"Oh the Ymildazie is a darling. Fond of conversation across the board. A touch lonely at times being as isolated as she is, but wonderfully wise-"
Arturo turns from his yard chair to glance behind him, regarding the vast and towering 'evergreen' behind them for a moment.
"-No, it's what lives in her branches that would probably have matched your description, Young Boy. He is grouchy and somewhat bigoted." Arturo's moustache wiggles on his face, the brim of his sunburst yellow hat pulled down slightly to obscure his brow, though his eyes remain clear and crystal on the pair of students before him.
There are already two juice boxes missing from the six-pack, Arturo having gobbled through them without fail.
"...Those were pretty words, by the way but I could have gotten far better from a Tennyson or Whitman book. Description and flowery sentences, wrapped around metaphors are only that and the subject matter of Charlatans and Houdini-wish-to-bes. Do better next time. As for you-" And those eyes flick imperceptibly toward Margot, a ruffled frown on his features.
"For such a self-proclaimed 'Witch' you certainly have some very specific 'That isn't allowed' habits that need to be nipped. Quickly. There is no excuse for 'if I can't sense it, it isn't possible'. That's the sort of behaviour that leads down roads of prejudice and marginalization. Think what might happen if you said something like that to a child, with all of their brilliance, imagination and yet limited experience? They might go out into the world and never discovery anything except what others told them was fact."
There is a brief hardness that creeps into his tone, punctuated by a low hum of baritone.
"Verbal proof is convincing others who can't access what you have available to you. Journalists, Scientists and Inventors do it all the time. You need to start too. Do better." One can almost see Arturo scribbling an 'F' somewhere on Margot's first spiritual report card.
* * * *
Spoken of Question 2. Arturo doesn't give much more indication than that.
"Up is indeed not subject to a single answer, but similar more toward the vocation, occupation, belief structure and designs of the individual travelling. The spirit realm is as much a 'response' as it is a location. Mapping it, is having a conversation as much as it is tracing familiar footsteps. Rising up, yes you can discover the planetary bodies and their somewhat, terrifying personalities as well as Umbrood and a sense of a 'Higher' plane of existence, though that Height is vastly different depending on who walks it or talks about it."
"Bravo, children. For now-"
A juice box goes sailing in each of their directions, to be caught or land amid the garden patches, depending on their dexterous abilities.
* * * *
"Ahhh, yes. It would stand to reason two college levels such as yourself might wander toward a Drink of some sort-" Arturo's brow is scrubbed at, a helpless chuckle escaping him that is tinged with a bit of sadness.
"-A Summerland special, is a recipe devised by the Fair Folk, where-in a drop of their highly alien blood is added to a mundane mixture and delivered with seeming courtesy or parlay. Part of the appeal is in how it can enchant and glamour an individual, often times exposing them to further effects, many of which are designed to capture, incapacitate and eventually enslave if the victim is lucky. Many are the stories of young things going missing because they took a drink from the wrong fellow or maiden and ended up the bootlick of some fairy tale monstrosity. Immortal servitude..."
His tone suggests an edge. Something unpleasant beneath it all, though there is no elaboration and no sense that he wishes to at all. Arturo's hands fold over his lap and he continues to lounge in the chair, rising only as the two Kids move onto the next plot. The sky has opened a bit more and the rain patters down not in dollops and drops, but in sheets of mist that pepper the skin. Sweat, dirt and rain water will make whatever they are wearing sodden before long.
Arturo's eyes travel toward the young man, dirt slicked and growing moreso by the minute.
"Tell me what you know of Decay. Why it is important and why it is the enemy."
* * * * *
The young Witch is regarded, evenly, perhaps a bit suspiciously.
"Tell me what Creation is and why it must be contained at all costs."
Clearly displeased with her academic scolding, Margot had looked insulted initially-- it wasn't often that she was so off the mark in quizzes like this. But then, come to think of it, how often had she been quizzed on matters of the spirit? Theology wasn't exactly common curriculum in public schools, after all. The shared praise for the second answer and not being called out for lacking a proper answer on the third made for a mild salve on her ego, though, and it was a quiet teenager who gathered up tools and moved on to the next plot to continue the back-aching labor best served by young bodies like hers and Will's.
She was contemplating the Fair Folk and their stories when a call for a pop quiz was sounded. Margot was up on the ladder, shearing dead vines away and yanking them free to be tossed to the ground below. William's reach was better, but the witch was nimble and sure-footed, and his stronger build was better for the heavier work on the ground.
