This is now the 27th chapter of “Of Wind and Wings”. See the table of contents here.
A breeze whipped through the trees and stung Ed’s face. He looked up at the sun shining through the clouds and then back down at the ground in front of him. He was sitting on a rock by the side of a small stream out in the middle of the moors.
“You be missing The Grubb, then?”
Ed jumped up and turned at the sound of the strange voice that seemed to arrive on the wind.
The man from the day before was standing there, smiling.
“Yes, actually, I was.”
The man nodded and pointed to the rocks. Ed sat down again and the man sat next to him. They just sat there for a few minutes in silence, but the questions just kept piling up in Ed’s mind, so he had to let them out before he burst.
“Was he dead, then? When you found him, that is?”
The man frowned. “Dead? No, not particularly. I have the art of healing but I’m not the deity and don’t work miracles, you know? No, badly broken and just hanging on with smallest spark imaginable, but he was alive. Don’t you worry. He’ll be fine.”
The man smiled, reach over and patted Ed’s arm, as if he were small child.
“What about me? How bad was I when you found me after my fall?”
“I didn’t find you.”
“Well, one of your kind did, didn’t they?”
The man’s smile grew even broader, but his words confused Ed. “Pick up that leaf there. Yes, that one. Pick it up. Good. Now look at it. Study it. Understand it. See the patterns? Patterns that repeat down to infinity. And see the chaos? The organic swirl and randomness? Go into it.”
Ed studied the leaf, as he had with The Grubb before. But he went in deeper and saw more. He understood it at a different level. Yes, he saw the growth and the properties of capturing the light and all of those other things that science tell about a leaf. But that was just the beginning.
“One of our kind found you.” Ed heard and understood the voice but continued to descend into the leaf. “You were not close to death. Not at all. But you were injured. Broken. Bones, organs, other things. Broken. She made you whole.”
The pattern on Ed’s hand seemed to meld into the leaf, though they were separate. He had no words for it, so used his limited human experience to describe it to himself. He thought of them both being part of a single painting painted by the same brush, though as separate as a hand and leaf on that painting are. Connected, part of a whole, but different.
The man seemed to know Ed’s though. He nodded, as if confirming Ed’s thought.
“Now hold the leaf up and compare it to the cloud,” the man said. “Look at the patterns in that cloud and look at the chaos. See how it is the leaf.”
“I didn’t know you studied Zen,” Ed said, though he was only partially familiar with Eastern teachings. But he did as asked and compared the cloud to the leaf.
It was there. The clouds did mirror the leaf in its simplicity and intricacies. It was part of it, the same way his hand was part of it. They were all interrelated, part of a greater whole. One single thing.
“I had seen this with the trees,” Ed said, without thinking about talking. “But it is obvious there. The leaf is part of the tree and so the tree is embedded in the leaf. A fractal. Now, I see it in everything. Everything is a part of the whole.”
“This is part of your healing. It is a teaching we give to our children. There are bits that are small and bits that are big, from the root of a tree to the tiniest twig, from stone on the ground to clouds all around, it is that very same whole, the heart of the Universe, its very soul. Once you know that, you can understand and get inside and even make changes. We call it ‘knowing the present’, ‘knowing what is’.”
Ed dropped the leaf, stood and turned around, taking in all that he could see. He closed his eyes and continued to look out over the moor. The mental map that he had formed before came back, but it was much more solid, more detailed. He could see and feel every leaf of every tree, every blade of grass. He knew every rock, stone and pebble, down to the countless grains of sand. He felt the animals on and under the land. He knew it and felt it. He could feel the heartbeat of the bird in the tree, feel the blood pumping in its veins, the oxygen passing to the cells, the cells living and yet knew and understand the millions of other objects around him at the same time.
“You are one of us and can see like one of us,” the man said. “We taught The Grubb to see, but he is not one of us, though there is a little of our blood in his veins. So he can understand a little of it and see much more than most, but he is like a child who can cipher out his letters trying to read and understand your Shakespeare. He works at it, studies it and catches glimpses of the whole, but will never see what you are now seeing.”
Ed turned to him and opened his eyes. The map of everything closed and he saw the normal world, yet he knew that it was still there.
“So I am a dragon?” he asked.
