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Witch Magic

The Elf Whisperer

“Portland. This is Portland. Portland. Local time is 4:45 pm. End of the line. Check with the ticket agent for your bus numbers if you are headed north or south from here,” the bus driver intoned over the loud speaker. Marie Rose woke and raised her head from where it had been resting against the window. She scowled owlishly, confused. What had he said? Portland? Why was she here? She had finally gotten her life together. Why had she left a perfectly good job and an apartment that was not a cock-roach infested hell-hole? Why had she packed what she could into her backpack and left Salt Lake City in such a hurry?

She wrested the heavy backpack out of the overhead rack and trudged sleepily to the front of the bus.

“Thank you,” she said to the bus driver. The man did not look up from his clipboard, merely grunting as she passed him. Marie Rose stepped out onto the wet pavement and took a deep breath. It had rained recently. Shadows ran like water across the pavement and pooled in the puddles of the uneven parking lot. It would rain again sometime in the night. She needed to find somewhere safe and dry to sleep before then. Walking through the bus station, she pulled out her phone. By the time she stood curbside, she had a Lyft ride and the address of a hotel with monthly rates.

The hotel looked promising. Being part youth hostel, it boasted a coffee shop and a restaurant that catered to the less sophisticated tastes of the average college-age summer backpacker. The Lyft driver was personable and chatty. By the time he dropped her off in front of the hotel, she had the names of a half dozen restaurants that were cheap and clean where the locals ate regularly.

On the sidewalk in front of the main doors, Marie Rose paused, heels hanging off the edge of the curb, as she studied the edifice of the five-story hotel. Old. Post WWII, or a little earlier. Ghosts hung inside by the dozens, just off the edge of knowing. She took in a deep breath, pulling light out of the Void and letting it wash through her, cleansing her of any shadow she might have picked up on her journey. As expected, at the flare of light, most of the ghosts took note of her presence and pressed their noses against the windows to stare down at her with hungry longing. Marie Rose shouldered her pack and walked through the front doors.

A ghost of an old man drifted near. Too late, it realized that the storm of light surrounding her was a whirlpool. Caught in its eddies, it was pulled apart and sucked away. Marie Rose pretended not to notice as she crossed the lobby to the front desk. The clerk studied her speculatively. She knew what he was thinking. She was too young to be a derelict. Too old to be a college student on a walkabout. Travel had rumpled but decently dressed and clean. Nondescript in a way that proclaimed her disdain for current fashion trends.

“Can I help you?” the boy behind the counter asked. He was that age that made him unremarkable – young and sheltered. Life had not yet marked his face with the lines of pain and anguish that left their indelible scars on a human soul.

“Your website says you have monthly rates,” Marie Rose said.

“Those rooms are taken. I have a few beds left in the hostel or you can pay the nightly rates for the rooms on the top floors.”

Marie Rose nodded and pulled out a credit card. “Give me a room. As high up as possible. And put my name down for the next monthly-rate room.”

The boy had a couple of guardian ghosts. Older women. They scowled at her from over the boys shoulders. Marie Rose scowled back. They looked surprised as they fled through the front doors and hovered out on the sidewalk. That was fine. She could tolerate them there. They could pick up their boy when he went home.

Marie Rose smiled at the boy as he took her credit card. “What is your name?”

“Ethan,” he said, pointing at his name-tag in annoyance. Ethan Hutchinson. A nice Viking name. She liked how he tasted. His great great grandfather had come over from Scotland back before the turn of the last century. Five generations later, this boy was the same mixed heritage of all white Americans, the magic of the old gods now just a mere whisper running through his veins. She sent a tendril of power into him, and the old magic flared into life, bringing Ethan one more step closer to awareness of his own power. His hand hovered over the keys as he blinked in confusion. Shaking his head, he completed the transaction.

He swiped her card and watched the screen, probably expecting it to be declined.

“Ethan. Will you tell me when you get a vacancy or do I need to come down here everyday to check?”

Ethan handed the card back with a long-suffering sigh. “I will make a note for tomorrow’s shift. The restaurant closes at 7 pm if you are hungry. The coffee shop opens a 6 am.” He took a card blank and ran it through the machine. “Your room is 521. Top floor facing the river.”

“That’s perfect, Ethan. Thank you very much,” she said as she took the room key. She turned and scowled at the room full of ghosts that had gathered while her attention was elsewhere. Not all of them belonged to the hotel. Her presence had called them here, clearing the city for blocks around. She took another deep breath and filled the room with white light. The power of it wanted to rage out of her and fill the world. She struggled and managed to contain it to just this building. When the power subsided and she could see again, the room was empty.

“Uh, the elevator is to your left,” Ethan said helpfully, misunderstanding her hesitation.

Marie Rose nodded and turned in that direction. Shadows chittered excitedly from behind the walls. It would take more than a bit of white light to banish them. She needed to get behind walls that kept them at bay.

The elevator was as old as the building and took forever to descend to the lobby. She felt the sweat form on her skin. Damn, damn, damn. New places gave her the heebie jeebies. Hotel rooms especially. Never mind the ghosts. The dark anguish of the past inhabitants clung to everything and no amount of soap and water could wash it away. She need to get up to her room and start cleaning.

The elevator opened to a long hall that smelled of wood rot and mildew. The room, while relatively clean, smelled of harsh cleaning products and old sweat. Marie Rose crossed to the window, threw back the curtains and pushed up on the old style casement. It only rose half a foot before it ran into something that blocked it. The hotel wanted to guard against the random suicide. A cold wind swept down the river and sent eddies into her room. It would have to do. She went to the bathroom and turned the cold water taps on full in the tub and the sink. Water splashed against the porcelain and gurgled down the drain, chasing away the shadows that hid there. She striped naked and hung her clothes on the hook behind the door.

Returning to the room, she unzipped her backpack and dumped its contents on the bed. Finding the incense sticks and the lighter, she put flame to tip until it glowed red then she walked the edges of the room, wafting the sweet smoke into every corner. Between water and smoke and breeze, the stagnate energy began to break apart.

She made a second circle of the room but this time the smoke from her incense stick glowed white and the runes and sigils she inscribed in the air hung stationary where she placed them, glowing softly. Taking a deep breath, she sent power coursing through her body. The spirals and circles and triangles inscribed bone-deep by the old shaman years ago burned brightly through all the layers of muscle and skin, turning their white light golden. The sunlight was disappearing from the sky but she did not need to turn on the lights to see in the growing dusk. Her body was light enough.

Marie Rose pointed two fingers at the wall and a flaming blade sprang into her fist. She made a circle for a third time, the blade of light cutting through the walls and incinerating any shadow that was too slow to get out of the way. She returned to the center of the room and used the blade to inscribe a spiral in the floor and then put an identical spiral in the ceiling above her.

Satisfied, she returned to the mound of belongings on the bed and picked up the rag doll. Propping it against the head board, she pressed her fingers into the crystal in its heart and whispered the words that opened the portal into the other places. A name fell from her lips, spoken in a language had not been heard on this planet for thousands of years.

A creature of light and shadow stepped into the room.

“Killeel,” she murmured with pleasure, throwing her arms around him.

“Ah, my lovely witch, Rose,” Killeel said, burying his fingers in her mass of dark hair as he pressed his forehead against hers.

His pointed ears poked out of the fall of his pale hair as he studied her face with eyes that sparkled like faceted amethyst. He was every bit as naked as she and he was very male. She ran her hands over his hard belly as his lips dropped to nibble on her earlobe.

Maddenly, he stopped and lifted his head to look around. Was it the bright sigils floating in the air or the chitter of shadows beyond the wall of light she had created that disturbed him?

