* * *

The hands shook. The feet shook.

"Is he dying?" I asked.

"No, it is just a reaction to the pain. The drug is wearing off."

"Hang on," I said, whispering. "Hang on!"

I don't know if he heard me. His hands shook, shook.

* * *

She looked at me, asking a non-verbal question with her eyes. I could not translate it very readily. She waited. And because of my hesitation, the silence lengthened.

"Well?" she asked.

"Well what?" I replied.

She looked at the floor and laughed. "Never mind," she whispered. "Give it no mind," she said.

So I gave it no mind at all.

* * *

I drove faster and faster, with one eye on the approaching snow storm. It was starting, for the distant hills were being dusted with white. Then they were being obscured by long filaments, curtains of white. I opened the window fiercely, as if feeling my arm muscles for the first time, the cold wind whipped at my face, tossing my hair, slapping it across my forehead. "I can feel it! I shouted, gulping mouthfuls of air. "I am alive. I can move!" I raced into the storm.

* * *

Are you reading this? If you are, tell me, what are you doing with my body? Ayesha! Read this! Read my mind! Leave my body alone! Ayesha!

* * *

The young monk slipped out of the temple. He did not know if anyone saw him. Perhaps "Only an old yellow dog". He left his room with the unread sutra, he left footprints in the light snow.

"Will they still be seen by the time that I return from my sweetheart?" He was completely aware of their existence. He could see them so clearly! At the same time, he did not care if he were found out.

"I must see her," he said.

* * *

"You are back, Geshe Thubten Sengey," I had said.

"Yes," said the somber face. "Someone has to help you! You are in trouble."

I smiled. "Why should you help me?" I asked.

"A vow!" he said, still seemingly not pleased with himself for talking with me. "I made a vow to help all beings," he said, almost sadly.

I smiled. "Even Dai Goro Bogdu?" I asked, taunting him. I could see his teeth snap together.

"He cannot be helped! He is not a being!"

My eyebrows arched. "He doesn't exist?" I asked.

The monk shook his head. His hands were shaking. "Not exactly. Not this or that." Then, after a pause, "He is very dangerous because of that."

"Because of his non-existence?" I continued to press him.

"If you wish to say it that way," he replied. "Because of his non-existence."

"How do you propose to help me?" I asked, not believing in the advertised danger. He caught this lack of belief.

"Believe me!" he insisted.

I said, "Yes, I believe you," but I did not. The blue man was mysterious, but I felt little concern at this time.

"Then you must return to your own world before it is too late!"

A chill hit me when there should be no chill. It was exactly what I wanted to do. I did not need this fool's advice to decide that!

"Yes, of course," I commented, not letting on. "But why the insistence? I can go later as well as sooner."

"Sooner!" he insisted. "Else Dai Goro Bogdu will prevail!"

"Prevail?" I asked. "Do you mean overcome me?"

"No, no," he shook his head. "Overcome more than that! Overcome, overcome...." And his eyes glanced into the dark Nd Drwa, "He is coming! I must not be seen!"

And with that he left, but not before saying "Hang on! ;Hang on! Do not relax your mind!"

I nodded, although I did not know what he meant. I turned to face the oncoming blue man, the self-proclaimed god. But he was no longer there.

* * *

"The prayer is called a mantra," she said. "It comes from the word manas, meaning mental functioning, and tra, which is an instrument operating like a machine--no--like an organism, upon or with it. There are many mantras in Tibet, to be said over and over again for effectiveness. AUM MANI PADME HUM is one of them."

* * *

"What is this golden thread?" I asked the monk.

He glanced at his own before he answered. "It connects you, as it connects me,, to the body left behind, that which appears to be sleeping, appears to be dead."

"Oh?" I said. "Where have you left your body?"

The monk hesitated before he answered. "East of here. North of Lhasa." He paused, looking about. "A secret place. I cannot be more specific."

