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Today in Alternate History
Day in Alternate History Blog
The Valley Spirit
The way which can be uttered, is not the eternal Way
The name which can be named, is not the eternal Name
Dao De Jing
One can walk in the shadows for his entire life, knowing not the light or the
life, yet assuming that there is little more to the world, that the life itself
is akin to the shadows, always changing, ever-present, ever-moving, yet still
devoid of colors, any meanings that could be put into it by an observer living
in the sun. One can simply assume - or one can simply know, leading a dance into
eternity that is life itself which cannot be described with mere words, but only
with the movements themselves, shades of graceful pirouettes and ballet jumps
that tell the story without words, only with the music and the movement. Life is
little more than a dance, always was, and will always be.
There were some who insisted that there are more chances not yet taken - but to
some, the very idea was alien, just like a thought that there is anything but
the land, the sky, and the Middle Kingdom in between the two. Some others
claimed that they knew the way, and could put it into words and phrases, giving
new meaning to the same routines or constantly redefining the new ones into a
shape more easily understood, only to see it crumble under the weight of
unpredictability that was reality itself. But life was a dance - and some took a
long time to learn that simple truth.
Zhou Lan was born a simple farmerís daughter a short time after the war, in an
unassuming village some distance away from civilization of any kind, the very
picture of pastoral stability and peace on the edge of nowhere - hardly a place
where one has much time to think of dao and the matters spiritual, but a place
where oneís life was governed as much by tradition and superstition as it was
by the heavens, where the time itself seemed to have stopped in some kind of
idyllic representation of the golden past. Sure, the villagers said, scratching
their heads in a momentís amusement, there were all these newfound
contraptions sailing the sea, crossing the sky, or traversing the great expanse
of the land; there were new ideas in the air, new thoughts on the roles the
people were expected to play - but sure, they reasoned, this had nothing to do
with their simple lot. As long as the crops were good, they said, who cared for
the new age dawning outside of the village, so small that even its name was
known only to those who paid undue amounts of attention to the maps of the
Elsewhere, the Emperor Guoxing spoke of China awakening; men and women alike
fought the Japanese and worked in the factories, providing the nation with the
backbone it sorely needed to ascend again; in the sleepy village, these changes
were often frowned upon. A womanís place, the elders said, was to toil in the
fields and give her husband strong children, who would put yet another
generationís sweat and blood back into the soil that gave life to all - not to
read, write, think, or have objections when her husband took another, younger
wife to share their life with. They danced without knowing it, and the dance
went on and on.
"It is your toil in life, daughter," Zhou Lanís mother told her one
day as they were sitting near the fireplace on a cold winter night. "Just
like it was mine, and my motherís before, and her motherís..." The
older womanís thoughts seemed to have trailed away as she watched the embers
dance a movement of their own, like a legion of unholy fireflies born out of the
fire and the sadness.
"But there has to be more to it," Zhou Lan said. "It simply canít
"Believe me," her mother said, "it is all there is to life. When
you are old enough to be married off, and you will have a man and children of
your own, you will believe me."
They never spoke of the matter again, the bleak reality of it weighing down on
young girlís mind for a long time to come. Summers and winters came by, one by
one, drifting through life as it spiraled around them, around the village,
around the world that it was completely oblivious to. The election officials
came by every few years, and even though the women of the village were told they
could now vote, the few that chose to do so only did what their husbands and
fathers told them to; otherwise, there were no changes.
It was in the spring of Ď61 that the officer came to the village, rousing it
from its sleepy existence for a few moments before the adults went back to their
business, and children had to console themselves with the stories of war,
adventure, and the world outside that they would forget as mere fairly tales
when they themselves were adults, and had to put their own children to sleep.
Jiang Qi was a handsome man, with a few scars on his face doing little to
diminish his masculine charm to the villageís womenfolk; he was around forty,
or so it seemed - a living embodiment of the Empireís strength in war and
peace, a veteran of the war that finally decided to return to the village of his
birth after spending half of his life in the service of the Emperor. He was a
single man, he said, his wife having died some time ago during the war; when
asked further about what happened, he grew sullen, and the question was never
brought up again. Yet, the stories he told, the wealth he brought with him from
his travels - all of it made the fathers with unmarried daughters do their best
to arrange for such a son-in-law.