“What is this? Why have you moved?” he asked.

“They were getting too close. People were getting hurt,” she said with a shrug.

“And you do not think they will notice this?” he asked frowning at the magic that laced the room and shown through her skin. “This extravagant display of power will surely be turning heads. They will notice. If not now, soon. You grow in power. It disturbs them.”

“They are busy feeding on a city full of ghosts. The dead and the death at the stadium will keep them happy for months.”

Killeel grunted. “It is getting easier and easier to find a mind open to such possession. It is a wonder that you do not have mass shootings on a daily basis in this country. I cannot tell if it is intrinsic in their nature to kill or if the Dark Lord triggers them on purpose.”

Marie Rose grimaced. “Or maybe it is me and my meddling.”

Killeel shrugged. “There is that possibility also. I was not going to say anything. If you have one failing it is that you are too cautious.”

“Cautious? That is not the word I would have used. Sloppy. Haphazard. Careless. I have no problem deciding the fate of the ghosts and shadows but I cannot bring myself to force humans down a path that will save them from their own folly.”

“You wake them but then abandon them to their own resources afterward.” Killeel reminded her as he brushed a stray curl from her shoulder.

“I keep hoping they will use their beloved free will to actually do the right thing,” she said, crossing to the window to stare down at the river. “Ten thousand years of toxic parenting and all the humans have to show for it is books full of lies and no wisdom.”

Killeel shoved her belongings unceremoniously onto the floor and laid down. ”What is that quaint saying your people have? Something about making a horse drink water?”

Marie Rose turned, momentarily puzzled. “You can lead a horse to water . . . Yeah, horses are pretty stupid as my mother used to tell me all the time. Are you going to spout my grandfather’s wisdom back at me all night?” she asked crawling onto the bed to straddle him.

“Grandfather? The one you like or the one you hate?” Killeel asked returning his attention to her earlobe.

She forgot to answer.

Hours later, sometime in the middle of the night, they woke to the angry hiss of a fairy hovering over Killeel’s head. The elf lord sighed as he swatted at it halfheartedly. The fairy dodged his hand with ease and burned a little brighter. Marie Rose moaned as she threw up a hand against the glare.

“Duty calls, my love,” Killeel said, pressing his lips against the line of her jaw. In the next moment, he was gone.

Marie Rose sighed and tried to find sleep again but sleep was far away. She went into the bathroom and took a long hot shower instead. Sex always made her hungry but it would be hours before the coffee shop opened. She filled her belly with light to ease the hunger pains as she pulled on a t-shirt and crossed to the open window to stare out at the city lights.

The fiasco at the University of Utah stadium had not been the result of a random angry human confused by the burden of shadows being lifted from his mind. No. This time it had been different. Three men with a small arsenal of weapons, in a highly organized operation, had sprayed the sold-out stadium with a hail of lead, killing players and audience alike. The death toll was still being counted when she had packer her bag and boarded the next bus out of town. They had found her and the stadium was their way of giving her notice that they would create untold havoc until she showed herself. Not that that was ever going to happen. Maybe they just hoped to catch her in their net of chaos like the random spray of buckshot into a flight of birds.

She thought about that for a long time. What was the point of running? They would find her eventually. They always did. What was the point of her existence, when you got down to the core of her problem? What good came from waking a human to the true nature of the Oneverse if they woke to a world in which Darkness held sway leaving only helpless hopelessness?

The shadows chittered there, behind her walls. What was the point of any of this? This room was one tiny clean spot on a planet mired under layers of filth. Maybe she granted the world too much autonomy. After all, had anyone ever asked her if this was the life she wanted? She had been born awake and aware, seeing everything, feeling everything, overwhelmed by the sea of ghosts and the tides of Darkness. It had taken her this long to beat back those tides and reclaim her sanity. Up until this moment, everything she had done, every spell cast, every wish whispered into the dark cesspool of this place had been an act of survival.

Maybe now it was time to do something more than just survive.

Marie Rose drew in a deep breath and filled her body with light. Golden light washed the walls once more as the magic inscribed in her bones burned hot.

She took another breath and create a bubble of white light and placed it just outside her body. The next breath pushed that bubble to the limits of the room. The shadows in the walls grew silent, breathlessly expectant. There she stopped, panting at the effort it took to control the energy that wanted to come streaming through the Void into her. What if . . . what if she just let it loose? Would it consume her? Would the cleaning staff open the door to her room tomorrow and find only ash? If she were wise, she would do this carefully, erring on the side of caution. It would be kinder for everyone involved. But she was sick and tired of being kind.

“What is the point of being me if I am not true to my nature?” she asked the Oneverse. The Oneverse was surprisingly silent, as if it too were holding its breath waiting for her to act.

“Fuck it,” she whispered, opening the door in her mind all the way and letting the energy rush through her. She lost herself in the cataclysmic eruption of white light as it poured out of her and exploded out into the city. She became the bubble of light that spread out into the world. Shadows popped and were consumed in the event horizon of her will. Darkness became fuel to further feed her fires. An atomic bomb was a mere firecracker in comparison to the size of the thing she released into the world. It was still spreading out into the universe when she blacked out.

Killeel found her there, crumpled on the floor in front of the window, shivering. He gathered her up and lifted her onto the bed to cover her with blankets.

“Silly girl. What were you thinking?” he murmured, wiping the cold sweat from her forehead with his fingers.

“Killeel? How? How are you here? I did not open the door into Fairy.”

“Many doors opened with what you did. Opened permanently. This reality has not seen the like in well over ten thousand human years. Not since the Dark Lord sealed them shut.”

“What of the Dark Lord?” she asked from behind heavy lids. “Is he gone?”

“No. But you have him on the run and with the doors open, you have gained a thousand new allies in the fight.”

“I should have done this long ago.”

Killeel lay down beside her and gathered her into his arms, laughing. “You were not ready. It would have destroyed you before now. But I will tell you this. Waking the old gods in the boy, Ethan, did the same for you. Now the Dark Lord has some competition. Your world is about to divide itself in two. Those who wish for the mindless oblivion of the Darkness will clash with those who want to embrace the Light.”

“Fuck,” Marie Rose murmured. “Nothing is ever easy, is it?”

Killeel laughed. “With you? No. Nothing is ever easy. You would not allow it to be otherwise, my love,” he said as she fell asleep.

 

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The face of the Goddess

The face of the Goddess

The old goddess died, finally, at the ripe old age of 2782. Nobody alive could remember what to do next. The High Coven sent the secretaries into the archives and after a month of dusting off the sheepskin parchments, and staring at the fading illustrations of ten thousand year old scribes, they brought their findings to the Great Hall.

“Well?” Mother Dolzella asked, speaking first as was her right as Mother to the Coven.

“She has been reborn. Even now, she walks the world in a new body.” the eldest secretary said.

Mother Prinka, Dolzella’s second, looked over at the seers. “Is this so?”

William Farseeing looked at his compatriots. None were keen on speaking out of turn. He sighed and rose. “The thing that was housed inside the body of the Goddess did not pass out of this realm. We were not without protection even for a moment. We believe she wandered the Horse Plains, taking shape as a white mare and then a white hawk and then a white mouse. But recently, she settled somewhere, into something, and fell asleep. It is possible she now walks the earth as a human infant.”

Mother Cendissa turned back to the secretaries. “And how will we find her, this new incarnation of the Goddess?”

“The texts are … vague at best,” a secretary stammered nervously. “The gender is problematic.”

“A goddess must be female. Right?” Mother Cendissa asked pointedly.

