When love beckons to you, follow him,
Though his ways are hard and steep.
And when his wings enfold you yield to him,
Though the sword hidden among his pinions may wound you.
And when he speaks to you believe in him.
Though his voice may shatter your dreams as the north wind lays waste the garden.
For even as love crowns you so shall he crucify you.
Even as he is for your growth so is he for your pruning.
Even as he ascends to your height and caresses your tenderest branches that quiver in the sun,
So shall he descend to your roots and shake them in their clinging to the earth.
Like sheaves of corn he gathers you unto himself.
He threshes you to make you naked.
He sifts you to free you from your husks.
He grinds you to whiteness.
He kneads you until you are pliant;
And then he assigns you to his sacred fire, that you may become sacred bread for God’s sacred feast.
The girl makes scribbled adjustments to the formula which has consumed her for the past few days. The pencil in her fingers cannot match the speed of the chemical reactions racing the labyrinthine corridors of her mind, so she begins writing in improvised shorthand in order to retain the thoughts before they slip the net.
It is a futile task, wholly absurd, like trying to write a diary on LSD. Even if there were words to express what she perceived, the actual formation of the blackened graphite symbols on the white page creates a rainbow vapour trail. It alters her reality further, forcing her tumbling into the letters themselves.
She knows what she must do, she knows that the bubble waits to be burst, but all her theorizing has little to offer for practical application and in truth she fears the consequences. She writes the final line and in doing so accepts the challenge.
She checks on her sleeping husband and gently kisses her two daughters, smiling at their tranquil sleep-blessed faces. Returning downstairs, she checks the time out of habit more than necessity and settles on the sofa. The disk already waits in the drive, she presses the button and forty five minutes later she hears a faint pop from inside her cranium. She slumps forward as blood pours from her nose and stains the page on her lap.
The secret of life resides in pulp fiction.
In the critical nanosecond before her heart flatlines, time is stopped. Two cloaked figures emerge from the shadowy corners of the room. One walks straight up to the limp body and pulls a black box from the depths of its robes. The other lingers nervously behind.
‘Is she dead?’ The Second questions.
‘Clearly not. Otherwise our purpose of being here would be entirely futile. Hurry we do not have much time. Open this. I can never remember the sequence.’
The First tosses the cube across the room and it is caught by shaking hands which immediately begin twisting and rotating the cube’s faces. Shades of black, barely perceptible but clearly present like the sheen of a raven’s wing, begin to realign.
The Second looks up from his work, ‘How is it possible that we do not have much time, if we have stopped time?’
The First sighs, ‘Have you been paying the slightest bit of attention? We have stopped time for her and ipso facto the rest of the world. The earth has stopped turning. It will not be long until that is noticed so hurry up!’
The last combination is executed and the cube begins to unfold itself. The Second emits a faint whimper and lets the developing creature fall to the floor onto its newly emerged feet. It narrows its blackened eyes focusing on the inert figure before it, before inhaling deep the surrounding air. Its appetite whetted, it lunges at the motionless girl. It catches the droplet of blood suspended mid-air between her chin and chest and then growls in a sub-sonic pitch. From its groin what appears to be a fern leaf uncurls.
‘Is this strictly necessary?’ The Second asks.
‘Not strictly but I felt that it was appropriate. Activation is such a messy job and he so enjoys his work. It is nothing she has not experienced before.’
‘It is something I have not experienced before,’ The Second declares, watching in fascinated horror as the beast enters the girl. Her lips part as his tip exists through her mouth. The Second begins to gag but cannot avert his eyes from the scene.
‘We are not here for your personal gratification demon!’ Fulfil your orders and get out!’ The First commands the beast and then turns to the Second. ‘What is wrong with you? If either of us succumb to sentimentality we’re fucked. Even more fucked than she is right now. She won’t even remember it, the R.A.T. will take care of that’.
‘It wasn’t her memory I was concerned with,’ The Second says feebly.
The tattooed skin on the nape of the girl’s neck is lifted. A demonic digit is inserted, piercing the vertebrae and travelling up the spinal fluid into the base of her brain. The slumbering rodent is located and awakened. The beast sneers in satisfaction and withdraws from her.
Quickly the First hits the button on the beast’s back and the demon reconfigures into the original cube, emitting shrieks and gas like a deflated doll. The girl enters cardiac arrest.
‘Time has been restarted, we must go.’
The First picks up the smoking cube, grabs the shaking Second and they disappear.
The sun is high above me. I trek through a golden ocean of ripening corn until the strains of a familiar tune float to my ears. Something stirs within me and I head towards an orchard to my right, intrigued to find the source of the melody.
The notes guide me amid the mottled red glow of the sunlight streaming through the branches above. An apple sweetness intoxicates me and I come to a glad of yellow fairy lilies.It is in this space that music is being made and it is coming from you.
I stand watching, letting the vibrations of the lyre strings wash over me. Observing, yet unnoticed, I sink down in the shadow of a tree, savouring every note of your music.
I am so mesmerized by you that I do not notice the unicorn until it is halfway across the glade. She is as beautiful as the legends and more. She lays down before, mindful of her silver horn as she rests her head upon your lap. You play on unfazed; your song is all that matters. Her eyes close and her will is yours. You do not see it because you are gazing at the stars.
