POWER: second draft August 17, 2015

POWER

LLyn De Danaan

August 17, 2015

About 5600 Words

They are foxed and grimy, so much so that they stick to my hands. Their creases and bent corners make them nearly impossible to shuffle. I manage. With my eyes closed, I slip my
fingers into the middle of the pile, and pull the Knight of Cups. Nothing
surprising. The Knight slides out every morning except during the month
of August. A familiar visitor now, I’d miss him if someone else were to show
up.

He is dressed in not so shiny armor, erect and peering at the golden goblet in
his hand. There is a hint of a smirk on his face. The horse is not sleek but
stout and thick legged like an Irish Cob or Gypsy Tracker. One leg is lifted as
if in mid-stride. Together, horse and rider present an elegant duo, capable and
handsome. Getting the same card everyday isn’t a magic trick. I know the feel
of this deck so well I can be fairly certain I’ll draw the reading I want.

Today, however, the card is reversed. An upside down Knight of Cups represents a person
who has trouble discerning truth from lies. I can’t think who’d be lying to me.
Dogs and cats and turtles don’t lie. I’m not gullible so even if someone tried
to keep something from me, I’d see through the smokescreen. I wouldn’t be
easily taken in.

Most days I draw the card right side up. It means change is coming. When isn’t
it?

I’m always preparing. I exercise my body so I’ll be fit no matter what. I keep
myself organized so I’ll know where everything is when it’s needed.

I stay busy, but am never mindlessly occupied. I choose activities that enhance my independence and chances of survival and over time I have created an autopoietic system. I possess what’s
required to live comfortably and all the elements in my environment cooperate in
recreating themselves and maintaining a happy equilibrium.

Brightly colored images of flowers and trees and sinuous vines and fairy tale
villages adorn both the interior and exterior of my house. The eastern wall,
the most expansive unbroken surface in the house, depicts the village and surrounding landscape of Saint-Marc de Cournoyer in Quebec. Only I would know that. There are seldom visitors so the mural is there to please me.

The wizened, weather worn boards of the building soaked up paint so quickly I
had to apply several coats and sometimes altered the images as I worked. Thus
the walls are as pentimenti. Some clever psychiatrist could peel back the
layers and read my changing moods.

Even the spigots, useless to me after the well was exhausted, and the sinks and
work benches and chairs and tables are painted. My ceramic pots, made from the
argillaceous earth from exposed banks on the nearest purple grey massif, are
glazed to resemble the work of the potters in Faenza. Some of the clay veins I
dig are micaceous and the vessels I build and fire glitter in the sun without
further treatment. To enhance the sparkle, I coat them with bright white quartz gathered from arroyos that criss-cross the flatlands below the mountains. I grind the
quartz to a fine powder, apply that to the pots, then heat them in the
kiln until the pulverized crystal vitrifies. Many of my first pots were meant
to contain and store water, but now they are offered for sale or filled with
long stemmed dried weeds the color of scorched tree bark and set about the
house as decoration. My handmade mugs and dinner plates are painted with care and style so when I dine, I see something exquisite. I take care in preparing my food and it
is attractive in its own right, of course. But the thing upon which it is
placed and from which it is eaten is handsome as well.

What’s it like living here? It’s rather like passing the days on a carefully
contrived stage set for a play called something like, “Eccentric Desert
Rat: The Life of Bonny Bloom.” The production would star me, of course,
dressed in blue jeans, faded and ripped at the knee and butt, and sporting a
red-brown cracking face with hound dog jowls and topped off with a pile of frowzy
grey hair.

After tinkering with the deck and thinking a bit about my card, I swallow my
daily immunity boosting Lion’s Mane and Turkey Tail capsules (produced from my coddled
and productive mushroom farm fruiting out of sight in a darkened shed off
the back door) and then use an eye dropper to drizzle water into the tiny pots
of Eucalyptus standing at attention, a platoon of tin soldiers, on a
windowsill. The trees sprout from the seeds I extracted from of the blackened pods I harvested
and dried long ago. The pods hold their seeds deep in the cavities of their dark five pointed stars.

One day, I’ll walk out of my door and into a sweet smelling
forest full of birds and mosses and the long absent moldy odor of damp leaves
and rotting bark. I’ve already planted some seventy trees outside.
They are of different ages and heights and claim most of my mornings as I
deliver scant but sufficient water to each. It keeps them alive and growing
slowly.

I am careful with water. As I said, the well gave out in a sudden sputter of
grit and mud that exploded from the kitchen tap. I knew this was coming. The
closest town added thirty or forty houses a decade ago and each of these sunk
wells into the aquifer. That and twelve years of almost no rain drained it dry.
I haul my water from this ragged settlement in five-gallon carboys once a month. A local co-op
tanks it from a distant reservoir and offers it for $10 a quart.

Water is my greatest expense. I can’t live without it so I scrape for money.

Town is fifteen miles to the east and I am perpetually concerned for the life
of my chattering, droopy and sun faded Ford Pinto, fearing it might not make
it there and back. The car’s original finish was a bright bronze. It’s a
pebbled grey and brown now. The tires are devoid of tread and the windshield is
so pitted that if I didn’t know my way blindfolded, I’d be soon lost. I’ve
thought about knocking the sand blasted glass out altogether. But the dust would come straight at me and I’d really end up sightless.

The dust storms have also scrubbed all the enameled letters and numbers from the front license
plate, though no law enforcement has been seen in this region for a decade so I
don’t care. The brakes, thankfully, are responsive, at least on the flatland,
and I budget for oil and grease and belts. Of course, I do all the maintenance
myself. Still, gas costs real money, when it is available, and water is
expensive so when I take the empty carboys for water, I bring a stack or box of
paintings and pots I can live without to sell on consignment at Polly’s store.
She sells groceries and camping gear and socks and ball caps and even toys. She
has one wall devoted to displaying the work of local artists. I count on tourists or wanderers passing through town, chancing on Polly’s and going down the row where the matches and
mops and candles are, seeing my work on the wall above the shelving, and liking
something well enough to want to take it home. Otherwise I can’t afford gas or
water or corn meal or flour or canned goods or anything else.

It’s all okay, as my friend Chandler used to say. I’m never short of what I
require and never go wanting. So much so that I often find I’ve put too much in
the cook pot or on my plate. No leftover is tossed. I keep a compost bin
a-brewing and use the soil I produce to dig in under the Eucalyptus trees and
mix into the soil in the roof garden raised beds. A fair amount of moisture
accumulates up there. The dew of the morning condenses on to sizeable sheets of
black plastic that line a dozen large, lipped pans. I bottle the dew-drop water
before the sun hits the roof. I have enough, over a few days, to water the
chard and spinach. The plants love the sun, though I protect them from the
intense noon heat with immense panels of scrap cardboard stapled onto a lathe
framework. The frames are hinged and can easily cover the two deep, about six
by ten feet boxes. These are planted with greens that I harvest and replant
throughout the year. I mulch them well with shredded newspaper and just about
anything else I can find so that their roots stay warm on freezing nights and
moisture is preserved.

I eat well. Wild foods complement my diet. Prickly pear is delicious. I gather
eggs from wild birds; I take only a few and never more than one from a nest.

I don’t keep animals for food but have two half-wild dun colored dogs named
Flee and Erica and a jumbo tiger striped mouser named Mr. Sandy Paws. They’ve
been with me as long as I’ve been here, them or predecessor four-leggeds, and
they are good companions. I don’t feel alone with them here because they are
exquisite listeners and don’t demand much from me. My favorite pal, though, is
my turtle Saint Jerome, named after the hermit mystic who lived in the
wilderness. There is a reproduction of da Vinci’s painting of the saint with
his companion lion on Jerome’s private box. Beautiful though it is, Jerome
eschews his lair during the day. He is a social beast. He goes to the box to
sleep or when the cat gets too playful. Jerome eats lettuce from my garden for
dinner. I tried kale and chard but he turned up his nose…well really his
whole face… at the slight bitterness of them. He actually spit the kale
across the room.

The work. The work! I had to attend to the work everyday. For so many years, my
work was my painting. That was all. That was enough. Sometimes I could find
discarded siding or rafters or paneling in dumpsters in town, all free for the
taking. I hauled my finds back with the carboys and made things of them. I
constructed fences and walkways. All painted. I built a little shower and a
latrine. I found scrap metal, old propane tanks, fenders, bumpers. I pounded
and welded them together, then painted them and made fabulous beings to guard
my house. And I made things to sell.

But then they came.
…..

They swarmed like termites. Not angry, just born anew and looking for a
foothold. I was more isolated than I had been in some ways because I didn’t venture far
afield with them about. I missed my regular climbs for clay and rock herbs and
flowers. I missed my midnight strolls to watch the meteor showers or listen to
coyote pups. It was a hard time for me.

When it began, I was vexed and bothered by the passing parades of fanatics and
vulgar people, pathetic rabble with pet monkeys and filthy children all
shouting slogans, waving banners, and driving coughing, oil spewing trucks and
campers along the road in front of my house. True, there are not so many now as
there were during the height of the movement. In fact, there are only a few who
come by to lay flowers by one of the towers or take photographs. I don’t want
to see them or for them to see me and try to talk with me. But I can go out again. And my nights aren’t interrupted by noise from their encampment.

Movement people, at the beginning of their insanity, came as regularly as the tides. They seemed to float on a river of uninterrupted laughs and banter and often stopped to beg for
water or to use the outhouse. Or just to sit for a while. I must have been on
the maps they sent out to would-be pilgrims. I spent more time picking up gum wrappers and
cigarette butts than painting. And I was distracted by my own curiosity about them.

Before the people came the giants. Pylons. Towers. They popped up like skeletal
mutated cacti all around me. They were composed of steel latticework and
supported miles and miles of power lines that transmitted electricity. The
suspended cables were made of some kind of aluminium alloy. The shimmering
wires buzzed and crackled and birds, the innocents and the unknowing, flew into
and under and around them and died. I found crows with their beaks burned off
and pigeons missing wings. I noticed whole colonies of beetles and ants
carrying grain-sized eggs on the move in an effort to escape them. That must
have been fifteen years ago. The beetles and many other animals have been gone
for a long time.

The structures stood over the land, great pairs of boney long legged structures
as far as I could see. My site line was broken by hills and dips, but if I looked closely, I could see tips of them rising ever further. Some of the towers were at least 1000 feet tall,
defoliated crosses, axes of a doomed world, trees of no life. Their extended
arms were hung at each end with beaded porcelain or glass disks, dangling
whorish earrings, and through these passed the strands of wire that carried the
power. The discs reflected the rays of the sun and coruscated nearly blinding
flashes of light lashed across the desert.

My dogs and cat and even Jerome seemed to have trouble sleeping after the
towers came.

The pylons were built to relay power generated from the turbines of a new dam
built on the other side of the mountain to the east. It was an untimely,
ill-managed project. It was to serve a million greedy households, the papers
said, to run their blenders and air conditioners and up to date dryers and hot
water heaters. Just three or four years after the transmission towers were
built, the talk was that the river was way below level from the drought and the
power wouldn’t last much longer. The lake that was formed behind the dam had
dropped to 42 percent of its capacity. Snow and rainfall had been abnormally
low for years.

