Category Archives: Narrating

Calypso on St. Vincent Island

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White sand, burnt pines, and the scent of pine needles drying in the sun: I found the end of the island and turned around.  One side looks the same as the other. The unlooted beach is striped with tourist trap quality seashells, and I like to crunch them. They sound like snow. They are every bit as exquisite and temporal as snowflakes. I am watching the water stir the sand. The ocean, and all of its smaller parts are very serious. They say the same important things over and over again. The tent and fire go up without a quarrel, and I wonder who I am meeting at the water.

 

Calypso is squatting in the waves, hands extended, her arms balanced at the elbows on her knees. The receding waters are tugging at her lengthy black dreadlocks. Her dress is a wet network of discarded fabric flotsam pieced together. It is a pompeian mosaic. Her pupils, lost in the natural darkness of her eyes, are fixed on something between the worlds. This is who I am meeting. The daughter of Atlas, an ocean nymph.

 

The earth turns away from the sun. Calypso is making sculptures from sand:  castles, turtles, and mermaids. The waves rise and the foam covers her sculptures. As they are covered in the tide they become alive. The mermaids posture and thrash with pain as they are called into existence. They drag themselves screaming into the water to cool themselves from the gateway friction. The stoic turtles propel themselves with calculated strokes; while the castles simply fall and their place knows them no more.

 

The ocean ebbs with an osmotic effort to maintain equilibrium. Each new creature flowing into the ocean sends up an equivalent amount of water into the atmosphere. The water then becomes those clouds who look like mermaids, turtles, and castles. They look this way because that is what they represent.

 

“Everything in this physical world is a representation of something that truly is real in the real worlds.” Calypso’s voice is a grotto echo. I am watching the wind rip wave tips and flip them skyward. The campfire is a dervish. The wind is strong enough to create buoyant flame. Flame that consumes nearby slash pines.  “My myth is a representation of how men desire strong independent women in their minds, but they prefer to live out their lives with the manageable domestic women. The domestic feminine, which is more manageable, trumps the wild uncontrollably of real femininity in the end. And this, in turn, represents how men prefer to maintain their relationship with God.”

 

I have to think about that for a minute, “They like the idea of a wild rugged god, but they reject him as soon as they realize he is not an omnipotent version of their own personality.”

 

Another shrieking, clawing mermaid hurls herself toward the waves. Calypso, burns her eyes into my face, “Why do you think that the ancients say, “the fear of man lays a snare?”

 

“I am not sure, but they also say that the ‘Fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.’”

A burning turtle sizzles into the water, “It is because men fear the rejection of that which they love. Fear is a mirror. When a man looks in that mirror he sees what it is he truly wants. He may be afraid of heights and truly wish to soar. He may be afraid of war, but truly wishes to be a hero. He may be afraid to talk to  beautiful women, but he truly wants to hold beauty. Women always have potential to reject men and be assured God always rejects man in his natural state.  But to be afraid of God shows that you want him. You fear his rejection. And the parts of you that he rejects are the parts of you that destroy you. This is the only real healthy fear. Fear of physical death is not healthy. Fear of soul death is healthy.”

 

Shadows are inking out from the forest roots. “Is the fear of death a shadow representation of the real danger of spiritual death,” I ask.

“Yes. And so is the fear of darkness.”

 

A very small ghost crab tweaks my toe and waggles his goofy eye stalks at me,

Let them now that fear the Lord say, that his mercy endureth forever. I called upon the Lord in my distress: the Lord answered me, and set me in a large place. The Lord is on my side; I will not fear: what can man do unto me? The Lord taketh my part with them that help me: therefore shall I see my desire upon them that hate me. It is better to trust the Lord than to put confidence in man.”

The crab flings itself to the sea like a yoyo to a hand.That was the most ridiculous, squeaky voice I had ever heard.

 

Calypso is smiling at the space where the crab was like a proud preschool mother, “That should concisely answer your question. I love crabs. They are always scooting around dropping bombs on the beach. Aggressive too. One time, I saw a ghost crab pull a Least Tern down into its hole.”

 

“Is that the reason why religions based on fear, like Islam, keep their women covered, and certain fundamentalist christian groups have weird church dress codes?”

 

“Yes. It is because of pure terror. Terrorist are people who live in terror. Terror from everything from free speech to their own wives and daughters. The only way to temporarily assuage their crippling fear -to gain a sense of power- is to spread it to a new victim.”

 

“So it is not complicated – just typical bullying.”

 

“Yes, it is the school yard bully with IEDs and the coming apocalypse.”

“So, what else do you know about the relationship between fear and rejection.”

“God has the potential to reject us too, but his rejection, unlike human rejection, is purifying. Women will reject the man in his entirety. God will reject the parts of the man that are destructive to the man. Namely, that which does not glorify God, which is everything that glorifies the self.”

 

“Is that why men fear God, because they are afraid that he will destroy the selfish parts?”

 

“Partially but instead of the word ‘fear’ you should use the word ‘reject.’ Men are not usually afraid of God because he holds the balance of their destiny. They are under the illusion that they are self-determining. Usually, the reason they fear God is because he is a consuming fire. They know that if God starts to burn in one part of the body he will likely spread to his entire organ system. A full grown woman is like a goddess in that she is also a consuming fire, completely uncontrollable.”

 

I am wiggling my feet into the place between land and sea that is soft,sandy pudding, “So, what you are saying is that they are afraid that if they give God control of some of their life, he will want control of the whole thing.”

 

Calypso takes the cue and starts wiggling her feets too, “Yes, but that is not a good thing to fear. Do you remember the burning bush?”

 

“Yes. God spoke to Moses out of a bush that looked like it was on fire but it was not consumed by the fire.”

“Some of the bush was consumed.”

“What do you mean?”

“The thorns on the bush were consumed.” Calypso’s eyes twinkle. That gives me the shivers.

“Why the thorns,” I ask.

 

“Because everything in the world is a representation of something more real in the worlds.”

“So, the thorns were consumed because they were a representation of the Fall.”

“Yes. Thorns, like malignant bacteria and viruses, did not enter the world until after the fall. Do you remember the first animal sacrifice?”

“Do you mean when God killed the nameless animal to give Adam and Eve their leather clothes?”

“Yes. That was the first blood sacrifice, and those animals are completely lost to our modern gene pool now.” Calypso walks out into the water. “Moses had to remove his leather shoes because they, like the thorns on the bush, represented the fall,” she is shouting over the many waters.

“Women are a fire that burns and does not consume?”

“The feminine is that. The more feminine the woman, the more uncontrollable the woman. The feminine represents that burning uncontrollable part of God. God is neither male nor female. He is I Am. When God refuses to be boxed in by our theology he is displaying his femininity.”

“What does that make masculinity? The bush itself?”

“Yes. The masculine is the thing inside the fire that is burning, but is not consumed by the flame.”

“The masculine is amplified, brightened, and strengthened by the feminine. Two parts, both alike in power, a symbiotic union.”

“So why is it that men and women cannot get along? Why do we destroy each other.”

“Because the woman uses her fire to consume, and the man refuses to allow himself to be surrounded by the fire.”

“So the woman’s fire eventual burns out, and the man’s heart eventually grows cold.”

“Perfect.”

 

I have to look away. Calypso is back to her creation activities.  It is painful to watch these miserable burning mermaids flop their way to the water,  I am thinking about my favorite author, “C.S. Lewis wrote about how male and female are not simply gender, but all of creation is either male or female. Men and women are representations of the broad universal concept of male and female, and advanced romantic languages express this by adding a male or female determiner before their nouns.”

