Monday, January 13, 2014

Traveling Light excerpts by Lloyd Meeker

This double excerpt from Traveling Light by Lloyd A Meeker is a shamanic initiation adventure, a love story that bridges the worlds, a mystical quest for growth, and a mystery.

An eye for an eye...

Ian McCandless is a hospice nurse, training to become a shaman. When his mentor orders him to make peace with his estranged family, Ian reluctantly agrees, anticipating just another conflict-filled visit. On their way from the airport Ian's older brother Will interrupts a convenience store robbery and is shot, dying in Ian's arms and calling to him for vengeance.

Ian uses his shamanic abilities to track down the killer, but his quest soon turns into a hunt for revenge---forbidden to any shaman. Ian's pursuit jeopardizes his relationship with the spirit world, endangers the lives of those he loves and threatens to banish him from the only path that gives his life meaning.

Traveling Light
MLR Press (March 2011)
ISBN: 978-1-60820-317-8 (print)
978-1-60820-318-5 (ebook)

Excerpt: Ta-Kuat, an Anasazi shaman living in 1250 AD, journeys on his mentor’s orders to modern Vancouver to perform a walk-in, a temporary joining of two souls in one body, in order to search for the Door-Stone, a talisman of great power. He calls into the ether to see whose soul might respond to his request…

