What rises, falls, and begins again. By enriching ourselves during times of death, we honor the cyclical nature of life and all contained therein, we dig deep for the bones, the teeth, and pelt crafted into tools of wisdom passed on if there are those willing to receive gifts of a crone. The depth and breadth of scar tissue from every loss, every hurt, differs, each death leaves its mark. We are all scar clan, every one of us with their own story.
Sha’s trite confession hung in the air and multi-hued stars holding space for her form recessed into inky shame she’d secreted away in a secured heart chamber. An imaginative 11 year old constructed an almost impenetrable locked space for memories incomprehensible to her young spirit-beginning with a plastic picnic table stained with blood not her own, her father’s voice bitching about Bertie’s fee while she yelled he would pay or she’d call the cops on his perverted ass. He said she could at least knock 10 bucks off for disposal; the girl would bury it herself. A single snake stirred from her soul’s essence and slithered out from between her legs. A hiss boasted of soul ownership, “She belongs to meeee. Master Nidhug promised me the next light being turned murderesss.”
Saint Joan materialized between Sha’s essence and Nidhug’s Collector serpent, who grew fatter by the second with smugness as his potential mate refused to lay her soul bare. His forked tongue tried to move around her to kiss its’ prize. Joan’s copper form swirled, flames of orange and blue green ignited in her center as she whispered, “You have no claim”, and deflected it’s aim with holy fire. Mary the Maiden, still connected to Sha with thorny vines, pulsed sacred light energy toward her form. “She will bear me thousands. You cannot shield a murderesss without sacrificesss.” Archangel Auriel’s wings beat furiously and emitted ten phosphorescent orbs which floated into place around the Divine Sister circle then raised it above the temple, through Archangel Haniel’s opened wing, it’s feathers of silver fluff a blessed tickle on the serpent’s underbelly as it followed. Sha heard her parent’s dealer, “Tell ‘im it’s uncut, Baby, a lil’ thanks for taking care of your situation”, and felt familiar disgust swell in her locked heart chamber as she envisioned his gold-toothed grin and felt his filthy hand pat her aching belly under her mother’s Coca-Cola t-shirt. Blood had run down one of her legs in a rapid trickle and stained her new Converse high tops as she returned to her parents at the condemned flop house that was her nightmare. The circle hummed with combined harmonies from Mary the Maid, Saint Teresa, Saint Brigid, and Archangel Auriel. As the serpent coiled and snapped its’ jaws in irritation they sang, “I am loved, I am forgiven, I am whole, I am healed” in lilting and low voices layered onto Sha like silky warm blankets around her shoulders and over her head. Meanwhile, her form’s legs, one white and one black, fused together in a single grey slimy appendage as Sha’s stubborn unwillingness divided her soul between Nidhug’s guilt and Divine acceptance-her birthright. “She called me a baby killer and he made me bury it in the alley”, Sha sobbed as her form steadfastly gripped a memory of her human self as a girl knelt over a hump in gravel, blood and dirt under her fingernails. She further devolved into a grey serpent and the Collector hissed in happy anticipation of its’ progeny of snakelets in Nidhug’s pit below the Tree of Life on earth. They will eat her roots faster than she grows them, he fantasized. Archangel Haniel enveloped the circle of Saints and angelic belonging, Sha’s soul in it’s center. Haniel’s impenetrable massive wings of protection closed the Collector outside and infused the space inside with El’s loving Sun energy. Darkness often celebrated prematurely. Sha’s essence stated plainly, “I wanted them to die. I hated them.” Her skull painfully changed into a Dragon’s head and circled around to swallow her own scaly tail.
In childhood, the injuries to her soul could’ve been healed enough for an allowance of her and Phoebe’s soul contract, but none of Shana’s helper humans knew. She’d almost told her first counselor, Holly, a no-nonsense Grandmother who hugged her at the end of sessions and said it was a shame her parents didn’t teach her Spanish. But, Holly moved to Sedona after only three months of therapy, and Shana vowed to never reveal what was an even bigger shame. Instead, she excelled in school and resolutely did her best to appear “normal” and happy living with Phoebe and her Mom. And she was happy quite often, as long as she didn’t allow herself to think about, let alone emotionally process her rape, abortion by Bertie, and her parents’ betrayals and overdoses. How would a twelve, or sixteen, or twenty-year-old even begin to heal from that? In reality, almost everyone preferred to believe that whatever horrors she survived at other human’s hands were in the past, hurdles she’d jumped with ease thanks to the solicitous care she received. Until she met Doyle, who sensed she was not nearly as contained and content as she looked at first meeting and set out to pry her open for a closer look inside.
Saint Joan let out a warrior cry born of her earthly mission at Orleans, France, when she helped restore the earth’s balance of power with Archangel Michael’s, Archangel Margaret’s, and Archangel Catherine’s help. Sha felt Joan’s tremendous faith surround her serpent/dragon form with wisdom as she devoured her own shadow essence. Round and round the Saintly circle, their song grew deeper and loud clashes and groans echoed through the universe as Sha released lies about her own culpability and accepted unconditional love on offer. Fully dragon, Sha’s soul embraced herself as a survivor and fire from her nostrils blazed across the ethereal realms. In the same instant, Nidhug’s Collector returned to his place in the pit below the tree to wait for his murderess bride.
Phoebe screamed as a snake swallowed her feet and ominously advanced up her legs, each movement accompanied by a loud crunch she felt as well as heard. “Wake up, Phoebe. It’s ok, I’m here.” Awakened for the third night in a row, Doyle wondered if her release from the hospital was a mistake as he called out to her from a futon in the open-concept loft she shared with Shana, or rather Shana’s ghost. The first night she’d gifted him a black eye when he shook her awake, and intrigue for his advanced psych seminar students who all knew about Shana’s suicide. “Ahhhhh!” Phoebe howled as if being eaten alive as the snake swallowed the rest of her and said, “Since she’sss not here, you will have to do.”
a change or the process of change by which an organism or species becomes better suited to its environment
Most of us on earth right now share common experiences of changing landscapes both external and internal. Over the past two decades the entire skyline changed in the smallish city where I grew up. While development spreads cement like an invasive species, bureaucracy often moves more like a sloth, bogged down in habitual “this is the way it’s always been done” and “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. It is broke, though.
