Friday, February 05, 2010

Children of the Lie: Chapter Twelve


The Dance Of Fools

By the time Jo got onto the plane, all she wanted to do was sleep. It had been a long drive back to Delhi and a rush upon arrival to get Jan organised for his flight. He had problems with his ticket and with his visa, both of which were ultimately resolved, but not without a great deal of effort. He did not seem bothered by the drama, in fact, he seemed to enjoy it.

He had given her a huge, bearish hug before leaving and she .felt herself crushed into his mass of wiry whiskers with real affection. If she had had a brother, it would have been like this, or so she thought for a moment, until the small voice reminded her that things are never so simple. Whatever the truth, she felt for him a real sense of love and returned his hug with equal affection, if somewhat less strength. Jan made her promise that she would write to him, although he confessed that he himself was a terrible correspondent. But for her, he added, he would make a special effort. She could expect at least one postcard each year. And then he was gone.

She settled back in her seat and smiled at the memory of that last farewell. She hoped they would meet again one day but had a sense they would not. Jan had said that life was no more than a succession of moments and each had to be valued for itself. “It’s a bit like a dance,” he had whispered,” some people get to stay with the same partners as they go round and round while others keep changing. It all comes down to the dance. It helps to know the steps but it doesn’t matter ... the circle keeps turning whatever we do. People come in and out of our lives and we never know when we’ll be together again.” With some people, he had added, there was no more than the brief moment, but it mattered all the same. It might seem foolish, and a waste of time, but at the end of the day the dance was everything, the dance was life.

She closed her eyes as his image faded. She would sleep. She wasn’t quite sure anymore what mattered or what did not. They could wake her up when they got to Bombay. Mr Kumar however had other plans. She had been aware of his arrival, felt the heavy weight settle into the seat beside her, heard the clearing of the throat and then: "Hello. I am Mr Kumar. You are resting, I see."

Jo opened her eyes and found herself staring into the round, fleshy cheeriness of what was, apparently, Mr Kumar. The fact that she had been, to all intents and purposes, asleep did not seem to worry him in the least. Mr Kumar looked very vigorous and energetic and ready to talk from take-off to landing.

"Jo Baker," she replied, re-settling herself to face the window, in the vain hope he would get the message that she wanted to sleep.

"Is it that you are a Mrs Baker, or is it that you are not married?" he persisted.

"It's Mrs Baker," responded Jo sullenly, hoping he would take heed of the note of formality in her voice.

"Well, I am very happy to meet you, Mrs Baker. Is it that you have been in India long?"

The battle was won with one short, persistent charge. Jo sat up. It was obvious that he would not stop talking, whether she were asleep or awake, snoring or not snoring. Since she could not sleep with his chatter and she would not be allowed to sleep without it, she decided it made sense to participate in the conversation which he was having with her. It might make the time go faster.

"I have been here a couple of months, Mr Kumar," she replied. "I am staying with my sister and brother-in-law in Bombay."

"Ah," he said, giving the sound a long, slow edge, as if she had conveyed to him something of great importance, "and so you have been travelling a little now to see Delhi?"

Yes, she had been travelling, she told him. With a friend. They had been to see the Taj Mahal. It was a very good trip.

He was pleased, he said, that she had been to see something which was one of the world's very great wonders. There was so much to see in India, so very much to see ....everywhere something to see, but for him, there was no time, there was always business. From that, he could not escape. Mr Kumar was in his sixties and a successful industrialist in Bombay. He spoke with a slow, but constant pursing of the lips, as if willing the sound to appear. Bright and watchful eyes flickered in frustration at the heavy slowness of the words. There was a shyness about him which only served to soften Jo's irritation at being disturbed. He pulled, with nervous fingers at the stretch of his safari suit where it gaped over his belly, between the fourth and fifth buttons.

He had two sons, he told her, and they would be taking over the business. He also had three daughters and they were all married now. Everything was beginning to be in order. Soon he would give the business over to his sons and then he would have time for more important things. He wanted to go on pilgrimage. He had wanted to go for so many years, but always the business must come first. Now he was getting older and the time must go to God, rather than to himself. His sons were clever boys, they would run things properly. Already he had begun to prepare for his later years. He wanted to be a truly spiritual man. He knew that this was the only important thing. He had become very, very correct with his food. No longer did he take a drink of whisky, not even a small one. He was very careful only to eat the things which his faith allowed. He wanted to be a pure man before he died and that was his plan for the years remaining to him. His wife would join him in this. They would live simple lives, eat simple food, be very strict with their religious beliefs and do as much puja as possible.

The Gods had been good to him. He had two sons and a very good business. He had had a good life. Now it was time for him to pay them back. It was a tradition in India, he told Jo, that in the last part of life one should give up worldly interests. In the old days, they would go to the forest and there they would finally come to know the truth of things. They would break completely from the world. But now, in this day, it was not possible. But he and his wife did plan to spend much of their time in a small house they were building in Gujarat. It was very small, very simple. They had some land, some trees, some privacy. In a way, they would be able to go back to the forest, at least when their children and grandchildren were not visiting. Always in Indian families, there was this visiting. It was very important. The house was small, but there would be room for all of them, when they came. They would eat the same simple food as their grandparents. They would be able to share the forest together.

"Those who know this lore," said the king, "And those who, dwelling in the forest, meditate with faith and austerity, pass into the flame of the cremation fire, and from the flame into the day; from the day into the fortnight of the waxing moon; from that into the six months of the sun trending north; thence, into the year and from the year into the sun; from the sun into the moon and from the moon into the lightning, where there is a non-human Person who leads them beyond, to Brahma. This is the way to the gods. “For those who have been of pleasant conduct here on Earth, the prospect then is, however, that they will enter a pleasant womb, either of a Brahmin, Kshatriya or Vaishya. "But, for those who are of stinking conduct here, the prospect is, indeed, that they will enter a stinking womb, either of a dog, a pig or an outcaste." Chandogya Upanishad.

It would be, said Mr Kumar, a time of relinquishing all the unnecessary things of life. He and his wife were very much in agreement that this should be done; his sons also, they were very happy with his plans. Every time he thought of what he would be doing, very soon now, he felt a sense of peace. It was a good way to end one's life.

According to Hindu doctrines, the ideal life consists of four stages: brahmacarya, the period of discipline and education, garhasthya, the life of the householder and active worker, vanaprasthya, retreat for the loosening of bonds, and finally sannyasa, the life of a hermit. It was not enough merely to be successful in the worldly second period of life. The successes of the material world, great as they are, are not considered sufficient. It was time to move toward a state of completeness, free from the bondage of karma, and, therefore, from rebirth. Perhaps, in time, if he and his wife should live to be very old, they would be graced with some time in the fourth and final stage. For the moment, he said, the task was to loosen the bonds.

