Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Who Dwells on the Other Side of the Mirror

*Ever wonder just what realm is lying on the other side of the mirror? A well known inhabitant of that Mirror World, one you may have heard about in fairy tales, gives us a glimpse...*

What most people don’t know is that I can view your world through any mirror. Everyone who summons my powers believes I only reside in one “magic mirror.” That old narcissistic queen who tried to poison her pretty stepdaughter thought so; the prince-turned-beast with the enchantress’s hand mirror through so; I’m sure even that blonde girl who entered her dreamland through her looking glass must’ve thought that one mirror was special. Honestly, it would bother you people if you knew I am present in any reflective surface, rather than just one “magical” place.
But she knows better. That’s why she scrawled her lava-red lipstick letter on a random mirror—in this case, the one in some seedy bathroom—knowing I would find it. It was clear that the message was for me, because she wrote it backwards and flipped around. For me, on the opposite side, it read perfectly straight and right side forwards:
“Mirror mirror, everywhere,
Come and find me, if you dare.
I may not reach you where you hide,
To save your friend, open the doorway wide.”
I already knew which “friend” she spoke of. I immediately projected myself to the body-length standing mirror that my pursuer had conveniently placed in the darkened room where she and her hostage were waiting. Seated on a chair, looking very troubled and lost, was six-year-old Cassie--who never admired her reflection, because she is blind; who never asked about her future, because she was happy with the present; who never needed me to give her illusions, because all she ever wanted was the truth.
And there was Bloody Mary, grinning crookedly as she watched my visage appear.
“Ah, there you are,” she said, strolling over to the mirror. “You know what I want. Just open the doorway, and she is free to go.”
“I can’t open the mirror for you,” I replied. Ever since that one Halloween night, when some children chanted Bloody Mary’s name three times into a bathroom mirror and summoned her, Mary has been trapped on the living side.  She has wanted me to open the mirror again to let other spirits out to join her reckless, and often harmful, poltergeist pranks.
She grimaces.  “You know what I’ll do to her if you don’t do as I say.”
Poltergeists like Mary are capable of far nastier things than writing messages in lipstick. Hurting little children wasn’t something beyond her.
“Bloody Mary…”
Mary spun around to see Cassie, who was standing and pointing at her.
“Bloody Mary…” Cassie said again.
Mary’s face contorted in panic and fury. She lunged at Cassie, her fingers twisted into claws aimed at the child’s throat.
“Bloody Mary, Bloody Mary, Bloody Mary,” I spat out as quickly as I could.
Then there she was, on the same side of the mirror as I. Her fury at being bound in my realm was short-lived, however, as I enveloped her in my icy essence.
“Mary, Mary, trapped in here…I’m going to teach you real fear…”

Saturday, July 21, 2012

"A Pen's Confession to its Paper"

* Love is perhaps, the most inspirational muse for an artist...and in some cases, an artist's tools may start to take on a life of their own when the mood strikes them, such as this personified pen...*


I tattoo stream of consciousness onto your fragile skin

 (I pray you love the calligraphic design)

 The words will make women and scholars adore you,

 Even though I wish those words were mine



But know that if I could weave my own ink-stain spell

 Without needing a hand to make me dance,

 And tell you of my joy when my metal-tipped lips

 Kiss you across your pale expanse



If only there was a sign to let me know

 That you could see the beauty that I scribe

 A curl, an unfurl, a ripple in your being

 To show me how you feel inside



But sadly, as we run out of time and space

 And I must conclude this brief affair,

 The magic of the dance loses its grip

 The poem is done, the love no longer there.



