Before They Made Monsters

 

Where perfectionism exists, shame is always lurking.
– Brene Brown

The laws of the past follow a distant norm.
– Lessons of Time Travel for Children, Book I

Oranges are one of the few fruits that will not overripen if left on the tree.
Fun fact

I believe in the magic of coffee and oranges.
– Paul Hodgson

blog images orange and blossom


There was another fruit tree other than the pear that now grew wild.  There were less of these but they grew nearer and chose to intersperse with the lady’s pear trees that had once been part of Father’s orchards, rather than mingle with the giant oak and pine that lived near the stream.  Orange and pear now had to reach for water and they did so with intermingling roots.  Oracion noticed that none of the fruit trees that had been planted so long ago grew on flat land.  They grew into the foothills of mountains as if someone had been experimenting with elevation.

But the fruit Oracion had on her mind this evening was the orange.

She recalled when Father had first had the gardeners plant the trees which bore these delicious treats.  It was before Priest had begun experimenting with darker things. Since the climate did not naturally host the tropical, Father had induced the hybrid makers to regraft a wondrous, older variety of orange tree that would constantly and simultaneously fruit oranges and flower, while remaining impervious to the elements.

Father had loved his gardens.

When the weather was kind now (in the present) Oracion would make the trek just to hunt for and gather these special oranges,  while her godmothers sat nearby, contenting themselves with spinning necklaces out of blossom and vine.  Oranges were one of Oracion’s favorite fruits and reminded her of childhood. This evening however, Oracion was time traveling and it was only by chance she found herself headed towards the old groves, because she had chosen the longer, more circuitous route through the forest, embracing the arduous incline.  She had wanted to come up upon the old castle from behind, and avoid emerging from the woods into village streets altogether.

The hunters would be on the lookout for stag and the priests were doing the testings, but since Oracion had cloaked herself in invisibility she was not certain why she intuited such a strong need to be cautious. She sought to avoid the scouts and dichobots as well, who inevitably would be out and about looking for her, despite the fact they were as unlikely to see her as they were to become suddenly aware of what they themselves had become.

Oracion did plan to show herself if necessary, but only once she had shifted safely into the past, and only when she had found Father. Though she could communicate with people in the past that she loved that had gone on in the present to other realms, she could not yet effect the past directly, nor could it effect or harm her.  Nonetheless, the weight of this evening’s importance lay on Oracion’s shoulders as heavily as the fog that blanketed the trees all around her.

It was getting colder as well, which was strange for late spring.

blog image orange and birds


Usually in the evening, the dark black, lacy limbs of upper tree branches stood out in sharp contrast against a setting sun, and its violet-purple sky.  Now the moon, full but obscured, was the only language by which Oracion could find her way through the younger trees towards what had once been orchards. The godmothers had cloaked themselves into invisibility as well, though Oracion of course could see them, and they occasionally appeared to her as nuthatches or robins. This was intended to amuse her she was sure, but as birds they appeared to have no place to
land. Upper portions of oak and pine now disappeared altogether into the heavy mist.  It was as if branches had been lopped off by a crazy gardener, who rudely defrocked trees of their budding leaves.

This was extremely disorienting, and Oracion felt like the forest she knew like the back of her hand had turned malevolent against her, and was playing tricks on her mind with its own newly found wit.  Or, perhaps Mother Nature could also shift, wanted to tell her something,  warn her away from this route and the knowledge she intuitively sought. Nevertheless something in the present, even other than logistical strategy, was drawing Oracion toward what had once been the orange grove where she had first seen the boy, as if she sensed in the boy’s absence invaders had overtaken the land.

She had seen the boy with the knowing eyes (that reminded her in the present of the pear tree madonna’s) many years ago, when she, as a child, had induced Father to let her accompany him on journey.

Father had been meeting secretly with someone on this farther side of the forest, a mysterious stranger she now recalled in the present as a messenger, or a scout perhaps, from a distant land.  Father had safely secured little Oracion into his stagecoach, then for an hour or so she slept with her head leaning against his big, broad shoulder, as Father drove the horses further and further into the woods. Simply content to be at his side, the ride had lulled Oracion to sleep.   But before she drifted off Father told her, when she asked on what business the special messenger or courier came, he could not tell her for her own protection.

If she squealed, he had said, the tree monkeys would get her.  They could fly and had sharp teeth. He wasn’t going to take that chance. Oracion started to suspect Father was making things up now, for purposes of their own amusement.  It had been a long journey, and he liked to see her smile.

She awoke when the stagecoach came to a bumpy stop beneath a canopy of orange blossoms, and in that sweet spring day of many years past the flowers and fruits blossomed in such heavenly abundance they emitted a memorable, heady and potent, but at the same time delicate fragrance.  This scent was better than any perfume the ointment makers made, even better than the lilac butter Mother had dabbed on her wrists, or the honeysuckle milk that Mother bathed in.   Father often brought back sweet oranges to Oracion when he traveled alone this way, but this was the first time Oracion had been to the magical grove that produced them.

He got out of the coach then, and disappeared into a thicket of trees, but not before he had solicted from Oracion another promise.

Whatever she did, she was not to get out of the carriage and follow him, and no matter whom she might happen to see here, she must speak to no one.

Sleepily, little Oracion had agreed.

Sweet, silly, dear Father, she thought.

blog images science and flowers


The day was so bright, and so warm.

