“He hasn’t really seen you, not as you want to be seen, but he’s starting to, a little.”
“For everything about him fitting her fantasy image of what she wanted, she still didn’t feel seen by him…and that made her all the more aware that maybe her fantasy wasn’t what she wanted at all.”
“Have you heard of the Children of Mae?”
“The cult?” She knew of a religious group whose members went door to door, preaching the benefits of self-discipline—abstinence, celibacy or monogamy, vegetarianism—pretty much anything fun was prohibited. They had never come to Vesper’s house because her father was a butcher and probably pretty low on their list of possible converts.”
“To him, she was one of the few girls who was nice to him, the stodgy son of a poor alcoholic shoemaker with such little status that he seemed unlikely to even get one wife, let alone the three or more that designated a man of standing.”
“Then she heard tiny moaning noises coming from the direction of the object. It sounded almost human. She couldn’t leave without knowing what it was.
She approached it, reached out, and lifted the branch. About as long as her hand and pink, it resembled a piece of flesh. She identified it immediately…after all, she’d seen another one just this morning.
It was a penis.
One side had a rounded end, bisected by a gentle indentation with a small irregular hole in the center. On the other end, it still bore its testicles in their dark red sac. If it had ever belonged to a man, the wound had disappeared completely, as Vesper could see no place where it appeared hacked off or scarred.”
“Oh,” she breathed. “How silly I’ve been.”
“How silly we’ve all been,” said another of the wives. “We shouldn’t be fighting each other. Our problems don’t lie in any of the relationships we have with each other.”
“The problem is our entire social system,” chimed in another.”
“A room—full of detached feet—like hundreds of them. Maybe thousands! And I saw the king in there. He was having an orgy with them. It was the most horrible thing I’ve ever seen. Like a bunch of insects crawling all over his naked body. Except they weren’t insects.”
“The nobles had made reading unpopular, as it showed that one couldn’t afford to buy spells or magical devices, since one had to get knowledge to do things the ordinary way; even if this view held little logic, the king himself was known to insult readers as “bookfaces” or “unable to think for themselves, so they need to spout what others have said,” and these opinions became popular, as did most views expressed by the king or his son.”
“She’d never spoken to anyone before of this business of being seen, loved for who she was; to have it voiced by this man she’d just met sent chills down her spine.”
“Nim looked aghast. “Of course not. Do you think my future wife would be a servant? No—it’s Number Seven of the wives. Her name is Begonia.”
“Oh, no, Nim,” Vesper said. “You can’t fall for one of the wives! She’s married. And to the king, no less. That’s illegal. Maybe it shouldn’t be, but you’ll still probably be arrested if anyone finds out—or worse.”
“I knew you’d say that,” Nim said, turning away. “You’re such a prude, Vesper. Love is above things like rules. And the king has so many wives and mistresses—he doesn’t even remember all of them.”
“Vesper felt herself turning red with humiliation. Then she looked at Allegra—really looked at her. Maybe she’d had such a problem with people not seeing her because she wasn’t seeing them. Did Allegra’s mask of rage hide pain and doubt that anyone would ever truly love her? She thought that it just might. Vesper didn’t quite feel compassion, but she no longer took Allegra’s behavior personally.”
“Some of the pain released, and love filled the cleared space, uniting, magnetizing more self-love to it.”
“I was having a terrible nightmare,” the penis said then, its voice high-pitched, but quite male. The small hole on the round end moved a little bit as it talked—could it possibly be a mouth? Then the head swiveled a little, directing the small hole toward Vesper. “Ooh, a female. Hello there, cute stuff.”
“Oh…hello.” Not attached to a man, it actually wasn’t so intimidating. She leaned closer. How could something like that actually articulate sounds? Could there be a tiny tongue, vocal cords in there?
“Pick me up why don’t you? I can tell you want to.”
Vesper drew back again. She did admit an urge to poke it with her finger, but it was a detached talking penis, and that in itself made it suspect. Then something occurred to her. “Are you under a spell?”
“Not exactly,” it replied. “But you can kiss me if you want.”
“Happily-ever-after monogamy has been reinforced so steadily in literature that we tend to feel like failures when we don’t achieve that in reality.”
“It is nearly impossible to feel anything negative in here. Because you’re really connected, to everything, here… but it’s only meant to be a temporary sanctuary, a place to remember yourself. In time you’ll want your negative thoughts, your emotional baggage back, and you’ll have hopefully bolstered yourself enough with the Sanctum’s reminder of your Source that you can come out with fresh perspective. When you’ve had enough of it, you’ll know, and then come and join us outside.”
“Part of her exulted that he’d asked her, out of everyone in the coach, this question; he must think her intelligent. The rest of her, though, wanted to slap herself for disproving his thought. Here was her opportunity to have her fantasy of a deep philosophical conversation come true with Garth, and all she could say was well, not really. Idiot!”
“Souls are simply aspects of ego splintered off from Mae and Jin, the two original gods. They began with no ego at all, you know. But as they gained awareness of themselves, each affirmation of something they were created a denial of something they weren’t. This created a polarity, a split between themselves and something that became a new ‘soul’—an un-being that gave that shadow voice. One god, declaring himself to be good and denying that he was evil, split into two parts—one good and one evil—because each god is both good and evil. Each part, as it gained awareness of itself and declared itself this or that but denied that it was the shadow of each new identification, split into more and more pieces—creating an exponential birth of new souls.”
“Souls aren’t discrete units — or even units at all. They’re more like reflections of consciousness in a fractured mirror.”
“There is too much emphasis on being positive, to the detriment of being real.”
“She would have found it peaceful and relaxing here, but in every town they traveled through, people radiated anxiety under uneasy masks of optimism. Their dependency on magic had made them nearly helpless now that everything magical was corrupted.”
“Then you shouldn’t be worried about him being with me. You can have him back when I’m done with him.”
“If you don’t mourn a dead cat properly, you’ll never get over it.”
“And someone who has never felt it can never understand what the absence of emotion feels like. It is a hopelessness of incomprehensible, unspeakable weight.”
“I feel time beginning to slow, until the last of him is grey powder on the sea and time stops altogether.”
“They don't teach this in school anymore?' Anya asks and clucks in dismay. 'When I was a girl, we made memory palaces to helps us memorize for our examinations. You chose an actual place, a palace works best, but any building with lots of rooms would do, and then you furnished it with whatever you wished to remember.... Bur once you had learned the rooms, in your imagination you could add anything you wish. So, when we needed to memorize the Law of God, for instance, we closed our eyes and put a question and answer in each room." Page 68-69”
“She talked like a woman who knew more books than people.”
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