You know the deal. Coming. Going. Bills. Forgotten Dreams. Bills. Haste. Bills. Dread. Bills. Longing. Bills. Pain. Bills.
The sense that something is utterly wrong.
So, now that you’re out of it, you want to forget the place ever existed. The spheres are beckoning you with their sweet song, their sweet unknown song, so why would you bother yourself with the only too-familiar drab of the Borderlands? The answer is as simple as it is hard to grasp by first-time walkers:
You don’t know what you know anymore.
The usual thinking of beginners (and I’ve seen even some weathered wanderers do it, who should know better) is that it is you who shifts spheres, when the truth is the opposite. You (whatever that is – more on that in later chapters) – you stay, the spheres move. Got it? When you’re on the road, you’re shifting entire spheres. Sounds great? Frightening? Unbelievable? Well, if its all of those things to you, then it means you’re not as far as you would like from the shallow waters of existence, but don’t worry. I’ll pull you out and drop you kicking and screaming into the raging seas of infinity whether you want to or not, because it’s too late to go back now, stonehead. You’re on the ride and it’s going full speed, and it sure as the Turning itself isn’t going to stop, so you better sit back, relax, keep your eyes open, and you might even learn something. Right?
Right. One of the most annoying things in the Fringe is that everything that has the slightest semblance of bearing the mark of the spheres is attributed -and note the emphasis here- exclusively to a Force. I will speak of Forces later, but suffice to say that this view, although not entirely wrong, is based on a gross misconception, namely, that power is the solely the dominion of immortality (again, whatever that is, and again, more on that later).
One way to test this assumption is, of course, to try to kill a Force, a feat which has indeed been attempted on numerous occasions with varying degrees of success. The insight gained by going through with it is restricted solely to the stonehead who accomplishes the deed; the consequences of failure, however, are shared by all. That is why many think that challenging a Force is a bad idea. I have to agree, although the real reasons of why you shouldn’t mess with a Force are entirely different altogether. Buy me some drinks, set aside the greater part of an evening, and we can discuss the matter in gloriously terrifying detail. Here, I’ll keep things practical.
There are many other ways of doing away with a Force than downright murder, as there are many other ways to tap into the sources of power. Of the former I shall say naught (consult Orestes’ The Lightning Path if the subject interests you), but I shall discuss the latter with some degree of thoroughness, for it holds the key to a happy, (mostly) trouble-free wandering career.
First of all: Knowing changes. That is what enabled you to start walking, wasn’t it? You knew where you were and – bang! – you knew where you were not, and then you moved. Right?
‘Course, you were in the Fringe, which, true to its name, considers Knowing to be a big, fat finger pointed at the Rings. Knowing of this, of that, of the other. Quite eagerly you go out into the spheres and start pointing at everything you see, and something happens. You get stuck. Can’t move anymore. All the space shrinks to the size of a small, damp, cramped room. You can’t breathe, you can’t think. You die.
Now, you might think I’m being a bit melodramatic here, but these words were uttered countless times by wanderers all across the Turning as warning and advice. Advice, being the grown-up child of fancy, is as useless now as it ever was, so I’m going to give you a method to avoid that dullest of all misfortunes.
What you gotta do is stick that pointing finger into a place where it won’t cause any trouble and repeat the following (loudly if you can, for it frightens the Fringies away) until the last remnants of reason are cast out wailing and in terror, never to return:
Knowing is in the spheres.
Look without, and all you’ll find is the aforementioned lack of everything. Look within, and you’ll see it was never gone. That’s what the sages of old meant by that whole business of searching inside. It’s not inside that other cramped room you like to call self (there’s that word again), like so many crag-minded mudheads you are no doubt acquainted with like to assume. These wouldn’t know a sphere if it came knocking on their door, and neither do they go out and, you know, try to see for themselves what they blutter so carelessly about.
You aren’t like that. You would like to know what you blutter about. The Turning, the spheres, and everything. And, again, you’re acting like the Fringeling you are. Why? Because that’s fringe-thinking. And fringe-thinking is fringe-staying. The sooner you know that, the better.
This brings us back to my initial proposition. Why talk about the Fringe at all? Well, this answers itself now. When you’re in another sphere, what you know about the Fringe is not true anymore. Sphere-thinking, got it? And, let me tell you, it puts the Fringe in a wholly different light. It makes it almost interesting. You can do things now that you couldn’t, wouldn’t or shouldn’t, and this only works because it is not you who’s anywhere else. Rather, stretching the limits and altogether shattering my spatial metaphor, you plopped a whole sphere unto the Fringe and are now watching it do what it does best.
You heard me. And if you can put two and two together, you now have a notion of what it truly means to wander. This is the real deal. Do you still think that power is of the Forces alone? What happens when you don’t think like this anymore? What happens, scraggy?
There’s only one thing you can do to answer those questions if you’re half the wanderer you think you are.
Go and find out.
So you’re all flippy because you discovered there’s more – a lot more – to the spheres than that forgotten hole on the wrong end of the Ring you like to call home. Big deal. You think that now nothing can bar you from going out into the sprawling kalpas and regain the freedom that, for whatever dull-witted reason, was entirely absent from that ill-begotten cesspool of your dwelling place.
You can, of course, go out into the kalpas. There’s nothing to stop you. Save, you know, others just like you who’ve left their rotting backwater dumps but have done so a long time ago and resent it bitterly if someone else crowds their valuable infinity. They don’t like to be reminded of their limited, hopelessly ignorant past because, in fact, they did not change at all. They still think time has, or will, change them, when that’s a whole load of crap that anyone with half a mind can see is completely wrong. More about that later.
Another thing that can turn your pleasant journey of nothingness quickly into a much too solid ordeal are the natives. That’s not to say that all natives are just burning to step on your inadequately-clad toes. Most of them actually aren’t, and a lot are genuinely curious and kind and all that fluff. This, as an unfortunate consequence, turns those who do make it a sport to be a nuisance and act like the stoneheaded asses they are into more of a danger than they should be. There are two reasons for it.
First is that their behaviour, due to its rarity (believe me), is unexpected; and second, because of this rarity there is little chance for any but the most seasoned of wanderers to develop any semblance of experience and useful tactics regarding these unsavoury encounters, when they actually do occur.
It’s a good thing, then, that you’re holding this little treatise and perusing its contents, which I advise you to do with great attention, as here you will get exactly what you need to start on your journey without having to bear the scars of having acquired this knowledge by the usual means.
Do not get me wrong: you will get hurt. There’s no denying that, as it can’t be denied that what you’re proposing yourself to do is the single most worthy, exhilarating, utterly mind-boggingly awesome endeavour you could ever dream of undertaking, to put it humbly. Still, this one thinks that life is too short to get hung up on small things. Learn, do your homework, so that when the time comes to get hurt, to fail, you’ll do it for the big things.
Fail spectacularly as a shooting star in the night sky, as the sun that at every moment burns itself in dazzling splendour. And when it’s over, dust yourself off and try again, because that’s what it means to fail. It means a chance, a route, a map, a beginning. Don’t fret the small things. I’m here for that. I’ll take care of those so that you can do what you’re really supposed to do.
To be the greatness of the spheres.