Just a last word.
I’ve been apprenticed to one of the instructors here at Wutai. She is teaching me a number of worthwhile things including how to work spells. They are very powerful, but I’m prone to error so I only use them when really necessary.
I did make one mistake which I should confess. Sneaking back to Stranger to see Emerson I opened something I wasn’t supposed to. At first everyone became quite spirited. It was as if a great weight holding everything down had suddenly disappeared and everyone moved about as if they were as light as air. The whole town became a single festival like Mardi Gras or something. Then after a few days everyone fell asleep.
Just like that – all at once, in the middle of thought almost. Everything just stopped.
Even the water in the Creek stopped moving, which is quite beautiful somehow.
Unfortunately, I seem to have caught the same flu. I have tried to stay up long enough to let you know what has happened. But I’m going under as well. I hope my instructors find me!
They will need all their magic because we are disappearing quickly. Once everyone fell asleep it began to snow –it’s been snowing now for days with no sign of stopping – as you can see from some of the pictures I’ve taken.
Goodnight and love to you all!
Chapter Seven: On the Qualities and Properties of Number
In all matters in which this Art is expounded, it is of great value to know the qualities and properties of Number, for as the ancient sage has said, everything is disposed according to numbers.
Know first that the further a number is away from unity, the more deeply it is implicated in matter, and that until all numbers become the sum of One then nothing of importance can be accomplished.
For numbers have not been cast out blindly into the world, but in accordance with the laws of harmony, they form the steadfast bond by which all things are mutually related.
One is the beginning, the source, light, unity and perfect stillness, the mystic center in which all is pure potential and possibility.
Two is the dark birth, hidden movement, multiplication and division, the horizontal world of cycles, the bridge of shadows, and the dance of delight.
Three is beauty, the charm of time, the trinity of emanations, the inner triangle of fire, the generative power, the number of wisdom and piety. And so for this reason we offer our libations and prayers three times.
Four is solidity, stability, the foundation, balance, the joining of the vertical and the horizontal, the cross of the elements, the number of the winds and seasons, and the sign of all outer activity.
Five is number of man, creative imbalance, alteration, change and magic, new growth, revelation, and divine justice.
Six is discovery and exploration, reconciliation, the turning of the realms of being, the faculties of perception, and the directions of space. In it the two triangles of fire and water meet, and give birth to the Soul.
Seven is the motherless virgin, the delight of all. In it the square and the triangle are joined. It is the number of the spheres, of good fortune, of auspicious coincidence, perfect order, the heavens, the virtues, the days of creation, the colors, the notes, and magical letters.
Eight is the path, the balance of opposing forces, the rose and wheel, the sign of the infinite, and the number of unceasing motion.
Nine is the triple synthesis, the threshold, the number of darkness, and of truth.
Ten is the created world, mathematics and commerce, the city, power, and fulfillment.
Eleven is complexity, excess, and abundant yet dangerous fortune.
Twelve is the circle, the signs of the hours, months, and the stars, the order of divinity, completeness, and fullness in unity.
In the twelve all is accomplished, and harmony rules. But man, reckless and ever thirsting to go beyond what is given, finds yet another number for himself. And thus we say thirteen is the number of bad fortune, birth and death, that which is out of balance and ripe for disaster.
At this point the manuscript breaks off
Chapter Six: On the Five Lesser Arts Which Comprise Magic
The Great Art of Magic is composed of the Lesser Arts of Purification, Observation, Dissolution, Transformation, and Transcendence
The First Art is the Art of Purification. This does not need elucidation, but application. The signs of success are humility and gentleness. If one has not experienced these signs, then to proceed to the other arts will only cause madness.
The Art of Observation is this: to see within the dream the gates of the invisible.
Although the world appears as a rationally ordered whole, there are certain incongruities, certain illogical appearances that are out of sequence, which is to say, outside of time. You cannot cause these to appear. They will appear of their own accord when and where you least expect them. For this reason, the alchemist must be always attentive to appearance.
These appearances take the form of events. Within the dream all events are not alike. Interwoven in the normal flux of dream events are events of another order.
Those who are filled with desire are like those who are asleep. Even if they have been instructed in the nature of the dream, it will be of no benefit to them. Those without desire have the possibility to discern the actual nature of events and to change the flow of dreaming.
Where men see appearances, the alchemist sees spirits. Spirits are the presences that animate events within the dream. There are innumerable spirits. In character they are like water–they reflect the magician’s own energy. Darkness will find darkness, and light will find light.
Thus the alchemist understands that all activity is daimonic. Nothing in the dream occurs without the presence of spirits. The highest spirits are deities. They can appear anywhere at any time in any form they choose. Their wisdom and goodness are without limit.
Spirits reveal themselves in those events that are outside of time. The alchemist who would perfect the Art of Observation will allow the spirit to lead them to the deity. In this way, one dissolves the dream.
The Art of Dissolution must be practiced with great patience. As the alchemist begins to dissolve the dream, having uncovered the real presence that lies within it, he must carefully guard against elation and depression. For until these threads are cut, there can be no dissolution. Even if his effort come to naught a hundred thousand times, an alchemist must not grow weary. For he who waits calmly at the door will soon enough find it ajar.
The Dissolution is the first Transformation. When what is solid becomes liquid and what is liquid becomes space and what is space becomes solid the whole is known and the sphere is revealed in the circle. The Imminent and the Transcendent are joined. By the ordinance of all good providence, and the grace of provident goodness the temple of flesh is vanquished and the spirit is set free. It cannot go back – it has found the wind that sweeps the world and the world the wind has never swept.
Chapter Five: On the Transformation of the Primordial Matter
He who would achieve this must learn through the grace of God how to transform primordial matter into light and thus bring perfection to nature.
This matter is found in all things. It is familiar to all and despised by many. Next to the human soul, it is the most beautiful and most precious treasure one can possess.
This transformation is accomplished only by fire. For he that would achieve it must fix the Sun in Heaven in such a way that its light shines without ceasing.