 

Calypso’s words are separated with each breath as she inhale to shout over the waves,  “The more feminine a woman is the less controllable she is, but as her femininity increases her fire becomes less destructive, more illuminating more warming.”

 

I do not think she heard me. It is time to get down to business. I came out to this island to finish crying. I think that if I cry deeply enough I will be able to find the bottom of the sadness and uproot it as like a bitter root. Crying is the vehicle of descent. This is what I found at the bottom: the universe is full of good things for me but I am so full of my own personal  inferior universe that I have no room for all the better things that I could be having. In other words, I am so full of myself, that there is no room for God. In other words, I have made my Self god. This is my true sadness. It cannot be uprooted because it is not a root. It is as pervasive in my body as my blood.

 

When I turn around there are two men standing on a sand dune. They were watching me cry. I turn my back and wait. Eventually, they leave. “Calypso! Why didn’t you tell me there were people watching me.”

 

“Because I am your imagination. I sprang fully formed from your headache into life like Athena from Zeus. I don’t know anything you don’t know.”

 

“You don’t know very good grammar. That sounds like the creation of the Ainur from Eru in The Silmarillion.”

 

“I don’t know, I did not read that book, and neither did you.”

 

“Well, I read the first couple of chapters. Tolkien got kinda loopy in his later stuff. If you don’t know anything I don’t know then why are you here.”

 

Calypso is resolute, “I am fishing.”

“Fishing!”

“I am fishing for thoughts in your subconscious. I wrestle them to the surface so you can examine them, keep them, or throw them back.”

“”Oh, I see. That is very helpful.”

“And even if you did know they were there why would you let that change your behavior?”

“Because I drove three hours, chartered a boat to an island, and then hiked seven miles out into nowhere. I expected privacy.”

“The fear of man lays a snare,” Calypso recites.

“But I can’t cry in public.” I am at a loss. “Everyone tries to help me and there is nothing anyone can do. Everyone has their own pain to deal with, mine is not more special than someone else’s pain.”

“That is true, you are right no one can help you, and the more you try to unload your burdens on others the fewer friends you will have, but that is different than what I am suggesting.”

 

“What are you suggesting?” I am totally exasperated.

 

“You know better than to unload on people, but there are other more beneficial methods of communication. You are an artist, you know that expressing sadness in such a way that communicates a deeper hope underneath the sadness – a hope that utilizes the sadness to give it strength – is what separates good art from bad art.”

 

“I hate stories like No Country for Old Men or Scream. It drains me to see evil win. Stories have to mesh with the true fabric of the universe to resonate with our hearts. In the real worlds, good triumphs over evil in the end, and stories that end with evil winning leave our souls shaken, not stirred.”

 

“Ha!” Calypso laughs, “James Bond. Great pun! So. Tell a story. Express deep sorrow and the deeper hope that accompanies it.  Puncture holes in the distortion that the enemy has shrouding this dying planet and let light come in from the other side. Who knows, maybe other artists will grab hold of the hole you made, pull it open wider, and let even more light in.”

 

I am watching a tree grow. It twists violently up from the sand and flings its branches out wide. It suffers, starves, and dies. A new tree explodes up out of the ground in its place. The moon is chasing the sun across space at a dervish pace. The sky inks closed, and the stars blink to life. They rotate across the expanse before the fiery sun blows them away again. I am watching the waves roll, roll, and roll the sand up into castles then drag them off as prisoners again into the sea. The rain rolls over the sun, and the sun peels back the rain. Everything is spinning. I am falling. I have no blood. I am moving through the waterless, dry places. Light solidifies, solid shadows shrink into marbles that roll away getting smaller and smaller as they go.  The faces of the dead are lined up like cobblestones down the burning beach. I am stepping on their faces as I run and they each scream in wild intonations with every foot fall. Somewhere here there must be meaning and not just meanness.

 

Calypso tackles me as I am running down the beached face path. We are wrestling. I think she may be winning. I am waking up from dehydrated, sun poisoning.

 

“You don’t really believe what Homer wrote about me. Do you,” Calypso asks.

 

“He said that you kept Odysseus prisoner for 7 years until the Zeus made you send him out on a raft to find his home with Penelope. Did you miss Odysseus when he left your Island?”

 

“Good gracious no! I know when I’ve dodged the bullet.” Calypso laughs. She laughs alot. “I am already a queen. I do not need a king. I have all the joy and generosity of the universe at my disposal. The universe can love me through Odysseus, or it can love me all on its own.”

 

“That’s not how Homer tells the story.”

 

Calypso laughs in a way that is not completely sardonic. “And Apollodorus said I kept him for five years, and Hyginus says one. Why do you think that no one can keep the story straight. I did not keep him prisoner. Those Greeks had a bros before hoes mentality. They were just covering for him.”  Calypso is back to building castles that fall, not one grain of sand left on top of another. “Men do not understand women any more than women want to understand men: They don’t.” Calypso heaves a sigh and when she does her sigh sends a shockwave through the water. This is manifested as a frighteningly large wave traveling backward out to sea. “He was so desperate to have me when he floated ashore that I let him have what he wanted. But after a month he wanted to go home. His wife was not more sexual or beautiful, but she was more predictable and controllable. I was trying to talk him into leaving long before we ever had a disagreement. I knew he was not happy.”

 

“How could he not be happy with you? You are amazing! You are so strong and smart. You are the most beautiful woman I have ever seen.”

 

“That is exactly why he was not happy, but I must reiterate that, I do not know how men think. I do not want to. When someone wants to know how someone thinks it is because they want to control them. I do not want to have control over men.”

 

“So, when men complain that they do not know what women want, they are actually complaining that they do not know how to control women?”

 

“Yes. They do not know what to offer as a reward for obtaining the behavior that they desire.”

I have to roll my eyes, “You can’t control fire with behavioral modification techniques. You can either let it burn or put it out”

 

“Yes dear. And to answer your original question, no. I did not miss him particularly but I did feel the pain from his attempts to quench my fire.”

 

“What do you do about pain?”

 

“The trick to dealing with pain is to always be in pain. There are two ways to feel pain: as constructive or destructive. A constructive pain is a stretching pain, a hunger pain, or a lifting pain. A destructive pain is a pain that is unwelcome and out of control like a heart attack or a broken bone. The pain of romantic loss can potentially fall into either of these categories.”

 

“I suppose your are going to tell me that I have a choice as to where I put my pain.”

 

“I would tell you that you have the privilege of deciding where to put your pain. You are who you choose to be. Buddha, however self-righteously, is widely attributed as saying ‘Pain is inevitable, and suffering is optional.’”

 

“Hmmm, so what you are saying is that the goodness in the pain of hunger is positive weightloss, the goodness of the pain of stretching is flexibility, and the goodness of the pain of  lifting more than you can bear is strength. What is the goodness of the pain of lost love?”

 

“Forgiveness. The more you forgive great offences, the easier it is to forgive minor offences. And don’t be fooled. Forgiveness, like love, joy, and even physical strength is an energy current, it is not an event. You must place the hull of your ship on that path a follow it in doldrum and antagonizing wind current.”

 

I have always wondered about that, “Can you actually sail into the wind,” I ask.

 

“No. I did not say sail. I said antagonizing wind current. Moving into the wind is possible. It has everything to do with the angle of the sail in relation to the keel of the boat. The sail must be angled slightly more forward than the angel of the sail force. The keel will work in the water as the sail normally works in the wind. It is like reversing engines only there is no engine. The force of the keel is proportional to the force of the sail and the water itself moves the boat forward. This is how forgiveness works. You cannot forgive with the force of your own sail you must realign your sail so that it harnesses the power of the energy in the water around you.”

