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.
Golden sandy dune, indigo twilight sky. A familiar voice, a flood of relief.
He paced in front of me, kicking sand with his feet.
‘Have you any idea how much trouble you have caused? Any idea at all? Jesus Fucking Christ Eden. You’ve surpassed yourself this time! Talking to people about it? Uploading it online? Trying to attract attention to yourself in the biggest way possible! You would have been in a coma within a second of hitting return. You could have been lost forever, so you’d better have a pretty fucking good explanation prepared because you have pissed a lot of people off. Me especially. Well?’
I bit the side of my cheek, trying to avoid his gaze. I missed you, I thought.
‘You missed me? You missed me? You destroyed the world because you missed me? Well, that’s alright then! The entire history of civilisation, humankind, everything. Erased, all gone. Because you missed me? Any other repressed feelings you’d like to share? Despair perhaps? Or misery? I’m sure that I have a few galaxies lying around not doing much that would benefit hugely from a dose of your emotions. You stupid, selfish moron!’ He grabbed me and shook me harder than I would like.
Anger rose in my chest and I shoved him away from me. ‘ You know, you are usually far nicer to me in this world. It’s been a pretty shitty day truth be told, the very least I’d expect is that my dream-you would be a little kinder.’
‘Oh holy fuck, you think you are dreaming? Have you completely forgotten what is going on here?’
‘What’s going on here is that you are pissing me right off.’ I started walking away.
He caught up to me and gazed deep into my eyes. ‘Seriously Eden, have you forgotten what is going on?’
I shrugged, ‘What is going on?’
‘Fuck!’ He kicked the sand and muttered, ‘Fuck, fuck, fuck. You’ve been under too long’.
‘Too long for what? What the hell?’
‘Hell. Exactly.’ He shook me again, ‘Eden, seriously, I need you to remember’.
‘Remember what? You are talking crazy. And to be honest you are scaring me a little’.
‘I can’t tell you. It has to come from you. You have to trust me. You don’t need to be scared – well actually you do- but not if you remember. Quickly.’
‘Trust you? Are you kidding? Almost everything that comes out of your mouth is a lie’.
‘If it wasn’t I wouldn’t need you to trust me. Please. Try.’
‘I am trying’, I said through gritted teeth. ‘But you’re not exactly being helpful.’
‘You’d be surprised.’
‘Really? If this is helpful, can we skip obtuse?’
‘You know, you are really quite funny when you are angry’.
‘Can you fuck off and starting talking sensible?’
He sighed, ‘No. I can’t and you have no idea how much I wish I could.’ He leaned forward and touched his forehead to mine. ‘The point is you have to remember. That is the key to everything’.
‘The way you said everything, it sounded like everything. Trust me, nothing in my head is that important.’
He squeezed my hands. ‘You are going to wake up now. You cannot forget that you need to remember. You have to take this memory with you’.
‘You said I wasn’t dreaming!’
‘I might have lied’.
‘I hate you’.
‘I often feel the same. Now…wake up Eden’.
Desire was still searing through me from the feel of Seth pushing against me as we stood outside in the Nevada sunshine watching the huge fountains of the Bellagio firing turrets of water into the sky.
“What if I wrote a symphony and dedicated it to you?” Seth said.
“Oh my God, can you stop?” I laughed, riding the thrill of that delicious thought. “By all means write a symphony, that would be incredible, but dedicate it to me as your friend. I’d believe that.”
Seth‘s eyes stayed fixed on the jets of spray dancing in time to the music. “I’ve always wanted to write a symphony.”
“There’s nothing stopping you.”
“I guess,” he said as we began walking again.
At New York, New York someone had rigged the dummy of a man in an orange jumpsuit onto the bridge. Hanging from his neck, it looked like a suicide. The Halloween antics were already beginning. In the Irish pub, a middle aged peroxide blonde of wrestler proportions directed us to an outside table. She took our order of coffee for two, coupled with a Caffery’s for Seth and a Guinness for me and left us with the menus.
While we were browsing the list of food, a bride and groom hopped up onto the wall surrounding the tables and posed for a photo. They looked so happy and carefree and part of me couldn’t help thinking that it could have been Seth and I sat up there if I had made different choices with my life.
