Chapter 51:     Off To School

Transcribed from dictation, ADAM speaking--

Once again I went to the building where I was supposed to meet my 
wizard-studies committee and found four Elders this time around.  
Just normal Elders, not the cosmic kind, but the bureaucratic.

They knew who I was, my questioning by the Three Elders had pretty 
much broadcasted my life story to everyone in Aket.  They also knew 
more about my "breeding" than I did, aware that I was a potential 
Orator, which was an advantage for my becoming Sha-haka.

I sensed that two of the four did have a negative attitude about my 
Nokhso history, asking again where my loyalties were, suggesting that 
I might betray the Nokhon folk by revealing the location of Aket.  I 
answered them as I had The Three Elders, who, I reminded them, seemed 
to trust me.  There was no more argument.  Maybe they didn't dare, I 
don't know. 

The committee referred several times to that off-the-wall speech I'd 
blurted out when being questioned for purification, mentioning my 
claim to as "the Man of Two Worlds".  I assumed Da-nama-hat had told 
them about it, since he'd been there.  Actually, considering that 
they had no papers, notes or case files, they seemed pretty well 
informed and updated.  

They were supposed to design a special course for me based upon all 
they knew, but it ended up that I was to report to a Sha-haka named
Dahasset for what amounts to "Wizardry 101" next day, just as Dagrolyt 
had already arranged.  In other words, the bureaucracy was pretty much 
the same as at the University of Washington, which made me feel right 
at home.