By now, Zhou Lan was sixteen, at the time in life when her features were
beginning to grow into adulthood, still tempered with the remnants of childhoodís
innocence - just the right age, her father said, for her to be married off. She
never even thought of a possibility of what would have happened had she said no;
the women in the village were told to obey their men, with no questions asked,
yet privately she wondered why it had to be so; Jiangís stories had women
fighting side by side with men, working side by side with them - surely, she
thought to herself, those women had a say in their destinies. Even the obvious
charm of this outsider that her father spoke of as a prospective husband could
not make her wonder - was there a place in the world where one could choose
their own fate?
But it was life, in all of its unglamorous details; it just went on, no matter
what one tried to do. In June, Zhou Lan was married off to Jiang Qi; by
December, she was expecting. It was the pattern of life that went on for
centuries, and that would not have been broken for centuries more, the eternal
cycle that is independent of who is observing it, the powers that be outside of
the quiet little world or even those inside of it; all that mattered was the
"Do you read all of these?" she asked of her husband, looking at a
collection of books on his shelf, weathered and battered, yet still carefully
preserved through the years.
"Why would you need to read them more than once?" he asked back,
surprised that she was taking any interest in the books.
"Have you ever heard a story," she said, "that, when told to you
a second time, meant something different from the first time youíve heard
He did not say anything, thinking for a moment. Had he been just another one of
the villagers, she thought, he would have probably hit her that very moment for
questioning him; but Jiang Qi was silent.
"Did I say something wrong?" she queried cautiously, wondering if he
had the same attitudes hidden deep inside of him as the rest of them did; the
village life had a certain way of drawing one in, even if one was averse to it
in the first place.
"No, Lan," he replied, still deep within his thoughts.
"Sometimes, you just have to learn to accept that which is coming your way
- reliving it again makes little sense."
"Will you teach me how to read, then?" she asked, hoping that she was
not trying his patience.
"Not like youíd ever need it in this place," he chuckled, and the
sound reverberated through the room. "But, I suppose, why the hell
By the time Zhou Lan gave birth to their daughter, she could get through some of
the simpler texts; within the next year, she thought that she could try to
handle a more difficult text. It was not an easy life; work on the farm by day,
caring for young Wei at night - leaving very little time for her to read. The
circle was continuing - yet for the first time, Zhou Lan thought that there was
a new factor in the equation, that perhaps, there was indeed more to the world
than old wivesí tales - and that one day, she might actually see more of it.
It was some time in Ď63 that she began thinking of what might lay ahead. One
future was clear and obvious - take the life placed in front of her, just like
her mother has done years ago, being a wife and a mother - and nothing more.
Perhaps it was the youthful idealism still living within her being; perhaps it
was something else. But Zhou Lan rarely stopped to contemplate these things; it
was a matter of different choice that she thought of.
It was a shame, she thought, to be confined to the village for the rest of her
life. For a moment, she considered sharing these thoughts with Jiang Qi - then,
deciding against it. He certainly seemed happy in his simple existence, living
like an aristocrat in a village where even his modest pay seemed like a kingís
ransom; he did not want change. She wondered what made him decide to come back
to the village; had she ever heard of Caesar, she might have found a saying
attributed to him apt. But for her, she thought, there had to be something more.
She was eighteen now, already a mother; she wondered how long would it be until
she would be telling the same thing to Wei, now sleeping in her crib. Zhou Lan
was angry at the thought; it made her want to scream in impotent frustration. It
was the same line of thinking, she realized, that enslaved all of those who
chose to submit to it - everyone she knew. Even Jiang Qi was a subject to the
circle of life, and, she thought, he was the worst one of them all - for he had
a chance to escape, and chose to come back instead. Then, she knew that the
second choice was the right one.
Zhou Lan spent much of the next year thinking and planning ahead, counting days
until the election officials drove through in their vehicles, stopping only to
collect the ballots before heading back to civilization. The roads leading to
the village were best described as makeshift, with modernization of the rest of
the nation stopping somewhere beyond the visible horizon; there was no regular
traffic coming in or going out, other than a few trucks that somehow made their
way into the interior. Even if she could take one of them, she thought, she
could not drive it.
One might have considered Zhou Lanís struggle futile if told of it; some might
say that plans, contemplation, and efforts might be for naught if one does not
find peace within themselves. But to her, it mattered little; there was a chance
at freedom, and she was going to take it, even if she had to sneak out of the
village in one of the officialsí own vehicles.
