The Great White Cop Out

May 30, 2012 § Leave a comment

As I reviewed what I had written for last week’s post, I realized that it wasn’t actually what I wanted to do with that chapter. It was supposed to be a more surreal investigation into who and what Amira considered herself to be, but it came off as a straight-forward description of things that Amira had done.

Rather than be about who she was, it was justwhatshe had done. This proved to be an interesting problem. It wasn’t so easy as going back and tweaking a few lines or adding a few paragraphs; it required a top-to-bottom overhaul. That, in and of itself, is not that weird. In another of my projects, I had to go back, chop up, and discard several quality chapters strictly because I had changed my opinion on how the story was going further down the line.

What we do have in this case, however, is the ability to look at them side-by-side. My main story documents don’t keep sequential updates, so once it’s saved, it’s saved. I don’t have those old chapters anymore. However, in this case, I do. I linked last week’s post earlier in this post so, if you’d like, you can see the changes that were done.

I’m also going to re-post the chapter “again” because I feel the changes were significant enough to warrant it being completely new. Sure, a good portion of it is the same (the park scene made it pretty much unchanged), but the other characters are new and different, and I hope it’s just different.

I won’t say I’m completely happy with it. When I finish a chapter, I’m usually OK with it. There are certainly things that could be changed, but nothing that has to be changed. I am…less certain about this chapter. That said, there’s no point taking more than two weeks on a single chapter, especially when it does 90% of the work it needs to do.

So please, enjoy Chapter 17 redux.

XVII Again.

Amani retched as her body furiously tried to eject the thick dust that swirled around her. She choked and stumbled, her vision reduced to nothing in the storm. Her world was the howling of the winds and the torrents of red sand that surrounded her like water. She coughed as the dust ripped her throat raw and bloody dirt trickled down her throat.

A pounding rumble filled the air and what sounded like drums over the wind. The rumbling shook the ground and nearly threw Amira to her feet. She spun around, looking for the source of the sound but the noise only increased; growing louder and louder and louder. It followed her as she moved, always getting behind her, hunting her. Fear grew inside her and the winds picked up, blasting her with dust and noise.

She ran. The drums and the pounding roared behind her, herding her on. Grit crunched between her teeth and her tears choked on dust before they were halfway down her face. A voice rose over the storm, guttural and fierce. It chanted no words, but was a deep roar in a language Amira couldn’t understand. It sounded like a mountain singing. It terrified her more than the thing she fled from.

Her flight defied comprehension. She didn’t know what was behind her, nor where she was going. It did not matter. She was being chased, therefore she had to flee.

The dust whipped into a fury around her, completely blinding her. She fell to her knees as the thumping, now clearly the sound of enormous feet falling, enveloped her. Amira forced her eyes open just in time to see a trident-wielding giant burst through the dust and thrust the weapon at her heart.

“You flee because you are afraid.”

Amira’s eyes opened and she shot up from where she had been lying on the ground, panting with memories of exertion. Stars stared down at a vast red desert carpeted with red sand. Three figures were with her, and she assumed them to be men. Two sat facing a fire, while the other was sprawled out on the ground like he had just fallen in place.


Amira rushed to his side. He looked bad in the firelight, but considering the state he was in, Amira assumed he would look bad in any light. Sweat coated his face, which was far paler than normal, and blood had soaked through the front of his jacket. What Amira knew of medicine was only what she could remember from watching cop dramas on TV, and as much as she knew about examining security camera footage (stare at it and yell “Enhance!” until you achieve desired results), she knew even less about treating gunshot trauma. Which was all well and good, because a peculiar sound stopped her from ripping open Marcus’ shirt and plunging right into treatment. Treatment that, given her non-existent history of medical care, might well have been fatal.

Of the two other figures, one was seated cross-legged in a meditative pose and murmuring a strange chant. He sounded like a buffalo successfully mating with an amplifier and sounded familiar to Amira. So familiar, in fact, she thought that she had heard that chant before.

Her brow furrowed into a crease so severe that few men had ever seen it and lived to tell the tale. Patrick himself had only seen it once when he pretended to have forgotten her combined birthday/anniversary (Amira was a busy professional woman who hated to look in the mirror and mark the passing of time) by claiming he had to go watch playoff hockey at a friend’s house.

