Methven - Day Sixteen - Part Two
After Pith got out of the hospital in late Summer of 1969, he took off on a road trip to Taos, New Mexico, "T'get m'head t'gether." He was gone until nearly Thanksgiving. When he returned, it was with something to really be thankful for--a knapsack full of peyote buttons soaked in psilocybin. The night he got back, we climbed up on Indian Rock and, with the whole Bay spread out before us, we each ate a fistful of the vile-tasting things, then we settled in to watch the light show.
When my inner eye opened, I happened to be "looking" in Pith's direction. Instantly I flashed back to that night.
What I Saw was a something like a solarized image of my friend. His kneeling form was outlined in a constantly shifting, prismatic halo of light. Streamers of bright, multi-hued sparks and flickering tongues of cold, brilliant fire surrounded him like a radiant cloud--and yet, beautiful as the spectacle was, I Saw it only in passing, because my attention was so swiftly drawn to our teacher, Mahatna.
Where Pith's aspect glowed, Mahatna blazed like the heart of an exploding star.
Without needing to ask, I knew that what I Saw was a being of immense power. Compared to him, Pith and I were like fireflies aspiring to match themselves against a magnesium flare, or insects measuring themselves against an elephant.
"Be still, Mr. Drew."
I'd decided a long time ago that talking back to Mahatna was a bad idea. I made that decision on purely practical grounds--it's bad policy to sass someone you're trying to persuade to do you a favor. Now I had even better reason to bite my tongue.
Hey, even I know better than to mouth off to a godling.
So I held my peace and concentrated, instead, on exploring this new form of vision while I had the opportunity.
The next thing I noticed--and the realization came as something of a shock--was that I could See a full 360° around me. It took me a while before I could actually focus on anything that was physically behind my back--a lifetime spent looking through my "outer eyes" stood in my way--but I kept at it until eventually it clicked, and then I was able to See equally well in any direction.
While I was working on that problem, it suddenly struck me that I couldn't See the sky. It manifested as a pure void--no Sun, no clouds, no nothing.
I couldn't See the sky, but I could see Methven birds wheeling and swooping above us. Like Pith and Mahatna, they, too, were outlined in lambent haloes of flickering rainbow light--although even Pith's modest aura outshone them by a good order of magnitude. I "watched" the avian forms flit from perch to perch within dully-glimmering fountains that I recognized with delight as the trees around us.
And I Saw other creatures of light, too--not just birds, but the small animals that shared the trees with them.
Bringing my attention back to ground level, I discovered that I could See hundreds, even thousands of living things nesting and foraging around us. The underbrush--as palely luminescent as the trees--gave them no cover. In fact, focusing my attention downward, I found I could See myriad critters crawling through the grass and even tunneling through the ground beneath us--and not just the Methven equivalent of mice, moles and gophers, but far smaller things, like bugs and worms.
By contrast, the firepit in front of me was like a black hole--as empty of light as it was empty of life.
Except that that wasn't exactly true, either.
Grasses, flowers, weeds, assorted small and medium-sized beasts, bugs, worms and a host of other burrowing and creeping things surrounded us with a riot of iridescent brilliance--all "burning with the light of Life itself", as Mahatna put it. And, once I spent long enough concentrating on the emptiness of the firepit, I was surprised to See that it, too, emitted an infinitely faint, ghostly glimmer.
That had me temporarily flummoxed, before it finally occurred to me where it came from.
No plant or complex animal lived in that firepit--it had been used too recently for even insects to live there. But the humblest of creatures thrive everywhere that the barest necessities of life exist--even in the ashes of a dead fire.
I felt as if I'd somehow stumbled on a vast secret. Not the deep, dark kind, but one that was deep and filled with light--just like the world around me. And yet, if I had to explain that secret to someone who hadn't experienced it himself--to Tong, say, or Bill--I couldn't begin to describe it. Hell, for that matter, I wasn't at all sure that I knew what it was. I only hoped that--unlike the flashes of insight I'd had..or at least thought I'd had..so many times under the influence of psychedelics back in the days when I ate purple microdots like potato chips--I could hang on to it, once the experience itself was finished.
Just then, the iridescent figure of Mahatna clapped its hands once, sharply.
"That is enough for today. Tomorrow, I will teach you more."
. . .
I experienced a brief moment of disorientation as I opened my outer eyes and the apparitions I had just Seen vanished as if I'd flipped a switch. That instant of dizziness was immediately followed by a wave of bone-deep exhaustion. It was a darned good thing that Mahatna had started us out in the Scout Pose--which is to say, kneeling with our butts resting on our heels--because otherwise I'd've fallen flat on my face.
As it was, I slumped forward onto all fours, with barely enough strength in my arms to hold me up even that far.
"You are fatigued. That is to be expected. Using your inner eye requires great energy. In time, and with practice, you will grow stronger, but, for now, it is unwise for either of you to attempt again today to See."
I forced myself to sit back up.
"No problem here, Mr. Mahatna. All I want to do is lie down and take a nap."
Mahatna rose to his feet.
"Your weariness will pass before long, Mr. Drew. Come. It is time we left here."
. . .
We left Mahatna at the door to his hut and hiked down the mountain to meet the rest of the crew at the lawn in front of the Clanhome for our regular afternoon combat drill.
It must've been the post-Seeing exhaustion that made my brain feel so fuzzy. I had a million questions about what we'd experienced, but somehow I couldn't seem to concentrate long enough to put any of them into words. When I tried, they just floated out of reach, like soap bubbles on a Summer breeze.
Læ noticed how distracted I was early on in our first exchange.
