Over the shoulder
fate altered my course
Bends of loss
a portent of
Spun in a labyrinth
Where I colored my enclosure
with future and rose
Over the shoulder
fate altered my course
Bends of loss
a portent of
Spun in a labyrinth
Where I colored my enclosure
with future and rose
Phoebe stepped off the elevator of her building into a creek bed of soft silt, her bare feet slightly sunk as cool water and shock took her breath and almost toppled her. Her size nines helped her balance, not for the first time. Above, an eagle soared on a robust wind that blew her untrimmed cap of hair away from her face and made her eyes water, wings edged in white tilted this way, then that, as the eagle swooped over distant pointy pines on a hill covered with heather, briars and bent grasses. Her eyes landed on twinkling stars against a blinding sapphire sky. Except, these stars had wings. Pulled forward by her curiosity, hope bloomed and she craned her neck to search for signs of Shana. A whorl of starlings appeared like a spinning iridescent spiral, their whistles and trills vying for Phoebe’s attention, but her eyes were glued on the circling Eagle, who finally dove into the dark-needled towers, and did not ascend. Phoebe could almost feel a rush of adrenaline from a victory she presumed; prey consumed piece by piece until the eagle was sated. “They cannot hide you from me”, Kaz laced his whisper into the high-pitched starling noise and broke her reverie, “You belong with ussss. Your friend begs for her Anam Chara, her sworn blood sister, to join her, to soothe her tortured soul. Can you hear her cries?” A flurry of feathered recriminations momentarily smothered Phoebe and she heard Shana’s plea, “Don’t you love me anymore, Phoebe? Phoebe, Pleee… aghhhh!”, Shana’s scream ripped through Phoebe’s heart and brought her to her knees in the cold stream. A spiral descended with her crumpled body at the center. Bluish black wings battered her head and blocked her view of the sky and silvery winged stars that weren’t stars. When Phoebe tried to raise her arms they pecked her with what felt like dull needles.
“Agree to be mine, Phoebe Monteer”. Her loins stirred as she envisioned Doyle muddy and choking for breathe. Her will submerged his head in a puddle of runny excrement. “I will give you this power over him for lifetimes, I promisssss”, Kaz’s maneuverings tickled her sacral chakra and snaked its way upward to her solar plexus in a steely grey line that sliced it open and spilled her self-esteem into his mouth.
Phoebe saw herself standing over Doyle’s wrecked and miserable form, her eyes golden reptilian bulges rendering her vison into slits; flames of orange and blue crowned her and licked over her hunched shoulders and down her back. Her throat constricted abruptly, a bright yellow utility rope around her neck pulled by demon’s birds. “I can’t breathe! I don’t want to be that, that… fucking monster! Let me go! I said “No”, damn it”, she struggled against the rope, both within and without, and raised her hands palms-up into the murmuration of starlings as far as she could. It was all the invitation they needed. Sprites of light, her stars with wings, zipped between gaps in the spinning murmuration, then entered up her nostrils, into her ears, and through her open mouth. As light energy radiated from her head and neck, the rope faded and loosed until it disappeared all together. A cough of slimy tar erupted as Phoebe regurgitated Kaz’s manipulations. Sprites cut through lesions and dark attachments from her mind to her bruised and abraded heart. She crossed her hands over her chest and brought Doyle’s handsome face and trim athletic body to her mind’s eye, complete with his smug grin, hair and eyelashes so blonde they almost glowed, and haunted eyes she’d not noticed before. Her heart clenched. He truly suffered, Phoebe realized. Maybe not for the same reasons, but he hurt without her help.
Saint Joan arrived as Phoebe retched and led her out of the stream and to the foot of the Eagle’s hill. The Angel smoothed her damp coppery hair away from her face, each touch a blessing. “You are not responsible for Shana’s choice”, Joan instilled in Phoebe’s sacral chakra, a pool of tarry guilt-laden vomit absorbed into rich brown soil and grown over with silvery thistle which bloomed before her eyes. “You are not alone, Phoebe Monteer”, Joan sliced a shallow ruby river in the center of Phoebe’s chest, her blinding blade brisk, and gently worked a mossy orb behind her sternum. Verdant tendrils decorated Phoebe’s heart chakra and instinctively twined between her bony ribs with spongy paddings of life-giving mycelium. Crevices and cracks inflamed with remorse received a trickle of grace.
Phoebe pushed away the light being hands of Saint Joan. “Can you bring her back? to my world, I mean? Or in dreams? like before”? She rubbed the ache in her chest, her eyes desperate and longing.
