Genre : Fantasy
Word Count: 1270
Type of feedback desired: Evaluate hook, clarity, and desire to know more
Blurb: Zeya is a Buddhist monk whose teacher gives her a chilling prophecy in which she must play a part. Can she find the Seeker, help the Truthspeakers to unlock the secrets of Dreamtime, and protect free will from corruption by the Nightmares of Shadow?
Chapter 1 - Nibanna
A young woman in monk’s robes set down her clay jar by the door of a small, mud brick house. Yellow plumeria blossomed in wild patches along the front, giving the fall air a woody fragrance. She spun a hanging metal bowl to produce a low tone that rang pure. The idyllic serenity of Myanmar’s Saramati Peak in the distance filled her with wonder as she sat down, stirring up red dust.
The door creaked open to reveal an old monk wrapped in modest robes within his stark quarters. His expression exuded calm with a twinge of joy under his wispy eyebrows.
“Venerable Tissa," she said, bestowing the title of the highest respect for a Buddhist teacher. She bowed her shaved head and waited to be recognized.
“Many blessings, Naga Zeya," the old monk replied, addressing his pupil to begin the lesson. He took a deep breath, straightened his robes, and sat on the mat in the center next to a well-used oil lamp.
Zeya poured the fresh river water from her clay jar into a pot for tea. She stoked the fire in a tiny wood stove under the ceramic hood in the corner. After carefully preparing the tea, she settled her petite frame opposite her teacher on the mat.
"Tell me your dreams, little sister," the teacher said.
They quietly sipped and held a conversation in seconds with subtle gestures, expressions, and body movements that could have taken several minutes to speak. The flame from the lamp danced along with their actions.
The Truthspeakers will not succeed, the old monk gestured, placing his hand in the other. Quiet your mind. They have what is necessary for their purpose. It will prepare them for the final path. Fear. Death. Renewal.
But, Thiha, you are arahant, Zeya signed, spinning her finger. You have already escaped this endless cycle of birth, aging, disease, and death. This will be your last.
Thiha raised his hand. You are the All-Seer, he signed. The Seeker was long foretold to usher in the Age of Troubles.
How will we help them find the Seeker? Zeya crossed her index fingers over her mouth. Here we sit in Myanmar, half a world away.
Courage, Zeya. It has already begun. You must find him. Thiha touched his open palm to his heart. Only compassion can restore balance, or our universe will be consumed. Now is the Moment of Decision.
Zeya tensed her arms, visibly relaxed, and hand-recited, I am the All-Seer. I must actualize the dream for those who cannot see. Zeya bowed her head, her eyes never leaving the gaze of her Tissa.
I know, Zeya. Thiha smiled. You long for Nibbana, the final path. Thiha frowned. But this, too, is an attachment to self. And attachment will only be a cause for greater suffering.
But why Thiha? Why must so many suffer and die for this prophecy, and why must I be the one to witness it?
Thiha waited. You came to me from your previous lives with not one but two ending in self-immolation. Your suffering has been great. None before you have known such dedication to universal harmony.
I honor the day you accepted me, Zeya gestured, her eyes watering before she straightened herself.
Insight, Zeya, Thiha waved his hands. If your seeing is for the past, what inhibits all-seeing?
After much hesitation, Zeya signed, Doubt, Venerable Tissa.
All-seeing is now. All-seeing was then. All-seeing will be. Thiha gestured, more like a dance. What he really meant was Goodbye. Then he stood after finishing his tea, wiped tears from his face, laid on the padded bedroll in the corner opposite the stove, and went to sleep for the last time.
Zeya remained in meditation, forming the bhumisparsha, the earth-touching mudra pose of the Buddha when he attained enlightenment.
She was motionless for hours while an endless stream of images, sensations, and emotions passed through her consciousness. They didn't feel like an invasion of her thoughts anymore. They no longer disrupted her concentration, so she descended further into herself.
Thiha awoke to the sound of Zeya chanting. Her aura radiated the signature hues of enlightenment. Zeya sat with her left palm outward and her right hand touching the earth, the posture of the Buddha when he challenged the darkness. The moment had arrived for Thiha to lend his energy to her transformation, a sacrifice to join his gifted naga. He poured lamp oil over himself, struck a match, and ignited his flesh.
By all accounts, Nibbana came all at once, not by degrees. In a flash of blinding inner light, Zeya formed her astral vehicle and descended into the planet's surface. She launched into an impossible trajectory through the planet's core.
While traveling at the speed of light, Zeya watched the flow of time cease. The boundaries of space-time fell away like sheets of insulating bark. Everything happened all at once.
Ages passed as she observed the life cycles of whole solar systems, lighting up for the first time, glowing impossibly bright, and ending as supernovas. They spread their dust, heavy metals, and rare elements as seeds for new systems. The entire history of the universe lay before her.
Her bliss radiated through the beams of light she traveled, hopping from galaxy to galaxy. At length, Zeya planned her return after billions of years in the formless realms of the cosmos. The time of her reincarnation remained hers for the choosing. The Moment of Decision had arrived.
She focused her attention on one event, a mother giving birth, and let the other images slip away. The birth unfolded like the cards of flipbook animation. Each one revealed the decisions the child would make, which would affect his karma. With sharper focus, the decisions on the cards began to flip.
In the first karmic decision point, a boy lifted a crayoned family portrait to his mother. Flip. He exited a convenience store concealing a comic book under his shirt. Flip. He told a sobbing teenage girl that he couldn't see her anymore. Flip. He pulled a bloodied stranger and her broken bicycle from a busy intersection. Flip. He averted his gaze from an emaciated man holding a cardboard sign. Flip. He signed the papers that would dissolve his marriage. Flip. He told the mother of his patient that he'd done all he could. Zeya felt the paths of energy through each karmic decision point and traced them through time.
When she traced them backward, the paths were definite and solid. Forwards, the images on the cards became fluid. They shifted more turbulently the further she progressed because he could seek his own paths. She had found him, the Seeker. With each karmic decision point, the paths multiplied, and Zeya began to lose them.
Thiha had described this moment, but that didn't prepare her for what she found. Each path streamed with energy that bent and twisted into new karmic decisions. Again and again, the paths turned back on themselves to be repeated. She counted them, mapped their probabilities, and charted their circular patterns. The Seeker had locked himself in an intentionally closed loop, a prison of his own making, which he re-lived repeatedly.
Zeya focused her energy in contemplation for countless millennia and only returned with unanswered questions. She asked aloud, "Venerable Thiha, whose flame burns within me. Why would he trap himself? Why this life? This time? What did he find? What is he hiding? Who is he really?"
She closed her eyes and let herself slip back into spacetime to become the Seeker, to live his life, and to be dreambound once again.