Tell Me What You See
Chilcoat stirred from the platform and retrieved their breakfast. “Will you live with me now?”
After a moment’s hesitation, Tarra spoke softly. “No. I can’t. We’re two. See, you are tanasin and I’m kasis. We must stay apart to grow so that we can be brought together when we’re needed.” She gestured at the symbols on the table as she pulled her robes into place and hopped down.
“You and your damn weeds... I’m not a plant. I’m a man. I need you—not some mumbo-jumbo about signs and...”
“And God? The writings tell us that we are these things... We can’t change that. We’ll stay as we are.” She kissed him lightly, took a small plum from the plate he had offered and left.
The fire she had kindled on the platform seemed to feel her depart, flickered once, and turned to a single aromatic wisp of smoke that trailed after her. “Damn her and her magic.” He grumbled at the prospect of another night’s work.
He normally didn’t use the little fire pit in the table for his work. He had tried it a couple of times but found that it didn’t draft well and left the shop smoky just as it was now. Maybe she’s right. Maybe my workbench is an altar and I’m offending the gods with my menial labor.
He swept the remaining ashes onto a plate and dumped them in the forge he had built at the far end of the room. They flashed to life in a shower of sparks that swept up the chimney.
“There, are you happy now?” He spoke to Tangar. “You and your witch girl... You make my life miserable with dreams and memories of how it was, but you give me no answers.”
He stirred the embers and stoked the fire back to life. He was nearly finished with a shovel and needed to temper the blade. The work felt good in his hands and it pulled his mind away from the girl and her mystical ways. He couldn’t help but linger for a moment on her as he remembered the song she had chanted so softly, and the way her arms seemed to writhe under the markings. She truly is a witch. He thought again of Tangar as his father. I have to give you credit, you certainly trained her well.
The fire chased the chill from the autumn evening as he moved the tool close to the coals watching it steam slightly. He remembered how the old man had taught him the process. It was a day not unlike this one. I wasn’t happy about the training lecture. I was going hunting with my friends and really didn’t want to be bothered with such trivial things. After all, I’m a hunter. I don’t need to know about garden tools. The training lasted far too long and his buddies left without him. He remembered how Tangar seemed to take pleasure in ruining his plans in favor of his wisdom.
Chilcoat spoke to the shovel as if it were his father. “You would give long boring sermons about the duty of being a man, and how important it is to provide for your family. You truly were stuck in your old ways. Maybe that was why you never taught anyone about the symbol.” Tangar’s words came to him as if just spoken: “The secrets of Yod are for but a privileged few, common men should not delve into such things.” Chilcoat smirked at the thought. Now your daughter is revealing it to everyone. I doubt you would approve of such a thing.
Chilcoat prodded the fire and watched the sparks trail up and out the vent hole. “Is that it, old man? You want me to stop her from straying from your ways?” He thought about having Tarra as a submissive wife that stayed hidden from prying eyes doing his bidding in grateful servitude. A quick recollection of her standing over him with the spear he had fashioned disrupted the wistful vision. He shook his head. “If you’re trying to tell me something, you’re going to have to be clearer than reminiscing about your bigoted ways.”
Lannon entered the shop. “What’s that you say? She got you talking to yourself again?”
“Yeah, I was just finishing up this spade and trying to remember who I had promised it to.”
“Yeah, sure—it’s started to rain, and everybody’s gathering in the plaza looking for some direction.”
“Tell them to go home and be with their families. Rejoice in the coming of the rain. They don’t need me to tell them that.”
“They sort of want to know if Tarra’s going to turn it into some kind of ritual.”
“Of course she will. That’s what she does. She turns everything into some kind of sacrament.”
“Well, that’s kind of what everybody wants to know—are you going to let her?”
“Sure, why shouldn’t I? It’s harmless unless she starts sacrificing children or something. It calls to some; it helps them mark their days.”
“OK. I just wondered if you were OK with it. She has a whole bunch of people standing around in the rain waiting for you.”
“What? Why didn’t you say that?”
“I thought I did.”
He considered his robes for a moment then opted for his sun cloak to keep the rain off. “Damn that woman. She’s going to kill me.”
