Sweet Music

Clear Morning
A voice pulls me out of sleep.
“Wake up, Yagrin.”
“It’s almost time for the greeting.”

The world feels thick and dull as I try to rise.
Why am I so tired?

I’m alone a few minutes later when I finally get out of bed, but I hear Shazira and Tzina on the deck.
I remember holding Tzina, after the attack, as she went to sleep.
That was late afternoon.

I change into fresh clothes and wash up.
Then I join my family on the deck, by the railing, facing west, where the sun rises.
The sun is hidden behind thick clouds, but our Jiku eyes are more than human, and can see well enough in the dim light.

There’s a familiar energy in the air as I look out into the distance.
A lightstorm is coming, but there’s time to complete the greeting before the storm arrives.

Shazira and Tzina are ready to begin the greeting of the light.
Meditations and prayers, done every day in the midst of beautiful, flowing movements.
The first time I saw Shazira dance the greeting, I asked if the Jiku worship the sun.
She laughed, and stared at me like I was an idiot.
I must have looked hurt, because her expression quickly softened.

“No, Yagrin,” she said slowly, like she was speaking to a young child.
“The sun sustains life and strengthens the web, but it’s only one among a sea of stars that serve the creator.”
“Do the people of your old world believe that the sun is the creator?!”

“Some did, a long time ago.”

“The sun is extraordinary but I can’t imagine worshiping it, and never asking what lies beyond.”

“So why do you dance?”

“The greeting draws energy from the sun and clears the mind, heart, and body. It strengthens us for the day.”
“But there are other, deeper reasons.”
“We dance to remind ourselves to look for the creator who hides behind everything we see, even the light and the web.”
“We dance to celebrate each day.”
“And we dance to commit ourselves to embrace the mystery and possibility that surrounds us.”
“The greeting comes at first light, whether the sun is visible or not, outside, if we can.”
“Some believe that the dance is most powerful when the sun can’t be seen, when the sky is filled with clouds and storms, when the light is hidden, and the world is full of mystery!”

For days, I’ve watched Shazira as she dances, but I haven’t joined her.
The greeting is beautiful, sacred, and I feel like an outsider, with no place in the dance.

Yes, I know how to dance the greeting.
Shazira taught me the movements, and the words, feelings and thoughts that go with them.
When I practice, the dance feels unnatural, the words hollow, and the feelings a lie.
So, every day I watch.

Tzina looks at me shyly without speaking, as she moves her body into the starting shape.
Then she straightens up, and walks over to me.

She takes my hand, and brings me to a place on one side of her.
“Do it with us, ina,” she says.

I sigh.
I can’t do it, but I can’t say no to her, either.

Sometimes when I need help with this life, I can reach into myself, and touch Yagrin’s memories.
I have only one memory of him doing the dance, and he was bored.

“Did I ever enjoy dancing the greeting, Shazira?”

“No,” she answers, smiling.
“You only did it when someone forced you.”

I turn to Tzina.
“I won’t do it right the first time, and I won’t be able to move at your speed.”

“It doesn’t matter, ina.”
“Just do it with us, any way you can.”

Most Jiku dance one complete cycle of the greeting in the morning, but some dance two, seven, or ten cycles of the greeting.

We begin.
I’m clumsy at first, eyes wide open, trying to watch where my body is, and where it’s going.
I dance one cycle this way, feeling disconnected from the dance, the words and the feelings.

Then I close my eyes, and find my energy sight.

Within the gaze of my inner sight, the clouds above us are shining.
My body glows brightly, especially my hands.
I give myself completely to the movement, and find the rhythm.

Forgetting about who I am, and where I am.
Forgetting everything but the greeting.

The world glows, brighter and brighter, until I hear a voice calling me from far away.

I let the dance come to an end, and I open my eyes.

The sky is covered with dark storm clouds.
I see dozens of lightning strikes over the ocean, a few miles away.
How long have I been dancing?

Near me, I see a soft blue light that rests on the deck like a fog.
Shazira and Tzina are staring at me.

“Your hands, Yagrin,” says Shazira.

My hands are blue and shining, the source of the strange light.
I feel a sense of urgency in my stomach, circling my navel.
Something important is about to happen.

A blue ring of light, five feet across, rises up from my hands, until it touches a cloud, and opens a path through it.
A brilliant ray of light shines through the opening, a gift from the sun.
It moves down to touch the three of us.

A glowing, blinding fog forms, and hovers in the air above us.
Then it circles the Watchtower, and comes to rest on the wooden deck.

The deck glows, and I feel a strong, clear tone, moving through my body in waves.
I watch, as the top few inches of the wood transforms, leaving the wooden deck covered with a glowing white surface that looks like porcelain, but is harder than steel.
It feels good to my bare feet, and easy to walk on, even in the hard rain that’s just begun.

