“All stories have a curious and even dangerous power. They are manifestations of truth — yours and mine. And truth is all at once the most wonderful yet terrifying thing in the world, which makes it nearly impossible to handle. It is such a great responsibility that it’s best not to tell a story at all unless you know you can do it right. You must be very careful, or without knowing it you can change the world.”
― Vera Nazarian, Dreams of the Compass Rose
I do not aspire to change the world. My story is very personal, but it is a manifestation of my truth, my journey towards myself. And by writing it down, I am trying to make the journey less terrifying and more wonderful.
Journey Part 1
I had not even realized that I had started off on a journey and had already been travelling long and far. It was only when I stopped to speak to a sage, that I saw how far into the unknown I had ventured.
“Where do you come from?” he asked, gently, so as not to scare me.
“The past,” I answered.
“What past?” he kept probing without being intrusive.
“Where I stopped living,“ was my reply, a reply even I did not expect.
“But you are not dead,” he pointed out and I could not fault his logic.
“I may appear alive, but this body seems to provide shelter to a walking dead,” I answered.
“Ah!” he replied, “now we can reason!” He seemed to be fond of reasoning.
I sighed and sat down, weary. “Reason away.”
He sat down next to me on the desert sand, as this was where we were. He leaned towards me, his cornflower blue eyes watching me with intense interest.
“You had stopped living, but you are not dead. This is indeed an opportunity to reincarnate!”
“I do not believe in reincarnation,” I told him gruffly, rudely.
“Not in the sense of a soul leaving one body and finding another,” he persisted, “but in the sense of your real soul finding your true body.”
“And where do I find this “real soul”?” I asked, a bit sarcastically.
“On your journey,” he smiled, his eyes twinkling.
“And my true body?”
“That is so intrinsic to you, it will be ready when your true soul needs to inhabit it.”
“That’s bull,” I told him rudely.
He smiled and handed me an amulet with a rooster on it. “Take this with you on your journey. It will awaken parts of you when and only when they are needed.”
“Thank you,” I said, not really knowing what to say. I hung the amulet around my neck, the rooster nestling on my chest.
I got up. “Are you staying?”
He nodded. “But I will be there if you need me.”
I frowned at this space-time incongruency, but shook his hand. “Thank you again.”
He nodded and I turned my back on him, taking the first step of the rest of my journey.
It was a barren, unforgiving land, more sand than soil. Vegetation was almost absent, the few plants that grew, were succulents. I could see no water, no oasis, no stream or rivulet and the sun’s rays had already hooked their barbed wire spikes into my defenseless skin. I thought about finding water and shelter and kept walking.
Then I stopped walking. Did I want to survive? Was I a fighter or had all hope in me already given up on life?
The dog appeared from behind a rock, her eyes clear and her tail wagging excitedly. Recognition was mutual. She showed joy, I trepidation at what she would feel towards me.
“I want to thank you,” she spoke in the kind of voice I would have expected her dog barks had morphed to.
“You want to thank me? For having you killed?” I was incredulous.
“No, you did not have me killed, you bestowed on me the kindest act of love any human being had ever bestowed on me since my birth.”
My tears were streaming down my cheeks as I dropped sobbing to my knees in the sand in front of her. She licked the salty water from my cheeks as I mumbled over and over, “I’m sorry, I’m sorry!”
“Stop that now,” she ordered firmly and my tears dissipated at the authority in her voice. Then she continued in a gentle voice.
“I lay in your arms, relaxed, knowing I was to leave life. You held me, tenderly, lovingly, as I had never been held before. And you spoke to me on equal terms, soul to soul. You told me that I would never again be cold, and I remembered the shivers of my freezing body night after night in the winter cold, and I believed you. I believed that I was going to a place of eternal sun. You told me that I would never again be afraid and I believed you, as I was already so calm in your loving arms. You told me that I would never again experience hurt or hunger and I believed you, as your voice filled me, soothed me. And when the moment came and I passed over, it was knowing that your loving arms had held me to the very end, your gentle hands that lay me down and gave me dignity by covering my body with a new blanket, such as I had never had in life. I already was released from earthly ties, but I knew about your tears and sorrow bound in your heart. Let me release that sorrow from you and set it free.”
She stood up on her hind legs and put her front paws on my chest. As she licked the last of my tears away, I felt the pain ease and lift in my chest, leaving me completely when she dropped down on all fours again.
“I must go now, I just needed to give you the only gift I had to bestow on you: my forgiveness and gratitude. Take the memory of my happiest minutes on earth in your arms with you always.” She pressed a wet snout into my hand and disappeared around the rock.
