Sunday, October 23, 2011

Soulless Things

Later, much later, Andrina was caught in the net of a fisher of men. She was a soulless thing like all of her sisters, except for the youngest who had earned hers through sacrifice. But when that priest looked into her eyes she felt a pang in her chest.
What eyes they were, round and silver like moons with amber striations radiating from the darkness of his pupils. His hair too was silver streaked with black, like lightening flashing in a tempest, it hung long around his face, undulating as the sea in the brisk gale that blew over them, rocking the tiny boat.
Helpless in his net, Andrina gazed back through long black lashes and the pale hair that hung limp and heavy around her face. She had never seen a priest before, and so his long black habit revealed nothing to her of his occupation, but it impressed her nonetheless. She had never seen a fisherman wear such a garment.
He did not speak to her at all before he cast her back into the sea, and after following him and singing her most alluring song to no avail, she at last swam reluctantly back to the depths.

As the tides ebbed and flowed the pang in her chest grew into an unbearable torment. Creatures such as herself do not sleep, but they dream with eyes wide open, concealed in kelp forests whose swaying lulls them like a silent song. But her dreams were only of those eyes and the way he flung her into the sea and never looked back. She could not bear to dream, and soon could neither eat nor sleep. She found no pleasure in the arms of the sailors that she dragged into the watery abyss and sucked their last breath from them with deadly apathy.

Desperately, she followed her younger siblings' example. After arduous searching, she found the sea witch in her caverns, gumming the bones of dolphins and drowned children.
The witch drew herself up out of the silt, stirring the water momentarily to muck. Then her one remaining golden eye locked onto the pale face of Andrina and she commenced to indulge in a laughter which began modestly but soon rumbled through the caverns, disturbing other dark things that once lay sleeping.
“Another little mermaid tormented by love.” the witch gloated, “And with a priest, no less. This should profit me well.”
“Love?” Andrina felt insulted. “I cannot love. I’m sick, witch, and I’ve come for a remedy.”
“Silly thing.” the witch said rearranging some bones to form her magic circle. “You are sick with love. You were contaminated by that priest. You’re only hope is to make him love you back. You must seduce him if you wish to be released from your torment. I will do for you what I did for your sister. I‘ll give you legs. Now hurry and leave before you transform. I love to eat things that have legs. You have one year, and if he hasn‘t made love to you by then, I get to eat you anyway.”
The witch quivered as she spoke this last line. Then her laughter swelled again, shaking slimy things from hidden crevices in the deep.

Andrina arrived with the storm, tossed onto the earth by titanic swells of white capped water. She hated the legs from the moment she stood on them and each step brought pain as though a dagger had been thrust into the arches of those horrible feet. Andrina dragged herself away from the angry mouth of the sea and staggered up the first path that presented itself, up to the church on the cliff. Above her the stained glass sparkled in the darkness, red and blue and gold, candle light flickering from behind so that the colors blinked like stars. The priest's boat was torn from the dock behind her and smashed in the waves while the wind howled and the icy rain pricked her flesh like needles falling from heaven. Naked and shivering, she burst into the chapel where her priest kneeled at the feet of the virgin. He turned as the doors were flung open and she limped, wild eyed and chest heaving, across the threshold to collapse in a pale heap.
With the same somber attitude with which he had cast her out of his net, the fisherman priest rose and shut the chapel doors against the storm. When he lifted her from the floor, Andrina wrapped her arms around his neck and pressed her lips against his, but the priest held still as though a snake were at his feet, his lips unyielding. Then very slowly and gently he pulled his head away from hers as she lost consciousness again.

Having never slept before, Andrina lost a week to slumber in the priest's bed. When at last she awoke he fed her broth and bread, things she had never tasted, things that made her stomach sour. He tried to speak to her, but though her eyes remained fastened to his, she could not understand a word that spilled from his tongue. She tried to kiss him again, but he pushed her sternly, though gently, away.

He converted a store room into quarters for her and showed her how to stuff her own mattress with straw and scented flowers. He made her wear a scratchy gray dress and showed her how to draw water from the well. She was made to kneel before the altar with him several times a day. He attempted to teach her to speak his language though she could scarcely manage to feign interest in the coarse sounds that he uttered.
He taught her to tend the garden, but things of the earth withered in her care.
He built a new fishing boat and took her out with him, and here she excelled. She would cast the net and sing in her own tongue until it was heavy with fish. After discovering this talent he sent her to fish alone and tried to teach her to sing his own music. She would not look at anything written on paper, but he taught her to repeat after him and was amazed by the perfection of her memory. She could perform complex melodies if he sang them or played them for her on the organ but once.

