Nine Days

Posted on November 4, 2010

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The young initiate stood before the massive, ancient tree, smelling its living green scent, listening to a breeze stirring its leaves far above. The priestesses stood behind her, here in the sacred grove. She felt them chanting the protective blessing behind her, over and around her. They prayed that she would have the strength, that her heart would be open enough to receive the deepest Mystery.

The girl had studied all the lore. She had succeeded in all the tests given her by the priestesses. They had tested her resolve, her knowledge of the traits and gifts of the various gods, her belief, her faith. If she broke, if her belief outweighed her faith, if she quailed at the vision to come, they would cast her out. The Mysteries would be closed to her, and she would wander in darkness for many lifetimes.

Now the final test, the greatest challenge she would face before she was permitted access to the mystery school, was here. The priestesses finished their prayers and instructed her to sit beneath the sacred tree and left her there. She must endure her initiation alone for nine days.

She watched the sun rise and set. She watched the moon waxing to full, rising and setting later and later as it grew heavier. She felt the dew settle in the night and evaporate in the morning. She learned to see the foliage turn its many faces to the sun and close its many eyes in the twilight. Through it all, she felt the broad trunk of the sacred tree behind her, supporting her.

It seemed the tree did not change, but that the entire earth, the days and nights, whirled around it. She felt her heart slow to keep the tree’s rhythm, anchoring her to its own center. She began to see as the tree did. Soon she thought of herself only as tree, the central pole around which the universe spun.

She saw the heart of things: light and dark, good and evil, action and reaction, cause and consequence. She saw the patterns they made as they interacted with each other, the arcs of fate and destiny which combined to turn the wheel of life itself. Time lay before her like a blanket. She looked into the past and saw how all events wove together one by one, forming the space in which the world she knew existed. She looked into the future and saw present events progressing into numberless possibilities, casting their patterns ahead of them, shaping new space for new worlds.

Now she sat in the highest branches of the tree, looking down on the sparkling wheel of time and space. Above her, the clear sky seethed and roiled with energy. Tiny, translucent particles moved in waves down toward the wheel beneath her. And as she looked at them, they looked at her. They knew her.

They are alive, she thought. They are aware.

She knew no name for them, for her studies had never mentioned them. She could not see where they came from; they seemed to come from everywhere at once, from far above her, even from within her, from inside the sacred tree.

She watched the tiny beings travel down toward the wheel. As they approached it, the speed of their descent slowed by the smallest fraction; she might have missed it had she blinked. But she kept her eyes open.

As each being descended toward the wheel, it invented its own moment. It clothed itself in time, and thereby took a shape, a form, making a space for itself. She saw one being take the form of a leaf on the sacred tree, and another became a bird, and another, a rock settling into the ocean far away. She saw that the ocean itself was made entirely of these little beings.

She looked back into her own life, to her own beginning, and beyond into the distant past. She saw one of the tiny beings looking toward her, intending itself to take the shape, the form of her. It clothed itself in her time, fashioned the space her body inhabited, and traveled all the events of her life until it became her, sitting here now in the sacred tree.

“Who are you?” she asked.

One voice answered her, issuing from everything seated in time and space, and from everywhere beyond it.

“I am alive,” that voice told her. “Is that not enough?”

“I have so many questions,” she said, thinking of her studies, the tests of her initiation.

But the voice only laughed, and then she laughed, too, for everything she sought was all around her.

The laughter faded as time moved on to create new space for itself. The girl came down the tree and sat on the ground, leaning against its broad trunk. The ninth day of her final test turned to twilight, and the priestesses returned for her. They brought her back to their secret cave. They washed and fed her.

“What have you learned?” the high priestess asked her when she was rested.

The girl smiled and shrugged. “I can’t tell you.”

The high priestess tapped her foot and frowned a little.

“But you must give us an account of your vision at the sacred tree. It is how we determine whether you may be admitted to serve the Mysteries.”

“I understand,” the girl said. She bowed to the high priestess and turned away.

“Where are you going?” the priestess called after her.

“My own way,” she said. “I will serve the Mystery by living within it, my lady. Thank you for all your instruction.”

The high priestess sighed, and then she smiled.

“May your time be blessed, my child.”

The girl walked out of the cave into her future, her laughter echoing behind her.

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Posted in: #FridayFlash, Fantasy