Monday, May 31, 2010

278 - Touch

“We will begin this next session by beginning to re-teach you how to touch, Minis.”

“What? I know how to touch!”

"True. And I am wrong stating it so. I mean, touch without fear."

I got up from the chair and started pacing back and forth, suddenly nervous as a cat. I missed my cat. I missed the stupid white kitten that wouldn’t leave me alone in the Marble Palace even when I was being a cruel idiya kid.

“And,” Zinchaer continued thoughtfully. “It depends on what you mean. Everyone knows how to touch, of course. But in your estimation, do Arkans – in general—touch like Haians?”

“No, of course not!”

“We are all people and the way we touch is a thing that is taught us by our parents, our peers, everyone around us.”

That made a certain kind of sense. I sat down again and thought of the wildly different ways people around me had touched me.

"How did your father touch you? Did he hug you, lovingly or harshly?"
My father had been pig-handed. Not only with me but with everything around him.

"My... father hadn't cared for anything around him." The image of my carefully chosen glass gifts, set aside or casually broken by his clumsiness flashed through my head and I shied away from that memory. "But it could also be because everything around him didn't seem real, I guess. I don't want to touch like that."

"A good wish, Minis. You already don't touch like that. Who else touched you while you were growing up?"

"Misahis did." My voice dropped. His touch, the touch of the Haians, even in the dungeon. In recoiling from that memory I went as far opposite the Haian touch as I could. "The way Mahid touched was either... painful or indifferent."

"Yes." No judgment there at all. "Who else?"

"My nurse... Binshala. I could tell she liked me... loved me. And my first friend. I could tell through his hugs that he loved me." Zinchaer nodded. Thinking of Chevenga raised his face in my mind and Gannara's as well. Gan and I could touch without setting off the vile sexual stuff. My mind flashed to that hideous night in the Bedchamber.  
Even mind-broken and under my father’s command, Chevenga’s touch didn’t hurt me. Even while I did that to him. He still touched carefully. He wasn’t there in mind to touch in his usual ‘mindful’ way, but he’d been broken down to his basic nature. He touched me carefully, even when I was raping him. I swallowed my gorge and turned my mind away from that. I would remember other times… like the first time he hugged me.

I gulped and sipped my tea, set the empty cup down with a click. 

"Those were the only people who touched you?" He prompted gently.

"No, no. At that point I was being touched every day by my companions as they dressed me, and Binshala dressing my hair or washing me. Or the garderobe man cleaning me afterward. They were all very careful." I looked down at my toes. "I could feel it if they feared me. I could feel it if they cared. It felt different when I made friends with them."
I looked up at him. "And how Ili and I touch. I got Binshala to teach me how to hold a baby and the first way he touched me was to wet on me!"
Zinchaer smiled very much the way Binshala had. "You got past that, obviously."

"Well, he was a baby and couldn't help it."

And how I touched Ili. The only time I’d touched him harshly that I could remember was when I’d snatched him up when he was having the tantrum outside the Tunnel and my fear was bigger than my love for him.

Zinchaer let me sit and think it through. “I suppose we symbolize that by wearing gloves,” I said.


“Oh. Hmmm. Not only do we see hands as vile and only to be exposed in private… except my father and I since we were supposed to be above such things… in a sense we emphasize our insulation from everyone else. Since we are supposed to be superior, having fallen from the sky.”

“I suppose that is so, at least one reason for Arko to have such a custom. Here.” He held out an orange to me. “Just touch.”

“An orange?”

“Yes. I picked it off the tree this morning and set it in one of the kitchen root cellars for a while. Take it and touch it. Talk to me about how it feels.”

I took it gingerly. “Ah. You are not going to crush it inadvertently, lad. Just hold it at first.”

I looked down at it, sitting in my palm. It was cool from having been in the cellar. There was weight to it. Heft. It was greenish orange with swaths of yellow in between the green and the orange.

But I was supposed to be feeling it, not just looking at it. It made sense, I suppose. I could hardly hurt an orange’s feelings by touching it wrong. It seemed right that I should raise it to my face, so I did, and inhaled the sweet, slightly sharp odor of the peel under my nose. The skin was nubbly, roundly bumpy. I passed it from one hand to the other. It felt good. There was no meaning to be had behind the sensation, other than it just existed in my hand. “Good,” Zinchaer said. “Now would you please do the ‘relaxing the mind’ meditation I taught you a few days ago?"

“But I’ll drop the orange and fall over! That’s not relaxing!”

He smiled. “It would, however, be very funny. You may just lean back and let the chair take your weight and put the hand with the orange in your lap.”

Zinchaer had taught me four separate meditations, one for each of the kinds of tensions, out upon the beach, moving through the musculature, the breath, the mind and the emotions. I’d found that doing the first two made the last two easier. I leaned back and put myself back on the beach in my head, listening to the surf-roar and the gulls and the swish of the clacking sword leaves and branches of the bottle-brushes that Haians called trees. The painful whirl in my head began to slow down as I focused on my tight-knotted head and neck and shoulders. As I worked on getting things slowed down enough so I could start paying attention to just my breathing I was aware that Zinchaer had gotten up quietly and taken the orange out of my loose hand.

I was just getting used to it, why did you take it away? But before I could complain – I had just gotten to the point of letting my eyes drift open – he’d put one of the ubiquitous Haian cats across my hands.
The Haians have this odd breed of cat. Mostly with a cap and saddle of the hooped variety… oh on Haiu Menshir I could say striped… with white faces and paws and bellies… and they are so relaxed that they would lie across a screaming patient’s arms limp and unafraid as a wet towel. Sometimes purring even. This one was purring so loud I could feel my whole lap vibrate.

“Now you may touch the cat the same way you touched the insensate orange. You were gentle enough. If you can, stay in the calm place in your mind.”

Now how exactly was I going to do that? Rather than get annoyed at Zinchaer… it never did any good and he was just as likely to find some even more annoying significance to my annoyance, I petted this lap-rug masquerading as a cat.

It was so soothing. And I could see that I was soothing it, as it stretched out its legs and if anything purred louder. “Please describe how it feels, Minis.”

“Warm.” It was very hard to cling to my annoyance with this buzzing fuzzball on me. “It tickles but I can feel its ribs.”

“Her ribs.”

“Her ribs,” I dutifully repeated. It didn’t even bother me that he’d probably deliberately picked a female thing for me to touch. “And her spine and her hips and her tail. Her fur is so soft it’s standing up, charged, from me touching her. She and I crackle.”

“Here you go.” He handed me a cool towel and I wiped my face and hands and I started describing it even before he asked me. “It’s nice and nubbly and a little rough and smells of lavender.”

“Good!” He had a smile on his face. “I wasn’t going to ask you but that is good, too! Your touches are important and how you connect with the world. I would like you to write down what you think of touch, tonight and you and I will be able to discuss it tomorrow.”

