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CHAPTER SIXTEEN
Discontinuance

The first faint sign of dawn through garden doors found Carl awake, having an early breakfast, and deep in thought on the meaning of this day. It would be a day like no other he had ever experienced. Yet - even before this, beginning with the three weeks of strange fog, he had encountered a series of events unprecedented in his past.

All strange events had unfolded into a meaning linking past and future into a present which he had become quite agile in accepting as it evolved. Today would be taking another step toward the immediate goal he envisioned. That there would be another beyond that, he had no doubt. For concentration it was necessary to focus on the most immediate.

Again he was watching the sun rise on the Encampment. As pearly wash gave way to increasing color, garden life stirred to wakefulness. He walked out into the fresh, clear air, and seated himself beside the pool. Here and there, a ray of sunlight sifted through the trees. It seemed a thinner, paler light, like winter sunlight. The garden had a misty, ethereal softness to it. Sounds of birdcalls seemed faint and faraway. He suddenly had the strange feeling that all was flowing about him in swirling mists. Paz-flora appeared indistinct and wavering beneath his feet.

Recalling that Etanai had said discontinuance would begin at sunrise, he assumed that to be the cause of these odd reports of his senses. He decided he'd best dress for the day, before the environment changed radically.

As he changed into the clothes he'd arrived in, he felt no identity change such as when he had removed them. Now he felt unified and intact within himself; apparel no longer suggested a masquerade. It was useful for merging with a certain environment, and for providing insulation against the weather. Beyond that, no great importance was attached to it.

Finally, he was standing there, outwardly just as he had arrived; inwardly, he was a man restored to the health of inner wholeness. He was ready now to re-enter the world where his work lay. He was ready, and happily eager to begin it. Only a short time, and a short distance now lay between him and a new beginning.

Vasai appeared at the door, pausing briefly before entry. She greeted him in the accustomed manner. "Good morning, Ka-ra-el, I see you're ready to resume your journey in Time".

Carl knew she didn't refer to the short trip in the visca, but to the journey through Life. It had been only a vague wandering before. Now, it would be a journey of awareness. "Yes - Vasai - I'm ready".

He was studying Vasai as he spoke. Even she seemed to have a more ethereal quality about her. Her garment was of the same filmy white material as when he had first met her. It had a changeable irridescence about it that caused it to appear as if woven of air. As he looked into her eyes, they were smiling. She spoke softly. "If you've noticed a slight difference in appearance of things this morning, it's just the discontinuance."

She touched the edge of the fountain with a stroking motion, as if caressing, and held her hand slightly cupped to catch a few drops of the fountain waters. Again, she turned to him with an eloquent, unwavering gaze. "Much that you view in the Encampment may not seem as substantial as it did yesterday. But you've been prepared for this, so don't let it disturb you. It's all still real. It's just changing its garments - as we have."

Her hand touched the soft drapery of her gown in a whimsical gesture, as if to verify its solidity. She laughed softly. Carl thought to himself,Vasai too is feeling poignant about the fading scene.

"Have you had breakfast, Vasai"? He asked this feeling the need to speak of tangibles. "Yes", she said. "Like you, I arose early. Also - I suppose - like you I felt a bit anxious to be on with it. Suspension always seems a sort of vacuum."

Carl wondered what these changes would mean for Vasai. Would she be in another world ? Would she appear the same ? Would Etanai be with her; or in some other dimension ? He asked, a little hesitantly, "Vasai - I know where these changes will leave me - but what will they mean to you "?

She smiled slowly, looking deep into his eyes. "I too have a post to which I return. Much of my work with Ulathai trainees is in the world to which you now return. However, due to the nature of my post, I have only partial awareness there. I must be free to come and go at other levels, as needed to perform my duties. This is why I said we could any of us encounter each other in the unfolding of our work."

There was a wistful quality to her explanation. In spite of his resolve to take these partings in stride, remembering the meaning of 'Omu Amrishi', Carl felt a poignant twinge as he considered farewells. He was a bit surprised to sense the same feelings in Vasai. He decided it was wise not to linger on the subject. There was some comfort in the possibility of future meetings, but he knew he should proceed without expectation.

