749 - Souls touch through eyes
I am still as if encased in amber, or glass like the butterfly within a clear brick with mirror-smooth sides Kurkas had in his sanctum, before I smashed it, thinking to free the butterfly but breaking it instead. Of course the philosophers of healing say that only in fracture is freedom. I remember a painting of a man shattered into a thousand fragments, his scars all opening again until they became full severings, splitting him all over. Somewhere on Haiu Menshir, a sacred painting... or was it in the shrine at Vae Arahi? He was going beyond wounded to healer.
My life floats around me in sparkling shards. I don’t feel like looking at any of them, whatever they might teach me when viewed from the outside. I sense that I will have to, but can take my time for now. The Summoner doesn’t yet have me in His rotten-flesh-filled claws, not quite, so I am not yet due for eternal judgment, which, of course, provokes self-examination, particularly if it goes the wrong way. And yet I also feel as if I am in the Eternal Return, not truly existing, between existences somehow, the way someone who loathes work is eternally between jobs.
The calm has a sense of inducedness about it, as if it is not natural to my circumstances, as when I was happily calm while being lowered back down the wall of Arko to a hundred waiting guards and Mahid with dart-tubes and spears. I don’t care, as that is the nature of induced calm; like fear, it convinces falsely of its reality. I wonder sanguinely what howling my heart would be doing, and why, if it could. And I sleep; I sleep so much. I spend far too much time in the beauty of sleep. I dawdle through the corridors of dreams. I laze about with the Gods. Maybe the howling would be about that; it should set me off. But even that thought, I think with no more than distant amusement.
From an even greater distance, I hear an urging voice. He is even-toned, more inviting than demanding. By his accent, he is a Haian. I’ve been hearing this for a while; it keeps getting closer. He says a name then asks for something, over and over. What this has to do with me, I am not sure. Until the time comes that I know the name, and also realize his tone is as if he is speaking to me. Speaking… he speaks of speaking.
I hear the clapper of a chime caress one tube so gently that I am not sure whether I am hearing the note or imagining it. Then a second note, and it goes back and forth between them, the two notes weaving order and balance together out of the mad, disordered stuff of the universe, like the running patterns on a Vae Arahi marya or the Arkan curved-key design, that whirls in one way then the other, setting all things equal. The beauty of it makes me feel good; I listen, drinking in peace. There is a hand on my shoulder, gentle, nurturing. He speaks of speaking again. “Chivinga. Will you speak with me? Chivinga. Will you speak with me?”
I open my eyes. His, brown and earnest in a kind tawny face over white stripes, meet mine. It is unfamiliar to be looking into another person’s eyes, as if I haven’t done it for a while. The power of it is striking. Souls touch, through eyes. I want to just look, so I do. He honours that. We are with each other in silence, eyes to eyes, and his hand on my shoulder.
“I am Perahin of Kibir,” he says. “A psyche-healer.”
“Perahin,” I say, mimicking his pronunciation as best I can, as is polite to do with foreigners.
“Do you know who you are?” he asks me.
I think, drawing together mental slivers. It comes clear vaguely, like blurred words on paper sharpening. “Yes,” I say.
“Tell me.” His Haian accent brings order and balance to the world, like the chimes.
“Chevenga Aicheresa, of Vae Arahi.” My own pronunciation, correct and skilled, pleases me, as if I were a child hearing it for the first time.
His eyes flash with a momentary puzzlement, but only momentary. “Yes,” he says. “Do you know where you are?”
I look away from his eyes. Muted sun lights this place. There is a ceiling of plaster, wiped while it was wet into a mandala, that now, since it is dry, endures. A crown border of red and blue interwoven stripes on each wall—it strikes me deeply that this was perhaps the first source of order. The chimes. A window shaded with a shutter of paper that shifts in the breeze, allowing a momentary long triangle of blue sky. I smell paila trees and south-Miyatara flowers, the kind they have in the House of Argentine Faces because they look lascivious. There is something in my nose—a tube running upward. I flex my nose and swallow, and feel that the tube goes down my throat.
“Haiu Menshir,” I say. I ponder further. Not a place I have been in before. I guess: “University Hospital?”
“Yes,” he says. “Do you know why you are here?”
The question ‘Why’ calls for a discerning of causality. That necessitates looking back into the past. I try to know what I remember. It keeps slipping away from my gaze like a cockroach from light, and my grasp, like a speck you try to grab in water. I am still among fragments. I look at him again. He sits patiently, his face telling me I have all day to think, if I want. The inside of my nostril itches from the tube; I move to scratch but find my wrists softly pinched, forestalling it. I’m slave-tied with soft cloth, wrists in front, elbows behind, loosely enough that I can shift in the bed. My ankles are cloth-hobbled, too.
Something with the feel of truth emerges up out of me, like languid lava from an old volcano. I allow the slow eruption by letting my tongue and lips shape the words. “There are those who want my life to go on.”
“Yes, there are,” he says. “There are very, very many people who want your life to go on.”
AN: "I remember a painting of a man shattered into a thousand fragments, his scars all opening again until they became full severings, splitting him all over. Somewhere on Haiu Menshir, a sacred painting... or was it in the shrine at Vae Arahi? He was going beyond wounded to healer." - this is based on a triptych currently in existence; I'm postulating either that the Haians somehow preserved it, or another artist subsequently painted another version of it. (Chevenga's mixed up, thinking it's in Vae Arahi.) Notice he recalls only the middle panel vividly. There's a reason. See it here.