“Uh, well, in times of great conflict, the Goddess has walked the Horse Plains in a male form that she might better kill her enemies.”

“We are not in such times,” Mother Irma said.

“No, but the goddess is timeless and all-seeing. Only she can see what is coming at us down the timeline,” the secretary said apologetically.

“This is sacrilegious, this talk,” Mother Prinka snapped. “Tell us how to find her.”

“The child holds the memories of all the Goddesses, not just of the recently deceased but all who have ever walked on this side of the Veil. You will know her by her words and her works.”

“Works?” Mother Dolzella asked.

“Uh …,” the secretary hesitated as he looked down at his notes.

“He means the magic, High One,” William Farseeing said. “That much magic, contained within a small body, will be noticed. Extraordinary things will happen around her. We must send out to all the land and have the people be on watch.”

****

Nona sat on the porch and watched her youngest child play with her wooden horses in the dust around the stone walkway. She should be glad but her heart was heavy. She was old, too old to be bearing anymore children. All her other children were close to marrying age. Except this one. When she found herself pregnant once more, more than four years before, she thought she had the wasting disease. It had only been when her breasts began to swell that it dawned on her that she was pregnant once more. Ingrem had been beside himself with joy, hoping for another son.

Izzy felt her mother’s eyes on her and looked up with those impossibly blue eyes. Blue eyed and fair while the Horse People were dark haired and black eyed. The healer and the midwife had said it was unusual, but it was known to happen, what with Nona being old and her eggs as aged as she.

Izzy met her mother’s eyes. She did not smile. She had forgotten how to smile, lately, Nona thought sadly. The nightmares haunted her, even in the daylight, now.

Nona smiled encouragingly at Izzy. She missed that smile and the easy laughter. This was the bright child she would have liked to keep close to her until her dying days but it was not to be. The Horse Soldiers were coming today. Yesterday, the messenger had brought her the High Coven’s sigil along with a terse note. “Be prepared” the note had said. Nona had packed Izzy things, few as they were, this morning, being sure to include her stuffed horse doll with the mane and tail made of the finest lamb’s wool. Nona had made it herself, even down to felting the cloth herself from the sheerings of the black goat that had been born the spring before.

Black goats, another strange omen.

The world had become full to brimming with strange portents. The local witch had taken note and sent a runner to the great white city where the High Coven held court. The Coven had sent a seer who spent the days of the Birthing Moon interviewing all the local children born not long after the death of the Old Goddess. The seer had looked bored right up until Izzy walked into the room, hugging her black horse doll, entrancing him with her strange looks, perhaps. Izzy was a silent, solitary child who did not like strangers. She had clung to her mother’s side and refused to speak.

Nona looked down at the sigil she had clutched in her hands. Maybe it was a mistake. They would come, these Horse Soldiers, and they would see that beyond her strange coloring, Izzy was just an ordinary child. She would not tell them of the insanity that seemed to take hold of her child, nor the strange dreams that no four year old had any right to dream.

Nona looked up. Her strange, fey daughter lifted her head and stared towards the road, her little body tensing. The three ranch dogs came galloping around the corner of the house and took up a post around their small charge, their hackles up. Izzy looked over at them and whispered something, holding out her hand. The dogs relaxed, perhaps reluctantly, and went to her, nuzzling her neck. Izzy scratched each in turn behind the ears before sending them up onto the porch. The dogs came to Nona and sat at her feet, guarding.

Not long after, a phalanx of mounted horses appeared on the rise. In no great hurry, they walked sedately down the road towards the house. Izzy cocked her head but did not move, her wooden horses still clutched in her little fingers. Nona wished Ingrem had stayed. She needed his strength right now. But Izzy was the apple of his eye. He could not bear the thought of losing her. Nona had sent him off to the high pastures to check on the new colts, fearing he would die on the lance of a Horse Soldier it they tried to take her from him. It was best the hard decisions of life and death were left to women.

****

The phalanx drew up before the long, low ranch house. A child played in the dust there and a women sat upon the porch surrounded by three enormous wolfhounds. The Captain dismounted and walked up to the porch to converse with the woman while his men held their horses in check. It had been a long ride and the water in the troughs along the edge of the yard looked fresh and clear.

Kaplan, reins loose in his hands, watched the child. The fair hair was startling on first glance. The child ignored all of them, seemingly busy with the play of moving little models around in the dust.

Kaplan was not the greatest of horsemen nor was he used to sitting in a saddle all day as these Horsemen were. He tried to relax the tense muscles in his back as he let his mount have its head, trusting that it would do what was good and proper for a Soldier’s mount.

This was the eighth candidate to be interviewed. He prayed it would be the last.

Back in his younger days, he had ridden whenever he could but caring for a dying Goddess had taken most of his time towards the end. His was the last face she saw before she faded and the breath stopped in her chest and it was thought he should go on these interviews to jog the memories of the new Goddess.

The Captain had an issue with the dogs. The woman shrugged and rose to her feet, taking the dogs into the house before returning. Satisfied, the Captain turned and stopped short. The child was gone.

Kaplan was suddenly terrified for no good reason. His eyes raked the yard, hunting for her. Her little bare feet betrayed her. He spotted them as she wandered under the bellies of the war horses. One misstep, a shift in stance and she would be crushed.

“Oh, dear god,” Kaplan hissed. “No sudden moves, any of you!”

A flicker of hand signals passed among the Guard. The Captain saw it and nodded. He held out his arm to keep the mother on the porch, the woman intent on retrieving her child.

The horses ignored the command sent down the reins to them from their riders and bent their heads to sniff at this strange thing walking under their noses. The child touched their velvet muzzles and blew softly into nostrils as she passed. Made bold by her familiarity, one even nibbled at her straw colored hair. The child laughed and pushed its head away.

Kaplan blinked in wonder. These were war horses. They were trained to kill. She walked among them as if she were one of them.

The child found him.

Kaplan stared down into those impossible eyes. She looked up at him and then held up her arms. Kaplan shook his head, thinking this interview were best conducted in the house. The child stamped her foot and grabbed the stirrup, intent on scrambling up into the saddle.

“Let me up, Kaplan,” she insisted.

Kaplan bent down and gave her his arm. She grabbed it and he pulled her up. She settled into the hollow between his body and curved saddle.

“Who told you my name?” Kaplan asked.

“It is your name. This form, this face, it has a name and it is Kaplan,” she said. “I dreamed you were coming.”

Kaplan nodded. Perhaps she was just a witch or a seer, come young into her powers. “Did you? What else have you dreamed?”

“The land is full of ghosts and shadows. I cannot shift them fast enough. She grew old and weary and the land suffered for it.”

“Who?”

The child looked up at him, annoyed. “This is not a game, Kaplan, though I know you think you must play it. The old goddess is who I mean. She handed me her skin as I walked into this world. Fool that I am, I took it.”

“Frionna? Lady? Wait. You had a choice?” Kaplan asked, perplexed.

“We all have the choice to say yay or nay to what fate hands us,” the child said. “My name is Izzy, by the way. Short of Izzabella. Do not mistake me for the old woman whose land this once was. I will not answer to her name. I am not Frionna, though I have all her memories inside here somewhere along with every other goddess from the beginning of time.” The child touched her temple, a frown between her brows.

“What …?” Kaplan shook his head.  He needed to get his wits about him. “What is your first memory?”

“I remember eating the sun and finding myself pregnant with this world.”

Kaplan hissed. How could she know this, if she was not Frionna?

The child, this thing called Izzy, reached up and patted his cheek. It was a familiar caress, something Frionna had done almost daily. Kaplan jerked his head away.

