"Yes." Sitvar steered them into the cold, from the mercury vapor into Kensington Palace Road -- cold, crusted lights. "A cripple!" Sitvar shook his head.
Frishta nodded. She thought. She intoned softly, "Circle Line or District Line to St. James Park."
Sitvar was puzzled. "Yes, I know." Frishta did not look at him. Sitvar mused. "What I like about London is St. James Park."
Frishta looked at him. She said, "Go on."
They went on.
GLASTNBURY ROSE a distant hummock of glittering light, an island festooned with candle-bright pearls, a gaudy, distracting constellation giving the rest of the sky a blacker grip on the snowfields of the horizon. Facing Glastonbury, his path driven through the icy crust of a farmer's field to its empty center, Brian sat huddled in blankets, wrapped around him, tucked under, and over him, in a deep cowl, so that his face was invisible and only hoary breath indicated life. Brian closed the black from his eyes and a million rippling cilia beat red against his eyeballs. The alien spoke in Brian's mind, "Do you remember?" Brian strove to collapse his leering, frozen smile. His mother had been quite explicit, "Take your finger out of your nose." Do have teacups with us," said the alien seizing Brian's metal thumb. Brian's hot tea seared his throat. He ventured politely, "Lebanese, I presume? Not that I mean to offend." The alien, with a curious sense of propriety, became green, though amorphous beyond the hot throb of the eye furnaces. "Thank-you." Brian could not help tittering. The voice echoed: "One billion kilowatts between your fingers! The vastness of the universe!" Brian droned, "Om. Om. Om." past shooting stars. Frishta ran ahead of him, scrambling across the rubble, glancing back to laugh without noise. Frishta wrote his name on the blackboard at the front of the room and underlined it three times. She wore a white wig with long curls. She pointed at him with the chalk, "Brian, you are sixteen years old, Brian." Brian hung his head humbly before he expanded to smash the ceiling from the room which diminished into the black earth below him as he filled the dome of cloud-white sky. "Do you remember?" Brian hung his head in exasperation. "What? What" Between his toes he felt the seaside sand as he ran towards his mother. "Mummy?"
"Om. Om. Om."
The white-robed old man faced Brian, enthroned on a bed of long-stemmed roses. The heavy incense was like fluid in his nose; Brian felt sick. The old man said kindly, "We have waited long for you, my son."
Brian responded as he knew he should, "I, too, have waited long." He struggled not to faint beneath the incense.
The old man gazed down on Brian, pacifically, and asked as if to a child, "Do you remember me?"
Brian did not remember. He bit his lip to taste blood. The incense united with the taste of blood and filled his head. He began to speak mechanically, remembering the words as he uttered them: "Om. Ask not that which has no answer. Om. Ask not of the Jewel in the Lotus. Om. Ask not what cannot be forgotten, O my mentor."
The old man smiled in approbation. He took a rose from his side and let it drift down to Brian, whose hand raised to grab it. Remember further, my son, Seek and ye shall find." Brian marvelled as blood oozed from his hand around the rose-thorns, without pain. The old man's voice grew tired, "Until unison, let time to no distance. You may smell three times." Brian brought the rose to his face.
Brian found himself in the dark forest naked and shivering. He forced himself to stop shivering, so that he could hear the forest's rustling, pattering, far-off warblings, tiny shrieks. His eyes adjusted to the light. He heard behind him heavy breathing, damp and steady. He turned to face the panther a few yards from him, its breath white smoke in its black nostrils. Brian stepped back mindlessly. The panther bared its canines, but did not move. Brian stepped back, and back, until his shoulders smashed against a tree trunk, knocking the breath out of him. The panther leapt, its teeth bared, its claws outstretched, as Brian twisted the length of his body behind the tree and ran screaming with panic scrambling among roots safe. Brian pressed his hands against his bare belly to stop laughing.
A rabbit path made a tunnel through the nettles. Brian crawled on all fours, carefully, to keep his skin from brushing the nettles, and as quickly as possible, for he knew the time was short. The nettles stopped; the pillars of the forest began. Brian stood, raised himself on his toes and spread his arms to stretch. He felt his heels sink slightly into the ground as he put his weight on them. He became uneasy when he realized he did not know where to go. No path lay before him. He turned, squinting, but could not pierce the pillared gloom beneath the ceiling of leaves. Brian did not know what to do. The forest began on rustle. From the rustle emerged a flapping, a nearby beating or wings. An owl landed on a branch above Brian's head, blinked at him, and flew away. Brian smiled. He knew. He patted the ground below him to make sure it was soft, then sat in the Posture or the Buddha. He closed his eyes and murmured, "Om." He opened his eyes. Far ahead, slatted by numberless tree trunks and diffused by undergrowth, a distant hummock of light glittered in the darkness. Brian's route was circuitous and difficult. Walls of thorns barred his way; branches of fallen trees ripped at him. He persevered, but as he groped near, the light grew dimmer. He tripped on a root and fell flat, but when he looked up he met the eyes of the Norwegian boy, who stood, fully clothed, his hands at his sides, as if in moonlight, at the center of a sandy clearing, a circle of sand in the middle of the forest. Brian raised his aching body, and walked towards they boy. He felt the sand between his toes. The boy did not speak. Brian asked, "What are you doing here?" The boy held his arms towards Brian, fist closed. Brian looked at the fist. The boy opened it, revealing a black spider which hopped from his hand and scuttered away. From where it landed on the sand there grew a rose. Brian knelt to smell it.