Aphelion Issue 275, Volume 26
August 2022
 
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Out of Body

by Matthew A. Reed


One

Ta'Mon sat near the fire staring fixedly at the small red crystal of Ka'Rul in the palm of his hand. He watched as the light flicked and flashed off of the many facets in the beautiful jewel.

What he was considering bordered on blasphemy. Ka'Rul was precious, rare and almost magical; its use was strictly controlled by the government with the full support of the people. A small piece of Ka'Rul could cure any known disease, speed the healing process of any wound and sometimes bring you back from the brink of death.

To do what Ta'Mon was contemplating would have horrified an entire world.

But Ta'Mon was a dreamer. He thought differently than anyone else in his village. He was a natural born outsider. At 17 years old Ta'Mon had yet to have a girlfriend, yet to have a friend. People found him odd and off-putting. Kids his own age had never bothered to tease or taunt him, they just stayed away. His elders worried secretly, behind closed doors, and were at a loss on how to reach him. His thoughts on how Fa'Teke was governed were baffling. His disbelief of religion in a society with complete belief was shocking. His ideas about the afterlife, life in the stars, his seeming communion with trees and plants, his ability to befriend a wild animal in moments; all of these thing kept Ta'Mon an outsider.

And yet, underneath his strange exterior was a human being. A being with the same base needs as anyone else on Fa'Teke. And so Ta'Mon suffered.

Which made was he was thinking possible.

The decision made, Ta'Mon leaned forward and dropped the ruby-red crystal into the mortar. It made a small tinkling sound as it spun around in the curved bottom and slowly came to rest.

Ta'Mon looked up from the mortar into the fire with his eyes wide open and not blinking. For long moments he stared until his eyes burned and ached to blink. With a quick blink he shifted his vision from the fire to the dark heavens above him, through the maze of limbs and leaves fluttering in the gentle breeze, to the maelstrom of the stars above. The afterimage of the fire seemed to burn among the heavens. This vision of "heaven burning" pleased Ta'Mon because it felt like a visual representation of the state of his soul.

The afterimage faded and Ta'Mon came back to himself and reached down with his right hand and picked up the mortar and with his left hand he picked up the pestle. He placed the mortar in-between his crossed legs. He switched the pestle to his right hand, wrapped his left hand around the mortar and began to crush the Ka'Rul crystal into a fine red powder.

Setting down both the mortar and pestle Ta'Mon leaned to his left and picked up his pipe. It was a new pipe; he had bought it just the other day in the market. He had also bought some smoking herbs, as having a pipe with nothing to smoke might seem peculiar. Those herbs were now smoking around the outside of the fire, filling the air with their pungent aromas and colorful smokes.

Carefully, with the precision of a carpenter, Ta'Mon gently tapped the Ka'Rul dust into the bowl of his pipe.

In his mind he wondered again how it would happen. Would he feel it, or would or he simply stop. Stop being. Stop everything. Would it be like going to sleep?

To smoke Ka'Rul was certain death. That was the only definite thing Ta'Mon knew. It had never been done, not to the knowledge of anyone living. But everyone knew what would happen if you did.

And death was what Ta'Mon longed for.

Reaching forward he placed a small, dried twig in the fire. It blossomed to light. Placing the pipe in his mouth, his hand shaking just a bit, he brought the flaming twig up to the bowl of his pipe and slowly started to breathe in.

The small flame was pulled down into the bowl of the pipe slowly, almost as if it was reluctant to be used in this way. But down it came and eventually contact was made.

Instantly the small pyramid of red dust burst into a bright carmine infused flame; almost as fast it vanished into a puff of dust-red smoke and flew down the stem of the pipe into Ta'Mon's waiting mouth.

Two

It caressed the surface of his tongue tasting like life, not death. It raced down his windpipe with no burn, no urge to cough it up, down into his lungs where it felt like the physical embodiment of love; through the alveoli and into his bloodstream.

Flowing through his body as if the spirit of Sorilla herself with flowing within him.