Although a joke, he still had to sleep on the couch for a week. It had been Ottawa versus New York, for crying out loud. Some of the players had pretended to be sick just so they wouldn’t have to be there.

“Excuse me sir,” she asked in a tone of voice that indicated she had absolutely no desire to call him “sir”, “but what’s going on here?”

The man, who upon closer inspection was either a shrivelled and bearded raisin wearing a uttarasanga or an elderly Asian monk, ignored her and continued chanting in his low bass rumble. A feeling of great age rose from him like steam from a pot, collecting in the wisps of white hair that still clung to his head. The other man, a giant who was easily as tall as a giraffe and who tended a boiling pot, chuckled.

“He will not answer you. He will not answer anyone any more. He is very close to achieving enlightenment. Dogen Zenji is a wise man, wise enough to give up the worst of your human traits.”

Although shadowed by the fire, Amira could feel the sneer in the man’s voice as he said “human”.

“So I take it you’re not a lowly mortal, then?” She spat the words at him.

Amira’s heart stopped when she realized the thing was tending to the fire, stirring the pot, tapping on a drum, and holding a trident with one of each of his four arms.

“No.” He leaned closer over the fire and Amira could make out his features in the flickering light. His skin was as pale as milk, even paler than Marcus’. He was naked except for a loincloth, but Amira hardly noticed. Her attention was trapped on the third eye that stared out of his handsome, and definitely Indian, face. It did not blink but rolled around in his head, spinning like a compass needle. He smiled and leaned back into the darkness. Amira heard something rattle and noticed that, in the dark, the bulky things that he wore on his belt seemed to be shaped an awful lot like human skulls.

“No, I am not.” He stirred the pot again but made no move to taste it. “And you continue to flee.”

The storm exploded around her and Dogen’s chanting swelled into the very roar of the earth. The man leapt over the pot and screamed a cry that set Amira fleeing. She ran, but her breath was soon exhausted as sand clogged her nostrils. Despite the pain in her lungs she forced herself forward. The mindless, maniacal fear had returned with a vengeance.

“Who are you?” Amira screamed, certain her voice was lost in the grinding of the earth. “Why are you doing this?”

“Why do you flee?” Shouted the four-armed man. His voice was carried through the air like the sand and bit into her just as deeply. “What moves you to run?”

“The trident, mostly! I don’t want to die!”

The man barked a laugh. His voice was calm but sharp, not at all like the deep boom of the monk, and the storm died down. Amira found herself (once she had finished retching up the sand) where she had been a moment before, but this she was covered in sand. Dogen still murmured in his corner and the four-armed man still tended his pot.

“Who are you?” Amira asked.

“Indeed. I am Shiva. I am Death, the Destroyer of Worlds. I am also the Changer, the Transformer. You require transforming, little one. Do you know why Dogen Zenji has not opened his eyes or done anything but chant since his spirit left his body?” Shiva motioned to a blanket on the ground.

Amira sighed and curled up by the fire. She might as well be comfortable if she was going to get into a fight with another weird god. “I’d rather know if Marcus dying or not.”

He did not answer. Dogen continued chanting. The stars continued shining on the desert.

“Will you tell me if I answer your question?”

“He lives, he dies, he changes. Do you know why Dogen Zenji has not-”

“Yes yes yes, fine. No, I don’t know why the monk keeps chanting like that, or why he hasn’t opened his eyes. Happy?”

“He has not yet achieved enlightenment and thinks this all to be a dream sent by the devil Yama to test his devotion. Dogen, then, to follow the example of the Blessed Buddha, closed his eyes and shut his ears with the sutras so that he would be safe from the temptations of the King of the Dead.”

They both stared at the chanting monk for a long moment. As she stared, Amira’s eyes began to water and she blinked away the discomfort.

Cherry blossoms bursting from a gnarled tree fall into the sky exploding in colour devoured by endless blue and smoke rises from-

“Why are you afraid of death?” Asked Shiva.

