Stations of the Heart Chapter 17: New Perspectives

Jed stepped back and looked upon the place he had lived his entire life, the place he had existed contently before being stolen away to the eccentric forest and abandoned in the desert wasteland. This was the place Jed was trying to return to all this time. Wasn’t it? As Jed looked at the walls of his hometown he felt something he hadn’t expected to feel upon finding his home: ambivalence. He didn’t know if this was the place he had wanted to return to after all. So much had happened since he had been there last, he had changed so much. There were new desires and cravings that now dinned deep inside of him that being in his hometown could not fulfill. Jed had never looked upon his hometown from the outside, but still, there was something different about it. The pale and insufficient light from the three crescent moons was cast down on the structures of the town and gave it an atmosphere of foreboding emptiness, as though the streets and homes inside were inhabited only by ghosts.

He continued to gaze at the walls of the town while Nashper and Railnia were stoic in silence, one of the rare times the duo were not bickering. Jed turned and looked at the giant tortuous. Nashper with his big, perfect orb, black eyes. Were they his mentor? Were they his tormentor? Jed wondered. On one hand they deserted him in his times of need and danger, but on the other, they had ultimately delivered him back to where he supposedly wanted to go. Mentor or tormentor? Jed was still unsure but he supposed that it did not matter anymore, his journey was over. Likewise Jed was unsure as to whether he should thank or curse the enigmatic turtle. He decided to make one final attempt to communicate with Nashper and Railnia. He took a deep breath and opened his mouth, “Where will you go now?” but it was no use, the words came out in an incomprehensible chorus. Jed was now completely unable to say anything that wasn’t in song-speak.

“Once again my dear boy, I’m afraid you’ve lost me. But I suppose it is of no consequence anyhow, this seems like a natural point to part ways. I don’t know what this place is but you seem to have some kind of connection to it so we’ll leave you to settle accounts.” Nashper replied. The something began to happen to the tortuous’ shell. The designs on it became animated and started to flow and shift. Jed could make out faint colors on the shell blending into one another and crawling back and forth. The curved, flowing design that adorned the turtle’s shell completely rearranged itself into a new pattern but with a similar aesthetic. Then something even more surprising happened: Railnia began walking forward in the direction the three of them had come from. Railnia was now the front-facing head and Nashper the stern. They were walking the other way, back into the desert, Jed noticed.

“Forward movement!” Railnia called out with a hearty laugh.

Nashper with black, lifeless eyes still locked on Jed’s commented, “Indeed, forward movement is all that exists.” as he was now backing away from Jed. Jed watched as they slowly moved away and was yet again filled with ambivalence; sad to see them go but glad to be rid of their perplexing influence. As he watched them fade in the distance he realized that that part of his life was now over and it was time for him to go home. What else could he do? “Good luck getting over that wall.” he heard Nashper call out.

“No blue light?” he could hear Railnia ask.

“He’s not an idiot.” Nashper replied.

