A – Z, In Descending Order
an indefinite large number, possibly derived from the notion that z = an unkown quantity + million. Some believe that as many alternative realities exist for each of us. All we have to do is find our own doorway and have the courage to cross whatever constitutes the liminal.
the second unknown quantity. A measurement of our own fear to accept the world as subjectively perceived. Perhaps.
to Lewis all outsiders were foreigners. He’d chosen to live in an isolated farmhouse, miles from anywhere. A morbid silence hung over the place. Few birds sang. Sometimes, in the spring, around the time of her birthday, if she listened carefully, she caught the sound of a lost cuckoo. The joy of it lasted for days.
the ceiling was a precarious maze of cracks and bulges. At night she lay flat on her back, following the convulted course of the river Wye from its birth at the corner of the wardrobe until its final plunge into a ridged and puckered sea above the window. It was soon over. Coarse hands over bruised flesh. A heave. A bump. A stifled groan. The ceiling fascinated her. Every line and wrinkle radiated from one place. All roads might lead to Rome, but eventually everything was allowed to melt back into the sea.
leave. Cease to occupy. Make empty.
It was only a body, a carcass, a shell. Most days it semmed like a good idea.
unigedd uffern loneliness hell
was the name of the place: The Red House. There was nothing red about it, though, unless it was shame. Grey, more like. The color of misery. Of quiet despair . . .
Rare visitors called it idyllic, lying as it did in the lazy curve of the willow-flanked river. She knew different. If ever maggots squirmed in the bud, they did here. The place festered with dirty, creeping, covert things. Bits of rotting frog spewed from the taps in spring. Blood-hungry gnats danced wild figures-of-eight over dank lawns. Crows dangled blowfly warnings from barbed gibbets. Rats everywhere. Under floor-boards. In wall spaces. Along rafters. And everything always mildew damp from the melancholy Welsh Marches drizzle, spreading thread-bare blankets of curdled mist over the unworkable heavy clay.
SEVEN CROWS A SECRET:
was Lewis her real or surrogate father? Or did he just represent patriarchal authority?
We all know he was years older than her.
What makes women stay?
the square symbolizes the earth of matter and rationalism, while the circle symbolizes the encompassing world of spirit, heart, and feeling. Thus, the squaring of the circle was the philosophical pursuit of the ancient sciences of religion. The looking-glass itself was square. Its frame, being heavily hand-carved and the work of an exceptionally gifted craftsman, was answerable to no one, but most people would have called it round…
And where didshe go?
the lower part of us, like the allegory of the Great God Pan, obeys the laws of biology. The upper half will not. The rhythms of sacred order reveal themselves through dream and symbol, myth and legend, but we close down our senses, allowing them to shrivel in the raging fires of rational progress. We blunder on, surrounded by worlds we cannot enter, colors we cannot see, songs we cannot hear. We see as real what is only illusion. We refuse to consider what is.
dread, terror. Nevertheless she had to do it. For a week the house was buffeted by violent winds crashing down over the Black Mountains. Slates had come loose. A slow drip wept from the sea above the bedroom window. Bucket in hand, armed with a stick, she edged up the dog-leg stairs to the attic. A pale gleam in a far corner reflected the light sneaking in under the rafters. Life was too full of sameness not to creep along the unboarded beams and feel into the darkness. The looking-glass was large, almost too big to carry, difficult to manoeuvre downstairs. When she finally got it onto the kitchen table, she saw the glass was spotted with age. The frame was filthy: clogged with years of muck and matted cobwebs; not even that obscured its beauty. Some master craftsman had carved an intricate pattern of leaves, flowers, and sinuous coiling branches. Its making had been an act of worship. A celebration. She looked into the glass and saw her reflection, pale green and dim. Her hair, once so thick and vital, so brilliantly copper colored, was scraped back from her face, deadened to a pale, fuzzy ginger. Lines of fatigue and stress stood out more clearly than ever. Old. Old, before her time. Setting aside her bitterness, she began to clean away the grime. Straightening, she glanced into the glass, instinctively pushing back a stray lock of hair. And in that first split second, still in the act of raising her head, she saw that her own reflection had turned away, looking at something over its own shoulder. Then it snapped abruptly round, blinking, staring squarely back at her.
