If you’re coming in late, the novel starts here: CHAPTER 1: Some bugger steals my sushi
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We stood at the pier, surrounded by a fierce, grey whirlwind of power, that twisted the air around us, spinning counter-clockwise and filling the sky with bolts of electricity that shot outwards and downwards, connecting with the surface of the sea.
The whirling cone of wind pinned us as neatly in one place as if we’d been tied down. None of us could move against it. It was if I’d been glued down, my feet stuck to the concrete pier and fixed permanently.
But it didn’t hold Mike. He walked straight through the vortex as if it a light spring breeze. He was unbent, his hair untouched and his shirt unmoved by the maelstrom that was engulfing us. He walked as if he were a man hypnotized to the flight of concrete steps that led down to the waters edge.
The twister surrounding us slowed, losing energy a little. Not enough for us to move, but enough for us to see through it, and to watch Mike as he took step after step down the slippery, wet concrete steps, slowly, into the sea.
I’d never seen him move so slowly – if was as if time had caught him and was controlling him, his movements off-balance then righted again, as his legs moved forward and his knees bent with the drop. Perhaps he was moving in a different time bubble to our own – I didn’t know then and I still don’t know now, when I think back on it. At the time that I watched, all I could think were how odd his movements were, and how misaligned and out of character they seemed. He moved like a puppet on a string, with someone or something else controlling his actions.
And as he moved, barely perceptible at first, he began to glow and transform, his body growing in size, just a little at first then more and more, his outline shifting in colour and hue, growing to be dazzling bright, surrounded with a golden aura. It didn’t happen quickly or smoothly, but in fits and starts over many minutes, pulsing and increasing with each step downwards to the water he took.
It was like watching sunrise on a cool summer morning: you didn’t notice it at first, then a few minutes later you wondered why and when it had become so bright.
And I began to understand that he was transforming completely, moving away from normal humanity, as he got closer to the water. Something inside him was making him grow and and slow down and become something else to what he had been, something and someone different from the Mike that I’d known for so long, and the person I’d even loved for a while.
I didn’t know whether to be afraid. With every step that he took I sensed within myself that Mike was becoming someone new, less of the person that I’d know, and more a new person or creature, someone of something completely different to anything I’d known before.
I looked to Athena, hoping she might be able to explain it, but she simply shook her head, and said: “Watch. Wait.”
Mike reached the water and stepped onto it, the heat from his body sending masses of steam curling up around him. The moment he touched the water, her grew even more in size, and the water surrounded him, like a bubble, cushioning him and moving with him as he walked, creating a wave that propelled him across the sea and away from us.
Within moments, he was over a hundred metres out from the shore, glowing with light and power, dazzling like the sun. I’d never seen anything like it, and I was afraid for him.
Back at the pier, around us and quickly as it had come, the whirlwind imprisoning us collapsed and ceased, and the air became quiet and still. We could move again. Athena cried out, “Come on! now!”, and jumped up and ran along the pier to the small fleet of boats moored a little way away. Daniel and I looked at each other, not knowing what to think, and then raced after her.
“Did you know what was going to happen to Mike?” I yelled, running after Athena.
“No,” she said, running and throwing her pack away, throwing it against the footpath carelessly for extra speed. “But I want to follow him. I want to find out. We need transportation!” Folllowing her example, we did likewise, tossing our bags aside onto the pier.
Athena ran along the wooden jetty to the very end, where a small, light electric speedboat was tied up. She ran down the slippery wooden rampway and leaped in, jumping skillfully across the gap between the ramp and the boat, rocking the vessel so violently with her movement that it almost tipped over.
She settled herself at the rear, next to the outboard, and motioned for us to get in, while she struggled with the motor to get it going. I set myself at the bow of the boat, balancing our weight out automatically, while Daniel stepped in carefully and sat down awkwardly in the middle on a bench seat that straddled the width of the speedboat, holding on tightly to the gunwales on either side and looking pretty nervous.
Seconds later, we were reversing out of the bay, then turning around and heading out after Mike, who was a bright speck in the distance, lighting the sea surface like a beacon.
Even at full speed, skimming lightly across the choppy surface of the harbour, we were struggling to catch up. We passed Port Chalmers on our left, then Portobello on our right, its huge loading cranes toppled over and knocked sideways into the water by the recent earthquake, half-submerged metal twisted and torn like some crazed giant had taken the cranes into his hands and stretched and bent them as easily as a a child might bend a strip of liquorice.
As I gazed up onto the hillside above the port, I could see where landslides had occurred, and houses had slid down in the mud, shattering and smashing against huge pine trees. I closed my mind to the thought that anybody might have been in their homes at the time of the quake: I didn’t see how anyone could have survived in the mess.