“That’s not what I meant at all. Once again you are confusing the…” Railnia’s voice drifted out of range and they disappeared over a dark desert dune. Jed turned back, looked at the enormous wall surrounding his hometown and realized he had no idea how he planned to get over it. He had been too caught up with finding his home that he had yet to give any thought as to how he would get into it. The surface of the wall was smoothly planed, no doubt the work of sand-laced wind, so there was nothing in the way of footholds. Climbing it was out of the question. ‘No blue light’ Jed thought, ‘What could Railnia have meant by that?’ Jed began to walk along the perimeter of his town, searching the wall for any clues as to how to get in. He walked for hours but the wall yielded nothing. It was the same the whole way around. Jed grew frustrated and impatient. ‘Have I come all this way to find my hometown only to be forever sealed outside of it?’ he wondered achingly to himself. He sat down with his back against the impenetrable wall that threatened to rob Jed of his very sanity. He hung his head downward and stared at nothing in particular but the ground. It was a course mixture of sand and soil, but soon Jed noticed something more pertinent about the inconspicuous earth beneath him. There was a faint reddish hue to it. He had seen that exact hue somewhere else before, he was sure of it. It quickly came to him. He looked up at the now emaciated moons and saw that the color of the red crescent moon was the same as the ground beneath him. Indeed, Jed realized it was the very light of the red moon that was coloring the ground. There was a red moon, a silver moon, and a blue moon. ‘Maybe…’ Jed had an intimation and immediately sprang back to his feet and began walking the perimeter of the wall again. He upped his gait into a jog, all the while observing the ground below him. Still red. He continued his trot for some time until he came to a hopeful point. He stopped. It was a point where the ground reflected not red light, but silver. Jed advanced his output to a full-on sprint but even after what seemed to be a full hour, the ground was still awash in silver moonlight. Jed’s lungs were pinching, his muscles cramping, and his aching body pleaded for him to stop but his mind was much too anxious and it overrode the desires of his body which, in that moment, Jed decided was subject and slave to the mind. Then Jed’s hopes were affirmed and his discipline was rewarded. The silvery ground gave way to a blanched, blueish hue. Jed finally stopped, bent over, resting his palms on his knees and panted furiously. His head swooned and he nearly passed out but he revived his tapped resources by gulping down the rest of the water in his canteen. It was all gone now and Jed had placed everything he had on this one bet. If it did not work, he would surely die outside the walls of his hometown without any water. After regaining his composure and reigning in his frantic breathing, Jed reached into the makeshift pouch hanging from his belt and pulled out one of the last two raising tree seeds he had inside. The blue coloring projecting onto the ground was indeed sallow but its hue was close enough to that of the raising tree seed that it gave Jed an idea. Indeed, the idea that would spell success or certain death for Jed. “No blue light?” Railnia had asked. Well Jed found blue light, ‘And it better yield some good results.’ Jed thought. He knelt down and with his hands, dug a hole in the sandy dirt where it reflected the blue light of the moon. It got to be several inches deep and Jed stopped. He sighed, held the raising tree seed over the freshly dug crater, and in a low voice he sung-spoke, “Please Iparel, take me home.” The he dropped the blue marble-like seed into the hole he dug and proceeded to cover it up with the displaced dirt. Jed stood back up and waited but nothing happened. He had hoped that a great big tree would come rising up from beneath the ground and that he would climb it clear over the wall, but several minutes passed and nothing of the sort happened. In fact, nothing was happening at all. No noise, no rumbling ground beneath Jed’s feet, and certainly no sign of an enormous life-saving tree. Jed was staring at the patch of earth that he had disturbed, imploring it with his mind to yield what he had counted on so desperately, but no matter how hard he stared or how much he psychically pleaded, the ground did nothing. Jed collapsed to his knees next to the planted seed and banged on the ground with his fist. Pummeling the ground, he became energized with desperation, trying to beat some sense out of a cold indifferent earth that would one moment, follow the laws of logic and reason, and then the very next, confound Jed’s mind to the brink of madness. Nothing made sense and just when Jed thought he had a handle on the workings of the outside world, it proved just how little he really comprehended. It did so now at such a pivotal and deciding moment.

