|Meerkat totem group|
The transmogrified totems chase the dark eater. Jeb's beliefs are strained and she stabs herself to find out if she is awake
I see it seeing me, the knife still in my hand, Isis right behind me. What does it understand about us?
The alien frees its head by wrenching the life-suit’s head up like it is a helmet. It drops the head, it tears and shoves free from the rest of the suit. Drops that like a rag.
“No, you don’t!” Isis, with the presence of mind of a leader, spreads her arms and stops the alien making a decision to step past me into the dark where all our people hide.
Red-tail advances from my left, with the lantern held high.
The alien looks at me as if weighing up its chances of getting past me. Why would it want to? I wave the knife I still have in my hand.
Growling and hissing approach behind me.
A trio of furred creatures slips between Red-tail and me, and between Isis and me. I don’t see what species they are. Just that they’re as tall as people. Walk upright. Show off their carnivorous teeth.
Then dozens more toothy upright animal shapes, snarling and barking and wailing in one case, walk between us. Snapping here and there, they make their teeth click.
People have transmogrified into their Totems? The alien looks confused and begins to give way.
I am stunned. I fall to my knees. An Arctic wind roars through me. Every page in every supposed eye-witness account I disbelievingly read about the process rips loose and is swept up by the ice-devil.
Some of the totem-alterities, if that’s who they are, drop to all fours and begin to chase the alien entity. It turns and lurches unevenly up the wrong-way slope of the disk.
The Shamans have always said and written in their lessons, that only a few, the best-studied, could transmogrify, and only if they were able to constantly live by the moral characteristics of their Totems. Privately I always thought the idea a fairy story, part of the cloak hiding us from Lotor.
Journeying with Uncle Puma’s troop through the meat-eating desert I dreamed of Mongoose and Thyal as transmogrified. To help me help them in their fighting, I thought.
The dog-like alterities bark and howl. The cat-like snarl. There is even an animal that brays. It’s a stampede of noise, a terrifying hunt.
I dreamed of Lithe and Limber in their black swan alterities more than once. They played along, I thought, and I haven’t taken the time to ask them why they would bother. The fact that they didn’t laugh is now my only comfort.
I am as helpless as a newborn when I vision-dream.
But am I dreaming now? I stab my arm with the knife. A-a-ah! I’m not dreaming.
One of the totem-alterities wrenches the knife away from me. “What are you doing?” Mongoose says.
“Am I … am I … am I dreaming? So many of you! All these have reached the heights?” I mean the hallowed heights of transmogrification-at-will as described by the myth cloaking our reality.
Mongoose pecks me on my cheek. Runs after the others. Shouts. “I’ll see you down below!”
At the edge of the disk, the alien teeters then jumps to clear the gap. The animals chasing it manage to stop at the edge of the disk. They drop to their bellies as the disk-edge judders downward, presumably due to the new weight distribution.
Isis pulls me to the ground. “Tch tch,” she says, binding my arm with my bandanna. “Why?”
“Am I dreaming? Am I awake?”
“Pinching yourself you would’ve known.”
“Had the knife in my hand.” We’re fairly safe where we are, near the middle of the disk. I hear the eater shuffling through that thin layer of sand, progressing in an easterly direction along the ledge.
I’m seeing various animals slide down over the edge of the disk and presumably drop to the ground below. Behind us, people chatter. “Saw him off.” “Good riddance.” “Good chase.”
While I am vaguely thinking bad that three of our leaders are all in the same place, can’t let that happen again if we all live that long, the part of the reflection that acts as the upper rear wall billows and shimmers as if it fractures into a thousand pieces. There is no sound.
All of that is around me. Humans shout and scream their fear and surprise, and there’s even some human headless-chicken-style running around because it is still dark.
The disk trembles. Swings free.
Alarm calls from the group below join the distress up here and the candle flame flickers alarmingly—please don’t leave us in a darker dark—before it steadies.
Slowly slowly the disk finds a new level.
Isis and I, and everyone around us, try to move as little as possible for fear we’ll slide off. The headless-chicken-runners sink to the ground.