I raced back from the river's edge, a soft, waterlogged wood in hand and a look of glee written all over my face. This would be the best mask I had ever created, surpassing even the Little Trickster's abilities at carving with dream essence! I followed the winding trail towards the main caravan, hopping and skipping as I went. A large tree loomed over head, and I set the wood down and began to climb. I always needed to hone my abilities at climbing, and often found it difficult to access the eminence of ‘Motion', over my greater luck with ‘Illusion'. I suppose in retrospect, that's why I was chosen as a set and costume designer as opposed to a dancer. Good old natural talent.
I started my ascent with a leap to the lower branches, channeling the synthesis granted to me by Dahlia . The ground disappeared from below me, and my hands clung to a branch, spinning my lower torso up and above my head to land nimbly upon my feet. I concentrated on my balance, and started to run along the length of the thick, supporting branch, out to its quickly narrowing end. The weight of my body caused the tapering limb to sink downwards, but I was ready. I continued to allow the dreaming to flow through me. It felt so amazing; the feeling of being symbiotically connected to the tree.
I released the forces, my body ceasing to weigh more than a breath of air and the branch snapped itself upwards, taking me along with it. I catapulted through the air, grasping for a handhold among the mid-branches. At the apex of my arc, I formed an illusory cushion of air, and leaped from it, gaining a foothold among the thick foliage. I was breathing heavily now, and I felt the enthralling sensations of the dream, seep from my body. I glanced towards the top of the tree and continued my climb, albeit in a more mundane fashion. I wasn't going to risk my still growing abilities at Synthesis to aid me among the higher altitudes of the tree.
As the branches started to thin and become more, and more precarious, I felt a strange sensation. A numbing feeling like when ones appendages fall asleep. I figured it to be from the exertion, and attempted to ignore it. I soon reached the summit of my self induced challenge, and was granted a beautiful view of the fall landscape, in it's myriad of brown and golden hues.
The leaves shone back with a brilliance only Fall could produce. A swift wind blew, and the loose leaves were caught among the currents of the cool air falling ever so gently to the ground. My eyes followed the descent of one particular leaf that was as gold as honey. It looked so pure, so crisp, and apparently without a care in the world. I smiled at it; I don't know why. It's not like it knew, but I felt a sense of empathy for the poor leaf. It had lived a brilliant life and had met with so many birds and insects over the warm months, and now, all that was gone. It's home among the branches ceased to feed it, and it was discarded, in all it's beauty, to be lost among the others lying on the moist earth below.
Perhaps all was not lost, however, for with it's sacrifice, new leaves would be given the chance to feed the tree in the seasons to come. The tree would prosper because of it, growing ever greater and more majestic, all because of that little leaf's sacrifice.
The smile disappeared from my face as a searing pain shot up my left leg and along my spine, to finally be jettisoned out of my eyes. A blue light escaped my eyes, and I saw the caravan. It was gathered in the distance, as if to leave. What was going on. I hadn't returned yet!
The pain flew through me again, this time with a greater intensity than the last, wracking my body into strange contortions. My firm grasp loosened abruptly and I felt my body pull away from the safety of the tree's branches. The pain was unbearable . . . death would have been a more welcome surprise than the torture that overcame me.
I half expected to feel my body crash against the blanket of leaves below, shattering my body and tossing my soul to the winds, but something far stranger happened. Something far worse. As the leaf that was me cut through the air, I saw a face form before me. As my body twisted, more faces surrounded me, multiplying tenfold until all I saw were beautiful, placid faces, looking upon my plight, without remorse or empathy. I curiously looked at her, and pleaded to her in my mind, to save me from the death that threatened to take a hold of me. Her eyes closed, all of them, and her mouth opened ever so slowly in a silent scream, that shattered my spirit into shards, creasing my body with red lines that sought to explode from within. My chest opened up and I could see the glowing form of my essence, wrapped amid a multitude of lightning-blue lines. The pain was unbearable, and I screamed; not with my voice, but with the element of myself that was the dreaming. The lightning exploded outwards, wrapping itself around the faces that surrounded me, and disappeared within her open mouths. The glow radiated with a resplendence that could have lit up the world, escaping in all directions with the speed of thought.
Sparkles fell from the comet trails, setting aflame the dry autumn forest. The sky reflected the blaze with an orange glow. I saw the faces open their eyes, mouths now closed, and I found myself staring deep within her eyes. The vision took over all of my senses and the peripheral flame became lost to me, as I lost myself within her. I saw the faces of my family, their skin burnt from their faces, blood dripping from their hands. Some of them appeared perfect, however, seemingly untouched by the ghastly sights of the others. I saw Chigger and Cindra , standing perfectly still, their bodies glowing with an inner light that sought escape. I saw Mana, her mouth closed like the floating faces, hanging amid an aurora of light. I saw thousands of honey bees drifting through the rays. I saw a large man with a great beard and many scars, with the markings of the Ravager upon his naked skin. A figure stood behind him, her body made of metal, a face within her torso, gleaming with a smile that held a thousand secrets. I saw the Great River flowing with blood, and the island of Vimary burning in madness. My father, long dead, lay in the air, suspended by invisible supports, the fire of his pyre, growing in height, until it finally consumed my entire vision.
Leaves fell, trailing smoke from their flames, falling ever slowly to the earth.
I crashed. Hard. The bones in my shoulder cracked and the wind escaped my lungs, stiffening the muscles in my stomach with a tightness that sought to bind me. Tears welled up in my eyes and cascaded down my face, smearing themselves as I rolled into the dirt from the harrowing experience. I was an exile, forever lost to the life I once knew. I gathered my broken body and left to discover my destiny.
by Edwyn Kumar
text copyright 1999, Edwyn Kumar