Mirroring you, I lean forward out of the shadows to do the same. A twig cracks under my weight. At once the unicorn springs up and gallops away. A streak of white against the darkness. You stand and look at me. For a second I can see the constellations reflected in your eyes, then the spell is broken. You turn and run.
Before I have time to chase I am awake.
I need sex.
I need a weekend in bed wrapped up in heat and sweat and lust. I need my body to shake with passion. I need to find myself in another person and for them to find themselves in me. I need the world to shrink to the space between us. I want my mind to be consumed with the pursuit of pleasure. I want to lose control.
My libido has woken up and I’m starting to obsess. It is making me reckless. The devil in me is starting to flirt with danger. I’m taking dates that I know I shouldn’t because I’m beginning to chase the thrill. Right now I’m in control. But I’m like an addict on the verge of a relapse, any day now I’m going to take the hit and to hell with the consequences. I can feel it drawing closer.
I want the anticipation. The flash of flesh in a low-lit room. The touch of lips on skin. The sound of a breath catching in a throat. A hand around my wrist. Desire searing through my veins.
Taking me higher.
Taking me harder.
Taking me over and over again.
Back in our hotel room, I finally slid off my heels. “You better get the drinks and music sorted out first this time.” I said, my eyes running over Seth’s naked torso. “Something about fucking you seems to evaporate all the water from my body”
He fired up the laptop, put on the Attitude playlist, then poured some red wine and placed it on the bedside table before reclining back on the bed. I felt his eyes follow me around the room as I stripped off my jewellery and anything else that could be ripped or broken.
“I gonna take this dress off before you do something terrible to it.” I said fumbling with the knotted leather of my obi as I climbed onto him.
He gave me another deep look as though he were reading my soul. “Eden, you aren’t pissed are you?”
“No, I’ve barely had anything to drink at all.”
“You sure?” Seth looked at me as if to reassure himself that I was still capable of rational thought.
“I promise you, I’m not drunk. I know what I am doing. I want this.” I looked deep into his eyes. It was like witnessing eternity. A lifetime in his eyes, that was my ultimate truth. I wanted that more than anything else the universe could ever offer. I leaned in close and whispered “Don’t worry, I’ll be gentle.”
“I’m not entirely convinced that you are capable of that.” Seth smiled, his hands gripping my waist and his eyes devouring me.
I shuddered in delight and slipped off my dress.
In the background, Cracker’s Low began to play.
“You know, this song will always remind me of fucking you,” I murmured.
Seth smiled as if it pleased him that I would have some locked memory that would never change but it made me a little sad, reminding me that all too soon our time was coming to an end. It made the sex between us more tender. As I allowed myself to fall deep into his eyes, I wanted time to stop right then so I could feel that exquisite magic forever.
It is funny how loss can blindside you. Most days I think I’m fine. I think I’m over it. I tell myself I don’t care that you are gone from my life. And then something will happen and the whole illusion comes tumbling down.
The most recent instance was when I was flicking through the first book. Most of it doesn’t make sense to anyone but you and I. The vast majority of it is nothing but messages between us, late night ramblings on MSN about everything and nothing.
I shouldn’t keep it really. I should burn the whole fucking thing and be done with it. But I tell myself that it is a record of that time, it reflects who I was then and how I have grown and so I keep it and occasionally allow myself to torture myself with it. I hate how pathetic I was. A girl so in love with the wrong world.
I found a message where you asked me if I thought we’d be friends forever.
I replied that we’d been through so much, survived so much turmoil (mostly instigated by me and my inability to deal with my feelings for you). We’d always found a way to move past it, to keep walking the path, I thought there was nothing the world could throw at us that we would not overcome.
Until it did.
As is the way of these things, the final straw was actually a rather minor matter. It could have easily have been overcome if either of us had been so inclined. But I think that I had reached the very end of my tether and you were so concerned with protecting your carefully constructed world that neither of us had the will to carry on.
So we walked away.
I had always said you were my heroin and so it proved in those first few days of cold turkey. Perhaps in my mind I thought that the silence wouldn’t last, that one of us would crack and make contact. That had always been that way of it before. I was determined that it wouldn’t be me. Not this time. You had overstepped the mark by miles and cut me deeper than I thought possible. I knew I’d get through it, but I sure as hell wouldn’t be the one to come crawling back.
And then weeks passed and still the silence continued. By then I had started to get perspective. Just like an addict I looked at how I was when I was in contact with you and I realised that I didn’t really like that person. I didn’t want to be that girl. I needed to get clean. You might have been the fire that set my soul alight but the blaze had grown out of control and burnt my whole fucking life down to the ground. Before that I had thought I needed you in my life.
Then came the realisation that I needed you like a fish needs a bicycle.
You needed me because I fed your ego. And while you were busy chasing bright lights and cheap thrills, you knew that I would be a safe place to confess your sins. You lived your adventures and revelled in telling me of your conquests. You said that you needed my wisdom. I think you that you wanted someone who would listen to your boasting and bragging and lap it up. I was the fool that couldn’t get enough.
