Feb 1
Maitreya, or prophecy of the messiah

There’s some boy in the future who’s got unkempt hair, adoring parents — he takes for granted the work space he’s given — twiddling fastidiously at the next big invention, dreaming, hoping it will come true. But if I can imagine this boy viewing the future, why can’t he be imagining still another boy who thinks of something far grander than he, who also hopes it will come true? If they imagine me, some boy in the past who dreams of them and their inventions, why must I be ill-content and envious? 

But I digress. I’m getting carried away with my thoughts again. I remember to feel. The wind billows through me on a belt above the city. I open my ears and hear a deep pleasing whir, a hallmark of the steps. The smell of wood, beer and broth beckons me. You can get carried away with muscle memory; I don’t remember how I got here or what I am exactly. Let me backtrack: I remember leaving school and taking the belt, I don’t remember traversing the city, nor do I remember ascending this high above it, but I’m already at the entrance of Maitreya. 

It’s an orb that is suspended high above the city, a ball that seems permanently embossed in Zhao’s bronze sunlight, and a beacon to the whole planet. People come from all over Zhao to see Maitreya With Lotus, or Maitreya, if you will, the Buddhist statue that resides inside the orb, some to worship and others to visit. I haven’t gone many times, you know how proximity to the famous thing means you hardly ever go. I’ve gone on holidays when everyone else visits and then it’s always full of stinky and sweaty people. 

I enter through the portal and immediately feel the wind change texture. My nose is triggered with the incense burning in metal containers along the crimson-colored wall. The smoke tickles and drys my skin. I quench my thirst at the water well, fixated on the aerolinear design of the red wall made up of blood-colored swirls and sweeps, panels which delicately curve onto the floor, violently twirl into vortexes, or seem to issue from unfathomable portals. Dad will ask me what I thought of it, so I need to have something to say about it, but otherwise I want to get out of here as quickly as possible. 

I feel my body pulled towards the center of the anteroom by the wind; someone must have engineered it to lead a visitor to the sta-tue and then through the room. That is one form of crowd control, or an artist at play. I contemplate the significance of a gravity aes-thetic when I look up. I am immediately mesmerized er, perplexed. A giant Buddha about ten meters tall sits cross-legged on a red star. The points of the red star bend upwards slightly, but otherwise you would not know it’s a lotus rocking Buddha back and forth as if on solar waves. He smiles at me as if he knows something I don’t. He holds up a sun in one hand and his other hand controls the lotus like a spaceship. He wears a complex suit with buttons, arm bands, lapels, shoulder pads, lights and pipes.

Beneath him and the lotus a charcoal and jaundice planet orbits slowly. I realize it’s Earth as I recognize the shape of Japan lit in a golden light and China’s shore next to it. Usually our home planet is depicted as verdant and perky blue but I guess the sculptor want-ed to portray Earth covered in smog and light pollution. It must be a gesture of grief or realism to sculpt our home so unromantically. I can almost taste the blackened lacquer of the statue. Lacquer is the covering over the wood and it gets so dusty. It’s definitely a lovely dusty smell. Not musty, no no, not musty. I read the sign along the guardrail: 

Japan commissions lacquerware master Sora Murakami to reinterpret Maitreya, or the Future Buddha, as a scifi explorer who rides an intergalactic Lotus ship. It is a gesture of pleasure to China for colonizing Zhao . . . 

Perhaps it is a bet amongst themselves that China will fail, or, more likely, the hope that Buddhism would flourish away from Earth.

Togaku plays quietly from the ends of the room. It floats, bounces, and enters my ears. I appreciate the humble versatility of the sho, the celestial pluck of the koto, and the precise rattle of the kakko, which all create an unmistakeable ambiance, teleporting my sens-es to an ancient court in China, an experience almost inseparable with the one present before me. A distinctive thud echoes from afar and slows as it shuffles from the back of the chapel towards me. I know it isn’t the kakko because it’s a heavier sound. 

Man! I hoped to be out of here before he arrived. I turn around and see dad. He only half-looks at me, entranced by the statue. He feigns his fascination to convince me it’s interesting, which is a father’s number one mistake. Now I’m sure I hate it. Here, I’ll tell him a joke.

“Where’s mom?”

What face is he trying to pull? The ‘I’m extremely offended but I wanna look like a hip father’ look?

“Don’t make me eat you,” he says.

