Okay so first things first, this post is way overdue! I owed it to you guys back in July and it’s now the middle of October. I have no great excuse though I’m sure I could come up with something fantastically entertaining, (or not, since the first thing that came to mind was being abducted by aliens and that’s not at all original). In all honesty I have just been busy, but I’ve spent time with the pages and the reward for those of you sticking with me is a nice long post this time with some enlightening background bits. I hope that you guys enjoy it, and as always thank you for your patience and for sticking in there with me.
Total training to bear your name only takes three years but when I think of it, it seems as if it was my whole life. As if everything I had ever done was training for what I would chose to become. It makes it seem as if there is some mystical something controlling the process, the changing from normal to traced to cloaked, and that is true and not true all at the same time.
Training is intense but not extra-ordinary. We are not a supernatural order. Persuasion involves no mystical abilities beyond tracing an assignment and the second of marking. Training is simply learning to fight. The strength gained there is a human one. We get better with practice. We can be injured, bleed, even die though once cloaked that is a little more difficult. If anything, without our heightened awareness of persuasion and our work in it, we’d most closely resemble something like a rigorous book club with an intense affinity for physical training. Large group of people with similar interests and a lot to say about them. Guilty of being curious and slightly self indulgent more than anything else.
Still during my training stories of the Taram and Eirum seemed almost romantic. The idea of this thing existing all around us with no one aware and me a part of it. Sara told me the romance would grow old. Told me to train. It’s the same advice I would give now if I could.
On the first day of training I was illuminated. The history of the balance was shared. The telling spoke of the true end. Of the Kachina – one Taram and one Eirum born to carry the burden of souls and at the appointed time fight for the last one. The one deciding the ruling balance. The one deciding the fate of the world.
The Kachina would be the only ones with the ability to be laced by the charges they persuaded. At the moment of marking souls release what we call Ahali. The Kachina would be able to absorb this gaining increased power. Power that would tip the scales of balance until the day they were called to fight each other. It is a win or lose thing. A life or death thing.
From the first time I’d heard it the story scared the hell out of me.
But it was all mostly legend, our version of bedtime stories, still trainers looked for fabled signs in the newly cloaked. Intuitiveness during fighting, an ability for stillness and an innate aptitude for the teachings. Most assumed if there was truth to the story the Kachina would be a birthright and not a circumstancer. That could be the reason for surprise when it was expected I would be the one.
There really isn’t much difference between a birthright and a circumstancer. Yes being cloaked is most normally a birthright but either way you still have to choose. Taram or Eirum. Once you’ve chosen you’re cloaked, one cloaked you train, make it through training you’re named. Or you can choose nothing. You can choose to be normal and walk away. In the end everything comes down to choice. The main difference with circumstancers, we stumble into this thing. We get caught in the middle before being offered a way out.
Once a soul is marked, claimed for either the Taram or Eirum it is set in stone. That person’s fate is sealed. Cloaks are the only ones who can ever switch the soul mark. It rarely happens but when it does, when a Taram or Eirum disrupts the flow of persuasion by switching their allegiance a riot is called. Riots are the only time we fight face-to-face. Not for the cloaked, but for the soul hanging in the balance. We fight for the person the cloaked once persuaded for one side of the balance and now, in switching their mark, attempts to claim for the other.
During a riot, if the charge in the middle of the fight becomes aware, sees what shouldn’t be seen, Persuasion is no longer effective. That person has new knowledge of the truth and as a consequence is presented with a choice. To fight for one side of the balance or be cleansed. I chose to fight. Without much time to think it had seemed a viable option. I’d chosen a side and like a silly school girl never looked back.
