AR 1212-12-03 Rissa and Yari Talk About Everything or Nothing
The caravan had just stopped for the night and the schoolchildren poured out of the wagons, happily stretching their legs. Yari flexed his back side to side with a horrendous sounding series of cracks and creeks.
Rissa startled him in mid-stretch, “Hey.”
“Hey, what?” he responded.
“Wanna take a walk?” Rissa requested. “If you can tear yourself away from your princess for a little while, that is.”
Yari sighed. “What’s the matter now?”
“Nothing’s the matter,” Rissa said, leading him down the road away from the wagons. “Can’t we just have a walk and chat, just you and me?”
“Okay…” Yari said, uneasily waiting for the reason for her conversation. With Rissa one never knew what uncomfortable issue was forthcoming.
“See, that’s what I want to talk about, that reaction you had right there,” Rissa said. “You assume I have some problem. I don’t want to just talk to you when there’s a problem. Sometimes I just want to talk for the heck of it.”
“Alright, what about?” he asked.
“Everything,” she replied philosophically, “or nothing.”
“What did you say?” Yari raised an eyebrow at her choice of words.
Picking up on unspoken cues, Rissa explained. “I asked Sardi last night what you and he talk about when you go off alone for hours on end. His reply was ‘Everything, or nothing’ which apparently has some sort of inside meaning between you two.”
Rissa continued, “Well it got me to thinking, you and I use to do that. When we were growing up we used to talk for hours about everything under the sun…or absolutely nothing, depending on your perspective. I would bore you with my daydreams; you would bore me with your philosophy. I miss that.”
“You miss being bored?”
“Okay, ‘bore’ was a poor choice of words,” Rissa admitted. “My point is it didn’t matter that you weren’t that into what I was talking about, or that I didn’t always get what you were saying. I still liked sharing those sorts of things with you. And lo and behold, sometimes we stumbled into some deep conversations that really resonated with me. That’s what I miss. From what Sardi says, you still do that, just with him instead of me. Guess I just don’t like being replaced so easily.”
“Hey,” Yari said earnestly, “no one could ever replace you, I mean that. Besides, lately Sardi’s been spending as much time with you as with me. What’s up with that, huh?”
“Oh, just part of my evil plot to steal him away from you,” Rissa said with a smirk.
“Not a chance!” Yari countered.
“Well, I think I’ve got a good shot,” Rissa said. “After all, you don’t put out, so…”
Yari stopped in his tracks. “Wait, you guys haven’t—when you two disappeared last night you didn’t—”
“Do the deed? No, relax, I’m kidding!” Rissa said. “Sardi and I are just friends.”
Yari sensed that she was trying to convince herself of that just as much as she was trying to convince him.
“On that note,” Rissa said, “rumor has it you broke up with Elsie last night so you could go steady with Verona. True?”
“Do we have to talk about my love life?” Yari asked, slightly annoyed, slightly nervous.
“No, we don’t have to if you don’t want to,” Rissa said, surprisingly willing to change topics. “How about the future, then? We’re over half way done with school…almost two thirds! So, have you given any thought about what you wanna do after graduation?”
“The future, huh?” Yari said, pondering. His eyes shifted from deep blue to an even deeper blackness.
“What’s up with your eyes?” Rissa inquired.
“They’re gonna do what they’re gonna do,” he answered without actually answering. It was an annoying habit he had, saying profound things that didn’t quite make sense, but that seemed to provide full and complete explanations in his mind. “And, so’re we.
“The future…” he trailed off. “C’mon!” With an enthused gesture to follow him, Yari dashed away from the caravan, through the surrounding brush, and into the darkness. Rissa caught just the briefest glimpse of him before he was off, impish grin competing with his black eyes for dominance over his face. It wasn’t exactly what she was expecting, but it was good enough – and, besides, who didn’t love a good chase?
They ran together through the night, laughing and shouting like they had no cares in the world. Above them, the stars in the sky dashed about, chasing each other in much the same way. When the two had run far enough that they could no long see the campfires of the caravan, Rissa paused for breath.
“Hey,” she panted happily, holding her knees, “I think we should head back.”
