The blue and green lights seemed to call them onward encouragingly, radiating from the walls like a welcoming glow. Jess and Levon descended lower with each step, feeling a warmer air greet them as they went. Jess could hear a pulsating sonic sound coming from the walls, as if large computer systems were speaking to each other through the stone or mutterings of the dead from the graves.
“Is it always this elaborate, going to see him?” Jess asked, minding her head as they came to a low beam section.
“I thought you might like the clandestine way.” Levon said. He had been here before, naturally; but they also seemed to change the systems of entry frequently. “And who said anything about a him?”
Jess looked at him for a moment, confusion and understanding swimming around each other.
“The Bishop is a she?” She asked, hoping to sound less surprised than she was. Levon smiled at her.
“Change anything?” He asked her.
“Not a damn bit.” She replied, lying slightly.
They carried on down the stairs until they came to a less formal but equally solid door. A blue strip of light bathed the space outside the door and Levon stopped just before it.
“You first.” He said, nudging her forward towards the light. Jess stepped into it and suddenly changed to a deeper blue.
“It checks for contaminants, among other things.” Levon said, watching as the light hummed and pulsed over her.
“Let me guess what the other things are, S.I.N markers perhaps?” She said, irksomely.
“You be surprised what they check for.” He replied, noticing the light switch to green; followed by a successful ‘tink’ sound, like the finishing of a coffee machine.
“Looks like you’re good.” He said as she stood back and he stood forth into the light.
“Hmmph.” Came from Jess as she stood back and watched Levon go through the same process. It took longer, but he too received the same acceptance, and once complete the doors before them opened and they could see inside the room.
Before them a laboratory had been made up around the stone coffins, clearly down deep in a crypt under the church. About four people peppered the room, working at stations and swirling strange coloured liquids in tubes under lights. Computers and machines clicked and hummed and the same blue and green lights gently lit the space; washing the walls with a calm and sanctuary like illumination. Coming towards them suddenly came a woman dressed in a lab coat. A red face mask covered her mouth, but Jess could see she had kind gentle eyes. She pulled the mask down as she approached them both.
“Nice to see you Levon, a treat indeed for you to come down into the vault and see us.” She extended her hand towards Jess who noticed the red gloves that extended up to her elbow. “And you must be Jess, so nice to meet you. I’m Karen.” Jess extended her own hands and shook them.
“Nice to meet you too.” Jess said, looking around the room.
“Not many get to see the vault, so please excuse the mess.” Karen said. Jess noticed little mess, but large extraction machines, screens scrolling through vast amounts of data and blueprint plans tacked up on a board on the other side of the room. The effigy of a saint looked down upon them from above.
“Jess doesn’t know anything, I thought it best to leave it to you to explain what goes on.” Levon said, with a smirk across his face. Karen sighed, leading them in further to the room.
“I hope you don’t have the same disdain as Levon does for what we do here then, his attitudes become quite tiresome sometimes.” Karen said, smiling.
“Not just his attitude, he’s quite a pain most of the time.” Jess said, returning the smile to her.
“Siding with the Bishop already, who’d have thought?” Levon cut back to her. Jess looked surprised.
“Oh Levon, you and your names for people. Should I call you The Cleanser then, or do you prefer your usual name devoid of the implications or grandiose expectations?” She asked him coyly. Levon smiled back, enjoying the teasing.
“You…you’re the bishop then?” Jess asked, folding her arms both defensively and from an anger.
“I’m afraid I am, for all my faults.” Karen said, he face remaining warm and open.
“And you’re not ashamed for what you’ve caused people, what your system of selection has done. Playing god the way you do?” Jess was angry, but she was trying her best to stay calm.
“I understand you have a personal qualm with me and what we do then?” Karen replied.
“Not just me, many. When you can help the all and yet only choose the few.” Jess spat back. “You have the means to cure everyone, but you limit to whom you feel are warrant of changing. How are you any different from the others, or the likes of Akio?”
Karen let her speak, understanding of her compliant. She then calmly took off her gloves, revealing a blackness that stained its way up her arms.
“I will show you how.” She said, her eyes flaring with an excitement.
Across the city, at the time Levon had come out from the altered, Akio Tsutsumi sat at his desk high up in the 101 building. The skyscraper on the south side of the city looked off over to the port where, if he was looking, he would see the ferries leaving the docks and making their way out to the ocean. Akio wasn’t looking out at the view, high up on the 101st floor, he was finalising a document with a smile. The final flourish of his signature completed the task and he set his pen to the side and sat back in his chair. Akio Tsutsumi was impeccably dressed, he had to be; he was at work. His business, his building, his empire here on earth. Or at least the headquarters of an empire that stretched far across the globe. The problem with empires, and to those that want after them, is that they are never enough. There is always more to conquer, more to have, and more to consume.
This notion of greed had plagued Akio since he was a child. Growing up in conditions he would let no-one privy to now, he had been incensed by his circumstance. He had watched as others had excelled, moved on and up with all the niceties that a life could offer. While he had remained, reduced down to an allotted placement and allowance in the order of things. But Akio would dig himself out of the circumstance, he would bloom like a flower out of the mud of life and never forget where he had started. For many, this would have led to an understanding of the unbalance, perhaps even campaign to end the wrongful ways the world was turning in. But for Akio, he had been damaged and maligned. Broken and used by both sides of the system. He removed any shame that might stick to his cells along with the S.I.N, and in its place he filled it with anger and contempt. Not entirely however. Akio’s secret could indeed be his undoing; a fact that he was well aware of. And he took great care to protect and hide this, whatever it took.
A further step in this direction was what was contained in the documents, now signed, sitting on his desk.
Akio pushed back form the large wooden desk before him and stood up. He straightened his smart expensive suit, a suit that cost more than his assistant Stefan earned in a year, and called him into his office. Stefan looked agitated as he entered, uncertain perhaps of what was happening. Akio usually set very strict routines, ones you could set your overpriced watch by, and today’s activity so far had changed many of them.
“Yes sir?” Stefan asked, lingering in the door area of the huge office space.
