Prelude IV

(The three previous stories now have their own page, ‘Prelude’ just up there on the header)

-oOo-

I must admit, after the events of the previous week I approached my third Journey with a small degree of trepidation, and wondering just how vast an undertaking this was all going to be.

In the Gap Between the Worlds a whirlpool of misty vapor came into being in front of my feet. Tiny eddies of energy at the edges swept inexorably around counter-clockwise surging faster and faster toward the center and disappearing down to who-knows-where. I studied it intently, looking for clues as to what this might mean. I was pulled down into it with a force that took my breath away. Before I could gasp my breath back into my lungs, I was standing at a place where the sea meets the sand looking out across gently breaking waves.

Some years prior, Ocean and I had come to a mutually agreed upon covenant which did not include me going swimming in Her, even if it was in another Realm of Awareness.

I glanced behind me. Nothing there. Literally nothing. I sighed, perhaps a little fatalistically, and said to the wavelets, “Well then, I’d just have to go forward, won’t I?”

The wet sand squeaked as I walked into the water. It rose higher and higher around my body and the receding tidal surge pulled the sand out from under my feet. Soon the water lapped at my chin. Panic brought tears to my eyes. I tilted my head back and held my breath, trying to find the strength to trust the choice I made only days ago.

I can do this, I told myself. I can let the water close over the top of my head.

My breath was now stuck somewhere between my lungs and the back of my throat. An unearthly howl of terror rippled across the water. It took me a moment to realize that it was me. I was drowning.

A part of my awareness, far off in the distance asked, “What is it about water that brings this terror up?” But no answer was forthcoming. I had to do a lot more Work before I would be ready to face the answer to that question.

Also, I didn’t drown. Which was a great relief.

The water simply became a substance like air, albeit denser than air, that I could pass through. I took in a few steadying breaths and descended to the ocean floor where a scattering of coral outcroppings floated among the mercurial beams of light that danced across the sandy floor.

I could get used to this. I smiled as I walked toward a small crevasse that caught my attention. The closer I got the bigger it got, or the smaller I became, it was hard to tell. I passed through some sort of portal in the crevasse and entered a completely different ocean. One with a living pulsing entity. I hung, suspended, with nothing to see except the blue-green water.

Suddenly my ‘walking through water like it was air’ wasn’t working anymore. I struggled and thrashed about until I created enough bubbles to show me which way was up. I took off for the surface as though my life depended on it.

My lungs filled with water. Seawater tastes disgusting when you’re drowning. Eventually I broke through the surface and thrashed around some more, trying really hard not to sink. I spun this way and that desperate to find something to hang on to, to keep me above the water.

Then I became aware of Her.

A presence, encompassing all the waters of the world. Lakes and streams, rivers and oceans, and even tiny puddles on the side of a road. She held me in Her immense watery arms, and murmured over and over again, “You will not drown. I am holding you.”

It was my personal experience, starting right back in my childhood, that no-one was capable of that kind of holding.

I stopped struggling though, and tried to accept that I wouldn’t drown. That I would be able to rest in the depths of the passionate love She offered.

In a voice that washed around me like a caress, She asked, “Do you trust Me?”

I broke out in a cold sweat, which is really a neat trick with most of me submerged. My heart pounded so hard in my chest that I wondered if it would shatter my ribs.

“Do you trust me?” She said again.

I could say that, yes, I did trust Her, but we’d both know that wasn’t true. So, how was I supposed to tell an entity of Ocean’s eminence that, really, I didn’t trust Her?

I had to answer, that much I did know. It was part of the agreement I made when I chose to do this Work.

I struggled to hold myself still, to relax my body, both physical and psychic, so that I could face my fear and be able to answer Her truthfully.

“No,” My voice cracked and the words seemed to come from very far away. “I don’t trust You.” 

My heart slowed down and I said again, this time clearly, with ownership, “No, I don’t trust you.” I braced myself for the end of the Universe or something equally catastrophic. Or at the very least, my own demise.

My choice was simply accepted, not judged, nor reacted upon, simply accepted. I had been challenged to find the courage to risk an unwelcome answer, to be true to myself. I was cradled and rocked on Ocean’s gentle breast, accepting acceptance.

-oOo-

When I was a child we lived in a shack built of sturdy bush timber and old corrugated iron next to a small gully with a creek at the bottom of it. We carried our water up from the creek by hand and emptied each bucket into a trio forty-four gallon drums.

I loved that creek. I loved it’s earthy, lush smell. I loved all the unknown creatures that wiggled, slithered, and flapped just beyond my line of vision either along its banks or down in the, sometimes still, sometimes burbling along, green waters.

Our main swimming hole was formed by a natural rock dam that headed the first ever waterfall I saw, all of about a meter high, but seeing as I wasn’t much taller than that it impressed me none-the-less. Through all the floods that came and went that swimming hole never silted up, and I dog-paddled around in it to my hearts content because I knew that no matter where I was, my feet could always touch the bottom and I was safe.

The first time I saw the Pacific Ocean I was about ten years old. Up until then my horizons had always been limited by trees and garden plots, houses, and the clutter of human things. I looked across the waves and felt completely lost. I was very young but I felt such an adult fear. It was something I had no words for, and so I filed it away in my silent place inside, with all the other knowledge and fears that I had no words for, that grown-ups wouldn’t understand or believe.

When I was in my mid-twenties a group of my friends and I traveled north to a Women’s Music Festival at Lismore on the North Coast of New South Wales. Afterwards we headed to the ocean and camped for a few days with some other women from the festival. The ocean called to me like a Siren, an irresistible pull, and wasn’t I an adult now? Not a child with childish fears?

The others were in the water already, confidently swimming out to catch the crest of the waves and body-surf them in to the shore. It looked all pretty easy, so I plunged in and swam out beyond the surf. Floating in the swell I battled with the lump of fear in my throat which was conducting an on-going dialogue with my rational brain, that went something like this: “The tide is turning, I will be dragged out to sea, the positive buoyancy that women are supposed to have because of the extra layer of fat is a lie, and I will probably just paddle around like that silly woman in that silly Sixties song ‘Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weeny Yellow Polka Dot Bikini’, (not that I was wearing anything … which probably contributed to the … hmm, getting ahead of myself hereget waterlogged, and sink anyway.” 

After a while it became obvious that none of the above scenarios were about to unfold, except the one about the tide turning, so I decided it was okay to relax and enjoy myself, and try body-surfing.

The very first wave I caught was perfect all the way in, until a few meters from the beach where there was a pit of gravel dug out by the undertow from that pesky turning tide. I ended up back on the beach all right, but half-drowned from having swallowed a generous portion of the Pacific Ocean, and the ungrateful recipient of a gravel rash from my chin to my knees.

It was then and there, as various soothing unguents were being applied to my body, that Ocean and I made our agreement. I would be able to travel over Her, walk beside Her, even paddle and splash about and make sandcastles at Her edge, but I would never go any deeper into Her than what I could stand up in, and She wouldn’t drown me!

Quite fair, I thought.

-oOo-

You just knew I was going to post this video …

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Prelude III

Read Prelude I HERE, and Prelude II HERE.