“Um. Zinchaer, you’re working up to me touching people aren’t you?”
He smiled wider. “It is obvious, isn’t it? Yes.”

“I… I’m all right touching people who haven’t hurt me… Gan, Ili.”

“And every time you do, you are healing. It also helps them heal from a number of traumas.” He looked out the window at a yellow butterfly on the purple bush there. “Your intake form mentioned that you had been sexually abused.”

I felt my relaxed mind flow away like water down a drain, gurgling pain behind it. I had stayed away from that. I had tried to be as honest as I could in everything but that. My guts started churning again. “Oh. Yes. Well.” I leaned forward and set the cat down. She didn’t bother moving but stayed to make my feet too hot instead of my lap. “Zinchaer… I can’t hold onto the mental quiet.” I had to swallow my gorge and force myself to say it out loud. “I… I…” I wrapped my arms around my chest where my heart was hurting again. Such a familiar pain.

His eyes on me were quiet, just waiting. “I…” Forzak it, why are these tears not done with yet? My lack of control offended me, angered me, disgusted me. “I… have to admit… I was the abuser, not the abused.” I flinched my eyes shut so as to avoid the disgust I was sure was there.

“The abuser?” My eyes popped open at his tone. There was no disgust there. No repudiation. Of course. He was Haian. It was all illness and dis-ease, from their viewpoint. Mainland sickness. “How old where you?” Wait. Had I told him? This was starting to sound familiar. Had I said something and forgotten it?

“Zinchaer… I’m falling apart… have I told you about this already and have forgotten?”

“No, Minis,” his eyes were so kind. It was as though he touched me with his gaze the way, well, the way Yeolis did. Gan did that. Intent and not painful. I was starting to associated brown eyes with being looked at in a way that didn’t hurt, as if blue eyes were somehow edged and pointed.

“No.” He repeated. “You are showing signs of having been abused, at least to a trained healer’s eye.”

“I was twelve.” I whispered. But my gorge rose up and I shook my head violently. “No, no I can’t tell you. I refuse to tell you. Zinchaer I can’t tell you!” I was on my feet but the cat was still across them, meowing mildly because I had disturbed her. I stood, frozen not wanting to kick the cat. I was a hair away from running from the room completely.

“It’s all right Minis, you don’t have to. It’s all right.” He held out a cup of water. “Are you thirsty? You don't need to run... but you can if you have to. No one will force you to reveal anything. You will be able to work on it one day but I am certainly not going to pry open the caterpillar’s cocoon to see inside it.”

I gulped and reached out for the water even though I didn’t want it. “Can we… Zinchaer… I need to swim, not just have water inside me.”

“I will come down to the beach with you. We can finish our session on the sand there.”

“Thank you, Zinchaer.”

“No need, Minis. I am with you on this.” He scooped up the cat and placed her across his shoulders like a shawl, freeing me to move. It was as close as a Haian would get to ‘taking sides’. A Haian was always on your side. It made me sick to think what my father had done and tried to do to them and their home. It was almost enough to make me pray that my sire was in hayel, but I wouldn’t. If the Gods were really there, I didn’t want to draw their merciless attention to me.

Friday, May 28, 2010

277 - The Cove

This little cove was completely private. It took a good long walk along the shore and more, to reach it. There were several milas of beaches held private to the University, with the patients and the long-term healers needing them. Then another walk before the cliffs started to rise and the beaches got more pebbly.

The road became a path and one could go right down to the water and for a few malas more along the edge of the sea, away from Haiu Roru and the harbor and the walled off sailortown. The cliffs here marched straight into the sea. If you swam out along them, far enough out from the cliff to not get caught in the currents that could drag people down, there were sandy little pockets of beach like a string of beads, each one isolated from the last by the natural mountain walls.

I didn’t tell Gannara this is where I was going when I said I was going to the beach. He’d explode if he knew. He would have exploded if he knew how I’d found it. I’d been caught in one of those currents, swimming too close to the cliff wall, that the sea hissed and boiled and slammed itself against.

A memory of being tumbled under the water as though I was being dragged over a waterfall not knowing left from right, up from down. Lungs straining eyes full of churning bubbles flying every direction around me, an impact in my gut that made my last air burst out, adding to the foam. Driving in one direction, I clung to the idea ‘keep your mouth closed!’ and was flung into the air to slam into the water again, breathing, gasping air and enough water to make me cough.

Dayanal. Gannara had been right. One had pushed me in the stomach, up to the top of the water. They did save people in trouble. They were all around me and I seized a top-fin desperately. They’d towed me in to where I could swim by myself again, snorting and blowing, making that giggling, laughing noise, one then another as they jumped and tail-walked and splashed backwards, all the while keeping up with the one that had had mercy on me.

I’d called thank you thank you thank you when I could put my feet down again but they were gone again, their flying jumps like arcs of wave. They’d brought me in to this beach and I’d found there was no way to climb up the cliffs, nor a way to walk around the bottom of the cliffs since they thrust out into the water, the sand and pebbles falling away from under my feet when I’d walked out to try. To get out, at last, I’d swum straight out very far before turning back to get around the rock wall.

But once I knew it was there, I came back without a dayan pushing me or pulling me in to shore. I’d come because I could be completely by myself. Something I wasn’t used to. It was so private. I sat on the sand, completely naked. For once I didn’t have to worry that anyone could see me.

In the Marble Palace, though I’d been alone in spirit, I had never been without the termite-pile all around me, the distant buzz of servants and slaves talking, the myriad sounds that all the living creatures in a building so vast, make. It would only get quieter in the night and even then the cats and the mice, the rats and the rat-catchers, were active. And I’d had my companions or Binshala. I made the prayer sign for her memory as I sat on the hot sand.

Then there had been the confinement of the Mahid and I’d come to understand with Zinchaer’s help, that they had never been mine. I had always been captive to them, with tiny exceptions when I had fought 2nd Amitzas.

And then Gannara… whom I loved. I could say that. Like a brother. But we were so close that we were seldom apart… now he was staying at the University for an eight-day or so, on his healer’s recommendation and I found that though I missed him like fire, at the same time it felt like a relief to be completely by myself. Which was confusing but Zinchaer told me that would happen.

The gulls wheeled over me and I sat in the shade of a boulder that had fallen from far above long ago. At least I hoped it was long ago. It not only shaded me from the sun but from the occasionally falling shen from the birds.

As the waves lapped back and forth, long-legged little birds ran back and forth as if dancing, or sparring with the water and long green mounds of washed up sea-weed lined the water mark, full of tiny crabs and various shells that might or might not sprout spiny legs and climb down and stroll away.