He was interrupted momentarily by the arrival of the air hostess with the food trays. Mr Kumar shook his head: "Not for me, not for me...just a little curd." But there was no curd and so he watched as Jo ate and continued to tell her of what he planned.

It was in the forest, he said, that one found release, that one could dwell in faith and meditation. It was there that one found release from the ‘sea of pain.’ Every night he read from The Upanishads. Mrs Baker had not read them? He thought not. Many people had not read them, but they talked of beautiful things. There was so much wisdom and beauty, so much to be learned. He had a copy with him. He would read something to her:

"As a great fish swims between the banks of a river as it likes, so does the shining Self move between the states of dreaming and waking. As an eagle, weary after soaring in the sky, folds its wings and flies down to rest in its nest, so does the shining Self enter the state of dreamless sleep, where one is freed from all desires.The Self is free from desire, free from evil, free from fear. In that unitive state, there is neither father nor mother, neither worlds nor gods, nor even scriptures. In that state there is neither thief nor slayer, neither low caste nor high, neither monk nor ascetic. The Self is beyond good and evil, beyond all the suffering of the human heart."

Mr Kumar stopped reading and sat back with the book pressed to his heart. "It is very beautiful, is it not?" he asked.

"Yes, it is," replied Jo, who had eaten more of the meal than she had meant to and asked for a second cup of tea.

"Then you must hear this..I will read you some more. That was from the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad," he said, leafing through the book. "And this, this is from the Shvetashvatara Upanishad."

Mr Kumar read on. His voice became soft and melodic; no longer nervous and heavy, it was as if it had been released from the burdens which held it in the material world. It was obvious too that he possessed a great love for that which he was reading. So much so, that Jo could not help but be moved, not just by the words, but by the man who was sharing them with her.

"The Lord of Love is hidden in the heart of every creature, subtler than the subtlest, greater than the greatest. Through his grace one sheds all selfish desires and sorrow and becomes united with the Self.He is the sun, and the moon, and the stars. He is the air and the sea, and the creator, Prajapati. He is this boy, he is that girl, he is this man, he is that woman, and he is this old man, too, tottering on his staff. His face is everywhere.He is the blue bird, he is the green bird with red eyes; he is the thundercloud, and he is the seasons and the seas. He has no beginning, he has no end. He is the source from which the worlds evolve."

Mr Kumar continued to read, all the way to Bombay, and in fact, until the very moment when the plane pulled up at the terminal. When it came time to leave, he shook her hand warmly and firmly, and pressed his card into it. He would like to meet her again, he said. She must come to his house and see his family. She must ring him, he urged, when Jo informed him with regret that she could not give him a telephone number, as she was staying with her sister and could not remember it. She promised to ring, not knowing if she would. It was not that she did not like him, she did. It was just that she had enjoyed the time they had spent together and feared, just a little, that seeing him in other circumstances might prove to be disappointing.

On the way home in the car, some of the words he had read to her lingered on in her mind. It had been beautiful ... and wise, no-one could dispute that. It was hard to see though, why such misery could have come from a society which had such a foundation of spiritual beauty. If God were in all things, and all things were in God, then how could something as iniquitous as the caste system have developed? Not only that, how could it have survived when it was so obviously at odds with the spiritual teachings? Another paradox. This was the land of eternal paradox.

They had lost the spiritual and been left with the religion: man-made rules and rituals which were often without soul. The rich mystical and mythical tradition of the Christian church had suffered the same fate. It had been sanitised; shrivelled in the bright flame of masculine reason. There was a dark pool of wisdom which needed to be re-explored in the West and the same thing needed to be done in India as well. Each had denied the oldest teachings; had denied the feminine and each was crippled as a result. There could be no healing until the right question was asked.

For India, the task was so much greater, because it was not a society which believed in questions. The Indian ability to deny, to genuinely ‘not see’ was the foundation of neurosis, but because all suffered from the same condition, it was considered to be normal; merely part of a greater philosophy of despair, leading to resignation, passivity and ultimately ... detachment. It was, thought Jo, as it would be, if all the occupants of a mental hospital were to be given power over their own world; power to deny what was outside; power to make their ‘truth’ the reality ... would they not then ultimately define the real world as that which existed within their walls and would they not then be able to maintain that world, as it suited them, and to call it sane, defining as they did, the world outside as abnormal ... insane?

In the same way, the Indian travelled the world and denied its reality, returning to India with a sigh, knowing that here he was a God and that this was the true reality; that known world, which was as comforting in its familiarity .. its ordered disorder, its denied chaos, as any that exists within a psychiatric hospital. If she had needed greater proof that people create their own reality with their thoughts, those things by which they lived and which were carelessly called truths, then she needed to look no further than India. We are what we think; not what we think we are. She had learned that the hard way and it had only been in changing the thoughts that she had changed herself. This country frightened her because it reminded her of where she had been. It was a place she did not like; cold, damp and terribly dark.

She felt the first turning of her stomach as they drove up to the house. There was a raw unsettling in her gut: ominous, impending. It was her own fault...she had eaten on the plane. She was hungry and ignored Anne's advice. Damn! Well, if she were going to be sick, then at least she was home. She would not tell Anne what she had done. It was enough to feel ill. She did not need any lectures, not when the damage had been done anyway.

The house was empty when she arrived, except for Mary. Perhaps a sleep would help. She would feel better by the time Anne got home and then there would be no need to say anything. But she could not sleep and she did not feel better. By the time Anne did arrive some hours later, she was writhing on the bed and what had been discomfort had blossomed into agony. Anne was solicitous and, in fact, asked no questions. "It would be better if you made yourself sick," she said.

"I don't know that I can," Jo replied through a grimace. "I'm not very good at that. You know me, won't let anything go until I have to," she finished, with a weak smile.

"Well, just rest. I've put some water by your bed. Sip that when you can and I'll check on you later. If it gets too bad I'll call a doctor, but it's probably just a dose of dysentery and you'll feel better when it finally decides to exit."

Jo nodded. She had never felt so violently ill; had never known such a brutal churning of her gut. It was as if her insides were being ripped and torn by knives, long and razor-sharp. Perhaps she should try to make herself sick and yet she felt far too weak to walk to the bathroom. If she could just sleep .... but sleep did no more than mock greasily far beyond the pain. The battle raged and she felt herself slipping away -- into something dark and endless, a world of pain and torment.