Oracion couldn’t imagine then she might chance to meet anyone here,  for the child found herself quite alone with the birds that thrilled harmoniously amongst fair fruit and blossom.   One branch held many ripe clusters of sun-kissed oranges which peeked out at intervals between petals, and one single, very perfect orange, dappled with sunlight, dangled within her reach as if to tempt her.  Oracion was hungry and overheated, and surmised if she could just take one bite of its cool, rosy flesh it would cure all remaining laments, and she could just get on with enjoyment of this beautiful day.

So, cautiously, she had stood up in the coach and leaned her small body outside of the window as far as she could reach, without falling out.

But this nearest orange was just out of reach.

And that’s when she saw him.

The boy had not been standing on the ground at all but was sitting way up high in the tree branches, looking down at her. He was quite tall and well built but definitely still young looking, surely not much older than herself.  Oracion had never seen an angel before, but she had seen drawings of them on the castle ceilings, and they suddenly came into her mind much as the boy had suddenly seemed to appear above her.  His face was like porcelain, and in his fine blue eyes as deep and sad as the sea he spoke a thousand stories, but didn’t seem inclined to tell any of them. At that moment he just stared at Oracion silently, the juice of an orange dripping silently off his chin, as if he was as shocked to see her there as she was to see him.

Though Oracion recognized him (hadn’t they known each other, once upon a time?) she marveled then, that if he was the gardener’s son, he could now possess wings and the fine countenance of nobility, beneath long, wavy locks of fiery, cinnamon hair.

“Christmas” she remarked, simply observing, before she could realize why she had spoken that particular word, and the magnitude of what she had done –  spoken to a stranger –  which was exactly what Father had forbidden.

“Why don’t you use your wings?”  he responded, with a voice like a chime, or a dulcimer chord.

“My wings?”  she asked, noticing that she spoke again.

“To reach an orange,” he explained.   Why don’t you just use your wings?”

blog image oranges with bees


The boy had asked the question so sincerely and innocently it frustrated Oracion to no end. She was unable to understand why a boy with the face of an angel and wings would ask her such a question about wings, as if she possessed her own pair with which she, like him, could use to fly upward to secure the choicest fruit.

But just then what must have been his given name was called out by someone she could not see.

“Cosmos!”

This word was shouted by what seemed to be a very cruel man’s voice, and it echoed heavily throughout the woods like it bore the threat of impending brutality.

And in that instance her new found friend had disappeared, but not before he tossed Oracion the rest of the orange which he had been holding in his hand.

Christmas (as Oracion often thought of the boy ever since, not Cosmos ) vanished instantaneously, into the warm, spring air.

When Father returned to the carriage, Oracion had been savoring the sweet, refreshing fruit flesh that had been mysteriously given to her.

But thinking of the hard, cruel voice and fearing for the angel boy (but hesitating to mention to her father that she had spoken to someone) she simply asked “Was the man you met Father –  was he bad?”

 

blog image oranges cut apart


He looked at her not suspiciously but with surprise, as if Oracion had asked a question to which she should already know the answer.  “Oracion, you know the Maker does not make bad men, but people do.  And this man that I met wants to delay what is rightfully yours.”

She had turned to look up at Father when he made this cryptic remark, once again expecting him to look disapproving, but he did not.  Instead Father looked solemn , his eyes as knowing, if not moreso, than the boy’s had been.

She had never seen Christmas again, and even now Oracion wondered if that day had all been a dream, especially in the contrast of this strange spring evening present,  with its heavy, dream like qualities and mist so different from sun dappled oranges.

Occasionally (in the present) adult Oracion noticed that some animal or beast imitated her pace and direction in the trees adjacent, but this was not so unusual.

Animals could sense Oracion’s presence and often drew near her, as if they felt there a safety they could not otherwise easily obtain. Through the thick fog Oracion could tell that one of these gentle creatures followed her now, but if it was a stag it was large for a stag, like Noble Beast had been.  For a moment Oracion felt that this beast was less real than her own memories, which, when she was not literally revisting them, were continuously revisiting her.  Were those really majestic antlers she saw cutting up through the mist, like steely knives cutting into gray cloud, or just the sharp curve of tree limbs?

The thought of Noble Beast had brought to her in the present circumstance a bittersweet combination of excitement, hope, comfort and joy, intermingled with sorrow and feelings of loss.

And since for Oracion, emotions were as wild, strong and dangerous as she was, she made a conscious effort to harness and focus them now, so that they would not lead her astray, and instead work to her own advantage.

Not so far off she had heard a strange noise, as if large walls of metal creaked and scraped, one against the other.

But when an orange tree emerged in front of her, she knew she was in the right place, for she had found the remains of orange trees near the old pear grove.

Suddenly, there was an enormous, dark shadow overhead,  a flurry of wings and horrible talons pulling painfully at her hair.

A giant bird screeched its horrific cry as it passed over Oracion, a cry much louder now for the sound was in her ear this time, like metal against metal, or a glacier of ice seizing, then crashing into the sea.  As Oracion put her hands over her head protectively, she wondered if this apparently blind creature could actually see her despite her cloak of invisibility, or if it just sensed her presence through scent as animals were wont to do.

 

blog image dinosaur bird


The velociraptor, being unable to fly very high or far, settled awkwardly and noisily into the branches of an ancient orange tree, his tail curled in serpentine formation down and around the crook of its trunk.  The weight of his body cast too heavy a load on the fruit bearer, and Oracion feared the tree (though much thicker and sturdier now than she had seen these trees in the past) would break in the bending.