I had some daylight left, so I explored a while, but Aket's not really that big and most of it just empty buildings. The only thing going on was at the Town Square. Hundreds of squatches always there, some waiting for their own audience with The Three next day, but most were just digging the scene. The Only Scene in a small town, since there were no bars or cafés to hang out in. I crossed the square, considering how to spend my last free night out on the town before becoming caught up in the studies that awaited me next day. I'd forgotten that I was no longer anonymous. People were waving to me and saying things, some positive, but also a few negative remarks from some Good Ole Boys: stuff like, "Hey, you dirty fucking Nokhso-Lover." Or "Skesk-boy!" When 5 big hairy rough-looking sasquatches start focusing on you like that it's pretty intimidating. I wasn't afraid of physical violence, the Nokhontli just don't do that --generally--but psychological aggression can be almost as bad. I remember it from school at Monroe, when I was literally the toughest guy around but was getting bullied anyway. Fortunately, there were also other people sympathetic to my situation, who began to call out as well, offended by the bad manners of those Good Ole Boys. "Welcome to Aket, Dadamet!" "It wasn't your fault!" Among the well-wishers in the crowd was a previous acquaintance: Daseh, but who now was called Daset, having passed his Initiation and Enduring since I'd seen him last. He was just as gung-ho and enthusiastic as before and once again happy to meet someone he knew, if even only slightly, since he'd just arrived at Aket for the first time and was feeling a little overwhelmed. I told him I knew the feeling. Daset had intended becoming Sha-haka, but was rejected, as are most applicants. However, he had impressed the committee with his other useful qualities and had been invited to study the discipline of Alutna at Aket. He was going to be a cop instead, which he realized he'd prefer anyway, so he was quite satisfied about that. I wasn't surprised: Daset was definitely more jock than academic. I asked him if he'd met his new Chief yet, the frightening Ma-ralla-hata, but he hadn't. I decided not to scare him and said nothing: figured he'd find out for himself soon enough. We ended up getting into conversations with a group of other newcomers and squatting with them until long after darkness fell. Suddenly it wasn’t so lonely being new guys in town. That evening on Town Square became like the one before, a gathering of magicians and amateur entertainers, warm and cozy in the floating firelight. There were also magic mushrooms being passed around. It was fun, but not something I wanted to do every night.
I slept in the large "dormitory" room Dagrolyt had showed me upon arrival to Aket. There were pine boughs to lie upon instead of cold stone, it was all right. Several others slept there too, but it was late so there was no socializing. Next morning I went off to my First Day at School. I went to the "University Building". There were ten other students already there, six guys and four girls, squatting or lying around on fir boughs. There was conversation going on, but they all shut up when I came in. No one greeted me, they just gawked. So I was thinking Oh-oh, New Kid In School, don't know anyone there, nothing in common, don't know what to talk about, may as well shut him out. But then I noticed that I'd met two of them the evening before on the Town Square, so it seemed even weirder. A second later I understood why the silence. The cops were waiting for me. Two guys with braided beards stood up from squatting and came to me, asking if I was Dadamet, even though they knew I was. When I said so, they introduced themselves as Alutna officers, although I had already figured that out. Thinking like a white man, I wondered how much trouble I was in. But they were only ascertaining that I was where I was supposed to be and not "running around wild" in Aket. Their chief, Elder Ma-ralla- hata was obviously keeping an eye on me. However the two Alutna guys were actually quite courteous, no threats, no reprimands, almost friendly. Maybe I should redefine Alutna from "cops" to "public servants" just doing their jobs. I remember thinking an incurable nice guy like Daset might do all right among the Alutna. Of course, by the time they said "Ta'ash" and left, everyone in that room knew exactly who I was, if they hadn't before. Since they were all looking at me, I said, "Hi everybody, I'm Dadamet, new kid in town." And that's all it took, they started talking to me, asking questions, offering opinions. They were all polite, no Good Ole Boys among them, although naturally wary of whatever kind of guy comes from the Nokhso-devil Hell-World and not about to get too close. Still, it went okay, I was keeping my distance too. Especially since some of the girls were quite nice and I remembered Dagrolyt's instructions to me about zero yøramma in Aket.
Eventually Dahassat came in and began to instruct us in Sha-haka magic. As anyone studying anthropology learns, you don't interrupt a native explaining his cultural perspective to inform him that it's all WRONG. You might have to tell him later, but not in the process of learning what THEY believe in. I was being taught the Nokhon version of science and physics upon which they base their magic. But it WAS all wrong! Superstitious nonsense! I had to bite my tongue to keep from mentioning that Molecules were actually collections of Elements organized by atomic valences, stuff like that. Or that gravity--well never mind, you get the idea. The weird part is that the magic works! Remember that discussion we had with Doug about the 4 Greek Elements, back when I was just a kid? Earth, Air, Fire and Water--made foolish by modern science--no wait! Matter, Energy, Time and Space--exactly the same 4 symbolic Elements, just the labels updated. And Doug said, "Doesn't matter if everything you know is wrong, as long as it works for you." He was so cool back then. And he was right. The first step in learning magic was to have an open mind. I settled in for the next two months.