When Anne returned, Jo sensed rather than knew, of her presence. She heard someone speak: "Help me. I have to go to the toilet." She knew it must be herself and yet she knew no more until she sat, shaking, the sweat pouring down her face, the paroxysm peaked: her body drained. Someone helped her back to bed, wiped her soiled body clean, brushed the sodden hair from her brow, stroked her cheek...she remembered that stroking, from another time, but the dark spectre beside her bed had no face and possessed the mere semblance of shape. She knew not who it was that touched her, so tenderly, as she sank back into the deep pit of sickness and then, at last, into sleep.

She saw the smiling face of the fox and she knew, even as she did, that she was dreaming. The teeth were bared, but the smile was set, in the harmless hold of death. It had been running when she saw it last... or had it? This fox dangled in a moth-eaten droop from the shoulders of Great-aunt Sisi. She had thought she was dead and yet here she was. She wondered what Great-aunt Sisi was doing in India. This would not have suited her at all. Her mother's aunt refused to accept anything which was unpleasant. When any of her cats became ill, and she had thirteen in all, she had them put down immediately and just as quickly replaced.

Great-aunt Sisi lived to be an enormous age, or so it always seemed to Jo, who had only ever known her as ancient. She was not a particularly pleasant woman, but she was interesting. It was said by all, including Great-aunt Sisi, that she had been very beautiful, not only in childhood, but also in her younger years. Her name, ridiculous as it was, she once confided to Jo, was the fault of her younger brother who, as a toddler, had been unable to pronounce her correct name, which was Priscilla. ‘Sisi’’ was the result of his feeble attempts at both sister and Priscilla and it had stuck. She never forgave her parents for that. It was a demeaning diminutive. She had glared ominously as she delivered this information to Jo, who, at the vulnerable age of seven, had been glad that she was too frightened to call Great-aunt Sisi anything at all. She would simply nod and mumble in agreement with whatever her aunt said.

They stayed with her on occasion, in the big, old house on the hill. It was a strange echoing of a house, once beautiful, but now sadly unkempt. A bit like Great-aunt Sisi, really. She was enormously fat and bedraggled, wearing cheap, cotton smocks because they were the only things which fitted her. She would sit by the window, shuffling a pack of blurred and faded photographs. They were of herself. She showed them to Jo once. She had been beautiful , so very long ago, with the most liquid eyes, now a faded green, and a brilliant mop of bright red-gold hair, some of which still straggled wistfully from her balding head.

She talked always of the past, of what had been. She had become more querulous with age and was the bane of her housekeeper's life. She was very wealthy and yet she lived in something akin to abject poverty. There was no reason for wealth, she often said, except that one must have it. Being rich simply allowed one to live exactly as they wished and this was how she wished to live, now that she was free. She had been controlled first by her parents, who told her all that she must do and she had done it, albeit resentfully. Then she had married and been controlled by her husband and had done all that he told her she must do, even more resentfully. With his death, she came into her own.

She was in her early seventies at the time and she had broken free with a vengeance, ignoring her children and reaping all that had been sown. She had a number of affairs, shocking the members of her family in general and her children, in particular. It was not seemly, they all said, a woman of her age, behaving in that manner. She merely laughed and continued on her merry way, until the day, when perhaps she caught a glimpse of truth in the mirror and she locked herself in her house, never to leave again. It was then that she turned to her memories and her mementoes until, with time and forgetting, she remembered less and fabricated more. Near the very end she lived only the lie, suckling strong upon its warty teat.

She dismissed all those who did not believe her truths. She would not have them near her, those who did not see her as she saw herself: young, bright and dancing in the light. There had been a time when her children tried to have her committed, but such things are not so easily done. Just because she believed her own lies did not mean she was insane. At least, that was what the doctor said and he found her a charming woman. Mrs Green was a wealthy woman; she had means at her disposal to take care of herself and she seemed sharp, so there was no need for her to be institutionalised, no need at all. And so Great-aunt Sisi had remained, triumphant to the end, cocking her crooked thumbs at all who tried to thwart her.

There were days, though, when she wept long and hard and fanned the corpse of her lost life with wings of grief. On those days, she would drape herself in a long, knitted, black shawl, veiled, because she was in mourning for what she had been and for all that would not come again. But, through it all, she clung to the past, to the old hatreds and the new lies, locked in the arms of ancient dreams, stroking her cats and ignoring the rot which crept beneath her feet. She refused to bathe more than once a week and then gave herself no more than a perfunctory wash. She carried with her always that smell of age and unwashed parts; and with it, the raw, rank stench of urine, which rose unceasingly from her frequently sodden slippers, as advancing age brought increased incontinence.

When she had visitors, and they were few, she would spit into her hands and rub the wispy strands of faded red-gold hair back against her shining skull, calling to the housekeeper as she did so, for a hat and her handbag. After a time, she always wore the same hat; a black cloche, onto which was pinned a large, pink rose. From her handbag would come a small round mirror and a tube of bright red lipstick. She would return the lips to her pale and wasted face, in a blurred bruising at the worn edges. She also had a little brass bell in the bag and that would be rung when it was time for the guest to leave.

It amounted to a solemn procession of sorts, where the housekeeper, in her stained apron, would escort the guest to the door of the drawing room where Great-aunt Sisi sat and would usher them forward to the high-backed, wooden chair which had been drawn up beside the draped and overflowing body of the old woman. No-one would be allowed to stay for very long and tea would never be served. Her aunt maintained that it was ridiculous to give things to people who would give nothing in return. They were all fools anyway, she would add. Who would feed a fool?

Jo once watched her at work with a visitor and it was work. She drew them in and let them out, teasing and tantalising and giving nothing. She played with them and then threw them out, like a cat which tires of a toy. She flirted too, although she would not have called it that. It was easy to believe, watching her, that the only reality was the glorious young woman who lived within the tattered edges of old photographs. And yet, there had been something about her that Jo had liked. She believed so violently in her own bright star that it had almost been impossible not to believe with her.

There is a star, she told Jo, which comes in the evening and which follows the sun into the underworld, but it returns triumphant in the east, as the morning star. It heralds the sun and then vanishes in its brightness, but it is always there, even when it is not seen, it is always there. It was the harbinger of good days and she would see them again, of that there was no doubt.

As Jo grew older, it was easier not to believe in Aunt Sisi's bright star. With maturity came a sense that she was no more than a sad old woman, rotting away in both body and mind, and yet believing herself to be something both great and beautiful. It would not have been possible to explain to her what she was because she did not want to know. In the final years, no-one came to visit her, not even her children. Jo saw her from time to time, but no more than once every two years. Everyone had tired of the stories. They would no longer share in her lament; they would not take pity on her tears. She lived in a world that was of her own making and it required ever greater lies to exist; the burden became immense. But she had yoked herself to the past and there she remained, pulling and heaving it into her own reality, chasing the one bright star through black and barren fields.