Over the past few years, millions rejected the limiting mantra of “no religion, politics, or money”, and more people across our planet than ever before embraced a right to free speech. We became uncomfortable with humans expressing differently from us in massive numbers, while some became unable to control their stored anger. Others became enmeshed in a struggle, while others chose to ignore the changing world and hold fast to the past.
Now we are here, in this place of knowing the center isn’t holding, in this place of void. What do I create for my timeline given what I now know and also what I don’t know?
I am adapting to supply chain challenges with fresh food by growing green beans and herbs (anyone can, SO EASY), and not buying food from across the country in drought spaces. I am adapting to sketchy quality of mass-produced food by upping my game with organic fresh foods and local organic meat. Honestly, I am willing to spend more on groceries right now since most prices are higher than normal, anyway.
I’ve adapted to 24/7 media by using discernment a.k.a. “being picky” about not only who and what is healthy for my mind and soul, but also worth my time, a precious resource. I no longer justify what I do to take care of myself, as it’s kept me alive and on this side of sane. My outlook on health continues to evolve as I develop a holistic approach and utilize what I need from differing systems. Past work experience in medical education made me over-value data, which isn’t a match for my intuition. My intuition tells me I can lower my cholesterol without a pharmaceutical med, but I cannot control Rheumatoid Disease naturally… yet. A healing gut and diverse microbiome is adaptive for my body’s hyper army of pro-inflammatory cytokines. Food as medicine is my reality.
Nothing is more adaptive than my meditation and spiritual practice, which gifts me with heightened intuition and a will to change what needs to be changed so I can be comfortable for a minute.
I am staying open and accepting of changes in resources which may not be convenient, but may also provide a practical way of doing something or a new opportunity to socialize.
Adapting to a constant state of stress the collective is experiencing as war wages, tired and worn-out practices die away and new ventures and ideas require Herculean efforts to launch, books are an escape where we learn compassion, empathy, and what courage and integrity looks like when it feels like the real world is in short supply. Stories are always waiting to be retold, even refashioned.
We seem to be in flux, so I’ll stay as open-minded and flexible as I can be. If there’s one thing I’ve learned-there’s almost always another option. What adaptations have you made that make you happier?
The Tri Eloh spared a moment between earth’s recently transitioned souls and contract reviews for an overdue visit with Shana’s soul. Although time was not a concern of those in ethereal realms, names were a known contaminant of mending a soul’s core identity, and she tenaciously held on to hers. A soul no longer had need of a name until: 1. reincarnation or 2. the soul took an etheric assignment, like Eddy, Oisin, and countless guardian angels. The Tri encircled her soul in a column of original gold and teal star sand within her merkaba. Normally, souls were eager to shed their earthly identity along with the inherent pain of existence and bad memories. Souls who belonged to Death replaced their merkaba with cages made of their ancestor’s bones, an indication of loyalty to no other soul or light being. These souls manifested in humans who did not connect with any of Mother Earth’s creatures, nor any cosmic gifts such as faith, creativity, a child’s love. No soul was irredeemable, however.
With El’s love and forgiveness, Shana’s eternal soul contract as an Anam Chara held strong, but her identity still housed a fortress of self-judgement. Stone by stone, the Tri’s combined divine energy blasted apart what she’d built with Kazmir’s needling guilt-ridden messages. Memories of leering faces of the caged ones who hurt her as a child with their brutality flew into the sun in jagged chunks. Shana’s ancestors struggled heartily and pulled slimy cords from her merkaba, each tossed into one of Death’s bottomless black holes. Some cords had rotted and broken as Shana refused to relinquish her shame. Death watched from afar and doled out a treat of agony for Kazmir. The merkaba must be opened fully, the Tri intuited to her ancestors, who ceased, and gravitated back to various ascension chambers. Ascension always needed help, a recent resurgence of mind-body practices on earth successful beyond expectations.
Tri Eloh escorted Sha’s partially cleansed merkaba carefully through a portal found in a solar storm, their plutonic oval shields of fire and water flowed with rubies for love, quartz for clarity and light collection, and tourmaline for protection, pushed to maximum capacity. Tentacles of sun fire sensed defeat and reached further than usual after the Tri. Unhealed energy drew destruction. Nine disk galaxies led the angelic trio and their descendant soul to a brightly adorned veil nebula which housed an almost undiscoverable temple. Four pillars of starlight shot upward and downward to infinity. Beams of golden light above were hung with immense crimson and violet veils minutely disturbed in soft cosmic breezes in this region of heaven above The Gardens. Lady Haniel’s, Lady Shekinah’s, Lady Seraphina’s, and Lady Aurora’s immense Archangel wings of fire, light, water, and air respectively, touched above, below, right and left to form a cube around this Divine feminine sacred space. Souls with divine contracts often required rare, pure light as Death’s demons rained on them for prolonged and successive periods in communities of oppressed and/or poor souls incarnated on earth. Those hurt humans hurt other humans. Death’s demons’ favorite dirty tricks piled on during a human’s effort for redemption or karmic restitution. Losses to the light met with Death’s total isolation for an eon or two, which proved inspirational enough for most souls who coveted demon statuses like Kazmir’s or even one of the snakes in Nidhug’s realm.
