An Expeditious Retreat

Rose ought to have a better introduction than this. I was in my mid-teens, mulling over gritty reboot fairy tale retellings that I could do, and she was one of them. I could have sworn that I’d seen Rose as Chelsea Hobb’s Gerda in The Snow Queen (Hallmark, 2002) but apart from the ringlets she’s given when she’s trapped in springtime, there’s not much resemblance. Which is odd, because her actual face and body keep changing whenever I meet her.

The drawing above is of the youngest-looking version of her I’d encountered, who seemed to wear a specific world all the time.

And during our most recent encounter, I was going to suggest that she leave it.

labyrinth

Tuning in to my surreal fetch sometimes comes with senses, attitudes, or memories that my corporeal and sidereal fetch don’t have. Sometimes it manifests in feeling as though a guiser I’d never seen before is a very old friend. Other times, it manifests in my freezing up in the middle of doing something that I surreal-y know how to do without thinking, because I’m sidereal-y thinking about how I do it (because that part of me had never done it before.)

This time, it was an information dump.

I’d taken it as a given that the center of the red brick labyrinth is a walled garden where Rose would sit with her tea set. And I can never find the door. If she randomly wants me to join her for tea, I am randomly summoned there for tea and randomly banished. We never do anything else.

This time, I managed to walk in uninvited, and give a stern warning about someone else who might walk in uninvited; and this was my own fault, but this was how I could minimize the damage, if she would cooperate by evacuating then she’d be one less possible—

What? My corporeal-sidereal mind pulled away from myself a bit. What did we do this time? What did you do?!? This isn’t happening.

That’s an exaggeration. I didn’t answer, because I didn’t ask. I only felt moderately confused by myself.

“Nobody can find this place,” Rose said, meaning that she wasn’t leaving. I’d pointed out that the labyrinth remained open to the sky, but…she had a point. One entrance, one exit, one winding path, and I’d still manage to take a wrong turn. Rose knew this place better: the place did whatever she wanted to whoever else was unfortunate enough to wander into it. Of course she was safe, here.

Then Captain Foxglove strode in and said, “I’ll escort her.”

I might have gesticulated between us and the walls, bleating, to try to communicate that if I could find the center garden of my own volition for once, and Foxglove could do the same and they hadn’t even met, then the security wasn’t very good anymore.

On the other hand, Foxglove and Rose kept looking at each other with expressions that at least told me that they knew one another very well.

So Rose listened to Foxglove after he’d made the exact same report to her, and suggested the exact same course of action as I had—and without any argument at all Rose wrapped up her own tea set in the tablecloth and looked to the bottom of the stone bird-bath for pearls.

“There are seashells in almost any harbor we stop at,” Foxglove told her, though he’d looked terse, he’d kept his tone encouraging. Rose decided not to waste time on the pearls. She had a flower crown that she’d reached up to put on Foxglove’s head. It got there; they’d both looked so solemn about it.

I could make sense of it. Before, I thought that I’d found Rose by a slightly different form accompanying Captain Marigold, and when I’d looked in that one’s eyes she appeared empty of any mind. I wonder now if this exact moment was always going to happen, so that the shell that followed Marigold around would be ensouled by a real Rose. Maybe the shell was a sort of ghost from the future.

I’d stopped this Rose, right before she left, to look in her eyes. I couldn’t. It was like starting mirror work, and all I could see was a mirror. This Rose wasn’t empty that I could see, but all I could see when I looked at her eyes were…eyes.

Despite being sort-of around for a decade, even despite all the tea parties…this was, really, the first and only conversation-like exchange that Rose and I had ever had. I’d described her before as “too obstinately enigmatic to blog about” and maybe that is the thing: she’ll always have a labyrinth of some kind around her, maybe she is safe and content by nature, inherently inaccessible, and I had made some grave mistake in sending her out into the world. Even if she were going to bring life to Marigold’s pet ghost from the future.

Nah, Foxglove’s made the grave mistake, if that were the case, because he’d said the same thing but she listened to him.

Besides, one of Foxglove’s crew had eyes pop out of sockets at the end of accordion springs when I looked into them. Had they been coil springs, I would have guessed that mechanism were built into such a guiser-body to facilitate expressiveness in the eyes. That they were accordion springs swayed my suspicions more towards that every otherworld I quest in is potentially trolling me.

So they both left. Somehow. I didn’t catch them going over the wall, but the center garden of the red brick labyrinth has no door.

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Ten Thousand Spoons When All You Need Is A Knife

The following entry may contain triggering material.

I thought I’d been here before, here being the meadow just within the Gates of the West. It was an overcast day, and I wondered if some sympathetic fallacy would at least spare those from being sung out the door under moderately sunny skies, by chirruping tiny birdies. The Spider Lady’s eyes were like eight dark glass marbles of varying sizes pressed into dough, over a beard split by the make—and stirred by the movement—of eir fanged mouth. Eir limbs appeared human: knees were human elbows, feet were human hands. Eir elbows, too, were human elbows, four of these human arms ending in human hands that—

—cast the razor net.

My beloved became a collection of net-hole shaped pieces as the threads fell through him, though it can’t have been heavier than a cobweb. I suppose the physics of the otherworld, the metaphysics, are largely signifiers. I thought I’d been here before, although hadn’t, I thought I’d watched this happen once or twice before—not to someone I knew who blessed the air with every exhale, who would stop my chest from aching just by consenting to my holding him in my arms. Of course this was “different”, an “exceptional case”, of course: I was upset.