Akio had now turned away, looking out of the window. He watched the boats out to sea, the huge ferries passing the smaller ones seemingly not to notice them bob frantically as they passed. He remained staring off out the window.
“How long have you worked for me Stefan?” Akio asked, pleasantly.
“Almost a year sir.” Stefan replied. He loosed the top button to his Oxford shirt.
“And in that time, have I asked you to do anything for me that goes against your, shall we say, moral compass?”
Stefan paused for moment before answering, he reached inside his own mind both looking for a truthful reply and balancing it off with the correct one.
“No, not to my knowledge. I find you to be a very honourable person, and if I might add; someone to aspire to be like.” Stefan said sincerely. And it was true, many of the others would trade places with him in a heartbeat. Akio was the epitome of success and class.
“You’re very kind Stefan. You’ve always spoken honestly, which is why I trust you.” Akio turned now to face him, offering him a smile. “I trust then you feel the same as I with the west side.”
Stefan looked at him, unsure.
“How the west side of the city is a blot on our greatness. A pebble in the shoe of our progress. A blight, a cancerous tumour in all we wish this city to be.” Akio said. He stood proudly, hands folded down in front of him as if posing for a magazine cover.
“Well, yes the area there is very dilapidated. It could all use some gentrification in my opinion. Some nice suburbs and a change of clientele.” Stefan said.
“Exactly, a change in clientele. That’s what is needed.” Akio said.
“But it’s been proposed for years, and nothing ever came of it. The sinners have legal protection for their ghettos and housing projects. We’d never be able to have them removed.” Stefan offered.
“No, I agree. They will never leave. They are stuck to that area like a barnacle on a ship.” His voice was soft, devoid of any emotion. “But then, accidents happen all the time. Don’t they?”
Stefan stared at him. He shuffled his own expensive shoes nervously.
“All the time.” Stefan replied, his own hatred massaged by unfolding suggestions. A hatred which he was free now to express, with the privilege of position.
“Accidents and calamities. Acts of God.” Akio added, pulling the cuff to his suit down, straighten it.
He wasn’t surprised, she had done this before. She had a key after all and would sometimes come by without telling him. It had been a while though, and their last meeting hadn’t been too pleasant. Home truths, on both sides, hadn’t landed well and he was glad of the distance and space as a result.
Jess sat opposite him now, her face friendly yet revealed nothing. She was holding a book herself, smaller than the one Levon had used to go into the altered, but it was similar in design and he knew what it was. Sweet trickled from his head after his journey over and back, and he was thirsty too, like always. She pushed across a glass of water, which he took up quickly; emptying it before talking.
“And what do I have this pleasure for?” He asked, setting the glass back on the table and wiping his brow.
“Pleasure for you, but a chore for me.” Jess said, toying with the book in her hands as she sat forward.
“I was being sarcastic.” He replied.
“Oh course you were Levon, as you always are. You can never be direct, or sincere or transparent.” Her words hung over the table. He looked away.
“What do you want?” He asked, the irritation sticky in the words.
“I want you to do what you do best. There’s a family I want cleansed, and I need it done quickly.” She said.
“I figured as much. And you always want things done quickly, and specifically…and to your specification. It must really annoy you that you don’t have this ability, having to rely on me and my…what was it, pathetic and backward ways of handling life.” Levon said. He bore his eyes into her own. Jess looked away, irritated.
“Once again you put your own needs in the way of others.” She said, smiling in satisfaction before continuing. “For your information, this isn’t about me or what I want. This will change everything, eventually.”
Levon paused before replying, searching her eyes for the reasons. He found them tucked in there between the iris and starlight the he could always see in the honest.
“Who and why?” he said.
“They are the Tanakas, and they live over on the west side.”
“They’re always on the west side.” Levon blurted out.
“And we all know why they’re all in the west side, we know who’s pushed them there. Geez, listen will you. The Tanakas live in a shared house, there’s five other families there with them. They live on the top floor. The place is a dump, the usual. We need them cleansed as soon as possible. I think they are the answer to all this.” Jess said. She got up now and moved across to the bookshelf. She clutched her own small book still, but ran her fingers across the spines of the others on the shelf. It came to rest on a book, which she tapped before sliding it out of its place.
“And what is the answer to the question we all know then?” Levon asked.
Jess turned to face him. Her eyes wide, yet filled with hope.
“Because the Tanakas are the dirty little secret of the one and only Akio Tsutsumi. And I think we have a way of getting your amazing abilities to a much wider audience.” Jess said, suddenly alive with more urgency.
Levon looked at her, wondering what plan she had formed in her mind. Jess moved, not on impulse; but from a place of strategy and calculation. Her anger from all the injustice was ploughed into ways of overturning the system that had raised the few and lowered the many. She herself, a product from the tainted world of S.I.N where her blood directed her supposed path. That anger and disillusion spread, forcing her into the revolutional world of the likes of Levon. Levon, a lone wolf in a rising group of defiers. Of lights in a darkening world. Their alliance was problematic, but they wanted the same thing in the end. Equality.
“The asshole of the year you mean. What’s Tsutsumi got to do with your plan?” Levon asked, also getting up and moving across to where Jess stood. He took the small book she was clutching, opening it up. It shimmered too with a familiar blue light.
“Take a look for yourself.” she said, and she whispered over the book he had held open. The book flickered forward through some pages before a mist began to seep out; wafting upwards. The blue light seemed to charge through the cloud like an electricity circuit before images began to appear and move, like a floating screen. He saw what Jess had in mind.
“Did it work?”
“Of course it did, it always works.”
“That one time. It always works with those who need it the most.” Levon replied into the phone. He drank from a glass, a murky green liquid that coated the sides. He placed the glass down and moved out onto his balcony. The vista before him was the city that he called home. That he currently called home at least, his bones had been born much further away from the stretching skyscrapers that he saw before him. The light reflected off the window glass, a giant mirror that blinded those who took the time to raise their eyes up into the sky.
“How much did you charge them?” the voice asked him.