Inside one of heaven’s temples the merkaba opened slightly and let Joan’s essence in as Mary the Maiden gave Sha a welcome blessing, “Come, Sister. Bring yourself here, in our circle, and share your burdens. Share your love with us, too, as we share what we know-the truth of your being.” Sha entered the temple timidly, her womanly form indefinite-cherry, plum, and black stardust in a fluid expression. Mary’s oval form sparkled with translucence; deep greens and silvery blues swam together and apart again within her golden framed silhouette, while Joan’s form had no frame, but a sheer coppery shimmer to her essence that made Sha feel accepted and known when she came near, as if they were old friends. Teresa and Brigid entered from opposite directions and brought waves of pleasant blue comfort and the scent of a summer rain storm to their first circle with Sha’s soul. The first circle was always the most important, as it informed the remainder of her time in this Sister Temple and who Mary the Crone appointed as her guardian healer. In the center of this circle of five, Archangel Auriel appeared with her fairy-sized busy wings of seafoam and minty green, her form of verdant green strung with flower-shaped stars on a silver chain around her hips. Her calm eyes belied the urgency of Sha’s soul healing as she smiled and extended her energy, a melodic harmony tinkled like windchimes then deepened in tone like a bass drum and circled back again. Sha’s energy vibrated within her form after a time and dark tendrils protruded from her head like worms. Vines of neon green and brightest blue sprouted from beneath Mary’s form to connect with Sha’s soul who formed one white leg of flowing energy and one black. As the vines wound around her they pierced her soul with shocking thorns and caused Sha to howl and cry as wounds she’d buried rose and blistered on her appendages; a foul odor confirmed rotten infection. “Only that much and no more, Auriel!” Sha’s soul flooded with images of Doyle Regan and the last night of her incarnation. She shook and sobbed as she remembered every nuanced slice of her heart. Doyle stuck the needle in her arm after he smacked it red with two fingers. His voice a low growl, “Hold still or you’ll make me waste it.” “I’m not sure about that much, Doyle. Don’t push it all, K?” He’d looked up at her with his brows drawn down and she saw her mother’s angry eyes when her father brought Shana home from the “clinic” in Bertie’s kitchen. “You’re never going to remember it if you’re scared, but you aren’t weak, are you? Have courage, my love. Be the fully real woman I know you are underneath the scrubby little hood rat who got sold for drugs.” As much as Shana wished she could forget, she remembered everything. She often imagined what he, or Phoebe, would feel if they found out, how disgusted or maybe even afraid they’d be. Doyle had pushed the remainder of heroin into her vein and she’d risen to the ceiling in a welcome cloud of euphoria, her mother’s eyes forgotten. Addiction’s many facets of demolition almost always began with unmet needs, either in childhood or another relationship with widely unequal power dynamics such as slavery or poverty wages. Sha’s steep and quick decline into addiction was considered by Mary, then tossed aside as an effect rather than cause. “Show us what you cannot forgive despite being forgiven by The Most High” the Saints chimed together. Brigid moved from her place in the circle to the center with Auriel and began to chant in a tongue Sha did not know, but felt she should. Something moved inside her form as if it responded to Brigid’s powerful voice. From Sha’s throat the words were pulled one by one. “I…killed…them”.
Shana’s soul, busy with re-orientation to life in the cosmos, still yearned for its’ connection with Phoebe’s soul. While the pair were given privileges due to El’s love and respect for Anam Chara and the Tri-Eloh, a complex universe required division of dimensions. Limited to dreamtime, Shana’s soul showed Phoebe compelling details of what it experienced, a compulsion to share with her ingrained. Everyone thought they knew what true darkness looked like, whether closed in a windowless room without light, or free in a forest on a cloudy night with unrecognizable wildlife noise, but this blackness was more than visual. Shana shared a weightless darkness where nothingness smelled faintly like a baking cake, tasted like honey water. In sweetened darkness Phoebe felt a vibration inside as she floated and heard Shana’s voice, “Gurlll…”
Rays of light fell on the nurse’s hand as she poured water from a pink plastic pitcher she brought in full every day with identical instructions. Phoebe raised her red and swollen eyes to look out the window at a blue sky for the first time since she arrived, blossoms on an apple tree branch tinged pink and half unfurled. She decided grey and dismal was more to her liking, this change a painful reminder of time’s passage. A dove alighted outside on the sill, soon joined by its’ mate. “You know the drill. There’s a clean hat in the toilet. If you don’t swallow your meds, we’ll know. You really do need to eat more today if you want the doctor to discharge you.” She nodded toward the tray of cold scrambled eggs folded in a sheet, dry white toast with a rock-hard marble of butter on top and a tiny paper cup with two pills. “Yeah, I know. If you’d give me some coffee with sugar I could choke the toast down.”, Phoebe said with a sniffle and more tears as she laid down and turned her body to the wall. Fucking doves and fake eggs, Shana. She told herself to get it together or she’d never get out of Resting Pines, but it just made her cry harder when she thought of walking into their empty apartment.
Dr. Pressman with her pristine white coat and gentle-but-firm demeanor entered a short while later, her hair unbraided and worn in a wavy afro that gave her kind of a halo-effect in the sunshine, “How are you today, Phoebe?” She settled herself in a chair she pulled up next to the bed and clicked her pen, the demon Kaz assigned to her already transformed into a light being by Dinah Pressman’s full heart. Phoebe flipped over to look at the most powerful person in her world at the moment. When she’d insisted she did not now or ever intend to kill herself, outraged by the repeated accusation, the doctor stoically told her it was not unusual for a young person in her situation to attempt suicide after such a hard loss, especially with no other family for support. In the days that followed, she remained immoveable, steady in what she told her was her commitment to Phoebe’s safety. She did not argue with Phoebe, but neither did she affirm faith in her mental stability. Phoebe imagined her a formidable poker opponent. Dinah Pressman’s kind bedside manner did not include weak fences around her own emotions, but this young woman engendered a protectiveness usually reserved for her pediatric patients. “Honestly? I’m pretty wrecked today, Dr. P. I guess it is really sinking in that she isn’t coming back.” She grabbed another handful of tissues and wiped her wet face, blew her nose. “I think I need to move”, Phoebe blurted and shook her head back and forth slowly, “I’ll always be looking for Shana there.” After she made an encouraging note about the patient’s active engagement with reality, the doctor leaned forward, “Phoebe your friend Doyle Regan came to see me this morning. He informed me that you have exams in two weeks and that your courses will be dropped if you don’t return to class next week. You’ve put in far more work than average, in his opinion as a graduate T.A. He’s concerned your academic career may be irreparably damaged in less than a month’s time due to Shana’s suicide. I’d like to help you, if you want to sit for finals, that is. Normally, I require another adult reside with a suicidal patient when I discharge them, or in cases like yours, in-patient therapy here is extended.” Phoebe’s mind felt like it housed a pinball machine, each of Dr. Pressman’s statements setting off bells, whistles, dangerous urges and screams. Was this another episode like with Dr. Cooper and Farwin? Her confusion registered on her face, eyebrows drawn down when the doctor said Phoebe was lucky to have a friend like Doyle. Lucky wasn’t how Phoebe felt whatsoever as she wondered why Doyle bothered. “He’s in the hall. Why don’t I let you two discuss his suggestion, and you can let me know what you decide tomorrow morning. If you’re agreeable to outpatient follow-up in addition to his help, I think a return to class would be good for you”, she declared, as if it was normal to buddy up to your best friend’s killer.
