Heath could not draw his eyes from the cool look embedded in that perfect face. She seemed at once empty and replete with an uncanny totality. She felt his disquiet and took a step to her right to stand behind Kejebba leaving Heath staring at the tired pattern on his friend’s shirt where her face would have been. “This is K, she’s on her way back to her country. Do you know it?” “What country? No, I’ve got no idea. Where did she come from?” Kejebba’s eyes rolled lightly around a short arc and then gazed fondly at his friend. “It’s a dreaming. The Caneatit people are great wanderers, living and moving across the planes. K’s left her people to find long forgotten pastures. I ran into her and we’ve travelled together for a little while. And there you are; a bit confused? It’s a dream Heath; bit of practice for you. Count on it.” The sylphid girl slowly materialised moment by moment through Kejebba’s shirt to stand, still quiet, still staring at a by now slightly agitating Heath. She advanced on him, her clear golden eyes downcast, her delicate index finger hovering towards his pale, blood-drained lips. He couldn’t move. Something stirred in his belly. His nose began to itch. He panicked. Ripped his eyes from the hand slowly moving in on him to seek rescue in his friend. Gone. “Shit! Kejebba!” But no Kejebba could he see. No friend could he find. A vast space of flat land, a low horizon and a distant range of lilac hills watched him crumble to his knees as K reached down and touched the crown of his head. “Fear not boy. He’s….” ‘He’s what?' From the place where Heath’s head lay on the dried grass he watched her pale foot glide up to an ankle delicate as silk, strong as resistance till he could look no more. Turning his face away his heart had thumped him into breathing again. His hands driving into the hard earth, he struggled to stand. Scraping his knees he dragged them under to find purchase. It was like moving through a bog, unseen forces pulled at him. He could hear her light laughter as his struggle climbed higher. Then he was standing again, right in front of…just her. Still that marvellous face gazed, solid as real, tickled by his efforts to manage. “What happened to Kejebba?” “What?” “My friend…he was here. With you.” “Ah. He… er, he had to go…his number...” “Will he come back?” “Probably not.” Her voice stroked inside his ears, a velvet insinuation. He wanted to tear it out, sweep away its seduction; he wanted to stand away, breath without his eyes gripping the vision before him. But he could not. K put her arms around him and breathed into his ear. Slowly her weightless touch began to calm him; the irritating tickling in his nose climbed up between his eyes and settled, pulling his attention into a cross-eyed search for the space and the counting that he hoped would release him from this grip of fascination. He jammed his eyes closed but she was still there. Open or closed made no difference. She seemed to be everywhere. “Relax, it’s alright. Your friend’s still with you. Inside everywhere.” Pushing with all his might he struggled to open his eyes again. Far away he could hear something coming, a distant roar, small but infinitely huge. His eyes remained stuck fast. Glued. Still her beauty chiselled into him tasting so sweet it began to score his tongue, bend his mind. Her breathing was still in his ear and seemed to harmonise with the approaching cacophony. He was lifting off the ground, effortlessly rising. He reached in to hold her, to fold her luminescence around his fear. To shelter. The symphony howled to a crescendo as he finally managed to open his eyes. He caught his breath as he realised he was up in the air. Effortlessly. An involuntary smile began to cut into his face as she turned away and stood off him at arm’s length revealing her full, exquisite body, now suspended in light, radiating towards the horizon. He opened his eyes to the sound of a warbling magpie. Familiar cadences locked his brain back into familiar surroundings none of which had done any awkward shifting while he slept – and dreamed. All seemed…OK. He could feel a slight ache in his right knee. He closed his eyes again. Dark space. Numbers were rolling on. Ascending, descending. Dilute memories flicked and flaked distantly. He’d just woken from a dream. But he was unconvinced. The quality of the sequences in the dream were so life-like, so substantial with none of the fragmented, surreal segue ways usually associated with dreaming. The fact he could remember someone telling him in the dream that it was a dream left him pondering reality’s many evidently playful faces. But who was it? His old friend Kejebba? Had he ever known a person of that name? And K? He struggled with his memory to differentiate the two. The magpie delivered another flawless sequence of reeded notes, harmonic, Tuvan. In his mind the male and female essences drew in on each other, and then out, reaching towards a resolution through quivering interpenetrating rings of energy. One, two, two, one... Finally it was all too much for Heath. He got up. Moving to the bathroom to relieve his bladder something ticked in his head. Like the snapping of a dead branch underfoot. Everything was familiar, it was true, but subtly different. He hadn’t noticed at first, but when he got to the mirror he froze. He paled instantly when the face that gaped back at him had acquired a mask. An old mask. Heath knew it was still himself, but…older. He spun his head round in a panic, looking to shake the illusion, desperately seeking the familiarity of his old bedroom as it was before he’d picked up the damned juju thing from under his bed. But that too was now gone. His chest heaved a great sob as confusion cast him down and buried him. He lay on the floor and began counting back from one hundred. Outside he could hear a small voice singing. As he listened, he thought it was probably not really singing. More like a chant, a rhythmic up and down lilt. The sound was so dear to him his skin rippled with sweet pleasure. Another voice sang out; a woman’s. Clear and bright, she was calling from some way off. He couldn’t tell what she was saying but it seemed to alter the pattern of the child’s chant as it faltered, then faded to a hum and finally, silence. Evidently the child…the child? What child? In his house? A tear in the veil numbing his sensibility and keeping him stuck to the floor had enabled him to get a glimpse of … something else. As he could hear the child scramble up and move away the tear ripped a little more. His throat gagged. He felt ill. In the midnight hour she cried more more more. A fragment of some once-upon-a-time song freckled his mind’s back screen. “Ma ma ma” the child called as it ran out. In an instant the veil ripped completely apart and he found himself staring at the door of his bedroom, fully awake, fully aware. Finally. He remembered the child had been born ten months earlier. He was already running, his small legs racing each other to catch his small body from falling in the headlong rush into the next moment. His mother was Heath’s wife. The memories were rushing in and pooling in quarters all around his brain. In the chaos of accumulation another dream clouded his mind. He’d been driving to school. The car was full of his wife’s clothes. At the last minute he’d had to take a couple of his friends’ kids too. One of them was delaying the departure, which was already late, by talking on the phone. Bloody phones. The kid wouldn’t get off. Heath had driven off. At speed. Coming around a corner he could see the road ahead covered in water; the flood had filled the visible landscape. No roadsigns. Not enough time to stop, the car had crashed into the flood until it was floating, bobbing up and down in the muddy chaos. Ahead it appeared as though they might join a stream of traffic, but it was only three more cars caught in the flood, driven along by the current. Once his car grounded he began to sort through the tangle of sopping clothes, looking for his phone, to ring someone. Anyone. But the phone’s window doggedly refused to show any legible detail – even its graphic was unfamiliar. He turned back to the car to check the damage. All he could see was a black chassis – and the ignition key with its small ivory frog keychain swinging, unconcerned. He cranked over the engine but it was dead. The car's body had disappeared. Mystified he called to the gathering crowd. ‘What’s happened to the car?’ They didn’t appear to know what he was talking about. He decided he’d had to be hallucinating. That he might have been dreaming did not occur to him. Until he woke up. Outside the boy was squealing at something. A late afternoon sun shone thinly through the curtained window. The living, breathing power of the seed in space/time. Shining. Breathing in, breathing out. Infinitely fine.
Chapter Five
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