Another excerpt, in celebration of my reaching 25000 words. While you might think I got my love of short-hop teleportation from "Sapphire and Steel" (they did it with such style), actually it does appear now and then in wuxia fantasies. (Remember that awful movie "(Tian Long Ba Bu) The Dragon Chronicles: The Maidens of Heavenly Mountains"? Yeah. Actually, it wasn't that bad. It had Brigitte Lin in it!) Oh yeah, and another thing Sapphire and Steel has in common with wuxia movies: insta-costume changes! Ha ha! I haven't had any of those in my novel yet, but who knows...someday...
Nyima couldn't move.
She couldn't move, and the air was running out. The ghost's recitation of her name held her in herself.
Stupid, thought Nyima dizzily. Stupid and pointless. Damn the old fool. When they had first met, the abbess had pitied her. When had pity turned into unreasoning fear? I should have tried to talk to her sooner.
The dizziness grew worse. Nyima slid helplessly down to the ground, back against the rock.
She couldn't see, she couldn't breathe, and she couldn't move. She felt the darkness closing in.
She tried to remember air, tried to imagine it into existence as she had once done to spin silk for Tenzin's family. She could remember the sweet feel of fresh air, could remember drawing it into her lungs, but she couldn't remember what gave it its life-sustaining properties. Her memory failed in capturing the essence of breath. She had taken it too much for granted ever to /know/ it.
She tried to remember herself, to preserve herself by remembering it perfectly in every detail.
But it only hampered her thoughts. To think human thoughts in a human mind, was to change the state of the instrument that did the thinking. If she succeeded, she would be frozen in a single moment forever.
No. She would rather let fate take its course. If there was no way out, then here she would stay, just like one of the rocks lying around her. Did the rocks complain? She, too, could lie here for a thousand years, ten thousand.
Then, from the bottom of her mind, dreamlike, a thought: /There is a way out./
She didn't believe the thought. How can I get out? I can't even move.
/You don't have to move./ It felt like a memory. She remembered...
/You are here, but you are also there./
Where? Where am I?
/Where you are, your name is. Where your name is, you are./
She struggled through the dizziness to make sense of the thought. My name. My name is here.
Where else? It's in the voice of that ghost. The ghost is inside the rock. How will that help me?
/But where did the ghost get your name?/
Then Nyima remembered. The abbess! The abbess had spoken her name. Held it in her mind.
/She is thinking of you even now./
Was she? Nyima could only feel her own desperate wish to be elsewhere. She struggled again to break free of the ghost's voice.
/Don't move. Concentrate,/ admonished the voice of her memory. /Concentrate. You are not this sack of meat rotting in the darkness. You are yourself. Your name contains you. Let go. Someone is thinking of you. You are that thought./
I am that thought. Nyima let go of consciousness. In a dream, she could shift from thought to thought without ever moving.
/Someone is thinking your name./
Nyima fell into her name. It felt like suddenly turning her head to find herself in a new house with no memory of how she arrived.
It was raining.
That was the first thing she noticed about her new house. She hadn't known it was raining, but now the steady beating of raindrops against the roof was unavoidable. Rain. Rain, and cold. Sweet air in her nostrils. Light.
She opened her eyes, though she found her eyelids strangely stiff. They cracked like a layer off a thousand layer pancake. She was in the abbess's room. She looked down at her hands, causing more skin to crumble and flake off. The left hand held a rosary. The abbess's rosary. She recognized the sleeve of the abbess's robe.
She was inside the abbess's robe.
She was inside the abbess's skin.
Then where was the abbess herself?
The abbess was screaming. Inside her mind, Nyima heard her voice, crying for her lost reality. Two people in the same place could not coexist in any sane or stable way. One more push, and Nyima could send the abbess irrevocably over the edge. On the other hand, if she eased away, gently disentangled herself, the abbess might still recover. Nyima trembled with the strain of keeping them both balanced inside one skin.
Carefully...carefully...she forced herself to think through each tiny step before moving.
Her own finger lifted a fraction of an inch. The abbess's finger stayed behind. Another adjustment...another...
"Abbess!" The shout from the corridor outside the room jolted Nyima's meticulous focus.
Concentration lost, she froze. She didn't dare speak. She hoped the intruder would give up and go away.
"Abbess! It's me, Dolma. Please, I need to speak to you."
Dolma! What did the little novice want with the abbess? Nyima clutched herself tightly inside her limited space. A drop of sweat burned on her brow, and she suppressed the urge to wipe it away. She couldn't afford to move.
"It's about...about Sister Nyima. Please. I know you're in there. Abbess! Novice Dolma begs you!" The door rattled. "Abbess?"
Did you come to beg mercy for me? wondered Nyima, touched by her loyalty. But she won't, not now, there's no chance. Brave Dolma. Don't you know when you can't win?