What? What was…

“What kind of question is that? Of course I’m afraid of death.”

candles guttering out as errant waves crest over the paper plates on the Ganges as life and death and water and-

“Why? You were not afraid of your birth. You missed the comfort of the womb and the warmth of your mother, but you did not fear the outside world. You did not hate it as you hate death.” His third eye spun and stopped. It stared intently at Amira’s forehead, as though it could burrow through her skull with look.

“Seriously? Because babies have no brainpower, nothing that lets them understand the world outside!”

“As you understood the afterlife to be?” Shiva pulled an egg from a bag on his waist and cracked it into the pot.

-silence on the train tracks as the last rail car has rolled off the siding and the sounds aren’t made any more but the silence returns not to what it was but so that it can fill that void where sounds should be because the lack of sound is a betrayal that means-

“Why did you fear death? Why do you still fear it, even after you have died?”

“I’m not afraid to die.” Amira said, and looked away from Shiva. “I just…I didn’t want to.”

“Why not?”

“Why doesn’t anyone want to? I had so much left to do.”


A memory resurfaced, quickly, and very hard. She was sitting on a park bench in the summer with a piece of paper clenched in her hand. It was a beautiful day, the type that people imagined only came to places south of the Equator. She sat in the shade of an old maple tree, wearing her best “I’m professional but I’m still totally hot” black dress and ignoring her buzzing phone. It was an important day for Over/Above design; they were in talks with an as yet-unnamed star to provide a dress for her premiere at the Toronto Film Festival. It was vitally important to Amira that she get this contract if she wanted her little design boutique to become more than a passing fancy. Sure, they might have a successful and profitable storefront just off of Yorkville, the swankiest fashion district in Toronto, but it meant nothing if they didn’t keep expanding, if they didn’t keep putting their designs in the front and centre of the fashion elite. This was the perfect opportunity. Her career would take off, her designs would be seen on the international stage, and life would be exactly what she wanted it to be.

Excepting, of course, the baby that was growing inside her belly.

That did not follow The Plan.

The Plan was simple but it was final. Amirawas to develop her design studio, advance her fashion career so that within the decade she could branch off into interior and architectural design, and by 40, have a boy and a girl through painless cesarean sections. They would grow into little angels, requiring only the minimum of attention, before attending prestigious private schools and growing into, respectively, the Prime Minister of Canada and the next Queen of England (or perhaps Consort to the Queen. Amira was flexible).

The Plan was deadly serious. There was no room for deviation and a baby counted as a very serious deviation. If she was pregnantshe could kiss goodbye being treated seriously by anyone in the business. Fashion design was as cut-throat as it could get, and any weakness she showed would be repaid a thousand times over.

She could not have this baby. It was impossible; end of story.

There wasn’t even a choice to be made, really. It was obvious what to do next. So she had booked an appointment at the Morgentaler Clinic, had her referral with a friendly and understanding (female) doctor, and was spending the last few hours before her appointment in the sun in Eglinton Park. She couldn’t ask for a better afternoon to sit around a park, killing some time before she killed…better to say before she had her procedure. It sounded far better when she called it a “procedure” rather than what it was actually called.

And of course, Patrick knew nothing. He had wanted children for some time now, and although Amira had made her views clear, they had compromised. She wouldn’t take birth control, but they wouldn’t undergo any family planning. Amira was therefore forced to surreptitiously take her birth control and had to pay for every prescription renewal in cash. It then came as quite the surprise when she began to wake up sick for some time, and even more of a surprise when the OB/Gyn happily informed her that, yes, the test was correct. She was pregnant. Amira had barely made it back to her car before bursting into tears.

If Patrick knew, it would be terrible.

He would be happy for them.

A seagull flew by, squawking in the gentle summer air as white as the clouds carelessly scattered in the sky. The park was empty but for the trees nodding in the breeze and a lone man tossing a frisbee to his dog. Nature, who felt no particular need to follow any sort of plan, was carrying on quite well, thank you very much.

Amira felt sick to her stomach in a way that had nothing to do with the child within. She unrolled the paper for the thousandth time and felt the letters and numbers, words she had long ago memorized, imprint them on her mind again.

Friday 23rd: 2:30pm. Outpatient by 4, home by 5.