When the two dragons are set one upon another, the male and female are released. The primordial matter must then undergo death by fire. From this fire the soul of matter is preserved and condensed into liquid and brought into the body of the resurrection. This child-like body must be nourished until it whitens. Thus is the first perfection accomplished.
Chapter Four: On the Signs and Virtues of the Spheres
One can determine whether one is in conflict or in favor with the spheres by observing closely the virtues and signs arising from them.
One in favor with the Moon is kind and gentle, nourishing, full and expansive, and fortunate. If one is in conflict with the Moon, one becomes heavy and irritable, abrupt, unkind, fearful, harsh, and cruel.
One in favor with Mercury is intelligent, prudent, clever, sensible, quick, capable of great learning, inventive, logical, observant, skillful in argument, philosophical, accurate in speculation, and well-adapted to the sciences and mysteries. One in conflict with Mercury is forgetful, frivolous, foolish, inconsiderate, careless, inconstant, predisposed to error, fraudulent, deceitful, and empty of truth.
One in favor with Venus is pure, virtuous, affectionate, compassionate, refined in taste, amicable, polite, joyous, pious, serene, sincere, honest, and radiant. One in conflict with Venus is dull, vain, inconstant, careless, unsteady, faithless, dissolute, licentious, impure, slanderous, and impious.
One if favor with the Sun is benevolent, industrious, honorable, brilliant, temperate, praiseworthy, and glorious. One in conflict with the Sun is cruel, obstinate, depraved, debased, and evil.
One in favor with Mars is noble, brave, versatile, powerful, daring, bold, confident, competent, skillful in command, inventive, cheerful, honest, and friendly. One in conflict with Mars is cruel, sanguinary, pitiless, restless, hostile, quick to anger, ungovernable, treacherous, avaricious, quarrelsome, violent, and impulsive.
One in favor with Jupiter is generous, helpful, just, gracious, reverent, joyous, courteous, lofty, liberal, noble, fond of learning, judicious, merciful, fortunate, sincere, skillful in counsel, competent in government, cheerful, affectionate with family, dignified and philosophical. One in conflict with Jupiter is prejudiced, careless, indifferent, frivolous, fanatical, affecting of wisdom, foolish, arrogant, dishonest in art, gullible, dull, vain, and empty,
One in favor with Saturn is careful, strong, profound, austere, singular, virtuous, respectful, well-intentioned, helpful, frugal, affectionate, mild, prudent, and patient. One in conflict with Saturn is envious, ill-disposed, indiscriminate, weary, empty of affection, incapable of enjoyment, superstitious, inflexible, suspicious, incapable of friendship, faithless, without ambition, morose, hypocritical, bigoted, idle, and useless.
The one skilled in this Art pays close attention to all signs of character. Thus by attending to virtue and vice one can determine the source of favor and conflict and apply the proper remedies and antidotes in order to bring the elements and spheres into harmony.
Chapter Three: On the Nine Mirrors
To work this magic, one must know the way which appearances have come to be, for it is not random how things have assumed their roles and stations. For the One has reflected itself in nine mirrors, each with its own qualities.
The deepest and darkest mirror is that of Orcus. Its time is night, and its beings are shades and shadows. It is reached through the Isle of the Dead. Its color is black. Its substance is coal. Its jewels are obsidian and onyx. The virtue discovered there is truth. Its vice is poverty. Its presence is marked by the appearance of bats, crows, and coyotes. It rules over all magics of wealth and its essential power is darkness.
The mirror of our dreams is that of Earth. Its time is day, and its beings are humans, animals, and spirits. One is born there through the Isle of Desire. Its color is green. Its substance is clay. Its jewel is emerald. The virtue there is receptivity and the vice stagnation. It rules over all magics of abundance and its essential power is desire.
Above the Earth is the mirror of the Moon. Its day is Monday and its beings are the spirits of the ancestors. It is reached through the Isle of Fortune. Its color is white. Its metal is silver. Its jewel is the pearl. Its virtue is compassion and its vice cruelty. It rules over the magic of change and its power is transformation.
Above the Moon is the mirror of Mercury. Its day is Wednesday and its beings are teachers and guides. It is reached through the Isle of Remembrance. Its color is orange. Its metal is quicksilver. Its jewels amber and agate. The virtue there is wisdom and the vice deceit. Its presence is marked by the appearance of snakes, owls, and foxes. It rules over all magics of revelation and its power is clear vision.
Above Mercury is the mirror of Venus. Its day is Friday and its beings are all good daimons. It is reached through the Isle of Innocence. Its color is light blue. Its metal is copper. Its jewel is turquoise. The virtue there is devotion and the vice possession. Its presence is marked by the appearance of deer and doves. It rules over all magics of love and its power is beauty.
Above Venus is the mirror the Sun. Its day is Sunday and its beings are the heroes who have conquered in its name. It is reached through Isle of the Sun. Its color is yellow. Its metal is gold. Its jewel is the diamond. The virtue there is harmony and the vice dispersion. It rules over all magics of purification and its power is illumination.
Above the Sun is the mirror of Mars. Its day is Tuesday and its beings are the lesser gods. It is reached through the Isle of the Minotaur. Its color is red. Its metal is iron. Its jewel is the ruby. The virtue there is courage and the vice anger. Its presence is marked by hawks and bulls. It rules over all magics of accomplishment and its power is activity.
Above Mars is the mirror of Jupiter. Its day is Thursday and its beings are the great gods. Its is reached through the Isle of Olympus. Its color is purple. Its metal is tin. Its jewel is the amethyst. The virtue there is justice and the vice tyranny. Its presence is marked by lions and eagles. It rules over all magics of creation and its essential power is equanimity.
Above Jupiter is the mirror of Saturn. Its day is Saturday and its beings are the nameless gods. It is reached through the Isle of the Blessed. Its color is dark blue. Its metal is lead. Its jewel is the sapphire. The virtue there is freedom and the vice depression. Its presence is signified by herons and turtles. It rules over all magics of spiritual wisdom and its power is timelessness.