Sara had been convinced from the start that I was Kachina. Her hands are the first things I remember about her. Slender and narrow, pink and perfect they make her appear docile and young. It’d been my own misperception when she’d nonchalantly knocked me to the floor during our first training session. I don’t even think her smile broke during that initial training. I’d barely been able to breathe leaving sweat puddles on the hard packed floor. She’d hummed nursey rhymes gracefully stretching her neck waiting patiently for my next attack. Still at the end of the day she’d said that my skills were surprising, especially for one so newly introduced into the Taram. Circumstancers are expected to lag behind. It isn’t frowned upon just expected. I’d done well in both combat and persuasion attributing it to a life full of what is not good in the world and the need to keep the scales tipped heavily in the Taram direction.
Maybe more than ability it was interest. I’d wanted to learn. Wanted to fight. During class I’d taken notes in a slim spiral notebook fitting easily in my back pocket. I’d stayed late, arrived early, pushed past soreness and fatigue. I was completely unaware of the other students. I wasn’t motivated to be the best. I was motivated to be motivated. To know everything. I was all the way in. A Taram star pupil.
Sara was remarkably convincing. So much so others started looking at me like I was the one. I’d known it couldn’t be true. There are rules guiding the Kachina the most important being they must love each other. It is a matter of true sacrifice. Not important for ever-after reasons. It is important because love supersedes ever-after. It perseveres, changing, remaining in spite of circumstance. It is all consuming and motivating. Moving in opposition to that motivation, knowing you will have to and choosing to do so anyway perhaps is the real magic, though I hate that word. Magic is either top hats and white rabbits or midnight and caldrons and melodic chants. Love is not magic. It is the opposite of magic. It seems only fitting that at the end love would be smack dab in the center.
I’d met Eirum fighting in battles. I’d loved none. My life before being marked left little room for that. Probably why my decision when the time had come had been so clear. Since training I’d only loved two people. Sara and Josh. Both Taram. My Taram. Making the idea of me being Kachina completely impossible.
The stories of the Kachina were always the most requested because Essex is much like a regimented boarding school without them. They’d reminded us that what we’d trained to do was no small thing. That we’d signed on as weapons against the apocalypse. A fact surprisingly easy to disregard between combat classes and lunch breaks. We were as I mentioned, not supernatural, devoid of ritual, save for two exceptions: quarantine training and the day of your naming. The naming is like a Taram Christmas day. There is child-like anticipation, a perceptible change in everyone the months before. More laughter. More late nights spent sparring or begging elders to share their stories. When it’s your turn you get to choose your place. Anywhere you would like to be given your name.
I couldn’t wait for my naming. I’d wanted to be outside. When my life irrevocably changed I’d wanted as many living things as possible to bear witness. I’d wanted sunshine and a perfectly un-cloudy day. Josh said the same plus he wanted to be barefoot in the grass, even better if it’d recently rained so the smell hung in the air. We’d joked it would be the opening scene of the Sound of Music. That we’d play the movie’s song silently in our heads, a little secret during a ritual binding us all we’d manage in the middle to also be permanently bound to each other. I’d been happy to hum the soundtrack from the Sound of Music in my head. I’d been happy to do anything allowing me to be in synch with him.
The night before the ceremony we’d hung out in Josh’s room. The trainers had been adamant that we each have our own room, though they were small, just barely over 300 square feet. Ironically his had always seemed massive. He’d laid carpet squares on top of the hardwood, a random mix of grey and purple floor tiles extending symmetrically from corner to corner. He’d removed the bed frame resting his full size mattress and box spring directly against the floor. The bed was always perfectly made, grey sheets, grey comforter, 4 large soft purple pillows with 2 smaller grey square ones like punctuation marks in front. A shiny black bean bag slumped in the corner next to a stack of folding dinner trays leaning against the wall. Next to that a small stack of leather bound journals, the only part of himself he’d kept hidden.