In a place like this, it was much easier to believe that I was not condemned to Hayel. How could the Gods create such a place on a fallen earth and a Hayel at all? I was starting to wonder about the passages that I had memorized for so long. There were passages that Ailadas had read, ostensibly to Binshala and Kyriala that were nothing like what I knew backwards and forwards. I should probably begin reading the Book from the beginning, with all the sub-books in order just to see how badly my perception was skewed. “Gods…” I whispered. “Here I can believe you exist but I’m sorry… I’m starting to wonder if you do.”

No lightning descended from the sun to strike me down.

“Gods… Mother Selinae, your eye is not in the sky that I can see… but… this is what Selestialis is… isn’t it?”

What I could see all around me was the Spirit of Life that Zinchaer and other Haians talked about. The Gods that 2nd Amitzas had hammered into my head, and Tobias before him, were too small and mean for the beauty and grandeur I saw all around me. The two images did not fit together.

I remembered how I felt when I hide in the Goddess’s robes in the High Temple and it was very similar. I couldn’t make myself think of Muunas. My mind still shied away from Him like he was the Sun. He’d burn me to a crisp without noticing my existence.

I got up and, with my foot, marked out in the sand, the floor of the Temple. Then, carefully, thoughtfully, I did the Ten Tens, thinking of each God or Goddess as I did, rather than mindlessly as I had for so long.

It was like a vast dance, I saw at last. As if the Imperator were offering himself up as a dance partner for the Gods. I’m sure my dance master would spit his kaf out his nose if anyone had ever suggested it.

To finish, I lay on the sand with my arms outstretched, the sun beating down upon my head and back. I didn’t know what to think, so rather than think, I felt. This is Selestialis on earth and I shall be grateful for every moment. In a moment I would put my salt-stained cottons back on and swim out to where I could safely round the rock and head back to being with other people, but here I could be or try to be with the Gods.

I raised my head and could see the birds dancing in the sky, the way I and Ili and Gan were learning to do, the light sparkling on the water. The white sparkles were brighter than any gemstones separating blue from blue. For me, this was where I could talk to the Gods if They existed, or if… if They cared about what happened to men. This place was more Temple than any building, however gilded, however adorned.

I got up and brushed the sand off my skin, wrapped my loins and pulled the cloth on over sticky, sun-warmed skin and plunged into the sea to re-enter the Haian life, the healing life.


“Excellent, Joras.”

2nd Amitzas sat, cross-legged in the bunker under the Summer Palace slave barns. They were part of the final instruction the Imperator had given him. The last of the inner ways in the Marble Palace. The final bunkers. One here, one south of Fispur in a cliff with sea access. Mahid places. Given that the Marble Palace security had been so compromised immediately prior to the invasion and the sack, it had not been seen as expedious that the Spark be hidden in any of those places.

The youngest of the Mahid, 15th Iakobas, had been sent to scout the bunker, having been considered the most expendable. He had returned safely with his report that the bunker was undisturbed. So the entire Mahid contingent rested comfortably a day’s march away from the city itself.

“You did extremely well to truth-drug the tutor. He does not know where the Spark of the Sun’s Ray is, though he theorizes that they will likely return the slave to Yeola-e.”

“And he did not truly wake?”

“I administered Erasure, to maintain our anonymity, First of the Mahid.” Joras actually slipped enough into his lesser caste role as to smile. “It was un-necessary to even kill the cat, First. He has no idea that we truth drugged him, though he attributed his bodily upset and queasiness the next morning to signs of aging and sent a runner to the University to claim a sick day.”

“Good.” 2nd Amitzas thought for a long moment. “You have a new assignment, Joras. The barbarian who styled himself Imperator is known to be so twisted in mind that he is currently upon Haiu Menshir.”

“Yes, First of the Mahid.”

“You are commanded. Travel to Haiu Menshir to scout to see how intensive his security is. If they no longer value him to any great degree, assassinate him. You have my leave to ‘exercise your creativity and ability.”

“Yes, First of the Mahid. Thank you, First of the Mahid.”

“We shall be continuing the search for the Spark, from here for a considerable time, Joras. From your report he seems drawn back to the city. Eventually we will intercept him.”

“The First of the Mahid is gracious in his explanation.”

“Of course.”

Thursday, May 27, 2010

276 - Tears like Acid

Dear Shadow Mama and Shadow Daddy,

I’m sorry I didn’t write to you earlier, but I couldn’t really remember. I do now.

Minis got me away from the Mahid and took me back to Yeoli. He’s a good young man and hates what his father did to me. So he’s been pushing for me to get my memory and my voice back and to see that I get home safe.

“Gannara… maybe you shouldn’t laud me too much to your shadow-parents? After all, I’m the only Aan around to blame for your injury.”

“Shut up, Minis. I’ll laud who I like.”

We unlocked my tongue enough to find out that I was from Asinanai… I couldn’t remember that… and we went back to the city to find out that Mama and Papa were dead. I cried at the memorial and I have some more locks of hair to burn, I guess, but the harbourmaster nearly arrested Minis when he asked about the family… and I had to run in and talk him out of it. That big picture of me all over the Miyatara is embarrassing!

I was so scared and upset, Minis brought me to Haiu Menshir, figuring I needed help for what happened to me, and my Haian here, Initaeren, helped me get to a point where I could write this letter.

She’s right. I shouldn’t be scared to write you. I’m not the same. I have so many scars. Some things are fixed and are being fixed, at Minis’s expense… when we ran away from the Mahid we managed to steal half the treasury… so he’s paying for what I need, not to worry about money. He says he owes me, even though he didn’t have anything to do with what happened to me. He says that it’s his family's responsibility and I should just shut up and take it and quit arguing that it’s not his fault.

“It is my family's responsibility.”

“Just shut up and let me write, all right?”

Um… shadow-mama, shadow-daddy… I’m scared you won’t recognize me with all this stuff. I’m scarred like the demarch, if you’ve ever seen him. Some of the scars don’t show unless I take my shirt off. I had my teeth fixed so they’re not gold anymore and the scar on my face… will fade and move as I grow bigger. It has a little already so it doesn’t quite match the big face scar on Chevenga. Oh and Kurkas didn't have the germ of the head put in me so I'm fine that way too. They just gave me a little needle mark on my one eyelid as if I did have it and that's really hard to see.

The other marks will fade more too but I’ll have them my whole life, the Haians say. Oh, and they fixed it so I can have kids again. Kurkas tried to wreck that in me like he tried to wreck that in the demarch but, like him, the Haians fixed it. A healer by the name of Piatrsi. The same healer who fixed Chevenga.

You can write me here, care of the University, because I’m going to be here a while, working with Initaeren. She’s good at what she does. I like her, when she isn’t making me look at all the Kurkas stuff. But I’m safe and you can take down all those signs because you know where I am. I’m not lost anymore. I’m getting better, too.

I miss you.