"I'd like to take a walk through the courtyard, if we have time, Vasai", he said, half in question. "Of course we have time !" She answered with an undisguised air of relief to have something immediate to do. "Eleri will not be free for your trip till after lunch. He has another trip this morning".

The courtyard was almost empty. Three young Ulathai were seated beside the pool. They too seemed to be in a wistful mood. A tenuous sense of the surreal seemed to cloak the whole Encampment.

Etanai came toward them from the observatory area. "I've been watching the sunrise", he said. "The Encampment is beginning to resemble a 'ghost-town', Ka-ra-el" ! His eyes met Carl's briefly. He chuckled his soft, husky chuckle, but Carl thought it sounded half-hearted. It seemed Etanai was also feeling the poignancy of parting. As if to dispel such thoughts, the Elder added - "Well - we will all soon be busily occupied with other interests."

An awkward silence fell among them. Each stared off into the distance, as if searching for something. Actually, they were searching inwardly for some casual, easy comment to lighten the moment. Carl glanced sideways at his companions as they stood in silence. They looked more like wistful wanderers than the strong, purposeful travelers of Life's many levels that they were.

It endeared them to him all the more, to see the human poignance which drifted across their faces now. How many times had they been to this place of nebulous change ? Part of what they expressed may have been a long awareness of impermanence, known to them in a degree greater than even Carl's feeling in this experience new to him. Despite the wisdom, tremendous comprehension of vast Cosmic principles, and astute insight into causal levels, the Ulathai were warmly human. It showed in every aspect of their social living. Perhaps, it was because of this extended awareness, that they had these human qualities in such deep and broad extent.

There was that trace of vulnerability which the wisest have, knowing that there is always more to understand and discover. How carefully they guarded their young from an onset of arrogance, by an insistence on experiences which develop empathy for the various levels of Life in its unfolding. Carl felt companionably protective of them. He searched for a way to ease the awkwardness of the moment, and bring a smile.

Eleri and Andrah provided just what was needed as the two appeared near the roadway, about to depart in the visca. The young Ulathai in his white tunic, and the tall Gita with blue robe billowing in the morning breeze, boarding the gleaming vehicle which so resembled a bee, offered opportunity to speak in a lighter vein.

"It looks as if Eleri and Andrah are about to 'buzz away'." Carl said, laughing to emphasize his effort at humorous relief. Etanai seemed glad for the chance to break his silence. He responded with a relieved laugh."Yes - Andrah hasn't far to go. Eleri can take him the distance in about the same time it will take to transport you to your cabin site." Vasai spoke with relief also, "Andrah is one of the other trips I mentioned this morning. When Eleri has handled morning deliveries, we will all have lunch, then your waiting will end, Ka-ra-el".

Already, the courtyard seemed bathed in a faraway light. It was a light such as visions in one's memory, or dreams. Etanai answered his inner wondering, explaining that he, Vasai, Chan Shu, Eleri, and a few others would be last to leave. The strange changes coming over the Encampment would steadily progress, but through the time for Carl's departure all would be recognizably substantial. Carl, of course, wondered about the method of departure for those last few members. Intuitively, he knew it would not be revealed to him. At least, at this time.

The visca had not traveled into the open country before them, but had circled back, past the stand of trees, in a Southeasterly direction. It was soon out of sight behind trees and buildings. Carl had no way to know its destination. About this too, Carl sensed there was no point in his inquiring. He was left with only guesswork.

He did know that an oasis lay Southeast of The Springs townsite. It was in the oasis area, where the actual 'Springs' were, that the original settlement had been made. As time went by, some had settled the area that surrounded it, and had sunk wells into the underground water system of which Arrowhead Springs was part. The oasis was now maintained as a sort of municipal park. So far as Carl knew, only two or three of the early descending families still lived in that area.

Recalling that Etanai had said several of the attending Gitas were from The Springs area, and having seen Alex Carlisle at the Assembly, Carl wondered if Andrah also might live in the oasis. If so, it could mean that Andrah was a 'border-line worker'. Such a possibility had a cheering effect on him. However, he reminded himself that it was all speculation. He put the idea aside for the time, and turned to his friends.