Joan considered what answer served Phoebe’s soul, and decided to bend the rules. “That soul is being healed, Phoebe, just as you will heal. Some.” The Marys had warned Joan not to speak of her Anam Chara’s location. “You will find your purpose. It will help. Some”.
Sickness swam in Phoebe’s belly, again. Of course there wasn’t any way Shana could come back, return to their future. Her empty mottled yellowing body, with it’s black ring of destruction around her neck, had been reduced to ashes, while her soul was only El-knew-where. All of it, every nightmare aspect, because of Doyle. Except, she couldn’t forget how she felt about Shana those last few weeks, nor forgive herself. “Neither of us will heal without the other, and you know it. You All KNOW”, to which Joan shook her darkly-capped head, her face serious, but her gaze manic with devotion, a happy and infuriating juxtaposition.
“Just leave me then”, she spat at the angel.
Not bothered, Joan pulled her by the hand, “Come. Climb with me”. Chainlink mail in gleaming silver encased Joan’s form from ankles to neck, and tinkled with her steps, while Phoebe found herself clothed in hairy sackcloth and slightly abraded with every movement. The Saint prodded her, “Should you be punished for your failures?” and her bare foot landed in more thistle on the hillside. More slivers needled her soles with every step until she cried from pain and left behind miniscule dots of blood. Her neck chafed against the rough fabric, already raw from Kaz’s rope. Still, Phoebe began to climb without being pulled.
John the Baptist-style penance, she thought. Thistle gave way to rocky ground, cool stones worn almost flat held with ribbons of moss, and roots of thorny bushes. “I don’t know… should I? I feel like I’ve been punished, like my life is a punishment now”. Into a knee-deep hole one of Phoebe’s legs descended. “You could at least guide me, Saint Joan”!
Joan lent her an arm to pull herself up, but did not lend her strength. “You have to pull yourself up, Phoebe Monteer, since the hole is yours. You create them as you go, like your mistaken need to be punished”. As any influencer knows, Joan of Arc included, humans rise to challenges.
Phoebe grunted with effort as her hands climbed the Saint’s arm and pulled on it so hard she fairly flew out of the hole and onto her backside. She yelped as tiny needles pierced her tenderest flesh. It occurred to her that Shana would still be dead no matter how much she punished herself. The sackcloth morphed into a cotton shift of white that blew against her ankles and tops of her feet. Climbing on the rocky ground she found fewer and fewer thorns as she ascended and her long feet seemed to heal the crimson dots as quickly as they were produced until they were not any longer. Her breathe came rapidly as the climb became steeper and the Saint walked a few feet to her right.
“Phoebe Monteer, you will make a difference for many souls on the earth plane”, Saint Joan of Arc placed this truth in a tiny diamond and approached her before she could take the final steps to the apex among the pines. With her fingers pinched, she put the diamond in Phoebe’s Third Eye chakra in the middle of her forehead. “We will guide you, as will a familiar who, although not a replacement for your friend, will bring you comfort in this lifetime”.
Phoebe found herself back in the hallway outside her loft, key in hand, a mewling sound at her feet, just as she took a final step and an eagle alit mere feet in front of her. Anxious, she looked down to find a kitten, black as a moonless night. Her heart pinged with recognition. “Oisin! Welcome, my little Angel”. Shana scooped up softness to look it in neon green eyes she could swear she’d seen before.
“Hello, Phoebe”, Oisin intuited and made her laugh out loud with delight. When she opened the door, Doyle stood in her kitchen, upright and unharmed just as she’d pictured. He smiled like a kid himself when he saw what she carried.
