A Different Path
My life turns toward Flow, and becomes filled with masks and transformations.
There are five hundred common masks to learn.
I know a little about energy masks.
Shazira once taught me how to shape a mask and float it on my energy body.
It covers the pattern body like a golden garment of light.
The mask doesn’t penetrate the energy body, but it binds to it.
When the mask takes hold, your physical body vanishes.
I remember the excitement when my body was replaced by the animal body of a Twikul, a great hunter.
My thoughts weren’t directly affected, but I felt the emotions, sensations, and physical desires of the animal body.
Masks only work on beings that have a pattern body and a fire body, like the Jiku or Bizra, and the effect is temporary.
If you don’t release the mask, it breaks down in a day or two, and your old form returns.
Most masters hold a mask for a brief time only.
The emotions and physical drives of an animal can easily twist our thoughts, and drive us to kill.
The transformation patterns are more powerful, more dangerous, and permanent.
A flow master transforms objects, plants, and animals, but not herself.
Transformation affects thoughts and intelligence.
You become the animal or stone.
Even if you could remember your Jiku self, it takes great power and desire to shatter the new pattern body, and free the Jiku pattern from its hiding place within our fire.
There are legends of masters who were able to transform themselves back into their Jiku form, but few believe the legends.
There are an infinite number of transformation patterns, but only a few thousand that are studied by the guild.
The Bizra helped the early masters to select patterns for the guild.
It takes years of practice to become fluent with the patterns, and much of that practice must be supervised by a master.
Shazira expects me to spend weeks practicing each group of patterns with her, before she’ll let me practice on my own.
“I can’t move at your speed,” she says, “so you’ll need to slow down to practice with me.”
This is the traditional way, the safe way that an apprentice learns.
A distorted energy pattern can bring forth poison gas, acids, vicious animals, or countless other sources of death.
The master watches as the apprentice creates the pattern, and reshapes it, as needed.
There’s no time to follow the regular guild path.
“Let me practice on my own,” I suggest.
“I’m not afraid of death.”
“I can rebuild my Jiku body.”
“How can you treat life so lightly?” she asks.
“The next time, death may take you and not let you go.”
“And what about the world around you?”
“Your practice is dangerous to every living thing.”
“I’ll go to the desert, far from people, so I can’t harm anyone or anything.”
“Let me try it for a day, and see how it goes.”
“Go,” she says, clearly upset with me.
“It’s not you, Shazira.”
“I just have to do this quickly.”
“You’re not Jiku any more.”
“You don’t need any of us.”
“Go off by yourself and become a master, but what kind of master will you be?”
She changes, and flies away before I can answer.
I take deep breaths to slow my heart and calm my emotions, so I can turn my attention to the training.
Masks and Memories
I must fill myself with the transformation patterns.
They are found in objects or living creatures.
Apprentices hold each object in their hands, and let our energy eyes fill with the patterns.
Then we practice, creating the pattern, over and over.
The guild libraries have large collections of pattern objects.
Unfortunately, many of the objects are too fragile to handle at Gen speed, and not all of the patterns are found in the collections.
There are two hundred patterns that no one learns any more.
The Bizra call these hidden patterns, and say that they are the most important patterns of all.
However, the Bizra never explain why.
The hidden patterns were once found in rare plants.
Even in ancient times, the plants were nearly impossible to locate, found in dangerous, distant places.
Who knows if they still exist!
Someday, I will chase the hidden patterns, but not today.
Now, I must train.
I focus on the Gen within me, and shift my awareness to operate a thousand times faster than a normal Jiku mind.
Then I reach into my memories.
Some of the old ones who shared their memories were flow masters.
I have their memories of transformation patterns and masks, even a few of the hidden patterns.
Most of the shared memories are hazy, fragmented, the patterns within them unclear.
I feel like the memories are stored in a slow place, far outside of me.
In ancient cubes, the masters speak of the far mind and near mind.
In the Jiku, the far mind and the near mind are both bound to the pattern body, and the memories disappear with death.
The near mind is what we think of as our conscious mind, with our normal memory.
The far mind includes our unconscious, and a nearly unlimited memory.
These minds are tied to our physical brain and the pattern body.