“Inside, Yagrin, away from the lightning,” yells Shazira, shouting to be heard above the rain.
We go inside, our clothes completely soaked.

“What happened to me out there, Shazira?”

“You don’t know?”

“No,” I answer.
“I remember closing my eyes, and getting lost in the dance, but that’s all.”

“You danced, cycle after cycle, and then your hands started to glow.

“With each cycle, you danced faster and faster, until your movements became a blur.”
“It was amazing and terrifying.”

“Tzina wondered if you would vanish.”
“I thought you might die from the effort.”

“Tzina called you, again and again, and eventually you stopped.”
“After you completed dozens of the dance cycles.”

“I’m not tired,” I tell her, “or even out of breath.”
“I felt wonderful when the ring of light came from my hands and opened the clouds.”

“I felt the urgency and rightness of doing it, but I didn’t plan it or think about it.”
“A distant part of me, both familiar and unknown, something beyond words, knew what to do.”

“Are you going to be ok ina?” asks Tzina, with some fear in her voice.

I take her hand.
“The dance renewed me.”
“I feel strong and calm,” Tzina.
“I know I did the right thing, even though I don’t understand it, just like yesterday, when I protected you.”

“That was awesome, ina,” she says.

I turn to Shazira.
“Why did I sleep so long after I brought Tzina home?”

“I tried to wake you,” she says, “after Tzina fell asleep, but you were exhausted from fighting the Wikza.”
“I wasn’t sure you would wake up in time for the greeting.”

“The Wikza gave off a sound that blocked access to the web,” I tell her.
“I reached out in desperation, and found power, beyond the web, and used all my inner strength to push a thought into the world, through the vibration, to make it real.”

“Where did you learn to do that?” she asks.

“I don’t know.”
“I must have pulled it from Yagrin’s memories.”
“Maybe that’s where today’s dance came from, and the ring of blue light.”

“No,” she says.
“Yagrin could never dance like that.”
“I’ve never seen anyone dance the greeting like that.”

“Your actions against the Wikza are even stranger.”
“All our energy mastery is based on the great web.”
“You touched something deeper.”
“There are writings that suggest ways to harness that deep energy, but not the way that you did it.”

“The idea was abandoned long ago.”
“It was considered too dangerous.”
“Working with the energy drained you.”
“You’re lucky it didn’t kill you!”

“It happened so fast, Shazira.
“I was determined to protect my little girl, and ready to tear the creature apart with my hands.”

Tzina comes close and touches my arm.
“I’m not so little, ina,” she says with a smile, “even if I acted like a baby yesterday.”

I kiss the top of her head.
“You were scared,” I tell her.
“That’s all.”

“It wasn’t just fear,” she says.
“When the creature approached, I felt like my mind would explode.”
“I couldn’t think of anything but the landscapes, and getting away from them.”

“Landscapes?” asks Shazira.

“I told you about them, oodah,” says Tzina.
“Strange images that haunt me until I make a sculpture for them.”
“I was searching for a stone to absorb the latest landscape.”
“When the Wikza approached, my mind started spinning with all the strange images that I’ve ever seen.”

“Do you feel better now?” asks Shazira.

“Yes, oodah, but …”

“We’ll speak later,” interrupts Shazira.
“I need to speak privately now with ina.”

“What’s wrong?” I ask, after we enter the Dreaming Room.

“Did you notice Tzina’s golden eyes?”

“Of course.”
“Her eyes are just like yours, and so beautiful.”

“They’re called fire eyes,” she says.

“It’s a rare trait, and many Jiku with these eyes are mentally unstable.”
“They go mad and die, usually before five years old.”

“You think that Tzina is losing her mind?”

“I don’t know,” she says, as tears form, but the healers can’t help with the Bizra madness.”
“We lost another child to the madness”

“I don’t remember,” I tell Shazira.

Tzina is watching us through the windows, and taps on the outer door.
I let her in.

“You didn’t let me finish, oodah,” she says, hugging her mother.
“The images are all gone, and my mind is clear.”

“What do you mean?” asks Shazira.

“When ina shattered the Wikza, and the wave of energy passed through me, the images vanished.”
Tzina turns to me, and smiles a big smile.
“They’re all gone, ina, even from the sculptures.”

I focus on the sculptures.
The moving shapes are beautiful, as always, and I wait for the images to appear.
My mind is quiet.

“They’re completely gone, Tzina,” I tell her.
“I don’t see them either.”

“Why would you see them?” Shazira asks me, in a troubled voice.

“The mindstone in the sculptures doesn’t erase the images,” I tell her.
“The stones become linked to Tzina’s mind, and absorb the landscapes.”
“She and I still saw them when we looked at the sculptures, until now.”