Above Saturn is the pure mirror of Heaven itself. Its ruler is the One. Its time is the eternal present and its beings are the stars. It is reached only through awareness. It is without color, without substance, without power. It is the source of all virtue and the dissolution of all vice, and it rules over the magic of pure presence.
Such is the nature of the cosmos that we inhabit. The magician who would perfect the great Art will lift himself from submersion in darkness and immersion in abundance. He will become an initiate of the Moon, and a student of Mercury. He will become a lover of Venus and a friend of the Sun. He will become a solider of Mars and an emissary of Jupiter. And entering the court of Saturn, he once again will know the pure bliss of Heaven.
Chapter Two: On the One Who Is Called Thrice-Blest Hermes
The Lord of All has entrusted this wisdom to thrice-blest Hermes. Thus, he who would learn the Black Art must be taught it at his feet.
Hermes is known by many names and offices. He is the shepherd who protects the flock of secret knowledge. He is the patron of wealth and all good commerce. He is the Lord who gives expression to intellect, the messenger who communicates the word of heaven, and the friend who reveals the hidden truth.
He is God of boundaries and the One who is beyond all boundaries. He is the guide of souls to both light and darkness. He is the conveyer of dreams, whose wand causes both sleep and wakefulness. And he is the great initiator of the dead who severs the lock of hair that binds one to the world of shadows.
He is the one who gave man words and writing, numbers and measures, alphabets and books. He is the prophet of signs and occurrences, whose presence is told by unexpected sights and sequences. Inventor of the lyre, stealer of the cattle of the Sun, it is he who first lit the sacrificial fire. He is a great teacher of all rite and magic.
So it is of great benefit to make acquaintance with this Lord. He is well known for his kindness and charm, his eloquence and humor, his clarity, his subtly, and his quickness of mind. And of all who rule the stars and the earth, he is said to be the most gentle and benevolent to man.
In going through the papers of the late John Hayes, I found this unusual manuscript which I wanted to bring to the attention of our literary and philosophical friends. It was apparently translated from the German by John’s grandfather William Hayes in the mid 1930’s. It seems to be one of the texts circulated by the Sonnentraumen group in Vienna which William Hayes had contact with. The name of the orginal author or compiler of the text is not given, but talking with Werner, he feels it was the sense of the Sonnentraumen group that the text was written by Johann Faust sometime in the mid-16th century.
Chapter One: On the Nature and Benefit of this Art
This is the treatise on Alchemica, the Black Art as taught by the Lord of Hidden Truth, the Lord that rouses us from sleep, infuses us with visions, and reveals to us the path of transformation that perfects the primal matter of our imperfect being.
The gold of the philosophers is to be produced by the actions of the great elixir.
This elixir, the most perfect essence of all the elements, is called the most ancient, secret, incomprehensible, and heavenly-blessed stone of the sages, for it is able to work great wonders. It is the quintessence, the indestructible body, the most precious of all treasures.
The Art that knows that this elixir is true, more certain than certainty itself, the secret of secrets, the divine virtue that has been wisely hidden from the foolish.
It is the aim and end of all things under heaven. It is the conclusion of all labors. It is the great gift of God who transmits this secret only when and to whom he desires.
The Lord who can do all things and become all things, appearing to each in the form best suited to him, comes to those who are devoted to Him and counsels them in hidden ways.
He shows them how the great transformation is accomplished and how the luminous and spiritual in man is realized.
For he who possesses this elixir shall possess all that he desires. He shall perform all things that are possible under the Sun.
Many of our residents are unaware that in the late 19th and early 20th century there were two Churches in Stranger Creek, the Congregational Church, which survives, and the Church of East Stranger Creek, which burned down in 1927 and was never rebuilt.
The Church of East Stranger Creek was established in the early years of settlement. By 1889 the Church had prospered to the point where it was able to build a solid wooden building in the gothic manner on the corner of 3rd and Peculiar. The Church of East Stranger Creek was a prophecy church with an independent congregation that allowed a significant degree of latitude in what was deemed acceptable prophecy. Men, women and children were all allowed to prophesize. Services consisted of the congregation sitting quietly in a set of circles while each, as inspired, stood and prophesized. Some just stood and remained silent which was considered especially blessed. All prophecies for a given year were bound in dark grey leather book stamped with a silver cross. The Church’s library consisted of a series of these annuals dating back to 1871.
If one had the time to read through these testaments one would find that the spirit gave voice to a wide range of issues personal, political and social as well as visions and moral sentiments, expressions of faith and odd turns of thought that were always very unusual and heavily superstitious. In the spring of 1927 all that changed – everyone all at once began prophesizing in a higher tone than before. It was as if their own voices had disappeared completely and voices of another realm altogether were heard. During their services rainbows would sometimes appear and on several occasions flowers fell through the air.
This spontaneous manifestation of holiness began to concern the leaders of the other Churches in town. Some serious discussion took place and the Congregationalists, Theosophists, and the Swedish Brethren agreed to form a ‘Board of Elders’ charged with looking into unusual matters in the town and conducting investigations where necessary at public expense. As the first investigation was about to be launched the Church burned to the ground during a lightening storm. No one was hurt but as no specific prophecy had been made prior to this, members were shaken. There were several attempts to reestablish the group on a reformed basis but they failed and the members eventually dispersed.
Before departing once again, John Hayes pointed out to me a special place in his library where I found the manuscript copy of the 1927 prophecies. It had apparently belonged originally to William Hayes who if not a member was a friend of the Church in the 1920’s. I have selected a few of the less obscure of these to include here:
From the 1927 Book of Prophecies
Church of East Stranger Creek
I am the Lord of Mystery who knows all
That is hidden in heaven and on earth
I am the one who instructs
The one who inspires
The one who knows both the visible and the invisible
The one who guides both the living and the dead
I am the one who will lead you out of the labyrinth of time
But first all of you must choose
Do you remain in sleep?
Do you continue to serve the changing?
Or do you make your single wish
To know that which has never changed?
