Learning To Fly

2017-09-06 21.25.01
I am encased, swaddled, and smothered by an invisible substance. My skin is writhing and earthy beyond my threshold, so I step into a soothing bath to remove the unwanted film for the third time today: the transformation is less prominent there. I congratulate myself briefly when I finally manage to open the book I’ve been staring at for the last hour and a half, and I hide out in it like it’s a protective roof over my head. But just minutes later it caves in and my concentration wanes once again. That is when the dreams begin to come. Dreams of wriggling, striving, and rupturing.

There’s a tapping at my window. A sad, gaunt face with sunken eyes is peering in. I know it is self pity and it doesn’t belong here, so I press my fingertips against my temples and try to cast it away. It doesn’t go.
The tapping escalates to a pounding, and I know something in my chest cavity is screaming to get out. With a mouth full of dry cloth I try to call for help, but am met only by the eyes of the bothered and the perplexed, who join self pity at my window. I become dizzy and confused when the world fades out and I shrink further and further behind my watering eyes.

With my heart in my mouth, I am falling down from a high bridge across a fast flowing current. I hit the water hard and am thrust into its body, my nostrils filling quickly and stinging the back of my throat. A fist grips my hair at the neck and heaves my head above water to make sure I can hear loud and clear: “you are supposed to be dowsing, not drowning! This is all for your art, so suck it up, sweetheart!” I long for my oppressor to take me in his arms but he thrusts me back beneath the surface and walks away without another look. But it hurts, I answer in my mind, it hurts so damn much.

[For a moment I am back in my office, searching through a box of data cards. Each one has a crudely drawn face on it and I am trying to find a match for my memories. If I can recognise myself, maybe I can recalibrate my mind. Then all of a sudden the change is upon me, and I know exactly which one of the scribbles I am. Throbbing dissonance starts up in the background that I cannot be separate from; the music that connects with my soul and drags it forth. I feel the click of the safety harness latching onto my core, and the world comes back into focus. The software is loaded, the goal is set.]

Now I can feel the rhythm of the sea that carries me, and I rock my body slowly backwards and forwards along with it like we were one. I gaze over the edge of the boat, into the deep waters that previously surrounded my body. Such a relief to be heading home to warmth and comfort, and yet also the sharp pang of an ending. A thought crosses my mind that I should abandon the boat and leap right back in: the grief is all that is familiar, after all. Fortunately perhaps, I am unable to carry out the whim, for the music has me in its grip and will not let me go. There are lyrics accompanying it now, and although I can’t quite make them out they seem to be telling me to feel the full force of the butterflies in my stomach. Feel them, remove the blockage: it is stopping the buzz of energy from flowing through the veins.

The butterflies are blue, and they are dancing, not struggling. They are not caged, they are not trapped. They are simply fluttering around delicately in the only way they know how. They were once wriggling beasts, but now they are learning to fly. It’s time to let them out.

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500

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August might have been my worst month yet in terms of writing new blog posts, but on the 27th – my birthday – I woke up to the good news that 500 of you now follow Orchid’s Lantern. I am honoured to know so many people are enjoying my little stories, articles and book reviews; thank you!

Fragments of Perception and Other Stories is now in the safe hands of a few trusty beta readers, the cover is out for design, and all being well it will be published in early November in paperback and ebook. I have some work to do with my website next: I’m going to attempt to move over to my own domain. Hopefully this won’t cause any disruption on WordPress but I’ve never done this before…

Apart from that, I am looking forward to continuing work on The Enlightenment Machine, and what I am now referring to as its prequel, The Tale of Dr Hertz. I also have outlines for two non fiction books, but I’m not sure where they’re going to fit into the schedule yet. Despite all of this, I do now have time to start blogging properly again, so you can expect brand new stories to start arriving in your inbox again very shortly.

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You can now follow me on Facebook and Twitter for regular updates on my progress and inspirations. I’d love to see you there!

How to Improve the Mental Energy Cycle

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One of the ideas that really stuck with me after reading Rebels and Devils recently, was Christopher Hyatt’s simple explanation of how we regulate our energy on a day to day basis, and how it affects our ability to live strong, productive and wilful lives.