Oracion stood at a distance of about fifteen feet away from him, unable to move, staring in fascination.  As she watched the dinosaur-like bird pull at the oranges on the branches with huge jaws, she guessed that he was frustrated that he could not use his too huge teeth and disproportionately small, stunted wings to separate and loose the treats.  Then beneath the sound of snapping twigs and frustrated screeches, Oracion suddenly heard the Madonna’s voice whisper something silently into her ear.

“She was with child when she was taken”

…like a fragment, of knowing.

It was then that Oracion noticed the creature’s eyes, blind apparently and glazed over, as if with filmy white cataracts.  They reminded her of the eyes of a dichobot.  Oracion couldn’t help noticing that the creature’s eyes appeared in some way inexplicable, unhealthily human, but perhaps even more troubling was that she sensed she somehow knew or recognized the beast.

As an animal much in appearance as well as behavior, the creature resembled a hybrid mix between a proud, preening peacock, and an angry, small-brained dinosaur.  In her sciences Oracion had learned velociraptors did exist – and wondered if it was now possible that the priests could have returned them to the woods, much as Father had reintroduced cold climate oranges.

But his eyes, oh his eyes! – how Oracion pitied the creature for his eyes.  With what had they mixed the poor creature?

“And wanted her son to carry the gene”  said the lady gently, but firmer this time.

Then with horror Oracion remembered what Father had taught her one night when they were standing on the turret rooftop, under the light of a magnificent moon.

Even though lineage played a factor, he had explained to his young daughter that the ability to shape shift was rare. Shape shifting women of nobility who had turned to the dark side, wanting to assure the gene was passed to their first born sons, were going to priests who meddled with hybrid emulsions and vapors.  These pregnant women consumed such potions in great draughts for the price of their soul, a trikerion lamp, or traded agreement, each morning for nine months.  For some, there was biological success, but other offspring were caught in a void-shift, part human and part beast.

The creature Oracion saw before her was a Blender.

And though the Blender seemed to sense or smell Oracion’s existence at least to a certain degree, it did not seem to realize her godmothers, who now were hanging back in trepidation.  For though Oracion was still invisible (and she had checked, glancing down at her feet, which still weighted the grass) the creature seemed to get more and more irate, even in proportion to the degree to which she pitied him.  Oracion had slowly been getting closer even as he spat at her, shaking his head violently back and forth, leaves and debris spewing out of his mouth in every direction, in an angry shower of fury.

Then, to her right, there was a movement where the gentler, antlered, pacing animal had been. Suddenly Oracion feared that the Noble-Beast-like creature that had followed her had actually been tracking her purposely,  for he emerged out of the woods not as a beast at all, but as a man.

A very huge and strong looking man.

Oracion had never seen a dichobot so tall and formidable, even greater a force than Trock had been, with steel plated shoulders spanning an expanse wider than the velociraptor’s chest.

But this dichobot, unlike the mad, screeching dinosaur creature, could see Oracion quite clearly.

This didn’t make any sense.

No dichobot could see Oracion when she cloaked into invisibility, and though his plated visor was down, obscuring his face, he seemed to stare directly at her, one arm extended towards her in urgent supplication.  He was either commanding her to stop or was indicating for her to come towards him.  Could it be that one of Father’s soldiers remained, having survived the scourge?  She thought about that possibility. No, that couldn’t be. Hadn’t all those that had not transformed into dichobots been executed?

But the soldier was real and saw her nonetheless, for in that moment several things happened at once.

He rushed Oracion just as flames shot from her brother’s mouth in a deadly, fiery conflagration.  She noted the harsh, acidic,  pungentness of burnt oranges and instantaneously disintegrated twigs in her brother, the Blender’s, ashy breath.  The heat wave alone would have killed Oracion had not the large soldier-man covered her with his steel plated body.  She then found herself on the ground staring up at an emblem of a lily on a chest plate, as flames radiated and reflected in the metal –  red, orange, blue then white.

There was a flash of memory in her mind like the echo of a little boy’s voice.

“Why don’t you just use your wings?”

Oracion was so disoriented and shocked she felt herself suddenly shifting, beginning to jolt helplessly and violently far back into the distant past.  The current scene – with its heat, trees and everything around her – disappeared, but not before she heard the angel boy’s voice, deeper and all grown up now,  but still like a dulcimer chord or a chime.

“Christmas,” he said in transfixed amazement, as if that was her name now.

Then once again, they were apart.  Yet in that instance Oracion realized that Father had intended them, all along, to meet.

blog image Oracion in orange

 

Oracion and the Lady’s Lament


blog image violet head piece

Thus saith the Lord: A voice was heard on high of lamentation, of mourning, and weeping, of Rachel weeping for her children, and refusing to be comforted for them, because they are not.
Jeremiah

People just don’t know what civilian prisoners of war are.
-Gene Green

Empathy is the antidote to shame.
– Brene Brown

Do not fear the Opposites
Who insist upon
The lie

Slanderers feign
A brutish bunch

But angels never die
– Song of the Washer Woman, Verse III

We should not be asking who this child belongs to, but who belongs to this child.
– Jim Gritter

blog images oracion


After traveling into the past, Oracion felt she could now surmise why she had forgotten what happened during the night as a child,  the night that she realized Mother had become an Opposite (what most people called in those days, a Dream Snatcher).  Forgetting Elements must have been placed in the small hearth that graced Oracion’s bedroom, which had rarely been lit.