When faith overcomes the sleep of desire
When the mind that seeks advantage
In the passing is given rest
Then I will appear
Everything comes from me
I am all that exists
I alone am the One God of all
I have never had a name
Yet I am the God of all that has name
Always present, within you and within everything
From me both the visible and invisible rise
The invisible is stillness and the visible is movement
Goodness and the heart that cherishes goodness
I am always with you
In all that you have been instructed
I am the one who has instructed you
In kindness you will see kindness
In stillness presence
In inquiry, knowledge
In prayer, clarity
All things flow out of me
And the darkness
I am the One without a second
The perfect mind of thunder
From me the father reigns
From me the mother nurtures
From me everything is
Through me the earths
And the heavens came to be
I am changeless yet I am ever changing
I am virgin and prostitute
I am sinner and saved
I am foolish and wise
I am teacher and student
I am all things each to their degree
I am nothing, and nothing beyond nothing
I am the One who is All
The One revealed in every scripture
The One who has known you since the beginning
The One who becomes clearly manifest at your wish
By your own efforts you can accomplish nothing
But all is possible in me
My word is everywhere
In the world of many, I am one
The visible and the invisible
The known and the inexplicable
I am the sovereign and I am the revealer
I am the spirit and the truth
My home is the unbounded
My being is the unlimited
If you know me
You know everything
I am the timeless and the One whose net is time
When the son stills his revolt against the Father
And becomes humbled
Then he is reborn in my light
I have no name
No history, no philosophy, no theology
No myth, no words, no syllables and no symbols
There is no path to me
But all of these
History, philosophy, theology, myth
Paths, words, syllables and symbols
All these flow out of me and flow back to me
Do not look at what I have brought to light
But turn in stillness to the source
Of all that is
Then you will see me face to face
For I am traceless and I am perfectly in view
The more you forget, the more you remember
The more you surrender, the deeper you are bound
Bound to me like a wave
Whose delusions I will shatter
Once we reach the shore
I realize at this point the reader’s understanding of the specific nature of the Church and what took place there may be somewhat clouded which is quite understandable. In addition to the Book of Prophecies, we also recovered the Book of Rites, which after consulting with Reverend Talisman I have decided not to print here, as I am not sure what that might lead to.
As to the cause of the fire that burned the Church to the ground in 1927, there is much speculation. Some say it was caused by certain powers opposed to the Church’s teachings, others say it was a bolt of lightening delivered as a warning from On High. In either case, it did not deter William Hayes from continuing his explorations as we know from subsequent events. Perhaps in some way it inspired him.
He came back in autumn of 1919, one month before Rose’s 28th birthday. The orchards were ripe with apples on the long paved walk that led to the estate house. The hired workers would pick them in the following week, taking away the only color left on the landscape, the trees having lost their leaves in the weeks before. She had received notice that he was coming, and had pictured his return ever since she had received the telegram from Cairo saying he was no longer missing in action, that he had been found.
When the door rang Jacob stood dutifully by, his tired hands resting on one of the shined brass handles, knowing that Rose would want to be the first thing her husband saw when the door was opened. Rose came down the stairs wearing the same blue dress that she had on when he first made love to her, eight years ago by the fishing pond on her parents’ estate. It had been autumn then too but she liked to remember it as a spring day, with a field of flowers to lie on instead of the dry, dead leaves that had actually been her mattress. Rose had her hair down, as she knew he liked, and it ran in waves to her waist; it had been golden-tan once but now showed strands of gray. Rose felt giddy in a way she hadn’t known for some time.
It took a moment for the recognition to set in. Physically, the man standing in the doorway looked every bit like the man who left three years ago, except perhaps for a scar on his forehead. He was still tall, smartly dressed, with thin sandy hair that covered his head in sporadic peaks and valleys. Rose rationally identified the man, who stood in front of her, but it wasn’t her husband, and she couldn’t explain why. There was something changed, and Rose’s emotions did not accept this altered form which presented itself as her husband. The man looked at Rose with passive, empty eyes. There was no indication of whether or not he was surprised by his wife’s apprehension. Breaking the mood, Jacob coughed audibly.
“Master, a pleasure to see you safely returned.”
At Jacob’s voice the moment was broken, and Rose grabbed her husband around his neck and hugged him, saying his name over and over while her tears poured into his chest. The man dropped the small leather satchel he was carrying and put an arm around his wife. His other arm held onto his crutch, which he balanced against.
That night they ate their first meal together in three years. Rose wanted to ask her husband about what had happened since his letters to her had stopped. How he had gone down, how he escaped the Sopwith which had still not been found, how he had survived in the desert, how he had got back. Restraining herself, she only asked about his leg. He said he would be able to get off the crutch in a few weeks, that the doctors had to reset the bone but it would be right soon. He asked about the house and grounds, about how Rose had been faring. She had little to complain about; her family had helped her quite a bit and she regularly took weekend train trips with her sisters into Kent for shopping. She had been lonely, yes, but she had always had others around. Jacob of course had taken good care of her. Her husband nodded toward his head butler appreciatively and Jacob turned modestly away.
Later Rose tried to make love to her husband, but he didn’t seem to notice her touches. He stared at the ceiling above him, his eyes glinting eerily as they reflected moonlight from the open window. When he had undressed for bed, Rose had noticed that the skin across his chest and shoulders was discolored, as if from a burn.
In the weeks that followed, Rose tried to return the estate to how it was before the war. It was difficult. While Rose oversaw the tending of the grounds, the orchards, and the vineyards, her husband kept mostly to himself. He stayed in his study looking through old albums of photos and would only occasionally leave to wander around the surrounding countryside. Rose wanted to encourage him to be sociable, but whom would he see? Neither Arthur nor Brian had returned from France. Her husband’s best friend before the war, Arthur had commanded men in Somme and was killed by a machine gun in the battle of Saint-Quentin while his friend Brian received a wound from shrapnel in Ypres that got infected before he could be taken off the line. Helping their widows, whom Rose had known since preparatory school, had almost broken her, especially while her own husband was missing.