Chapter 29
Gerard Beauvais watched himself brushing his teeth. Simple little motions, he thought. How much longer before I can’t even brush my teeth? Not that it mattered. He would never let himself become that helpless. He spat out, rinsed his face and pulled his lips back to reveal a perfect set of teeth. Perfect. Like the rest of him.
Generations of assimilation into English-speaking Canada had not softened his dark, Gallic good looks. When he went to Montreal, people just assumed and started speaking to him in French. How could anyone with such a nose, such cheekbones, full lips and midnight hair not speak French? So many ironies in my life, little and big, he thought.
He stepped back from the mirror and flexed. His Gallic genes had given him this perfectly proportioned frame, too. He liked his body, and what it had brought him. He’d become accustomed to the unabashed admiration of both women and men in his classes at the gym, or the personal training sessions he offered at Fitness World. He’d had plenty of pleasure with both, too— whenever he’d wanted it.
He turned from the mirror, mildly embarrassed. Yes, he was physically beautiful, and he had done little to earn his beauty except to work out. Most of it had been the gift of genetics. He grimaced at the thought. A gift, as it turned out, with a little time bomb planted just above the medulla oblongata.
The occasional dizziness, blurred vision and headaches had sent him weeks ago to his doctor, who had sent him for exhaustive tests. The results had warranted an MRI at the Cancer Institute up on 10th Avenue. There, Dr. Parma had been very kind in his directness. The tumor was located where chemo wouldn’t help, large doses of radiation would be lethal, and surgery was not advisable because of the risk. Terminal, unless he chose the surgery, during which he could die or, worse, survive the operation as a vegetable. That wasn’t Dr. Parma’s term, but that was his unmistakable meaning.
Gerard sprawled on his bed and stared at the ceiling. He’d decided immediately that he wouldn’t do the surgery. He couldn’t bear to think of himself as a carved-up lump of flesh unable to talk or wipe his ass. Was that just vanity? Maybe. He didn’t care. As soon as Dr. Parma had told him modern medicine held no answer for him, he had begun hoarding the Seconal his family doctor had prescribed. When the symptoms became too severe, Gerard would have a little bottle full of answers all his own.
But he had changed inside since he’d learned he was going to die. At first he had laughed at himself when he began taking an interest in strange stuff like Reiki and meditation, prolifically advertised on the bulletin board at the gym. He’d ignored all of those business cards posted there when he was going to live forever. Another of life’s little ironies. To his surprise, he enjoyed the meditation class enormously, and he’d become fairly regular in meditating in the morning and before bed. Not tonight, though. Too tired. No need even for one of the over-the-counter pills he often took.
Gerard didn’t recognize this place. What was it? Oh. It didn’t matter—he was dreaming. A small clearing in the midst of strange trees spread luxuriantly before him. He turned to look behind him, but he couldn’t see where he had come from. He faced the clearing again and moved softly forward in the deep, fragrant grass. Ahead he saw a stream and, intrigued, decided to follow its course.
Nearing the opposite side of the clearing, he saw a man sitting cross-legged beside the stream. The man seemed to be chanting as he watched Gerard approach. He was lean and beautiful, with long, black hair held in braids that framed his face. First Nations. His voice was beautiful, too, and the chant pleasantly compelling. Gerard stood quietly across the stream from the singer, waiting. Waiting, he supposed, for him to finish. He was in no hurry. This was nice.
After a while, the man stopped and smiled at Gerard.
“Welcome,” he said. “I am Ta-Kuat.”
“My name is Gerard. Gerard Beauvais. Hello.”
“Thank you for coming.”
“For coming? But this is my dream, and you are in it.”
“That is true. You dreamed to come here, but I came a different way, seeking someone’s help. You answered my request.”
“How do you know I answered your request?”
“Because you are here.”
Gerard thought about this for a while, knowing it was true without being able to arrive at an explanation. “What kind of help are you looking for?”
“I wish to walk with you in your world for a little while.”
“What do you mean?”
“Just as you cannot live in this place that you have dreamed, so I cannot live in your world without help.”
“But how would I help you?”
“I would join you in your body, living with you for half a moon or less. No more.”
Gerard laughed. “Like demonic possession? I don’t think so.” Ta-Kuat shook his head gently, very serious. “I am no demon.”
“But you would possess me?”
“No. No possession. I would guide your body for a while, but you would always be able to say no. I would never make you do something that was against your will.”
Gerard studied the stranger, fascinated. “How do I know that you wouldn’t?”
“I would be as vulnerable to you as you are to me. We could help or harm each other with equal ease.”
 “Why would I want to take the risk?”
“In your belly you already know. You answered my call because your spirit knows that this may also help you, as you help me.”
“It would help me? How?”
“I do not know yet. But your spirit does, and brought you here.” Ta-Kuat stood. “Perhaps you need to retrieve something lost by your ancestors in order to live well.”
He was dreaming, Gerard knew, but something real, wordless and strange was happening. It felt clean and good, like sweet music. Something lost by his ancestors. What the hell? He had nothing to lose—he would be dead within a few months, anyway.
“What will happen if we do this?”
“We will become as one man for a while. I will ask you to help me search for something. You will know my thoughts, and I will know yours, nothing hidden between us. We will speak to each other in clear thought. I will travel with you, and you will travel with me. We will make each other stronger.” Ta-Kuat paused. “Do you love with men?”
Surprise made Gerard look at Ta-Kuat again, more carefully. Yeah, he would definitely be a candidate. Definitely. “More often with women, but sometimes.”
“Then it may be we will also share that pleasure. It would be very powerful.”
