1.11 Pavilion (II)

They ascended the stairs and Sunaram led Katja around the Pavilion to a place where the base jutted out so as to be surrounded by sand on three sides. Sunaram opened her tablet and tapped it a few times with her finger. Then she said, "It should be ready now. You will have to be at the end of the platform. I recommend that you sit rather than stand; it might be disconcerting, and you wouldn't want to fall off."

Katja did as she was told. The horizon was a ruddy, hazy smudge of color. As she was wondering what would happen next, she suddenly realized that the smudge was becoming bigger. It was not just the color of the atmosphere, but a very different thing entirely: a sandstorm. A low buzz began to permeate the air.

"What is that?" Katja shouted, pointed to the oncoming storm.

"That is the Zezai!" shouted Sunaram. "It will not harm you! Try to stay calm!"

The buzzing grew louder, then even louder. Katja's heart was pounding in her ears. The sandstorm was delineated more sharply now; its edges did not taper off but were continually curling back into it. It drew closer, and the buzzing intensified. There was a feeling of electricity in the air.

It was only a few seconds more when Katja realized that hte sandstorm was not a sandstorm, or at least was not only a sandstorm. There was a reason for the buzzing, because the storm was a storm of insects as much as one of sand. The buzz was the endless serrated rasp of little flying creatures swarming like locusts. A breeze blew some of the storm in her face, stinging her eyes; she closed them and felt the wind pick up around her, gritty and rough. The insects did not, as she had feared they were, swarm all over her, but they did occasionally bump into her during flight. It was like being in the middle of a cloud of gnats. She closed her eyes tighter. She was squeamish about insects and the gnat-like swarm was giving her creepy-crawly chills. It is possible that she would have screamed, if she hadn't been so afraid of getting a mouthful of them.

The wind picked up; she felt coated with dust, and the buzzing was very loud, but the insects seemed to touch her less and less frequently. It was hard to breath without coughing, and she would only cough with her mouth clenched closed, so she occasionally felt like she was choking. Then the wind picked up more, but felt less gritty. The buzzing grew quieter and quieter, until finally it sounded faint and far away. She cautiously opened one eye a tiny slit and, when it seemed safe, she opened them entirely. Everything seemed as it had been except that she was covered head to toe with a fine coating of dust.

She felt a touch on her shoulder and started, but it was only Kubiri. They had brought a mobile cot down the platform. Katja tried to stand, but found herself suddenly very wobbly. With Kubiri's help she climbed into the cot.

"Don't ever make me do that again," she told Kubiri woozily. As they moved her back inside, she drifted off to sleep.

As she slept, she had another version of the dream. A great metallic reached out and pulled her from her surroundings into a bright sunny field. She looked around and saw the Vine God.

"Hello," she said.

"Katja Ilkaiomenen," he said. "Your mind is more clear, but you are not quite ready for me." As he spoke he became a burning fire, then the whole scene shifted, and where the Vine God had been, the Weeping Woman stood.

"Who are you?"

"You are almost ready," the Weeping Woman said. "But you are not ready." She became a fountain of water, which then flooded everything. But almost as soon as it had, it receded, and she was back in the sunny field with the Vine God.

Katja looked around her, deep in thought. Then she said, "You are a Tanaver."

The Vine God smiled. "I am being what I am," he said. "But 'Tanaver' is a name that some call it." Fire, then Weeping Woman.

"And you are a Tanaver, as well?" asked Katja.

"Katja Ilkaiomenen," she said, "I have already told you." Water, then Vine God.

"You are all the same Tanaver?"

"You are not ready to understand. But you may say that I am one Tanaver, if you wish to say it, and you would not be wholly wrong." Fire, then Weeping Woman.

"What would be the right way to say it?"

"It is not saying but being that is knowing," said the Weeping Woman. "Yet sometimes words are not wholly wrong." Water, then Vine God.

Katja felt tired, but she said, "I have a great many questions."

"One good question puts to flight every answer," said the Vine God. "Thus one may grow more wise, by undoing all answers. But even so, who will be so foolish as to cast aside answers if they are not yet wise enough to understand the lack of them? You are not yet ready." Fire, then Weeping Woman.

"When will I be ready?" asked Katja.

"When your speech is not so confined by words, and when your mind is both waking and dreaming whether you are awake or dreaming," said the Weeping Woman. Then the water flooded everything. Instead of feeling like she was drowning, however, it felt calm and quiet, like being suspended in darkness. She could breathe in and out easily. Her mind drifted on to other things.

When she woke, she felt a bit groggy; her sinuses were not acting quite right. She sat up and looked around. Sunaram and Kubiri were on the other end of the room, sitting cross-legged and facing each other on something like a divan, talking animatedly about simulation variance in unstable societies, or something that sounded like that. Katja went to the sideboard for a few crackers and joined them.

"How are you feeling?" Sunaram asked as she walked up.

"A little sick," she said, "but not very bad. How long was I asleep?"

"A very long time," said Kubiri; "much longer than you usually do."

Sunaram pulled open her tablet and tapped it a few times. She then took the stylus and waved it in Katja's direction, watching her tablet the whole time. "It looks like it might be taking," she said. "I am not deeply familiar with this kind of technology, or Sylven physiology, but your body seems to be accommodating it." She nodded at Katja then looked at Kubiri, who opened his tablet.

"Tell me if you understand the following sentence," he said. And then a whole stream of unfamiliar sounds came out of his mouth. They were not Samar words, and they were not very much like Sylven words.

"I have no idea," said Katja. "Did it not work?"

"It doesn't work like that; full languages cannot be inserted into your brain, because that would require completely restructuring it, and, as each brain is self-developing, it would have to be in a way consistent with the particular structure of your particular brain. What the Zezai have done is to give your brain something to interact with. But the two systems have to learn to communicate with each other, or, in other words, your brain has the integrate the Zezai system in its own way."

"She probably needs some longer passages at first," said Sunaram.

Kubiri looked at Katja. "If you feel that you could stand to be gibbered at in another language for a while, we could certainly do that."

"Why not," said Katja. Kubiri gestured at a chair nearby, and she sat in it. The back was too short, but otherwise it was very comfortable.

Kubiri tapped his tablet a few times and then began. It was a vigorous language, less soft than Sylven, with more and harsher consonants, and yet at the same time it was less crisp, seeming to drawl a bit. It would not be as good as Sylven for singing, but it would make for forceful oratory. The syllables went past like a rolling river, full of currents and alliterative rapids that occasionally became crashing cataracts of consonants. She closed her eyes and began drowsing off. The colors behind her eyes shifted and swirled, becoming not-quite-images that shifted too quickly to grasp. Suddenly she started awake.

"Wait," she said, 'did you just say that the snake was kneaded into the dough?"

Kubiri regarded her with surprise and then began tapping his tablet. "I only have the phonetics here, but I should be able to call up at least an approximate translation." He read for a moment and then said, "Yes, that is exactly what I said."

"Then something is working," she said.

"Then we are finished here," said Sunaram.

"Tell me," said Katja, "is there anywhere here where I can shower?"

"No," said Sunaram. "But we do have a pool for bathing."

"That would be amazing."

Kubiri thrust out his lips in the Samar smile. "Then I suppose we are not quite finished here."