IN THE MOUNTAINS OF FIRE
Dolores J. Nurss
Volume VI: The Rift
A Christmas Birth
Friday, December 25, 2708, continued
(Ghosts, ghosts, the air chokes with so many of the dead! And I must dance for them, if I can, to point them where to go. Old births and new births and always birth today. The shepherds know before the wise.)
(We telepathically link, as we have done before, sisters in Fireheart Friendclan, seeking now at last our oracle, witnessing his troubled vision.)
(Witnesses crowd the room. The birth must take place. The magentine dims, as though it holds its breath, until no light illuminates us except for the single candle. I can feel George’s will push my knife-hand towards my wrist. I push back. “Not yet,” I say.
And then, without a knife, I slash open the great, aching space inside him, the yearning, aggravated by a madman’s inside-out oraclism, from a whole nation’s wound, for a long-lost mother, in a way that I never could until right this moment. He has stretched himself wider than anyone should ask of a human being.
And she steps through the rift, innocent of clothes, her belly swollen, the past impregnated by the future. I see the tide of water rush from between her legs as she groans, falling back into the arms of Crespus. Then she cries out, in the most ancient of tongues, the words that only souls broken open can decipher: “New life can only come through BLOOD!”)
(Old birth and new birth and always birth today! I leap and duck and teeter swirling on a fang of rock before I tumble down to land on tiptoes on the edge, and dance back up the mountainside again. They have to know! I have to dance it to them!)
(Don and Randy have to know! Jake’s vision burns, so many colors, louder than ever before, fueled on drugs and magentine. But we warn our friendclan brothers that red dominates over all.)
(And now they don’t shoot anymore, even as the stars themselves hold their breath at what I must illuminate, move by move, swirl and leap and tremble. I hear the swearing and the prayers. They witness something sacred here; they all know it, and she can shout herself hoarse but they won’t obey their general. They have to watch my dance.
For all of them. For the dead and those not yet dead, and those not yet even born.)
(I nod and slash my wrist.)
(They have to KNOW!)
Jake, no! Nonononono! Not on this of all days, oh please no!
(I scream! I fall against Don, screaming, “No! No! That blood’s already been spilled, you idiot!” I don’t even know what I’m saying, it just erupts from me. “Alroy has never, ever given good advice, even when he says what’s true!”)
(Kimba jolts straight up, screaming!)
(She screams! Her knees buckle as her belly contracts, pushing the baby forward.
“What have I done?” I hear George gasp. “Jake, Jake, it’s wrong, it’s all gone wrong! We’ve been tricked—you don’t have to die! Oh please, please, don’t die Jake, please don’t die—nobody has ever understood me like you do!” And I feel his tears fall upon my hand, splashing me like diamond bursts of starlight. Yes...)
(I make the leap into the burst of starlight and the bullet takes me, without anyone firing a shot—ecstasy explodes through me and beyond me, as I fall into the arms of a brown-skinned woman in a mantle full of stars that shivers back and forth between blue and green, a crown blinking in and out of existence on her brow.
“It is all right, my darling. I know you want to die for my Son. But my Son wants to die for you.)
(And my spirit leaps, loosened from my body at the same time as George’s, to encompass his in an embrace dearer than any lovemaking, pushing him back, down, down into his body again.
And I feel my soul tethered safely to my own flesh, by a shimmery, coppery thread, frayed, yet one strand still intact.)
“I can’t wake her, Nishka!” I feel my body rocking this way and that, across the crunchy leaves beneath the heath, but I can’t do anything about it; I feel myself stretch between here and somewhere else. “I can’t wake her! Tell Damien we can’t go anywhere till I can wake her!”
(We see again the old hands offering the scarf to the young hand with four magentine rings. We feel the trance of interlocking oracles. Don’t break the trance too soon! Our brothers have to know!)
(I growl at Amari, “Haven’t you had enough deaths already? Is blood the only thing you understand? But even one was a mistake—you could have brought forth your child without any deaths from us.” I shake my gushing wrist at her. “Do you think I did this for you?” Stupid savage. I turn to Crespus. “Get her out of here—her time passed long ago.”
With one arm around her he helps Amari stand. With the other he picks up the baby girl—Human Life on Novatierre, wholly naturalized now, birthed right here on this planet, utterly suffused with this world’s essence by the magentine around us and emanating from us, suckling on the power. “This will need cared for,” he says. “It isn’t over yet.”
