Saturday, February 28, 2009

The Swami

He groaned a little as he rolled over to receive his visitors. He had lost weight. Once a rosy-cheeked and hale man, here - in the hospital bed without his turban and jewel, without the monkey and audience, of which he was in such easy and total command - Ramanuja presented a pallid and weary visage. Nevertheless, he looked many times better than he had upon his last meeting with the erstwhile investigators. Most of all, Cati appreciated the fact that he was free of the tubes and ghastly equipment.

As he recognized the trio, his eyebrows lifted and his limp mouth pulled into a little smile. "Hello!" he cheered (as cheerily as one might expect). "Our saviors have come to visit! Kindly sit and rest. We were just listening to the birds sing." Outside the cracked window, a pair of pigeons cooed sweetly to one another.

His eyes were slightly red, and his lips were dry and cracked. Looking to the window, he pushed himself up in bed. His list of woes was short, as described by Doctor Cherry: minor lacerations on the eyes, mouth, ears, and at various joints; a few bruises; severe dehydradation. "He'll should be fine by now," he had explained, "really. He's been chit-chatting with the police all afternoon."

The swami did not look fine. Without pulling his gaze away from the pigeons, pushed his lips out, as if puckering for a kiss, and reached for the glass of water on his nightstand. "We think that you, sir," he said deliberately and seriously to Thelonius, "do very well as you are, testing Maya rather than seeing through it." It seemed that even now he couldn't resist making such comments. But his tone of voice was wholly different from his grandiose stage character, and his words rang with all the more sincerity for it. Maya, then - the illusionary world of experience per Eastern religion - what of it? (The line between religion and the occult blurred often enough that Thel had cultivated an acquaintance with a fair number of 'strictly religious' practices in his time, from Jainas to snake-handlers. Maya was one of these concepts.)

Ramanuja replaced his glass, and pulled his blanket up to his shoulders, binding himself. "And, you, madam, have risen to the occasion most admirably. We know, for you saw what sorry is'tate we were in." He nodded sullenly towards Cati. "As have you, sir" - it was Henri's turn - "for we think that you have the most questions of all. Is that not what you all have come for?"

"The men who killed Margaret are unknown to us. Margaret was our pupil, we were her swami. We were very close, but it is not as some have suspected. I am very sorry for the Whitcombe family." Wrapped in his blanket, he looked like no monk or mystic. If he were only to put on a button down shirt and a normal pair of trousers, he could disappear right into the city crowds. He turned his face towards the window again. After a moment the swami said, "You will be wanting to ask better questions this time."

(Thel passed an occult check.)


Teresa said...

Cati moved a beat-up chair closer to the bedside and sat down. "Do you remember anything that happened after you left the Audubon?" she asked the swami gently. "Did they say anything to you? Do you have any idea why they kidnapped you, or why they had you hooked up to those machines?"

da solomon said...

“Hm.” Ramanuja tucked his chin into his hand. “These are the questions the police men asked,” he said quietly. He looked to the closed door, beyond which sat a uniformed officer even now. “The memories are vivid enough, let me not recount them to you. God knows who the kidnappers were, not I, but I know what they were after . . .”

He levelled his gaze, first at Cati, and then toward the others. “You have what they were after, and that machine was their way of tearing it away from me. It is very complicated to explain, but what you have, Reporter Sahib – you have it with? – was once inside this body.” He wriggled an arm from his blanket and sipped his water before continuing. “They severed it from my atman, my soul you see, with a sacrifice, and then they used a machine to pull it from me.

“There is perhaps too much to explain, but this is why you are here. Reporter Sahib, you might say, ‘I know very well why I am here, I am reporting.’ Indeed.

“But, you, children. You have so very little to do with the stranger things in the world – surely, you are frustrated. So many clues, but nothing comes of them! Such little sense of purpose . . . but something drags you forward!” He shifted his eyes, surveying their reactions.