Gerard smiled and winked. “So how do we do this?”
“You must invite me to cross this stream. Then we will walk together back to your body. By the time we reach it, we will be one.”
A sweet contentment settled upon Gerard, and a feeling of adventure he couldn’t remember having felt for a long time, perhaps ever. “Then cross the stream and join me, Ta-Kuat. We’ll do as you say. I’ll hold you to your word that you will be good to me.”
Ta-Kuat stood, smiling. “For my own sake as well as yours, I will keep my word.” He floated across the stream and stood facing Gerard. “I do not know how yet, but I will make sure that you are blessed by our joining.” They strolled side by side in the direction from which Gerard had come, across the clearing and into the forest, which opened to them in cool, verdant welcome.
Gerard woke, his body tingling. He felt deliciously warm, heavy—as if he’d been dozing on a tropical beach. Greetings, Gerard Beauvais, came a gentle murmur. Something stirred inside him that reached to every part of his body—strange, intimate, vaguely erotic. Thank you for inviting me to be with you. The dream came back to Gerard with dazzling clarity, and he gasped. “That really happened?” he asked aloud.
Yes. I am Ta-Kuat. We are together for a time. It is a pleasure for me to walk with you. Think your words only, and I will understand them. It is better if you do not speak aloud to me. We will be clearer with each other. Try it.
Like this? Gerard asked silently.
Yes, just so. That is good.
Gerard stretched, enjoying the feeling of such intimate companionship, sharing his body in this new way—rich, sensuous. He felt quiet laughter inside him, not his.
You find good pleasure in this, do you not?
I do. Gerard found himself grinning like a kid with a new bike. This is very nice.
It is strong pleasure for me, too, came the response. Then a wave of voluptuous energy flooded through Gerard, making him stiffen.
Whoa! Are you showing me what you feel?
Yes, that is how I feel, being with you like this. Strong pleasure.
We’d better be careful about where and when we exchange that kind of feeling, Ta-Kuat! I could get in trouble if that were to happen while I’m working with someone at the gym.
Think of this gym, so I know. The thought pictures are not familiar to me.
Gerard lay back and thought of Fitness World, the sterile air, house music thumping, people lost in their exercise routines while their earphones held the world at bay. He thought of the lockers and the showers, the office cubes and the telephones. He imagined standing behind a client, holding her elbows while she worked with the dumbbells. Her streaked ponytail, sticking out through the back of her pink baseball cap, brushed against his face, tickling his nose and lips as he bent forward.
This is new to me. Thank you for letting me understand this gym. That woman desired you.
Yes, she’s made that pretty clear. She’s used to getting what she wants, but I’m not interested. I don’t think she’s going to buy more sessions when she’s used up the ones she has.
There was silence for a moment, then Gerard, I may have found how I can benefit you for letting me walk in you. I know you expect to die soon, and I—
How do you know that?
I told you there would be nothing hidden between us. Your death is in many of your thoughts. You plan to take pieces of poison to end your life.
Pieces of poison? Yeah. I do. When the time comes. How come I don’t know your secrets?
You can, if you want to learn them. Open yourself to them, and you will know instantly. In a very short time we will know everything about each other’s life that we want to know.
Show me one of your secrets. A big one.
I do not keep it a secret, but in my time-place I may die soon, also.
Letting his mind be filled with his misgivings about Chiyuskanek, Ta-Kuat held the vision that Ian had described to him, and Gerard cried out when the knife first struck.
Why are you here, then, if you expect this to happen?
I have told you. I seek a powerful talisman needed to save our village, the thing the old man in the vision covered with my blood.
You’re looking for the talisman that you will be killed for? That makes no sense!
I am a shaman. I travel between life and death all the time. One world is very much like the other to me. If I can save the people of my village with my death, I will. If I do that I will not die, but live on in my people.
I don’t understand that at all.
Open yourself to me. Ta-Kuat summoned the essence, the life of his village—the intimacy, the interdependent weave of obligation and belonging, the dedication to the welfare of a collective, of being that whole. He let the contentment and security, the calm, undying procession of generations—imbuing each succeeding individual life with greater meaning and relationship—flood through him, possessing and honoring his personal identity and role. The rich presence of all his ancestors and the warm wisdom of the living earth itself held his mind, his heart, his hopes, in a vibrant balance with animals, weather, with living beings everywhere.
In Gerard’s heart the threads of numberless generations wove triumphantly into the Great Web of All-That-Is, filling him with awe. He belonged—for the first time in his life, he belonged, and his life had purpose, purpose found only in the perfect wholeness of life everywhere, and especially in the life of his people. He understood, and wept at the beauty. I have never felt anything like that before, Ta-Kuat. Your way is so beautiful. Thank you. A wave of sadness engulfed Gerard. No, not sadness. Mourning. Your way is not possible here. In my world there are so many different ways of belonging that it is hard to belong deeply to anything at all, to be held like you are, and that is very sad to me.
You are right, the way of my people is not possible here. But even in the world you know, a great wholeness is possible. The man you will meet, and that we may love together, Ian, works toward that. He still seeks his own path to its center, but when he finds it he will be a powerful force for wholeness in your world.
Gerard sat up, savoring the rich denseness of being joined completely with another being. I will learn so much from you, Ta- Kuat. May you find what you seek here in my world. But please don’t change me more than I can bear. He could feel Ta-Kuat smiling inside him.