Meals were eaten almost entirely in silence, and Rose kept having to remind herself that this was at least in some way still the same easy-going, chronically likable, and perpetually humorous man she remembered. In the years he was away Rose had dwelled every day on the memories she had of him. She would replay her favorite memories in her mind over and over, changing and altering them as the real image of him started to fade. Now she questioned herself; had she changed her recollections so much that she was remembering someone completely different than how her husband really was? Had he always been like he was now? Did she just not notice the emptiness before? A lot could change in three years, over the channel or at home.
One night Rose awoke to find her husband wasn’t lying next to her. In the moonlight she slipped on her robe and was about to go looking for him when she noticed something out the window. Opening the window and looking out, Rose saw clearly in the blue half light of the early morning a figure standing on a small hill that overlooked the work shed on the east side and the vineyards on the north side. The figure was not looking at anything particular, but standing in the stillness of the night, as if it were absorbing the soft light. Rose closed the window quietly and pretended to go back to sleep. An hour or so before she would normally have awoken her husband returned to bed and lay still, but Rose could tell by his breathing that he was awake.
The next day, while her husband was out taking a walk, Rose found herself in the study. She immensely wanted to understand what had happened to her husband, or what was happening to him still. He had not spoken of the war at all; he didn’t even acknowledge that it had existed. There, resting against the Italian leather armchair which Arthur had given her husband on his 27th birthday was the small brown satchel which was the only relic her husband had brought back from his three years in Europe and Africa. She imagined it must contain photos or correspondences of some sort; he must have made friends with the rest of the pilots. Did he have a copilot? In his letters home, before he was lost, he had mentioned the other pilots only abstractly. Perhaps he didn’t want to have to inform Rose of their deaths when, later on, she would ask how they were. Rose was reaching for the satchel when she heard the door of the study opening behind her. Startled, she whirled around to find Jacob.
“Is everything alright, ma’am?”
“Jacob,” Rose recovered quickly, “have you… noticed anything about the master since he’s been back? I mean anything unusual?”
Jacob looked uncomfortable; discretion was a principle part of a well-trained servant’s duties. “I’m not certain I understand you, ma’am.”
“I feel something’s not right with him. Do you remember how he used to be?”
“I’m sorry ma’am, but my memory is perhaps not as good these days.”
Rose nodded. After being her pillar for so long, the last thing Rose wanted was to torture the old servant. “Jacob, I have my husband’s well-being at heart and…” Rose trailed off, not knowing how to explain herself.
“We all care for the master’s well-being.” As Jacob closed the door behind him, he said in an offhand fashion “oh, and the master is returning from his walk.”
Rose left the satchel alone for the time being; she would have to return to it later. That night Rose pretended to be asleep. She felt her husband, on the other side of the bed, wait for her breathing to become steady and measured. Then, when it seemed she was asleep, he left. Rose didn’t notice that he was gone for quite some time, as he made no noise at all. Moreover than not making any sound, Rose was surprised that there was no difference in the atmosphere of the room from when her husband had entered and when he exited. She realized almost with a start that he had no presence which she could feel. As in his eyes, all surrounding him was emptiness
Rose waited for ten, fifteen, perhaps twenty minutes. When she could wait no longer she went to the window and looked out. There had been brief showers earlier in the day, however, and the moon was obscured. Not being able to see anything, Rose went to bed. She forced herself to stay awake as long as she could, waiting for her husband to return. Strange paranoid thoughts arose about what her husband might be doing out in the darkness, and about what might have happened to him. A singular question kept forcing itself to the surface of Rose’s consciousness; what if he never sleeps? Fighting against dwelling on this question strained Rose, and a feeling of dread starting to rise up inside her. She began to wish that he had never come home at all, and she feared his return to her room. She had no sanctuary now. Eventually these queries drifted into fatigue and Rose felt herself finally drifting into the dark black sea.
Rose awoke to a methodical knocking sound that took her a moment to realize was a hammer. It was still dark outside, and Rose had to fumble for a flint to light the gaslight by her bedside. Rose walked out into the hallway in a daze, not sure if she was dreaming. In the hallway stood Jacob with an electric lamp. He was dressed as usual, yet it was obvious by his demeanor that he too had been roughly awakened by the noise. His voice was weary.
“It’s coming from the shed.”
“What is it?” Rose asked.
“The master,” Jacob replied.
Without another word Rose stormed down the hall and threw open the door to the study. She needed to know immediately what her husband had brought back, and hopefully what had happened to him. She grabbed the leather satchel from the armchair and heaved it onto the large oak desk, fumbled with the clasps, then finally tore open the top. And froze.
“Not what one would expect, is it?” Jacob walked up from behind Rose, closed the satchel, and calmly placed it back on the armchair. “To be in the army five years and bring back nothing but a pack filled with-”
“Desert sand,” Rose murmured, still staring at the open satchel in her mind. “It’s desert sand.”
Rose left early the next morning to visit her sisters in Kent. She hastily packed a few belongings, wrote a letter for her husband about feeling ill and needing to see a physician, and caught the train. Jacob took her to the station without question. Before she boarded, Rose turned to Jacob, who was standing by the auto.
“If anything happens, let me know immediately by wire.”
Rose’s sisters lived together in a large duplex on Whistler Street, just North of Liston avenue. The duplex was one of a number of real estate holdings owned by Rose’s brother-in-law Frank, whose investment in an ammunitions plant during the war had made him even wealthier than Rose’s husband. Rose always sensed that her husband inadvertently inspired Frank’s competitiveness to the point of hostility, and that Frank was not entirely upset when the former went missing. Rose was glad to find only her sister Margaret at home.
There was no excuse that Rose could find for why she needed to leave her estate on such short notice, especially following the much awaited return of her husband. All Rose could do was try to explain the truth as best she could.
“He’s not the same as when he left. I know he would have changed but… but not this much.”
Margaret set down her tea to lean across the sofa and hold Rose’s hand. They sat in the upstairs parlor, which overlooked the park behind the house. The sunlight cast the room in pale yellow.
“It’s dreadful to think about,” Margaret began, carefully picking her words, “but if it provides you with the slightest consolation, I’ve heard the same from many of the women whose husbands have returned. The men have trouble sleeping, they wake up screaming, during daytime they’re either too violent or too somber. It’s a mess. The war was a mess and the mess it produced is still with them.”