For now, the pylons were above and beside my bungalow and me and there was
nothing left to do but paint them.

I started on a leg of the nearest one and worked my way up it with greens and
blues and every shade of red …up one leg…higher and higher…I strapped myself
on to the metal struts and carried paint in small buckets that hung from a belt
around my middle. I climbed every day and had finished four towers.

Then, one day, sometime before the Movement, maybe five years ago, a battery of
trucks and earthmoving equipment and cranes and tankers came out here and men
and women in snappy bright yellow uniforms and hard hats climbed down and began
to plunge a sharp auger deep into the earth. It hammered and drilled at the
same time so that the earth shook with each of the machine’s violent lunges.
The workers often withdrew and examined the bit on the tip of the thrusting
rod. I was told that the tip was made of diamonds. After a careful, close
inspection, the workers usually replaced the old tip with a sharper and
brighter thing and readied it to thrust again. They poured water from a large
tanker into the hole to cool the bit as it thrust and whirred and cut through
million year old rock. I wondered if it would ever stop. Through the days and
nights the machine thudded and thumped and made its way into my dreams, if I
ever actually slept.

Workers set up portable lamps so that the site was brilliantly lit even at
midnight and the few rabbits and deer and antelope still around stayed away,
frightened by the light and activity. No I could not avoid the sound or escape
the glare and neither could my dogs or cat. Or Jerome. I hung all my sheets on
my cabin windows and then finally the blankets but still it was as if the sun had
risen on us all night long. Finally, I nailed boards from my scrap pile across
all the windows.

After several weeks, I watched the workers inject something into the holes.
Deliveries of boulder sized dumpling-like shrink-wrapped packages stacked and secured
on flatbed trucks came racing to the site. I tried one night to get close
enough to see what it was. I couldn’t read the neatly printed Chinese
characters on the labels. The workers tore into the packages and dumped the
contents into the holes they’d dug. The earth trembled as the substance created
cracks and fissures deep in the ancient rock and exposed crude oil deposits,
the leavings of plants and animals and all the creatures and beings that once
walked the earth. Another army of quick moving laborers sucked it up with pumps
and pipes like arteries carried it far away, life support for dying cities,
transfusions for a hopeless world. The towers were left standing but they were
only carrying a small amount of the energy, the little the dam’s turbines could
still produce
……

The trucks were moving out one day as I was making my regular drive to town to
get water. I got the carboys filled and began a slow drive down the few blocks toward Polly’s with a few pots and paintings to put on consignment. Along the way I noticed a crowd
gathered around a man standing on top of the cab of a 1983 rusty, pea green,
Dodge pickup. The bed of the pickup was fitted up with two large speakers and a
generator. A line ran from the generator to a microphone in the man’s hand. He
looked like an old time preacher man in his cheap off the rack grey suit,
maroon tie, and black felt fedora. I slowed to a stop, then parked by the curb
and got out to see what was going on. As I listened the man claimed he was a
retired physicist and MIT professor and had a message. He said he had found God
and that, “God is all around us and in us and moving through the cables
and wires and phone lines and out of the ground and in the lightening and just
really everywhere.” He said that, “We have been so intent on making
God knowable that we have missed the obvious. God is energy, power, and all
that animates each and every thing in our world. It is an act of worship to
turn on an electric lamp. It is the great pylons and towers that carry his being
that we should be worshiping,” that and, “the sun and the plugs and
sockets and fuse boxes that bring God into our homes.” He said physicists
had, “known all this for some time. We don’t know anything about much more
than 5% of our universe. The rest of it is energy, that is, God. It fills
everything. There is no void, only God and a little bit of matter,” he
said. “God,” he said, “causes the universe to expand and fly
apart. This God bends light and zaps x-ray signals from star to star and galaxy
to galaxy just for fun.” “This same God,” he said, “can be
made to work on our behalf if only we believe and grasp this truth.”

“Throw away your testaments, your bibles. These were written by people
who did not understand the message of the burning bush. These books are
distractions.”

The banner that flew from the truck’s bed fluttered. It was printed on plastic
and rigged upright on a two by two. The background of the flag was midnight
blue and across the face of it was a bright, fluorescent streak of lightening
against a muted rendition of the Andromeda galaxy. The physicist’s props and his patter
moved the worn and weary who stood around stolidly though pelted regularly by swirling dust
devils from the desert that moved up and down the streets as dense and
frightening as a swarm of bees looking for their queen.

“We must,” he shouted in a rapid rhythmic cadence so that the last
word in each sentence was held for a beat or two, “study the words of
Teilhard de Chardin who said that the universe is ripening within itself the
fruit of a certain consciousness. That consciousness is the possibility that
God and power have a will and intention that can be called upon to shape our
world and us as it chooses. With our human concentration and meditation we
can break through to this God and all its energy and that God can become
manifest around us.”

“Eckhart, the mystic, told us this,” he said. “‘The shell must
be cracked,'” he told the crowd as he lowered his voice. Each word was
drawn out. He returned to the former rhythm then. “In joining the flow of
the energy, we can break through,” he said. “We have made a terrible
mistake in thinking to electrocute murderers is to punish them. These
people,” he said, “have gone straight to God and are with God. It is
we who deserve such deaths, not the evil among us.”

“Some have always known this secret, this great truth, he declared.
Michangelo knew. He put it into his Sistine Chapel painting of the creation of
Adam. That spark, that fiery glint of life that is shown passing from God’s
finger to Adam that was the secret made manifest. The Masons among the early
leaders of the United States knew and put the floating eye of energy above the
pyramid on our dollar bill. It’s been known by the few. Now we all know.”
The preacher physicist climbed down from the truck, jumped up into the cab,
turned the key, flattened the gas pedal against the floor, and sped in the
direction of the next town. He was traveling alone and no one had caught his
name if he had said it.

People drifted away and talked among themselves in excited clusters. But just
as I turned to get back to my business, there was a loud eerie cry and
something like the odor of outdoor grilling was in the air. Ribs or T-bones. It
had been a long time, but I recognized the stench of flesh. I nearly gagged. I
looked back.

The same group of lost souls I’d seen around the pickup was gathering around a
tall tapered octagonal pillar, taller than any building in the town. It was
slender pole and there were a row of them, placed about a block apart one from
the other. At the top of each were two cross pieces each with four or five
glass insulators that caught the sunlight and held high voltage transmission
wires in place. A little further down the pole were the step down transformer
buckets that looked very much like a couple of rusty pressure cookers. Single strands of wire tautly to service lines that led to streetlights and businesses along the street.

A man had climbed up the pillar beyond the transformers and up to the high
voltage wires. He had made it to the highest wire, the one with the most
power running through it. In the early days of television, guys putting up
their own TV antennas were often electrocuted when their antennas toppled over
on to these high voltage wires. They were accidentally electrocuted. But this
man’s death was no accident. He was in his early 40s I guessed. He had a
scruffy thin black beard and wore a ball cap with a green and blue hawk icon on
the front of it. He was dressed in a white v-necked tee shirt and a pair of
jeans. His scuffed and grubby red wing work boots and socks were on the ground
below, blasted off his feet. He knew what he was doing because he had to
somehow have touched two opposing wires. He was still up there, grinning, hands
blacked and crisp, arms spread eagle against the top cross piece, legs dangling
below, supported by a couple of guy wires. He was smiling.

Below him, a woman stood crying and yelling, “Praise God, the power and
the glory.”

“Praise God, the all powerful.” The whole bunch that had been
listening to the physicist was gathered round now and laying hands on her and
one another. They could feel a tingle moving from hand to hand, they said.

Their eyes were closed and they swayed slightly to some silent rhythm.

I got in the Pinto and floored it. I drove out of town and home without taking time to drop off paintings or collect cash from last month’s sale.

I couldn’t stay away forever. I wondered what happened next and needed to get
some cash and other supplies, so I drove back in a couple of months. There were
stacks of newsletters called “The Current” on the counters of stores
I visited. I leafed through one. “The Current” was peppered with
stories of people finding God by touching open light sockets or dumping
“hot” radios into bathtubs while sitting in the water. It was the
most bizarre thing I’d ever heard of. There were posters glued to the cement
power poles in town that read, “You’ll get the shock of your life when you
find God.” I didn’t know whether to take this seriously. I avoided
speaking to anyone on the streets. I took my work to Polly. She suggested that
I begin bringing in paintings of the giant poles. People were looking for
symbols of energy for their homes. Polly was ever the one to see an opportunity
to make a buck.

“The tourism is bound to increase. We’ve had some national attention
because the movement started here,” she said.

“The movement?”

“Oh yes,” she said. “That preacher there,” she tapped a photograph on the cover of “The
Current,” with the long nail of her right hand index finger. It had been enameled with a shiny replica of power pole, “That preacher,” she said, “has been offered a national television show. It’s called ‘Power and Glory’. He’s on once a week. And it all started here.”

I couldn’t get home fast enough.
…..
One morning when I stepped outside my house, there was a very small Asian man
using a rag to wipe the dust off the fenders and hood of his newish black
Accord. The chrome on the bumpers was already spotless, so shiny his smooth,
smiling face was reflected from the front one when he leaned over the hood to
wipe the license tag. I don’t know how long he’d been there. He was five feet
one or two at the most and wore a light-weight barong tagalog shirt and a straw
hat with a snap-brim. He wadded the cloth up into a ball, opened the trunk of
the car, and tossed it in when he saw me. “Do you know where the gathering
is to be?” he asked me. Of course I didn’t. I didn’t know there was a
gathering. “Never mind,” he said, “I’ll find it.”

During the day, dozens of vehicles passed my house. There were Airstreams and
tear-drops and food trucks and cars that were barely running. They coughed and
spluttered and left dark oil stains on the roadway. Large metal canisters of
gas or water or both were strapped to their tops along with extra tires. I saw
a couple of model-T trucks with the hoods removed and engines and radiators
exposed. Then there were the RVs as big as Greyhound buses with solar panels
and TV antennas and pop out porches and poodle dogs peering out windows.

By the evening, the traffic thinned out and I leashed the dogs and gingerly walked down
the road so I could see where they had all been heading. I reached the
outskirts of a large encampment in about twenty minutes.

There were drummers in the middle of several concentric rings of people seated
in folding chairs. Some were people were dancing around but most just sat and
stared up at the towers. Or at the sky. I had a couple of brief conversations
and was told that they were all looking for a sign. This was the center of the
Movement because it was from these posts that the electricity that joined the
first believer to the power of God had come. Someone produced a map of the grid
to show me. Sure enough. The tower they were under held a line that looped over
the desert and a few hills and headed directly toward the town.

What I didn’t realize was that many people had already begun their fast. They
were preparing to climb the towers within the week, sometimes several at a
time, and wanted to be “pure” when they touched God. Meanwhile,
vendors set up to sell tee-shirts with “End of Time” slogans and the
lightening image against a black background. There were ball caps and flags and
books and brochures and palm readers and dog toys and cat beds, all with the
same logo or with a picture of Michelangelo’s creation of Adam. The hottest
seller showed the logo’s lightening strike as a representation of the spark of
life that jumped from God’s finger to Adam’s.