Doyle stood at the end of the bed and took in how Phoebe’s pallor matched the stark white walls and bedding, her copper greasy hair the only contrast in the cramped room except for himself. When she raised her head he sucked in his breath at her gold eyes. “What’s wrong? You look like shit, Doyle.” Phoebe felt some satisfaction by his apparent shock. She noticed his eyes were as puffy as hers when he came closer to drop her voluminous 19th Century Lit text down next to her untouched breakfast. “Yeah, well… I guess I look how I feel then.” Anger boiled within and made her flush. “Don’t even”, her voice thick with disdain, “I’ve got no reason to pretend anymore that I don’t see you for who you are, you, you… UGHHH!” “Go ahead. Yell at me. Hate me. I deserve it, but I swear I didn’t mean to hurt Shana”, he said as he walked to the window to put a bit of distance between them. Phoebe’s eyes are blue, he reminded himself and shook his head. “What do you want from ME, Doyle? ‘Cause if it’s sympathy you should be the one in here.” She stood up and walked over to him. “I want to help you, Phoebe. I… I think Shana would want me to do what I can for you.” Her pale arms gestured in the air as a flood of emotions rushed up in Phoebe and she shouted, “Look at me, Doyle! Everything, everything that meant something to me is gone! She’s gone! What did you do?” Carrie poked her head in, a look of concern on her face, but quickly backed out when Phoebe glared at her. “I don’t blame you for being angry, Phoebe. Let me just help you get through the next month. I promise to stay out of your way”, he held out an envelope, “I had my trust guy draw up something for your trust guy so I could pay for Shana’s cremation. Figured you’d want to pick out the container”. Phoebe had never hit anyone in her entire life, so it rattled her when she felt the urge to sink her fists in his guts; she would not let this bastard change her like he did Shana. Instead, she snatched the envelope out of his long fingers, and turned away from Doyle and blue sky. “Are you serious? You have control of my money?” If she hit him she might not be able to stop. Air suddenly seemed in short supply as Phoebe struggled to take a deep breath and steady her nerves, to climb out of an emotional tidal pool. While Phoebe depended on Shana to fight whenever they needed a champion, Shana depended on Phoebe’s logic and discernment, both in short supply in that moment. It had been a week since she died, so maybe Doyle had only done what was needed. But Phoebe couldn’t help remembering the little and big ways he’d controlled her friend. Shana spent more nights at Doyle’s than at home because he said he slept better with her there, and then there were the drugs. At least it appeared the conservatorship was constrained to only her monthly allowance for two months, at which time the petitioner and attorneys would review Phoebe Monteer’s mental status per reports from Dr. Dinah Pressman and other staff involved in her therapy, as well as the opinion of her live-in conservator, Doyle Regan. “What the hell do you mean you’ll stay out of my way?” “Live-in conservator” connected with what Dr. Pressman said about conditions for discharge like a key in a lock. “It’s just for a little while, just to make sure you’re safe. You don’t know how much I wish I never left Shana alone. I won’t make that mistake with you, I promise.” Kazmir planted anxiety in Phoebe regarding exactly what Doyle meant, but that damned text book owned too much of her attention for it to take hold. She would need a different tact than her soul friend to break her, he thought as he made Doyle smile at her and pat her shoulder. Phoebe cringed inside just as Kaz knew she would. “There’s something I need to know before I decide whether I want to be discharged tomorrow. What happened that night? Why did she do it, Doyle?”
Till the first friend dies, we think ecstasy impersonal, but then discover that he was the cup from which we drank, itself as yet unknown.
Surreal, the week following Shana’s suicide left Phoebe disassociated and wary of everyone’s motives, in large part due to Death’s demon Kazmir, who whispered potential torment and loneliness in her mind. The first page in Death’s how-to manual focused entirely on separating a soul from others. Dr. Dina Pressman, with her sympathetic grey eyes, furrowed brow and soft questioning, would never know the depth of her despair or she’d keep her locked up, damage her brain with electroshock treatments or worse. As it was, the doctor seemed overly concerned when Phoebe asked if Dr. Cooper and Farwin were real or if nightmares might possibly be a side-effect of whatever medications they’d given her. This line of questioning resulted in an extension of Phoebe’s 72-hour stay for an indeterminate amount of time, until her psyche “calmed down” as Dr. Pressman put it. Kazmir littered her thoughts with a “I abandoned Shana” mantra. Seeds of anguish and regret sprouted anew in her heart every day thanks to his persistence, but at night she returned to a dreamless sleep in a crystal cube on an unknown beach under a sheet of stars and awoke cleansed of everything except grief. A heavy sadness that gained weight every moment, made her head hurt by noon and rendered her silent unless asked a direct question. Kazmir found Dina’s guardian angel attentive and strong, but assigned a demon to check the lovingly healing perimeter of light around her every hour. Sacrifices were often required to secure a bigger prize, yet he still chose one who’d been easy to turn with fame and power. The mid-level demon groveled and begged, for it had hoped to return in the vessel of a politician in it’s next lifetime. “Master, I promise to exalt you and bring you souls of thousands of my followers. I will do ANYTHING for you.” “Do not fret, my dear. I will find you”, Kaz lied. There was little threat this one would serve humanity as a fledgling light body, even with repeated exposures to Dina’s healing aura. Kazmir would have to get to Phoebe through Doyle, with her greedy attorney’s help and anyone else they could influence to stress her from as many directions as possible. Kaz hungered after his own torment, salivated with anticipation for one of the best prizes ever brought to Hades.