“Minis, that’s a lie. I can barely remember them! I can’t lie.”

“It’s a loving lie, Gan. They don’t need to know the Mahid screwed that up. If you could, you would so you might as well put it in.”

“I suppose. All right.”

But you know I’m safe and on Haiu Menshir so everything’s all right.

Love and hugs and kisses,

P.S. Please take all those pictures of me down!



I stared at Zinchaer in horror. Had he actually said that? “Arkans have, as a matter of course, trauma related to their physical existence. They punish themselves for having normal emotions. A body feels what it feels. We will begin dealing with this. For now, all you need to do is submit to a massage.”

“You mean… take all my clothes off.” The fat guy had massages all the time.  So do most other people.

“Yes. And lie down on that table. You will be covered all over by a sheet -- wherever I am not working. I think we shall begin with lavender oil. I will be outside until you are safe under the sheet.”

He smiled at me and patted my shoulder as he left. “You can do it, Minis. It’s just healing.”

It was easier without him there. I had been taking my clothes off to swim… so it wasn’t as though I wasn’t used to it. I took my time and folded every piece of clothing carefully onto the chair, leaving my tight wraps till last, crawled onto the table as if sneaking up on something, and pulled the sheet over me. I was covered to the neck, my arms folded up by my sides, my face barely resting in the opening for my nose, when Zinchaer tapped on his own door and entered when I said ‘I’m ready.”

I’m surprised he heard me, my voice was so faint and muffled against the padding, but then, it sounded like he was used to healing Arkans, not just me.

He came in and put a few more drops of scent into his candle-burner and came over to lay a spirit-gentle hand on my shoulder. “We’ve done enough work for you to tell me. What kinds of tension are we working on, here?”

“Um. Muscle tension… I guess.”

“Good.” His strong fingers dug into the muscles of my shoulders and my arms unfolded slowly, to hang down and rest upon the shelf under my head. It felt so good. When had he put the warm oil on his hands? “You have told me who are very good at controlling the mind through the muscles.”

“The Mahid. Yeha.”

“Ah, let it go. Relax. Just saying the name is enough to tense you up. It is one of the four tensions that many people have, when they have harsh body taboos.”

“Like Arkans do.”

“Yes. Can you think of another that we have talked about?” He stood above my head and his hands slowly coursed down my back on either side of my spine, fingers splayed over my ribs. There were sore spots all the way down, as if I had spikes nailed into me, here and there. I pushed my ribs out against his hands, sighing, and it hurt, but the soreness was good. How could that be?

“Oh.” I realized I wasn’t breathing as deep as I could so drew in a little more air. “Oh! Tension in breathing!?” I wasn’t sure but Mahid were strict on how and when you could breathe if you were in their training… or punishment. I tightened up again.

“Ah, ah.” I closed my eyes and managed to just pay attention to what his hands were doing on my skin. He’s Haian. He’s not going to touch the crazy corrupt shen except to help me get rid of it. “Yes. Tension in breathing. To heal that you can learn to breath like a child again, a baby has no tension and does not hold its breath, if it is at peace. It is like flying. You let go of the control, through here.” His fingers curled slowly, smoothly down my sides and very lightly tugged my body up from my stomach. The whole bottom edge of my ribs all the way around was sore. “That tension is muscular as well but for our purposes it is usually good to separate the two.”

“I understand.” I sniffed. “Bye dose is getting’ stuff’d up.”

“It happens when on a massage table. Things loosen up and your nose is one way it can get out.” He let me get up on my elbows to clear my nose and then lay down again. "It is also lower than the rest of your head in this position. You may extrapolate that the final two tensions are mental and emotional… and they rise out of and are controlled with the first two.”

“I… suppose. Zinchaer… you said that my growing up in the Marble Palace was of itself a trauma. How is this going to help?”

“Well. Hold on a moment here, I am adjusting the sheet so that I may work on this leg.” What he called a leg, I called a hip and a leg but it was so smooth and healerly a touch I didn’t tighten up. And he used his knee to dig into the big hip and behind muscles so it wasn’t as if his fingers ever got near my anus. “You have been taught a pattern of muscular tension, to control your breathing, your thoughts and your emotions, to be safe in your father’s court, to show nothing, correct?”

“Yes. That came in handy when I was in training by the Mahid. Though they are even more severe at controlling themselves. I think 2nd Amitzas would have been even harder on me, if he thought he had to turn me into a kind of Mahid instead of an Heir. To scrape the indulged brat off.”

“So he saw you as only the indulged brat.”

“I was.”

“But you were also a sensitive child forced to see and hear and do horrific things… ah! Don’t tighten up on me… keep breathing.”

“y… y… yes.” Somehow I managed to rasp that out. “Are you saying that hurt me?”


“You mean… well… maybe… all religion aside… I might… I might…” He didn’t interrupt but shifted things and moved to work on my other leg. I managed to swallow and breathe… and whispered… “It might not have been my fault?”

“I am firmly convinced that the things you have told me of, were not your responsibility and you needn’t punish yourself for them, by punishing your body.”

I was glad I was lying down. Everything was reeling. I hadn’t told him the worst of it yet though. It was hard enough to hear that about what I had told him. I felt faint and managed to tell him so.

“Breathe. You need more air. It is good you are actually hearing this. It is something that you need to practice telling yourself, to begin countering your negative training. I will hold up this sheet and you may roll over on your back and I will cover you again.” I did that, and he held up the sheet between us so I could roll without getting tangled and still keep my privacy.

When I was on my back, looking up at the bumpy, sponge covered ceiling, I was light-headed and feeling almost dreamy. He started work on my head and neck and all of a sudden I was so relaxed I was almost drooling. “Very, very good,” he said softly and moved down to my arms and hands.

“I will give you exercises to relax you, when you begin to think these horrific things about yourself and you will be able to apply them to each kind of tension specifically.”

“I… like this one…” He chuckled as he unwound the clawed knots of tension in my hands. “Like… lying… in a… field of… lavender.” Zinchaer’s hands were like… I couldn’t think of Misahis… they were loving, like his. He had been saved by the Yeolis, I had found out.

The Haian libraries all had sections now, devoted to 'The Conquest'. The captive Haians had told their stories in a record that I had found in a folio in the University. I had to laugh. Apparently I had skated right past the rescue party and never seen them. That must have been when 2nd Amitzas truth-drugged me. 

Misahis was working in Arko again, though not for the Imperatrix. He must really like Arkans. That was good to know, that he and all the others were well.

I’d helped. I’d helped more than I knew, just by trying. I could give myself that, too. I could feel the clenched knots in my guts… those spots that Zinchaer said I was working on wearing holes in my stomach with if I didn’t stop… I could feel them loosen more.