There were photographs being taken of the towers themselves, many with devotees
of the new religion posed against the lattice and, incidentally, my paintings.

Of course if you preferred, there were vendors available to take photographs
for a price and print them right on the spot. You could buy a button with a
picture of yourself touching a tower strut and the statement “I touched
God” printed over it.

You could buy a chit to use the portable toilets and other chits for jugs of
water available courtesy of the local Rotary Club. The county Democrats were
selling hamburgers. Some said the smell of meat was in poor taste. The Demos
switched to veggie burgers by the next morning.

One night, The drums and chanting did not stop at the usual time and around one in the morning I heard some whistles and booms. I scraped a chair across the floor to my porch, and sat out
to see the fireworks show. People applauded and cheered. Then the drums began
again. I got back to sleep around 3.

This was the morning, they had told me, that people would begin the climb. So I
made a cup of coffee and sipped it as I watched the sunrise beyond the eastern
mountains and strolled to the site. I had become a little blasé about all of this. From what I could gather from the chatter, not all were aiming for the tops of the towers and the high voltage. Some
planned simply to tie themselves to the crossbars and stay there facing the
blazing sun until they died. But the main show, of course, would be the people
who made it all the way and joined hands with the source, the manifestation of
God on earth.
……

The climbs happened daily after that. The encampment became semi-permanent for some. Because we were at the peak of a sunspot cycle, odd disturbances to the geomagnetic field on earth caused the power grid to fluctuate and sometimes one had to hang on to the wires for a few
minutes before being electrocuted. Northern lights could be seen even at our
latitude. Lightening storms were frequent, especially in the distint mountains.
Everything was taken as a sign. And still there was no rain and the river and
dammed lake levels dropped lower.

Nobody much cared because the whole world had gone to hell. I was fine. But rumor
was that there were actually wars being fought over water. I was told that
several small Pacific Island nations had moved to the Northwest and established
colonies in the national forests. Nobody could stop them. Nobody was bothered by much of anything anymore. Somebody passing by one day reported that humans had abandoned the whole of North Africa and Greenland, and Finland, though without machinery or power,
were growing orchards full of peaches and apricots. Somebody said Alaska native
peoples had started vineyards.

One day, a climber touched a wire, hung on. Time passed and nothing
happened. Not even a little shock. Another followed her up and tried. Nothing.
The people below were alarmed. Rumors started. “We’ve been
abandoned,” they said, as one after another people climbed and lived.

Slowly, they all packed up their tents and campers and moved out.

A few come by still on their way to lay flowers or take photographs. All the
charred body bits and picked, dried bones were long since collected by
entrepreneurs who placed them in tiny beribboned reliquaries and sold them as
one might sell the remains of a saint.

…..

I am happy and living pretty much the way I was before the towers and the
believers came. The people digging had already gone by the end of the Movement frenzy. That digging and drilling had been a last ditch effort to produce power for the cities. They mucked up the land but though it was desecrated, I’m doing my best to restore it. I want the birds to return, the beetles to come back, the ants
to bring their eggs home. I want to hear the crickets and the coyotes and the
ravens. I will do what I can. Someday the rain will return and it will find a
place free of hurt, a place prepared to accept it. I fill the holes, I bless
the scars, and I speak to every sign of life. Jerome is with me when I do this
work. Jerome is always with me.

 

Posted in Stories | Comments Off

Daemon: First Complete Draft

 

Daemon

 

June 21, 2015

 

Short Fiction

LLyn De Danaan

About 6884 words

 

You must visit the beach at dawn, at the moment when the sun is rising over the horizon east of the city. First look beyond the sculpted lobes of land that dip into the sea like great dark toes. Let your eyes travel far past the giant kelp beds.  There will be a glow, sometimes nearly red. In their own time, never in ahurry, a host of colors, like those that rise from sunset fields of wheat or a chiseled slice of purple porphyry, will slash through pigeon grey, seemingly impenetrable, slabs of distant fog. Above, the carulean sky will brighten to almost white asnight turns to day and the first curve of the sun’s sphere thrusts its way upward. Look back at your feet and along the beach. If you pick the rightmorning, the night time’s high tide will have receded a few feet, enough, and on the great flat plane of thick sandy expanse, amid mats of dark green seaweed scattered like witches’ hair, you will see bright sparkling places. These are the shells of what Artistotle has called mollusca. He called all those creatures devoid of blood molluscs and is quite specific as to the use they make of their feet and tubes and what they experience of sex. That does not concern us. What does concern us is the way in which they shimmer in the early morning sun. You have to look. You have to be in the right place.

When you are, you will see an otherwise dark place alive with pricks of light. You will see what was invisible made visible by its reflection.

Of course this is easy for me to observe being a life long inhabitant of Syracuse, descendent of the original colonists, and living near enough to the sea.

You can do it too. Look down at a streambed where it flows to the ocean. Observe the muddy tide flat carefully. On a sunny day it too will be alive with glittering, moving objects. Those are the backs of tiny crabs. We call this hard plate the crab’s shield and it is made of thin boney substance. While alive and wet, the shields twinkle like stars when rays of sun pullulate and refract as they hit the shields and thus betray the location of the scuttering creatures. This phenomenon is easily seen where the Ciane and the secretive Anapo meet the Ionian Sea.

To behold the glistening mollusc shells at daybreak and the wet crab shields in the early morning sunlight is to observe stars in the night sky. That is, it is much the same.

It is true of all things: the longer one looks, the longer one stands still and observes, the more of each one will see. Look across a meadow in the morning dew and there will be the reticulated strands of spider webs, catching the light and therefore visible if only for a little while.

All is revealed by reflection. “We reflect that which we perceive,” someone said. This isdifficult to accomplish even if true. We must have a shiny, prepared surface to properly reflect. It must be kept clean and scoured bright with study and by listening to thosewiser than we. It must be dipped and redipped in beneke, varnished with oil and copal, made bright. This is the work of the philosopher and poet and these ideas are much more than metaphor.

This phenomenon of being still and allowing nature to be revealed to you by reflected light is called enlightenment, which is, the state of receiving light shed by the natural world.

Though enlightenment as defined here refers to the natural world, some of us have come to understand it as true for what happens to the brain at rest. You see, sometimes, if one allows a quiet and contemplative hour or two in one’s day, it is possible to see little spots of light inside one’s thoughts.

It happened to me recently. I was sitting on my own, a half empty cup of ambrosial Malvasia wine imported from Crete in my hand. I was in a kind of reverie though perched uncomfortably on one of the higher rows, at least 60 steps from the stage of the theatre, its entrance easily reached by a short walk from my home. Though the acoustics were perfect and I had brought cushions and robes to pad my seat, my back ached and I had trouble concentrating on the performance. It was not as if I didn’t know the play. It was another of Aeschylus’, whom it is rumored is even now visiting Hieron’s court, and featured Xerxes and the defeat of the Persians I suppose I was discommoded in sufficient measure that my mind took in the pain of Xerxes defeat differently from other nights. As I thought about his hubris (and Aeschylus didn’t have to hit me on the head with his point) I began to think about the daemon.

It must have been Xerxes’ daemon who engineered his penchant for arrogance. No one would be born with such pomposity. The daemon must be inserted or injected or somehow manufactured during one’s early years. Or, alternatively, it is something that one grows into that has been there all along. Some say the daemon is a personal guardian a kind of conductor or spirit or familiar who dwells with one throughout one’s lifetime, rather like a companion animal. Some say it can be good or evil. As much as I’ve heard, I’ve not been told of anyone actually seeing a daemon. If such a thing exists, surely it must be able to manifest. And if it can manifest, why not able to converse with it? Why not able to negotiate or strike deals? Why allow such a thing to determine one’s fate without a debate?

It seemed to me the play would end differently if Xerxes could have paid heed to his weakness, summoned his daemon, and requested a change in his calamitous attraction for acting the superior man, an attraction that led certainly to his downfall. So much of history could be rewritten if there were no tragic heroes but only heroes who had recognized a daemon busy misdirecting him and determined to chide the daemon until, thoroughly embarrassed and defeated, the daemon became a force only for good in the hero’s life.

The lights in my mind were alive with the energy of a thousand oil lamps. I could hardly stay through the inevitable end of the play. Indeed, what intelligent adult could not have foreseen the denouement? Even if one had not seen it. Because Aeschylus was said to be preparing for the premiere of a new play next month. I would go and hope to present my theory of the daemon to him. I would have four weeks to try to speak with my own daemon in order to bolster my view with experience and observation and urge him to include this new view in his next production. It add to my reputation if he would do so.

I began the next day with a trip to the hot-air bath. I asked for my body to rubbed with olive oil. After, I draped my most delicate woolen chiton around me, fastened with a simple corded gurdle, slung my cloak over one shoulder, and set out, following the river Ciane, and traveled through the walls of the city toward a straggling olive grove nearly. The grove was unattended and dry weeds and their seedheads reigned supreme and play host to wary hares and many colored lizards and spiral horned goats whose widely purported relationship to what I call the many chambered nautilus shell is being studied by my friend Ammonius of Syracuse. He has found many shapes encased in stone and very like the goat horn in the rocky cliffs along the shore. He purports in recent papers that they these ancient beings gave rise to goats. Upon closer examination, they resemble more the shells we find along the beach than horns I think. They are most like those serving as homes to living things. Still, I think this resemblance between two things does not mean without doubt the two are related or spring from the same parents. It would be like saying the serpent lying on the path with tail in mouth is cousin to the circle of the sun. Or the wooden wheel on a donkey cart is nephew of the moon. It clearly isn’t so.

I found a fully leafed olive tree, abundant shade beneath its laden limbs, and settled under it to fast from daily chores and eat simply and live in thought and hope until I met my daemon. A legion of ducks flew over my head as I watched the morning sun rise high above me. I removed my gilet and pulled all the fabric of my cloak above my knees and rested my head against the pack of food and drink I had with me.

My eyes were closed and nothing there was to trouble or nag at me. I wondered should I call out to it? Or beg? Should I chant or sing? Recite poetry? What might bring my hidden companion forth? Were there magic words? Or spells to cast? Will I know it when I see it? Or will it appear in disguise? Is it here now laughing at me? If it can enter a tree or a turtle, as some say it can, it surely can enter me. But the question is this: is it willing to reveal itself to me?

My eyelids snapped open again as four astonishing birds flew overhead. They were shaped like small coracles and held their wings tight against their broad breasts as they glided in a tight formation as in a dance or military maneuver. They began to flap vigourously as I watched and headed out to sea…to fish I thought.

Or could they have been the one I seek? No one said the daemon was a solitary thing but only that it is a singularity, sui generis to each person. Perhaps it is a group of inseverable minigods, each unique and each reporting to a demiurge. I closed my eyes again and tried to contemplate my daemon by listing in my mind my most salient gifts and proclivities. It would be these the daemon would foster. Curiosity, persistence, fastidious as to appearance, moderate in all things of the flesh, and affable. These are all present and characteristic of my self. But what of my dreams, my goals, the things I avoid or will not face?