I was going to ask why not, but desisted. I could guess. I wonder if he had someone guarding it as I had mine. Mine? Was Ayesha really guarding it? Like a baby sitter? Hmmm. Like a careless baby sitter who has her boyfriend over? Hmmm? Does Ayesha have a boyfriend? I think not. But then what does she do while I am lying there dead? The monk seemed lost in thought. Perhaps he did not have a guard for his body, and was worried. Not that I would blame him for worrying. I would worry if I did not have a guard. In fact, I worried even with an alleged guard.

"How do you find your body again, being in this darkness?"

The monk cocked an eyebrow, smiling a tight smile. "Follow the golden thread," he said, not realizing that he was telling me what I longed to hear! I could escape! I was no longer trapped! Once I got back to my body, it should not be difficult to awaken it. At last!

* * *

"Suzy, listen," I said into the telephone. "Dammit! I've got to put it together. My life depends upon it. Wait. Listen. This has nothing to do with you! I mean...I mean, not really. What do you mean, that it has everything to do with you? Hello. Hello. Don't disconnect me! Damn!"

* * *

I followed the golden thread. I raced along its length as if it were a highway, a highway going west to east, north to south. Racing, as if running away from...truly...running away from being trapped. Trapped in mortality This thread was exceedingly long. The darkness made it no shorter. A nasty thought occurred to me. Was the sense of moving, of travel, an illusion? Was I moving at all? Damn. How could I tell? There were no landmarks.

Well, I could look down below and see the landscape. That would tell me something. But what would it prove? I don't know the laws of this place. No. If I move close to my body, the landscape has to change. Uh. But I'll look later. Yeah. No use being premature. Ah! I feel great! Heading for my body. My body! It would feel great to feel things again. Touch. Cold. Hot. Wind!

* * *

"It means The Jewel is in the Lotus," she said, her eyes concentrating upon mine, not letting go.

"What does that mean?" I asked, touching the back of her hand.

"AUM MANI PADME HUM," she doubled back. "It means, `The Jewel is in the Lotus'. It means there is a Buddha in the world, be joyous."

"I guess so," I said, looking at the few open buttons on her blouse as she leaned forward. "AUM MANI PADME HUM," I said tentatively.

"Good!" she said laughing, her half-hidden breasts shaking and quivering.

* * *




* * *

I followed the golden thread in the darkness. I thought of her, and moved faster and faster. I did not wish to think that I was not moving at all, that was a ridiculous thought! The thread, look at the thread! Golden, shimmering, straight or twisting or turning, like a highway. I zoomed through the darkness.

* * *

Ayesha! Get ready! Get ready!

* * *

"UH! UH! HUM!" The exhaling in the darkness came. I braced to see who had said it. There was Dai Goro Bogdu! He stood in my path.

"Get out of my way!" I shouted, but he did not move.

* * *

"Sue," I whispered. My lips sought hers, hoping for their wetness. But they were not there. Only darkness.

* * *

"MANAS-TRA," the lama said, "is shortened to MANTRA, praying through repetition of holy syllables, holy sounds."

I nodded, half understanding, but afraid to expose myself as a fraud if it were something that I should have known all along and now revealed my ignorance. No use tipping my hand. He would suspect something. But then, so what? What could he do? Even if he knew! Ha! What a laugh! But, you know, I had better play my cards close to my chest.

"MANAS--mental qualities--" he mused aloud, glancing at the incense stick burning slowly before the golden Buddha Amitayus, I believe, the Buddha of long life. "TRA--holding on, a hanging on, a stubborn not letting go," he continued as if to himself.

I jolted to attention. That was different, a little, from what I had been told by Sue. Which one was correct? The old monk on my right, or the beautiful woman whom I had left in my world where my body lay dead?

"MANTRA," he repeated, gesturing, to my confusion, about the chapel, at the pillars, at the benches with sutra texts lying upon them, at the ornate hangings, at the sculptured images of Buddhas, at the murals of great blue beings with savage teeth, grimacing.

"Do you understand?" he squinted at me, waiting for a reply.

"Uh," I said, hesitating too long, for he suddenly looked down at this crosslegged robe-enshrouded lap, placing one hand upon each knee.

