Finally there was a sensation. It was a curious sensation — a pressure that increased from all sides, a tension that pulled from every direction; between them she hung interminably and pondered. Yet another ache? She thought she had moved beyond discomfort. Not that this ache could be called pain. It was like being on the cusp of a sneeze or, more so, on the cusp of tears.
The sensation intensified until all her thoughts were compressed into that ache and she felt it tightening further, like clay as it dries on your skin, until something gave and she felt as if she were being extruded from her body, as smoke, as wire, into a hubbub of ancient voices.
What did she look like? No longer like the gaunt figure on the bed. Perhaps she was wire folded into a bird or an eel composed of smoke. Perhaps she was just a mote, just a mote with an eye, seeing but not quite being, with an urge to rise.
She drifted downward and that sensation of descent set her struggling upward against the air. It felt like wriggling, like swimming between the molecules of the air, soft and adhesive, like a mouse in a molasses trap, but though she swam she did not breathe, she did not tire, she merely struggled.
The plaster in the ceiling, the beams and tiles of the roof, were no denser than the air. Above her house the sun streaked by and the moon strobed as she climbed. Above the clouds the curve of the earth grew apparent and her progress became faster as the air grew thinner. The blue of the sky darkened, night and day fused, the stars appeared and grew dense. She left the final tenuous fringe of atmosphere and rushed out to join them.
She moved among them, heard them. They were as immense as she was minuscule, but they were welcoming. Like a kaleidoscope turning, the stars opened not in front of her but around her, and in the expanse revealed she fit like a nut returned to its shell.
Nestled within, she watched space, the tumbling galaxies, the tangling clusters, and watched herself watching space. Somehow she was two, looking at herself and looking at each other, watching space and watching herself. And the watchers looked out to space, and then she was four, eight, sixteen. In the patient, placid column of time she became infinite and, in her pocket, tangled.
She was a shapeless sea of self, and through all her eyes it was a confusion until as one they paused. Some held fast to each other and more took hold. These processions of self became wisps in their sight, and wisps gathered to form threads and the threads strings, the strings cords, the cords ropes and the ropes plaits, which warped and wefted and what had been a shapeless sea became endlessly unfolding land, intricately choreographed and as beautiful to watch as the stars had once been. And where were those stars? She looked around, but no longer knew where she ended and outside began. She was here, endlessly here, infinitely here, and in every moment at every point, dancing in a joyous tangle.
And in her tangle, from beneath the shimmering music of all her voices, came a new voice, swiftly joined by others, springing up like the lights she once saw dancing across the sand in a beach’s shallows. She followed each one and for each she made a small pocket for it to settle in.
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