The Buddha’s Wheel

The enlightened is as one with cause and effect.
2008-11-302010-12-17 finished certainty: fiction importance: 0

I was de­tached to Bob­by’s team. We were go­ing to cover John’s ass while he re­trieved his kid. Any­way, I was go­ing to mon­i­tor the el­e­va­tors. I was­n’t to stop any­body, but just mon­i­tor traffic and dis­suade peo­ple from us­ing them as best I could. So I was­n’t armed, ei­ther.

In ret­ro­spect, this was the mis­take.

We ar­rived 50 min­utes be­fore zero hour. The sta­dium was al­ready full be­cause it was a home­-town game and the weather was nice. You could see the stars through the wisps of cloud, where the moon did­n’t out­shine them. I had given into the ven­dors’ blan­d­ish­ments and bought a pret­zel. If you’ve ever gone to one of the big pro­fes­sional base­ball league’s sta­di­ums, you know that the pret­zels are salty and good; every­thing else is crap—the hot dogs are du­bi­ous, the beer wa­tered down and ab­surdly ex­pen­sive. I was just lean­ing against the wall op­po­site the bank of el­e­va­tors, nib­bling on my pret­zel. I was con­tent. It was a good night to be alive.

About 20 min­utes in, a young Asian guy sort of lack­adaisi­cally wan­ders into the end of the emp­tied hall. I was chew­ing on my pret­zel, and hap­pened to look at him. The kid looked at me. Our gazes locked, and he gave a lit­tle jerk. What could I do? I nod­ded back to him, of course.

He picked up his stride and came clos­er. About 20 feet away, he stopped. Reach­ing a hand over his shoul­der, he slid out a straight sword about 2 and a half feet long. Would you be­lieve I did­n’t even no­tice it be­fore that? Think­ing clin­i­cal­ly, I knew it had to be a straight sword be­cause when­ever I’d seen a katana drawn, it had al­ways whis­pered as it came out. The curve was what made the sound. My best guess is that what­ever it was, it was meant for one of the Chi­nese mar­tial arts like tai chi, or per­haps just some­thing less ex­otic like West­ern fenc­ing; I don’t know of any liv­ing Japan­ese mar­tial arts that use a un­curved blade. But it looked sharp enough to do for me.

He whipped the blade up and down, across and back, a few times. It made a nice swish­ing sound which peaked at the end when the tip snapped back after be­ing bent un­der the ac­cel­er­a­tion. I was still non-cha­lantly lean­ing against the wall, watch­ing all this a lit­tle slack­-jawed.

“I see you. You are the one re­spon­si­ble for the death of my cousin when you shot into the air in New Or­leans. For that, you must die.”

As luck would have it, just as he fin­ished his lit­tle set-piece speech, an empty el­e­va­tor ar­rived. I was no fool; dash­ing into the el­e­va­tor, I fran­ti­cally ham­mered on the door-close but­ton with a speed that would do a New Yorker proud. I knew that I could beat him down to the first floor. From there I had an ID card that would let me into the main­te­nance cor­ri­dors. At that point, I could eas­ily elude this kid and link up with Bob­by.

He broke into a flat-out sprint.

I al­most made it. The doors had nearly sealed shut, when he lunged and thrust his damned rapier or what­ever right into the gap. And of course, this was a mod­ern el­e­va­tor, which meant that it felt the ob­struc­tion and be­gan to open up again—s­tu­pid fuck­ing ma­chine! Plan A was ka­put.

The trick was to go past him just be­fore he had pulled the sword back enough to thrust. I had seen his lunge, and I was now sure he had been trained in West­ern-style fenc­ing, so he’d try to kill with the point and not the edge, un­less he had been trained by a fenc­ing mas­ter who was 400 years out of date. (Even saber fencers don’t put much strength into a cut, so I could­n’t see any both­er­ing in the real world with cut­s.)

Then I was rolling through the open­ing door and straight into his legs. I lurched up and clutched him. The two of us were danc­ing around like a pair of drunken bears squab­bling over a party fa­vor. I grabbed his wrist and twisted it out and around his back into an ar­m-lock. He flexed some­how and dropped to the floor. He had a death grip on the sword, so as he fell, the sword ro­tated to the ver­ti­cal.

You know what hap­pened then? De­spite hav­ing been out­-grap­pled and thrown to the floor, as I turned around to run, he shoved the blade straight through my right arm!