Pieces of him fell bloodlessly, though, which my imagined memory compared to the others who’d burst—tellingly.

Cobb reeled in eir net in the moment it took for me to throw myself onto his body parts. They sunk into the ground, and I turned around up to cry to the Clarene, bring him back, heal him, there wasn’t a drop or sliver of the vile stuff so how could you—

The Clarene looked on with human eyes, set in a darkly beautiful human face, under though mostly in front of a magnificent frizz of human hair, anything other than anthropic or able-typical of her body swathed in a gown made of celestial eclipses. When she spoke, her tone was blunt as a lightningbolt. “What will you pledge in exchange?”

Nothing! I’d answered, because I had nothing suitable for pledging, which itself is unsuitable for pledging. I lose my mind fairly frequently, so I might not have had it with me. Despite my crying over somebody else getting hurt, I was sure I was heartless. I couldn’t pledge any service with a lifetime of learning that I’m useless. Mostly, though: Do it, or don’t do it! But you know what’s right!

If that’s call to close the gate against me, so be it. Even in my despair and desperation, I trust the Clarene’s judgment.

The Clarene melted away—into a more godly-cosmic form, as I can only imagine one does when one is a god—or summoned away maybe? I don’t know.

My beloved resurfaced from the earth, whole and sleeping.

Before I could thank the gods, though, the Spider tsked and threw the net again. I heaved his body away at the threat of eir movement, too slowly: a thread caught on his left forearm, and the hand fell away in chunks. Those didn’t sink into the earth this time.

“Cobb!” I shouted eir name, or at least what I called em. “What the Hell?!?”

The Spider’s marble eyes betrayed no emotion, no reason. I held my beloved tightly—his back to my chest, like I learned in swimming class in the human world, to rescue someone who doesn’t know how to swim—and found Heartwrench’s hilt had appeared, between my hand and his chest. I’m not supposed to still have this.

In any case, the Spider had reeled in the net and made to throw again. Of course Heartwrench’s blade was out, too, and if I only thought through the sword enough then—

—there. Like a bubble of glass, or like an air bubble in water, the rind of a sphere appeared around us. With my free hand, I tugged at his jeans, to try to get his feet inside the sphere. Heartwrench’s spheres are only permeable to those and whom I treasure. Usually. A knowledge dusked on me then: Heartwrench’s sphere couldn’t stop Cobb’s web.

I suppose the physics of the otherworld, the metaphysics, are largely signifiers. Heartwrench makes bubble-shields…and most of the bubbles I’ve taken as a reference, the ones from the human world, those can float. Heartwrench and I had never done that before. Usually, though, if I only think through the sword enough then—

We floated up, and away. Cobb didn’t even look up to watch us go.

~

Even in the otherworlds, my emotional metabolism is too slow. I was still crying in despair when really, I should have been relieved. I didn’t know where we were headed, on what currents we coasted, through the overcast day into clear late afternoon. I caught sight of a dome in the sky, the average size thereabouts of an airport near a capital city, stained glass in no particular pattern, something like stairs sort of notched around it coming from and back around a single wide balcony.

Princess Irene waved us through the balcony opening and into the dome. A description: anthropic, except for the butterfly wings; about as tan as I am, but with slantier features (more refined); hair that could be described as a pixie cut; and wearing something between a toga and a Regency-era gown made out of gauzy veils, so a simple cut and line, but as many hues in the layers as there were in the dome.

Heartwrench and I dissolved the protective floaty sphere over a divan, where I laid his body. Maybe I shouldn’t have been relieved: the color was draining from his body, his hair, and even his clothes.

“He’s not going to die,” I said, although I didn’t know it until I said it, and then I spontaneously knew a bit more: “He won’t wake up, either. It’s not really sleep, it’s…a curse, you know, like in modern versions of the fairy tales he…”…needs somebody who loves him truly to kiss him and wake him up. I sighed. “We’ve got to summon his husband.”

Irene shrugged as if to say, “If you’ve got to, you’ve got to.” Then she wandered back to the balcony.

I might’ve been misled about high fantasy adventures. In the ones I’d read, usually, everybody rushes to help the hero and they fret anxiously until it’s done and okay (especially hospitable bystanders.)

In my experience with the otherworlds, if you know enough about somebody—who’s subject to the metaphysics of that world, anyway—and you find a space that has the potential for that somebody to be there, and you project your own expectation onto it…then they’re there. That’s what I call summoning.

Sometimes you don’t know them well enough. Sometimes there’s no potential to be intuited. Sometimes we don’t know how to project that expectation. Sometimes, I’m sure, they just don’t want to be there. So then they won’t be there.

The husband strode through, too swiftly and determinedly for me to want to slow this with more description—I tried to say how glad I was that he’d come over, but he glanced at the stump of our beloved’s left arm and snapped at me, “Haven’t you done enough?”

I backed away and went over to the balcony.

Epilogue

I shouldn’t still have this, I thought to Heartwrench, and at the corner of the balcony stood the one who was supposed to have it. She was a warrior princess, anthropic, with a quick smile, armored and caped like the Ophelene, but white—for that moment. The next moment—even before I could say hi or how are you doing here—she began to dissolve, starting from the head, into silvery glitter that fell upwards and vanished. A single orange-red, translucent stone appeared, buoyed up in the last curtain of glitter.

