Everything went smoothly, with Sohl ready to return to Blue Building to meditate with the priests for a time, when Katt Steward, the fifty-year old daughter of the original founders, stepped up to him.
“Can I have a word with you?” Katt asked.
“Sure.” Sohl said, as the votary went ahead without him.
“Your father told me that you used inappropriate language today. He recommends that I fine you ten merit points because this isn’t your first violation.”
Sohl tried hard not to let his irritation show. Merit points were not that easy to come by! Two months of hard work were about to be flushed down the stream!
“Do you think the punishment is warranted in this case?” Katt wondered.
“I called Dirk Diluh a faggot,” Sohl admitted. “Because he said he was going to motorboat my Mom.”
“What does that mean?”
“It is a porn term…” Sohl explained the concept, with a little more discretion than when he’d told his sister. “I don’t think it’s fair that I get merit points taken away, only because my Dad ratted on me and Rory and Dirk are not getting any punishment at all.”
“Your father came to me. Rory or Dirk’s parents did not.”
“Go ahead.” Sohl gave up. “Take ten merit points away, because my dad just had to be an asshole and ratted me out, while Rory and Dirk can get away with whatever they want!”
“You shouldn’t use that language against your father.” Katt commented.
“Take the ten points and leave me alone.” Sohl growled. “I need to go meditate!”
Normally, he didn’t turn his back on the woman who ran the entire complex, but on this occasion, with the way he felt, that’s exactly what he did.
Meditating with the priests could be compared to receiving a reward. Sohl walked into Blue Building feeling confused and tense, not to mention bruised up. The simple act of sitting down and mimicking the relaxed postures of the others changed his state of being. When Sohl sat with the priests, he entered another world, a world where nothing existed past tranquility.
They sang sometimes, or hummed, or chanted. Energy blossomed in the small chamber when they did that, with them seated around the Holy Flame and watching it flicker. The energy took Sohl away from the place of calm, a peaceful, blue state, and into a new place filled with joy. The new place was yellow, bright as the sun. The energy flowed from the mouths of the priests, and also from Sohl’s mouth. It flowed past him at first, circling the worshipers, but in time, it flowed through him. He tried to explain it to his mother, more than once, but she would really have to come in there and experience it for herself to really grasp what he tried to say. Words could not do justice to what Sohl felt, what he imagined, what he invoked by being there.
Oh, God, for whom did you create me? Feuds and violence have oppressed me. I have no one to protect me save for you, oh God. Give me the blessings of a peaceful life.
Sohl recognized the words from the Gathas, or the Divine Songs. He wondered if the priests had chosen those specific verses because of his fight with Rory. Then again, maybe they chose the verses because he didn’t know too many of their songs yet, and they were right there at the beginning of the song book. Whatever the reason, Sohl didn’t mind hearing them. He chanted right along with the others, and on a rare occasion in his life he felt happy and clear-headed.
Sohl stayed with the priests until past nine. The last time he’d gotten into a fight with Rory, he’d stayed out late that time, too. The next day, Rory and his bunch teased him because they assumed Sohl was too scared to return to Brown Building at the usual hour. Not this time; this time Sohl walked into his building and went straight to Rory’s room.
All five buildings had the same set-up. They could hold fifty occupants, with two people per bedroom. A wide hallway went through the center of the building, twelve rooms on either side. The next to last room could be reserved for a captain, but not every building had one. The last room space measured a little bigger than the others. The toilets and urinals were found there, but since the arcology didn’t have running water the large, filtered tank on the roof had to be filled up a couple of times a week.
Brown Building had its little factions: to one side, the single adult men of varying ages, in the middle, a small clique of young men that didn’t like Rory and his bunch, with Sohl’s room just past theirs, and on the far end from the captain’s room, Rory and five of his lackeys. A few doors were closed, meaning the residents were already asleep. Sohl walked past the middle section on his way to the end of the building. He walked steadily and quietly, but regardless, someone saw him and stuck his head out, seeing where he was headed. Word would get around fast and Sohl’s walk would be seen as confrontational, and everybody wanted to watch the show.
Sohl stopped before Rory’s open door. Rory sat on his bed with three others, including Dirk. They chatted and listened to music, turning when they noticed him standing there.
“Hey, look who’s here?” Rory grinned. “You’ve got to tell us where you’ve been for the last couple of hours. Half of us think you were hiding out with the Grayhairs. The other half, and that includes me, think you were hiding out with your mother.”
