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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Foxglove and Stitches

The following entry may contain triggering material.

In the corporeal world, I attended Catholic mass. It was at a smaller church, more like a giant gazebo. I sat at the periphery, with the lattice-wall at my back. The homily was about a pet parrot of a priest’s friend. The parrot had been trained to say a specific prayer depending on which claw someone pulled. When the priest wondered aloud which prayer the parrot would say if they pulled both claws, (I think it went) the parrot responded: “I’d fall without anything to perch on, you dolt.”

The point was that even a parrot can pray. Human churchgoing Catholics should pray with meaning in their hearts, and with a mind to community and humility rather than bargaining with a cosmic God for selfish purposes. The Paternoster goes “give us this day our daily bread, forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us” and “thy will be done” not me and mine.

I want to say that Catholicism is complex, not inconsistent or contradictory, because so is life and the universe and everything. Still, it strikes me as suspiciously convenient to couch attractive and advantageous offers in terms of this religion—and then that anyone can cut down what they don’t like, also in the terms of this religion. Whether someone has the real goodness of the One True God in their heart and live the One Truly Proper Way, or if someone’s being led astray by the Adversary, becomes most obviously (to me, anyway) a matter of “yuh-huh” and “nuh-uh” back and forth into infinity about every little thing and big thing.

Such conduct is not unique to Catholicism, of course, but while the homily set up some no-nonsense structures (say what you mean, mean what you say, and have a care!) I kind of flinch inwardly at external attempts to fiddle with internals, because some days I don’t even know if I’m really myself or if I’m just a collage of what people have done to me. A break from that would be nice. Conforming to normalcy and the concept of a United Front have only ever been used to shut me up about things that were killing me (I exaggerate, of course—eating disorders and suicide don’t count as real death, as my family kept implying, it’s just a rude inconvenience by attention-seeking brats) and that sort of abuse has always been justified in terms of this religion. That might not have been what this priest meant to reinforce, but I don’t think it’s in me to be more than a cultural Catholic. Hey, culture is a lot—It's why we're the only country in the world where divorce isn't legal, we technically have Straight Pride Parades that shame even straight people, and atheists get put in jail (well, that one protest cosplayer, who in my opinion was out of line, no accounting for style.)

If I could decide, I should pull a Joan of Arc and protest against the cultural effects based on guidance from living half in Christian otherworlds, not play to cultural and bureaucratic stigma while half living in fairyland.

But it’s time I mentioned fairy pirate captain Foxglove, who stood outside the lattice looking out, as everyone else in the gazebo-church began singing Don Moen’s “Two Hands, One Heart”: “Two hands, one heart / One life to offer You / Two hands, one heart / That’s what I give to You…”

“I don’t like this song!” Foxglove exclaimed, raising both his arms (both starting from the shoulders, one ended in a hand and the other in a hook prosthetic.)

*

He probably has a point, but that doesn’t mean he’s not also melodramatic, and I hate dismissing anything as “just drama” because I have had some very real suffering treated that way, and feel as though that horrid phrase should never ever be possible to pronounce or spell. Then some abusive corporeal offline people I used to know really tempt me to say it, and the internal fracturing of my principles get me rocking back and forth while humming the theme from Galavant to soothe the turmoil. And after I’m soothed, I still don’t know right thing to do.

I left Foxglove out of this entry. I never know what’s going to be a Significant Otherworldly Exploration Discovery Event Development and what’s just zany and goes nowhere. He was there, around that same time, but all sighs and “We Shan’t Meet Again Because You Need Me No Longer, Yet I Remain Always In Your Heart…”

And I was like, “Yeah, right…”

Because I don’t want to put out there that I don’t believe it if someone says we’re over and done with.

But after that I wandered into Quartermaster Camshaft’s cabin and found Camshaft in pieces, and Foxglove shook my shoulders and shouted a lot at me to, “Get it together!”

But after that I lay in bleak and speechless conviction of my uselessness in a probably godless world anyway, and Foxglove kept prodding my head with a finger and saying that the high seas, at least, were his if they were anyone’s, and if I went on some paracosmic adventure right now then real-life Neo-Imperial China would quit the shenanigans in international waters.

“Stop giving me delusions of grandeur,” I’d muttered.

“At least take a shower,” he’d replied, with another prod. (By complete coincidence and not because he told me to while prodding my head, I pushed myself up and ambled over to the shower.)

But after that he stood outside church during mass and criticized the choir’s song selection. He doesn’t even usually go to church with me in what I call the otherreal. He doesn’t even have a corporeal human body, let alone a consistent disability to complain pointedly about. He is such a drrgrrargh!