Rose shook her head, “It… it’s deeper than that. I can’t explain, but it’s not as if he changed even, it’s as if… oh I don’t know how to explain.”
“Now he went missing, what, six months? Something could have happened- something horrific- in that desert and your husband is still carrying it with him. Give him time Rosie. He’ll change back.”
Rose sipped her tea and looked out the parlor’s bay window. Below two nannies were pushing strollers and talking, an old man was sitting by himself, and several young boys were playing with a model airplane.
Rose settled down at Margaret’s as she had several times during the war, when the mansion became lonely and foreboding. She had a room to herself, and split most of her days between reading and excursions to the shops downtown with her sister, who had always believed most problems could be solved by buying new things. Rose didn’t want to go back to the mansion, and with Frank rarely free from business Margo was delighted to have her. Each day Rose distracted herself from thinking of her husband, but at night she was haunted by the image of him out in the shed, oblivious to the hour, never sleeping, building something. What is he building in there? The more Rose thought about him the more anxious she became, and her dreams were usually frightening. Nevertheless, with the coming of morning scones and coffee would distract from the darkness of the nighttime and Rose would push unpleasant thoughts to the back of her mind. Then one afternoon, when Rose and Margo were coming back from a café, one of the staff stopped them.
“Telegraph for you ma’am, arrived this morning,” the young maid thrust out a piece of paper towards Rose.
“For me?” Rose asked, “but who would-“
Rose stopped as she noticed the sender.
Rose and Jacob rode home in silence from the train station. There was a tension in the air, a strain that grew as they approached the mansion. They passed the orchards, which Rose had strolled when the indoors became stifling. Without their fruit the trees seemed sullen and brooding. As the mansion sprawled out ahead of them, Rose turned to Jacob.
“You’ve seen it then?”
Jacob only nodded.
Rose didn’t know what her husband had built in that barn, but according to Jacob he had worked every night. The sounds from the shed had been constant, and Jacob had almost grown accustomed to them. Then early that morning when Jacob had awakened he felt something was amiss. It wasn’t until after breakfast that Jacob realized the sounds had stopped.
Everything seemed unnaturally quite to Rose as she walked to the shed. Every step she took would crush leaves under her feet, and the sound was deafening. There were no birds; there was no sign of wildlife. The autumn breeze turned the blood in Rose’s pale arms into cold, muddy water. As the shed approached, Rose’s breathing became heavy and her heart beat rapidly. Everything inside her was pulling Rose away.
“You’ve seen it then?”
But Jacob had only nodded. As Rose reached the shed’s door, she almost became sick, and she leaned against the door for support, the cold mud pulsing in her hands, in her head. Suddenly there was a tremendous creak that shot through the silence like a streak of lightning through night, and the door swung wide under Rose’s weight. Rose fell onto the floor of the shed, and looked up before she could stop herself. The mud froze. A plane. He’s been building a plane!
Rose got to her feet and dusted herself off, transfixed on the aircraft. Rose subconsciously began walking around plane, her eyes scanning it over and over. She quickly realized that her first thought hadn’t been correct- it was not a plane in the true sense as even a child could see that it could never fly. Instead it was a life-sized model of the plane her husbands’ squadron had flown during the war, the Sopwith Camel. The frame seemed to have been made out of whatever wood had been available and the wheels Rose recognized from one of the horse carts. The fuselage and long tail had been wrapped in tan sheets, and the tip of the tail had been painted red. The expansive bi-wings likewise had been covered in sheets, though white ones this time. He had taken the propeller off their sailboat, which was in storage, and Rose noticed that it was far too small for flight. The cockpit had been taken from the drivers’ seat of their coach, which had been in storage as well since Rose bought the auto. On both sides of the plane and on the wings was painted the blue and red bulls-eye of the British air force. As she completed her loop around the giant model aircraft, Rose suddenly realized that her husband was nowhere around.
Back at the house, Jacob met her look with a nod towards the study. Rose noticed that the old butler had forgotten to shave, and his clothes looked like they had been worn for days. Complacently, no longer acting on curiosity or hope but out of an obligation to herself to see things through, Rose entered the study. Her husband stood by his desk, and was carrying the satchel he had brought back with him from the war. He was dressed in full flight gear, exactly as he appeared in the photo he had sent Rose early in the war. His goggles hung loosely around his neck, and when he saw Rose he smiled boyishly.
“Right- should be a nice run, no worries. Just scouting today.”
“Don’t… don’t…” Rose’s voiced trailed away. She didn’t know what she had been trying to say.
“Besides, no use being a hero this late in the game, eh? No, the mechanic says she’s sound, don’t know what the trouble was last time.”
Rose’s husband left the study, satchel in hand. Rose didn’t move. A minute later she heard the opening and closing of the back door of the mansion. Rose didn’t feel strained anymore. She didn’t feel tired, or anxious, or frightened. All of her feeling was gone, it had exhausted itself. The entire scope of the war, every nervous day and distressing night she had lived through over the last five years, over her husband leaving, over his disappearance, over his rescue and over his return had finally used up all that was left of her.
Rose didn’t know how much time passed before Jacob ran in. It must have been almost half an hour but it didn’t seem more than a moment or two. Jacob’s clothes and face were smeared with ash and he smelled strongly of kerosene and something else. Rose couldn’t identify the second scent but it was repulsive. Jacob breathed heavily as he tried to speak.
“The shed—it’s all afire… from the inside… he was lying there… the master… lying under the plane,” Jacob coughed heavily, “lying on the sand. couldn’t… couldn’t reach…” Jacob shook his head, “I… I’m sorry Rose I couldn’t reach him in time. The master… he’s gone.”
“I know,” said Rose, glancing out the window at the charcoal sky. “It was mechanical failure.”
What is the single element that brings all the other elements to life? That is what the philosophers seek. That which is most common and most used, yet seldom noticed.
We have lived our whole lives in ignorance and fear, but also in hope. That hope is our freedom. Perhaps we do not hope for much, perhaps we hope for a lot. That hope is our way out.