Satisfied that he had their attention, he continued, “What you have is a mirror. Like all mirrors, it is used for looking at oneself – or this is one way of explaining it. Understand, it is very old, it has been with our lineage for centuries. But now I cannot have it back. Indeed, I think it does not want me back.” He sighed, fidgeted with his glass, turned towards the pigeons again. “It is already written down.”

There was a diary, bound in fine leather on the table. The swami looked to it; Henri removed it. “That. Third page, please. Read it aloud, Monsieur.”

Henri opened the diary. He flipped past the first two pages, on which were notes written in the alphabet of Ramanuja’s language – Henri guessed that he was looking at Hindustan script – and a diagram, a human outline with lights at or gems at different points of the spinal column. On the third page was written what appeared be a poem in English. Henri read it.

“She was threefold, one eye in each realm, and her attendants numbered six.
“The nursemaid, the knight, the pages, the priest and the priestess.
“She was like mother cow, the most fit sacrifice.”

He swallowed and looked at the swami, who urged him on with a gesture of his free hand.

“She was like mother cow, the most pure gift
“Three worlds cried over her,
“Jupiter and Venus, Chiron hiding between them,
“She was consumed by their tears,
“She was covered by their laments,
“And bled into her attendants, who number six.
“And they into their children and the generations.
“From the city fled the knight
“From the city fled the nurse
“And they did not perish, but flourished alongside the forgotten men of Sumer and Scindia,
“They did not perish, but spread the two lines of the guru and his wife,
“Jupiter and Venus in Capricorn, Chiron hiding between them,
“And karma finally strikes the familiar chord,
“Her attendants do pilgrimage to the city in masks.
“Her attendants return to the city in disguises, and bear the mirror on its way.”

Henri finished his recitation. He flipped the page, searching for more. The next leaves were filled with more notes in English and Ramanuja’s language, notes on breathing techniques, on meditation. There were essays, labelled in large, flourishing letters: “Pulling the Mirror from Within”, “The Sacrifice”, “On The City”.

“You are thinking,” said the swami, “What is this – it is not my concern, this babble from a charlatan! Clearly, we are not, but it is still one’s own choice to go further. It may be wise not to, for, as we know . . . there are others. The dead man was one of them. Who they and what they want – God knows only! But you are the attendants to the sacrifice!” He punctuated the air with his finger. The silence was all the greater in the aftermath of his last, barked word. “Sacrifice!”

His finger hung there for a moment. No one answered. “We . . . are wondering if this is sensible to you . . . I, I must sound crazy.” He was suddenly downcast.

“I apologize.”

Monsieur Henri DuMonde said...

"No," Henri breathed, setting the journal down with trembling hands. "I dreamed this. I dreamed the sacrifice, the cow woman, the nurse... You couldn't have known. I didn't tell anyone. It didn't even make sense to me. I dreamed it all."

Thelonius Jones said...

Thelonius looked from Henri to Ramanuja, waiting for their discourse to end before speaking.

"I'm not sure I understand. Are you saying that this,"

The reporter fished out the three vials from his jacket pocket and showed them to the Swami.

"Is actually your...essence..for lack of a better word, ripped from your soul? And how does the sacrifice paly a part in this?"

He turned to Henri.

"And what is this about a dream?"

The reporter took off his hat and set it on his lap as he ran a hand back through his sweaty unkempt mop of hair.

da solomon said...

"It was," the swami resigned, "essential, but it is no more my personal essence than it is yours." He spoke into his glass. "This is to say very much.

"The doctrine of reincarnation - do you know it? In the Himalayan mountains, there are a sect of Buddhists known as the Black Hats. The Black Hats are led by their teacher, who is an emanation of the Buddha. When the teacher has passed on, the Black Hats go in search of a boy to take his place. When they find an exceptionally wise child, they test him by showing him the toys of the master, from when the master was but a boy in a frozen mountain village being visited by strangely adorned monks. They know they have met the master's new self when they meet the child who bears the memories and wisdom of the teacher from birth.

