Beyond Human

© 2001 by Sofía 'Toffee' Francisco

This page was last modified: 2001/05/03


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"I have a house where I go
When there's too many people,
I have a house where I go
Where no one can be;
I have a house where I go,
Where nobody says "No"
Where no one says anything - so
There is no one but me."

- "Solitude", by A. A. Milne -

Anjli said to me once, "Humans are wonderful... like multicoloured flowers!" I had not understood what she meant, or why she had said it in the first place. Her cheerful brown eyes were off-set by the red mark on her forehead, as her dark skin was more eclipsed than highlighted by her simple red robes. If anyone looked multicoloured and flowery, it was her. So I told her this, and she laughed in my face, shaking her head ruefully. "Oh Will... that's not at all what I meant!"

I rarely grasped the true meaning of her words, which did not particularly bother me. It did worry me, though, that a servant girl like her could dumbfound me so easily. So I followed her everyday when she went out to wash my family's clothes, and stared silently as she talked about all sorts of things, granting each small tale such vehemence and enthusiasm that by the time she was done I was dizzy, and none the wiser. On the other hand, she seemed to have a perverse pleasure in watching me mull over her words, and find no possible connection between them and my own reality. Anjli's heartfelt joy and natural spark were a mystery to me, to the point that I wondered if perhaps we were not of totally different races. My mother said it was so indeed, and stroked my hair in that oddly detached way of hers as she checked her jewellery and adjusted her hair.

"Completely different," she said with a wisp of a laugh. "Never forget that!"

I stared at her in silence, trying to add up what she said, and wondered. Yes, she and Anjli were different, but Anjli was so much younger! Still, I could see they both had the same hips, and surely Anjli would have breasts too when she grew up, and she already was lithe and pretty like my mother. Though Anjli's beauty was dark and rounded, while my mother's was sharp and fine, based on her porcelain-doll skin and heavy golden tresses. I looked a lot like her, I realised. But... the difference did not lie here, though my mother clearly hinted that it did.

Anjli frowned when I told her this, and sighed. "Will... your mother means that you are rich and I am poor... but, if you ask me, I am much richer than both of you put together." I had frowned at this, feeling angered by her condescending manner.

"But you are always dirty, and your house is so small!" She laughed again, running her fingers over my cheeks in a sisterly fashion.

"Yes... but my family lives all together, and my mother does not leave me to be entertained and taught by leagues of servants. She brushes my hair herself every night." To prove this she pulled back the orange cloth that covered her head and showed me her thick black braid, so shiny it looked like pure onyx.

"How does that make you richer...?" I asked in confusion, though the metallic gleam of her hair had me completely enthralled.

"Don't you want to spend more time with your mother?" She wondered, a hint of surprise in her soft young voice. I considered her question quietly, staring ahead into the river from which she had taken water to wash today's batch.

My mother? She was fey and frivolous, entirely too banal to be good conversation, too detached to be considered adorable and too beautiful to touch. She was like a moving piece of furniture in my life, so distant and unimportant that I never really considered her... an equal. She was nothing to me, just like I was a mere triviality to her. I guessed she had wanted a blushing little boy whom she could show around parties and social reunions with her stiff-necked English compatriots; but I had developed into a far quieter and more brooding creature than she had expected, or wanted. She grew tired of me by the time I was three... which was surprising since she had never really cared for me when there was no one around. Servant's duty, she said.

"No, I don't really want to spend time with her." Anjli's hands stopped their rhythmical scrubbing, her coal black eyes fixing on mine darkly.

"And your father?" she whispered smoothly.

"I see him even less." I shrugged slightly and gave her a calm look. I was taken aback when I registered the fear there. Fear for me.

"But surely... there is someone you like spending your time with?" In her agitation she dropped a wet garment on the dirt, and hastily picked it up to wash it again. I stared at her, confused by her concern, by the fact that she would care even slightly about me. What was I to her? The child of her employer, what else?

"Yes, you. I like spending time with you." A small blush stained her cheeks, and she smiled prettily as I said this.

"So... you care for me?"

Care for her? I struggled to make sense of the meaning of her words. The semantics were perfect, her English was perfect even though it was veiled under her Hindu accent. So she had not phrased herself wrongly, she had meant it as she said it. I tried to understand why she had asked that, why she had assumed that I cared for her. Why she assumed I had to care for someone.

