Chapter 11: Sporos
A burst of harmony so brilliant that it almost overwhelmed them surrounded Meg, the cherubim, Calvin, and Mr. Jenkins. But after a moment of breathlessness, Meg was able to open herself to the song of the farae, these strange creatures who were Deepened, rooted, yet never separated from each other, no matter how great the distance.
We are the song of the universe. We sing with the angelic host. We are the musicians. The farae and the stars are the singers. Our song orders the rhythm of creation.
Calvin asked, "How can you sing with the stars?"
There was surprise at the question: it is the song. We sing it together. That is our joy. And our Being.
"But how do you know about the stars--in here--inside--"
How could farae not know about stars when farae and stars sing together?
"You can't see the stars. How can you possibly know about them?"
Total incomprehension from the farae. If Meg and Calvin kythed in visual images, this was their limitation. The farae had moved beyond physical sight.
"Okay," Calvin said. "I know how little of ourselves, and of our brains, we've learned to use. We have billions of brain cells, and we use only the tiniest portion of them."
Mr. Jenkins added with his dry, ropy kythe, "I have heard that the number of cells in the brain and the number of stars in the universe is said to be exactly equal."
"Progo!" Meg asked. "You memorized the names of all the stars--how many are there?"
"How many? Great heavens, earthling, I haven't the faintest idea."
"But you said your last assignment was to memorize the names of all of them."
"I did. All the stars in all the galaxies. And that's a great many."
"But how many?"
"What difference does it make? I know their names. I don't know how many there are. It's their names that matter."
The strong kything of the farae joined Proginoskes. "And the song. If it were not for the support of the singing of the galaxies, we farae on Yadah would have lost the melody, so few of the farandolae are Deepening. The Namers are at work."
Meg felt a sudden chill, a pulling back, a fading of the Deepened farae; there was a dissonance in the harmony; the rhythm faltered.
In her mind's eye an image was fhalshed of a troop of farandolae dancing wildly about one fara tree, going faster and faster, until she felt dizzy.
"Sporos is with them," Proginoskes told her.
"What are they doing? Why are they spinning faster and faster?" The circle of farandolae revolved so rapidly that it became a swirling blur. The fronds of the great fara around whom they swirled began to droop.
"They are absorbing the nourishment which the fara needs. The fara is Senex, from whom Sporos came." There was chill in Proginoskes's words.
The speed of the dancing farandolae became like a scream in Meg's ears. "Stop!" she cried. "Stop it at once!" There was nothing merry or joyful in the dance. It was savage, wild, furious.
Then, through the raging of the dance came a strong, pure strain of melody, quiet, certain, noble. The dancing farandolae broke their circle and scampered about aimlessly; then, led by Sporos, they raced to another fara and began circling it.
The fronds of Senex greened, lifted.
Proginoskes said, "He is strong enough to hold out longer than any of the other farae. But even Senex cannot hold out forever." He stopped abruptly. "Feel."
"The rhythm of the mitochondrion. Is it my fearfulness, or is Yadah faltering?"
"It is not you," Meg answered the cherubim. They were all very still, listening, feeling. Again there came a slight irregularity in the steady pulsing. A faltering. A missed beat. Then it steadied, continued.
Like a gash through the non-light of Yadah Meg had a brief vision of Charles Wallace lying in his small room, gasping for air. She thought she saw Dr. Louise, but the strange thing was that she could not tell whether it was Dr. Louse Colubra, or Louise the actual colubra. "Don't give up. Breathe, Charles. Breathe." And a steady voice, "It's time to try oxygyn."
Then she was drawn back within the mitochondrion to Senex, the parent tree of Sporos. She tried to convey to him what she had just seen, but she received nothing from him in return. His incomprehension was even greater than Mr. Jenkins's had been. She asked Proginoskes, "Does Senex know that Charles Wallace even exists?"
"As you know that your galaxy, the Milky Way, exists."
"Does he know that Charles Wallace is ill?"