Doyle’s dreams were not of Shana alive, but nightmares of the night he’d returned and found her hanging by her tights from a bathroom door in his suite wearing only her boots. He’d bought mushrooms from the same nerdy girl on campus, however she’d promised that particular variety would produce a deeper experience, would annihilate their egos and leave them entirely exposed to one another. Doyle would be the one to finally break through her memory so together they could expose a wound she didn’t even know she had. They’d been on a tipping point, one he’d misjudged badly. He hypothesized if she remembered and revealed what happened shortly before her parents’ deaths, she’d bond with him in a novel, and lasting, way. It took longer to gain her trust than the others, almost a full year thanks to Phoebe’s friendship. It took almost all of that time to convince her the bond with her best (and only) friend was simple enmeshment and codependency, “basic psychology” in motion. Craftily, he’d whittled away at their little rituals, interruptions welcomed by Shana, but never by Phoebe. When she wanted to call Phoebe to let her know she’d be staying over or going out to dinner, a walk in the park, or a movie, Doyle made fun of her and said he wished she was more independent. Shana introduced him to belladonna tea and cleared a path for his psych experiments with her own adventurous spirit. He dared her to keep their illusory world between the two of them, a lover’s secret, and then gave her a sensory experience beyond possibility, time slowing to a creep as he forged a path of kisses that began at her ankles and ended at her forehead. Shocks sparked up her spine as she sat on Doyle; co-imagined roots protruded from their arches and grew deep into the earth until they met in the center on a dancing sea of lava. In one another’s eyes they saw flames and felt heat flow skyward out of their crowns of dark ebony and white blonde. As their breathing labored with their bodies, they discovered themselves in another time for a few moments, Shana’s muslin skirt hefted above her waist as she leisurely rode atop Doyle, laid out on a forest floor of moss and pine needles, the sound of a rushingstream nearby. Shana told Doyle she wanted to find that stream and go skinny-dipping the next time.
Afterward, Doyle lay stunned and for the first time appreciated how he might also be changed by his psychoanalytical “experiments”. He easily persuaded Shana to schedule another forest date for a dose only a few days later. With his last subject, Yasmine, her feelings swung in wide arcs every day afterwards, from guilt to joyful satisfaction to disgust and back again, his agitation prying her psyche so wide open her eyes were glazed over at times. Kazmir helped Doyle with a curated experience for Yasmine’s proudly moralistic persona, one that changed her and would live in her memory forever. Unfortunately, she refused to see him again after Doyle suggested she had additional inhibitions they could explore together. He still smiled at his memory of her, eyes cast down to hide tears, a “sorry… I can’t, just can’t” barely audible followed by his quick, “No problem, Baby.” Doyle gave her a meaningless light squeeze around her shoulders and told her, “take care of you”. He had noticed Shana weeks before, but Yasmine pursued him and Kaz convinced him a little detour with her could be more revealing than it had been in reality. Shana’s predictable co-ed schedule gifted him with chances to study her and make note of her restraint-only half a muffin, a single cup of tea, four pairs of pants and two skirts. The rose-embroidered cowboy boots surprised him, but she didn’t buy them for herself.Shana may be the opposite of Yasmineand just what I need, he thought at the time. She didn’t wear much makeup, but occasionally had a copper shimmer either swept across her cheeks or her eyelids, never both, and she turned down men as if they weren’t all that important to her. She possessed a self-assurance much like his own, or so he thought, and reminded him of his mother although he had very little memory of her, just an unsmiling photo of an attractive blonde woman under an apple tree with her equally unattractive husband. When he was a teenager the photo disappeared from their mantle; ten years of remembrance was long enough to his father and he knew better than to ask about it.
Doyle placed a brown cardboard box of Shana’s cremains on the stained formica table. He’d paid for her cremation as soon as a judge signed the conservatorship for Phoebe’s trust. Rent was paid by her trust attorney, as was tuition, so he just needed to get her more lemon chicken soup, tea, and tissues. He steeled himself to face her. He’d present himself as her best option because he knew trusting him was not on the table. Hopefully Dr. Pressman’s support would count for something.
In this esoteric era it’s said time is a construct, an illusion created to help mankind organize our existence, yet it doesn’t feel ephemeral turning 54. These lessons are solid. Looking back, and wandering repeatedly over familiar landscapes, isn’t where my heart lies. I am ready for new adventures outside of the same ol’, new ways of being me, new ways of relating and loving.
I can compartmentalize my life in decades,20’s being the learning years, 30’s being the building years, 40’s being the destructive years, and 50’s being the… the… maybe I will know once I am 60. I’d like to call them my “creative years” for now. I will not limit myself. Since I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis at 40, I’ve been working hard to overcome limitations. Not all, in fact not most, of those efforts helped me feel better physically. RA was like an undertow and the more I fought for control, the more disabled I became. I’ve never been so angry; inside I shook my fist at the world for a few years. There is a space in unrelenting pain which whittles down a person’s focus to only the cause, and a willingness to do almost anything for it to stop. A Rheumatologist is hard to come by, a good Rheumatologist who keeps up on medical advances in the journals is harder. I knew from the beginning I’d have to read and advocate for myself. What I didn’t know is how many factors would work against me. In January of 2018 a virus teamed with my RA for a lung attack. I was 49 and spent 10 days in the hospital.
