THE PLAINS OF MEER
by Simon Joseph
The fist-sized stone was pyramid shaped, perfectly cut on all sides, and clear as glass. I didn't think the geology of Thetus permitted diamonds. I had found it near the edge of a tidal pool on my morning walk up the North Beach. I immediately adorned my one-room bungalow with the mystery rock, displaying it on a driftwood table. There was no one to share this find with. I lived alone on Thetus, as a woman who sought her fate in the solitude of this big blue world.
That night I lay on my bunk nearing sleep. The eyes were heavy, half dreaming of a storm out at sea. Only half dreaming because I could still hear the surf roaring outside. One eye opened lazily to spy on the rock once more. Light danced off the multisided stone. Thin white beams flashed across the room, sweeping the dark. The rays bounced from wall to wall, flickering about.
(A man runs barefoot on the wet hard-packed sand of low tide. His unrelenting stride dances to a beat, forward in rhythm. Sweating in his tattered clothes. Moving, hurrying, getting somewhere. I am a bird gliding high above, crisscrossing the runner's path. After straying far ahead I double back, dive down and dart pass the man. His face transfixed, arms swinging wildly under striding legs. I circle above the human projectile and our motions lock in tandem. I hear voices in the man's movement, "Anticipate there, adjust here, footing soft, veer right, straddle over, find line, maintain, pace, second wind, surge now, forward, faster." Legs alternate each lunging step with machine-like continuity, rotating like a windmill. The arms swing back and forth maintaining balance. I descend again and glide past the man. The limbs are a mayhem of movement but the head is locked forward, bounding only to the runner's inertia. The eyes stare straight ahead, unblinking, possessed, fixed on a destiny imagined or real. The open mouth is seemingly breathless. I climb against a strong southernly wind. The man is running north. Like broken sails his ragged shirt and trunks flail behind him. He is impervious knifing into the ocean gust, skimming the coast with a thousand strides.)
Lines of white energy tapped my forehead. I stared at one beam, a photon torpedo that was paper-thin and inches wide. I followed it to the ceiling corner and drifted to sleep again. From one dream I stumbled on to another.
(Everything ceases. The man is kneeling on the sand, head bowed down before me, his hands holding my robe like a repentant Christian. The man and I are statues with frozen gestures. There is no urge to speak. I only want to stand above him. The man kneels repentant, for his own sake or mine it doesn't matter. Thoughts are too still here. Even where the ocean pounds the shores, with the wind-blasted sands, and the dune grasses crackling like fire. Here we stand and kneel, if only to cry out, "Look, look Thetus!" Alive all around us with her chaos of forces, my planet she listens, she sees. The sea falls away, the winds leave the sand, and the grasses become silent. Now I can breathe stillness. Our hearts have stopped beating. The man grips my robe and the side of his head presses against my thigh. My hands rest on his shoulders as I look out over the calm ocean. Thetus knows. Knows tranquility reigns.)
The rock glowed a soft white hue in my room. I staggered off the bunk and approached it. I had not imagined the wild lights earlier. Diamond or not, no crystal in this universe exhibited these properties. I picked up the stone. It was warm and shone red through my fingers. How real is this? With the stranger on Thetus.
I put the crystal back down. Turning away I found a window and looked out into the night. It was dark. There were no lights, no running man, nor a kneeling one. Just the sea. Just me, Mara, alone on Thetus. Why was the man running, and kneeling before me?
I could see the glow out of the corner of my eyes. I turned and saw a shower of rays arcing and angling into a wild, gleaming matrix. I quickly looked down. Each light a channel to another place, to the visions. How? The visions felt so real. I noticed two beams converging at my feet.
(The man -- that same man -- stands beside a ship. Not an ocean ship. It stands on the shores of Thetus, a tall metallic egg propped on three spindly legs. The incoming tide begins to fill the darkened crater underneath. A ship for the stars. The man is poised, standing at attention, his suit gleaming blue and silver. An entry materializes on the egg's silver shell. He climbs inside and I follow. We stand on a mirrored floor and the space between us is small. An octagonal room. The walls are black, streaked with long curving strokes of white, red, and blue pinprick lights. Strips of the universe one beside the other, making a wallpaper of stars, nebulas, and galaxies. The man points to one bright speck. Flash of red. "Away," he says with his eyes. But to where? The man smiles, "Where the angels dance, on the plains of Meer.")
I stood in the bungalow doorway and witnessed an intricate geometry of lights. From every angle white lines bounced on the walls, floor, and ceiling. I was drawn by the diamond's web of light.
I fled out in the moonless night, running towards the beach. I stumbled on the loose sand. My chest pounded making me fight for breath. Scrambling to get away I followed the shoreline. I turned to look back. A pinpoint beam darted out of the house. It moved closer -- not at once, not at the speed of light -- extending its reach toward me. I tumbled forward crying out and fell into the surf.
(I know that place, Meer. On the other side of the galaxy, as green with grass as Thetus is blue with the sea. The man grins, "We are here." We step outside the craft. Orange light makes the eyes turn away, blazing. He spreads his hand to the horizon and I see waves of tall grass racing up a sloping field. We are in a valley. I follow him. After a while, he stops and turns to me. Behind him I see an oddly shaped building. Beyond it many more line the green slope. Weathered and rusty looking like old corrugated steel. Half- moon shaped. He points to the building near us. The man is sad. His suit glistens under the bright sunlight.)
I was kneeling in water. A wave crashed into me and knocked me back. I crawled out of the surf, coughing out seawater. I found dry sand and lay there, sprawled on my stomach, cold, exhausted. My eyes opened. Lights sparkled off the white-water.
(We enter the strange building. A body lies still. A man with eyes closed. Wires in his skull. I kneel beside the cot and pull them from his head one by one. The man opens his eyes, smiles. He is not sad like his reflection standing nearby. The light is blinding. I feel his joy now, his freedom a super nova. I am lying down and I see him standing above me. The wires inside my head make me still. I am on Meer. The man is walking on the beach on Thetus. No longer running, no longer kneeling for forgiveness. A crystal is in his hand. He turns to face the ocean and throws the stone far over the waves. I see a splash, watch it descend in the murky water. It sinks into the green-to-blue-to-black, to a place of sunlight. I lie in the dark. Helpless under the half-moon ceiling. Longing to run on the wet sand, wild with freedom. To kneel for forgiveness with tranquil heart. I am waiting for the crystal to wash ashore. To dance its light again, like the angels on the plains of Meer.) *
Story and illustration copyright © 1995 by Simon Joseph.
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