When she died, her ashes were scattered in a field of wheat, at her own request. It was a strange addendum to the will, almost an afterthought. She had said also, in a small, hand-written note left for her children, that she would live again and they would find her dancing, drifting and waving in the arms of a gentle breeze; a single, resplendent, blood-red poppy, in a field of wheat. She had tried to be the true wife, the tender mother, she said, and if she had failed, it was only because life had fallen so far short of what she believed it should be. She had also asked for forgiveness, saying only that things are rarely what they appear to be and she had learned, too late, that it was frequently the fool who was the guardian of truth. The will had also stipulated that all of her thirteen cats were to be put down. They would be miserable without her and it was the kindest thing to do. She left a sizeable annuity to her long-suffering housekeeper and divided the remainder of her estate between her similarly long-suffering children.

It was, Jo had thought at the time, an extremely practical and even reasonable last will and testament from a woman who had been neither in her lifetime. Perhaps, as she stared into the black face of death, she had seen a little of that light which she so unsuccessfully pursued in life. Whatever the reason, those she left behind were reasonably content and came to love her more in the spirit than they had been able to love her in the flesh.

When Jo awoke, the dreams came dragging themselves into consciousness ...they had not been lost in the blackness of the sickening night. She shuddered her way out of sleep, wishing they would creep quietly away. She did not know it, but the dreams had opened the crane’s soft bag and she had seen them fly, with loud trumpeting across the horns of the sky. In that dance, which had seemed to be of death, she saw things which had long been in herself and yet were not of herself. They were cloaked in the black of her own endless night; fled from union with consciousness. She had searched in the inner realms of life without mind, seen her own pain and suffering and she had not drowned. She felt drained and yet strangely restored. There was a peaceful ease to the weakness of her body and a sense that the purging had been done.

There was a light tap at the door and Anne walked in carrying a tray. "I thought you might be awake," she said. "How are you feeling?"

"A little fragile, but otherwise whole," Jo replied, easing herself up on to the pillows. The tray held a cup of black, sweet tea and slices of dry toast. "Shades of mother," she said, as she took a sip of the tea and nibbled at a finger of toast.

"It is a bit," replied Anne with a wry smile. "Invalid food. Anyway, you need to take it easy. Give your stomach a chance to recover. Spend the day in bed. You may as well rest, the weather is awful and not likely to get better. Dysentery is very debilitating."

Anne brushed a few stray crumbs from the coverlet and took a piece of toast for herself, holding one hand beneath it as she ate. "Oh, by the way," she said, finishing the last piece with a crunch,”Richard sends his love. He says you are a real India-wallah now ... everyone deserves at least one good dose of dysentery. He says it helps you to appreciate the subtleties of life here."

"Rotten swine," said Jo, with a giggle. "I shall pulverise him for his insensitivity when I get my strength back."

"Well, luckily for you, there's time to get your strength back before you will get the chance to pummel him. He's in Calcutta. He left this morning. Won't be back until the end of the week." Anne moved over to the window and drew back the curtains. "Let's put a little light on the subject," she said, settling them into neat folds on either side. "I'll open the window just a little ...let some fresh air into the room ... but it's looking pretty wild out there, so we may have to shut it. Last night was very squally. You're lucky you missed it."

"Somehow," replied Jo, with a sardonic edge to her voice, "I don't think I did."

"No. Sorry," said Anne sympathetically, as she re-settled herself on the end of the bed. "It is awful. I had forgotten." She shuddered involuntarily. "I haven't been sick for such a long time. We are very careful in the house and about what we eat when we go out. I was sick a lot when I first came. I couldn't take it. Things were so depressing all around me that being sick as well was intolerable." She drew her arms across her body in a self-hugging as she talked. "Do you know, one day, when we had been here a few months, I stood in the shower and sobbed because the last bout of dysentery had left me bleeding from the bowel ... and there I was, staying at what was reputed to be the country's best hotel. I felt as if nowhere were safe. I felt so trapped. For weeks, I just ate dry bread and black tea .. just so I wouldn't get sick again. But I was losing so much weight that I knew I had to start eating again. It was a choice, really, of starving to death or being done to death by some intestinal bug."

"Not much of a choice," said Jo.

"No, it wasn't. But I seemed better after that. I guess you do develop a tolerance ... although I'm still very careful."

“It pays to be," replied Jo, reflecting that if she had been more careful then she would have avoided the intestinal rigours of the previous night. "I've been thinking that I should probably go home soon," she said, watching her sister's face for some reaction. "I guess, after dysentery, even mother looks good," she quipped.

Anne looked disappointed, just for a moment, and then, recovering herself, she said: "Oh yes. I suppose it is about time. I'll ask Richard when he gets back to talk to our travel agent. You let us know when you want to go and we will organise it."

"Thanks." Jo had been surprised by the fleeting expression of regret on her sister's face. Now she began to feel guilty about going.

"Look," she said, "If you would like me to stay on, I will. There's no particular reason to go back."

"No, no. Don't stay for my sake. I'm fine. Of course you must go. You must be sick of us by now, anyway."

"I'm not sick of you," Jo replied softly. "It's been good to have this time together. I only wish we could see more of each other."

She reached over and took her sister's hand. "And by the way, just in case you haven't guessed, I do think you are wonderful. I don't know that I could live here."

Anne nodded. She seemed close to tears. "I am sorry you are going," she admitted in a whisper. "It has helped having you here. Just someone who knows me ... who understands. I guess though, all I've done is cry over you." She turned a face, almost pleading, toward Jo.

"You are allowed to cry, you know. It's in the rules. I read it somewhere."

Anne gave a feeble smile. "That's good, because I certainly do a lot of it here. Sometimes I don't feel as if I'm me at all. I never used to be so pathetic." The words slipped into sigh and she said sadly, "In this country, I never go to bed until I'm tired because, if I do, I simply lie there and cry in the dark."

"Why?" said Jo gently.

"Because I am not what I want myself to be ... and the anger frightens me."

"There's always a good reason for anger."

Anne rescued her hand from Jo's clasp: " Why do you keep saying things like that! There's always a good reason for everything as far as you are concerned, but what on earth do you do, when you don't know what they are?"

"I suppose you just keep looking until you find them," Jo said, sensing the edge of frustration to her sister's voice. She was beginning to feel frustrated herself. It was always the same with Anne, she went so far and then no further. She wanted someone else to give her the answers because she was too scared to look for them herself. There was a limit to how much sympathy one could have, especially when nothing ever changed. She was beginning to sound like mother!