"Aha," he whispered. "Whisper. Whisper. He does not understand," he muttered, as if addressing someone else. I stammered, wondering if I had made an ultimate mistake. I caught sight of one of the great mouths on the wall. In the flickering lamplight it seemed to be breathing.

"Whisper. Whisper!" he continued, barely audible. "Are you sure that you are not here under false assumptions?" he asked.

"What? What?" I answered truthfully. "I can barely hear you."

He glanced up, his eyelids heavy. He seemed to have a slight smile.

"If you are a fraud," he began. My heart leaped and the hairs on the back of my neck rose. "You will," he continued, "Suffer. Suffer, indeed!"

I gulped. Did he mean that I would be put to death? I would die a death within a death? Was that possible? And after all the trouble which I had gone to! Dammit! I reacted in my fury.

"How dare you!" I snapped, leaping to my feet. "Even an esteemed tutor cannot speak like that to me!"

The man's eyes popped wide open, wrinkles on his forehead came from the surprise. He could not speak.

"Do you not see my presence here before you?" I said, gesturing at the room and its contents.

"Yes, yes," he stammered. "Yes, yes, I see your presence!" And that ended that conversation. I ordered him out of the room, which he did, bowing and stepping out backwards. His hands shook, even thought palm to palm, and his legs shook.

I sighed in relief. First I said, "Damn!" to myself, and then aloud "AUM MANI PADME HUM". The latter sounds unplanned with the affect of amusing me.

"I'm glad I know how to play poker," I said in English to the Amitayus Buddha image. It continued to smile. From the corner of my eye, I could see the blue figure in the mural, large and foreboding, continue to grimace, showing its great fangs.

"To hell with you," I said over my shoulder to it. I was startled to hear a voice answer in English, "Are you speaking to me?"

It laughed.

I spun around, just in time to see a blue form dissolving into the incense smoke, which delineated a beam of light coming in from a window.

"No, it can't be," I tried to reassure myself, but I knew that it was true.

Dai Goro Bogdu had found me, found me here in Lhasa.

* * *

Flowers. Voluptuous iris. I great white one with sensuous petals, twisting this way and that, as if to open, as if to close. No, not lips. Lines down the middle, radiating energy; moving in the winds. Veins running throughout, as if the source of the very air moving those forms.

* * *

Dai Goro Bogdu asked me in the Nd Drwa, "Why are you here?" His red rimmed eyes squinted. He still frightened me. I did not answer, partially from that fear. "The less he knows," I thought, "the better for me."

Also, I did not know why I was there anymore.

My silence seemed to anger him, his left hand shaking at his side. He spat out the following words.

"Silence cannot protect you for long! Your mind must engage mine, sooner or later. Then we shall see if you can destroy me or not!"

"Destroy you?" I asked in surprise.

"Aha!" he snapped, looking to his right and left in the empty Nd Drwa, as if to witnesses who would note my words. "Then it is true! You are an assassin!"

I was totally speechless now. I could not even sub-vocalize words. He continued, spinning on his left heel in a complete circle as if to see anyone approaching from the four directions.

"Admit it! Tell me who sent you, and I'll spare your life!"

He seemed very agitated for an alleged god. I felt better for that. He might be afraid. Well, well. I smiled and decided to play a game with him. I could name names and see how he reacted. His agitation made me feel confident that he had little power to harm me.

"Geshe Thubten Sengey," I blurted out, saying the first name which I thought that he might recognize. His eyes closed tightly and his arms froze next to his body with the fingers all extended. He seemed frozen, paralyzed, like this for long moments when his face exploded into a wide-eyed grimace, his red mouth howling.

"HRIM! I believed him dead! HUM! I knew it! HUM! I will demonstrate to that coward! HUM!

And with that, his arms began to shake and quiver high over his head. It was a little nerve wracking. "PHAT!" he said, aiming those arms at me, his fingers dancing in mid-air. "I will kill his assassin!"

Now, those words startled me, for he meant me!

