The Edge of Free Will – Part 1

This is a very raw first draft in terms of exposition and pacing. I imagine a lot of what’s posted here today may end up being cut from a final version of this short story, but you, my patrons, get to experience it as I do, freshly born from my mind. I’ll hope you’ll be patient with this piece and with me. Trust me when I say, the action is coming. Enjoy!

Ova opened her eyes from her evening joining. She wiggled her fingers and toes to hasten consciousness back into her limbs. Her eyes took in the night sky filled with stars. She traced the familiar patterns between them thinking how many more turns of the moon before the weather would begin to cool once again

Her thoughts fell back to the truth and wisdom that had come through to her from joining with Originality. She turned them over in her mind, letting them mingle together with the feelings of wholeness and connection that always filled her at this time.

Hearing voices, she turned to her gaze over her shoulder to the fire burning under the overhanging rock only a few minutes’ walk from where she sat. Once she returned, Hubri would come to this place and take his time joining. And when he returned, Era would come, and so on.

They had no choice but to honor their inborn compulsion to join their minds with Originality every morning and evening. The spiritual peace and understanding it brought made it nearly as appealing as the pleasure and joy born of joining their bodies with one another. They honored the compulsion for that connection as well, though not every day, morning and night, as with their Original joinings.

How well Ova knew these instincts. She stood now and began making her way back to the fire and the sizzling side of meat from the bandy-legged animal their hunting party had brought down earlier in the day. She thought about how the compulsion to join with Originality filled some of her earliest memories. Even before her seventh turn of the seasons, she’d sat next to her parents in their daily joining sessions. She remembered trying to mimic their posture and their breathing. She’d asked over and over what they saw when they closed their eyes, and she’d never forget the first time her mind actually ceased its churning and connected with the boundless love and creativity that was Originality.

Now Ova saw Hubri rise from the circle. She felt his eyes lingering on her. She could guess his thoughts and knew if she weren’t still so filled with the peace and calm joining brought her, if Hubri weren’t immediately about to join with Originality himself, his stare might make her more uncomfortable. In this moment, however, as they passed one another just steps from their circle, she felt only love for him and a strong awareness that as separate as their physical bodies were, their souls and what animated them remained the same. At the heart of truth, they, and every other living thing, were actually one, part of the indistinguishable whole, Originality.

Ova lovingly placed her hand on Era’s shoulder as she sat in the spot Hubri had just left. Era leaned in to embrace her from where she sat. The talk around the fire hadn’t quieted or paused upon her return. The nightly ritual of everyone taking their turn joining away from the group never felt cumbersome or intrusive. The conversation flowed all the better for it. Still, Ova knew Era to be a soul who appreciated loving touch exchanged more than loving words. 

Still holding Era’s hand, Ova looked around the circle, counting only two more among them who would still need to take their turns joining after Era. She glanced at the side of meat dripping its juices into the fire. As usual, it appeared their evening meal would be ready right at the moment of the final person’s return.

* * *

Later, after all had honored their joining and eaten their fill, Ova sought Era out again. The contentment of full bellies and the freshness of their joinings made their minds most pliable and open to one another without spoken words, Part of Ova’s purpose, the unique purpose with which Originality endowed her, was knowing the minds of all those in her clan. She approached Era, holding out her hands. Era welcomed her with a nod, and the women sat together in the flickering light of the ebbing fire.

With fresh rejuvenation of her Original gifts, Ova placed one hand over Era’s heart and the other up by the young woman’s forehead. She closed her eyes and found her way into Era’s mind. Immediately, she sensed the abundance of Original calm and contentment, fresh from Era’s evening joining. Ova basked there for a moment before reaching beyond it. Era’s mind fascinated her. Whereas her own thoughts followed a very orderly pattern and manifested in the form of words, Era’s inner experience mostly manifested in sensual forms, everything that could be heard and seen, tasted and touched. And unlike her own mind’s tendencies to immediately assign descriptive words to such things, Era’s mind allowed the sensations to remain purely and only what they were.