"The Black Hats have nothing to do with this predicament. But it is like this that memories and any guna - is'pecial character of a person - might be passed on from lifetime to lifetime.

"It is a mirror; you will also say that it is very much like the matter of my former lives' memories. His finally lifted his eyes from the glass.

"It is not whole, is it? It has been is'cattered." Ramanuja locked his gaze on the vials in the reporter's hands. "And so it returns to the attendants . . . You will take it, you will keep it guarded. Read what it is that I have written. Before that, I must show you – this is only right! – why the mirror is valuable to others. I suffer for its loss, but it does not suffer for me. Brother sahib, will it be you? Monsieur? Ma’am? Just take one of those little bottles in your hand, I will teach you . . . Please, do not protest! You will understand all the better once you have seen! You will have seen what I can no longer have, and you will know what it is that the others seek." His eyes brightened; the swami's entire face lifted as though he were once again on stage.

"Yes! Just take it in your hand. Remove the seal . . ."

Monsieur Henri DuMonde said...

Henri, puzzled, frightened, but determined, held his hand out to Jones to take a vial.

Thelonius Jones said...

Thelonius passed a vial to Cati and also to Henri. He looked over at the Swami and asked, "I expect that this will put us into that trance like state that we discovered Gerloch in. His...visions...did not appear pleasant at least judging by the look on his face."

He kept the vial closed, awaiting a reply.

Teresa said...

Cati gingerly held the vial between her forefinger and thumb. With a slight grimace at what Jones had to say, she looked at each of the men and then back at the vial.

"I don't know about this, fellas," Cati said. "This all sounds like crazy talk to me."

da solomon said...

"It may not be, Ma'am. You will be put into a trance, a state of consciousness, from which you will be able to pierce through Maya. This same thing Maragaret had learned to do on her own, but I give you the chance to do it here, now, today. What happened to the man, Gerloch? We do not know - but it is possible he failed because he did not have a teacher. It is possible he went too far too fast. It is possible he was afraid. Ignorance, pride, fear: the prices of self-tutelage. You have a guide . . ." His finger made a stirring movement over the water in his glass. "And the danger in doing this is less, now, than the dangers we fear you will face if you do not! But if Monsieur was dreaming these things, then it is surely a sign that you are meant to know. Let it out. Into your hand. I assure you, it is not poisonous!

"We will accomplish so much more this way than by a traditional explanation! What resources you will have! It is exciting to give this thing to you now: a gift that you must take . . . and that cannot be returned.

"Carefully, take it to your eye, and peer into it, like a microscope! Look deeply, look beyond this world! Say:


Monsieur Henri DuMonde said...

Henri broke the seal of his vial with a thumbnail and, after a moment's hesitation, poured the silvery fluid into his other palm.

He glanced briefly at the swami and then gazed down at his palm.

"Ka-Shi-Raa-Saa-Gaar," he repeated carefully, but with a slight quiver in his voice.

Thelonius Jones said...

Thelonius waited, watching as Henri opened the vial and began chanting the nonsense that the Swami was spouting.

Teresa said...

Cati looked from Henri to Jones to Ramanuja, then back to Henri.

"He's really going to do it..." she said under her breath — whatever "it" was.

da solomon said...

Ramanuja recited the words one more time . . .
Thelonius and Cati watched Henri as he peered into the bead of silver that he had spilled into his palm.
“Lo-Pa-Mu-Dra” – the silver leapt like oil from a hot pan into the dressmaker’s eye. Henri recoiled and clasped his empty hands over his face. His back arched in a sudden, violent shiver.

Henri felt his back contract in waves; something solid and cold, like a marble, was being pushed by his pulsing muscles up his spine . . . What am I doing? His hair stood on end. Beneath his skin, something rolled in his scalp, crept forward, under his hair over his skull, into his eyes.

