The Pulse: The Soul Star & Alberta
The Ties That Bind
Güsfreude simply couldn’t accept it.
The angels dancing on a pin were fine. She always liked angels. But what good was dancing when she knew others couldn’t walk? How could she gaze through Omar Khayyam’s Seventh Gate at the mysteries of the universe, and how could she watch as each morn a thousand roses brings, when the world she cared about was falling to pieces? How could she sit in Celestial Wonder when her grand-daughter wept in chains?
Whether at Naishapur or Babylon, whether the Cup with sweet or bitter run,
The Wine of Life keeps oozing drop by drop, the Leaves of Life keep falling one by one.
Each Morn a thousand Roses brings, you say; yes, but where leaves the Rose of Yesterday?
The hardest truth Güsfreude learned so far was There’s no going backward. Time’s wingéd chariot is on a one-way journey. If only she could go back and make things right in Eden Valley — that wooded paradise where she went to escape from all the wolves in sheep’s clothing. And where, her grand-daughter on her way through the dark forest, she’d been swallowed in her bed.
She could see the world now, tiny as a pinprick of light in a massive star. She could see Antonio’s manor, cloaked by God knows what dark magic from the prying eyes of the Baulians.
She had underestimated Beatrice’s gullibility — and her desperation. She had taken Antonio for the Cheshire Cat when he was in fact the Carpenter.
Fine as neurons, the golden threads grew within Beatrice’s brain, making her believe that boys could fly if they really wanted to, that a Knight would always be true to his Lady, that a princess would spring wide awake if she was kissed in the right place at the right time, and that all men who dressed in black leather jackets and wore Gucci shoes were fairies from the Neo-Platonic Realm. Even after she got married, she still believed in these tales, although the Cheshire Cat was nipping at Alice’s petticoat, Peter Pan was lying to Wendy, and the Carpenter was getting out his saw.
On their wedding night, Antonio pushed Beatrice into their bedchamber and tied her to the bedpost — in what Beatrice thought was a playful game of lovemaking. Antonio then brought out a book called The Temptation of Saint Anthony, ripped each page from its sewn spine, and taped a page to each part of her body that needed to be cleansed of its unspeakable sin.
Knightly deeds became nightly fears, and Beatrice could see that Camelot was about to be stormed by a legion of blood-thirsty misfits. Orcs and trolls were massing on the horizon.
Things got even worse. The Red Cross Knight, who Beatrice assumed was a paramedic, was found poking holes in her underwear. She read in the morning paper that Sir Lancelot had split the Round Table in two and was now scheming with a band of Norman thugs in the Anglo suburbs of Montreal.
In defence of Beatrice’s naïveté, one should remember that there are reincarnated Buddhist monks in lonely monasteries, who, after 40 lifetimes, still can’t tell the difference between Platonic Beauty and the Beast.
How then was Beatrice to see Antonio for what he was? How was one so gentle to defend herself against this Age’s most recent reincarnation of Sin — a professor of Literature and Legal History, a fiend who could bend the laws of language and the language of laws?
From the moment of his fall, this most reptilian of litigators overturned legal codes and commandments, transforming the world into his own private kangaroo court. Legions were at his service: from Los Angeles to Tuktiuktuk, the jury chambers of the world were haunted by his angry ministers, his false affidavits, his extradition loopholes, and his switchblade-thin technicalities that liberated the most vicious of brutal psychopaths.
Beatrice asked her tormenter: “Why did you bring me to this dungeon, anyway?”
Antonio responded, “If, deep down you didn’t believe you’d sinned and needed to be tied even tighter to this rack, you would struggle to free yourself.”
Beatrice was in fact struggling to free herself, yet the ropes were so tight that you couldn’t even see her wrist move.
Beatrice tried in vain to wrangle her way free of her marriage contract. Yet Antonio had, with the help of the County Courthouse and the Catholic Church, tightened the clauses with Indian rubber, and bound up the loopholes with leather straps.
Her visit to the town lawyer, Bartleby, had been a disaster: he told her of the hopelessness of all such suits. He described to her how they all ended up in Edmonton, in a government archive presided over by a clerk named Edgar and his pet raven. Edgar had taught the bird to say, “dead souls, dead souls,” over and over till Bartleby concluded that it would be easier to put up with the darkest slavery than seek any form of justice in this world. It was better to escape, or at the very least dream of a better place. The one concrete alternative he gave was based on the advice of a Frenchman named Francois-Marie Arouet: find a garden on the outskirts of Istanbul, and cultivate it.