During most of the next day I looked everywhere around me for signs. The dark green limbs of my olive tree, like fingers of a stiff hand, pointed at varying angles to clouds or passing birds. One limb sported half a dozen directive tips and I followed each one to a point above. Another led the eye straight to the earth below. I searched about that mark and traced my finger all around it for signs of cracks or fissures. Nothing definitive. I read my bowel movements carefully for some say naturally eliminated substances can tell us much. Mine were of a good color, smooth, and firm. I plucked at my head and tugged at my beard to read the roots of hairs. All good. Nails on my hands and feet were smooth and unbroken. I scratched my arms and watched the blood rise.

I learned nothing except that I am healthy and unexceptional. No daemon came rushing from any orifice as I had almost half expected and surely wished.

The victuals I had brought with me were gone now so I made wide circuits around and out from my tree to gather wild plums or herbs and fill my flask with water from the middle of the flowing river.

……

 

After five days without wine I realized that I had been too enamoured of my goal, too set upon a result. I had been filled with so much expectation that my heart did not allow the room a daemon might require. I felt a frisson of fear. I remembered the poet, “If you continue trying to attain what cannot be attained, you will be destroyed.” Still, I carried on.

I began to breathe differently and to strive to abandon wanting and the hope of result and to instead think of other things. I imagined that not thinking of my daemon would fool it into materializing. I sat silently marveling at the loveliness of the world. This was not easy. My mind frequently returned to wondering if I could fool the daemon thusly.

But even one thought such as this returned me to the longing. I tried to shut out such thoughts. Eyes could not resist a peek now and again. I thought perhaps the daemon was standing right before me and I would miss it. Eventually, I overcame all and simply satbreathing, sometimes sleeping, and occasionally reaching for a sip of water orgoing off to forage. I had overcome most desire, but not my body’s needs. Thus I carried on for another three or four days. By now I wasn’t sure how long I’d been under my olive tree.

Another day was gone. Now mornings slipped into afternoons without fanfare. I slept and dreamed and ate less than ever. Bees were fleeting summons to look up or out. Light breezes reminded me of the not too distant sea.

Then one morning, from out the languid river edge just where waters stood nearly immobile except for eddies that moved about the deep and encouraged jade green bile and sinewy plants to rise up to the surface came a portentous stirring; out of this place of bulging frog eyes and snarly weeds and waving flags of papira, there was a longing. The drier stems of the papira sounded crisp as they were broken and parted as an invisible force forged through them. The green stuff, still wet and oozing, seemed to make an unsteady journey toward me, sliming the dry grass on the bank and on. I watchedwith amazement but not a little fear.

There was no form to this green breath that caused the grass to shudder…and none above it. But there was absence of form, a void that had no shape except that inscribed by the almost indiscernible difference in my perception of the sharpness of the horizon just above the green and all the plants and trees encompassed by it.

I tried to look away for there was no content there to see. Could it be illusion? a dream?–the product of my weakening state?

But still something came.

And now I could smell the brine of salt soaked plants and sullen fresh and almost sweet waters of the river.

“This cannot be,” my mind nearly screamed.

“I invite you to put all questions aside,” a voice answered. Was it mine? It was a rasping sound, deep and detached from the cavity in which my tongue rolled between my jaw bones.

“This cannot be it,” I said aloud, and forced my lips and teeth to make the words. The colors of my known world smeared and scraped across my inner eye and a curtain seemed to drop. All the blood drained from my body. But not before I saw the sun glance off its still wet and shiny shield, the segmented arms, the boney outer skeleton and the capacious claws.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Stories | Comments Off

The Journey

Journey: First complete draft

LLyn De Danaan

About 4100 words

May 31, 2015

It had become a test of my spiritual strength to sleep through the night. It required fortitude just to close my eyes. Each night, during my light and forced slumbers, a familiar sequence of images entered my dreams. There was, inevitably, a set of stairs writhing
slowly upward from a groyne that held the sea back from the friable bank above.
The stairs, made of rough-hewn logs flat on the top but rounded at the
bottom, were set into long notched timbers and these timbers laid against the
bank at a steep angle, not far off straight up and down. My task, never varying,
was to climb those stairs.

At the base of the stairs, an menacing apparition in human form  placed a
heavy pack upon my back. It seemed to be filled with stone or rock for it was
not only weighty and cumbersome but was dense and hard and the one in figure’s gnarled hands and fingers snugged the pack’s straps so that they cut into the flesh of my shoulders. That person, if person it could be called,  loaded me as one might load  a donkey and urged me on by gesture and without speaking. She or he had a light rod in hand and whipped the calves of my legs until I began to ascend.

Every step brought fresh pain. I longed for an anodyne. It crossed my sleeping mind that
I might topple backwards and fall to the beach. That would, at the least, perhaps, end my journey and my dreams. Or perhaps leave me broken but alive and in a new kind of hell.

The will to survive whole always won out. I tightened my arms around the timbers and held fiercely. I feared what might be above. What new horror might I meet? But I didn’t get that far for I woke usually just five or six steps below the edge of the bank’s top. And I knew with certainty that I would have to begin the journey again the next night. I did what I could to put off sleeping I so detested the dream and the unremitting distress and extramundane misery it visited on me. The coming of dark brought with it a frisson of fear and knowledge that in time I would be forced to lay my head upon  the rough bag filled with straw that served as pillow.

Still this pain and fear seemed to me to be beyond caring. For I witnessed, daily, the savagery of my associates. I watched the sackcloth covered monks tearing the flesh away from recent corpses to retrieve the bones They pulled and picked in much the same way as I remove a breast bone from a roasted chicken in order dry it, snap it, and learn my
fate. The monks rattled and threw marked rib bones to learn their own futures,
the rattle always accompanied by their crusty cackles and exclamations of
delight.

These monks, in the days of Cavallini, once allowed the corpse to dry before the harvest. This was our order’s golden era. This was before the monks or their minions were seen scudding down the lanes of the city, horrid, dripping parcels in their arms. These were the
days of old when their robes were clean and they did their work on floors tiled with
periwinkle blue Bukharan mosaics laid by craftsmen from the Silk Roads. The monks, kneeling or seated on simple pine benches that raised them a few inches from the polished floors, engaged in their dismembering and dejointing silently and in prayer and in belief that they ennobled themselves and the dead and honored God in the heavens.

The bones in those days were exhumed from ancient graves and had been deprived by time and worms and beetles of all flesh. They were lifted from graves with tenderness, then
cleaned and polished with a fine grit, and became almost as beautiful and lustrous as ivory
Most were pale as bleached parchment when ready for their installations.

We learned from the study of these bones the physical, corporal consequences of a lifetime of deprivation, hard work, and worry. Whole skeletons were knobbed and cracked and knuckled and ribbed according to their age and worldly occupations. Their skulls were lined and creased and knurled and ruched like maps of distant planets or the moon. Slender finger bones recalled their purposes for they were shaped or formed to pluck or plait, to stitch or scribe, to harvest or sew, or even touch in love. Jaws as deep as animal
troughs or wagon shafts seemed unbreakable as bronzes and just as finely
sculpted. Scapulas were as wistfully beautiful as fine porcelain dishes and as
slippery as newly iced pavement. They reflected light as if glazed. Teeth there were to yank from loose sockets and to string. Each specimen glowed with youthful gleam or glowered, stained and cracked with age. Each surface told a story: some of years of gritty dining, some of gnawing on a gristled stew.

There was no horror then and no message but that of plain mortality and the passing folly of our temporal earthly lives. To drill and thread was joyful and like a maker of the dry stone walls of our fields there was pleasure in finding a perfect place for each fragment. This was something of a pleasing art.

And did we in our secret thoughts alone sometimes restore in dreams the flesh, the smile, the nipple or the foot and stir in sleep? Of course.

A youngish monk, still fresh of face and nimble as a grasshopper, fell madly in love with a particularly well-turned humerus one day. He hid it in his robes, fitted it carefully next to his own long arm, and took it to his corner bed. The shame when he was found fondling
it in the night brought new and closer scrutiny to our days.

But no more did we have the old bones. We were digging newer graves and bringing forth fewer and still green corpses, some with only slight decay.

The monks worked on the bodies incessantly and with great concentration broken only by the order’s dictated hours of prayer or communal meals. They separated bones from muscles and tendons in an almost fever. They couldn’t wait to dry them and form them into arches and flowerets for their elaborate tableaux and the plates and
saucers for their afternoon tea. But even this was long ago. The moon was closer to the earth then, so Calveni says, and Eco’s roses bloomed in winter not in spring.

I was forced to watch this daily ripping of the dead. Yet still a youth, I was in charge of pressing live blooms from the gardens that were then strung into elaborate festoons that hung between the scapulas and clavicles or decorated friezes on the walls.

As alive as we were, some thought us not. Our faces were as dry as dust and etiolated from all the time we spent within our caves. No light crept in except that of oil lamps. Some older monks, well into their nineties, even took their meals inside those caves. I and a few others had a daily walk in the garden where the roses grew. We ate our victuals and sometimes had a gratefully numbing jug of wine and bits of bread while out. Those brief exposures were not sufficient to give color to our skin.

A wolf dwelt with us. White as snow that she-wolf was. We called her Cressius for she came to us as a pup by one of our order in the high hills of central Crete. There she was placed inside a wooden crate, and shipped to us aboard a grand armoured trireme along with elephants and camels and a host of other beasts from colonies in Northern Africa. Cressius emerged unbeaten yet not a little seasick. Thus she was tamed by gentle hands that fed and comforted her until she quite recovered. Cressius was a special friend to
me and it was Cressius who received scraps of dinner from my plate.

Cressius and I were doomed to slumber with our atavistic urges growing each day. They came upon us, like my dream of climbing, from nowhere. We shared them with our
grunts and whines and often found our limbs entwined when morning came. I do
not say when daylight came because dawn was not a thing we often witnessed. Oh
now and then we might be sent to harvest olives or to purchase goats. But many
plants were grown in our gardens by the youngest of the novices and there they
tended small herds and made our cheese and baked our bread. We had a lottery
inside the caves to see whose turn it was to venture afield for supplies. And
often the distance to be traveled required we stay over night at some small
outlier colony of our order. Those trips were eagerly awaited though as monks or other holy persons we should not long or dream or even think about that outside world or morning light.

Cressius was always permitted to travel with me. Though desexed in many ways by clothing and dress, the monks thought me a helpless maid and would not be sent alone on lonely roads. Cressius was a friend and a protectoress. No one dared approach or stalk me with Cressius by my side. And in the moonlight or even under stars she shone, her fur a rippling lantern to mark my path and warn all others away. Oh, but we wanted more trips
from the cave for what we saw and heard and smelled and touched on these too
infrequent quests for olives and such held wonder.

I had been orphaned. Well, not really orphaned for my parents, or rather those whose lust conceived me and out of whose bodies I was composed, deposited me on the threshold of the monastery. I had no choice in my education, vocation, or service.
But I could not become a monk for I was a female child. The monks dressed me
in sackcloth and asked for several nuns from the order, those who provided for the domestic needs of the brothers,  to take me to their dwellings. I stayed with them until I’d learned all that they taught, then they allowed me, always draped and always returning to the nuns’ cave to sleep, to work first in the gardens and then to assist the nuns who worked with the flowers and brought refreshment to those who tore at flesh and fashioned murals with the bones.