-oOo-

I’m having fun recounting these adventures, and there a whole bunch more to the story, so what I think I’ll do is after I post each one here on my main page I’ll then copy them onto their very own page so they can be read in sequence, for them’s wot ‘ave missed the previous ones.

Since I posted the first ‘Prelude’ I’ve had a few comments both here and elsewhere about the nature of these meditations, which are quite a bit different from your average meditation, where we are able to calm all the noise in our minds so we can relax, and then, feeling refreshed, we go back to our lives.

This, isn’t that.

I stated previously why I didn’t go into any detail about how I entered into the trance state, but, in the interests of clarity, I’ll expanded a little on how I go about it.

First up, what I didn’t (and don’t) use:  Consciousness altering substances … of which there are many, and many Traditions around the world do use them.

I discovered very early on in my adult life, long before I started this Spirit Path, that although ingesting consciousness altering substances, alcohol, marijuana, various opium derivatives, chemicals, and fungi, did indeed alter my perceptions, I never felt like I was ‘getting in touch with the real me’. Instead I felt like I was me-through-rose-colored-glasses. (mind you, the music associated with such states continues to capture my imagination like nothing elseI’ve added a one of the best of them at the end of this post. Have a listen and you’ll see what I mean)

I sit in a chair rather than laying down so I’m not tempted to fall asleep before the fun bits. Also, falling asleep during this work can be … troublesome. Other realms of existence open and the rabbit holes you can fall into are not for the faint-of-heart. In fact they’re downright dangerous.

I use visualization to relax my body, center my mind, do a bit of ‘housekeeping’ – sending healing energy to any bits of my body (usually my knees) that need it, give the old power centers (‘chakras’ in some Traditions) a bit of a vacuum and polish, and generally make sure what I leave behind, my physical body, is taken care of. (When I’m teaching, this visualization is spoken, or guided, by me, but it’s second nature now because I’ve been doing this for so long so I slip into it without a great deal of effort)

I usually set my destination (one or more of the Realms in that bag of marbles I talked about in Prelude I, of which there are as many as there are motes of star-dust in the universe) and the work I want to do ahead of time, then I head out.

Basically, beyond all the trappings, a Shaman’s work is to Journey into other Realms of Awareness and bring back that which is useful here in this one.

-oOo-

I had a week to think about my first adventure. I felt like I’d traveled through a movie. Who knew it could be this exciting? The sensual  technicolor images, exploring unknown places, mythological images becoming manifest. As for Bast’s warning, it lost its impact with each day that passed. Nothing really horrible happened to me the last time. Not really. I was eager for a repeat experience. I wanted it all. To soak it up like a desiccated seed absorbing an ocean. I could hardly wait.

“I don’t know,” came a doubtful whisper.

“Oh, pish-posh,” I replied. “On with the show.”

The old tree flowed into existence in front of me, but my ebony ball was nowhere to be found. I visualized it as hard as I could, to no avail. For a moment I was too stunned to react, a frisson of panic rippled up from the pit of my stomach, but my journey continued to unfold around me, so off I went, ready or not.

I was flying through the star-lit sky at the speed of thought, heading towards the planet Neptune where I was supposed to experience unconditional love. On Neptune? And where I was to meet Venus, the Goddess that is, not the planet.

My throat constricted, and my eyes filed with tears of pain, of loss, of a grief too terrible to comprehend. I was going so fast that the starlight stretched until it looked like time-lapse video of car headlights at night.

Then the space around me began to harden until I couldn’t even move, even to breathe, bound in a coffin of rock, pushing at me, in me, a part of me, becoming me.

My chest caved in and my heart collapsed, crushed by the weight of that terrifying grief. In some strangely separate part of my mind I wondered if all the grief I had ever experienced in my life was somehow coming back to haunt me? Had all the ghosts I tried to outrun on my motorbike finally caught up with me?

Another thought swiftly replaced it. What if this grief isn’t actually mine? What if I had somehow unwittingly tapped into the rivers and oceans of grief that humans have been crying since we began inhabiting this planet? And I wondered, what would the weight of that do to me?

Another part of my brain screamed at me to open my eyes and everything would be normal. The crushing weight would disappear and the waves of grief would recede and return from whence they came, but I couldn’t open them, my physical body was too heavy.

I grew heavier and heavier, still unable to move, bearing it until I broke, until my bones and muscles and organs were crushed to pulp. Until the floor beneath me gave way under the strain. The floorboards splintered under the enormous weight and I fell straight through the floor beneath and down, down into the ground, where I knew, beyond a doubt, I would die.

Then, between one moment and another I was back in the room. It hadn’t collapsed, nor had I been crushed out of existence, but that grief, the unutterable weight of anguish, returned with me. I broke into great heart-wracking sobs, frightened to the depths of my being

Later that night I watched the news on television, as it relayed images of a great tragedy unfurling on the other side of the world, where people were already dying. My breath caught in my throat and I felt as though I were suffocating. I walked to a nearby park near where I lived and stood under the naked stars.

I whispered into the gaping wound inside me that wouldn’t close, “Why is this happening to me?

A voice that was neither inside my head nor somewhere out there beyond the furthest star, perhaps Bast, spoke to me. “So you will learn the First Lesson.” There was so much Power in that sentence I could almost hear the capital letters.

First Lesson. I pondered the words. First Lesson. What the hell did that mean? No-one answered.  The words rattled around inside my head keeping me awake for hours.

Eventually, at some point during that sleepless night I figured a couple of things out. If, I chose to continue this work (and at this point it certainly wasn’t a given) I would be expanding my awareness of my surroundings and what constituted my reality, and I needed to be able to discern what was meant for me and what I was picking up from ‘out there’ that wasn’t meant for me. I was essentially bearing witness, nothing more.

Another even bigger ‘if’ was that if these Realms were as real as the physical one I’d inhabited for all my life, as real as the walls of my house, and the trees and asphalt pavement of my street, then perhaps I could’ve quite literally died under that crushing weight.

I’d been given a (relatively) painless glimpse into the true size and potential of the Path I’d innocently stepped upon.

It was a hard decision, but in the end I trusted what I’d learned from my motorbike accident, knowing that I must accept every challenge that came my way. Hard or easy, pleasurable or painful, to willingly go where the Journey took me. To trust that I would be cared for … until I’d learned what I needed to know in order to survive on my own.

I had no idea of what I was actually agreeing to.

-oOo-

The best song about altered states of consciousness ever …

 (did you see the date stamp on that video? Woodstock was 49 years ago! … sheesh!)

 

And because it’s awesome-sauce, just Grace and her voice …

 

Prelude II

Read Prelude (the first bit) HERE

… the story so far … Childhood of major suckitude … searching for spiritual meaning … my first encounter with meditation … end up in front of an ancient tree … and away we go …

-oOo-

I took a moment to assess my situation. The Morton Bay fig tree was real and I was really standing next to it.

OK then.

A large almost weightless ebony ball appeared in my hands.

Surely not a crystal ball, some irreverent part of my mind commented, but as I looked vague shapes shimmered and flared inside it and I knew what they represented.

The remnants of my stress at running late looked like a mini lightning strike. An odd-looking jiggly thing off to one side was the tough week I’d had at work. Another shape was my University workload. Another one was my relationship, it wasn’t going well. My health, finances, all the aspects of my everyday life captured in miniature.