Excerpt 2: Ian McCandless, an apprentice shaman in modern Vancouver, embarks on a sacred plant journey under the guidance of his mentor, Ang. Ian is sent on this life-threatening journey to harmonize the forces of good and evil warring in him.

Chapter 30

The dark of the moon arrived, and along with it, Ian’s appointment with Ang. At dusk Ian took the few steps down from the lobby to Ang’s garden level, feeling awkward as a first- time visitor. The stale cooking smells in the hall made him queasy. He felt mild surprise at noticing the black scuffs low on the wall where a bicycle wheel had rubbed, weeks ago, probably, and the ripples in the hall carpet, too large to be obscured by its garish pattern.
He paused in front of Ang’s door. Several chips in the noncommittal tan paint on the door molding exposed an earlier coat of pale blue. Unable to banish the anxious tightness that made his breath shallow and erratic, Ian did as Ang had instructed. He didn’t knock, but turned the knob and walked in.
The air was thick and hot, heavy with the pungent smoke of sweetgrass and sage—something else, too. It engulfed him, making his eyes and nose burn. Ian struggled to stay focused as his eyes adjusted to the darkness. In the light of a single candle, Ian could make out Ang seated on the floor, motionless, eyes closed. He sat bare-chested, and his bony torso and face were painted—white around the eyes, mouth and down the nose, black and white cheeks, forehead and neck. His chest was smeared black with thick, white lines running along his arms, ribcage and shoulders like painted bones. Ian had never seen him like this, or felt this afraid in his presence. Something final was about to happen. Although he knew it wasn’t true, he felt as though everything he had done up to now had been child’s play. Whatever this was, it was very, very different.
“So.” Ang did not open his eyes.
“Yes, Ang, I—”
“No talk!” Ang cut him off sharply, eyes still shut. “Just answer when I ask.” He sat silent with his head tilted slightly, as if he were listening for something. “I send you on a journey to meet your twin, your shadow brother. He is the sire of your wild wisdom, including vengeance. You find him in your own underworld. Uncivilized. Frightening. You return, bring him back inside you, or you do not come back. Are you willing to make this journey?”
Ian swallowed against a tightening throat. “Yes.”
“So. Take off your clothes.”
Ian undressed carefully, folding his clothes on an armchair, and stood naked, shivering in the hot darkness. He waited.
After what seemed a long time, Ang spoke again. “You have all your affairs set in order? Your will, legal matters? People?”
“You understand you maybe don’t come back from this journey? This will be the most dangerous you have ever made.”
“I understand.”
“What do you want me to do with your body if you die?”
Ang’s voice was remote, as was the prospect of death. “Put it in Burrard Inlet when the tide is going out.”
“So. One more time.” Ang opened his eyes and stared at Ian—impassive, detached. “This will change you. If you live. No more only good nurse Ian, doing noble and kind things all day. Also you become someone else—dark, WildIan, knowing dark things a shaman needs to know, to be at peace with your darkness. Do you choose to go?”

“Once you step into this circle, there is no turning back.”
“I understand.”