 

“I had always been so frustrated with myself because I want to forgive but I had assumed that forgiveness is a single solitary event or a reached milestone,” I reply.

 

Calypso scoffs, “Certainly not. You will be forgiving as long as you are fighting the fallacy that you are a god. For this is  where unforgiveness stems from, the desire to be like god. Anyone who does not treat you as you whimsically demand to be treated has assaulted your sense of deity. To forgive is to say I am not God and ironically you become more like God because He is a forgiver. The very first forgiver. Forgiveness is his character and his design.”

 

The sun is setting. My fire is roaring. Calypso is fading away. She is a phosphorescent shadow. The stars are moving at their appointed rate. Sirius, the bright dog star, is ablaze in the pines. I will pack out in the morning. The gods have returned to Olympus, and the wind is driving away the biting insects. I have two apples and a package of instant coffee. These are very small things. These very small things, are the very best things.

 

“It is not sufficient for me to love God if I do not love my neighbor.” -St. Vincent de Paul

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The Viking and the Princess (Part I)

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The Viking and the Princess

-1-

Once upon a time in the mighty raging Northland there was a brave and wild viking who, despite his great successes in exploration and conquest, never had a compass. He had many mighty men who followed him to battle, and many beautiful women who desired to follow him to his tent, but the viking was restless.

The viking had been born as his mother died. She had named him Akedah which is not a Norse name, but his father had allowed it to remain, because he loved her. Akedah’s father had brought his mother home during his own grand adventure. Some scandal-tongued folks asserted that the dark haired woman had been involved in her own intrepid exploits when she met the burly old man. They said she had not even been “carried off” in proper viking fashion, but was actually steering the boat as it came into the fjord while the old viking fished off the bow. She was certainly a queer woman who caused no end of gossip with her nonchalant dissidence toward the Norse deity and according to all the worldly wise women of the community, her failure to set up a hearth shine to Freyja was undoubtedly the cause of her unfortunate demise in childbirth. Akedah traded places with his mother in his father’s life, and he had been quite happy with the arrangement, even if his father was slightly less so.

Akedah’s adventure began in the spring. After the earth balances night and day in equinox, the spiraling planet begins to nod its head toward the sun, and a warm veil falls across the forehead of the northern hemisphere. During this season, black soil billows up through the frost, and glacier sides slide into the sea. As the sun rises ever higher into the brightening sky, the hearts of restless men also rise up to meet the call for adventure, and the gods lead men on great quests. Whether this is to elevate the ideals of valor,or for their own entertainment, we mortals have never quite come to consensus, but we can be quite sure that the valiant viking would not escape their eyes wandering to and fro across the earth for long.

That winter rushed away from the Northland like a tide recedes from shore, leaving spring revealed like low tide ocean treasures. In the rising warm air, a raven, a shadow in birdish form, gripped the hilt of the Akedah’s broadsword and flew away into the still frozen mountains.

The viking pursued the bird windward into the frosted highland fog. The bird soared high, but each time it landed for rest, Akedah was not far behind.

Finally, after trailing in the bird’s shadow for a frozen fortnight, the viking laid hold of its fuliginous feathers, and it was in a flash of glinting light transformed into the scandalous visage of the icy Snow Queen. The Snow Queen, that same pallid practitioner of wizardry who is the mother of the Arctic wolves, smiled, or rather, drew back her purple lips to reveal her filed fangs. Her frosty face flushed purple under Akedah’s grip as she lunged gracefully to retain her hold on the broadsword. The viking was unrelenting even as the witches’ flesh grew hoarfrost and his blood retreated from his extremities. Thus they struggled, straight-forward strength against slippery guile, until the alpenglow of the rising sun settled onto the distant mountain horizon. Then the Snow Queen hissed, “You must release me now Viking. You have won the favor of the gods of Asgard,”  And as she spoke, the rising sun mounted on the morning sky and a rainbow fell from the heavens the Illuminating the Snow Queen. In these times, when the world was young and wild, the rainbow was known as the Bifrost Bow, the door into Asgard, the domain of the viking gods.

“The gods have given you three gifts,” she sniffed with only a slightly perceptible air of covetousness furrowed into her frown. There materialized at the Snow Queen’s fur booted feet an ordinary leather bundle.

The first item was a bag of oranges from Idunn who tended the apple trees in Asgaurd. These exquisite fruits were the secret of the gods’ eternal youth. Even the gods of Asgaurd must swim within the current of time, and Idunn’s shining apples enabled the gods to swim backward against its icy flow. However, the apples had to remain fresh, eaten directly from the goddess’ hand. Once the apple was unguarded by Idunn’s fingers and exposed to open time it became like flesh without blood. The juice is drawn out into the dry space leaving nothing but dust for the wind to drive away. Akedah could not immediately understand what the significance of the citrus might be, but if they were from Idunn, these ordinary oranges must be comparable to her apples in some way.

The second bundle contained silver arrows rolled in linen, like artist paintbrushes. “These are Thor’s arrows,” the Snow Queen explained, “Thor’s hammer, as you know, is dwarvencraft. It is enchanted to boomerang back to his hand following every throw.” She paused, “You may not be aware that that silver’s particular magic is similar to the magical way that iron absorbs the magnetic power of a lodestone. Common silver struck against Thor’s hammer seventy times seven times also retains this power, but to a smaller degree and for a shorter period of time.

The final item looked like a bedroll. It was packed in manger straw. The viking’s people possessed a few scrolls from raids on monasteries in the southlands, but they had little practical use for such oddities, keeping them merely as token trophies. “This is a Scroll of Poetry from Odin, himself.”

The most eminent of the Asgardian gods was Odin, the father. In his quest to provide aid and comfort to mortals, he had sacrificed greatly to obtain and share his gifts of wisdom and runes. At the root of the World Tree, he had traded his left eye for Wisdom. On the top of the World Tree, he hung his body, pierced by his own sword, for nine days to master the understanding of Runecraft, those mystical etchings which make a bridge of writing between men’s minds.

Odin pilfered the Mead of Poetry from the giants. Originally an intoxicant belonging to the dwarves, the Mead of Poetry had been extorted from them by the giant, Suttung. He had no practical use for poetry himself, but hoarded it under his mountain like an old dragon, because he knew it was quite valuable in Asgaurd. Odin, taking on a fleshy form, seduced the giant’s sister, and drank the whole lot of it down to it dredges over the course of a three night rendezvous. This is the way Odin became the ultimate master of elite runecraft.

To the Northmen, poetry was spiritually valuable for inspirational purpose. It was defined by the Norse as the magic of weaving runes together into an invisible fire that emanates heat and light, but does not consume. It is, therefore, compared to mead, which is, after all, just alcoholic honey, which, also as you know, instigates its own sort of burning inspired behavior.

In some ways these Northmen were not unlike the ancient samurai of Japan, who believed that the beauty of calligraphic haiku was the perfect balance of the beauty of ferocious swordplay. A balanced warrior understands the balance of beauty and violence as well as he understands the balance between life and death. A warrior knows that a life well lived is lived in the understanding that every moment is balanced on the precipice of death. Whether that moment comes to the warrior in peacetime or wartime is beside the point. All of time is equally precarious and percious. All of his actions take on meaning, and therefore beauty, because each action could be the last. Good poetry, like good life, excludes all superfluous verbiage. It was considered the echo that would live on after the warrior was gone, as good as an infant son in the arms of a virtuous wife.

Odin’s scroll, wrought on a parchment of lamb’s flesh, was beautifully inscribed with these magical characters. The runes were written in gold, and glinted like sunlight on icicles. The Viking carefully rolled and replaced the parchment in the bundle.