Ah well…on to the next page…

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Falcon, Sun and Death

*The ancient myth of the Egyptian gods Re and Horus, on their quest to avenge the death of Horus's father Osiris, gets retold in a modern skin...*

The last thing I expected to hear, after three minutes of my doorbell’s manic chirping jarred me awake from sleep and had me dragging my feet to the front door, was Horace’s voice saying, “Ray, man, need to borrow your boat.”
Horace stood on my front porch in an Atlanta Falcon’s jersey and jeans, his eyes fixed on me as I struggled to blink open mine. I yawned widely. “Horace…the sun’s not even up yet. Why do you need my boat?”
“Found out where that scumbag Seth is hiding. Grab some stuff and let’s get out there now.”
I glanced down at my boxers and T-shirt that were my excuse for pajamas. Guess I’d have to get dressed.
About an hour later, Horace and I were skipping over the choppy waves of the lake towards Duat, a small island right off the coast which harbored a seedy underworld of thugs and dealers. It was just the kind of place Seth would hide. Even the cops tried to steer clear of there if they could.
“Horace, sit down, will ya? You’re rocking the boat,” I called back to him. But he stubbornly stood, his eagle-eye fixed on the strip of land forming out of the fog. He doesn’t say anything, but that look on his face expresses his thoughts clearly: I’m going to kill that son of a bitch.
I slowed the boat down as we advanced on the island, quieting the motor. I forced Horace to look at me. “Look, don’t get in over your head. I know Seth deserves to pay for what he did to you…”
“To my father, Ray,” he coldly corrected me. “Chopping him up and tossing his pieces throughout the lake qualifies him for a lot more than just ‘deserving to pay.’”
“I know, I know. But there’s a reason he’s called ‘Death Seth,’ among other things.”
Horace leans in until his beak-like nose is touching mine. “I’m not afraid of that pig. I’m not letting him get away again. Tonight, it’s over.”
I stare into Horace’s eyes. Sometimes I can “see” how things will turn out for somebody, if I look deep enough into them. I can see that determination, that hunger, than unbending will in Horace, and something tells me he could steamroll over every miscreant on Duat.
“Do what you will,” is all I tell him.
I stayed behind on the boat, ready for a quick getaway in case all hell broke loose…which it did. The last image I remember is Horace barreling down to the shore, leaping on the boat, and screaming at me to go, and I could see the smoke rising above Duat’s trees, and the orange glow of fire dancing among the fog.
I glanced at Horace’s blood stained jeans, his gashed-up body, and his crimson-soaked jersey in his lap, something rolled up inside of it. When we were well out onto the lake, he unrolled his jersey and dumped Seth’s severed head overboard into the deadly depths.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

"Eris"

 *Here is a short ode to a mythological goddess responsible for the disorder in the lives of mortals...but how boring would life be without her hand of mayhem?*

Her laughter was brittle
As she stared at the stars
Thinking of how very little
It all means, insofar
As why people crave passions
And wish to catch a lover’s eye
When Love so easily fashions
Itself to wither and die
Was it right of her to use
The golden apple, a gift
As a device to abuse,
To make a jealous rift
Between three goddesses of grace,
And to drive a man of power
To start a war and deface
Troy, for some feminine flower?
However, it all did spurn
An orchestra of chaotic chorus
Which she so hungrily yearns
For, for madness to flourish
Her mantra spoken in murmur,
While at the universe she gazed,
“Love may cause a joyous fervor,
But it’s more fun when Hell is raised.”

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Reading as Punishment: Has the Written Word Become So Reviled?

*Once again, I am stepping outside of my role as Imaginalchemist to share some observations about some news articles that I have read recently, about the use of reading books as capital punishment. I would be interested to see what others, particularly writers and avid readers, have to say on the topic...*

