Forgive this bit of indulgence, I found this story I started writing several years ago. At the time I was hoping to write it as a collaborative piece but was too shy or perhaps I was being sensible to not put it forward for all to partake in but as with so many things, time has made this feel like a very distant inspiration and I would be more than thrilled to have anyone write further chapters, just send them my way and I'll post them.
Our story begins long ago in a place that lives only in distant memory now. Our principle character will be a temple dancer, it matters not which temple, we use her only to hint at the wanderings of the human heart and the search for ultimate truth. She'll be the canvas onto which we'll paint our story. The curve of her back will be the landscape that weaves us together, the arch of her foot will be the palate onto which we poor the colors that we'll speak with, nothing more, nothing less.The events leading up to this moment are like many others and can be implied by their outcome. We'll part the curtains onto an empty stage, a girl, age 16, slowly steps in from the right, a group of town’s folk can be heard talking off stage.
As was the custom in the land, the life path of a female was chosen by committee, the rationale being that too many mistakes had been made in the past. After a heated discussion between the powers that be, it was declared that the girl would be handed over to the village temple for training in dance, music, poetry, cooking and art. She would be called upon to enrich the lives of those that lived in the town. The elders later amended their declaration with a special request that she also learn the language of the ancients, a long forgotten tongue used for prayer, incantation and obscure logic, the reason of the day being that an individual must study the past if they are to embrace the future.
The temple authorities had been told by a traveling camel trader (a demi-god in disguise) that a slightly deviant muse had taken a liking to the girl. This comfortably explained her passion for talking directly to the Gods, a practice shunned in current times. The hint of a shared parley between a mortal and the heavens made the town's people nervous. This sparked an irreverent mood, when it came to issues of social norms, which gripped the girl from a young age, complicating matters further. Being adept at domestic chores seemed to welcome the obvious choices but there were other elements to consider with this one.
A new name was chosen for the girl, releasing any hold that the past had on her. ‘Dasi’, meaning servant and ‘la’, the affectionate feminine suffix was added almost as an afterthought. This was her new and only title and with it she left her old life behind.
Her mother had little to say on the matter and seldom showed emotion of any sort, her father, well...it's difficult to know who her father was. Her mother had been vague on the details and when pressed further, Dasila discovered that it was a subject best left untouched. As a child, many men drifted through Dasila's life but none welcomed the title of father, a burden that Dasila decided was hers alone to carry. Finding no lack of masculine guidance, she was painfully aware that each moment can only lead to the present and not having a father didn't seem to change that.
Dasila spent the next 20 years training in the skills that she would need at her command for a life of ceremonial offering. During this time she also learned the importance of being selfless, a lesson that came quickly. A few months after her acceptance into the temple she became pregnant due to an uncharacteristically frivolous encounter with a temple patron. Her bonds were now firmly tied, she could no longer act upon a whim, from this point forward someone else would be depending on her to calculate each step. In later years she would look back and see clearly that the universe had deftly orchestrated this turn of events. The pieces were now arranged, the game could now begin. She began taking notes and assessing options. Another lesson now learned; pay attention to EVERYTHING.
Motherhood afforded Dasila time to gather her thoughts and cement her bonds with eternity. The love that Dasila had for her daughter was strong. She and Lila Anjali (meaning Dance of Offering, the only name Dasila felt she really understood) had a bond that was unshakable. Many important lessons came from the exchange that they shared and Lila Anjali soon grew to serve and bring beauty to the world in her own unexpected ways... a story for another night.
The veil of that 'Foreordained Night' with the temple patron did not cover Dasila's eyes for long and she soon realized that the path she trod upon was paved with hard lessons.
The temple gurus set many tasks before Dasila; she was their empty vessel waiting to be filled. They transfused her with insights that she tucked away for later use. These became secret gems that Dasila brought out for viewing only to those that possessed the right words to unlock her. Many tried to peak through the walls where the treasure was kept but only those that persevered beyond all reason caught her attention, occasionally they succeeded.
Determined to map a path to the worlds her teachers spoke of, days and nights floated past, twists and turns of fate came and went. On one violently windy summer night Dasila's muse, Azeem, as he made his name known to her in a past encounter, came to her while she slept. Wrapped in a cloak of darkness his ebony form slid into her bed. He lingered only a moment and then whispered into the night a demand for her to 'deepen her dance'. She awoke as his words tangled themselves in her dreams, only to catch a glimpse of him slipping out the door.