For me, accustomed to American high school and the UW, Aket was a bizarre experience because it was so different than any study environment I knew--and yet so similar. Different, because there were no books, no paper, no blackboards, no computers--no records or documentation of any kind whatsoever, everything was memorized by one person who passed it on to his students by oral tradition, word by spoken word. That seemed impossibly inefficient, even to me with my good memory for words; they could really have used some visual aids. Or even some digital data-storage! There were also no desks or chairs, no pull-down maps, video or slide presentations, charts, graphs, hell--not even one PICTURE of any kind, drawn or painted on cave walls! No art, no music, no literature-- other than the Atli. The only thing they had was teachers, students and spoken words. And yet, the funny thing was that it still FELT like a University. The scholarly atmosphere was there, people came to learn, they were interested in the subjects being taught, there was academic small-talk, flirting between young men and women, even if there was no actual sex going on. If there'd only been a campus cafeteria...well, there wasn't, but you could go out and eat greens together, which we did sometimes. There were lectures and discussions on Atli, for which Dagrolyt had prepared me well. At least I had an idea what they were talking about, although I lacked all sorts of cultural background. I could recite a lot of text and learned more, but comprehending what it all meant was something else. Most of it was pretty obscure to me, angels dancing on pinheads. Fortunately, I wasn't the only one. But there were also demonstrations of magic that I found absolutely fascinating and just about impossible to believe. Then again I always did fall for magicians on stage or TV and that's sort of what this seemed like--tricks they used to show off, impress and entertain the common folk. But some of them, wow! One old wizard had students make a pile of wood and he'd sit in front of it and concentrate until smoke came up and then fire. He was supposed to be thinking it into burning. I was skeptical, my oh-so sophisticated Nokhso knowledge suggested several ways to pull off that trick. But they all involved some sort of skesk and no one was supposed to be doing that--especially not in Aket, so I was careful not to say anything that might be spoiling their trick. But that same old guy let the fire turn into a roaring blaze, then clapped his hands--and the fire was just snuffed out! Then he'd clap again and it was blazing full-blast. Then off and on, off and on, with each clap of his hands. That stumped me. And evidently it wasn't a phony trick, his students were serious about learning how to DO it. Hey, I was tempted myself, but it had something to do with haka... Another Sha-haka did variations of Hindu fakir stuff, cutting himself with glass-sharp blades of rock, stopping the bleeding, ignoring pain. Yet another shook plants at a distance with his mind, even I finally believed he was actually doing it. There were classes in Ahaka-wo, haka control, food-finding, khos- making, vision-leading, subjects I hadn't even in my vocabulary yet. All beyond my squatch-kindergarten education and my lack of haka control. Among the more useful subjects I was learning at Aket were the Sha-haka healing techniques. Yes, I am now a fledgling witch-doctor, having passed my basic First-Aid course. It's effective medicine, but seems a lot like voodoo, everything done differently than a White Man's Doctor would. Of course the basics of physical damage control were similar: check for breathing, stop the bleeding; but otherwise it was all magic instead of surgery, roots and herbs instead of pills. Actually, there are many similarities to Chinese medicine, acupuncture, massage, nerve points and chiropractic adjustments. Next time you get a headache, call me.
Now that I was a member of a group of young squatches like myself, I wanted to blend in, make friends and become part of the culture. But it was quite awkward at first, not easy to have an actual discussion with any of them. They just seemed so...well...simple. Not that they were any less intelligent than me--I mean, chances are I'm not the smartest squatch in the world, right?--but they all seemed brainwashed by the Atli. And the Nokhso world was more or less taboo, they didn't want to hear about it. The only ideas they had to work with were those allowed within their own extremely conservative culture. Think USA in the 50's: then remove all books, music, movies, radio, TV and any stray Beatniks. They had no concept of Fiction or Fantasy--except for the Atli, which they considered Literally True, however, just like any fundamentalist. And most especially, they had no Pop Culture. But just as they had feared, the devil had slipped in among them: me. I was a source of new ideas, different perspectives, I couldn't help it and neither could they, we were learning magic together, responding to the lessons, having discussions, there was an osmosis of concepts. Eventually almost all my fellow students turned out to become friends and, of course, many of them were interested in my experience with the Nokhso culture but had been afraid to ask. These people actually were the intelligentsia of the Nokhon race, generally more open-minded than your average uneducated slob living in isolation, so many of them were curious to know what the NokhSoli were really like. Even so, they had a ferociously negative opinion of NokhSo culture: they don't like what it does and what it means for them, consuming all the wilderness until there is no room left for Nokhontli. Can't blame them. There were constantly new refugees from areas that had been homeland for generations, until the tiny humans came with their big trucks and chainsaws to clear away forest for vast housing developments or industrial factories, or logging sites. There was no place left to walk without having to cross a NokhSo road, or ducking out of sight from airplanes that passed overhead. The Nokhontli are painfully aware of the onslaught of creeping civilization, because they're surrounded by it. Another complaint the Nokhontli have against NokhSo civilization is that it violates their basic law, the Atli. One precept/law of which is about "understanding how much is Your Share" and is the very basis of their ecology. They see our civilization as being greedy, or consumption-oriented, as we all know it is. They believe so strongly in only taking Their Fair Share of the ecology that if they have less area to live in, they reduce their own population. When the prejudice against Nokhsos became too bitter I had to remind my angry friends of the major excuse for civilization's unfairness to the Nokhontli: squatches were hiding so well that the Nokhsos didn't even know they existed; Bigfoot was only an amusing myth to them.