She checked her watch. It was 1pm. She would have to leave soon if she wanted to get there on time. And she very much did. The Plan, and all that.

It was obvious; it was necessary. There was no need to question it.

Why, then, did she feel like she was committing a monstrous crime by thinking about getting up? Why did she feel like the very, very last thing she wanted to do in the world was get up and go to the clinic? Why would she rather sit in the sun and let the world ignore her, before telling her husband that she was pregnant?

Why now, did she not want to go through with it? Was it just nerves (it was an operation, after all), or was it regret? Was this a genuine change of heart or just fear?

The dog did a marvellous back-flip and caught the frisbee in its jaws. The man whistled, but the dog took the opportunity to run away, gleefully ignoring his master’s demands. Amira smiled at the dog’s innocent rebellion.

“Marvellous day, isn’t it?”

Amira nearly jumped at the voice, but it only belonged to an aged (a nicer word than “decrepit”) black man out for a stroll. He motioned to the empty seat and enquired in a voice that was equal parts hot chocolate and cracking ice, “May I sit there, miss? These old bones need a rest now and again.”

“Please!” Amira made space for him by grabbing and pulling her bag closer to her without actually making any space. The bench was, in actuality, big enough for four people or more, but it was the image that mattered.

“Very kind.” The old man sat down by falling in slow motion and rested his cane across his lap. “Very kind of you, miss. My name’s George. George Campbell Williams. And you are?” He offered his hand to Amira, who shook it. She could feel the bones move when she made the gentlest squeeze .

“Amira Mehenni-Flanagan.”

“Goodness gracious woman! I need that hand.” George chuckled. “Isn’t it just a marvellous day out today? Sun shinin’, breeze blowing. They don’t make many like this anymore, do they?”

“Haha, no they don’t.” Amira agreed. She didn’t, really, but she had to maintain the veneer of pleasant conversation. She actually had no desire to talk to anyone about anything right now and would much have preferred to stew quietly, in peace. Politeness, however, had its demands.

“Quiet too, nice quiet summer day. But even if it was loud and sticky, it’d still be a marvellous day. Can’t go through a war and not think after that any day you’re still alive isn’t marvellous.”

“Oh, you were in the army?” Amira asked, not paying any sort of attention at all. She wondered that if she perhaps thought hard enough, the man would go away on his own. It was currently not successful, but that in no way dampened Amira’s attempts.

“I was. Back in ’44, I went to France with two of my brothers to teach old Adolf a lesson. You should have seen us. Three dogs we were. We were stationed in a small town in the south of England, and you would have thought the three of us were enough to take on every German in Europe on our own. The way we talked, if they had given us a rifle and a bullet each, we would have had the whole thing locked up in a week. Ah, we were young and stupid.”

The seagull looped around and landed in the grass. The dog, bored of running away from his master, caught sight of the bird and his little doggy brain exploded. There was something new there. It had to be investigated immediately. It took off at full speed, barking happily and wagging its tail enough to lift off.

“Welp, they did give us a rifle, and they packed us in a little tin can of a boat and sent us off to wrest a beach from Jerry. We were all from Toronto, me and James and Freddy, and they put us in the Queen’s Own Rifles. Boy, they gave us such a welcome in England, and didn’t even mind we were the only three black fellas in the company. Neither did Jerry, in a way. He shot all of us equally.”

“Really? That must have been hard.” A part of Amira’s brain recognized that something significant was going on and suggested that she immediately start paying attention.

“There were thirty of us on that boat. I still remember seeing the door going down and bzz! Just like that! Like a bee flying past your ear, bzzz! Ten men killed. Ten! Less than a second, and those ten boys just hit the water like bags of flour, dead as you please. Bzzz, and James and Freddy never even got to set foot on France.”

They were silent for a long time. Amira had no idea what to follow that with, and had no intention of being the next to speak.

