by Xenophon Hendrix
The young part of my mind was rather upset, and I didn't entirely blame him. Arthur's mother did like to tease, and I don't believe either of his parents realized how hypersensitive about it he was. If they did realize it, they doubtless thought--or at least rationalized--that they were helping him get over himself. But hell, he was shy, intelligent, introverted, intuitive, knowledgeable beyond his years, and frequently clueless. So here he was finding himself strongly attracted to a girl, and there they were, his authority figures, mocking him about it. Even if it was fairly gentle mockery, it still sucked.
After supper I helped clear the table and then headed downstairs. I worked hard at keeping Arthur calm, and in about an hour we finished up the rest of his schoolwork--except the term paper that was hanging over his head. I also showed him how to translate letters into pictures and then link the pictures together to remember how to spell words he was having trouble with. For example, picture "c" as the sea, "a" as an ape, and "t" as a golf tee. In order to remember how to spell "cat," visualize a cat being carried out of the sea by an ape. Then visualize the ape setting the cat upon a golf tee, perhaps in preparation of smacking it back into the sea. If one can make up a story to fit the visualization, so much the better.
By 7:30, we had everything done, and Arthur felt a load lifting from him. I felt no small relief myself. Since waking up Monday morning, we had been working on keeping Arthur's life together and sanity intact. Considering that I had colonized his brain without permission, it had been the least I could do, but I had tasks of my own that needed starting. For one, I was supposed to be the mighty wizard, Ursus Enlil, and I hadn't even started learning how magic worked on the node I was inhabiting.
With two-and-a-half whole hours of free time before him, Arthur wanted to read something that wasn't a school assignment, or maybe listen to some music. I suggested, Want to try some magic? That resulted in general approval and no small amount of excitement. I thought things through so that all three of the consciousnesses that inhabited Arthur's brain would gain an understanding of what was happening.
First, I thought, I'm not sure how magic works on this node. I know that it definitely does work, or I wouldn't be here, but the laws of nature and the rules of magic vary from node to node. The ease of doing magic also varies. I've already experimented enough to know that on this node a wizard can't just grab some manna and work his will, so some preparation is going to be involved. I need to start learning what that preparation entails. I suppose one of the easiest things to try is working in a trance. We've already been practicing it, so it shouldn't be that difficult.
I made myself comfortable on the couch by propping my back against the arm with an old feather pillow and stretching my legs out in front of me. I focused on breathing, went through the tightening and releasing progressive relaxation process, and then focused on breathing again until it alone filled my consciousness. Instead of letting my mind empty until it focused on nothing at all, I concentrated on manna. I knew it was out there waiting to be harvested. Come to me. Come to me.
I could feel it with my senses for magic, just beyond reach. I beckoned it in. I love you. I have loved you for centuries. I have spent centuries learning your ways, your nature, how to use you with respect. I have put you before all others. I love you. Come to me.
It was skittish, but it came. I caressed it. Held it to me. Cherished it. This energy was that for which I lived and that which had kept me alive far beyond the normal human lot. It was my greatest pleasure and greatest addiction. I breathed it in, willed it to fill every cell of my being. I asked nothing of it but to surround me, fill me, lift up and let me drift upon its currents. For an unknown amount of time, my consciousness dissolved in quiet bliss.
But then something started to intrude. I tried pushing it away, but it came back. It was something important, something that mattered to me. I allowed my awareness to expand somewhat. As I did so, I lost some of the manna, but some remained. There was noise, speaking, a voice I knew. "Please, Artie, please stop giving me the silent treatment. I should have known better, and you have the right to be mad, but please quit ignoring me."
A young female. My sister. She was sitting near my feet. There were tears upon her face. She was in distress, and I appeared to be the immediate cause of that distress. The situation required a remedy. I swung my feet to the floor and moved closer to her on the couch. I took both of her hands in mine and encouraged some of the manna I had gathered to leave me and enter her. Could she accept it? Did she have the ability? Most did not.
