This must be the place. Tall and narrow and strange; a lighthouse far from sea.
(what is it there to guide?)
He will be waiting inside for me, on the second floor.
I am shown to a small table with chipped paintwork and a wobble.
He is not there.
I try to make myself comfortable and peer out of the small window to my right. A fluffy black cat is curled up on a chair, sleeping soundly. Beyond her are rooftops and a church spire. As I turn back toward the room I see a waiter has brought me a menu, all written out by hand in a scrawl I can just about make out. I thank him and shuffle in my seat. I must appear so edgy and tense to the others here: they dine out regularly, they are comfortable not only in their seats but in themselves.
My focus drifts to their conversations in absence of one of my own. A young man sitting with his parents complains that he is struggling to balance his studies towards what he thinks he ought to become, with the musician he feels he is. I feel a sadness inside that this is what life is, for all of us. I’m so sorry, I wanted to say to him with a hand on his shoulder, we were all lied to. Two heavily made up women with perms and huge earrings sit together sharing a bottle of wine. They never stop smiling, I notice. Big toothy grins framed with scarlet party.
The cat sleeps.
My companion arrives and seats himself opposite me. No one seems to notice despite his otherworldly appearance. He orders a pot of chai for us to share, and begins talking almost straight away in his slow, considered manner. He has no need to ask how I’ve been, he already knows, and he already understands what I need next.
‘You have forgotten so soon that you are not always the ringmaster. Each of us has meaning of our own that we must pursue, and it is against the nature of the beast for one to be completely in tune with another. The clashes and coincidences and abrasions are all par for the course. You have to be strong enough to take them and fluid enough to move around them. You have to give up on this obsession with permanence of any situation or relationship. There is no constant but the essence within, and even that has an end in this form’.
I know he is right. The room begins to shake violently, as though an earthquake were upon us. Crockery clatters on the tables, and we have to hold on tightly to it so that it doesn’t fall. I am startled, but as I look around the room no one else shares my concern. No one else even pauses in their conversation or looks up from their tea. I look outside and see nothing out of the ordinary. No other buildings are shaking but the one we are in.
The cat sleeps.
‘You have swum in the void that screeches and chatters, and it is captured at your heart, just like the image you hold of me. It is more under control for me, more tame through my knowledge of it yet still a wild ride. You could tap its powers more readily than you realise, but you need a little more healing first. Just be careful not to allow healing over entirely lest you may go back empty handed’.
I must have looked disheartened, for he reassured me with a smile: ‘There are stars activated within the stone, you will progress just fine. Are you ready to remember?’
The building shakes.
The cat sleeps.
I feel nauseous, from the shaking I presume, and am momentarily taken away from the lighthouse as I close my eyes and remember.
A group of men with bare torsos, hunched over with their backs on show as if they were about to be whipped. The mood was somber. The men seemed to be out in the desert at night. There were mountains all around them and the sky was thunderous. There was a sense of fire. The men, or some of them at least, had huge circles tattooed on their backs with intricate designs inside. My first thought was that they were zodiacal, but there were more than 12 segments I surmised. Then I realised they weren’t really tattoos but more like cut out designs or brandings. They glowed, sending forth light in red or white.
They are called the ‘chosen ones’, my companion tells me. He is quiet, as though waiting for my reaction. It makes more sense than anything else I have witnessed that day, I tell him. I give him the nod that I can take more; I have been saving my energy for this.
Tribesmen were around a campfire. One man was up and dancing, and his lower half was changing into that of a large bird. When fully transformed he was peacock blue, but had no tail feathers. He continued to strut and dance in front of the rest of the tribe. Then his head folded out of itself like origami. He turned around and a butterfly flew out of his rear, which also appeared as origami. It was red and black, and flew upwards and away.
I open my eyes and my companion is gone. The teacups have been taken away, the bill has been settled.
The building has ceased to shake.
The cat sleeps.
And I return to ordinary awareness with another puzzle to solve, another set of symbols to decode.
It is always this way when the shaman comes to visit.