She took the back of one of her gloves between her teeth to tug a hand loose so that she could push hair gone straggly back out of her face, tucking strands gone awry in place with the rest behind her ears. After wiping her wet and dirt-smudged forehead with the back of her hand, she pulled the glove back on and twisted about to face the wall of the house once more. She snipped and yanked vines while she spoke, so here and there her words were punctuated with pauses and quiet grunts of effort.
"Creation is the act of bringing something into existence. At a certain point, everything here was created. Big bang, ball of pocked molten rock, oceans, life, et cetera. A lot of it happens as a part of the organic cycle of things, not at any conscious entity's hands. But sometimes beings create. Or <i>we</i> do. I've made locusts."
"It has to be balanced, though. There's only so much space-- I mean, you can manipulate space too, but it's not a solution to running out of ground to grow upon. Humanity's a pretty good example of why creation ought to be contained, if you ask a lot of people."
"Get in. Get out. Make the point- leave the three pages of description to Tolkien," he nods again. Solid and confirming that, yes, he followed and, yes, he was accepting and appreciating of criticism and direction. Not crestfallen. Oh heavens no, he seemed to nod along and accept like he was accustomed to this sort of thing; William has clearly been on the receiving end of being off the mark before and that insecurity of needing to do better wasn't there today.
It was probably because he was pulling weeds and getting dirty and dirtier by the moment (which he seemed to honestly rather like. There was dirt and mud and greens and movement.)
Aha! He lights up, grins and actually stops long enough to soak in the confirmation that he had been on base. William wipes his hands off on the back of his shorts, gloves dusting off the soil and either deciding to cling or moving along. A juicebox goes sailing his way
William doesn't actually catch it. He tries, it juggles from one hand only to be grasped a second too late and tumble into the garden patch. This is where hubris gets you, kids, it gets you pulling your juice boxes out of flower beds.
The third set of responses comes, and William is, at that juncture, sipping merrily away at his juicebox like he is seven and this is the world's best field trip ever- which is saying something, because William once went on a fieldtrip where he got to pick strawberries in a strawberry field that he didn't get to eat (or keep) and he really seemed to like that, too. He delights in menial tasks with the promise of snacks at the end. He always kept up with household chores; he might have been a number of things, but unwilling to help around the house had never been one of them.
He doesn't do a good job of budgeting his juicebox, though, and there is soon enough the sound of droplets being sucked into nothingness at about the time Mr. Nihm gets to the part about immortal servitude.
"Holy crap, it's like getting roofied by the fae but worse, that don't meddle in their affairs rule makes so much sense now," says the consumate meddler. He actually does treat this like a revelation, for its part.
There is, of course, the question then, andWilliam opens his mouth to start the answer, and the look on his face says that he has an answer-
BUt then he stops. William nods, and actually takes a minute, and it's like one can see him stripping away as many layers of bullshit as he is literally capable (which would still leave some left being- he's a Hermetic and a talker) before continuing on. William shoves his juicebox into his back pocket.
"Decay moves the universe. There are people in our community that consider it as something that turns the wheel of creation. Things are created, they grow, and then they are sustained but once they become stagnant it's the job of decay to break down the old so that the new can come through. Decay touches the physical, the spiritual, and the metaphorical; it's a necessity. You can't create something out of nothing, so decay has to break things down to their fundamental parts so creation can rearrange them into new things.
"Unchecked, or when it is out of control or out of balance, decay will cause damage to fundamentally important structures that leave the world out of balance- again metaphorically or literally. When there is nothing to offset decay, it will continue to do what it is meant to do, breaking things down until, finally, those things are broken down into nothing and Nothing," a capitalization in his voice that he does not explain but the second seems to hold enough weight that it is a concept that he very really and truly believes in (perhaps not a concept at all.) "And all you have then is void."
"We're asking you, Dear. Not others."
If Arturo is aware of how that word might grate on Margot's ears (or many women for that matter in this day and age) he doesn't let on or accentuate it any as a form of obvious protest to 'modernizing'. It genuinely drops with that vague elitist tendency assigned to the elderly to make up for their flagging youth and failing physicality. In short, he is genuine enough in his pompousness for it, in addition to his overly yellow rain gear and drooping moustache, to suggest he's digging at her for her age rather than any other more sinister quality.
It still sounds like a verbal pat on the head.