“These gifts will serve you to the success of your quest.” The Snow Queen was miffed at being out bested by a smelly hairy man in deerskin in front of the court of Asgaurd, and was ready to busy herself with some other distracting mischief, yet the grouchy beasty man persisted in his squabbling. Did he not know their was no point in existence for a questless man. Everyone knew a man without a mission was walking dead. Why would he not be satisfied with the gifts and leave her to her more pressing business of random villainies?

“I have no quest Snow Queen.” The Viking announced with authority that was more bluster than gusto.

“Rightly you say you have no quest for you have no compass. Therefore, your quest is to find the compass of your fathers. You soul will continue to spin until you find it, for where there is no direction, the heart casts off restraint. The compass has been floating on the sea for 3 generations and the gods have ordained the time of the compass’ to return. You will find it on an island in the mediterranean called Atlantis. It is in the possession of a princess.”

“A woman!” Akedah spat. “You underestimate viking blood, Snow Queen. I would have thought you asked me to undertake a difficult task.” Now in his defense, we must remember that the viking woman had been availing themselves to the Viking to no avail since he had come of age. It was not that the Viking did not like women, he just did not like less than difficult tasks. Akedah was not an extremely reflective man, but he was moral. He never would have whittled his thoughts down to the point; however, the point was that he believed that nothing easy is worthwhile, and therefore something as important as marriage should be extremely difficult, or else it would be rendered meaningless due to its ease.

The Snow Queen’s bewitching features remained as motionless as an eggshell, “You will find the princess on the Mediterranean island metropolis of Atlantis.”  The frosty Queen had no use for men in the normal way, and despised women who did. She much prefered to watch them freeze to death; indeed, collecting frozen man-carcasses was the main diversion to her lifestyle of rapscallious skulking and proliferating the population of arctic wolves .

Just as lepidopterists enjoy mounting their stiff butterfly specimens on styrofoam, the Snow Queen savored her collection of frozen souls. She had become quite a connoisseur of various psyches over the millennia, delighting mostly in ones that were anchored at either end of the morality spectrum: either extremely righteous or extremely wicked. It seemed these days the whole world was awash with lukewarm souls going about their mediocre business. It had been a long time since the Snow Queen had been able to add anything of real value to her collection.

The stolen broadsword was the faulty lure with which she had attempted to add the viking’s soul to her menagerie. He had slipped through her hand like a bird from a fowler’s net, and now the gods had given him a quest. “Ah well,” she sighed to herself. “That is the ordination of the universe: anyone who excels at a small task will be required to follow it up with even greater deeds.“

-2-

Leaving his warriors to their farms, Akedah sailed with land portside and the stationary star, Polaris, at his back until he passed through the choppy Straights of Gibraltar, the pillars placed by Hercules to hold up the sky. Akedah stiffened his jaw against the thought of Hercules’ father, the henpecked god Zeus, and all his frivolous pantheon of playboy demigods. This was the gateway to barbarous backsliding Civilization,  a self-righteous settlement of people who thought that just because they bathed every day they were clean. He could stomach Rome. He could understand a culture of military nobility, even if it was weakened with opulent squalor, but Greece could go to hell. For all its laziness and unnatural passions, it was no better than Carthage who sacrificed its infants in a fiery pyre to the abominable Molech. Of course, a man of action would not think that Greece would be redeemed for its philosophers. “All philosophers are Sophists,” the Viking thought, “except maybe Aristotle.” And with these, his own very self-righteous thoughts, he absentmindedly cast a piece of his bread upon the water.

Here, closer to the equator, during the equinox, the sun reached its zenith near the sky’s meridian, and the heat boring down from that height altered the cheerfully chopping waves into a smacking angry antagonist, that left an embalming residue of crusting salt against every surface it touched. Akedah knew he must soon leave the protection of predictable water with its clear sight of the navigable astronomical horizon, to replenish his supplies on solid ground. If the ocean was dangerous, at least it was foreseeably so; in a civilized city, anything could happen. The celestial bodies moved with mathematical precision presenting with clarity the order of the mind of God, yet on land, amongst drifting lost souls, one could never know where one truly stood. I am not sure if Akedah would have thought it all out like this, but he did know for sure that he deeply prefered the bold expansive company of Neptune to the uncanny conversation of the market bizarre.

Just as the sun was setting, and the viking was steeling himself for an unwelcome transition to land, a glowing paper lantern skimmed the surf against his longboat. It glanced the prow, glinted off the port bow, and disappeared into the wake spray. The Akedah sat transfixed gazing at it for a quiet moment. When he finally turned round, he could see several pinpoints of light wafting from a queer locus amid the waves. The current was picking up in an unnatural contrary action against the wind, running tangentially to its previous course. The viking had enough imagination to understand that this was a whirlpool without ever having seen one, but by now the current was clipping along at an irresistible pace, and despite his best efforts to jibe, he was being dragged sideways down into that spinning hole that was, with violent force, puffing out gaily colored lanterns to waft like summer seeds in the ocean zephyrs.  The shipboards groaned as they flexed with the unnatural momentum. Akedah, in his ship, spiraled out of control down into the depth of the whirling darkness. The force of the water would have undoubtedly surpassed the tensile strength of the oak keel, but with a boom, that sounded as if he had out-sailed sound itself, it was suddenly over.

The ocean bounced cheerfully under his boat. The sun was higher in the sky, and the happy lights still floated festively all about. The wild-eyed wind blown man ferociously bracing himself like a cornered wolf against the mast cut a contrasting figure to the surrounding serenity.

“Hullo there, Stranger!” called the common fisherman. “Welcome to Atlantis. Though I daresay you have stumbled upon us during our most dire festivities.”

Akedah leaned heavily over the side of the ship, displaying a bodily reaction to the ocean that he had never before experienced.

“Woah there. Take it easy pal.” The fisherman had a deep laugh that was not entirely unkind.  If yous goin a party yous a better head on shore towards the hospitality district.” He playfully raised his brows when he drolled out the word ‘hospitality’ making it sound as though it rhymed with ‘commonality.’  The fisherman was a small jaunty man, and compared to the viking’s austere brawn, he came across as quite a jovial fellow. Whether it was mariner camaraderie, or just his happiness to see anyone maintaining the rhythm of breath, Akedah was not sure, but he immediately took to liking him, despite his obvious character flaw of being civilized.

“If the occasion is as dire as you say, Fisherman, why should it be marked with festivities?”

“Hoi Polloi is the name, my friend. Does goodness always beget good. What child conceived in pleasure is not born without pain?”

“So a royal child has been born?”

“The first born daughter of the king, Princess Moiety, has reached menarche one moon ago. She will be given in marriage tonight.”

Weddings. The more meaningful the event, the more people shrouded it in meaningless ritual. Official Norse marriages were arranged over months of contractual dramatic intrigue between families that culminated in an awkward three day festival. The festival climaxed in the actual consummation. Even then, the marriage was not considered legal until it was confirmed under torchlight by two independent observers. Akedah thought this was ridiculous. At what point does a celebration dissipate into depravity. Probably when the mead flings back the veil, and reveals what is truly underneath. Maybe the gods had ordained the rituals to restrain the reality. Maybe the ritual was the only pure thing that protected the holy consummation. The viking had been in enough battles to understand that when man is stripped of manners there is often nothing left but corrupted impulse. Perhaps the gods were indeed wise to protect mortals with manners and ritual afterall.

Their boats seesawed on the sunny waves.  Atlantis loomed large on the horizon, and Akedah could hear its revelry in the distance.

