Baltha didn’t return until after Good Friday. When she alit from her vision quest in eagle mode on a branch high over the house, she sighed, at least as much as an eagle can sigh. Tante was lying on the grass below, her arms spread in a pose of crucifixion. It was clear she was still among the living, given the earbuds and rhythmic movement of her feet, the back and forth motion of her head.
Taphao Thongians never could resist a good beat.
She shifted to wind and blew a light kiss on her friend’s cheek before settling back into her femininity in purple on the grass beside her. Tante opened her eyes and pulled the earbuds.
“Back to help roll away the stone?” She smiled. Somehow, she’d forgotten how to be mad at her beloved B. She was working hard to keep from throwing her arms around her; after all, she was still the Crone, no matter how happy she might be to see her friend again.
“Haile is right, you know. Whatever the forces that have brought us all together in this way may be, they are not omnipotent. There is something with the genes that makes you and Haile and Ja and the twins so different. The Dragons seem to have discovered something, and the twins have found their other halves. Ja’s development seems to have stabilized; perhaps it’s his Yeti genes.” She faltered for a moment before going on, collecting herself and reigning in her emotions.
“You and Haile are different. You aged so quickly, and you continue to. You are the only one with two fully Terran parents, gestated and borne by a Terran, yet something seems to be affecting your genes more than that of the others. We know what’s affecting Haile’s; attempts by nanobots at achieving the singularity. Haile is aging physically and somehow regressing psychologically and emotionally. Haile’s being is so heavily influenced by popular culture, his/her very existence seems to be passé.”
“Guess what B? Ja was right, too. We’re all going to die, some of us sooner, some of us later.” Tante grinned at her friend. “And you seem to have forgotten something.”
“What have I forgotten?” B was smiling back now, the old rhythm of back and forth with her friend settling in.
“When’s my birthday?”
“I would never forget your birthday! It’s not until June! I have a very big celebration planned!” She didn’t really, but she was so happy to have found the Crone alive and not furious with her that she started to plan one right then.
“And so why should Easter have any meaning to an old Koori woman like me, one who was born during June in the down under?”
Baltha did a head slap and hugged her friend.
“Okay, okay.” Both women were sniffling and wiping tears and trying to pretend not to be. Tante did that thing she did and started planning. “Let’s get back with the others. You’re right, Haile is going through some pretty profound changes. Ina and Yanaha have been sharing the knowledge of their shamanic traditions and spending a lot of time with Sea and Forest.”
“Yes, that’s important. During my time in flight I could hear the murmurers running through the microbial networks of the soil, and gods, you should see the plankton lighting up at night. Everything is stirred up; it must be something big that’s going on right now.” Baltha’s vision quest had been full indeed, almost overwhelming in intensity and complexity of matters both personal and cosmic.
“They want to do a group ritual. All of us. Something different from what you helped us with in the Dream World.” Tante gave her friend that look of mischief that always instilled a little spark of fear in the woman who’d lived though war and death. “Ina says she can help open up the lines of communication with the ancient gods of the earth. The two of them think that maybe that if we go all the way back to the basics, we can get the answer for how to bring about the transition.” Tante had had lots of time to think, the music quickly fading to background.
They’d quit referring to their mission as Armageddon; after all, they weren’t all children of the god of Abraham. They weren’t even sure they had a mission, only that something had brought them together and that they all felt certain that it was meaningful, important, and about altering the course of trajectory that the there and then of the where they were was all about.
“And how will they do that?” Baltha really was curious. She didn’t really know exactly how she got into the dreams of others, only that she could.
“Apparently they won’t do it at all. It’s an herbal tea thing.” Tante wasn’t all that in to details.
“Like the mushrooms?” B. had liked the mushrooms, a fun little trip into slightly different realms.
“Something different I think. Something that opens up parts of the brain we’ve forgotten how to use. I don’t know, science isn’t my thing. Ina knows all about it, ask her.” They were making their way back into the house, Baltha pulling bits of muddy green from Tante’s hair. She’d been lying in the grass that way for almost two days, waiting for her death. She’d totally been winging it with her nonchalance when Baltha showed up, she was really quite terrified. As far would have it, at the instant B showed up there had been a really bitchin’ good tune playing, so she felt joy, and it wasn’t all that bad waiting for death to descend.
Yanaha was effusive in her greeting of Baltha. She looked at Tante like a mother about to scold her eight year old for tracking mud through the kitchen; she’d spent half a day trying to talk the Crone in off the ground after she’d first prostrated herself there before shaking her head and giving up.
Arnold was the one who spoke up.
“You’re tracking mud through the kitchen! If you’re not going to have enough sense to come in out of the rain at least have enough consideration to think about wiping your feet before coming in the house!” He had a towel and was using it to blot Tante’s hair, which was dripping onto the floor as well. Her entire dorsal aspect was muddy.
The Crone was behaving like a scolded eight year old, arms crossed and frowning as Arnold cleaned her up and tsked, working up a good whine of rationalization and trying to find a way to pin at least half of the mess on Baltha. Her thinking shifted gears as Ina and Yang entered the kitchen carrying in half a dozen reusable grocery bags. She’d go for sympathy instead of rationalization.
“What’s for lunch? I’m hungry.” She added a little sniffle. She had, after all, been lying in the rain for two days and was indeed very hungry. Surely the loving group around her would forget all about how silly she’d been and the mess she’d made when they realized how famished she must be.
“No lunch, we’re fasting.” Ina’s response was blunt. The group had decided it was the perfect time to take advantage of the fact that the Crone hadn’t eaten; no one wanted to listen to her bitch through a fast she hadn’t chosen.
The others were in fact off meditating in preparation for what was to come.
“Fasssssting? What fooooooooor?” Tante couldn’t let a good whine work up go to waste.
“The purge will go more smoothly”. Ina was busily pulling packages from the bags they’d brought in. “We need stock pots, do you have stock pots?”
“Purge?” Ina had diverted Arnold’s attention and he was staring at her so intently that he was decorating Tante’s face with the mud he’d blotted out of her hair as he starting reconsidering what they were going to do. “There was no purging with the acid, no purging with the mushrooms. Why do we have to purge?”
The tiny woman turned and put her hands on hips. It looked as if Arnold was about the experience the karma of scolding, and he stopped his mindless ministrations of Tante as they all turned their attentions to her. She just smiled and shook her head before not scolding them.
“If there is little or nothing to purge, then you will not have to purge. If there is much, it will come, and it will go. Sometimes it is easy, sometimes it is not so easy. But it is the way with yagé. Before it opens the doors for us, it empties us of what we hold inside, that which needs to be purged. Only then will it allow us to communicate.”
“With whom?” Tante’s German heritage came through in her grammatical fascism.
“With the gods, of course.”
The End is Near