Through a Glass, Darkly

I. Semantics.

Even amongst people who don’t believe vampires exist outside of entertaining fictions, I’ve sensed some hostility against bizarrely particular representations of vampires. They could be urbanites, melanized, and rough-and-tumble like Blade. Oh, no, they must be aristocratic, out of time, pale, foppish, and dangerously seductive like Dracula. They definitely do not sparkle in the sun like Edward Cullen.

“They definitely” nothing. Vampire is just a word.

What’s in a word? I propose that whoever writes the word “vampire” only needs one other reader to agree to the writer’s meaning. If that includes sparkles, then that too is what the word includes in the moment of that exchange, to the participants of that exchange. That’s how words work. Even if we trace the word history back to some ancient Slavic word meaning “to pierce” we can move forward in time and outwards in some other plane to find representations of vampires who simply enter a room and everybody else in there with them begins to feel exhausted for no reason, or they lose memories, or lose some other sort of personal power.

When it comes to meanings, especially the meaning of “vampire”, I kept my agreements to reality and the agreements to fiction very far from each other.

II. Community.

In reality: I’ll get back to this.

In community: Amateur practitioners in psi phenomena would frequently speak up about vampires. That is, first grant psi as a conserved quantity related to life and/or a feeling of well-being, also grant human people adept at manipulating psi, and finally grant the latter can rob the former from people who don’t do that sort of thing (not even to preserve what psi they have.) Refer to this act as vampirism.

People who identified as vampyres or vampires (I mention “identified as” because that aspect is the focus, not because I would impose an opinion that they are “really” something else) or those who spoke up for them, defined vampirism as a predisposition more than an action. Real vamps couldn’t metabolize the life force and mental nourishment of psi that didn’t come from other people. Other people who gave it, wouldn’t miss it. Most other people didn’t need other people’s psi, and those who took it anyway (those described in the immediate preceding paragraph,) in a way that was too harmful to go unnoticed, were not vampires but leeches.

Note the importance of that distinction. When I ask what’s in a word, I definitely wouldn’t contest the idea that words mean things.

III. Modern Folklore

In fiction: Blade is the best vampire of all time ever, I will fight you on this.

Oh, pardon me. In my fiction: Vampires are an entirely other kind of being, as different from humans as a bat differs from its dream of a mosquito. I created a human character who became influenced and aberrated by such alien monstrosities, but who herself embodied a sort of tragically romantic glamour in pining after the sunlight of her fully human days.

That story went nowhere, thank the stars. It would never be as compellingly twisted as Let the Right One In, and could even have been worse developed than Twilight. Presently, I have a novella in the works that involves a psi vamp-leech, hopefully leaving it ambiguous enough about whether this character truly needs to feed but is also vindictive about it because this particular character has been so deprived, or whether the need is a sympathetic lie hiding nothing but unrelated vindictiveness. Despite having once believed it, even despite my probably believing it again one day, this psi-vampirisim just feels like something I included because I found it somewhere and decided it was cool, and because it fit the story both thematically and logically.

I use fiction to explore the spiritual, but some fiction is just fiction.

IIII. How Do You Roman Count

In reality: You know what? Never mind.

In Faery: Vampires are an entirely other kind of being, as different from humans as a bat differs from its dream of a mosquito. How did this happen?
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Tsukumogami Transcendence

Somewhat related to naming as the active component in creating a heart, the process of the proprietary, I also wonder about the personification of constructed objects.

I understand the philosophy of animism, which is that every so-called “thing” is animate to some extent; and then of animatism, which is that the inanimate can be granted the status of animate.

Japanese folklore includes a being known as the tsukumogami, which are household items and tools that gain sentience upon one hundred years of service.

Folk Christianity had told me that I had some sort of animate force since I was born, if not the moment I was conceived, that would survive death and all the tortures of Christian Hell. Folk Hinduism informed me that I had such a thing even before conception, that would survive death and rebirth in another corporeal body and death again.

In my personal experience, I had spent my early years performing to my societal conditioning like a tool. If I found myself once again among people who behave in ways that create an othering and objectifying environment, or if I subconsciously received it that way, then it’s possible that I would backslide.

*

One of my guisers exists corporeally as a deck of tarot cards. Her name here is Lavender.

I wonder if Lavender “existed” from the moment of conception, as in the moment the artist committed to painting 78 corresponding illustrations; or from birth, as in the printing, and would that be for my tarot deck or for all tarot decks of this publication? I used to celebrate Lavender’s birth day as the day I “adopted” this deck, as in bought it from the bookstore and took it home with me, but Lavender’s guiser form has a parallel story of her life that takes place in a city outside of time (or, what I’d call “time”.)