Henri opened his eyes. His irises were wide, but as if withering in a flash of light, they contracted to pinholes. His knees weakened. Henri began to fall, but he caught himself on Ramanuja’s bed stand. Cati hopped from her seat and, with Thel’s help, guided the limp dressmaker into the chair.

“Monsieur, you can hear me, yes.”


“You can hear us?” Cati asked, as she loosened Henri’s collar.

“He cannot! Only I may is’peak to him now!”

Pushy! Cati thought.

“Henri! Tell us what you see!”

Henri’s lip quivered.

(Henri has spent some of his inner strength in completing the magical act! -2 magic points! The very fact that the process works, is an experience that alienates one from rational reality - -2 sanity points!. For Henri, action continues in ”Little Faith” in The Arcade blog. He may not leave his chair in this setting. He will not be able to hear Thelonius, Cati, or anything in this setting besides the voice of Ramanuja, though he may still speak.
I'm back at HQ in Delhi, so there will be no more delays for a while.)

da solomon said...

"What do you see?" Ramanuja repeated. "Tell us what you see!"

Monsieur Henri DuMonde said...

"Everything is orange. The light is orange. There's a man, something like me, and a huge... library? Repository of some kind, anyway, and a thing... a thing in a cloak. I don't like it."

da solomon said...

Was Henri drugged? This was the most likely explanation, though the active nature of the mirror substance as it had leapt from his hand and into his eye seemed to indicate that the fluid was not merely a pharmaceutical substance awaiting activation in the human body.

The swami, still holding his glass, offered an explanation to Henri - and, in passing, to everyone else. "The cloaked being is no danger. Do not accept its assistance. Do not speak to it! - you are not ready to meet its demands.

"Yet . . . there is another man there? This should not be . . . For, Monsieur, you are in the Arcade of Zuhal! My friend, you are among the planets, and there is no path to this place, in the rings of Zuhal, but through us!"

Running his finger around the edge of his glass, Ramanuja licked his lips and continued. "Monsieur . . . be cautious with this man." Though the swami was unable to ever fully cast off his showy demeanor, he did his best at this moment to communicate with Henri with seriousness and sincerity. "I fear," he said, "our enemies are lurking in the shelves as we is'peak. For, amongst the is'trange sciences that lie waiting in Zuhal's sindur canyons are the keys to the altar, and the words to be recited at the sacrifice. This is why I have shown this to you - because you must understand that Margaret and I were to find these words amongst the gallery and to restore the sacrifice . . ."

The swami tucked his chin against his neck.

"If you have seen enough, you may come back . . . this will not be your last visit. "

Monsieur Henri DuMonde said...

"What are you looking for?" Henri asked no one in particular.

Thelonius Jones said...

"What are you talking about?" Thelonius asked the Swami.

"What did you do to him? Mesmeric suggestion under the influence of a drug? And the ...mirror...leap into his eye?"

The reporter looked desperate for answers, his eyes almost pleading with Ramanjula to explain.

Monsieur Henri DuMonde said...

"I came here through Pierre's mirror," Henri said then muttered incomprehensibly for a moment, suddenly saying "Monsieur Swami told me to look," quite clearly.

Teresa said...

Cati looked at Jones. She was clearly alarmed. "Are we just supposed to let him go on like this?" she asked. "He's gone off the deep end!"

Monsieur Henri DuMonde said...

"Wait," Henri cried. "Don't leave me alone with this thing. How do I wake up?"

da solomon said...

"What are you talking about?" Thelonius asked the Swami.

"Zuhal, Mister Jones! Simply, it is the final planet, Shani. You will call it Saturn. The things which he describes are there with him, in person, in the shadow of Zuhal! I insist there is no suggestion - no, a veil has been lifted from his eyes!" The swami's answer did little to help his credibility from the reporter's perspective.