four o’clock. Something had been nagging at the back of her mind with such intensity that it intruded into the muddled fabric of her dreams. Moonlight shone directly into the room, dragging goblin shadows from under the skirtings, setting the timbers creaking and grumbling. Pale moths fluttered hopeless-ly at the windows. She padded silently downstairs to where the looking-glass leaned against the scullery wall. Her heart thumped wildly as she crossed the icy flagstones. Her reflection slowly lifted its head and opened its eyes, staring wide-eyed back at her. She felt the hair at the nape of her neck lift and stiffen. From somewhere, she gathered the resources to stand her ground. She risked another look. Then she knew what had disturbed her sleep. There was no mirror image of the drab room beyond her reflection. Instead, there was bright sunshine, a flower-filled garden.
dark clouds abruptly covered it. She fumbled her way back to the fetid room and lay for a long while, shivering slightly in the matt darkness.
suggested that in a culture so heavily gripped by the world of objective facts, so estranged from the experiencing self, little short of psychedelics can loosen the shell. At one time or another, the priests of nearly all religions have found a new ‘sacrament’—a substance which conducts power, a catalyst for renewed perception. For the Christians: wine. For Zen: tea. Pan and the Goddess also provide . . .
the human mind can never grasp the ultimate nature of reality, of ‘things-in-themselves’; these can neither be confirmed, denied, nor scientifically demonstrated.
religion is nothing if not obedience to awareness.
But was she aware of her own existence until she saw that she was living the shadow?
She looked directly into the glass. The reflection which was not quite hers gazed serenely back, blinking out of time, mouthing her name, smiling—which was something she never did—waiting, expecting her to do something. She wasn’t sure what. It wasn’t her in the glass. It wasn’t. It couldn’t be. Could it?
addiction. And the looking-glass drew her relentlessly towards it. She couldn’t keep away. Once there, she found it increasingly difficult to break eye contact. She developed a growing terror of being lost somewhere unreachable. Out of normal sight. And yet. Look! That other self had retained her youthful beauty. Her vitality. And she was happy. Day by day she blossomed. Soon she began to hear her calling.
Lewis exhibited no obvious sign of grief. Just indifference.
except when they brought in a JCB and began to dig up the water meadows.
Brahmanic scripture speaks of two ‘fires’—the spiritual energy, which descends from heaven, and the earthly aetheric energy, which ascends from matter. Their union, the union of polarities, is spirit wedded to matter. There’d been a fire in the scullery. Someone had burnt a sizeable carving. A faint black circle, enclosing an even fainter square, surrounded the charred remnants. This faded before it could be photographed. Curious because the roof directly above was blackened both inside and out as if struck by lightning. On reflection, it may have been a mirror that was burnt. Molten glass had fanned out, solidifying in droplets on the flagstones. Teardrops. Raindrops. Prisms, collecting rainbow light from God knows where. The heat must have been intense.
traces of Amanita muscaria, the Fly Agaric, were discovered on the kitchen table. This is the red and white spotted toadstool of fairy stories, a strong hallucinogen and intoxicant, still used as such by the Lapps. The Druids are thought to have controlled the use of this fungus, reserving it for religious ceremonies. Possibly rites of passage.
imprisonment. Once a fortnight, Lewis drove her to a super-market in the nearest town. He handed over ridiculously small amounts of cash and waited in the parking lot whilst she agonized over which essentials not to purchase. She shrank at her own oddity. Other customers fascinated and terrified her, especially babies. Nobody, she felt, better understood their alien howls. Growing consciousness brought the realization that they were trapped, netted, caged, encased—prisoners in diminutive earthsuits for upwards of three score and ten.
freedom did exist. The voice continued to call her into that sunny Other place. All she had to do was to find her own way in . . .
Oh. Didn’t I say that her name was Alice?
Liza Granville lives in Gloucestershire with three monstrous Persian cats, her own personal bodyguard and an over-active imagination. She’s the author of 2 novels: Curing The Pig; The Crack of Doom. A third, Until The Skies Fall, was published late 2008 (and has now been reviewed by A cappella Zoo. Her stories are regularly published in national and international magazines. Her work also appears in several anthologies.