“Do you fear me?” the child asked softly, her eyes stripping away his flesh until she could see his soul. “My mother fears me. Nothing in her life prepared her for having a child such as me. I will go say goodbye to her. Secretly, she will be relieved, for she is confused by my burden.”

“What is your burden?” Kaplan asked, afraid of the answer.

“There is a storm coming. It will rage across the Horse Lands and strip them bare if I do not stop it.”

Izzy wriggled out of his embrace and swung out of the saddle, clinging to the stirrup like a little monkey as she dropped to the ground. Kaplan’s mount snorted in surprise as she ran under his nose but it was careful where it put its feet. The rest of the herd turned their heads to watch her as she scampered through their ranks.

Kaplan looked up, bewildered, at his friend William Farseeing. “You said it would be Frionna.”

“Is she not Frionna? The portents all tell me this is she,” William said, worried.

“Oh, Frionna is in there somewhere, but …” Kaplan shook his head.

“But what, Kaplan?” William asked, leaning over to place his hand on his friend’s knee. “Could you not feel the power roiling about her? She is wondrously alive with it.”

Kaplan searched desperately for the words that would explain his unease.

“Remember how the secretaries came back from the archives and warned that we would not get the Goddess we wanted but instead we would get the Goddess we needed?” Kaplan said, staring after the girl, who was hugging her mother as the woman wept.

“Yes. Why? What do you think she is?”

“There is a statue in the temple of a goddess with thirteen faces. The Coven keeps it turned so that the kind faces, the faces of compassion and love are all that one sees. I have climbed into that alcove and studied what faces the wall. They are terrible faces. Angry, ravenous, vicious faces. There is a face that is eating her babies. There is one that breathes flames. I cannot help but think of that now. What if we turned around and left, letting this mother keep her strange child?”

“Do you really want the Goddess running wild and loose among the herds, like some feral dog? Better that she is surrounded by all the wisdom of the Horse Lands and the power of the High Coven.”

Kaplan shook his head. “Yes. I know you are right.” He looked back into Williams face. “But I am sore afraid.”

“Why? Be glad. We have found our Goddess,” William said.

“If she is the Goddess of War, I will follow her into battle without question,” Kaplan said. “But, by all that is holy, I am an old man and war is a young man’s game.”

“Maybe you are mistaken. Maybe she is a more subtle Goddess. Perhaps the Goddess of Judgment.”

“Yes,” whispered Kaplan as he watched Izzy take the Captain’s hand and let him escort her down the sidewalk. “Who, do you think, will be weighed and found wanting? Us or our enemies? What happens when she seeks retribution for all the wrongs done to her?”

William shook his friend’s leg. “You sat at the knee of the old Goddess as she sank into senility. It has clouded your mind. We are the Horse People. We have lived here, in much the same way, for ten thousand years. If there is a danger it comes at us from the outside. Listen to the world, Kaplan. It is shifting. Even now she is un-making things and turning it on the lathe of her own heart. Trust in that, if you cannot trust anything else.”

“That is why I am worried. I am afraid she will make me love her and it will break my heart.”

William laughed. “Such is the way of magic, my friend. It makes us all fools. All you can do is relax and let it take you where it wills.”

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Another Tibetan has set himself on fire. That makes 11 in 11 months and 16 since 2009.

So what, the rabid atheists say. Another fool seduced by another foolish religion. Thousands of people die everyday in far more horrific ways. Why should we care? (I cannot tell you how sad that makes me, knowing that anyone could become so casually indifferent to death and suffering.)

Of course, the protest in Tibet is not just about religious freedom. It is about the genocide of a people. It is about wiping a unique culture off the face of the planet and out of the minds of men. Oh, but then, those who have been Bible born and raised would not be shocked by this. It is no different than the Israelite armies, led by Moses, then Joshua, then Judah, marching through the Middle East and killing every man, woman and child that dared to be different from them, putting Genghis Khan to shame and making him seem a slacker. Exodus, Leviticus and Numbers is a proud recounting of a ruthless and bloodthirsty mob and all the societies they wiped from the planet forever. (Have I not said before that The Lord of the Flies was just a retelling of the story of Moses in the desert?)

Why should we care about Tibet? If Tibet were an animal it would be the tiger. (Few left in the wild, most in zoos.) There are Tibetans free to dress and act like Tibetans but they do not live in Tibet. What would we lose, if we allowed Tibet die? It might be a good question to ask BEFORE Tibet disappears under China’s bulldozers.

Actually Kurt Vonnegut explained it the best. In Slaughterhouse Five, the Tralfamadorians explain to Billy Pilgrim that they have five sexes but that humans have many more and that it takes all the sexes to make a baby. Humans don’t realize this because most of the sexual energy exists in other dimensions.

Too ironic?

Perhaps a study of the social dynamic of the Sioux horse culture would be better suited. Even the smallest of bands had a chief and a medicine woman and a shaman along with all the warriors and maidens and wives and wise old men. These leaders were not elected, nor were they self appointed. They were leaders because of all the members of the tribe, these were the ones best suited for the role. Nor were they autocratic and dictatorial. The people, having integrated their spirituality into their everyday life, only came to them in times of need. The leaders and holy people were not a drain on their society because they served a very real and valuable purpose. Like Tibet of the old days, the Sioux encouraged their people to regularly leave their rational, logic mind and explore the universe with the right brain.

The brain is like a house. The frontal cortex is the place where we build walls that keep the rest of the world out. There is no blurring of boundaries. The “I” of us is very clear. But the closer you get to the central core of the brain, the closer you get to the “back door” that is open to the pan-dimensional universe, the more you realize you are hanging bare-arsed and naked in the infinite void for all to see. The right brain seems to be the place we use most when we go “traveling”. It is the place where we connect to the rest of our “self” that we left behind when we crossed the veil into human birth.

All the knowledge of the infinite is available to you if you are willing to find that open door and fall out of your mind.

Vonnegut knew this. The Sioux knew this. Most of the ancient peoples knew this.  Tibet was one of those places where that idea was integrated into everyday life. Maybe because they were so far up into the sky, that much further away from the chaos of the fecundity of  life at sea level, that much closer to the stars, where the air is thinner and life is harder and the pattern of the circle of life was etched ever so much more deeply into every act and motion. Up at the top of the world where the air is thinner and gravity does not drag you down as much, they developed a way of life that acknowledged and celebrated the Patterning of the Oneverse. It was reflected in every aspect of the way they lived, right down to the color and pattern of their clothing. Mao knew this. The first thing he did when his men blitzkrieged their way into Tibet was ban the outward trappings of being a native Tibetan. (A devastating blow, as the Sioux will tell you, having had their children taken from them, long hair cut off, dressed in white man’s clothes and taught in white man’s schools, effectively wiping out a culture by erasing a language. Genocide is not just about body count.)

Why is Tibet important? Because mankind needed them to do what they did best, unnoticed yet important, like Vonnegut’s pan-dimensional sex.

Because, just by waking up and walking through their day, they were keeping the Patterning of the Oneverse alive in the universe.

What do they say about freedom? That you have to fight for it everyday otherwise it will be taken from you. Holding back the chaos is very much like that. It nibbles at the edges of your life, eroding it, day by day, minute by minute, until nothing is left. You keep it at bay with the little things you do every day. Wake up, brush your teeth, wash your face, eat, do the dishes, dust and sweep and mop and do the laundry, water the plants, mow the lawn, weed the flower beds, call your mom, read a bedtime story to your children before you kiss them goodnight. You mark you place in the universe with your intentions and your actions and your wishes. The cancer of the unending nothingness that is chaos cannot break this pattern, not easily anyway.