A growling thunder grew louder outside the loft’s single-pane windows and provided cover for 3 deafening cracks like sniper fire, each earning a jump from Doyle as he grappled with memories played on an incessant reel since he awoke that morning. The tiny jade plant he’d hurled across the loft lay broken on the kitchen counter. “Bad karma for your own evil”, Kazmir whispered in his mind. Had he gone mad himself? His long fingers raked through his unwashed hair and made it stand on end. Phoebe’s channeled anger couldn’t possibly lift him, or rather slam his body, into a beam 12 feet in the air. Except his back sported a bruise the length of his spine, the width of the beam overhead, and his skull throbbed without a touch-a persuasive set of evidence. Then there were the dreams. Doyle remembered all but one of his “research subjects” had expressed doubts about reality, and this gave him a sliver of denial he mistook for a life raft. Phoebe had all but forced him to drink her “tonic”. His scattered mind forgot the exact order of last night’s events. “I don’t feel like myself, like my head’s in the clouds for real”, he remembered Shana had said one afternoon after he’d dosed her with two hits of LSD. She’d not been “herself”, or the Shana from before that trip, ever again. He saw her bare feet swinging over his head and pulled on one, but it was stiff and purplish… wait, that wasn’t Shana. The lace of her nightgown filtered sunlight in a floral pattern on the pink wall behind his mother’s dead body. Doyle slammed his hands on the table as a sob escaped his throat and urine soaked his jeans, just as it had once soaked his Pooh pj pants. Kaz whispered in his ear, “Did you drive her to it?” and “Admit it. You pushed Shana to it”. “Nooo! No! No!”, Doyle yelled, “They did to themselves. They did it! They left me”! Phoebe heard his anguished cries from the landing, unsurprised and unmoved for the most part, except for a sliver of enjoyment, an intriguing new feeling not entirely unwelcome. Thunder clapped and grief made way for anger as she wondered again why Shana hadn’t broken it off with him when it became obvious he had control issues. While the tail-end of Eddie Money’s If I Could Walk on Water streamed through the loft’s heavy security door, Phoebe hesitated a minute then drew back her key as Roxette’s It Must Have Been Love started, and decided to eat in the cafeteria for the first time without Shana. Her urge to distance herself couldn’t be denied, no matter what Dr. Pressman had advised regarding Doyle’s apology and atonement. The stench of pizza puke would likely ruin meals at home for a few days, anyway, and the radio was not her friend lately.
An almost black horizon to the east crackled with bright white jags as Phoebe zipped her jacket, pulled up her hood and made her way south, across the quad still littered with white and pink tree blossoms, colorful flyers and a few Styrofoam cups in the mix. Only a couple others were out, both headed in the same direction as Phoebe- toward the student center and hub of university life outside of classes. They had almost lived there during their freshman year between aerobics, the pool, their freshman dining plan, trivia and ping pong tournaments, T.V. lounges including movie nights, and the acoustically impressive performing arts auditorium where they’d seen P.M. Dawn and Bow Wow Wow. Memories made her smile a little. The girl’s tiny shared room in Lindbergh Hall had been stuffed with coats for every season hung on the end of the bunk, dozens of highlighted worn books in boxes under the bed, multiple mediums of art supplies in copy paper boxes labeled in black marker, records and cassette tapes along with a simple stereo set on the desk, and Shana’s boots and Phoebe’s picture albums scattered and wedged into corners. Thankfully, there were lockers in the communal shower room down the hall where they used one for jeans and sweatshirts-their “uniforms” that first year. Her mother would’ve been proud of how they coped and organized their lives after she died. The few times Phoebe couldn’t summon up her Mother’s voice within, Shana had stepped in with her stories of a better tomorrow. Her heart clutched in her chest and she found it hard to swallow for a moment until someone behind her cleared their throat, “Excuse me”. “Oh, yeah, sorry dude”, Phoebe moved aside and wiped her eyes quickly with her her sleeve. Rumbles overhead muffled what they said next as they turned their heads to reach under the sneeze guard, which was good because she didn’t want to speak to anyone at that moment. She wondered if Shana enjoyed her “better tomorrow” as the two friends wandered away chatting. With long sighs she built what her best friend would’ve called an “emotional mountain of a salad” and watched the storm arrive through a northern wall of glass. Charcoal rivers poured across the sky, painted over golden wisps of daylight, and cast the vast space around her in shadow. Mini cyclones of debris-laden wind bent trees this way and that and stripped them of their final blossoms while rain lashed against the glass. Shana would have loved the impressionist watery view, may have created a charcoal rendition of it in black and white. Perhaps I’ll do it, she thought as she blinked hard. Three golden orbs in the distant dark sky, obscured as if by smoke, moved further away until she could barely notice them. Storms usually reminded her of her mother, of standing at her graveside for hours until the rain ceased and a patch of white sky shone through, backlit