“Hey, you can’t sit there.” The waitress bellowed at them placing a cafetiere before us.
“We’ve just got married, lady. We only want a quick photo,” the groom shouted back at her.
“Be sure it is quick or you’ll get me fired,” she said, turning to us and rolling her eyes. “Ready to order?”
Seth chose a full Irish breakfast and I went for a bacon soda bread sandwich. She nodded her head, made a note on her pad and went to shoo the newly-weds from their perch.
I took a sip of my Guinness and added some milk to my coffee. “Have you read Blind Faith by Ben Elton?” I asked Seth.
“Nope, what’s it about?”
“It’s kind of a modern day 1984. Its set a hundred years in the future when we are lives are dictated by social networking sites. Everyone is expected to upload every detail of their lives as videos to the social network and if they don’t they are considered subversive and dangerous. So instead of Big Brother watching us, we have our friends and peers taking on that role instead. Ben Elton clearly doesn’t like Facebook.”
“I suppose that is a natural reaction to new technology” he said. “There’s always someone who can see the bad side.”
“Yes and its not that I’m unsympathetic to those views but I think the advantages far outweigh the risks. If a social revolution comes I think those sort of sites will be very instrumental in affecting the change.”
Seth lifted his cup and blew the steam from the coffee before taking a mouthful. “Really? How so?”
“In the new Dan Brown it says how easy dissemination of ideas is in this day and age. If you had a message to spread it would be so easy to reach out to the four corners of the earth now if you wanted, probably within twenty four hours. Imagine how far the Celestine thing could have gone if that technology was a common back then. Its like what Marx was saying about Communism. I think we are getting very close to the conditions being right for that step now, in our lifetimes. And I definitely think that we should consider using Facebook when promoting the book, give away the first chapter free or something to generate interest. The publishers of the Mortal Instruments series did, only I couldn’t read it because it was for US residents only.”
“Its definitely worth considering,” Seth said as the waitress appeared holding two plates of food. She placed them before us, fetched a wire basket containing bottles of various sauces and then left us to eat.
I watched Seth pour streaks of ketchup over his baked beans with a look of mild horror on my face.
“What?” he smiled, catching the look.
I shook my head. “Ketchup and beans, its plain wrong.”
“You don’t know what you’re missing,” he laughed.
“Weirdo.” I muttered taking a bite of my sandwich.
A month ago I lost my mind.
I can’t remember if this is the fifth or sixth time now. I’m not sure that keeping count of the times my brain has lost its grip on this world is particularly helpful or constructive. I used to try and hide it, insulate myself from the world for two weeks and wait until the storm passed and I could emerge as if nothing had happened. Since I am not the most sociable of creatures, often it could be concealed to all but those closest to me.
Every episode has common features: reality becomes elastic, time reveals itself as nothing but an illusion and the walls between worlds feel thinner. Thin enough that if I were to find just the right spot and I were to push hard enough, I could slip through into an alternate reality. I always thought that in that other world our love was a certainty.
But now I am not so sure.
Something changed this time around. This madness blew in on a different wind. Or maybe when it blew in I was a different person. This time, along with the chaos it has brought clarity. Our story was never our story. It was never about you and me. It was about me finding myself. You were just the conduit by which I entered the labyrinth. You were the sledgehammer that destroyed the old version of me so that I could build myself into a better, wiser person.
Perhaps there is even more to it than that.
When we found each other again the last time around, the final time around, I was just beginning my study of philosophy. My books were talking to me of Jung and synchronicity and then you were back in my life and talking to me about Jung and synchronicity. In my head 2 + 2 = 5. I thought that everything was pointing to you. But what if you were just there to point me to the message the universe was trying to tell me?
If you were the white rabbit, I was so busy chasing you that I completely failed to discover Wonderland.
But now you are gone and Wonderland keeps calling. I think that perhaps it is time to find out if I am the right Alice.
Pride has stopped me taking this path. I thought that without my friend beside me, the journey was meaningless. The truth is that the journey now has more meaning. This was a path that could only have been walked alone. I clung to you like a child to a toy. I clung to the pain of losing you as proof that I wasn’t strong enough to face life alone. My sunken dream was all the evidence I needed.