"As you know that your Earth is ill, by fish dying in the rivers, birds dying in the forests, people dying in the choked cities. You know by war and hate and chaos. Senex knows mitochondrion is ill because the farandolae will not Deepen and many farae are dying. Listen. Kythe."
A group of farandolae whirled about a fara; fronds drooped; color drained. The dance was a scream of laughter, ugly laughter. Meg smelled the stench which was like the stench in the twins' garden when she had first encountered an Echthros.
She heard a voice. It was like a bad tape recording of Mr. Jenkins. "You need not Deepen and lose your power to move, to dance. No one can force you to. Do not listen to the farae. Listen to me."
The great central trunk of the surrounded fara began to weaken.
Meg tried to project herself into the dance, to break the vortex. "Sporos, come out! Don't listen. You were sent to the Teacher. You belong with us. Come out, Sporos, you were meant to Deepen!"
Then it was as though she were the end skater in a violent game of crack-the-whip and suddenly was flung so wildly across the ice that she crashed into the end of the rink. The force with which she had been thrown was so fierce that her kything was completely blacked out.
"Breathe, Meg, breathe." It was Proginoskes, using the same words which Louise was using with Charles Wallace. "Breathe, Meg. You're all right."
She reeled, staggered, regained her balance.
Again she heard the ugly laugh, and the false Mr. Jenkins voice urging, "Kill the fara!"
Then came Mr. Jenkins's own voice. "I see. I understand." She felt emanating from him a dry, dusty acknowledgment of unpleasant fact.
She returned sharply, still slightly breathless, "I don't understand."
Mr. Jenkins asked her, "Why did Hitler want to control the world? Or Napoleon? Or Tiberius?"
"I don't know. I don't know why anyone would. I think it would be awful."
"But you admit that they did, Margaret?"
"They wanted to," she conceded. "But they didn't succeed."
"They did a remarkably good job of succeeding for a period of time, and they will not lightly be forgotten. A great many people perished during the years of their rules."
"But farandolae--why would little farandolae like Sporos--"
"They appear to be not that unlike human beings."
She felt cold and quiet. Once Mr. Jenkins had accepted the situation, he understood it better than she did. She asked, "Okay, then, what have the Echthroi got to do with it? They're behind it, aren't they?"
Proginoskes answered, "The Echthroi are always behind war."
Meg turned in anguish towards Senex, calm and strong as an oak tree, but, unlike the oak, pliable, able to bend with wind and weather. "Senex, we've been sent to help, but I'm not strong enough to fight the Echthroi. I can't stop Sporos and the other farandolae from killing the fara. Oh, Senex, if they succeed, won't they kill themselves, too?"
Senex responded coldly, quietly. "Yes."
"This is insane," Mr. Jenkins said.
Proginoskes answered, "All war is insane."
"But, as I understand it," Mr. Jenkins continued, "we are a minutely immeasurable part of Charles Wallace?"
"Therefore if, while we are on--or, rather, in--this mitochondrion, if Charles Wallace were to die, then--er--um--we--"
"Then I fight not only for Charles Wallace's life but for Meg's and Calvin's and--"
Meg felt Mr. Jenkins's total indifference to his own life. She was not yet willing to accept the burden of his concern for her. "We musn't think about that! We musn't think about anything but Charles!"
Proginoskes wound around and through her thoughts: "You cannot show your concern for Charles Wallace now except in concern for Sporos. Don't you understand that we're all part of one another, and the Echthroi are trying to splinter us, in just the same way that they're trying to destroy all Creation?"
The dancing farandolae whirled and screamed, and Meg thought she could hear Sporos's voice: "We're not part of anybody! We're farandolae, and we're going to take over Yadah. After that--"
A hideous screech of laughter assailed Meg's ears. Again she flung herself at the dance, trying to pull Sporos out of it.
Senex drew her back with the power of his kythe. "Not that way, not by force."
"But Sporos has to Deepen! He has to!"
Then, around the edges of her awareness, Meg heard a twingling, and Calvin was with Sporos, trying to reach out to him, to kythe with him.