"Anne, I don't have the answers for you. It doesn't work like that. You have to find them for yourself. I don't even have all the answers for me. Anger is fine, as long as it takes you somewhere and tears are fine too, for the same reason, but you ... you seem lost in both anger and tears and you are going nowhere. I'm beginning to think that you hate this country so much because it reminds you of yourself."

"What do you mean? That's ridiculous," Anne replied, in a voice thick with disgust.

"I mean, you go on and on about things, but you never seem to realise that you need changing, just as much as this country. You've always had it so easy...."

"Is that the problem then?" Anne interrupted.

Jo thought for a moment, feeling the frustration turn to anger: "Yes, it is the problem, if you want to put it like that."

She could feel herself becoming increasingly heated and sensed that whatever purging had taken place, had not been quite as complete as she had hoped. "You were the pretty one; you were the clever one; you were the baby! By the time you came along, dad was drinking less and mother, well, she was herself, but you had me there to protect you... to look after you. Maybe that's the trouble. You've always had someone to look after you. First me, and then Richard it's all too easy. If you don't learn it now, then you will only have to learn it later...we're on our own in this world and we make the most or the least of our lives. You are making yourself miserable with your hate. Before you know it, you will be leaving and then it will be too late. You can't change anything here and all the carping and criticising is simply making you painful, if not downright boring. Maybe I am glad to be going," she finished, wishing she could fling herself from the bed and storm from the room.

Such a dramatic departure was, however, hampered somewhat by the fact that she felt incredibly weak, even more so now after this outburst. As it was, Anne made the most of the opportunity for a dramatic departure and strode from the room with a last sharp spitting of words: "Good. Then go. The sooner the better. I'll call the travel agent myself."

Jo sank back onto the pillows. She felt utterly exhausted and even more miserable. There was such an unfinished feeling to it all. What had she achieved? Nothing. If Anne wasn't ready to look into herself, then what was the point of pushing her? Or was she tired of her sister, tired of it all...or simply just tired? Probably all three, she told herself. After the wasting purge of the previous night, she was hardly in the best condition to go into battle with her sister! Not that it had been much of a battle, more of a skirmish, as if both had been afraid to launch any real attack. They had never fought before -- was that what made it so awful? But then Anne had always been so much younger, doing other things, living a different life ... they really hadn’t had the chance. She had always been a little jealous of her but this felt stronger, blacker than simple jealousy. It came from a distant, older place. These were the hatreds learned in childhood and they were the most destructive. It was a fearful thing, this kind of hating, and yet hatred was no more than fear dressed in battle clothes.

It seemed ridiculous to think that she should fear her sister. Anne had been such a sweet child, stumbling along behind her on fat, pink feet, her golden curls tumbling around her face. She had looked, for all the world, like one of the angels on top of a tombstone at the town cemetery. Jo took her there once, when she was three years old and made her stand next to the grave in order to examine the likeness. The memory annoyed her; she brushed it away. It meant nothing, she told herself. Children do all sorts of silly things. It meant nothing. She was tired and so very weary.

When she woke, it was to the sound of a high and distant whine; the wind tearing with increasing strength at the walls of the house. It was late afternoon. The window had been closed. Anne must have come back into the room while she was sleeping. The world beyond the window had a sepulchral smile; the light faded, even as she watched. She felt stronger now, returned to her self, and hungry too. The day and the night and the dreams and the day had all blurred into some sweaty rag of memory which she could feel, hanging still, around her neck. She needed a shower and something to eat and then she would talk to Anne.

She found Mary in the kitchen, surrounded by a scattering of chopped vegetables. "Madam is sleeping," said Mary when asked. She offered to make tea and some toast for Jo. She would bring it to the living room when it was ready. Jo wandered around the unlit rooms of the apartment. It was a world of waiting shadows, somewhere between day and night. She pressed her face to the door which led onto the verandah. All of the furniture had been removed and it finished in the darkness, long and empty. Far off in the distance, she could just make out the rich, red blossoming of Mrs Mehta's roses. They appeared to be in full bloom. There had been enough rain and sun in the past week to bring about a brave abundance. Jo wondered how they would withstand the wild taunting of the wind which was already whipping the leaves of the banyan tree into a maniacal dance.

The tea was lukewarm and the toast half-cooked, but she was hungry and she finished it all. It was kind of Mary and she didn't want to hurt her feelings. The lights had been turned on in the house and the room glowed softly bright. The curtains had been closed; the world outside safely shut away. Only the noise remained; a relentless tearing and shredding of the vengeful wind. It grew angrier as time passed and when, by eight o'clock, Anne had not appeared, Jo decided that she would go back to bed. The small spurt of energy had been played out. She needed to rest. Tomorrow they could talk. Everything would seem better then.

She crept beneath the sheet, cool and slightly damp from the moisture-laden air, curling herself down until it covered her head. Her breathing came in a slow, fading pant, while outside, the wind screamed from the throat of the sodden sky, and then, silence.....

Someone was shaking her, calling her name, "Come on, Jo, wake up. It's time to go." It was her father, his face fleshy, alternating from shadow to a blurred yellowing in the moving glow of torchlight. He helped her into thick trousers and a heavy woollen jumper. She always hated the feel of wool on her bare skin, but she could not find her shirt and he was in a hurry to go. The jumper was far too big for her and each sleeve needed to be folded back twice. Grandma Blackman had knitted it for her sixth birthday, with plenty of room to grow. She was now seven and she seemed to have done very little growing.

"Hurry up and finish," her father said, "and meet me out the front. The Nelson's are already here...I just heard their car. It's after one already."

She had begged to be able to go rabbiting with him for so long and today he had said yes. Bill Nelson's son, John, was coming along, her father told her, and he was the same age as her...they would keep each other busy so they did not get in the way.

The house was in darkness as she walked up the hall. The door to her mother's room was tightly closed, but she knew she was awake, lying in the middle of the bed, her head resting against the veneered back; listening. There was a sense of adventure to the moment, a joyful turning of excitement in her stomach, replaced for a moment by a stab of fear. What if her mother should call through the door and say she could not go? The living room seemed to stretch before her, dark and empty, a no-man's land. She had been tip-toeing and now she ran, not caring how much noise she made, wanting only to be out of the door and onto the verandah before her mother could call and demand that she stay.

Everyone was in the car waiting for her. "Hurry up, Jo or we'll leave you behind," her father said, half joking as he lifted her across his lap to sit beside John, who was huddled, half asleep in the back seat.