I had once asked Dagrolyt just how many Nokhon people there were, since I had never seen more than about thirty together outside Aket. He couldn't answer that question, just as he couldn't set a number to his own age, or anyone else's--he simply didn't know. Squatches, and I include myself, are not especially good with numbers. Even at Aket, the center of Nokhon knowledge, numbers seemed to be a mystery to the wise. Until I asked Elder Da-nama-hat, who was the Great Historian and could usually answer my questions about numbers, and just about everything else as well. Being one of the Three Elders, Da-nama-hat lived in the upper levels where I wasn't yet allowed to go, but he had his own "office" down in the public area. It was a simple room without a door to close, but with more "stuff" than I'd ever seen a Nokhon keep before. Mostly Sha-haka materials, magical tools, herbs, roots, braided bags and belts, even a workbench or desk made of stone slabs. Actually, it was often him who invited or arranged to meet me at his office, to discuss my perceptions of Nokhon and Nokso cultures and we found that we were both anthropologists at heart. I liked him, he liked me, we became friends. It was nice. When I asked him about the Nokhon population he told me that there were under six thousand Nokhontli living within the area you humans call the Pacific Northwest. The total varied because many were nomadic. "That's all?" I asked, "Not very many." Considering that the population of a fairly small town like Monroe is more than twice that. "That's what we are allotted. Children are only bred when there is room for them." The Nokhontli have a birth control program that makes Communist China seem like a land of irresponsible rabbits. "In the entire world," the old man told me, apparently knowing all about Yetis in Asia, Mapinguaries in Brazil, Yosers in Australia, etc, "there are only 24,343 Nokhontli, although a century ago there were over a million. It's because we have so much less room now. As the NokhSo people expand to take all the land from us, our race must become more compact." I got a little indignant about that, whether over the greedy NokhSo or the limpdick Nokhon, I'm not sure. "Don't the Nokhontli ever consider negotiating with the Nokhsos?" "Contact with the Nokhsoli is forbidden by the Atli because they always end up waging war with their technology, so it's best they do not know we exist." "But at some point you'll have to make a stand or become extinct!" "Of course" he told me, "why do you think all those earlier Nokhso civilizations have fallen just before it was too late to save the world?"
Age was another thing I'd wondered about, which no one else could answer--no one seemed to even know just how old they were themselves. I'd seen some aged people, but none of them infirm, or sick, certainly no one dying of old age. So I asked Da-nama-hat something I'd been wondering about: "How long do Nokhon people live?" "I'm quite old myself, you know," Da-nama-hat said, "I was born in the NokhSo year 1753." "Well, uh..." I assumed that he had the date wrong, "...that would make you over, uh, two hundred and fifty years old..." "Correct. We live long lives compared to the NokhSoli." "But two hundred and fifty years?" "Oh, I'm not the oldest, by far. But people usually choose to go on to another plane of existence after they've been here long enough." "Choose to...doesn't anyone die of old age?" "Not if they keep their haka flowing. I've never know of a Nokhon to die of age itself, except in stories from the Atli." "Are you saying that Nokhontli don't ever die?" "No, of course they die--if they're damaged badly enough: burned up in a forest fire, buried under an avalanche, drowned; accidents do happen. Your mother, for example." "Then even I might live more than 200 years?" "You have the genetic potential, but until you can make your haka flow properly--and give up those deadly NokhSo goodies you like to eat--don't go congratulating yourself yet."
It was hardly all academics at Aket. There were wrestling sessions too, which were compulsory. I hated those, everyone was better than me, everyone. Luckily, men never wrestled against women, or my shame would have been complete, since even the girls could probably throw me on my butt. As far as the others were concerned, I was a good demonstration dummy. I was supposed to make the haka flow through my body, up from the earth through my feet, on out my fingertips, giving me great power over weight and mass, enabling me to lift and throw a heavier opponent. But all I managed to do was get thrown a lot. It's really a change for me, being little. Well, not exactly Little, more just about average--but certainly NOT big. Some of the guys, all of whom were wrestling freaks, would grab me and throw me around a little. Not to hurt me, just in good clean fun. Actually, to tease me a little, since I was SO bad at wrestling and of course I had to be a good sport about it. They called me "Mlønoreskah," city kid, and wanted to see what I was made of. Naturally, they were also confirming that I'd been ruined by being raised within the decadent NokhSo culture. Dagrolyt came back to Aket for a few days, on his rounds and checked in on me. He also served as guest instructor for wrestling sessions. I knew he was a lot better than me, but I soon saw that he was a lot better than almost anyone. The young initiates would try their hardest to throw him and he would tell them what they were doing wrong and what they should do about it, even as he was dumping them. I did see one contest, though, between Dagrolyt and a big old Sha-haka, almost big as old Dannat and that was a very close match. Dagrolyt officially lost that one, but I think he deferred the match to the older man out of respect, after they had whizzed around each other for half an hour, throwing each other, both always landing on their feet.
