Chapter 1 (fragment)
MOUIL-AGRA. "The Great Huntress"
I will wait a little longer until the last waves of light from the Brilliansh Time are diluted in the Sea and the redness covers the village. Then I'll be able to circle around it without being seen. Distant eruptions flash abruptly again and again over the backs of the famwalls that slant away from the eternal fires and protect us from the rains. For a few moments, I manage to glimpse the singular silhouette of the temple that the Missionary occupies. It's contrasted against the last vestige of Boroosh, the Light Bearer, as he sinks into the Sea. I have to get to the temple safely, and it won't be easy because the tower is on the far side of the village, almost at the water's edge.
Finally, with resignation and a great deal of courage, I leave the protection of the dunes and crawl to the outer famwalls, praying that my brothers already lie in their beds, drowsy, or better yet dreaming. But I want to minimize my risks: sometimes a few youths take advantage of the slumber of their parents and return to the beach to chat a little more or to put their adolescent impatience or desire to good use. So I'm cautious, and despite the relative protection that I get from the Darknesh Time and the gloves that cover my hands, I move carefully, advancing bit by bit whenever I can hug the famwalls and hurrying when I have to cross the roads. Nothing would be more disastrous than being discovered, especially by Güian-dor, my beloved.
As for Doies, the Missionary, whom I will ask to help me, I hope I don't have to wake her. I know her foul temper, and I don't want her to be angry with me. But I can't continue hesitating; she's my best option. Kaueg-dor, like any other olders in the village and in particular as the older of the famwall where I live, wouldn't be more understanding or helpful than she would be — just the opposite.
An unexplainable feeling, which has grown stronger the more I have strayed from The Hunt, tells me that the Missionary Doies knows things we don't, although this suggests that she is secretly pursuing other objectives. Still, the feeling makes me want to put myself in the palms of her hands. Boroosh welcomed the Missionary into the Deepest Darknesh to give her the Mission, and He must have given her the abilities she needs to free me from these cursed fibers! I had the bad luck to find these in the Hills, where they anchored themselves in my palms. She has to give me back my sanity! Oh, Boroosh, Boroosh, let me become the simple shore-dweller I used to be before the Missionary sent me on The Hunt!
But I feel suspicious again now that I have her in front of me, covered by that vestment that she always wears. It reveals only the mask that covers her face, and both serve to hide the signs of her extremely advanced age, as she herself confesses. I feel even more suspicious when, without any formalities, she invites me to enter, as if I don't need to explain myself, as if it were true that she knows everything and was expecting me. Then I feel the voices in my head telling me contradictory lies again. I see dark warning signs of danger in them, but I know they come from the fibers and I manage to pull myself together. Poor things, they know I am before the Missionary to get rid of them and they do everything they can to avoid losing the life they managed to recover at my cost. But they won't make me lose confidence or repent.
Finally, in spite of my confusion, I cross the threshold prepared to be redeemed through penance and punishment. I'm here, and there's no turning back! Once inside, under the gaze of the Missionary, whose cold I feel through the opening in her mask, I take off, once and for all, the harvest gloves that I've been wearing so that my older don't reject me, and I uncover the fibers.
"I was a fool, of course, and without a doubt greedy," I confess ashamed as I watch her listen to me wordlessly, "but when I found them they didn't look dangerous like they do now. They were waiting in ambush, hiding in the stinking flesh and broken little bones of a pair of dead hands. It was a damned trap. They didn't shine or pulsate like they do now and I couldn't see them camouflaged in the remains during the redness, believe me, Missionary, because otherwise I would never have touched them! What I don't understand is how they began to shine and grow like this across my palms, whether it was when they came into contact with me or during the nightmare that came over me in that instant, when they burned into me.
"Anyway, I suddenly found myself kneeling, hands held out over a table, seeing them shine in my hands, but I had been changed into a sick and repugnant -dor, a male. I even felt that I had already seen them shine in my hands. But that wasn't the only thing that I 'remembered.' That place where I had never been before also seemed familiar. Right behind me were two Guardians of the Hills (the way they looked reminded me of those legendary Innovators) and they seemed strangely familiar. Then, one of them, whom I had unconsciously given the name 'Aldderr,' raised the edge of a sword over me and, as he said 'Medceine' or something like that, he slashed it down over my wrists, that is, over those of this male in whose body I found myself. It happened to him, but it was I who felt the piercing pain that left me unconscious! It was I who felt myself die, or rather, I felt that male die!
