I didn’t think I would or could go to sleep, hanging as I was with hundreds, no, thousands of bats, from the ceiling of this huge cave. And why didn’t I feel the need of a blanket, the temperature being just a cool fifty-five degrees Fahrenheit? At home, I would have the thermostat cranked up to a night-time temperature of sixty-five, at least ten degrees higher than here in the cave, but there I would be snuggled into the warm cocoon of a blanket and eiderdown. Here, it didn’t seem to matter. Was there warmth being given off by the furry flying rodents snuggled around me? And certainly the squeaking and chattering did not keep me awake. On the contrary, it was like listening to soft music or surf rolling up on to the beach. I slept like a baby until I was awakened to a restless shuffling of the creatures around me and finding myself flanked by two large bats, one of whom seemed to be in charge.
“It is dusk,” he said in a throaty squeak, “time for us to head out into the night and clear the area of insects…those little critters that you so dislike, the ones that destroy your crops and generally bother you humans, but who are for us, a nightly feast.”
“Dusk! Oh, my gosh, I’ve been here far too long. I have to get back or I’ll be late getting to the Valley of Bones. L’Enchanteur will be on my case for sure.”
“You have expressed your respect of the Bat People and to reward you, she wishes you to join us in tonight’s sweep of the countryside.”
It made sense, something that L’Enchanteur might do to expand on our experiences. You never know what plans she has up her sleeve. And, after all, anyone can pick through bones, though I still wanted to do that, but to fly with bats—now that is something rare and to my mind exotic.
* * *
Restlessness was growing among the bat population until it sounded like a heavy surf with intermittent chirping and chattering. Then, without warning, I was flying, aided by the two boss bats that guided me and kept me from closing my wings and flopping to earth in a most ungainly manner. My companions were gobbling up insects by the thousand. I wondered how it would be without the bats and their night-time forays? We would surely be overrun with nasty, biting, critters whose only purpose in life, or so it seemed, was to harass the human race. I flew with my guides, swooping, diving, and feeding—only I didn’t fancy the feeding so I kept my mouth shut and abstained from the feast.
While my companions feasted, I watched in awe at the scene passing below me. Homes showed only as darkened shadows except for their windows, some of which glowed from interior lights. It’s amazing, I thought, how many humans burn the midnight oil. Streets were marked by straight lines of light, pulled tight like short necklaces on fat necks. Curved roads and byways showed up artistically as jewels showcased on black velvet.
A sliver of light appeared on the Eastern horizon heralding the coming of dawn. The bats surrounding me thinned down to just a few, and then to just my two guides. They gripped my outstretched wings and held fast as we glided downwards like skydivers, having pulled their cords and were enjoying the last leg of their adventure. I was deposited lightly on my feet in front of the abbey. My furry companions chattered a brief farewell before fading into the now brightening sky. I saw them dive into an unseen, from my vantage, bat-sized opening beneath the eaves on the shadowed side of the steeple. They were gone from my sight and I was saddened by that fact.
I stood rock still, somewhat dazed, and a whole lot amazed. I had been where no other human had been. I had slept most of yesterday, roosting with the bats before flying with them into the night to clean the sky of unwanted pests. How could I tell anyone of this and have them believe me? I could buy myself a bat tee shirt and hang bat earrings from my ears, but that wouldn’t mean a thing to anyone other than to let them know that I felt a need to protect these wonderful creatures, not that that wasn’t important…it was very important. But how could I relate my story? Write about it perhaps, in a children’s book. The little ones believe. At least they do until their imaginations and daydreams are clouded and dulled by the onset of adulthood. I know the truth of it though. For one day and one night, I lived as a bat with other bats and that experience will remain with me forever.
©May 9, 2009
My home base in Lemuria is the Abbey. Although my cell was sparsely furnished when I arrived, it was all I needed for writing and art. To my amazement, the wide slit of a window that gave perfect light, but had been totally unreachable, lengthened and lowered as creativity blossomed.
Yesterday after I returned from visiting the Abbey garden, a small, but perfect circle appeared on the wall above my cot. I hoped it was not mold since my window overlooks the beach and the Lemurian Sea. Too busy to investigate, I retrieved my colored pencils and continued the drawing inspired by the garden roses. This is what I drew. This is the stain glass window that the circle on the wall became. 🙂 Barbara-Believer-porsitter
The Abbey’s Secrets Revealed – Part Two
I pushed at the door and pulled at it. I ran my hands over the ancient wood and around the edges looking for and hoping to find a secret panel that would open the door. My immediate reaction was panic. How was I going to get out? Was I doomed to be trapped in this dank passage forever? This was not what I had planned for myself. I leaned against the rough stone wall and slid down into a sitting position on the cold stone floor. After a few minutes the dampness began to seep into my clothes causing me to chill. I stood and managed to push the panic aside, regain my sanity, and think logically. The oil lamps still flickered telling me that there was a draft coming from somewhere up ahead. A draft meant another entrance or at least a window or a crawl space leading to the outside. I would crawl through the eye of a needle if I had to.