The tale of Zhou Lanís escape could have probably made a good story in itself
- but it is hardly a pivotal point of her life, or of what followed. It would
suffice to say that in Ď65, she found herself in Nanjing, barely able to make
the ends meet for herself and her daughter by working at a textile factory,
operating machinery that would have made anything in her home village seem like
miraculous works of the gods, yet that was about as mundane for the city
dwellers as it got.
The city life was even more different from that in the village than she had
imagined, she thought as she lay in bed staring at the ceiling of her tiny
apartment. Yet, for the first time in her life, she thought that she had
something that was always denied to her, and that would not be denied to her
child - freedom, an ability to choose for herself. Zhou Lan wondered what her
husband was doing back in the village, if he was still looking for her; she
hoped she would never be found and made to go back to that place.
It might have been a long exhausting day; it might have been the cries of baby
Wei that kept her up all night before; it might have been simply that she felt
like she was falling into the same trap that captured the lives and minds of her
family. That night, she decided that freedom mattered little if one could not
take advantage of it - and she was determined to do exactly that.
Some people try to take life not for what it is, but for what it might be; some
simply live. Zhou Lan could do neither - but she did not need to. It would be
still some years before the Children of Wensheng made their presence a fact, and
even more time before a woman of humble birth could have realistically hoped for
much more than achieving status through being a mistress to a man in power, but
it was little deterrent to her; after all, she thought, no one thought that
escaping the village was possible either.
She was twenty, still in the height of her natural beauty and health,
unencumbered with fears that keep much older people down; she was alive, and she
decided to make the best of it. For a brief moment, she considered finding
herself a man that would offer her a quick, easy way up - then, she
reconsidered. There was no one but her daughter with her when she made her
escape from the nearly medieval world she was born into; she did not need
someone else to propel her upwards.
Perhaps it was this pride, or the sheer stubbornness that kept her afloat and
moving forward; but the next time our story catches up with Zhou Lan, she was an
owner of a small grocery store, clawing her way out of the loans taken to pay
for it, and hoping for a better tomorrow. It was already 1970, and the world
kept on moving on - Cold Wars, nuclear detonations, space launches, the grinding
gears of politics moving along as liberal Kang Sitong, soon to be Emperor
Wensheng, was preparing to take over the reins from his ailing father.
The last five years made Zhou Lan into a harder, stronger woman; gone was the
childish innocence that once made her ask of her mother what could have been. A
more sentimental person might have kept on wondering what happened to her
family; she did not give it much thought. After all, Zhao Lan reasoned, business
was business, and nothing could have stood in a way of her dream. She turned
away many a would-be suitor; there would be time for pleasure later, she
thought. Now, only one thing mattered.
It was already late, and the store was getting ready to close for the night;
Zhou Lan has dismissed the clerk, and was checking the register when the door
bell rang. She raised her eyes, and saw an older woman with a dignified air
about her standing just in front of the stand, studying a magazine.
"May I assist you, Maíam?" she asked, silently cursing herself for
thinking the day was almost over.
"Most certainly," the lady smiled coldly. "May I speak to a
manager on duty?"
"That would be me," said Zhou Lan with a tired smile of her own.
"The manager, and the owner of this establishment."
There was a look of surprise on the older womanís face. "Then, I must
comment," she said slowly, "you have done rather well for yourself. I
was going to complain about seeing a pretty young lady such as yourself working
all the time."
"Thatís just life," Zhou Lan said. "It demands some
"It is different," the old woman said, "now that you mentioned
it. I am Xie Bingying," she introduced herself, offering a hand in a
Western manner. Zhao Lan shook it; the handshake was firm.
"THE Xie Bingying?" Zhou Lan asked in amazement. "Please take no
offense to it, but I would have thought that someone with your reputation would
have been frequenting a more... prestigious establishment."
"I like it here," the older woman said. "This place is well-ran,
the service is always good, and what you donít have in selection, you make up
for with prices."
They talked for much of the next hour, surprised at the length of their
conversation as much as at the thoughts they might have had in common. The
famous author was a pleasant person to talk with, Zhou Lan thought; she felt
like that woman understood at least some of her struggles and predicaments. At
the end of the conversation, they exchanged phone numbers, with a promise to
continue it at a later time.