A few odd news articles have come to my attention lately: A California man convicted of attempting to sell a grenade launcher to an undercover federal agent was sentenced to write a book report; a Brazilian prison has offered to reduce prison sentences of inmates for reading books; and a woman in South Carolina is given the penance of reading the Bible after being convicted of injuring two people while driving drunk.
Since when did reading become such a despised practice that now the justice system is using it as a means of punishment?
Hopefully, most people understand why these verdicts have been issued. The expectation is that these lawbreakers will educate themselves and thus become smarter and better decision makers, as opposed to doing nothing all day in a prison cell.
One could say that the Brazilian prisoners are, in fact, being rewarded with less jail time when they opt to read books.
In all these cases, however — since these arrested individuals are clearly not very bright to begin with, and may not get the intended point behind it — the message being sent seems to be: “You’ve done a bad thing; now you have to read.”
One would hope that these individuals, as adults, would realize they are receiving a positive alternative to what most convicted felons get.
But it made me think about when we do similar acts of reprimand to children.
In schools, when children break the rules or disrupt class, they are commonly punished with having to do additional homework, or write an essay to contemplate on their actions, or go to detention where all they can do is sit quietly and read.
One teacher in Alberta, Canada, (who blogs under the alias Digital Substitute), writes about when he was substituting a junior high class.
The students had been misbehaving the previous period, so as punishment they were being forced to miss their gym class and instead read at their desks.
This distressed the bloggger since he absolutely loves reading, and always encourages students to read more as a benefit. He realized that the school was using this “reading time” as filler instead of trying to truly discipline these students.
The result is that the students were associating reading as a negative consequence.
Maybe this is why so many adults aren’t avid readers?
So how can we encourage more children to associate reading and knowledge as a reward rather than a penalty or a chore?
Since young children tend to emulate the adults they look up to, maybe we should try rewarding their good behavior with more quality parent-child read-alongs, or trips to the local library for scheduled story times. If children see how much their parents enjoy reading, they could become just as enthusiastic about it.
What of adults? Does education have to be forced on us after an extreme case in order for us to want to better our minds? Should we start using reading more often as a court-ordered sentence, in the hopes that it may actually prevent future acts of criminal stupidity?
Maybe now is a good time to start retraining our brains.

Friday, July 13, 2012

"Those Terrible, Inevitable Words"

*Another short observation from an author who, apparently, grew up sooner than he/she would have liked...*


It had to happen sometime.
And maybe others don’t notice it.
But there comes a day,
After so many budding years
Of Daddy swinging you about in his arms,
Or playing in the mud in the garden out back
Or just narrating your heroic tales of make-believe…
And then one day Mommy or Daddy says
Those words, those terrible, inevitable words:
“Honey, you’re getting too old for that.”
That’s when you know
Innocence has decided to travel elsewhere.
Real life is clawing its way in at the edges,
And all of a sudden, the child is nowhere to be found.
Only the awkward prototype of an adult
Is left in its place.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

"The Death of a Marshmellow"

*Following on the heels of our last story about the creepy cravings of a sinister sweet tooth, another tasty morsel from the Archives presents the laments and dreams of a common ice cream topping...*

The marshmellow, so soft and white
Was doomed to be impaled mercilessly
On a stick, and sentenced to roast that night
Over a fire, due to some unknown heresy
But as he awaited his inevitable fate
His mind drifted, sending him to a blissful state…

He dreamt of being so wild and bold
Of ascending to the clouds, fifty stories tall
Of having legs to walk, arms to hold
And eyes to see everyone below, so small
He could topple cities, crush cars in the street
As everyone would kneel at his feet…

But, in the end, his sugary puffiness
Would be his downfall, and men with blasters
Would ignite him anyway, causing his fluffiness
To rain over the town in an icky sticky disaster
So even though his demise wouldn’t be the stuff of lore,
At least he would fulfill his purpose being a s’more.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

A Deadly Delicious Dilemma

*This entry in the Archives comes from a woman who is gradually being integrated into a different culture than her own...and finds out that its folklore may be more than just ghost stories...*