I took it and held it into Heartwrench’s hilt until silvery thorns grew around to hold the stone, because that seemed to be the thing to do. From Spenser’s Faerie Queene (Book II, Cant X…okay, the real source material is Shakespeare’s King Lear) I’d called the princess Cordelia—though perhaps she was really Carnelian, some new Crystal Gem from Steven Universe.

So anyway, that was odd.

The Proscenium

The proscenium is a category I gave to a Scape in the Surreal, also to the process of creating it. It’s one of the turnkey concept-methods between the receptive liminal activity—receptivity?—and active liminal…activity. The preceding sentence is why I don’t like dualism, by the way, it gets everywhere into everything when the concept I’m trying to get at is really just one (third?) thing with differing things in the thing.

The library I call my “third chamber” originated as a visualization exercise called the Memory Palace, or the method of loci. As I recall, it’s ancient Roman, but I can’t recall when it became a thing and who authored what specific information about it. As I understand, concepts should become easier to remember if symbolized by an object that occupies spacetime, in the imaginary sense. While I could imagine this place that I’ve never been to, I couldn’t attach specific ideas. I ought to have been able to attach a grocery list to the banister, for instance. Instead, while I could see the banister clearly, I couldn’t help but think there was—because my mind’s eye could see, because my fetch-heart knew—this hoary old man with an eyepatch named Odin (the man’s name, not the eyepatch’s) rattling his cane impatiently against the bars and referring to me as ‘sonny’.

So, that’s one possible example of how something mundanely imaginary can overlap with spiritual significance. I could understand, at least I anxiously anticipate, the embarrassment of interacting with a symbol of my oedipal issues as though they were a cosmic power personified. I could also understand the frustration of hearing something, “Oh, you’re Jung’s Wise Old Man archetype!” over and over again by mortals who want to claim so much is just in their heads that it almost becomes a humblebrag—having so much more in yer noggin’ than most other people, eh?

However an individual decides—or feels is the best way—to interpret it, though, is probably the right way. Even if that inclination towards the psychic-like-psyche or psychic-like-psi-phenomena changes during the process, as the individual gains experience.

I liked that it was a round room. Sometimes, it would develop corners. Rather than wonder what the change in architecture symbolized, what self-work I ought to do so that my imaginary room would be round again the next time I glimpse it…I would make an effortful visualization of the room being round again. That would work well enough. It wasn’t so effortful to get it there in the first place, though, so I wouldn’t say that the mental effort alone makes it -real in the Surreal.

My Proscenium appears to operate on the wishcraft of a fiction. Once, two regular residents of that room vanished with all the furnishings. I re-established the third chamber as it used to be, but I still believe that happened. Am I deluding myself that the third chamber is still fully furnished? It feels awkward, but it doesn’t feel wrong.

I have never attempted to domesticate the landscape of Erstvale like this. I control my fetch when I quest. I wield Eidems like Heartwrench and the something Of Doom (with the pointy bit). We all have stories, and inaudible names I know, and some kind of vibrance. That’s what I experience, and whether I decide it’s in my head or some otherworldly journey, it helps to keep that possible.

~

It would feel wrong for me to summon those two residents back to the third chamber. I thought I could deliberately visualize a ghost-guardian person in Erstvale, the same way I rounded the walls of the third chamber…and, she simply wouldn’t take. I decided not to make the effort anymore, and a year or so later had an unsettling dream about her being melted (something alive or at least moving within the slurry of what used to be form.)

I write stories. I shape my mind for them: plot, aesthetic, voice and style. I let images form in my mind, emotional beats, manifesting potentials like a lucid dream (or, when writer’s block comes around, like a nonlucid dream or dreamless sleep. Is it a mineral deficiency, or do the muses leave me? Whatever.) It’s so common to speculate on the psychology of creators—while that is not the only literary analysis approach that exists, I took for granted that that would keep them safely contained.

But then Captain Marigold fired the cannons through the walls of our realities, so if I thought I made her up (which I shouldn’t have been able to—poor ghost-guardian of Erstvale,) she’s fairly self-made now.

That’s part of the Proscenium process, too: metaphorical thespians, characters, scripts and improvisation, rehearsal and orchestra, backdrops and backstage, costumes and makeup and lighting and masks. None of it strictly real; some level of it always true. Detached, we know it for what it is. Immersed, we know it for what it is.

[Aethyr Arr] Piracy at the Crucible

The following entry may contain triggering material, descriptions of emotional and sexual abuse.

When I was a child, the whole world was…I’d now just call it information. I make some distinction between this sort of Default World and the Other World(s) now and what would be found in it; I didn’t used to, because I was still learning how the world worked, that is, worldsss workeds as it turned out at the time of this writing. As a child, I’d pick up on a superstition here, a prayer there, a word for something and glean the meaning from the attitude of the speaker during the saying of the thing: “ghost” “angel” “demon” “duende” “engkanto” “third eye”.