We were catching up now, and Mike was only a few hundred metres away. I could see him clearly, see his face clearly, but he no longer resembled my friend. What I saw was more like a golden statue, shining with blinding light coming from within. I couldn’t actually see how he was moving across the water, but I sensed that somehow the sea itself was propelling him forward, shifting him with a new, strong current that was visible to us as a pathway of light beneath the waves, and could clearly be seen even from our vantage point.
He rounded the heads, and past the long narrow outcrop that I knew was the main beachfront at Aramoana, sticking out like a huge spit into the sea. Then we lost him from sight, and the glistening trail in the water disppeared for a few seconds, then returned again, pulsing with a brighter light than ever before.
I wished I could see Mike; see what was happening; help him or support him somehow, but all we could do was follow, and hopefully be there if he needed us.
We came around the corner of the spit, and the length of Aramoana beach opened out in front of us, stretched out in all its lonely, sandy beauty. And in the middle of its length, I saw Mike – or what had been Mike – leave the water, and walk up on the shore to the crisp white sand. The beach was empty apart from him – even without him glowing we could have seen him clearly against the sand.
We beached the speedboat at the end of the spit at the rocks. Athena turned the engine off, and threw the mooring rope out, tying it to an old iron spike that had stood up in the rock wall so long that it was rusted and covered with barnacles near its base. Then we climbed out of the boat and scrambled over the rock wall, slipping on the wet rocks and scuffing our hands, as we made our way over the rocks and onto the beach.
Mike’s solitary figure, twice his ordinary height now, seemed to glow brighter and brighter as we approached, pulsing with energy and light. As we approached, I could physically feel the heat and dry electricity crackling off him, like he was the eye of a massive storm.
Yet he was calm. He made no sign that he was aware of our approach, not until we were standing only a few metres from him, gazing on him nervously, wondering what had happened to him and if it had hurt him. Then he turned, gazed at us with those lightning eyes, and he smiled at us.
At once, the glowing light diminished to nothing and receded to within him, and he seemed to reduce in size a little. Yet, if anything, I sensed that he was building more power, more energy, and that this was just a brief respite, and we were right at the cusp of a turning point, awaiting some massive explosion – right at the calm before the mushroom cloud and the blast that would rip our flesh from our bones.
“You’re here,” he said simply. “I thought you’d come.” But the voice wasn’t just Mike’s. It was the sound of dozens, maybe hundreds of voices, layered together, over and over and over, one upon the next upon the next, all channelling through a single entity, a person we’d known and had thought we’d understood. Mike’s voice was prominent, yet all I could hear and recognise and pay attention to was everything that wasn’t him.
The person that stood here now, although it looked like Mike, wasn’t him anymore. Like his voice, it was layers of otherness. It was folds and levels and layers of humanity and – something else – that I understood and that felt familiar in my deepest self, but that I couldn’t quite place or identify.
“I’m glad you’re here,” said that voice, those voices. “We’re glad you’re here. Here at the twist of time. Here at the center of the Vortex. When everything will change. When everything must change!”
And he raised his hands upwards in a single, quick motion, palms upwards and outwards to the sky, faster than my eyes could follow, and the world was transformed, and all matter dissolved and shook, and collapsed and renewed itself.
At that moment, without warning, the air was sucked out of my lungs, and I was blinded and drowned and suffocated all at once. The sky collapsed down upon us, sun and moon and stars and clouds, and the sandy beach shot skywards, spinning silicon in waves and gusts that tore at my eyes and my face and my skin. I was thrown to the beach, and gravity disappeared, and everything was flying weightless around me, my stomach churning and rising with the sensation of it all.
I closed my eyes against the rush and the fear and nausea. Then there came a blinding light that burned images so ghostly bright even through my closed eyelids, so hot that even closing my eyes was no defence – I would see, and I would experience, and there was nothing I could do to stop it.
The world was cast into sharp relief behind my eyes of a strange and alien shadow-play, and bizarre creatures danced and sang across my field of vision, chanting with cries of glee with the sheer joy of new life as they were born into existence, as the earth awoke and her consciousness created and recreated and changed and tore apart and created yet again, breathing life into every spark that had ever been thought or imagined or dreamed in the whole of human existence.
Visions cast from dreamscapes became real, as did fantasy artworks sketched by children. Life was breathed into nightmares and bliss-filled dreams alike. As each creation awoke it cried out, then was cast aside, then was reformed again.
And all of it – every being and dream and night-creature and horror and memory and hope – gave energy and mass and form to the building maelstrom that was spinning around us, directed by Mike as he twisted his hands to and fro, guiding and creating and directing, and changing and destroying, shattering and re-making and re-forming and rebuilding.