I wouldn’t have been too surprised by the sugar skull that met me face to face in the pantry, given that I was helping to mold several dozen for Dia de los Muertos, when my husband’s family would stop by to gobble up the confectionary creations, and I already had five trays of them stored on the pantry shelves. But this particular skull was attached to an entire sugar skeleton, was as tall as a man, and was standing on its own.
I could only gawk at the candy-coated collection of bones before me, adorned with brightly colored meringue frosting, sparkling sprinkles, and two golden-wrapped chocolates in its eye sockets. It flashed across my mind, Maybe Maria went overboard again, as my Mexican sister –in-law commonly makes grandiose pastries and cakes for special occasions, but then the sugar skull spoke.
“Shhh,” the skeleton hissed, although how it could do that without a tongue perplexed me. “Cuidado… teyollocuani.”
After a few seconds, I squeaked out, “Huh?”
The skeleton sighed. “No Spanish, eh? Of course, the Americana is the one that finds me. Escuchame. I need to hide here. I think if I hide among the sugar skulls, it will not be able to tell me apart from them. Maybe it will eat all these candies instead. So, never mind me.”
Never mind you? A six foot talking sugar skeleton in my pantry? “I don’t think I can do that,” I stammered, part of me trying to convince myself this was one wacky dream.
Por favor, senorita. Just until after tonight. Then the doorway to the underworld will close, and I will return home and the teyollocuani will go back to sleep. Please, do this for Abuelo Sebastian, eh?”
Abuelo, I knew, meant grandfather. Grandfather Sebastian…not my husband’s deceased Grandfather Sebastian? I had never met the man, but there were picture of him in Pablo’s family albums—although there was no way I could have made the connection between those pictures and the thing standing in front of me.
“Abuelo, why are you here? What are you hiding from?” I asked.
He was about to explain when he froze. His jaw dropped, and he pointed a bony finger past my shoulder. “Alli! There!”
I turned, and saw a small child standing in my kitchen. She was barefoot, with long black hair that touched the floor. Her skin was slightly grayish, but it was her eyes that bothered me the most—solid, cold blackness.
“Dulces?” the girl whispered, and the word made my flesh crawl. “Para mi? Dulces?”
I actually took a step away from the girl, which put me closer to the skeleton. “Abuelo, who is that little girl?”
Skeleton Sebastian started to quiver, its sugar bones knocking together. “It is the spirit that changed me into this form to suit her appetite. She is a Teyollocuani…Soul Eater.”
I was petrified as the Teyollocuani started walking towards me, hands outstretched like some fervent trick-or-treater, but this was no childish masquerade...

Monday, July 9, 2012

"Ker-splat and Varoom"

*What happens when two silly words suddenly have a much-too-close encounter...*


Ker-splat was prone to fall
And splatter on the wall, while
Varoom blazed for miles,
Shooting through with a smile, faster
Than the wind, the master
Of speed. Then disaster one day
As Ker-splat made its way
Across the road, can’t say if it
Expected to be hit,
Being of lesser wit, but then
Came Varoom ‘round the bend,
And the two beings, when they struck
By unfortunate luck,
They meshed together, stuck and doomed
For they became Ker-boom
And exploded, a plume of smoke
Trailing up, but the bloke
Laughed, as if some joke was played
Upon it, some charade,
For Ker-boom, two words made to one,
Never had so much fun.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

A Toad-al Disaster

*Possibly a lost chapter from the popular children's story by Kenneth Grahame, or some anonymous author wanted to breathe new life into a beloved character of amphibious origin...or, just maybe, this is a diary excerpt from the character himself who may not be as fictional as we thought...*

I should have learned my lesson after stealing that motor car. I especially should have learned, after all of my dealings, never to trust weasels. But here I was, after I let those silver-tongued scoundrels convince me to gamble away what little was left of the Toad fortune, and now I was in deeper than at the bottom of the river. If only I could have coerced Badger to keep management of my accounts, but he had decidedly excused himself from fixing my financial fiascos.
Now I sat across from Mr. Hare, who scoured over the books before him, calculating my losses with strict accuracy (rabbits are prodigies at mathematics, as multiplying comes to them naturally). His eyes flicked up at me. “Let me be to the point,” he said with a clipped tone. “Your capability to furnish restitution for these egregious arrears is highly dubious.”
I stared blankly at him.
“You can’t pay off this debt,” he said irritably.
“I can offer compensation,” I pleaded. “Toad Hall is one of the most glorious—“
“I have no use for your dilapidated old hovel,” Mr. Hare cut in. “However…” He was quiet a moment, and an odd grin spread over his face. “There might be an arrangement we could make.”
I was never one to take time to think extensively about such matters (that was more of Rat’s department), so I immediately hopped at the chance. “Mr. Hare, I am a more than capable amphibian. Surely someone of my talents can offer decent compensation to a good rabbit such as yourself.”
“I’m sure you can.” He scribbled something down on a piece of paper and handed it to me. “This is the address of a certain rival of mine. If you could do me the favor of disposing of him, I will gladly sweep all your debts under the rug…or lily-pad, if that metaphor suits you better.”
My face blanched a paler shade of green, as I hesitantly took the paper. Already I had an idea of who he was referring to as his “rival.” It was well known throughout the woods that Mr. Hare had once had a promising career as an athlete, a competitive long distance runner. But his career and pride had been crushed when he lost a vital race to a newcomer, a Mr. Tortoise, who while was no match in speed for Mr. Hare, had been a manipulative sort who played right into the rabbit’s vanity and greed…and had also slipped a sleeping medicine into Mr. Hare’s tea before the race, causing him to pass out before the finish line.
So, honestly, what was it worth to have a dishonest, cheating tortoise in the world, if by terminating him, I would free myself from the proverbial (or, possibly literal) noose?
Little did I know before creeping over there during the dead of night, Mr. Tortoise was a collector of fine samurai swords, and well skilled in the ways of the Japanese martial arts…