Sporos's response was jangly, but he came out of the wild circle and hovered on its periphery. "Why did Blajeny send you alien life forms to Yadah with me? How can you possibly help with my schooling? We make music by ourselves. We don't need you."
Meg felt Proginoskes's volcanic upheaving, felt a violent wind, searing tongues of flame. "Idiot, idiot," Proginoskes was sending, "We all need each other. Every atom in the universe is dependent on every other."
"I don't need you."
Suddenly Proginoskes kythed quietly and simply, "I need you, Sporos. We all of us need you. Charles Wallace needs you."
"I don't need Charles Wallace."
Calvin kythed urgently, "Don't you? What happens to you if something happens to Charles Wallace? Who have you been listening to?"
Sporos withdrew. Meg could not feel him at all.
Calvin emanated frustration. "I can't reach him He slips away from me every time I think I'm getting close."
Sporos was pulled back into the whirling circle. The surrounded fara was limp, all life draining rapidly. Senex mouthed, "His song is going out."
Proginoskes kythed, "Xed. Snuffed out like a candle."
Senex's fronds drooped in grief. "Sporos and his generation listen to those who would silence the singing. They listen to those who would put out the light of the song."
Mr. Jenkins raised shadowy arms prophetically. "To kill the song is the only salvation!"
"No!" Mr. Jenkins cried to Mr. Jenkins. "You are only a mirror vision of me. You are nothing!"
Nothing nothing nothing
The words echoed, hollow, empty, repeating endlessly. Everywhere Meg kythed she seemed to meet a projection of an Echthros--Mr. Jenkins.
"Don't you understand that the Echthroi are your saviors? When everything is nothing there will be no more war, no illness, no death. There will be no more poverty, no more pain, no more slums, no more starvation--"
Senex kythed through the Echthros. "No more singing!"
Proginoskes joined Senex. "No more stars, or cherubim, or the light of the moon on the sea."
And Calvin: "There will never be another meal around table. No one will ever break bread or drink wine with his companions."
Meg kythed violently against the nearest Echthros-Mr. Jenkins, "You are nothing! You're only borrowing Mr. Jenkins in order to be something. Go away! You are nothing!"
Then she was aware that the real Mr. Jenkins was trying to reach her. "Nature abhors a vacuum."
Calvin replied, "Then we must fill the vacuum. That is the only thing to do."
"If the Echthroi are nothingness, emptiness, then that emptiness can be filled."
"Yes, but how do we fill it?"
Senex kythed calmly, "Perhaps you don't want to fill it strongly enough. Perhaps you do not yet understand what is at stake."
"I do! A little boy, my brother--what do you know about my little brother?"
Senex conveyed considerable confusion. He had a feeling for the word 'brother' because all farae are--or had been--brothers. But 'little boy' meant nothing to him whatsoever.
"I know that my galactic host is ill, perhaps dying--"
"That's Charles Wallace! That's my little brother! He may be a galactic host to you, but to me he's just a little boy like--like Sporos." She turned her kythe from Senex and towards the wildly dancing farandolae who had surrounded another fara. This time she kythed herself towards them cautiously. How could she be sure which one was Sporos?
An Echthros-Mr. jenkins whinnied with laughter. "It doesn't matter. Nothing matters." A harsh twang wounded the melody of the farae who were still singing.
Once again Meg felt faltering in the mitochondrion. Yadah was in pain. Suddenly she remembered the farandolae who had saved her from the Echthros when Proginoskes brought her into Yadah. Not all the farandolae had thrown in their lot with the Echthroi. Or were those who had Xed themselves that she might live the only ones who would defy the Echthroi?
She bagan calling urgently, "Sporos! Farandolae! Come away from the Echthroi. You will dance yourselves to death. Come to Senex and Deepen. This is what you were born to do. Come!"
Some of the farandolae faltered. Others whirled the faster, crying, "We don't need to Deepen. That's only an old superstition. It's a stupid song they sing, all this Glory, glory, glory. We are the ones who are glorious."
"The stars--" Meg called desperately.
"Another superstition. There are no stars. We are the greatest beings in the universe."
Ugliness seeped past Meg and to Sporos. "Why do you want to Deepen?"