"Hey! Wait a minute!" I protested, not pausing to see what would come from his strange words or finger gestures. "You promised that I would live if I told you!"

"PHAT!" he spit out, just as I saw his fingers begin to glow with a hot light. "You misunderstood," he interjected.

"Not at all!" I insisted. "There was no doubt that..."

The blue man frowned. "No, no," he said, long flames slowly growing from his fingertips. "I was only using words. My thoughts were different. Gods' thoughts always count more than their words!"

I shook my head, feeling the heat approach.

"Besides," he laughed, "you told the truth, and as a consequence are completely vulnerable to this fire!"

Ayesha! I called out. Quickly! Get me out of here before it is too late! But she doesn't answer! Here comes the fire!

* * *

You fool! You damn idiotic fool! Why did you do that? Is this how you wanted to die?

* * *

"Suzi," I said, pointing at a New York City fire hydrant. "Did you ever notice how phallic that looks?"

Her grey eyes turned to me. "You mean, like an erect penis?" she smiled.

"Yes," I said.

"Then why didn't you say penis and not phallic?" she returned.

I was caught off-guard. "Politeness," I said lamely.

"False politeness doesn't count here."

I became annoyed, but said nothing. The silence worked best.

"But haven't you noticed," she continued, "how that erect penis has breasts on its sides?"

I nodded, not looking at anything else. "With chains attached," I said, "so they cannot get away." I was going to say very Hindu, like Shiva's lingam, but decided not to risk it.

"To make the mutual fluid flow," I said instead, "the breasts have to be freed."

"Talk about unity in duality!" she laughed, grabbing my elbow. "Both male and female fluidity in the same liquid." I felt more confident, and contributed, "But I think it is truly only masculine."

She tilted her blonde head. "Don't be ridiculous! It comes from the breast area!"

We had walked past the hydrant, and I decided not to become labeled as male chauvinist, and changed the topic's angle.

"Think of it," I said instead, "In summertime kids play in the spray of these hydrants without realizing it!"

"Yes," she said, squeezing my elbow. "And the fire department uses it to put out fires!" She giggled and pressed closer, brushing her left breast against my arm.

My eyes caught hers. "Shall we start a fire?" I asked.

She hesitated, her lips opened slightly and closed with a slight moisture revealed along the joining line. "I'm on fire already," she whispered.

We took the elevator up to her apartment. The doorman in the lobby may have noticed the warmth that we exuded as we left him and entered the art-deco decorated elevator. He also must have noticed how cool the lobby was, once we had left.

Soon, upstairs, "Whisper whisper," were the sounds made by flameless fire, flameless lips breathing.

"UH," she said. "Yes!" Followed by "UH, Uh..." Hands shook; flameless. Soon: "AH!" was exclaimed amidst moist foreheads. "Ah, argh," followed with exhaling, breathing. Whisper. Whisper.

"You'll never know," she began, but I stopped her, putting a finger gently to her lips. She kissed it and took it into her mouth, her lips sucking it, her eyes twinkling. She spoke around it, but I couldn't understand her. It may have been something like, "Shiva's lingam," but I don't know. I couldn't understand.

* * *

Dai Goro Bogdu's flames grew and surrounded me in a great sphere, steadily closing in.

"DIE, you wretch!" he shouted. "PHAT! Total! BURN! Phat!"

"Oh goodbye Ss " I started, but never was able to finish.

* * *

I had come up against an unseen wall. The golden thread continued, but I could go no further into the darkness. The wall was not substantial. That is, it was not sudden. It seemed to grow. Its presence was like water which grew thicker and thicker so that at last I could not penetrate it.

I panicked for a moment, feeling that it might be all around me, but I was wrong. Backing off from the tracking of the thread, I found that I could move freely again, but not in the one direction which I felt most important to me I could not follow it back to my body.

Cursing the emptiness, I decided to penetrate into the light world and see what new landscapes I had reached. Arabia perhaps? Sand dunes? Let us see. It did not take long to discover nothing had changed. I had not gone anywhere. There were the two lakes and looming over them was the great mountain; Kailash.

* * *