Cressius was my only real companion for the novices and young acolytes closer to my age lived inside buildings outside the cave and studied and worked at other, cleaner, tasks.  I don’t know why. I suppose the shame of my birth did not give me the rights that other younger persons whose relations had wealth and had purchased a berth for their offspring, one from each of the high families, so that a famous monk or priest or even cardinal might be attached and beholden to them. I was more a servant and my works beseemed that
status. I could be called upon by any of of the others on any pretense. I was kept
busy scuttering here and there when not drying roses. For that reason sleep was
important. I could not go without it for long.

Cressius and I had a particularly  tenebrous corner for our own. Someone years ago had chiseled a tiny shelf in the rock and on that ledge I had a pair of goat skins and a fleece from a large sheep. I had a few private possessions, all small things I had found and coveted. One was a shell shaped like eternity. Another was a stick I’d found and fashioned into a cross with a bit of flint I’d sharpened. Once on one of our peregrinations to the
outside, I’d found a small bell. It had been snagged from the neck and collar
of a sheep, surely, for it was hanging unnoticed in a bramble. Though it was
tiny, it made a sweet sound and I kept it under the skins and listened to its
song in secret and in the silence of the deep night. It was something I called
mine, as close and dear to me as my own toes and fingertips.

Life in the caves and among these peculiar artisans was bearable while they were still digging up old corpses to harvest the bones for their creations. But, as I’ve said, even in my lifetime, these old graves grew scarce. And by the time I was nearly ten, the recently dead were being dug up and flayed and disassembled. The monks became surly and now they reeked of death, of rotten flesh, and we all had nightmares. A cruel corner was turned one day when there were no corpses at all within the confines of the monastery. It was then our cave became no longer a place of bone cleaning but an abattoir.

The monk Jeremy was sent out the first night. His mission was presumably secret but not really a mystery to the rest of us. He had been instructed to kill, to murder, and to retrieve a fresh body. Oh yes, theological grounds were laid for this twisted work.

Some cited the deplorable state of the church and the need to rid it of the heretics. Christ used a whip, they said, God sent plagues on Egypt and tortured Job and came close to requiring that Abraham kill his son. The whole world was destroyed by floods and a promise had been made that there would be “fire next time.” Did not St. Augustine speak of torture and of the uselessness of the good for nothings? The sword would be an instrument by which to purge the world of evil. Heresy, they said, is worse than murder. And heresy can be understood to mean any action that is non conformist or contrary to the
teachings of the church. Thus the monks spoke with themselves. Thus they taught
each other. Thus they determined to rid the world of those whom they believed
resisted the teachings of the Christ and the will of God. Thus they went into
the streets to slit throats and gather raw material for their labors.

And it was shortly thereafter the abbot decided that it was foolish to waste the
flesh. We were now to remove skins whole, or as whole as possible, dry it, and
stuff it. Now entire mannequins could be posed amidst the bone and dry rose passageways and next to stacks of skulls and be caused, by careful manipulation and rearticulation of hands and arms, to contemplate a knee or rib or any other bone or kneel before
a ulna or caress an ankle.

Perhaps we all went a little mad. We (I count myself complicit here) constructed scenes or tableaux that depicted chapters of the Bible. Jesus, a baker as a living being, turned water, poured from a bone cup into wine; Martha, in the body of a weaver, approached an empty tomb made of grinning jaws. Before long, the monks devised a way to animate these scenes with string and lighting. It was a Grand-Guinol long before the name was known or such a theater of horror was founded.

In these tableaux, a prostitute in life became the Virgin Mary posed with newly dead child and near a Joseph who in life had been a real carpenter. But this mattered little for no one except we who lived within the walls of the monastery or  in the cave and and worked with the sad, cold, and stiffened bodies brought to us knew. And it was a craven work,
a work that despite the words our elders spoke to us seemed sure to damn us
all.

We were more silent, more afraid, more sickened as we stripped and cut and snipped and violated. No one was happy in this work and none felt blessed or called to it. Oh, one or two seemed made for it. And sadly, by this time, I too was made to help. I cannot speak of it without I taste the bile in my mouth and feel my jaws begin to cramp and eyes begin to sting. I clung to Cressius in the night and begged to go forth for the gathering of grapes and bounty of the fields.

It had been months of this apocalyptic travesty before my name was drawn. Cressius and I spent the night restless for the morning and the journey. A small pack was made ready and directions were given by the abbot. I was to travel to our order’s house not 40 miles south, a journey of some days. There would spend the night whilst barley bread and new wine would be loaded on the cart I had with me for the trip back.

I knew there would be no trip back. Cressius and I walked slowly out the large wooden doors that led to the world beyond the monastery. When it closed behind us, we breathed an air we had not breathed in months. Although it was still the dusty dry air of the city, it was fresh as spring water to us. We listened for the birds, all of which had fled even our gardens now and never entered our caves. We listened for the rustle of the leaves and
looked for bees and crickets in the grass and flowers. Soon we were out of the
gates of the city and its ancient stones and were beyond the sight and calling
of its muddled citizenry and their suspicious gossip.

I knew this road from many journeys.

I abandoned the cart and little beast after many miles. I trod along the far edge of the roadway then, when no one was in sight before or behind, I skipped lightly across the verge and over a hillock and, with Cressius leaping joyous as a youngster behind, snapping at butterflies and nuzzling deep into the chopped grasses at the scent of vole, made my way across the fields. My cloche betrayed my order and thus I tore it from my shoulders. I shred and hid it best I could lest it become a clue to my escape route. My rough under shirt and pantaloons were all I needed for the day was warm. I’d saved some crusts and bits of bean and cheese from dinners and had tucked them in a pouch. So now, just now, I could
walk without a fear of hunger. The monks would not miss me until some days
when I would be expected back. Thus, I had time to travel far.
But where and how would I survive?

I rehearsed my story, my new biography. And in my head I listed to my satisfaction all my skills: I could read and write; I was young and strong; I was handy with a myriad of tools. I learned quickly and spoke easily with animals who seemed to settle comfortably with me as a friend. I could apply to be a farm hand or a clerk or tutor or the assistant to any of those.

My biography would be this: I was the daughter of a merchant who had employed a tutor for me in my home. I’d been well treated but was orphaned when disease had struck my village, a small one in the north. His brother had stolen my father’s wealth and I was put out without consideration for my well being. And now I wandered seeking employment where I could. I expected nothing more of life.

And this was who I was. I called myself Alma and my wolf would be known as Zanna for her large ripping teeth.

Night fell but not before we had come upon a small pool of water from a recent rain. I shared the last bit of bread with Zanna and tried with it to teach her to answer to this new name. I bathed as best I could and drank. We slept as usual, me smothered in Zanna’s fur, her right forelimb cleaving me to her as if to bond us as one forever. On this night I did not have the dream.

……….

I awoke to the heat of the sun for there was no shade tree
where we took our rest but only tender tall grasses that flourished near the spring.

We had no food and seemed to be ready to be food ourselves. A hawk dove down toward us and came so close its knobbly legs and huge, sharp talons were within seconds of a strike. I waved my hands toward it and heard more than saw its gigantic wings beating at the air as it rose to circle from a distance.

The sun shone through its feathers so the its wing bones, its radius
and ulna and carpus and metacarpus and the digits were clearly visible. So familiar. So like a human arm, I thought. So beautifully formed. As dizzy from hunger as I was, I found myself overwhelmed by the symmetry and precision of those wings and for a moment found myself with the hawk, on the hawk, circling over my own body. Zanna did not move through any of this until the sun hit her furred head and troubled at her eyes. She rose and
stretched and went straight to the pool for a long sloppy drink.

We began to walk again, heading, I hoped for a village or town. Somewhere I could seek work and friendship. I tried to attend to the wanderings of my mind and to shake off the sometimes shivers of horrors when I had sudden recollections of the horror of the past few months. My life so far seemed to be a concatenation of events that needed sorting in order
to make sense. Other times I seemed to myself to have been on a perfect and
willed trajectory. Where would it lead?

The day was suffused with a golden, dusty glow and the fields around me were parched and stubbled. Dark green poplars showed themselves faintly on the distant horizon however, and it was toward that horizon that I traced my route and
pulled myself and my companion in a desperate bid for freedom.

At last, before nightfall, I entered a knotty, dark copse that I took to be a wetland surrounding the rows of poplars and leading to a town. The shrubs and trees were small and cowered densely over a thicket of wild berry vines. I saw no path and wrenched and tore my way in the direction of the larger grove ahead. My clothing was ripped, sleeves and pants, and my hands and arms and legs around the ankles were nearly shredded and bleeding from berry vine and thistle scratches. Cressius slunk lowto the ground, beneath the growth,  behind me.

Just as I could see the first of the poplars an easy march away, an elderly monk with a long staff came down through a clearing and stopped in his tracks when he saw me. I did likewise. He was bare headed but wore a sackcloth robe cinched round the waist with a hemp rope from which hung a large wooden cross. His otherwise naked scalp sprouted fluff without design. More grew out from and around his overlarge ears. His nose too was oversized and his nostrils like two immense caverns. His eyes were bright and eager.

“Ah. I see. A lost soul.”

He said.

“I am, indeed. Lost. Whether a soul or not is for God to
say.” And I began to recite my story, the tragedy of my village, my hope to
find employment and all the rest.

The monk stood watching me, listening attentively, and then
said, “Follow now. I will see that you are cared for.”

I had little reason not to follow. The trajectory, I thought. This is another step in my ordained path. Here was, it seemed, a good Christian man who offered aid. Perhaps God had sent him to me. Zanna and I were weak and I stumbled now and then but kept the man in sight as he nearly leapt up the hillside, through the poplars, and through a lively and brilliant green glade within which birds sang and chirruped seemingly from every surrounding tree branch. He traveled on both I and wolf panted to keep up.

Soon a large brick building with a crenulated wall around it
rose into view. It was alone, that is, isolated amidst the surrounding forest. No other
clearing or settlement could be seen.

We approached it by way of an elaborate, staired barbican made of chiseled
grey stone blocks. The monk knocked with fierce force on an oaken door that was set
steadfastly between the stones of a grand arch. When it was opened, it was clear
that the interior was protected from intruders by both an inner and outer door.
I was led through each and each was closed firmly and locked behind me. Zanna
began to whine. No doubt she was hungry and a little wary of a place she did
not know.

A moment, the monk said, and disappeared into a dark interior
space apparently deep within the building judging by the time he was gone. When
he returned, he had another with him. This fellow had a younger bounce to his
walk though his head was hooded like a falcon’s. But even though he was shadowed by the
hood he could be seen to have a lean, saturnine face.

Then he saw me and his broad lipped mouth broke into a
crooked toothed smile and his dour appearance cracked into one of pleasure.

“Yes yes, brother,” he said to the older monk while eyeing me and following the line of my cheek with one stained and ragged finger,
“she’ll do nicely for a new Mary. A lovely jaw bone indeed.”