Hoi Polloi seemed to have forgotten the viking for the moment. He stood, looking hard into the clear water. A lively rippled disturbance in the surface was circuitously meandering slowly closer to the fisherman’s boat. Mr. Polloi’s balanced stance on the center thwart reminded Akedah of his father’s pet falcon poised on barn crossbeam. Suddenly, he twisted his body sidelong and flung his weighted net out wide into the waters. A moment passed and he jerked the center string up tight against his body hauling in three thrashing seabass.

“Hahaha!” He exclaimed, “One for you. Two for me!”  and he threw the fish so hard at the Viking that if he had not spent so much of his free time playing knattleikr, the fish would have been the lucky one.

“Atlantis is full of wealth.” Hoi Polloi began. “The best trade goods, the thinnest porcelain. We have silks, wines, cocoa, all the pleasures of the world can be found here. Travelers come from all over the realm to enjoy the splendors of Atlantis.” He tightened his cheek sardonically, and stared out at some unfixed point on the horizon. “The only drawback is that this ever encroaching ocean threatens to swallow us up if we do not sacrifice royal blood to mingle with the race of giants. The next in line to claim a bride from Atlantis is the Ocean Giant Ipalovek the Terrible. The princess will be sent out to sea tomorrow at sunset.” At this he casually tossed one of his fish back into the sea. “Maybe it would be better. Maybe Atlantis could use a little more salt, eh?”

As the sun set for the second time in the viking’s day, the fisherman turned his boat to port, and Akedah resolved to intercept the princess’ on her grim appointment. His mind was filled with the different ways Princess Moiety might display her gratitude. He wondered if she would have this compass with her, or if she would have to return to the island to retrieve it for him. Surely, she would be happy to give it to him in exchange for saving her life. A crowd was gathering on shore, and Akedah could see a small craft drifting jerkily out into the deep.

Further out in the ocean, an oily smear burbled up out of the blue depth. The viking could see the Giant Ipalovek. His impossibly large eyes glowed like funeral pyres, he snotted seawater in a spray of filth from his greenish troll nose, and his breaching propulsed a strong circular wave toward Akedah’s boat, which would have swamped it, if it had not fortunately been oriented nearly perpendicular to the oncoming wave.

Despite her father’s breaking heart, Queen Malirupt of Atlantis had chosen her first born daughter for this evil exchange. Malirupt had narrowly avoided becoming a sacrifice herself. Her sister had died in her place. She had willingly laid down her life for her evil sister, hoping to hold back the rising waters with the force of her great love. It had done so for a time, but now her niece was adrift in another barely buoyant boat made of tightly woven chrysanthemum flowers. This Princess, did not share her aunt’s valiant ideals of sacrificial love for she was her mother’s daughter, which is to say her scant good deeds were driven either by guilt or self-promotion, which is, of course, the opposite of being motivated by love.

Nevertheless, being duty bound under the law, she had stealed herself to this fate, and was determined that no one would ever see her cry. She was also determined to ingest the pound of belladonna berries she had pocketed before this farce of a wedding, which was merely a pretense for being ingested herself. Maybe if she ate enough of them it would poison that nasty giant too.  At the very least, it might dilate his pupils and give him sun-migraines for a week.

Moiety could see him now, Ipalovek the Terrible. He grinned foolishly. The moonlight reflected maniacally in his obscene gaze. She refused eye contact. The bruteish demon. Who knew if he actually controlled the sea so that it did not rise over Atlantis. The Princess did not believe it for a minute. She doubted he could explain the difference between his mouth and his butt. It certainly smelled that way. His hungry drool was sliming lustily down his beard. Moiety wretched. She pulled the belladonna from her pocket and was about to swallow the whole pile of berries before she saw the viking.

Akedah was balanced heroically on the bow of his long ship aiming Thor’s silver arrows from a bow that was almost as tall as himself. Instead of relief, the Princess was angry that someone had the audacity to rain on her pity party. This was to be her moment of glory, when all the world remembered her. ‘The poor tragic thing, she died so young,’ they would say. They were going to write songs about her. Not this rude pseudo-heroic usurper. This was her story not his story.

Unlike the viking, The Princess Moiety was a self-reflective person, which is to say, she thought a lot about herself. But instead of weighing her own character against a holier standard, she mostly just liked to think about how slick she was compared to other people. You and I know that this had much to do with her education and healthy diet, but the princess was convinced she was more magnificent than the masses because of her own prowess. The truth was that many less fortunate teens in Atlanta were comparably more productive than the Princess when you  factored in their lack of access to resources. Moiety chose to be lazy, and no one pointed this out to her. It would have been more productive to put lipstick on a pig, because the pig would look nicer than the princess when you finished explaining.

Meanwhile, the giant was howling at the viking like a modernday miffed motorist who had been cut off in traffic, “Dog! I will grind your bones into meal to bake in my bread. I will drain your blood to nurse my sharks! I will pickle your toes to eat with jam and bread.”

If the giant had been six foot tall like the viking, this would have been a ridiculous claim for he was quite out of shape for a giant. But, since he was 60 feet tall, this was a disconcerting proposition. However, the boastful giant did not realize the wonderful irony of this statement. Akedah was like a dog coming at him with a little bow. Anyone who has seen a chihuahua defending it’s family’s territory against the dread mailman, knows that dogs do not perform risk-benefit analysis based on size gradients. Dogs merely evaluate action based on what is right and wrong as far as dogs understand the concept.  They do not think, “Hmm, that’s a big guy in a dark uniform, he looks imposing and official. I better not mess with him. He could squash me with his boot or give me a ticket.” That is egocentric human reasoning which we would expect from someone like Moiety not Akedah or chihuahuas.

So, yes, the viking was being like a dog. He was not over-philosophizing the situation like a coward.

The Viking flung out the cloth containing Thor’s arrows, and choosing one of the beautiful silver arrows fitted it to his ash longbow. He drew back on the sinew with his thumb, and for one small moment all the rest of the world faded into oblivion. Even his racing heartbeat slowed to a peaceful canter as he lined the arrow toward the flat brow between the giant’s eyes.

“Thwaaaaang,” resonated the bowstring.

The shot was true and hit its mark directly, drawing a viscous trickle of green blood, but before it could devastate a path through the giant’s frontal bone, it returned to its place in Akedah’s quiver, just as Thor’s hammer always returned to Thor’s hand.

“Bwa-HaHaHa-Ah-HoHo,” The giant thundered his enjoyment at his foe’s misfortune. He rejoiced at anyone else’s bad luck but this was particularly delicious, “Your gods have tricked you into going to your death, viking dog! Where is your mighty Thor now?”

-3-

To all appearances the gods had deserted the viking in his need. In his frustration, Akedah fired that same arrow at the moon. “Take it back!” he growled. The arrow hit the moon and sent up a spray of shining moon dust with the impact.

Perhaps, in some cases, the viking’s instincts were smarter than his brain, and perhaps this actionable lack of philosophy is what we could attribute his good fortune to in most cases. Perhaps, his willingness to take the next step, any next step, protected him from the overwhelming stagnancy that overtakes more mediocre men like moss overtakes a stationary stone. Peers had often accused him of brash and unsafe action, but no one ever accused Akedah of lackluster procrastination – which is -in case you were not aware- the greater evil.

The arrow returned to Akedah’s hand fully drenched moon poison. This poison is released from the moon every 28 days when it is in full bloom, that is to say, when it is a bright perfect globe like a white-seeded dandelion.

