"Teal'c?" Daniel's head jerked around as he looked for the source of the sound.
Breathe. . . The voice trailed off as Daniel sank to the floor, trying to control his panic. Teal'c wouldn't let anything happen to him. This had to be part of the process. He forced in one breath after another, forced it back out, in, out, in, out, until he could think clearly. And that was when he saw the child.
He was robed, of course, for some reason Daniel didn't expect differently. He held the calm serenity that he craved. That look of knowing something that others didn't. "Hello." Daniel rose slowly.
"You still deny the change."
Daniel frowned. "Sorry?"
"You deny the change."
"What - what change?"
"The change within you. The change within all. You deny it."
"I-I don't understand."
"Things are not as they were." The young voice floated around Daniel as the child started to walk, his hands tucked into his robes. "Things never stay constant, and yet you expect them to."
"No, see, you're wrong. I've been through. . .look. . .how do you know what I've been through? I died! That's not change enough? I came back! I've been here a year, and still feel like I just left home! That's not enough?"
"Your anger prevents you from seeing."
Daniel laughed. "Seeing? Seeing what? Seeing that I could do no good here, and could do even less while ascended? That I was kicked out of one world only to be kicked out of another?"
"The ascension was your choice. A gift that was merely offered."
"Yeah, well, if that was a gift I'd gladly give it back. I mean, what was the point?"
"You tell me." The small head tilted acquisitively.
"The point was, there are these higher beings that don't do a damn thing! Gods, for what it's worth, that are useless! Powers that can be used for so much, you know, its probably just as well that I don't remember much from being up there, or wherever. I may actually get pissed about the whole thing."
"You blame yourself."
"I blame everyone! I blame everything! I come back and nothing has changed, nothing is better! I ascended, and nothing was any better! I still fought battles only I believed in, I still got. . .caught." Daniel sighed. "It was no different, and if being a 'higher being' is no different from being a 'lower one', then what do we strive for? What's the point?"
"You were not ready. It is a matter of degree."
Daniel sat cross-legged in the center of the room. "Fine. Explain."
"You were selected because you took the studies of Oma, yet you had not put them into practice. You carry too much guilt, and you were looking to rid yourself of the guilt by extraordinary means.It is not possible."
"So. . .you're saying I was looking for a scapegoat?" Daniel regarded the child. "I was looking for this ascension to relieve my past. All it did was bring it into sharper focus, showed my weaknesses."
"On the contrary. It showed your strengths. Strengths that you are not yet ready to acknowledge, that you bury within your pain because you feel you don't deserve them."
Daniel sighed. "I'm so tired of everyone telling me what I do or do not deserve. I decide that, no one else."
"And what do you deserve?"
"Better! For once and for all I deserve better! I deserve peace of mind, I deserve the chance to be with my friends without worry. I deserve the chance to be. . .myself. . .and not just a book." Daniel stood. "I like water-skiing. You know? No one at the SGC knows that. I love the water. Guess it's because I grew up in the desert, worked in the desert, hell, Abydos. . .I love the water. I feel at home in the heat and the sands. But water. . .I ski and no one knows. And those that found out wouldn't believe it. It would be strange, it wouldn't 'fit' into their notion of who I am."
"Why worry about their shortcomings?"
Daniel opened his mouth, and was caught by the phrasing of the sentence. "I don't know. I was just saying, you know."
"You keep the blame, the fear, within yourself. Yet you look outside yourself for an answer. If you stand in a dark room, what do you expect to see?" And the room went dark.
It was a haunting darkness that swallowed him whole. Thick black air closed his throat and stifled his senses. "What the. . .hello?" The words were lost the minute they left his mouth, gulped by the void before him. The world was gone; sight, sound, smell, he wasn't even certain of the floor beneath his feet. He forced himself to bend slowly down, reaching out, and felt the hard surface. He sat carefully, a small hint of relief feeding into a frightened soul. Placed his palms flat. Felt the sturdiness of. . .whatever material the floor was composed of. He ran his hands over it, touch being the only sense he possessed, the only thing assuring him that he was still there. His eyes ached to see. "Hello? Okay, I get it, this is a little analogy play." There was no echo, no evidence the words left his mouth. "So what, I just sit here for a while? I can do that." He realized he kept turning his head, looking for something to focus on, looking for something he could actually see. The darkness blanketed him completely. His breath was the only sound, and even it was sucked away.
Teal'c watched as Daniel winced, then raised his chin defiantly. "Breathe," he whispered.
His ears hurt. His ears actually hurt, unaccustomed to such silence. He was certain his eyeballs were protruding from their sockets. He ran his fingers over his face, wanted to believe everything was in its place and as it should be. Already it seemed an eternity had passed. He jerked his head around, desperate to find something, dammit anything, to look at. He stood, swayed with no point of reference to fix upon, and felt his back to the wall.