The tree was a kind of way-station on my Journey between the physical world and whatever lay ahead. I couldn’t take all my mental dross with me, so this was the perfect place to leave it, to be collected on my way back if I so chose. I gently lodged my ebony ball in a comfortable little nook between two branches, and feeling much lighter, took a deep breath.

My perception shifted and I looked down on a sea of long rolling sand dunes in shades of yellows and browns stretching out in all directions. No trees, grasses, or visible life anywhere. The air around me smelled crisp cold, with a dry bite, not at all what I expected. I glided on soft silent wings across the sky, flying from horizon to endless horizon.

My flight seemed to last forever but eventually the desert ended at the edge of an ocean and plunged abruptly into the green depths beyond the gentle tidal surge. The sea, too, extended in an hypnotic rolling swell as far as I could see.

I landed at the edge of the sand and faced the sea, folded my wings back from whence they came, and waited. Not much else I could do, really.

A wooden rowboat aged by wind and tide gently beached itself. I got in and off we went, across the sea to the opposite shore, which looked exactly the same as the one I’d just left. Sand dunes rising out of the water and then more sand dunes, beyond sand dunes, beyond sand dunes. I left the boat, unfurled my wings and soared onward to my final destination.

An oddly shaped building appeared at the edge of the horizon, becoming larger and larger as I drew close.

By now I was starting to feel, not exactly tired, but edgy, as though the part of me that firmly believed in three dimensions and all the familiarity and safety they entailed, was having a bit of a terse conversation with the part of me that accepted all I was experiencing here, as real too.

I drew closer to the building. Long sweeping planes and cunning tight corners flowed into curves rather than angles and took on a very specific shape. The seven storey high building was a statue of a very elegant looking Siamese cat with her front feet tucked together and her tail draped neatly over the tops of them.

Well, color me gobsmacked! My internal discussion shut down without a whimper.

“Of course it’s a giant Siamese cat,” I said. “What else would it be?” I really hoped I wouldn’t hear an answer because I was starting to feel a little punchy at this point.

As I softly landed in front of the building that towered above me like an overhanging cliff a doorway opened up in one of the giant toes. With a kind of fatalistic acceptance I stepped through. The opening wasn’t very wide, but the scale of the temple was so massive that just one toe left me with ample headroom.

The opening closed behind me without a sound, leaving me in utter darkness. Not just your ordinary darkness either, where you know the sun is out there on the other side of the planet, just out of sight for a while. This was a complete absence of even the concept of light.

My internal voices really had something to discuss now. Mostly about whether I should feel an ordinary garden-variety existential fear, or outright unadulterated imminent-annihilation terror.

I didn’t know which way was up, which way was down. I didn’t know where to go, or what to do next. I had willingly entered a place I had no frame of reference for, that was completely beyond the constraints of any time or measurements of distance that I knew of. Where magic was happening all around me, and dreams, possibly nightmares, came true.

I spent endless moments in that unutterable blackness before I realized I was still standing upright. Therefore, it followed that I had to be standing on something. My rational mind was so pleased to have some sort of reality to hang on to it relinquished its terrified death-grip on my throat and I could breathe again.

Breath meant movement and with movement came light. As I walked, a faint glow bright enough to see by emanated from the walls and faded back into blackness as I passed. The walls themselves were carved in long serrated grooves as though something with very big claws had scratched it out of the bedrock.

My eyes adjusted to the dimness so that when I reached the end of the tunnel, the circular room beyond seemed like it was bathed in brilliant white light. It was a perfect hemisphere nestled between the two front feet of the giant statue. I looked around but the only thing that I could make any sense of at all were a series of deep gashes carved into the walls in a herringbone pattern.

I reached out and touched them, they weren’t rock anymore, they were made out of clay, and I knew they represented a telling of my entire life. My past, present, and my unknown future. In some places the clay was still damp and in others it was so old and dry that I was afraid it would crumble if I even breathed on it. I understood the clay was made out of the blood of the earth, the first Mother of us all.

I knew if I could translate the pattern I would be able to see the course of my life from its beginning to its end, and beyond. The enormity of such knowledge set my hands shaking and I felt cold, ice cold.

A pair of french doors appeared right in the middle of the solid clay wall. They looked as though they’d always been there. Perhaps they had, and I could only see them when I needed to. They led out into a small courtyard, with beautiful green growing things and hidden somewhere just out of sight, the sound of water flowing, like a fountain.

Suddenly I was warm again. I walked through the lush tropical greenery with tears in my eyes.

This potency, this beauty of my ‘interior’ or ‘spirit’ world had always been here and I’d never been able to access it until now. I laughed and cried. I felt sad for all that I’d missed, and elated for all I might find, all at the same time. I wanted to go further, beyond the garden, beyond the sand dunes, to explore just how far this wondrous paradise extended, to venture into who-knows-how-many other magnificent Realms. I wanted it all in one big hit. I wanted . . . I wanted . . .

A lifetime’s hunger condensed around me into this one impeccable moment. I hurried to the edge of the garden and bumped into something large and immovable. I looked up, and up, and up.

Her name, she said, was Bast. She cocked her head slightly to one side and glared fiercely down her whiskers at me. She held one gigantic, yet perfectly proportioned paw, just above my head, poised to stamp me out of existence.

“I want to fly,” I shouted at her with my arms outflung. “Give me back my wings.”

Bast laughed. Her belly shook with her mirth. “I will catch you and eat you. You will not survive.”

I glanced at a tiny butterfly innocently sipping nectar in the garden, and I thought I might be able to fly out as a very small and insignificant butterfly so no-one or no-thing would notice me, and I’d be OK.

“No,” Bast said. “I will squash you.” Her paw quivered just above my scalp. “You are not ready, and you will not survive.”

She seemed so very sure of herself and, seeing as how she was a whole lot bigger than me, I conceded her the point.

As I returned to the garden, and thence to my physical body, sitting in a chair in a small room in an old suburb of a ocean-side city, exhaustion swept over me like a tidal wave. Moving, standing up, breathing, took all of my energy.

Obviously, there were things I had to learn before I could go exploring any further, so I was content to wait, (at least until the following week) to understand how and what I would need to survive.

I was so excited though. Here was a place, a Realm, that could take me as far as I was wiling to go. I felt invincible.

-oOo-

Prelude

2018 decided to show me who’s boss  … first we had another ice storm, thankfully not as severe as the last one, the power only went out for a couple of hours and no more branches were lost from the Winter Tree, or trees in our neighbourhood. There has been unfortunately, a tremendous amount of branch trimming and tree lopping as people began to clean up the storm damage. And … I’m now recovering from five migraines in six days. Not just your planet-buster migraines, these were galaxy-busters. Thank you 2018!

On with the post I was going to write before the above mentioned galactic destruction was let loose inside my cranium.

-oOo-

Ever notice how things come in waves?…

… you find that pair of wrist braces in a backpack that hasn’t been used for years …
… that jar that fell behind the fridge (that you couldn’t be bothered to move the fridge out to get) suddenly appears on top of the dishwasher …
… and a sock finally reappears out of the washing machine of life, (just like that bee ) that’s been M.I.A. since midsummer …

… All within the space of 24 hours?

