It was the first thought that came to her as she woke up. He was gone. And, soon, this bedroom, the house in whose eastern corner it sat, and the tiny garden outside with its gnarled old red hibiscus and the half-grown mango tree they had planted together, all those would be gone as well. It was the strangest feeling ever. He had built this world with her, agonising over the details, consulting the Sorcerer from Tatooine; the ancient being who was aware of the stars that dotted the Great Nothing, the planetary systems, their beings and their ways.
“The Earthlings are mired with matters of the heart” he said, his voice ricocheting off the rounded bowels of his abode; soft and pale in the fading light of the Third Moon whose path the Sorcerer had chosen for his abode to be lit by. His clean-shaven mauve chin gleaned as he gently sipped a vial of Quasar soaked dew-drops collected every dawn of the first Sun. The more a Sorcerer partakes the divine liquid, the better his vision. The words of their Council Elder Rwa sounded in Clora’s ears, as it must have in Trev’s: for he gripped her hand to say that it did. Ok! So he drank the Quasar liquid that can only be tolerated by bodies that have been conditioned by millennia of training. So? Well, fine, Ok! She had to accede to the subordination that action commanded here. Clora had heard the lore of the magical beings since she was at the nursery with the other younglings, Trev being one among them. They pushed and punished themselves with hours of practise over hundreds of years till their Conu was supple and pliant, to do what they willed it to, so they lived for even a millennia, their Conii theirs, and not gravitate towards the eventuality of the Great Nothing.
Every living and non-living thing has a Conu. That which makes a being “it”, the Conu is all a being has when it first comes into existence, it dictates a being’s personality. And so every being was born a certain way; to do a certain thing and that is how they remained until their Conu merged into the Great Nothing; at which point in time, they ceased to exist as they were and existed only inside the Great Nothing.
Why is it the Great Nothing, how can it be if it has all the Conii? The younglings had once asked instigated by Clora. Council elder Rwa knew it must have been Clora’s question voiced by the other younglings, for he addressed his answer solely at her, his big white eyes glowing like the Yoni flowers in the light of the third moon, “It is the Great Nothing, child” he paused and glided to the wall of windows to look at the Suns setting at a distance, one behind the other, all three of them, lighting up the tissue of the Great Nothing; “because it has in it all of everything and yet it has in it nothing. The day it is full is the day we cease to exist!” He glided out of their space, his white eyes closed behind their shimmering lids.
Their batch of younglings was the one to witness the death of the First Sun and so the disappearance of the First Moon. For days the tissue of the Great Nothing was lit with the pyre of the dying star, and it was as though the Great Nothing wept the loss of its belonging, although they were assured by their Council Elder Rwa as were other councils by their Elders that the Great Nothing felt no loss, no sense of belonging, it simply existed and contained all and nothing and hence it was. By the time the Second Sun died, a deep sense of unease had set in the councils, messengers were sent across the Great Nothing; Light ships roamed far and wide carrying the message of despair, the voices of the Elders flashed across the systems, every galaxy accounted for in the Register of Ports in the Library of the Beings was alerted. The Great Nothing was only very dimly visible, the Yonis drooped, their bulbous pods bearing down with the weight of a civilization’s collective sigh.
They had to locate a new star, a younger one to make the Great Nothing glow again, they felt like it needed to glow, for if it didn’t then what happened to the Conii? The Great Nothing had in it the collective conscious of the universe. The wisdom of many millennia, the hopes and dreams of the living and the non-living, the Great Nothing contained it all; it had in it everything and nothing. The living and the rest had to see the Great Nothing, with its Suns and Moons, to believe in the individual Conu’s existence in the Great Nothing, to smell the Yonis and bathe in the Mercury river by the light of the Second Moon; to exist in their reality in time and space they needed their Great Nothing and a young star to power it. The Council was convened, the Elders thought at the appointed hour, sitting in their respective locations, turned toward the dying Second Sun streaking the Great Nothing a searing pink. Clora was out adjusting the frequency of her transponder. It had broken down after her foray with Trev the previous evening, out in the Light ship. They had flown till the outer rim of Tatooine and had to return as the transponder had broken down. That was when she locked into the thoughts of her master and the Council Elder. It was as though she had stepped into a garden of Yoni buds bathed in the Third moon’s light. She felt like a piece of stardust floating up, weightless, made of light and yet there as an overwhelming sense of despair, of ebbing hope that seemed to focus on the core of a column of light, but she noticed that the very centre of the column was a growing darkness. As she stepped out of her Master’s frequency, it felt as though she was stepping out of a bath gone cold. She shivered as she walked in, transponder in hand. It was then she realised what she must do.