These first 4 years of my 50’s have been different, almost as if there was a reset. The Universe seems confident I reclaimed my desire to live after it tried to kill me. My new rheumatologist prescribed a different biologic after the lung incident and it’s worked up to now. I had to laugh when I learned I’d have to push the plunger on the syringe, a new challenge for a human who fought off nurses as a child, and just happens to have a tremor. I stopped caring so much about so many different things, and started meditating with a goal of not being afraid of death. 50 made HUGE goals, but this, along with other mind/body energy practices, set me on a peaceful path for the first time in my life. Many things aren’t as hard as I once made them. Embarking on the 5th year of this decade, I am writing fiction about death and the afterlife, about friendship and grief, two themes of my journey thus far. I am ready for new stories now, having released all of the old ones except for the good. I still want to wrangle this beast RA, tie it up like a trussed hog with natural healing and self-love, good nutrition and friendship, writing, reading, and laughter. Can’t hurt to aim for it, to steep myself in the Divinity and richness of my life for the rest of this one. In this moment, it is well and I’m grateful I get to be this old.
“A great portent appeared in heaven; a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and on her head a crown of 12 stars.”
Revelation 12:1, The Bible
As energy within a healing tetrahedron saturated Phoebe and Shana’s souls they became thoughtless, closer to original than either had been since the first few years of their friendship, when they were new to womanhood, tried on relational influences and found safety with one another. Two green stiches closed the fissure between them, forgiveness barely begun, but Anam Chara remembrance enough to satisfy Tri-Eloh for now. The Tri, having realized a quickly escalating danger to Phoebe’s physical being, gently moved the pair from Mary’s constellation and handed them off to escorts from Michael’s Divine Army for transport to their in-between place. Emboldened by El’s interference, the Tri assumed survival of this Anam Chara link warranted favors from even the most high. The higher the angel or spirit, however, the busier the angel or spirit, as Archangel Michael reminded the Tri of their lengthening line of souls who awaited healing during this deviation from routine cosmic life. Mary’s blessing, however brief, accomplished what would have taken longer than Phoebe’s lifetime and justified the choice even if it did not entirely eradicate Shana’s shame. Tri-Eloh rushed toward their purpose with gratitude that flowed behind them in wide swaths of golden starlight and touched every ethereal being they passed. Visible in the final hour of dark before dawn, a thirty-three-minute meteor shower built upon a Spring Triangle created by the stars Regulus, Spica and Arcturus. Intimate mysteries often revealed themselves to solo audiences on earth.
First they heard “shooosh (pause) shooosh”, then they felt sand beneath their feet at the same time the water came into view, waves shining and dark with frothy remnants when the tide receded. While it possessed key elements of thousands of their summer days, the air was different, shimmering and energetic as if alive and moving on the edge of vision. Shana reached for Phoebe’s hand as a fishy breeze cooled their faces wet with tears. “I am”, they said, “I am you”. “I’ll see you again”, Shana’s whisper landed as Phoebe opened her eyes in a dim cold room. Dry prickly hands rubbed her calves irritatingly, an unidentifiable acrid smell filled her nostrils as she shook her head back and forth on a thin sheet over a plastic mattress that crackled beneath her. “Where am I?”, Phoebe snatched one foot away and kicked at the air. She wanted to go back, to go back to… damn it! She rubbed her nose and noticed the IV in her left hand. “What is going on?” Her heart began to race even as she closed her eyes tight and took a deep breath. Formaldehyde and ammonia overlaid with something worse stung her nostrils and throat and made her stomach lurch. Dry Hands let his other hand descend to her foot before she heard, “You are safe under my care at Resting Pines Hospital, Miss Monteer. You’ve been catatonic for a couple days now, so I’m helping the circulation in your legs so you don’t get bed sores.” Back to my beach dream, back to Shana, Phoebe thought, but the ambulance ride, flashes of her dead friend’s neck, questions about heroin and drug dealers crowded her mind instead. Her breath came faster as she remembered it all and wondered if she’d lost her mind, if her mother’s weakness had finally showed up to claim her intelligence and grip on reality. “Water peese”. Dr. Cooper desperately needed composure, but his body betrayed him. It was as though he watched himself rub her foot against his khakis in slow motion. Engrossed, he was blindsided when his dentures clapped loudly as Phoebe’s foot jerked away and met his chin with force. Kazmir bid the Doctor, “Make her pay. Hurt her NOW.” “You will be restrained if you can’t control yourself, Miss Monteer!”“Wow! didn’t think this one was going to come around without ECT, Doc”, a new voice echoed and startled Dr. Cooper out of what he assumed were his own deviant thoughts. “Want me to get the restraints?” Why were they turning off more lights? “Water”, Phoebe croaked. “Yes, good idea at least until she calms down. I don’t know how I would’ve managed if you didn’t come in when you did, Farwin. You are truly indispensable!” The orderly blushed with the doctor’s approval. Dry Hands roughly grabbed Phoebe’s ankles. Hard plastic straps snapped over them at the corners of the bed. She struggled in silence as Kazmir planted images of archaic electroshock methods, biteplate in her mouth, her eyes rolled back in her head. “Give me your hand and I’ll help you with a drink in a second.” Phoebe tried hard not to panic as her arms were restrained. “Go ahead and finish your rounds, Farwin. I’ll take her vitals and give her some water.” “I’m only a little behind, but thanks, Doc. Kinda surprised after that kick, but she’s lucky to have your firm expertise. I’ll check back and make some notes on her status this afternoon. Please page me if you need any assistance before then.” Minutes passed with no sound but breathing from the end of the bed, out of range of sight. A tall thin man in a white coat approached her without a word and pressed a button on the wall behind her. While the bed raised slightly, he clamped his fingers over her nose. “Open your mouth and tilt your head back”, he instructed as he held a cup of water before her face and smiled, thin lips stretched into obvious pleasure as Phoebe opened her mouth. “Further!” he snapped. The doctor let go of her nose and held her head by the hair at her nape as he poured the water. Her nose gurgled then spewed like a fountain as she struggled and the doctor pulled her hair painfully. “Let’s get those vitals now”, he said cheerily as he let her go, brushing her hair from his hands onto the floor. “You really do smell, Miss Monteer. Since your attendant is occupied with other patients now, I know just the man for the job.” Phoebe sputtered and swallowed air as her throat spasmed and her lungs emptied. I have to get out of here, she thought as Dry Hands explained how he might have to take her temperature several times to get an accurate read, but not to worry-he would insure her records were detailed. Regret that he couldn’t report catatonia for a while longer frustrated the doctor. Kazmir plotted out the next few hours for his fully-compliant gadget Dr. Cooper, another fool who’s guilt and unworthiness birthed virgin evil. The doctor opened a drawer on the table next to her where Phoebe saw syringes and a horseshoe-shaped apparatus that he removed and shoved in her mouth before she knew what was happening. She tried to free her tongue to push against it, but it was pinned. “You’ll drool, but we don’t want you to injure yourself during therapy, young lady”, his face moved close enough for her to see flakes of white in bushy brows of grey and black like dirty snow banks in early spring. The doctor moved a machine with gauges next the the bed and flipped a small red switch. He widened her eyelids with his long course fingers, thrilled as his other hand flung the sheet back and exposed her trembling body, bikini underwear her only cover. Both Dr. Cooper and Kazmir delighted at the pure terror evident in her expanded pupils before he blinded her with a tactical light he’d purchased just last week with the demon’s persuasion. Wait a sec. A shiny speck grew in three directions in her left pupil. Surprised and worried he’d damaged her visibly, Dr. Cooper’s breathing quickened and his erection fled. He could lose everything, and all because of one plain girl who hadn’t cooperated, who he’d barely treated yet. A neon green triangle pulsed and cast a glow into the dim room as Phoebe’s body stilled and her soul found itself back on the beach with Shana.