Saturday, July 7, 2012

"The Problem Extractor"

* He may seem like your typical door to door solicitor. You may even be tempted to find out what, exactly, he means by promising to eradicate your problems. But beware of what appears too good to be true. The following is a standard sales pitch of the Problem Extractor, who apparently was influenced by a Seussian source...*



Hello, Good Morning, Salutations!
I know you’re in need of my service.
I am the perfectly-precise Problem-Extractor,
Removing your problems is my purpose.
Just sign here on this contract, this line,
And no more problems, I’ll extract them all!
Not a care in the world, you’ll be oh so happy
No problem’s too big, no problem’s too small.
Now, I see you have a troublesome neighbor,
Always letting his dog go on your lawn.
Well, no more of that! Into the extractor they go!
No more annoying neighbors! All gone!
Ah, and your mother-in-law? I see, what a witch.
Into my extractor she goes (no worries, she’ll be fine.
Everything I extract goes to my personal collection,
What you no longer want will become mine).
Hmm, your roof is leaking! Oh, what a shame.
Not to mention the mortgage on this house is steep.
I’ll just extract the whole thing—no more bothersome home!
But this chair seems all right, that you can keep.
Oh, and your spouse! Quite a source of stress,
Always arguing with you, never helps with the chores.
And your kids (tut tut), never listening to you,
I’ll take the whole lot, irksome family no more.
What? You say you changed your mind about this?
Now, you see, that’s a problem as well.
You signed a contract, it’s binding, you know.
I promised no more problems…now you don’t have to yell.
In fact, you’ve become a problem to yourself!
Never knowing what you want—you’ve made yourself upset.
Pop, into the extractor you go, with the rest of your worries.
…and you won’t complain ever again, I bet.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Dr. Vundercrust's Wagon of Wonderment

*We would always like to believe the promise of a solution to our most challenging problems will turn out to be everything that it seems...and it can be very easy to buy into the illusion presented to us, especially if the illusion itself believes that the promise is real...*

