Beyond the end, there is still creation. Wind and flame, breath and pulse, star and planet, rhythm and song. There is Proginoskes. No longer cherubim, wings and eyes and scales and feathers; but the caress of a breeze, the greenness of a plant pushing through earth towards the sun, the roar of waves on a shore and the whirling of stars in their cosmic dance. He is known, and after some time he begins to learn a new way of knowing. Not nowhere but everywhere now, swirling in every atom of the created world. He is Proginoskes. He is all right.
At some point he comes to know that Meg is not as all right as he is.
Meg is confused and Meg is angry. Everything was supposed to be fixed -- Charles Wallace over his mitochondritis, Mr. Jenkins running his school with new confidence and self-knowledge, the Murry family all together. Rips in the galaxy becoming old news, distant as war and starvation and other horrors that you can read about in a newspaper, then push aside when it’s time to make dinner. But, Meg thinks, the knowledge can sink under your skin, chafing as you move and breathe. It can poison you slowly, a little more each day.
Everyone else seems to have found a way to live with it, somehow. Meg doesn’t seem to be able to get the hang of it.
Since his illness, Charles Wallace seems older, changed somehow. He’s learning to get along at school, and despite her relief that he’s no longer being beaten up a few times a week, part of Meg wishes he wouldn’t. She doesn’t want him to dim his light for anyone, but he’s not the child who told the world about his fascination with farandolae anymore. Blajeny had said that Charles’s task was to adapt while remaining wholly himself, but it sounds an impossible task to Meg, and she knows the effort makes Charles tired. She doesn’t want it. She wants things back the way they used to be.
She wants Progo.
She doesn’t know if anyone else thinks about him anymore. She and Calvin don’t talk about him, as they don’t talk much about any of what happened to them. Charles knew him as a drive of dragons, Mr. Jenkins as a terrifying anomaly. No one else knew him at all. No one seems to miss him. She supposes that Calvin and Charles figure that if he’s all right now, then it must be all right that he Xed himself. Meg can’t get there at all.
In her grief, Meg is snarlier than usual. She begins to feel walled off from the people she cares most about, because they’re not grieving and this seems wrong to Meg. Surely even those who never knew him should feel the gap in the universe where those wings and eyes and bursts of flame used to be. The universe should be in mourning and it’s wrong that instead the planet keeps turning and the trees keep growing and the stars keep singing. Slowly, Meg begins to resent everything that hasn’t ground to a halt, which means she resents everything, period.
She wants to save Progo, bring him back as the Progo she knew, to continue Naming stars and farandolae and confused fourteen-year-old girls with mousy hair and glasses. She wants to save Progo and the irony is that she needs Progo to do it.
Progo took her to yesterday to see the crack in the sky. She needs to go to yesterday now. If she could just go back, back to the moment before Proginoskes Xed himself, maybe the day before or the week before, she could do something, she knows it. She’d be prepared. She could find some control, instead of being buffeted around by forces and powers too great for her to understand, let alone predict.
But she’s not a cherubim. She’s not a Teacher. She’s not even a Charles Wallace, with his ability to see through and within and beyond. She’s a high school girl, and the work she’s been set right now, so far from time traveling and going within mitochondria and defeating Echthroi, involves memorizing the dates of the Wars of the Roses and analyzing the symbolism in The Scarlet Letter. So none of it matters. She can’t bring herself to care about any of it, which means her grades are dropping and her teachers are frustrated with her and her new principal calls her “recalcitrant” and everything is feeling horribly like it used to last year, back before Calvin and the Mrs. and Blajeny and Progo. If she could just bring him back...
She begins trying to learn about her father’s work on tesseracts, casually listening in and picking up information, working through the equations he doodles on the tablecloth in her own mind. She thinks she might be able to understand it, someday, if she keeps working at it. If she could learn to tesser, she could make a time-wrinkle back to before it all happened, the long series of events that led to Proginoskes Xing himself. Even if she can't manage that, maybe she could space-wrinkle to where Blajeny is, or one of the Mrs. They can take her back in time. They can help her fix it. She thinks they’ll understand how wrong it is, how losing the cherubim that was Proginoskes was not an inevitability or even a noble sacrifice, but a wrong thing, a wrong thing that must be righted. Progo fought against the Echthroi, against the Nothing. The world needs all its fighters now. And Meg needs Progo.
She goes one evening to the old stone wall by the vegetable garden. “Louise,” she calls, and Louise the Larger slithers sinuously from a crack. She rises up on her tail and bows to Meg. “Oh, Louise,” Meg says, “how did we get into this mess? Or why? I guess I know how, but why?”
Louise clicks softly.
“Everything’s wrong, Louise. I need him back. Proginoskes.”
Louise lets out a long, sibilant hiss.
“I have to rescue him.”
Louise turns and slithers back into the rock.
“I need him back,” Meg says again, to nobody, and bursts into tears.
But Proginoskes hears.
Proginoskes has been lost in the harmony of the stars, in the grand order of the worlds and galaxies without fear or hate, his own unique consciousness almost dissipated beyond his own recognition. But, it comes to him, something is not right. Not the tearing and annihilation of the Echthroi, not yet, but a persistent tugging, something amiss. He could ignore it and slip away, back into the joy of an all-being so diffuse and inchoate that it’s almost like a happy non-being. But the tugging feels familiar, feels like someone he knows. Someone he loves. Love is the reason for all that is, and now it begins to shape Proginoskes again. Not into a cherubim as he was before, the cherubim who mattered into a drive of dragons, but a Self, one that knows the distinctness of different worlds and stars and other selves. A Self that knows Meg, that loves Meg, that cannot or will not resist Meg’s call.