 I call it Murphy’s Law of Attraction, (a variation of the original which says that anything that CAN happen WILL happen) which goes something like this: If one thing decides to screw with you then many things will decide to screw with you in order to keep it company and ruin your day/week/month/year …

… which is apropos of nothing to do with this post, apart from having been asked by a few people of late, both online and off, about that one little phrase in my ‘About Me’ page, that goes like this, ‘… I’m a shaman…’

-oOo-

It all began a few decades ago… in a Galaxy Far, Fa … erm … in a country on the other side of the Pacific Ocean

I was running late. (still do, and with monotonous regularity) I missed my bus connection and speed-walked for six blocks, thankfully most of them downhill, and found the room in the building where I needed to be. All the other women in the room were seated and, apart making quiet eye contact with whomsoever they knew, seemed to be firmly in this physical reality.

My embarrassment that I might be too late and interrupt all sorts of otherworldly goings-ons vanished. I sat down on the only empty chair left and prepared to embark upon the unknowable. I breathed a few deep breaths and closed my eyes. The lights dimmed and my first Journey began.

(I’m not going to go into the mechanics of shifting into a trance state. There are so many different styles and the experience is ultimately unique to each person.)

I was sitting inside my head, metaphorically twiddling my thumbs and wondering if anything out of the ordinary would happen at all, when betwixt one moment and the next, my sense of what was real expanded beyond any understanding I had a context for and catapulted me into somewhere else where anything, quite literally anything, could happen.

My body, from my neck to my thighs stretched and grew longer, like I was made of rubber. I could have reached up and touched the ceiling above me without any effort at all. I had never experienced a physical sensation like this ever before, but for some strange reason I wasn’t scared. Disconcerted? Certainly. Who wouldn’t be? But not scared. My fear had been suspended by something, someone perhaps, for unknown reasons, so, because I didn’t have any other experiences to judge it against, I simply accepted the phenomenon as something that was supposed to happen in a meditative state.

My awareness of the strange physical sensations in my body evaporated and I was … elsewhere.

If all the realms beyond this mortal physical one were like marbles in a bag, I had manifested somewhere in the spaces between the marbles. Out of the nothingness of this Gap Between the Worlds, roots swirled into being in front of me like gnarled fingers and flowed smoothly into the trunk of a tree. Magnificent branches spread out from the trunk into a massive umbrella of grey-green branches. It was a huge Moreton Bay fig tree

I reached out and gently brushed my fingers along the bark. Its roughness caressed the edges of my fingertips. Awe took my breath away as realized I was in the presence of such a potent physical response in another realm of Awareness, while I was also sitting in an ordinary room with my eyes closed, and yet, this felt right, like I had been waiting all my life for it to happen.

A retrospective digression . . .

Small country towns and rural backwoods often produce offspring with itchy feet and restless minds. This Journey of mine started in a tin shack on the bank of a creek in the harsh untidy Australian bush.

All through my childhood and young adulthood life I lived through a variety of mundane and oh-so not-so mundane abuses. As I grew through the first decade of my life, and became aware of the wild bushland that was my backyard, I sensed a deep awareness of something that seemed to be sleeping, waiting for me to grow to adulthood when I would be able to understand it. In my childish innocence I simply felt ‘safe’ out there. There wasn’t much in my childhood world indoors that was safe, and I escaped outside to the bush as often as I could.

I never really liked school. I always wanted to know the layers of ‘why’, about everything, and to see beyond the horizon, and all that going to school did was to keep my nose firmly buried in books of rote material, and exams. So, I left school as soon as I was legally able to, (14) and got a job. Not a very fancy one mind you, but I earned enough to live, just. I lost that job and found another. I learned how to survive. I lied about my age and got a better job with better pay.

All the time, searching for that next horizon.

The townships around where I grew up were quite famous for their early colonial architecture, particularly the churches. In my teens I began investigating these monolithic sandstone manifestations of religion to see if they could answer my rebelliously agonizing questions of Life, Sexuality, the Universe, and Everything.

I found them all wanting. I never believed their story. For awhile though, in a sort of a spiritual desperation, seeing as it was the only form of spirituality around me at the time, I tried to believe their dogma, but I rebelled at the blatant separatism (among many, many ‘isms’), that each belief system or creed taught. (I had the ridiculous experience of one of these religions offering to ‘cure’ me because I was a lesbian)

I didn’t fit their model and they certainly didn’t fit me.

In spite of a childhood of adult imposed terrors, the agonies of adolescence where I knew I was different and fearing I was the only one in the whole wide world, and the longings of young adulthood, I knew beyond any doubt that there was something waiting for me out there. Something that was magical and wonderful, and once I found it I would never be the same, ever again. Until I found it, or it found me, I was content to just drift along the line of my life, trying all sorts of new experiences. Experimenting with love and lust, consciousness altering substances, political movements, and the philosophical paradoxes of the adult world.

All that changed the day I discovered a sport that set my heart on fire! I felt like I KNEW what I was waiting for at last. I mapped out my path with a dedication and self-discipline that brought a tear to the eye of the most cynical of my friends at the time. I planned to progress through the amateur rankings, then play professionally, and then become the best in the world. I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that this was my destiny. I declared my every, well almost every, waking moment to that goal.

(The trophies from that era are long gone, but I still have the memories safely tucked away, to be taken out now and then and looked upon fondly)

I was in my early twenties and I rode a motorbike. It was cheap to run, because I couldn’t afford the luxury of a car when every cent I earned seemed to disappear into training for my dream. I felt such freedom, and strangely enough, a sense of safety when I was riding my bike. It seemed that none of the ghosts of my past could ever catch me.

Have you ever gone to a lookout at night that overlooks a city? All those beautiful fairy lights, innocent in the distance. In summer the air carried the scent of flowers and freshly mown grass, and in the winter, wood fires cast lazy tendrils of aromatic smoke through the chilly air.

I would ride out in the early hours of the morning when the country roads were empty of human life but so full of the energy of the night. I traveled along backroads and highways that flowed like rivers of pure moonlight. They wound across endless dark plains, up through mountain clefts, and over high peaks and mountain passes.

Early one night I was idling my way home through a rugged terrain of gorges and steep twisted roads when suddenly all I could see in front of me was the glare of headlights. I was smashed off my motorbike and my dream of athletic stardom ended in a trail of broken bits of plastic and machinery from my bike, and a butchered knee. It was 7.30pm on the 5th of April 1983. As it turned out, a time and date to remember. (but that’s another story for another time 🙂 )

I would never be physically able to ride a motorbike again. (without it being severely modified) My time as a ‘biker’ was done. I never regretted a single moment of my time riding one, and I know for certain that if I had been in a car the night of that accident I surely would have died. The bike allowed me time and the agility to maneuver enough to save my life.

As a treatment for relieving pain in broken bodies, morphine is magnificent. During the 5 weeks and 1 day I was in hospital, Sister Morphine and her less (relatively) intense siblings, numbed my emotional turmoil and physical pain to a level that allowed me time and space to reconcile myself to the undeniable fact that I would always, and only, have one-and-a-half knees.

I remember lying in that hospital bed with my leg swathed in bandages from my ankle to my thigh, knowing that I had come within millimeters of not being alive at all, knowing how bad the damage was, and wondering if I would have a leg to stand on at all. In one simple rush of thought, like the swelling of an unstoppable tide, I relinquished all my dreams, hopes and fantasies. I was back at the beginning of my searching again, almost.