It has been over fifty years since China walked into Tibet and destroyed the Pattern Keepers. The magic was thousands of years in the making. It would take more than a little bit of genocide to wipe it away. But China has been diligent and everyone else has turned a blind eye to the destruction of something irreplaceable. It is only now, half a century later, that we look around and begin to notice that chaos is winning.

Who will beat back the chaos now?

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The Wanderer walked through the gate and looked around in wonder.

Wonder was what he always felt upon leaving the gates; wonder that he was still alive, wonder at the feeling of being born new and clean into an unknown place, wonder at where he had been and where he was going. The crushing weight of infinite time inside the portals stripped him clean of his past and took away his most recent thoughts, making them a vague and distant memory. He wondered, not for the first time, if he had ever had a name. They said there were a thousand lifetimes between one step and the next as you crossed the threshold of a time portal. Perhaps they were right. Or perhaps the energy of the portals merely scrambled your brains and what he felt as the passing of infinite time was merely the symptoms of irreparable brain damage. Either way, it did not matter.

He stood upon the lintel of the gate, the energy of his passage fading behind him and looked around curiously. He was alone in a dimly lit chamber remarkable in its immense size and by its absolute silence. He was surprised by this. Vague though his memories might be, he was fairly certain that the portals were usually outside, built upon isolated hills just high enough and far enough away from human habitation to keep the energy flares, always a remote possibility, from frying the local population. These peoples had chosen, instead, to seal their portal behind thick stone walls.

The Wanderer cocked his head to listen to the world beyond this strange room. Open sky and sunlight was far away, up above his head. The portal seemed to have been buried in stone. For some reason, he found this profoundly disturbing yet he could not remember why that should be. He worried over that thought for a moment and then shook his head to clear it. What he needed to remember would come to him eventually. All truths did, in the end.

The room was not the only surprising part of his current predicament. He was alone. Up until now his experiences led him to expect that the portals would always be guarded by priests either of the religious bent or as members of the scientific cults. No one stood here to tell him where he was or to give him directions to the nearest monastic institute or traveler’s hostel. Confusion kept him rooted to the spot for a double handful of moments while his brain sorted through the drifts of knowledge laying about in his brain, trying to come up with a logical matrix of cause and effect that best suited this current conundrum.

A number of possible scenarios presented themselves for his consideration. That the planet lay dead under a thinning sky topped that list. He waited, hoping he was in error. His eyes grew accustomed to the perpertual gloom of the room, enough to see that the dim glow came from pinpoints of light set in the high ceiling in a pattern meant to mimic the stars set in the heavens. The stone sense above him put a lie to that electrical illusion. Heartened a bit by this small semblance of technology, he waited, hoping against hope that the presence of electricity might also promise the presence of sensors and security cameras or perhaps a robotic mind left to do the task humans found too tedious.

No one came. He sighed forlornly. He had a memory of cities, centuries dead, still powered by their atomic furnaces. Perhaps this was such a place.

When it became apparent that no one was coming to investigate the gate’s activation, the Wanderer stepped off the altar dais and began walking towards the far wall. Time did not exist in this room except for that measured by the even tread of his feet upon the dusty stone floor. He tried counting his steps but the silence fogged his mind. He lost track after five hundred.

Eventually he spotted a set of doors in the pale light. They opened effortlessly at his touch. Beyond were more rooms. He explored for a bit, until, quite to his surprise, he turned a corner and came face to face with an old woman busy sweeping the dust into random piles on the ancient stone floors. She stared at him, puzzled by his presence in her usually deserted domain and, upon being asked, pointed silently towards the doors that would lead him outside. He thanked her but she remained mute, perhaps not understanding his words. He could not tell for certain.  He had spoken in Universal Pandimensional Basic but playing the lost tourist asking direction was universally understood no matter what the language.

The doors led to a hallway, the hallway to an elevator. He pressed the only button and after a moment the doors hissed open. Entering, he studied the control panel. After a bit of ciphering, he pushed the button that most probably represented zero. The elevator took him down a dozen stories before the doors opened to reveal a great atrium through which scores of people scurried, each intent on their own private purpose, it seemed. He watched the frenetic motion of scores of bodies for a moment. The chaos of their motion sorted itself out in his mind. What appeared disconnected and solitary, when viewed as a whole, took on a pattern and a synchronicity that turned their movements into an intricate dance. The dance hinted at the formation of a hive mind.

The Wanderer had encountered the human hive mind on other planes, on other planets. Its development was always a signal of a species in the midst of an evolutionary leap. This transition was never comfortable. It was akin to a worm destroying itself from the inside out inside its chrysalis so that it might reform its baser nature into something far more wondrous. He wondered vaguely where they stood on the painful and inevitable slide into chaos and whether he might be better served turning around and letting the portal take him somewhere else.

He chewed on his lower lip, a worried frown on his brow. The portals were self directing, bringing him where he was needed most. These people needed him but even now, after all this time, he distrusted the mindless, primordial power that made this true.

The elevator beeped impatiently, interrupting his reverie, reminding him that it had places to go that did not involve ferrying bemused Wanderers about as they looked for a purpose to life. The Wanderer stepped out and the elevator gave him one last annoyed beep before it whisked itself away.

The Wanderer abandoned all thoughts of striking up a conversation with the people around him. He had no desire to talk to the hive mind and humans caught up in its matrixes tended towards the irrational. He decided, instead, to continue playing the lost tourist.

It had been such a long time since he had visited someplace just for the sheer joy of being somewhere different that it took him a few moments to remember what that might feel like. Was there a purpose behind the motions of sightseeing? He rummaged through his head until he settled upon what might be the universal theme of tourism. Curiosity. The Wanderer looked around for some small thing that might peak his curiosity.

He was too old and too jaded to care about the architecture or the art work on the walls. But the quality of the light intrigued him. The atrium had the deep green gloom of a forest floor. This confused his senses as he knew for a fact a densely packed and densely populated city grew towards the skies around him. Curiosity led him to follow a stream of people through a series of doors set in a glass wall. Waves of densely packed air played over his body as he stepped through each doorway. The Wanderer smiled, delighted. The doors were a cleverly disguised air lock. The Wanderer counted himself a connoisseur of cleverness. Perhaps this place was not completely hopeless.

Outside, the air was a living thing that engulfed him and settled wetly into his lungs. He coughed softly, the smell and the weight of it robbing him temporarily of his breath. The people around him crossed the building’s stone apron quickly, hands over their noses, as if finding the noisome damp air unpleasant. Long cars, their windows shuttered against the green light, stopped to catch them up, the doors hissing open with a brisk efficiency, the machines’ chilled breath lingering long after the doors closed and the people had gone. Other cars sped by in a blur of steel and industrious intent. Tourist, the Wanderer decided, would not be so hasty. He chose not to enter the cars but instead wandered down the tree-lined walkway.

This city must have truly loved its trees at one time, though the people around him barely looked up to notice their presence and the windows above his head were shuttered and dark, shielded from the inopportune intrusions of the beauty of golden light, blue sky or green tree. The trees grew all the same, albeit unnoticed, planted at regular intervals in small squares of soil cut into the verge of the walkway and along the median that divided the opposite flows of traffic. These were not the stunted and sickly trees of other cities. No. These trees stood tall and lush, towering over him dozens of stories high, their canopies reaching towards the narrow patches of sky, competing for space with the stone and glass high-rises that formed canyon walls around them.