I nod—or something of me nods. “And the growing pains will wrench us all. But I will help her as I can.” And she peers from the arm of Crespus Inglorius, her eyes twin stars, wise in her infancy with an antiquity inherited from her mother. And she nods back.
I feel a tug...)
I sit up suddenly and scream, my entire body arched. I grab wildly at a thread that no one else can see.
(Something happened. Something happened and I have to deal with it. David’s at work. He can’t stop me now.
I sit at the blue desk by the window, put on some writing-music, turn on the typewriter, and insert paper—all the different colors of paper, free handouts from science fiction conventions for events long past, rose and blue and green and gold, but they all have blank sides on which I can type, their colors mingling with the music, helping to trigger it.
For a dearth of dreams I enter the writing-trance. No, what am I saying, I’ve had too many dreams of late but I need more! I need...or they need, or...or...music and color and the keys beneath my fingers and...and...and I am Jake. I feel this immediately, powerfully, for he and I enter trance simultaneously, synching, sinking, rooms spin into one room, one...
A dark room. Dark but for the candle which gutters at my elbow, the elbow sleeved in chamois. I feel the soft, suede material, sensual, admire its subtle golden color, smell the leather-scent beyond the tang of my own adrenalin-drenched sweat. Miles away, the adrenalin, old, stale. The sweat has dried, no longer applies. I have achieved calm, my heart beats evenly now, in time to the candle-flickers, my breath comes deep and slow. All in control. With serene fascination I watch the blood trickle from my left wrist; my right, unconscious hand holds the knife, a point of candlelight precisely balanced on the tip, only the faintest stain of blood upon the beautiful blade.
Something troubles my trance. I’m left-handed; how did the knife wind up in my right hand? But it looks striking there. It is right, right in the right hand rites that rewrite the Wright’s rights.
Wright. The worker of...of. Of the changes. Changewright we call him. Yes. Very good. His rites. His choices. He seizes his rights. Seizes...
Sooo sleepy. The blood flows into a pool, dark in dim light, browning around the edges. It builds up against the clot-dam wall, spills over. Slow like breath, like wax, thoughts, heartbeat. Rivulets make patterns, how I love the patterns, how I read the patterns, but I sleep through what I read; I can’t remember from moment to moment what they say. Clear cut, the demarcation between blood and wood, clear the grain of the table’s wood, glossy the blood which soaks into it in candlelight, fuzzy the thoughts. The burning wax smells so pure!
I nod. The snap of my head back up nearly breaks the trance. Not sleep–mustn’t. Not the same thing. Won’t do the job. Just the patternless patterns in brightdark candleflicker, in generous bright red blood. Slowest, slowest, oh so slowest way to do it. Ideally slow. Delay the breath, the heart pumps laggardly through the vein not quite quite quite enough to die. Not quite, no. Mustn’t sleep. Deadly sleep, don’t go there.
Watch the blood spread, trickle over the table’s edge. Red waterfall.
Consciously I resist the urge to yawn. O/CO2 must remain unbalanced. Important, for some reason. Altered muzzy state of con...big word...consciousssnesss. Stay conscious, conscience. Something happened. I was not at first calm. No matter. It’s slow enough.
I hear the ruckus again. I heard it a few minutes ago, but it didn’t really register. Getting too loud to tune out. Must con-cen-trate. Slow. Keep it nice and slow. Heart wants to speed–don’t let it. Bleed less now, more for show than any...anything. Hard to think. ‘Salright. Dream, then. ‘Salright; just keep the heart slow, thatsallat matters. Bleeding stops, but no, wake just a little, let a trickle by, lest somebody suspect.
Good. Better. Okay, hear the noise. Wake up just a tiny bit. Mustn’t sleep altogether. Fighting in the other room, by the sound of it, bodies slam into wooden wainscoting, splintering sound of furniture, young voices shout...sleepy, all that goes on in another world, far away, the other side of the door...door...what is a something is a many things door. Beginningending transition door do enter don’t enter something happened.
Watching the candle. I do this. Feel chamois against my cheek, soft leather smell with the iron tang of blood. Candle rises or slants or no, it makes a horizontal right angle from the vertical table as up and down and right and left make dizzy dances in the pulsing flicker of the firelight, just the right angle–oh, right!