I walked slowly down the passage, stopping at side passages and checking the direction of the flames. It was hard to tell because the flickering was slight at best. I dropped to my knees as a flight of bats passed over me. A good sign, I thought, there has to be a way out for the bats. I hoped more would come by allowing me to follow them. But I wasn’t a bat and the few that did fly over were too fast for me. I had to move slowly for fear of slipping on the damp, slippery stone floor. I wondered what this part of the abbey had been used for in olden days.
I thought about my friends wandering the main part of the abbey and its gardens. I wondered about my own stupidity; wandering off alone to seek, what—adventure? Well, I got that whether I wanted it or not.
By now I was chilled to the bone. I sat down and dug into my pack for my wind breaker. I put it on and shoved my hands deep into the pockets where I found the walnut. How could I have forgotten about that? I opened it up and among other things I found a tiny ball of what looked like black parchment. Where was this? What was it for and where did it come from? I did not remember seeing it before. I stored the walnut shell away in my pack, but tucked the ball of parchment-like material into a small coin pocket in my shorts.
I made my way around a bend in the passage and into a cathedral-like cavern with a high ceiling. I knew I had moved beyond the basement of the abbey and was in a large cave reminiscent of caves I had explored in New Mexico. I shuddered a little when I saw the amount of guano on the floor. Looking up again, I could make out the shapes of literally hundreds of bats hanging upside-down from the ceiling. My initial reaction was to move away, return the way I had come. But there was no way out behind me. I had no choice but to move forward. Now, despite the good they do, bats aren’t exactly popular with humans. But I figured that if I left them alone, they would leave me alone.
I felt some movement in my pocket and remembered the tiny parchment-like ball I had tucked away in my shorts. I pulled it out but it was no longer a tightly wadded ball. I was knocked to the ground as it overpowered me and fastened itself onto my back between my shoulders. Before I could comprehend what was happening I was being met and flanked by two of the largest bats I had ever seen. Without a sound, I was being guided upward supported by what was now a pair of functional bat wings. It appeared that by magic the ball of black parchment had metamorphed into strong wings. My guides led me to the center of the vast ceiling. And the next thing I knew I was hanging upside-down and surrounded by several hundred, maybe even a couple of thousand bats. Ugly little fellows they were, but cute too, in a way, and they appeared friendly. Their squeaking from this vantage point was so loud that I couldn’t hear myself think. I understood though they seemed though to be trying to get through to me…to instruct me. Although I did not understand their language, I knew enough to remain still.
After what seemed like hours hanging there upside-down, I examined as best I could, my wings. They rested between my shoulders and when stretched out were attached to my wrists. Although I did not remember repositioning it, my pack was slung crosswise over my chest. I was concerned that I had lost it but it was safe and seemed secure enough. I was surprised too, that the blood hadn’t rushed to my head and that I felt quite comfortable in what was rather an rather unnatural position. I did though find my unique vantage point fascinating. More than that, the draft I had felt below was now a strong current of air—fresh air.
I could see that close up bats were really quite cute, much as a baby rabbit or squirrel, or puppy. So why did we dislike them so? I remembered reading an article that stated bats were given a bad rap. They did not try to get in one’s hair and that their eyesight is actually very good. It is true though that they do rely completely on their built-in sonar. Their gift to us is that they devour millions of insects during their nocturnal flights.
Our lives would be much more uncomfortable if the bats went away.
To be Continued……
Vi Jones (Woodnymph)
©April 18, 2009
I arrived at Thomas’ stables with forty minutes to spare. I had to knock on Thomas’ door and he came out looking rather bemused.
‘Can I hire Maria again, please?’
‘Yes, please. I have to be at The Monk’s Hood Tavern by twelve, and I have no idea how to get there.’
‘I’d best get ‘er sorted then!’ He went into the stable and came out ten minutes later with Maria all saddled and kitted-out.
‘Where the ‘ell are yer goin’ at this time o’ night?’
‘I’m joining a group trekking to the Grotto of the Enchantress. It was a last minute decision, which is why I didn’t get here sooner. The instructions were very clear about being there before twelve. Thank you so much for accommodating me at such short notice.’
‘Well, there’s nowt s’ funny as folk, an’ that’s for sure. ‘Ow long yer gonna need ‘er for?’