"No." Her face fell upon my saying this. "But I don't understand you, so I like trying to do so."

She had bowed her head sadly then, going back to her washing. "I pity you."

I had been so furious at her words that I got up suddenly, and walked away. I did not venture close to her for the next three weeks, and though she would ask about me among the other servants - careful to avoid my mother - I did not give her any signs that I might accompany her anytime soon. But I became hopelessly bored, and though it was not in a strictly emotional sense, found that I missed her. Unsolved puzzles were nothing I enjoyed particularly. So when the fourth week began I went out and joined her by the river. She paled visible, then flushed happily and ran up to me, leaving the clothes behind.

"Will!" She cried joyfully. "You came back!"

I pulled back when she tried to hug me, staring deep into her black eyes. "Why does it please you so much?"

She laughed then, her eyes glimmering suspiciously as she knelt in front of me to be at eye level. "Why shouldn't it?"

And to that, I had no answer.

Somehow, she accepted me as I was, and expected me to accept her just as well. Our differences were abysmal, yet she wanted me beside her. She liked me despite the fact that did not really care for her.

"Why do you care?" I had asked her a few days later, eyeing her curiously.

"I don't know, I just do. I can't help feeling love or hate... unlike you." She was always sad when the referred to my nature, though I did not understand why.

"That is your way, this is mine."

"Which means that the only reason you 'like' me, is because you don't understand me," her voice was low and sad as she spoke, looking up at me with infinite gentleness.

"Yes."

"Perhaps you don't understand me, because you are not used to having people love you." I shivered and looked up at her, feeling suddenly cold and tense under the warmth of her gaze.

"So you... love me?"

"Why shouldn't I?" she whispered, stroking my hair with her damp hands, running her fingers through the straight blond strands.

"Why should you? I am nothing of yours." I was on the defensive, I realised, taken aback by her words.

"Feelings don't necessarily have reasons to be, they just are, Will!" she cried, lips tightening after in consternation.

"Everything has a reason, everything. I don't have to feel in order to understand feelings, because the reasons behind them can explain their motives." I answered back calmly, eyes devoid of any worry.

"No you can't! Because the reasons behind them are simply other feelings! Because when you are sad your chest hurts and that can't be explained! Because when you love someone you want to hug them and that has no explanation either, save that there is another feeling that bloomed into love!" I was stunned to find tears in her eyes, and a slight quiver in her lower lip.

"Nonsense. Feelings are just subconscious manifestations of bodily functions and needs." She slapped me then, which was the greatest surprise of all.

No one had ever raised a hand against me. I opened my mouth to snap in anger, when I saw her triumphant gaze.

"Are you angry, William? Really angry? I can hit you again if you aren't."

I took a step back, lifting a hand to my burning cheek. Yes, I was angry. Angry at this servant girl for defying me, for hitting me... but most of all for confounding me, mixing me up and loving me when she had no right to do so. No reason to do so. What could she know? She was immersed in her own feelings, blinded by them to the point she did not see reason. I would not give her the satisfaction of confusing my rationale and soul at the same time.

"It hurts," I admitted coldly. "But not much else."

I thought she would hit me again, but her raised hand dropped limply to her side and she shook her head, tears falling down her cheeks. "It's not right... they had no right to do this to you."

"Do what?"

"Not love you, not show you how lonely you really are."

"I don't feel lonely Anjli," I whispered softly, stepping closer to her.

"No... you don't. You don't feel at all." Her breath hitched as she said this.

"Why should this make you cry?" I murmured calmly, unaffected by her obvious pain. My mother had cried over everything since I could remember, but never over me. Odd that this girl would do so.

"It's sad."

Sad? Why did my nature make her sad?

"It's not. I like it this way... I am this way."

She hugged me then, and I let her do it just to see if it changed matters in any way. She felt warm, and she smelled of sweat and some sweet oil, but nothing else. "I know you are... that's why it hurts."

And once again, I did not understand it.

Sitting alone in my room, I stared at my toys and books darkly. I could hear my mother getting ready to go out, her shrill tones and perfect modulation. This was all I knew, and yet, perhaps the secret to Anjli's difference lay in the fact that she was raised somewhere else. Perhaps the world outside my mother's estate was different... like Anjli.