Every creature, every image on that beach was born of the sand and the dirt and the salt and the water, and Mike’s vision gave them energy and being and thrust and focus. And amidst the storm, in the middle of the chaos, I tried desperately to cling on to something, but there was nothing – only whirling particles of sand that flew outwards and re-arranged themselves into new forms, new shapes, new creatures that breathed and lived and died again around me against the howl of the wind. I couldn’t find Athena or Daniel, and was totally alone in the chaos – if they were there then they, too, were separated from our own, old reality by this new, insane creation that was building and growing and changing around us.
Then, after a time, the visions began to change. Behind the veil of my closed eyelids, the shadows began to calm and settle on more concrete forms. I saw extinct creatures, animals long gone, taking shape and flying into the darkness. Full-formed and real, full of movement and breath: I saw whales, tigers, polar bears – all the animals I’d dreamed of in my childhood, but that had been long gone from the earth, even before I’d been born.
And as they rose, I believed I could hear a distant song rising from the earth itself – a song of joy, and bliss, and harmony, and peace, and absolute pleasure that these things might be returning to how they should be once more. And in the middle of this dry, crazed chaos full of lightning and fear, I felt real, salt tears of hope drip down from my eyes and melt into the sand.
And there were small creatures too: insects that I’d never known or named – brightly coloured with gossamer wings, shadows against the light. And for the first time in the firestorm I dared to open my eyes.
The beach was a garden.
Around me were jewel-like insects, larger than my fingers, zig-zagging through the air, buffeted by the electrical storm yet appartently unharmed by it. At my feet there were tendrils of some small, flowering plant with bright ruby-red flowers, weaving its way upwards, its buds opening like lips to kiss the sky.
Here and there, furher back from the beach, a jungle was forming – native forest renewing and reclaiming the land once more, plants that had been gone from this place for hundreds of years, sparked by a distant memory and sprouting like a long-lost dream, shooting upwards and out, entwining, caressing one another, growing haphazardly, crazily, with no thought for human sensibilities of neatness or control.
This was the heart of nature, uncontrolled, vibrant, alive, real, true to itself and to nothing else. In the branches of those trees, birds appeared, and along the ground I sensed the rustle of movement as small animals grew and lived and were re-created, and sprang forth and made noises to themselves that echoed the heartsong of bliss.
And in all of this stood Mike. And for the first time in everything we’d been through, I really understood what it meant for him to be a Host. Because the song and the movement and the life re-created and re-born didn’t come from him – it came through him. He was a channel through which the earth was awakening, and through whom it was learning to love itself once more in the acts of creating life and being alive and knowing the joys that came from life in all its forms.
The song grew stronger, not just a distant harmony but rich full sound, welling all around us. Everywhere birds sang in the air and in the trees, insects chittered among the leaves, earthworms dug deep and their quiet movement gave warmth to the song, and in the sea the splash of fish and dolphins, and the waves upon the shore was a melody that I now knew I’d waited all my life to hear, yet I’d never heard before.
These acts of creation went on and on, changing and growing and dividing, breathing life and energy and music from dust and sand and water and salt and air, but after a long while – I don’t know how long – they were slowing down and settling, relaxing.
Yet in my mind, for the first time, I could feel the animals around me, sense the trees and the flowers, taste the salt water in which the fishes danced. And I realised that not only whad new life been created, but all the old life – us, and millions like us – had become connected to one another and aware of one another in a way that we never had been before.
And the meaning of the words “the earth is alive” was truly brought home to me. And my heart rose, so filled with joy that I felt it might burst. Around me I gazed upon my new home, my new place, my new brothers and sisters – all alive, all dancing, all breathing, all being.
Mike stopped, the sand settled, and he looked at me through golden eyes. And I realised that Athena and Daniel had been near me the whole time, only metres away, almost close enough to touch. We all rose to our feet slowly from the beach where we’d fallen in the chaos.
“The earth is awake now,” said Mike quietly and powerfully, in that layered, many-coloured voice. “But the power to wake her must be shared. It is time to find others to pass on the light. The earth is awake, and healed. My work is done.”
And he threw his arms wide again, and paths of energy burst outwards, flashing green and purple and gold, like the southern lights at the pole at equinox: to the sky, to the sea, and down through the center of the earth, creating channels of light and power and energy that criss-crossed the sky and sea, pulsing with life.
They glowed briefly, powerfully, brighter than the sun at midsummer. Then the energy tailed away, drifted and spun away, cooled and softened away to a background whisper of light, and Mike shrank down to his old self, his golden aura gone, and his eyes returned to their old green that I thought I had forgotten.
He was back, returned to us, and the world was awake and renewed.