Were the walls closing in?
Surely not. The child, whoever he was, wouldn't allow that. Would he? He'd been burnt before, literally. He ran his fingers over the wall, wondering for a moment if maybe they held words, held a clue as to, well, anything. The words on Kehb maybe. No luck. The surface was polished smooth, but at least it was there. He followed it, step after tiny step, waiting to be led somewhere, anywhere, to find a corner. But there was no corner, nothing to curl up into or hide in. In fact, the wall suddenly stopped.
Daniel froze. Wondered if he stood on the edge of a deep abyss. Wondered if he was supposed to prove himself and step forwards. There was no gut reaction leading him to the edge, but at this point he wasn't sure a gut reaction was something he could trust. He had questioned that a lot before his ascension, and now that he was back. . .if he was really back. Had everything of the past year been a dream? "Oma? Are you here?" Nothing.
He didn't really expect anything.
He teetered, one hand braced on the wall. And a voice came to him, deep within. Breathe
Teal'c? "Teal'c! Teal'c, are you here?" Daniel dared a step back, pressed against the wall. "Teal'c! I-I can't see. I can't see!" Oh. . .God. . .wait. Maybe the light hadn't been removed from the room. Maybe it had been removed from him.
Maybe he was blind.
"Oh, oh no. Oh God. . ."
With one hand braced against the wall and the other in front he walked back along the barrier towards what he hoped was the center of the room, where he had been. He ventured away from the wall and stood. No sight. How could he work if he couldn't see? Artefacts didn't come in Braille. His friends, Sam's wonderful smile and caring face, Jack's twitch of concern or look of sheer boredom, Hammond's piercing gaze, and Teal'c's steady one. He knew his friends would help, but that didn't quell the selfish panic. "I'm not blind. You hear me? I AM NOT BLIND!" He waited for the room to suddenly light, to prove that he had passed whatever test, to prove to the child that he had licked this demon, but it didn't happen. He sank to the floor, defeated.
Teal'c again. "Dammit, Teal'c, if you're there, come on! Get me out of here!" He raised unseeing eyes to the heavens. "Please. Someone, anyone. . .please. . ."
The darkness persisted, drinking him in. Daniel sat motionless, legs crossed, eyes closed. If there was nothing to do then he was just going to sit. Walking didn't help. Yelling didn't help. Sitting still, well, oddly enough it helped. If nothing else he would conserve oxygen in that little black box he was encased within. He sat. His breath entered his body through the nostrils, filled his lungs, exited with a rush of warmth. He focused on his breath and calmed his fears. At the moment his breath was the only thing he possessed. And after a long while his tension eased. Maybe he was sleepy. Maybe he really had run out of air, or accepted his fate. Either way, he was settled. His mind switched off. He felt the floor beneath him, solid and cool. He heard his breath flow, felt the slight raspiness in his chest and throat. Felt the pulse in his fingertips. Felt his heat beat. His breath matched the rhythm, steady and calm. And suddenly the fear vanished. Suddenly he felt at ease, and stretched his senses to listen, to wonder just what was going on around him. And slowly the room started to lighten, sounds slowly crept in around the edges of his awareness, and he realized he didn't want to leave the peacefulness of the dark. He didn't want the intrusion. He tried to sink back in, to hide within the very place he had longed to escape. It was easier to just sit in the darkness.
Open your eyes, Daniel.
The voice mixed in with the dark, complimented it in soothing tones. Daniel didn't want to open his eyes. He didn't want this peace to end.
The light continued to seep through, coloring his closed lids red. Slowly, not moving his body, he opened them, squinting, blinking, then relaxing them on the site before him. He stood. He was at the park, staring down at his damp shoes where he had been kicking the topmost leaves from the mulch underneath. A moist earthy smell caught his attention and he bent down, swiping the leaves aside and fingering the decay, rubbing the bitterness between thumb and forefinger, raising it to his nose to smell. Why he was suddenly so fascinated with the process of decay he had no clue, but he discovered an uncomfortable urge to lay down and roll. Get all dirty again like he used to in Giza. Become a part of things, a part of nature, a part of, well, something. His studies had convinced him that there was really no religion but inner religion, and that whatever faith a person may have was his own, not to be questioned because no one really knew the answer anyway. The past seven years had done absolutely everything to torment his once held truths and shred them into something resembling chaos. Lies, all lies. He couldn't look at a Bible anymore, ignored the Koran. Buddhism caught his fancy a bit, but even that was a pale comparison to what he had actually been through and experienced, to the things he couldn't remember yet could still taste in his mouth like a sour pill. There was no certainty. None at all.
