Benzaiten’s Trident and the Three Worms

Plumes of sandalwood smoke cleanse the bedroom corner designated for meditation. Lucy strikes a bell. Her mind traces the sound. She inhales through her nose and exhales through her mouth. She clasps the obsidian juzu beads in her left hand and recites Bezaiten’s mantra before her image. On Sora Soba Tei Ei Sowaka. She visualizes a golden cord that unites her and the goddess at their hearts as if an invisible wheel spins at their center. The mantra follows the golden cord out of Lucy’s mouth into the foot of Benzaiten up through the goddess’s body to her heart where it spins, then travels up her throat out of her mouth through the top of Lucy’s head down her throat where it spins, then travels up her throat out of her mouth up through the feet of the deity as the mantra threads back and forth. An ache jabs Lucy’s back. She adjusts her posture on the cushion in front of the altar. She rolls through the prayer beads and strengthens the golden cord that ties her to the divine goddess in mind, breath and body. 

A set of Benzaiten’s arms strum a tear-shaped biwa to the rhythm of the mantra. On Sora Soba Tei Ei Sowaka. Her sword penetrates the veil between her two-dimensional image on the wall and the three-dimensional space above her altar. The blade shaves off the hibiscus next to the burning incense and flower pieces catch flame. Lucy pours tea from the offering cup over the fire, then kneels in seza on the cushion. She threads the heart-wheels with the golden breath-cord. On Sora Soba Tei Ei Sowaka. Lucy’s skull tightens. Her eyes twitch. The golden thread weaves through feet, heart, head, heart, feet, heart, head — a trident pierces her eyeballs. She chants even louder and threads even harder. The trident picks at her brain but Lucy continues her practice with resolve. On Sora Soba Tei Ei Sowaka. Tears of blood drip to her lips. The iron flavor boosts her determination. Benzaiten twists the trident deeper into Lucy’s skull. On Sora Soba Tei Ei Sowaka. The goddess plucks three worms from Lucy’s head. Her thumb reaches the 108th bead, and she ceases the practice. The trident-wielding arm retreats back into the laminated poster, with the worms, above the altar in Lucy’s bedroom. Lucy pets her eyes and tests her sight. She finds no evidence of physical damage. She rests on the floor to clear her mind.

Once her mind empties the horrid vision of the three skewered worms Benzaiten fished from her brain, Lucy makes tea in the kitchen. She heats the water on the stove, then lets it cool. She carries the water to the table and adds it to a transparent teapot holding rose petals and green tea leaves. She sits and admires the beauty as the petals and leaves unfurl. Lucy pours herself a cup of tea. She bows. She sips. The petals and leaves conjoin in the pot and form an embryo. A voice echoes in her mind. “I’d be fifteen today,” a boy says. Lucy inhales through her nose and exhales through her mouth. She squeezes her eyes shut but the volume of the voice loudens. “Fifteen,” the boy says. Lucy bolts upright and pushes herself away from the table. “I wasn’t ready,” Lucy shouts to the embryo inside the teapot. She inhales through her nose and exhales through her mouth. She bows to the Buddhas. Her forehead touches the linoleum, “I repent for taking a life I could not afford,” she says. She stands at the kitchen window with her hands in gassho at her heart. Lucy grabs the teapot with the tea-turned-embryo and bolts to the garden. She bows to the pond. She pours the tea-embryo into the water. A carp devours it in one gulp.

Lucy passes through the sliding glass doors back into the house and heads to the bathroom. She opens the shower doors and turns on the hot water. She tests the temperature with her fingers. Satisfied, she undresses and enters. She senses something behind her and turns around, but no one is there. The hot stream cascades over her burdened body and jostled mind in massaging torrents. She follows the rhythm of the shower and releases her worries. 

Soap bubbles cleanse her of the three worms and the tea-embryo haunting her mind. She sends the visions down the drain of the tub. Full lips kiss the nape of her neck. Goosebumps electrify her flesh, rippling down her body. She turns around, and he presses his body against hers, but no one is there. She washes her face and ignores the waves of desire seemingly targeted at her with a laser beam of lust. She catches a glimpse of him in her mind’s eye but pushes it away. His phantom tongue kisses her, but no one is there. Desire explodes in each cell of her body that screams for his touch. His fingertips caress her face, but no one is there. She reaches for the soap to stay grounded in reality. He pulls her close and she can feel his embrace, but no one is there. Lucy jumps out of the shower and dashes for her closet. She throws on a dress, jacket and boots.

The venture on foot to the bridge clears Lucy’s mind of the three worms, the embryo-tea and the laser beam of lust. She follows the rhythm of cars that pass her on the street to stay in the moment. Tears mingle with snot, and she wipes the mess on her sleeve. She reaches the apex of the bridge and stops. The cityscape dazzles with lights that reflect in the water. She leans over the rail and flirts with the drop. She steps back to the sidewalk. She scoffs at the distance from the bridge to the river. Lucy climbs the rail and stands on it. She cries out Benzaiten’s mantra. On Sora Soba Tei Ei Sowaka. But only the cold wind responds. She yells it even louder. On Sora Soba Tei Ei Sowaka. Feet, heart, head, heart. She inhales through her nose and exhales through her mouth. She bows. But no one is there.

Lucy balances on one foot, then the other. A gust of wind whips over her. She slips and clings to the railing but can’t get a grip and falls off the bridge. Her jacket puffs with the wind. The moon pulls the river tide. Its reflection dances just for her as she descends. Lucy’s ears pop. She screams Bezaiten’s mantra. On Sora Soba Tei Ei Sowaka. But no one is there. Lucy slams into the river. Her bones crush and snap. Vertebrae out of place. Legs broken. Her collar disjointed. She sinks deeper and her mind follows the rhythm of the waves her body makes. On Sora Soba Tei Ei Sowaka. 

A sword cuts through the water in front of Lucy and slashes dimensions. She enters and floats backwards. A sensation similar to gravity pulls her up instead of down. She spins on an axis behind herself, fragmented. She passes over a moonlit horizon. Her feet vacuums into the head of a woman and their hearts beat in unison as she fills the body hiding in a cave. A warrior bleeds in her lap, their lap. They press hard on his chest, through the broken armor, to stop the bleeding. He beckons for them to lower their face. They three kiss. A young man approaches with a sword drawn. He beheads them and stabs the man through the heart. 

Drums sound in the distance as Lucy tumbles through a T.V. static tunnel. Divers yank her body from the river and CPR brings her body back to life, but her mind is stuck in the astral tunnel. She recites Benzaiten’s mantra three times for the three worms. On Sora Soba Tei Ei Sowaka.

Lucy plops onto a hospital bed and stares at static on a television screen. Benzaiten rides a swan from the T.V. screen into the hospital room, with the three worms skewered on the trident in her right hand. She strums the biwa three times for each worm that transforms into three dragons. One of air, and Lucy breathes it in. The second of water that she drinks up. The third of fire that burns as compassion in her heart. 

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