In holographic embodiments of their most recent vessels, the Anam Chara sat cross-legged and sunk into warm sand within a clear crystalline cube open to a sky bleached innocent by scorchingly bright sun rays. “There’s something I have for you”, Shana said as she took her hand and pressed their palms together. Like most of their peers, in high school Shana and Phoebe experimented with alcohol, boys, and marijuana at house parties of classmates with vacationing parents. Phoebe’s mom’s heart-to-heart talks with the girls about dangerous situations and people made little impact. Then, she hit pay dirt when she restricted them to their respective rooms for a month with a threat of additional time if they spoke to one another. Although the friends lived together, went to school and church together, and even sneaked letters to one another, loneliness for their connection far outweighed any popularity they’d gained. If anything, they yearned for their previous invisibility, rather than being known as stupid freshman who could not hold their alcohol. Cautiously optimistic about the girl’s future afterwards, Phoebe’s mother even gave them a later curfew after improved grades proved their seriousness and they talked openly about everything at dinner-time, often seeming to forget she was even there. They were able to launch their plans in earnest with Phoebe’s talent for planning and foresight and Shana’s boundless imagination. Their futures outlined, hard copies reviewed and agreed on, Shana produced a jack knife from her backpack, opened it and swiftly cut her palm to Phoebe’s astonishment. Phoebe put her hand out with her eyes closed and head turned away. Their blood mingled as they joined hands and vowed to never betray one another, just as she dreamed during their separation. In her dream they wore long cotton nightgowns, and she could not make out the details of their features, but she recognized herself and her best friend in a floral wall-papered room with a high ceiling and tall leaded windows, tree branches and a night sky wavy through thick glass, a bed with four posts she knew they shared. A dagger rather than a kitchen knife sliced their flesh and in the dream they also vowed to protect one another.
Shana’s soul recovered a soul memory of this promise shortly after they departed the in-between. Death howled with outrage at her scrap of redemption.
In this moment, sitting on the sand with Shana, a lake lapping the shore on the other side of the cube, Phoebe felt a calm strength fill her mind as her Anam Chara’s soul energy met with reciprocity, light making their joined hands glow. “See you on the flipside”, Shana smiled.
Phoebe opened her eyes to find herself on the plastic mattress again with a low pillow beneath her head and daylight filling a sterile white room. “Great! You’re awake!”, sang a sunny voice. A youngish woman with smooth skin and golden eyes approached her bedside, poured water from a plastic pitcher into a paper cup and announced, “My name is Carrie I’m going to raise the bed slowly, then help you take a tiny sip of water so you don’t spill, ok Miss Monteer?” Phoebe nodded her head. Cool water trickled down her throat and she smiled a little in appreciation. “There you go. Now you just relax while I go get Dr. Pressman. She will assess if you need any more inpatient help. You’ll like her.” The nurse stopped at the door to turn and smile with the last part before leaving. Phoebe picked up the paper cup from the tray table over her bed and sipped while she took in her surroundings. Outside the window an apple tree budded, white scrolls yet to unwind and blossom. She opened the tray table to find a comb, a toothbrush in cellophane, the smallest tube of toothpaste she’d ever seen, and an attached mirror that slid out and angled back to reflect her tangle of red hair and Shana’s golden eyes, a green speck in the left. “What the… ok, ok, Shana.” Phoebe closed her eyes and made herself take a deep breath. Had it all been a nightmare when she awoke before? As she opened her eyes and stared once again into the golden eyes she’d loved, she realized she needed a new outline for a new future. Tears welled as a sob caught in her throat.
Rarely were the Tri-Eloh surprised. In a shocking display of unconditional love even they did not fully fathom, El sent Archangel Jophiel to meet the Tri on their way to the Marys, not with an admonition as they first feared, but with the answer they sought. When Shana’s soul was hijacked by the Tri, El knew they must be frantic, a rare event which seldom existed away from Death’s realm of influence. A single glance into her soul “hidden” in a barely perceptible green star and El understood every detail of her earthly journey, and more importantly, each details’ impact on her. Shana’s soul no longer needed a hearing, rare Divine dispensation proof enough of its’ innocence . Death never submitted receipts for the worst of Shana’s injuries, and orchestrated more than a dozen demons led by Kazmir to shroud their evil in veils of toxic temptations and free will. Kazmir snuck in a few months before Shana met Phoebe, both sets of parent’s guardians overwhelmed with addictions and delusions, the demon’s ancient evil free to wreak havoc in her mind unchecked by a child’s standard guardian angel. Universal Law prevailed with perfect timing and El’s council voted “no punishment” since all beings involved could be forgiven, or not, often a choice of grievously wounded souls. As certain as El knew Doyle would forgive himself for Shana’s suicide eventually, El knew even if given a million years, Phoebe would not. Anam Chara soul bonds required immense strength to thrive despite heart abrasions and gashes on the earth plane meant to instill empathy and depth. Normally, Soul Friends travelled back home to the Tri within minutes of one another at the conclusion of each lifetime, but Phoebe was on her own for the remainder of their contract on Earth. The Tri-Eloh were dispatched to retrieve Shana’s soul and begin the healing process with a balm not gifted in ages.