I can’t even be­gin to de­scribe how much it hurt as it punched through and ripped down. Suffice it to say that the mix­ture of pri­mal fear of death, fear of dam­age, the nau­seous weak feel­ing ac­com­pa­ny­ing blood loss, and sheer out­rage that such an un­fair and dis­hon­or­able move worked is some­thing one ex­pe­ri­ences only once in a life­time.

Stag­ger­ing back, he pulled out the blade and re­cov­ered him­self. For my part, I half-knelt and half-fell clutch­ing my right arm. From that point on, I was worsted. I don’t want to linger on it, but he stood off at a dis­tance and oc­ca­sion­ally lunged in to poke lit­tle holes in my flesh.

By this point, per­haps only a minute had passed. On­ly.

I was coated in blood, and could barely see out one eye. One of his cuts had got me in the fore­head or eye—I only re­mem­ber the one thrust hit­ting me, but nev­er­the­less. I think he re­garded me with great sat­is­fac­tion, but I can­not say for sure.

“Hi­roki—­come on in. It’s over.”

A young boy—Asian as well—walked in slow­ly, start­ing at the sight of me and star­ing al­ter­na­tively at me and the other guy. He was fol­lowed by Bob­by. My heart soared at the sight of him. Bobby was al­ways pack­ing, and a gun against a sword? I be­gan to feel that I might live out this night.

“Bob­by… kill him and call a medic, for Bud­dha’s sake!”

Bobby re­garded me care­ful­ly. My breath sucked and rasped in my chest.

“Marines never leave a com­rade be­hind. But you were never one of us. You were just the pay­ment for some hired help.”

It did make sense, in a sick way. Why was­n’t I given any weapons at all, even though I usu­ally was? Why was I dis­patched to do some­thing as use­less as watch the el­e­va­tors? For that mat­ter, how had the kid known where to find me and when, and known he could come with only a sword?

“You… Bas­tard.”

Bobby turned to the kid.

“Is this sat­is­fac­to­ry? We have done our part.”

“Yes, thank you very much. Here it is, as promised.”

I did­n’t see what hap­pened, but I did see Bobby turn and leave.

It was at that mo­ment I re­al­ized I was dead. You may think I was an­gry at this re­al­iza­tion. I was­n’t re­al­ly; it did­n’t come as a sur­prise: “Suffer­ing pur­sues the evil-do­er, even as the wheel fol­lows after the foot of the ox.”

The kid turned his at­ten­tion on me.

“Pay at­ten­tion, Hi­ro­ki. When strik­ing, you can com­bine a stab and a cut.”

He po­si­tioned him­self with his right foot for­ward lined up with my left shoul­der, in a closed stance. He was right-handed like me, and he thrust in such a way that it went straight for­ward and slide along the side of my right shoul­der in such a way that it slide through the mus­cle hor­i­zon­tally and cut a line right through it. He snapped the blade back, and handed the blade to the lit­tle one (who must be Hi­roki).

“You do it.”

The lit­tle one ner­vously grabbed the sword and po­si­tioned him­self like­wise.

As I watched him make mis­takes and be cor­rect­ed, I felt some strength re­turn to my left arm. Hi­roki thrust, slow­ly. Time slowed for me,

I stretched my arm out as far as I could and grabbed the hilt. Jerk­ing it to­wards me, I flipped it and seized. Slow­ly, I thrust the blade out.

It came at Hi­roki’s throat. And paused there. Time abruptly sped up. Weak, I dropped the sword. Hi­roki was dragged into safe­ty. Blood pulsed out of me.

The kid re­trieved the sword and stood be­fore me en­raged. I spoke.

“I could have killed him. We both know that. But why would I do that? I am dy­ing. Slay­ing an­other child would spread more death, and need more re­venge. Only one need die here, and I ask only one thing of you: a clean death. Let it be said of me too that noth­ing so be­came him in life as did the leav­ing.”

We were still. For a time, noth­ing changed. There was only the drip of blood, the quiet roar of fans, and the oc­ca­sional alarum.

He nod­ded. He pulled me out from the wall, and as­sisted me into a kneel­ing po­si­tion.

He paused. I re­al­ized he was wait­ing for my last words. I spoke.

"I give you my death po­em.

This from nothingness -
My pitiable terror
and loneliness shall
soon blow away all,
like cherry blossoms."

He nod­ded, and moved be­hind me. I heard the sword come up. I heard his quick breath­ing. I heard the un­car­ing fans. I felt the cold con­crete shift minutely un­der me.

An old friend once told me that the Bod­hisattva of Mercy vowed to save all who called on her, even if they but called upon her name once.

“Namu -”