Zinchaer was working on my feet and I found myself crying it felt so good. “Feet are often cramped if one is held captive in a constrained and rigid life,” he said. I could feel my stomach rise with my breath and my gentle tears rolling down the side of my face and into my ears. I sniffed again and found myself bawling like a baby. “It’s all right Minis. No one can hear you but me.”

As he let go my feet I turned on my side, curling up, howling with his arms around me. “It’s good Minis. You relax muscles and all the emotion and mental confusion will come out. Once it’s out. It will go away. Trust me on this one. You won’t fall apart. I have you and will hold onto you. You will not lose yourself in it if you start.”

I could not remember having cried like this. I was curled tight as Ili when he was starting a tantrum and I cried till my nose was red, raw and stuffed solid and my throat was sore and my cheeks were sore from all the tears pouring over them as if they were acid, leaving trails of pain. “These are tears and pain given you by your father. You have been carrying them for years and you can put them down now. This is not all of them… but some.”

My chest and abdomen heaved, the ribs and stomach moving more than I could remember as I breathed deeper into the pit of my stomach than I ever had… so hard it almost hurt stretching that much. But it was so easy.

“Here.” Zinchaer had a cool cloth for me when my tears and howling finally eased. He didn’t let go of me to hand it to me, either but carefully patted my face clean with the one hand. “I’m—s—“ He put the cloth over my lips for a moment, cutting me off.

“Do not apologize. That pulls some of the emotion back into you and that is not right.”

“A…all right.” He had the sheet wrapped around me tight as his hug and I could sit up without being immodest. “Zinchaer. I don’t know if I can do more of that.”

“Everyone wonders if they can. If they need to, the strength is there.”

I laughed, shaky as if I’d had a long illness, my arms and legs feeling both heavy as lead and light and empty as air… like I could fly away without a moyawas. I took the cloth out of his hand and cleared the last of the tears and nose goo off my face with it. He was too gentle to get the really sticky stuff. “Does… does everyone go through this?”

“Oh yes. Wait until we get to the rage you very justifiably have in you. Perhaps I shall have you hurl boulders off a very private cliff.”

I looked at him sideways. Sometimes I suspected Zinchaer of having a very dry sense of humour but it seemed he was perfectly serious now. Oh, wonderful. “It seems so… violent… Zinchaer.”

“You were dealt violence and it is acceptable to throw it away.”

“I… can’t wait.” Part of me wasn’t sure if I was being sarcastic or as straight as he was.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

275 - A Winged Thing

“…f you don’t mind telling me, Gannara. Have you written to your shadow parents yet?” Initaeran’s face wasn’t judgmental, just her calm, quiet face. Gannara lay on the massage table, the head of it angled up so it was almost a seat rather than a flat table, a towel over his middle, looking up at the bright mobile twitching and dancing in the steady onshore wind. The open, roofed room was high on a cliff, overlooking the ocean. The crash of the surf on the outer reef was steady as the wind.

Initaeran’s hands, one on his shoulder, one on his chest, gently feeling for whatever Haians felt for. Gannara had tears running down his temples, the storm of tears over, these the last of the rainshowers, tapering off. He wiped them. “I don’t mind.” He took a deep breath that jerked and shuddered as if his ribs had forgotten how to move smoothly.  
“Um. No, Initaeran. I’ve sat down a few times.” He gulped, eyes reddening again. “But I couldn’t.”

“Why?” Again there was no condemnation in her even tone, just mild inquiry.

Gannara shook his head back and forth on the table as if he could squirm away from things. “I… I’m not… it’s like I’m not their boy any more.”

“They don’t believe that. Why do you?”

He waved his hands at the scars on his body. “I… I had the teeth done so they just look like teeth again but I know they were capped with gold once. And my scars and… and…” his voice choked silent and he sat up, wrapping his arms around his knees looking out over the sea so far below. “…what they did to me,” he whispered. “In my head… and I haven’t told Minis this yet… but they did everything to me that they did to Ch’venga… I’m not ever going to have children. I’m not their shadow-son anymore, really. I don’t know what to say. I don’t know what to write.”

“Let me examine you, please, Gannara. You hadn’t mentioned that before.” He shuddered and laid back down.

“They didn’t cut them off, Ch’venga,” Gannara said, shuddering all over, thought it was far from cold. “So they didn’t cut them off me, but…” his voice locked up tight and he shook his head again side to side as if to try and get away from the memory of pain.

“Take a deep breath, Gannara. Look at the ocean, the horizon. You aren’t held in, you can see to the edges of the world… breathe…” Her voice as soft as the hands that gently examined, found the small knot of scar on the delicate skin at the root of his testicles, and the knot of scar hidden inside. “It is something that I can recommend you see another healer for. He has fixed such damage before. I am afraid that it is an expensive technique but if you can afford it he might be able to fix the damage.”

Gannara’s eyes filled with tears again. “Really? Oh. Oh good! Oh Spirit of Life! Um… money’s not a problem, Initaeren.”

Her hands, on him, had cradled him there, as if to over-mark the memory of being touched by Mahid. She knew. They’d talked about it before. When she let go it was nothing like him being dropped or abandoned but set gently down, the way one would set down an egg, or a shell that was fragile. “His name is Piatsri. When we go back to the University office we can arrange to have him examine you, shall we?” Gannara signed a double chalk, both hands flat and spread out before him, hard, lips tight.

When she let go of him, he drew his legs together and up, to sit with his chin upon his knee. He didn’t say anything but sat, merely breathing, and looking. “I believe your shadow parents would want to know that you are safe and healing. I believe they love you and want you back with them, changed or not, you are still Gannara Melachiya.”

“But that’s the problem, too!” Gannara burst out. “They’ll want to take me back to Asinanai and leave Minis and Ilesias all alone and they’re my friends. Minis is my best friend and they’d hate him just for being Arkan, and they’d think I was twisted into liking Arkans better than Yeolis and… all kinds of weird things.”

“Perhaps the Mahid did that. You cannot know until you have actually spent some time away from Minis,” Initaeren said. “I suggest a full eight day in a room of your own at the University, to test whether you are compelled to be with Minis, or if you merely wish to.” Gannara stared at her.

“You think I’m compelled to stay with him?”

“I do not have an opinion, but I suggest you test your own mind this way and we may speak about it both during and afterward.”

“Um. All right.”

“And your shadow-parents deserve to know you are safe on Haiu Menshir. Everything else can be talked out or fixed or adjusted.”

“I’ll write them today, Initaeren… but I want Minis to be there when I do the Piatsri thing. And we’ve signed up to learn how to fly, all three of us, so I will try the ‘alone’ thing later.”

“As you choose, Gannara. You’re doing very well and the flying lessons will help you. They are a tremendous therapy for anyone who has been held captive.”

“Do you know how?” Gannara yawned and stretched before curling up again, his eyes half lidded.