Time went on; Zhou Lanís business began to prosper, much in thanks to the
publicity provided by Xie Bingyingís latest book. Unwittingly, she became
somewhat of a poster child for the Wensheng generation, embodying the principles
that it chose to adopt, married with the core of the previous generation, born
out of struggle, war, and chaos. She managed to finally pay for a divorce from
her one-time husband, making it legal in word as well as in deed; still, she
never managed to keep a relationship going even as her daughter was beginning to
enter her own teenage years.
There were days when she wondered if there was any meaning to life, as she
browsed through Weiís school grades with a disappointed eye. It was becoming
clear to Zhao Lan that her daughter did not possess the same kind of fierce
determination that she herself had; Wei was more interested in all the things
teenagers tend to take for granted, the music, the films, the boys... To Zhou
Lan, much of these were alien; she had no idea who some of the actors and
actresses on the posters in Weiís room were, her own favorite, Ruan Lingyu
being nowhere to be found on them. She was not even thirty two yet, and yet, she
began to feel rather hollow inside.
She sat on her Anji sofa, absent-mindedly switching the channels on a
television; for once, she could afford the creature comforts that even a few
years ago would have been unthinkable for her. Wei was at a friendís
apartment; now, she did not need to deal with much of the day-to-day business of
running the business, leaving it to subordinates of various kinds. She was
getting ready to open her third store, this time in a more prestigious part of
the city, serving a different kind of clientele; the plans were all packed into
a large folder, yet she had little inclination to go over them.
She took out her copy of "Dao De Jing", similar to the one that her
former husband once had on his bookshelf without even pondering on the nature of
The Valley Spirit never dies
It is named the Mysterious Female.
And the doorway of the Mysterious Female
Is the base from which Heaven and Earth sprang.
It is there within us all the while;
Draw upon it as you will, it never runs dry.
The words have given her inspiration on more times than she cared to remember -
for the softness carried on a secret strength, the strength that never goes away
no matter which pirouette of the fate came up next. She has heard somewhere that
the Emperor himself was an admirer of the philosophy; it certainly fit the
spirit of the age. Yet the words did not answer the most important of all
questions - why? What for?
Zhou Lan has rarely questioned the things that drove her - life either was, or
it was not, and there was little point in arguing. Had she been of a more
philosophical bent, she would have probably identified with the Valley Spirit,
holding the yin and the yang in balance, yet taking on the aspects of both. Some
people may think they know what the answer is; she was not one of them. Ah, but
had we known it all along, would not have someone told it to all the world?
She watched the images replace one another on a television screen, going from
news to a commercial, from commercials to a sports event, and then to something
different yet again. Life was going on, whether or not anyone cared, and oneís
understanding of self as a central piece of it was slipping away, only to be
replaced by a vision of a yet larger universe that is not caring.
It is possible to become one with the universe - but not for the universe to be
contained within one. It was then that Zhou Lan thought that she was beginning
to grow old.
She began dating, at first sporadically, then, committing herself to a longer
relationship. His name was Evgeni Nikolaev, a descendant of the White Russian
family settled in Yakutia that she met during a business deal; he was the very
antithesis of what Jiang Qi once was, a man with somewhat of an interest in the
mystical aspects of life, possessed of a somber disposition and vivid
imagination that was much unlike the men raised in the Confucian tradition. He
was a bit younger as well, by a magnitude of almost ten years, and still filled
with the kind of idealism that only comes from someone who had a safe,
reasonable upbringing. Wei did not take kindly to the idea of her mother in a
committed relationship, but Zhou Lan reasoned that her daughter was simply going
through a rebellious phase, and decided to placate her with an addition to her
Evgeni moved in some time around Zhou Lanís thirty fourth birthday;
previously, the idea of an unmarried couple living together would have been
scandalous, but in 1979, it was quickly becoming an accepted norm, even in a
society where the patriarchal dominance was as established as it was in China.
His family has long been in the business of providing energy to nations across
Asia, an increasingly more profitable endeavor ever since the oil scares that
plagued the news and kept the stock market on the edge. Ironically, it was his
involvement with the business that prompted Zhou Lan to invest in a little known
company developing alternative fuels, when the very idea seemed preposterous; as
much as Evgeni fumed over this "lack of trust" in his business, even
he came to see the wisdom of her decision as the company grew rapidly in the
But still, the questions remained; one could draw strength from the well of
introspection, but for how long? The world kept on moving on, and even the
people that thought to have advanced it in some way or the other were still
merely parts of it.
"What do you think freedom is," Zhou Lan asked of Evgeni one night, as
they lay together, exhausted after making love.