“10” Levon replied, without a hint of remorse. A silence hung on the phone.
“You know that is steep, even for you?”
“I know, but there were more of them this time.”
“Yes, but it’s all they…..” But Levon cut in.
“I know that it’s all they had. It’s all they ever have. They put everything into this. Their last roll of the dice. But I helped, I did it for them; and they have changed because of it. I don’t feel bad taking their money you know. Now they have the chance to go make more than they ever dreamed of.” Levon sighed.
“It’s more than that for them….I’m not giving you a hard time, it’s just….I know you’re better than this.” The voice allowed for the words and then the silence to sit.
“I know I am.” Levon replied, sighing once again.
“And you know that nothing lasts forever. This gift came to you, and it can go just as easily. You need to be doing more with it.”
“How do you know I’m not?” Levon replied. The voice was quiet, thinking. Levon watched the traffic in the streets below. Little toy cars moving in slow motion.
“I hope you are. If you need help, you only have to ask.” The voice replied.
“Thank you. I will do soon.” Levon said.
“Then when you’re ready to talk about it, let me know.” And with that, the call ended.
Levon stood on his balcony, breathing in the city air. He felt the blood moving in his body, the wash and pulse of the magic that he held in his cells. He pinched his fingers together, seeing the refill mass and the white skin give way to the red river in his finger when he released them.
He went inside his apartment, sliding the door shut loudly behind him. The room before him breathed an air of absence, of necessity. Accompanying the chairs and television set, only a single bookshelf gave any peak to a character. No photos or artwork adored the walls or the empty spaces. This was a place of need. The books that were lined up on the shelves were packed in like commuters on a busy train at rush hour. Huge books sat comfortably next to tiny preciously bound ones, their reflective wrappings catching specks of light; shimmering out echoes of the forbidden and treasured words.
Levon approached the bookshelf and slid a large book off of the middle shelf. He took it over to the table he had, empty of anything aside a small plant that was in need of watering. He sat down at the table, placing his feet squarely underneath. Sitting upright and focused, with one hand he gripped the edge of the table whilst the other lifted the cover of the book which exploded open with a blue light, radiating off of his eyes like a mystical waterfall.
(Harley Holland – 2018)
A mist encroached the hardening woods. Covering the dead autumnal leaves and foliage in a crisp shaving of ice. Gary Tumnal had found peace in those early mornings where the birds barely sang. He would leave the warmth of his bed and wife for the chance to hike out into the vast forest. She never understood it but there was a wonder out there only Gary knew. It swallowed all the thoughts and pressures of his daily life – giving him a sense of peace. He had scoffed at his wife when she referred to his practice as meditative. It was enough to curl the bottom of his lip up like a snarling mutt. “How could she call me a fucking hippie” he thought. He was a man who knew what he liked. He drank ales and enjoyed lifting weights on a hot summers morning. There was nothing peculiar about him…..
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The sunshine beat down, making the dead still air hum like static. Nothing moved. Nothing stirred. The whole forest and world rested in the maddening heat of the day. She looked up into the sky where this giant tangerine sphere blazed away, and she mopped her brow. She was hot, and sweaty. Moving slowly back towards the sad little row of town houses where she called home. She heaved the panel of wood carefully and painfully slow to her house; the middle one. The brightest of all the little homes. It’s white paint glistening in the hot sun. She thought of her house as the last good tooth in a set of rotting teeth. Rubbish and filth marked the other buildings, faulted by the need for their owners to work long hours just to survive rather than to maintain a nice home.
But she did, and she worked harder than any.
She heaved the panel finally in through her door, propping it up for now in the hallway. She had gotten up early that day, putting her hours in early at the little shop in town where she worked so she could leave before five to get to the wood shop before it shut. She knew the owner well enough, and knew he never did business out of hours. And she wanted the wood today. She wanted to fix the door tonight, while she knew he would be out.
As she caught her breath in her little hallway, she sighed at the cliché of her life so far. Married when she just seventeen, to someone she never loved. Stuck, out of circumstance, to the man and the place for fear of having to start over with nothing. The money her parents had given her was swallowed up before she had even been married a year. Drinking and gambling away her inheritance it seemed was his favourite past time. And she let him; she knew she was indeed part of the problem. She allowed him to drink and stay out because it meant he wasn’t there, at home with her. Punching the walls and putting her down. Complaining and demanding things, and putting his foot through the back door.
She went now for a glass of water, fanning her arms to cool them down as best she could as she made her way to the tiny kitchen. Her house was cool, she made it that way the best she could, but in doing so it was dark and cave like, blocking out the scorching sunlight wherever she could. Their town; plagued by tropical heat and an unrelenting sunshine that cooked and boiled everything beneath it, was something she had come to despise. She drank from a glass, looking now at the gaping hole in the door panel. An easy fix, and done before. This time she had made sure to get the gotten stronger wood, something that would not so easily be destroyed. But something had been different this time. A part of her heart had splintered and snared like the bits of wood that stuck out now like vicious thin teeth. Her heart, hardened over the years and placed under a cloud of criticisms and chaos, surprised her at making her feel something. Something where everything she thought was numb.
But what was it. Anger? Remorse?
She wasn’t too sure. Suffering so long in the dark, it’s painful to see the light after so long. She mistook the determination for her usual war-time mentality of getting things done, carrying on and making things right. Getting the wood panel for the door, fixing it so there was no longer the yawning reminder of the open wound that was her life. Letting the dank air in. Letting the light in.
Something within was screaming. Something determined to be heard and acted upon.
She filled her glass again from the tap, drinking down the cool water. Replenishing her fluids that had escaped in her long hike from the wood-shop, and the internal steam engine that was slowly gathering force to implore her to act.
And then she heard the door go.