For lack of structure and vocabulary of an established spiritual tradition, I make up my own terms for some things that are based on or combine with this, that, or the other thing I’ve read about (fairy lore! pop alchemy! dreamtime! neo-shamanism! psionics! jungian psychology!) because the phenomena described in any of those traditions at a given time is part of my life. I still find myself in situations of unutterable can’t even, but not as often or overwhelmingly…as when I was five and six and seven, suffering from bad vibes that I didn’t have a word for let alone ways to keep off (because “subtle energy” and “shielding” weren’t a thing in my mind yet), and everyone’s patience had failed when it came to my resulting tantrums and oversensitivity; or fourteen or fifteen or sixteen and still bed-wettingly terrified of the dark (because…that’s for another entry, but it was mostly something otherworldly. Partly. Maybe a little.)

I mean, the damage of that neglect or dearth-of-knowledge in that area of my life is done, I mean done as in no more of that in the foreseeable future, I am better equipped now to face the world or worlds. And housebroken. That is a good, let’s all throw confetti!

Aaand recognize that all the aforementioned traditions have some integral internal consistency, and application that simply (or complicatedly, through any number of technicalities) excludes me, how I think and live, and especially what I try to make the do thing. (I wasn’t stealing Dreamtime! I was just believing out loud that it’s real outside of Australia. But yes also colonialism decimated the very thing it named, so maybe that sort of thing I do doesn’t help a Lost Generation to recover.)

That wobbly balance is where I come from, as this entry heads West.

*

I haven’t gone on a quest in a long while. If I try to go quest, the quest doesn’t follow me, so it doesn’t happen. So, I take that to mean that I’m either not up for it right now, or that the otherworlds aren’t inclined to let me in to do stuff. I say that as though an otherworld can decide that, but I don’t know, sometimes it happens when I’m not trying, so it’s more like the weather.

Before this most recent one I’m about to write about, I’d been refreshing what I’d read of Otherfaith canon, and what caught my attention was the Dierne’s ability to smell something foul on those who had violated consent. the Laetha Ava had a similar ability, and I speculated on whether the spirit Dahlia had the same.

How would that work? What sort of energetic dynamic comes off as a stench? Whether it’s the sort of energetic signature of a perpetrator’s feeling of guilt, or the peculiar quality of a victim’s attention to their perpetrator then ‘marking’ that perpetrator for these gods and spirit…I’d love to believe in beings who just know and wreak justice on violators, especially when it’s that clear who did something so wrong, but I’d appreciate a reliable way to know what they’d know even more.

Because it happened to me, or I feel like it did, but everyone I trusted enough to tell said that it didn’t count because these so-called perpetrators were female and it was physically impossible and politically incorrect, or it wasn’t as bad as a real rape, or that nobody cares what I have to say about it. It wasn’t something I should have developed suicidal depression and dropped out of school to live as a recluse for, unless I’d consciously sacrifice seven or eight years of my life for whatever ‘rewards’ I can reap from emotional blackmail. So they said, my corporeal friends and family.

Dahlia would kill over a sexist heckler, but how would she know? Is the heckler’s fatal misstep being caught in the act because Dahlia is occasionally watching? Or does the act of street harassment change someone’s spiritual or psychic composition?

(And is it in me after all to abuse in the guise of a victim? Dahlia shows probably the lowest tolerance for that sort of thing. She’d know.)

*

The quest began in what I recognized as the anteroom of the apartment that Miasma and I had moved into together after our mother died. We didn’t have a father. Oh, I mean, biologically, it’s a high statistic possibility that we had a father, but I couldn’t say in good conscience that we had a Dad.

The apartment was furnished the way it had been after I had started my first job, and made a friend there, and brought up the possibility to Miasma that this friend could become our roommate. (“Is she going to sleep in your bed?” Miasma asked, her face twisted with apprehension and disgust. I thought Miasma would be worried about sharing her queen-sized mattress with a stranger, so I said sure Cara would be roommates in my room, and when Miasma’s expression didn’t change I asked what was wrong with that. “Association?” Miasma answered, even though the tone of her voice made it sound like a question, and the words were something other than Absolutely Not, that’s what it truly meant. I believe this wasn’t even Miasma’s opposition to my deviant sexual orientation—great to out me to people I don’t know so that Miasma herself gets a reputation for having an interesting alternative accessory of a person in her life, not so great to actually live with a gay person who does gay things. It wasn’t even like that with Cara and me: we were just friends. Rather, I believe this was more like Miasma’s revulsion of the Plebian cooties that I would catch from Cara, because I’d taken a job below the class that Miasma and I had grown up in, and Miasma had been stressed enough that we’d moved to a one-bedroom apartment with a narrow kitchenette counter against the wall instead of a kitchen as a separate room. And Miasma worked at a magazine, instead of a theater like she’d wanted.

When a professional diplomat friend of Miasma’s referred a destitute rebellious daughter of a political dynasty to us, that’s when it had become obvious that the room was never mine. Miasma put a pillow on the narrow slot of uncluttered tile floor in front of the bookshelf, for me to sleep on. That wasn’t a question. When I look back on this, I believe Miasma didn’t foresee a use for Cara. Miasma could, however, one day call in a grand favor from a not-so-destitute rebellious daughter of a political dynasty. Let’s say our new roommate’s name was Prudence.)

And Dahlia sat on the tiles by my pillow, with a feline insouciance.

