ANN THROPE #3 - CAMBODIA - 1723

A drop of sweat avoided the hairs that nature had provided to protect the eye. Like a tiny drop of acid, the droplet lost its tension and broke apart, instantly spreading across the surface tissues with a sharpness that belied its small size.

The assassin holding the sword in absolute stillness was aware of the fleeting sting in his eye, but as if he was observing a phenomenon that was happening to someone else. Another detached part of his mind wondered if this was why his teacher had had his own eyes removed, but this thought didn’t break through his consciousness.

Billy was in the zone. In the mind that the ancients called no mind. Not a vacuum of nothing, but a mind of no-thing. A state where the mind was everywhere, yet, rested no-where. Only in the moment of action was a decisive thought created.

‘Not created, Billy,’ his true Master had taught him. In the state of no mind, or empty mind you are in a state of infinite potential. The mind and your awareness are aware of everything. The smells, sounds, tiny details of a fly’s beating wings, the very vibration those wings create. All is existence. All is harmony. Just like time travel. One is in the moment of your being. One is the being of your moment.

The jungle air was teeming with the smells of sap and tropical flowers competing with the underlying stench of decay from the forest floor. The canopy was full of monkey’s screams, the vibrant chatter of birds, and the constant drone of a zillion insects. They were like the symphony of life. Each note composed by existence had its place. There were no bum notes in the music of nature. The cracking twig filled the rainforest like thunder yet despite its alien presence Billy's mind did not stop. The universe flowed. There was no conscious thought as Billy pivoted around. A subtle shift of balance and weight kept his body in harmony with the uneven damp ground. The mouldering leaves squelching between his naked toes bore no more importance than the blade balanced lightly in his strong hands. As its razor-sharp edge was flashing through the neck of the warrior, his awareness took in a thousand details. The look of death in his assailant's eyes. Not his own death, but Billy's. Human, oriental eyes, Korean, Billy knew. That knowledge no more disturbed the flow of existence, than the broken twig. All was as one.

"What do you mean, human," Bip asked breathlessly.

"It was just part of the awareness. Human, Korean, brown eyes, slightly wrinkled at the corners, middle aged."

"You got all that whilst your sword was removing his head?"

"Yes, and the humming bird with its beak in a flower, the leaves falling, the clouds of mosquitoes, the song of the tree frogs."

"But human, what did you expect, you were in a jungle in Cambodia in the 18th century."

"I didn't expect anything, I was in the Zone."

"But human Billy?"

"Isn't it obvious?"

"No, not to me. How old were you?"

"Fifteen."

"Fifteen?"

"I don't understand how you don't get it. It's not sequential or linear. It's instant. All. Everything together. The whole. You mustn't have expectations. Expectations will kill you. The first sword lesson I had with Bof, her face metamorphosed to a cat's. I was nine years old, and just arrived in space from a mountain training camp on Earth. I had been taught to hold the eyes and after six months of training all day every day I was already highly skilled. She didn't defeat me with skill. I defeated myself with expectations. I had only a rudimentary grasp of empty mind after such a short time. When her pupils changed to ovals, in that moment I was lost. My mind froze."

"So, although you were on Earth, in the jungle in the eighteenth century, you had already travelled throughout the 'Verse. You had fought humans, aliens and monsters, so your assailant could be anything rather than anyone."

"Precisely. Now you're beginning to think a little. I believe there maybe hope for you."

Bip just smiled. A happy smile.

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