For the next morning, when younger Oracion had found herself so ill, and her father injured (but still holding her in his arms, weeping) the room was filled with the smoky evidence of a hearth fire. Dark, curly entrails had already covered and settled into meager furnishings like an obscuration of sheet covers strewn out of thick fog.  Father’s clothing was covered with the soot of it, as if in recent attempt to smother it out, and as if he, having arriving much later than the moment he wished, stamped it out with bare feet.

At that time, Child Oracion hadn’t been concerned with the fire that had threatened her or the bedroom furnishings, for she was all concerned for Father, and for Mother, who had been taken.

“Will we get her back?” Oracion had asked.

“I do not know” Father had told her, and she read the pain in his eyes, for certainly even his honesty cost him.  “I fear she is dead. So, if you ever see someone who looks like her, be wary, Oracion.  Do you understand me?  Be wary.  So many things in your castle are not what they appear to be, and many persons in this kingdom want you dead, my precious daughter. My  precious…my  innocent, my much beloved daughter.”

Oracion sorrowed that he was brought to tears once again, sad that now he wept for her, but was also not concerned with the notion that she, as a princess, was the target of many malevolent forces.  If Mother could already be dead, Oracion’s grief  was all consuming.

Also, it was the time of the Priestly Conferences and the Cases, which coexisted with Stag Hunt.  It was early spring.

Oracion had a fear of which she could not let go, that her Noble Beast, due to the unique and genetically rare antler formation upon his head, would get mistaken for a stag and murdered for profit, the priests too busy to notice, or even to care.

She remembered sneaking out to look out the window of her turret bedroom many times during this illness (she had been ordered to stay in bed) watching the hooded prelates below, who scurried busily to and fro, constructing their tents before dawn.  They carried with them stacks of darkly oiled, tightly bound parchment, unscrolling them occasionally to examine undecipherable script, by the light of double trikerion lamps, held aloft on gilded swords.

The bright light from these golden sconces and from the priests multiple campfires, had cast an ominously powerful, pulsating glow, and frightening shadows upon the hunters, transforming ordinary men’s faces as they passed through the hooded prelates.  The hunters appeared to young Oracion then in a form she would later recognize as dichobots.  They were very much like the soldiers they were, but their eyes glazed over with the lure of their own growing, brute animal instinct.

Oracion amused herself then (as a distraction from these cumulative events) by practicing her shape shifting skills, but she had yet to advance from sandpiper, to dove, or even to sparrow.

And each transformation cost her,  much like Father’s dutiful honesty revealed, through his eyes, a heartache of monstrous proportion.  Shifting seemed to exacerbate Oracion’s illness, weakening her own heart further, and triggered it into random, flittering convulsions, which ultimately passed.  But Oracion imagined, in retrospect, this is why Father warned her not to practice warrior skills.  She was still too young.  Disobedient Oracion none the less felt watching the prelates from the secret vantage of being a bird or by cloaking  herself as a mouse, and from the added leverage of height (while remaining tucked up safely upon her own window ledge) was way too entertaining and distracting to resist.

Truly, shifting was the only power she could leverage against hooded prelates, some of whom were even bishops, while gaining a mastery over herself.  It seemed like she was prisoner, not a princess, held hostage in her own castle, which was also becoming a place she barely recognized, and had no permission to gain.

blog image sandpiper

Now, when Oracion in the present traveled through time to visit her Child Self Past, it cost her physically much in the same manner that learning shape shifting had cost her then.  However, she was a master shape shifter who had long since matured from the days of earlier lessons, and when she time traveled from the present to the past, she was sure to take along her fairy godmothers, Velocity, Alacrity and Joy.  Though fairy godmothers were at the same time children, they were companionable and reliable adult guides, especially after Chagrin had transformed herself into Joy.  Oracion knew they would never leave her abandoned should she fall ill in journey,  for if they were anything (child or adult) – they were ever faithful.

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Yet,  she wondered oft why this business of gifting “godmothers” to princesses was more like turning princesses into “mothers”, of loving (but at the same time, precocious) children.  “Who is training up who?” she had often jested with them,  readjusting the woodland wreaths they had merrily woven, then placed half hazard and crooked, upon their own heads.  Admittedly Oracion enjoyed watching their innocent, but wild revels in the wood, and their petal-costumed dance.  But for a wandering villager to unexpectedly come across Oracion’s dancing nymphs, it would have been more unsettling for them than coming across a moonlit, empty grave, in that rarely traveled, wooded byway.

blog image nymph 2


The Sacred Presence knew Oracion loved and trusted in her godmothers, much in the same manner that she had loved and trusted in Father, Noble Beast, or the madonna that now appeared in the wood, who seemed to prefer and therefore reside somewhere in the thicket that at one time had been Father’s pear orchard.

There was a certain, ever untamable aspect about Oracion’s love for these few.  Though there were those she loved with a restrained love, tempered with politeness, nurtured and matured with age, Oracion’s love for her own was a wild and uncontainable thing.  For there was a wild and uncontainable thing to each of them.  Each would give their very life for the other. And the Presence was pleased that Oracion loved in this manner and trusted the fairy godmothers (or shall we call them fairy godchildren) to protect her.

Oracion knew this was true because this was what the madonna had confirmed.

The pear tree copse (by the power of time) had shifted itself as well, into wondrous trunks and strong branches that now grew to magnificent heights, interspersed occasionally with jade green pine, as if with bold, avant -garde, artistic intent.   Oracion and the godmothers would take violet and fern, weaving not wreaths but desiring to cast petals about the madonna’s feet (the godmothers’ idea) while she spoke to them,  in that steady and silent, maternal voice.  The kindly lady would gently submit to this, the Showering of Petals as Joy liked to call it,  so gracious she was, inside and out.  She was even more beautiful than Oracion’s own mother had been, and Mother had been an Etherate.