Of course this epiphany happened only at an intellectual level. It took a little longer for this information to percolate through to my other levels of Awareness, and a lot longer for me to accept it. For many years, in my dreams I would always have two good knees. I would wake up and start to get out of bed like I used to, and either hurt myself terribly or catch myself just in the nick of time from falling flat on my face. Either way, getting out of bed was not my favorite activity of the day. To finally appear in my dreams with my damaged knee was, in a strange kind of a way, a relief.

Anyway, back to the hospital. With my emotional responses thus temporarily suspended, I was intellectually able to find some of my answers to the big WHY?

I would never be that world famous athlete, but I would be able to walk upright, eventually, with a limp, and the rest of my body functioned as it should. 

I realized I had been given the gift of experiencing the passion of Knowing, of understanding at a very deep level in my Spirit, what being on a Life-path felt like. I just hadn’t picked the right one yet! That seemed simple enough. All I had to do was find out what my path truly was, (fully aware of the irony of the statement) but I KNEW that all I had to do was keep looking. And so I did.

I left the small town behind and moved to Sydney (Australia) and found out lots of things about how to survive in the Big Smoke.

 Moving from the country to the city also kick-started my political education as a woman in a capitalist patriarchal society. I got scared, I got angry, I got radical, I got even. I got laid, I got into collectives and consensus, I got into women’s peace camps and anti-nuclear protest rallys. I got into performing, I even got to play guitar in Sydney Town Hall on International Women’s day! I read the worlds of Mary Daly, Kate Millett, Diane Stein, Starhawk, Monica Sjoo, Dale Spender, Vicki Noble, and many, many others. My head spun. I found in those books, and living that life, the answers to so many of my questions, but not all. I’d found my key to what I was supposed to be doing, but where, oh where, was the door?

I was deep in the painful end of a relationship. I had just begun to study at University. Architecture if you please! If there is a more secular bastion of intellectual patriarchal endeavor, I’ve yet to come across it, but for a high-school drop-out simply getting into University was a great achievement. In the midst of these not insignificant events, I heard about a meditation group that I thought might help me find at least some balance in my chaotic life that also might give me some clue as to what and where that door was.

Little did I know, that very first evening, when I found my door, it would swing wide open without hesitation and welcome me into its Mysteries. Although, with hindsight, it felt like it sucked me in, shredded me, and spat me back out, remade and ready to begin again.

-oOo-

… but what happened after the Moreton Bay fig tree, I hear you ask? … Well, that’s for the next chapter.

-0O0-

For those who wondered why I capitalized Sister Morphine, here’s a blast from the past.

‘Identical’ Season 2, Episode 4 – A Sequence of Events. The Sum of all Parts

You can read all the previous episodes HERE, or from the ‘IDENTICAL’ page above, or select ‘Identical’ from the ‘Categories’ widget over there to the right. (they’re in the order I posted them so for the story to make sense you’ll have to start with the first entry at the bottom of the page)

***

What Has Gone Before:

In the Nicola Valley, British Columbia, Ciska, a ‘pentiment switcher’, Meg, who is from another pentiment, (a parallel reality) and Tamsin, a cop, gather to discuss what to do about the pentiments colliding.

Jane, a shadowy figure from Ciska’s past, and Silv, her tattooed minion crash the party, only to be interrupted by Mary Connelly, whose long held suspicions about Jane Lightsmith force her to act.

***   ***

All the players are in town, but the rules don’t make sense. Just exactly what is going on

S2 Ep4 - Final Cover Art

A Sequence of Events:

Mary … stepped further into the room and thumbed the safety off the device aimed squarely at Jane Lightsmith’s heart. If she had one.

Whatever Jane intended to do, and Mary knew it wasn’t a social call, Jane would need to make a quick exit. Mary’s device would neutralize her most obvious choice, to switch to another pentiment.

***

Tamsin … stared at Mary, momentarily stunned that she’d magically appeared at Ciska’s command, but like a true professional she focused on the strange object in Mary’s hand.

She lunged out of her chair and grappled with the weapon aimed at her mother who, for all their disagreements, she’d give her life to protect.

***

Jane Lightsmith …. recognized Mary’s device and knew she’d picked the right armor to wear. I’ll switch if and when I damn-well please, and no washed-up mis-bred reject is going to stop me with one of my own inventions.

Jane learned very early on never to travel unprepared or unarmed and always have a ‘plan B’.

She kicked Silv’s chair hard enough to propel her toward Mary, betting the distraction would give her time to activate the sound wave generator strapped under her armor.

***

Ciska … recognized the device from her sketches of a wave nullifier she’d tinkered with a few pentiments back. She wished her ‘sideways-seeing’ability focused a teensiest bit more on the details than the usual wide-screen ‘big picture’. She would’ve known about the device sooner, not when it was too late to do anything except duck and run for cover.

While Mary held everyone’s attention Ciska grabbed Meg’s arm and dragged them both down below table level. It offered little enough protection, but at least they were momentarily out of sight.

***

Silv … groaned, inward, where no-one would hear. The room held so much tension that despite or perhaps because of the buzz from her last toke, she felt as though a horde of spiders were trying to claw their way inside her skin.

Tamsin … dove across the edge of the kitchen table and tackled a woman Silv hardly recognized. She knew who it was of course, they saw each other almost every day at the cafe. Here in Meg’s house, Mary seemed to be surrounded by sharp-edged shards of light. Silv felt fairly sure she was tripping. Her teeth snapped together as something hit the back of her chair and kicked her into the mêlée.

***

Meg … landed on the floor with a thud and gasped for breath as Ciska fell on top of her. A blinding white light bounced off the back of her eyeballs. Ciska slid off her as sounds of fighting filtered into her seared brain.

***

Mary … saw Tamsin lunge at her from one direction just as Silv staggered against her from another. Her thumb jolted off the safety switch of the nullifier, and nudged another switch, a far more deadlier one, on.

Oh dear. I didn’t want to hurt anyone, I just wanted to give Ciska a fighting chance, and now no-one is going to get what they wanted.

The device ignited.

***

Tamsin … grabbed the weapon in Mary’s hands and forced them up into the air. For a moment their eyes met and she wondered why Mary looked so sad.

A blinding force of energy snapped through her like a barbed-wire whiplash.

***

Jane … raised her arm to shield her eyes from the silent blast of light. Someone snatched at ankles and dragged her from her chair. She kicked out, heard a satisfyingly pained expletive, and rolled toward a more strategic location. So much for electro-tech. Let’s try the old fashioned chemical kind.

 ***

Silv … screamed and danced around as though she were on fire. She burned all over. Her eyes stung. She breathed fire. She had to get away.

Suddenly everything went quiet, dark. All her pain stopped. She hunkered down on the floor, fearing more pain, waiting for instructions.

 ***

Ciska … swore in several long-dead languages as Jane’s very expensive boot-heel smacked into the side of her face. I should’ve grabbed her around the neck!

Her sideways-seeing ability swung into high gear as it often did when she’d been injured. She scuttled back under the table, flipped it on its edge and hoped the solid oak would be enough turn aside Jane’s intentions.