Ova had tried to steer her mind to do the same, a time or two, merely out of curiosity, but it had felt so unnatural and uncomfortable. Each time she’d joined with Originality afterward, she’d understood the foolishness of such pursuits. Originality determined all the various ways people experienced the world for the express purpose of broadening the types of experiences that incarnation afforded, and that each individual brought back to it. Only through so many unique perspectives could Originality continue to grow.

Now, Ova reached the deepest she dared to go inside Era’s mind, a place just above where the thoughts became more like those of an animal. It was here inside Era that she always found the same curious thing. While Ova experienced this same place inside her own mind (a place best reached in the moments between waking and sleeping) to be like a sponge for Original peace, it seemed quite the opposite in Era’s. Ova came back here again and again to observe how Original love couldn’t seem to penetrate Era’s mind in a lasting way. 

She’d observed the manifestations of this from the outside as well. Every morning and evening, just before joining, Era seemed lost, erratic, almost fearful. For years, Ova had observed the internal battle Era waged upon herself. Her eyes took on a hunger and she seemed to both crave and dread the inevitable. Of course, she always returned, restored, balanced, blissful, the same way they each did. But unlike the way that the feeling lingered and deepened for Ova with each joining, it seemed to bleed out of Era in between, and Ova couldn’t figure out why.

Era’s parents had died before their time, both victims of the very carnal natural world they all inhabited here. Era had been a young woman, but not a child. A child losing parents would have been surrounded and nurtured through such a loss by the rest of the clan, and even as a young woman, Era certainly had been. But Ova often wondered if the horror of her parents’ deaths had done something to Era’s brain, or if this were more of a fundamental inborn difference.

Of course, she’d put the quandary to Originality inside daily joinings before, but had had to accept that some things were not for her understanding. The fact that Era’s mind couldn’t retain Original peace didn’t matter that much. Daily joinings ensured Era received enough love and peace to sustain her and keep her content and whole like all the rest.

Ova began the process of surfacing from Era’s mind. She felt the sensation of Era’s heart beating steadily against her hand. When she rose to the level still brimming with Originality’s love and peace, she opened her eyes, seeing Era do the same. The women smiled at one another. Sharing a contented gaze with Era, it struck Ova for the first time, how devastating it would be if Era ever lost her Original connection.

She had never imagined what it could be like to lack Originality’s sustaining gifts. It could never happen after all. She tucked the thought away for later as she felt her gaze drawn to Hubri’s. He sat not far from them, watching and waiting. Ova embraced Era who looked drowsy and content, before rising to approach Hubri.

She held her hands out to him and asked, “Did you want to join with me?” Hubri only nodded. “Our minds or our bodies?” she asked, already knowing the answer, but it was part of the ritual, and she would never cast it aside.

“Our bodies,” he replied. She nodded and took his hand, letting him lead her away from the rest of their clan.

* * *

The next morning, Ova woke early, but kept her eyes closed, allowing the memories of the previous night to linger in her mind. She thought about joining Era’s mind, finding the state of her consciousness much the same as always. She examined the new revelation she’d had about how detrimental it would be for Era to ever lose her connection with Originality. Ova couldn’t help but wonder where such a thought could have come from. It wasn’t possible for someone to lose their Original connection, not when their instincts compelled them to join every time the sun touched the horizon.

Next Ova returned to the memory of joining with Hubri. While he wasn’t her favorite clansman to join her body with, she did appreciate many things about what it was like to be with him. Something she both loved and loathed about the experience was the chance to join in body only. Most others in the clan preferred to join their minds as well any time they joined bodies. Ova herself preferred it. It allowed for such deep intimacy, an experience like no other in the world. After all, Originality had no physical body.

Still, keeping minds separate during the joining of bodies created the opportunity for a greater level of surprise. Hubri never failed to surprise her when they joined, and it proved to be something she valued uniquely. Still, she couldn’t help but hope, someday, he might allow her inside his thoughts. Of course, she would never force her way in, just as she knew, with utter certainty, he would never penetrate her body without her permission. Their shared ties with Originality forbade such things.

Ova felt the call to morning joining, ever more insistently pushing all else from her mind. She opened her eyes and began stretching her body, part of the ritual she enjoyed before allowing Originality stretch her mind.