"Who knows?" he replied, holding her close in his arms. "Some
might say it is simply an ability to do what you want, with no restraint."
"In your peopleís religion, I believe, it is called ĎGodí", she
said, withdrawing somewhat from his embrace. "But is your God free?"
"Maybe it is one of those things that you can think of," he said,
"that you can always recognize when you see them, but that are never quite
"The way which can be uttered, is not the eternal Way," she quoted,
"Is this something from that book of yours?" he queried. For all his
ability to speak her language, he was still barely competent in reading
Mandarin; "Dao De Jing" was still years beyond him.
"It is," she acknowledged. "Sometimes I ponder on what it is
supposed to mean."
"Have you figured it out yet?"
"Just the second I think I have," she smiled, "something else
comes up, changing my outlook completely. And then, I donít know."
"Maybe it is not to know," he said, drawing her closer to him and
kissing her on the forehead. "It might be just to feel."
She thought about it long and hard in the following years, that one simple
conversation with a man of the alien, strange society that was her companion in
life. She could never admit to herself that she loved him; he never said it to
her. They never went through a proper marriage ceremony, even if they acted as
if they were husband and wife in public and in private, Weiís objections aside
- and when a plane crash in Ď89 took Evgeni away from her, Zhou Lan could
reflect on the years they spent together as quite possibly the happiest years of
Sometimes, she wondered if she could have ever answered his question - has she
figured it out in any shape or form? The further on it went, the less certain
she was that she could ever know what it meant.
It was in Ď91 that the world woke up to the news that a cheap, efficient fuel
cell was created in a Beijing laboratory; almost overnight, Zhou Lanís
holdings in the company that developed it put her on the list of a hundred
wealthiest people in China. By then, her chain of grocery stores has all but
exorcized most of the competition from Nanjing, tempered in its spread across
the country only by the anti-monopoly regulations the government placed on the
business; even without her newly profitable involvement in the energy business,
she knew she was going to leave Wei a virtual corporate empire.
By now, her daughter was no longer a scrawny teenager of years past, growing
into a young woman who never had to face the adversities of her motherís
youth, independent and carefree. Wei was now living in Los Angeles with an
American man she met while at college in the United States; last Zhou Lan heard,
they were planning on getting married some time in the next year. The times when
Sinophobia ruled in the United States were now long past, and the ability to
freely visit most of the world was simply one of the advantages of being a
And still, Zhou Lan had no answer, choosing instead simply to do what she knew
how to do best. Sales, financial statements, charts, projections - all of these
were set in a neat, organized fashion on a desk in her office, where some of the
employees almost openly wondered what drove this slim, fragile, and still
attractive-looking even at forty six woman to keep on achieving.
She worked just as hard, if not harder than she has before; sometimes, when her
lack of formal education made it difficult to deal with the more complex issues,
she simply delegated the duties to the others. Several times over the last year
she tried to talk Wei into joining the business, every time meeting with the
same kind of rebuttal. Zhou Lan had a hard time reconciling with her daughter
after her loverís death - but after all, she reasoned, Wei was blood; there
was no one else left to take over. Zhou Lan hoped that perhaps her future
American son-in-law would be able to talk some sense into Wei at some point or
the other; so far, the hope seemed vain.
She looked at the stack of letters piling up in her inbox, frowning at the idea
of a mess. Some were from the business associates; some were the kind of junk
mail that tends to penetrate even the most dutiful, observant secretaries. All
useless, she thought, browsing through them until one particular letter
attracted her attention.
It was a small, unassuming envelope with an address written out as to barely
make it legible; apparently, the sender did not have a very good command of the
written language. Zhou Lan looked at the return address, and almost instantly,
her heartbeat rate jumped up.
She opened the envelope, holding her breath at the kind of news it might have
carried. Over the years she has practically lost any kind of contact with the
village she was born in, having not thought much of the people she left behind,
yet here was a reminder of her roots, just where she came from. Evgeni might
have said some kind of nonsense about the angel of pride, taken down through
abandonment of his promises; Zhou Lan was not in the least missing his presence
It was a simple note, merely stating that her father had recently died, and her
presence was anticipated at the funeral. She put the note down, covering her
face with her arms, not sure what to do. Somehow, she has just assumed that the
entire life she left behind was in some other, different world not connected to
her own - and yet in one moment, the illusion came crashing down, exposing the
very frailty of its essence and bringing its shattered skeleton back to life.
