Samadhi, the small moment of enlightenment, is not spoken of that often in the Western traditions. That brief moment of surprise, of joy, of understanding, happens while a soul is alive. Whether they are wearing a body like a penance, or like armor, or like one of the world’s most wonderful toys, it bursts past the limits. While alive, that is the most common experience of the perfect empty-mind, the beginning and end of all things, the perfection of things just as they are at that moment.
It’s a strange moment in which to hear the random violence of another tornado cell coming, from a long way off, the extra wind twisting on itself, embedded deep in the eyewall, marching on monster boots across the woods. It’s becoming a freight train noise heading directly at them, rumbling the house, shaking the joists under them. Some of the people on the first floor could get down the basement in time, they might survive a direct strike from the fury. Nobody up here has time.
And then they can all feel the little skip, the change in direction, something tweaks it, and it jerks aside and just clips the upper corner of the house, on the other side. The bedroom where Estelle has been huddled up in bed, mostly with Pen holding her tight, a room stinking of depression and lack of sleep. There is a loud crumpling noise like a car wreck, even louder than the deafening howl, and the whole house shudders.
“Estelle–” Pen’s mouth is screaming, unheard, just like the rest of them.
Then Dance feels himself smiling. Estelle, marvelous hollow-boned bird-thing that she is, read that wind perfectly well. She knew the storm was coming for that corner. She left the room in plenty of time to throw herself down the hallway and slam herself into the room with Pen. Perhaps she wants to live quite a lot, if she’s ever given a respite from the chemistry that is drowning her soul.
She screams in fury and rage and terror, totally unheard, mouth wide open.
He thinks he knows what she’s saying, though.
Bugs on all channels. He can hear bug-chatter all over the place, panicking, as the eyewall drives water into their fragile lab buildings, as the incredible deluge drowns their low installations.
He knows Estelle can hear them too. He is not sure how he knows it; something about the way loud bursts of chatter make her legs flinch, how it’s timed with the muscles that push her through the room. Plunging for the only light in the place–the window, where the shutter has ripped free, long since.
Dance feels everyone in that room pivot toward her. How marvelous each of them is, placed just so in the room, each of them bearing a broken, dented, worn patina that shines of their history, just like the silent objects in the room. And they are yelling, all of them, as Estelle hurtles into the room.
There’s the falling-star fierceness of Emma, trying both to grab onto the shreds of what is left and also to rid herself of the disintegrating weight of the ghost who is slowly releasing himself from her grip, regardless of what she does. Wojo is gone, and she needs to mourn, but her instinct for life is so strong that she willfully throws out her prickly affection like a pulsar, in a scattering of x-rays.
Drin, the kind man, the one who does grieve his losses, the one who has had so many of his memories crushed together and biochemically pushed down so deep he may never entirely understand why he does things, but the instinct for kindness, for love, is the shining lump that resisted that smelting, and glows at his center.
Barret, he of the vast tolerance for humankind, and whose mind is so firmly in the grip of the Muse that his brain’s normal human capacity for mathematics is entirely subsumed in the calculations of ratio necessary to compose, so nothing is left over for blinking sense into his checkbook; and whose boundless energy in that Muse’s service makes him fascinated with the logic of madmen and little kids.
Pen, exhausted and ill and paranoid and totally at the end of his rope without a knot, grasping wildly as his legs swing and flair in midair, unaware, in his blurry empty world, of where he can possibly find the support he needs to provide the help that he swore he would give others, and which others demand of him without end, as they have done all his life. There is no end and no mercy in the panic of Pen’s windmilling brain, and Turner has become a boogeyman he cannot look away from.
Dance smiles. He whispers, looking down into Pen’s eyes, and he smiles. Then he turns so Pen will be able to read his lips, if Pen chooses to do so. “Turner as your enemy is nothing compared to to a fully built Naga Trio as your friends.”
And then there’s Estelle herself, all of her burning in fury, mouth open screaming, all bright staring colors like an enraged parrot, her body the most wonderful, startling blue color. She is a streak of fury and despair, shrieking across the room, exploding the glass of the window–and then the wind takes her feathery weight and sucks it out. Wind pressure hauls her whole body billowing outward with a startled shriek. Estelle, who despairs of life, finds herself tumbling, flung into a flight that will plunge to the ground, unless something, or something, intervenes.
There is all the serene time in the world to know it will happen thus. To choose.
To know how each of her steps will drive her in panic across the room to it, and to reach out, and to flow with her, gently, not refusing her the choice, and not preventing her the full knowledge of what it means to be snatched from your life. Time to let her fall, to let her know it.
And then time enough to grip her gently, to feel streamers unfurl from his shoulders, long curls of sensory tapes like brilliant Christmas wrappings unwind from his neck, ripple out onto the wind for more lift and more control surfaces. Plenty of time for terror to unzip the flap of skin along his shoulders where things have been building slowly, over years. That is where they buried his Ra-hood. There is plenty of time for schematics to pop up in his brain as clearly as if he is gazing at a sumi ink painting of a dragon at play in the clouds; perhaps they were planted there for him, emergency failsafes that were somehow left intact when he was thrown into the box.
A corner of skin streams loose, the air pressure sucks it outward, which unfurls the fluid-lined cables that help it catch the wind.
Pen said they played, when they designed; and the unknown musician-creator who thought of his needs must have deeply enjoyed himself, thinking this one out to every last calculated detail. There is joy built into it.
There is plenty of time to feel the need to save himself, which forces his body into the writhing shock of a transition it would not choose to make otherwise. Time enough for that emergency to rip the tissues free and snap them out to full stretch with a bang that no other method could have done so thoroughly, all at once.
He feels the lines snap taut, a functioning parachute, and he is yanked high and hard and screaming unheard in delight as he carries Estelle away with him in his arms. The rest of him, still back in the house, unfurls for some time, flailing around, as if he can be tied like a kite-string to the house. His tail rips loose frail old window casing, the keels tearing through the wood like a saw. He is unfurling frantically to full length with a vibration through his whole body like a metal tape measure snapping loose, as his length rattles through the window frame.
Then they are an explosion of blue feathers and glitter flung up, lofted into the storm, with rain like bullets pelting into them.
They both scream. Estelle clutches him, shrieking. She may be happy, he thinks, blinded. She has borrowed from him the flight she never had, and has longed for all her life. She screams into his shoulder, with the wind. When things hit them, he rolls to protect her, he twists, feeling the battering of the air tearing away feathers from her exposed arms and legs.
His tail glitters white, and then turns colors in rainbows, and then he is a gray and black dragon hatchling surfing on the wind. He makes mistakes, veering and looping wildly, learning how to tighten and release the kitelike cords that control the double-walled parasail of skin billowing over his head, the skin that howls marvelously of air pressures and temperatures and tastes and wetness streaming with them. He learns how to twist the tail into another airfoil, loops that provide lift and control surfaces. He can feel Estelle helping him, too, extending feathered arms wide into the wind to catch more lift, to veer them up higher and safer when they tumble with stray bits of metal and timbers broken like spikes.
This is a wind they could fly on.