An odd thought bubbled up in his mind. How was it that a rainforest had grown up here, only to have ninety percent of its arboreal giants become stone, he wondered. The Wanderer let this fancy take him further, imagining some troll with an evil eye stomping through the ancient groves, freezing the living, turning wood into stone and leaf into glass with its terrible troll glare.

He laughed out loud as he strode down the avenue filled from cliff face to cliff face with trees. Truth was sometimes more magical than fancy. There was a great river somewhere close by. He could smell it on the wind and feel its water swelling the great sponge of land under this city’s feet. The city was not clean. No city this size ever was. The river and the streets were saturated with the effluvia of the millions of city dwellers and their animal familiars. The ancient pipes meant to carry the waste to some distant treatment plant lay crazed with cracked under the pavement. The trees, opportunistic feeders as were all things that wished to survive and continue existence in the face of unbeatable odds used the city canyons as shelter against the great storms that blew in from the not so distant ocean just as a grove of trees might take shelter from the winds inside the embrace of their kin in a primordial forest. Thus protected, these city born trees sank their toes into the porous gravel under the city’s foundations and drew up the rich nutrients they found there in great thirsty gulps.

The Wanderer, true to his name, wandered as the sun arced slowly across the sky. He could have used a cold drink or a sweet bun but the clerks behind the counters in the shops shooed him away when it became apparent he had none of the local coin. He finally found a cart-man selling stimulating iced teas and another selling bits of spicy sausage encased in crusty buns to queues of street sweepers, delivery men, window washers, and dog walkers. He got what he needed with just a smile and a touch and a look into the deep soul places inside those who would be generous. It was a fair exchange. For the price of a bit of food, he lifted their burden and drove back the shadows in their hearts for a brief moment, giving in a universal currency recognized by all those who lived and worked closest to the earth.

He ate and drank, shaded by the ever present canopy of trees, eating in communion with the day laborers, until his small hungers were satisfied. Then he wandered on. His full belly and the heat of the late afternoon sun made him drowsy. The laborers grew sleepy as well. He could feel them settling all across the city, to doze in out of the way patches of deep shade. It was contagious, this hazy tiredness. Even the workers in the windowless, air conditioned skyscrapers felt it and dozed in front of their flickering screens. He found a sad little patch of grass under a tree with lacy foliage and slept until the sun was low in the sky and the air began to cool.

Sleep led to dreaming, a fools mistake that. Wresting himself from a disturbing dream, he sat up, his heart pounding in his chest. An immense sentience had stalked him in his sleep. He had fled before it but found himself cornered in the tree filled canyons of the city with nowhere to run. It had eaten him whole, that sentience, smothering him with her succulent body, her corpulent breasts pressing against his mouth, cutting off the screams in his throat.

He scrubbed his face roughly with the palms of his hands, trying to erase the feel and the taste of Her from his mind. She rolled restlessly under him even now, whispering lovers endearments into his mind’s ear, entreating him to defend her honor and avenge her defilement. She would have gone on to enumerated her many grievances but he closed his mind to it, having heard them a million times before on a million other planets. She was Maiden, Wife and Mother, this thing, and everything living owed their life to Her and every dead thing embraced Her like a long lost lover as they were absorbed back into Her flesh. He wondered what had offended her sensibilities so much that She had woken from Her dreams of creation to pace the land and harass the living with Her rage.

It was not hard to guess but he let his mind delve into the memories of the city around him anyway, letting his ghoulish curiosity lead him onward. The city held so many secrets, secrets ripe for the picking to any who knew how to find them. Humans might force forgetfulness, to keep their sanity, but the stones remembered.  Night stalkers and rapists the stones wept. Murder, they whispered. Genocide, they moaned.

The Wanderer sighed a tired sigh. Was it part and parcel of a species on the brink of change, that the angst of transition turned humans murderous? Or did self destruction trigger the transformation, like the ill timed contractions of a premature birth? Had the old order, holding tight to their power inside the ossifying body of the old Mother, purge the souls who had been so foolish as to hear the Maiden’s new song that would change them all?

Whatever the source, human genocide wreaked havoc upon the fabric of any world, the killing so pervasive that it left no one behind to say the rites that loosed the hold the dead had upon things and places, no one to say the words that would untie them from their entanglements on this side of the Veil. The dead did not rest easy if they died murdered and unavenged and this place was rife with angry ghosts. He whispered a prayer of singularity and wished them peace, hoping to change the tone of their song and the direction of their focus.

The incantation did not work as well as he hoped. The ghosts sighed, their pain easing. The trees would have none of it. Apparently ghosts were easier to appease than the trees. The Wanderer cocked his head, trying to hear around the moans of the ghosts. The trees would not let him ignore the Maiden’s song. They took it up and added their own harmonies. Theirs was not a song of loss and grief but something far fiercer, having drunk down the rivers of blood this city had fed them over the generations. The Wanderer shuddered and looked up into the canopy above his head, a shiver of fear running down his spine. He had been foolishly mistaken. These were not tame, city bred trees. Oh, no. These were the trees of the primordial forest, having learned the way of the fecundity of life and agony of brutal death, embraced as they were by the towers of man and all his ruthless workings. He tried to close his mind to their rage.

He rose and walked on as the light grew dim, uneasy under the Maiden’s attentions and uncomfortable under the scrutiny of the fierce trees. He longed to climb to the roof of one of the highrises that he might put his nose into the clean wind and listen for the coming storms.

Soon, the office workers descended from their towers to take their mid-workday meal in the shops that lined the streets. He took a sandwich of thin, pink meat and delicate cheese from the offering hands of a woman seated at a sidewalk cafe. He ate as he walked and when he had swallowed the last bite, a stranger handed him a tall glass of beer so cold the humid air made the sides slippery with condensation. He smiled, touching their hands in blessing and walked on.

Yet still people slumbered, behind their closed shades, ignorant of the passing of the light.

The nature of the people populating the street gradually changed as the sun set and the air cooled. The day laborers cast fearful eyes on the dimming sky and scurried to catch the street cars that would take them out of the city. They would not be spending the night in the shadow of the tall buildings and the hungry trees and they would all be gone as the sun touched the horizon, believing in ghosts and the karma of blood debt as they did. He could not blame them, thinking to follow their example himself. The Wanderer turned and retraced his steps back towards the portal.

The portal was always a presence in his mind; a beacon in the darkest of nights. Even in this ghost-ridden city, the sense of its presence was unerring. Night descended like a soft veil upon the city and caught him before he could make good his escape. He could sense the rats stirring cautiously in their warrens. Creatures of the night and travelers in the shadows as they were, they were not the penultimate predator on the nighttime streets. Something far darker woke inside the hollow shells of the stone towers above his head.

Was it fancy or fact, this sudden conviction that for every living soul waking from their day of slumber, dozens of the restless dead woke as well. Was it illusion or real, the sudden belief that not all the apartments above his head had living inhabitants, negating his initial assessment that the city teemed with people. It teemed, but not all of what woke was part of the land of the living.

This was not a healthy line of thinking. The depth and breadth of the illness of this city struck him, all of a sudden, blurring his vision and turning the sidewalk to quicksand under his feet. He staggered, putting out a hand to steady himself. His fingers found old, soot-stained stone and he pressed his face into the bricks of a building whose top ended somewhere in the wispy clouds far above his head. All the while the city whispered awful things, terrible things into his mind.