“Enter the circle. Say nothing.”
Ian stepped over the coarse rope marking an area just big enough for him to sit in. He stood, looking down at the hair and small bones that had been knotted into its rough weave. His pale body looked soft, weak, in the candlelight.
“Sit.” Ian obeyed. Ang began to chant quietly and picked up a bowl next to him. Into it he poured a dark liquid. After a time he paused from his singing. He handed the bowl to Ian.
“Drink. All of it.” Again, Ian obeyed. The liquid was thick, bitter. “So. Now you let the plant take you, Ian. Journey well. I will sit vigil. Maybe you need my voice to find your way back to this world when you are ready.”
Ian nodded and closed his eyes, seeking a deep breathing rhythm. Soon he felt his consciousness being taken by what he had drunk. He wanted to call out for a guide, but he knew that none would answer. This journey was his only. And then he fell softly, tumbling into the voluptuous darkness that folded itself about him.
He sat on a muddy riverbank in the fading light of a sullen sun. Ian studied the wet clay and coarse grass underneath him, then turned to look over his shoulder. Behind him a parched landscape stretched—barren, marked with what looked like dead trees. Maybe one of them was a gallows, he wasn’t sure. He faced the river.
Vines thick as a man’s wrist spiraled up out of the water, reaching up to him. They wrapped around his feet, legs, torso, arms, neck and pulled him, sliding, down the bank into the river. He knew he should not resist, so he didn’t. The water was cold, thick, and tasted of mud as it filled his mouth, nostrils and throat. As his lungs filled, he sank but did not die. The vines let go, and the sluggish current took him, rolling him slowly, heavily along the slimy bottom.
The water became warmer, the mud thicker. Eventually he bumped against something hard and large. Although he couldn’t see, he felt as far as he could reach—tree roots, maybe. Ian grabbed hold and pulled himself upward until he broke the surface. He could breathe again, but he hadn’t really missed breathing. He wiped the mud from his eyes and face and could see he was in a swamp. Wisps of fog drifted above the slick water’s surface. The stench of decay was everywhere. He pulled himself up onto the gnarled roots above water, crouching in the dim jungle heat, surveying where he was.
Thunder rolled—distant, dull. There was a badly weathered boat tied to the trunk but it had no oars, and black water rippled in the bilge. Ian climbed in and sat—running his hands along the rotting wood, the remnants of paint on the gunwales, celebrating the textures with a rush of affection. He realized he was supposed to cast off, so he did. Drifting in the torpid water, the boat pushed silently through the mist. The thunder sounded again, closer, and there were sudden scrabbling noises and a single sharp squawk somewhere in the canopy overhead.
Ian could see he was approaching an inlet with a discernable shore—ahead of him a stony bank rose out of the water and merged into thick undergrowth. He could see the outline of trees against the sky in the dim light. On its own direction, the boat pushed farther into the inlet until the shore opened onto a meadow. A short distance from the shore a bonfire blazed, swirling its racing sparks and smoke up into the dark. The boat swung toward the clearing and nudged into the bank.
Just as Ian stepped onto land, a naked male figure approached the fire, threw his armload of wood onto it and began a shuffling dance around the flames, arms waving as if to music Ian couldn’t hear. He stood motionless for a while, watching the dancing man, who even in the uncertain light seemed familiar. A part of the clouded sky flickered, then thunder sounded—harsher, closer. Uneasily, Ian walked toward the fire and stopped at the edge of its light. The man’s ragged matted hair and thick red beard couldn’t obscure his identity. It was himself. Wild Ian.
On the far side of the bonfire WildIan stopped his dance and turned to stare at Ian through the twisting sparks and smoke. “So,” he growled. “You finally made it. Ian plays noble St. George, come to slay his dragon.” The man spat into the fire in disgust. “Stupid St. George, who knows nothing!”
“I’m not here to slay a dragon. I came to find you—and I have.”
WildIan guffawed. “Find me, you idiot? I was here all the time!” He shook his head. “I made a fucking bonfire for you to get here! So stupid.”
Ian stepped farther into the fire’s circle. “Thank you for your help.” Alert as a deer, WildIan watched, still, ready. “Now that I’ve found you, will you return with me?”
WildIan’s eyes widened in surprise, then he whooped with laughter so hard he had to bend over to lean on his thighs. “That’s it? Is that really how it works in the world where you live?” He cackled again in amazement. “Unbelievable. You think I am your tame little pet, follow you when you call? You are even more stupid than I thought.” WildIan sneered. “No. That is not how it works here. You haven’t found me—you just know where I am. Big difference. Maybe not to you, but big difference to me.” Without taking his eyes off Ian, he reached to his head, then drew a long hank of hair into his mouth, chewing softly. A knife blade flashed in the firelight as he cut the wet hair and threw it onto the fire. “This fire is mine. I take it with me.” WildIan turned and strode into the darkness. Behind him, the fire crumbled to cold dead ash.