Thus routines were established and Andrina fell into step with her priest, each footfall filling her body with searing pain. Every Sunday he rang the bell and one old woman would trek up the path and take a seat in the pews to listen to the mass and take the sacrament and hear the priest play the organ as Andrina sang. Andrina grew weaker with each passing day. The priest was immune to her physical charm. His eyes were more hypnotizing than her own, his passion distilled into religious fervor. Only her voice could reach him and this he bent into his songs of worship, his will stronger than her heart.
Andrina’s pale hair grew brittle and her eyes lost their sparkle. There were days when she could not move about without the assistance of a cane, and yet worse days dawned when she could not rise from bed at all. Her priest ministered to her then and she followed his eyes with her own, as entranced as if she were in the kelp forests of her home.

The seasons passed, 1, 2, 3, 4 and the old woman from town died. Her casket was carried up the cliff by two men with coarse faces and tight fitting suits. They lowered her into the ground and left the way they had come, walking stiffly down the dusty road. Andrina, supported on her cane, watched them go and thought of how she would like to draw them down into the darkness and suck their last breath from them. The priest prayed for the old woman and buried her and made Andrina come into the chapel and sing.
His language was beginning to make sense to her.
“Ashes to ashes.” she heard, “dust to dust.” It terrified her that she could understand this, she who had once been immortal, she who was now running out of time.

That night, she slipped into her priest's bed and he flung her out, just as he had flung her from his net eleven moons ago. He made her kneel with him and prayed for her forgiveness and salvation the rest of the night. As the dawn broke over the sea outside and peeked through his small window he clasped her face in his hands and said:
“My child, god's love is infinite. Seek his love, not mine. The flesh will die, your immortal soul will go on at his side if you abide by his commandments and do his work.”

Andrina formed her mouth awkwardly over the words leaving large gaps between each utterance:
“My flesh was im-mortal…I lost that to be at your side. I have no soul. Your love is my on-ly salvation, since you caught me in your net. Save me, please, save me, my love.” she wept and the priest, taken aback by her first words since her arrival, turned pale and released her warm cheeks. He clambered to his feet and left her alone on the cold stone floor.

Andrina went out in the boat and sat upon the sea weeping. The wound in her chest had only grown in the months that had passed. She whispered farewell to the sea and the long life which now seemed like a distant dream. She wondered if it had been real at all, or if she had always been a mortal creature, the crippled daughter of a fisherman perhaps, weak minded and fanciful. She wondered if she might escape the witch’s appetite by running from the sea and settling inland, she wondered if she would die somewhere surrounded by stone and root and if some priest would lower her stoically into the earth mumbling about ash.

At that moment the sea hissed and bubbled near the small boat and a black dagger broke the surface of the water, a pale hand wrapped around its barnacle encrusted hilt. As the knife rose into the cool air the sea quieted beneath it and Andrina could see the face of her sister, Arista, just under the shimmering surface, black hair radiating from around the pale oval like the rays of a dark sun. Andrina recognized the dagger that had been cast away by their strange youngest sister long, long, ago in the moment of her sacrifice. Andrina herself had been the one to place it in her hand. Now it was Arista who offered it up. Trembling, Andrina seized the dagger, her finger tips brushing against the cool slick flesh of her sister’s hand before Arista sunk back into the depths. Andrina concealed the dagger under her dress and turned the boat back to shore.

The priest was gone for most of that day. Andrina waited for him in the chapel, but would not kneel at the feet of the virgin. She paced and felt the bite of the earth sting her feet. As dusk approached she nearly gave up hope that he would return, but then he came into the chapel looking pale and weary. She limped to him and shaking he pulled her against his chest. For a moment the pain in her heart was eased, almost transformed to euphoria, but then he spoke into her hair, the heat of his breath touching her scalp:
“My child, my vow is to God. I can do nothing to break my covenant with him.”
She tried to turn her face up to kiss him.
“Save me, please.“ she begged, but he held her until she stopped struggling,
“No!” he cried fiercely though softly, “What you ask for is not saving, you would damn us both!”
The sun was slipping away behind the stained glass, leaving them wrapped in gloom. The moon would rise soon. She fell limp in his arms and wept for a moment longer. Her hand was wrapped around the dagger's hilt as she spoke into his chest:
“I will not die for your God.” She plunged the knife into his belly and he gave a little startled cry as he crumpled heavily around her. “Now you can feel my love, as I have felt yours.” she whispered.
The chapel doors blew open, a sudden gust coming up from the sea. Andrina pushed her priest off of her onto the stone floor where he lay bleeding and gasping like a fish. She took hold of the hem of his habit, and wincing from the pain in her feet, she dragged him out of the chapel and onto the dirt path.