Jed knelt with his face to the floor like a zealot bowing in the presence of his god. But worship was not what prompted Jed into his current bodily position, it was despair and exhaustion. Without the life-sustaining water from the well just on the other side of the damnable, dooming wall, Jed would bake in merciless sun that was well on its way, dried up and dead. Jed thought of Railnia’s words, “no blue light,” ‘Just more nonsense’ he dejectedly concluded. He thought of the seed that had failed him. The seed that he planted in the ground that did not grow. The seeds that he procured for the sake of the beautiful and benign Iparel. The seeds he would never be able to give to her. In this moment he wanted to be there in that meadow with Iparel. He wanted to be there and not locked out of his own home with no hope of getting in. He remembered his brief time in the meadow with Iparel and realized it was the only time in the forest or the desert that he felt happy. He had felt happy there in the meadow with Iparel. He remembered the little tune she played on her rounded flute that caused the light-bugs to dance and a new tree spring forth from the ground. That tune was vague in his mind. The long arm of pertinent and demanding occurrences had since pulled a thin veil over the notes. But Jed focused hard, he had not recalled the tune since Iparel herself played it in the meadow but there was no way Jed could have completely forgotten it. As he lay face-down on the ground the melody was slowly coming back to him. All of his cognitive faculties were now commissioned with unearthing the structure of Iparel’s melody from the musty recesses of his memory. It was coming back. The memory traveled from his brain to his lips and he hummed the opening notes of the tune in confirmation. For the first time, the fact that Jed could only use song-speak actually became a benefit and the song came forth from his lips in perfect translation. His recollection yielded more of Iparel’s tune and his tongue and lips transcribed it into audible sounds. As he sang, jed felt the vibration he had come to know so well in the outside world. It was weak beneath his body but Jed repeated the notes of Iparel’s song over and over again with more intensity, pronunciation, and volume until the timid vibration grew to a tumultuous quaking. Jed now unleashed the full capacity of his song-speaking abilities and belted out the tune in high volume to the night sky. The walls of the town themselves shook with reverberations of the forest tune and the ground was rent by the powerful upward thrust of a mighty evergreen tree. Jed quickly grabbed hold of one of its hearty boughs and was elevated higher and higher until the height of the tree surpassed the height of the wall by several feet. The song brought the seed to fruition and yielded a, tall, straight, life saving tree for Jed. Jed, who was now perched in the upper canopy of the great tree, took a minute to admire it. It was the most beautiful tree he had ever seen. A beautiful gift from Iparel. While grasping on to the sturdy bough, Jed lowered himself and dangled his legs down toward the narrow top surface of the wall. The tips of his moccasins grazed the solid surface and Jed slid the bough slowly through his hands until he was planted firmly standing atop the great wall of his hometown. Jed Ano stood there for a while, perched on top of the wall, looking down on the town. He had never seen it from this vantage point before. It looked so small and insignificant to him now. It had seemed so encompassing and daunting before his journey. As he looked on his home, he wondered what it was he would be returning to. The town looked dead and lifeless. He heard the faint, eerie songs of the boys and their companions and felt the emptiness of the houses of the boys who were companionless. He considered his fate. Jed Ano stood tall above all of it in this moment, but his destiny lay in descent.

Stations of the Heart Chapter 16: What Lies Ahead

The darkness that a human being is accustomed to when one has their eyes closed was not what Jed was experiencing now. It was not so deep, it was lighter. He felt his body bob slowly up and down. A hard curved surface against his back. The sunlight continued to filter through Jed’s closed eyelids until it became too invasive for him to keep them closed. He blinked rapidly, weaning his eyes to the immensely bright sky that the cloudless desert day was providing. Jed was woozy but conscious, and more importantly, he felt more or less alive. He propped himself up backwards, leaning back on one planted arm. He rubbed his eyes with his free hand. Up and down, rhythmically and slowly. The curved surface on which he sat was ridged. Then it came to himĀ  as plain as the blistering sun above him, that he was once again the lone passenger atop Nashper and Railnia’s tortuous shell. Then Jed considered that the lizard had eaten him and that he really was dead and this was some kind of eternal hallucination- doomed to ride through the desert slowly on top of a two-headed tortuous that argued with itself. But then Jed abruptly recalled the track record of the goliath reptile to show up arbitrarily and thought better of his death theory. He was definitely alive, he could hear them blathering on about something or other. “We never make it to any one destination because we are constantly moving away from things!” Jed heard Railnia’s multi-toned voice contending hotly. Who knows how long this unresolvable debate had been going on. It was like pulling teeth with Nashper and Railnia – one could never for a second consider the point of view of the other. They would never realize that their innumerable points of contention were all based on their respective perspectives of the world.

“We are always moving forward you lunatic! We are always moving forward!” Nashper rebutted.

Despite the hazy state of Jed’s mind and consciousness, he had an epiphany at this ridiculous argument and interrupted, “You don’t get anywhere because you are always moving forward. How can you arrive anywhere if you are constantly moving?” Jed’s words came out with very subtle peaks and valleys of melody. He was still vaguely song-speaking though he wasn’t even trying to. He was surprised at this.

“Ah, the boy is finally awake, fancy that.” Nashper said. “Talking a bit funny too, but we did find you in a pretty rotten state so I suppose the slurred speech is accounted for.”

Jed felt that Nashper was no one to talk about the peculiar manner with which anyone spoke. After all, the forward-facing head of the dual-cranium tortuous had a funny was of talking too. Very funny indeed, like four distinct voices talking at once but all saying the same thing. Still Jed suddenly became conscious of the involuntary song-speaking. This concern was quickly replaced by the many unanswered questions Jed had for the tortuous. The first of which was how the turtle escaped consumption by the giant birds on the bridge. Somehow Jed knew he wouldn’t get a straight or satisfactory answer from either of mouth of the shelled reptile so he began with the most important question. “What happened? What happened with the lizard? I thought I was dead for sure.”