She had walked in straight into Rwa’s line of thought, she could almost hear the hair-like thin strands jangle as she walked in. He wasn’t unnerved, it was as though he awaited her intrusion.
“The Sorcerer just told us that you would volunteer for the cause, he said you had the right Conu for it and that you are going to save us,” he waved as he always did, as she remembered him once do hundreds of years earlier, when Trev and she watched him with the other younglings gesture at the three Suns. “I don’t know how will, Clora, but you will. The Great Nothing needs your Conu. Go to the Sorcerer. He will tell you what to do. But I have been asked by all the Elders and the Sorcerer to tell you that you need to bring a male.” Rwa looked at her in the eye. It was a steadfast, earnest gaze. “Take whomever you want to Clora, you will have to spend a lifetime in his company.” His eyes searched hers. She saw the mauve of his skin crinkle and pale at the corner of his white eyes. She had heard over and over again since her childhood, of Rwa’s eyes that had been as yellow as the Third Sun at dawn and had grown luminous and white with wisdom; they were a reflection of his Conu, stark and spotless. He leaned forward and gently grasped her shoulders, pulling her close as she watched in quiet amazement, her eyes growing as big and round as the pebbles at the shore of the Mercury River. He leaned close, his breath cool on her face. His fingers firmly clutched the sides of her face and his forehead pressed on hers. For a second, it was very awkward. This was their Father, their Master, the lord of their council, their Elder. And she was suddenly conscious of a bunch of details. His hand was cool, smooth and firm, he smelt of nothing and his mauve skin was blue from this angle. She was now about ready to break free, when she felt the pressure of his fingers deepening on her head, but strangely enough, she didn’t want to resist and she stopped analysing everything as though she had willed a control toggle off. The blue of his skin suddenly deepened and she felt like she was getting sucked into a well of blue and it was all around her, yet she was in the middle of nothing and she wasn’t there anymore, yet there she was. She again felt what she had experienced outside, a while back, only it was more pronounced now. She was a speck, she was a mere nothing but she still was aware of herself, she was something, she mattered, and it seemed like the blue depended on her as it did on the countless other mere nothings around her, they seemed to be all around, but she felt at one with them. She felt washed and starched, stiff yet supple. And then she suddenly broke free. She was out, gazing into the now grey eyes of Rwa. She knew she was him now as he let go of her head.
They parted without words. For she knew what he thought and felt. She didn’t know he could feel, before.
The rest had taken just a few blinks, or so it seemed to her. “The Earthlings are mired with matters of the heart” the Sorcerer had told Trev and her. He told them of the myth of something called “Soul” that the earthlings believed they all had and a “Super-soul” that they believed sustained them. He bid them lay on his twin chairs of reflection and resonance. There, under the awning of the light threads from the dying Suns, the knowledge from the deepest bowels of the Universe was given them. They knew of the Earth, its star, its thoughts and the foundation of its faith, Clora knew it and could sense Rwa inside her stirring with hope, the first atom of light that would be born.
She had to be a “Pati-vrata”, she rolled that term in all its crests and troughs that carved the stiff roof of her mouth, the mounds of soft flesh of her inner cheek. She had to learn to be a woman staunch in her duty to herself, to the universe, so every cell in her being could be filled with love till the boundaries of the cells blur, till they grow, expanding beyond its physical limitations, the light from the love blinding all around it and lighting up every atom that touches it, expanding and growing till engulfs an infinite number of cells around her gloriously loving core and she morphs into a star, a young star that will power a galaxy, sustain a civilization and the Great Nothing. She knew Rwa was her now, he was in every cell. She knew that is what his now grey eyes meant. He was going to die with her, he had sent his Conu into hers. The white of his eyes, his wisdom, his pliant Conu that had been thirsting to swim into the Great Nothing was now swimming inside hers, impatient, restless to do what it was destined to.
With the searing pain of the explosion of her being would come the overwhelming darkening gloom of his too, she knew that is why it hurt so much. And that is why the star Clora was going to be brilliant!
Preeti Madhusudhan: "I am architect by training and a writer by heart. Our tiny continent hopping family now explores the cultural hotpot that is the beautiful San Francisco bayarea. My short stories have been published in Spark, Indian Ruminations, Digging through the Fat, and Harekrsna."