***   ***

The Sum of All Parts

Meg blinked away the spots before her eyes caused by the strange pulse of light that left her tingling all over, and peered over the edge of her great-great grandmothers table.

Her kitchen was in shambles. Chairs, and table, overturned. Tamsin and Mary lying still on the floor, Jane swinging what looked like an old-fashioned six-gun, and Silv, a gibbering heap between them.

She ducked back just as Ciska grabbed her. “Don’t think for a moment that Jane won’t kill you,” Ciska whispered. “Let me handle this.”

Meg shrugged her off. “Not in my house.” She stood up, drawing Jane’s attention. “Not in my house,” she said.

Jane nodded. “If you stay where you are, I won’t,” she agreed. “Get up Ciska. You look ridiculous crouching down like that. A bullet isn’t going to kill you. It will however, incapacitate and hurt you, a lot.”

Ciska stood looked at Meg. “But it’ll kill her.”

“I doubt it,” Jane speculated. “If she were killable, she would’ve died in that car crash. Which brings us back to our present anomalous predicament, doesn’t it? If you’ll excuse me I have to see what’s happened to Tamsin. Stay there,” she cautioned as Meg started forward. “Both of you.”

Jane walked to Silv and nudged her with her boot. “Get up. You’re not hurt, and you’re still in this pentiment. That’s what all that expensive ink was for. Help me with Tamsin.”

Ciska caught Meg as she started toward Tamsin. “Have you ever been shot?” she asked, “It really does hurt, a lot. I can ‘see’ that Tam’s still breathing.” Ciska released her. “We wait.”

Meg waited as Jane roughly rolled Mary’s body out of the way and examined her daughter. She stood still, as Silv picked Tamsin up, and groaning and cussing, carried her outside to her truck.

She watched as Jane contemplated Mary’s still body and kicked her once, very hard. “That’s for defying me, and,” she added as she walked out of the room, “For hurting my daughter.”

***   ***

Stay tuned for Season 2, Episode 5 of …

‘Identical’

‘Identical’ Season 2, Episode 3 – Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary

You can read all the previous episodes HERE, or from the ‘IDENTICAL’ page above, or select ‘Identical’ from the ‘Categories’ widget over there to the right. (they’re in the order I posted them so for the story to make sense you’ll have to start with the first entry at the bottom of the page)

***

This one’s for Timethief and Mabel-who-is-on-her-way-home-again

***

What Has Gone Before:

In the Nicola Valley, British Columbia, Ciska, a ‘pentiment switcher’ meets Meg, whose exact duplicate is found dead in her car.

Following her mother Jane Lightsmith’s orders Tamsin Lightsmith, of the RCMP, deletes all references to ‘dead Meg’ from the records. ‘Live’ Meg realizes she doesn’t belong in this pentiment’.

Ciska tells Meg and Tamsin her true age and Jane Lightsmith arrives unexpectedly to challenge Ciska’s version of what is happening to the pentiments.

***   ***

All the players are in town, but the rules don’t make sense. Just exactly what is going on

Identical Season 2, Episode 3 - Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary

Mary Connelly looked up from her book as Silv’s ratty old truck sped by her front gate spilling dust over her dried out patch of lawn and veranda.

Using her thumb as a bookmark she closed her book and watched the truck, or at least it’s plume, disappear behind a slight hill. A backfire announced that Silv had reached her destination, Megs house.

Now, what would Silv want to be doing with Meg’s house?

Mary settled her generous derriere back into the comfy old rocking chair Wilf had made for her years ago when they were newlyweds with a house full of dreams. She opened her book again and read the same sentence three times. Apart from not having seen Silv go anywhere near Meg’s house ever before, which was mysterious enough in itself, something else about the truck bothered her.

Mary gave up on her book, she’d figured out ‘who done it’ several chapters previously, and closed her eyes. In her mind’s eye she replayed the brief moment she had a clear line of sight into the truck cabin.

Silv wasn’t driving! She couldn’t drive that precisely to save her life, so, who else was …?

“Damn!”

Mary wasn’t prone to moving fast unless she needed to, but she made it into her bedroom in record time and stopped in front of her dresser mirror. What she contemplated would show her hand but recognizing the second woman in Silv’s truck proved these were irrevocable times.

She felt behind one corner of the mirror, held down a switch and reached through the mirror with her other hand. The mirror represented technology not possible in this pentiment, and the contents of the small case she withdrew from the hidden cache behind it were equally impossible. The irony of using one of Jane’s own devices, that Jane herself recreated from one of Ciska’s early sketches, brought a grim smile to Mary’s lips.

She released the switch and her mirror became just a mirror again.

***

Mary hiked along the fence that ran from her back paddock to the rear of Meg’s property, all the while trying to convince herself that she’d been mistaken, that she wouldn’t have to take such drastic measures. She’d come to love her life in this little country town as the ‘village gossip,’ and was far from ready to give it up.

The untended orchard in Meg’s yard allowed Mary to approach the back door of the house unnoticed. She ignored the old wooden stairs because even if they’d never ever squeaked before in their entire existence, of course they’d squeak the minute she stepped on them, and hoisted herself onto the veranda using the handrail closer to the house.

She ducked under the kitchen window and tiptoed inside through the open back door, thanking the weather for delivering yet another scorcher of a day.

After a quick glimpse into the kitchen to see where everyone sat, she pulled back into the shadow of the tiny hallway and waited for Ciska to finish explaining about the fall of the pentiments.

***

Ciska pulled her leather bag out of her pocket and scattered the disparate contents on the table. She assembled the eccentric sculpture and gathered her thoughts.

“Most thunderclaps vibrate at around one hundred megahertz,” she began. “If the vibration is a little lower then I switch. All I have to do is stay away from storms and I can live out my time as I choose. Sooner or later though, I’ll be caught, my biological clock will reset to my age the first time I switched, and I’ll be … elsewhere. A place that is, almost, exactly the same. Sometimes the differences will be on a scale that I can’t perceive, or crop up on the other side of the world. There was this one time I …”

Ciska stopped herself. Even if it was a great story, this wasn’t the time or the place. She glanced at Jane. Nor the audience I’d choose to tell it to.

“Anyway, every now and then I’d come across others who had this ability, but we’d avoid forming any of long term connections. What would be the point? After a switch, who knew what, and who, would remain the same and what would change? Some though, thought they were gods and set themselves up as such, according to the superstitions of the era. I must confess, I tried it once, but found godhood to be a rather bland existence after a while.” Not exactly one of my finer moments either. Although I did set some interesting precedents.

“About two centuries ago, I took refuge from the Napoleonic wars in a little seaside town on the border between France and Spain. In a fit of literary insanity I committed all my theories and experiments to paper. Not to publish them, who would believe me? But to clarify my thoughts, come to some conclusions.

“Then, as technology allowed, I constructed instruments to measure the switching phenomenon. The Age of Electronics baffled me for a time because I would fry any circuitry I came near, perhaps as a result of being close to lightning strikes far too often. But, with enough time, attention, and innovation I was able to enter the modern era the majority of pentiments close to this one currently exist in.

“One of the biggest mysteries I needed to solve was, ‘why me?’ Why me, and not the person standing next to me exposed to the exact same thunder? Was it luck? Clean living? Genetics? The Great Pumpkin?”