When the world was young, people knew about moon poison, how it drifts its dusty seeds out into the solar system on lunar flares. Today, after landing on the moon and scientifically evaluating its surface finding mostly igneous rocks, modern man has disposed of any new speculation concerning moon makeup, however; if the astronauts had taken up residence and observed the moon first hand through its cycle they might have reported otherwise. It is important to remember that all things magical or miraculous, are made of the same atoms and elements as the rest of the universe. Water can be turned miraculously to wine but first it has to flow through the vine. There is nothing strange about that.

Again without prelude of forethought, Akedah fired the loaded arrow at the guffawing giant.  This time when it hit its mark the moon poison dissipated into Ipalovek’s blood stream.

In his youth, Ipalovek the Terrible had grown fat munching on eskimos and picking his teeth with narwhal tusks. He fancied himself a snowbird, relocating in his middle age to the sunny mediterranean. He would still visit his mother up north, and she would chat with him about what she wanted him to get her for her birthday, or nag at him for never being able to maintain a marriage. Sometimes she would put the two together, “Oh my little Snuggymumps!” She would announce as though the thought had just occurred to her. “Did you know my birthday is this spring? Maybe you keep your next wife without taking a bite out of her. Then maybe you could visit me with sweet little baby grandstinkies on my birthday.” Ipalovek thought that maybe he would like to have some little stinkers to carry on the terrible heritage of the Ipalovek namesake, but self-restraint is not something any child learns when they are catered to by doting mothers. This is especially true in the case of children who weigh 2,000 pounds. So Ipalovek’s well-meaning mother had spoiled her son and in the process spoiled any chance at hearing the thumpity-thwap of little grandstinky footsteps in her home.

Ipalovek was really intending to actually entertain the thought of perhaps not taking a bite out of this wife. He was going to try to save this one for his mother. Well, maybe only a one small bite. It was just that whenever he tried to only take one small bite he always wound up eating the whole wife. He did not think this was any fault of his, it was just that it was a shame to let the rest of the wife go to waste with profuse blood loss. If they would just stop bleeding, he not have to finish them.

All these thoughts evaporated from Ipalovek’s conscious as the poison crashed it way into his brain like an explosion of light. He felt las the full spectrum of the rainbow was glowing over his head and emanating all the way to his sacrum.  Open mindedness nestled in like a deer tick. A thought of vengeance against the viking for robbing him of his entitlement entered his mind. He did not evaluate the thought as being good or bad but simply let it exist in his conscious alongside his inner self. Then a thought of hunger, and then a thought of his armpit itching traveled through his consciousness. Ipalovek let each of these thoughts pass through his mind without latching on to them, and as he ceased to attach meaning to his thoughts, he slipped deeper and deeper into a trancelike state at the bottom of which he found an all encompassing empty ignorant bliss.

The viking and the princess were not aware of the details of Ipalovek’s stroke of mindfulness. They only saw his jaundiced eyes roll back into slightly smiling skull as he slipped calmly below the rolling blue waves.

“Come on, jump into my boat!” Akedah was completely aware that the moon poison had a short half life and would soon clear itself from the giant’s bloodstream, even quicker given the amount of seawater he was most likely swallowing.

“I most certainly will not do any such thing,” Moiety retorted, disdainfully emphasizing each word. Besides the fact that the viking had spoiled her pity party, the haughty princess was suspicious of anyone military (or masculine) looking as being an arrogant imperialist. At the very least they were sure to be a prudish zealot who would insist on telling her what to do. She had always fancied the company of slight, unimposing men, attributing it to her artistic tastes. The real reason she liked feminine looking men was because she was so heavily ensconced in narcissism, she could not imagine being attracted to anything that looked very different from herself. And oh boy. this broad chested beaded abomination fit the bill of everything Moiety did not like. He probably hunted deer too.

She crossed her arms and flopped herself violently down into a seated position in the bottom of her flowery craft. Moiety thought she came across as dignified and smartly decisive with her cool refusal. Akedah thought she looked like a wet cat.

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Not Your Typical Nativity Story

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When the sounds of the scuffle in the entryway of the inn surpassed that of the ruckus of the inn guests, the innkeeper knew he had to intervene. He was beyond exhausted, having worked two days without sleep to set up accommodations for travelers on a property that was not designed to be an inn at all, more of an expanded fruit-stand-way-station extension of his own home. He could hear a woman’s shrill hysterical crying, and the sound of a man’s head thumped like a melon against the stucco. “Great, another fight over a stupid whore. Not in my inn,” he vowed as he jumped down the stone steps ready to throw down on anyone. Well, almost anyone. “God don’t let it be a Roman soldier,” he swore under his breath.  His wildest dreams never prepared him for the scene unfolding in his entryway. The huge stinking man looked like a highway robber. He held the innkeeper’s servant up off his toes, pinned with a muscled forearm against the wall. But that’s not what held his attention. What held his attention was a little girl, no older than his own 16 year old daughter, swollen with pregnancy and pain. Her pale hands grasped the door frame in a desperate attempt to stand while the blood and water gushed down her legs.

“No!” He shouted, “There is no room in the inn! She is unclean!” The Innkeeper had received large payments from prominent members of the Jewish Sanhedrin, their scribes, and their families. They would want their money back if they knew a girl was bleeding all over the floor. His guests would become unclean by association under the Mosaic law.

The desperate burly man was nearly crushing his servants throat. Spittle frothed into his black beard as he spat the words, “There is no room in all of Israel!”

The girl was on the floor now, a trail of tears cutting through the dust on her face. She rolled on her back in the puddle of blood on the floor the urge to bear down was primal, uncontrollable. The abstract shame of total exposure was nothing compared to the real fact of her dilated cervix.

The innkeeper was a passionate man, but he was also a businessman, and he knew he had to find a solution to the problem before it engulfed him, before his paying guests witnessed the bloody scene. “Ok, Ok, I have one more room,” and to his servant he said, “Get a large blanket from the dirty laundry. We will carry her out in it and still be able to wash in time to serve the guests the evening meal.”

Mary felt the horribly unpleasant sensation of being carried out back into the dark lonely night. She shrieked.  Joseph helped to carry her. What else could he do. Images of what the Roman soldiers would do to his Beloved if they were roused from their gambling and whoreing in order keep the peace, danced in his head like a bloody nightmare. The three men set her down as gently as they could in the dark. The servant hurried back with a dim lamp and a flask of water. “Sir, I am sorry, but considering these irregular circumstances…’” the servant trailed off mid sentence as he averted his eyes, shook his head, and backed away.

Joseph was vaguely aware that he was in a hastily assembled shack for housing beasts. The creatures who bore the weight of man’s burdens. This symbolism was lost on him until much later in life. In the dim light, he could see a pallid crown of curls emerging from the mother’s pain. This was the first he had seen Mary’s nakedness. Her utter vulnerability reminded him of his own failure to provide, and one last guttural sob escaped his throat as he called out to a God that he felt sure was so very very far away.

The red screaming baby flopped unceremoniously into Joseph’s hands with a tangle of organic glossy umbilical cord. He knew he was supposed to cut it. Would it hurt Mary even more? Maybe he should wait. “God what do I do?” He cut the cord. She did not notice. Good.

Mary took the baby from Joseph. She was flooded with endorphins after the relief of completed labor. She tried to nurse him. She was so scared that her milk was not coming in. What if it never did. The darkness pressed in around her, like a yawing dragon maw seeking to swallow her whole family. The baby bounced its open mouth against her breast, he did not seem to understand how to latch on. Finally, he seemed to figure it out, but Mary was so tired. He breasts stung like fire from the effort. Joseph tore strips from the Innkeeper’s blanket and Mary wept as she wrapped the baby in the filthy rags. She put him down to rest in the food trough. There were mice in this shed. She could feel them writhing in the fodder.  Joseph was so quiet. “He must be angry with me for making a scene. I’m so sorry.” As Mary tried to think of what she could say to smooth things over between them, she heard excited voices speaking in a country dialect. “Y’all boys come over here. It’s a shed. I think there’s a light.”