Tarra stood on the altar stone with her spear planted at her side. The rain misted into the court and washed months of dust from the facade. Water bled down the walls of the plaza and flowed as a brown sludge down the gutters.
Most of the townsfolk had gathered around the altar stone in little family clusters. He strode to the edge and called up to her. “What is it now?”
“Hea calls to you. Will you speak with Him?”
“I’ll speak with you. Why do you keep these people from their lives? Go home, all of you. The show’s over.” He barked at the crowd.
“Stand with me, Seer. Stand here on the great symbol and tell me what you see.”
“I see a child playing in the rain and making a big deal about it.”
Her robes clung to her torso and her hands dripped blood from the dye she had used. She held her spear aside and offered her hand to him. “Come and stand with us and celebrate the beauty of Hea. Perhaps then Yod will speak with you.”
“I’ve spoken with Yod and He told me that you’re starting to make Him mad. He said you’ve strayed from the path of your father and need to realize that you are but a woman with the healing gift, not the keeper of the divine word. You’ve fallen prey to the temptations your father warned us of, you seek to bargain with Hea, as if you could. He cares nothing for you. You’re as the mud that pours down these gutters. You’re here now, and tomorrow you’ll return to the dust from which you came. You preach of things you don’t know, to people who should know better.” He gestured a sweeping motion to the crowd. “All of you should take measure of yourselves. Are you surrendering your will to a faith that has no answers? I would gladly accept Hea’s dealings if I thought He would listen to me, but He doesn’t. I’ve prayed for forgiveness yet He punishes us with heat and cold. The children go hungry, and the old go blind and die...” He hesitated at the realization of what he had said. “What has your god done for us? What can we do to make Him happy?”
“We can do nothing to make Him happy… We can only make ourselves happy with the knowledge that we are Him. He has given us life here in heaven—life to learn, to love, to feel.”
“For life I’m grateful, for the strife... I’m not. If this is heaven, why are we tormented so?”
Tarra spread her arms wide holding her spear to the sky. “Feel it, learn from it, love it.”
“You talk nonsense. Meaningless rhymes and riddles, chants and spells, games and puzzles. You have to grow up and face reality. These people need strength not dreams.”
“Without dreams you can’t know Yod. You say you’ve spoken with Him, but you hear only whispers from the darkness.”
“Tangar has spoken to me. He tells me that you’re a child who needs to learn her place as a woman and mother, not a priestess of things you don’t understand.”
“Are they whispers from Tangar, or is it a dark spirit that pretends—to fool you?”
“And you pretend to know?”
“What did you ask? Was it from your heart or your head?”
“That’s what I’m talking about—riddles and games… I’m a warrior. I don’t think with my heart.”
“I am a warrior of truth!” She set the butt of her spear on the symbol with a resounding crack. “If you don’t feel the truth with your heart, you’ll be deceived by the spirits of darkness. They know your mind, and will trick you into believing you know what’s right.”
“I—oh never mind. You twist my words with your riddles. Look, the rains have come, that’s good. They wash the misery of the summer heat from us and renew our fields. It’s a time to celebrate, but it is nothing special, it’s just that time of year.”
“That’s what’s special, don’t you see? Hea has smiled on us as He once did. This isn’t the punishing rains of the cleansing; it is the rain of autumn as it should be. We should rejoice and give thanks so that He may hear us and continue to favor our ways.”
“Has He favored us? It’s just rain. He doesn’t care one way or the other. It’s just normal.”
“Yes! That’s right. You do see... It’s a sign that things are getting back to normal. We need to thank Him for His wisdom. It may please Him enough to hurry the process.”
“And how would you have me thank Him? What can one man do?”
“You are the man foretold. Come and stand with me on the altar.”
“I’m not dressed for it.”
“Stand here.” She leaned over and extended her bloody hand.
He declined the offer and hoisted himself onto the platform in a single grunting thrust.
“OK, I’m here. Now let’s get it over with.”
“Look at the symbol below your feet. This is the arc of Vau, it curves up and joins Hea over there,” she gestured. “Do you think you should be here, or over there?”
“What difference does it make? I just want to get in out of the rain.”