Oracion noticed that the madonna also wore upon her head a crown of more exquisite gems than Mother had ever worn, and it was interwoven with such unusual flowers (that resembled, in best human understanding, roses) that no earthly wreath could really, quite compare.

Therefore, Oracion’s companions had never bothered to boast or insult with a like gift of their own.

The lady’s fair, soft skin had a luminous quality to it that reminded Oracion of the moon.  Where she stood the beams of light that cascaded, particularly from her hands, sent shimmering translucent rays upon the pears that still fruited here in abundance, as if she was a spiritual chef sugaring them with a mystical, glittering light.

It was funny how much the madonna also reminded Oracion of Gilda, the washer woman, only Gilda seen in a manner by which Mother Nature had never naturally bestowed.  She remembered now she had gone to Gilda for advice as well, in those early days when she had first fled the castle compound, and sometimes Gilda would even sing to her, after her kitchen chores were done, and all the smaller children had been nursed.

But now that the time had come for Father’s Reviewing, the review of his death that is,  Oracion was glad she had come to know the Madonna of the Glistening Wood.  The anguish at facing this next step in her journeying was intense, and she shed so many tears before the woodland queen, so many shape shifter tears in abundance, that there was no need to cast petals, for wood violets arose instantaneously from the earth by the mysterious lady’s feet, wherever Oracion’s tears had fertilized them.

Finally Oracion begged her (for she had not yet this time heard the madonna speak) “Be with me when I go.”

blog image violet petals

It was in this moment that the lady gently moved one of her hands so gracefully that a beam of light shifted, and fell upon Oracion’s face. It startled her and dried her tears with its sudden, perfect, consoling warmth, and drew up the ecstatic fairies high, literally – high. They soared up into the air around the lady in a dance Oracion had never seen them do before, but it was as if it had been borne in their blood of fairies ever since the beginning of time, and they were just now rediscovering it.

The lady then spoke to Oracion.

“My child, you know I have always been with you, since before you sought my Son’s grace through your bedroom turret window.  One day you will remember it all.  Now at least you realize it is you who travel with me (for I take you with me wherever I go) not I who travel with you.  But this has come to pass so that thou shouldst ask for my companionship.”

“I don’t want to see him die,” Oracion confessed.

“Nor did I,” she said.  The lady paused, her face so solemnly beautiful in this moment that Oracion felt tears spring up again, unbidden,  but this time they were for the lady, who was gazing upon her with such perfect love, perfect beauty and perfectly deep sorrow.  Oracion suddenly understood that a creature so lovely, could only experience sadness in an equally meaningful manner .  Within her solemn eyes lay an infinite profundity, like the ironic juxoposition of sky with earth.  There was gravity in those eyes, though not of a fallen nature.

It was the Weight of What she Understood, as it had been the Weight of What Father Understood.

The lady continued.

“But the viewing is part of the warrior lessons he wished you to complete Oracion, for it is only through a father’s death by which all of your kind is born.”  She paused another moment, a moment in which Oracion felt the lady was speaking things directly into her heart, that even the godmother’s couldn’t hear, issuing secrets that Oracion would discover there later, when she needed light for a second illumination.

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Then the madonna assured her:  “Even when you cannot see me, know that I am with you always, for I am inside your soul only to a lesser degree than the Very Presence, which makes up your very heart, very mind, very soul,  and even this very moonlit grove in which we now stand together.”

Oracion liked the way the lady called the Presence the Very Presence.  She like the feel of it to her intellect, as she had liked the feel of Noble Beast’s fur to her hands, the same way as a child she had liked naming Noble Beast, and in contrast, calling the corrupted shape shifters – Opposites.  It felt… True.  Who was this woman who was not her mother but her true mother, all at the same time – as if by adoption –  and who knew so well the language that the Presence used, and that He was so Very?

“Oracion” she added, as if now in turn beseeching. “My Son. They murdered my Son as well, and burned me at the stake, as they continue to burn me at the stake when they burn all women who speak in my name.  Now go.  Your hour is at hand.”

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The Tower Bedroom

Beware then of useless murmuring,
and keep your tongue from slander;
because no secret word is without result,
and a lying mouth destroys the soul.

Wisdom of Solomon

blog image gothic washer woman

Do not fear the Opposite
The dark that steals the dream
Man cannot reverse the flow
Of river, gorge or stream

Song of the Washer Woman

blog gothic washer woman grown up 4

 

When the Presence allowed it, Oracion could travel into the past.

On these nights she often found herself in the upper chamber of the castle turret, looking for Mother and something else she had lost there, a long time ago.

This room had served as Oracion’s bedchamber when she was just a little girl, in the days before Mother was taken.  Oracion had begged Father to let her sleep in the attic, for the moonlight shining through the small window there was beguiling.  Because Oracion was closer to the moon in a turret bedroom, it would cast enchanted lunar reflections and shadows within – all throughout the night – of which Oracion had learned many things. She learned things of which most children were not privy, things of which even most shape shifting children had not been privy.

At least that’s how it had been in those days of old. In modern times the moon drew closer to earth to educate all of the young, as if in compensation for the stars which had been lost, burnt out in their orbits or cast to the ground.

But in days of old, on certain summer evenings, Father would allow Oracion to accompany him through the small trap door and winding turn of stairs that led from her bedroom to the open roof top above, and she relived all of this now. He and daughter would spend long hours in contemplation studying the landscape below from the advantage of height, moonlight and crenellation.