He was a wiry boy, John, although some would have said scrawny, and his pale skin was heavily freckled. He had an unruly mop of bright red hair which earned for him the nickname of Blue, but only in the schoolyard, since neither the teacher nor John's parents approved of the name and therefore it did not follow him into the classroom or home. Jo was in the same class and, although she did not know John well, she liked what she had seen of him. He was a quiet boy, serious and shy and remarkably good at his school work. They both sat up the back of the classroom; Jo because she thought that such a position made it easier to avoid the attention of the teacher and thus she would not be called upon to answer questions and John simply because he preferred to sit somewhere that he could watch everyone and everything that took place.

He didn't look very excited, thought Jo, as she moved in beside him. In fact, he looked as if he desperately wanted to be anywhere but where he was. "Are you okay?" she whispered. He nodded. "Yeah, just a bit tired," he replied, burying the words in the thick woollen scarf which he wore around his neck. The night was cold and the words arrived in a frosting of breath. The beads gathered on the window and Jo watched as John traced his finger through the misted glass.

She giggled as he quickly wiped away at the icy letters B-U-M, taking a quick, guilty glance at her father as she did so. He had not noticed. He was drinking from a bottle which Mr Nelson had passed over from the front seat. John rubbed at his trousers with the wet sleeve of his coarse-knit jumper. He gave Jo a conspiratorial grin. He was beginning to look more cheerful and she was glad of that. She felt as if she had a true and noble companion on this night of great adventure.

She turned back to look at her father, hoping that he was not still drinking from the bottle. She did not want him to drink, not tonight and yet already the sour smell of beer was rolling from his breath. His eyes glittered in the silver light. She turned back to look through John's window instead. The night was black, but the moon was full and the stars shimmered in an icy sprinkle, high up, on the roof of the world. Along the side of the road, trees like ghosts, stark and straight, the bark silvered by the lunar light. The gums hung twisted arms across the road and, from time to time, a flash of quick-bright eyes and a fluttering of shapes, as the birds rose and re-settled, disturbed by the lights from the car and this unexpected passing.

The voices grew louder. Jo was glad to see that her father had passed the bottle back to John's uncle. The men were taking about the last time they went hunting...retelling past times, past lives.

"Can you find the saucepan?" John whispered. She leaned across him, staring into the glittered black, but the shape eluded her. "There it is...see," said John, pointing across the top of the sleep-humped hills. She followed the line of his finger: "I see it. I see it!" There was a sense of wonder, as always, in finding some meaning in the stars.

"That's what God cooks in," she said to John. "Don't be silly," he replied. "God doesn't eat!" Jo began to feel distressed at the thought of a hungry God. "Why not?" she asked. "Because he doesn't need to," John replied, in the tone of voice he usually reserved for his much younger siblings. "He's God and he can do anything he wants, so why should he eat?"

Jo was not prepared to let the matter slip quite so easily. "Well," she said, forming her words carefully, "If he did want to eat... then, well then, he could cook in the saucepan...if he wanted to. It's there, just in case he needs it!" she finished, with a triumphant edge.

"Guess so," said John, conceding defeat in the face of such logic, although sounding more than a little uncomfortable about the outcome of the conversation.

It was then that the car turned off the sealed road and drove onto a bush track with a resounding thump. They began to bump and slide, with an ominous rolling from side to side, the dust rising in a thick belching outside the windows. The men were all laughing as the car wallowed and drifted in the soft dirt, throwing up rocks and stones with a clattering beneath the carbody.

Jo felt frightened. She looked at John...he was frightened too. His freckles stood out, sharp-edged and solid against his pallid face, and his lips had all but disappeared, clenched as they were between his teeth. "We're going too fast," Jo whispered, trying to sound unconcerned and hoping desperately that he would contradict her.

"My dad always drives too fast. He likes it. I don't," John replied, hugging his arms ever tighter around the rough wool of his jumper. Both children sighed when at last the car came to an abrupt halt.

"You two stay here," said John's father."We're just going to load our guns and open the gates to the paddock."

The men set up a spotlight on the front bonnet and then took their rifles from the boot, loading and checking them in the light of a portable lantern, before returning to the car.

"Now for some bunnies," said John's father, as he drove off the track and into the paddock. "You two keep to that side and stay quiet," he added firmly. "With any luck, you'll have baked bunny for tea tomorrow night."

The car lurched across the open paddock like some wild beast trying to break free. John's uncle and Jo's father leaned out of their windows, rifles cocked and ready, waiting for the flash of bright, red eyes ... caught for an eternal moment in the glare of the spotlight. Jo felt John's arm creep around her and slid her arm around his waist at the same time. She was glad that she had someone to hold on to.

The car jumped and heaved and thudded across the roughly cleared ground, tearing its way between the great, dry sods of fallow soil; the wind screamed, bitter cold through the open windows, biting and chewing at her face. It was like riding some great, groaning monster, rising and falling on the swell and the surge of the earth's wild waves. Through the front window she could see the phantasmal world which had been stolen from the night by the cruel brilliance of the spotlight; a world of spectral shapes and blinded eyes, of small pounding hearts and sudden death.

The rifles cracked in short, hard blasts. Jo hid her face in John's bony shoulder. When she raised her head again, hands crushed over both ears, she could see, over the rim of the door, a flash and twinkling of small, red stars, scattered across the shadowed night and then, for a moment, something new, a yellowed narrowness, larger than the other eyes, still for a moment, as if watching, waiting...then gone in an explosive instant.

"Got him!" roared her father. "I'll bet that's the fox you boys have been after!"

"Smart bugger, that one," said John's father. "He's had a good run though, done his fair share of damage. Bit of good luck, him choosing tonight to chase bunnies too!"

When the car slowed and both men pulled their rifles back through the window, Jo knew it was over. She was glad. She would not ask to come again. It wasn't much fun, at all. She didn't see why her father liked it so much. They retraced their path, collecting the carcases as they did so, pushing them into a large hessian sack, which had been fixed to the side of the car.

It took them a while to find the was not where they had expected. It did not die instantly, but had managed to drag itself almost to the fence, despite the mortal tearing in its belly. As it lay, folded onto the dry, barren earth, lit by the glow of the lantern, it seemed, thought Jo, as if it were asleep. A black, wet lingering trailed from the soft and lifeless body and disappeared beyond the pool of light. Jo had not felt sorry for the rabbits, she knew they were a nuisance to the farmers and, anyway, she liked to eat them. But the fox, that was different, she did feel sorry for the fox.