Can’t see my blood any more, but the pulse, pulse, pulse of it pumps through the artery of my ear as I listen, slumped upon my arm, hear the beat...beat...stillness...beat...stillness...stillness...beat...beatbeat. I’ll die if they don’t break in soon. The thought swoops in and out of the candlelight whirls and dances in the dark, as I spill into the dark, swirling into patterns, in and out, up and down, all, all around the spinning door suddenly burst open, a twirling rectangle of light which slows to stabilize for Don to stagger through.
No. My vision staggers. He comes in a straight line.
Around my arm he whips the tourniquet, held ready in his hands. Behind him I hear Randy scream out swearwords. I rouse to Randy’s defense...
“No!” Don hisses. “Stay out of it! Discipline, Jake–you’ll die if you lose your trance now.”
“Stay...discip...” My mouthmindheart stumble over words. “But Randy...”
“Can hold them off. Go back. We’ll wake you soon.”)
(All teachers must learn CPR, by Toulin law, and renew the training annually. I have never felt more thankful for Toulin’s insistence upon rules than now, as I fling myself onto George Winsall’s body on the floor, breathing into him, pounding life into him, breathing into him some more...)
(Every detail of the room incandesces into clarity. Randy has ignited the door.)
“Okay!” Don shouts. “Come out of it, Jake! NOW! The tourniquet’s secure.”
He slaps me. “Back to this world, friend. Hurry–your brain’s missed oxygen enough!”)
(....breathing into him some more, until he sputters back to life and I turn him just in time as he throws up the better part of the poison in him.)
(Sensations flood me like blood into a strangled member. I cry out in a choked voice–I can’t help it! It hurts, so much light, heat, throbbing cut, details! Where’s Randy?
“‘Ere’s Randy?” I didn’t mean to speak.
“Right here, Weed.” Randy grabs me, smelling of smoke. Soot smudges cheeks under reddened eyes, beneath a char-frizzled forelock. “Let’s go, lover–to your feet! Come on!” And the crystals start to fall.)
(I pick myself up off the cold, rough flagstones, in a hail of crystals falling from the roof and walls. I shelter George with my body. It hurts when they strike me, again and again, bruising and nicking me, but they cannot violate me anymore.)
(“Hold on,” I find myself saying. “I’m pretty weak.” Understatement! My legs buckle beneath me.
“Damn you,” Don growls, “did you have to lose that much blood?” He shoves us both out of there. He snatches up one arm, Randy the other. I stumble between them, fast as I can, giddy with anemia and shreds of mysticism.
“I had a hard time,” I mumble, “transferring from his trance to mine.” Or hers? Which hers?
“How hard?” Randy asks. I ignore the question. I try to marshal all my diminishing resources to run, not speak.
Wrong. Self-truth saves oracles from vision-death. I don’t want to answer, don’t want to guess. My feet slog through invisible sludge. My heart speeds like I had never entranced it, tripping and stammering in manic life-frenzy. Not enough blood, it panics, demand everywhere, pump like hell or it won’t get where I need it–wow! Do I feel it now!)
(I gasp, struggling up the stairs with the unconscious boy draped over my soldier, every step a heave of pain. Toulin law does not require professors to stay in shape.)
(I gasp as I run, but I haven’t enough red cells to oxygenate. Not the first...wait, is the first, not the last...vision...never mind! Stay out of visions! Ignore them! Concentrate on living!
“This way!” Don jerks us into a room. The direction change sickens me with dizziness; I pass out.)
I wake to myself, my hands moving as though I reel something in, aiming at my navel. Tanjin and Damien stare at me in horror.
“LUFTI!” I hear Kiril shout. I turn in time to see her run, clutching her bleeding side, to embrace the boy who limps to us. “Oh, Lufti, Lufti, Lufti!”
“Led...them...away,” he gasps, slumping to the ground as Kiril folds around him, whimpering in his hair, holding and holding and holding him. I see his torn and bloody soles. “Old births and new births and always births today. It hurts but in the end feels glad.” He smiles wanly at me. “Scream at will—nobody can hear us, now.”
(I switch off the typewriter and stare at my intact, unstained wrist.)