"Why don't we have some refreshment as a parting toast", he suggested, adding, "As for myself, I might as well take a seat somewhere. It'll be awhile before my next step can be taken." Etanai waved his arms theatrically, "That sounds like a good idea for all of us, Ka-ra-el ! We are standing here like refugees ! We might as well relax !"

After they settled into the divans, all felt a bit more at ease. With a goblet of nectar to drink, and the open land stretched before them, awkwardness gave way to usual companionship. Even silence didn't hang so heavily as it had. It now became the silence of reflection, vibrant with an inner concord.

As Carl looked out at the view before him, he noticed areas of the rolling land where traces of desert had begun to peek through. There were blurred strips and angles amid the greenery which had taken on the color of desert sand. In some places, thin layers of mist lay hovering and motionless. The longer he looked at the expanse, the more it resembled a double-exposure, as if upon the sand hills and scraggly vegetation a picture of rolling greenery had been super-imposed, and now neither appeared distinct. Had he not known what was happening, he would have been confused and disoriented. Even with the knowledge, he had a vague, unreal feeling of being between two worlds, yet in neither.

There was such an accompanying sense of timelessness that he felt within as if he moved in great, bare, open spaces, where a chill wind blew swirling mists about in endlessly changing patterns. It was a soundless, tractionless, land. Like trying to move in a vacuum, he neither went nor stayed.

His companions in the courtyard were not inclined to talk, and he wondered if they too had this feeling of odd suspension in space. Or were their faculties such that it appeared more real to them ? Or were they so accustomed to such changes that it was common to them ? Then he recalled the poignant look of their faces earlier, and remembered that frequency may not make such surreal experience more comfortable, but actually more wistful. He recalled Vasai's comment about waiting seeming like a vacuum. It indicated that they too experienced these strange feelings. However, he could tell by their faces now that familiarity did enable them to be more composed. A lonely sense of isolation rose within him.

How long he sat in that aura of change, he didn't know. It seemed only the faraway sound of the tinkling fountain accompanied him in vast aloneness. When at last the visca reappeared near the roadway, it was a glad sight. How reassuring and friendly it seemed, hovering over the roadway, before quietly settling down like a messenger of lost reality.

As Eleri approached, he became a welcome rescuer moving through timeless mists with sure and youthful steps. Even though his movements seemed almost like slow-motion, because of the hazy perspective, and time-suspended feeling, Carl could have hugged him as a substantial messenger. How aware he was in that moment that 'reality' is relative to familiar consciousness. To Eleri, the strange phenomena was all 'real', because it was his familiar world. To Carl, it was vague and unreal, because it was a new and unfamiliar aspect of consciousness. He smiled calmly to greet Eleri, not wanting to reveal the discomfort he'd known in that strange vigil.

Eleri must have sensed his feelings, or maybe they were written on his face. The young man smiled broadly at the three, but addressed Carl especially when he spoke. "Tides of Change are like tides of the sea you know, Ka-ra-el. They have ebb and flow. When one learns the laws of their nature, they can be used to propel one's craft". He paused a moment, then added with an exuberant smile -"As in the surfing sport of your world, soon you must pick your wave and ride it in !"

He looked out toward the transient landscape with young eyes. The changes, the mists, the stretches of nothingness, were all exhilarating to him. The wind touched him lightly, rippling his clothing, lifting his hair in soft wisps away from the young, open face.

Carl marveled at the expansiveness Eleri so clearly displayed. It seemed to sing - "This is tomorrow's humanity !" Here was the strength, comprehension, and gentleness of the Ulathai. These qualities were not limited by age. Yet - there was no denying, experience had left a subtle difference with the Elders. What new subtlty would experience bring to Eleri ? Carl didn't know, but that it would make a difference, he was sure.

Etanai was watching Eleri with fatherly tenderness as the young Ulathai spoke. At last, he arose, smiling the soft, poignant smile of the philosopher. "Let's have our lunch now. Then, Eleri - you can help our friend find his 'wave' of return" !

Sharing easy laughter, they moved toward the tables.



CHAPTER SEVENTEEN
A Wave For Passage