The front door slammed shut, not caught in any breeze that the deadened air around them could muster. He was home early. Must have been a bad day. She heard the yelling in the hall, incoherent cries like the nightjars she passed on her way to work, gathering and chorusing in the trees above. Soon he was there, in front of her, gesturing to the hall way, no doubt the wood panel caught in his way. He looked hot and red, his skin crumpled and dirty; burnt by the sun after the long day in the fields and the alcohol that dehydrated him. His hollowed cheeks, gaunt by a wicked life and bad teeth, threw shadows on his face making him look like an angry red skeleton fresh from the grave. He banged and blamed, flailing his arms around. Knocking things off the kitchen shelves. She would have to fix things, she always did. Clearing up his mess while she slept off his mood.
She ducked more than once, mindful not to be the target of his rage and waited for the storm to die. But she did something then she had never done before. The steam engine in her had reached its peak and burst, empting out years of frustrating and hatred in a single event. She launched the glass she held in her hand out into the air, and watched it sail over the kitchen and smash on the stone wall. She screamed loudly, like one would into a pillow, so loud it sounded like an air raid siren. Momentarily it confused him. He stopped dead, unsure of what was happening. She was usually so passive. So subservient. Afraid to rock the boat which would lead to her to drown in a deep sea of chaos.
But the mouse had roared.
He acted fast, waiting for her screaming to subside. The chemicals inside kicking into gear to save his self-preservation of a life he had constructed. A life where he was the boss. Her grabbed her roughly by the hair, spinning her around and pulling her backwards. He wasn’t a big man, or even strong. But fuelled by fury and drink, he handled her like that of a ragdoll, pulling her free of the safety of her little home. Their little home.
Kicking free the remains of the broken door, and out into the scorching heat. Though the day was heavy, the sun drew up on them, an oppressive spectator in the unfolding drama. She didn’t cry out, too shocked and stunned into what was occurring. She was dragged out to the center of the garden they had, and roughly shoved into the middle, finally free of his hands from her hair. He grabbed a chair that was propped up by the fence, unfolding the deckchair style and placing it on the grass that had shrivelled into a horrible rug of dirt and dry leaves.
He pushed her into the seat. The silence signalling she had gone too far with the glass. Too far, and too brave to have even begun a journey on him. She sat, motionless; waiting and watching to what was to happen. She watched him find some garden trellis string, some she had bought last year to help keep the cucumber plants steady and vertical.
He was quick tying her to the chair, binding her hands and then her legs to it. She began to protest, pleading half-heartedly that she wouldn’t do it again. A lie, she knew she would. She knew then that if there were ever a next time, she would smash the glass on his skull and be rid of him forever. But he was fast, and tied a rag in and around her mouth, keeping it in place with the string. The string, which she felt now digging into her wrists.
When he was done, without a word, he stood back and quickly went back inside. She was left there, in the garden with the sun burning done on her, tied to the lawn chair. But his return was swift, and carrying a bag of rubbish which he emptied all around her and over her. Foul bits of food and muck covered her, lapped at her feet like a garbage tide. He returned two more times, fresh trash spirited from their neighbours houses, to be emptied on and around her. Crowning her as the queen this new tragic kingdom. He threw the last empty bag away and came close, his eyes piercing hers as he bent low. Grabbing her cheeks between her fingers, pressing his dirty nails into her skin, he hissed at her.
“If you ever do that again, I will kill you.”
And he realised his grip, and stalked back inside the house. A diminishing monster, back to the depths.
The humiliation was as bad as the smell, but it was the flies and the sun which were the real torture. She was out there hours, cooking in a putrid heap as the flies nibbled and pecked at her like tiny vicious birds. The sun radiated an intensity that nearly caused her to faint, pushing down like a fiery hand from god.
But she survived.
Woken out of the delirious dreamscape her survival mind had slipped her into by a bucket of cold water thrown over her once the sun had set. He loosened her from the chair, not saying a word. Not able to look her in the eye. Before disappearing out, off to drink and spend more money.
In the aftermath, she collected herself best she could. She cleaned herself off, and tidied the garden to keep the rats from overrunning the place. Despite her nausea she had some bread, to fend off the intense hunger and disgust that brewed and bubbled in her stomach. And then she went to her bedroom, and began to pack. She did not want revenge, no good could come of that. But something had snapped within her, the spun sugar strand of patience had fractured.
She collected only what she needed, throwing it all into a bag and bringing the walls down to this part of her life. She cleared out the little box under the floorboards where he kept money, the one he thought she didn’t know about. She put it back, empty, sealing the box to a grave of solitariness. She stripped the house of her, of the things she needed to go on with. Cutting the cord to an unhappy life here. She stood in the front room, wondering if all her life could really lie crumpled and stuffed in the small bag she held in her hand. And then she saw it, the snow globe up on the shelf. Twinkling away through the dust at the higher realms of display. She had bought it herself, years ago. A winter market in one of the neighbouring towns had brought it into her life. She had been transfixed with the winter scene at the time, like bubbles of snow dancing in a small sea like dust in the wind. It was small, no bigger than her fist. And she had remembered placing it up on the higher shelf to give it a better chance in her life there, out of the danger zone of fists and fits.
She took it down now, unsettling the snow that had gathered in the bottom like pebbles in an aquarium. Should couldn’t help herself, she shook it; making it and herself one with the disjointed feeling of a world in flux. How long she stood there, she didn’t know. No happy memories were there to be collected. Only dark shadows of the past that she wanted to put into the grave.
And then, she left.
The rest was a blur. She left the house, the street and the town. Traveling far on the little she allowed herself to spend. Finally settling in the little cottage she lives now. Currently entertaining the girl from Europa. Unknowing, in part, of the little eyes who watched it all unfold, and the man of the boxes who skulked around her house.
You may be asking yourself why she never used magic to save herself from a life so fraught at the beginning. Or why she never turned her husband fittingly to a bug to squash underfoot. That too is an interesting story. For you see, once she was married, she was taken away from her family, and where she had grown up. The choking rights of marriage had labelled her practically property, and her husband had concluded that she needn’t have many things in their new home. His own were suffice. What her family didn’t know, and neither did she until later once she had left, was that he had used a bit of magic himself in the first place; to marry the lady of the jars who at the time was the girl with the glass like beauty.