"If you wish to see, you have only to do the same and repeat the mantra of Rishi Lopamudra, just as Henri did. 'Ka-Shi-Raa-Saa-Gaar . . .'" He kept time with his finger tip as he recited the short incantation. "This brings the two souls together and forms a bond." The swami interlocked his fingers to demonstrate the enmeshing of separate entities. "There is an attraction between Monsieur and the mirror!"

Henri yelped, interrupting Ramanuja's impromptu lesson on the metaphysics of the silvery drug. "Wait! Don't leave me alone with this thing."

"I will not! Be more cautious of the man! We don't know the number of our enemies . . ."

"How do I wake up?"

"Because you are with me, and because the mirror can never pass entirely from someone, you need only say the same mantra once again. Now that it has you . . . this is the first of many things I will teach you. Always remember it.

"Sea of Milk: Ka. Shi. Raa. Saa. Gaar." His recitation was slower, but more energetic, than before. "Changing, arriving: Ba. Da. Len. Pa. Honch." He was drilling Henri. "Lost Face: Lo. Pa. Mu. Dra."

Monsieur Henri DuMonde said...

"Kaa Shi Raa Saa Gaar," he repeated carefully after Ramanuja. "Ba Da Len Pa Honch. Lo Pa Mu Dra."

Then after a pause...

"Why a horse?" he asked quite clearly.

da solomon said...

Strength came into Henri's back again, and he opened his eyes. There were points of light, and a smear of colors - Ramanuja, then Cati and Thelonius, took shape from the bright mess. How vivid a hospital room could seem after having soaked one's point-of-view in orange!

Ramanuja smiled at Henri. "You have returned. That was your first lesson. We have already learned so much . . ."

Monsieur Henri DuMonde said...

"I don't feel very well. I think I'd like to sit down," Henri murmured quietly and his knees folded under him. He sat down hard on the hospital room floor.

da solomon said...

Thelonius and Cati helped Henri up from the floor and replaced him a chair.

"It makes one weak," Ramanuja said, "The first time. O, but you've demonstrated ample is'trength in pursuing this end and you may take heart in that." After a pause - "Henri, you . . ."

The dressmaker looked more than tired. His eyes were lined with weariness. He gritted his teeth despite his exhaustion.

The swami drew a long breath and rubbed his tongue across his teeth. "Henri, we. Shall take you as my new pupil? . . . But, no. All the explanation has yet to come. Reporter, Miss, I apologize. You shall take those jars and pour them into the harbor, do away with them. You shall try to get along with the affairs of the rest of your lives.

"Henri, brother, as I said, in that place there are words somewhere. When they are is'poken at the ordained time and place, they will call upon the aide of two great sages, Lopamudra and Agastya."

"Why would we need more sages?" queried Thelonius.

"To repair the world. It is not an unfamiliar idea, I believe. Baal Shem Tov and the Hasidim, hold that by bringing the correct order into one's life, one would be doing God's work of reorganizing the universe back into the harmonious alignment of is'pirit and matter that He had first intended. This is not unusual thinking in the modern world either I am thinking.

"The Besht was a little bit wrong. Realigning the world is a work that can only be accomplished by great minds, not by our limited understandings . . . Lopamudra and Agastya are the great minds that can bring the world back into God's harmony. So great is the force of their minds that in a philosophical argument thousands of years ago, they tore creation apart, and now they dwell in separate worlds. Their reconciliation is what the sacrifice seeks.

"But, you see, such is the ferocity of their dispute, which was over matters forgotten to history as well as to memory" - the swami tapped his water glass and glanced to the vials in Thelonius' and Cati's hands - "that there can never be a resolution of their argument. In working the sacrifice, one is bound to either favor Agastya or Lopamudra's point of view.

"The nordic people - did they not believe that there would be a great conflict before the world was repaired? Christians think likewise, yes? Lopamudra and Agastya wreak this conflict in an instant, saving people from the pain of doing it themselves through bloody war. Only one of them, Lopamudra or Agastya, will draw on the power of their bested double and rebind the worlds.

