…where we leave our guarded understanding to break free from that containment to find the universe that lives within all of us.
“We sat on the rocks. All of us we were naked, stark naked. It wasn’t a sex thing, none of that. It was just being naked by the lake.” Liyuan’s mouth was too big for his head, his hairline a straight line on his forehead; he wasn’t as old as he felt, moving his hands slowly over his knees as he spoke. “We saw the storm at the far end of the lake, billowing up, thick and black, rich, swirling over the tops of the trees. The trees were lush green in that light. And the thunder, the way it rolled down from the heavens, the lightning echoing behind it, that was the magic. The rain came racing up the lake, that pristine darkness suddenly a tumult with it hammering down. The drops splattered on our skin and the rocks, so cool and wonderful. And we slipped into the water, pushed out from the shore, our bodies wavering beneath the surface, and drifted out into the downpour. It was the most natural thing on earth, swimming into that glorious darkness, so warm, out into the middle of the lake.”
Ashe knew all of this. She had experienced these very thoughts, floated in this exact dream, but it had vanished. She could not hold it.
“We were in the middle of the lake, the rain coming down in sheets, just sheets and sheets of it. That’s what I remember the most, the rain, the lightning a mile away, the quiet, the sound of the rain against the lake, the black clouds and the still water, so dark and pure. And I’m afraid of that. I’ve always been afraid of the dark water. Always afraid. But not this. Not this.”
Po appeared on the shore, floating just above the lake, indiscernible for the woman, not Ashe, who tried to will her away. It never worked.
“We stayed in the lake, our faces looking back at each other, turning around, spitting out water, little streams of it, the impression of our fluttering arms and hands beneath the surface, just a hint of those. This was it. A moment of divine existence. Yes. Exactly that.” He closed his eyes as he rocked slowly forward and back, his hands out for balance. “And then the lightning was right there, a streak of it across the black sky and into the water, the thunder ripping through us, the storm right on top of us. We knew we had to leave. It was dangerous. And we didn’t. We stayed, thinking we might die like this, struck dead, floating belly up, and we were good with that. I was overjoyed. Overjoyed.” He stared at her, wide-eyed.
“The program makes you get out of the water.”
“Out of the water?” His face suddenly became creased, his eyebrows moving sharply down, his mouth pulled tight. The light had gone out of his eyes; he was going to cry.
Ashe pulled his hands together and cupped them in hers. “None of that. You hear me?”
He held her eyes, staring back, dark, his mouth a sharp line, and then reached out and touched her chin. “That’s an error. That was the purpose of creating it, that lightning shearing the air, terrifying blasts every second moment. And yet never have I been so without fear. I belonged there.” He sighed and sat up straight again. “Sometimes I think that I might still be there, still in that water.” “The program needs to be rewritten.”
“Yes.” He nodded back firmly and let out some tears.
More of Aqaara can be read here:https://www.outerplaces.com/science-fiction/item/19061-aqaara-three-don-gibson