Phoebe became aware of herself, barely. Simple and true nothingness is what she felt; no thoughts came to mind until darkness flowed toward a hole in the distance, thick black swirling around her and glinting silver right before it fell beyond her sight. Still, she felt deeply empty. “I am”, she whispered. “I am here”, a while later. Far off, after what seemed a long while, she heard a whisper, “I am here, Phoebe.” Who was that? What was that? As she willed herself in the direction of the whisper she unconsciously circled the hole in the darkness. “I am Phoebe” she whispered. “I am Shana”, she heard as she fell.
Into the ooze now, Phoebe realized she had no body, no limbs to flail about, no gasps for air as she sank deeper and deeper, the ooze reflective with first silver streaks, then gold, then violet. Each color strand infused her with gifts during her prolonged descent, but none would compare to what awaited her as she slipped from an opening in the ceiling of a cave. While not a body, Phoebe felt a loving peace like nothing before as her essence floated in a circular crystal cave. If heaven was comprised of just this cave, she could live with it. “Only if I get to be here with you, Silly”, she heard. “Shana!”, Phoebe squeaked. She felt there was something she forgot, for just a split second, before she hurled her ethereal self toward Shana’s essence. “Whoah, Gurl! I missed you, too! Has it been months, years, eons? Time is an even trickier bitch beyond earth. Oh Phoebe, there are so many explanations I saved up, but they all feel like weak excuses in this moment. I love you so much, please know I love you.” Phoebe was a little woozy as an image of Shana in the coroner’s drawer flashed in her memory, her friend’s golden skin washed a pale yellow. “Am I dead, too? Is that why we’re here… like this? And when did you change the strength in the belladonna tea bags?”
El arranged a miracle reunion in Mary’s constellation of pinkish vapor and neon moss-colored clouds for the start of Shana’s journey back to wholeness, an element of forgiveness pivotal in a complex equation which would ultimately decide the Anamchara’s fate. Death’s demons had entirely devoured Shana’s faith for their Master’s favor and used her love for Doyle against her bond with Phoebe. This moment, however, depended on feelings forged over centuries of saving one another’s soul from Death’s malefic traps, love tattoos on one another’s infinite self. “Here, in this forever now moment, commune and replenish”, intuited a gentle voice which drew their attention upward, a ceiling of iridescent liquid undulated and misplaced energy until both felt mesmerized and thoughtless. Red triangular walls unfurled from a single hypnotic star above to form a tetrahedron. Phoebe filled the floor with a silver triangle, seemingly with a thought.
She felt Shana’s apprehension blossom as shiny walls snapped and pushed them closer until they almost merged, every part of one soul touched every part of the other and brought forth profound Anam Chara kinship. “I love you, Shana. I will always love you. Help me understand why. Tell me.” Shana felt a wave of warm pink infuse her essence with acceptance. “Gurl, you know I love you. There was no way I would’ve chanced losing the best thing that ever happened to me when my parents died. I wasn’t even sleeping in a bed or eating real food before you, not to mention… Your Mom only let me stay on a trial basis at first, remember? She was already freaked out by my parents, all the abuse, the drugs and filth the social worker told her about. Remember when your Mom had to remind me for months not to eat with my fingers? The look on her face when I forgot… like I was nasty. Everyone would’ve been disgusted by what I did.” “Even me?” Phoebe felt how ashamed her friend still was in this place beyond her imagining “Even you. I never deserved your friendship, and you know it.” A fissure between the two created a dark space in the tetrahedron. “NO! I don’t know that! What I know is you were my first REAL friend, the ONLY one I believed in and trusted with everything because you showed me how kind and funny and good I can be if I am just myself, if I have the balls. But… now… ” The golden light within them dimmed, and neither felt like communicating any more.
A pin pricked the bottom of Phoebe’s child-sized foot and caused a slight grimace even though the remainder of her continued as motionless as she’d been for two days, her arms crossed over her stomach with a saline IV on top of her left hand. The doctor nodded, satisfied she had at least some chance of avoiding electroshock therapy. Her status over the next 24 hours would determine the course of therapy, but for now he satisfied himself with grabbing a fist full of the young woman’s red hair at the nape of her neck. He smiled and yanked her head back as he lowered his face to her ear. “Miss Monteer”, he whispered, “Oh the things I’m doing to you in my dreams, little lady.” The old man hesitated, remembering his dream from the night before, a dream that went far beyond any thing he’d ever dared. Phoebe’s forhead wrinkled and her eyes moved behind their lids as her chin shook, only the slightest of tremors. Quickly the Dr. pulled the cap off the syringe of lorazepam with his yellowed dentures. As he pushed 2mg of lorazepam into her IV he couldn’t help but giggle in anticipation as he left the syringe hang. Over thirty years of keeping his desires at bay, and here a wisp of a thing proved to be the one who would finally undo him he thought as he pushed 2 mg more. Kazmir sneered at the size of this one’s ego. They always thought they did it by themselves, when it was choice upon layered choice which created human victimization. Kazmir always had Death’s most interesting inventory of destructive choices. Meanwhile, Doyle had his attorney draw up conservatorship papers and send them certified to Phoebe’s trust attorney who considered their arrival a blessing for a young woman with no family.