Storm clouds were gathering over the sea and the lightning flashed over the water. Silver against black, like his hair. She pulled him through the dust, ashes to ashes, down the path cut in the cliff, the dagger lodged in his belly, his blood spilling into the earth as they went. The moon was rising, silver over the water, like his eyes, as she stumbled and fell and crawled still dragging him behind her. Her knees were torn by the rocks so that she too bled and her blood mixed with his and with the earth.
On the beach she struggled to her feet and dragged him into the surf, then collapsed with him where the sea met the land. She wrapped her arms around him and sang her most alluring song to him, waiting for the waves to pull them free. The mouth of the sea opened hungrily around them and swallowed them up, pulling them into the deep.
Now Andrina gave him her kiss, drawing him down, down, down with her into the inky depths, far beyond the place that nets can reach, mortal dreams peeling away from them in their descent. She was a soulless thing like all of her sisters, except for the youngest who had earned hers through sacrifice, but when that fisher of men looked into her eyes it left a wound in her heart that not even eternity could heal.

Saturday, October 8, 2011


Belief was a golden-haired child born in the state of desire within the realm of the word.
The word: right, gleaming, sometimes dark and full of clouds.
All was true.
None was true- just like dreams during bouts of thunder.
He had never been in the realm of the Real, cushioned as he was by the pillowy softness of DESIRE and THE WORD; he only caught short glimpses of the Real, tiny fragments of light he could never remember. It was as if they had never happened. The golden-haired child, born on the white bed during the time of blue, little did it know that nothing born of the word could walk in the realm of the Real.

Belief was born in a place where the urge to fulfil needs is transferred into abstract longings whose ends can never be met, a place where yearning goes on and on because there can be no end to yearning. Belief was a necessity, a logical conclusion to such yearning. It worked like a bottle with a cork, how tight it kept all those things locked down. Blue and brown bottles all lined up and evenly spaced on the shelf, tidy and ordered and gleaming like church windows in noonday sun.

Belief was a natural product of desire. Oh, that dress. That kiss, more, more, please.
Whereas a need could be met, a desire knew no fulfillment and so it naturally blossomed into Belief.
Oh, that touch, more, more please.
It is the notion which makes us believe that what one longs for does exist, will happen, is coming eventually to those who are good, to those who believe. The houses they promised, the dream they spoke of, the heaven that awaits after toil and suffering, the approval of the father after a lifetime of whipped dog-like subservience, the love of one and only one other human.
All of it- belief.

Once, not too long ago, Belief knew he was a man of god. He was a street preacher with long blond hair pulled tight behind his head. Many people regarded him as a semi-delusional zealot who imagined he could hear God in his head. He stood by the courthouse steps and told them the evil of their ways. He was a man in an old brown suit that was one inch too short for his pale limbs.
Many people prayed to god. Hands clasped tightly, desires leaking from their mouths. They talked to him, some even thought they heard answers or saw signs in response. But when a man did nothing but stand on the street and preach and shout and lecture to the passers-by about the word of God, the majority, even the church-going people, thought that his mind had slipped into the cave of fantasy. From his own perspective, he was the only one who believed in the lord enough to give up all other things. He saw himself as truly devotional, the messenger, a solider in God’s army.

It all happened for Belief within the realm of the symbolic order. All of this happened because a symbol was not the thing itself. A car was not a car, love was not love. Words, words, symbols. It was like a shadow, it took a shape that couldn't be grasped, a shape that could take on a life of its own and birth new shapes with no correspondences to the Real. These shapes, these shadows with no correspondences, were the makers of DESIRE, the grandparents of Belief. They were dark storms that clouded the Real.

Belief constructed a world around himself, as we all do, to explain his existence. It was elaborate and full of detail, rich in explanations which he liked to share often with whomever would listen. In his world, God spoke to him, God commanded him. There was one word that mattered, one sound that trumped all others. In his world, men could do what they wanted with their women as long as they were married. It was what God commanded, what he actually wanted for the men of earth. He knew that people must be humbled, for now their pride eclipsed their accomplishments, and their ego would not let in the glory of the lord. They needed to experience the low human-state so they could one day experience a higher one.
It was the only way. He knew it. As God’s solider, it was his mission to teach THE WORD. God told him the way to humble these humans who coveted their fine clothes, their hot meals, their whims and merriment.

Belief was a prince in the house of DESIRE. He ran to and fro calling for some action or other in his name. People gladly indulged this spoiled child because it gave them Hope, his lovely sister and wife. She was only another word. Hope lacked anything that could keep it from floating away during the night. Hope was the golden-haired sister of Belief. Sticky, sweet and empty. Always encouraging one to embrace Belief, for if you stuck with him, you would get to taste her sweetness, like dime-store candy.