Sporos's twingling was slightly dissonant. "Farandolae are born to Deepen."
"Fool. Once you Deepen and put down roots you won't be able to romp around as you do now."
"You'll be stuck in one place forever with those fuddy-duddy farae, and you won't be able to run or move, ever again."
The strength and calm of Senex cut through the ugliness. "It is only when we are fully rooted that we are really able to move."
Indecision quivered throughout Sporos.
Senex continued, "It is true, small offspring. Now that I am rooted I am no longer limited by motion. Now I may move anywhere in the universe. I sing with the stars. I dance with the galaxies. I share in the joy--and in the grief. We farae must have our part in the rhythm of the mitochondria, or we cannot be. If we cannot be, then we are not."
"You mean, you die?" Meg asked.
"Is that what you call it? Perhaps. I am not sure. But the song of Yadah is no longer full and rich. It is flaccid, its harmonies meager. By our arrogance we make Yadah suffer."
Meg felt Calvin beside Senex, urging, "Sporos, you are my partner. We are to work together."
"Why? You're no use to me."
"Sporos, we are partners, whether we like it or not."
Meg joined in. "Sporos! We need you to help save Charles Wallace."
"Why do we have to bother about this Charles Wallace? He's nothing but a stupid human child."
"He's your galaxy. That ought to make him special enough, even for you."
A cruel slashing cut between their kything, as though a great beak had cut a jagged wound. "Sporos! It is I, Mr. Jenkins. I am the teacher who is greater than all Teachers because I know the Echthroi." Meg felt Proginoskes's kything clamp like steel.
The Echthros-Mr. Jenkins was holding Sporos, and speaking with honey-sweet words. "Do not listen to the earthlings; do no listen to the farae. They are are stupid and weak. Listen to me and you will be powerful like the Echthroi. You will rule the universe."
"Sporos!" The real Mr. Jenkins's kything was not strong enough to break through the stream "He is not Mr. Jenkins. Do not listen!"
Calvin's kythe came more strongly than Mr. Jenkins's. "There are two Mr. Jenkinses by you, Sporos, two Mr. Jenkinses kything you. You know that one is not real. Deepen Sporos, that is where your reality lies. That is how you will find your place, and how you will find your true center."
meg's mind's-ears were assailed by a howling which was Echthroid, though it appeared to come from the pseudo-Mr. Jenkins. "Reality is meaningless. Nothing is the center. Come. Join the others in the race. Only a few more farae to surround and you will have Yadah for your own."
"Yadah will die," Meg cried. "We will all die. You will die!"
"If you come with us, you will be nothing," the Echthros-Mr. Jenkins spoke in cloying kythe, "and nothing can happen to nothing."
Sporos's long whiskers trembled painfully. "I am very young. I should not be asked to make major decisions for several centuries."
"Your're old enough to listen to Senex," Meg told him. "You're old enough to listen to me. After all, I'm a galaxy to you. It's time for you to Deepen."
Sporos wriggled in the clasp of the Echthros-Mr. Jenkins. "Come, Sporos, fly with the Echthroi. Then you will crackle across the universe. There are too many mitochondria in creation. There are too many stars in the heavens. Come with us to naught, to nought."
"Deepen, Sporos, my child, Deepen."
"Sporos!" The Echthroid howl beat against the rhythm of Yadah. "We will make you a prince among Echthroi."
Meg felt a gust of wind, the familiar flicker of flame: Proginoskes. The cherubim flung his kything across the void of the Echthros-Mr. Jenkins, like a rope flung from cliff's edge to cliff's edge. "Sporos, all farandolae are royal. All singers of the song are princes."
"Nonsense. In Name only."
"The Name matters."
"Only to matter."
Proginoskes's kything was so gentle that it undercut the storm of Echthroi. "You are created matter, Sporos. You are part of the great plan, an indispensable part. You are needed, Sporos; you hae your own unique share in the freedom of creation."
"Do not listen to that hideous cherubim. He's nothing but a deformed emanation of energy. We will give you no name and you will have power."
