The half-blind hermit lord, Sokosozuin, performs SeriaYi, the formal recounting of an episode from one’s life

…‘There is a play of the poet Aginsozura, from the Perfect Calm Era, which tells the terrible story of the RoMayZine Lord Ysokan of the Clouded Era: and in that bloody play, Ysokan, finding that in a fit of MalSol, he has put to death the members of his own blood family, gouges out his own eyes, so that he may never see the pure light of the wonderful day again – well, it is a harrowing story. To my imperishable shame, I would have wished to gouge out my own mind, in order to rid myself of the dirty illumination that had taken root there, and was continuing to grow like a fibrous and vigorous weed – but I could not, for one’s own mind is the very basis of the universe, and we are taught that the life of our own mind is the foundation of the Way.

Sai. It is so. It is like that.

And still, the rain fell.

Perhaps I slipped into a doze. The story of Lord Ysokan was on my mind. I remembered once, in a small town in Chian canton, a place of wool, in summer, seeing a group of travelling players performing Lord Ysokan for a ragged crowd of souls. The stage was a simple thing, and the make-up and acting loud and rude, with great clashing of swords and shields, when a battle was made out of yelled words, and five actors made up conflicting armies. The performance was beyond the perimeter of the town, in a clearing among the trees, held by night and lit by lanterns. Despite the crudeness of the stage, and the rough-and-ready talents of the troupe, Aginsozura’s poetry shone out and lifted all – actors and audience alike, and even the watching officers of KinChogan, who stood in attendance to ensure no impure scenes were played out there – all were taken from their present mind, and transported to the turbulent Clouded Era, and to the home of Shion Ysokan, over four thousand years ago. And when the time came for the shion to put out his own eyes, the bumpkin audience moaned and wailed, and called out to him to stop, pleading with the shion to show himself mercy, and to forgive himself. And when the play had finished, after the scene where the barbarian killers come, and find their great enemy blinded and helpless, and despatch him, such a silence fell on that clearing for a little while, it seemed as if we might have heard the needle from one of the nearby pines drop to the forest floor and make a soft noise as it landed.

At the time, I had been very struck by the power of art to transform the flow of our minds, to divert their courses, to canalise them along new directions, and to lift us from our substantial state into the world of imagination, where different laws apply.

Now, as I sat, slumped, leaning against the planking wall of that unoccupied beach house, listening to the sound of the rain and to the bash and drawl of waves as the tide heightened, images from that play played themselves across my wandering mind. The work was purely done, according to the legislation, in the old way, uncorrupted, in the Perfect Calm Era Style: the actors’ faces were masked in lurid facepaint, which shone in the hanging paper lanterns; the toy armour tinkled with a trashy sound during the acts of combat; and for long periods the actor playing Lord Ysokan wore a metal mask, which was only removed for the most tragic moments… The blinding scene was terrifying… Even there, shipwrecked on the coast of the MarIsQuess, destitute under an alien sun, I myself dreamily flinched when Ysokan raised his thumbs to his own eyes, and began to speak the words: World, too beautiful for these violent eyes of mine / and eyes which rage with sight of unforgiving blood / tender things, both, will this night meet no more / not even for one particle of a lonely moment…

I had begun to shiver. I saw in the theatre of my mind the tormented Lord of the Mountain Mark unlatch his visor, and the effect of seeing his naked face – and his eyes – so often hidden under the tin prop of his mask, and knowing his intention, seemed to suspend the blood in my veins.

A cold darkness fell across my soul. For a few moments, I assumed my feeling of approaching horror was related to the play. A sense of silence entered me, just like the silence of the audience as they held their breath, mesmerised by the scene before them.

My mind began to tingle. I can describe the sensation in no other way: there was a curious agitation in my mind, as if of wind chimes stirring at the approach of a breeze. And a shadow encroached upon my thought. I felt intensely sensitive. And yet, I also felt impersonal: it was as if my own thoughts were like insects in a nest, running here and there, organising themselves, making preparations for some coming event.

I opened my eye. Two riders were approaching through the dunes…

Excerpt from Comb, Volume 8 of Dustless