‘There are four types of energy direction and two primary cycles. First, there is energised enthusiasm which in turn is usually balanced by deep relaxation – the second type of energy. This cycle is the fundamental healthy, creative, rebellious ebb and flow of life. Third, there is deep tension and, fourth, agitated tiredness. These last two are signs that the fundamental ebb and flow of life is disturbed.’

The third and fourth types of energy he describes are symptomatic of stress and an inability to cope, and they form the second cycle. He goes on to say that getting off this second cycle and switching back to the more healthy first cycle can be very unpleasant; most cannot do it and instead will seek a quick fix that has relieved their pain and discomfort in the past, even if it is only temporary. This often comes in the form of coffee, alcohol, prescription drugs such as painkillers and sleeping pills, illegal drugs or bouts of aggression. This cycle inevitably leads to addiction, depression or paralysing anxiety.

The reason I think the idea of the two cycles struck such a chord with me, is that it describes very well the method by which I once became trapped in a loop of depression and how I ultimately overcame it. I have since looked further into the mechanisms of what makes a healthy cycle, and would like to share some of my findings.

Continue reading “How to Improve the Mental Energy Cycle”

Rescue

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You dragged me from the water for the third time that day with a look of determination on your face. A look which seemed to be new, even to you. This whole charade was driving you into uncharted territories; testing your endurance. I slumped myself down next to a rock, feeling nothing but raw. My senses were protesting at the stimulation they were expected to process. Not this again. The world was an inconvenience. I was sick from the things I once loved. We were way beyond reassurances by then, and there were no more words you could say to me. So instead you paced back and forth with your hands in your hair and your eyes to the sky.

What happens when things have fallen apart about as far as they ever could? Entropy take me.

Then you gathered a bunch of sticks, much faster than I could comprehend, and right there in front of me you started a fire. My tired eyes were some way comforted by the sight of colour, my worn and crumbled body warmed by the flame. In the crackle of the wood I heard you promise that you would find me a desert in which to dwell if that is what it would take to keep me from the waters edge.

We sat there for some hours in silence: I as a pile of stones and you as a boat. I fell asleep, and you took me home.

Progress

C R Dudley Author - Orchid's Lantern

Exciting things are happening behind the scenes at Orchid’s Lantern!

I have finally decided to independently publish under the name C R Dudley: some of you have already noticed I’ve started changing my social media accounts to reflect this. Orchid’s Lantern will be the name of my publisher and I’m having a logo designed for it, which will appear on the back of my books and my website. 

I am currently editing and compiling a selection of flash fiction for my first official publication. I expect there will be 30 – 35 stories included, many of which have already featured here on my blog but some are brand new. I am working with the title Fragments of Perception which I believe captures the essence of my work, what do you think? I’d also be interested to learn from my regular readers what genre you would describe my stories as? This could play an important part in how I present them.

Once the editing is complete in about a months’ time I will be looking for a couple of beta readers to look over the collection with a critical eye. If you’d be interested in doing this, please drop an email to orchidslantern@gmail.com so we can discuss. I will gladly return the favour if anyone is in need.  

My novel is progressing and about to enter a second draft stage. This will involve a fair amount of re-writing from the first draft as I now have a stronger, clearer idea of what needs to happen to achieve my vision. I’m working under the title The Enlightenment Machine for this. Broadly, it is about a man taking part in experimental therapy living underground with similarly afflicted individuals. The world he is exploring is changing his outlook but something unknown is slipping through the cracks that no one is yet equipped to deal with… 

Some of you may be pleased to know I have also done some more work on The Old Woman, The Stag, And Me (working title only as it’s grammatically incorrect among other things). Looking at the outline, I think this will likely end up at novelette length but could be slow progress as I am desperate to press on with the novel foremost. 

Lastly, I’ve written a couple more flash fiction pieces to submit to anthologies which I hope are fruitful.  

I hate to be creating new work and not sharing it straight away, but hopefully it will all be worth it. Once I have Fragments of Perception nailed, I will be back to putting my flash fiction straight onto the blog as it is ready. A big thank you once again to everyone who follows and interacts with this blog (almost 500 of you now!), your support is my confidence.