Again, the words came out with a tune. This time however, Nashper ignored it and got straight to the point, “I can’t rightly say my boy. We emerged into this desert through subterranean means and when we did, wouldn’t you know it, you were plopped quite unconscious atop our carapace.” he gave a little chuckle, “it was quite a serendipitous occurrence.”

Jed thought about this. The rumbling he felt just before he lost consciousness must have been Nashper and Railnia somehow rising up from the ground beneath him. “But what happened to the lizard?” Jed inquired, his question tinged with song.

“Damned if I know. As soon as we emerged we did the only thing we know how to do…move forward. That unpleasant lizard you speak of was slapping at our shell with its tongue for a while as we walked. That was when I realized that you were on top of us. The damn wretched thing was slapping a bloodied tongue as far up to the top of our shell as it could trying to get at your pouch.” Jed was confused at this. His pouch? “After a while of fruitless effort, the weary thing gave up, stopped keeping pace with us, and we walked on like normal.” Nashper continued.

“No, you don’t understand, the lizard was after me, it was trying to kill me. Or eat me, either way I was going to be dead.” Jed lilted back

“Once again you are confused, boy. That lizard was clearly after one thing and one thing only and it sure as hell was not your life. No, that miserable creature wanted nothing more than to consume the raising-tree seeds you’ve been carrying in that pouch of yours. That lizard was so tired, it just wanted the seeds so it could go to sleep.” Nashper gave another little derisive laugh after he said this, as though he was laughing at a joke he told to himself in his own mind. Then he continued, “If you had any trouble with the thing, all you would have needed to do was to throw that pouch at it and been on your way.”

Jed looked down at his belt with the pouch still hanging from it. ‘It wanted the seeds?’ he thought to himself. Then he recalled the creatures eyes: weary, tired, wild and haunted by desperation. ‘It just wanted to sleep and I almost killed it.’ Jed felt now that he had done a cruel thing by depriving the beast of its sole, simple desire. Still, how could he have known that the seeds were what the hostile reptile was after? There was no communication between himself and the lizard, no dialogue. Just a clash of interests leading to a grand misunderstanding. No one talked, no one even tried communicating in any way, verbal or otherwise. The two just acted. Acting out of pure necessity and purpose. Nonetheless Jed felt sympathetic toward the creature whom he had thought was trying to take his life. He was concerned and asked, “Do you know what happened to the lizard?”

Nashper answered, “No clue, we kept walking, he was out of my sight and that was that.”

Jed turned to the rear end of the giant land turtle and asked Railnia, “Railnia, did you see what the lizard did after he stopped following you?”

“Sure I did. It turned into a little dark dot on the horizon and then disappeared, isn’t it funny how things tend to do that?” Railnia’s rear-facing perspective did not give Jed any real answers. The world was constantly dwindling away from her. Jed could only assume that the horned reptile was wandering in the desert somewhere, still searching for something that would put it to sleep. This thought cast a sadness over Jed’s mind, but at least it momentarily distracted him from the reality that had been thrust upon him. He was to be alone. He had been given a small taste of something that he now must be deprived of for the rest of his life. Something he liked immensely and now, most of all, felt was a necessity in his life.

The hours were passing monotonously as the boy Jed Ano and the two-headed tortuous Nashper/Railnia continued their slow trek through the desert. The sun now hung just above the horizon before them and Jed had his tunic pulled up over his head to protect him from the harsh rays. Jed had not spoken for some time now and his thoughts became a fusion of his own terminal self-concern and brief considerations of the many debates the reptile below him was having with itself. He would never be able to make them see the futility of their quibbles – simple clashing of perspectives. The day was disappearing and Jed thought it an appropriate time to ask where they were headed. “Where are we going?” the words came out in a delicate three-note melody. The song-speak was becoming more pronounced.

“What was that, boy?” Nashper asked, genuinely curious. “Not sure I understood that one.”

“Nor did I.” Railnia added.