Sometimes he’d written in them while I’d napped in his bed or read a book I’d grab from the bookcases lining his dark grey walls. I’d liked his privacy. Liked that he was comfortable enough to seek it out even with me in the room. Often while he wrote I would lean back arms behind my head staring at the ceiling. On it he’d written in long black brush strokes quotes that challenged him, motivated him. Made him laugh. I’d memorized my favorites;
After all, my erstwhile dear, my no longer cherished, need we say it was no love, just because it perished – Edna St. Vincent Millay
Poetry is the sacred incarnation of spirits – Khalil Gibran
Enjoy life, think of everyone who passed up dessert on the Titanic – Anonymous
That night I’d stretched out on his bed propped against his stack of pillows. He’d pulled his bean bag over leaning the chair against the side of the mattress before settling his back against it. I’d thought for a second he would play some music, or maybe throw on a movie but he’d sat quietly so I’d done the same. Minutes passed before he spoke. “Tomorrow changes everything.”
I’d turned on my side staring at the back of his head. “You’re so dramatic. Tomorrow changes our name. We already are what we will be.”
He’d smirked. “Faker. You know you’re excited. Stop trying to sound like Sara.”
“Yeah,” I’d rolled onto my back eyes focused on his graffiti ceiling, “I’m excited, aren’t you excited?” I’d watched his locs shake softly as he nodded while I tucked my hands behind my head. “Tell me what happens.”
“Again?” he’d laughed.
“Yes please,” I’d said, “again.”
He’d cleared his throat and I’d closed my eyes in anticipation of the sound of his voice.
“When it happens they’ll surround you. Starting with the elders they’ll fan out in circles with you in the center. They’ll raise hands, not touching you or each other but still connected. Filling the space. Sometimes there are songs if you like, or silence. After, there’s a pause until every breath is one breath. They say you can feel the change. The air slightly shifts when every person gives into the collective.”
I’d smiled the familiar story lining up in my head repeating the next words out loud with him in unison. “One breath. One thought. One purpose.”
He’d winked at me over his shoulder before continuing. “You know the rest. Sara will step forward a hand on your heart, the other circling your wrist. She’ll look into your eyes and recite the words making it official.”
I’d closed my eyes trying to imagine how it would be. “I can’t believe it’s tomorrow. Three years went by so fast.”
He’d been silent and then spoken so softly I almost didn’t hear. “I’m nervous. I…” he’d hesitated, “don’t you ever wonder how to know what’s right?”
“I’ve wondered that my whole life, think most people do.”
“I think we’ll have to wonder more than most.”
I’d extended my arm, my hand squeezing his shoulder. “I think we’ll have to do everything more than most.”
He’d reached up to his shoulder his fingers casually intertwining with mine. “Do you think we’ll always be who we are?”
“Of course we will. Tomorrow seals the deal but even now we will always be Taram.”
“Not Taram who we are,” he’d said, “me and you who we are. We always say no matter what. We always say forever…forever is a long time.”
I’d rubbed my thumb across the top of his hand. “I don’t know about forever Josh. I’ve just gotten used to thinking past one day at a time, but for now, right now seems pretty certain.”
In one fluid motion he’d rolled his body onto the bed resting his head against my stomach. I’d felt the movement of his lips through my shirt yet still his voice had sounded far away.
“Right now sounds good. Right now gives us something to remember tomorrow.”
I’d reached for his hair curling the soft locs around my fingers. “Are you sad? You sound sad.”
“Not sad. Just silent. Reflective, before everything changes.”
“We can be silent.” I’d leaned to the side flicking off the bedside lamp. “Go to sleep Josh, tomorrow will be a celebration. You’ll feel better then.” I had no idea as I stared into the darkness, his weight solid against my stomach that tomorrow would mean nothing would ever be better, ever again. But I could leave all that behind. Tonight I could go to sleep and when I woke up decide to make the town of Fairhope my life, get a job, find a place to live, make new friends and convince my body that the fighting was over, convice my heart that I didn’t love Josh or push it all down far enough that it wouldn’t matter if it was true as long as I could keep it hidden beneath every new thing I was determined to build.