Stunned, Ian stood frozen, staring in the direction of WildIan’s departure as his eyes adapted to the absence of firelight. It looked like there might be a path across from where the fire had been, leading into the darkness, and he decided to follow it. It was all he could think of to do. He struck out across the burn, which was already filling in with thick, rough grass.
It must have been nearing morning, for it seemed lighter to Ian. He could see farther, more clearly. A sharp turn in the path brought him to the edge of a wide ravine with steep, rocky sides. He followed it down to a sandy floor, which smelled deliciously of fresh water and sagebrush.
He was desperately thirsty, hadn’t had anything to drink for far too long. He ran his tongue over his lips and winced as it hit cracks and sores. Dizziness made him stumble. With uneven footsteps he followed first the scent and soon the sound of sweet water somewhere in the deepest part of the ravine, doubling back against the direction he had come down the trail. There, set at the base of converging rock faces, spread a large pool fed by a rivulet springing from a crack high up the layered wall. He had to drink, or die. Ian fought his dizziness, leaning against the warm rock, gathering himself for one last push to the water. He stumbled forward and knelt at the spring’s edge, jubilantly, reverently splashing it on his parched lips, sipping it gratefully. He could feel every drop filling him with strength—no, more. Power.
“No!” A scream of rage came from directly behind him. Before he could turn, WildIan tackled him and began dragging him away from the spring’s edge. “My water!” He roared in Ian’s ear, twisting him into submission beneath him. “My water!”
Ian’s head was pinned into the sand by a rough knee. He tried to keep the sand out of his mouth but couldn’t. He opened the eye that was not buried and saw the glinting curve of a dagger blade hovering just above it, point first—so close it took effort to focus on it. “You drank my water without my permission.” WildIan’s voice was flat, deadly. “Now I don’t return with you— instead, you stay here with me. Maybe I let you drink sometimes, maybe not. Sit up. Slowly!”
Ian sat up warily as WildIan waggled the dagger in his face. “I mark you,” he murmured softly, gazing into Ian’s eyes. “So you don’t run away.” Slowly, WildIan drew the knife away from Ian’s face, and without breaking eye contact drove the dagger through Ian’s right instep, all the way to the hilt, and then yanked it out. Ian screamed in surprise as well as the pain burning through his foot. He looked down, astonished and afraid at being maimed, fascinated by the trickle of blood escaping from the wound. There ought to be more blood than this, he thought. He screamed again as WildIan plunged the knife through his other foot. Cooing tenderly, WildIan patted Ian’s knees. “You are mine now. Like the fire and the water. You stay here.” WildIan got up and trotted away, disappearing into a cleft in the rock.
Ian laughed, desperate, hysterical yelps. He should do something. The pain was distant, and sweat dripped from him everywhere. Shock, he thought. He had to escape before WildIan returned. He began crawling toward the trail he had descended.
Crawling up the incline was easier than across the ravine floor, somehow, even though the rocks on the trail dug into his knees every time he pushed forward, into his elbows every time he pulled. How much farther? Didn’t matter. Had to keep going. Ian lifted his head to scan the trail ahead and saw a little boy sitting cross-legged on a boulder above the path, just a few yards ahead. Maybe he was four or five years old, no more. The boy smiled and waved, but otherwise remained motionless, watching Ian struggle toward him.
“You come back here!” screamed a voice below him. WildIan dashed across the sand to the base of the trail. “I told you to stay! You belong to me now!”
Frantic, Ian scrabbled forward up the path, managing to come even with the little boy sitting above him. He pulled hard at a rock sticking out of the path, but halted at a searing new pain in his right calf. He looked back to see that WildIan had stabbed his leg as if his knife had been a piton, and was pulling himself up by it to tackle Ian at the knees. Immobilized, Ian turned again to call to the boy above them for help. But the boy jumped up and disappeared. The boulder he had been sitting on shifted, rolling slowly, then falling onto the two men exactly where their limbs were entangled, crushing Ian’s legs from the knees down and WildIan’s hands and forearms. Ian looked down at where his legs disappeared under the stone, as if from a great distance, so far away that he felt no pain at all. Strange. He had felt the pain of the knife, but none now.
“Damn you!” WildIan screamed from the other side of the rock. “Damn, damn, damn you! Now the animals will come and eat us both.”