“We’re almost there,” came Yari’s answer from behind. She had thought him just ahead of her, and she let out a clipped, startled cry. The boy just smiled at his sister and calmly walked passed her. His eyes were still black.
He said nothing for another few minutes of walking. Rissa followed in silence, concern growing in her chest, replacing the burning sensation from all the running earlier. Finally, in the middle of an open field, the nearest tree line dozens of meters away, Yari stopped, spun around, threw out his arms, and fell down. In was a more-or-less controlled plop, but the suddenness of it earned another startled cry from Rissa.
The boy said nothing; just laid on the ground, spread eagle, staring at the busy night sky overhead. Rissa walked over and joined him in a much more dignified way. A pair of shooting stars flew by, disappearing more-or-less together.
“This is the spot,” he said.
“Hey, you’ve got your braided stone pillars; I’ve got… this.”
She waited for him to elaborate, but when he didn’t, Rissa prodded, “What’s so special about this place?”
“This, my dear sister, is where the sky first opened up to me. Sardi was there, too; I know he heard it then, but I don’t think he still hears it. It’s not a voice, exactly. More like a feeling of connection… to… to everything. To everything and everyone. When I look into the night sky, I can feel myself a part of everything. Everything and Nothing. That’s what Sardi was saying. When the sky talks to you, it’s not just the sky; it’s everything in the sky. All those swirling points of light up there, all the infinite other worlds trying to make it like ours is, floating about in that sea of darkness. They’re all in this same thing we are – whatever that is! – and it is the sky that connects us.
“That they’re alive, somewhere out there, it gives us strength. Gives me strength. ‘I stand, so that you can stand,’ y’know? That sort of thing, only there’s also the bit where I’m only standing at all, because you are too. It gets… weird… quickly.
“But, yeah, there’s this powerful connection to Everything I’ve been feeling, and it’s kind of freaking me out a bit. It goes deeper than anything about the Aesir. This is older, more primal…”
He trailed off, gathering and reigning in his manic thoughts. Rissa wanted to use the opportunity to say something, but she found no words appropriate for the occasion.
“… a while back,” Yari went on, “I watched one of my friends die. Not Wally – I don’t think the sky was really talking to me then. Mamma Bird died a few weeks ago.”
“Oh, Yari!” Rissa finally exclaimed. “I’m so sorry! Why didn’t you say anything? I know how much she meant to you!”
“Well, it was her time,” he said stoically. “She led a good life for a raven, and her kin will carry on her legacy – at least if I have anything to say about it! – but that’s not the point.” It was dark, but she was pretty sure he wiped his eyes before continuing. “I felt her die, Rissa. That… something… energy? Force? That Something that she had left her tiny body, and I felt it leave. I didn’t want to let it go, so I held on.
“Do you know? For a moment, I could! For a moment, I used my connection to Mamma Bird and held on to that Something – I guess her soul, maybe? – and I kept it close. It gave me a certain sense of strength, but after a minute, it was gone, and so was she.”
His voice caught, and he was silent again for a long while. Rissa, shocked at the suddenly open floodgates of inner turmoil her brother was sharing, lay silent too, moving only to hold his hand as they watched the meteor shower together. He took up her hand eagerly and held it tight, as though he was a man dying of thirst, and squeezing his sister’s hand would give him lifesaving water.
“It’s not infernal, or diabolic, or anything like that, Rissa,” he whispered. By this point her brother’s seeming non sequiturs no longer bothered her. She just let them be. “It’s just the sky… it’s just Everything… Nothing…”
He sniffed once, and went on with a more normal volume, and a more steady tenor, “You wanna know my plans for the future? That’s it, right there: Everything, and Nothing. Y’see, a wise man once warned me about the best laid plans of gods and men…
“… still, I do plan to ask Verona to marry me… so… y’know… that’s a thing…”
“You mean some day down the road, in the future, you might ask Verona to marry you, or…?”
“No, I mean now,” Yari clarified. “When we get to town I’m gonna buy a ring and propose to her this week.”
Rissa had a few choice words to say about that. She was not happy about his choice, but in the end she conceded that it was his choice, and if it made him happy, she would be happy for him.
The pair lay in the glade talking on about Everything, or Nothing, for quite some time, until the nose of Clarice the wolf led a search party of worried classmates to them.