by blinding sunlight. Phoebe didn’t think of her mother now, nor the parting clouds that day four years ago. Loneliness abated more and more as she planned Doyle’s metamorphosis in her mind’s eye. Kazmir stoked her anger with visions of Shana in the coroner’s drawer, a single pinprick on the inside of her arm. He’d pay. Each stab of her fork met with a sharp squeal. He’d pay much more than that, she decided, and was rewarded with a deeply pained groan from him as in her mind’s eye Phoebe imagined her hands, strong and pulsing with navy blue veins, painstakingly stretch Igor’s cervical vertebrae and hold the bones apart. Lightning cracked both in the sky before her and in his limbs as the nerve passages narrowed, shocks unlike anything Doyle had ever felt. Thrilling bloodlust throbbed upward from her base and allowed Death himself to will her phantom hands gleefully with a handsaw across bony protrusions, back and forth, back and forth. Flashes of brilliant azure and silver pulled one hand away in a vacuum of energy to her left as her mind appreciated her handiwork and joined her will to flare the smoothed bone outward. Phoebe’s teeth bit down on a carrot as her right hand stabbed a forkful of lettuce, malefic energy alone holding her nemesis in a vengeful stretch. Kaz tickled her heart and Phoebe giggled as Doyle gasped and sucked at the air, his throat constricted. Phoebe willed Shana’s final gasps for breath to play on repeat in his ears, then connected the pieces of bone with tremendous force, Igor’s bones fused with Death’s contribution, Phoebe’s intention and Doyle’s karma. Torturous heart-rending grief rippled across campus and up Budway Avenue to 333C at the top of steep wooden stairs, the loft Shana had insisted was kismet, then flowed back again to the dining hall to form a circlet of deathly energy shot through with daggers of blame, regret and revenge. Death and Kaz had a lot of material to work with for her soul’s imprisonment. The last of Phoebe’s loneliness abated, as did the powerlessness that had hounded her since her ambulance ride. “He thinks you’re weak“, came an unfamiliar voice as she thought of Doyle’s intrusion, his schemes, his selfish pleasure-seeking at Shana’s expense. At her expense. “He wants to control you like he did Shana”, Kazmir planted in her mind, “He plans to steal all your money”. That was crazy, but what if it were true? A poisonous vine sprouted as she realized again she was on her own. Phoebe’s soul stiffened, a golden thread in her star chakra severed even as her ancestors the Tri-Eloh petitioned The Marys for her salvation. “Why show him mercy? Make him earn your forgiveness with service.” The idea of cocky, handsome and brilliant Doyle as Igor took on more life, fed by her friend’s betrayal and absence. She envisioned her hands as they separated the upper trapezius and viewed the levator scapulae behind it. Doyle regretted ever meeting Shana, ever wondering what darkness resided within her. “I don’t deserve this”, he thought right before Phoebe remembered what that particular muscle did. Her thumb and forefinger pinched it resolutely and twisted it an infinitesimal tiny bit, which allowed Igor to take small gulps of air through his mouth. Thunder exploded overhead and the cafeteria emptied as tree limbs and loose lawn furniture hit the glass. Kazmir flashed memories of Shana pale and sickly during the last month of her life. “I should’ve helped her, made her listen, fucking done SOMETHING”, Her own spine tingled when Phoebe’s phantom hand caressed the ligamentum nuchae with her fingernails and left inch-long horizontal slices that deepened with accusation and made Doyle’s soul howl as she tinkered with his voice box. The tickle in her heart increased and spread to her belly. Death laughed and so did Kazmir as Phoebe, entirely given over now to her crude surgical maneuvers, sobbed Shana’s name. Eyes glazed and golden, together they pulled on tendons her probing fingers discovered underneath the fibrous nuchal sheet of cartilage until Doyle’s skull angled to the right at 45 degrees over his shoulder and his arms stiffened straight. “He knows his anatomy even better than me“, Phoebe thought when she realized his heart raced and entire body shook in stark terror, unable to get up from the floor. Drool covered his chin as he mewled, “peeee… sorrreeeee”. Satisfied and a bit excited to see him, she drew her consciousness back to her physical body with a backward count of ten. The storm was all but over, the wind and thunder gone, natural and man-made debris mixed at the bottom of the glass wall. Phoebe wiped her eyes on her wet sleeves, pushed her tray aside and appreciated a pink glow to the west before she said out loud to no one, “I suppose it’s time I go meet MY creature, my Igor.”
The Marys allowed familiar assistance for Phoebe, not the requested Guardian exactly, but the Tri-Eloh thought they might be able to convince a supremely soft-hearted Angel to inhabit a cat for a few years, or maybe a short decade considering how quickly Death and Kazmir corrupted Phoebe. Of course, it was all up to Oisin. The Marys reminded the Tri-Eloh of Doyle’s soul’s merkaba, how close he was to a cage of his ancestor’s bones, and urged them to review both it’s contract and lineage. The Tri agreed to assign a research angel to the task, however Saint Joan asked to be of service as she’d taken an interest in the endurance of the Anam Chara’s soul bond. Free will complicated the universe, however it also led to surprises Death never saw coming.