‘I honestly have no idea. Is that a problem?’
‘Nay, lass. Yer looked after ‘er proper last time yer ‘ired ‘er. We’ll settle up when yer get back.’
‘Thank you so much. Now, can you tell me how to get to The Monk’s Hood Tavern?’
‘Yer’ve not far t’ go. Down to the end o’ the street and turn right. Tek the second turnin’ on the left an’ yer can’t miss it.’ I left him shaking his head and muttering to himself.
I followed his directions and easily found the tavern with ten minutes to spare. Maria, bless her, only seems to have one pace, but it was fast enough. There was quite a group gathered for the trek.
Oh, my ears and granny whiskers! The ship will be leaving port again soon to continue on the next part of the cruise. Rather than lounge about onboard I’ve decided to join a group heading for the Grotto of the Enchantress, on Lenore. I have to be there when the clock strikes twelve – which is exactly an hour and fifteen minutes away.
I will throw a few basics into my backpack and then walnut-shell it to Thomas’ Donkey Hire establishment and see if I can hire Maria again. We got on famously the last time. She may be ready for another adventure; I know I am.
If I don’t make it before the clock strikes twelve, I wonder if I’ll turn into a pumpkin? Anything’s possible on this journey.
I picked my way along. The path was obscured by overgrown shrubs and fallen leaves and I had a hard time seeing it. The dense forest canopy kept out not only the sun but the breeze as well, and the air was completely without movement. It was like being covered by a heavy blanket, and I had difficulty taking a breath.
It was also quiet. There were no birds calling. I would expect in a tropical jungle like this to hear shrieking monkeys and see them swinging from limb to limb, but there was no movement or sound of any kind except those of my trudging feet. My heart began to race, which was odd since my pace was slow, and I felt the hairs an my neck standing up.
“This is ridiculous,” I said. I hoped the sound of my own voice would alleviate my increasing apprehension.
“There is no reason to be scared. Look, this is just a forest — a bunch of trees– and this is Lemuria, for goodness sake, and this forest is just… it’s just a representation of your unconscious.” I tried to remember what I had read in the past about Jungian archetypes and dream interpretations. “Yeah, the forest represents your unconcious and you’re just dreaming. You’re probably asleep right now back home and you’ll wake up any minute.”
I heard a rustle to my right, about ten yards away. I stopped dead and stared at a large bunch of giant taro plants. Their waxy green leaves were still.
“It’s okay, it’s okay. Just the sound of an animal. Finally, some normal jungle noises.” I took a step forward but kept an eye on the place where I head the noise. Then I heard the snap of wood to my left.
“Who’s there!” I spun towards the sound.
A figure leaned against the mottled gray trunk of a banyan. I could not see the person’s features. In fact, he — or she — was completely black and had a fuzzy quality as if it was not altogether materialized. Before I could say another word, the shadow figure disappeared in front of me, seemingly downward into the immense bulging roots of the banyan.
I gasped and tensed to run. Then something occurred to me: I had run from the faceless conductor at the train station on Temple Island. I had tried to escape from the megalodon on Cetea’s Revenge. I seemed to be always trying to evade the dark parts of my psyche. Not this time. I turned towards the place where the figure had disappeared.
“Excuse me. Can we talk?”
There was no response.
“I know who you are. You’re the Dark Stranger. You’re part of me. I know that whenever I see you, then I’m about to move up to a new level of understanding. ”
I heard a rustle in the brush.
“Yeah, c’mon on out. I’m on way to the Shrine of Wandering Poets. You wanna come? It’ll be fun.”
I heard a soft ping followed by a swoosh. An arrow rushed past my ear and lodged with a quivering thunk in the tree behind me.
I’m being shot at? Holy crud! No, no, no, I will not be afraid. I can’t be hurt here. I raised my arms half-way up in front of my body and took a step towards the place where the arrow came.
“Look, dude, let’s just talk about this, okay? No need to shoot at me. How about I buy you a cup of coffee. I hear there’s a great little cafe next to the Shri—”
I felt the impact of the arrow before I felt the pain. I fell back a step and reached my hand to my shoulder. Blood was already oozing out of the gash and a searing pain radiated down my arm.
“What are you doing!!!” I don’t know if I got an answer because I was already on the run. Instinctively, I headed for cover and tore through the thicket of giant taro leaves. Another arrow swooshed by. I heard movement behind me. I pushed through the low hanging vines and branches wishing that I had brought a machete with me, if not for the brush, then at least as a weapon.
My foot caught on the bulge of a tree root and I hit the ground with agonizing crash. Blood from my wound was flowing freely now. I rolled on my back and saw blue sky through a break in the canopy.
