Dreamed 2007/7/5 by Wayan
I'm in Tibet--but not our Tibet. Tibet in a parallel world. China never invaded--never dared. For Tibet's fiercely independent--in fact, splintered into little kingdoms sharing just one thing: xenophobia. Foreigners are banned, on pain of death.
The land has changed too. Parts are lower: stretches of almost Californian oak-hill country, rising to broad conifer forests. Still plenty of alps and barren altiplanos and jagged ice-peaks, but it's a patchwork now--terraced plateaus with famous waterfalls between. Himalayan ranges still surround and run through the complex. Beyond, the Central Asian lowlands are still desert--cut off from rain by the highest ranges in the world, what else could they be? Some things can't be changed.
I'm following the journey of a middle-aged English woman who's boating on one of these new rivers winding across Tibet. They're navigable between waterfalls; travel's easier than in our world. But not safer. She's running a big risk: the Ban.
And today's the day she loses her long gamble. Horns call! Armed men on the hills ahead, both sides of the stream. The river's lazy, here--can she turn around, paddle back upstream? She brings the boat around, but it's no use--more men come out of the woods behind her. She's trapped, and by a large, well-prepared force. What to do?
She dives into the river--and doesn't come up. Holding her breath under the boat, she loosens her bones and takes them apart one by one, though it hurts to do it. She binds her life-force inside each bone and lays them on the riverbed.
Now the Ban's been honored, for she's technically dead. But her bones are all numbered and accounted for and stored; a traditional shaman's technique to preserve one's life. She may be re-assemblable. It's why I said "technically": in this Tibet, death too takes a subtly different shape.
As a disembodied spirit, she applies for a job serving a powerful Tibetan god--now adopted into the Buddhist canon, but originally his own thing--indeed, perhaps in the beginning he was a mortal shaman like her, just one with a lot of tutelary spirits. Or perhaps he was just a smart employer... Whatever his roots, today he runs a large operation--the biggest god on this particular plateau.
He's delighted to hire her; not so much for her shamanic power, but her knowledge of the West. He's a fan of the exotic, and scarcity creates value! "Western science is so wonderful!" he says. Not that he knows firsthand--the god is no techie, but he's hired several information-science spirits on staff, maintaining a vast database of divine knowledge; it fills several servers. One perk of working for this particular god is that she gets access to all that divine wisdom.
And she studies hard--or so it seems. She sets up her own huge database on the god's servers--some of it copied from the god's files, but mostly her own data. Is she really devout, or... is she after his unused hard drive space? Looks like! She seems to be storing her own personality on his servers! More than that, her body specifications--is she planning to set herself up as an AI with a virtual body on the Net, or to rebuild her physical body somehow from the specs, with the god's resources?
Her tactics may be mysterious, but her goal's not: independence again. And even if he knew, which I doubt, this god just isn't techno-literate enough to stop her.
One way or another, her bones will rise again.
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