It was the first real fox she had seen, apart from the one around Great-aunt Sisi's neck, but that didn't count, she told herself, because it had no insides. This one had insides, but it was just as dead. The small, pointed teeth shone bright sharp and she wanted to reach out and touch them...but maybe it wasn't really dead, maybe it was just fooling and, as soon as she reached out, it would bite her. She stepped back, hiding just a little behind her father's leg as he reached out and picked up the fox by its tail. But it did not bite, not even when it was shoved unceremoniously into the sack. It must really be dead, she said to herself, even though it hadn't looked like it. It wasn’t such a big hole in its belly and nothing was falling out...she didn't really understand why it had to be dead. She hadn't realised it was that easy to be dead.

When the last, warm, soft body had been gathered, the car pulled off to the side of the paddock, near a small but tenacious scrub of trees. Jo and John were sent to gather wood for a fire, while the men set up extra lanterns and polished their skinning knives. The fire lit, the billy set to boil, Jo sat with John on a log pulled close to the warming flames and watched as the rabbits were skinned. The knives shone, moon-sharp, sliding through the shadows; a tearing and wrenching and then, the limp, pink body thrown to one side onto a damp hessian sack, the still fur-dressed head, lolling open-mouthed. The men worked quickly, stopping only to stir the tea and then to pour it into chipped enamel mugs.

Jo held both chilled hands around her mug, even though it was almost too hot to bear. Despite the fire which blazed and crackled at her feet, she felt frozen, all the way inside.

They had had a good night, the men said, some three-dozen rabbits, some for eating, some for selling. The skins would be sold too, hung first on the wire fence at the farm to dry, crisp and hard on the flesh side, while the fur remained grey, silk-soft. Jo wondered if they would skin the fox. She hoped not. She didn't want to see that happen. Because her father had shot the fox, it was his to keep. The pelt was valuable, she heard them say, and this fox was a good one, not like the usual moth-eaten pests which hung around the place. This fox had fur that was rich and titian-thick.

Jo began to doze, falling against John's shoulder as she did so when she heard the men begin to laugh; she looked up and saw her father, standing on the edge of the glowering firelight, the body of the fox draped around his neck, a trickle of blood dribbling between the pointed teeth onto the front of his shirt. He began to dance, wild and taunting, around the the rise and reach of the red-gold flames, laughing as he did. She could hear the bright-burned crush of leaves underfoot; the thin, brown scales of the shedding gums.

He twirled and turned like a woman dressed in long, swirling skirts, raising the tail of the fox to rest coyly beneath his eyes. Jo watched his face. This was no-one she knew. He seemed unaware of the blood, which continued in a slow, black drip, down the front of his clothes.

"Come on Charlie, you're making a mess of yourself," said John's father, after taking a quick look at the stricken faces of the children. "The damn thing is bleeding on you. Get it off and stop larking around."

With a quick sweep of his hand, her father swung the fox by the tail, onto a blackened tree stump and within a few flashes of the knife, had raised the shining red-gold pelt, high into the air. "What a little beauty!" he roared. "That deserves another beer."

The carcase, raw and naked, lay across the stump, until John's father walked over and chopped it into pieces, ready to take back to the farm to be fed to the dogs.

Jo felt as if some sacred violation had taken place, but whether it was because of the fox or because of her father, she was not quite sure. She looked up at the sky, fearing the wrath of the gods, but the night had no frown for the face of the moon.

"Jo, wake up...please wake up!" She struggled her way up from sleep, carrying the fox in her arms, relieved that she had been able to save it. "What is it? What's happened?" she said, not knowing to whom she was talking, but sensing that somehow it must be Anne.. that this was real, and the rest, no more than dreams.

"It's a cyclone!" said Anne, with a sharp edge of fear to her voice. "I've been lying awake listening to it for hours. It's getting worse. I'm scared the windows will blow in. We should get under the bed ... just in case."

Jo stumbled from the bed, helping Anne to drag the mattress and pillows beneath it. She was awake now, stirred by the urgency of Anne's voice and by the fearsome shrieks of the raging wind. "It does sound awful doesn't it?" she said, in a small, cold voice, as she clambered beneath the bed with her sister.

They smoothed out the sheets and settled the pillows and then lay, side by side, both alert and readied by the sudden surge of adrenalin. Jo was glad that they were under the bed. The windows throbbed and rattled, as the wind tore at the house and, all the while, far at the back came the sound of an eternal, distant whine.

"I don't think there will be much left of Mrs Mehta's roses," whispered Jo, thinking that from the sound of it there might well be little left of anything.

"Oh, the shrubs are sturdy. They'll survive," Anne replied. "As long as the roots are strong."

There was silence for a time, and a listening, as the storm tore at the world outside the walls, spitting back all that had once been whole, in a final, chewed shredding. Jo spoke first: "I'm sorry Anne, about before..."

"I know," Anne replied in a muffled voice. "I'm sorry too. I know you think it has always been easier for me...but it hasn't felt like it."

"No," said Jo thoughtfully, "I guess we only ever know what its like to live our own lives ... and sometimes sometimes, we don't even know that."

Her words fell heavily, into the shallow darkness beneath the bed. There was a sure sense, almost as she watched them fall, that there had been a coming together; a remembering. The feeling of peace which had come with her, in that first waking, after the long, sickening night, married now to the dreams which she had dragged with her into daylight. The vows had been exchanged, between the known and the unknown, and she saw before her all that had been lost. These were the memories returned. The parts had been gathered; the many made one; the body made whole. All that had been strewn across the world of herself, was brought home. The door had been opened, but that knock, of hideous ring, still sounded in her ears.

She huddled down, into the darkness, held close by the canopy of bed. There was a sense of safety from the storm and from memory's ragged, ghastly children, who clamoured at her feet. Shrill, sharp voices echoed within her mind. They would not be stilled. She wanted to speak, to tell of what she now knew, fearing all the while that the words would not come. She had to speak; to say out loud, to make manifest, that which seemed no more than a black and leering dream. She had to release the words into the real world; only then could she judge of their substance.

"We used to do this when we were kids," she said at last, lifting herself above the shriekings within. "At least, I did. Sometimes I let you come. I used to hide under dad's bed..." She stopped, the words hung for a breath-held moment: "I've remembered, you know, about the fox...the dream about the fox...I've remembered it all."

"You were dreaming when I came in," said Anne. "Fighting with something or someone."

"I dreamt about the fox again," Jo said slowly, holding tightly to the words as if fearful, that with a lighter hold, they would disappear once more. "But this time I remembered... it was dad with the fox, he was the one holding the fox. I went out with him once, before you were born...shooting rabbits...that's when he killed the fox."

"So what does it mean? You said it would mean something."

"It made me remember."

"Made you remember what?"

Anne's final word lodged sharp in the soft mass of memory reborn. The urge came to pull it out, to return to where she had been, but she could not, the ‘what’ remained, stuck fast in the tender flesh.