“Yes, I do. I’ll call the chair bearers to carry you home again. You need to sleep after this.”

“All right, Initaeren.”


Ili’s healer took him out to see the Haian moyawa-school and he convinced me that if there was a safe place to learn how to do something so dangerous, this was it.

He told me true that even the teacher’s dog knew how to fly, grasping the chamir – that’s Niah name for the rod that controls the moyawa – the flying machine -- with a bite loop for it’s mouth and he would follow his master, running and then flying down the beach. Even once or twice I saw him follow the teacher or a student up high as a bird, following close as if he were at heel, which put him into the same moy – the Niah word for ‘up-going wind’. Sometimes the dog would stand by its wing and whine and bark until a student harnessed him into it and called him up into the sky. Clearly the dog knew that to do it he needed to follow another flyer.

Misa, the teacher, suggested that Ili go first since, as she said, children don’t have to unlearn that they can’t fly. Ili, such a serious look on his face, listened to every word Misa told him. All our hair, even Gan’s riotously curly mop had been braided back tight, the red rope of it peeking out from under the safety helmet.

Ili’s wing was the same size as ours, big to catch the wind more easily, and not meant to go very high… not more than a dozen man-heights or so in the air. “Oh, is that all,” Gan whispered in my ear as we watched him do the testing hanging thing, the enshachik as they called it, to make sure that every part of the harness was properly closed and that it was properly hooked to the moyawa, itself.

“Shh.” I was so excited and nervous I wanted to throw up, or laugh, or sing. I did none of those things. How could someone do this? How could something so frail carry someone so precious? I hadn’t realized I was afraid for Ili and would be for Gan, more so than afraid for me.

There were two tether-people, who held long leashes on the tips of the moyawa, not to pull it and him into the air, I saw, but to hold it down. “That’s so the students, drunk on flying, don’t just decide to disobey and just keep trying to fly without any more instruction,” Misa said. Her Enchian was better than mine, but then she had to teach in it. “There,” she said, as the three leapt into a run down the sand dune, Ili’s pale little legs flashing.

Three, perhaps four steps into this steady wind off the sea and he was up, his hands flipping from the carry-grip to the flying grip without him seeming to notice. The two anchors ran hard, laughing as he seemed to float all the way down the dune and to the flat, hard sand near the water. I could hear him giggling the whole way.

Once he was up and comfortable with his instructors we could go to our own and Gan and I put the harness on, made sure it didn’t pinch around the tops of our legs. For once I was glad of my groin wrapping. I didn’t get pinched there. We had all done the ‘hanging from solid frames… triangles in the sand thing’ before hand and when my instructor pulled the nose forward and down I settled into the breastplate of the harness as though it was a hammock.

It felt solid, with both tethers, one a strap and one a metal loop that screwed shut, so I said ‘It’s good.’ And he let me down. This teacher – named Dana -- was a young man, barely older than I was. Misa was with Gannara.

We got up and Gan went first, hands curved around the triangle bars sitting on his shoulders as if he’d done it a hundred times before. Same as Ili, except we had neither tether straps, nor human anchors, to hold us down. He had only a handful of steps before his toes were flailing clear and his switched his grip, but the moyawa dipped down as he did and Misa yelled ‘Ease up! Ease your grip! Let it almost go!”

He must have obeyed because it lifted again and floated gently down the length of the beach on the wind, his whooping echoing back to us, thin as a gull’s cry of joy on the wind. Then it was my turn.

My heart was banging in my chest and I suddenly thought, this is too good for me… can I do this? Is it allowed?

“Ready?” Dana called me. I nodded and he said ‘Go!”

I ran and the moment I moved the moyawa came alive. It wasn’t on me it was part of me but as it tugged me up I switched my grip and heard Dana yelling ‘Ease your grip!’ I thought I did but the wing got itself off the ground but not me, and I ended up on my face, plowing up sand. Grit in my teeth.

I spat and got up, sand pouring off me and out of my harness. I was just as glad it was as soft. I spat again as Dana came running up. “You grabbed. Light hand. Let it lift you. Let go. You cannot control it by holding on tightly.”

“Let go,” I dutifully repeated.

“Don’t lean on it either.”

“And don’t lean. I understand.”

I didn’t understand. My body kept seizing the rod in front of me as if my life depended on it and I kept chewing sand. Once. Twice more. Then Misa came. “Stop. Stop. You’ll get into the air. No worries, my friend.”

My stomach was in knots. This was too good for me. I could feel myself getting heavier, locked to the ground. I trudged back up the hill, carrying my useless wings, hearing Ili laugh… in the air behind me.

Good. I took a deep breath. She’d said ‘no worries’. I had to trust.
I had to trust and let go. From across the beach someone pulled a long, long length of wire, or cord… very thin. It led to a huge wheel with a handle on either side. Misa called two students and they trotted over, one to each side, facing the same way, one holding the high handle on the one side the other, on the other side, the low. “We’ll pull you up… like a kite… you’ll go up, and the rope will drop slack and you will feel how.”

Pull me up? The winch men were too far away to hear a clear bellow. Misa had a whistle in her hand. “No hands. It’s hands that are the problem. Hook your thumbs here and let the moyawa carry you up. It, not you.”

I shook my head and hooked my thumbs into the two straps. “When you’re up you can take the chamir.”

She certainly seemed confident enough that I could do it. “Wait till the rope is just barely tight and hold. Don’t let it go slack or you’ll tangle and trip. I’ll tell you.”

They winched until the rope was tugging at my belt buckle… or would have been if I’d been wearing one. I so wanted to grab that bar but told myself… no hands. “When I blow my whistle the second time, run!”

“Yes, teacher.”

One blast from the bamboo whistle, and the rope, if anything tightened. I swallowed hard. As the second blast shrilled I sprang into a run as if 2nd Amitzas was on my heels and the rope pulled and the moyawa rose off my shoulders and drew me into the air as if it was my wings. I yelled, I couldn’t help it, I was laughing and whooping and a couple of blasts from Misa’s whistle called me back to my task and I put one finger of each hand on the chamir. And didn’t plow down into the sand.
I was lightness and airyness. I floated over the black sand feeling the heat from it pressing me and the moyawa up. I realized. I had to let go to remember how to fly. It was natural and normal and meant to be. It was right and I could feel it. I was a winged thing, meant to soar. I overshot the end sand and trailed my toes in the water, landing on the edge of the surf, sending my laughter and tears into the waves coming up to see what had fallen from the sky.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

274 - A Play Session with Ili

I spend mornings with Lesatren, but today I wanted so much to be outside. I dragged Sini in by the tail, not wanting to go in. "Hello, Ilesias. Please come in," she said.

“Hello Lesatren.” I plunked my butt down and then lay down on the soft floor, really not wanting to be there.