Posted in Short Stories, Stories | Comments Off

Mason County Historic Preservation Day May 16, 2014

Notes for Historic Preservationists

Mason County May 16, 2015

LLyn De Danaan

A good portion of my work has been researching and writing cultural history and that history is embedded in the earth and file cabinets in the forms of yellowed documents, artifacts, and in structures, in monuments, and in the minds of people. It is recoverable in part from those documents, photographs, maps, records of land transfers, records of acquisitions, stories of wars, correspondence from and between those in power and those with little power. It is the record of the conqueror and the conquered, of violence and terror, of justice and injustice, of loss and love. Most of what I can find in official repositories of the history that is “preserved.” But to simply preserve is not to tell “the story.” Telling the story, bringing it to life, requires interpretation, filling in the blanks, giving voice to those whose voices are not in those documents or whose thoughts are not filed away in stainless steel trays, protected from rot and insects, or recorded on wax cylinders.

I am reading Remembering the Modoc War: Redemptive Violenceand the Making of American Innocence. In the preface, Boyd Cothryn is describes his visit to National Lava bedsas he begins his study of the Modoc Wars and the 1872-1873 bloody era of violence in Northern California and southern Oregon’s Klamatth Basin. “People see events through the lens of their own time” a park ranger tells visitors. But there are always two histories: the actual series of events that occurred and the idealized series of events that we affirm and hold in memory. The first is absolute (but unknowable because knowing relies on absolute access to absolute and unbiased records) and the second is relative and always changing. Here I am paraphrasing Cothryn’s paraphrase of the historian Carl Becker who famously wrote of this duality and the history of the imagination. The memory of history, the interpretations, the overlay of personal and societal values on history, and the associations assigned to that history cannot be reconciled with what actually happened. Ever.

But we can try to recognize if not reconcile the biases of racism and class and other biases in our work and interpretations and we can try to create more inclusive stories of our history. Historians of the “western expansion” of Europeans and EuroAmericans have worked very hard in the past thirty or so years to do that.

When I began my work on Oyster Bay, there was little in print about the role of Japanese workers in the local shellfish industry. The focus has always been on the Owners, the entrepreneurs. The capitalists. There was little in print about the role of women or of native americans on the early industry. But now we know, as indigenous people always have, that individual “picking grounds” were culled and tended and that shellfish gardens were created and nurtured all along the Northwest Coast hundreds of years before European settlement. These are voices, points of view, “facts” simply left out of the story of the county because other voices were more prominent, more dominant. Even now, as the Simpson Company closes operations on the Shelton waterfront, will the voices of those most affected be the ones recorded? The man or woman who has worked there for 20 years and now will lose source of income?

You are in a position as those interested in history and its preservation to think of those who are not being heard those whose interests are not represented in the official record. Ask yourselves, when you think of local history and when you look around the table, “who speaks for wolf.” Because wolf will not be at that table but somebody has got to bring his or her message forward if our descendents are to understand the full story of our time.

 

Thank you.

 

 

 

Posted in Presentations | Comments Off

News from LLyn De Danaan July 15, 2015

cropped-LLyn-portrait-May-5-20151.jpgI’ll have a new story (fiction) in the “Timberland Reads Together” anthology due to be released in paperback and digital formats around August 15. The anthology will be featured in the October “Read Together” events sponsored by Timberland. I’m happy to be participating in this program. I’m also happy to be writing fiction! I’m well into a mystery called “Murder by Martiini.” Stay tuned.

Timberland Reads Together: All of October..stay tuned for more specific dates

Washington Center/Olympia October 5 (tentative)

Shelton Timberland Library October 6

Washington Humanities Events (public)

North Mason Timberland Library July 14 2015

Senior Services September 12 2015

Timberland Aberdeen Library November 10 (tentative)

Timberland Tumwater Library November 17 2015

Book Clubs (private)

August 31 2015

September 8 2015

 

Posted in Announcements | Comments Off

Participation Mystique: Number Six

Malaysian Spirit Log Number Two: Paraanthropology in the Raw

Our house was on a hill just above the government’s district office. There was the constabulary. It counted few in its number and had little to do until, of course, the Brunei Rebellion began and the Indonesian troops began gathering at the border (about 12 miles away). I say “our” house because after the floods, Timah and her family were with me until my stint ended sometime in June of 1964.

Then came the Ghurkas and the Malay Army and the British Commandos and reinforcements for the constabulary. They brought their tanks, and set up field tents and other equipment to create a sort of headquarters below us. There was much noise and bustling and not just from the soldiers. British jets flew low overhead where nothing noisier than hornbills had flown. They dropped phamplets upon us urging us to either surrender or stop cooperating with communists or whomever. These were printed in several languages including Jawi script, an Arabic alphabet used for writing the Malay language. It was introduced by Islamic merchants who brought Islam to the region in the 7th century.

Military helicopters flew onto the school soccer fields. At first this was a novelty and we all rushed to watch the landings and have our scarves and hats blown about. Soon it was commonplace. One day, a United Nations team came by copter to assess the situation. The Chinese Clandestine bunch were said to be hiding about here and there. In the jungle. In the shops. Growing vegetables. Selling rice. Meeting in secret and plotting to take over the country.

As rumors (and maybe even actual intelligence) spread, our house was surrounded by rows of barbed wire and a few slit trenches. These trenches were occupied by men with Sten guns in the late evenings. The Stens were British 9mm submachine guns.

A curfew was imposed and required that we be inside at dark and pass a checkpoint at the bottom of the hill. It was all very daunting. I rehearsed my Malay responses to any challenge I might receive when going home at dusk.

All I had for transport was my British made bicycle and my legs. But if were we to be invaded by the Indonesians (which the nearly hysterical Singapore Straits Times predicted would happen in every edition as did the angry broadcasts from Djakarta during which Sukarno threatened same), my next door neighbor, the Scots road engineer Tom Oliver, and I were to hustle into one of his big lorries (preloaded with dynamite) and drive to the capital of the state, Kuching, blowing up bridges behind us. I kept an oversized rattan rice basket loaded with essentials near the door for my whole second year in Bau. I was ready. Meanwhile, the troops lined up nightly outside the door of Tom’s amah’s house, a beautiful Malay woman who was sister to Bujang and Gorot and Hamdan. I could hear them taking turns with her. I wonder if she became rich? Many schoolgirls were suddenly sporting new shoes and other trinkets as well. It all happened overnight. The shops on the only street of Bau were frequented by troops as well. I drank Konchi beer by the quart with them and smoked too many Players cigarettes. They’d get so drunk they’d forget their Sten guns sometimes. They went to the border for a few days and always came back missing one or two of their mates and with tales of having their heads licked by salt-hungry rats while they slept. These fellows were around my age…young and uneducated Brits who were, I imagined , much like my high school pals who were soon to be drafted into a war I heard was cooking up in Vietnam. The shopkeepers who made the best Mei Goreng in the world were suddenly producing plates of beans and bangers and fried eggs for the boys. One day we even had the Highlanders marching down the two blocks of our kedah. It was a very functional little town that even had a movie theatre. Sort of. It was enclosed and had rows of wooden benches…much like the benches school children used in some of the makeshift village schools. They were set upon the hard packed dirt floor. The Chinese theatre owner had an imposing overstuffed chair placed somewhere near the middle of the interior, arranged for optimum viewing. I don’t remember the cost but it was pennies. I seem to remember smoking. I’m sure. People smoked, for the most part, hand rolled cigarettes. Bidayuih rolled a bit of Indonesian tobacco in a dried palm leaf. They self extinguished regularly so one could judge the distance to a village by how many cigarettes one could smoke in the distance. Berapa rokok ke Kampong Sudoh? For example one might ask someone coming the opposite directions on the path. And one could judge how far ahead someone was by how bright red the spit was on the path. Fresh betel spit was a blood red. But it gradually dried brown. A greeting in town with Malay speakers was often Pergi mana or pergi ke mana? It meant where are you going. No one really cared for an answer. It was sort of like the American how are you. Who wants to stand and listen to the woeful tale. And anyway, it is usual obvious how you are and where you are going.

So the theatre. I probably smoked too. One could buy Players singly from an open tin in the shops. I did. We had no television, of course, and to see a film out in the Bidayuh kampongs required walking in with a projector and a battery to power it. This did happen on occasion. But town folk could see a new movie every week even during monsoon. I believe the Chinese owner was thought of as a rich man.

Nothing more exciting than invasions and floods and the killing of chickens happened in Bau while I was there except Chinese festivals. Though only two blocks long, the only street of Bau was often the site of what were to me exotic, loud, and fascinating parades and promonades. I ran down my hill at the first hint of another ritual performance. Men sat upon highly decorated chairs in brocade gowns and large hats and were thus carried through up and down as drums and cymbals and gongs crashed. A makeshift Chinese opera came to town and put up a stage in front of the temple. The temple itself wafted incense into the street. Who were these people and what was this about?

Posted in Memoir, Stories | Comments Off

Participation Mystique Number Five: Implants

Participation Mystique: Number Five

Implants

My first familiarity with the implant scheme came after overhearing a colleague at the copy machine down the hall from my office. I was hired to be a visiting lecturer in the philosophy department.  The department had lost their Schopenhauer expert and although I am an anthropologist, I was first received notoriety for my book, An Exegesis of Shopenhaur’s Position on Marriage With Special Attention to its Meaning for Women. Schoepenhaur had famously declared against marriage for himself with the comment, “Marrying means to halve one’s rights and double one’s duties.” If this were true for a man, how much more true for a woman who had no rights at the time. I argue, in the book, that marriage destroys any chance for women’s rights and piles duties on that cannot in any case be escaped. I openly wondered whether there were any advantages at all in the married state. The book proposed social arrangements between men and women that could not be called reformist. My thesis was decried by the so-called women’s movement of the period. The criticism of these relatively conservative legions (who supported a status quo with the goal of inserting more females into columns of capitalists, politicians, and other oppressors) helped to bring publicity to my book and sales were good.

In any case, here was I teaching Schopenhauer, listening in on the morning small talk among colleagues, and forever wondering about whether a malignant will was in charge of their daily drivel. This particular colleague, often copying tests at the last minute before her first class, complained about a sudden knee pain. She put it down to jogging or maybe a hike up Mt. Eleanor. In any case, in a week or two, she reported, again over the copy machine, that she had been informed that she needed surgery to repair a tear in her meniscus. Meanwhile, unbeknownst to anyone at the time, the copy machine had been tinkered with. It released gases that sedated anyone who regularly used it. The sedation enabled aliens to control the content of lectures as well as the comments the sedatees made in faculty meetings. If one goes back into the archives of the college, one will note that faculty meetings stopped making sense in about 1982, the year the new copy machines were installed in most of the buildings on campus. One will also note that sudden injuries and surgeries, especially on knees, began to be common.  Relatively fit people, still only in early middle age, were in and out of hospitals from that time on until the early 2000s. Of course, each of them became more and more impotent in the classrooms and became so irascible that they started a union. But it was not only the campus that began to change. Persons in the  surrounding community were plagued by back problems. Hospitals sprang up where none had been and large orthopedic practices opened for business. Though no one knew at the time, these surgeons happily opened back after back for the purpose of implanting radio receivers that would allow the transmission of alien commands.