This may sound all too convenient and easily explained away, but yes; sometimes life is that clichéd. He hoodwinked them all, sloppily in the end, but had struck lucky one night gambling and had acquired what he needed to enchant her. It wore off of course, but by then she was cut off from her family, and of the aged magic her own mother knew and possessed. Her mind had silenced all she had learned from her book growing up; and that’s the thing about the book itself, it needs to be with the owner. It needs to have a connection in order to tap that power and manifest. More importantly, it needs to come from a place of positivity. A submissive mind is not the soil in which miracles to grow.
But magic, and good magic, finds a way. Which is why the book came to her; posted by her mother when she knew she was safe and free. Knowing the how, or the why or the ways this magic helped find its way back to her, is inconsequential. What we do know is that once she was in possession again to such wonders, she did all she could to block out the sickening heat that reminded her of that horrible day. Which is why it snows constantly there, and why she always feels happier cold and by herself, than hot and suffering, surrounded by those flies.
….to be continued.
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It was snowing. It always snowed. That’s how she liked it.
The swirling white that enveloped everything, dusting and smothering all in a wonderland……
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Origins with oranges
To an untrained eye, the book was nothing special. It did not scream magic or invitations to thumb its precious pages. It actually went out of its way to look ordinary. Tea stains and scuffed leather, what looked like dust was really tiny particles of used magic covering the book, misleading vestiges of wonder. She kept her magic bible on the sideboard in her kitchen, next to the wooden spoons and ladles. She usually had a bowl of oranges nestled on top, keeping the vast pages pressed down and crisp, the smell of citrus in the air. A quick glance at the book would not rouse a curious mind, yet within the pressed bits of trees held such secrets and magic; it was practically priceless.
Although she may have handled the book in a casualistic way, the lady of the jars was very careful and appreciative of it. She did not take her powers for granted, and she knew she and the book were intertwined on a fatalistic level. Over time, notes and incantations had been scribbled on the pages, adding a depth and personal quality to the spells.
They moved into the kitchen, the girl now dressed in trousers and a shirt with a huge pullover jumper keeping her warm. The cable knit had been something the lady had whipped up last year, enthusiastically knitting away with love and excitement and creating something which practically trailed the floor. Of course, there were snowflakes on the pattern. The girl pushed up the sleeves and followed behind her towards the table which sat by the south facing window, looking out down towards the stream. Snow covered the ledge, but in the misty fog of the flurry you could make out the shapes of the world moving about in their winter havoc.
The lady dropped the tea cups in the sink and went over to her book, picking up an orange with her and heading over to the table. She motioned for the girl to sit down, offering her the fruit while she took her own seat and flicked open the pages. The smell of the paper was enticing, spices and whiffs of exotic breezes drifted from the spine. She scanned the contents, gazing as if for the first time upon the words.
“Imamiah….My, they are rare aren’t they. I know my grandmother spoke of one in her life. That was around the time of the great enlightenment of course. Makes sense. How much darker things have gotten since. My my. People never learn I’m afraid.” The lady chatted, scanning the pages for what she was looking for. The girl watched her, rolling the orange back and forth on the oak table between her small hands.
“How much do you know of this then?” The girl asked.
“Oh, a little here and there. I know you don’t view this process as a death, or an ending.” The lady did not see the girl flinch.
“No, we do not die in that sense.” The girl spoke, almost as if frightened of the word death. The rolling of the orange had stopped.
“No, death is not the end, I believe that also; and I know what you’re here for is not to die; but to become. More like a phoenix. Are you familiar with that?” The lady asked, kindly.
“Yes, very much so. I know of this bird. We have creatures on Europa that dwell in the ice caverns. They are a little like the birds on this planet, except their bodies are frozen vapour that move in orbs which grow. Each year they rise up out of the tunnels and caves to the warmer temperatures where the layers of vapour explode, reducing them down to their original forms. The vapour allows us to breathe, it’s the cosmic breathe of the planet under the ice.”
“Amazing! I always wondered how life operates on the other worlds. You must be at home her with all the snow then?” The lady asked, expectantly.
“Yes, it reminds me a lot of what I do miss.” She said, adding, “But there is a lot to see here too. You for one. I know not everyone is like you. I’ve seen a lot of darkness here before. I only feel light here with you.”
“This world is everything, the light and the dark and the pulls of the in-between. There are good people who make bad choices, and there are bad people waiting to make the right ones. No one is fully lost or beyond change.” She suddenly made a little ‘Yelp’ Which made the girl jump slightly.
“..ah here it is, Imamiahi!” She said, excitedly, before reading out the passage:
‘Imamiahi are very sacred beings. Travelling across the skies to dwell on earth. Sometimes their trips can be a time and age, others will be gone in a blink of an eye. The Imamiahi will pick the barer, they will travel from the edges of space to come to our material level and offer us the most wonderful gift. Though their intentions will at times be complicated, they are very empathetic and feed off the thoughts, feelings and emotions of the barer they have chosen. Be mindful, your consciousness will not only affect the Imamiahi, but the environment around you with them.
Their purpose here is always the same, to shed a layer of themselves or part of their celestial DNA that has ceased to operate to any purpose. They are well meaning, and through their own transformation, they impact those here on earth. The shedding of the layer forces time to flux, for deeds to be undone that were negative. A deep- clean of souls in order to go on with a clearer mind for change. For this to occur, certain practises must take place, and must be in place for it to happen…
The lady lifted the page briefly to see what was listed on the next page.
“There’s a notage here.” the lady said, before reading out:
‘Though the Imamiahi will have a choice to decide when this is all to take place, certain things can propel the process to be forced or demanded. This can stem from fear, threat, duress or the instant salvation. In the worst case, this will take place to reduce everything back to the beginning. A time explosion.
As barer, you are the guardian as well as the watcher.
The lady thought on this a second or two, before smiling at the girl.
“Well, prepare for the worst but hope for the best I say. Let’s see what we need to do then. I hope a good only conjuring is needed. It’s been a while since I invoked some of the deep earthy magic.” She said, licking the lips in her mind to the thought of something exciting.