Ah, the ‘I’m extremely offended but I want to seem like a hip father’ look. His injury reminds me of the thing I mean to tell him. How could I tell my dad? What is it I need to tell him? I dare not say it, even in my mind. I call it titillated or twitterpated, something like that. It’s not really that big of a deal anyway, at least I’ve never heard of someone who has a problem with it.

I backpeddle, “Sorry. I shan’t be facetious further.”

“It’s all right. I forget cathexis is the humor kids are in to nowadays. Besides, a lack of a mother figure has implications on the child that worry me far more than the loss itself . . . ”

His voice dissipates as several tourists crudely elbow past. His silence doesn’t divert my attention back to Maitreya, it’s a blur. I don’t remember all the other times we’ve moved, but I know I have, often, because I’m tranquil right now. I mean, we haven’t even talked about it, but we get on the ship in less than an hour! I guess I should say transfer, not move, because we will travel to a different planet. Moving . . . having abode in . . . never mind, whatever. We’re transferring okay? It’s typically hard, but not for me and my dad today because we’ve done it a lot, like three times in how many years? Five? 

I turn and head towards the exit. On a whim I posit my face in the tendril of smoke rising from the incense burner nearest the exit. The smoke twists and turns from the thin rods placed within the steel cage and seeps into my clothes and into my hair — wouldn’t it be lovely if it exudes from my skin the next few days? This particular fume is pungent; it’s hard to breathe in remaining close like I am, but death seems so far away. At least that’s what adults say.

Dad sees I’m anxious to leave; he steps back slowly, bumping into people, in awe once again. I do not think he ever cared for it much — like I thought, feigning. I look again at the intriguing wall. I ima-gine that the vortexes and portals could project someone into another room or maybe another universe. You can find the pirates of the seven seas through the one nearest Buddha’s long left ear, and dragons, unicorns and castles through this one. (I see a stream of disoriented people exit from the portal.) Oops! Those are the bathrooms.

As dad turns around he asks, “No Lien?”

“Probably too sad to say goodbye,” I say flippantly.

“Young relationships are harder for girls,” he asserts.

Like he knows how it is to be a teenage girl, or a teenage boy! But I will miss her, you can really learn to enjoy company. Especially attention. 

“I think that’s going to be the thing I’ll miss most.”

“Your girlfriend?”

“Yeah, but I refer to almond eyes,” I joke.

He wraps his heavy branch around me. This trip will take forever I can tell. 

“What’s her name again?” I tease.

“You’re as marvelous as you’re enigmatic,” dad sighs.

He can take it though, let’s be honest. He leads me out with a wing on my shoulder. One day I’ll be taller than him. The draft rushing into the chamber from the exit hits us like we’ve already taken off. It finally dawns on me — we are transferring! I feel like crying, but I just burn at the eyebrows, which aches infinitely worse by the way. Sometimes it is nice to cry. 

As we step onto the belt in the courtyard, I hear no fanfare, nor whir, nor even the hum of a generator. The courtyard is laid with a lovely grey cobblestone. It floats next to the temple and acts as an overflow during the tourist season. Right now it’s peaceful. On the dividers and windows ivies grow all over. They wave me goodbye as we fly onto the belt. 

The wind billows past us, but we have to maintain the oxygen level near our heads. I look down at the city. I hear the change in tone of the whir as it changes from a low rumble to the elongated ping of a small gong. I look to the right to see The Steps, a long set of stairs that go up into the golden hills of Zhao City. Establishments line each side and branch up and out above the hills. I am going to miss the clay roofs, the black signs embossed in gold, the shops, the ramen place oh, and the vintage bars. 

I see a shimmer of copper in the afternoon sun. Right below me, in old town, the river takes a straight course along the hills at the base of the steps. The sun reflects off the taciturn surface as it winds in great turns.

Downtown is a matrix of cables and spokes. Cables hold up that building and those two. Spokes hold up that one, but it’s really a fa-cade. It reminds me of hypocritical Buddha, too happy that Earth dies below him. All that extra work and steel could make another building. It is really the gravity inside that holds the buildings toge-ther. Maybe it’s because Maitreya escapes the dying Earth on his lily ship that he’s happy and at peace. Maybe the builders don’t want to lose feng shui in the buildings, so they must have more control over the lines of the buildings.

I see the HSBC Building is close, which means we must get off towards home. It reminds me of an openair garage for ships — just a bunch of pods glued together in a (I’ll admit) beautiful amalgam but — pods! As buildings begin to cover our view of the city, I see a swoop of light. It’s the transfer ship directly ahead of me. The last one we took was bulkier and was made to bang around, but this ship looks like a precision vessel. The matte white finish contrasts nicely with the chrome inlays. The lines lead the eyes to the rear and out from the vehicle. Looking closely I see five somber faces next to the ship also await us. What do they have to be sad about? I’m the one leaving! I glide from the end of the ramp and float in front of the five of them awkwardly.

