My mind slips back from Jaina’s world, falling down an endless hole.
Soon the body lands, solid again in my awareness.
Warmth surrounds me and supports me.
How long have I been in the vat?
No way to tell yet.
Is this the same world and the same room?
The vat is smaller than before, and the room feels different.
I slowly stretch my muscles, waiting for them to protest their long sleep.
Instead, I find my body relaxed, strong, and well rested, not sore or weak.
I look at the liquid with energy eyes.
Energy covers the vats and fills the room, shines and streams into my body.
The energy strengthens us, as we dream in the vat, and journey far away and within.
The old ones told me that the vat accepts us when it’s time to travel, and wakes us when it’s time to end our journey.
My body is bursting with energy as I run down the ladder.
Energy spins through me, like a great, smiling, wind.
It begins near my navel and rushes through my body.
I look at the dreaming travelers in the other vats with energy eyes.
Their bodies, like giant whirlpools, pull at the vat’s energy with endless hunger.
The whirlpools look like great wells, and deep within each well is a window that spins slowly.
Through those twisting windows I see other worlds that the travelers visit.
These are not my worlds, and I feel that I’m intruding where I don’t belong.
I hear a clear high tone that calls me away from the vats.
The sound pours out of the room’s heavy wooden door.
I am a flower drawn to the sun’s light, and pass a single finger in a delicate touch along the edge of the door.
It opens, and the simple sound fades, replaced by the sweet voices of the old ones.
I’m sad to be outside the song.
Those who awake in the middle of a song must wait for the song to end.
The temple will not let us enter, and the air above the temple will not accept us.
I follow my room’s path toward the temple.
Everything and everyone is smaller than before my journey.
Have I changed?
I walk around the edge of the temple, in awe at the flying dance above me, and the song that resonates through my whole body.
What a wonder to watch this dance from the outside!
The old ones say that you can’t feel the song when you come after it begins, but the song burns through me, strong and powerful, just like the last time.
I watch and listen for at least an hour, and my feet bring me closer, until I stand within the temple.
The dance is above me.
I get lost in the song, and my sense of time disappears.
My gaze is caught for a moment by an old one approaching from another room of vats.
She stands outside the edge of the temple and watches the dance with a radiant smile.
She feels my eyes upon her, and turns her eyes to look at me.
Her smile falls away for a moment.
She is puzzled, and a little afraid of me.
Then the smile returns brighter than before, and she runs to me.
“I’m Diza,” she says, and raises her right palm in greeting, but her hand cannot penetrate the temple.
“Yagrin,” I answer, as I smile and push my hand through the invisible edge of the temple, placing my left palm against hers.
My hand is much larger, and I am much taller than her.
In the last dance, we were all about the same size.
An orange fire circles our joined hands.
It feels and looks like Jaina’s orange fire from the forest journeys.
“You’re inside the temple, Yagrin!”
“Why aren’t you dancing?”
“I came in the middle of the song.”
“That’s not possible!” she says.
“The temple will not let us pass in the middle of a song.”
I wonder if I’ll get in trouble for this.
Then I push the thought aside, and pull Diza into the temple.
She raises her left palm in greeting, and I meet it with my right.
The orange fire now circles our bodies, and dances wildly around us.
Then the fire pulls us thirty feet up into the air, our hands still together.
We welcome the fire into our voices, part of the harmony of the great song.
I’m larger now than any of the old ones.
The song slows when they see that we have joined the dance, and the two of us fly together.
They stare at my child’s body, that defies the power of the temple.
Time should not touch us, but my body is growing.
The dance continues, faster than before.
Later, we all settle to the ground.
Diza runs to Niyta, the leader of the old ones.
“He grows, and we fly together, Niyta!”
Niyta nods her head with a smile.
The smile is real, but it has sadness, too.
“Our time here is short,” she says.
“The prophecies live before our eyes.”
“Soon, no more than a year or two, we must all leave the temple, leave our song, and return to the world.”
“Can we live in the quiet darkness of the outside world?”
“You are the last to enter the temple, Yagrin, but you will be the first to leave.”
“You will prepare the way for us.”
“Your body has moved to the age of fourteen.”
“Time is short, Yagrin.”
“You will grow with every journey, and soon cease being an old one.”
“Then, you must leave us.”
The Tower and the Well
“One more journey, Yagrin.”
“Focus your heart, and fill it with courage.”
“What lessons do you still need to learn?”
“Why has destiny sent you here?”
“If you can give up all you are, wish that the next journey will take you to a world greater than the others.”
“Time for you is short.”
“This world must teach you the lessons of a thousand ordinary journeys.”
“Is there such a world, Niyta?”
“The Bizra told us of a journey that goes beyond death, a journey that the last old one will take.”
“We hide from death in the cave, Yagrin.”
“The years can’t touch us, so we pretend there is no death.”
“Death has embraced you, shared her gifts with you, and let you return to life.”
“You will need to meet her, again and again, to complete your journey here, and follow your path in the outside world.”
I feel a strange itching on my upper legs.
“Look through the robe, Yagrin,” she says.
“What do you see?”
I lift up my robe, but there’s nothing there.
I look at her, confused.
“Your energy eyes, Yagrin,” she says, gently.
Each of my upper legs has an energy tattoo of black fire, shaped like Jaina’s long knives.
The image of a white tower brightens one of the knives, and the image of a well colors the other knife.
“Why did the knives follow me back from my journey in the vat, Niyta?”
“What does it all mean?”
“These are your journeys, Yagrin, and your lessons.”
“Return to the vats, and face whatever calls you.”
“He must rest after a journey, Niyta,” says Diza.
“Yes, Diza,” she answers.
“He should rest days or weeks between journeys, as we all do, but his body will not wait.”
“Even now, it grows.”
The knives itch again, and I see them glow.
I reach for them with hands of energy.
My left hand seizes the right knife and throws it high to my left.
My right hand takes the left knife and throws it high to my right.
The knives spin around each other, and circle high above the temple.
They fly toward one of the twelve rooms, and pass right through the door.
A few seconds later, they return to me and take their place on my legs.
The knives are Jaina’s gift of courage.
We will go together to the world that waits for me.
I open the door and walk inside.
There on the outside of one of the empty vats, I see a glowing energy image of the tower.
I climb the ladder, lie down on the warm liquid, and fade away into the journey.