The Place: 1851-a small rural town somewhere in New England

“Has true love eluded you? Has the world convinced you that you cannot have everything you ever desired? Step right up to Dr. Pontificus Hovenbecker Vundercrust’s Cabinet of Concoctions, Creations, Charms and Cure-alls! No dream is too unattainable, no hope too high, no feat too unfathomable. You!”
The man, with the brazen voice of a trumpet and as about as shiny with all of his gold-plated buttons on his hunter green coat, thrust his silver cane at me. He flashed a smile that could blind angels.
The crowd around me gawked at the grand display behind him, an old gypsy wagon with bright paint of gold, red, green and purple, displaying a banner that read “Dr. Vundercrust’s Wagon of Wonderment.” He offered me a hand, I took it and he pulled me up onto the stage.
“Young man, what do you want more than anything in the whole world?” The exhibitor leaned on his cane, locking eyes with me.
I cleared my throat, as the small crowd stared at me with eager eyes. “I…really don’t know. I guess…I would like to be extraordinary. I don’t care what manner. Just…extraordinary.”
The doctor beamed another glorious smile. “Young man, I have the perfect solution for you.” He opened his leather satchel and produced a bottle with a greenish liquid. “Dr. Vundercrust’s Peak-of-Potential Solution. Brings out the extraordinary in even the most ordinary man.”
I took the bottle and gave it a tentative sip. Instantly the change occurred; my muddy hair gained a golden sheen, my scrawny frame burst into lean muscle, and my sallow skin beamed a healthy peach. The audience gasped in amazement, and then the good doctor produced a rapier from a compartment in the platform. Without preamble, he ran the blade straight into my side—and the blade bent like taffy. My skin did not have a scratch.
Naturally, Dr. Vundercrust’s wares were almost sold out in five minutes.
Later that night, after the villagers were tucked away at home (most likely trying their new wares, praying for the miracles that would never happen), I stalked into the wagon and sat down. Vundercrust’s driver snapped the reins, and the horses pulled the wagon down the road.
“Good show today, boy,” Vundercrust said as he counted his profits. He glanced over at me, seeing my true shape: the teal salamander skin, the blank yellow eyes, and the seaweedy hair that dropped around my head in tangles.
“First taste is always free, the next comes at a price,” is what the doctor had told me when I first dared to drink the Peak-of-Potential Solution, and of course I had kept coming back for more. Yes, I could alter my physique, be as radiant as Adonis, but at the end of the day, the truth was constantly crawling underneath my skin, and by now my addiction meant I owed the doctor my loyalty for the rest of my life…however long he wished that to be…

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

"Straight Talk"

*An anonymous observation about how we commonly view the concept of "straight," and why maybe we should reaccess that view...*

Keep it on the straight and narrow
Always shoot straight, like an arrow
Straight to the bank
Straight to the point
Straight from the horse’s mouth
Straight from the heart
Why is “straight” always what is good?
While being the other way is
Crooked
Out of line
Warped
Twisted
Askew
But the “winding” and “twining” has its place too
Because “straight” is rigid, unbending, stiff as hay,
Unwilling to wander off the given way,
While all the wanderers who deviate
Discover so much more than those who stay straight.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Recipe of the Day: Brine to Eradicate Indoctrinated Beliefs (to Make Room to Plant New Ones)

*Today's recipe comes from a life-long scholar, Pontificus Thaddeus Hovenbecker Vundercrust, who strongly believed in unlearning what one has learned...which makes me wonder if he learned anything at all...*


Often we find that the beliefs that we have held onto for most of our lives were indoctrinated into us by external sources: social conformities, family traditions that may in fact inhibit our abilities to progress and move forwards, our religious upbringing, etc. For those who feel like their beliefs no longer make sense to them or they wish to break away from their indoctrination to test if their belief is true, this recipe provides a means to settle inner turmoil and doubt. However, one should be extremely cautious when conjuring this recipe, for you may find yourself rooted into new beliefs that you did not even know you wanted.
¼ cup raw fear (handle with care)
½ cup chopped rebellion scallions
1 dollop light optimism
2 tbsp. open-mindedness (I prefer cinnamon flavored)
2-3 sparks of catharsis (must be found, not purchased)
2 scoops of emotional liberating powder (also known as “letting go sugar”)
1 tsp. of a volatile creative compound, such as “soul flutter” or “Taliesin’s Essence”
1 mirror (approximately 10 inches in diameter)
1 strand of braided binding cord made from the “hairs” of a dryad willow tree

Combine the first seven ingredients in a large glass mixing dish (at least 12 inches in diameter), adding in the catharsis last. Beware of possible bubbling or spillage if you combine mixture too quickly or too forcefully. Place mirror in the mixture; allow to brine overnight or at least 8 hours. Remove mirror, and place under pillow or mattress during one full night’s sleep (must be at least seven hours, less and the effects will diminish). Upon waking, remove mirror and look at your reflection while wrapping the binding cord either around your neck, in your hair, around your wrist, or wherever is most comfortable. Keep cord tied to you for two to three days before unbinding.
Results will vary. It’s different for those trying to gain new perspective from those trying to reinvent themselves. Not advised for those seeking to spite others and their belief systems or attempting to forget where they come from—outcome may sour and spoil quickly.