They did not sleep at night, the people who lived here, in this primordial forest of steel and stone. They worked and played, ate and drank, danced and entertained until the first rays of dawn broke across the sky. Only then did they fall into their beds, to sleep the dreamless sleep of the exhausted. The ghosts were to blame. They owned the darkness, owned the night. One dare not sleep, for sleeping meant dreaming and a hundred murdered souls hung think and heavy in every shadow above every bed, filling the night with their unshriven longings and inserting their pale fingers into the minds of the weak and the unprotected until a sane person could not tell where one’s own thoughts ended and the thoughts of the dead began. It was a city of the possessed.

The Wanderer pressed his teeth together to keep them from chattering. How did one perform an exorcism on an entire city? Could he? Was it even possible? He had called the dead home before but he could not remember if he had ever done so on such a massive scale. He pressed his internal wards against the darkness of the city and stood upright, pushing himself away from the wall to continue on his way. The portal was twenty minutes away. He would give himself that much time to come up with a solution.

The moon rose from behind the walls of the city. Its face was the face of the Maiden. The Wanderer stared at her, thinking this a sign but not sure what it meant. He lost her face behind a lacework of tree branches as he walked. The primordial trees whispered their fierce hunger into the night air; hungry, bloodlust thoughts. He dare not listen to them, but he could not help but hear their song. Did not jaguar hunt from the branches of the forest, the trees whispered?

The Wanderer paused mid stride. Why were the city trees remembering jaguar thoughts? What did the Jaguar god know what he did not? Did Jaguar say the words of unmaking over every animal it ate? It would make being Jaguar very tedious indeed, if that were so.

But surely every living thing recognized their own death when the Jaguar’s teeth closed around their throat? There was no need for ceremony and grave words, for all wild things understood this dance. All things except city bred humans who never saw death, except as a tasty meal on a plate with white linen and silver utensils, having never watched the life pass from a twitching body as the blood drain from slit throats.

When he reached the building that contained the portal he had a vague idea of what needed to be done. He paused near the air lock doors, placed his palm flat against its stone wall and began building the framework of the magic in his mind.

“You are earth,” he whispered to the stone. “Stones are bones of the Mother-Maiden. Steel is Her molten blood, congealed into new forms, yet still unchanged. Wood and plaster is the forest remade and reshaped, but still wild. Remember who you are. You are no different than the trees around you. Remember the Mother. Remember the pattern that pulled you out of the Chaos at the beginning of Time.” He stayed there, holding the image of a great tree in his head, pressing his magic into the stone until he felt it shift under his hand.

The Wanderer opened his eyes and looked up. The wall still looked like a wall, the brick still brick. It was not complete, this magic. All he had done was create a longing in the building, a yearning to become what it once was. It was remembering that it was a wild thing standing tall on the world. He blinked the magic out of his eyes. The moon was looking down on him. He pulled her light down and wove it into his magic.

“The moon is your Wife,” he whispered through his fingers into the stone, “caught up in the branches of your hair.” He imagined the stars in the sky beyond the glare of the city lights. “The Jaguar is one of many gods who grace your crown like a diadem full of stars. This is your power, endless and infinite. Remember this and tell it to the shadows that cavort about your trunk that they might join with you in dancing the balance of the pattern back into the world.”

The Wanderer patted the warm stone. It was a small thing, this magic. Not a world changing bit of necromancy, no. Just a wee bit of a change, like a virus setting up shop in a single cell inside a human nose. It would sit and brew and eventually break out to infect the other buildings around it. Slow magic was so much kinder and gentler than unmaking the whole city all at once. The humans would not notice, at first. Eventually, they would reclaim the night for their own, perhaps not this generation but maybe in the next. But the night was now Jaguar’s. The ghosts and the shadows would be consumed and the human dreams would become their own at long last.

The Wanderer passed through the glass doors and found the elevator that would take him up to the twelfth floor. After a bit of confusion, he found his way back through the maze of corridors and empty rooms to a pair of great doors with a red warning sign painted crudely by hand across the height and breadth of the carved wooden panels. The Wanderer laughed, amused that he had not seen this on his way out. He reached out to touch the red paint. It glowed briefly, white hot, then turned to ash, drifting away on an invisible wind.

He pulled the doors open and peered into the gloom. The portal glowed softly, beckoning to him across the immense room. Turned on and open, ready for his next jump. Clever gate, it always knew his needs long before he did. It took less than five hundred paces to reach it.

He paused on the lintel, the power of the event horizon crackling softly over his skin, and closed his eyes. With his mind he reached out and took hold of the magic tree he had built out of city stone and moonlight and fed its roots into the same power source that fueled the gates.

“You are infinite,” the Wanderer whispered. “ and endless is your magic.”

The portal whisked him away to the next place while his mind wandered, random thoughts leading one to the next. The sound of his last words echoed around in his head, nagging at him like the angry harridan Maiden. He was not sure if he had been speaking to the magic or the portal or to himself.

He shrugged between one infinite moment and the next. Did it really matter? It was all one and the same thing, wasn’t it.

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The story of Heracles (Hercules) is a wonderfully twisted tale of gods, demi-gods, madness, murder, infanticide, sin and penance. In the middle is this story, Hercules, an indentured servant serving his sentence under the Mycenaean king, Eurystheus, is ordered to clean out the Augian Stables. According to the tale, Eurystheus had 1000 immortal cattle locked up in this building, doing nothing but eating and pooping for 30 years without anyone thinking to grab pitchfork and a cart to haul off the dung to the compost pile. I am thinking this is a bit of poetic license or else the poets of the day were city boys who had never seen the back end of a cow in their entire life.

More than likely, the Augean Stables did not exist but was an allegory for something else; perhaps the hearts of men, the politics of the royal court, or the chaos of human existence.

Whatever. Hercules had to clean out the stables and he only had one day to do it. His boss, who hated him, meant to teach him humility. Hercules was a lot of things but no one ever accused him of being humble. Instead of grabbing the mighty pitchfork of the gods, he cheats. He diverts two rivers from their course to run them through the stables. OK, already the poetic license is tripping me up. All that work, digging the canals, engineering the sluice gates, and so on, could have been put to work with a pitchfork, to my way of thinking. Only a guy with the soul of an engineer would design a Rube Goldberg contraption to run two rivers through a stable just so he wouldn’t have to smell poop all day.

Nowhere in this tale is there the mention of the minor logistics: Moving the herd to temporary lodging. Sorting out the tools and feed from the piles of dung. Dealing with the downstream pollution. Hercules was something of an ass. It can be assumed he didn’t bother with those details. The bet was to clean the stables in a day. Technically, that’s exactly what he did. He ignored the small details, knowing someone else would sort them out.

There is a name for the guy who thinks up ways not to work hard. We call him an efficiency expert. It was just such an engineering mind that thought up the idea of a remote control because he was too lazy to get up off the couch to change the channel. The Roomba didn’t get invented until 2002 when a man wanted to sweep his floors without actually having to, ya know, sweep. One can only presume he was one of those ‘forever alone’ guys who could never even get a girlfriend to make him a sandwich so therefore had no one to do his laundry or clean his house.

If Heracles had been female, the story would have been different. (For that matter, if King Eurystheus had been female, there would not have been a story at all. No queen in her right mind would have let things get so messy.)

It is the female mind that keeps the universe together, making sure things run like a well oiled machine, because, of course, it is they who are working endlessly behind the machines doing the oiling. It was a woman who first said ‘A stitch in time saves nine’, knowing full well that her plate was already too full, what with cooking and cleaning and doing the laundry and changing baby diapers and wiping snotty noses and teaching the kids reading, writing and arithmetic, all the while keeping herself fit and trim so she could play the seductress to her man every time he came home from the proverbial wars, therefore she had no desire to repair a destroyed seam if a few well placed knots could forestall it.