Within the physical body is a luminous body. When the four elements dissolve, the light remains. Freedom is in the light.
We enter the theatre
Stumbling into a movie
With no beginning
And no sure end
We stroll along the river
And watch the clouds drift
Across an endless Sunday afternoon
We buy a book
And gaze between the letters
Reminiscing about different textures of light
Moving our fingers gently
Across the furrowed crevices
Of inaudible currents
Once everything comes to rest
It’s easy to see what creates
And what dissolves
But until then
We must suffer the weight
And temper of images
Bear their rudeness
Flatter their vanities
Assuage their fears
Until they all drown
In the perfect sleep of Spring
“When the blood stiffens
When your body turns cold
Then the flowers open
And the trees spread their branches
Who were their fate
Enter the sky
Where everything is white.”
There is something curious about randomness. The randomness is decidedly intelligent. If you look for patterns you won’t see them, but in the non-linearity of phenomena, in its not having a pattern, something is happening. Very mysterious, very capricious, very free.
The gap is widening . Whole parts of the world are breaking off into their own time space fields. This world is literally falling apart –town by town, city by city, state by state falling apart seamlessly into the ocean of night.
We are here and now we are gone. To live is to become invisible, to become invisible is to live.
“One who is afraid of time becomes the prey of time. But time itself becomes the prey of that one who is not afraid of it.”
Sometimes the roar of the ocean is so strong you can’t hear yourself think. Everywhere you look there is a single sea. Nothing is inanimate.
Even the dead planets are aware, have in fact a very fine and pure awareness whose sphere of influence flows through us constantly.
At some point the text becomes obscure and the chapters that were never that clearly marked to begin with become lost in each other. Characters appear from nowhere and then are abandoned. The spontaneously random plot disappears entirely, and then, just then you look up as the sun fills the empty sky, and ask: when were we ever not spirits?
There is only one direction
To go -North
The dim yellow lamp
Over the thick carpet
A soft fire burns into embers
Sitting on a sofa
With a glass of white wine
You ask, why?
She cannot respond
In the dark of recesses
Of private libraries
Hidden in the cracked leather binding
Of unread manuscripts
There might be an answer
Or there might not
October 16, 2006
fragments of memory
dreams and the light of fires
the sound of the ocean
Today I died.
It is difficult to describe where I am. In the diffuse fog of space differences are blurred and desires muted. The oddest part is that I am still here.
Not all in one piece – just in fragments of images and voice. One following another. Nothing connected to anything else. There isn’t any cause and effect at all. When I join fragments, it is just another fragment.
I am floating through something. I am not sure what. It is neither pleasant nor unpleasant. But that is not too different then what was before, is it?
Yes, I humor the old doorkeeper. He thinks he is guarding the light, but the light is everywhere – he can’t do anything about that… But I humor him by making requests, asking for advice, and entreating him as if he were an important person. For without me, he has no occupation, he must close the door. I know that. But then what will he do? At his age? So I humor him.
When he falls asleep, which is often, then I enter. Once I got as far the as the third court. There is a magnificent library there which rises seven stories into the air and disappears into a stained glass vault that is a heaven unto itself. Along the sides of the vast circular library are ten great marble archways rising high and wide each lined with books.
As I sat staring at this, one of the King’s own family came up and gave me a small text. As she handed it to me she said, “If you read every book here, you would not find what you can find in this one text.”
I took this text with me and came back. It was everything she said it was. It was any book and all books, every book written and every book that would be written, and every book that could not be written. It was all that and more.
I will become rich and famous once these wonders and marvels are revealed I thought. But of course that didn’t happen. I was silenced. Sure I could write whatever I wanted but my gift came with a curse – prophesy all you want – no one will listen or comprehend. It was like writing on water.
It took me a long time to realize that, but now that I do there’s not much reason to stay around. It’s getting late in the day and I have an appointment in paradise. You’ll have to keep the doorkeeper amused in my absence. Get him intoxicated then you can slip past. Then once you’re out– well, it’s another world out there.
When I checked in late one autumn evening, I didn’t know I was the first guest the Hotel had seen in over forty years. The blond receptionist did not show any surprise as I stumbled, still a bit dazed, into the ornate baroque lobby.
“Beautiful,” I said staring all around me.
“Yes. My name is Michelle. Welcome to the White Hotel.”
“Can I have a room with a view of the ocean,” I asked
“All of our rooms have a view of the ocean,” she said smiling. “Do you need help with your luggage.”
“No thank you. I didn’t bring any.”
She smiled, “Of course. Here is your key. Room Nine is at the top of the stairs on the right. If you need anything just call.”
I entered the room and collapsed on the large antique white bed near the windows. I fell asleep listening to the sounds of the waves against the shore, and the cry of an owl.
Rooms? What rooms?
There are no rooms at this Hotel
Why did she say that?
You can’t remember can you?
It is not so bad being dead, she said. To think of a place is to be there. To desire an object is to have it instantly appear. Everything appears as you would like. The black rivers at your feet speak like ancient oracles. You will learn to love the corners of mirrors.
The ravens on the telephone line
The coyote that stared from the ravine
The wind blowing in circles
The smell of freshly turned soil
You can do a lot she said, but no one ever does. There is no one to impress. No one who needs anything from you. No one to give to. No one who wonders what you did or didn’t do. When people come here, they mostly just sleep.
You are mistaken
I came only to see the ocean
I want to feel the water against my skin
After a few days I’ll go back
I’ll only be staying a few days I told Michelle as I walked out to the water. She laughed,
“If you leave, take me with you.”
You wake up in an empty apartment in an unknown city, wearing a black suit
with nothing in the pockets. It is late afternoon. A weak sun falls across the dusty floors and disappears in a dark corner. You look out the window at an old movie house across the street. The bells of a distant church toll over the faint sounds of traffic. Tough looking men are standing at the street corner smoking cigarettes, letting you know they’re waiting.
You take the back door and walk out into the night. At a seedy café, an old woman hands you a card. You turn it over in the dim street lamp: 87 Strasshofner. When you ring the doorbell some time later a disheveled man in an out-of-date suit opens the door and says sharply, “What do you want?”