“You tell me. Where do you think you should be to thank Hea? It is your choice.”
He flinched at the silliness of her games but considered the platform and its strange markings. It certainly must have meant something to someone, but to me it’s just a bunch of meaningless lines. He wandered across the naked surface. The few followers who remained on the platform stepped aside and let him view the symbol in its entirety. The intersection of lines leapt up at him through the film of water. He had never seen it so clearly.
“Where is Hea?”
“Here, this is his universe.” She gestured at the circle with the butt of her spear. “Here He joins with Vau, and over there He joins with Yod.”
“And what’s this area?”
This is just pure Hea where He completes the circle of God.”
“Well, that must be where I’m supposed to stand.”
“If you wish, but why didn’t you choose here with Yod? He’s the spark of knowledge. Don’t you think it would be better to appeal to His wisdom?”
“I thought you said I was supposed to talk to Hea, now you want me to talk to Yod. Why don’t you make up your mind?”
“It’s not for me to decide. You’re the Seer; you must decide where you stand with God.”
He looked at her angelic face and the cherub at her side and couldn’t help but want to play her game in spite of the awkwardness he felt. He wondered if she would chide him for selecting the wrong move as he stepped into the center of Hea’s circle. The rain fell harder as he stood quietly and surveyed the symbol around him. He looked at her for a sign but with none coming, he simply spread his arms and said, “Please Hea, smile on us again. Let this rain be your gift to nourish us.”
Tarra pulled Chilgar up to rest on her hip. “You speak from your head. You say what you think is expected.”
“I’m me. Yes, I do what people expect of me. It’s who I am. I’m not ashamed of it.”
“Good, you shouldn’t be, but don’t you feel the spirit of Yod pulling at you. Think of Daddy, feel the warmth of Vau. Speak to those who will listen. Hea is magnificent in His glory, but He won’t listen to your thoughtful plea. It means nothing to Him. You’re but a single spark for an instant of time in His universe that is so vast, it is beyond our understanding.”
“I thought you said I needed to talk to Him. Now you’re telling me He’s the wrong guy.”
“I said you needed to thank Him, not ask Him for gifts. The only one that might listen to such supplication is Yod, and there you must be very careful. This is of what Papa warned—’don’t speak from your head when you speak with Yod. The dark spirits will see your weakness and fill your thoughts with false dealings’.”
“Tangar never spoke of such things. He said, ’…stay away from what you don’t understand…’ and you don’t understand this. You include all of these people. Tangar would never do such a thing. He knew that they would get it wrong and screw it up. Maybe that’s why Hea’s so angry. He’s been punishing us since Tangar left.”
“Daddy died in the first storms of the cleansing. I was there... remember? He spoke to me in his last days. He questioned the wisdom of his teachers, and lamented that he hadn’t included me in on more of his dealings in the ‘old ways’. He knew that the weak would think that Hea was angry and punishing us for our wrongdoing, but he wanted everyone to know that it was untrue. He didn’t get a chance to tell them, so he trained me as best he could and begged Yod to smile on me... on us.”
“He told you? Or are you dreaming now of things not said?”
“I talk with Papa and he tells me that you need to know of these things. I am only the Keeper; I can’t know the wisdom of what you see. You must divine the truth. I’ve shown you the spheres of God and how they intertwine… You must fit within their powers to see our way.”
“I talk with Tangar too and he tells me only that you’re a child who’s gotten lost.”
“He was my father, he saw me always as his child. Do you see me as a child?” She stepped forward and pressed her hand on his chest.
Chilcoat stood transfixed as her hand burned a hole in his heart. “Yes—no, you know I don’t. You’re my—wife. Everyone knows that, everyone but you.”
“I’ve known it for years. And, I tell you husband, you are the Seer, the one who must join with the spheres. I can’t make you. You have to want it.”They stood silently facing each other, disturbed only by Chilgar’s insistence that they get out of the rain. Tarra wrestled with him for a moment then released him to flee the platform. Looking in vain at Chilcoat for some sign of resolution she gave up and followed Chilgar to the shelter of their home. The audience had already grown tired of the bickering and left him abandoned on the platform.