Dasila was aware that 'the dance' Azeem was referring to was an arcane set of embodied poems that she had occasion to learn from an ailing temple priestesses whom she regularly visited in a neighboring village. She was chosen for the task due to certain signs in the sky. The court astrologers had mumbled some unintelligible sounds and then shouted heavenward, "Each moment not offered to the divine is a lie!” The command was then set forth that any person showing certain characteristics was obligated to the world to learn the poems. Dasila possessed the signs. The urgency to learn the dances before they were 'lost to the sands of time' was now mentioned often by the town elders as tears welled in their eyes. Her training sessions lasted hours, always ending with a sense that if the body is to become the garden for the soul then nothing can be withheld.
In her other duties the daily instruction from the temple gurus was always the same, she was being pressed to reach further into the teachings. She needed to become familiar with a place that the people had entirely forgotten and only then would truth dance with her. The assignments left Dasila knowing that something was preventing her from seeing past the apathy and mindless banter that had swallowed the town. She continued to dance and audiences continued to raise their glasses in praise but something was always missing.
The temple gurus now sensed Dasila's dilemma better than she herself did. The journey she had embarked upon would not succeed without adding the element of unalloyed delight. Though she had epiphanies of joy, the oppressive obligations and austerities set forth by the temple had taken a toll on her. The visits from her patron had become few and far between creating an emptiness that became impossible to fill. Shortly after the 'Foreordained Night', he had lost all motive to remain in the world, it was as if his life had finished before his body was done with it. He donned the clothes of a wandering ascetic and resisted all desire that might hinder his observances. Dasila reached into every corner of her being to bring him back, knowing what was at stake if she could not but nothing swayed his resolve. She finally had to give up trying and saw this as yet another facet of the ‘great game’. He drifted further from town, his meditations becoming longer and their encounters becoming fewer.
Others saw this as an opportunity to draw closer to the one who had hinted at a place beyond their daily existence. They secretly left gifts for her, all symbolic of profound truths but there was no mystery in their motives, none stirred her curiosity. She understood that her gift for them was only to color their minds with possibilities. It was not beneficial for them to obtain her affection, their unmet longings were a powerful force that made things happen. It was the hunt that motivated them and a good hunt it was but they had nothing to offer a fellow traveler on a longer journey. If Dasila were to become the keeper of the dances she would need access to a map that none of them carried.
On a staggeringly uneventful afternoon, like so many others that came before, Dasila sat on a sun-baked street waiting for her donkey to wake up. Her muse, noticing that her time was being needlessly wasted, sat down beside her. In thick velvety words he coaxed her curiosity, describing to her a brilliant fire that burns with shear satisfaction, a blaze that laughs at unmitigated ecstasy and demands more, a radiant illumination that permeates all reason and summons life onward. If she were to find the places that the dances hinted of, she would need to kindle such a fire, there were no options here. He demanded decisive action, vociferated a terrifying laugh and disappeared into the shadows.
Hours later Dasila had become gripped with hopelessness, she had made no progress in following Azeem’s guidance, and no plan of action had presented itself. Staring at the ground, wrestling with her oppressive desperation she felt someone approaching. She raised her head to see a blurred mirage congeal into a tattered camel trader that was walking quickly towards her. Gazing out from under his disheveled hair were eyes, as blue as the deepest ocean…. shockingly blue. They submerged her. Completely engulfed in a vast glow of truth she was filled with pure joy and lost from all time and space. A new understanding devoured her that if she didn’t find this place again she would die. He had parted the curtains on the mystery and showed her what ‘It’ was and now she had to find ‘It’ and share ‘It’ with others.
The camel trader whispered, “Can you see what I see?” then smiled a deviant grin and left her deliriously enraptured on the street. With nobody seeming to take notice of her state, she managed to find her donkey who carried her back to the room the temple patron had provided her. The following year was a strange blur of systematic pleasantries and all-consuming desire. The villagers never suspected that she was watching the ebb and flow of their lives, their breathing, every minute bodily movement and the placement of each word. She was assessing every moment for the spark that would conjure flames.
Then one day an interesting thing occured...(care to add to the next chapter of this story?)