Having exhausted her legal options, Beatrice tried to bury herself in the fantasies of her youth. Yet in what fairy tale could she find the spell that would make her life return to what it was? How could she re-trace her steps to that first Immaculate Conception, that first golden apple of her innocence? It seemed impossible to bring back those moments when clouds danced across a ballroom sky of blue. Ever since her Granny died, fairly tales seemed even harder to believe in.
She only dimly recalled the time in her life when the hills were alive with the sound of music, and when the sky was not a dark glass plane crisscrossed by purple waves of electrostatic energy that Antonio sucked into his strange generator.
As a girl, Beatrice would sit at the breakfast table with her mom and dad, staring out the window and over the roses at the fields of wheat. Oh, how she would love to sit with her parents again! To see the wind blowing across the fields of wheat. To trace her fingers over the circle of roses that surrounded their home.
Instead, she watched her husband pace the kitchen floor, occasionally picking up a knife and using the walls for target practice. Above their breakfast table was a gigantic slanting aquarium glutted with eels and sludge that Antonio had suspended from the rafters.
Her dreams that once floated freely in the sky had been submerged, polluted, defiled, and the electrostatic discharge that Antonio sucked down from the heavens sent piercing pulses into her skull and heart.
To bring back her simple prairie life was an impossible dream. It was like a promise made by politicians and priests — and she despised both. The Courthouse and Church had sanctioned the band of marriage that dug into her left finger like a miniature handcuff. Her marriage bed resembled a pillory.
Beatrice thought of her lost innocence, of that golden delicious gleam and wither it had fled. Desperate, she cried out, “Who has swallowed it? Who has hid it from my sight?”
Antonio heard this and laughed out loud at her stupidity. Such an idiot he’d never seen! While she understood the abstract delicacies of the great fairy tales, she was incurably naïve when it came to the actual deeds of goblins, gremlins and efreets. She’d read Snow White a thousand times, yet still she didn’t suspect that the apple he offered her wasn’t from the Okanagan Valley in nearby British Columbia. It was in fact the crimson, four-cylindered heart that lay five centimetres behind her sternum.
Dressed in a shiny black cloak, Antonio stepped out from the black forest of Academia and offered a ripe, fleshy, 50 kilogram apple to the waylaid beauty of the plains. She thanked the well-dressed gentleman and took the gift back to her mother’s kitchen. She layered it into the soft dough of her feelings, sprinkled it with sugar and spice (in this case cinnamon), and popped it into the oven. She then invited Antonio to their Edwardian homestead, and offered him a large slice, which she placed next to a thick piece of cheddar cheese and a cup of Earl Grey tea.
Antonio would swallow her whole! And he would keep on swallowing her and eating at her for the duration of their married lives. For if she couldn’t grasp the blatant Freudianism of the simplest fairy tale, how was she to defend herself against the Nietzschean undercurrents of his Brothers Grimm?
Like a Photon
Güsfreude simply couldn’t accept it. What was the meaning of light if it couldn’t dispel the dark?
She knew that life was a one-way affair, time-wise that is. And she was haunted by Hamlet’s description of the afterlife as a country beyond whose bourne no traveller returns. Yet she had also heard that there were exceptions to the rule. Jesus. Bodhisattvas. Dante travelling down to Hell and up to Heaven, and then coming back to Earth. Reincarnation itself must have some mechanism that allows a soul to return to where it could deal with unfinished business.
She was convinced that leaving the Soul Star was the only way her soul could find peace — even though peace was offered to her on a golden platter, no questions asked.
How could she extricate herself from the dense mass of infinite souls and travel back to Earth?
She knew that the Soul Star wasn’t a prison. It had no weight, no gravity to pull the soul into its domain.
Güsfreude thought of a proton, and how it made its way through the trillions and trillions of like-minded sparks, up from the depths of a star. Then, once the photon reached the surface it broke free from the crushing gravity of the sun.
The only way of course is to weigh almost nothing at all. To be almost nothing at all, except love, that binds the spark so deeply that it becomes something else: a spark of light with a meaning of its own.
Güsfreude thought of Beatrice, and broke free from Heaven’s Light.
Thinking of a photon, she jumped into the dark.
Next: In the Field of Flowers