I know there is Fire. That much is irrefutable.

I know there are those who think that there is only Fire. This seems narrow-minded to me, but I have the advantage of knowing they are wrong.

I know they are wrong in at least one instance, and that exception disproves their rule.

I don't know why so many are drawn to Fire - but this is a subjective observation. My frame of reference is too limited here. Perhaps only those interested in Fire have been willing to talk about it; albeit only a little and only among ourselves. I still wonder, often, how this has remained secret. I think it was Ben Franklin who wrote, or quoted, that the only way to keep a secret among three people is for two of them to be dead. Just as true of two. Yet we are still generally unknown.

[NTS: Give a bit of serious thought to whether this is truly that surprising. Would anything change at all if every one of us stepped forward and sent so many pillars of Fire rocketing into the heavens without so much as a match or even a magnifying glass? I suppose that would do something. But then we would all be dead. Or soon would be, anyway.]
I know there is Ice. Not quite as irrefutably, but that may only be a matter of time. I have seen, and felt, that there is Ice, but I have not yet brought Ice here with my own...I still don't have the word for it - even after all these years. Mind? Will? Thought? I don't know.

I don't know enough about Ice, obviously. I've tried, but I cannot do it. I've tried with structure and I've tried without form. I've tried with foci; everything from ice cubes from my freezer to a piece of glacial ice I paid a man to chop from the heart of a massive floe and send back to me packed in dry ice. I even tried the dry ice - although I had my doubts about that. Nothing. From any of these things.

Of course, I have my own theories about my failure. The most obvious, and likely, point is that I simply do not know enough. I know next to nothing about the concept, the elemental principle, the Platonic Ideal, of Ice. I don't know if it exists as a pocket universe of nothing but pure Ice-ness in the same way that Fire does. I don't know if the Ice I'm seeking is the frozen form of water, H2O, or the elemental principle of frozen anything; whether H2O, CO2, pure Oxygen, or anything at all that can freeze.

If the plane I am trying to reach is a universe of frozen water, then are there also separate pocket universes of liquid water and steam? It is not impossible that Ice is simply anti-Fire? Like matter and anti-matter. Perhaps I cannot reach it because I am too close to its opposite?

My experience and my failed experiments, though, have taught me some things. I understand now, more than I ever could have sitting with Harney all those years ago, that there is specific knowledge to be had, and that without that knowledge there is little hope of making this work. Sometimes I try to imagine how impossible it would have been to attempt to touch Fire without that clear image, that framework, that Harney taught me.

That perfect, true image of Ice is precisely what I do not have. I think I know that unless I can find her I'll never have it.

But none of us has any idea where she is. Personally, I think she is dead. I think that knowing what she obviously did of Fire and Ice, she went the way of most of them. Almost all of them.

What does it say about us, that it is almost impossible to control this thing, this hunger to know more. To do more. To be the one among so few who knows more than all the rest. The whole time knowing, or more precisely not knowing, what it is taking from us.

Just another thing I don't know; why I was able to listen to Harney, to not be eaten up by it. They've all had their own versions of Harney, and I'm fairly certain that all the Harney's have tried to make all the other versions of me understand - the whole time knowing that their students won't listen because they, themselves, haven't listened. I think it's why they take students in the first place; to hedge their bets, to try to cheat the game - just a little.
[NTS: Another question I should look into soon; why do they (at least the ones I've known) bother to take on students? As I said, maybe to get a little free research. Maybe it's just that impossible to keep a secret. Maybe the Fire wants to be known.]

Not that it does any good in most cases. The teacher says it, the student pays him no mind. Soon, one or the other or both of them are dead. There's only so much fuel, or food.

"Every time you light that candle, Georgie," that's how he used to talk to me. "Every time, you've got to balance the scale. Trouble is you can't see how much weight is on the other side. AND you don't know how much of whatever you've got left to balance it with. AND I got a very bad feeling that the cost for the same thing ain't always the same cost. That is what I call a rigged game."

Since this was not long after I met Harney and since he never gave any preamble to these kinds of statements - just quoted them out of the blue - I had almost no idea what he was talking about. And I said so.

"What I'm talking about," he went on, a little drunk and a little irritated, "is that nine years ago I watched my teacher drop dead one instant after passing a spark, a spark mind you, from his left hand to his right. This was one day after I had personally seen him consume a huge old pecan tree, trunk, roots, and all, in a display that would have done the prophet Isaiah proud."

I was a serious young man, having been to college already and returned to town to teach at the high school, and I mentioned what seemed obvious; that his teacher, Claudio by name, must have just used himself up the day before with the pecan tree (which he had used this miraculous power to destroy because it was throwing too much shade on his vegetable garden, by the way) and the simple feat with the spark must have just pushed him over.

Harney agreed that this was likely the case, but he went on to explain that Claudio had had another student, before Harney, who had himself dropped dead after only the second time he had ever caused a tiny flame to dance in the air. And that being, also, only the second feat this young man had ever attempted.

Harney seemed to think, and I tend to agree with him, that this was proof that you just don't know. I've never, in all the time since then (and I've had much more time than most) met anyone who knows anything about how the balance works.

Janet didn't. But she did know something that the rest of us didn't.

Too many questions. Almost no answers.

The only given is that there is Fire.

And almost certainly Ice.