Weary of what I might still encounter, I kept on walking. The sand turned to rocks and soon I came to the side of a massively deep canyon, dark in its deepest caverns where the sun never reached. I sat down on a large rock and stared out over the canyon in the setting rays of the sun. On rocks on the opposite side, sat figures I could not distinguish, as they were too far away, but I instinctively knew whom they were. And felt the biggest desolation not in the canyon, but inside me. Below, scurrying from beneath a rock, a scorpion raised his venomous stinger at me.
“Come closer,” I urged him with my mind, “release me from this desolation.”
But he only disappeared underneath the rock again, not heeding my silent wish.
A shadow fell over me from behind and I looked around and up. His wings were folded in, but were still a brilliant white against the setting sun.
“Remember me?” he asked, his voice deep, rumbling.
I nodded. “Yes. It’s been a very long time since you visited.”
“I never left you.” His voice was quiet now.
“I wasn’t aware of you, so to me you had not existed.”
He nodded and sat down next to me, his soft wing brushing against my arm. His eyes fell upon my amulet and he lifted it from my chest. “Your sage guides you well,” was all he commented.
We sat in silence for a very long time. Then he asked, “What do you see across the canyon?”
I looked over at where the last rays of the sun were losing their grip on the rocks and darkness seeped into their place.
“Figures,” I answered.
“Can you see them clearly?” he asked
I looked into his gentle eyes. “No, they are dissolving and disappearing.”
He nodded. “Remember my words to you from eons ago?”
It was my turn to nod. “‘Your deal is loneliness, sometimes even fear. In human company, you will often feel alone.’”
“Has it been like that?”
“Always,” I answered,” except that the fear has left me.”
He smiled at me. “So what has replaced the fear?”
“Acceptance,” I answered without thinking, my eyes not leaving his.
“Only that?” He remained still, a small smile around his lips.
I wanted to lie, but knew I could not, not to him. He already knew the truth. “The longing remains,” I admitted.
“Then your quest is acceptance,” he said, his spidery fingers enfolding mine.
“Can it be obtained?” I asked, anxious.
“That is your quest,” he repeated and smiled softly, lovingly, while he disappeared slowly.
I looked at my hand and saw a red sun emblazoned it.
I was alone again and in total darkness.
“Look away from the darkness,” I heard the sage’s voice in my mind.
“There is only darkness to see,” I argued.
“Look inside you,” was the simple reply.
I closed my eyes and continued to see only darkness. I remained still, waiting, seeking. Gradually the darkness lightened, took on a deep orange hue. Still I waited. Then the colour spoke to me in a voice thick as syrup, clinging to my ears, sounding as if spoken from underwater.
“I am guilt. You lied to your winged friend and to yourself.”
The colour flowed through my body, a thick gel-like substance that consumed me as well as opened my mind to the realization that the fear had never left me, as I was afraid, very afraid. Afraid of growing deaf, of being excluded of all human conversation, music, sounds of nature. Afraid of losing control over my body while my mind remained clear. Afraid of not being able to look after and be there for those who had been entrusted to my care. Afraid of loneliness.
I remained still for a very long while, not knowing the time in this place where time did not exist. At last my sage’s voice reverberated through the thick coating of orange that had consumed me.
“Step back, continue your quest. The fear does not have a stranglehold over you.”
I opened my eyes and saw the glimmer of dawn on the horizon. I stood up and the orange receded. I turned my back on the canyon and stopped to pick up a stick to lean on, as I was weary, my limbs stiff from remaining in the one position for so long. I felt aged and moved as if I had lived since the creation. I continued on my quest, not knowing what I seeked.
As I walked, the rocks underneath my feet turned to sand and then I became aware of a path. At first I thought it was a white pebbled cobblestone path, but as I stepped onto it, I realized that the pebbles were pairs of eyes; eyes that followed my every move. I felt uncomfortable stepping onto the live eyes, eyes of all colours: brown, green, blue, variants and combinations of these colours.
“What are you? Who are you?” I shouted at them, but they did not answer, perhaps they could not speak. But they could make a sound, and did – a high-pitched scream that hurt my ears and I could not continue walking, just stood still with my hands over my ears, trying to block the sound that penetrated into my ears and left me weak, my knees giving under me. Then he was there – my trusted lifelong companion.
He held out a hand to me. “Come.” He took a firm hold on my hand and raised me up, leading me off the path. The screeching receded and quiet returned.
“What are, were, they?” I asked of him.
He shrugged, a gesture I had come to know. “Does it matter?” He spoke in his lazy drawl.
“Of course it matters! They must mean something!”
“Does everything always have to mean something to you?” He smiled a small, crooked smile at me and my anger left me.
I smiled back. “I guess not. Maybe it will become clear later.”
His smile widened. “Perhaps. Perhaps not. I have to go now.”
