A wave of deadly silence ripples from the north like a polar dawn. It cuts through the storm, through the sounds of rain, wind, tanks, and guns, in echoes of nothingness.
As if in protest, the heavy clouds fill the gaps between those rolling bouts of silence with bark and boom; a thunderous percussion to the song of Sylvia-Maya. The forked flash of the storm’s complaint plays in the rainbows of her robe.
Rain falls so thick it might be a sea. But those waters part before the light that moves through them. The figure which was once Agafya sweeps toward us, robed in a brilliant halo of white power like a comet. It carves through the night and rain.
Rolling bouts of audible emptiness silence the song and storm in inverted thunder. The monkeys around us hurl their feces at the shining figure and that stinking rain rises in an impossible tornado up and up. None of it returns to earth, but neither does it darken that bright shape.
I walk out of the tree’s shadow to stand amid the rank, so I may see clearly. Jenny stays behind.
The shining thing stops at the shrine’s spire, where Sylvia-Maya stands dark amid the storm. Black birds dart among the falling raindrops around her so her hair seems to mix with their feathers. As the song invites, so do her open arms.
Light and death glide toward her, snow-bright eyes mesmerized. The hand which holds the star that is the dreaming diamond moves behind it, but the other reaches out to touch her cheek, and the light caresses her skin as if it were the flow of water.
The eyes of Maya make a promise as she leans forward, out of balance over the drop from the temple’s top. Her arms curl around the shining neck. The light floods over her and sets her anima to blaze like a flame in a strong wind – brilliant, hot, and failing.
Then a silent pillar of rushing dark wings hits them both like the floodwaters of the river night – crows, diving in a stream from high in the storm. As the deluge of feathers sways them, Sylvia twists, hurling herself and the thing in her arms at the ground.
They fall, a tumbling fire of light and color.
Crow bodies spill past them, through the light, to hit the ground hollow.
The shining one tries to pull away in the air. Its light claws at her dark body, burning her out of herself, but she doesn’t let go. They slam into the mud of the shrine with a crack of bones and a towering splash of black water.
I run. Dogs and monkeys charge with teeth bare, and the crows are a torrent of living wind around us all. The light curls out, carving memory from flesh, fur, and feather with flashes like stars exploding.
In the midst of the tempest of dying and claws Sylvia rises, wearing Maya’s face. She straddles the white thing, pinning it to the ground. Her spirit’s power fans about her as a peacock inferno. Her palms press to the pale face, battering into that empty page with her bacchanal song and flood of dreams. Each breath and beat hammers memory into the white. Lifetimes flow down her arms. Lives and works and purpose howl from her body to strike spikes at eternity.
Cracks form there. Red things. Green. Cracks in the featureless empty. Blood veins and muscle make the lines of music.
The thing that was Agafya turns the light full on Maya-Sylvia even as animal teeth all around it finally find the pale flesh. The light breaks against her body. Threads of it enter her. Memories detonate and die.
My feet slip in the surging tide of animal and mud. The wind and wings slap my face and ripple under foot. Feathers and dying memories brush my body. The power of them hurls me in a rush toward the white, into the heart, the claws and the light.
But Jenny’s faster.
She slips through the storm of wings with a leaping step and plunges into the fire. The gun hangs forgotten in her hand as her reaching arms lunge for Sylvia.
My shout blasts from my body with all the force that living can give it: “No! Let her fight!”
But Jenny’s pale limbs curl around Sylvia and the weight of that slams tears her from the white thing’s hips. They tumble away, out of the light and into the tangle of fangs and fur.
The demon begins to rise, with dead and empty dogs falling from it like water from surfacing leviathan.
The white eyes see me as I rush toward them. The pale lips part from hooked teeth and the light turns to me. Even as the torrent sweeps through dark air at my shoulder, my knuckles touch pale flesh. The green lightning tears through it, splitting skin and muscle from its bones, but like the flesh were an ice-dam, the white explodes from the wound. Light pours over me. Light rebounds upon me. I try to turn away as Jenny looks up from her sister. Maya meets my eyes with blue. Light cuts through us all.
Nothing. A blank page.
No texture, no pores, no parts or pieces.
This empty page. I could let go. Let it swallow me. Be gone. No more pain. No more struggle. No more fear. No uncertainty. No rejection. Sink into the light and discover what comes after. Maybe nothing. Maybe nothing is all I’ve ever been: a pattern in the sand, now washed away.