I said, “You’re looking well—” meaning, Dahlia’s appearance was more like my headcanon of her had been, like a less hawkish Angélica Celaya. Not like the time that one of Captain Foxglove’s crew started insisting that he was Dahlia. Why would he do that. Why would she do that. Did she? I forgot to ask. “But,” I added, “This isn’t the time or the place where it happened, what I wanted your opinion about.” (Coercion is a matter of opinion, right? I only had the opinion I did because I was there and it happened to me, but too many people have said I’m wrong for me to expressly or even consciously sustain that opinion.)

With Socratic irony, although I guess now that ought to be Dahliac irony, she wondered, “Why is this where we are, then? This is made of your memory.”

I took a moment to intuit. It’s like sifting through the connotations of silence. Some silences are empty, some are very full; some are complicit, yes, but some silences are the opposite, powerfully contemptuous. “I left something important behind, here. There.” In the pillow beside Dahlia. The space around that area rippled with something like magnetic heat—is what I would write, to make it more visual. Really, it was more like the place at which Dahlia sat began to feel Important now that we’d deigned to notice it, which is less interesting to describe.

(Both Cara and Prudence were single mothers. I knew how difficult that would be, I would have gladly slept on the floor. So, I did. Gladly. It was almost like a choice. Miasma had expected Prudence’s connections to rally at a snap of Prudence’s fingers: Miasma had told me that sleeping on the floor would only be for a few days, weeks at most. Four months later, Miasma took me into Prudence’s room for a private talk. Prudence and her son had gone out to see their friends, or something. I hadn’t been complaining about Prudence, but Miasma wanted me to. From what I remember of the conversation, Miasma had really wanted me to say that I was resentful and frustrated at being forced to sleep on the floor for so long. I wasn’t.

I was resentful that Miasma didn’t give me a choice as to who I would do that for or when, and that was what I said instead. Prudence was fine! Prudence was awesome, especially for figuring out within five minutes of meeting me that I loved to have a job, unlike my own sister who insisted that the industry sapped my soul the same with it did all artistic talents who had to sell out and get such Real Jobs for the money. Prudence and her child could stay with us for as long as they needed to! We totally jived, Prudence and I! Besides, Miasma knew that it took far more than four months for some people to get back on her feet financially. Our own mother had been like that after she lost her job. How dare Miasma ask me now when Cara—

Miasma’s face twisted into a condescending flinch, and she told me, “It’s not about you.” Why ask me, then? The day after, Prudence stopped me on the way out of the bathroom—with a word. She lay in her bed, weighed with early-morning sleepiness or what I feared was the same abject misery my own mother took on four months after losing her job. Pru told me that Miasma had spoken with her—she and her son would be out of our apartment by next week. And that she, Prudence, owed me an apology for taking my bed. She hadn’t known I’d be so resentful.

In this manner, I learned that Miasma had recited the script with which Miasma would confront Prudence, a script that Miasma mentally composed before Miasma checked in with me: a script that spoke for me, but full of words I had never said.)

Miasma had wanted me to fight…eventually. Why hadn’t I, from the start? She was going to tell Prudence and everyone that I was selfish about having my own room, anyway, when Miasma had taken to sharing the queen mattress on the floor with a third roommate of Miasma’s own choosing. They’d met at work. I didn’t know Danica very well before then. Danica would know I wasn’t some brat who banished herself and a long-suffering Miasma to a mattress on the floor of the anteroom, but the knowledge between us was enough for her; Miasma would ensure that everyone else heard the lie that I had my own room. She was very personable. Everyone else believed her, and, apart from work, I didn’t have any friends who weren’t Miasma’s friends first. I’d dropped out of school, and never had friends there.

Why hadn’t I fought? Didn’t I know something wasn’t right?

Sleeping here was almost like a choice, but not one I made. This was a past life I’d forgotten. It’s enough of a mystery that the person I am now has a difficult time controlling my sneer when I hear that somebody’s been hurt emotionally, and at the tip of my tongue: “Why didn’t you speak up, say no and mean it? Why didn’t you fight? Why don’t you just leave that abusive situation already?” Why don’t we get over these things. Already.

I reached out, fingertips of my non-dominant hand questing for what felt like some sort of siphon, some sort of magnetism, in the field of Importance that weighed or scented the memory. Dahlia folded her legs up to her chest so that I’d pass her by instead of step over her, and that was a strange thing to do because my hand went into the pillow. My palm grasped something flat that stung, like a jolt, not bad enough for me to let go or jerk back.

But I knew what this was, even though I’d never encountered it before in a quest. It was a part of myself that I’d cut off, and it radiated: “You don’t deserve more than this. You’re indebted to the world for all the space you take up, for every breath of precious oxygen you take that’s wasted on you. You’re twenty-three with a tenth grade education. You lay down in a soft bed under a roof while your mother was alive, doing fucking nothing. Getting to sleep on a pillow on the floor is a fucking favor the whole world is doing. You’re not allowed to complain. You’re not owed anything in life but death. What titles do you think you were born into, that you can expect dignity? What titles do you think you’ve earned? The answer is none because you’re a waste of everything and anything. You’re broken and should be tossed away.”