“Don’t go, don’t leave me,” I pleaded.
“I’m always here,” he said, placing a finger on my forehead. Then he too was gone. I looked back, but the path of eyes had disappeared, only sand remained. I picked up my walking stick and took the next step.
“Jesus spent forty days in a desert,” I thought, “but He had the world to save.”
“And even He had doubts that mankind was worth it,” I argued back.
“I only have my soul to save, if I can find it.”
There was no reasoning back. I sighed and continued my journey.
It was a long way later that I saw something as if in a mirage. I continued onward towards it. As I came closer, I saw an enormous clay pot, about the size of a tall man’s chest. As I came even closer, I became aware of a man standing next to the pot, pouring something from a pitcher into the pot. I recognized him and fear gripped my heart. It was the Ice Man. I knew I could not evade anything or anybody on this journey and even though my legs were heavy with dread, I walked over. He finished pouring the liquid into the pot and set the pitcher down, becoming aware of me. His face was as expressionless as ever, his eyes large and black through the black-rimmed glasses. Even though he did not portray expression, I felt his hatred, his anger, his frustrations. He continued watching me and I walked closer, building a low scaffold of rocks to stand on and be able to see into the pot.
I stepped onto the scaffold and looked into the pot. It was filled with a dark red liquid with a coppery smell. I knew what it was: blood. My eyes met Ice Man’s and I was instantly filled with his anger and hatred, but I also felt powerless. He smirked at me and handed me his scalpel, which I refused. My anger instantly turned against him and I kicked at the pot with all my might, toppling it over onto Ice Man. He was drenched in blood and shouted at me, furious. I walked over to him to where he was lying on the soil and started kicking him in the ribs. I wanted to hurt him, annihilate him and I kept on kicking him. He started laughing and seeped into the sand with the blood until all that was left, was the broken clay pot and a dark area in the sand into which all the blood had drained.
I felt exhausted and sat on a rock for a long while, my legs shaking, until I felt strong enough to continue.
Journey, pt. 2
I had walked a long way in the scorching sun, before I saw a reflection ahead, as if from a mirror. As I walked closer, I saw that it was a huge glass wall. On coming closer, I saw that it had colours from an object in the middle. Still closer up, I saw that it was a human figure that was imprisoned in the thick glass. I immediately recognized the still figure as the one entrusted to me, face contorted in an anguished scream. I could hear no sound, as the figure was totally imprisoned.
For a while I just stood looking at eyes begging me to free them. I felt a tumult of emotions coursing through me: from a desire to set free, to the thought of just turning my back and walk away.
For a long time I fought with my emotions, rooted to the spot. Then I bent down and started gathering stones until I had a small pile. Then, our eyes locked, I started throwing the stones at the glass wall, first barely cracking it, until it started crumbling to pieces, the encased figure crumbling with the pieces, breaking into a thousand shards on the desert sand. The shards lay on the sand, reflecting the sun’s brilliant rays and I could not even look at them without damaging my eyes.
I sat crying till I had no more emotion in me, then stood up and turned around, walking away, turning my back on the heaped broken shards.
It seemed as if I had walked for days, adrift in a desert below my feet and in my mind. Then I saw what looked like a mirage, shimmering in the distance. As I came nearer, I saw that it was not a mirage, as the mirage turned into a lush garden. When I came even closer and saw the garden from near, I saw that it was what I could only describe as the most beautiful garden ever – a paradise. I could only stand and stare in awe, the desire in me to be in the garden, part of the garden, growing. I approached with wonder, only to be thwarted in my approach, as I had walked into an invisible wall. However hard I tried, I could not get through the wall. It would not break or crumble, so I stood hammering on it in frustration and anger. When my arms grew weary and dropped to my sides, I saw through the film of tears in my eyes that a few human figures had approached the end of the garden from within. I gaped at them, recognizing each of the female figures who stood among the trees and ferns, seemingly not aware of each other, but all seeing me, looking at me. I put my hands on the wall, palms spread in pleading. Silently I urged them to approach, to break down the wall, to let me in, but they could or would not. I do not know how long I stood longing, in desperation. All I could do, was to turn around and walk away, still alone. When I looked back after a while, the garden had vanished – perhaps it had been a mirage after all.
After ages I became aware of my surroundings again. I was still in the desert, but I was under a huge tree, the foliage so dense that the shade it casted, felt cool in the arid desert air. I felt more than saw movement and when I paid closer attention, I saw thousands, if not millions, of bats hanging from the branches, their wings trembling in continuous movement. Some of them broke away and flew past me, the majority of them very small bats. I stood rooted to the spot, my phobia for fluttering, winged creatures immobilizing me. I closed my eyes in utter dread and when I dared to open them again, the tree and bats were gone.