* * *

Ayesha! Good to hear you! Where have you been? Yes. Yes. Gotta earn a living. Yes, I know. Who? Who is he? Your boyfriend is jealous of me? That is ridiculous, I'm only a dead body. He doesn't like me hanging around the house? He wants you to get rid of me? Hey! That is not a good idea! Yes. Yes. Listen. This guy, he doesn't sound like the one for you, I mean, I said, wait a minute. Don't do anything rash. Ayesha!

* * *

"Put something into her mouth!" they had said, "or she will swallow her tongue! Hold her jaw, or she will snap it! She'll break her teeth! She will crack her vertebrae! Hold on! Hold on!" God damn you! I don't like her, but look what they did to her! Electricity to her head, to both of her temples! Hold fast! Hold fast!

* * *

You think you're so smart, don't you? You fool. Do you really know what is going on? Do you (whisper whisper)? Do you (uh. uh.)? Do you? (AH. AHRRGH!)

* * *

Ayesha! Thank goodness! (UH.) How are you? What? You broke up with him? That's good, I mean, too bad! The unreasonable fellow wanted you to get rid of your Tarot cards, kept dropping your crystals? A regular klutz, I'd say. Just as I thought. You're better off without him. Yes. Ah-huh. Ah-huh. Yes. You'd rather spend your time with my cold stiff body anyway? I'm such good company. UH, really? I guess so. Yes, I've always been..uh..fond of you too. Listen, Ayesha. About my getting out of here, not to trouble you too much with that topic. But how are you doing? A-huh. A-huh. Yes. But why isn't it working? Look! I've been patient. Why isn't it working? Don't get upset. Dammit! I'm the one that is here. You're there. Get me out of here! Ayesha! Where the hell did you go?

* * *

"They'd send a public nurse," he said, "even a housekeeper now and then. I've just got to get back to the garage apartment. You go check if the boys can help get me out of here."

"What boys?" I asked, and he told me about two young men in their twenties that used one of the barns to recondition classic cars.

"They'll help, they owe me money."

I doubted it, since I did not know them.

"If Jerry," he continued from his bed, flexing one finger of his right hand, "if Jerry is there, see if he will help. He owes me a hellava lot of money."

Fat chance, I thought. They're all taking advantage of him. Sub-letting from a paralyzed man is very cheap. Really it is for nothing. She's too drunk to manage.

I went there, going straight to the back barns. The boy's hidden garage was padlocked. Jerry's other building, huge and leaning into old age, was bolted and secure. No one was anywhere

She was in the apartment, peeking from behind the curtains, but I ignored her. Instead, I walked around the acres-wide jumble of barn-like buildings and sheds. There was rust and corruption everywhere, layers of it.

It was like an archaeological site of enterprises started and abandoned over a period of decades. The browner and most mysterious were the items left from days of agriculture, long spikes, wheels and wooden appendages, lying everywhere half hidden under mounds of debris dumped upon them in following years. I felt that it should make some sense. Why was all this left? Discarded when time closed in upon them? Giant truck tires, still on their rims, appeared suddenly out of the weeds and grass like emblems of a lost civilization. Bits and pieces of old rusty gears were picked up, turned over in the hand, observed, stared at. "Like the jewelry of one-eyed giants," I'd say, and drop them into murky puddles, destroying the rainbow promise of their oily surfaces.

"Dead totems, without their believers," I mused. "Just another form of petrified bodies. Where is the life which activated them once? Just a...just a, touch, and they'd be active again."

Fat chance. They can't do it themselves. Someone let go. Dropped them, before I dropped the, and I glanced at the buildings, weathered grey, leaning to the right while parts of them, planks and shingles, leaned to the left. I stepped over a muddy section which contained the stained decapitated head of a doll, staring with brown eyes at the bright sky. I did not pick it up. After all, what good is a head without a body? Instead, I went back to my car and started its engine. I did not look at the curtained window where the woman must have been hidden. Just before I drove away (faster and faster) I glanced back at the cluster of ruins and whispered "Susan". Sadness started at my face and sank into my chest.

* * *

How did I know that they were women, all bundled up the way they were? All greasy and wrinkled? Dammit. I can tell a woman from a man. Even a bald-headed one. Yeah. That's right! Yeah.

Besides, later it became definitely clearer. One threw her robe off one shoulder, and beneath and around a thin inner tunic I saw her pendulous breasts. No doubt about that then. They were women, praying in the light of the lamps. Quivering and swaying, counting the beads on their rosaries.

* * *

"Malas," Geshe Thubten Sengey said. "What you call rosaries are malas."

"Hmmm?" I said, as he flipped one off his left wrist and began to say the beads. "Mumble Mumble. OMMANIPEMEHUM."

* * *

Ayesha! Why don't you just look at what I am saying. The words. Don't you know what they are? Why are you just reading them? That is just the shape and body of them.

* * *

"AUM. AH. HUM." That is what you heard, in the midst of mumble-mumble, whisper-whisper and uh-uh-hum. You were startled, weren't you? AUM. AH. HUM. Body, Speech and Mind. Forehead, throat and heart. AUM AH HUM.

* * *

"Okay," I said to the monk, "I've got only you to depend upon."

His lip curled. "Even with my help you may be doomed."

"Yeah, Yeah," I said.

"And drag down others with you," he continued.