So I followed her back to her house one day, taking great care to pass unnoticed by her. Unfortunately, I did not pass unnoticed by the people and she soon realised I was trailing behind her. She ran up to me then, lifting me out of the mud on the street. I was only six, and probably weighed a lot less than the bundles of clothes she hefted up every day. "Will! What are you doing here!?"

"Show me your house." I requested calmly, and saw her eyes widen.

"Your mother will be furious!"

"Then show me your mother," I countered, and saw her eyes soften.

"Will..."

"Please."

She hugged me tighter and pushed through the crowds of people, away from my house. Many stared at her in curiosity, at this thirteen year old girl holding a boy whose origins where clearly above her own. But she ignored them, taking me deeper and deeper into this different world, until we reached her house.

Which was much larger than mine.

"This is where you live?" I whispered in awe.

"No.. this is a temple." I turned my face to look at her, but said nothing as she stepped in and shrunk into a corner. "See that statue over there?"

"Yes..."

"That's Buddha." There was a hint of... something... in her voice.

"Who?"

"He was a man, but his soul was enlightened and he transcended beyond this life. He loved everything, and his knowledge became infinite... so he became... a god."

I stared at the statue in awe. "A... god?"

"His love made him holy."

"How can a god love? A human becoming a god through love? God's are forces, not feelings!" I was offended all of a sudden. Did she think she would convince me like this?

"Will!"

"Take me to your house!"

"No."

"Why not?" I demanded.

"Because it would mean nothing to you."

She dropped me at the gates of my house and turned her back on me without even saying goodbye. On the following days she arrived too early for me to catch her, and washed the clothes someplace else to avoid me. Somehow, I had managed to truly anger her this time. So I dedicated myself to understanding this Buddha of hers.

He was a man indeed, but his soul achieved such purity that he went beyond humanity. He became a creature so pure and perfect he was above all of this. Purity... Perhaps Anjli was the one who was mistaken. There was no purity found in feelings, only more confusion. But if this man had transcended, it had been through the nobility and perfection of his soul. Not because of the taint of his feelings, if he had any. God's were based on wisdom, and emotions only clouded it. I became fascinated by the possibilities implied in this, the sheer depth of what it meant.

To become pure... pure enough to be above human and go beyond reincarnation into sheer perfection; a soul so unique in its lack of flaws it was indeed holy.

I realised that I craved this.

When Anjli deigned to address me again, she was horrified by what I said. "Oh no, Will... you got it all wrong!"

"That is what you think, but your feelings cloud your judgement. I know I am right."

But she did not see this. No one saw this, so I began to understand that I was the only one who could see it, that it was I who was unique. That my soul was already different, that I could perceive that which they ignored in their frantic emotionality. That my judgement was unimpaired.

That I was like Buddha.

"So you see.... this is why I am what I am," I told her, and saw her eyes become glassy.

"Will... you can't be like that! You can't understand everything like this!" she cried.

"Says who?"

"How can you understand something, if you don't feel it?"

"I can understand it precisely because I don't feel it."

I could see she was becoming desperate, and that it was because of this that she stayed longer everyday. She was afraid for me, in ways I could not understand. Yet.

Perhaps that's why I was so surprised when she arrived one day, carrying a robe to shroud me in. "Come and meet my mother," she said sweetly.

"No."

"Will?"

"She'll be just like you. That's why you want me to meet her."

"Will!" She was pleading... but I ignored it.

"No Anjli, I don't need to see her anymore."

"Do you even need to see me?" She whispered then, tears falling down her dusky cheeks.

I blinked at that, and closed my eyes. Need to see her? I had learned a lot from Anjli, though I could see that the limit of what she could teach me had been reached, and that she would never understand me. We were completely different after all. And even though I did not understand her completely, I could already predict her moves, and see through her reasons.

"No."

But it hurt to say it, and I did not understand why. Perhaps she had indeed touched me, and altered that which I had to keep as untainted as possible. I hurt because she had hurt me, she had affected my soul!

"No?" and I noticed, all of a sudden, that she held a white flower in her hand, unlike any I had ever seen.