The blue eyes watch me through a rattling window pane, and the white worms in around her. The green eyes watch me over the muzzle of a smoking gun, and the white fire eats through them.
I know the face of my mother. I know my father’s frown. Sylvia’s broken hands. Jenny’s last breath. These too go as the white tide rises.
Even my name vanishes into that white.
But I’m still here.
Formless upon the face of the moving deep, I am nothing. I return to nothing.
A word ripples.
A voice speaks.
I am the voice myself, the speaker and listener, and I have been here before. Not alone I listen, I answer.
I rise. The hope of a hand and a smile in eyes of green-blue my life lives into the space about me, breathes into this featureless nothing and I rise.
Voices chant around us – a strange tumultuous song.
Concentric circles form of monkeys, dogs, birds, soldiers, monks, priestesses, people – we who have fallen into the white, reach our voices one to the other, each to toward she who leads us on and up. She is Maya. She of the lilting laugh sets the tune.
The white empty gives way.
Breath and muscle burn and fists fly. The enemy holds a clawed hand about a throat – not mine, ours. Golden is the color of the blow which shatters it, flaying white meat from white bone. Papkao’s first kiss is the color of the blow which break’s the enemy’s nose. A shop vender’s favorite flower blooms in the blow which shatters its ribs. We lay our hands into its shoulders, its chest, its face and every part of it charges with color, overwhelms with song. In flashes of green it comes apart. Bone and flesh give way until it splatters, split and sundered into the mud, overrun with color. We strike until we and all come apart – pieces separate and desperate and breathing.
Maya guides our every blow. It is Maya’s embrace, and Maya’s music, and Maya’s fight. Her eyes are blue.
I am on my knees, pouring color into worm-sized slivers and bits, striking again and again, spreading its substance into the earth, seeding it with the living mud and flowing water.
The surging carpet of dogs and monkeys quiets around me. The dead and the living go still.
I stand up, dripping memory in a turning world of light and dreams. The last light of the enemy fades into the carpet of dead animals.
And it’s me. I’m back.
“Whoopa!” I yell. “Back from the dead again!” My throat is raw from screaming I didn’t realize I was doing. “I did not know I could do that.”
“Screw!” says Jenny, standing opposite the corpse, her chest heaving, her fists clenched, and covered head to toe in blood.
Beside us, Sylvia-Maya sinks to her knees.
The magic revolves about Sylvia-Maya as a hurricane about its eye, but she is not still. A blazing beacon of living memory, of color reaching deep into the city’s roots through the stone and history of the temple, through the monkeys and the birds, the rain, the storm, the streets, people, songs, and strife. The fire of Maya howls, pours about us, through us. It was not me. I was the right hand, Jenny the left, and all the strength and purpose were her.
The fire fades. Sylvia-Maya falls spent. Her cheek splashes mud. Her hands crumple beneath her.
The diamond yet glows.
Jenny ducks to her sister’s side and lifts her head into her lap. Memories of monkeys leak from the blue eyes like water from an empty hose.
The diamond lays in a dimple of mud, surrounded by shifting animal bodies. It plumes white fire like a rocket and silence ripples from it in fits. A small dog, calico in the dim light, closes its jaws on the diamond with a bitter snarl, but the white fire flashes through it and the jaws go limp as the hound’s face empties.
The white fire spreads. The carpet of dead moves under me. Monkey hands sweep my feet and I fall into hound bodies as they stir. Water slaps my cheek and I’m tossed in a churning tide of wet fur, stinking of shit and blood.
The patchwork dog with the diamond in its jaws rises to its feet. Around it the empty crows churn endless and deeper than the sky, they take on the shape of a body.
Jenny’s gun pops and a bullet buzzes over my head, straight into the diamond. The blue sphere shatters like a reflection in water when a stone goes through it. The pocket of bottomless sky tumbles into itself and silver shards of glass explode from the hound’s mouth.
The light goes out.
Surging bodies under me collapse, and dead birds tumble from above in a heavy rain.
I lay in a cooling blanket of feathered bodies and fur.
The tang of gunpowder’s smell overrides the other stinks in a wash. I roll over in a shower of feathered corpses and climb to my hands and knees among the grizzly multitude.
Jenny’s white eyes shine beneath the monkey spire. The ember red of fire-lit clouds makes the wisp of smoke rising from her pistol an orange smudge. “Was that right?” Jenny’s voice is as thin as the wind. “What happens if I break it?” She lowers the gun. “I broke it!”