“But it was a nice day like this, just like this, when the war ended. I remember that, too. D-Day was bad and cloudy, like God was telling us what was coming, but the day Germany surrendered was God just being happy it was over. Not much of a religious fellow, but I’d stake my life on it. He must’a been so happy we stopped killing each other, at least for a while. Was the day I met Elke. Can you imagine that? Black boy from Toronto who lost two brothers to the Germans marrying a Jerry girl from Berlin? Didn’t even speak a word of German myself, and the only English she only knew was “Yes”, “No,”, and a Laurel and Hardy skit. If you asked us, neither of us could tell you what happened. Just happened to see her, she just happened to see me, and bam. We were in love before you knew it.”

The seagull, who had decided that he was having none of whatever the dog was offering, flew off in a huff. The dog whined and lamented his departed friend before running back to his master. Happily, of course.

“You must be wondering why I’m telling you this. It’s awful nice of you to humour an old fogey like myself, but you must be getting bothered by me being here.”

“No no,” Amira lied, “it’s no bother at all.”

“Sure it ain’t.” George rapped his cane on the ground. “Sure it ain’t. I ain’t a curious fellow, but when I see a pretty woman like yourself, sitting alone, it means you’ve got a decision to make that you don’t particularly want to.”

“That’s very astute of you.” Amira replied, a touch frostier than she intended.

“Nah, I’m not astute, just old. You pick up these things when you’ve been alive as long as I have.” With a great exertion of will, George forced himself to his feet. Amira rose to help him, but he waved her off. “Don’t you worry about me. I just wanted to tell you an old man’s story. Sometimes decisions make themselves.”

George ambled off into the sunlight and shared a brief moment with the dog. The dog was overjoyed to have some attention, and licked George’s hand until it shone in the sunlight.

Amira shook her head as she watched the old man totter off. What just happened? All of a sudden this old man was sitting next to her, telling her his life story, and all while she was trying to make her decision about…


Her phone buzzed again, and Amira jerked when she saw the time. She would have to go, and go now if she didn’t want to be late. She would have to gather her things, pick up her bag, and actually make her feet work. After that, she’d be free to design all the dresses in the world, be as successful as she could make herself, and revel in the glory.

And then live the rest of her life without telling Patrick anything. She wasn’t looking forward to that.

She rubbed her stomach, which was still (mostly) flat. There wasn’t even the hint of a swell, and it would take several weeks for that to show. Plenty of time to make decisions. To talk. To make up minds and be certain.

Her phone buzzed and, seeing Patrick’s name on the phone, she actually picked it up.

Hey babe, I booked the flight. Have a good day! ❤

She put the phone down and looked around. Amira decided that it wouldn’t kill anyone to sit on the bench a bit longer. Or, a lot longer. She, in fact, sat there until the sun began to go down.

She never saw George again.

And she came back.

Without warning, Amira felt herself burst into tears. They exploded out of her like they were rocket-powered, and before she knew it, she was using the corner of Dogen’s robe as a handkerchief, coughing and blubbering into the monk’s saffron-coloured clothing.

“You had purpose. You had a man. You had a child. Now, you have none of those things. Tell me, Amira, what are you now?

“What do you care?” Amira sniffed and composed herself. “What would any of you care? You people only care about what you can make me do.”

“I have no intention of making you do anything. I am Death. I can do what I will. Do you know what it means to go where you are going?”

“What, the Chaos gate?” Amira mumbled through the last of her tears. If Dogen noticed her abuse of his robes, he didn’t react. Perhaps crying women were common in the desert.

“Do you even know what the Chaos gate is? What will happen to you if you do not open it? What will happen to you if you do open it?” Shiva reached down with a mammoth hand and ground one of the skulls at his waist into dust. It cracked grotesquely as it shattered into dust, dust that Shiva tossed into the pot.

“No. I’ve been told and told and told that it’s important, and that I’m important, but it’s not about me. It’s about the fact my name isn’t in some damn book. I don’t know or care about this thing Spider and Baba Yaga have me doing. They just say they can get me out of here, and that’s all I care about. I want to go somewhere where people aren’t trying to sell me, or eat me, or use me. I don’t even care where anymore, so long as it isn’t here.”

Shiva frowned. “You have no purpose in this life, and yet you fear change?”

“Well why not?” Amira screamed, angry now. “Why not? Nothing but bad things have been happening to me, and why would I expect anything more? I just want…”

Shiva cut her off with a wave of one of his hands.