Ian laughed. “Or not. Maybe there is another way.” He couldn’t think. “Or not.” He looked up the trail.
The boy had returned, and a swarm of iridescent insects hovered beside him. He smiled and waved. “Would you like my help?”
Giddy, desperate, Ian shouted back, “Please!”
The boy made his way down the path, stepping over Ian’s shoulder to wedge himself between the trail wall and the boulder. He shoved, and the boulder rolled off the two men, over the lip of the trail and down into the ravine below. Ian looked at the mess that had been under the rock. Their limbs were indistinguishable, just pieces of tissue and bone in a red and pink pulp. The dagger’s shards lay scattered in the crush.
The boy gestured to the insects and they swarmed down to cover the stumps of the men’s limbs, nibbling, crawling, their iridescent wings shimmering in the soft light. Ian looked again and saw that they were binding WildIan’s arm stumps to his own amputated legs, knitting them together with some kind of silky thread they secreted. Soon he and WildIan were a single grotesque creature—two, except where arms of one grew into the legs of the other.
WildIan twisted and pulled against the bond, screaming over and over. “No! I will not! No!” His screams became a strident chant as he wrenched his shoulders back and forth in an effort to break free. Then, with a rolling pull, one arm tore out of Ian’s leg socket, and with the sudden momentum WildIan rolled off the trail over its edge, hanging by his single link to Ian’s knee. Tearing pain shot up Ian’s leg stump and spread, burning through his entire body. Ian tried to concentrate on holding himself on the trail, but could feel himself gradually slipping. He pulled toward the edge of the cliff as WildIan twisted and swung back and forth in an attempt to throw a leg back onto the ledge.
“Stop! You’ll kill us both!” Ian shouted.
WildIan grunted frantically but didn’t answer, continuing to swing at the trail and pull Ian closer to its edge.
“Reach farther into my leg with your arm,” Ian yelled, scratching on the rocky trail for some anchor. “Reach farther into my leg!” There was a wrenching jolt, and then stillness. Not even pain. Just stillness. It seemed like a long time before he could open his eyes. Ian looked over the edge. No WildIan. He looked behind him down the trail. No WildIan. Then he noticed he had legs again—very hairy legs. WildIan’s legs.
Unsure, Ian sat up, and a heavy, rough presence shifted inside him. He felt whole again. Strong. Amazement flooded through him. He wept with wracking sobs—relief, gratitude, and some kind of strange peace poured out of him in his tears. He felt a hand on his arm and looked up to see the little boy standing in front of him on the trail looking very solemn. Then the boy smiled, radiant, satisfied, and leaned forward to kiss the top of Ian’s head. “I have loved you both,” he said. “This way is better. Hold my hand. I can always take you home.”
Ian opened his eyes, watched bright dots of light swim through his vision. He couldn’t move, nor did he want to. Sitting was enough. He had always belonged here—now, to himself, to this flesh, to this heart. To this wholeness. He took a deep breath and let it out in a rush.
“So,” Ang’s voice brushed softly against him. “Good traveling, Ian. Welcome back.”
Ian smiled, feeling exhausted, powerful, grounded. “Feels good.”
“Yes, good,” Ang nodded, handing him a small glass of water. “Drink slowly, just sips. Blanket? Are you cold?” Ian shook his head, and Ang continued. “Now you have everything you need to complete your initiation—all inside you.”
Ian struggled to give words to thought. “Should I tell you what happened now, or later?”
“No. No report. This journey, its wisdom, belongs to you only. A gift from All-That-Is. Not my business. Same for all your traveling now. Time for reporting is over.”
Ian didn’t understand, but it felt right. He closed his eyes and followed his breathing, riding the pulse of blood coursing through his body on the chant of his heart. Below it thrummed WildIan’s raw and subtle power. He sat for a long time, deeply content, contained in himself. Then he looked at Ang. “What comes next?”
“I don’t know. Stay alert. The rest of your initiation, its events, they come to you now, demand your choices. By full moon All- That-Is accepts you as shaman, or not. Between now and then maybe I give some advice, if you ask. And maybe not. All up to you now.” Ang removed the rope that had encircled Ian and pushed the armchair up so Ian could lean back against it.
“How will I know if I’m accepted?”
Ang snorted. “You will know. No mistaking that answer, I promise you.”
Ian nodded, unable to speak. He closed his eyes and leaned back, letting the echoes of his experience resonate inside him. No mistaking the answer. That was good. He wasn’t eager for ambiguity.

For another excerpt from Traveling Light, see 4/18/2011.
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Victor J. Banis said...

Well, at the risk of repeating myself, "I loved this book - totally!"

Lloyd Meeker said...

Thanks, Victor -- I really appreciate the repeat. With this book in the twilight of its career, I'm hoping others have enjoyed it, too.