Calvin pushed in again. "Sporos, you are my partner. Whatever we do, we must do it together. If you join the wild farandolae again I am coming into the dance with you."
Sporos quivered, "To help kill the farae?"
"No. To be with you."
Meg cried, "Progo, let's go, too! We can help Calvin." In her impetuous relief at having something to do, she did not feel the cherubim pulling her back, but plunged into the irrational tarantella and was immediately swept out of control. Calvin was whirling beside Sporos, unable to pull him away from the circle closing in on the dying fara.
Meg was totally in the power of the revolving, twangling farandolae. The orbital velocity sucked her in, through the circle and against the limp trunk of the fara.
Within the deahtly center of the dance it was dark;; she could not image the whirling farandolae; she could not kythe Calvin or Sporos. She heard only a silence which was not silence because within this vortex there was an emptiness which precluded the possibility of sound.
Caught in this anguished vacuum she was utterly powerless. She was sucked against the trunk of the fara, but the fara was now too weak to hold her up; it was she who had to hold the dying Deepened One, to give it her own life's blood. She felt it being drained from her. The fara's trunk strengthened. It was Meg who wad dying.
Then arms were around her, holding her, pouring life back into her, Mr. Jenkins's arms, the real Mr. Jenkins. His strength and love filled her.
As she returned to life, the firm, rhythmic tendrils of the reviving fara caressed her. Mr. Jenkins held them both, and his power did not weaken. The murderous circle was broken. Calvin held Sporos in his arms and a tear slid down his cheek. Meg turned towards him, to comfort him.
The moment she kythed away from Mr. Jenkins and to Calvin, a new circle formed, not of farandolae, but of Mr. Jenkinses, Mr. Jenkinses swirling their deathly ring around the real Mr. Jenkins.
Meg whirled back towards him, but it was too late. Mr. Jenkins was surrounded. Meg cried, "Deepen, Sporos, it's the only hope!"
The scattered farandolae darted hither and thither in confusion. Proginoskes reached out wing after invisible wing to pull them in. There was a frightened twingle.
"Look at the Echthroi!" Proginoskes commanded. "They are killing Mr. Jenkins as they made you kill your own farae. Look. This is what it is like."
"Mr. Jenkins!" Meg called. "We have to save Mr. Jenkens. Oh, Sporos, Deepen, it's the second ordeal, you must Deepen."
"For Mr. Jenkins?"
"For yourself, for all of us."
"But why did Mr. Jenkins--didn't he know what would happen to him?"
"Of course he knew. He did it to save us."
"To save us all," Calvin added. "The Echthroi have him, Sporos. They are going to kill him. What are you going to do?"
Sporos turned towards Senex, the fara from whom he had been born. He reached out small green tendrils towards all the farandolae. "It is Deepening time," he said.
They heard a faint echo of the music which had been such joy when Blajeny took them to witness the birth of a star. The farae were singing, singing, strengthening. Sporos was joining in the song. All about them farandolae were Deepening, and adding their music to the flowing of the song.
Meg's exhaustion and relief were so great that she forgot Mr. Jenkins. She assumed blindly that now that Sporos and the other farandolae were Deepening, now that the second ordeal had been successfully accomplished, all was well; the Echthroi were vanquished; Charles Wallace would recover; she could relax.
Then she felt Proginoskes pushing through her thoughtlessness. "Meg! You forget! There are three tests!"
She turned from rejoicing. The circle of pseudo-Mr. Jenkinses was whirling wildly about the principal, closing in on him.
Proginoskes kythed so strongly that she was pulled back into painful awareness. "We cannot let the Echthroi get Mr. Jenkins. This is the third test, to rescue Mr. Jenkins. Senex, Sporos, everybody, help us!"
Meg heard a shrill, high scream, a scream that turned into a horrible laugh of triumph. It came from Mr. Jenkins. One Mr. Jenkins. There was no longer a spiral of Echthroid Jenkinses surrounding the principal. They had closed in, and entered their prey.
Proginoskes's kything cut like a knife. "The Echthroi have him. We must get him away."