The Balance of Nature
Oshema busied herself arranging a small table before Rhema.
She placed four candles on it, a black shallow dish in the centre and a
white silk napkin beside it. In this she laid a silver spoon and two flowers
with orange petals. Rhema shuffled her bulky body forward and leaned over the
bowl. She plucked petals from one of the flowers and placed them in her mouth.
After each one she muttered words in a language I had never heard before. When
they were gone Rhema took the spoon and swished it around the bowl as if
stirring an invisible broth.
She did this with intense concentration. The spoon never touched the bowl. Her chanting finished and she placed the spoon carefully on the napkin.
“In you secret back street bars were you tole how the Cleansing work?”
I shook my head. “I asked. No one knew.”
“Or no one want tell de truth,” Rhema said. “Fear can kill a man quicker than a blade.”
“I get the feeling you’re about to tell me about the bit I’m so supposed to be afraid of.”
“Supposed.” Rhema waved her fat fingers through the flames that danced on the candles. “You no think you afraid of much, chile?”
“Slipping, but little else. I’ve seen horror and fear up close. Those emotions were burned from me a long time ago.”
“Fear don’t go away jus' because you see it plenty.” Rhema licked her fingers.
It felt like Rhema was baiting me. “Why don’t you just tell me and let me decide.”
“The warrior is brave. Very well.”
She hunched forward and inhaled nothing from the bowl.
“Memories are made by that which we see. It is said the eyes be the windows to us soul. Memories come in through you eyes but not leave. They be trapped behind them. MET take memory from the mind. Is dangerous to mess wit the mind. It be connected to the soul. Man wit damage to either is no man but hollow shell.”
“MET works for the rich.”
“The rich be dying. Nature has selected them for extinction. Mark me well, chile, they be gone in but one generation.”
I wanted to see a smile on Rhema’s face, but she was serious and I believed her. Somehow she knew the elite in Zone 1 were unable to sustain their lifestyle or social exclusion from the rest of the world. I wondered why Rhema would reveal such a dreadful truth to me. If she was going to clear the memories from my head, why tell me something I wouldn’t remember?
“The Cleansing leave a scar, am no talkin' physical but mental an' spiritual.” Rhema leaned over the table. Her stomach bulged. “You, warrior, will know you have been cleansed.”
“Why? What purpose would that serve?”
“It only make true sense after. Is different for all who be cleansed.”
I sighed. I supposed that didn’t really matter so long as it stopped me from slipping. I pointed to the table. “So how does it work?”
Rhema smiled and looked down. “The Uhundra Blossom has special power. You eat the petals one at a time. Think hard about your memories. Them which you desire be gone. This stir up your memories, make them loose an' ready to leave you mind.”
I raised my eyebrows. “Is it some kind of drug?”
Rhema laughed. “Chile, drugs be a cheap word for street trash. Uhundra Blossom be spiritual essence.”
“Okay. So I get high, then what?”
“Then the Cleansing begin.” Rhema pointed to the silver spoon. “I bathe you eye to purge memory. I warn you, warrior, the pain be great, mebbe too much for some.”
“Bathe in what?” I asked. The bowl was empty.
“Memory not go away. They leave you but must go somewhere. Remember, chile, there must be a balance. I take your memories.”
I stared at Rhema. “Take them how? Why would you do that?”
“To keep the balance.” She tapped a finger against the side of her head. “I absorb them. Fear not how this work. Rhema walk with nature. I will no slip.”
I still didn’t understand what she meant. Somehow my memories would be passed from me to her, but how? I sensed she either wouldn’t or couldn’t tell me the exact process or why it would hurt.
“When do we begin?”
“Eat the blossom.”