"And still, it must have been an unexplainable hallucination. I was still in the same place where I had found the remains, and I hadn't died. After that strange episode, I was Mouil-agra again, although when I woke up after fainting and I looked at my palms, I wasn't exactly happy. Yes, Missionary, the fibers, as you can see, were exactly where they are now, in my suction-cup palms, anchored into my own flesh, shining with that blasphemous light, just as I had foreseen in that absurd hallucination, as if they had traveled back from death itself with me. And there's no way that I can get rid of them.
"But that wasn't all. Those 'impossible memories,' like the remains of some fateful shipwreck, began to rise up, even more absurd and disturbing, to transport me to times and places where I had never been. For example, one put me, changed into a -dor again, in a city of the Innovators where I had played during my childhood. In another one, I stared at an enormous machine called Driller. I knew everything about it, and it had the sacrilegious purpose of drilling into the Rock. Or....
"Oh, Missionary! How could it be possible?" I exclaim, but she does not react. "How could I have these 'memories'? Although only in dreams, how could I find myself in the body of a -dor, feel like a male, and even remember it? How could this happen to me, when I wanted motherhood more than anything else when I came of age? I want so much for this regression be reversed. But why did it happen? And why to me? After that first voyash when my premature -agray’s organs withdrew, you assured me that it would pass. You told me to be patient. You said that sometimes these things happen but they don't last, and you've told me that again and again every time I consulted with you. How did I destroy my hopes to recover, to be worthy of Boroosh and of my good village of Bgashlgon, to contribute to maintaining the Constant, to deserve the love of Güian-dor? By all that is worthy, Missionary, you have to do something to cure me!"
While I beg, full of hope and worry, I try not to sneeze on my own palms (damn it, I'm sneezing again, always at the worst moment), and I keep my palms exposed to her curious gaze.
She must have listened to me attentively, I know she did, but she's still there, squatting in front of me, looking at those fibers as if they were a treasure. And she's been seized by a deathly trance, mumbling some kind of prayer that I can't quite make out and don't understand at all. We remain like this for what seems like eternity. What's she waiting for, I wonder. What's she doing? Isn't what I told her enough? Isn't seeing the evidence enough? Come on, Missionary, you have to help me, please, you have to get these fibers out of my palms and erase all these nightmares from my mind!
What? How? What did she suddenly say? But the Missionary Doies stops murmuring and watches me from the depth of the mask. She's not angry, and she's not worried. She studies the fibers that shine in my palms a little bit more. I beg again, I urge her to help me. I tell her to...
She makes an imperious gesture and has me squat down while she rises. Then she retires to the next room. After a little while, I can make out some strange reflections of light that begin to dance on the only wall that I can see. It's as if they come from a watery surface that was suddenly illuminated at the same time that it was disturbed. Light and movement, I think.
I've never been in this old temple before. Until the Missionary returned from the Deep Darknesh, it had been reserved for the meditation of the Grand-olders who were preparing to Depart, but I had heard about the rituals and the preparatory immersions for the Final Passage, and I suppose that the pool they used for training is in that room, which makes me think that these reflections which seem so much like those that gleam in my suction cups come exactly from there. I remember, I think I remember, that I looked inside. Did I do it? When?
Then, in that very same instant, everything around me grows uniformly red and the cold and dampness bite into my skin right where it's least protected. Far off in the distance, changing their position as I change mine, I see the trembling shapes of some halos, hardly warmer than their surroundings, in any case they don't belong among famwalls and temples and on the boats lined up on the beach and on the scaffolds where the iglush is smoked. Hmm, they seem like isolated rocks on either side of the path where I'm walking steadily from....
Oh, yes, yes, now I recall everything, those were my own memories, real memories, things that happened that I'm not at all happy to remember. Of course, it was a while ago, maybe not too long, when I was slipping stealthily among the famwalls of the village to get to the temple of the Missionary Doies, who I thought would protect me, then I told her exactly what had happened to me, and finally I agreed to drink the bottle that had been filled from the water of the pool, unable to resist or to show my doubt and my disgust. Now, for real, I'm leaving the trance, that sweet and treacherous hypnotic trance that came over me immediately afterwards, damn it all.