***

Last night I felt a hollow pain in my chest. It’s a cliché for reasons of being a common human experience (probably? I’d say…) but clichés are bad for reasons. What if it’s only a common human experience because people who haven’t experienced it just keep saying the phrase, so people start thinking in that phrase, and use it upon feeling something “close enough” or to elicit an expression of empathy from whoever we say it to, so we’ve convinced ourselves that we feel it when we don’t actually or otherwise wouldn’t have? (Holy hearts, what sort of gullible and disingenuous person am I, that this would even be a pragmatic and intuitive distinction to make?)

What if the constructed associated meanings are misleading? I have felt what I describe to be a hollow pain in my chest when I tried to go vegan: It was a vitamin deficiency. I have also felt a hollow pain in my chest related to emotion. They’re both hollow pains in the chest, but they’re different hollow pains in the chest in ways I don’t have more words to explain right now.

This time, I intuited it to have some otherworldly overlap, so I went there in my mind and reached around and took the pain-thing out of my fetch’s chest.

It looked and felt like a sheep’s heart I dissected in biology class once, except the incisions came down from the big top end and met at the ventral node-tip part. They hung like a cartoon octopus’ tentacles, and flopped fleshily like flat noodles.

Well, I thought, It’s better than the black-gray goop that I usually get!

library

So, I went to my library, because it seemed the likeliest place to find a stapler, rather than Erstvale or Foxglove’s ship. I didn’t draw the furniture above because I don’t always know exactly what’s in my own sort of Surreal Save Point. One time it was zombies. My therapist thinks it Means Something. This time, there was a conference table between the door to the inside of the crescent bookshelf and the door to outside the library (as there usually is.) A chess set rested on the round table by the window in front of the mezzanine stairs, although their players had gone a long time ago. Up on the mezzanine were more bookshelves, a fireplace and armchairs, and a glass casket containing an ostentatiously ugly gown.

No staplers.

So then, I went through the crescent bookshelf door and into the poop cabin on Foxglove’s ship (that door doesn’t always lead to the same scape, but usually to the scapes that press up against the door like they’re eavesdropping). I shouldn’t be surprised that he was there, but I was, so I held up the heart and said, “I think I broke it. Have you got a stapler?”

The poop deck had maps, pencils, calligraphy brushes, sextants, astrolabes, pocket watches, Victorian keys, for some reason a weather vane and an orrery—but no stapler that I could see, and Foxglove wasn’t even looking for one. He just kicked over a trap door to another cabin and dropped through. I followed. He found a sewing needle and a bit of yellow-beige fluff in one of the caskets.

I sat on the table and waited as he got out a bit of paper card. With one hand, he began to twist the fluff into thread and I groaned. His hook had no trouble catching more fluff, and eventually the card was covered in a spool of looping thread. Eventually. Very eventually.

“I’ve got an REM cycle to catch,” I said, as he took a threader out of the casket. He shrugged and grasped the needle in his teeth. I said, “Maybe it’ll be faster if I did it—” because my fetch had two hands.

He shot me a disdainful expression and threaded the needle, then held his hook out for the heart. I hung the heart on it by an artery. He started to sew.

Having watched a pet kitten get stitches at the vet’s office after a bad fight with another cat, I did get the idea that sewing up flesh was different from sewing up fabric: each stitch is separate, so pulling one stitch wouldn’t pull the others along with it in a continuous running line.

I asked, “What does it mean if your heart feels hollow?”

Foxglove answered, “Of course it’s going to be hollow, there’s got to be room for the blood to go through.”

“That’s awfully literal!”

After swinging my legs over the edge of the table for a while, I glanced over at how Foxglove was sewing, and saw that he was embroidering long stitches so close together that they looked like hatch-shading.

“Quests were more fun when you were teaching me how to swordfight,” I remarked. “And I don’t even like combat at all.”

“Mm. Are archery lessons going well?”

“Under Marigold, it’s one of the more lenient levels of my personal Hell.”

“What did happen to Heartwrench?”

I didn’t want to tell him. I don’t even want to tell you right now. So we lapsed into a silence awkward to me, but I think Foxglove already knew because he had this smug grin all the rest of the while he continued sewing.

Eventually I got bored enough to flop down on the table and bounce my head against the wood.

Then Foxglove paused to take out his broken pocket watch, then made a face of dramatically exaggerated shock at what the unticking clock’s own face showed the time of. Then he politely left the cabin, and the heart half unsewed on the table.

I rummaged about the caskets and found a large blue stapler in one of them, and just used that on the rest of it, which was sooooo much quicker than sewing, Foxglove, you are such a troll. Then I put it back in my chest (the heart with the staples, not the stapler itself.)

And I felt better, so there.