The unexpected and intense pleasure of the smoke as it infiltrated every molecule of his being was shocking to Ta'Mon. His body slowly straightened, his head falling backward languidly, his eyes gently closing his mouth falling slack and open, his arms falling limply to his sides. He longed to hold the smoke in his lungs for the rest of his life but at the same time his chest ached and his control over his lungs was lost.

With a great exhale and a deep whooping inhale the smoke was released.

But Ta'Mon was not released from its effect.

His head fell backward again, stars reflecting off of his dilated pupils. Each breath seemed to increase his intoxication a little more. Slowly the intensity changed from a mind expanding visual festival to a body tingling warmth that spread slowly from his chest out, and down and up. Crawling up into his shoulders where his muscles relaxed and his shoulders slumped from the weight of so many sad years. Up into his neck, face and scalp where the fear and loneliness fell away, his face relaxed and became almost peaceful. Down into his stomach where the bile of a life lived alone settled into the sweetness of contentment. Down into his groin where his passion burned with an unquenchable lust, his young body responded, stiffening, throbbing in a way that was impossible to ignore.

Ta'Mon, head titled to the heavens, mouth gaping open, eyes gently closed, leaned backward and supported his body with his left hand as he slowly pulled the fabric of his tunic up. Reaching a little farther he undid the leather tie around his britches and released the straining mass of his youth.

The incredible sensation of the gentle breeze playing against his skin was all he needed. Orgasm ripped his soul from his body and sent it shooting into the glorious night sky. Ta'Mon's eyes flew open at the extremity of his pleasure and watched his soul fly from his body into the sky, mingling with the sparks, stars and air.

Slowly, his body contracted, his soul returned to his body and he lay back, breathing deeply.

Three

Tears fell copiously from his eyes. But they were not tears of sadness and isolation. They were tears of relief and joy. Whatever thing inside him that was broken, that caused him to hurt, to standout, to be different, he felt it healing inside of him. In one instant he was Ta'Mon, in the next he was something, someone, new.

Over the next few moments Ta'Mon slowly came back from his spiritual nirvana and began to take notice of his surroundings. At first he couldn't place what was wrong, it was a nagging sense of wrongness, but he couldn't see it.

Then his mind found it and grabbed hold of it tenaciously. There were no trees in his field of vision, no leaves fluttering gently in the chill evening breeze. He could no longer feel the dried leaves and dirt beneath him; he could no longer feel the intense warmth of the fire or smell the aroma of the smoking herbs.

He turned his head and his stomach leapt up into his throat in fear. He was floating above the trees, hundreds of feet above the trees and slowly rising into the night.

His first instinct was to panic and yell for help. But he knew that he was far from home and it was unlikely anyone would hear him. And even if they did, what could they possibly do for him?

He continued his lazy rise into the night sky.

As he climbed higher the air began to chill. Ta'Mon's fear grew and as he turned his head to look down once more his body followed suit turning in a dizzying spin that left his stomach even farther up his throat. Ta'Mon found himself facing downward and longing for the ground he now saw shrinking below him.

Without warning he began to descend. Very slow and gently he felt the air change its course from down the back of his head and over his shoulders, to up into his face and over his head.

His fear was beginning to wan. As bizarre as this was he was beginning to feel safe, and exhilarated at the same time. He was flying! Looking ahead of him as he descended he saw Ric'Ters point; a giant finger of rock thrusting up from the floor of the forest. So tall that no one in Fa'Teke's history had ever climbed it.

His course changed and his descent slowed. Ta'Mon sailed toward Ric'Ters point until he hovered just over the peak. With his thoughts on solid ground he slowly reoriented himself and very gently landed on both feet.

Four

For a few precious moments Ta'Mon was overjoyed by the sight that lay before him. Fa'Teke was spread out like a lovely dark green gem. Its waters glimmered in the starlight. But then reality sat in. He was standing on the tallest point in all of Fa'Teke with no way down.

Fear began to grip him again. His stomach, which for a brief moment had settled back to its normal location, gave a sudden lurch and he dropped to his knees as vertigo spread throughout his mind.

