I remember almost nothing from the next five days. I know that I went into surgery, and I know that I was in pain. In half-awake moments when the drugs wore off, I had hallucinations of Kelis and those things that one sees on the edge of death that most of the living — that I — don’t understand. Kelis and ler restless-dead companions came to my bedside and pressed their lips against my forehead, cold — cold like North Tvaji in winter. There were multitudes of dead, far more than those who died at the intersection who might hold jealousy towards the living.
Gradually, the pain lessened. The hospital drugs given intravenously caused vivid dreams. I dreamed that I had gone into the future to meet children currently unborn. I saw cities that once existed in ocean shallows and jungles that comprised the Malzgā Peninsula. I hallucinated the creation and destruction of the universe according to that ill-fated hymn from the procession.
I had a vision of Tsemanok-Enashisha in the form of a man with mismatched eyes and serpents for hair. Le touched my locks and snapped the frozen pieces from my head. I dreamt of a woman whose voice made the air shake and Heaven weep. Last of all, I saw a young man with smooth, dark hair and black skin in a room practically lightless.
Towards the end, I heard snippets of conversation while half-awake.
I don’t think that the vision of Tsemanok-Enashisha came from the drugs. Tsemanok is a trickster, a champion of randomness. In my life so far, I have had two chance encounters: Liga found me the day I decided to die. Sehutañi and ler co-conspirators came onto the Skyrail train while the entire city diverted itself with prayer. That is Tsemanok.
When Kelis and I were sixteen, we took the sacred stairs down to the boat rentals to visit one of the liminal spaces in the inner islands that Tsemanok rules. The weather had been bad, and I was nervous about going, but Kelis insisted. We had never been so alone before, and solitude is so dangerous. Kelis wanted to cut our hands on the old stones. The Hicịptụ do it at their shrines, but the Ịgzarhjenya do not. Le was always more forceful than me, so our blood dripped on the eager, erect boulder that represented the god. I offered the traditional candied fruit peels when we were done.
It is interesting to think that I might owe everything to that blood.
The medication wore off completely on 34 Poråkol during a thunderstorm. As I awoke, I listened to the rain beat against the window and inventoried the pain in my body. The wound in my leg throbbed. I couldn’t move a shoulder. Amputation didn’t occur to me until I realized that I was in the hospital. I twisted my head to one side to verify that my arm was still there. Electrodes connected to it hinted at why it wouldn’t move.
I couldn’t pull myself into a sitting position. One of the indicators beeped when I tried.
A dark-skinned man lay asleep in the lounge chair beside the bed. Ler hair had almost completely fallen out of divided buns, and le wore a semiformal burnt orange tunic over embroidered, cream-colored pants. Everything was crumpled, so le hadn’t changed in a while. A copy of Ashen Sky rested on ler lap. Le didn’t stir until a clap of thunder rumbled the building. It was Liga.
Le brushed ler hair aside and stretched. I recognized the scar on ler cheek from the anecdote that Suka had told me about lim falling as a child even before ler face turned completely towards mine.
“Your grandmother is out with your mother,” le said. “The doctors said that you wouldn’t die. The surgery was difficult.”
I half-smiled. “You know that I will die vaulting over a cliff.” I laughed, and the laughter hurt my chest.
Liga did not laugh at all.
“Fadehin Akaiañi is dead.” Liga cleared ler throat and smoothed ler pants. They re-crumpled almost instantly. “I’m still angry — not at you. At Daybreak and at the Karatha. We put so much work in, and they still did something so utterly” — ler lips opened and closed as le searched for a word — “antisocial.”
“Where is Kelta?”
“We don’t know. Adviser Tenes says that le was accompanying you in the crowd. Many of the bodies haven’t been identified.” The book fell from ler lap, and le bent over to pick it up. “Nine arrests have been made. The Senate will vote on a public killing of the captured conspirators as soon as the interrogation ends. Akah Sehutañi was arrested. Le was trying to flee via the spaceport.”
I squeezed my eyes shut. “Will you have to testify at the interrogation? In the trial?”
“This will be a messy hearing, according to Karatau,” Liga said. “We cannot bleach out your involvement. Everyone knows about you. You’re a forum topic, and you’re in the news.”
I opened my eyes and stared up at the ceiling, which was painted with images of underwater landscapes. “I can successfully testify against Akah Sehutañi. Will they talk to you with the same amount of disrespect as they did in that other trial? The one in Menarka?”
“The senators draw from the people.” Le cleared ler throat. “Your mother wouldn’t let me sit with your grandmother on the train ride up. Your grandmother knows us.”
“Did you confront my mother?”
“No. I don’t know lim very well,” le said. “I expect it, so I usually wear contacts when I go out. How are you feeling? The nurses told me that you would be in pain.”
“Yes,” I said. “Did you pull out the bug?”
Obviously, considering the detail in this conversation, le did not. I still had all of the ornamentation in my hair. The conversation contains so much static because the hospital staff damaged it while washing me.
I chose not to reproduce any of the conversations I overheard while I was asleep: Five involving my grandmother and Liga, three arguments between my mother and grandmother, and one between Adviser Tenes and Karatau in a language I don’t even know. My mother hardly acknowledged Liga. At one point, I heard my father’s voice in the recording. Le, of course, didn’t come until a day after I awoke. Ler position in the Īpahi diplomatic service means that le is gone more often than not.
In the recording, Liga laughs when I ask about the bug, and le says, “I forgot about that. I could delete everything you shouldn’t have heard.”
“Why shouldn’t I have heard it?”
“This room wasn’t bugged.” Le laughed again and looked towards the door. “Karatau and Matriarch Mohata had me check. Your grandmother won’t hear of bugs spying on the family. Le even had me check in the satellite home here in Galasu. Oh — two cousins are staying in your apartment’s bedroom now. Everyone is shuffled around, and Suka has your journals — the smart paper in your apartment and a traditional one from Tenes. Suka and I are staying with the Kohjenya.”
“Gods, have you read the journal?”
“I haven’t. Suka may have peeked.” Le pressed ler lips together thoughtfully for a few moments. “Le didn’t want you to be embarrassed during the trial. The authorities came through your room and checked for things shortly after le arrived.”
“Where is Suka now?”
“In one of the healing temples praying for you.”
I sighed. “I am grateful for my family’s support.” My breath caught in my upper chest. The pain that came along with the tears burned.
Liga stopped speaking. A nurse came in to give me a painkiller injection.
Liga slid forward on the chair and whispered, “We like you, if you want to know. You are the most driven future Tveshi politician of your generation. You could go far. One would need to bury you in the Canyons to keep you from making a difference.”
We spoke in Narahji, so the nurse did not understand us. Something about Liga’s tone unnerved me, almost as if this were not lim.
I fell asleep as the nurse said in Tveshi, “You have so much affection for lim.”
In these dreams, I walked into one of the Menashi temples to Enahari. Someone washed my hair near the temple entrance, and I wanted to protest because no one could touch my hair. A woman carved the syllabic character for nua into my forehead. It hurt so much.
I ran through tunnels covered with moving pictures until I emerged in a small grotto. A person waited there, and le cleaned the blood from my face and breathed on my forehead until the wound disappeared. We walked back through tunnels. The golden designs depicted scenes from Impermanence.