Then the loud crack of gunfire erupted out of the darkness. I covered my head This is too much. Then another volley of fire thundered. I knew I had to get out of there. I struggled to my feet but I felt weak and swooney. I’m loosing too much blood.
Then a firm grip caught me under under my armpit and I heard a woman’s voice.
“C’mon, we gotta get out of here.”
(to be continued)
Text and image: L. Gloyd (c) 2009
What a glorious last morning I spent on Lenore. I was up before dawn and made my way to the top of the promontory to greet the sun. As the sky lightened it was bedecked in swathes of orange and cerise, like Indian saris drying in the breeze. I sat and made a list of the things I wished to do before I left.
1. Thank the Abbess and the nuns for their kindness.
2. Buy two bottles of the Liquid Velvet liqueur so that I can enjoy little tipple from time to time. I’m not a drinker, but a tiny drop of the liqueur is most uplifting.
3. Have a last look at the Abbey’s artworks.
4. Collect a few blooms from the Abbey garden and press them in my book.
5. Send postcards to my friends and family.
6. Carefully pack my bag – I will carry my little ‘art’ basket in my hand as I’ve decided to travel by walnut shell. Very handy for getting back from places, but to use it on the outward journey would entail being able to visualize your destination. Not always possible.
I wandered back to the Abbey and showered and dressed, and then went down to breakfast. All the gang was there. Brenda and her cohorts were planning a big day which involved donkeys and donkey carts. I had eggs, bacon, mushrooms, tomatoes and two slices of toast and butter. Once again it struck me how flavoursome all the food was. I had two cups of tea and then headed to the Abbey shop.
I purchased two bottles of Liquid Velvet and bought some postcards and stamps. I also bought a jar of ‘Ecclesiastical Honey’ – good for eating and for medicinal purposes. I sat in the huge entrance hall and wrote my cards. The nun in charge of the shop showed me where I could post them in a small postbox, which was emptied daily. I also wrote out a ‘Thank You’ card, addressed it to the Abbess and left it on the hall stand.
Next I wandered out to the garden again and selected six flowers to press as keepsakes – a red salvia, a marigold, a white petunia, a small pink rose and a yellow snapdragon. The snapdragon made me smile. It brought back childhood memories of ‘talking’ snapdragons. I took the flowers back to my room; arranged them carefully between pieces of toilet tissue and placed them in my book. I then had to bind it tightly. Not the best method for pressing flowers, but it seemed to work when we were kids. It was only a temporary measure, anyway. I would find something hefty to squash them when I got back to the ship.
I carefully packed my bag, then stripped off my bedding and folded it ready for laundering, and I was ready for off. A last look at the artworks first though.
I visited the Lady Chapel to view both the stained-glass windows and the stunningly beautiful, embroidered altar piece. What hours of work must have gone into that. Lots of couched gold thread employed. Very rich and heavy. I also looked at all the tapestry hassocks, and saw that the inspiration for them had come from the garden. Every flower you could think of was represented.
I wandered along the corridors where oil paintings of church dignitaries and also beautiful landscapes of the island, were displayed. I finished my tour in the Library, where several, centuries-old illuminated manuscripts were displayed in glass cases. I imagined all the time and patience needed to create these – and the concentration! You wouldn’t want to do all that and then make a mistake at the end, and have to start again.
It was about 11.30 am by the time I got back to my room. I grabbed my bag and the tiny basket; checked I had my transport in my pocket, and went downstairs to hand in my key.
I shouted a ‘Cheerio!’ to friends who were gathering for lunch and headed out to the courtyard. This was going to be tricky – only two hands and three things to hold. I gripped my walnut shell tightly and hooked my arm through my bag handle and cradled the basket in my other hand. I closed my eyes and visualized my cabin on the Vulcania – whooooosh, thump! I was there!
It was nice to be back onboard the ship and I certainly appreciated the little luxuries after the austere atmosphere of the Abbey. Time to have some lunch and study the noticeboard to see what entertainments were available.
“Stupid, stupid, stupid…” I muttered as I trudged along the gravel path towards the woods. “You’ve done it now — you’ve ticked off an abbess, for heaven’s sake. Good job, sweetie.” I looked to the sky to see if any thunder clouds had formed in order to zap me for my insolence. It was clear.
I don’t know why I had been snarky with the Abbess. Obviously, I have some sort of internal malfunction and she has been sent to help me. Obviously, I felt a little threatened by her questioning and responded accordingly. I was always getting myself into trouble with my mouth. Obviously, one day I was going to really feel the consequences. I just hope it wasn’t today.
