The Holly King’s Apprentice: First Frost

If you haven’t read them yet, you might like to catch up with The Holly King’s Apprentice Part 1 and Part 2.

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For 6 whole days I practiced reaching the realm of Ain Soph without the Holly King’s aid. I was utterly preoccupied with the strange task that had been set for me; so much so that I did very little else. It was difficult at first, because I hadn’t a clue where to start, but with practice I found a method that worked.

The terrifying, foreboding doom that characterised my depression was like a shadow on the peripheries of my vision. I could never quite catch a glimpse of it, but if I approached with stillness of mind instead of chaotic thought and panic, it wasn’t nearly so elusive. So, I began to teach myself to shut down the offending thoughts at their root. It was as though some other part of me was persuading them to be discrete; convincing them it was a matter of life and death. It was like telling a child to stay quiet in the closet to hide from an intruder. Continue reading “The Holly King’s Apprentice: First Frost”

The Holly King’s Apprentice: Ain Soph

This is part two of a story that began here.

Orchid's Lantern blog C.R. Dudley author

The thoughts of sadness remained at bay for a couple of days. I did some shopping, painted some pictures, and saw my friend, Fred. I decided not to mention my strange new therapist to him, though the autumn leaf pendant he had gifted me tingled around my neck.

Then, on the third day, the freight train of shadows I’d been expecting hit me hard in the face. I became sure it didn’t matter if I was alive or dead, and since every little task suddenly required energy I no longer had, thoughts of the latter were never far from my mind.

I felt trapped by suffering because it was in everything. I longed for some peace: to be some place where my brain wasn’t revving in mud. This is temporary, I reminded myself, it’s the time of year. I did some activities that have helped in the past: I showered, took a walk, listened to some eighties synth pop. I called Fred but he didn’t answer, so I left him a silent voicemail. You can do all of these things though, and somehow every episode of depression still feels like an unprecedented depth. It becomes harder and harder to believe it will pass, despite experience being on your side.

Continue reading “The Holly King’s Apprentice: Ain Soph”

The Holly King’s Apprentice: Therapy

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Feeling depressed? Take a ticket for free therapy.

I’d been staring at the notice board outside the bus station for several minutes deciding whether or not to take one. October was always a difficult time for my mental health, and over the past few days I had begun to feel overwhelmed and beaten. I knew where I was headed, but did I need therapy? And was free therapy a little too good to be true? After all, there was no reference to the provider anywhere on the poster.

I felt the wind blow hard on my cheek, and it pushed me into making a decision. I tore off a ticket. I cursed under my breath though, when I saw what I thought was a phone number was actually just a set of symbols and of no use to me whatsoever.

Across the road was a row of trees on the edge of the park, and to my surprise as I looked around for the nearest waste paper bin, I witnessed the farthest changing from green to orange. The one beside it followed suit; then the next and the next as though something were moving through them. Their leaves began to fall right in front of my eyes, then dried out and turned to brown. A gust of wind nudged at them and made them rustle, and they were tossed right over to my feet, at which point they stopped dead. I shuddered.

“Come on then, follow me.” I spun around to see the owner of the deep voice and my eyes widened. There was a man standing seven feet tall, with long black hair, a fur trench coat and heavy biker boots. His jeans were ripped in several places and in one hand he carried a great sword. His presence made me feel as though my insides were turning as rotten as the leaves. I looked frantically around me but none of the passers by seemed to notice this otherworldly stranger towering above me. Running away seemed sensible but also not a realistic option, so I just stood there like a rabbit staring into headlights.

“Don’t look so shocked, you took one of my tickets didn’t you?”

Continue reading “The Holly King’s Apprentice: Therapy”

7. Somebody Else’s Dream

“So you definitely saw purple?” Hertz quizzed me back at the hotel.

“Yes. It was a big, fat, purple scream.”

“Interesting. I saw red. Ida?”

“Red,” Ida agreed.

“I knew we were right to name you Purple, it’s obviously the colour you see anything magical in.” Hertz seemed satisfied with his own judgement.

“Well it doesn’t matter now.” Ida dispelled his gloating with a flick of her wrist. “The question is what are we going to do? That poor woman was quite distressed. She recognised us.”

Continue reading “7. Somebody Else’s Dream”

6. A Bright Purple Scream

This is a new episode of a continuing piece of fiction. You are welcome to start reading here, or if you would prefer you can find the previous episodes on my home page under the heading Creative, ‘The Old Woman, The Stag, and Me’.

To my delight, I got a job in the central library where everything was curved and ergonomic and fresh. Employment had seemed to be such a dull prospect that I hadn’t imagined there’d be a place like that for me. Being allowed to spend my days swimming in books was ideal; all that was missing was a nice big bathtub and I would’ve been completely at home.

