The wind along the Thames is chilly, not quite biting, caught in the perpetual almost-cold that is the way of the city. The wet, sooty smell of London lies heavy on it, a poisoned perfume that is every childhood memory, all at once. He had missed it in China, and in the Himalayas, as insane as that idea seems to him now. It's like missing a toothache, or spot of grit in the eye...but nevertheless. Now here it is again, though not the same London he tramped down in the grotty and often desperate years of his childhood. Slowly, painfully, and with extraordinarily bad grace, London is growing up.
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"Tell me how you did it," Manuel says.
And Christopher thinks: Hell. Why not?
"You've probably guessed," he tells Manuel. "If you've spoken to Allan. It happened, or seemed to happen, or was in some way related to, Yoga."
"Yeah," Ella said. "But lots of people practice Yoga."
"Yes, they do. Or some watered-down variety of it, in the West. Even so, yes, many people do practice Yoga, I doubt it was the practice alone. In fact, I'm sure it wasn't. But Yoga was the catalyst. It touched alight whatever-it-was that happened to me. Are you familiar with Raja Yoga at all?"
"Raja? Yoga, to me," Ella said. "Means skinny thirty-something women in sweats doing toe-touches. I really don't know what you're talking about."
"Yeah. You know. Where you touch your toes?"
"Right, yes. No, that isn't really what Yoga is about."
"I gathered that," Ella said. "Help me out here. What are we talking about?"
They turned down a lane that cut through campus, beneath a canopy of low, leafy trees. The campus lights, made up to look like streetlamps, glowed with mellow fire through their leaves. A wind stirred the higher boughs, the noise a sigh on the edge of hearing.
"First and foremost," he said. "Yoga is a system employed for controlling the mind, with the goal of eventually stopping it altogether."
"I can see the point of controlling your own mind," Ella said. "But where's the appeal in stopping it?"
"The mind is the Self," Christopher said. "If you can stop the mind, you can merge the Self with the rest of the Universe, because the duality between Self and everything else is dependent on the observer. Are you familiar with quantum physics?"
"This has got to be the weirdest day of my life," Ella said. "I'm about to be lectured on quantum physics by a Yoga master who was alive when Jack the Ripper was around. I'm weirdly okay with this." She paused. "I've got the dates right on that, don't I? You were around for Jack the Ripper, weren't you?"
"Oh yes. I was around for Jack the Ripper. And incidentally, a master of Yoga is generally called a yogi or yogin, however, I don't use that term myself. I'm not sure I would consider myself a master anyway."
"Umm. Nothing." She made a little cough.
"Did you just say 'pic-a-nic basket' under your breath?"
"Hmm? What?" She grinned. "Don't know what you're talking about. You were supposed to be telling me about quantum physics. Wait, how can you say you're not a-" She tried to suppress a grin. "A yogi? Isn't the point of this story that you figured out this ultimate anti-wrinkle cure or whatever it is through Yoga?"
"Yes. Well, sort of. Possibly."
"Oh, well, that clears everything up, thanks-"
"It's not as straightforward as that." Christopher held up his hands. "It's sort of...not the point of Yoga. Read any books about the practice, and you'll come to a point where the author describes siddhis, which result from the higher levels of practice. Siddhis are magic powers. In the old manuscripts, this included everything you could imagine. Teleportation, shape-changing, mind-reading, and so forth."
"Can you do any of that?"
"No, and the few people I've ever met who claimed they could didn't follow the path of the yogin. The point is, Yoga isn't about the siddhis. They're incidental, side-effects thrown off by the transformations of Samyama, and if a yogin embraces them, his practice stops there. A major part of attainment in Yoga is being offered siddhis and refusing them."
"Maybe I'm missing something here," Ella said. "But...that sounds kind of stupid."
"Does that mean 'I don't want to explain it right now' or 'I don't understand it either, but I don't want to admit it'?"
Christopher stopped walking and turned to face her. "Are you sure you're George McKay's daughter? You certainly don't act like him."
She smiled again. "I'm a bitch. Got it from Mom's side of the family."
"How is your mother these days?"
"All right, I guess. I haven't seen her in years, but she called last Christmas. Missed my birthday, though." She stuck her hands in her coat pockets. "It's weird that you know my family."
"I seem to be dropping a great deal of weird at your feet today."
"Yeah. So do me a favor and don't lay anything else on me for a while." She paused. "Hey, what was that you were talking to my Dad about, practicing magic?"
"I thought you didn't want me to lay anything weird on you?"
"It looks like the weird stuff is all the stuff." Ella shrugged. "I don't know. How the hell am I going to back to the dorm and work on my Psych essay after this? This is mind-blowing. There should be music, or explosions in the sky, or something. You're a hundred and thirty-six!"
"Yes, I know."
She looked at him. He stood calm and composed, framed against the white stone of the Bursar's office, the breeze ruffling his hair. He seemed both real and unreal somehow, like a dream re-enacted in waking life. "I've got this sinking feeling," she said.
"Yeah. It's telling me that this isn't the end of the weirdness."
Christopher raised his eyebrows. "Have you been picking up siddhis? Can you read minds now?"
"Where do you enter into this story, Mr. Lascaris?"
"I believe," Manuel says. "That if I explained my reasons for contacting you now, when you have just met me, that you will assume I am either mad or lying."
"Possibly. You say you met me once before? Some years ago?"
"During the Whitechapel murders. How well do you remember that period of time, Mr. Downing?"
The wind seems to blow cold across his spine. He shivers. "Entirely too well, I'm afraid."
"Do you remember 'The Juwes are the men who will not be blamed for nothing'?"
Christopher blinks, and turns to face him. "The Goulston Street Graffito. That was when the whole charade with the police began to spiral out of control. Wait-"
Manuel says nothing, merely stands there, hands in the pockets of his tailored trousers.
"That was when the so-called 'experts' started showing up from all sides." Christopher almost seems to be talking to himself. "The historians, the experimenters- I was having the devil of a time getting in to talk to anyone, next to all the other-" He stops. "The scholar. You were there!"
"This is what I have said, yes."
"Yes, I know, but..." Christopher trails off, unsure how to finish. "I remember you. You were very neatly dressed, even then. I remember that very clearly."
"Yes. It is a weakness of mine, this neatness." Manuel gestures down at himself.
"Yes. Yes, I remember you now." Christopher meets the man's dark, impenetrable Greek countenance. "You appear to have aged very little yourself."
And the countenance falls away, relief suddenly evident behind it. "Yes," Manuel says, and lets out a deep sigh. "It is this about which I wish to speak with you."
"Quit this world, quit the next world, quit quitting!" -Sufi proverb.