The girl smiled back appreciatively, knowing deep inside she had chosen the right barer for her. She knew she hadn’t told her everything; the book itself said some Imamiahi would have complicated agendas; and hers with a little more than unusual. But she would tell her when the time was right. She looked out of the window to watch the snow fall down, the tufts of white resting momentarily on the glass before bleeding into the drifts already there. She watched the world there in that little cottage, and lifted the orange to her mouth and bit into it like an apple.
to be continued….
Covered in ice, Europa is one of the four of Galilean moons of Jupiter. It is slightly smaller than the Earth’s moon, and it is the sixth largest one in the solar system. Named after Europa, the mother of King Minos and lover of Zeus, the moon is the cold diamond satellite on the neck of space.
I say covered in ice, when really its crust is an ice-water combination, rupturing and freezing in parts, scarring the planet in darker slashes that glow red and rust brown from a distance. The temperature of its surface is about -160°C; bone shatteringly cold and uninhabitable.
But it’s underneath where life begins.
Under the ice crust, but not solely to reside, lie the vast ice cities. Forged out of the frozen nitrogen and comet dust, these vast and palatial cityscapes warren through the planets mantel, each one a testament to design and solar freezing, which bathes the subterranean spaces in a light form that breathes like that of a plant. The air heaves and flows like a tide, washing the buildings and inhabitants in a cosmic breath.
It was here that the girl came from. Deep beneath the ice sheets that, on radiation days she would crack the surface to explore, the girl broke out of the fallen star that signalled her birth. She grew fast, and showed a curiosity that was not usually found in the others around her. Her family were close however, other shards of the same galaxy that collapsed and contracted, reduced down to the tiny crystal balls that grew like eggs, hatching new life. She held an especially strong bond with her particle-father, who nurtured her imagination and curious ways and loved her very much
Though their lives seem strange and distant, their family dynamics are not far removed from those human ones on earth. One example of this is ‘Creation extol’.
Much in the same way as celebrating a birthday, those on Europa celebrate the day of which you were created. It sounds more clinical than it actually is, for the day itself is full of laughter, dance and gift giving. The best part of Creation Extol, and all would agree on this, is the song and dance that is sung called ‘OOcite’. The rules of the dance are as so:
Rules of ‘OOcite’
- Break off into groups of threes.
- Each one has a small pillar of ice in each hand (the size of regular pillar candle).
- You can only have three colours to your pillar: Rust red, Blue or Green and these can’t be mixed. (The one who’s creation day it is, will have a Black one. The meaning behind each colour is significant.)
- As the music begins, the song is sung [lyrics below] and everyone begins to move around holding their ice pillars out in front of them in their palms.
- As the song has a magical property, and only when sung in unison, the ice will begin to emit a glow based on the colour you’ve chosen. They will project an image in front of you between the two pillars (making something that looks like a tv screen).
- Here you can view moments past, present and future.
As the colours signify which, here they are:
Rust red – Past events
Blue – Present happenings*
Green – Future moments**
Black – projects paths and choices to be made to benefit the viewer in the year ahead (a cosmic guide, so to speak)
*This can be from anywhere in the galaxy and beyond.
**As the future is harder to see, the green pillars of ice burn away faster than the others.
- The participants move and rotate like spinning dervishes, graceful and humble.
- The song is repeated until all the pillars have melted away.
- Once the pillars are gone, the colour glows from the ice will fly off and merge, exploding on the one celebrating their creation (think the Hindu Holi festival).
- A large meal follows the dance usually.
Lyrics for ‘OOcite’:
Your days reach forth like fingers of Gods.
Into the palm we dance.
We fall and fold like happenstance.
Frozen like tears in trance.
Each hand in time and eyes of Nara.
View what we wish to see.
Like lunar shells from illumi-trees.
That spark the light within our seas.
So now we peel back the skin of life.
To extol (insert name).
Into hearts, and into heads.
Our love we weave and thread.
Our love we weave and thread.
It isn’t unknown for someone to usually add another verse once the initial song is complete and all the ice pillars have melted. These usually take on a ‘roasting’ nature, playfully poking fun but without any mean spiritedness.
Fact – One such OOcite song/dance went on for 8 hours straight. But as one day on Europa is equal to 85 hrs on earth, this doesn’t seem too long really. They usually only last 30 ‘earth’ minutes.
Read the story ‘White/Blue‘
Knock three times
The snow that had collected just above the window frame drifted down in a fine powder, dislodged by the loud knocking coming from the door. Inside, they lady and the girl looked over to the door where the banging was coming from. The knock was repeated, this time with more force.
“Stay here, and please; don’t say a word.” The lady said, and the girl nodded in reply, taking a sip from the tea cup; her throat changing colour as the liquid fell inside her, like a fading rainbow. The lady ambled to the door and grabbed a walking stick she kept by the umbrella stand. She didn’t need the stick of course, her bones were weary but her health was fine, she merely liked how it looked walking along in the snow sometimes; inspecting things with a gentle prod. Now, she held a tight hold on the top of the cane (shaped like a giant snow globe) and cautiously opened the door, catching the knockee mid-knock.
“Oh!” she said, a smile widening like that of the door. “Timothy, what brings you this way?” She looked out into the snowy gloom; the disappearing light had blanketed the world in an encroaching grey, like soup lapping at a bowls rim. A small boy stood on her doorstep, his feet in wellington boots far too big for him. He was wrapped up against the storm, but his nose was as red as a holly berry.
“Oh, hey. Sorry, I didn’t think you could hear me, thought you might be sleeping.” Timothy shouted, compensating for the wind by yelling like only a child can. The lady chuckled.
“Well, if I were; I’m sure it would’ve woken me up. Anyway, come in come in.” she said, beckoning him inside out of the cold.
“Is Stacey here yet?” He asked, remaining on the doorstop.
“Stacey? Why would she be here?” She asked him, puzzled somewhat.
“Well, it’s Thursday. You said for us to come for the stories on Thursday, remember? I even brought some biscuits my mum made.” He replied, shaking a small tin he held in his hands, containing, now no doubt, shards of biscuits. “I just wanted to know is Stacey was here yet, if not I would go to her house now and walk with her.”