I came to the edge of the woods and stopped. This was no small thicket of ordinary trees. A wall of dense, gnarled banyan trunks soared above me. The path was covered with large fallen leaves and what I could see of the trail disappeared into a thick darkness. An equally thick darkness fell over me. I felt like I was in the middle of a horror movie. I was the character about ready to walk in the dark, scary place, the weird music edging towards a crescendo, and the audience yelling “don’t go into there!” — just before the ax murderer jumps out from behind a tree.
Yes, I was going to pay for my insolence today after all. I took a few steps and walked under the canopy of the banyan forest.
(to be continued)
Image and text by L. Gloyd © 2009
I shifted on my feet. The intense gaze of the Abbess made me nervous, and I was not sure if I was supposed to address her first. She was a most unusual Abbess. I expected a stiffly dressed, austere matron, not this woman dressed in a pale Grecian-style gown and glittering jewels. I could smell a faint scent of patchouli perfume.
“Lori, welcome to Lenora Abbey.” Her voice was firm but soft.
“Thank you. Uh…you know my name? ”
“Of course. Would you be more comfortable if I called you ‘Elle-Jay’?
“It is perfectly acceptable to assume another identity here.”
She turned and moved towards an alcove embedded in the wall. It appeared to be an altar with a flickering white candle and a small brazier. She picked up a slim stick of incense, briefly touched it to candle flame and then inserted the other end in the brazier.
“May I ask you why you chose that name?”
“I guess it sounds a little more polished and sophisticated. ”
“Ah, I see…Or perhaps it sounds a little more anonymous? Elle-Jay….L.J. Using initials will do that”
“As if you were trying to separate yourself from others?”
“And perhaps to separate you from yourself as well?”
I did not respond. She had hit a little too close to home.
“If I might suggest something,” she continued, “choosing another identity should assist in connecting you to your true self, not drive you away from it.
“I assume that’s why I am here… to find my ‘true self’,” I countered.
“If you want to put it that simplistically, then yes. That’s part of it.”
“And what’s the other part?”
The abbess smiled but said nothing.
“Great,” I muttered. The incense smoke began to rise from the altar and curl around the Abbess. She glanced down at my backpack that I held at my side.
“What did you bring with you?”
“Well, I brought my laptop, some granola bars, a bottle of— ”
“No, that’s not what I mean.”
“Um…. I brought a pod of lotus seeds.”
“Ah, is that what she gave you?” She began to walk toward another door and motioned me to come along. “Were there any instructions?”
“I’m not sure. The talking owl said to ‘dig before I got thirsty’…. whatever that means.”
“What? What does that mean?”
“I think it means that you came to the right place”. We walked through the door onto the portico overlooking a large grassy area.
“Why? What am I supposed to do here? If you can help me figure this out, I’d be very appreciative.”
The Abbess leaned against the railing and surveyed the grounds. “All I can say is that to be ‘thirsty’ in the real world is bad enough, but to be ‘thirsty’ in Lemuria, where the waters of Muse freely flow, is almost unheard of. You really must be in a bad way.”
“So what do I do?”
“What do you know about lotus flowers?”
“Not much – that they grow in the mud and I think symbolically they represent rebirth. That’s about it”
“And does that suggest a course of action to you?”
“Well, yeah. I suppose I need to find someplace to plant the seeds and then I have some epiphany.” I cringed when I said that. I knew I really should not be too flippant with the Abbess, but sometimes I cannot help myself when I am in an uncomfortable situation.
“Again, on a simplistic level you would be right.”
“But what’s the catch? There’s always a catch.”
“There is no catch. The goal is simple. Go plant the seeds.”
“So, where do I plant them? I’d like to get on with this.”
“Yes, you do like to get to the point and take care of things. Achievement is important to you.”
“Well, no disrespect, but what is wrong with that?”
“Nothing, but I don’t think I have to tell you the other important aspect, do I?”
“I suppose you are going to say that I need to stop and smell the roses?” I was on a roll now.
“Something like that.”
“Or how about ‘it’s the journey, not the destination,”
“Good, you know all this then.” The Abbess stared into the distance with a face that suggested that the time for our audience had come to an end.
“Okay, well, I guess I best get started….um, I wondering if you could just give some directions on where to go… just to get me started?”
The Abbess pointed across the grounds towards a wooded area. “Through the woods, on the other side of the Abbey grounds is a small shrine dedicated to wandering poets and other creative persons. It has a pond with a floating garden at the entrance. Simply plant your seed there with the other lotuses. Enjoy your journey.” She abruptly turned and walked away from me.
“Uh…Thank you. I appreciate that.”
(to be continued).
Image and story: L. Gloyd (c) 2009