The female Hercules, being a demi-god, would have been a hearth witch by nature. She would have taken a broom and made a small clean spot in one corner of the stables. Hearth magic would have done the rest.  This is the magic of the female mind. It is the logic of the right brain and can be applied to any mess, no matter how intimidating. It works like this:

The broom is the broom of intention, the intention being not so much to clean the spot but to drive back the chaos and reestablish that spot’s anchor to the Patterning of the Universe. This she does with her will and her love and the purest of intentions. It is also these qualities that allow her to wade through the fetid mess without getting any of the stink on her. The stink does not bother her. The source of her power rises from the fermentation of life in the dark places of the Universal Soul. The stink just tells her that her brew is working.

Back to cleaning up the mess. The one clean spot, now put into order and anchored, causes the adjoining spots to spin around it, igniting change as a catalyst ignites change in a soup of reagents. What follows is a cascade of reactions that alters the whole until the whole is uniform once more. In other words, the change happens until the change can find no other thing to change and then it stops. Time, as is the way with all things in the Universe, is relative. This transformation can be instantaneous, like a flash fire or as slow as stalactites growing on the roof of a cave.

Hercules saw the Augian Stables as one single problem and solved it with catastrophic results. Hercules’s alter ego, in a distaff universe, ignored the big picture and broke the problem down into one manageable bit at a time, knowing full well that before she was through, she would do less work than Hercules and end up with a well ordered stable in which the useful remained and the detritus had been swept away on the tides of the Universe.

One clean spot can make all the difference.

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Our ideas of magic and god are all mixed up. That is understandable, as the definitions are almost identical. Both involved words like ‘supernatural’ and the ability to manipulate the universe.

But what is “supernatural”? Wouldn’t a cell phone be considered supernatural to a stone age man? One could argue that our instantly connected, global society has taken on god-like properties if one were to use the measuring sticks of the turn of the century industrial societies. Isn’t supernatural merely the catchall word that actually means “shit I don’t understand  and probably never will until we invent the technology to see it, the math to define it, and the language that describes it”? Whether in virtual reality or reality itself, we are busy remaking ourselves and our planet. We have not quite graduated to making stars or purposefully exploiting the universe on the quantum level, but surely that cannot be far off.

By this definition, plants are supernatural. Photosynthesis makes them either god like magicians or magicians with godlike abilities.  As we delved deeper into the magic act of turning the energy of the photon into chemical energy, we have discovered that plants have not only learned to exploit the existence of photons but have taken it to the edge of supernatural by exploiting all the possible states of a photon in space/time.  Link In other words, plants convert 95% of the energy they receive because they have constructed nets that can contain time traveling quantum particles.

Then there is our sense of smell. Like photosynthesis, we have explored deeper and deeper, seeking an explanation, discovering that our own body has receptors that exploit the existence of quantum particles to do their job. Could one then claim that a beagle has more god-like abilities than its owner?  Link

Curses. Our own bodies can do, unconsciously, what we would give our right arm to do: Manipulate the Universe.

Oh, come on. Admit it. You would love to be able to fly. Or time travel. Or jump instantaneously from here to Paris without the inconvenience of those rattling death traps called airplanes.

Perhaps we have that ability but we have just forgotten how. The last five thousand years of human history has documented the systematic hunting down and destruction of everything associated with the quantum skills inherent in the right brain. Being perceived as supernatural has always been a crime punishable by death. Even science, which should be fair and balanced, has not been. Thoughts and ideas that venture to give an alternate explanation of reality (differing from the rigid goose stepping left brain proponents) were only whispered behind closed doors. It has only been in the last few years that we have brought the dialogue into the open.

All because of quantum particles. Even Einstein hated them. They offended his linear, logical, left brain sensibilities. They just made everything so…. messy. But quantum physics is the closest any of us will get to understanding the true definition of supernatural.

This will be the next frontier in science and technology. The frontier of the magician. The forerunners will be those who have not denied their basic nature and have gone exploring, using the infinite perceptions and abilities of a right brain open to all the possibilities of space/time.

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There is something profoundly human about the practice of hanging up Christmas stockings.

There it sits, dangling from our mantle, empty and waiting, yearning to be filled. Poor stocking. It carries the weight of all our expectations, not only for the Christmas holiday but for the entire year, and yes, perhaps, even for our entire life. There, on display for all to see, is the hopes, fears, hunger and wishes of the human soul.

The emptiness inside the stocking is the bottomless place inside ourselves. It is a thing we keep well hidden, this dark and infinite hole. Here is the secret that we dare not reveal to another living soul, lest we reveal our vulnerability, risking being gutted like the puppy showing its soft underbelly to the alpha male wolf. We tell no one.

Listen. This is the secret. We want to believe in the ineffable and infinite consciousness that resides in all things. We want to believe we are part of the Universal Whole. We want to believe that Oneness, not love, will conquer all. We want to believe in magic.

As adults we forget the gentler time, when we were young and the memory of our lives beyond the veil was still fresh. We were convinced that we were magical creatures in tune with the magic of the Oneverse. We loved everything and expected nothing in return, trusting implicitly in the abundance of the Oneverse, assuming that everyone around us operated on the same wavelength. Experience has taught us otherwise. Our hearts have been broken a thousand times by the time we reach adulthood. Magic was forgotten as the ways of the world split us off from our Source.

The Santa myth triggers the old memories and dredges up the secret yearnings. There in the darkest part of the year, we remember that we once believed that there is a jolly old fat elf that fills up that empty sock, thereby filling up our souls by acknowledging our existence, thus reconnecting us once more to the Wholeness, to the Oneness.

What we want is for Santa to be real. We need there to be an all seeing, all knowing being. We need to believe that goodness is rewarded and evil is abhorred. We need someone to see us for who we truly are and love us unconditionally, despite all our faults, perhaps, but in truth, we want to be loved for our supposed blemishes as well as our imaginary perfections. If Santa were real, then there can be things like morality and honor and justice and, the holy grail of holy grails, boundless and unconditional love. If Santa were real, then wishes really would come true.

We can sometimes find a pale substitute for this connection in the eyes of the ones who love us. (A tall order, humans being what they are, imperfect and ego centric.) We have pared down our needs. Simplified them to conform with the current reality. As adults, we  settle for a moment of togetherness, the illusion of connectedness, or simple companionship in the form of the grip of a friendly hand in the darkness.

The thing we dread most is disappointment.

Gifts given during this time of dark light are meant to be reaffirmations and re-connections. But quantity has replace quality. Holiday gift giving has morphed into a perverted parody of true giving. We cannot love, so we give useless gifts as a place holder for our true feelings. The presents under the tree become a sort of horrific test that few can pass. If you loved me, you would know me. If you knew me, you would give me what I wanted, or better yet, what I needed. Lately, less and less effort is put into the process. “It is the thought that counts” is the battle cry of the callow and the emotionally stunted. Gift giving turns into a surreal sort of cruel torture. The gifts are of little or no value to the giver or the receiver. Stores fill their shelves with useless things that no one in their right mind would buy at any other time of the year. (Do you wonder, then, why there are so many emotional breakdowns during this crazy season? Relationships are destroyed, families torn apart, hearts broken, as the true nature of people’s hearts are revealed in all their awful self centered glory underneath all that glittery wrapping paper.)

But what would one expect? The true believers are outnumbered by the pretenders. There is a way to remedy this. Close your eyes and believe with all your being, that the Santa myth,with its feet buried deep in the human condition, is a thing we need as surely as we need the air we breath and the water we drink. Imagine, as you hang your stocking, that the magic is real.

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