She wished someone - anyone were here to advice her on what to do.
Then, she straightened herself up, turning her face into a perfectly attuned
mask all over again; there was no need for anyone to see her crying. Life was
simply going on, an eternal dance that even the Valley Spirit herself could not
stop - how could she, Zhou Lan, attempt to do that?
She took a private jet as far as she could, switching the method of
transportation to automobile as she got closer. It was getting close to winter,
and the sky breathed with promises of the coming snow, hanging just overhead,
not far above the fallow ground; the fields were strewn through with the threads
of power lines. It has been twenty six years, she realized, since she left the
village, never thinking her path would lead her back towards where she came
from; twenty six long years during which she rose from a nearly illiterate
single mother working a factory job to become one of the wealthiest women in
China - nay, in the world, she thought. And yet, something inside was still the
same - the drive, the ambition, the desire to do something with her life that
morphed not only into simply doing the one thing she knew how to do, but also
into asking the never answered question - why?
Therefore just as we take advantage of what is,
We should recognize the usefulness of what is not.
She disembarked from her vehicle on the main street of the village, now paved.
The houses themselves seemed a little cleaner, less rugged than she remembered
them; there were power lines throughout the entire settlement. She noticed a few
children with looks of innocent curiosity examining her and the vehicle that
brought her here, surrounded by a small herd of pigs. At least one thing
certainly did not change, she thought wryly to herself; first and foremost, this
has been a rural village where the people still put much time into raising
By now, there was a small crowd gathered around her; none of the faces seemed
familiar. The clothes they were wearing were now much more akin to those worn in
the cities, the ever-present jeans and shirts with the symbols of companies and
musicians both Chinese and foreign having replaced the garments she remembered.
The people themselves were largely young, for the most part not exceeding Weiís
age, as she realized. There were only a few that could have remembered her, and
she recognized none.
"Lan?" she heard a voice of an old woman, barely able to walk.
"Youíre here, daughter!"
"Mother?" Zhou Lan asked, almost surprised to see her.
"So you have come to pay last respect to your father?"
"Yes," she said, and knew it was truthful. She might not have had much
admiration for an old man - but it was the only way that he knew. She wondered
what Wei might think at her own funeral.
"You are late by a week," her mother said. "Heís been put to
It was an awkward moment, Zhou Lan thought; there were so many things they could
have talked about, and yet, she could not bring the words to her tongue.
Finally, she forced the words out.
"Mother," she said. "Do you remember when I thought there was
going to be more to life?"
The old woman nodded. "You were always the wild one," she said,
reminiscing. "Looks like it turned out all right for you."
"There is more," Zhou Lan said. "So much more than I have thought
there will be."
"Are you happy?" her mother asked. "Really, Zhou Lan, did the
knowledge make you happy?"
"I donít know," she replied, and in a moment, she realized that she
was telling the truth. Her entire life was unfolded before her inner eyes, the
times that were happy, the times that were not; the struggles that went on in
her world, and the knowledge that she was simply a part of the larger world,
just like this village was, just like... Just like she was when she was still
there, a frightened youth wanting to make her steps outside of the four walls,
out of the shadows and into the sun, dancing the jig of eternity on the cold
stones of time.
In silence, they went to a grave where the old manís body was buried, placing
flowers by the headstone and reminiscing over all that was, all that has gone to
become a part of their story. It might not have been glamorous; it might not
have been valiant, or any other term that could have been attached to it by the
posterity - but it was theirs. Zhou Lan spent much of her life running away from
this place, escaping its legacy, only to find herself drawn back to it, if only
for a short time - but the truth was, she thought, the village has never left
her. Her entire life was an attempt to leave the village behind, to become one
with the times that kept changing, moving on forward; the times never stood
The dance continued, shadows turning into light and light turning into darkness,
and she still did not know what the dance was, or even what the next move was
going to be; she simply moved on, in unison with the billions of other dancers
in one insane fandango that was the very nature of life, death, and everything
in between the two. The Valley Spirit moved on without thinking, without
contemplating. Perhaps, she thought of what Evgeni, now deceased, once said, it
was not about knowledge of what you are, what you might have become, or what you
are placed on this earth to do - but simply about feeling the rhythm of the
unholy melody pulsating about, and moving along with it. And then, she knew what
the answer was, fleeting, ever-present, and ever-moving. For sometimes, the only
thing you can know with absolute certainty is that you do not know.