I'd been in Aket for about two weeks when the next Full Moon came around (ed: Sunday, March 16) and when it did the entire cavern of Aket began smelling of women's shyøma, extra strong inside the classrooms. But it became especially maddening since Aket was a Holy Place and there was to be no yøramma there, not even during the Ma'mløt-klys. The rule of abstinence was not because it was suddenly improper to yøramma, the Nokhontli are never uptight about that, but the discipline required to carry on with all that shyøma-charged haka roaring through everybody generated some pretty amazing magic. Sex and magic, they're connected somehow. It also weeded out the less serious students, who couldn't do without the release of the Kha-rat sex orgies--they would leave Aket to find a Kha-rat with some local mlønoli. There was no shame in leaving Aket for a Kha-rat once in a while, after you'd showed that you COULD stick it out when you had to. Actually, only the most disciplined elders NEVER left, the shyøma was no longer sexual titillation for them, but the essence of Power. But for young people, apprentices and students, it was physical suffering, a real sacrifice. They only did it because serious apprentices who learned to utilize the arcane power in shyøma usually progressed in their control of magic by quantum leaps. This was the way to get ahead, Sha-haka- wise. Our instructors wanted us to concentrate on haka-flow especially at full moon. I was generally behind the other students in haka-skills, but we all had to struggle with it under those conditions. Actually, my control of haka was getting better, although still erratic, but as full moon approached everyone had difficulty channeling it away from sex. That last day before the full moon, Aket was charged with so much magical energy that it would have to be experienced to be believed. I can tell you what I saw, but you'd think I was just drugged on all the shyøma. Well, I was, we all were, that was what made the magic work! One man could levitate. I saw him and then we all passed our hands under him. Another was igniting fire with his eyes. There were people in haka-trances ostensibly in telepathic communication with other Nokhon groups in the Himalayas via astral projection. Or maybe we were all just stoned on the smell, who knows? Finally the Ma-mløt-klys was above us, we could feel it all the way down inside that cavern. And we could see it too, those lenses in the ceiling refracted the moonlight in such a way that a hugely magnified image of the moon was projected onto the far wall of the cavern. Of course, that's only possible on a cloud-free night, so I only saw it one time, which was pretty fantastic: we could clearly see craters and various lunar mare. The Kha-rat is different in several ways at Aket, but it followed the traditional pattern. People gathered in smaller groups rather than jamming everyone in Aket into the Town Square. A city-wide orgy is too impersonal for most Nokhons, the coziness of a mlønoli becomes lost. We in Dahassat's student group went up on the big flat roof of our "university building". A Kha-rat is an excellent ice-breaker, usually because everybody has sex. In Aket we couldn't do that, but it was a very bonding situation anyway because we were all in the same boat. There were about 16 girls and their shyøma was just killing us all, even themselves. So there was a lot of teasing and joking and flirting going on--and complaining that we couldn't yøramma. By the night of Ma-mløt-klys we were all friends so horny for each other that it actually HURT to know that we wouldn't be having each other that night, or even that month, or maybe never. Some of the students cracked and had to leave Aket that day, usually as couples, off to have a private Kha-rat somewhere else and come back next day. I was invited, but thought it best to stick this first one out. For one thing I was finally getting a feel for my haka, amplified by all the unrelenting shyøma-desire and I needed a breakthrough. For another thing, I didn't really want to waste such powerful desire on a bunch of girls I just sort of liked. If Magga had been there, or... but never mind. There were mushrooms, a vision, the usual stuff. Then a whole bunch of magic tricks instead of sex. It would have been more fun if I'd been doing the magic myself.
The next day was a required communal meeting, the Three Elders would address all of Aket. In the Nokhon world outside of Aket the participants of a Kha-rat would have been through an orgy and relaxed enough to pay attention to other things now, but here everyone was EVEN MORE HORNY, with no relief in sight for days to...uh.. come. It was an exercise in discipline to just sit still and be good listeners, believe me. The Three Elders came at midday and spoke from their dais, one voice in perfect synch, as always, making newsworthy announcements, issuing instructions and social proclamations. This was instead of sex, so there was a bit of unrest in the crowd. Nobody was allowed to yøramma, but there were lots of bodies gliding against each other anyway. The shyøma was overwhelming. I was so distracted watching everybody bending the rules, especially since one especially friendly girl was holding me by the dakh-- she liked that I was an exotic "foreigner" and thought I was cool--that I almost didn't hear The Three call my name. "An announcement concerning Young Dadamet: it has been decided to postpone his studies of advanced Sha-haka magic..." I was still in the middle of being cool and first understood what was being said when that girl dropped my suddenly uncool dakh. I was confused, but The Three Elders were still talking, so I focused in: "...for the present, at least, to concentrate upon first being trained in the discipline of Orator." Suddenly that girl snatched my dakh back again, with an even firmer grip and another was fumbling to fit her hand on as well. People were turning to me with great smiles and surprised expressions, as if I'd just won a fantastic prize. I was evidently cool again, maybe even cooler than before. But all I remember thinking was: "Hey, no wait --I want to study magic!"

Chapter 52

Adam out of Eden