My sunken dream is evidence that I was on completely the wrong path. You were a minor detour to teach me harsh but necessary truths so I could become who I needed to be. I set my sights far too low. I moulded myself to your beliefs. You were the chrysalis that bound me.
Now the blood is pumping into my wings and I’m fighting to break free.
No more running away from who I am. No more running from what life is trying to teach me. No more pretending to be someone I am not.
Each madness is a moment of transformation. An invitation to leave myself behind. A time to strip myself down to the atoms of my sense of self. A chance to rebuild myself as the person I want to be.
Eden version 7.0
Who am I now?
Someone who still believes in magic.
Yes I do.
Of course I do.
Above all things, Love.
Perhaps he was doing the merciful thing, I told myself. He knew that I hated the arrivals catwalk, where you have precisely half a second to locate your friends before everyone else regards you as a sad loser. Besides, how would I have greeted him if he was there? Run to him like reunited lovers? No. Stand there and wait for him to come running to me? Never going to happen. Walk over casually to him and hug him? Maybe. His absence made all these questions irrelevant. It should have triggered panic, a dawning realisation that I might be spending the next ten days alone but the overwhelming feeling of freedom dismissed any fear of that.
Perhaps he was just running late. I was supposed to arrive two hours later than I actually did. Somehow, I had misread the flight times on my ticket confirmation, even though I had read that email a million times. I’m one of those people that checks they have their ticket and passport compulsively on the drive to the airport and because I had booked it online, normally preferring face-to-face, I was particularly nervous about it. I had read and re-read the automated message from Virgin a thousand times, until it was ingrained in my brain. Yet like an idiot, I had still managed to confuse the times.
Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps…
I found a bench nearby and had only been sat there for a couple of minutes when I felt him enter the airport. I could feel his energy drawing closer to mine. I tried not to fidget as he approached, resisting the urge to check my appearance one last time as that burning beacon drew closer and closer. Then, a woman dressed entirely in white steeped to the side and there he was, as beautiful and alluring as ever.
My heart skipped a beat as I watched Seth look around for me, those unmistakable eyes blazing blue behind his trendy specs. His silver hair was shorter than I had ever seen it before, normally he wore it longer and spiked with wax, he‘d probably just had it cut. He was fitter too, his muscles defined under his jeans and t-shirt, and even the unzipped hoodie he was wearing didn’t disguise the bulge of his biceps, but he had lost more weight than I’d expected. Seth had obviously been training hard.
Noticing something else, I frowned.
When had he begun slouching? This was completely new. I’d always thought that he had a confident swagger, shoulders back, at ease with the world. The man before me looked exhausted, as though all his energy had been drained out of him. I knew that Seth worked too hard but I wasn’t sure whether his body language was down to his career or coming to meet me.
What if he hadn’t really wanted me to fly over and visit him? What if we weren’t as good friends as I thought we were? Maybe Thor was right and this affinity that I felt was all a figment of my imagination?
The usual paranoid garbage.
I took a deep breath and called out his name.
He turned to me, his face lighting up. “Eden!”
“Hey Seth, how’s it going?” I stood and was enveloped in a massive hug, his scent swept over me, scattering my fears. It felt incredible to be that close to him.
Still holding onto me, his voice muffled by my hair and my tight grip on him, he replied “Really good. Its amazing to have you here. How was your flight? Did you get your gin and tonic?”
“Of course!” I laughed as we finally released each other. “Thanks for picking me up. I wouldn’t have minded waiting, seeing as I was such a fool getting the times mixed up.”
“Like I would have left you waiting here by yourself! Don’t be silly, its my pleasure. I am only sorry that I have to go back to work for a bit, but you’ll be ok in my flat for a couple of hours, right?” He took my suitcase as he said it and looked at me apologetically.
“Seth, I promise I will be fine. We have got so much time together in the next few days that it is probably best if I have a while alone to get my head around it,” I gave him an impish smile “You know, keep pinching myself to try and believe that this is really happening.”
He squeezed my hand as we approached his sleek, black jeep. “Trust me,” he said looking deep into my eyes “This is really happening.”
I felt the colour rise in my cheeks as I climbed into the passenger seat. My heart was beating so hard that I was sure he could hear it.