Everyone laughed or at least smiled at Ciska’s little joke. Everyone but Jane. Ciska wasn’t surprised. She and Jane had vastly differing theories about the conclusion of her story.

“As I said earlier this morning, the answer is genetics. The only child of only children, for generations, probably since the beginning, concentrated the ability, the anomaly, into a relatively few individuals who knowingly or unknowingly shifted.”

“I left France after …” Ciska saw a flash of, was it fear, in Jane’s eyes? “… after I completed my notes, and made my way steadily east. I started to notice ‘disturbances in the force’, subtle changes in each pentiment that couldn’t simply be attributed to switching from one to the next. Being a witness to one’s own transformations for thousands of years gives one a certain sensitivity to such things.

“I decided to seek out some of the others like me to see if they experienced anything similar. As soon as I made contact with them, they’d disappear. Only to turn up dead, in this pentiment and others. Worse still, they stayed dead. Which is an impossibility for switchers. Sooner or later a thunderstorm comes along and there we are, alive again.”

Tamsin held up a hand to stop Ciska, “Wait a minute. If you’re dead in one pentiment, why don’t you stay dead in all of them.”

“Suppose you were a switcher and I shot you. You’d be dead.” Ciska answered. “But if in another pentiment I missed, or you disarmed me, then you’d be alive, therefore you’d have to be alive in all pentiments, for all time.”

“Except me,” Meg said so quietly that only Ciska heard her. She gently squeezed Meg’s hand, then released it a heartbeat before Meg pulled away.

“It’s horrible,” Silv said, as she returned from the bathroom and slumped into the chair across from Ciska, although as far away from Jane as she could get. “Must’ve been something I ate.”

“Oh, I don’t know, you get used to it after a while,” Jane said, willfully misunderstanding Silv. “And immortality does have it’s advantages.”

The kitchen seemed to fall away from Ciska, and for a moment only she and Jane existed. “I do believe there is a way to make sure someone stays dead, everywhere. I just haven’t found it yet.”

Jane leaned in and spoke with the same intensity. “You just don’t have what it takes to do the job properly.”

***

Meg subtly nudged Ciska, enough to break the tableau between her and Jane, and laughed. “I understand the desire to kill Jane, she’s the most annoying person I know, but are you telling us that you’ve actually done it? Killed her?”

“On a couple of occasions,” Ciska said as she slowly released the sculpture. The pieces fell apart. She gathered them up and started again. She seemed distracted, for which Meg felt grateful. She didn’t want Jane and Ciska going head-to-head in her kitchen.

Tamsin turned pale at Ciska’s admission, except for two bright patches of color on her cheeks. Meg caught her eye and shook her head. There was too much happening that neither of them knew enough about for Tamsin to challenge Ciska now. Tamsin looked down and leaned back in her chair again. Meg sighed. Another confrontation averted.

“Why?” Meg asked, although it seemed like every answer she got only raised more questions, but she persevered anyway. Some questions needed answers whatever the cost.

“You’ve met her,” Ciska said. “She’s the most annoying person I’ve ever met too. At first it was because she did me a great wrong, and I was a vengeful person back then … and then, it became … a game? … a science experiment? … ” The pieces of sculpture clicked into place and Ciska placed it in the middle of the table. Meg cautiously picked it up, and a feeling of horror at the casual way Ciska talked about death threatened to overwhelm her.

“Sideways.” Ciska said obliquely.

Meg glanced across at Tamsin again and saw that she’d caught the inference. They’d both witnessed Ciska’s precognitive, or side-cognitive ability before. Something was happening, something else Meg was sure she didn’t want happening in her kitchen.

***

Jane Lightsmith looked steadily at the three women sitting across from her. She actually felt relieved that yet another inevitable confrontation between her and Ciska had been averted, they were getting tiresome. She ignored Silv.

“To cut a long boring story short,” Jane said. “Ciska believes the pentiments are getting closer together and they’ll eventually crush each other out of existence. I on the other hand …”

“How is that possible?” Meg asked Ciska.

Jane was almost sure the interruption was deliberate. She seethed. Meg was really starting to tick her off, but she supposed they did deserve an answer. She glanced down at her very expensive watch, that did a great deal more than tell time, and decided she could let things slide for a few more minutes.

“Picture it like this,” Ciska said. “You have a whole bunch of bubbles. The smaller ones join up and create bigger ones, that then merge with other bigger ones. The only problem is, whatever they’re made out of, soapy water for instance, gets stretched thinner with each merger. You’re left with one giant bubble that eventually pops.”

“Then what?” Tamsin asked in a small voice.

Jane knew her daughter wasn’t the most imaginative woman in the room, Silv didn’t count, but she saw that Ciska’s colorful imagery had spooked her. She huffed in mock exasperation and cut in.

“Apparently it’s the end of everything, the universe, time, every pentiment, all gone. I on the other hand, believe that there’s only so much energy available to drive the pentiments and what’s happening is … well I suppose you could call it ‘natural selection’. When a specific number of pentiments or ‘bubbles’ has been reached the whole system stabilizes. Remember, in the grand scheme of things switchers have only been jumping pentiments for a very short period of time. There was bound to be some adjustments. Unfortunately your counterpart,” Jane gestured to Meg. “The ‘dead Meg’ as Tamsin has dubbed it, was simply a casualty of the merger.”

Ciska looked up from contemplating her sculpture and smiled so coldly that Jane felt a frisson of fear lift the hairs on the back of her neck.

“Perhaps Mary could add something to the conversation at this point,” Ciska said maintaining her eye-lock with Jane.

“Don’t mind if I do,” Mary said, and moved swiftly into the room, aiming the device in her hands squarely at Jane.

***   ***

Stay tuned for Season 2, Episode 4 of …

‘Identical’

‘Identical’ – Season 2, Episode 2 – New Friends, Old Enemies

You can read all the previous episodes HERE, or from the ‘IDENTICAL’ page above, or select ‘Identical’ from the ‘Categories’ widget over there to the right. (they’re in chronological order so you’ll have to start at the bottom of the page)

What Has Gone Before:

Travelling through the Nicola Valley in British Columbia, Ciska takes shelter from a nasty storm with Meg, whose stolen car is found with her exact duplicate dead at the wheel. Following her mother Jane Lightsmith’s orders Tamsin Lightsmith, of the RCMP, deletes all references to ‘dead Meg’ from the records, as ‘live’ Meg realizes she doesn’t belong in this dimension, or pentiment’ as Ciska has labeled them.

Ciska tests an invention that will enable her to avoid the storm’s mysterious effects based on theories she envisioned two hundred years previously. She tells Meg and Tamsin her true age.

Jane Lightsmith arrives in town.

***   ***

All the players are in town, but the rules don’t make sense. Just exactly what is going on

Identical S2 Ep2 Cover Art - New Friends, Old Enemies

Ciska’s legs gave way and she slid down the cold white tiles, ending up on the dark floor.

Terracotta. What is it with this town and terracotta floor tiles?

Meg huddled against a tiled column nearby, scrubbing at the blood on her hands with a futility born of horror.

Poor Meg. From the moment Jane knew her true nature she was always going to be the sacrificial lamb.

Meg raised her head as though she’d read Ciska’s thoughts and looked, not hopeful, there’d never been much hope since they started this quixotic mission, but determined.