"Mr. Wilde, you appear to be distinctly off your game today. Are you unwell?"
I shook my head, stepped back and grounded the point of my blade.
"No, I'm healthy as a herd of horses. But thanks for asking."
"Then what, pray tell, is the matter?"
"I'm just having a little trouble focusing. That's all."
"Would it help to discuss the matter?"
"You know that Pith and I took the Elixir of Awakening a couple days back, right?"
"Well, this morning Mahatna taught us to See."
"Ah! Do I take it that you are having some difficulty assimilating the experience?"
"Yeah, I guess you could say that. What I Saw was..well..it was different. Real different."
She nodded again.
"No doubt. Tell me, Mr. Wilde, by any chance do you consider yourself a spiritual person?"
I shook my head.
"Not so you'd notice."
"I ask only because it has been my experience that one's first encounter with the numinous is often profoundly disorienting."
"The numinous, Mr. Wilde. The realm of the spirit."
"You're talking about what Mahatna called 'the light of Life itself'? That aura or halo or whatever the hell it is I saw around everything?"
"Just so. And please feel free to employ any alternative term with which you are comfortable. Call the phenomenon 'bioelectric radiation', if you wish."
"Screw it--a rose is a rose, right?"
"So, yeah, I suppose I did find our little encounter with..what did you call it..?"
"What you said. Yes, you could say I found it 'disorienting'. Which is to say that I still don't know what to think about it."
"And that disturbs you?"
I shook my head.
"It doesn't 'disturb' me so much as it confuses me. It's like somebody showed me the secret handshake without bothering to tell me what club it's for or how much the dues are going to cost me."
Her smile came and went in an eyeblink.
"Are you now groping for those answers?"
"To be honest, I'm not sure I've actually gotten that far, yet. I'm pretty much still trying to figure out what the questions are."
. . .
My little friend Itakami was waiting for me when we outworlders trooped into the dining hall for our evening meal.
"Good hunting, Mr. Drew."
"Good hunting, Itakami. It's good to see you again. Is there anything I can do for you?"
"Yes, Mr. Drew. I wish to mate with you."
Thinking back to our conversation this morning, I tried to recall whether I'd actually made her any promises on that score.
Not that I was reluctant, mind you. But, I got up way early this morning and taking the psychic drain of my first experience Seeing together with the strain of an afternoon of hard physical training, by then I was low on energy and sleepy to boot. Still, as Vomisa women go, Itakami is a babe--her permanent fur coat notwithstanding.
"I'll tell you what, Itakami. I still have a few things to do yet tonight, but, if you'd like to pay me a visit around..oh..toward the end of tonight's Story Singing, let's say..I'll be happy to mate with you."
Her eyes shone.
"Thank you, Mr. Drew! I will be there!"
"And, Itakami, if I don't answer the door right away, you can just let yourself in, okay?"
"Yes, Mr. Drew. Good hunting to you!"
"You, too, Itakami."
She skipped happily off toward the other side of the refectory, beaming like a Lotto winner.
I shook my head.
"I can't say I understand it, but I sure do like this Sadie Hawkins Day approach to sex these people have."
"Exogamy, Mr. Wilde."
"You know that to be a fact, Madam?"
"Beyond the shadow of a doubt, Mr. Wilson."
"And would that be a culturally- or a genetically-mediated trait?"
"I said, 'Excuse me'?"
Bill turned to me.
"What our employer means to say is that Vomisa females are motivated to seek out foreign mates in order to prevent inbreeding and to widen the gene pool from which their offspring will draw. My question to her, in turn, was meant.."
I held up a hand to dam the flow of words.
"I understand what your question meant, Bill."
I turned to Læ.
"So, which is it?"
"The genesis of the custom is clearly cultural, Mr. Wilde. It has been in effect so long that it may well now have acquired a genetic basis, as well."
"So, how long is that?"
"In Earth years? Perhaps fifteen centuries."
"And the bottom line is that they want to make babies with us?"
"In essence, yes. However, you need have little fear of siring unwanted offspring, Mr. Wilde. I greatly doubt that Vomisa and Earth humans are mutually fertile--after all, you lack any trace of common heredity."
"So we can't have kids together--period, end of sentence?"
"The chances are vanishingly remote."
"Define 'vanishingly remote'. Because, if there's any chance--any chance at all--I'm breaking my date with Itakami right now."
"You a damn fool, Wildman," Tong put in.
Læ ignored him.
"That is your right--and entirely your affair--Mr. Wilde. But, I must say, I fail to see what gives you to feel so passionately about the possibility. After all, Itakami would certainly welcome your child."
I shook my head.
"If you think I'm gonna walk away and let these people subject any kid of mine--even if it's a half-breed alien bastard--to their damned Ordeal, you've got about eight other thinks coming."
"Your concern for your theoretical heir is admirable, Mr. Wilde. However, I assure you that it is misplaced. The probability that you will succeed in procreating with that young woman is approximately equal to that of you siring children with a tacht. Which is to say, for all practical purposes--and in the absence of considerable technological assistance, I might add--essentially zero."
"Thanks. That's what I wanted to hear."
"You're welcome, Mr. Wilde."
. . .
I skipped Bruno's poker game again tonight. I wanted to get the day's experiences down in this journal before Itakami gets here--and as it is, I've had to fight to stay awake long enough to finish this entry.
I'm still not sure what I think of my encounter with what Læ calls "the numinous", but I do know one thing for sure: I can hardly wait to see what happens tomorrow.
(Copyright© 1997, 1998 by Thom Stark--all rights reserved)