* * *

CLICK. CLICK. The hand-held prayer wheel moved. No, not wagon wheels. There were no wagon wheels in Tibet. Respect for the ground, or respect for the wheel?

* * *

The mountain, as all the others near it, was covered with snow. None of them seemed sharp because of the great drifts and the piled-up glaciers.

"There it is!" said Geshe Thubten Sengey, "that is Dai Goro Bogdu."

"You mean," I said, glancing at the figure flying in the air next to me, "that is where he lives?"

"No," said the monk, irritated by my denseness of mind. "That mountain is Dai Goro Bogdu."

This answer surprised me.

"Killing a mountain is out of my line," I whispered. He smiled at this.

"Killing a god is something which you do often?" he laughed.

"UH. Not very often," I answered. "No more frequently than killing a mountain. But I guess," I said, beginning to fly a great circle around the mountain, "doing in a mountain will be easier than killing a god."

The flying lama lagged behind me and shouted across the cold space separating us.

"Why am I tied to such a fool? You must kill the snow first! Then every rock! And every speck of dust!"

I stopped circling and looked at the man. "How the hell can I do that? You've got the wrong man!"

"No," the lama said sadly, "you are the only one we have. It has to be you!"

"Ridiculous," I said, circling the mountain. Circle Circle. Like the rim of an invisible wheel.

* * *

"MU-DRA," he said, demonstrating strange gestures with his fingers. "Fear not. Teaching. And so forth."

I almost did not pay attention. Was he trying to trick me? To discover if I knew this already? Was it a trick?

He continued, ignoring my indifferent expression. "The fixing of the seal," he said. "The Holding of the Imprint," The irrevocable, unspoken word!"

He seemed nervous, almost ecstatic about speaking too much. I knew that this was supposed to be all secret so, out of politeness, pretended to listen intently.

"The seal," he whispered, "upon the mind. The mind of SUNYATA. The mind of emptiness. Whisper. Whisper. Whisper."

I could not hear him. He almost looked frightened by what he was saying. With one hand he handed me one of the looseleaf bundles of scriptures. With the other he waved at the library wall where they were stacked like so many bricks, with colorful end flaps for identification.

"SUTRA," he said. "Holding of SUNYATA, the firm grip of SUNYATA, the easy grip of sunyata." He looked at me to see if I had understood. But my mind had wandered due to the sounds he was making.

"SU-TRA," I thought. "Hang on to Su." I smiled. "Hold fast to Susan! Hold fast!"

My mind could do that easily.

"Ah!" his face brightened. "You understand!"

My eyes shifted to his face.

"Yes," I said. "Of course!" I lied, "I understand."

But in reality my mind was filled with the image of Susan's face. I did not understand at all.

* * *

The gear, like a little eight-spoked wheel, fell into the mud. For a moment it remained visible, but then, like a liquid pudding, the mud flowed over it, and it vanished from sight. Staring at the mud would not make it reappear. Glancing at the mud would not reveal its presence. But it was there nonetheless.

* * *

You fool. This is not a picnic. You are vulnerable! All he has to do is break your golden thread. That connecting lifeline. Ayesha could do nothing. Geshe Sengey could do nothing. But then why hasn't he tried such a simple device? You see it? There, it twists and turns, like a path, through the darkness. Can you follow it? You fool. It is your life, it is you. How can you follow that?

* * *

"Uh. UH. HUM!" The feet shook. The hands shook. They were beneath the hospital sheet, quivering. If there were dancer's bracelets upon the ankles, the sound would be like bees humming! Hmmmm! Hmmm!

* * *

Ayesha! Where are you?

* * *

Pay attention! Don't lose your awareness! Are you half asleep? Where were you, dreaming? NO. NO. That's not it. You fool. You don't understand! You're just swimming in words. Don't you realize that? You think you're so smart. Dammit. Let go! Let go? How can one let go and hang on at the same time? Then, if that is the case, hold fast! Hold fast! Pay strict attention, and don't miss anything. Something might be more important than you know. No, I'm not going in circles! You are! If you don't like it, just escape. Try it! Hah! Go ahead. Dammit, Ayesha. Why am I here?

* * *

Uh. Uh. Hmm. The exhalations whispered in the semi-darkness. Mumble. Mumble. The light did not reach very far. Whisper. Whisper. Hand twitching. What was she like before they had done this to her?

* * *

In one of the back barns, you had found torn curtains on one of the upstairs windows. Had someone once lived there? When? Stepping over a stained mattress, you entered a room full of boxes of bottles, all plastic, perhaps for milk. Kicking one over, you saw a magazine, slightly green with mould. Gingerly picking it up, you found that it had once been slick paper, but now was a mass of pulp still in the shape of pages at the edges. Turning one such page, you had it tear in your hand, revealing only part of the next page's pictures and words. Another partial page followed, and another. None would break loose into their original form. All were fragments; part mountain photo, a jagged piece with a portion of a car, the left side of a woman's face; pieces of words and sentences; "OPEN SUN...", "AMERIC...", "LANGUAGE", "SHOT, DIED."

It was like peeling skin from old sunburn, but less satisfying.

"SU...", "SUN", "WHEEL", "SHE SA..."

You threw it across the open space to the right. There was a sound of glass. But you did not look. Why didn't you look?

* * *

I found the two boys, as my brother had suggested. Their watchdog had almost reached me before they caught him. They weren't sure that they should have done that, for they didn't know who I was. They were very aware that they were not allowed, legally, to sub-let the barn in which they worked on the cars.

"Oh, you're his brother?" they said in relief, knowing that I would tell no one. "Glad to meet you."

When I told them where he was, they whistled. "That's a long way off," they said, looking at their shuffling feet. "Too bad," said one. "Too bad," said the other. The dog did not make a sound.

"Do you think you can take her up to see him?" I asked. "I can go only on weekends."

"Maybe," one said, hunching his shoulders with his hands in his back pockets.

"Could you take her?" I asked.

"Her?" was his surprised question, and then, catching the eye of his friend, "How long is he going to be there?" he asked.

"Don't worry, your shop is safe," I said, "as long as she pays the rent."

"But," said the quiet one, "what if she drinks it all up?":

I turned to the rectangle of light made by the open barn door.

"That is why," I said, "It would be a good idea to get her to him, so he can talk some sense into her."

"Yeah, yeah," they said. "Guess you're right. But she's awfully skittish about going."

I frowned, preparing to leave. "Tell her that it is a nursing home,not a mental hospital. They're not interested in her. Besides, they don't have any electrical shock treatment equipment there."

"Uh," one said. "Too expensive to run?" said the other. "Yes," I sneered. "Makes tremendous electric bills."

They laughed weakly, and the dog barked ferociously. Someone was driving up the road towards us. I left without discovering who it was.

* * *

Why does she leave the shade up? Twilight comes, and she starts to talk, to gesture. In that light, she almost seems nude. Then she goes to the bathroom with its venetian blinds. Water splashes, steam arises. There is a shadow of flesh. But obscure! Damn. Why are you watching?