The aliens had set up a post in the middle of a basalt gravel pit on a rural hillside in the adjoining county. An innocent seeming antenna was installed on top of a small shack, a structure no bigger than a fishing hut used in upper midwestern America for ice fishing. It was, and was intended to be, inconspicuous. However, I had, often late at night, occasion to drive a road that passes the gravel pit. I frequently noticed that not only were lights on inside the hut, but there were sometimes strong lights projecting from its roof up into the sky. Only after several years of careful sleuthing did I finally catch them at it. Ships as big as football fields hovered in the clouds above (they came only on cloudy nights, presumably to hide their presence from anyone who might be out in the early dark hours of the morning) and projected earthward what appeared to be strings of many colors. These were caught up by the antenna on the roof of the hut and then seemed to streak down that antenna into the hut itself. Bursts of orange and gold and blue and green and colors I could not name illuminated the small hut (in which there were no beings that I could discern) and then dissolved into a steady beam that seemed to gather more and more energy and then resolve itself into a ball that was absorbed by something, perhaps a transmitter, in the building. It was after years of noting times of these projections that I was able to see that these nocturnal visitations to the gravel pit corresponded with shopping sprees in local malls.

As I watched, read, followed and otherwise tracked the transmissions of the alien craft, I realized that implants in knees and backs were just the tip of the iceberg. Alien directed orthopedic surgeons and obstetrician had been recruited to implant receivers in every orifice that they could possibly make an excuse for entering. Meanwhile, women’s health specialists and even the National Institutes of Health changed recommendations for evaluations and examinations and legions of women, at least those with insurances that had cunningly been made to cover a new range of procedures, trotted in for appointments and left with urges they had never had before.

If one looks at the shopping behaviors of women from the 1950s on, it is clear that implanted desires outstripped good sense. Objects never heard of became necessities in every American household. A woman hither to most careful with the family budget began to crave dishwashers and garbage disposals and then foreign made coffee makers and grinders. Once the desire for coffee makers seemed fulfilled, new one cup makers became a rage as did machines the served only to heat and foam milk, something no one knew was needed in order to enjoy a morning beverage before.  Refrigerators became almost human in their ability to create ice, chop salads, and wrap and store a variety of meats. Kitchen range/ovens were now able to mix and bake breads with the flip of a switch. Toasters, toaster ovens, and hot pots came in a variety of matching colors. Homes could be programmed from long distances to turn up heat, cook a meal, and welcome you at your door with a martini and a robotic dog. All of these desires resulted in purchases that caused the national debt to climb and  enslaved the population. No one could imagine ever being free of payments. But the transmitters urged them on, issued more credit cards, and initiated more and more desire. Only a few remained debt free and these hid themselves in back woods. They tried to stay “off the grid” , avoid doctors, and tear up credit cards. They found each other as they could and amused themselves with reruns and contra dancing. They didn’t know about the aliens, but they did know something was back assward.

This is the current state of things. There is no turning back. The ships are waiting, full of immigrants who know how to sew and weld and plant crops and harvest and shovel driveways and fix cars. They all have chainsaws. The ships are just above the clouds, waiting for the inevitable calling in of all loans, depletion of social security, and aging of the resident population. They are waiting.

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off

Participation Mystique Number 4: Abductions Continued

Abductions II

The Vulnerablity of Older White Women: Abductions Made to Order

Scrabble and Crossword Puzzles Render Victims Particularly Susceptible

American white women in their sixties are particularly ripe for harvest. They are past childbearing, something abductors like. Abductors  are not interested in limited the vocabulary of still breeding women. Still, these women tend to worry about adult children even after they are past middle age. Worrying dulls or suppresses brain function, but the women do a lot of crossword puzzles. In fact, aliens, with the support of the United States Government and particularly NIMH, have planted stories that lead these women to believe that Scrabble and crosswords actually enhance brain health. Yes, worrying has a dulling effect on brain function but the crosswords counteract this and in fact renders the women rich in vocabulary resources. Something abductors value.

These women are particular good abductees because their post abduction symptoms and stories are taken for signs of aging, as strokes, as mini strokes, as ocular migranes or just neuroses. The culture is primed by the medical establishment and film industry to ignore this demographic or make light of the so called foibles of age. They tend to be forgetful, so family and medical establishment believe and convince the women to believe, so absence of time is taken as a given of their age. In point of fact, no one takes their episodic abductions seriously and because they have so little detail to report other than lost words or time, they are happily convinced that their brains, like their knees, are simply suffering from long time over use.

But I know personally of at least four instances of these post menopause abductions and am convinced that abduction among members of this demographic is rather common and accounts for most of the behaviors associated with their aging.

The first case brought to me was of a seemingly normal older woman who lived in relative luxury. She had inherited wealth, had a long marriage, and several seemingly successful children who had married and bore children of their own. Her marriage became unbearable and she separated from her husband.  Her children by now were living on their own with their families. She was alone, though, in point of fact, not often. One day, while contemplating her next dinner and staring mindlessly into the right hand vegetable bin of her refrigerator (she remembers seeing radicchio and a bundle of scallions), she found herself standing by a cracked window near the litter box in the bathroom off the master bedroom. What happened between riffling through the wilted red leaf lettuce and the damaged glass in the pane in the bath window? She felt disoriented and had no idea where she had been or with whom or why or for how long. Nothing else seemed different. But she searched the house for signs of burglary or evidence, perhaps, of her own confused and forgotten meanderings. Her grandmother’s gravy boat was missing. This was certain. The gravy boat was no small thing. It was hand carved from the tusk of a walrus and etched with images of the steamship Arctic on one side and Two Brothers on the other. Both ships were doomed. That is perhaps of some consequence.

Also missing was a gallon sized glass jar filled to the top with her father’s collection of early 20th century pennies. The sheer weight of the copper in these pennies gave value to the collection. She searched the house thinking that the housekeeper, who came once a week, might have moved the jar during a cleaning jag. But neither gravy boat nor penny jar could be found.

In her dreams on subsequent nights she saw herself handing the gravy boat to an ill clad person with large eyes and a green complexion. The penny jar she saw in the arms of a man dressed in black and whose eyes were likewise black and without whites. Though she heard herself objecting strongly to handing over these valuables to the pair, she seemed, ultimately, helpless to say no to either of them. She interpreted this as a parable or message about her own general inability to say no.

Many tests were run on the poor woman when she reported the missing time. Nothing physical explained the lapse. Fearing she would be taken for a looney, she did not report the dreams and learned to live without the pennies and gravy boat.

A second woman from the same demographic experienced a similar but not identical day. Like June Heinrich (see first abduction story), she lost her ability to speak nouns. This was disconcerting because nouns are her favorite part of speech. After verbs. Well French verbs to be specific. After the episode, She tried speaking nouns in each of the five or six languages she knew. Nothing. This odd event did not happen in the comfort of her home nor even in the woods. No. She was having a quiet dinner with a friend in a local wine bar and had just eaten a second cracker cum Fontiago cheese topped with capers. She was sipping a very dry martini when her attempt to say something clever fell flat. Her dinner partner did not laugh or even smile. There was no retort, no critique, no attempt to top her remark with something even cleverer. The partner simply looked blank. Not concerned, not worried, not engaged. Just blank. The woman tried again. This time she decided to quote someone known to be clever. The partner stared. Even blanker. What she heard was “is…..being…..were…..crazed….laughed….typed.” She decided that this was a game and tried to guess the missing words. “Monkey.” She said. The woman shook her head. “Nostril.” “Lips” “Face.” “The crazed monkey laughed through its nostril until its lips fell off its face.” The woman shook her head “no” even more vigorously. The dinner, needless to say, was a fiasco. The nouns returned within two or three hours but the friendship was at an end as was the woman’s reputation for witty repartee and compelling wordplay.

Like woman number one, her subsequent dreams were peculiar. This woman had scenes in which tubes were forced through her ear canals and long sentences were extracted. The tubes led to a series of filters and each filter dumped contents into carboy sized jars each variously labeled “French verbs,” “Spanish nouns,” “English adjectives” and so forth. The words themselves echoed into her restless nights. She tried to describe this to her physician on one of her call backs but he handed her a prescription for lorazapam and left the room.

 

The fourth case I will describe, also from the same demographic, concerns a woman who became known for her ability to decode those who had been believed to be programmed by evil but terrestrial forces. Of course, all of her talent and even the so called programmed clients sent to her were part of a grand experiment conducted by a group of extra terrestrials in conjuction with and approval of the United States Air Force. She also liked to play Scrabble. Without realizing how she was being directed, she built a rural home in the shape of a flying saucer which pleased the aliens and offered an easy target for the conveyance of their subliminal messages to her. Her abilities were enhanced. She was also convinced by an alien who opened a hair salon in her local town, that she should buy a bonnet hairdryer. The dryer was of course rigged up in a phony factory so that it too would convey information to her. She became convinced that clouds over her home were being seeded with poison and that her horses could talk. She believed that most of her dreams were composed of bits and pieces of past lives. Thus she came to understand that she had lived in Anatolia, Uzbekistan, Siberia many years before…and always as a person who traded in precious stones. Believing that these dreams signaled a calling, she began taking long vacation trips to Moab and climbing in rocks in search of bits of jasper and torquoise.

 

Women’s abductions clearly take a form unique in both purpose and outcome. One woman, for example, reported that she had been taken to the Amalfi coast for a day hike and then swooped into Milan for a shoe-buying spree. She had an exquisite pair of a buttery dappled red leather pumps with a sensible but elegantly shaped heel to prove it. These are shoes she could not have found in her own hometown or even within a hundred miles of it. And she could not have afforded to purchase these shoes on her pension income.

 

The Gay Abductee

Another unusual subset of the above described demographic of abductees is gay white women over sixty. Known in the literature as the “Gay Abductees,” these women or, as they might self identify, lesbians are understudied.

 

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off

Participation Mystique Number 3: Abductions

Participation Mystique: Number Three

 

Tales of Abduction: Number I

“And they descended upon earth to increase their ranks…..” Borgman

“The Nephilim were in the earth in those days, and also after that, when the sons of God came in unto the daughters of men, and they bore children to them; the same were the mighty men that were of old, the men of renown.”

My first encounter with an abductee, though I didn’t know it at the time, was in Beavercreek when I was a small child. I lived in an idyllic 1950s community. It was one in transition from a predominantly German farming township to a suburban commuter neighborhood for Wright Patterson Air Force Base employees, civilian and military. Being close to Wright Patterson our population included many persons interested in space flight, in extraterrestrial phenomena, and in unidentified flying objects. Indeed we had many sightings of UFOs throughout the late 1940s and 1950s and these sightings were not questioned or thought the product of overactive imaginations. Equally unquestioned were   fireflies, the evilness of the Soviets, and the many electrocutions of men attempting to mount TV antennae on their houses. The later was, of course, later shown to be orchestrated by the government in order to thwart citizen attempts to communicate directly with Moscow via ham radios wired to these receivers not so cleverly disguised as innocent attempts to get a better picture.

We had our share of former Nazi German rocket scientists living in ranch style houses on cozy rural routes almost as innocent seeming as ours. And we had the pleasure of seeing experimental aircraft hovering over we tots in our school yards as we hefted ourselves around on oversized monkey bars and dropped knives from our nose tips in desperate games of mumbly-peg.