“Eww,” I whinged, as I released the shard and backed away. “I don’t want that part of me back. Can we move on over to the memory of when my mom and Auntie Vicky violated my sexual boundaries together? Please? Everybody I complained about it to was right, it wasn’t this bad. It was only moderately worse than street harassment, which actually isn’t bad, I mean it is bad but not vigilante-death-penalty-execution bad.” Auntie Vicky had already apologized, several years after the hotel room incident, and in the most point-missing way possible: she and my mother had prayed away the gay. I wanted to wave my hand up and down in front of her face. There was no way Auntie Vicky could have missed Miasma’s boasts about what a gay sister she had in the family. That wasn’t what I of all people sought restitution for.

“Take it,” Dahlia urged, referring to the shard, “or someone else will and they’ll use it against you.”

(Aunt Vicky and my mother thought I’d be too deeply asleep to notice they were having sex in the same bed that I was trying to sleep in. This not two minutes after I put The Two Towers on the nightstand and put out the light. They should have woken me up, suggested I finish The Two Towers book by the hotel pool or go to a dance club or something. Or gotten themselves another hotel room. I’d finally been enrolled in a school that reinforced anti-bullying policies, regained some motivation and ambition in this academic career path, only for my mother to pull me out again because she’d lost her job. My mother and I both mourned the future we’d never had. We both needed comforting. Sex with Auntie Vicky only worked to that end for one of us.

And while it was happening, because I knew my mother needed it even though I hated it, I hated what this meant about what they thought about me, as possessed of no more consequential perception than a pillowcase or a doll on a shelf, I just quietly edged off the mattress of the hotel bed and slept on the floor—huh. How about that, a parallel. Hrmm.

Anyway, the next morning, my mother pretended that nothing happened, although Auntie Vicky awkwardly brought up some yoga trivia she thought I would be very interested in: the kundalini serpent re-explained as a metaphor for how the sex drive is too strong for anyone to really control themselves. No, I don’t believe Auntie Vicky said this to me that morning as a sexual predator necessarily, just as an embarrassed and repressed grown-ass woman who was cheating on her husband with my mother and trying to explain herself without admitting to anything. But the irresponsibility of fully-grown adults with unhealthy boundaries just got worse from then on. And if they didn’t grow up, neither have I.)

I reached back in and pulled the thing out of the pillow. I’d expected it to be like a tarry shred of fabric gone stiff, the same color as the terror I felt as a young teen after lights out, or maybe like the ink sac that Foxglove cut out of my body on the first quest I found him.

Instead, the shard glinted like early afternoon sun and was the same shape and texture as a flint arrowhead. Unlike corporeal gold, it weighed next to nothing and almost floated out of my hand. “That can’t be right,” I said, “What this thing broadcast when I held it, what it means by existing in this quest, is more like the repressed vices, the shadows…the prima materia or imperfect metals of psychological alchemy. It’s not a golden idea already. It can’t be.” I wasn’t exercising my intuition, though, I was just spitballing dismayed and confused guesses.

Dahlia hummed doubtfully and stifled a yawn, but didn’t stifle it enough that I didn’t catch her at it, and I wasn’t even trying to catch her at anything. “Maybe it’s done the best it could since you left it all alone. Like I would know. Yeah, I might be a seafaring adventurer, but I don’t chase after shinies.”

I liked Dahlia already. The first time I started to ramble at Foxglove about how the emotional logic of repeating a trauma (maybe you’ll win and get it right this time, but we’ve got to repeat the same harmful pattern to be sure that win and right is what happens) conflicts with the logical logic (just get away) he jumped overboard. Maybe he was trying to be funny, but it was his ship so that wasn’t clever. Foxglove ripped an ink sac out of me, but instead of laying it on a platter or an ink well, he let it pool in caskets and chests. This was before I read any books on alchemy, so it’s tempting to foreshadow that Foxglove knew that my emotional darkness that had kept me so intensely miserable could be removed, stored and turned into some sort of emotional gold. That would be his, and I wouldn’t object. “Captain Foxglove might like to take a look at this, he’s my, um—”

“Don’t mind if I do!” A familiar silver hook at the end of a cerulean blue sleeve shot into my vision and made away with the shard. I turned my head to follow, only to find empty space.

After a roll of my eyes, I turned to where Dahlia had been. “Didn’t even stay to make your acquaintance properly. Can you believe the ner—”

Dahlia had vanished, too.

*

So ends this telling of the quest, but even as I wake and type in the corporeal world, I think I ought to mention that my surreal fetch is still in that room. There, I’m rattling at locked doorknobs, walking into a force field where the anteroom opens up to the kitchenette, clawing at locked windows and climbing up the bookcase. It’s only been a few days of that in corporeal time, and my experience only dips into that sometimes. Maybe there’s something else in that room I need to find. Maybe the memory itself decays on its own, like eggshell. It is a five or six year old memory. I’d venture to guess that this sort of quest cul-de-sac happens as often as a recurring dream. Quests and fetches are what I call otherworldly journeys and spirit bodies respectively, although I find potential confusion on the point that Foxglove isn’t explicitly a Western fae and Dahlia isn’t a guiser or familiar. In any case, these denizens of the high seas hadn’t taken my fetch with them for a good reason, I’m sure. Myfetch and I’ll find our way out, and maybe find out.

Otherfic Meta: Spectrum Trilogy

The following entry contains personal details that may be triggering.

