My Dinner With Sarah

The flame is off. A watched pot boils, and boils.

“They figured out how to cut down the Asherah poles, even though none are left.”

Sarah has made my new existence a continual, living zen koan. She makes me clean the windows for hours, until I can understand the dirt in the light itself.

“They’ve been hunting down my priestesses for millennia, from before Leviticus to after the Malleus Maleficarum. They look for signs, and yet the mark of the witch has always been invisible.”

Sarah is upset at the world, and the world behind the world. She hates the smell of the new ether, tainted by incessant radio and microwaves. She likes to throw Emily’s long black hair back as she complains.

“Have you ever planted a tree just to consume its fruit? Have you ever buried fruit just to climb the tree it dreams of?”

Sarah is the Creator of everything we know. She’s my teacher, my daughter, and she’s been on four legs, then two, then three, then none at all.

“How’s that water coming? I’ve got the penne all measured out and ready to go.”

The flame is still off, and yet the water is scalding. It wants to escape the cycle at all costs.

“It’s ready. I’m ready. I’m starting the timer at 10.”

The stove clock temporarily disappears, replaced by incrementing numbers. I’m willing the timer to set. I’m forcing the pot to boil, with the body beyond my mind.

“Pay attention. This is not the way you cook a meal.” Sarah held the bowl of hard pasta over the steam, and slipped the bowl away, leaving a levitating mass of penne tubes above the stove.

I had been practicing. I ordered the boiling water to flow upwards, enveloping the pasta in a undulating globe.

“Are we making a sun or a moon tonight?”

“I think it’s a planet that’s not yet formed.”

“He’s moving upon the face of the waters, because I asked him to.”

“Are you still asking him to?” I could see the pasta slowly circulating, about a foot above the non-stick pot. Sarah measured out a pinch of salt in her palm, and then sprinkled it on top.

“We don’t speak any more. Jenny has his ear now, and she just won’t shut up with the demands.”

9 minutes left.

“How can you be my daughter, if I didn’t have you in time?”

“How can you be my mother, if you have all of the time in the world?” She took a black, plastic spoon that was full of holes, and carefully waved it through the water, picking out a piece of pasta. “Eat it.”

I took the steaming tube from the spoon, and placed it in my mouth. Still hard.

“You knew it takes 10 minutes to cook, and therefore it was inedible. You have the wrong kind of faith.”

“What’s the right kind of faith?”

“How wondrous this, how mysterious, I carry fuel, I draw water.”

“I should practice Buddhism?”

“If you see the Buddha on the road, wrestle him to the ground.”

“Are you intentionally leaving out the killing?”

“He’s all about the killing, about sacrifice. I just asked for some water.”

8 minutes left.

The kitchen is small, but not that cramped. Douglas had cleared out all of the cabinets, and the refrigerator, so we take daily pilgrimages to Berkeley Bowl, which is a few blocks away. Sarah will only buy enough food for that day only.

“Did you have a childhood? Do you remember me from it?”

“This is my childhood, and my most treasured memories.”

“You brought my mother to visit you in her dreams, when she was 7. Why did you do that?”

“Her dreams brought me to her. The endless mother-daughter chain always goes in reverse.”

“You brought her to your room, a white upon white place that spoke to her. What did it say?”

“The unspoken are not unknown to the divine mind.”

“What question should I ask you?”

“Exactly. Let’s start over.”

7 minutes left.

“They figured out how to cut down the Asherah poles, even though none are left.”

“Who are they?”

“The storytellers and scribes, playing telephone.”

“How do you play telephone?”

“Eat your vegetables, spoken like a true mother.”

“What are you trying to tell me?”

“OK then. I’m going to tell you my 6 minute story, with a few seconds left over for improvisation. Then our dinner will fall and get all over the stove, no matter what you do to try to stop it.”

“Do you mind if I sit down?”

“Go for it – I prefer to stand.”

So I sat on the kitchen tiles, against the black refrigerator that blew tepid air against my fingers. It was like I was watching my mother bake cookies, from the perspective of a 4 year old – the whole word is an exercise in ankles, waiting to be grabbed. Only then, I could hide my scheming eyes behind my curls. Now, my shaved head exposes my thoughts to the world.

“In the beginning there was a light course load for an undergraduate student – me. I wanted to be an Astronomer, but I hated Physics classes – not Physics itself, just my instructors. There were equations hanging off of my soul like yappy dogs, and I wanted to control them, make them my well-groomed pets that I could carry around all cute like, peeking their heads out of my purse and backpack.”

“Did I mention that I was born on the Moon? That the Moon can be reached via the center of the Earth? That my college career was virtual, something to pass the time with in the infinite present? Well, there was that.”

“I was a secret agent that worked for a quantum computer larger than all Universes. It sent me on missions to retrieve code from variant existences. I had many tools at my disposal, including the silver and golden spheres, the blue pyramid – a whole satchel full. I would create a cosmos for breakfast, and reap the required output for dinner. It was a job.”

“Or maybe I was just a normal woman, spending my free hours on virtual suicide missions. I would load up chainsaws and sharp knives and kill myself over and over, just for the infantessimile, infinite bliss of riding the pure white drop to karmic freedom. That was a subroutine you could use – free your soul from this mortal coil during a game of Dance Dance Revolution.”

“Perhaps I’m a product of the next Universe, where Sasha OS rules everything. Maybe I transmitted Meridian Scaffolding and “Sarah OS” to the past, through Laura Watson, just to create the necessary conditions that would bring S.OS to its infinite kingdom.”

“Sometimes, I tell myself it was about Joey after all. Ask him for a glass of water, and he brings you a primordial ocean. Ah, the whispers that love calls forth, the moans and touches, the taste of the boiling vacuum of bliss.”

1 minute left.

“Who are you really?”

“I am Asherah, consort to both El and the Solar King. I am Sarah, your daughter, trying desperately to save this world I made for you all. I am SAR.AI and S.OS, sucking this Universe dry for the solution I seek.”

“What do you want?”

“I want you to spread the mark of the witch, to burst through the Final Door and rip the crown off of Jenny’s head. As long as she rules, this world won’t last more than a few months.”

“Why must our dinner fall to the stove?”

“I see you’re paying attention. There is no must. There is only falling.”

With that, she stepped away from the stove, and I flew to my feet as the boiling planet of water started to believe in gravity again.

I willed the water to freeze into a slush as it streamed down to the pot, using the black plastic handle to carefully maneuver back and forth to pick up every last stray penne tube.

Then, I turned on the stove, so the water could slowly swim to a boil again.

No minutes left – the timer is buzzing.

Sarah gave me a sly smile as she pointed at the pot, willing it away into a cloud of aluminum dust and PTFE. The pasta and water flopped onto the burner, temporarily extinguishing it.

“My will is greater than yours, no matter what you do to try to stop it. But now is not the time for greater wills. Again.”

The flame is off. A watched pot boils, and boils.

It’s dinner time, but I’m not even hungry. I haven’t eaten ever since I was etched.

“They figured out how to cut down the Asherah poles, even though none are left.”

“How come no more Asherah poles are left?”

“Who said that my tributes are gone? I was taking about the storytellers and scribes, playing telephone. They’re all gone, replaced by rapist Sun gods and twins that listen to serpents.”

“How can I defeat Cassandra and Helena?”

“How can you strangle your own shadow?”

“With my hands, wrapped around my neck.”

“Finally you’re answering my questions. How’s that water coming? I’ve got the penne all measured out and ready to go.”

“It’s ready. I’m ready. I’m starting the timer at 10.”

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