"Yes, two worlds! A world of is'pirit, in which dwells Agastya, and a world of matter, in which dwells Lopamudra. We dwell in the world of matter with her and it has been the duty of my line to remember her and to protect the mirror, which is the key to the sacrifice and the arcade that Monsieur has seen with his own eyes."

At that moment, the police officer posted in the hallway knocked on the door. He opened it from his seat. Without so much as looking over his shoulder into the room, he said, "Hey, don't be much longer," and closed the door.

"Very well then. I have already explained as much as can be said easily. Tomorrow, Henri, please come here and we will shed light on this. We will discuss your dreams. Tonight, take the notes and look at them. They will not be so clear to you, but then this is why you shall visit me tomorrow.

"Reporter sir, Miss. You have been courageous, I am alive for your work. You are my eternal friends, and I yours; whatever I have in this world is always yours. But you may have more sense than the two of us, Henri and Ramanuja, and it will be best for you to apply that sense to things less fantastic. Take these experiences and do not forget them, but empty those vials into the sea if you wish to be protected from further involvement in our conflagration of nonsenses.

"Do assist Monsieur until he has caught his breath."

(Thelonius passed some rolls. The links to Wikipedia are for Dan's benefit as his character passed an occult check and is familiar with the philosophies of the more mystical factions of Hasidic Judaism. Regarding the name "Agastya", Thelonius passes an idea roll and recalls that he had encountered that name in a text, where it was given as a Vedic (pre-Hindu) synonym for "Thor".

If you like, wrapping up this scene or planning ahead as a group can be worked out in comments here.

Otherwise, two options:
a) Make a post in your own blog about what your character does next. I'll respond there.
b) Let me know in an email where your character goes next - even if he or she just goes home and makes a sandwich - and I'll write a post for the Manhattan blog based on that.)

Monsieur Henri DuMonde said...

"I would like some fresh air," Henri said weakly from the floor, not looking up. "Would someone help me, s'il te plaƮt?"

As he spoke Henri removed the pocket square from the breast pocket of his jacket and tossed the peach silk handkerchief onto the floor, giving it an angle so it slid under Ramanuja's bed.

Teresa said...

"Come on then," Cati said, offering Henri her hand to help him up. "Let's go outside. I could use a ciggy anyhow."

Monsieur Henri DuMonde said...

Henri accepted Cati's offer of help up and moved out of the room and down the corridor toward the door.

"What did you see?" he asked her once he thought they were out of earshot of the room. "What happened to me?"

Teresa said...

"You sat in the chair and looked completely ossified," Cati told him. "You said a couple things, like you were talking to someone. I think... you asked about a horse? It was all very strange."

Monsieur Henri DuMonde said...

"Do you think it really happened or was it all a drugged dream? There was a man there, looking for a horse, and a creature that was going to help him find it. It seemed very real—very horrible and very real—at the time. And it is true that I dreamt things M. Swami said and he could not have known. Do you think it's true, or an impressive trick? If it's true, I do not trust Ramanuja, I do not think. If it's not true," he gave a shrug, "it does not matter."

Thelonius Jones said...

"I think I am going to find out for myself what exactly is going on."

Thelonius pocketed his vial before slipping his battered fedora down over his head.

"I'll meet you at the shop in the morning. Hopefully, I will have something to report."

And with that, the reporter headed out of the building, and back out to the street.

Monsieur Henri DuMonde said...

Henri looked after Jones.

"I hope he does not do something foolish," he said with a sigh. "I thank you very much for your help, mon ami. You are kind as well as lovely. I must go home and feed Pierre and sleep. Merci, ma cheri." Henri lifted her hand and kissed it an old-fashioned way. "Shall I hail you a taxi?"

He turned and started looking around for a cab.