The lady could see the twinkle of opportunity in his eyes. Her mind flickered to her calendar and checked the date. Nope, he was a day early. Timothy was always over anxious. She chuckled a little and told him he’d gotten the wrong day. As his face fell she took something out of her pocket. She handed him the small purple glove, its index finger was slightly frayed with a long loose thread which looked like a long woollen nail.
“She left this here last week though, perhaps you might be so kind as to drop it by to her today.” She said. His eyes grew large as he took the little mitten, holding it like a small treasure. He set off straight away back down the little path calling out to the lady as he went,
“Thanks, see you tomorrow!”
The biscuits beyond repair now, flung this way and that in the little tin as he rounded the corner of her fence and disappeared up the lane. She stood and watched him go, enjoying the scene of the darkening light and the heavy snow which spread a happiness inside of her.
But then it stopped. Cut off quickly as she saw the shadows. They reached up and under the little fence she had at the bottom of her garden. Tall and thin wisps of dark, like the fingers of a demon. It all grew suddenly quiet as the wind dropped and the silence that accompanies snow descended.
She couldn’t see him, she only felt he was there. The presence. The energy she could normally feel bubbling way off over the woods, but marked on every page of her treasured magic book. Like a compass it pointed the way to the light and dark, and she felt the shadows creeping nearer and nearer to her. She shut the door hastily, warding off the nefarious nature by her own incantation and signs that keep her little cottage safe.
She never saw the gentleman of the boxes, though she knew he was there. His little eyes peering at her from the trees as he skulked around to her backyard.
Blueberry tart and tears
“What’s wrong?” The girl asked, watching the lady step back inside and lock her door. She was muttering something under her breath when the girl asked again. “Are you okay?” concern showing from a mask which beheld no emotion. It travelled in waves to the lady, she felt it in her bones. Looking over, she smiled back quickly, calmed by her presence.
“Nothing I hope. We’re safe inside her my dear, I just felt some bad energy from outside just now, that’s all.” She said, putting the cane back to where she found it and coming back towards the fire. “I’ll let you know if it builds to anything we need to be alarmed by. But this little cottage can handle a lot thrown its way.” She came back over towards the fireplace, the flames roaring nicely still. “Why, you’ve drunk all your tea. That calls for more, and a little cake too I imagine.” She said, taking a little blueberry tart out of the tin by the tea tray.
“Who was at the door?” The girl asked, curiously.
“That was a little rub of a boy called Timothy Sanderson. He came around today in the hope of tales and stories. But alas, one is being invented now as I sit here with you and might just be finished in time for him tomorrow when he comes back again….and gets the correct day.” She said, sneaking a blueberry tart for herself from the tin.
“I could feel his warmth for you, but also something else. Infatuation?” The girl asked. The lady couldn’t help but laugh at this. Bits of the cake spraying onto the copper coloured rug on the floor.
“Oh my, that would be his growing fascination with a little girl called Stacey Izzana. He really does have it bad. No, me he sees as the crazy old woman who tells stories and feeds the other children chocolates and biscuits when they should be eating fruit.” She said, eyeing up another cake in the small little tin.
“He seemed like a pure soul.” The girl sad, tasting her own cake.
“Yes, they all are the ones that come here. Eager minds looking for adventure and intellect. These books fill them with both, and I’m happy to be the tool in which to help with that.” She leaned forward slightly, inching to the edge of her seat. “But you, you my dear are an Imamiahi are you not? It is you that will bring us that adventure, and the change I’ve felt coming for some time.”
The girl finished her cake before replying, all the while looking deep into the soul of the lady before her. She knew where she was heading of course, before she even left Europa. She knew the journey would be the way it was and what type of soul who would great her when she stepped out of her cocoon. Best laid plans. But the lady surprised her still. The house and the energy was not something she’d come across before. This woman only wanted to help. It was a selflessness that she had not come across in her previous encounters. She could read the makeup of another being like you would read the ingredients on the back of a cereal box. Formulating and registering the light levels that contained within. But much like the box, it could not tell you the taste, the character or how it might make you feel. Inside the girl felt something she hadn’t felt before.
“Yes, I’ve been called that in the past. You are a kind person, I know that; I can feel it.” She said, blue tears leaving her eyes, falling upwards to the ceiling.
“This, this feels like home.”
To be continued……
(read the other parts here)
(for Naomi and Gina)
The lady of the jars
It was snowing. It always snowed. That’s how she liked it.
The swirling white that enveloped everything, dusting and smothering all in a wonderland. There was more variety in snow she’d always thought. A sunny day was nice, for a trip to the beach or a stroll in the park; but sunny days were predictable, ordinary, and what everyone wanted. Snow, on the other hand created such chaos and difference.
Her cottage was nestled right by the huge stream that swept through the core of the little village of Hamani. It was near enough for her to grab the things she needed from the stores and the like, but just far enough on the outskirts where she could find the solitude and quiet she relished. That’s not to say she was lonely. She was always visited upon by someone knocking on her door and trampling their life into her small little abode. Each day brought something her way, but she always had the choice of opening that small blue door of hers to see what awaited. Some days she would sit by the fire, listening to the rhythmic knocking on the door, picturing not the tired salesman trying to entice her to part with her coins; but instead the small wood pigeons or pheasants tapping their beaks on the wood.
She had been called many things in her time. She wasn’t old, though some days her bones seemed to be. She would bustle around her cottage with the spirit of a teenager, ignoring the small ache in her joints. The cold heightened it, but she would never admit that.
Witch had been thrown her way once. Princess too though, that had been even more painful to hear.
Most saw her as a wise woman with magic, but of the good kind that you knew you were safe to inquire about. She knew the flowers and the herbs, the healing nature of the world that surrounded her small little cottage by the stream with the wood overstretching its reach to her doorstep. People came with their children who would play in the snow and then toast themselves by the fire while their parents would acquire an ointment or potion to help with some pain. Sometimes the kids of the village would come to hear the stories she would tell over huge bubbling cups of hot chocolate. The towering piles of books that dotted her home loomed over all who came there. Hers was a place of possibilities, and it was called ‘Dustings’, and she was the ruler of her own little kingdom.