Once, not too long ago, there was a family that trusted Belief. This family hired him to help repair their roof which had been leaking for many years. He worked at their house for five hours one day.
On the 5th night, as had been his plan for several days, he cut a hole in their screen door, which was partially open to let in the wonderful summer-scented night air. He let himself in while the moon was still high. As everyone slept, he kidnapped Hope from her bed.
He had recognized her as his long lost sister and lover. He took her to the woods where he had told his wife to wait for him under the trees. His wife gave Hope a robe and told her to change into it.

Hope and Belief, together once again, offered justification to the house of desire. Like the children of a couple that has become disenchanted with one another, they were the fantasies that made all other fantasies survive.

A small ceremony was performed and Belief proclaimed Hope as his wife. He become one with her, as he would many times afterwards, many times each day. Hope was found nearly a year later walking on the street of a town she once had seen through very different eyes. The colors she remembered had taken on a fractured quality, as though she had merged with some other creature while chained in the woods. The blue authorities wrote down her words:
"Anything I showed resistance or hesitation to, he would turn to me and say, 'The Lord has commanded you to do this. You have to experience the lowest form of humanity to experience the highest.’ I watched him from the ground, talking as he did with emphatic movements. Then he would get on top of me and humble me once again.”

Belief and his first wife were taken into police custody. They were both declared mentally unfit to stand trial. It was Belief's explanation that the court saw as unstable. His preaching on the courthouse steps, his very thoughts on God.

If we could only have Belief we would join God in Heaven and bring Truth back to life. With Belief’s hand in mine, it was okay to kill and take another’s land. His presence supported actions borne from desire, his company justified all actions. Human thoughts became God’s thoughts.

With Belief at your side, you will do any number of absurd things; set out cookies for an immortal in a red suit, or eat crackers and wine and call it the flesh and blood of your God, or burn a person at the stake, or drive your neighbors from their homes and push them into the sea, or destroy all of the natural resources available to you and the rest of your race. With belief, it is what God desires, what God has asked for in an inaudible voice that shook the walls with its power.

The writer of a particular text about Hope used words like “horrific and sick” to describe Belief. This is the conflict. One man believes he is doing what God wants him to do. He is humbling a young woman so that one day she can reach a higher state, so they can both become what they were meant to be. This is Belief.
One deed is thought of as righteous, the same deed is seen by others as evil. Both are words used to describe an action.

There is nothing that “can’t” or “shouldn’t” be done when you can say that Belief is with you. No door can be closed to you when you come from the house of Desire, frothing at the mouth with want of a satisfaction that can’t be had, golden Belief and fair Hope marching at your side demanding that you take, take, take. Take what you want and say it was for Belief. Your basket is full, Belief is there at your side, a parrot on your shoulder.

Even in custody, Belief continuously sang hymns to himself until he was removed from the courtroom. The world around him was crazy, full of evil men who had no contact with God. He sang to remind himself that he was the one with the truth. He was the one with God on his side. He had to sing to protect his world. He sang to protect his symbolic order, the world he had built for himself, the only world that still had a place for him.

He ran amok under the shadowy banners of the house of Desire within the Realm of the symbolic. There it was glorious, there it was beautiful. In the realm of the Real, Belief and Hope vanished like evil spirits.
In the realm of the Real, you stand alone with blood on your hands, raw animal death under your fingernails, spattered on your face, shivering through your bones.

The Real is void of Gods, void of hope, void of salvation or damnation, void of any branch to which you might cling and profess “It is so!” In the state of the real you would not search for your lost sister, because there is no sister to lose, no “other” to humble or cling to, to subordinate or raise higher. There is an endless sea of “something” which defies explanation, which eludes capture in the realm of the symbolic. Whenever you dip your hand into the well of the Real and try to bring it into the realm of the Word, what you retrieve is transformed from life into death, from unity into separation, categorization and humiliation.

The Real cannot be perceived through the word, not through the damaged eyes of Belief or Hope, made of words as they are.
Nothing that can be said is true.
All those who speak lie, from dawn till dusk they lie and only in the darkness is the truth revealed to them, in their nightly visits to the well of the Real. Something voyages between these two realms, the land of THE WORD and the kingdom of the REAL.
When it is in one state it is one thing and when it is in the other it is another. This something is a voyager, sometimes captured by the gravitational pull of the WORD. To be free of the word and of desire you must sacrifice Belief and Hope, stop expending vital energy in supplication to these false deities. They are closest to you, and therefore easiest to reach.
Then you must tell Mother desire that you know she is a lie forged of the illusory substance of Father word and then your tongue will be tied by the white hot heat that leaves you howling and wriggling as you abandon the WORD, achieving lift off.