“All you say is that you want, mortal. It grows tiresome.”

“I have a name, Shiva.”

“And when you are worth it, I shall use it. You are not a person, you are a collection of wants. You want your fashion parlour to succeed. You want a happy marriage. You want a baby, but you want it later. Change never waits anyone, but you want to be in charge of everything. You are not, and you never, and yet you want everything, and when you do not get those things, you want out. You were prepared to have an abortion without telling your husband, performed on a baby that you didn’t even tell him about! Why are you angry at change? What are you now that could possibly not be improved by changing yourself?”

Amira gaped up at Shiva. How dare he? How dare he fling those accusations at me? How dare-

How dare I?” Shiva kicked the pot aside, spilling the contents in a boiling flood that, although Amira did not notice, ran into an invisible barrier and pooled around Dogen without getting close to the old man. “I am Death! I! Dare!”

Amira turned and ran, but this time the storm did not blow up. Dogen’s chanting still filled the air, but the sand stayed beneath her feet. Shiva chased her and the thumping of the giant’s feet gave her wings.

Suddenly he came at her from the right as a three-headed woman screaming and shaking a dead baby in one of her arms.

Suddenly he came at her from the right as a wolf and dragon that fought to the death as they ran along beside her.

Suddenly he came from the front as Patrick, but he smiled a predatory smile that Patrick had never once worn on his cheerful face.

They surrounded her as she collapsed. They beat her with the baby corpse and stabbed her with the trident. The wolf mauled her as the scaly dragon burned her with its fire. As one, they shouted as they broke her nose and scarred her flesh and tore her belly open.

“Who are you?” I want this to stop!

“Who are you?” I want them to go away!

“Who are you?” I want to go home!

“Who are you?” I want to…

There was another voice that came from a very, very old man. It was not weary, but the years were badges it could never take off.

“Attachment is the origin of suffering, and who he is free from selfish desires, from hatred, from cruelty, and carries within themselves selflessness, loving kindness, and harmlessness; they are a blessing to themselves and others. I am Dogen. You are Amira. We are nothing. So it is said. So it is.”

And there was a moment when time slowed. It did not stop, but like in Leviathan’s office, it slowed enough so that the many, many limbs of Shiva and the döppelgangers moved in slow-motion. The world was made of deep water and only she could move through it. She looked around, dumbfounded, as the faces of the god of death snarled down at her, caught in a trap they couldn’t even fathom.

Dogen, had stopped chanting. Birds started singing from nowhere.

“What happened?” Amira asked the air. Her wounds, which she didn’t even notice anymore, closed up and disappeared. “What’s going on?” She got up and walked away from Shiva and towards Dogen. His eyes were open and glittered brightly with warmth and intelligence. He waved her to the blanket by the fire and wore a broad smile on his face.

“You have begun to understand, young one. Shiva, for all his ferocity, was correct. Your desires are what weigh you down, and they are what Shiva may strike at. You cannot run from yourself, but if you do not want, if you do not fear change, then there is no need to run. Then Shiva cannot harm you.”

“But…I do want these things.” Amira sighed. The fire warmed her hands and cast long shadows on the sand. The four Shivas were grotesque in the half-darkness and Amira looked instead at the fire. “I can’t pretend I don’t. I hate it here and I would do anything to leave.”

Treading along in this dreamlike, illusory realm, without looking for the traces I may have left; a cuckoo’s song beckons me to return home; hearing this, I tilt my head to see who has told me to turn back; do not ask me where I am going, as I travel in this limitless world, where every step I take is my home.” Dogen recited and fiddled with the beads he wore around his neck.

“Am I supposed to understand that?”

“Why don’t you understand it? Every step is my home, for I take my home with me in my heart. We must make it so our lives are not only the journey, but that they are also the destination.”

Suddenly, Amira realized they were now sitting in a gentle forest. A stream gurgled beside them while soft moonlight bathed the world in silver. She looked around in wonder and noticed that Shiva and the desert was still behind them, but the heat did not touch them and the rage of the god was so far away. It suddenly hit her.

“You…this is how you see the world. You don’t even…there is no desert.”