The truth is you have broken me. It’s been almost nine years since I last saw your face and your voice caressed my ears. Nine years since the thrill of your drug raced through my veins. Nine years of building a wall around my heart to stop it being broken by love again. Thinking about it, I wonder if I built those defences to stop the pain getting out. The pain of your absence is the only part of you I have left.
It’s not like there haven’t been other men. My marriage was destroyed, that was inevitable. So I chased other prey. Once a hunter, always a hunter. There was the cliched relationship with a younger man, a couple of shameful one night stands and a particularly appalling situation where I was left feeling dirty and used by someone to whom I never should have given a second of my time. The inescapable truth is that each and every time I was trying to chase the high you had given me.
I should have listened when we walked under the stars and you warned me of the dangers of love. Maybe I should never have contacted you again at all. Now I walk like a wraith in the wreckage of my life and I wonder what would have happened if our story had ended twenty years ago in that field. If San Francisco had never happened, if I could delete every word we had written to each other, would I be happy now? You took me higher than I ever believed possible. Is the devastation of that loss worth the fading memory of the ecstasy?
The night we first slept together ‘Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind‘ was playing in the background. If I could erase and rewind it all, would I?
I want to love again. I want to feel something again. Anything.
I don’t know how to start piecing the shattered remnants of my heart back together. I don’t even know if it is worth trying anymore. Before you, I believed that love was the only truth worth discovering. Now I think perhaps ignorance is a kindness.
Plug me back into the Matrix. Let me take the blue pill. Wake me up when it’s all over.
And yet, somewhere deep down in my soul there is the tiniest glimmer of hope that tells me to take a chance at life again.
You are gone and these ramblings are the last fading echoes of our story. The final purging of a tale that must find an ending. One day I’ll stop writing and begin to live again. Every tap of the keys is a step towards being clean of you. I long for the light.
Silence will fall.
I am in a grove. A sea of blue flowers swirls into view as the mist parts around my feet. I step towards the centre of the clearing. A figure is sat with his back towards me; by instinct I know that it is you. A flute is pressed to your lips. You are playing our song. The seductive notes float through the air and mask my footsteps as I approach. I am within touching distance of you and my heart is pounding in my chest.
You turn to face me and holding my head in your hands, your thumbs wipe the tears from my eyes. Your beauty takes my breath away and seeing this you smile. Our eyes meet for the briefest second before I look away. You wrap me in your arms, my breathing becomes slower, deeper. Burying my face in your chest, I inhale and intoxicate myself on your scent. You move away and part us a little, your gaze searching for something.
Our eyes meet again but this time I am entranced. I imagine falling through them and reading your thoughts. A dozen images flash across my mind like reflections on a mirror. I am not sure whether these fantasies belong to you or me but my face burns all the same. You smile at me knowingly, your eyes twinkling.
You lean forward and our lips brush with the lightest of contact. I open my mouth to protest when a second kiss stops me dead. This one is intense and passionate and the sensation of pleasure that swells within me drowns any doubt I may have. You lie me back on the grass and the mists swirl around us.
We set about exploring each other’s bodies, not soft and intimate like my daydreams; aggressive and desperate, satisfying the desire burning within us. We fumble with clothing as if time is of the essence, not a second to be lost lest it be gone forever. Tiny water droplets glaze our skin like sweat. You push yourself into me and I am lost to everything but this moment. This is what it feels like when our worlds collide.
My body arches up to meet you as you thrust deeper and faster. I close my eyes as I begin to melt into the intensity of my orgasm. I feel your erection harden, your breath coming in short bestial grunts. The initial warmth subsides and now you feel cold inside me. In the world outside a trumpet blasts and startled I open my eyes. Pleasure becomes horror.
From your beautiful brow two horns have sprouted. Your torso remains unchanged but your legs are covered in dark brown fur. You feet are hooves which dig deep into the earth as you pin me to the ground. I try to scream but you stifle it with your hand. You pause mid-fuck as movement across the grove draws your attention. Your lips curl into a smile. With a final disgusted look down at me, you withdraw and bound through the foggy air. A group of nymphs dance and call, beckoning you to join them.
I wake sobbing.