"I remembered...something that happened...when I was a child..." The words dragged themselves to being. For a moment, she wondered who it was that spoke and then, she sighed, sad and deep, and knew it to be herself. "He used to come to me." Jo's voice had dropped, almost to a whisper. " night...he used to come to me. He would touch me...touch my body...those places..."The voice was new and shallow, like that of a child."And he would hold himself ... and move, and I would smell the beer and then... then my belly would be wet and he would put his face close to mine and I would see his teeth; shining, stained from the cigarettes and he would say: "Tell no-one about this" and then he would go away." The words stopped. She could hear the silence, broken only by the thumping of her own heart. "Do you believe me?"

The yes came dressed in warm, silent tears. Jo felt the nod of her sister's head. A muffled sob and then: "He came to me once too...after you left home. He touched me...but I started to cry...and then, he just went away. He didn't come again. I never told anyone."

Jo reached down beneath the cover, searching for her sister's hand."I didn't remember until now," she said. "I couldn't even tell myself until now." She squeezed Anne's hand and felt the comfort of returned pressure. "It was the drinking that made him do it," she went on, in a tumble of words which had tasted freedom and now reached for hope. "I know it was the drinking. He was different when he drank. He wasn't the same person. Sometimes I didn't know who he was. He was like that the night he killed the fox. It was a sort of madness...."

The words slid away for a time and then returned.: "Do you know what I thought when I remembered it all?" No answer was needed and none came. "I just thought...but I loved him...I loved him. Maybe that's why I let him do it...he was so lonely...mother was so terrible to him...but it was wrong; I should hate him."

"Maybe you do, but you don't know it," said Anne. "I know I do, a bit. He spoiled it all for me...being a father. I didn't want to hug him, after that. I felt like I didn't have a father at all. I wasn't very old when it happened, but I knew it was a bad thing to do. For a long time, I thought he was a bad man and then, when I got older, I realised he was just sick. I forgot about it after awhile; it didn't seem real."

"I never remembered at all, nothing, it was all wiped out," said Jo, surprised that so much could be consigned to oblivion. "And yet, I must have known, somewhere...I must have sensed something," she continued, searching for some solid ground within the suddenly treacherous depths of herself. It frightened her, more than a little, that so much could be taken; erased from conscious knowing. What else had she forgotten? "It scares me," she said to Anne. "Forgetting so much."

"Maybe you were meant to," Anne replied gently. "Maybe it protected you..”

Jo sensed that she was right. What had been hidden was now revealed. If there were more, then it would come in its own good time. But for now, it was as if a missing piece of the puzzle had been placed and the picture of her life finally made sense. She thought of David. His face rose and blurred beside that of her father’s. They had both betrayed her. They brought to birth a terrible rage, stoked well the coals of pain which the child held. It was a fearsome thing; both primitive and great.

There were so many questions. They fed the sickness, which clung, lumpen, to the pit of her belly. She wanted only to put away the questions and yet she knew they were part of the knowing. She had been a child and no-one had come to save her, except the angels, with the sleep of forgetting. She had not known of this other love until he had brought it to her. She had loved him as a father and he had turned to her as a woman, and in the doing, cast out the child; only in later years, to also cast out the woman which he had so crudely created. That woman, born from her father's head, had been a wild and fearsome thing, brought forth before her time; primeval, savage.

That the angels had closed her eyes to this raw-born beast...until now, was a blessing. No child would have had the strength to face the warrior maid; demanding the right to avenge herself for the wrongs done to her by man. The serpents stirred, but she knew now just where to find their nest. She knew too, at which precise moment, love had first learned the shape of hate. She began to cry. Old, old tears, falling fresh-born into her pillow. In the knowing, she had been reborn, but with it had also come death.

The final grieving had barely begun, but it had begun and it would know its own way until the end. In time, she would be able to return to herself as daughter and then, she would find herself as woman. The scars might run deep, but she would carry them with pride, as something won in battle, a symbol of her courage to fight and to endure; a sign that one may be wounded, even mortally, and yet be resurrected. In the bright, blinding light of this pain, she would see herself as she truly was; come to know the crucible in which her madness brewed. She would face down the black and screaming hag, big of mouth, dark of skin, swift of foot and yet cruelly lamed, who lurked in both herself and her mother; stare hard into her blind left eye and, in the doing, bring justice to both.

She would come to recognise the human being who was her mother and who was no more than the accidental carrier of the archetype, the image of the Great Mother; she who has many guises. We are formed for life by the face which the Goddess turns, when she presides at our initiation into the realm of mother. It is a heavy burden for the woman who wears the mantle and for the daughter born beneath it, who knows it as her inheritance. But the Great Mother has not one face, but three and each must be honoured. She who is the Destroyer and the Protector is also the Creator and creation breathes in the sacrificial fire which gives birth to life, even as it consumes.

Anne reached over and wrapped Jo in her arms and the sobs took flight, rising through the reach of endless years. She cried for all the dreams destroyed; for the child in the woman and the woman in the child; for the father in the man and the man in the father; for the sheer, cruel hurting of it all. Anne held her through the final shudders and then lay, nursing her still, Jo's head on her shoulder. They fell asleep as the last foul gasp of the wind dropped gently into the arms of morning. Destruction had been born of brutal dance, but in the still, bruised, chastened day... the life breath stirred.

"Behold...I am come; thy weeping and prayer hath moved me to succour thee. I am she, that is the natural mother of all things, mistress and governess of all the elements, the initial progeny of worlds, chief of the powers divine, queen of all that are in Hell, the principal of them that dwell in Heaven, manifested alone and under one form of all the gods and goddesses. At my will, the planets of the sky, the wholesome winds of the seas and the lamentable silences of hell be disposed; my name, my divinity is adored throughout the world in divers manners, in variable customs, and by many names.

For the Phrygians that are the first of all men call me The Mother of the Gods at Pessinus; the Athenians, which are spring from their own soil, Cecropian Minerva; the Cyprians, which are girt about by the sea, Paphian Venus; the Cretans which bear arrows, Dictynnian Diana; the Sicilians, which speak three tongues, Infernal Proserpine; the Eleusinians, their ancient goddess Ceres; some Juno, other Bellona, other Hecate, other Rhamnusia, and principally both sort of the Ethiopians which dwell in the Orient and are enlightened by the morning rays of the sun, and the Egyptians, which are excellent in all kind of ancient doctrine and by their proper ceremonies accustom to worship me, do call me by my true name, Queen Isis. Behold, I am come to take pity of thy fortune and turbulation; behold I am present to favour and aid thee; leave off thy weeping and lamentation, put away all thy sorrow, for behold the healthful day which is ordained by my providence."B Apuleius, The Golden Ass.



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