“We are fashioned creatures, but half made-up” ~ Victor Frankenstein, Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus, by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley
Originally, Frankenstein seemed an easy essay to knock out due to it’s familiarity, Phoebe insisted in her second session with Dr. Pressman since her discharge a week ago. “But it was Shana, not YOU, who was familiar with Mary Shelley’s work. I think it would be productive for us to focus on your enmeshment with Shana so you can move on and successfully finish university. This essay is as good a place to start as any. I’d like you to further make it yours by writing it in your space in the apartment, not you and Shana’s shared space, but yours alone. Do you think you can do that?” As always, Dinah Pressman’s tone remained even and confident, as if no one had ever told her, “No, I will not.” Phoebe would not be the first. Although it had been Shana in their senior year of high school who crafted her first “A” paper, the friends had discussed both the Creature’s and Victor’s motivations and torments at length, to the point of arguing. Only a few years later, death, alchemy, and the nature of the creature weaved a tale beyond imagining in Phoebe’s mind. Kaz’s whispered comparisons between her and Victor, Shana and the Creature, made her question her friendship and true feelings. Was she mindlessly motivated by a savior complex? Shana had saved her many times, and at other times they’d leaned on one another, like when they touched on their grief. Was she “enmeshed”, and where was the line between love and this handicap? “I’ll try. It’s an open loft, ya know? I usually wander around, look out the windows by Shana’s bed ever so often; helps me think.” “No need to be a purist, Phoebe”. “Trust me, Dr. Pressman. I want to get away from everything that reminds me of her, but it’s impossible. Maybe it would help if I start packing up a few of her things this weekend”. Or maybe she’d ask Doyle to do it, but she kept that thought to herself. The psychiatrist looked at her with kindness, but Phoebe didn’t sense pity like she did when they met in Resting Pines. She decided to take it as a good sign despite the doctor’s misunderstanding. She’d never needed Shana for school, but for writing projects they’d excelled by teaming. As her mother used to say, “what one doesn’t think of, the other will”. Shana usually said Phoebe overthought it, just as she currently did. If Mary Shelley could imagine such a psychologically complex tale, surely Phoebe could write an aspirational final essay without Shana’s input. “I’ll see you back here on Friday and you can let me know how it went. From what you’ve told me, I don’t expect any surprises from Mr. Regan’s progress report this week. I’m happy to hear the nightmares have resolved, but don’t be concerned if you have them until your mind is more settled about your new reality.” Phoebe couldn’t tell the doctor about the pain of being eaten alive or what it felt like as she slithered on her snake belly across the bottom of a lake, and certainly not about her recent journeys to unimaginably exquisite or horrifying spaces, nor angelically-guided reunions with Shana’s essence. Her secret existences were still better than her reality. Phoebe felt as if she hauled around a leaden head and heart, despite lighting a candle for Shana every day in a campus chapel. But, disturbed as she was, she still could not imagine how Shana felt in her last moments, couldn’t fathom what lies ran through her friend’s head, but she began to imagine.
Tchaichovsky’s Waltz of the Flowers played vibrantly from her dented and taped boom box and instantly grated on her nerves. Coke cans and Oreo crumbs littered her mother’s silver-flecked formica dining table; what Phoebe recognized as pages-thick advanced chemistry exams along with his rumpled test key covered stains, and by association-memories. Of course he’d set up right where she and Shana normally studied the most. Phoebe tossed a can into the kitchen sink, then another with satisfaction. He’d be up most of the night if he planned on finishing, she thought and heard the shower’s signature pipe rumble as if in agreement. “I’m ordering pizza!”, she yelled through the frosted pane of the bathroom door and stood transfixed as he turned the water off and stepped easily out of the tub. He knows damn well I can see him. Doyle stretched a towel between his hands and slowly sawed it back and forth on his backside. “Russo’s? Will you get onions and mushrooms on half? Sorry about the music, didn’t think you’d be home for a while yet”, he called. Barone’s was right around the corner, but Phoebe thought she could be a little flexible this once. She turned the music off with a shake of her head. Who, other than Shana, listened to The Nutcracker in May? “Please bring a 2-liter of Coke, too” she told the chill voice on the phone. Loose sweat pants and a high school track sweatshirt fraying at the cuffs and neck signaled a trickle of inspirational flow in her mind, the issue of Victor’s responsibility to his creation tugged at a thread of an idea, but it broke, again. Essays required her flavor, but for an “A” they required fresh blood, a profound realization. Professors got off on student’s epiphanies, the more vulnerable the better, unless it crossed into uncomfortable territory and kept going, as she’d mistakenly done only once. Did she have a responsibility to Shana? If so, she’d failed entirely. Phoebe caught her light blue eyes at the moment they turned golden in a star-shaped mirror swinging on a strand of wooden beads in a breeze from nowhere. Shana had held her steady on a wobbly barstool when she hung the mirror, her Christmas gift, from a rusty nail head. She’d called her a star, her very own true north. Am I a monster? Phoebe remembered waves of possessiveness and rejection she was ashamed of when Shana started dating Doyle, similar to the creature’s envy when he spied Dr. Frankenstein with his new wife through the window, the two happy and