"Where did you get that flower?" I asked coldly.

"You really don't want to see me anymore?" She was crying softly as she spoke. I did not care.

"Answer me! Where did you get that white flower?" I glared at her darkly.

"Not at all...?" She gave me a trembling look.

"Anjli!" I snapped coldly, pointing with my childish fingers at the flower.

She sobbed. "A lady sent it to you!"

"Who?"

"How should I know!" She cried. I stared at the flower, feeling attracted to its shiny perfection. It was white, like nothing I had ever seen, and completely flawless. I extended my hand to touch it, but Anjli pulled it back.

"It was given to me," I reminded her. She frowned, and with a sudden move I did not expect she threw it at my feet. I bent down in a hurry, but it was too late. The pristine petals were smudged with mud, bruised where they had been bent by her savage gesture. I gripped it gently, feeling nauseated by what she had done.

"It was perfect until you touched it!" I growled, and saw her pale.

"L-let me w-wash it," she whimpered, reaching out to touch not the flower, but me.

"No... it is already worthless." I murmured, letting it fall. "The dirt touched it."

She flinched visibly, and took a step away from me, eyes feverishly bright. "It grew on the dirt in the first place...."

Her words meant nothing to me, how could she know? She was nothing! A human controlled by her feelings! How could she understand what I knew, what I saw?

Yet, for once in her life, she did understand me that day. She saw what I thought and what I saw in her, and in the fallen flower. Her tears stopped, and her eyes widened until they seemed to swallow me up.

"But you can't understand that," she whispered softly. "You never will."

And she left. She didn't even finish the washing, and my mother was furious. She sent a servant to get her, but I did not go out to see the outcome of this. I did not expect, however, to find a complete stranger washing the clothes the next morning.

"Where is Anjli?" I asked of the older woman, feeling confused. She did not answer. "Where is Anjli!?"

"She no longer works here. Her job is mine."

I was dumbstruck, and for a few moments I considered going to see her and ask her why she had left.

Until I remembered that I didn't know where she lived, that I had never gone to her house in the end. Finally, I puzzled over this need to see her, and decided it was meaningless. I dedicated my time to mediation and purification, until even my mother grew afraid of me.

So when she found out she was pregnant again, and that it would be a girl, she showed no objection when a stranger asked her if he could have me. She handed me to him with a careless by-your-leave and never thought twice about me.

Neither did I.

Need I say anything else? The stranger took me away, trained me, and passed his Gold cloth to me, telling me that I should be a saint of Athena. And that was it. I found a purpose I could complete and enlighten myself further through it. I devoted my life to the protection of this Goddess because even though she was said to represent love, I believed in her representing justice even stronger. And I also believed that in time I might come to understand all that made me what I was, and become a god. I forsook any feeling I might have had, and dedicated myself to perfecting my soul.

Feelings were for lowly creatures, and I was not one such.

I was the Virgo saint, and I was above human. I was the closest thing there was to God.

I did see Anjli again, years later. She stumbled upon me and my students one morning, and froze when she saw me leading the group. At first I did not recognise her, but when I did I bid her sit by me.

"You have grown," I murmured, my eyes closed as I guided through my cosmo the meditation of my pupils.

"And you haven't. Not in the least bit."

And even though I understood the meaning of her words, and what she meant, I did not understand why she thought this. In the end, I never solved that puzzle.

"Does that bother you?"

"Somewhat... "

"Why did you ever care anyway?" I asked her gently, smiling patiently at her sigh.

"Oh, Will... does it matter anymore?" She got up and dusted her clothes. I did not look up, but her defeated attitude surprised me slightly. So I pressed on, though I did not know why. I still don't.

"I just wanted to know."

I heard her laugh then, sadly and bitterly. "You wouldn't understand."

"Try me."

"I thought of you as a little brother."

A silence fell between us then, and I opened my eyes to stare at her. She smiled painfully and shook her head, her shoulders hunching forward. "You see?"

And she was right.

I didn't.

The End


Toffeethinkz:

Yes... Unbroken again. Repetitive, aren't I? And this story is for...*drumroll* Derre-chan! Who writes this amazing fanfic that has me completely hooked! Go read it! Shoo shoo! (Ortygia is just around the corner *grins*)


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