“There never was. Neither is there a forest. We are trapped in our dreams, but if we must dream, why not dream more pleasantly? Shiva says that I have died, and I have memories of that death, but true or not these things do not matter. All existence is illusion, all existence is a dream and in this dream the only things that do not change are Dogen and Amira. But, know that we know that, we must ask ourselves what is Dogen? What is Amira?”

“I am, well, I was…”

Dogen shook his head. A cool breeze rustled the little halo of hair that remained. It smelt of lilacs. “No. Amira is not determined by what you were or where you are going. If that were so, then once you got there you would need to figure out who you were again, and if you did not get there, then who would you be?”

“But that doesn’t make any sense. We change all the time. Even trying and failing to become something different means…I see.”

“Do you? If that is so, then you realize that Amira, before she is a person with history, she is. What is that?”

Amira thought and thought, and said the first things that came to her and still sounded somewhat meaningfully sincere. “I am a woman. I am a wife. I am a mortal. I am a designer. I am without a written future. I am my own person. I am also very hungry, and am going to have a nap very soon.”

Dogen smiled and his face wrinkled so much it disappeared into the folds of skin. “Very good. You do understand. It is but a step on the road, but the only difference between the first and the last step is direction. Now, you must leave here. Patrick is coming for you, and will not find you here.”

That name hit Amira like a sledgehammer that obliterated thought and understanding. There was none to be had, in any case. Nothing could have prepared her for that. “What…Patrick is coming for me? Patrick? He’s…looking for me? He’s coming?”

“He is in grave danger right now, but he seeks you out. You must find him. Only then will you begin to find peace in this world.”

Suspicion, still black and present, rose in Amira’s heart. “Why are you telling me this? No-one has tried to help me here without reason. No one. What’s the catch?”

Dogen smiled again. “I have no price. You are not ready for nirvana, and you will not be for some great time. I am helping a soul find their way to enlightenment. What else could an old monk like me ask for?”

“I…uh, I…”

“There is nothing to be said. His love drives him to look for you. His loves drives him to challenge the might of Heaven, just as you have challenged the power of Hell. But now, you have a decision to make. Is Amira with Patrick? Are you a part of him, as he is a part of you?”

“O-of course! Of course he is!”

“Are you certain you do not just want him? Or is he as much a part of you as your heart and your mind?”

And like that, Amira was back at the park bench and like that, Amira was back at the altar, and again, she had a choice to make. She knew that now, in a way she could not have possibly understood before. She could walk either to the clinic or take his hand. She could either follow The Plan and leave him be while she found herself, or admit that the Plan, the Plan that she had devoted so much of her living life to, was wrong.

And like that, she made her choice.

Another memory came to her, of the time when they had “made up” after their fight on O’Connell street. Patrick didn’t get to see Glendalough, but Amira admitted to him that maybe, she had been unreasonable.

Patrick slept softly in the hotel bed but Amira couldn’t sleep. She rolled over and typed something into her Blackberry.

Samantha or Samia, if girl. Ahmed, or Thomas, if boy.

It seemed that George was wrong. Decisions never make themselves.

Dogen cleared his throat and interrupted her reverie.

“Now then, there is something you must do.” He pointed to the group of Shivas, who despite being caught in the trap, had nearly finished their murderous strikes.

“What…but…that’s…” Amira stuttered like an idling motorcycle.

“You must know, in your heart and in your spirit. If you do not let them touch you, Amira, then it does not matter how many spears of his pierce you. Go. Die. And live.”

Amira could not begin to understand what was going on. The whole experience, from start to present point, had been one long flight of misunderstanding to confusion and back again, and this was no different.

Well, it was. She now had a goal, a purpose. Find Patrick. Help Patrick. Just like him to need my help to bail him out again.

And that made all the difference in the, well, world.

She clambered around the slowly descending limbs of the destroyer god and calmly sat on the ground. Some unheard signal in her head suggested she cross her legs and touch her hand to the earth. It seemed like a good idea to trust her gut, and it all felt very zen to Amira. Dogen smiled from his forest and resumed his chanting.

Suddenly, the world fractured back into focus.


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