There is also a fire mind which lives on, but only echoes and shadows of the other minds remain in the fire body, for the next world.
Shazira is right.
I’m not Jiku any more.
When I let go of my pattern body to save Zias, all my memories remained.
My near mind and far mind both live in my fire body, with the fire mind still hidden.
The far mind stores the memories that I absorbed from the old ones.
I need to build a clear path to those memories, so I can use the patterns.
I focus on the energy well tied to my heart, that touches all three bodies.
I reach deep into the well, and ask for the hidden intelligence within me, the fire mind, to bring the other minds together, so I can see the patterns.
Energy spins within the well, and I see two pulsing stars.
These are energy structures that hold the two minds.
A river of energy spins between the stars, and weaves them together.
The patterns fall into my near mind, one by one.
Balshown taught me how to internalize the twelve mother energy patterns.
All patterns are combinations of these.
Balshown won’t say where he learned the mothers, only that today’s masters have forgotten them.
As each transformation pattern enters my mind, I ask something within me to find the mother pattern within it.
The core pattern lights up within the larger pattern, and I wait for a feeling, a unique movement of energy.
This tells me that the pattern has settled into me.
After this, it’s easy to use it.
At Gen speed, I complete the recall and registering of transformation patterns in a few hours.
Learning the masks is more difficult.
It starts the same.
I call on the fire mind to bring each mask to me from the memories in the far mind, but the masks don’t settle into me.
Unsure of what to do, I practice using each mask to change my shape.
This practice is much harder than the one mask that Shazira taught me so long ago.
She helped me as I practiced.
I feel so clumsy as I practice on my own.
I practice each mask hundreds of times before it becomes fluent.
Even with Gen speed, this takes too long, almost fifteen minutes in the outside world.
After an hour of this, I’ve learned only four masks, and my energy and attention grow weak.
I search my memories for another way, and I find a learning trick from one of the old ones.
I pull the mask into my mind’s eye.
I imagine every energy flow in the mask a hundred times brighter and faster than normal.
Then, I see the mask covering my fire body thousands of time, like a mosaic.
The fire body is untouched by the thousands of identical masks, but the mosaic causes the mask to spread deeply into my memory in a few moments.
Then the mask seems to race across my pattern body, and take hold.
Then I practice floating and releasing the mask ten to fifteen times, until I’m fluent in it.
Shortly after dark, I complete the practice with the masks and patterns.
I slow down to regular speed, and feel the physical exhaustion in my body.
I come back to my parents’ old house.
Shazira, Tzina, and I are staying there now.
Shazira looks at me.
“Are you sick, Yagrin?”
“You look terrible!”
I laugh when I realize how foolish I’ve been.
I can reshape my physical body in a moment to any age, and any physical condition.
I restore my body to the way it was this morning, full of energy, but I keep my new memories and skills.
“How do you do that, Yagrin?” she asks, as she sees me transform before her eyes.
“I reshape my body at will,” I tell her, “even to a younger age.”
“Can you do this for others?” she asks.
“Do you realize what this would do for healing?”
“I’ve never done it for others,” I answer.
“You were right,” I tell her.
“I’m not Jiku any more, and what works for me, might kill a Jiku.”
She looks troubled.
“Shazira,” I tell her, “whatever I am, my heart is still bound to this family.”
She takes my hand, and squeezes it.
We eat a wonderful dinner with Tzina, as she excitedly tells us about her day.
All night I dream of masks and transformation patterns.
The next morning, after breakfast, I show Shazira what I’ve learned.
She seems upset with me.
“What’s wrong?” I ask.
“You spend a day to get skills that took me years to master!” she says.
“I shouldn’t resent you for it, but I do.”
“Think of it differently,” I suggest.
“The old ones gave me a gift.”
“They put themselves in a beautiful prison for a thousand years so they could pass on their knowledge to us.”
“They are like our parents, brothers and sisters.”
“They left their families and lives behind, so they can protect us in times to come.”
“They have made us their family, as I have made you my family.”
“I will protect you with all of my strength, and search for ways to bring you joy.”
We hug for a long time, and a happy calm settles over both of us.
Two days later I pass the test for flow master, as Shazira watches and smiles, full of pride.