Fragments of Heart: Alien Dust

Orchid's Lantern C R Dudley

Black skies lit by the whole moon reminded me of you. They reminded me of your warrior stance, and the soft dark hair you had no right to boast. They reminded me of the time I danced around my pole to Marilyn Manson’s Sweet Dreams, and you watched through the bottom of a whisky glass. I told you that night that I wanted to climb inside you and live there, and you agreed. But I must arrive on foot by the ordeal path, you stressed, because no one ever touched a star by wishing alone. I was inclined to agree.

So after you were gone I listened out for you in the thunder, and savoured the rain on my face as though it were the tears you made me cry. I felt your presence when wandering the forest at night, when the eyes of shadow creatures were upon me; when I was hurt, lost and alone. In the night at least, you were real.

One such night, on an aimless stumble among the trees, I found a house in a small clearing. I could swear it hadn’t been there before, and the overgrown flora remained on all sides undisturbed. And yet, someone clearly lived there. In fact they were up and about, because I could hear a shuffle and a sigh that only man could make. I turned on my flashlight but could see nothing, so I edged towards the sound, untangling my ankles from the grip of branches as I went. There was no fear in my heart, which meant I was likely getting further away from you, but still my curiosity forced me to persist.

At last I saw him: a slip of a man moving along his flat rooftop on his hands and knees.

“Well don’t just stand there,” he said impatiently without looking up.

I didn’t move. The shadow creatures had averted their eyes as if declaring me sacrificed, and I felt unusually free.

“There’s a ladder round the back.”

The rungs were illuminated by moonlight, so I didn’t even need my flashlight to see where I was going. I crawled to his side on my hands and knees in case it was a custom I was expected to observe. In one hand he held a transparent plastic sample bag, and in the other he used a brush to sweep tiny pieces of grit into it. Perhaps I’d have asked at that moment what on earth he was doing, had I not been overwhelmed by the sense we had met before. Despite his wiry frame, spectacles and sunken eyes, I was as drawn to him as I had been to you all those years ago. It was almost as though…

“Can you see any more?” He asked.

“Any more? What am I looking for?”

“Alien dust. Rocks. Fragments of stars. They’ll be shining tonight if they’re here.”

I took a cursory glance around the rooftop. “I can’t see any.”

“Then we’re done.”

I followed him back down the ladder and into the house, noticing for the first time he had bare feet and that made me smile. His carpet was red and heavily patterned, just like my grandmother’s used to be. His walls were almost entirely covered by shelves holding jars of stones and powders, and his furniture looked as though it hadn’t been moved or cleaned in decades. I watched as he painstakingly trawled through his findings from the roof, discarding anything that his magnet took for its own, and setting the rest onto a piece of clear plastic. He didn’t utter a word for an hour or more, but I waited patiently until he excitedly ushered me over to his microscope.

Peering through the lens, I saw the most beautiful, intricate formation of pinks and blues and charcoal blacks. This tiny particle had a whole world of its own contained within it, made from smooth edged mountains and deceptive whirlpools. It felt like home.

“Anyone can find them. They’re falling from the sky all the time, right onto our heads! So few take the time to understand.”

“So many wish, but so few seek.” I added. A single tear was running down my face; the first to fall in years without pain. He wiped it away with his little finger, and took me into his arms so tightly it took my breath away. My suffering was done, and finally I was allowed to lay beneath a star.

The Gardener

Orchids Lantern, thoughts of a writer

Ideas grow in the mind organically, like flowers in a garden. Now and then a gardener comes along to sprinkle some water and tear out the weeds, and we are grateful that the more exuberant species can thrive once more. Sometimes the gardener cuts the heads off the fullest of rosy ideas, and though we mourn them for a time we know that he only does so in order that more will flourish.

But sometimes the gardener does the strangest thing: he takes the best of all the different kinds of flowers – picks them right out at the root – and puts them together in a vase until they die. He draws pleasure from this act, as though he were honouring his produce in allowing it to fulfil its purpose. As though declaring them beautiful and arranging them in his preferred manner makes them more valid. Those flowers, those ideas, are complete. In their final configuration they are the best they will ever be, and the gardener prides himself on capturing that moment. Because he knows, I suppose, that more will grow.

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The key to raising orchids lies in their roots. We need to understand what makes them different to help them to grow in a potted environment.”

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