“You skeered?” Collum sneered at us, puffing out his chest as if he actually had any importance. He didn't matter either. He strutted in front of our cluster of novices, supposedly preparing us to enter the Glade, but doing his best to add to the terror we all felt.
“I heard one novice went in and never spoke again…” A whisper came from the back of the group. I recognized Claret’s voice and shushed. Not helping.
“I heard one came out star raving mad, and they've been locked up ever since. Only speaks gibberish…”
“Shhh,” I hissed between tight lips. “Not. Helping.”
Jekkub squeezed harder, and I squeezed back. My penmanship was definitely in peril.
“Marris,” Collum snapped. I hadn't though Jekkub’s grip could tighten any more. I glanced to him and gave a sharp nod. His hand slipped away, and I squeezed his fingers before he was gone. I stepped forward. Before Collum could goad me, I said firmly, “I'm ready.”
If Collum spoke as he ushered me through the door, I didn't hear it. I was deafened by the roar in the Glade. The heavy doors swung shut behind me, and I stood still, hands balled into fists, heart racing, breath in fast gasps. Panic. Fight or flight. No room for thought. I forced my hands into motion, left over my diaphragm, right over my chest. Slow breath, slow heart, fast mind.
The sound echoed all around me, a continual roar at first. “Words flow like water,” I remembered Hollew, our mentor, walking around a stone basin, trailing his fingers in the clear water. “Let them flow. They'll wash over you. Around you. Through you. Receive the words that have meaning for you, and let the rest flow on.”
The roar of sound was words. But this was no flow, this was a raging storm. A maelstrom. I shook my head and closed my eyes, stepping forward. My hands pressed harder against my robe. Slow breath. Slow heart.
I froze. Tilting my head, I listened. The roar was words, spoken, sung, chanted, in a million different voices, different languages, all at once. How could I make sense of any of it?
I pulled my right hand away from my stomach and swept it in front of me. I felt cold, like water against my skin. I swirled my hand in the air and felt ripples wash over me. The solid roar changed as I swirled my hand. In it,out of it, came streams of voices, single threads I could catch and follow for a moment, before they were swept back up in the roar and washed away.
I reached out my left hand and waved it with my right. I felt the sounds wash over me, heard the streams of words flow, against me, through me. I laughed and raised my hands, waving them like the music leaders I loved to watch around the village night fires. The words flowed, and I swept them into music around me.
Finally, the streams, the roar faded away, and I stood in the middle of the Glade with my arms raised high. I dropped the down, once more pressed against my heart, my stomach. Yes, the words still flowed. I was ready to carry them out of the Glade and into the world.
The doors opened before I reached them. Collum stood ready to gloat at my failure. The words flowed. He didn't matter…
Untrue. I stopped in front of him and pressed my hand to his chest. “It's your turn, Collum. There are words you need to hear.”
He paled, unresisting as I pushed him through the doors and pulled them shut behind him.
And so, with a loving heart, I offer you
I’ve heard many translations. Here’s my favorite:
The light of the universe that shines within me recognizes
the light of the universe that shines within you.