Psychic Chirurgery


Early November, 2013

My ankles are chained to an iron weight, and I wait at a low rock at high tide. The sea foam rushes up to my chin like a quilt, like I’m being tucked in for a final sleep.

How does a body rot underwater? Does the salt preserve some parts? Does the whole body grow bloated like melting waxwork? I imagine, when my chest stops aching for air at last, that starfish and crabs will welcome this body to the ocean with a silent, “May we take your coat?” like good hosts do. And a coat of scalp will hang on a claw, and a coat of toenail will hang on a tooth, and a coat of eyelid will hang on a gull’s beak, guts on a crest of wave, muscle fibers combed by shrimp, and the rest left to the sun to iron smooth. It is cold now, but I won’t miss all these coats by then. My bones will blossom into coral.

Inspired writing doesn’t always result in flowery prose. Around August of 2014, I felt moved to begin writing things out, about three hours every day at a convenience store with seats by a sunny window, on a notepad–but they were all just vague philosophical ideas about the world.

This was a different sort of inspiration. It began with an obsessive admirer’s fantasy, which I’d picked up somehow that this was A Bad Thing, so the segue into otherreal effectiveness certainly troubled the part of me that believed in mortification as the only valid path to personal development, because the Good and Right Thing Is Never Easy or Pleasant. So, the worse I feel in any aspect, the more on-track I should be to some mysteriously divine virtue, because contentment and joy are always evils in disguise. If I ever feel a light or warmth in my heart from doing something right, then I should snuff that out, because right is a duty to the world whereas something that has such a positive personal effect on myself is by nature selfish, and spoilt the good deed irreparably to feel it.

…Wow, that is a horrible worldview. That’s the part of me that was so dominant?

I don’t know how that happened, and I don’t wonder. What I can remember is how this was undone.

Basically: Captain Foxglove is overwhelmingly charismatic. My whiteboard doodles and Photoshopping don’t do him justice. He showed that desire and fantasy is a path to the numinous, not necessarily a distraction from it.

Where was I? Ah, yes. In the corporeal world, lying in a borrowed bed, waiting for sleep, fantasizing about my own death by drowning.

The fantasy turned into a rescue by a dashing pirate, and a conversation in his cabin. My mind tried to make sense of this scenario, contriving backstories about how I was a fugitive from the merpeople, or that he’d left me to drown as bait for an enemy of his who was supposed to rescue me, but when that rescue didn’t seem immanent then he did so himself. I became a character in my own mind, indignant to be used as a pawn, especially when I had an insight that he didn’t: namely, that nobody would ever want to rescue me. That wasn’t self-loathing, that was a fact of my life. So, my character-self shook the plot and setting with her conviction that he and I shouldn’t even be in the same room and talking. This was only happening because it was my fantasy, and I wanted it to happen. There was nothing to support it any longer, if The Captain knew that I wasn’t worth bothering with.

He challenged me on whether I would rather be dead, and I answered honestly that I wouldn’t. Not anymore. I do have ideals beyond that now. But the reality of it was that we had nothing in common. He wasn’t broken or lost.

He challenged me on that, too: the hook at the end of his arm caught the lantern light like a smirk. He wasn’t whole. He, being a pirate, certainly had no regularity or plan in his life. The winds and waves wouldn’t allow it.

So, I decided that must be why he was in my mind. This would be the Animus that I’d read about, when my therapist in the corporeal world would lend me books.

The hook moved me to admit also that he must understand better than I did about being handicapped–but, I added, that didn’t mean he could do anything about it. Feeling better about having two hands with all my fingers, to type with, to knit with, to play the guitar and piano with–not to mention a computer and Wi-fi and free time to pursue hobbies like knitting and musical instruments at all–well, that was all very nice but didn’t remove what was really wrong with me or make it less of a disability than his. Depression did stop me from doing all of those things. Depression did stay my hands, such that they might as well have been lopped off and my head too while we’re at it.

The Captain listened to this, all the way up until I told him about this a dark spot on my back. Not like a mole or a birthmark, but like a twinge of emotion that never goes away. I told him that he was obviously a very inspiring figure, but he was no healer, and nobody could get from me to him without that.

“Let me try,” he said, quietly, with resolve, and I remember this clearly because that was the first sentence that I didn’t script for him. That was the moment this Animus took a life of its own.

I’d written before about chirurgery, and what The Captain proceeded to do was basically the same, only in the surreal world during a quest.

I didn’t expect it to have any effect. I thought that the events of the surreal world could only be made effective with interpretation, like with dreams. When this was over and I tuned into the otherreal world, though, what I had called iron was more thoroughly done away with than I’d done myself with corporeal-otherreal world chirurgery.

In the surreal world, it took another form. My mind’s eye watched the both of us from middle distance as he wrenched my spine out (which wasn’t painful, because this was imaginary; but it wasn’t a turn that I expected this fantasy to take) and he drew out handfuls and hookfuls of black mucous from the wound. The mucous fell onto the cabin floor beside the bed with a schlopp.

At last, he pulled out, pinched between his thumb and forefinger, a white membrane filled with the last of the black mucous. “Ink sac,” he observed, laconically, as he gathered up the mess and poured it all into a miniature treasure chest.

The inside of the wound on my back was coated with what appeared to be granules of bright red glass, which he carefully gathered and set on the bedside table before he pushed the spine back in place and stitched the wound up.

By then, my surreal fetch had fallen asleep, but my mind’s eye continued to watch my Animus collect the red-glass pieces from the table, and hold them up in the lantern’s halo, frowning as he identified it. In one hand, he held a thoroughly broken heart.

The part of me observing considered this a beautiful moment, and stopped there.


It wasn’t until September 2014 that I saw the pirate captain’s true face, which for some reason I didn’t write down because it was only a turning point if I think about it. What I felt of that moment of approaching him on a grassy knoll on a cliff overlooking the ocean, was business as usual; and that the face recurred in quests since then was like a slow realization. I do have something written down on the 14th to this effect, but I feel like it happened earlier.

I didn’t even give him the name until the 12th of October 2014. I thought that, since I considered all my imaginary friends as fairies, they ought to have flowery or arboreal names. I thought that with the captain’s oceanic connections, his should be Captain Kelp or something, which I sensed he just really disliked. Hawthorne was one I preferred for him, but when I thought up of Foxglove he preferred that much more because he was a sort of trickster with only one hand.

I read back on the entry of Foxglove’s first introduction, and I feel like I’ve changed a lot, for the better, and I’m very surprised by that despite having always recognized the drastic and immediate change that Foxglove brought about in me in other ways.