laughing with no care for him. Her stomach growled in time with a single hard knock. A couple notes to help her pick up this thread of self-reproach and, simultaneously, restrict her personal revelations on the page. Her eyes changed more often when Doyle was near, the only “trigger” she’d figured out, so far. Phoebe stuck her head out from behind a paneled screen painted with golden and bronze wild mustangs in full gallop and smiled at the delivery person before she stuck her tongue out at Doyle’s back. Although they’d settled quickly into a routine, both taking refuge in their schedules, she hated him living here, in her and Shana’s loft. It was perverse, but she reminded herself it was temporary several times a day. Clearly unamused, the pony-tailed teen rolled her eyes at Phoebe then smiled extra wide when Doyle handed her a five. “Have a good one, Dude”, he said distractedly as he flung the door closed and she was forced to step back. At least he was also pressured by finals. “Put it over there on the coffee table”. Phoebe waved at Doyle with a pack of doubly thick paper plates he’d bought when he got her cheerios, bananas and milk before her discharge, his first act as her “guardian”. He’d confessed he hated washing dishes, to which Phoebe gave him no reply. After a couple days, he’d mostly given up talking to her, except when he woke her from night terrors. Phoebe was lost in thought when he cleared his throat. “You can run it past me if you want, your essay. I’ve got a load of papers to correct, but I can’t go back to that right now. I’ll have just as many after tomorrow morning’s exam. Please. You’d be doing me a favor, which might work against me, but if it would help… up to you”, he ended with a shrug. Emotionless, she stared through Doyle, as she’d done dozens of times over the past two weeks. When she looked at him she always thought the same thing, but if she killed him, she’d never write the essay, never receive a final grade for the single class she didn’t drop. Desperate for another viewpoint, she reconsidered her tact and surprised him. “Any thoughts on Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein? I’m thinking about the doctor’s responsibility to the creature, to his creation” Phoebe wrestled a piece of pizza crust with her back teeth as she forced her eyes to focus on the man who might be responsible for her best friend’s death. “One of the saddest books ever. God, I hated the end. Lemme think. Oh yeah, freshman paper on Mary and Percy toward the end of the semester, so depressing. I cast him as a predatory type and her as a literary genius. Don’t some people believe they were cursed? I think a lot of my classmates took that angle.” He wasn’t an English major, Phoebe reminded herself, but he thought in an orderly, and linear fashion, suited for science. “Yeah, I don’t give a shit about Percy. This essay is about Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus, in other words-the subtitle’s inference” Phoebe watched Doyle turn Prometheus over in his mind, his hooded eyes slanted away from her and to the ceiling, brows flattened. “Well… what do you have so far? You’re saying Prometheus or Frankenstein’s ambition is the crux your thesis? I can’t remember how he… wait, ok, he was chained and pecked to death by a bird every day, a punishment from Zeus, right? How does that fit?” Phoebe let the question hang in the air for a moment as if she considered what he’d said, when in actuality she pictured Doyle chained to a mountain top, vultures feasting as other flew away with his entrails. Her breath quickened. “Yeah, for stealing fire and giving it to humanity. He over-reached, changed man’s fate. I propose Mary Shelley likened Prometheus to scientific experimentation with unintended consequences. At least that’s what my interpretation is right now.” She had to admit the pizza was better than Barone’s. As she wrapped cheese around her finger, Doyle rose and wandered barefoot over to a narrow window, dusky light . He ran one long-fingered hand through his still-wet blonde mane and let out a loud sigh. “Is that supposed to be directed at me?” His voice let Phoebe know she’d hit her intended target, but she didn’t expect him to hurl the little jade plant he’d given her when they first met against the brick wall behind her with surprising ferocity. Shards of green pottery landed in her hair, but stopped short of the pizza, thank goodness. Phoebe rose quickly, more than a little afraid, but even more angry at this person who had the audacity to insinuate himself into her life after he helped her best friend, her soul sister, self-destruct. Doyle realized his mistake when Phoebe’s eyes changed from blue to golden elliptical-shaped viper eyes, and with a gaze, lifted all two hundred pounds of him quickly until a beam on the loft’s ceiling cut into his back. He froze, suddenly afraid his struggles would plummet him to the hardwood below. “Let me down, Phoebe! I’m sorry; I swear it won’t happen again!” “No, it won’t.” She struggled to hide her shock at this ability, intent on keeping control now that she had it. “You almost had me fooled, you fucker.” Her face twisted with grief as she remembered what this man took from her, took from them. Doyle groaned loudly and doubled over on the ceiling. A voice inside cautioned Phoebe, but a different instinct took over as she envisioned her viper self ‘s hinged jaws take a bite from his center, right below the belly button. No thought existed for her when she entered his thoracic cavity. As the golden viper Doyle knew was Phoebe coiled inside him, it flicked it’s forked tongue like a whip and cut tiny slices in the tissues between his ribs. She slowed within his body and felt his wildly erratic heart call to her from behind a lung. He screamed as her flat head pushed hard against the pinkish lung and pinned it aside. “Noooo, Phoebe, Pleeeee…” his gasp ended, the pain a sudden suffocating blanket of dark mercy he mistook for Death. Kazmir could not be happier with his quick transformation of the girl.