Jed couldn’t remember the last time he heard the two heads agree on anything. He was afraid to say anything else lest it come out as a full-fledged song. He concentrated as hard as he could and forced his tongue to speak flatly and slowly, “Where are…we…going?” It barely helped, the involuntary melody that invaded his speech was scarcely impeded, but it was enough to make the tortuous understand. Still, Jed got yet another less than satisfying answer from the massive turtle…

“Forward,” was all that Nashper said in reply.

Jed went back to not speaking but this time it was because he was afraid to. The song-speaking was getting worse. He couldn’t help it. It came out with every word his tongue produced. The two-headed turtle continued to argue amongst itself while Jed closed his eyes and listened in silence.

More hours had passed and Jed opened his eyes to see that the sun had gone away and the three moons were perched high in the sky, but something was different. All three moons seemed to only be half full. Half-circles of light affixed to the heavens, yet another sight Jed was now seeing for the first time in his life. Their light was not as filling so the desert seemed a bit darker but somehow eerily peaceful and benign. There was no wind whisking sand into Jed’s eyes and skin. Jed looked in the direction they were moving toward. That was when Jed caught sight of a broad flat anomaly on the dimly moonlit horizon. They were definitely moving towards something but Jed couldn’t tell what. Jed kept his eyes trained on the object in the distance as they meandered toward it. Bobbing rhythmically towards it, up and down, Jed stared ever more intently, never taking his eyes off of it. It grew bigger, wider, until it became apparent that whatever this mysterious object would be massive by the time they reached it. Jed’s mind was racing. He wanted to tell Nashper and Railnia to move faster but didn’t because he knew that even if they could understand him there would be little chance that they would obey. Then, Jed considered the enigmatic tortuous. ‘Why would they show up at such arbitrary times and abandon me at a moments notice?’ he wondered inside his head. Nashper and Railnia was the only creature that continued to come back to Jed in this place, but why? It didn’t seem to Jed that they particularly cared about Jed’s well-being or his plight. They just dropped in and dropped out seemingly whenever they pleased. Jed thought, ‘Many creatures in this place seem to want to sleep, many of them want the raising tree seeds to put them to sleep.’ He focused again to try and speak comprehensibly in a non-melodic tongue so that he could ask Nashper and Railnia one last question. “Nashper, Railnia-” the first time he addressed them both simultaneously- “why did you never want any of the raising tree seeds I have in my pouch?” The words came out as lyrics behind an ethereal tune but the reptile with two heads and two distinct characters apparently eeked out their meaning because this is how they answered:

“No need for them, we are a tormentor.” Nashper answered first.

“You mean mentor. We are a mentor. You are confusing the words.” Railnia objected.

“No, I know what I said, we are a tormentor.” Nashper rebutted.

“I know that’s what you said, that’s not the problem. You meant to say mentor, you are confusing the words because they sound similar but their meanings are completely different.” Railnia replied.

“I know what they both mean and I meant tormentor.” Nashper chided back.

“Then you have the meanings switched because a tormentor is not what we are, we are a mentor!” Railnia demanded.

Nashper sneered, “At any rate, you can’t have one without the other.”

“That doesn’t make any sense.” Railnia commented, “You can have mentor without the ‘tor.'”

“Now that doesn’t make any sense!” said Nashper.

“It makes perfect sense.” Railnia defended her statement.

Jed, for what seemed like the hundredth time, got a cryptic and useless double answer from the giant land turtle. He asked a pertinent question of the creature and like many times before, it only served to spark an argument between Nashper and Railnia who would soon forget the question altogether and freeze Jed out of the discussion until he was forced to interrupt, only this time, he knew he could not interrupt. He felt that he was no completely unable to speak in a normal tongue and was unwilling to try. So the reptile continued to talk amongst itself, making Jed feel as though they forgot he was even there and that he had asked a question of them.

Jed turned his attention back to the formation on the horizon. They were getting closer. It was much bigger but somehow at the same time, more vague. It was darker and harder to see. Just a big, dark presence looming ahead of them. Jed found it strange that they could be moving closer toward the thing and yet it was becoming harder to make out. Then, he realized why. He tilted his head back up to the heavens and saw that the three half moons had been reduced to three thin crescent moons. They looked to Jed like three sharp scythes and they provided a meager pale light. That was why Jed still couldn’t figure what was ahead of them – the night had indeed become darker. It was like the moons were fading away the closer they came to the mysterious structure. Jed squinted into the night. Neither fear nor anxiety filled him, but rather a sense of wonder. He guessed and guessed in his own mind what the structure could be, testing his theories against the vague clues that his sight afforded him. They were very close to the thing now and it truly was massive. It Very tall and it stretched to forever on either side. In all of Jed’s life, he knew of only one thing that fit the dimensions of the edifice that Nashper Railnia and himself were now soundly in the immediate presence of. Nashper and Railnia ceased their march and Jed slid off of their shell onto the ground. He walked over and placed the palm of his hand against a hard, cool wall and fought back an immediate deluge of tears from being released from his eyes. A stunned and overwhelmed Jed Ano now knew beyond any shadow of a doubt that he was standing outside the great wall of his hometown.