“Nothing,” you answer. He opens the door, looks you over and lets you in. The front room is like a doctor’s waiting room only shabbier. The magazines on the end tables are dated 1939, which is two years from now. The room is empty except for the two of you. “I will let them know you have arrived,” he says and leaves.
You sit on a gray sofa that looks like a bad piece of taxidermy and wait. After twenty minutes you grow impatient and open the door across from the one you entered. There is a long hallway with rooms on either side. Each room has a number. There are 12 in all. You walk to the end of the hall and stop. There are no sounds from any of the rooms. A bare light bulb hangs in the hall. After a few minutes you notice a blue fog curling under the door of room number seven. You open the door and slowly walk in.
Two women in cocktail dresses are at a table drinking and talking. To the left is a small bar with a single bartender. You sit down at an empty table and a man brings you a tall glass filled with a dark liquid. You sip it slowly. After some time the women get up. One goes to the back of the room and the other comes to your table.
“I can help you,” she says.
“Can you?” you reply.
You go through another room of tables and out into an alley. A black roadster is waiting with a single driver in a trench coat. You get into the back seat and the car speeds off. You drive for hours. You sit very close to each other but say nothing. Through the window you can see the city flying past, then trees. The car slows down and comes to a stop in front of a large villa. As you and the young woman get out, the car drives off and disappears down the black road. You walk toward the house where a doorman escorts you to a ballroom. Several dozen people in evening clothes are gathered. A distinguished older man walks over and greets you.
“You have found him.”.
“Yes, he was where you said he would be father,” she replies.
“I am sorry to have brought you here under such circumstances,” he says, “But you know why such precautions are necessary.”
You smile. You don’t know why at all.
“For now enjoy yourself. My daughter will see to your needs.”
He hands you a drink and she takes your arm and escorts you to where couples are dancing.
“Do I know your father,” you ask.
“Probably not as he appears,” she answers.
As you dance you look out the bay windows and see that a full moon has risen. The woman whose name you still do not know nestles her head against your shoulder. “Don’t do that,” you say, but it is too late.
The warm notes of the saxophone expand like waves of sunlight and you lose all sense of place. You feel her lips against yours. Then the room is quiet. The city disappears and you are alone. In a different room, in a different dream you open your hands and a small black spider runs out and disappears between a crack in the floor. You walk over and pick up a letter someone has slid under the door.
“I’ll call you,”it says. It is unsigned and undated. You walk over and drop it on the desk next to dozens just like it.
There are blue photographs in a book you can only purchase at night from an old man who stands outside the closed doors of a battered, white monastery. You take the book home and show it to your wife who is unimpressed.
“It is very strange and full of death,” she says.
You start to explain to her what the pictures mean but lose her in the crowd of people who have slowly been filtering into your living room holding cocktail glasses and laughing to each other. You recognize your high school girlfriend who is sitting quietly by herself in a corner. She is beautiful. You walk over to talk to her and show her the book you have found. She wants you to take her to the monastery where you bought it. You would like to but don’t remember how you got there.
Then you find yourselves in the basement and start walking through a passageway that leads into a bare shrine room. It is very damp and musty like a crypt. You look at your girlfriend and want to tell her how much you love her but she is frozen pointing to an entryway across from you where a headless monk is standing quietly in front of deep maroon curtains.
“We can go back now,” you tell her.
She nods and you are back in the living room where the party continues. A thin Chinese man is tugging at your sleeve wanting to talk to you, but the party is too noisy to hear what he’s saying. Your girlfriend has left and your wife is gone too. A tanned young woman is starring at you from across the room. You walk toward her and slide your hands under her shirt and over her breasts. She jumps back because your fingers are as cold as ice.
“I’ve been downstairs,” you say by way of explanation.
She doesn’t seem to understand. You start to unbutton her skirt but she stops you. “There are too many people here,” she says. You look for somewhere to go and realize that it has gotten light outside and the images in the room are blurring. “I don’t want to leave now,” you tell her. She laughs, “You can’t do anything about that.” It’s true. The light pouring in from all sides is unstoppable.
Everywhere there was the rushing sound of temple monkeys darting in and out of blue waterfalls. That was just before the stone walls collapsed, leaving young women defenseless in fields of thick bamboo. The postman was not due before 3 o’clock yet the streetcars were already circling past on their way to the circus. Rope ladders hung down from the attic windows where airline attendants were reading Japanese romances. Thin girls in tie-dyed t-shirts skated down the cobblestone streets handing out cards with holograms of the Buddha. They waved at the postman who has stopped to eat the tender blue artichokes growing in the stream beneath the sunken antique bridge.
She was still quite aloof even though office workers in burgundy suits had spent days trying to climb the translucent walls of glass. Debussy was walking the streets searching for carnival tickets ignoring the words of Indian teachers who rested calmly beneath the gray and blue traffic signs. Now that Jerusalem has once again fallen under the horizon, the flocks of dispersed songbirds will need new gardens. We can no longer depend on the prayers of dolphins to lead us to invisible cities, nor can the white girls chanting vodoun spells be counted on to pause for tea and biscuits when the public television station comes on. Still, if we only knew the size of Japanese pebbles necessary to create ponds for white chrysanthemums, we could send out for new windowpanes and shutters. Politicians are sending invitations to the funeral of the Sun. I am desperately in love, but can never find postage stamps when I need them.
The policemen are asleep now, but the children are careful not to untie their shoes. Dusk sweeps the city like a solemn river, and the rooftops resign themselves to an incomplete astrology. Boats depart for small towns upriver on the Amazon. I stay at the hotel desk registering guests ignoring what appears to be a hurricane coming in from the shore. Mexican soldiers play cards in the bar under the ceiling fan, while blue herons rest quietly in the thick green leaves of the mangrove trees. She steps out of the shower playing the flute. I notice all the windows are open and the monsoon rains are cleaning out the dusty corners of the empty Victorian ballrooms. I am writing postcards constantly, but there are still no stamps.