She looked at me like she was thinking. "I have a new thought of what we could do. Would you rather stay in my room or go out into the garden today?"

Was she joking? No. I jumped up and grabbed Sini by her top fin, jumping up and down. “Outside! Oh, please we can go outside to play?"

"Certainly. There is a climbing tree house you haven't seen yet."

"I like tree-houses.” I had never seen one but it sounded nice. “That sounds good. That sounds shady. I'm sunburned again."

"I have paper and charcoal if you want to draw me any pictures today as well." She had a basket with all her stuff in it and got up. She was dressed like everyday, in a kind of robe like they all wear off Haiu Menshir... the healer’s black with their white stripes on either side of their necks falling down the front, but on Haiu Menshir they wear them thin and gauzy just like my shirts. When they’re not working they wear all colours of white and barely-there colours.

"All right. I like to tell you stories."

We walked down the shell path, me swinging Sini and Lesatren swinging her basket and she pointed off to a stand of a bunch of trees with thick, gnarly branches and lots of moss trailing like Aitas’ sleeves and shawls and skirts. The path went from teeny broken shells to boards over a lot of water with tall grass growing out of it higher than my head. Higher than Lesatren’s head. Higher than both of us if I could stand on Lesatren’s shoulders which she wouldn’t allow. The bunch of trees looked like a big green island in an ocean of bendy grass.

In between the trees there were ropes and bridges that creaked and groaned a little as the trees swayed and from every tree there’s a big round fruit-thing... big as a hut but smooth like the trees grew these big squashes. Big enough for two or even three people to sit in. Or play in. Some had a curtain door, some had bead curtains that rattled and clicked together. Others had real closed doors, some were closed.

“They look like big, smooth balls or nests or some kind of fruit growing on the trees!”

“There’s a craftsman named Arsuber who builds all kinds of houses, huts and homes in trees and on cliffs around the island. He says he dreams them.”

“I like that.” We climbed up a swaying pole with steps winding around and around and a rope to hang onto all the way up like a twisted sugar candy. The pod we were going to had a round door with the edge all the way around painted with flowers and the inside there was a flat floor with grass mats and round windows all around the back. The biggest was open and had a kind of wicker cage so you could lean out and look down without falling.

Lesatren set her basket down while I went to look out the biggest window and set Sini so she could see.

“It's like my machine that Minis gave me!” I went to sit next to Les and arranged the charcoal and wax ‘n coloured pencils she gave me, next to the paper.

"A machine that Minis gave you?”

I picked up the red pencil and drew the slide. “Like this... for my birthday. It was all linked together, and you went from one part to another.” I drew the bucket in blue and the big wheel in blue and red and yellow.

“That looks wonderful... very happy.”

“That’s the big slide and here’s bucket I could sit in, an’ a ladder an' a whole room of my big toys.” The pod swung a little in the wind and when I bounced, remembering, it bounced too.

“It sounds like Minis thought pretty carefully what you might like. What else did you get for that birthday?”

“Umm.. That was, no I was three? I was little. All my toys in the Marble Palace were good! I had a BIG swing in my bedroom. It was Minis’s and he and the Companions found it and sent it to my rooms to be put up.” She looked thoughtful, like she always did. I drew some more. I tried to daw a picture of Minis but it looked all wrong. I didn’t scratch it out because Les said everything I tried to draw was good for her to do her job, which was to play with me and talk to me. I think Minis and Uncle Gan were too worried about me. But I liked her so I was glad we were all three of us talking to Haians.

“Did your father give you anything?”

“I...yes,” I started on a new page of paper and started drawing spiderwebs. The black charcoal was good for that. I could do a web and then rub my thumb over it and make it all smudgy and shadowy so I didn’t have to draw any spiders. They might be there, or they might not.  
“There was always a room full of presents that the chamberlain said were from my Divine Father.”

She nodded like an Arkan. “So, you and Minis are close. It looked like it when he brought you to meet with me the first time.”

“Yeah. He’s my brother always, no matter what else we pretend about, he’s always my brother.”

I pulled another page to draw the spider, a big one. Fangs as long as my fingers. People’s eyes. But spiders have lots I learned in Haian school, from Jeramaer. I’d wanted to know about the big green and brown ones with spikey legs in the flowers – ‘Villa spiders. They were nice but this one wasn’t. It was a bad spider. I put in a bunch of eyes. I had him in a web but he was so big you almost couldn’t see it so I smudged it all shadowy. My fingers were all black and I looked at them.

Lesatren offered me a cloth and it felt good to wipe them clean. “It’s good to have someone close.” She looked at my pictures. “Ilesias... do you ever have any nightmares?” I jumped up and went over to check and see if Sini was all right.

“Most of the time I go to sleep an’ nothing bothers me. ‘Specially here. I don’t wake up yelling like Uncle Gan or Minis sometimes do.”

“Yes. But sometimes dreams can be bad without waking you. I’m glad to hear you don’t have the loud ones.”

“No, they’re quiet. And cold. and dark, sometimes.”

She held out her arms for me and I crawled into them. They were Haian warm and even strong.

“I’m sorry I’m asking you about them. But perhaps you and I can make them go away altogether, hmmm?”

I wrapped her long hair around me. It was thicker and heavier than Kaita’s or Kyriala’s or Binshala’s. And it was black as night. Did the colour make it heavier? I picked up her Haian poppy from where it hung around her neck from a red cord. “I was going to ask you to do something a little scary, if you can.”

The middle of the poppy was painted a bright gold with gold streaks going up inside the red. It was made out of paper and I guessed dunked in something that hardened it and made it shiny. I frowned at her.

"Something scary? I guess. Sure.”

“In fact you’re already doing it... drawing pictures of monsters... like your spider there with the human eyes. Would you draw me some more pictures of what you think monsters look like?”

“But that’s just a spider, not a monster.” I fumbled and dropped her poppy. “Monster pictures? You want me to draw scary monsters? What are they doing?”

“Whatever you like. We can talk about what monsters are... and then we can... if you want... send them back into their place by burning the pictures, so they don't remember how to come and be with you.” I didn’t think that was possible but I guessed if a Haian healer said so, it was. Maybe they had monster... ummm. I couldn’t remember the word. It chases things away. Maybe they had stuff like that.

“Hm. Monsters like in stories that are scary like dragons? I like dragons. The best dragon I ever saw was by the tunnel and it was made outta glass and it was blue and red and then it was purple.”

“Those kinds of dragons I like too.” She tightened her hug and it felt really good. “So those dragons aren't monsters. Anything that scares you. Really monsters.” Lesatren looked like she might know what she was talking about. “I once drew a picture of the scariest monster I ever met to make it go away.”