She remembered she hadn’t asked him for much in those days, but whenever she did, Father had not denied her.

And though Mother had not resisted the idea of a tower bedroom, she balked whenever Father took Oracion to the roof. Oracion saw again her face, tinged with a delicate pink, demanding “Whose idea was this?!” It was as if Oracion was a fragile possession not safe in her father’s presence, and would somehow plummet from the castle rooftop to the ground below, in some unforeseen accident or unexplainable turn of events, that Mother would inevitably blame on him.  Mother also suspected that Father was up there teaching Oracion the Art of War.

blog image Oracion in turret

Which he was.

But he was just giving her the Early Lessons, which consisted of maps, animals and flowers, and in particular the types of birds.  He would tell Oracion how the shifters would shape themselves into the humbler varieties – shore bird, sparrow, and turtle dove – to go unnoticed among the enemy.

“I would  want to be a sparrow, or a dove” Oracion had announced, for these creatures had several times landed in her hand for a crumble of scone, and she thought them the most gentle and intelligent of all birds, especially compared to the brutish Jays.

Father had smiled at her then, then would mention, casually, how shape shifters could even shape themselves into bats, and get up into a turret tower, to frighten little girls.  He had teased Oracion relentlessly.

Mother was correct in many things of which she suspected Father, but wrong in so many others, and she grieved for he who had loved Mother from the beginning and therefore had to willingly subject himself to her more worrisome imaginings.

For Mother was one of the Beautiful Ones, an Etherate, who would not become tame in any fashion or sense of the word, whose noble northern heritage would beguile any man, or make anyone love her, just as the moon had inevitably enchanted Oracion in the attic room.

She remembered Mother’s cloud of dark hair (which some said was much like her own) and eyes as blue and twinkling as the clearest spring water, laughing and flowing through a river gorge. She smelled of honeysuckle, baking flour and sometimes a sweet smoky scent that reminded Oracion of fire from an evening hearth.  She graciously swept through the castle in velvet slippers and flowing patterns of rose, gold brocade and lace.  Oracion remembered now that Mother had always been conscious of the dust Oracion’s skirts collected, as Oracion ran laughing and tumbling through heath and heather, but laughed off the dust that collected on her own as if it was just added embroidery, casting a delicate hue.

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And although Mother did not laugh all the time, her moods being most delicate, her laugh was one of the things Oracion now missed the most. It had rung out like a transparent chime up, up through the castle’s chambers, and sometimes when accompanied with lullaby or tale, had lured Oracion warmly to sleep in that bedroom, in which Oracion had dreamt dreams that only protected princesses dream.

Yes, in time travel Oracion missed Mother’s laugh and those days as deeply as that turret bedroom had been high above all river gorges and blistering mountain heights.

The room had been sparsely furnished. 

During her night travels when she returned there invisibly she would find the same small bed beside a rarely lit hearth, fur rugs, rolls of parchment and scattered orange peel, a single crucifix being one of the few adornments against vast stone wall. This was because of Father’s penchant for giving things away.  Oracion had shared the compulsion, and their secret charities were another thing that Oracion feared would drive a wedge between Father and his Etherate Bride, when she was just a little girl.

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Father himself then would laugh –  at such concerns –  the adult ones young Oracion had voiced to him in those days, throwing his head back in amusement at the ancientness of such a tiny soul. She was his verbal dueling and parsing protégée before she reached five, and was only too eager to trade in her words for a sword, so she could become a brave warrior like him.  His dark brown eyes would study her and twinkle at her with a lucidity that surpassed even mother’s blue ones. This suggested to her he possessed secrets so deep and elusive they were like that of the moon’s, and she hoped he would share all of them with her in time, because he could refuse her not.

What Oracion did not realize then was how much of the light that had burned in Father’s eyes was simply the manifestation of the love he felt for her, his daughter. She was truly his Little Ancient Soul, and he often called her this. How bittersweet this made Oracion feel now, recalling what she had taken for granted, or not even noticed, even though she had been ever vigilant, loving both of them with all of her heart, mind and strength, and all of her tiny soul.

blog image young Oracion as soldier

 

“Do not trouble yourself with growing up too quickly, Oracion” he had advised.  “Just think instead of the merriment of the washer woman at the light cast by our candlesticks set upon her table on Feast of Fat Pheasant”.

Oracion would giggle at this, thinking of Fat Pheasant and hopefully, soon to be fat Gilda, the one little boy Gilda had borne who had died,  and all the children whom she had since wet nursed, which could constitute the whole, entire village guard. Father would toss Oracion up upon his shoulders in this moment, still laughing, and Oracion would be laughing too, feeling lighter and safer there than even when they stood on the turret landing, surveying the landscape below.

But perhaps Gilda’s new fortune was why Mother had accused Father of stealing the trikerion lamps from the chapel priest in the first place, the prelate with the dark brown hooding and intelligent but brooding eyes that Oracion respected, but somehow still feared.

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It had been a moonless night, with rain coming down in torrential drifts, when Oracion first heard her parents arguing about trikerion candles. She remembered that night well because Noble Beast had not shown up like he usually did.  Noble Beast showed up whenever it was raining or the moon was obscured by shadow or snow.

Oracion had awakened because of the pounding of rain against glass and her parent’s angry voices from the chambers below, but this did not disturb her as much as the absence of The Creature. She had glanced about the room, half expecting to see Noble come padding silently towards her on his huge, hairy Beast Feet, beseeching her with sad eyes until she allowed him the pleasure of sleeping at her own.