He fingered the mulch again. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust, then to energy particles? What? And what of this whole ascension thing? Why not Sha're? Or his folks? Why not everyone, why was it disguised in writings on a wall on another planet, subject for those chosen few only? It wasn't right. Maybe people weren't ready, but hell, it was obvious that neither was he. He had been booted from the rainbow room. Survived hell, tossed into hell, and tossed back again. Only, with all the confusion he did feel, for some reason this place he knew as home longer intimidated him. Not like before. Maybe something good came from that ascension after all. A noise caught his attention and he turned.
It was the monk. The monk he saw on the planet Kehb. Daniel stood slowly, half turned, and half wondered if he should run.
"You are concerned." The monk looked amused.
"I'm. . .confused."
"Yet you found clarity only moments ago."
"How do you know that?"
The monk clasped his hands behind his back and regarded Daniel with an even expression. "You doubt me?"
"Do you always avoid answering questions?"
"What did you expect to find in that dark place in which you dwell?"
"I don't dwell there."
"But you do. That is your retreat."
"If you hadn't noticed, I didn't like it one bit. I-I got used to it."
"And found peace within yourself."
"Yet every time you seek this place you fight it. What did you expect to find?"
"Monsters in the closet?" Daniel smiled slightly.
"I can tell you. You run from yourself. You build a place even you cannot penetrate, and yet in that moment in the darkness, you did." The monk had been walking steadily and now stood toe to toe with Daniel. His smile had an impish quality. "You realized you can be at peace with yourself. This is a new revelation for you."
Daniel blinked and cast his gaze towards the distant pond. "We aren't really here, are we?"
"What is reality but the impression in one's mind?"
"You had to ask." Daniel smiled.
The monk returned the smile and stood to face the water. "Even so, the impressions that are in your mind concern either the past, or worries about the future. Rarely do you concentrate on what is here, now. You are as blind to life as you were in that room. You are blind to yourself."
"That other monk, that kid, he said I looked outside myself for answers. He asked what I expected to see in a dark room."
"And what did you see?"
Daniel turned. "Me," he responded quietly.
The monk nodded. "And in that you have found the answer to any question you may hold." He leaned in as Daniel rubbed his forehead in frustration. "The fundamental key to the universe is that there is no yesterday, and no tomorrow. Only the now. This very moment. The past is nothing more than memory, the future is nothing more than expectation. You cannot predict the events, nor can you control them. The now, this present moment, this is when you are alive. This is what matters. This is when you change things. In that room, you suddenly let go of your fear, your habits, your thoughts. You were aware only of the moment as the breath entered your soul and nourished you. That is all you need to know."
Daniel was silent for a time. He thought about the words, stared at the water, felt the earth beneath his feet. Saw the trees bend in the breezes. Heard the rustle. "But what about my work? It takes an element of going ahead, and studying the past."
"And you do all of that in the present moment. You never plan for the future in the future, nor study the past in the past. But be fully present. Remember that you are not in any moment of time but the present time."
"This can get confusing."
The monk smiled. "If it were easy, there would be no discord."
"What is this change that I'm fighting?"
"The change is; you actually know what I am talking about. And it frightens you. Because to accept it would be to bring about a change in yourself. You are more aware. You are more knowledgeable. And given time, you will become accustomed to this new feeling of power."
"What power?" Daniel was almost afraid to ask.
"The power to change yourself and those around you. You have always possessed this gift. You are just now aware of it."
Daniel shook his head. "I'm just a man."
"An ant is just an ant. Yet it can carry the weight of a worm on it's back. The hummingbird is a bird like any other, yet it hovers and soars backwards. Every being has a gift, a talent, a uniqueness. This is the way of things. Do not feel so undeserving of yours."
Daniel stood silently, calmly. His lips curled into a slow smile. "I suppose now that I know that, I have to get on with life and face it."
"You are strong. And you are not alone."
I am with you, DanielJackson. I always have been
Daniel's eyes opened. Teal'c sat across from him, his breathing almost imperceptible. Slowly his eyes opened, fixed right on Daniel without needing to focus. "You found the answer you seek." It was a soft comment, not a question.
"I don't know," Daniel replied as softly, "but I think I'm still on that path I started. And I think everything is going to be okay."
"I am glad to hear it." Teal'c made a motion to rise, but Daniel held out his hand, his eyes once again closed.
"Wait. Can-can we just sit here, for a while?"
He didn't see Teal'c's knowledgeable smile, or the wisdom hidden in over a hundred years of experiences. Teal'c knew his pain, and now Daniel understood it as well. "Of course, DanielJackson. We may remain as long as you wish."