Yun punches my branch, “Thought you could leave without saying goodbye.” 
  
Hui surprises me with a hug. I can tell he’s been working out. 

I blurt, “Well, yeah!  —  Is she just going to look at me and cry?”

Lien embraces me reluctantly but tightly. 

“You better call! I don’t just want to get news from your feed,” Bo jokes holding out his hands, “Look! He’s not even crying, like he won’t miss us at all — you will eventually, you were always an ice cold block of pure genius melting slowly in our hands.”

Whatever. I know the drill. I will not have time to talk to them once I get to Antury. And they’ll be so busy moving on to talk back. We group hug. I almost fall over when I see dad get into the ship.     

“Gotta go guys!” I squeeze out and run into the vessel. 

My feet ring pleasantly from sidewalk to hull, “click clak thwot,” then the starboard door closes with a puff. The interior of the ship is a lovely pastel green and beige. I feel the wall, it’s made of leather and the floor, a microfiber carpet. I see dad’s intent face, watching the news or reading the newspaper. There’s a bathroom in the middle and two bedrooms on the port: one bow, other stern.

I walk over, plop down next to my dad on the couch, and turn on some tunes. Sixth Sense comes on by Wind Palms. I siphon some food pills from the well in the wall and pop them in my mouth. I let them sit and dissolve on my tongue. My favorite artists are Wind Palms, Xenomind, and The Magics. In Sixth Sense the melange of jazzy bass, steam punk melodies, and space composition astounds me. Their lyrics of respect and magic reminds me of the book I read in school, Dune by Frank Herbert. I concentrate wind around my mouth and then project it onto the leather wall so that it makes a “plod” sound.

“Paul Maud’Dib,” I laugh. 

Too bad you can’t project it past a certain point, otherwise it would be a good weapon, Mr. Herbert. If only he knew that power would make men fly! I laugh some more. I’m intrigued to look for another book written before the invention of gravitons. I flip through the database in the section on sailing. I settle on The Sailor’s Art:

“As easily as the wind can help push the boat forward, so it can similarly pull the boat backward. As silly and simple an observation as this is, it is incredibly important that this idea is concretely understood. As we begin to unfold and analyze more complex maneuvers of the naval technique, this one idea must be perfectly clear as a basis for further understanding. I repeat: as useful the sail may be, it becomes in large measure a hindrance in season of a heavy storm.”

Dad gives me a nudge, a smile on his face.

“What’re you reading?” he queries.

“Just about sailing and how storms used to decimate sails and squander voyages.”

“Don’t worry, I know transferring is a storm, but it’ll be for your good,” dad reassures me. 

“Well now storms no longer take effect,” I yawn. 

I can’t keep my eyes open I’m so tired. 

Dad notices, “Go ahead and get some sleep, there’s not enough space for our exercises in here.”

I float off the couch and into the stern bedroom. It has more room because the ship tapers out from the front. I slip into the wind cushion where it’s warm:

It’s a university, the type found on Earth: Greek columns, men in odd suits and lab coats. I push through the gargantuan front doors with my little branches, but I’m not allowed in here. Inside there’re busy people, smart people. The science wing looks like a good place — I have to talk to one of them. I tug on one’s lab coat. 

“Oh, little sir, where are your parents?” he queries.

The doctor looks around for a guardian.

“What’s your religion?” I ask intrepidly.

“Maybe we should find your parents,” he says. 

Disregarding my question he goes to grab the little leaves of my branch. 

“Do you know that the Big Bang Theory is true?” I ask rhetorically. 

The mans’ leaves hesitate to grab mine. 

“What are you saying? The Big Bang Theory was abandoned long ago,” he responds, no longer paternally.

“But it is the only unconfirmed theory that can be proven by both science and religion. You cannot disprove it, hence it is true until you do disprove it.” 

The scientist’s brow furrows, “I can’t go on saying religion this, religion that. We cannot go risking our careers on the principles of our religious beliefs.”

“But can’t you see that religion and science go together? And when will math include religious symbols? It is obvious to me that the Bible presents many interesting math equations for us to understand,” I urge. 

(Go me, getting to the heart of the matter!)

“That’s hard for me to accept from a tenyearold,” he concedes.

Ha! I’m eight, silly!