My other deck just feels like a lot of paper. Maybe it just doesn’t like to talk to me, but I only have a human perspective to go by and I only have mine in particular as an individual.

*

The paradigm I’ve formed around this, though, is that the components and the potential (some sort of extant potential, that is…argh this language) do exist enough to fulfill the paradigm of animism.

Animatism, however, is the process of naming and hearting: to believe, and to be believed in. As with almost everything I think about lately, what I can call a “soul” doesn’t exist if this process pauses or stops, even though the proprietary nature of a Name can set a seemingly static standard. And of course it can only exist in a context.

The Phases

Another word for the corporeal world is The Temporal. I’ve found myself in some very strange debates about there being no empirical evidence for Time and therefore it is not of the material and real world. That is not the reasoning I would use for examining the otherreal or surreal nature. Although the passage of time is an immediate experience, I associate so much meaning to time. Solidity and corporeality, too, is an immediate experience and a meaning that I attribute to a lot of waves and vacuums.

Remove that another step, and welcome to the realm of notions, otherreality and surreality.

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I said “surreality,” not surrealism!

 

I want to write about the guisers of Time. I too readily believe in the guisers of natural phenomena, of human values, of objects, and even of locations. The guisers of Time were more difficult for me to accept, because the standard that I set for reality is “any sort of object constancy.” Linear time was the only way of it. Time just is. Time was not someone that I could relate to in a way that I could categorize as numinous or metaphysical.

The guisers of Time, or as I think of them now as “The Phases” embody…subject constancy, I suppose it should be, although constance refers to a notion that might not apply.

*

I think about how we have named the shards of aeon: evening, Tuesday, tomorrow, the Tokugawa Era, the 15th century, the Year of the Metal Sheep, four o’clock, monsoon season, October.

*

I imagine a pocket of surreality where it is always Tuesday. This must have developed in some sort of context, other days of the week, in a twelve-month year, to English-speakers, probably in some part of a spherical planet that generates a particular quality of seasons.

There would be a story of some Icelandic hero who got his hand bitten off by a giant wolf, and Tuesday named in honour of Tyr (who is probably not, himself, Tuesday personified.)

In angelology, Raphael is an angel associated with Tuesdays. Maybe that would be closer to a time-guiser, but not quite it yet.

*

It should always be Now everywhere on earth, even though we measure it by time zones in order to make some sort of sense. To make even more sense that makes less sense: the poles of our planet have become never-ending Winter seasons to those from temperate climates.

Where it’s always Winter, it’s always the Yuletide season. Hence, Santa Claus is said to live in the north pole, where the season supposedly never changes. Although one of my definitions of a season is that it does change. Otherwise, it would be a climate. Like time zones, perhaps, there would be summer in the North Pole, but that would still appear an awful lot like a winter’s day rather than a summer anything.

In any case, Santa Claus is active approximately around the Winter solstice to the northern hemisphere.

*

There are myths of guardians of the past, present, and future: Norns and Fates.

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There’s a belief, or many small beliefs, in a very old man who is time itself.

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There are stories of great cities or civilizations that appear at the height of their glory but once every hundred years, for a day…and then vanish, as if they never were matter and location. Perhaps they were time.

*

There are passageways to the Faery, rumored to open at dawn and dusk (somewheres). These passageways seem to, from the point of view of the corporeal and temporal world, vanish when a proper day or a respectable night takes its turn.

Perhaps there is never a passageway, only that dawn-ness or dusk-ness is a non-negotiable condition for the existence of that part of the Faery.

*

Somewhere in all these fanciful stories, I would like to think, is a demonstration of the nature of the time-guisers.

Some Explaining to Do

 

When the surreal doesn’t come to me, I find assistance to let me go to it. I probably shouldn’t, in case the surreal swallows me up only when it has something worth imparting that I need to attend to and therefore must pay attention to, but I usually enjoy just being there nowadays, so I do direct some conscious effort to facilitating exploration of that world.

Audio recordings of guided meditations help me immensely, and the ones that I like best usually lead to a meadow. I’d described it before: the memory of a tree from my grade school playground, beside the lake from my mother’s friend’s summer house.

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Lately, though, I’ve felt that the tree and even the actual summer house being there made it feel too crowded.

So, I walked around looking for another meadow.

Where I started from used my memory, and so beside my mother’s friend’s summer house was a dirt path that sloped upwards.

