The final chapter, the penultimate verse.
This one took me a long time to finish. It was birthed into the world amid traveling across the world, crafting an original wedding ceremony for my best friend, and the experience of the wedding itself. And it seems highly probable that without those glorious interruptions, this verse would look much different than it does now. I think it is much better for them (it also had a much sillier title). But, like with Vave’s arduous journey, the momentum is now unstoppable. Stay tuned for the conclusion of Anamnesis next weekend.
Chapter 3: nine amass
Verse 2: sans a mien
Climbing is a slow process, methodical, contemplative. Vave cannot reach the next step until the previous step has been trodden. He tries more than once to skip a stair to increase the speed of his progress, only to find that he has reverted back to the step he has just left.
The sun rises after the storm moves on. The stone titan is wet-darkened and dripping. The glowing steps remain visible, though the moon and the planet are out of sight. Vave’s feet hold fast to the stairs, though his long-trained fear still trembles his hands. It takes several strong gusts of wind and many misplaced steps and stumbles for him to accept that he is safe here. Some power holds him, and will not allow him to fall. Not this time.
Which is good, because by now he is many miles above the surface of the ocean, and would certainly not survive the fall. Or would he? Now that he understands he has the Form of Water, he wonders what might be possible. Perhaps his previous ignorance of his nature kept him locked into the expectation of pain, of solidity. Perhaps if he fell now, he could simply become a crashing wave.
Vave frowns as he climbs. Perhaps not, though. The Body is not the Form, and the Form is not the Body.
He wasn’t exactly himself when he changed, before, not the self who spent his days swimming and foraging in the sun and contemplating the mysteries of the world; he was not the self extending his love and understanding out to all things, even to the jellyfish that sting and the sharks that hunt. Then again, he isn’t exactly that self now, anymore.
When the Form manifests, it arrives from another place. Now that he has the will of the deep, he knows that it is still him, but from a place that is both brighter and darker than here. Deeper in and further out.
Eventually, the stairs reach a point where they climb along the downward facing surface of the thigh, and Vave wonders if the glow will still hold him. He continues climbing, anyway, knowing he has nowhere else to go. A soft vibration reaches his ears, like a distant hum, and in a vertiginous wave, gravity shifts. Now, no matter the orientation, down is always where the stairs are.
The sun begins to sink again toward the west as he wends back upward, passing the titan’s genitals to climb between his legs and up along the curve of his lower buttock. Here he takes a long rest, regretting that he didn’t take any food with him. The sense memory of last night’s feast still tickles his taste buds, and his stomach rumbles.
But the vast repository of information gifted to him by the deep rings a bright clear bell in his mind, and he understands that his reliance on the sustenance of this place is a fabrication. He is not just a man. His human body is a container, and the need to maintain it is no longer relevant. This thought sends a shiver up his spine, leaving a tingle at the base of his neck and a pressure in the center of his forehead.
The rest of the knowledge she gave him is a jumble, an imbroglio of images and thoughts competing to be known. Only when a particular question or idea arrives in his mind does the haze clear, allowing him a narrow beam of light onto some relevant understanding.
The stairs continue upward toward the center of the titan’s lower back. Vave follows, and banishes the thought of pain in his muscles. His destination is all that matters now, along with the parsing of his acquired knowledge. Somehow, he knows both things are the same.
Using the few footholds he has gained into the chaos of his mind, he begins to tease apart the strands of understanding. There is little else to occupy his thoughts while he climbs. Silver threads of knowing inform him that he is incomplete, the progeny of fragmentation, a refraction of light including only part of the spectrum. This throws his existence in this place into new realms of perspective.
He has spent his life here in mild contentment. Little true joy, but also little true suffering. Now he climbs, and he feels the thrill and the flavor of it, and it feels like something that he once had but lost long ago. And the prospect of a fall is ever more terrifying as a result.
Just as the reddening sun kisses the liquid lips of the horizon, Vave reaches the titan’s lower back. Here, the stairs cease. The meeting of the titan’s gluteus muscles forms a huge valley off to his left. He looks to his right, up the vast expanse of the titan’s muscular back, and sees nothing. It appears that his journey has ended, with nowhere left to go. But an inkling burbles up from the depths inside.
He sits down and breathes and thinks for a long time. The last light from the sunken sun turns to starry dark. He closes his eyes, and within the rise and fall of his chest, he feels the flowing within, the water of his soul. The power of it, the steady, methodical flow that can carve through the earth, thrums within him. Placing that liquid potency within the curled articulation of his fingers, he lays his hands against the stone and pushes.
The stone parts like sand under the water jet of his will, and Vave burrows deep into the titan’s lower back, towards the tailbone. Following his intuition, he continues until he reaches the root of the titan’s spine. To his surprise, here within the stacked iron vertebrae, the stairs resume their ascent.
Now he knows for certain. These stairs were put here for him, for this very moment. The stone titan himself, the island, the temple, the conch, the woman who waits—are they all here for him too? Who is he to deserve such portent?
But no. No, that doesn’t feel right. These things are not meant for him; he is meant for them. He is a tool, a key.
The climbing feels endless, especially in the complete blackness within the titan’s spine. Exhaustion blooms and shrivels so many times that it becomes a background concern. The visions and projections that plagued the other now find him, and through them, he knows of her, and knows what she knew.
The dark whispers her name.
“Vave,” he whispers back, by way of introduction.
And as the sounds leave his lips, a grinding movement echoes in the darkness nearby. A door has opened.
Sounds tumble out, and Vave knows something has been unsealed from a long, long confinement. Somethings.
The rustling and shifting of bodies ahead unnerves him. He thought that only Yahde remained to be found in this place. Who else lay hidden within the titan’s chest all these millennia? He takes a step backward in fear.
This is his way forward, though, and nothing can impede his momentum now. He swallows his fear and steps through the opening, and all his perception shifts.
Though he still feels cool air around him, his vision fills with water struck through by bright beams of light. The bodies he heard before now lurk as blurred masses beyond the light shafts. Each step he takes sends a ripple out, and the figures turn languidly in response.
Sounds issue from them, utterances which might have been intended as speech but which emerge instead as long, low vibrations of space.
But they do no more than this, and Vave continues onward unperturbed.
At the end of this space, he finds a wall which he knows is the way to the titan’s heart. Using the water of his will once more, he carves a new door. He senses the figures behind him moving to follow, though he no longer fears them.
He steps through, into a heart chamber where all of reality flashes between states of existence. Yahde watches him emerge, and she stands to greet him. For a long moment, they stare silently at each other. The nine sleeping princes follow Vave and take their places in a semicircle around the man and the woman.
“I am you,” they both say, in unison.
And then the titan’s blood returns.