*

I really never know what’s going to be a Significant Otherworldly Exploration Discovery Event Development and what’s just zany and goes nowhere, but this did seem like it would be an entertaining anecdote, so here 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.

Guisers: Shell Collecting

I grew up with imagination as a very mundane thing. What does a word look like when it’s spelled correctly? I imagine rather than remember. How will that piece of furniture look in the room instead of in the furniture store? Select marquee, copy, paste. I resisted applying that to my spiritual life through visual meditations because it was too easy.

When I opened up to that, I discovered that imaginative constructs and imaginative interfaces can serve as vessels for some strange things. It felt like imagination, it had the same texture, but there would be aspects that I couldn’t make up or force out. Strange things, by themselves, had always been around; I figured that the persistently nagging sense that I exuded billows of invisible ink and everybody did, or the feeling of there being a shark in the swimming pool even though all evidence was against that, were born of the same neurological quirk that got me losing sleep and cocooning in wretched anxiety for months over a typo.

Stories shape imagination. Mythologies are stories, but hypersignificated ones. Hypersignificating a typo wasn’t helpful at all, but the hypersignification of mythologies was tolerated and even encouraged in my childhood. If I decided that they’re all stories, and I get to decide what to hypersignificate, well…not exactly.

Thenea wrote about some experiences with mythological figures that left shells of themselves for spiritworkers to experience, and proposed that fictional characters were the same with a few exceptions. In any being with sentience, one can find conflict deep within their eyes.

So I decided to go around and give all my Guisers eye examinations. ALL of them. Well, the ones in recent memory that have potential to overlap with fictionaries.

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The Nice Guise

The following entry contains references to self-injury and heteronormative issues.

I’ve referred to Foxglove as my Animus. That former name evokes to me associations with fay (in some of many definitions of them,) and it came from a desire to immerse myself in that sort of lore that is either supplemented by or articulates a personal experience. In that experience, Foxglove and I chose his name together. I would have personally preferred Kelp or Hawthorn for him, but in a strange way it’s not all up to me even when it seems like it is. His latter title, Animus, is a classification: any glamorous celebrity that any other person comes to be enamored with, can be an opportunity to witness an Animus in action.

In the first experience that I had of him, he heralded a drastic upheaval of some intense depression with which I had struggled for a lifetime. Whether I was in recovery and his presence was a side effect of that, or some incorporeal intelligence breached the wainscoting and made a notable corporeal change of otherworldly origin…I’ll take it.

Other than my very subjective personal standards or my words here, there has been no such wainscoting between a hallucination or daydream.

Since then, Foxglove has shown more personality than function (if we go by the Neo-Classical anthropomorphic personification idea in paganism), or perhaps more function than personality (if we go by a Jungian psychoanalytical interpretation than the supernatural world of invisible intelligent beings with the agency to prod us in our lives.) In some episodes that I still counted as quests, he was a shade of when I first met him, relating to the shades of corporeal people I’ve met or guises of characters that remain in my mind. Until those corporeal people come up to me in the corporeal world and say, “Hey, a fairy who names himself after a flower is bothering me and I think you can and should stop him,” I figured most of those quests wouldn’t bear mentioning. These are symbols, the movements of which I take note of.

Foxglove first appeared to me vaguely dressed like a privateer during the European age of wooden ships with sails, his skin looked white as paper and his eyelids were uncreased, and he only had one hand. Later, he had both hands and used that uncharacteristic capability to injure himself, and was given to angry shouting. Later, he moved as if his legs couldn’t function, and he dressed in blue knitted jumpers and denim jeans. Later, his limbs would be present and functioning but some painful and damaging injury appeared on his eyes.

And I refer to “later” as in what I’ve traced in corporeal time, but he goes about as if he’s always been the way he is now, and in the altered states of mind in which I meet him I don’t feel nearly as surprised as I would be had a corporeal friend regenerated a limb, even though I didn’t deliberately conceive Foxglove’s new condition and was witnessing it for the first time.

The corporeal world embodies truths in specifics. A thing is either there or is not, occupying spacetime with matter and all its qualities.

When it comes to the otherreal and surreal worlds, I try to find truth somewhere in a thematic analysis. The more versions of Foxglove I experience, the more clues I have as to what his presence is really supposed to mean. By corporeal standards, he isn’t really wearing anything, not a blue jumper or silver swashbuckle. He doesn’t have a species because he doesn’t have a body, let alone race or handicap. It isn’t English that he’s speaking, and it’s not speech through which he communicates, and it’s not communication that’s happening if I can’t know how much agency whatever manner of being Foxglove is has.