Though she was an honest soul, people had no idea of the true power that dwelt in her little home. They saw the plants and spices that filled every draw and nook. The witch hazel and birch that swirled in its hued state on the walls. Secrets gained from the botany books and fables that stuck out of drawers and were lodged under table legs. But they did not know, and they never would, of what she kept in her secret room.
It had always surprised her really. No enchantment had kept it hidden, and the noise and light that came from the tiny room at the back of her cottage was enough to entice even the most mildly curious pair of eyes. Yet secret it remained, an indication of the respect many had for her more than fear.
Locked by a tiny key she kept around her neck, the secret room was not large at all. More of a store room usually catering tinned foods or laundry detergent. But here, here is where she kept her jars. Luminous and terrifying, magical and mesmerising. The jars were small really, able to be held in the palm of your hand. Each one filled with light and motion. She bottled them you see, the weather systems. She kept all the aspects of elements, siphoned off into their purest from and bottled. Her own collection of small ships. How she had learned to do this, only she would ever know. But there they are, lined up next to each other on her shelves in her secret place. She would rotate them into seasons, or sometimes calamities. A good thunderstorm would go well with heavy wind and hail.
These bottles were most precious to her, and she never misused them. She was always mindful of the good she could do, and the darkness she would always be able to lighten. Most precious of all were the snow-scapes. The blizzards, and the flurries raging away in their little jars which had cooled to a frosted glass beauty there on the shelf. These she kept in their own section, away from the heatwaves and the monsoons. She would sometimes come and sit by these little vials and watch the dance of the nature there contained behind the glass. A snowglobe of the most literal sense. She wasn’t playing god with her treasures, she was only capturing the beauty of god.
These names the people had for her, she always smiled when she heard them muttered in hushed tones. But to herself, she was always the lady of the jars.
It was a strong blizzard that blew the snow and the ice that day. It blotted out the sunlight entirely, plunging the village in a darkening grey fog. No one left their house except for urgent business, and save for the howling wind, all was quiet. The lady of the jars was anxious, which explained the weather. She would sometimes open up a raging thunderstorm when the bad moods really took hold, but on the days when she was worried, the blizzards came to cover and dispel everything. The paradox of still and motion, certainty and doubt.
She had woken that day with a feeling. Something nibbling at her mind like a bird pecking at her finger. She had pottered about her cottage, finding things to do to occupy her brain. Changing the sheets, dusting the ornaments, cleaning the kitchen cupboards. All to subdue that fretful feeling inside. But her skull itched and her fingers twitched. Something was coming, she felt it in her bones. She knew the something was different, a thing that was to impact her life and change her course drastically. This, in part led to her anxiousness. Though unafraid of change, she worried she might lose her power to bottle the wonders that she had kept hidden and safe. This was the one loss she feared, the change that worried her. Her own priceless art gone.
She looked outside. The flurries had whipped up high on her window and she could barely see to the end of the small path which led to the dirt track towards the village. A lonely lamplight shone off in the distance, the one she knew marked the start of her path. It hummed and glowed pitifully in the blanketing white, like the heart of a huge beast teetering on the edge of eternal sleep. All of a sudden, a loud bang sounded above her cottage. It boomed in through her walls and knocked picture frames off the shelves. She let out a small yelp, and clutched her chest. She knew it was beginning there, on that at snowy day. At eleven o’clock in the morning. She knew, and she suddenly smiled.
She pulled open her back door, the wind hurtling inside like an invisible hand knocking through. Though she had control over the weather, it wasn’t an on/off magic that tingled in her fingertips. She knew there was a time delay in which to shift into a new weather pattern. Making the unnatural reasonably natural. She hadn’t even gone to her small secret room to change the weather, her heart was hammering in excitement and she hadn’t bothered. Besides, the blizzard added to the drama that was unfolding in her backyard.
She stepped out into the cold and was suddenly covered with thick snowflakes. Her feet were cold, she had stepped out with only her slippers on, but the pull was hastening forward, caring not a button for the numbing that quickly came in her legs. She pulled her jumper up over her mouth and ploughed on through towards the thing she could see now. She noticed the remnants of stardust peppered across the sky above her. Something had landed and at the bottom of the garden. An asteroid, or could it be…… No, it was alive. Her blood told her that. It pulled and ebbed inside her seeking out the magic of life, seeking out the different.
She made her way forward, her eyelashes thick with snow and ice. He heart was pounding, it drummed in her ears against the wind.
Then suddenly, she was there. Standing over it. In shock for the sight before her eyes. Stardust splattered the snow around. Golden fragments coated the ground and the air, locked in a static tableau of exploding space. The gold drifted off into the air while the stained ground faded to a neon blue. The impact had made a small dent in the soil, like a giant ice-cream scoop and plunged into the earth. At the bottom, covered in stands of blue was what she knew it must be. The fallen. Some called them fallen stars, objects from the cosmos that littered the earth when they tumbled from heaven. She looked in closer, her mind suddenly skimming that book she kept safely locked in her cupboard along with her jars. Then she saw the blue tendrils stiffen, like neon roots tightening around their precious cargo. Bits of snow and dust seeped down in-between each one, melting into a liquid that oozed and formed around the body. Encasing it in a protective shell.
Europa, that was what this is. Her mind had summoned the right passage in her book, she saw it now clearly in the bright blue font that had burst off the page. That book which had come to her from her mother. The secret to her magic and light of heart. It had come before, once before long ago. All the way from another space.
The girl from Europa. Now in a small hole in the bottom of her garden. And she knew there, in the whistling silence that time was short, and things would always be different from here on out.
….to be continued
Your own personal bible, offering a glimpse into worlds you will never normally see. Words struck down, not by God, but by those souls who visited St. Sebastian’s church and who dissected their own sacred hearts for you.