I felt a trickle of energy leave me and enter Mary. Her tears quit falling. I gathered her into a hug. We were not a touchy-feely family. It had been years since I had hugged her. I encouraged the manna to keep flowing. Much of the anguish was leaving her voice. "I should have known they would tease you, and I know how much you hate it. But I was worried about you and Al, and I was so proud of you at the same time. And Mom asked what was going on, and I wanted to share the news with someone."
Speaking was difficult, but I interrupted her monologue. "It is OK. I was mad for a little while, but I'm all right now, and I accept your apology."
We finished our embrace and move away from each other a little. Mary looked much happier. "You sound a little funny."
I worked on controlling my tone. "Do I? A lot has happened in the last few days, but I'm OK. You probably should go wash your face."
"I-, all right. Are we OK?"
"Everything is fine between us." Mary went back upstairs, and I slowly released the rest of the manna. After it had dissipated, I glanced at Arthur's watch--8:43 pm. Time passes differently when one is in trance, especially when one is holding manna.
Wow, Arthur thought. I wonder if that is what being high feels like.
I believe it feels much better than being high.
I believe that I believe you. Have you ever tried marijuana?
I can't be completely sure that the plant you're thinking about is the one that I've had experience with, but I suspect it is. If I'm right, I've eaten it a few times. I was looking for something to enhance trance states. I recalled my memories about the probable marijuana so that Arthur could experience them with me. It wasn't that helpful, and the danger remained of a wizard losing control. I've never smoked it. I always figured that inhaling a bunch of smoke just couldn't be a good idea.
I stretched. Working with magic can be tiring, but it is a pleasant tiredness. When we again had some free time, we would actually try accomplishing something with the collected manna, something small. It would take time to build up skill and understanding. For right now, the Arthur part of my brain should have a little time for fun. What could we do?
Arthur was enthusiastic about playing the guitar. Unfortunately, we didn't have a guitar available. There was, however, an old keyboard pushed against the wall in the opposite corner of the rec room. Arthur's memories supplied it with a name, "chord organ." He had no idea whence the instrument came. As far as he was concerned, it had always been around, something his parents had. I never had done much with keyboards, for I preferred more portable musical instruments, but maybe I could learn something about how the music system of this place worked.
I pulled one of the old chairs from around the table over to the chord organ. Unfortunately, Arthur's knowledge of music came from one-hour weekly lessons at school. It was scanty. He knew something about tones being labeled from A to G, and that sometimes they were called "sharp" or "flat," but he didn't have any idea about the relationships between them. I could see his mental picture of what he called a "stave." The spaces were labeled F, A, C, and E, and the lines were labeled E, G, B, D, and F. He also had some concept about rhythm, with half notes being half as long as whole notes, quarter notes half as long as half notes, and so on.
With that immense amount of information to guide me, I pressed one of the keys. Nothing happened. Arthur reached out and flipped the switch that turned the instrument on. That was better. I pressed a few more keys. The timbre left much to be desired, but it wasn't actively offensive. I pressed each of the keys in order from left to right, and then back again, pressed all the white keys in order, and then all the black keys. I pressed the first key, then the second, the first key, then the third, and so on.
There appeared to be twelve tones before the frequency doubled. Every tone seemed to be the same multiple away from the next when all of the keys were played in order. The pattern repeated three times before I ran out of keys. However, if they used a system of twelve tones, why did they use only seven letters to label them? Arthur remembered more, something called a "scale," and he sang "do, re, mi, fa, so, la, ti, do" to me. I played around with the keys until I found something that sounded right to him.
Arthur hummed a little tune (he called it "The Barracuda Song"), and I experimented until I could slowly reproduce it. Next, we experimented with the buttons on the left. They played chords when pressed. I went through them a few times, and then fiddled around until I could create equivalent chords using the keys on the right. Finally, I added a few chords that seemed appropriate harmonic accompaniment to Arthur's little tune. This got him rather excited. I was glad that I could please him. I owed him a debt that I was never, ever going to be able to repay.