Chapter XXVII.

23 Jun

“The best place to gather live chaoborines is here, on the Miasmic River,” explained the biologist, pointing to an area on the wall map. This was where local villagers grew koksaghyz plants from which rubbery latex was obtained for all of Caecilia.

Ranid frowned upon hearing this. “It is so far away from the Blackwater Swamp,” he protested. “How long will it take to complete our work here at Feretrum and journey there?”

“We will have to set off at once, as soon as all our preparations have been made. I have some large containers that can hold many live specimens. And a couple of sumpter mules will be needed by us.”

“I can afford to buy several pack animals,” announced Ranid. “Let’s get what we need together. We should start out at once for this northern valley. You are certain it is the right place to capture these particular gallinippers?”

“Nowhere else are they as prevalent or available. It is worth the trip there and then back.”

In three days, the pair left Feretrum for the Miasmic Valley, crossing scrub, brake, and quag on the way to the northern region of Caecilia. They skitted around the impossible region of chufa-growing Cienaga and the swampy marshes of Marecage. The quickest route for them was a circuitous, zig-zagging one. A straight line would have been futile.

Along the way, they met local Kroetes in villages such as Pantano and Marais, informing them of the basics of the Conjoiner views and principles.

Ereth, the biologist, surprised Ranid with his fervid adhesion to the new teachings of unity. “We must concentrate upon agreement and oneness,” he told his traveling companion. “Since the universe we inhabit is not multiplex, neither can be our approach to the transcendental. Our perspective must remain a unifying one.”

“That is the essence of our new philosophy,” agreed Ranid. “I only hope that this journey will help to bring new recruits into our ranks. My dream is that the Conjoiners grow into a major force in the realm of the spirit, the we succeed in connecting what in the present is separated and divided.”

The short man who came out of the tumble-down hut wore torn, shaggy shirt and pants. He eyed the two strangers carrying nets, moving closer to them.

“What are you up to?” the solitary asked them.

The answer came from Ereth, who was examining a bed of blue speedwell flowers. “We are gathering up local gallinippers for scientific research that has great importance. No harm will come to anyone from what we are doing, I assure you.”

For a short time, the country recluse stared at the two travelers one-by-one, finally saying something to them.

“Forgive me if I seemed to be rude, but no one ever comes through here. My name is Dixo. For many years, I have been spending most of my time in meditation.”

“You are a seeker of spiritual enlightenment, then?” said Ereth, his interest all of a sudden aroused.

“I did not start out as anything resembling that. I had my own retail business in Miasmic City. It was a false, hypocritical life that I was leading. There was no genuine happiness or satisfaction in anything that I did.

“One day, though, the thought of escape came to me. I decided that it had to be complete, total flight to be worthwhile. Nothing else could save me.

“So, I walked away from everything that encumbered me. Ever since then, my quest for meditative truth takes up most of my time, both day and night.” He paused a moment. “Please excuse me, but I have to return to my train of thoughts and meditations. Not a moment can be wasted when such important and crucial concepts are being considered.”

Before he could get away, Ranid managed to ask him one question.

“Could I visit and talk with you? I promise not to take too much of your valuable time.”

A nod of the head was all the answer that Dixo gave or Ranid received.

As the mosquito-hunters walked away, Ereth muttered “What an odd character!”

Ranid arrived to see the hermit late the following afternoon, as twilight was beginning. The two men sat down on a fallen log beside a brooklet flowing between tall tacktrees.

“Tell me this: why do you and your companion go about collecting galinippers?” began Dixo.

It took several minutes for Ranid to cover the main aspects of the Blackwater Fever and the hope of doing away with the disease by replacing one species of insects with another.

But Dixo was most fascinated by a description of the Conjoiner principles by the missionaries and their message to both streams of Amphibiots.

“Explain the details of you teachings for me, please. I live by myself and see no one, so it is impossible for me to learn of such new and fascinating ideas as those which you espouse.”

As Ranid furnished a general rundown of the unitary faith, The dark eyes of the lonely contemplator burned as if they were live coals.

“I see the sense and logic of what you teach, my friend. There can be no doubt that reason is with you and your colleagues.”

The two stared at each other in silence, till Ranid had to change the subject.

“Can you tell me about how you go about meditating, Dixo?”

The latter briefly hesitated, then proceeded to reveal everything about himself.

“What does anyone start with? It has to be the self. That is what we entered this world with. So, a person focuses and concentrates, until the mind can go no further in that direction.

“When that pivotal point is reached, there occurs an inner explosion. One feels the joy of unlimited expansion of the soul. On and on this goes, until the soul engulfs the universal spirit, called by many the odyle.

“I have only reached that stage once, but it still remains my life’s hope. That is the goal of all my meditation.”

“You are very conscientious, Dixo,” remarked Ranid. “I would like to learn much more about your methods. Show me how to do it, my friend.”

The hermit nodded. “You will have to carry out the meditation by yourself.”

Why must all living things come to an end in time?

Old age, illness, and death sweep away all humans. All living beings of this world disappear. Nothing is permanent.

Does anything at all transcend the reality that we see about us? Is there anything that has permanence? Some look to the frog, others to the salamander. These are mere traps for the mind seeking its liberation and illumination. One must forget the limits and boundaries set by the cults.

Attachments to such dogmas imprison both mind and soul of a thinker.

They divide a soul and separate person from person. These sects tie an individual to his own self.

In order to rise to higher, purer ideas we must be unattached to separate creeds. The odyle cannot be imprisoned in only one system.

Ranid realized that Dixo was a natural, self-made Conjoiner.

He and Ereth were in an inn on the periphery of Miasmic City.

“Soon we will have to leave,” said Ereth one day. “We now have all the specimens of chaoborines and anophilines that can be used in trials in the Blackwater Swamp. We have really ended all our work hereabouts.”

Ranid, all of a sudden, decided that this was the moment to outline a plan he had been formulating in his mind during his many conversations with the ragged meditator named Dixo.

“If our friend Dixo could be persuaded to travel with us back to the Blackwater region, he would certainly be a magnificent attraction and presenter of ideas. The man agrees thoroughly with our Conjunctionism.”

“But I believe that he wishes to remain here as a contemplative recluse. Association with others does not attract his unusual soul. The man would surely refuse any such proposal.”

Ranid smiled like a cat. “I believe that he can be convinced. Let me try.”

That evening Dixo was informed that the day for departure was upon them. At first he looked perplexed, then worried.

“I hope that you continue with deep meditation on your own, Ranid,” said the loner.

“If we took you with us, then you could continue to instruct me in the art of meditation. You would also have a lot of time for your own private thinking. We two could consult with each other as often as we wished.

“You know that I am a Conjoiner missionary. Our new movement needs its own meditative advisor. That can be you. We can bring difficult thought problems to you for advice. What do you say, Dixo?”

The latter was speechless only a short while. He soon accepted the offer that was presented to him.

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