The man laughed. “Yes, we call ourselves the Dragons. We descended on wings to this spot and made it our home. It isn’t really here, in your world, yet it is. We are a shift in perception away. What you may call another dimension or a different Universe, and yet it is the same. What is in yours, is in ours. They are one. Yet we can shift back and forth between them at will, and the people in yours can move to ours through the portals. You now see and may move freely in time.”
Ed thought for a minute, Liza’s words running through his mind. “And so the people of the wind…”
The man laughed again. “There are many peoples, but let’s look at the three that concern us. Yes, three, not two as your friend Elizabeth thinks.”
“Three? Well, Liza talks about ‘my people’, you, me, us, who she says are the people of the dragons, and ‘her people’, the people of the wind.”
“Yes, those two and another. Three. And there is one who is all three. But let’s not speak of her, let’s talk about Elizabeth’s people, the one’s she calls ‘the people of the wind’,” the man said. “The people she calls ‘yours’, that would be me, as I just said, we see and understand the world as it is. You saw the world through her eyes for a while. You do have some of that blood as well, for your family was here for many generations and everyone was related to everyone else. What does her people see?”
Ed though back to his time with Liza on the moors. The crazy midnight run. The towers and fantasies that rose up.
“They see the world of ‘make-believe’, relics of a time that never was. A forgotten, semi-fictional past.”
“That is right. They are the people who see the time that never was. They had been priests and priestesses for time out of mind. They have been story tellers. They are creators. Some left her long ago and are now out in the wider world creating worlds in their minds.”
Ed remembered it and still could see it in his own way. He knew that the physical “seeing” was something that occurred in this magical place, but the sight still existed beyond, just in a different way.
“That gives us two, ones who see that which is and ones who see that which never was,” the man said. “What would you guess our third people should see? Think of what you have been told that they see. You have some of their blood as well, so you’ve seen it too.”
Ed thought of the shadows of the past, the ghosts and shades that The Grubb talked about. The visions he had seen of Liza’s mother.
“They see ghosts,” Ed said.
“Yes, they see that which was. It is ghosts and shades of the past and more. It is history. The Grubb is part of this family, this people.”
“They see history,” Ed said more to himself than the man. He thought of The Grubb’s uncle, Mr. Brown. Was that why he was historian?
“As you guessed, my friend,” the man said, “you are stronger with my family of anybody in the ‘normal people’ we’ve seen in centuries. Your great uncle was strong, but it is more pure in you. And Elizabeth is a good example of the others, though she is your great uncle’s daughter. She can see that which is, but her sense of that which never was is stronger than almost anybody around. As to that which was, as I said, it is strong in The Grubb’s family.”
“And the one you mentioned that has all three?”
The man laughed. A sudden wind came up, echoing the laugh at first, but growing stronger, more violent. It howled through the trees and Ed could hear the groans of the bending wood. He turned to watch the trees twisting and bowing in the sudden gust. When he turned back, the man was gone.
The clouds rushed by in the sky, puffs of simplicity and complexity. Water vapor, yet more. Ed let is mind drift with them. He watched the moor from the vantage of the clouds, though there always seemed to be a shadow of dragon wings on the land beneath him instead of the shadows of the clouds.
He spent the day exploring with his new sight.
When he returned for supper, Liza greeted him with a large smile.
“The Grubb will be home tomorrow,” she said. Ed nodded. He had already known. “Winston is having a little celebration on Wednesday evening. He’s invited all of his close friends. We’re going to go.”
Ed smiled. For some reason he knew it would be a special night. He wasn’t sure how he knew, but something told him that part of seeing what is also helps him to see what will be, or at least get an echo of it in general feelings.
“Good,” he said. “It will be nice for the boy.”
The dinner was very good, but more than that, something had shifted slightly with Liza and she felt closer and warmer than before, but in a way that comforted him, not scared him.
He went to bed and heard Lauren’s voice singing a lullaby. Was it really her voice, or was it the voice of the elf-woman who had found him when he fell? And was there a difference?
As he entered sleep, he realized for the first time that the strange man not only looked a lot like him, but talked in his voice.
But then he was asleep, a deep sleep with no dreams, one that even cut out the wind whistling in the window.