On one side of my house, and behind as well, were immigrants from Kentucky who crossed the river with hope on their backs and no jobs or money. They spoke with accents so thick we could hardly understand them and, with help of jokes learned from Grand Old Opry broadcasts, we made fun of them regularly. Over dinners of fried chicken. Over dinners of liver and onions. In the family room and along our tiled hallways. Their women children gave themselves home permanents and smelled always of some chemical and their boy children swung cats over their heads in grand circles, fists closed tightly around the tails, then released them flying into weed patches. In this way, we were told,  the Kentucky boys studied gravity and centrifugal force and the truth of the saying that cats have many lives.

My father’s accent was Southeastern Ohio with a bit of West Virginia and not nearly so thick. He had a job. We were superior beings.

Beyond those Kentucky houses and the high grass fields of butterflies and Queen Anne’s lace were the cornfields and the domain of Mrs. Miller’s Guernseys. They were a flaccid bunch that was easily called to the fence line when I mewled my imitation of a distressed calf. The field corn grew high throughout my small child summers and crisped itself golden in the fall. Our fir trees and floribundas ringed our small lot and sugar maples dotted the “front lawn” and grew healthy and stronger each year. It was a good patch and lovely life though hummed over each night by Strategic Air Command B-52 bombers.

Across the street to the right and beyond our mailboxes (In which arrived all wonders from the outside world: Do you think you can draw? Captain Video rings, Red Rider scarves) lived June Heinrich. She became a medical celebrity. But hers was no medical event.

One day my mother, still in her work clothes and looking very much like a nurse, made an announcement. She was seated with us all at her highly polished maple dining table and reaching for a second slice of the lemon meringue pie I had made that afternoon. She said, with little emotion, that June had been taken to hospital. She had “suffered a stroke,” mother said, as she licked some meringue from her upper lip. Between subsequent bites she said that June was not expected to survive and that she, mother, had been home for lunch when it happened. She’d seen the ambulance arrive and the stretcher load June into it. Mother rode a Honda scooter to work and because her place of work, a pediatrician’s office, was only about a mile away, she often took a midday meal in her own kitchen. There were, after all, no fast food takeaways in those days.

We children were not accustomed to a lot of death and illness, living as we were so far from our own aging relatives. We didn’t have much to say and didn’t know what to think. I know I, at least, did not want to have to see the presumably mourning dog and husband or try to think what to do in their presence.

The fat dog, some kind of over-indulged Cocker Spaniel mix, and jolly beer drinking and otherwise hedonistic spouse were in fact at loose ends in their neat little house down the neat little lane through neat little gardens that surrounded them. They ate TV dinners, and ambled silently together down that neat little lane to collect milk from the box or to see if there were mail. His name, the spouse’s, was Connie. No doubt, I came to believe, short for the more Germanic Conrad. That was surely his given name. Connie even had a decidedly German accent that I thought nothing of at the time.

Months passed as June with her Mamie Eisenhower bangs, now shorn and shaved, lay in some Dayton Hospital, or so we were all told. She could not be visited, we were told. I was delighted with this news. Surgeons, we were told, had somehow split her brain in twain. It was a miracle, doctors reported. She lived. And within the year, she was returned to dog and spouse.

She never spoke a noun again. Of course not. These had all been drained from her, sucked from her, extracted, and recorded by, and for the edification of, her abductors.

The story untold at the time was that June had been found in the forest behind her house. Connie and the dog had traced her there after an absence of at least eight hours. The dog, otherwise unaware that she was not in the house, missed its dinner. Connie himself, reclined in his chair, beer in hand, and reading the Dayton Daily News, began to wonder about his sauerbraten. It had been cooking in a low oven all day and was surely ready to be served.

The two, man and beast,  lumbered to the garden thinking she’d gone off to pick some vegetables. She was not there but they did smell an unusual burnt odor coming from beyond. It was the smell of charred grasses. They followed the smell and the trampled pathway that led to the woods back beyond the field. June’s steps were easy to follow. There were the crushed weeds but also snagged bits of threads from her garments. The dog was wary and nervous. It urinated incessantly and once even vomited.

The woods was a large one, never cut. It was an eastern hardwood forest composed of beeches, maples, oaks and hickory. We neighborhood children had worn paths throughout the forest floor and made lookouts in snags. We had made rings of logs and stones and fire pits around which we told stories. Thus dog and man followed these paths and the clear, blackened, still smoking footprints laid down by June, their mistress.

She had been set down gently it would seem in a rock ring near the center of the forest. Connie dare not move her, so dog stood watch, licking at her face and cheeks, while Connie ran for help. She lived, but barely.

What happened next? Connie apparently called a prearranged contact at Wright Patterson Air Force Base.

When a voice answer, Connie said simply, “She’s down.”

The contact knew what this meant and sent a team disguised as Sloan Kettering Hospital orderlies and doctors to Hanes Road.

What Doris Patterson saw, as did any curious Kentuckians peering from their picture windows, was an ambulance. Not a daily happening in the rural community. But not so out of the ordinary.

All they were told, when they asked Connie, was that June had had a stroke.

Casseroles arrived. Pots of soup. Pies. Banana bread. Connie was taken care of by the women of the community who understood that a man would starve to death without a woman in the house.

And then the many reports and postings to “reputable” medical journals. June Heinrich, medical miracle.

She came home minus her nouns and with no recollection of the hours she’d been on board an alien spaceship operating with the full knowledge and cooperation of the United States Air Force. Connie, who was of course one of the German rocket scientists brought to Wright Patterson after World War II had cooperated with the abduction and with the cover up. He had cultivated June’s verbal skills over the years, buying her dictionaries and challenging her to crossword puzzles and games of Scrabble. He had prepped her and managed her as surely as if she were a white rat in a lab.

My mother, who slowly pieced together the story during long conversations with June in following years, secured her notes deep in the velvet lining of her Doctor Zhivago jewelry box. The conversations were, of course, long because June had no nouns. But after many cups of Lipton tea and many plates of tongue loosening rum balls, mother got the story.

Mother’s notes are not easy to decipher:

“…..took (meaningful look)….flew….sucked (grimace)….tossed…green….pinhead….”

It all made sense.

Posted in Stories | Comments Off

Participation Mystique: Number Two

Malaysian Spirit Log/Para-anthropology in the Raw

We have pulled off to the side of a sticky, rutted road cut by Public Works Department through a patch of jungle, the beginning of the unfinished highway between Sirian and Simmangang. No. Unfinished is not the right word. Neither is road. This is a muddy, hardly drivable scratch through  brush. A poor effort at something we might call infrastructure today.  It is impossible to drive it after a big rain. That means it is impassable during the whole monsoon season. It will not be completed until the lorries of rocks are delivered and dumped and the Chinese and Malay carry them basket after basket to the road bed and place them one by one to make a cobble bed for the macadam surface. That surface will be rolled  several years from now. The road, as it is now, is very much like the paths I trek on to get to the villages I visit. I’m usually at least ankle deep in mud….passing sometimes through rubber plantations, each tree with a little cup under the runny slash on its trunk, and sometimes through impossibly beautiful acres of high palmate trees hanging with ferns and orchids and so thick under the canopy that nothing can pass unless it be those that crawl on their bellies or have the strength to break through it all. Beasts and demons, perhaps. Then, as I leave the untamed and  approach a village, pass the guardian totem that can call upon a hill demon to “tangle my neck” if I come bearing ill will,  I see the pepper plants or pineapple fields at my side or untidy fields of red rice growing on slashed and burnt hillsides. The mud from the journey covers my boots and encases my legs all the way up my calves.  I am tired and thirsty and wet clear through my clothing from my own sweat. My hair is dank. The skin over my stomach is inexplicably dry and cold.  Someone cuts the top off a green coconut and I drink the water.

This time, this night,  I’ve traveled in a car. We have gone to visit one of Timah’s relatives and are on our way home when someone spots a light moving through the trees just below us. No one seems afraid. But everyone wants to get out and watch. I see it too. It is ball of fire and it is moving rapidly through the brush and cover. It is higher from the jungle floor than would be a torch carried by a person. And it is rounder than the flame of a torch would be; it is bigger than a lantern or flash light beam. In fact, there is no beam nor light diffusing from the central core of it. It is just a solid ball of light. I don’t hear a noise. I don’t hear wind or branches being moved or hit. We’ve all stopped breathing as we behold this thing. Is it a hantu? I wonder. A ghost? Will it harm someone?

There are stories of shapeshifters, men and women who turn into tigers. Hantu remau. There are stories of flying eggs. I am surrounded by these tales, day in and day out. I dream them alive under my mosquito net. I hear the ghosts knocking at my door and the rattling of the WWII Japanese sword, crafted by a local blacksmith for an officer.  I have foolishly hung this on a wall of my big room. (It is said it was used for beheadings and given the bloody and cruel Japanese occupation of British Borneo, this is not a far fetched story.) I hear my name being called in the night. It is that fellow from the Bidayu kampong, “kaki kosong” they call him because he wears no shoes. He has put something in the food I’m told. It is that fellow from the Malay kampong. He is in love with you. He brings love charms. They tell me this, my housemates, living with me after the Public Works barracks are swept away by the biggest flood in the recorded history of the First Division of Sarawak.

Timah was my Amah. She did my laundry and chatted amiably with me as we poured salt on giant snails or greeted the border crossing Indonesian woman who came peddling batik. But after the flood swept away the barracks, she and her husband Gorot and his bachelor brothers, Bujang and Hamdan and two or three small children came to me…homeless. My house was small and simple, made of woven palm leaves with an attap roof and no electricity. But it was divided by an open porch with a simple shower and toilet just off the porch. This layout of the house was perfect for us. They took the side of the house with the kitchen and dining area. I kept my bedroom and the big room with the chairs and table. We shared that room at night until I went to bed. There we talked and played poker and ate the peanuts that Timah roasted. Timah went around the house at dusk each evening and closed all the shutters because there was a Hindu cemetery behind the hill below my house. If the shutters weren’t closed, the ghosts would come in. Even if the shutters were closed, the ghosts would come to our doors and could call our names. If you answered and followed, you would surely die. And they were clever ghosts. They could sound like someone you knew. So they could seduce you into following them. Because of them, all the people in the barracks had been sleeping in one big room before the flood. They figured that with the others around, each had a chance of being prevented from following the voice.

I heard the voice. I heard the knocking. It was as real as anything I’d ever heard. It called to me and convincingly imitated Timah and then Gorot. But I knew it was not them. They would not wake me in the night or call out to me.  They called my name. I remained silent and very afraid.

And then there was the fireball. There, in the dark. Of course in those days there were no city lights, nor much else save small kersoscene lamps,  to obscure the brilliant starry skies. There were no gas stations. We carried large metal containers of gasoline strapped to the back of the car. There were no motels or hotels. There were guesthouses for traveling British officers and families. But our carload had to make whole journeys in a day or arrange to stay with relatives if there were any. Of course you could not phone ahead. Each trip was a trip beyond the pale; each mile took one further into uncertainty and danger, even if the danger was seated in your own beliefs.

 

Posted in Stories | Comments Off