By the time Phoebe returned from the library with the name of the rock (Caucasus Mountains, likely Mount Elbrus) Prometheus had been chained to, she’d also come up with a solution to the problem of Doyle Regan. His entrails and organs were intact when he awoke on Shana’s bed behind a screen painted with a gloriously colorful garden, complete with birds, bees, a copper fox and Monarch butterflies. The viper was gone and Phoebe’s eyes were blue and intent as she watched him warily. He’d been having nightmares since Shana hung herself, but nothing had prepared him for the experience they’d had earlier. “There’s another one… another version of Frankenstein. Mel Brook’s Young Frankenstein gave me an idea.” Doyle felt odd. Slowly he rolled over and put his feet on the floor. Phoebe put two frames and Shana’s fairy cards in a copy paper box she’d also gotten at the library. Doyle sprang up and ran toward the bathroom as three slices of pizza ejected from his roiling belly not only in the open toilet, but all over it. Ten minutes later he still dry-heaved into the bowl, face red as tears and snot flowed. Phoebe handed him a cold wet wash cloth, one of the thick white ones she’d given Shana for Christmas. “Don’t worry, Doyle. I’ll take care of you. And you will take care of me.” His stomach suddenly calmed. He wasn’t sure if he felt afraid or just very sick. “Here you go”, Phoebe handed him a dainty tea cup, “I know you said you didn’t like tea before, but this is like a tonic, a little medicine to help you go along. You see… you are going to be MY Igor. Now, sip it ’cause it’s really hot”. The sweet tea did seem to soothe his nerves and slow down his anxious heart. “What is it?” Phoebe smiled at him placatingly before she slapped him satisfyingly hard, like she’d wanted to for quite some time. “Don’t worry about it. You should get back to those exams, and I have an essay to write. In a couple of hours I want you to help me pack up some of Shana’s things and we’ll move her screen. Then you can have her bed for the rest of the summer.” He wasn’t sure what to say. He didn’t feel like arguing with her, of that he was certain. An hour later Phoebe wandered over to the window as Doyle sat at her mother’s formica table and corrected chemistry exams as if nothing out of the ordinary had happened. Phoebe’s essay flowed like a spring creek on a sunny day.
If all you can do is crawl, start crawling – Rumi
Professor Fritsche kindly allowed Phoebe to submit both her and Shana’s essays on the topics of marriage, lust, and consequence, as portrayed in Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina. Their deceased parents served the young women’s purposes as bad examples similar in scope to Anna’s, although they had different opinions about her karma. Professor F peered above his glasses at her and mumbled something about, “a waste of talent” and “Hope you’ve started your final despite everything”. He finds the ground under academics more stable than death‘s abyss of unknowns, Phoebe thought later over a cup of peppermint tea as she sat in the grass and pretended to read Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein for the umpteenth time. With her urging, their 19th Century Lit prof agreed to submit a final grade for Shana, minus a final exam essay, if the Dean of the English Department, and one of Shana’s most loved professors, approved. Phoebe simply framed her request as a memorial to Shana, and gave the Dean a copy of her friend’s last and final essay. The Dean found Shana’s ideas about passion versus fidelity especially naïve and moving in light of her suicide. Shana would receive a grade for her favorite class that semester, and Phoebe would remember it as the last course they took together. Classmates gave her shy nods, their sad eyes relaying the words they didn’t find. A few were obviously surprised when she walked into chem lab an hour after being released from Resting Pines, not that they imagined what Phoebe ran up against after her best friend’s painful exit.