Joseph could make out the straight back form of five men. They looked like working men. Joseph could tell by their surefootedness in the dark that they were outdoors men like himself. “Now what?” he wondered. Joseph was a quiet man by nature and he had in this night had to speak with more people than he would have liked to in a month. Wasn’t it bad enough to be sitting in this infested straw without having witnesses to the fact.

“We are looking for a baby.” The sheppard was a rough looking character. Joesph considered his own appearance. “We were told we could find the savior of the world lying in a food trough.” Joseph kept a straight face for about five seconds before the ridiculous irony of the situation overwhelmed him with queer relief. “And you believed that,” He started laughing. The motley crew of sheppards started laughing too. Comradery settled on the world-weary men like softly falling snow.

When the shepherds saw the exhausted girl huddled in the straw still bleeding from the legs, they were all business. Years of striving with the flocks in their seasons of lambing had taught them postnatal care better than the best midwife that money could buy. The shepherds could see the terrible risk for infection if the dirt was allowed to remain in her birthing parts. They worked as a unit, building a fire and boiling water. These men were no stranger to the blood and organs of birth. They were already unclean under Mosaic law, and gave no second thought to scouring away the dirt with their own hands. Joseph made no protest until Mary balled in pain when the shepherd began to massage her stomach. “This will stop the flow,” the shepherd explained. As Mary’s pain eventually slipped away in their capable hands, her heart fell into a peaceful sleep where in the silence of her soul a still small voice said, “ The darker the night, the brighter the stars shine.”

In the cold night, the brilliant stars fought bravely for the territory that was rightfully theirs by the Law of Creation against the fallen third of the stars who threatened to claim the power of the air which was rightfully theirs by the Law of Conquest. The bright morning Star had infiltrated enemy territory and neither side was seeking a truce. Game on.

 

 

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The Soulfies and the SelfOwn

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Once upon a time there was a normal girl who lived in a nice neighborhood and went to a good school. In fact, I think you might know her, or at least you know someone who does. She had a dog, two cats, some goldfish, and climbing tree. Her porch hosted sunsets in the evening and the stars twinkled between her strawberry curtains where her mother kissed her every goodnight.

Life was good for this little girl, and she was happy; mostly, except for one thing: this little girl really wanted a cell phone. Her friends had cell phones. And data plans. And Wastebook accounts. And InstaKudo accounts. And. And. And. Her friends posted pictures of their epic adventures in Suburban Teenager Land so that all of Family-and-Friend fandom could tap their pictures and pithy statements with clicks of approval. It was wonderful, with a simple snap of the lens both Grandma Sarah in Seattle and Aunt Gertrude in Corpus Christi could both instantly know and approve of the cream in your coffee and the color of your sneakers. The little girl wanted so much to be caught up in this interconnected world wide spider web, but her mother and father would only give her a flip phone. It was awful. The only thing you could do with the flip phone was make phone calls.

That particular morning, was a very normal day:  sunny with a high of 72 and a peanut butter and jelly sandwich were all that was expected. The little girl zipped up her backpack and headed off to school. She was walking down the sidewalk path  when she was surprised to see a silver slithering off into the bushes. Of course, all normal little girls are intrepidly curious adventurers, so the little girl followed the silver slithering to a hollow dead tree on the outskirts of the park.

“Did your mother really say that a cell phone would not be good for you?” the silver slitherer asked the little girl.

“She said it was not necessary to be so focused on promoting my external self-image,” the little girl paused and scrunched her nose as she tried to remember the rest of what her mother had said. The slitherer had such large engrossing eyes.  “Mom said, “I would be happier if I focused on building my self image from the inside out by concentrating on learning useful information and playing active outdoor games.’”

The slitherer made a wheezing sound that the little girl assumed was laughter. “And you really believe that? Of course she wants you to think that. That’s how grown-ups make themselves look good. They don’t go to school anymore, so they have to show off their children’s achievements in order to make their friends like them.”

The little girl had never thought of it that way. It sounded true. Mostly true, anyway. Did her mother really feel that way? The slitherer must be very clever to have noticed that.

“Here, I have something special for you.” coaxed the slitherer. And from a hole in the old dead tree, he produced a smooth shiny cellphone with a silver emblem of a bitten fruit on the back. Take it. It will make you wise. You will see all the things your mother wanted to keep from you.” The slitherer coiled its body around a dry bone of a branch and whispered in the little girl’s ear. It is called a SelfOwn and you can take pictures of yourself with it, but not just any pictures. This takes Soulfies which make you appear more vibrant than any other little girl in the world.”

The little girl touched the slender silver box. It really was pretty slick, but when she looked up the slitherer was gone. The phone was innocuously off. It certainly did not look magical. It looked like any other well packaged piece of asian made electrical fodder peddled en masse under the yellow BestLie logo. The little girl tossed the silver box in her side pocket with her eraser caps and last week’s squished science flashcards.

 

 

Half way through math class, when the little girl had all but forgotten the morning’s adventure, the SelfOwn seemed to come alive with cheerful blinking, its chipper vibrations clearing the little girl’s thoughts of conversion factors and unit ratios. “Just one peek,” she thought. “What is that phone doing?”

It was an invitation to set up an account with Wastebook, the most popular social media site. There was a list of her acquaintances who already had Wastebook accounts who had sent her invitations to view their Wastebook pages. It seemed simple enough. How did this program know she she knew all these people? “Hmmm,” she thought “I just have to take a picture of myself and then I will have my own account.”

After class, the little girl was in the bathroom. She pulled out the silver SelfOwn, turned the camera to her face, and snapped a picture. Wow! Neat!  It was her in the picture, but it was different. Her hair has smooth and two inches longer. Her nose looked a little smaller (the little girl had always thought her nose too large), and her flesh was uniform in color and lighter. This camera takes great pictures! What did that slitherer call this? Soulfies! That’s right. The little girl took nine more pictures, each one looking a little better than the last. She admired them for awhile, before realizing she had completely missed fourth period. Had she really been in the bathroom that long? She tossed the SelfOwn back in her bag, and busted out of the bathroom. P.E. was next. If she hurried she could catch up with the other kids changing into their P.E. uniforms. Her friend Ericka was walking down the hall. The little girl called out a hello, but Ericka walked right into her. “Oh! Wow! I’m sorry. I didn’t see you!” Ericka exclaimed.

“That’s ok” I just wanted to say hi!” The little girl said. “Hey I’m on Wastebook now. Look me up. Ok. Bye!”

The little girl hurried off to P.E. No one seemed to notice her. She usually had a group a chattering girls she like to hang out with, but it seemed that people did not see her until she was right in their face. It was not until the last period and at least 25 Soulfies later that the little girl realized she was disappearing. Every picture she had taken was more beautiful than the last, but with each one her own real self was became a little more transparent. She could hardly see her own self in the bathroom mirror. Only her eyes remained. They seemed to float on their own.

“What have I done?” the little girl wept. “The slitherer! It tricked me.” When the little girl stopped crying all the other children had gone home from school.