What was he to do? It was impossible to even consider climbing down the jagged rock face. No one had ever made it to the top how could he possibly make it down. He couldn't very well trust that he could just jump off and float slowly to the ground either. He had flown once but perhaps that was some kind of after effect from smoking Ka'Rul. What if it didn't work this time? And he couldn't just wait for rescue that would never, could never, come.

Thinking his situation through Ta'Mon knew he was in trouble. If only he could will himself to rise up off of the rock and glide back down.

At the thought Ta'Mon slowly rose up off of the rock and into the air. He hovered a few feet above the rocks summit in astonishment.

"My thoughts control my flight," he said aloud.

Gathering his courage he thought in his mind that he wanted to be facing his fire and his body slowly turned in the air. Spotting the glow from his campfire he concentrated on being there. Moving slowly but gaining speed he flew away from the point directly toward the faint glow.

As he came nearer the light of his fire he pictured himself slowly descending and softly landing by the fire. Which is exactly what he did.

When his feet were firmly planted in the dirt again he fell to his knees gasping with relief. What an odd evening. It had started out the blackest of nights in Ta'Mon's life and ended with him flying through the sky.

Which of course no one would ever believe. Which meant that if he told anyone it would only distance him even more from the rest.

Unless he could truly control this new ability.

Five

Ta'Mon sat his mind that he must know how far his ability went. He rose to his feet and pictured himself just a few feet above the ground.

He instantly rose two feet and hovered.

He pictured himself back on the ground.

He glided gently back to the ground.

He was amazed.

He gathered up the few possessions he had brought with him, kicked dirt onto his fire to put it out and rose and faced the night sky.

He pictured himself soaring above the treetops and instantly launched into the air. Up and up, the ground fell beneath him.

Ten feet above the tallest tree he hovered. Slowly he oriented himself and once he was facing the direction of his village he pictured himself home.

The wind took flight around him as he sailed through the night.

A new world lay open to Ta'Mon. New adventures and excitement he had never known. He would be famous throughout Fa'Teke as the flying boy. His life was about to change, forever.

THE END

Author's Note: An introduction to Fa'Teke ( Fä 'tEk.)

Fa'Teke is a small continent on a far away planet. In fact it is the only known body of land on the entire planet. About the size of Australia, Fa'Teke has a population or nearly 4 million people spread across the continent. Most of the population is centered along the shores and the people are seafaring by nature. The inner continent is mostly wild forests, dangerous swamps and even a few deserts.

Their level of technology would be about the equivalent to the late 1700's of our time.

They are a deeply religious people with almost 100 percent belief in a single Goddess known as Sorilla. Many hundreds of years ago there were two religions on Fa'Teke but Ba'Keel worship was outlawed because of its war-like nature and irreverence for human life.

Fa'Teke is governed by a very strange system (see short story "Day of Fate" for more information) consisting of a temporary monarch and a Quorum of 100 elected Dukes representing the 100 established cities of Fa'Teke. A monarch is chosen by a national lottery of which every living person above the age of 18 must participate. Every ten years a new lottery is drawn and the old monarch steps down and resumes his or hers life and a new monarch is crowned. There is no choice in the matter; if your name is drawn you must serve.

The most precious substance in all of Fa'Teke is Ka'Rul. A small red crystal found growing sparsely in mineral deposits on the sea floor. It is rare and coveted for its almost magical healing properties. It is also strictly controlled by the government and its misuse or possession without permit is one of the few crimes that warrant the punishment of being "cast out" into the great sea. Certain death. (See short story "Cold Comfort" for more information).

Ka'Rul has been in use by the people of Fa'Teke for thousands of years. Over this time it has slowly begun to change them. Ta'Mon's experience is the first indication of how significant that change will be...


© 2007 Matthew A. Reed

Bio: Matthew A. Reed has been writing short stories since the early 80's and focuses primarily on fantasy stories with an occasional jaunt into the realm of SciFi. Matthew is 38 years old and lives in Versailles, Kentucky. Two of his stories have appeared in Aphelion some years ago: The Lessons of Guilt, March 2000 (set in the same world as "Out of Body") and Spru TV, September 2000.

E-mail: Matthew A. Reed

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