So, I reorganized some Otherfaith fanfics I wrote into a series, and thought to share more here about the process. (Edit to add: hey, this is a lot in line with Aine’s post on writing the myths.) Note that I’m all for the figurative Death of the Author, also less known as the Birth of the Reader, so this certainly is not to put out that I heard a voice, or had a dream, and therefore this bit or that bit is a truthier truth.

I.

Ironically, I’d say, it’s Princess Irene’s obscurity (wasn’t named in the Founding of the West, just in the Wikia) and liminality (roles usually being of a mediator and herald) in the existing body of Otherfaith canon that I considered so intriguing and was why I wanted to write more of her.

My thought process during Almost Heroes, a writing experiment not part of the trilogy, went sort of like this: “Ooh, I like her, so she gets a comity-shipping cameo with the Ophelia. Wait, am I mythologizing my real life history? Yeah. Irene’s got to be there when Mary Sue starts crushing on the science teacher lady, because I really wish that some guiding spiritual presence like Irene had been there then, as first loves of lady-loving ladies in a no homo world. Wait, and Irene can turn into a bird? The Laetha’s a bird, if they fought I wonder who would win?” And I thought, “Obvously, the god would win in a fight with a spirit, so what would make it as though there’s tension?” And I thought, “It can’t be a challenge on neutral grounds, then, it must be…a surprise attack on the god’s sacred personal space.”

And then I thought, “Ulp, now my headcanon Irene did a bad thing.” My headcanon Irene did possibly the worst thing, and I never even did get around to revisiting the elation and yearning of what I guess people in temperate climates euphemistically call a spring awakening. How one makes up for messing up was also a very interesting question, though. But I didn’t want to write an Irene whose turning point in character development was…a deliberate Mary Sue, who I’d originally stuck in there to explore the more established, more prominent personalities of the myths, and a way to write the gods and spirits enacting their scopes of responsibilities.

I picked up the story again after I’d read up more on Laetha shards, and figured Aletheia 003 to be the best character foil for this Irene, because of all the meta I caught around The Red Room.

Peace At Last was mostly a way to organize the elements of a complicated idea, not so much to resolve the question or announce the role or method of forgiveness in the Otherfaith.

I may have also caught a sort of disembodied voice shouting, “Libel!” at an earlier retelling of The Red Room that I’d posted, but the main idea that voice pushed for, of reversing William’s and A003’s roles, was still something I thought (and decided) would fit in neatly. So, as far as woo might go, I’d say that’s still par with my just deciding that the Firebird and Irenebird would fight instead of figure out, like a responsible plotter-writer, some avian way they could bond.


(The above painting gives me Irene feels, though Aine tagged it for the Laethan Firebird on the tumblog. They could have a lot in common.) (Also yay Irene has a tumblog tag!)

II.

Upping the woo, lowering the word count. Here are some excerpts from my noxary (dream diary or dream journal, and I write sideways on notebooks with dotted or plain paper, to double the size of a page uninterrupted by the spine.) These inspired the sequel, Songs of the Sunsets. Except for the third dream. That one was just weird.

18 Sept 2015. Princess seated between hourglass and clock stained glass circle before her like anathema device time was set but she still wanted to interfere.

19 Sept 2015. Queen-of-Years-but-not moved the telescope and hourglass. Kaleidoscope window on a balcony looked over indigo twilight.

20 Sept 2015. Wandered a bookstore, bestseller was a romance between an angler fish and a remora.

These records drew similarities to Anathema Device (a character from Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman) although not a correct one because that character was very much for doing what she’s been foretold, and also the Queen of Years from the new Doctor Who although in the dream the red cowl looked worn by somebody bigger than a wee child and I don’t remember more.

I actually shouted when the not-really-Queen-of-Years moved the stuff, and this woke up my corporeal friend and roommate Cecilia, who woke me up to say that I sounded like I was being tortured. It must have been important in the dream not to move the stuff.
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Captain Foxglove Takes Umbrage

 Warning: The following entry may contain triggering material.

When Captain Foxglove acts out of character, I’m inclined to interpret this as reflecting a psychological node of sorts, that is breaking down due to some subconscious program of a sort gathering “error data” of a sort. So, Foxglove, usually encouraging, supportive, incisive with honesty at his worst becomes prone to verbally violent outbursts.

In this instance, however, it holds more significance to me to keep to running with the spiritualist program. I just really feel like I make more progress with believing in the experience than I do with meta-analysis.

So, Foxglove has three faces: the first I saw when I first met him, the second I saw on a quest where I caught sight of him lounging on a grassy cliff by the sea (and I sensed it was Foxglove even though he looked so different), and the third when I followed him down a flight of steel steps and he turned around when I asked to know more about him—and his face shattered, like the spaces between a perfect spiderweb only it was meant to shatter, because behind the human masque revealed pointed petals that blossomed into rows upon rows upon rows of pointed teeth.

That last bit could be another example of error data in my subconscious, though, crossing over my pirate fantasy with one of the Resident Evil genetically engineered monsters. But I told myself that I wouldn’t be going with that, at least in this entry.

Because, within the spiritualist paradigm, the thing that I figured out was that while they’re all Foxglove, he’s managed to get jealous of himself when one face gets more of my consideration than the other.

If only it could have been as simple as some evil mischief-maker stole the image of Foxglove that I knew, to impersonate him getting angry so that I would be upset or misled. Then I just have to call out the trickster and keep it real with Foxglove.