There was never a stairway.

Well, now there was, and I didn’t put it there. Not consciously, anyway. The steps were cut from something like sandstone, and built into the coarse wall of a cliff by the ocean. Wasn’t I in the mountains? Wasn’t that ocean and sandy shore, a lake with clay banks just a few moments ago? Weren’t the slopes gentle, not these tide-crumbled bluffs?

Those sudden and surprising changes could be interesting.

And then they wouldn’t be, because as I ascended the steps, I sensed a movement behind me, and from a cave in the cliff emerged a tall, cloaked figure.

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It was a very tall cloaked figure, and the cloak was black unlike in my drawing.

It blasted something out at me, a sort of flame I guess, which I turtled myself up against with Heartwrench (my sword that makes protective bubble-shields when the point gets stuck into the ground.)

It didn’t insist upon defending its territory. It just straightened up and ambled on past me and the stairway, all fifteen feet of it.

I followed the stairway up to a meadow, where a sort of round clearing had been sort of paved by polished panels of some light wood. I seemed to have walked in on some sort of meeting…

That was a few days ago. Today, I returned and the clearing was once more uncrowded except for Foxglove. For some reason, I had a parasol and was dressed in some Edwardian-era gown.

PIC_1793 The tall cloaked figure was there, too, and it seemed humanoid-shaped but I can’t remember if it was just wearing a very plain masque.

So, I asked Foxglove, “Do you know what that is?”

Foxglove only gave a slight knowing smile, a slight affirmative nod. He continued to watch the fifteen-foot-tall cloak pass by the meadow, I guess in the same way that corporeal-world people sometimes stop to watch somebody busking.

I watched with him, except that I considered this sight much, much stranger than busking. “So, what is that thing?”

Foxglove did answer, but I didn’t understand the syllables. I tried to get him to repeat himself, but he wouldn’t.

I nagged, “Why don’t you want to tell me what it is?”

“Because you’re too bloody cerebral! It doesn’t translate.”

So, that got me thinking about the process that I use to understand and communicate with characters in the surreal world.

In my mind’s eye, an image simply comes to me: Foxglove’s mess of wavy black hair, the angles of his eyes, his uncommonly pointed chin, and a ghastly complexion that’s white as paper.

The same isn’t necessarily true for voices and the content communicated. They usually feel more like ideas transmitted first, accompanied by some expression that I can witness. So, if instead of writing: “Because you’re too bloody cerebral. It doesn’t translate.” I wrote: “You rely on logic far too much. You wouldn’t understand something like this.” Or, “You’re waaay too heady. I couldn’t explain.” It wouldn’t necessarily be inaccurate, because I didn’t hear any actual words. I only caught at ideas.

Somehow, though, the general idea has a cadence and quality that I tried to capture using the sentence fragment, the use of “bloody” as intensive rather than adjective, the neutral observation phrasing of “It doesn’t translate” over “You wouldn’t understand; I couldn’t explain.”

When he spoke the syllables that I could not understand, I could see his mouth moving and sense some ideas being transmitted, but it was all a garble. It was a garble, though, that I could hear with my mind’s ears. I’d wanted Foxglove to repeat himself so that I could catch the exact pattern of consonants and vowels that I’d heard as the garble, so perhaps the explanation of this tall cloaked creature’s habits, motives, uniqueness and so on–all that could be understood, but the word for the creature itself would be otherworldly (or should I say “other-wordy”?)

Apparently, it doesn’t work that way.

A rare couple of times, the words did just come to me. One bad day in the corporeal world had people calling me all sorts of names that I didn’t give myself, and I went into the surreal and took it out on Foxglove, confronting him with, “You’re the part of my psyche that’s out to turn me into an immutable heterosexual and then convert me to monotheism, aren’t you. Who I am now is getting crushed to death by cultural pressure, and you’re the harbinger of a future version of me who would spit on my own grave but nicely and then project so much unnecessary suffering on anyone who seems to be like I am now.”

His, “No,” was a concerned murmur, followed by another that was personally amused but recognized and respected what an awful day I’d had. “No.” But I’d heard the words first.

Another time, I made a momentarily bad decision for the wrong reasons, and Foxglove called out my name in a panic. Not the idea of, “Alert, you!” Or, “Radiating sudden emotional reaction!” But my offline name that my mother gave me, the one that goes on my birth certificate, which I’d actually never told Foxglove and didn’t think he’d use if he knew because I don’t identify with that name.

Most of the time, though, I do get the sense that I’m mostly missing out on stuff that doesn’t translate.

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