There was a show in the summer of 2019 at the National Gallery of Art, called “The Life of Animals in Japanese Art.” There were several deer, and one of them—not this particular deer—snuck into my work. Whether it stays or not, who knows? For now, here:
As he thought about truth—perhaps the most slippery but indelible of ideas—he became aware of a murmur from among the host of the gathered djinn. He, the dark djinn, and Jabari turned to locate the cause and center of this gentle disruption.
A blue deer walked through the assembled djinn. From its sides and back rose thick shards of white crystal. It could have been quartz or moonstone. Perhaps salt. Its paws pressed deep prints into the earth, revealing the weight of the animal was. As it neared, the gold djinn could tell that it was made of lapis lazuli. And yet it walked. It was tall, almost as large as a horse, and around its legs two cloud colored foxes romped and played. The stone and crystal deer was walking through the crowd and toward them. It was regal.
When it reached them, it lowered its head, and gently—but coldly, since it was stone—nuzzled the dark djinn and gold djinn in turn. It was strangely soft, belying its nature—it was cold stone—but remaining true to its essential nature—it was a deer. The foxes moved around Jabari, who stumbled over them, thrown off by their play. They were like smoke but firm, and this unnerved the ‘Ifrit. They were unnatural.
All the djinn had turned their attention to the scene: the blue and white deer, tame and regal, and the two cloud foxes, playful and disruptive. The three djinn at the center were not aware of the attention given to them, because the animals before them had entranced them. Blue, and white, and silver smoke.
A crack began to form along the deer’s supple neck, and another at its hind quarter. Then a dozen others, opening its body and dividing the crystals ridged along its back. Bits of crystal fell to the ground. Blue stone chipped away from its body. Then it collapsed into rubble, beautiful rubble, but no longer alive. The foxes dissipated.
The djinn were struck silent. The deer had been beautiful and impossible. It had come through them and to them. It was a message and a messenger. Quietly, each member of the throng walked to the pile of stone and crystal and each took a piece of what had been sublime. There was enough for each of the assembled djinn—no more and no less. The remaining wisps of fox-smoke drifted over their heads.
“What was it?” Jabari broke the silence when the taking had finished.
The white haired goddess stood with them. “It was him.”