It might still turn out to be that way. The stuff of the otherworld and the otherworld itself can be so capricious.

The very night before this all happened, I did have a dream of my ex-mentor in psychism, let’s name him Mar, sat at this bar in a stable and radiated smugness about something terrible that he (Mar himself, not Foxglove) had done to me. While I was embodied in the dream, sitting somewhere across from Mar in this bar that was also a stable, I felt detached and unafraid.

Now I don’t know if my own response was because I’ve developed the strength to have my own standpoint from which I see that Mar is wrong about enough that nothing he does has the effect on me that he intends to have (because I can’t respect his point of view anymore) or if my own response was because I’ve shut down attachments and fears to the point that that I no longer panic when I ought to panic.

Part of me is convinced that this dream meant that Mar did something. This is preposterous to consider, of course, because there’s no empirical evidence for that sort of thing. Inner alchemy or practices with similar effect? Maybe. Dreamwalking and curses? I’m not so sure about those anymore.

So I bring it back to mind.

Perhaps there remains a node in my psyche that can manifest as Mar, and that’s who corrupted Captain Foxglove somehow, if that is even what the how is. That’s the way I’ll speak of it, if so, because it’s an important distinction for me to make right now between corporeal, certificate-of-life-birth possessing, social-security-number having, other-people-can-see-him-too Marr and surreal Mar.

But back to Foxglove.
 
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Another Sort of Faery Court

PIC_1804

Shadows, in the Jungian psychology sense of painful truths that we’d prefer to ignore but consume and corrupt our souls if we repress them, come in many forms. I guess they call for many different sorts of processes. Sometimes, it’s just a matter of making a safe space and safe time to get in a particular half-conscious state of mind where Shadow confrontation-processing can happen.

In addition to the example I linked, more recently on the 10th of September 2014, I achieved this again with confronting platitudes about my deceased abusive mother. Her voice seemed to come into my head from outside me, bypassing my ears, and echoing, “I sacrificed everything for you” “I’m not perfect” “I did the best that I knew how to do” and I wrote that down, as well as my direct responses to each of them, saying exactly why they were wrong. I seemed to get responses, so I continued this sort of conversation with whatever was generating a reply. It seemed to take form, too, at the edge of my thoughts, a dark and spiky-plated Western dragon in a cave with, I intuitively sensed, a tendency to hoard kidnapped maidens and turn them into her daughters. I named this dragon Rafflesia, to keep this floral and arboreal theme with naming my imaginary characters.

But returning to the actual notions being dealt with, when I hear the same from other people, I get similarly defensive. In what I call the blacksmything mindset, however, I could get to the heart of those harmful messages and dismantle them and dissipate them.

Other times, it’s more symbolic, such as witnessing the effect of the Shadow upon what I call the Fetch, or witnessing and interacting with a shadowy separate person (probably… I just don’t know about that last one, it’s just strange. Does it count as a Shadow of something like “my self-righteousness” when I have such a thorough conscious conviction that I’m right to have developed such an elementary thing as personal sovereignty?)

What I describe below is the most elaborate blacksmything experience I’ve had, if that’s what it even was. It did involve mulling over events that I’d prefer to forget about for their implications, but it took place in this surreal paracosm and involved characters that didn’t fit the classical image of the Jungian Shadow. This episode of manifestation of it simply dissolved, without conveying catharsis or epiphany, without even with some hint of how to progress with the process so that I can get to that point—another characteristic I attribute to blacksmything.

The hues of the “Shadows”, if that turn of phrase is even sensible, was rather different. Captain Marigold confronted me with the religious edicts utilized by my emotionally abusive family, but blacksmything would vet what part of me still believed in the feasibility and validity of such edicts that would condemn the rest of me, and I didn’t even have a single grain of that. Captain Foxglove confronted me with how my needs have violated other people’s boundaries, and that felt more like blacksmything because I believe it was wrong even as I couldn’t have done otherwise, knowing my character and the circumstances.

Neither of them brought up this one particularly sharp and many-hued shadow. No, not this one. Well, maybe something like that one. But it’s one I haven’t mentioned yet because I only have this nascent notion of it, which was why I would have thought someone below would have brought it up at some time. I mean, it’s kind of got to do with my sexuality, and as both Marigold and Foxglove showed up, who I consider my Anima and my Animus respectively, I thought that Shadow would have been their priority. But no, instead…

Well, first, I found myself in a mindscape that I’d visited before. It was a city of white marble pillars and white granite steps that lead into clear waters under clear skies. The rivers wrapped around every block of this city, like a road system.

littlepleroma

The tops of the stairs that led into the rivers didn’t have bollards, so I imagined some in there so Foxglove could tie his ship to it.

The plot that I imagined on that spot was that I would seek out a book in a library. Foxglove declined to come with me, so I went to explore the city on my own. I found an archway of a building and walked through it. That was in August.

In mid-September, the fantasy continued from whatever stasis had halted it, and I wanted into a courtroom. Well, it was more like a giant void with a giant statue of a giant blindfolded figure holding balancing scales. Foxglove stood on one. Marigold stood on the other. I walked through the archway onto a jut of stability that just sort of elbowed me into the void, and the double doors slammed behind me.

Except there hadn’t been doors there before, there had just been an archway leading into a void. In any case…
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