With a guiser that takes the form of a corporeal person I know, and for my own reasons named Miasma, we’ve had repeated instances of friction. I figured it’s an echo of a corporeal situation, where I’ve explained that Miasma’s presence has damaged me, and mutual companies hear me out and understand but are flabbergasted when I get upset that they invite Miasma without either warning me or listening if I say don’t or I can’t be there if…

The corporeal people, I’ve cut them all out of my life. That’s my boundary to set, and I’ll take whatever practical consequence comes with that shortsighted peace. But Foxglove has done the same to me over and over and over again, according to my corporeal documentation for the past several months, but each time feels like the first time he’s betrayed me. The betrayal feels less real than the guiser of Miasma, too, which is to say that it doesn’t feel all too real.

So, I figured that my psyche was processing the event. Maybe people who still have social circles to live in reveal these processes by complaints, projections, seeking personality types with which they can reconstruct traumatic situations and repeat behavioural patterns, and building reputations for having a “chip” on their shoulder about a specific issue. All that can come off as toxic, but never nearly as venomous I’m sure as having been in the very situation that the person has suffered. And maybe when they’re silenced, shamed for their perspective, too suspicious to repeat the same situation, or live like hermits…(or even if they can still pursue all these avenues and it’s still not enough to lose the complex) they hallucinate like I do.

And then, five days ago, Foxglove killed Miasma. Not the corporeal Miasma, of course, and as Foxglove had died once before himself and got better from it I doubt that Guiser Miasma’s death would even last. But in all these loops, that event was an outlier, and it was something new.

*

I’ve kept telling Foxglove near the end of these, I don’t know what, fantasies of betrayal, that whatever good he’s done by being in my life I would reject if it meant that he brought Miasma back in. As he’d done the latter, I follow with the former. Sometimes he understands that we’ve ended our relationship, and he probably complains to his friends about my oversensitivity, and how I overestimate my worth in a relationship and in the world, and sarcastically wishes me a happy and fulfilling life alone in a padded room that’s also an echo chamber where I would be free from the harm that I’m apparently always seeking for unfathomable reasons for which nobody else should bend over backwards as I demand (rather than recognizing that I was bending and have now broken.) Sometimes he tries to convince me that he understands his mistake, and I should give him another chance. To that I reply that the mistake should have never happened, and this isn’t supposed to be left up to chance: the harm he’d done me was a non-negotiable, and a change in character undid nothing.

This was the first time he’s tried to undo what he did in such a violent and final way. Then again, every tantrum and betrayal that he’s been given to has been the first of a myriad of instances that seem to get a blank slate with each new quest.

It feels, for the most part, like drama–or, more like a drama, as in something active, but far more immune to emotions invested by the active agents. They’re actions, but by actors. Depending on the method of acting, of course, it doesn’t always apply that drama is defined by the immunity to emotional investment by the actors or even a measured emotional investment by the audience. But when I write of Foxglove’s “tantrums and betrayals” it doesn’t feel nearly as real as the intense devotion (him to me, not me to him) with which he had concluded this latest quest of significance, and which is usually present in quests of other flavors.

Maybe that sort of affection is what I need (on, I hope, a deeper level than self-indulgent wish-fulfillment,) which is why he’s here. Maybe it’s unconsciously present but consciously rejected, which is why he’s here. Maybe death is symbolic of something less violent and final. Lady Wilde wrote about a particular affliction caused by fairies who called corporeal loved ones over to fairyland, and I’ve wondered if maybe I’ve been similarly fairy-struck. On the flip side, at least two spirit-workers out there (that I know of) have taken possibly similar surreal experiences as mine and understood that these surreal beings would meet them in the corporeal, by fate and reincarnation, or by walk-ins. I’d caught the same suggestion of that from Foxglove, and I couldn’t help searching passers-by on the commute route for a face I’ve only seen in dreams, but my better judgment recognizes that the sort of love he offers can’t be found in the corporeal. He couldn’t survive in this world if that was all there was to him, and if I met someone this dedicated then one of us must be mistaken.

What I’d really fallen for (although not from a situation of much greater levity) was a Prince Charming like figure, rescuer of the distressed, eros ex machina, and now apparently slayer of worse-than-dragons.

When I mentioned this to Foxglove, and what I thought it meant (that his unconditional love and, actually, the overwhelming serenity that he tended to carry with him when we weren’t all drama–was getting in the way of the corporeal life I wanted to live) the surreal that I’d grown used to swiftly blinked away. I hadn’t been on his ship in months, but I stood on that deck again as if I’d never left, or as if I’d come back to reality from a daydream. Of course, it was still a daydream or in the surreal, because I was on the deck of a pirate ship and could see the tips of icebergs all around in the waterscape, but I didn’t feel cold.

What does it all mean? Where do Foxglove and I go from here? I might find out, or I might not, but I thought I’d note it here.

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

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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.

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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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