"The both of you have provided text book answers which...is fine, I suppose." Arturo's hand flies up into the air, scattering their words like so much effort put onto the pile of other first year students before them. Revelations in the obvious, perhaps. "But until you see, hear and feel any of this in action, until you have the experience to know how fucked up and where fucked up happens, you'll more than likely only treat the path ahead of you, basic cosmic presence or not, from a Telescopic point of view."
Arturo finally leans forward, clapping a couple of times for their undivided attention, regarding each with those oddly anvil slate eyes.
"I want you to imagine something for me, because if nothing else, you two are imaginative. Imagine the essence of reality, in each of it's distinctions and presence and unmistakable self, were not just Conscious but Active. With agendas, goals, purposes, psychologies, dimensions and issues all their own. Not difficult to do, considering Reality has allowed people like you and I to exist in the first place, against all calculable odds. Now imagine what these 'entities' might think or feel or reason from beyond the Mortal perspective. Creation as applied not as an equation but as a Self. Decay not as a concept or a nebula, but a Mind with intent and bias and decision."
He pauses, glancing between the two, hands rising to wave fiddling fingers at each.
"Now answer the questions again, with that in mind."
William quirks his mouth up to the side before reaching up to run his hands through his hair. His hands are dirty. his hair is blond, and now it is less blond in some places.
"Decay gets things done. The basics stay the same- it's the mover of everything. Creation may make things, but it's the job of Decay to say when it's done and over with. Decay has to be the responsible one, the one that plays quality control of the universe.
"It sucks being the responsible one. I mean, yeah, there's a sort of pleasure in having that kind of thing to fall on you- it feels good to be needed but I get the impression that Decay? Is taken for granted. Cursed when it's seen as inconvenient- when something either doesn't stay around long enough or it persists long after most would consider the prospect useful.
"I assume that decay was discerning at first. Or at least wants to be. Quality control. Responsibility. That jazz. But Creation can put out whatever it pleases and stasis doesn't give a crap- if there was a mistake? Surely Decay will clean it up, right? Cut off the little oopses that Creation can't go back and fix," he stops himself, lets out a long breath and looks between the two of them, "maybe I'm projecting. I'd be pretty damned resentful after awhile if I were in decay's position. The original purpose might have been to be a helper and a full partner, but Creation does what it wants. It strikes me as the type who has all of these big plans and doesn't think of the logistics."
"So, Decay gets tired. There's so much to keep up with and Decay knows that, eventually, all of this has to end. Creation is a great big party but inevitably everything has to end and Decay will be alone and then there will be nothing. Without a job, without things to work forward, Decay would cease to exist- it would get to rest, until, you know, everything starts all over again because cycles.
"But when you're quality control for the universe, you start to see faults in everything. You start to get tired, and inevitably you just want the damned job to be over, or at the very least you just want to get rid of enough stuff that you can have a clean slate in the morning. If we don't help decay along, we end up with stuff ending up in the garbage that we might not have wanted to end up there."
"I think that's it. I think that Decay started out wanting to facilitate Creation into making something beautiful and transformative with the knowledge that it will all inevitably end and they'll start all this over again, proooobably with a big brother/big sister complex of knowing what was really best. The end and inevitable goal is to make sure that things blossom and then inevitably wither, but Decay got tired of being crapped on and drowned in all the work it had to do and runs a real big chance of saying screw it, we're starting over and scrapping the whole us project."
The verbal pat on the head was what it was-- or at least, that's all Margot could treat it as. She wasn't keen on being called 'Dear', for her demeanor prickled ever so slightly each time it fell from the rich old hermit's lips, but it rolled off her back and she turned to resume tearing things down from the wall. The litter of snipped-and-tugged vines trailing to the ground made for a nice backdrop to William's explanation of what Decay was and what motivated it as a being.
By the time he had concluded, Margot had found her way back down the ladder again, but not completely to the ground. She sat perched on the last couple of rungs from the ground, shears tossed lightly in the spongy grass and tugging gloves from her hands so she could wipe sweat from the palms of her hands onto the thighs of her pants. She rubbed proper sensation back into the pads and joints of her fingers while saying her piece, her tone thoughtful but shadowed some with the intent of continuing forward-- perhaps with the discussion, but more likely with the actual manual labor for which they were responsible.
"I can imagine that Creation began simple and joyful. It's an exciting thing to do, to Create, and there's a pride that swells from a job well done. I can see getting carried away by that pride, wanting more of it. Wanting to make more, make bigger and more impactful things. Maybe that's how we even got the Universe in the first place? Creation got carried away and just kept on going."