I nodded. “My monsters pretend to be people. Those monsters look like scary evil old men that wear black and never smile. Or young men. Sometimes the young Mahid are worse because you know they want to rape your...” I stopped. She was a Haian and I shouldn’t say things like ‘rape your dead behind’ to a Haian.

But she was nodding. “I really wish you didn’t know such things at your age and I’m glad Kaita kept you from a lot of it... Yes. I hope I never meet one for real. But if one came to me to help get better and learn how to be a person again... I'd really want to help them.” Haians are too nice.

I just want to stay away from them forever and ever. I don't like to think about Him. We hadn’t talked about either Father or Second Amitzas, really, though I’d drawn a picture of father flinging Bumpy over the edge of the orrery.

“Him... sounds like there's a Head Monster. A Master Monster.”

“Yes.” I buried my head in her chest. It didn’t matter that it was all sweaty and too hot. She was holding me with the right kind of hands. Minis and Gannara and Kaita hands, not Mahid hands. Haian hands. They made me feel safe. “The worst and the meanest and the scariest of them all.”

"But you are free, even though he had you all prisoner, right?”

I nodded, against her chest. “Yes, we got away clean, is what Gan says.”

“It sounds like a fairy story. A picture story... And they all lived happily ever after.”

That was a good idea. I liked that idea. I sat up a little and sniffled and she handed me a handkerchief. I rubbed it back and forth across my nose and sniffed hard. “Yeah! A little like the stories Min tells me at bedtime.”

“What kind of stories? Heros and dragons?”

“Oh, all kinds of stories. Min tells me a new story every night, with brave princes and talking donkeys and wicked step brothers and. and and everything.”

“Good for him.”

“Yep! We're brothers, and Uncle Gan is our brother too. Like he ‘dopted us or we ‘dopted him. But I miss Kaita. She’s back home in the city.”

“And Kaita was your... nanny? She wasn't your mother, was she?”

"No, Kaita wasn't my mother. Kaita was my nurse, and she took care of me. Min says she’s working for a good family at the University in Arko.”

“So she’s safe. That sounds like you have good family. It’s always nice to hear that.”

“Yeah, family are the people you love, right?”

“And who love you. Exactly right. Though one can have loving friends, too.” The wind came up and the whole pod swung over but it didn’t feel like it was going to rip loose. It felt really safe, like the hammocks on the ships. ‘Sini only wobbled a little on her fins and didn’t even fall over.

“I have lots of friends here. I like Haian school.”

“I am very glad to hear that. I hope you think I'm one of your friends, too, Ilesias.”

Of COURSE she’s my friend. She was nice from the start and said she liked me! “Um, yeah, we already said that the first time.” I didn’t want to say anything, but she smiled like she knew what I was thinking.

“Of course. Im just being a stuffy Haian and not assuming anything.” She poked me in the ribs with her finger. She was a lot gentler than Min or Gan and I hardly felt it but it still tickled and I giggled and rolled off her lap onto the grass mat. I rolled all the way over to Sini and sat up and looked out the window.

“What’s that up in that pod?” I looked and pointed. Haians never minded if you used your bare hands or fingers to point with.

“Perhaps another healer with their patient. Or someone playing.”

“Oh, so no big birds?” I tried not to giggle but it popped out of me as she started looking alarmed.

“WHAT?” She moved very quickly for a Haian and peered up over my shoulder. “Which pod? Where?”

“I just thought that big nests like those should have big birds.” And I laughed really hard as she fell over in relief making the whole pod bounce around some more.

“You joker! For a moment I thought we might have a sea-eagle problem! They’re big enough to carry little children away!”

“I want to learn to fly! I want to fly higher than a sea-eagle, and swoop on them.”

“I’m sure you do.” She sniffed and sat up and pulled her tunic straight.  

“Better you than I, Ilesias. I might be comfortable up here but I am not so sure about those flying machines.”

“They are AMAZING. People who can fly for real are better than stories.”

“All right. Shall we go for a walk out to the school and watch them?”

“Yes, please. I'd like that.”

She gathered up her pages and my pages in the basket and rather than climb down the roundy stairs we put these ropes on us tight, and a thing like a helmet out of plates of padded coconut shell and slid all the way to the ground on another rope. I yelled and hollered the whole way down.


“No, you may not learn to fly, Ili! You’re too little, it’s too dangerous!”

“No, I’m not!” I jumped up and down. He was being a stinky, fussy poop! “The teachers were teaching teeny kids… on leashes an’ the head teacher is a Niah with lots of scars and a DOG that knows how to fly his own wing – umm moy-thing! If a dog can learn I can!! I’m smarter ‘n a dog!!!

Uncle Gan kind of laughed. “He’s got a point, Min.” But Min looked like he was still gonna say no, so I interrupted.

“’n if you think I’m fibbing you can come to the school, Lesatren and I finished our time today watching them an’ talking to the flying teacher. Her name’s Misa aht Ranu, nar sept Daekun! Her dog’s named Shati which means treasure an’ –“ Min held up his hands flat.

“Wait, wait! I want to learn how to fly as well, so… I’m not saying yes but let me go out to see for myself. I’m hardly going to let my little brother go jumping off a cliff without at least seeing the cliff in question!”

“That’s not how they do it! Not to teach! An’ if there’s an accident we’re already on Haiu Menshir an’ there’s healers all over the place…” Min put one finger over my lips, gently.

“You don’t need to shout little brother, or I’ll have to start calling you Blob again. I said I’d look. Gan, you have time before you get flattened?”

“Yup. And the healing doesn’t flatten me every time.”

“No, just lots, like me. I know.”


Min said yes and we’re all going to learn! We’d all get to start on the black beach under the cliff where the good students got to jump off. The beach was for babies or people who’ve never flied before. I guess the word was flown not flied. I just asked Gan and he told me.

The sand there was always hot when the sun was out so we’d have sandals on. We got to go from a big tall sand-dune with mixed black and white sand and grass and run out onto the black sand. Min said he’d have to wear his cottons but it was always so hot he’d cut them off short, so his arms and legs showed… and I’m a little kid so I didn’t have to wear gloves for my ‘secret disguise’. Min couldn’t run in a scholar’s robe or a kilt, really, even an Arkan type of kilt which has a stiff front and back panels, they’d flap around.

Every day I wear a thin thin thin shirt with long sleeves to keep me from burning my skin in the sun and an Arkan kid’s kilt but when we’re finished school we all take all our clothes off on the beach just like the Haian kids. They have lotion they get me to rub on that helps me not burn. Min laughs and says I’m the colour of ‘cream on toast’ because my hair’s so white and my skin so tan. It’s only a little tan though.

I was drawing everyday now, for Jeramaer and Lesatren both. Lesatren said my first stick drawings were good to help her help me with what happened. An’ now I was going to start drawing amoyawa an’ pictures of Min and Gan yelling and screaming when they learned to fly. I’m not going to scream like some people.