Her fists slid off it’s slick stark white scales as a serpent with Doyle’s dark eyes fully consumed her. Phoebe discovered herself a golden serpent who slid across symbols carved on tangerine colored walls within her Grandmother tree, an ancient cedar in the Northwoods of Michigan. The symbols pulsed with heat as if alive, but the Ankh is where she fit her slim viper form. Her head rested in the opening of the key of life and Phoebe finally surrendered all she was before Shana’s suicide. Intelligent and witty, her well-crafted college persona came apart at the seams like a sun-bleached scarecrow, mere stuffing of knowledge, sarcasm and friendship scattered, buried, and carried off by crows. Or snakes. Phoebe dreamed of a snowy white python with hinged jaws thanks to Kazmir, Death’s demon who orchestrated these nightly feasts. Warm blood pulsed and squirted into her eyes and mouth as she yelled out, foot, ankle, tibula and fibula crushed like glass in a grinder with each agonizing swallow. Smothered screams with the last gulp of her skull and then nothing until she opened slits and felt her essence in a snake’s condemned existence. “As low as a snake”, Kazmir whispered as she envisioned her cedar sanctuary finally on the third night. In the Ankh, considered in Hebrew as the “Key of Life”, Phoebe’s essence glided among reeds along a lake’s shoreline, her slim serpent body a ribbon of gold amongst the cat tails and lily pads. She dove and swam along the bottom between weeds that rose toward the light above, rocks risen from below, and an occasional clam, the silt velvet against her tender underbelly. Deeper and deeper into the dark she searched and undulated her length as she came to embody the viper and her eyes adjusted to see every shadow. Unsure of what she sought exactly, Phoebe swam until far away she thought she heard a song one only ever sung for her, in private. Ahead, a blushing glow grew and beckoned with a sad melody where only friendship existed before.
“Some say love, it is a river that drowns the tender reed. Some say love, it is a razor, that leaves your soul to bleed.” Shana sang Bette Midler’s The Rose for Phoebe not long after their blood sister ritual at the end of 7th grade in 1985. She’d sang it to her countless times over the past seven years, when Phoebe felt like anything but a rose, and it served as a soothing balm. Although she’d never been able to express how special it made her feel, she didn’t have to. For Shana, Phoebe’s patient tutoring, whenever she needed her, felt like acceptance during the years that followed her parent’s abuses. Phoebe had never made her earn love, and forgave easily, but Shana had never skipped out on classes before. Her personal drug usage consisted of a couple puffs during marijuana movie nights at a friend’s apartment last summer. Her parent’s addiction served as a constant reminder of how drugs and alcohol changed people for the worst, hard-won knowledge which kept her straight until Doyle’s manipulations opened the door for Death. During the last weeks of her life, paranoia about losing Phoebe’s love grew as Kaz gleefully watched her create her own scenes of rejection, including burning insults it planted in her psyche. The two friends had never exchanged insults, had never even had a blowup disagreement, but Shana’s artist’s imagination had always been powerful. If they had fought, Phoebe would have explained how it was simply impossible to lose her friendship for a mistake. She would have said “Love forgives”. As Phoebe the golden snake entered the pink glow of a temporary healing chamber, miles deep in a Great Lake, their human essences reformed as womanly silhouettes. Shana and Phoebe hugged and cried dry tears as they held onto one another. No words sufficed, so none were exchanged.
Phoebe awoke to Doyle’s yell from the kitchen, “Time to get up, Phoebe! Gotta fly, but there’s hot water in the kettle. You awake?”. “Yeah” she croaked followed by a stronger, “I’m up! I’m good!”. Her voice squeaked a bit. She prayed Doyle didn’t check on her behind the privacy screen and spy the perfectly shed golden-hued snake skin complete with eyelids stretched out on her bedspread. Doyle flipped the switch on the radio and turned up the volume so she’d get up for sure. Paula Abdul accused her of a being a “Cold Hearted snake”, a dark start to her first day of crafting a final essay about the merits of Dr. Frankenstein.
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 motivational wisdom as she devoured her own shadow essence. Round and round the Saintly circle, their song grew deeper, resounding clashes and thunderous groans echoed throughout the universe as Sha released lies about her own culpability and accepted unconditional love on offer to staunch a flow of exposed agony. 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. Perhaps her Anam Chara, her soul friend, if Kazmir’s boasts proved true.
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, an intrigue for his advanced psych seminar students who all knew about Shana’s suicide. “Ahhhhh!” Phoebe howled as the snake swallowed the rest of her alive and said, “Since she’sss not here, you will have to do.” Inside, it continued to squeeze and break the bones in her face until she heard her skull crack loudly and the snake, then tremble excitedly in enjoyment of its’ meal.
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?”
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.