“Yeah, settle our bet.” Dirk joked.
“I just want to say one thing.” Sohl spoke up. “I don’t know if Brittney likes me or not, but I have no intention of asking her to marry me at the Spring Festival. Rory, if you want her, you can have her.”
“Bullshit.” Rory replied. “I know for a fact that you and her already talked about it.”
“When? Is that what Brittney said? Who told you that?”
“He did.” Rory pointed at Dirk.
It wasn’t often that Sohl had epiphanies, but he had one now. “Dirk lied. I wonder why he lied, Rory. Maybe Dirk wants to keep us fighting with each other so we can get kicked out of the festival. I wonder who Dirk is going to try to marry. Why don’t you ask him, Rory? Why don’t you ask him in front of me?”
Rory looked at his buddy.
“He’s full of shit, Rory.” Dirk said. “I stand by what I said. I heard them talking about getting married behind Green Building about a week ago. They’ve got it all planned out.”
“I want to say something else.” Sohl spoke up. “Dirk, you crossed the line when you talked shit about my mother. Tomorrow, I’m going to catch you by yourself, and I’m going to hand you your ass. You done fucked up, buddy.”
Rory and the others started laughing. Dirk’s face went ashen.
“Why don’t you fight him, Dirk?” Rory urged. “You gonna let him talk to you like that?”
“I’ll get him tomorrow.” Dirk said.
“Why tomorrow? Get him right now, Dirk.”
“Yeah, get me right now.” Sohl challenged. “Faggot.”
Dirk rushed at the door, ready to plow into Sohl and shove him through the wall. The best part about it, from Sohl’s point of view, was that Sohl had a clear, mellow head and witnessed the charge coming. The door to the bedroom was only so big, and he wasn’t dumb enough to stand there and get bulldozed flat. Sohl waited until the last moment, before he used his lateral quickness to hop out of the way. Dirk’s momentum took him out of the room, where Sohl grabbed onto an arm and shirt, and veered Dirk into the wall across the hallway. The crash was loud enough to wake most everyone who wasn’t already watching the fight. Dirk groaned and slipped to the floor, trying to hold his head and shoulder at the same time.
“What the hell is going on over there?” One of the adult men shouted from way over on the other side of the building.
Sohl figured he was in big trouble if dumb ass Dirk was really hurt.
Rory came to the door, laughing when he saw Dirk on the floor groaning. “Did you just run into the wall?” He too heard the adults coming. “Sohl, prove to me that you’re not going to marry Brittney.”
“Who are you going to marry?”
“Nobody. I don’t want to get married yet, period.”
“What if we walk up to Brittney together? Can you tell her to her face?”
Rory quieted down when the adults moved past Sohl and helped Dirk to his feet. Dirk grimaced as he held his arm.
“What happened here?” One of the adults demanded.
The older men were all staring at Sohl and Rory.
“Dirk had to go to the toilet in a hurry.” Rory said. “And then he ran into the wall. Isn’t that right, Dirk?”
Dirk looked at Rory, and then at Sohl. He nodded at the adults. “I wasn’t paying attention. I think I need to see the nurse.”
The men made way as Dirk started the walk across the building. Some of them followed the youth, while others stayed behind, wondering if something was going to happen between Sohl and Rory.
“Everything is fine.” Rory said. “It was an accident, like Dirk said.”
“Yeah, everything is fine.” Sohl seconded.
“You should both be turning in soon.” One of the adults said. “No more banging on walls tonight, you hear me?”
Finally, the men started filtering away. The younger men from the middle of the hallway, however, were still paying attention.
Rory waited until the adults were gone. “Promise me you’re not after Brittney.”
“I promise I’m not.” Sohl said.
“What about Tamsin? Do you want to marry her?”
Tamsin was the seventeen year old.
“You’re not thinking about marrying me, are you?” Rory kidded.
His friends laughed. The young men in the hall laughed.
Sohl had to give credit where credit was due. Rory had charisma that he did not. Rory was a natural leader. “Look, maybe I’m a late bloomer or something. I don’t think I want to get married this year. I might become a priest. I haven’t decided what I want to do with my life yet.” He realized he was saying too much. “Just don’t talk shit about my mother, okay?”
He turned and walked to his room, knowing everybody was going to be talking about him the next day.