But he had not.

Oracion had not known or cared until now from whence Noble Beast came, because he was yet another one of those things she simply did not question, and took for granted in those days of sweet cherries, moonlit lessons and the smells of sage and dripping candle wax.

Invisible Oracion moved with emotion into the past now and watched as a younger Oracion arose from the bed, not bothering to slipper her feet, seeking instead the creature she loved like a childhood pet to warm them. But he was not really a dog. Noble Beast (which is just what Oracion called him) was very much like an oversized German Shepherd, yet not quite canine, because he had two antlers that emerged from his head in such a fashion that one bent across the other, then twisted down once again to end in a sharp point.  This unique antler formation had reminded Oracion of the small crucifix that graced her wall, but even more it reminded her of the cross banners the brave warriors carried, with the family crest with gold lettering hanging down from one side.

It disturbed her, the drawings she had seen of those crosses and banners broken, littering the ground, golden calligraphy now stained red.

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So child Oracion hurried down stairs of drafty white stone passage, until she reached the rooms below. There she momentarily forgot her quest to find Nobel, because Father’s voice from behind Mother’s bedchamber was filled with something Oracion identified as pain. She was not used to hearing Father like this, and little Oracion crept even closer to the closed door, to listen without being observed.

“Desirous, how can you say this, of what do you speak?” Father was asking Mother.  “Why would I take the special candles from my own chapel passed down to me from my father before me, and his father before him, that which has been consecrated to my Lord?  Of what dark deeds do you accuse?”

“If it was not you than it was Priest” Mother stated with a voice that still sounded angry,  but now determined, and colored with urgency.

“Why worry yourself, even if the old man did?” Father queried. “Do we not feed him enough? Do we not pay him enough, to perform the rites?  If the priest has taken trikerions for dark purpose, the candles will not light, and if he has taken them for good, to bring light to others, then we cannot condemn.”

“We should not tolerate a thief in our house for any reason” Mother insisted, and Father must have come to her then, consolingly, for after a moment of silence his voice grew softer still.  Oracion had to press her ear against the door to hear it.

But what Father said then frightened Oracion to the quick.

“There now, there now, you know the truth, Desirous. The only thieves that can wrongly take things of value are the Dream Snatchers.  And these I will never allow in my house, I promise you.”

Upon hearing this declaration from her father’s lips, a chill had gone down the spine of young Oracion, a chill accompanied by the realization of an evil present, although not yet quite understood.

Though Oracion had not known what these creatures were called before, when she heard “Dream Snatchers” she knew of whom Father spoke.  But Oracion had thought up to this point in time that these evil things, these dream stealing creatures,  were just imaginary, and not a real threat to anyone’s well-being.

And she had been calling them Opposites.

blog image Oracion learning from book

She called them Opposites because when she woke to find them silently prowling about the side of her bed, which she often did –  sinewy, dark, smoky creatures – which were part smoke, part human and part beast,  drooling and smacking their lips grotesquely as if to devour her, they reminded her in an opposite way of her Noble Beast.  She had screamed of course when they first appeared and called out for Mother, who would come to her doorway almost immediately in rescue. When Mother appeared the monsters would disappear quite instantaneously, leaving only a swirling, smoky residue behind, as if they had never been there. Could it be that Dream Snatchers were so frightened by something as pure and beautiful as an Etherate, they could not exist in the same space at the same time?

“Where did they go?” Oracion had asked.

“Where did what go?” Mother would ask.

“Opposites” Oracion would say, her voice still trembling.  She did not really even want to say the word out loud, as if to speak it would hasten their return.

“Silly child,” Mother would say “Opposites are just your imagination.  You don’t see them here now with us, do you?”

No wonder Mother worried about her well-being, child Oracion thought to herself, frozen at her parent’s bedchamber door.

Mother knew the truth of what lurked in Oracion’s bedroom, but perhaps had not wanted to acknowledge their existence so as not to frighten the little girl.  In seconds Oracion’s mind was spinning, grasping at what could really constitute and motivate such vile creatures, and it didn’t take long for the little girl to theorize that they were some form of shape shifter, but with darkness of soul.

If this was true, than Oracion knew what she must do, but it would take the courage of a brave warrior, not just a princess, so the time for her to evolve was now.  She had to see where the monstrous creatures went when they disappeared at Mother’s entrance, next time they invaded her room.  For as long as smoky exhaust still lingered and swirled it suggested Dream Snatchers could not leave castle grounds quickly.  Oracion wondered what they cloaked themselves into next, perhaps a malformed grape vine to climb down and out her window, or a deformed animal –  part pig and part goat – howling in agony at a turret moon, which would be way too bright for their weak and watery eyes to tolerate for long.

But what were they really, and what was their natural form?

 

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Time travel to the past can be such a fascinating but frustrating thing.

For as the Oracion in the present sees the Oracion in the past,  forming this plan to catch Dream Snatchers in action, it is as if suddenly, time starts to speed up. Stone walls start decaying, first solid then crumbling, loose stones tumbling out in random fashion from their sockets, archways fading in and out, then dissolving altogether into translucent, arched tree branches, which in turn are becoming more and more solid over her head, until Oracion can see the morning light of present filtering through.

No, she must stay here in the castle and watch.  She has long since earned her own sword.

The sound of rushing in the ears again and she is back in the past. But as usual, she has lost a segment of time, skipped over it like a section of ink on parchment too wet and blurry to read, and now little Oracion is in her bed being woken by something wet upon her arm. 

