes pleaded.
His heart pounded within his chest wall. His eyes locked onto hers.
“Dryst,” her mind called out to him…but with not as much presence in her voice as she had had just moments before. (And he flinched momentarily at this.) With not as much certainty in herself. And he winced inside — somehow this tore at him — but he managed to furrow his brow together because it was the only action that presently kept his emotions from bursting out from his mind. And yet one thought, Dryst was thankful this one thought, had kept shouting itself out from his brain.
He closed his mind and pulled it forcibly away from a mounting panick, but his kept his eyes continually locked on hers, where she stood motionless before him. Two big round pools that he should know but that now drew themselves flat and lifeless and still. Yet, he saw energy within her — not much, but enough to give him hope — as she tentatively reached a hand in front of her torso and began to extend it out to him. But, then she stopped as if not knowing, and his chest tightened with upset and his mind countered the emotions by rapidly asserting itself over his feelings, to direct him to purpose and logic, to urge him to search for rationality or answers within the stream because…oh be damned with that, he growled inside, something isn’t right, dammit!
And he pulled his mind back to search for what he knew to be true within his very core.
He opened his spirit wide and bared it before the rushing onslaught of thoughts and memories, of beliefs and dreams, of every point of consciousness from every being that had ever lived and who, from the living, willingly, instinctively, undeniably mapped its course out along every path of life’s journey. He looked for answers while he looked with a burning penetration into the big round eyes that he had seen all of his life, that he had seen in every one of his lives, that he had known before they had even met and yet…eyes, in this precise moment and in this exact place, that he wasn’t entirely sure he knew at all.
He swallowed hard and felt a cough push its way out of his lungs. The butterfly — which had been silent and had made itself nearly invisible all this time — curled its feet a bit more resolutely around the tip of Dryst’s ear. Dryst felt the creature — even though it was too light and inconspicuous to be felt — for the first time in what seemed like ages. In silence, Dryst sighed a breath of gratitude; somehow this renewed awareness of the butterfly’s presence had the effect of steadying Dryst’s nerves. Somehow he knew he would the butterfly would remind him…of what he already knew.
The creature purred softly. Dryst clenched a fist and raised it to his mouth to smother a cough that idled its way up from his lungs and through his throat. What is happening, he asked nearly out loud, nearly covered with irritation at this surprising other irritation that insisted upon rising up out of him. And, then, as if in reply to his question, Dryst tasted the heavy cloud of cigar smoke that draped itself suddenly within his mouth. He saw the answer floating along the smoke as he coughed out of his lung and it floated by like the memory that it was…like the memory that lingered in all eternity within the Stream.
He saw Spence as a young man. The young teenager, who looked nothing at all like the old man that Dryst knew of Spence, and thought of him, to be now. And yet, for all the display of awkward youth, Dryst realized whose awkward youth it had belonged to…perhaps in some ways still belonged to, Dryst wondered. Tall, gangly shouldered, but clumsy with his size. Unsure of many things in life but never letting anyone see him sweat. Somehow believing he could conceal any uncertainties he may hold about life even from those who had brought him into this world. Oh, it was Spence, whistling with a pretense for ease; behaving like he was busy smelling his own potency. The laugh was too loud. The smile was too quick. The witty retort was incomplete. The words were not fully thought through. The timing was forced.
And yet there he was, pretending he had journeyed all paths, those travelled; those untouched both. Like he had stepped into his own legs as fully and as wisely as the old man that Spence saw standing a few feet away…as one of them effortlessly tossed the baseball to the other while the other one clumsily played at hurling the baseball with enough force to…to what…to topple the old man…to knock him off the hill…but not really, no…not permanently no…just to nudge him a little over to the side there so that Spence could stand with him now…yes now, not later I am a man as much as he is at the top of the hill with…his father. Dryst watched them throw the ball, saw the warm expressions on their faces, felt the genuine bond between them — strong and deep no matter how the son challenged his role as son and bridled to push it into manhood, while the father watched in quiet amusement with — yes — even a sense of pride, knowing that within this small challenge, his son had journeyed himself to a milestone…his son was undergoing a ritual of sorts that has played itself out from the beginning and would to the end…
Dryst felt the story unfold, this singular episode in time and place. The young son; the older man. He raised his head to view the present moment while he relived a moment in Spence’s past. He wondered why this scene would cause him trepidation, why seeing the father here now — smiling in control of himself and in command of the knowledge about what his son was going through — why this would have been delivered to the three of them — Dryst, the butterfly, and Spence — from a rushing and heavy dark mist shrouded in foreboding. He wondered why, as his gaze drifted back to the eyes of the soul he had known throughout all thought, his sense of what was coming down this path had been so terribly terribly off. This must be Mya, he thought to himself.
“Dryst,” her voice called to him as if she was winded from running too hard and running too fast. And he looked at the tall, lithe woman who so uncannyingly mirrored the form and appearance of someone he held so vitally dearly, and he saw the woman before him with the golden white hair and the eerie lack of expression on her face, and he felt her hesitancy and awkwardness…her lack of certainty about many things in life that if she were truly Mya she would know without effort, that she would know without having to think about anything. He saw in her vapid pools a pretense for ease and watched her tiny efforts to convince herself that she could conceal this fradulence from those who had punched through another dimension, who had altered time and space and matter and mind to find her here, to bring her back alive and full of life back to him.
He felt an anger surging inside of himself as he stared at this pretender, who reached out again to him, trying to tap into this powerful emotion and change into powerful confusion. And Dryst found himself reaching desparately forward but instead of reacting to what Dryst knew had to be a shapeshifter, he grabbed Spence’s arm to pull the old man back. But instead of going back, Dryst felt Spence clasping his hands tightly around Dryst’s arm as he pulled them both forward into the smiling swirling mist of cigar smoke, and two strangers…
And they vanished.
“Dryst!” Mya’s voice — and her body and the Cyborgs and the Warriors — continued to bully themselves over the rolling hills and push their way through the barrier of smoke that had clouded the Stream.
National Novel Writing Month: Chapter 20 total wordcount: 2160 (not including this notation). Total total count: 36,805. (chanting a mantra: Yes, we can. Yes, we can. Yes, we can. Smiles…gah! But smiling!)