Chapter Four Factorial
Scene Six: Holy InsightFireflies, he thought. Purple and green lights spun through the room like creatures in a dark forest. They passed through his head, through his heart, filled his body, his hands, his fingertips. Bubbles of color filled everything, everywhere he could see. The goddess Onuava and the goddess Glaistig combined in the witch Ruffina. Her body glowed. Behind her, something that was brighter than the sun shone, too harsh for his stare. Rays of light blasted through the purple and green.
Now I will show you everything, said the firefly lights inside him, all together, in one voice. It was Glaistig.
And she did.
Everything started out with nothing. Vast, dense nothing. He had the impression of being so small in the nothing that he was very big, which made no sense. Then came a change in the nothing. It was as if the laws of the universe that the wizards were always going on about had been poked while they were compressed. The laws gathered tension in the nothingness. Denario felt himself under physical pressure enduring the change. Then came everything. It was beyond him, all around him, an explosion of bubbles.
The bubbles leapt apart. There was never a single one alone, Denario noticed. There were none or two, sometimes none or many, but never only one isolated from others. He counted them. They danced. They twirled and spun. The dance grew bigger.
Division, not subtraction, Denario noticed. Many bubbles broke into smaller, more interesting bubbles. Sometimes small bubbles joined. Addition, not multiplication. What does that? Are there math rules for this?
There are, said Glaistig. Does that make you happy?
It makes me sad, he thought.
Why? She seemed puzzled. Your belief is proven right. Enjoy.
It looks arbitrary. He felt embarrassed for himself. This was a tremendous insight, a glimpse of the primal math. It made him feel small and foolish. Maybe I should trade rightness for understanding.
The dance became an explosion. Denario felt himself getting bigger. He towered over the explosion. He felt himself pulling back from the primal landscape because he was so enormous. He glimpsed giant shapes in the dark, dangerous things. But in an instant, they shrunk. He realized he'd gotten sizable enough to see that everything he'd witnessed before had occurred on Onuava's fingertip. His focus remained on that fingertip, the old skin from Ruffina, light from Onuava and, oddly, an additional inner radiance from Ruffina. But again his view pulled back. He overlooked the entire temple, then a stretch of No Map Creek, then the creek and the Riggle Kill river.
The accountant looked down at the Complacent Sea as if from above a map. He could see the colors of the lands and clouds. The clouds threw shadows on the ground below. The goddess directed his view of creation into the starry sky. The sun was out above the clouds but he could see the stars. Why? Then the blue of the sky faded and there were only the stars and, to his left, a big star that might have been the sun.
Soon he was too big to see the sun. He lost it in the swarm of stars and felt a jolt of panic as he realized that he couldn't find home. He reached out towards where he thought it might be. His view filled with stars circled by stars, then spirals within spirals. In a moment, he was too big to notice anything more than patterns in a current of glowing dust. They looked like swirls in the sea. An odd sense of repetition struck him. A wizard in Baggi had written about a type of mathematical method he called a recursion. Denario felt convinced that it was that type of math he was seeing. There were brief rules, repeating over and over, referring to themselves and one another. They made little things. They made big things. They made everything.
The patterns fell within other patterns. The process kept going until Denario got so big that even light was too small to reach him. At the edge of his consciousness, he felt constraints. A sense of pressure signaled the end. It felt surprisingly similar to the pressure he'd experienced in the beginning of things.
“Are you back?” a husky, female voice asked.
Denario blinked. He was within himself. The vision had retreated. He was just a rather short, young man standing naked in a wide oval of candles. In front of him stood the witch Ruffina, also naked.
There was a slight, purple-green glow behind her eyes.
“That was … I don't understand ...” His chest heaved to take in a deep breath he hadn't known he'd needed. “How did I lose my clothes?”
“Shh.” She put a finger to his lips.
He put his fingers around her wrist. She felt human. When she leaned forward, it was Onuava who spoke directly into his head.
For real understanding, she intoned, it's best to take a look inside.
Next: Chapter Twenty-Four, Scene Seven
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