That is until we had our own adventure. A journey that started by the storm torn seas of San Francisco, through the peaks of the Sierra Nevada, to the neon signs of the City of Sin and back again. Months later I finished my rendering of that story and that was the thing that finally killed our friendship.
I had tried to portray our experiences as accurately as possible. You accused me of trying to destroy your life. Of course, you had gone back to your ex. Of course you had. Your same old safe bet. And you thought I was so full of desire and longing for you that I would tear your world apart to make you mine. For once in our friendship I had all the control and that scared the life out of you. Like a cornered animal, you lashed out. You didn’t need to do that. All you had to say was,
‘Please Eden, I love your book, but keep it for us. No-one else.’
And I would have done that. I would have done that in a heartbeat. I never need it to be shared with the world. I just wanted a memory of you, of our adventure. For us.
But to accuse me to being this vicious, manipulative bitch. In that moment you utterly shattered my heart. You proved to me that you didn’t know me at all. You didn’t understand a single atom of my soul. And just like that bit in Labyrinth where Sarah realises that everything is junk and the walls start crumbling around her, I realised that this version of you that I had created was nothing but a simulation.
You weren’t this strong, wise, creative soul. You were just another scared boy who would fight tooth and nail to protect this bourgois fantasy you’d woven for yourself.
You didn’t care about Truth.
My book of our adventures was nothing but a mirror and when you saw it held up to your life you hated the reflection. You blamed me. You wounded me. I was so tired of battling your ego that I decided to withdraw.
I knew it would hurt me, I knew it meant leaving my book and everything I worked for behind. But I knew that if it meant I was free of you it was worth it. I needed to break the power you had over me.
And let me make it perfectly clear…
You have no power over me.
I may say that I miss you. I may say I wish to walk and talk and dream with you. But the ‘you’ that I want to do that with doesn’t exist. He never did. He was a figment of my imagination that was built on the fragments of fleeting memories. I took a real person – you- and rebuilt him into something that was worth my time and energy and love. You are not him and he is not you. You are a knave and he is a knight.
I believed your lies. Sometimes I got so lost in the illusion that I forgot reality. Blinded by deceit, I chose the door that led to certain death.
Now I’m reborn and my spirit is free. I know who you are and I am remembering everything I am.
This is a new beginning.
Dreams of angels and of wings broken and torn. Feathers swirling like snow. Under a sky black as velvet embellished with diamond strewn stars, bodies lay fallen and twisted.
Their skin, cool and pale as wax, torn asunder.
Golden lifeblood drains from crippled veins. Their vital fluid collects in the impressions left by heavenly footprints like nectar in summer horncups. Each radiant pool glows platinum under the moonshine until it overflows, spilling its precious contents down the hillside.
The landscape is gilded and the fallen stars, scattered like chess pieces are carried to the valley floor.
A river is born of blood and bodies, as black eyed angels slip beneath the auric torrent.
Your hearts know in silence the secrets of the days and nights.
But your ears thirst for the sound of your heart’s knowledge.
You would know in words that which you have always known in thought.
You would touch with your fingers the naked body of your dreams.
‘Where am I?’
‘We are in the Labyrinth of Clouds. The beasts that were chasing you cannot enter here. Do not be fooled though, you are far from safe. You must be on your guard at all times’.
‘That’s far from reassuring.’ I muttered.
‘A smart mouth will get you precisely nowhere.’ The raven snapped back. ‘And don’t bother trying to remember the path, for the way will have changed if you ever return.’
‘Remember, don’t remember. I wish you dream folk would make up your minds!’
‘It’s not our minds that are the problem. That attitude of yours is hardly ideal. Now hush your tongue. If we are to make safe passage through here, I can’t do it looking like this’ With a shake of her feathers the white raven became a sky blue owl, her emerald eyes remained as piercing as ever.
‘Well I’m sure that has made all the difference!’
‘Again with the attitude! I don’t have to help you. You’re not my universe.’
I looked around me. The swirling mists confused the landscape. In the distance, dead ends became paths and seemingly obvious passageways became inpenetrable foliage. I knew that if I set out alone I’d be lost in seconds. I looked into her green eyes, ‘I guess I have no choice but to trust you. Can I at least know your name?’
The weight of her stare was uncomfortable but I forced myself to hold her gaze. Fear and fatigue were making me want to scramble for any semblance of control and if scoring petty points satisfied that urge then so be it.
After what seemed like an age she replied, ‘Many names have I had in the past and countless more before my time is through but the most helpful one for you is Queen Mab. Your Majesty will suffice.’
‘Oh well how gracious of you!’ I laughed, but inside my mind was racing. That name had resonated somewhere, I just couldn’t quite place why I recognised it.
‘You have precisely three seconds before I fly off and leave you to find your own way out. So swallow your pride and start walking’.
The curtness in her voice left no room for argument and I sensed that it would be unwise to test her patience any further. With an apprehensive heart and an owl on my shoulder, I began my journey into the Labyrinth of Clouds.
The simulacrum is never what hides the truth – it is truth that hides the fact that there is none.
The simulacrum is true.