Good for her. Time to finish the job.

Ciska rolled onto her hands and knees, ignoring the smears of blood that stained the tiles a darker red and launched to her feet. Meg batted away her helping hand, for which she was grateful. She probably didn’t have strength left to help anyone else.

“Where’d she go?” Meg asked after she’d splashed some cold water on her face and washed most of the blood off her hands.

“Deeper into the complex,” Ciska said. “Away from her equipment. There’s nowhere for her to go.”

Are you sure?”

“No. But then I never was, at least about her.”

Ciska and Meg left the destroyed bathroom, dodged around a pile of fallen concrete and exposed bedrock and resumed their search. They’d find their target sooner or later.

Ciska’s thoughts slipped back to a time only a few days ago. From the moment she’d told Tamsin and Meg the truth, she knew a confrontation between her and Jane Lightsmith was inevitable … 

***

… Ciska left Meg and Tamsin to their own devices and sat on Meg’s back stoop. She leaned her elbows on the step behind her, stretched out her legs and crossed them at the ankles. She watched the few clouds in the sky turn orange then deepen to indigo as another sultry autumn day drew to a close. Tamsin and Meg continued to argue, about what, precisely, she had no idea. Eventually they fell silent and she supposed they’d come to some sort of agreement.

Well, I kept my end of the bargain. What they do with it is up to them.

She’d give them time to come to terms with it, however time was limited. Far too many questions had been raised in this pentiment and she needed their help finding answers and more importantly, what to do with the answers they uncovered.

She sensed someone behind her and tossed a mental coin. A large mug of tea appeared over her shoulder and Meg slumped down onto the wooden step.

Meg leaned on Ciska’s shoulder and gazed in the same general direction as Ciska. “I think I could get to like you,” Meg said. “You always seem to be looking at far away horizons.”

“Some things are worth remembering. Looking at them for a long time helps me remember them after time has passed.”

“Personally, I don’t think you look a day over three thousand.”

“I told you that you wouldn’t believe me,” Ciska said.

“Oh, I believe you alright. I’m living proof of that.”

“That you are.”

 “Are you sure you’re that old?”

Ciska’s laughed, almost bouncing Meg’s head off her shoulder. “You’re more concerned with me being significantly older than you assumed, rather than an endless number of parallel worlds existing all around you.”

Meg punched her lightly in the thigh as Tamsin joined them.

“Give her one for me while you’re at it,” Tamsin said. After Meg happily obliged, she continued. “I can’t begin to imagine the things you’ve seen.”

“The entire march of civilization.” Meg said with wonder as the weight of the concept descended on her.

“Where’s Jimmy Hoffa’s body?” Tamsin countered.

Ciska groaned.

“What happened to the Marie Celeste?”

“Did Queen Victoria really think lesbians didn’t exist?”

“Who said to Genghis Kahn, ‘go west young man’?”

“What happened to Atlantis?”

“Did you meet Boudicca, Nefertiti? What were the Sumerians really like?”

Who drew the Nazca Lines?”

Ciska gave up trying to interject and waited until Meg and Tamsin finally ran out of questions, silly or not. She tried again.

“Now, it’s my turn. How do you know about these things? In general.”

“The news. Books,” Meg said.

“The internet. History books,” Tamsin said at the same time.

Ciska nodded. “The internet’s only been around for a very short time. So, most everything you’ve mentioned comes from ‘History’ books. And history can only be viewed retrospectively. If I didn’t know that Alexander was going to change the world, how could I witness it if, a, I didn’t know about it at the time, and b, I was on the other side of the world, at the time.”

“Were you?” Tamsin asked, not quite teasing her.

Ciska rolled her eyes, but before she could reply a vehicle engine died in front of the house.

“That’s Silv’s truck,” Meg said. “I’d know that sound anywhere. I don’t suppose this is just a coincidence?”

Ciska shrugged her innocence, and followed Meg and Tamisn into the house.

***

Meg seldom left her door unlocked let alone wide open but given recent events it didn’t surprise her that she’d done both. Two women stood in the middle of her kitchen.

“Hello Silv. What brings you all the way out …” Silv appeared to stagger slightly as she was nudged aside. “Jane!” Meg said. What an unpleasant surprise.”

Tamsin interrupted them before the civilities could proceed any further. “Mum! I didn’t think you’d be here ‘til next week.”

Meg watched as Jane Lightsmith ignored her daughter, just as she always had, until she needed her for something, which apparently, given that Tamsin was expecting her, she now did.

“Hello Meg,” Jane said. “Where is your guest of honor. I’ve come a very long and uncomfortable way to meet her.”

A gentle hand on her shoulder moved Meg aside. Ciska then moved Tamsin the other way. Meg’s blood ran cold. She’s getting us out of the firing line.

“I’m right here,” Ciska said. As she walked further into the room Meg saw her reach behind her back and slowly pull a knife from a sheath hidden in the waistband of her pants.

“I thought you’d turn up sooner or later,” Ciska said. “Aren’t you supposed to be dead?”

“Hello Franciska. You keep trying, but you keep missing. However, I really don’t think this is the time or the place to try again, do you?” She looked pointedly at Meg and Tamsin. “Isn’t anyone going to invite me to sit down?”

Meg ignored her and sat down herself. She watched Ciska slide the knife back into its sheath, and realized they’d all momentarily survived some sort of crisis point. Just when I didn’t think my life could get any weirder.

Jane sat opposite her and reached for the teapot, turned over a cup for herself from the tray and filled it. “Well, isn’t this civilized? Do sit down, all of you.”

“I think I’m going to be sick,” Silv said and rushed to the bathroom.

***

Jane sniffed. “Can’t take the heat,” she said dismissively, and watched Ciska as she and Tamsin sat across the table from her, on either side of Meg.

How predictable. Both of them. “Well,” she said. “Shall we begin our civilized conversation? I’m sure Franciska has told you all about these nasty ‘pentiments’, as she calls them, and how they could destroy all of existence as we know it.”

“Her name is Ciska,” Meg said.

“We hadn’t got to that part yet,” Tamsin said.

“Don’t look so surprised,” Jane said as Ciska tried to hide behind the scowl she’d worn since the moment she saw Jane. “I’ve had you followed for quite a while now. Yes, even as you travelled from one pentiment to the next. There’s so much you don’t know.”

She sipped from her tea and gathered her thoughts. What to tell and what to withhold? Enough bait to hook, but too much and Ciska would put all the pieces together before she was ready for them to be revealed. “As with all theories, there are always other theories.”

“Wait a minute,” Tamsin said, uncharacteristically interrupting her. “We haven’t even heard the first theory first. Perhaps Ciska could enlighten us.”

As Ciska answered, Jane tuned out her words, she knew the story be heart, and watched Ciska as she spoke, absorbing every detail, the way she moved her hands, the little quirk at the corner of her mouth, everything. She showed nothing of her emotions to the women in front of her. She was used to it, her feelings had been firmly under control since the time she betrayed the one person she’d ever truly loved. Seeing Ciska again was not going to change that.

***   ***

Stay tuned for Season 2, Episode 3 of …

‘Identical’

***

GLOSSARY AND LINKS

The ghost ship Marie Celeste

The Nazca Lines