"You worried that he will get you?" I snapped.

"No," he said, "I meant all others."

* * *

"Ah!" whisper whisper.

"Your face is like an angel," I said, looking at Sue. "A porcelain doll; a kupie doll."

"Don't be silly," she murmured. "I'm not a kupie doll."

"Yes you are," I laughed, pulling gently upon her long rusty-colored hair, bringing her head up to face mine. "And I won you. I won you at a boardwalk carnival!"

"Ah, Ah," she said, her lips pulled back, her eyes closed, her legs quivering, "on one of those...wheels? Ah! Ah!" She asked, her hands pulling my face down to her lips, "One of those wheels that go click click? Ah!"

"Yes," I said. "Yes!" I said, "Wheels!"

"Going," she gasped, "A-round!"

"Click!" I said, laughing. "Click, CLICK!"

"You," she said, "You," she repeated, "have won," she gasped, "a, a," she exhaled, "Kupie doll!" she exclaimed.

* * *

"Since you cannot succeed in following your own golden thread," he said, "come with me as I follow mine. We are going to Lhasa. We may have time to teach you something before you have to face him."

I was going to argue, since I did not trust him, but decided to agree instead. Perhaps I would see something more than mountains this way. Indeed.

* * *

CLICK CLICK. The counting of the beads. CLICK. Spinning of the prayer wheels. The light of the lamps moving back and forth upon the golden face of the Buddha, making it seem alive. Its eyes seemed to blink. And those sounds. Were they words? Changing, praying, monotonously. Were they less as words because I did not understand them? Or were they more? How could they be more? I had no further place in my head for them! Would they seep along the golden line and go back to my body lying as if dead in Ayesha's apartment?

* * *

Ayesha, listen. right now, you are on the other side of the world. Don't tell me what you are doing. I will report instead. Here I am in mysterious Tibet. And I have resisted the idea all along. What an opportunity, to see and hear what many believe is impossible to experience. Tibet is closed, forbidden to foreigners. But I can see it, freely and unhampered. Ha. Stay tuned. I'll send you back first-hand observations from Shangri-la Ha. Maybe you can publish them! I'll split the money with you when I come back. Dammit. I know I'll get back. I've got to. I'll report to you later. Look after my body. Don't...Well. You know all that.

* * *

"You are evil," said the blue man. I frowned and he kept his distance. I shook my head.

"You have nothing to base that on!" I answered.

"You will not yield to me!" he snapped.

Suddenly I laughed and we both were speechless afterwards, until I spoke again.

"Just like a self-proclaimed god. If someone doesn't kowtow to them or obey them, then that person is evil!"

"Evil," the blue man muttered. "Whatever the definition! You must be destroyed, else you become an infection!"

"Infection?" I snarled. "What am I, a bacteria in the Nd Drwa? How can you be so stupid?"

His eyes flashed momentarily with a light. But then it was gone. First he sneered, and then he smiled. "I will drink your mind!" he whispered.

"What the hell does that mean?" I started to ask, when I began to get the answer in physical terms. He pursed his lips as if sucking. His eyes bulged blue in a field of white, rimmed in red. His blue face framed all of this.

I felt a surge, as if my breath was being taken away, as if I were losing blood-pressure. However, it was not breath. It was something in my head! A slipping, a seeping as if something were leaking out. Leaking out towards him! I threw my hands to my temples, confused. When Dai Goro Bogdu laughed in response, the surging stopped. But then it began immediately when he made that same expression again.

Damn! He's doing something! I gasped. Internally, I felt strength vanishing fast. It went from my forehead first, joined an outward flow from my throat and began to tap into an energy exodus from my heart.

"God!" I gasped, and suddenly felt some relief. But it was only temporary, and only because Dai Goro Bogdu had interrupted himself by speaking.

"I thought that you did not believe in God?" he laughed.

I cursed him, and cursed non-existent gods which did not come to my rescue.

The wind was racing, racing, was leaving me. He was pulling it all out of me! Hang on! Hang on! I advised myself. Hold fast! Hold fast! Don't lose it! It is all that you have. Hold! On! The pressure increased, and I did not know if I could continue. What does it matter? Ah! AH! Susan! What should I do? I asked. And then I knew. I should, "AUM.AH.HUM!" and my grip tightened. I repeated it again and I almost felt normal again.

The blue man's eyes were straining. I said "AUM. AH. HUM," a third time, and it ended the threat. Whatever it was snapped invisibly between us. He stopped his efforts, and glared at me.

"How did you learn this?" he growled.

"I don't know anything," I answered truthfully.

"Evil!" he cried. "The most terrible evil! You are a god-killer! But I promise," he said, extending his two arms towards me, opening and closing his fists, in some terrible gesture of some infinite vow, "I shall destroy your will, and your infectiousness! You are a human slime! You are a fungus to be eradicated!"

I laughed, feeling much better now after this failed test of my destructibility.

He began to roll his eyes and a coldness struck my stomach, a nausea. "Oh oh," I thought. "Maybe I spoke too soon."

But as suddenly as he had started this new attack, he broke it off. "Pah!" he spat. "I'll waste no more of my time here. I'll kill you at my mountain!"

And with that he vanished.

Phew! I exhaled. But what makes him think I'll go anywhere near his mountain? I'm not crazy, you know.