With a brief glance toward Will, current representative of Decay, she continued.
"I don't know the exact relationship that Creation had with Decay to begin, but I'm sure it was a partnership of sorts. An agreement, maybe, for one couldn't exist without another. As time has ground on and we've reached a point here, at least, where nothing more can be Made without something else first giving up its place, Decay and Creation are hand over hand, crowded in to one another. Creation just wants to be, to breathe, to make." She paused, hearing herself go slightly off track and lose the point, but this gave way to another thought that she opted to run with instead.
"And now Creation has to compete with Humanity. I'm sure She was delighted at first, to see us little pink things that She made once upon a time ago, taking up her mantle and running with it. But now there's so many of us, and we're eating up her resources and ruining some of her greatest works for the sake of our own Pride."
With a final wringing of her hands, Margot pulled the gloves back on and hopped down the last few rungs of the ladder with a darker, introspective cast to her expression. "Maybe we'll live to see Creation and Decay partner up to wipe the slate clean. Then Decay can run a better checks and balances system from the beginning, and Creation will have a new canvas to work Her gleeful magick on."
Juices boxes go sailing into the dirt in front of both, a careful sending given their mutual designs on catching them. Arturo doesn't provide much in the way beyond that for a few moments, easing back into the patio chair which creaks gently under his weight, only to ruffle his facial hair and the features beneath and climb out with several grunts and mutters of exertion.
"You're almost done that one."
He moves his chair onward, not one, but several plots down from where the pair are continuing their work, plunking the chair down and coming back for the various supplies he's left behind. On the way to moving positions, his voice rings out at varied volumes, to make up for the proximity challenge.
"You comfortably threw yourselves into the roles of trying to imagine the Cosmic All; Beings so vast and universal, that the word 'Being' is paltry in describing them. I would be remisnce to point out the errors in your distinctions because I don't know. No one does for certain, whether what you said is true or not. We stand upon a giant rock, floating through an emptiness, trying to gain insight on the even vaster powers that think our universe small."
Arturo pauses in carrying the Juice boxes to his new vantage, some thirty feet away from the Kids in their last plot. His attention seems momentarily arrested by the Tree he has dubbed the Ymildazie. The kids can't see his expression or demeanour beyond the slight stiffness clinging to his paused frame, but one can imagine something is happening for the next dozen heartbeats that is not entirely clear.
It is a moment, nothing more, then Arturo is turning back toward the patio chair with another distant grumble, inaudible due to proximity. He climbs back into his chair with careful movements, hands planting on the plastic slates, turning himself over until he can comfortably plop back into place. Something is fished out of a bright yellow pocket, the wrapped crinkling in his fingers while he smiles from afar at the kids, yelling without apology, to be heard.
"Claiming that there are those 'Below' or 'Beneath' or 'Inferior' to the Cosmic All, is suggesting they are aware of us individually. The distinction between layers of the Spirit, is not measured in the scope of Power, but in the scope of Perception. When you find yourself being noticed by any one thing or another within the Spirit, it means you have achieved some lasting presence..." A pause. Shrugging. "Or momentary glimpse into the next layer of the beyond." Whatever he is unwrapping is popped into his mouth and sucked on with vigour.
"Remember that, above all other things: When something gives you it's attention, it is because you are, have done or will do something that is worth it's time. Sometimes that is wonderful. Sometimes...often I would say...You'll never want to look at a mirror again."
* * * * * *
"The first thing you should cultivate when exploring, whether with your map-" he flutters fingers toward Will, having gone silent for a time, while the Kids worked through another plot. They were closer now and he didn't have to yell at them this time. "-or with your minds, is the concept of Invisibility. You are exploring a brand new realm and all it entails and there are incredible minds with archaic wisdom who do not understand even a tenth of what goes on in it so do not think that true or full understanding will ever be a goal." He tuts. A caution against arrogance.
"That said, observation is your grandest tool. The Spirit is vain, callous, ephemeral and fickle. It's fixations can be lasting, but only if you make yourself worth notice. When courting the lands above, beyond, below, or through, always be an observer. First and Foremost. Do not talk to anything unless you know what it is you are talking to. Often times just a single word can define a deal more binding than any legal team or law firm."
Another juice box. There is one left on the ground. He will more than likely go searching for more of them soon enough, but he seems content to watch them work for a few minutes. Then-