Tangible Schizophrenia


Five Ways That the Moon Didn’t Rise

Author: Guede Mazaka
Rating: R. War scenes.
Pairing: Implied Broken Sword/Flying Snow, Broken Sword/Moon, Sky/Flying Snow, Nameless/Sky (varies from part to part).
Feedback: Good lines, bad ones, etc.
Disclaimer: Not mine.
Notes: Translation of the Tao Te Ching quoted in the beginning is a Penguin reprint of D. C. Lau’s 1963 version. Thank you, fatuorum, for the help on the quotes.
Summary: A twist on the ‘five things that never happened’ idea. Convergent stories instead of divergent ones.


“Heaven and earth are enduring. The reason why heaven and earth can be enduring is that they do not give themselves life. Hence they are able to be long-lived.”

--VII, Book One, Tao Te Ching

* * *


She is eight: two unsteady strokes of the brush sprawling in opposite directions, like her legs when she runs a little too fast and trips in the road. Like her mother’s legs, twitching high in the air as the coarse-haired man spits in her scream and shoves himself harder on top of her.

She is eight when the armies come, but ageless when, stumbling and fouled and past crying, she comes across the other bodies lying in the forest. They were beautiful, and they still are striking, half-hidden as they are in blood and flies and sticking grass. Their heads touch where their hands wrench around each other, while their bodies sag limp apart, and they’ve died without losing their weapons to the enemy.

It takes a long time because her hands are small, but the grove is secluded and the crackling yell of victory stays away. When she collapses around the top of the mound, gasping like an air-drowned fish, her head hits something hard. It takes what is left within her to push the broken sword back into the dirt, where no one will see it.

The sky is black, without relief.

* * *


When hot tea splashes in her face, her temper rises to meet it. She is girlish still, but she knows more of the myriad relations between woman and man than most, and she knows deep in the place where her swordsmanship hums, where her heart plots, that Snow is not woman now.

Snow is stone, unfit for the steel that pierces Moon later, pain within pain and joy within joy. Moon was a girl before, and it did not hurt when she became a woman. She is a woman now, and it does not hurt when she becomes a soul. She has lived her short life and taken what she could, she has not spurned what little she gained. When death rakes her from the leaves, she is at peace with herself and she is fighting her war against the rest of the world.

Heaven stains to black, leaving her no light to see her way, but her guide is already waiting for her beyond.

* * *


The nameless one has kind eyes and wind-beaten skin and crinkles in his cheeks like Moon’s half-remembered grandfather, who always carried a little sweet for her. She almost forgives the man for that.

But now is not a time for anger, not when her body is a breaking vessel for her hollowness. She lifts up the heavy sword and trusts that the nameless one’s hands will be able to bear it. “Broken Sword and Flying Snow are bound in life and death. Each will never leave the other, neither will their swords. It is his dying wish that you take his sword for this mission.”

And when his arms tremble under the weight, she thinks that he understands.

She watches him narrow to a tiny black ant hurrying along the yellow lands, and then she watches long after he disappears. Her body wishes to weaken and fall, but it is a last testimony to her master’s teachings that she does not let it till night falls as well.

The grainy dirt pillows her head as she stares up at the sky and waits in vain for the light to come.

* * *


It hurt her when Broken Sword called off her attack on the nameless division that had strewn dissent among them. It hurt her more when afterward, he allowed a tense, tight-lipped Flying Snow to shoulder her aside and tend to his wound.

But it hurt the most when she saw her master scrawl away endless days of waiting with the tip of his brush, practicing over and over that of which he should already have been certain, when Flying Snow cast a soft, jagged-edge question at his back and he did not answer. For that, Moon wished him peace.

But now, lurching up the sands, heedlessly scraping palms and knees, she squints past the blurred edges of her scream and finds no such rest in the white that swirls, swirls, swirls about them. Her foot slips, stone rattles her head and as she rolls into unconsciousness, the last thing she sees is not their lacerating, quiet devotion, but the distant darkness of the city of the king.

Walls merge to heaven, and the whole of it becomes a black cage.

* * *


When they see the cloth flutter up in the wind, bright spot against the dull hues of the rock and soil, Broken Sword turns away and reaches for his sword. Before Moon or Flying Snow can stop him, he drops it over the edge of the cliff. “I will not fight now,” he says, so softly that Moon almost misses the fracture in his voice.

“You no longer need to,” Flying Snow says, jubilant and glowing so much that even Broken Sword cannot keep his face from her for long. “Now we’ll go. We’ll go there.”

But they do not. War does not end when the head perishes, but proliferates as one limb after another seizes the chance to flail and smash before it can be likewise treated, as the blood rises in men and spills itself over the dirt. States fragment into shards that scatter over everything and cut the people into misery and then into desolation.

Broken Sword does not fight. Flying Snow does, a fury of beautiful death over his body, and Moon buries them both in the charred skeleton of a forest because it is by a lake that is still blue, out in the middle beyond the bloated bodies that mar the banks. She leans on the broken bit of planking that is all she has for a spade, and she looks at the chipped edge of her blade.

After a while, she becomes aware that a man is standing by her. Though they’ve never met, she knows him for Sky. “I overslept this morning,” he murmurs.

His robes are pulled tight against one side, but the blood still soaks through the cloth. Moon offers him a hand, and together, they slump down into the line where water devours dirt. “You still would have missed them. It took me three days to dig a grave deep and wide enough to keep them together and to keep away the dogs.”

“Good.” His lip curls irony in response to the way hers curled meaning over ‘dogs.’ The famous spear is nowhere in sight, and neither is any kind of weapon. When he catches her looking, he shrugs, winces, and licks away the bubble of blood that was forming at the corner of his mouth. “The spear shaft was useless without its head, and as for what I had after…it became too heavy.”

“Everything is too heavy. I wanted to learn how to fly, but there wasn’t time to learn.” She picks up the less damaged one of her blades and presses it into his palm, then curls his weakening fingers around it. “But I can swim. I only wish I didn’t have to do it alone.”

Sky is looking over her shoulder, eyes searching the dusk. “He did. I only wish he hadn’t had to.”

“Then come and tell him that,” Moon whispers, laying her free hand on Sky’s wrist. He gives her a lopsided, almost charming smile, and then they strike themselves into the lake.

The pain is chilled away, and the water embraces everything. Moon lifts her head so her hair flows before her eyes as she sinks, obscuring all light.