He can’t kythe with her now. She’s been reaching out for things she can control, not inside for the strength to concede control to other powers, and if she’s not inside he can’t find her to kythe with. He’ll have to take another path.
“Meg,” Charles Wallace says one night, as Meg sits with her head bent over an equation, “I think you should go to the star-watching rock.”
Meg looks up, frustrated. “I have to figure this out.”
“I think you should go out,” Charles repeats, and throws her a long, clear look from blue eyes wiser than his age.
“It’s cold out, and still wet from the rain.”
“Why do you say that like it’s a reason to go out instead of a reason to stay in?”
“Just go out, Meg,” Charles Wallace sighs.
Meg grapples with herself, but there’s something in Charles Wallace’s look that reaches her. She goes to the closet, grabs a coat, and heads outside.
She’s barely reached the star-watching rock when she senses something, a disruption in the air over the rock, a slight rippling as of heat waves. Behind her, Louise rises out of the stone wall again, vibrating lightly.
The voice comes from everywhere and nowhere. “Meg,” she hears. She doesn’t think she’s hearing with her ears, but the voice is so completely itself that it’s hard to credit the idea that it’s only in her mind. “Megling.”
A great wave of joy floods her suddenly, a certainty that there is joy and harmony in the universe, that it continues unabated. That he continues unabated. She knows the voice. In knowing the voice, she knows herself.
“Proginoskes?” she says out loud. “Oh, please, be Progo! Or -- oh, Progo, be!”
“I am,” comes the voice.
Meg bursts into tears, again.
“Megling,” the voice says again, and the tone is compassionate. “Megling, you have been taking a wrong path.”
“A wrong path? How can it be wrong? I’m trying to bring you back. The universe needs you. I need you.”
“You have me. Both the universe and you.”
“But how can -- oh, Progo, you Xed yourself.”
“I’ve told you, Xing oneself and being Xed by the Echthroi are very different matters.”
“I don’t see how. The Echthroi wanted you to be Xed. You did it to save us, but you did wind up being Xed. Isn’t that still a victory for them?”
A feeling of upheaval that she recognizes very well, despite the lack of flame or beating wings. “It was not a victory for them. Please assume that I knew the worth of my own sacrifice.”
“All right,” Meg says after a minute. “But I don’t understand --”
“Understanding is not necessary, not with your mind. You know there’s an understanding that goes deeper than that.”
“None of me understands it!”
“Meg.” Patiently. “You knew better than this at first. You told Calvin you knew. You knew I was all right.”
“But how can you be all right when you’re not you?”
“I am myself. I will always be myself. Do you become less you when you change your hairstyle or take off your glasses?”
“You know that’s not the same!”
“Sometimes I wonder. Matter isn’t what matters, Meg. That which is changeless and eternal has nothing to do with matter.”
“But you’ve been gone all this time. I miss you, Progo.”
“You must come to understand that I am still here.”
“If you’re still here why haven’t you talked to me before now?”
“I haven’t been talking to you because I haven’t had a voice. You needed me to speak with you, so I shaped myself into a voice.”
“Because I needed you? But I -- how could I have done that?”
“Not through all your planning, Meg. Tessering about the universe to try to change the past is not your work, nor will you be able to do it. You could tear yourself apart, literally, in the attempt. But the more you focus on it, the more dissatisfied and driven you become, the bigger the chance that the Echthroi will find a chink and try to move in.”
“Are you saying that my missing you means the Echthroi can get in?”
“No. Grief isn’t the chink. Trying to control workings of the universe that are beyond yourself might be.”
Meg was silent.
“Megling.” The voice was so full of love that it filled Meg up as well. “Your flinging yourself at what is, to you, the stone wall of the past isn’t what drew me back to you. Your love did. Your love for me, my love for you: love knows love. I Name you Meg. I have been Named Proginoskes --”
“I Name you, Progo. You are.”
“That’s the way. You’re beginning to understand. Even if you don’t understand anything else, that’s enough to get by on.”
“I don’t think I do understand anything else. Ever since all this started I haven’t understood anything.”
“You understand that love is what matters. Stop shutting out the people you love, Meg, Charles Wallace and the rest of your family and Calvin. Go see Mr. Jenkins -- he could use a reminder as well. You know what you have to do. Live. Grow. Name. Be yourself -- keep finding yourself. If what you’re doing isn’t helping you to become yourself it’s not the right thing.”
“It’s easier to find myself when you’re with me.”
“Then listen to the wind. Listen to the stars. Listen to flame and rain and thunder. I’m there, Meg. I always will be.”
“Then you won’t talk to me like this again?”
“There is work for me to do. I’ve been slow to return to it. Perhaps I’ve been resting. Or perhaps I’ve been neglectful. I’ve been content just to be. I need to thank you, Meg, for drawing me back into myself. I had not been thinking much. Kything, but not thinking. I think I need to find a way back into thought. Love without action becomes less and less itself.”
“I -- I did that? I feel like I always mess everything up.”
“I know.” Another surge of love. “You are enough, Meg.”
“I’ll have to try to be, won’t I?”
“We all do.”
The distortion in the air ripples again, more strongly than before. The wind has picked up; eddies of leaves swirl around Meg’s feet.
“It’s time for me to leave. Go in and have hot chocolate with Charles Wallace. Call to Calvin and let him know you’re all right.”
“Remember: listen for me in the wind.” And just like that, with no goodbye, the ripple in the air is gone.
“I suppose it isn’t really goodbye,” Meg says to Louise. “Not when he’s still here.” And the leaves once again eddy around Meg’s feet.
Louise bows once again to Meg, a deep, slow bow, and then slithers back into the rock. Meg stands there for a moment, looking at where she was. She has the comforting sense that she’s no longer alone.
Then she goes back inside to have hot chocolate with Charles Wallace.