Stations of the Heart Chapter 12: Inside the House of Spirits

Jed stepped into the roundhouse. It was dark and completely silent. The door closed behind him. The darkness was total and the silence was overbearing. He couldn’t see his own feet below him so he stood in place, waiting for something to happen. As he waited, he felt the immenseness of the place surround him. In the complete darkness, it felt as though the house was a hundred times larger than it seemed on the outside. Jed looked up toward the ceiling but could see only blackness that stretched endlessly into an infinite void. He felt so small and alone in a place that was so big and empty. Then, Jed felt something brush against his right shoulder. It felt like someone had bumped into him. He felt the same sensation again seconds later on his left shoulder, this time a bit harder. Then again on his right, and again and again on both sides of his body until he believed he was in a massive crowd of invisible people all walking in different directions. Jed fought against the invisible crowd but couldn’t manage to move by his own volition. Instead, he was being jostled around by the phantom rabble, this way and that. It was still pitch-black but there was sound now. The sound of a million people having a million conversations at once. Incredibly loud but hopelessly incoherent. Jed could not make out a single word. Then frustration set in; Jed was being pushed and prodded and he could not gain a steady footing. He tried pushing against the other entities but to no avail. Suddenly, all the movement ceased at once as if millions of people walking in a crowd all stopped in unison. The interminable conversations had stopped as well, but now Jed couldn’t move at all. The enormous space had become oppressively stagnant. It seemed now that Jed was packed inside an enormous room shoulder to shoulder with millions of other people. He couldn’t move an inch. As much as he squirmed and writhed he couldn’t gain an iota of space. His frustration was mounting and quickly developing into panic. He struggled harder, jerking his shoulders violently. His arms were pressed tyrannically against his sides and were rendered useless. He tried stomping his feet but his knees were quickly met with an unseen barrier and couldn’t lift his foot an inch off the ground. He was completely bound by unknown forces depriving him of the slightest freedom of movement. As his panic grew, so did his futile efforts to break free. He contracted every muscle in his body feverishly and gained no results but he continued his physical exertion in a blind, desperate, angry, and frustrated defiance until he reached his breaking point. Jed lifted his head toward the infinite ceiling of the round house and belted out a profoundly afflicted scream. That was when something incredible happened. At the very moment that Jed let out his desperate scream, it was immediately drowned out by a million heavenly voices singing a single uniform note and sustaining it. Lights jolted on in side the roundhouse and illuminated every square inch of the structure. He was suddenly free of the forces binding his body and could move at will. Jed’s head was tilted upward still but he ceased his screaming because he was amazed by the instantaneous change in light and sound in the room. As he stared up he finally saw the ceiling. It was so high up that it reached the clouds and it was made of glass. He could see the stars burn brilliantly in the night sky as if they were so close he could snatch them down from the ether. The three moons droned in their light through the glass and were like three huge eyes in the sky. Tears welled in Jed’s eyes for he had never seen a sight so beautiful. There had never been a moment so awe inspiring in Jed’s life as he gazed at all the celestial bodies in perfect clarity and magnification while a seemingly massive choir held a single glorious note with impossible beauty and volume. It was as though the glass ceiling was a magnifying lens to the heavens and a legion of angels were lilting with infinite sustain all around him. Jed then closed his eyes and covered his ears because he couldn’t take any more. He was overwhelmed by visual and aural beauty. He crouched down with his hands sealed tightly around his ears and his eyes shut with much force. In this position, he wept. He had been drawn from a state of sheer panic into a moment of unimaginable beauty all in an instant. It was too much for him. He had never felt such polarizing feelings in all his life and now they had been thrust upon him in a matter of seconds. Then, the singing stopped and there was silence again. Jed, still crouching on the ground with eyes closed took his hands from his ears but he was still reluctant to look. He breathed steadily for a moment and gathered himself. Deep breaths, in and out, in and out. He stood up, opened his eyes and looked around him. Jed’s face was still wet from the tears but he did not know how to react to what he saw. Millions of luminescent clouds just like the one he saw at night in the streets of his hometown when everything began to change. They were all different colors with points of light- like starlight- dancing inside them. They were all hovering about the room silently. Jed stood silent and amazed. They all seemed to be staring at him without eyes.Somehow looking at him, or rather, through him. There was nothing but a faint, soft, and somehow soothing hum in the room. Jed had found the source. The source of the mysterious singing spirits. The spirits who for some reason came and stayed with some of the boys from his hometown but not others. This great roundhouse, deep inside the strange alien forest is where they came from. It made sense to Jed. Everything that was unknown seemed to flow from this strange forest. Jed began to slowly and carefully walk through the myriad of ghostly clouds. There were millions of them. He found that he could pass right through any of them. They filled the colossal roundhouse. In fact, the interior of the roundhouse was completely bare except for Jed and the countless spirits. As Jed walked cautiously amongst their number, their conversations slowly began to pick up again. Jed still could not comprehend their ethereal speak but as he carefully walked among them they began to move and dance all around him as if he were not even there. Jed was at first anxious and a bit frightened at this foreign scene but grew more at ease as the spirits seemed to be going about their normal business as if unaware of a strangers presence. The incomprehensible conversations grew more lively as did the dancing and Jed felt more and more that he was going unnoticed. He moved about a bit more confidently, observing the room. At the point Jed stopped and stared at the walls of the roundhouse. It was hard to tell at first because the entire room was moving and dancing but after a little while Jed was sure that the walls were moving. The walls themselves were actually quite stationary, but the designs on them were definitely animated. Great flowing swirls just like the ones on the bridge, Nashper’s shell, and Lashpat’s skin were undulating and flowing all over the walls. They were all the different colors of the spirits in the house and were flowing with their dancing. Circling all around the huge room, the designs moved cyclically along the walls. The whole room was very much alive. The stars and moon still shone in as they peered into the house at the spectacle of light, color, and sound inside. Jed continued to wade through the congregation of spirits inside the room still hearing no words or sounds that he recognized. Jed began to wonder why he had been brought to this house. Once again he was wandering aimlessly.