___

The librarian was completely preoccupied in reading CS Lewis’s The Last Battle and did not notice the pair of sad blue eyes come floating through the door. The little girl was through crying and determined to resolve her dilemma, and like any kiddo her age with a question went straight the the search engine, Oracle. She typed “SelfOwn Transparency Syndrome” and hit the “Scry” button. Nothing. Just some some pages written in Russian. Maybe Russian or Tibetian? “Hmmm. What’s happening to me?” she tried to say, but with no mouth her words were only on her head. She got up and stretched her nonexistent arms and walked down a row of books. Mythology. Double Hmmm. A book caught her eye: The Complete Fairy Tales by George MacDonald. She ran her “finger” down the book’s spine and touched… a Tail!!! She pulled the little tail and sure enough it was attached to a fairy which flapped out of the book’s front.  In addition to a long tail the fairy had floppy doggy ears, kitty whiskers, and a face straight off a baby bat. The fairy was most properly offended at being dislodged in such an undignified manner and exclaimed, “What is the meaning of this!” at such a volume that the librarian who was quite used to book magic turned a page in her own volume and called out, “Go back to bed, it’s lights out time!”

The fairy could recognize enchanted little girls the way kindergarteners can recognize the ABC’s. It could also hear her mouthless talking. She was hardly able to explain her cellophane self before the fairy had pulled a dusty leather bound version of Anecdotal Antidotes of the Mythologies off the shelf. Let’s see he muttered mellifluously as he thumbed through the alphabetized entries. “Here it is.”

“Here’s what?” cried the little girl.

You have what is refereed to in the DSM-IV (AKA Diagnoses of Spiritual Mishaps version 4.0) Disappearance related to SelfOwn use associated with Soulfies. It says when the SelfOwn “takes” a Soulfie it really is taking a piece of your soul every time. It says with continued use the soul eventually disappears into a collectively approved super-identity with a hive mentality and the person is left as only a shell of themselves.

“Oh no! That’s terrible.” The little girl cried. “Does it say what I can do to reverse the effects? This is a book of antidotes! Right?”

“Yes. Yes.” said the fairy, “Settle down. I’m getting there.” He coughed. “Ahem, It says you must bury the SelfOwn in the soil where it came from and eat its fruit”

“What is that supposed to mean?” The impatient little girl felt that this was no time for more cryptic lore.

“Well, I’m sure I don’t know.’ I’m just a library fairy,” the library fairy retorted. “But I do know that once one gets started on something the end becomes clear in the middle.”

“What are you saying?!”

“Heroes are never privy to their happy endings. That privilege is reserved for the author. All a hero knows is that they have to try. So go bury the phone.”

A heavy mist was thickening the air around the dead tree when the little girl found arrived there under the darkening sky. She obviously did not have a trowel with her, so she dug with her hands and a mechanical pencil. The SelfOwn was alive, buzzing and blinking in cathodic revolt. The little girl was afraid the noise would summon the slitherer, but if he was there he remained shadowed, her simple resistance causing him to flee.

The little girl stood back and looked at the tiny mound of soil, displaced by the buried SelfOwn. Nothing. “This is ridiculous. What am I doing?” She looked at the place where her mind thought her hand should be and cried. Her tears dropped straight through her hand spot and landed on the mound. Then a strange thing happened. A light pierced up out of the ground from the mound at the base of the dead tree. The light was followed by a vigorous thick green shoot which branched out in all directions, and red flowers exploded onto the branches which thickened and drooped into fresh fruits. The little girl picked one of the fruits, and it opened into two parts, revealing, where seeds should have been, a pair of glasses.

The little girl woke the next morning in first period, still invisible and still clutching the glasses from the magic tree. Class was buzzing all around her. Of course, no one talked to her. “Here goes nothing!” the little girl said to herself, and placing the glasses on her face she found she could see through other people’s eyes. She looked at her teacher and realized with some surprise that her teacher had worked late into the night preparing this morning’s lesson. She knew her teacher was excited about the material and nervous that no one else would care. She looked at the janitor collecting trash in the hall and realized that this was his second job that he worked so that his sick wife would have the health insurance she needed. She looked at the popular cheerleader girl who sat in the front row and knew that she was terrified of people knowing that she came from a family struggling to make ends meet. She looked at the big bully boy who sat in the back and felt his sadness for the absence of his father. The more she looked through the glasses that showed her other people’s perspective the more real her own soul became, and as her heart traveled back into the realm of reality, her face not only became visible, but it glowed increasingly with its very own unique beauty.

A beast does not know that he is a beast, and the nearer a man gets to being a beast, the less he knows it. – George MacDonald

 

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The Magic Sword and the Basement Dragon

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Once upon a time there was a wealthy family that was renown throughout the land as mighty dragon slayers.  A double-edged magic Sword had been passed down from father to son as the family’s tool to purge the evil dragons from the countryside. Great-Grandfather had battled a dragon in its cave, Grandfather had battled a dragon in his pasture, and Father had battled a dragon in the barn. Each father had triumphed over the dragon in its attempt to consume his family using this Sword.

 

In these days, the son owned the Sword. He lived in a small cottage in a field full of well clothed flowing grasses and bright ravens with his two daughters. The countryside was quiet, for the dragon no longer openly terrorized the farming families. Indeed, saying, “Peace! Peace!” was the popular greeting in the markets and fields.

 

However, there was no true peace, for the dragon had crept into the man’s home and taken residence in his basement, curled up on top of their store of heirloom gold. The man was determined that one day he would go down there and challenge the dragon, but days turned to weeks, and weeks turned to years, and the man had yet to confront the dragon in his basement.

 

The reason he had been putting the battle off was his discovery that the magic Sword  could be used for gain. When he used it to dig up the soil around his house, it turned up hidden nick-knacks, curios, novelties, and trinkets.  Every new morning he would tell himself, “Today is the day I will slay the dragon!” But the Sword turned up so many interesting things in the soil, he would lose interest in dragon slaying by lunchtime. Now the man is not to be blamed entirely, for his two daughters, being silly creatures, were delighted in the trinkets their father brought home.  “Give! Give!” The two daughters cried, and the man, who was the son of the great dragon slayers, spent his time using the magic sword digging in the mud around the cottage, sifting the dirt for things that might amuse his daughters.

 

Presently, the little cottage, which was built to house a family and their necessities, became so full, that many rooms became unnavigable, and the man resolved to build a bigger storehouse for his daughters’ things.

 

Now the dragon, who had been hiding in the basement, was growing bolder day by day. The more the man used the Sword’s power to raise up idols from the dust, the stronger the dragon grew. He was no longer content to sleep on the pile of gold in the darkness, but was ready to occupy the space above as well. The time was ripe, for the man had been leaving the Sword unused on his bedside table as he worked on completing his storehouse. The dragon resolved to eat the man and his daughters as soon as he was finished building the new storehouse. “Why should I have to complete the project?” reasoned the dragon, “Let him finish it for me.”

 

On the day the man was to finish the storehouse, a wild looking Stranger rode into town. He was heavily armed and looked ready for battle. “Peace! Peace!” said the villagers. “I did not come to bring peace,” said the Stranger, “But a sword. Where is the son of the great dragon slayers?” “He is in the field finishing his storehouse,” the villagers replied.

 

When the stranger arrived at the storehouse the dragon was pounding his way out of the basement. The girls had run in terror to their father, who, without the Sword, was defenseless to protect them. Immediately, the Stranger lit fire to the cottage. The fire joyfully plundered their goods, and as the trinkets were consumed the dragon began to lose his strength. The ashes from the cottage curled off into the wind, and the dragon, now the size of a snake bit the strangers heel, who turned and crushed the his head into the dust.

 

The son of the mighty dragon slayers with his two daughters, was saved, but only through the refinement of the fire. However, he never again used the magic of the Sword for gain, but he and his daughters ride with the Stranger slaying dragons all over the countryside. And once again, the countryside knows peace.

The End

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