Is the window open, and rain coming in?

No, it is Father, holding her in his arms, and the raindrops were not raindrops nor moistened, faded parchment but his tears, which the child had never seen before. The sight of him crying moves child Oracion to such love she calls him “Daddy” this time, instead of the usual Father.  Looking up at him, she also notices what looks like horrible wounds about his neck, as if rows of sharp blades had been pressed into the weather-tanned skin, and at intervals pierced it.

So she lays her small, child hand upon the bruises gently,  as if the touch of it could heal, and asks “Daddy, what’s wrong? What happened?”

Oracion has seen this scene too many times.

It hurts and she does not want to see it again. But she knows she must go even further back into the past to find what she missed, what she has lost, and realize again what she needs to realize.  (Rushing, rushing, the sound of rushing in her ears like a pressure, a frightening wind, driving rain against turret glass, Divine Presence be with me!) and then she is still in the tower bedroom but back to the deleted time frame, when it is not raining at all.  Father is not there either, and instead a hideous Dream Snatcher half crouched, encircles her bed.

“Mother,  come help me, quick!”

The Etherate appears moments later, disheveled in such radiant beauty that perhaps –  if Oracion had been a bit older – she would have suspected her cries interrupted Mother in act of her brother’s conception.

When the beast disappears Oracion waits only until her mother leaves her room as well.

Then she gets out of bed and peeks out from below the open archway that constitutes her bedroom door, just in time to catch a glimpse of the tale end of Mother’s evening cloak, crimson red, sweeping dust as it disappears down the stairs.

Back in her room,  the Dream Snatcher’s residue is still visible, like dusty entrails which one would not wish to inhale.

So over to the window young Oracion rapidly scurries, hoping to watch as the Dream Snatcher flees. This time the moon is quite full, illuminating everything below it, the extended drawbridge and finally the figure that emerges upon it to meet Priest, who has strangely been waiting there all along.

But it is still only Mother, in her crimson red cloak, the figure that emerges from the castle.  Mother’s hood is drawn up around her face like Priest’s brown one, and despite the moon and the brilliancies of color, Oracion marvels at how similar in this night the two hooded figures appear. However, when the priest removes his hood, and Mother in like fashion removes her own, there is no trouble making distinctions between them.

Mother’s face is hideous now, perhaps not even human.  Her face is that of the Dream Snatcher.

She opens her jaws wide as if to devour the wiry little man with long, fierce teeth, but instead slowly leans her gaping mouth close to breathe Oracion’s dreams into the greedy priest’s ear.  After receiving the vapor, he removes what he has brought hidden from beneath his garments, a trikerion lamp, and hands it to Mother, who enfolds it into her own.

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Oracion is so stunned she cannot move or speak, and it is only when she sees Noble Beast come charging swiftly out through the castle gates to attack the Dream Snatcher, and watches horrifying movements of flying fur and teeth too rapid to mentally contemplate, then Noble’s neck being pinioned and tightly clenched in her own mother’s jaws, that Oracion can scream at all.

“No!”

The child’s cry alert the beasts. They pause in one, simultaneous motion to look up at her, and in another instance, are gone.  Both beasts have vanished, and now Priest alone stares up at Oracion with eyes still quite human, but as cold and dead as the stones in her tower bedroom wall.

All that remains of Mother is the swirling, dark smoky residue at his feet.

It takes another moment for Oracion to realize that her hands are clutching the window ledge so tightly that they hurt painfully, until she realizes they are not hands at all anymore, but the tiny feet of a small sandpiper bird. For through the intensity of her emotions she has awoken her first transformation, but has not yet achieved sparrow or dove.

In this moment Oracion is just a ground bird, trapped way up high on a ledge.

blog image sandpiper on ledge

Song of the Washer Woman, Verse II

Do not fear the Opposite
Who dies not out through blood
Though blood is red as roses are
Life forms but through its bud

 

 

Oracion’s Fire

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I saw grief drinking a cup of sorrow and called out:
“It tastes sweet doesn’t it?”
“You have caught me”, grief answered,
“And you’ve ruined my business
How can I sell sorrow, when you know its blessing?”  -RUMI

 

He looked at her with undisguised and unapologetic contempt, but not before she caught sight of another expression that played briefly across his features; an expression not very unlike those that are known to depict fear.

This first, fleeting expression was one of being startled, that which a child’s face might possess when caught with a hand in the cookie jar, or the expression of a robber pulled over with stolen goods in the trunk of a car, or a sodomizing priest – facing a child ignorant of society’s standard of politeness and therefore not afraid to scream.

Yes, in that moment the troubled man looked very startled, as if she were some clever nymph that had emerged out of the woods with the purposeful intent to cast her spells upon him, or shed what was referred to in days of old  – as Oracion’s Fire.

This was just before the priest’s expression hardened into one of cold, impenetrable hatred.

It was in the preceding startled expression that the cleric revealed he knew not where to run and hide from such a deluge, and feared should he actually have to come in contact with the tears of the blessed – his skin would become instantaneously charred.

Did the mysterious nymph not know (in her innocence) he had no choice but to attack her then, for if her burning tears did not literally kill him, they would imprint upon him forever the evidence of his own guilt?

No, she had not known, but in retrospect, when thinking about that startled expression he bore her, Oracion knew that was when the wicked priest first devised his plan.  It was a plan to bear false witness against her, dispatch her… and started calculating the attempted murder of her soul.