Then, something caught the attention of his ears. A sound. A familiar sound. He stopped and listened hard amongst the sea of strange conversations filling the room. It was very weak but he could definitely hear a voice he recognized amongst the rabble. He walked with intent now, trying to find the voice amongst the millions of spirits. When the voice grew fainter, he changed direction. When it got stronger, he stayed the course. The room was round and disorienting but Jed followed the source of the voice until he was certain he found it. A single, ghostly, orange, cloud. The only one of the lot who was not moving. Jed recognized it instantly. It was the same one he had seen in the streets of his hometown and guided him home. Jed stood in front of it as it sang a song he did not understand but recognized easily. The song was beautiful and unearthly. Jed stared into the spirit and realized its insides were infinite. They went on forever. He was enthralled. The beauty and mystery of the spirit combined with the song it sang created a tandem experience that utterly captivated Jed. He moved toward the spirit. Closer and closer. Finally, he moved inside the spirit. It was warm. It was like his entire being was melting away and Jed was becoming one with the beautiful being. Everything else fell away in this moment, the room, the other spirits, the forest, Jed’s hometown, and all that remained was the moment and the hybrid entity that Jed was becoming. He merged his body with the spirit. His mind sailed weightlessly into the ether and he only had a faint and tenuous concept of his own being and spirit. Nothing else existed in this moment. Jed and the spirit were somewhere else now. Somewhere time and space does not exist. Jed felt happy, and at peace. Jed felt almost as though he himself no longer existed, but he was content with it and reckoned that he would like to feel this way forever. Jed heard words in his mind, or rather, he felt a statement in what was left of his mind, they said, “I am yours.” Jed’s being knew these were the words of the mysterious spirit and pondered how he could ever own what he could never understand. But he was addicted to the feeling and soon ceased his quandary. He floated in a warm cocoon in a place where nothing existed. He was content.