“Why you, Yagrin?” asks Shazira.

“I don’t know.”

“When I first made a sculpture, oodah,” says Tzina, “it would settle my mind, but each time I knew that another image would come.”
“This time I was healed, and the images were erased from the sculptures.”
“There won’t be any more images.”

Shazira sighs, and grabs both of us in a hug.
Then Tzina goes out of the room, and leaves us alone.

“You healed her, Yagrin.”

“I protected her, Shazira.”
“The healing was an accident.”

“I don’t believe that,” she says.
“Something in you wanted to heal her, and found a way.”
“Thank you.”

“How can you thank me for helping our little girl, Shazira?”

“Is she your daughter, Yagrin?”

I pause for a moment.
“She is.”

“How do you know?” she asks me.
“What changed your mind?”

“The mindstones healed me,” I tell her.
“The first one removed the fog that covered my heart.”
“Then, the second, giant stone threatened Tzina, and I saw clearly how I feel about both of you.”
“I would move the world for you.”

We stand there in silence, looking at each other.

“What’s next for us?” she asks.

“I remember so little,” I answer.
“Tell me about our life together.”

“I will, soon,” she says, “but not now.”
“Tzina is waiting for us.”

Music, Art, and Story
Another morning.
Tzina takes me by the hand and leads me into the blue art and music room.
“Come, ina! Come,” she says.
I’m not moving fast enough for her.

I love the way she says ina, and the way it makes me feel.

This is her favorite room in the house.
She picks up three instruments:
A flute, a stringed instrument, and a drum.

I listen to her play for two hours with a couple of short breaks.
There are visitors in the room while she plays for me, but they stay far away from us.
Other Jiku approach the room, but stop when they see me.
They’ve heard about me.
A traveler who jumps into their world and takes over the body of a powerful energy master, and the Watchtower’s guardian.

I’ve heard the whispers.
“How can the guilds let him stay there?”
“Why don’t they do something!?”

Shazira and Tzina believe I’m the one they’ve always loved, and the Embu traveler of the Dream Hunter’s vision.
The ghost who crossed the possibility sea to meet his shadow.
It sounds like a story that would give a child nightmares, yet my family believes it, and still loves me.
I don’t understand, but I’m grateful for their trust and love.

Together, Alone
This is not a simple room.
It has sophisticated technology that enables many people to play music at once, without complete chaos.

There’s a large round table in the middle of the room.
The center of the table is two inches lower than the rest of the table.

It’s a holographic projector used for accompaniment, and inspiration.
For playback of music to imitate, for replay of practice sessions, and for display of musical notes and patterns to play.

Images and sound display above the central area of the table.

Light-colored wooden storage areas line the right wall, and hold some of the musical instruments.
Others wait in open wooden stands on the floor.
One of the standing instruments is a four foot flute, meant to be played by two people together.

Each seat along the table is acoustically and visually isolated from the others.
Each person controls whether they see and hear others in the room, and whether they can be seen and heard.

There is one display area, above the center of the table, but the sounds and images each person sees are only for them.

The control appears as a three dimensional cubic interface hovering three inches above the table, eight inches in diameter.

The cube is a structure of energy, but feels cool, pliable, and smooth to the touch.
The cube rotates, and parts of it unfold to reveal additional interface components.

Several smaller tables are spaced near the walls around the left side of the room.
One of them has a potter’s wheel on it.

There are endless cabinets and drawers on the left of room filled with raw materials for crafts and artwork.
I open a drawer and see collections of colored feathers, organized in various spaces around the edge of the drawer.
The center of the drawer has an open round storage area with small stones in a variety of colors.

Windows are interspersed with the cabinets and storage areas on all sides of the egg.
There are other work areas for storytelling, near the doors that open onto the deck.

We leave the room, and Tzina holds on to me for the rest of the day.
She shares her likes and dislikes, and tells me the activities we love to do together, and our private jokes.
When she stops, I see she’s holding something back.

“What’s wrong?” I ask her.

“The other world.”
“Can I ask you about it?”
“Will it make you too sad?”

“No,” I tell her.
“I can share it with you.”

She asks endless questions about what it’s like in the other world, and what her brothers and sisters on Earth are like.
“It’s so sad,” she says, with tears in her eyes, “that I can never meet them.”

Traveling Home -- 1: WatchtowerPrevious StoryNext Story
  1. Prologue
  2. Island and Tower
  3. Healing Room
  4. Watchtower Floorplan
  5. Tzina’s Laugh
  6. Dream Room
  7. Storm and Stone
  8. Sweet Music
  9. Memories and Breakfast
  10. History and Change
  11. Dreaming and Weaving
  12. Hungry for Lightning

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