What I found difficult was working with so many people. When I lived in dreamscapes the people could be peculiar for sure, but they were nearly always open to the craft of psychic travelling. They didn’t mind the occasional shapeshifting, and understood that time and space were not linear. The people in reality seemed quite grey in comparison, and I kept forgetting to censor myself to appear normal.

Continue reading “6. A Bright Purple Scream”

5. A Cat Among the Pigeonholes

In a world where money is God, unemployment is for the forsaken. It can be seen in the glassy eyes of the homeless, who are denied ordinary human interaction and treated with revulsion as punishment for not conforming to accepted methods of worship. It can be seen in the content of daytime television. And it can be seen in the body language of those who have a job, when addressing those who would like one.

The young woman responsible for interviewing Hertz and I at the employment agency looked as though her clothes were swallowing her. She can’t have been long out of full time education, but had already been packaged in a sharp grey suit and her hair scraped back into a sensible, stern bun. She was taking her role seriously, speaking in a professional condescending manner, and putting on what would have been referred to as a display of power had she been part of the animal kingdom. Beneath all of that there was a person, I was sure. I squinted, trying to see who she might be. Continue reading “5. A Cat Among the Pigeonholes”

4. The Trouble with Reality

Note: This is a continuation of the story that began here The Old Woman, the Stag, and Me and continued here The Howling Woman and here A Box Among the Stars. You can read those segments first if you like, or you can simply join the story right here. There is also a category on my home page for easy reference to the previous parts.

 

The trouble with Reality is that its people are fearful of the unfamiliar. They laugh nervously when asked about their dreams, and the notion that they might have a spiritual self makes them oddly uncomfortable. It is as though they have become so strongly rooted in rationality they have no capacity to entertain ideas where no logic exists. In the same way the brain only processes a small proportion of what they see, and fills in the gaps with what they expect to see, they have become blind to the fantastic.

I estimate that the stag left the hotel on no less than five occasions during that first week without covering up his hooves and antler stumps fully, but not once was his met with the screams of terror you might expect. There was one time he was asked to pose for a photograph, by a child who thought his costume was awesome, but other than that no one seemed to notice.

Continue reading “4. The Trouble with Reality”

3. A Box Among the Stars

A note: this is a continuation of the story begun here: The Old Woman, the Stag, and Me, and continued here: The Howling Woman. You may wish to read those segments first, or to take this piece in itself.

We’d always been able to travel. I did it by accident a few times by keeping the water in my pool too cold when I was dowsing for inner silence. But the truth is it was a hassle; it often went wrong, and we became so settled in our little village that the occasion just never arose that we wanted to shift again. I did miss the transition between worlds though. It was the most beautiful thing: on reaching a tranquil state of equilibrium, the traveller would find herself in a box among the stars.

The box was a cube measuring around 3m on all sides. It could manifest with any combination of unembellished, opaque black walls and transparent ones; the more of the latter, the better as far as I was concerned but I know six sides of transparency made the old woman feel quite queasy. For me, there was an infinite sort of comfort in being weightless, and seeing nothing but a million twinkling lights stretched before me on a etheric velvet veil. It is the loneliest place I can imagine but also the closest I have been to that abstract concept you call ‘home’. Unfortunately hanging about up there for long stretches of time (if time did indeed exist up there, which I doubt) was never really on the agenda of consciousness. I found if I didn’t bring to mind my intended path quickly, and make the required entranceway, I would be hurled into a random dreamscape. A doorway would open and swallow me up into a vacuum and I wouldn’t know where I was going to end up. That wasn’t the kind of risk I liked to take. Continue reading “3. A Box Among the Stars”

2. The Howling Woman

This is a continuation of the story that began here: The Old Woman, the Stag and Me. You may like to read that first if you haven’t already, but it isn’t a prerequisite.


As it turned out, it was the materialisation of the myth ‘The Howling Woman’ that finally gave us our omen to leave the village. Here’s how events panned out.

Among the stag’s clients there was a gentle dowager who cried almost all of the time. She had lost her daughter, she said, though there were no records of her ever having one. It was generally surmised among the village folk that what she had lost was in fact her marbles, as a result of her husband coming to grief at a trial for treason and subsequently being hanged. She lived all alone in the years that followed, and most were disdainful towards her with no rational cause. She came to the stag for a finding potion, and begged of him to take her sorrow.

Finding potions weren’t known for their usefulness when dealing with people who didn’t exist, so at first he went down the route of anguish-removal. He tried spells made from Buddhist proverbs, in attempt to align her to the idea that sorrow, like pleasure, was a fleeting thing that must be allowed to come and go like the wind. He tried filling her with warming light, that it might kindle her own inner glow. And he tried an elixir – just two drops per day – made from pure euphoria and tears of joy. It was unheard of for such things to fail, but the daughter remained lost. Putting on a jester performance raised a smile or two, but the sadness in her eyes seemed insurmountable.

Continue reading “2. The Howling Woman”

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