Friday, December 12, 2008

Serialization of Sacred Vow: Woodland Soup

photo by Ruthieki

Sacred Vow is a metaphysical novel about a man who responds to the mysterious call of a woman, opening the way to redefinition of both himself and his understanding of the world around him. He takes his first steps on a journey to accept the world around him as a place to live, not simply a place to survive day-to-day. Sacred Vow is both a narrative and the means for the author to communicate a positive message about life and fully integrating the most into each moment. Highly recommended—Midwest Book Review

Installment 22 of 22 of the serializaton of Sacred Vow (Dragon's Beard Publishing, ISBN: 978-0-9774271-4-7, paperback, Fiction: Visionary/Metaphysical).

Woodland Soup

The next thing Ian knew, he was propped against the arm of the couch with pillows behind him. He was covered with a sheet and blanket, and there was an aroma of lentil soup in the room. He was so weak he had to struggle just to open his eyes. Once he had them open, he couldn’t focus well enough to see. The most he could make out was the shadowy shape of a person in front of him.

“Welcome back, Ian.” It was Djalma’s voice. “Yes, you’re still in your house. I apologize for intruding.”

To Ian’s knowledge, Djalma didn’t have a car. How could he have managed the four-hour trip? Even more confusing, how did he get into the house?

“Not to worry. I didn’t break anything getting in.”

This was Djalma all right. Ian didn’t really care if anything had been broken. However he had entered, Ian was grateful for it. He wanted to thank Djalma but didn’t have the strength to speak. Right now, remaining conscious was all he could manage.

“I’ve been able to get you to drink some juice and water, but you haven’t been eating,” Djalma said.

Ian had no memory of drinking.

“It’s been a couple of days since your return. Maybe you could eat something now,” Djalma said. “I brought you some of my special woodland soup, gathered on one of my hikes just before I left home—Remember? I was making some on your first visit.” He laughed. “Just kidding. It’s regular soup.”

Ian could smell the spoon of soup below his nose.

Djalma coached him. “Try to open your mouth, buddy. You can’t heal without nutrition.”

A very little soup was all Ian could manage to eat. It seemed like only a few minutes passed, and yet he must have slept, as he was waking up again.

Djalma had pulled the desk chair beside the couch and was sitting there reading poetry out loud. The poem was referring to the mist and the mountains. It sounded like Taoist poetry.

When he saw that Ian was awake again, Djalma stopped reading and said, “Welcome home again.”

Ian could focus a little better than before. It was good to see Djalma’s smile. He tried to thank his friend once more, but abandoned it for a mere, “hello.” Even that sounded feeble.

“Is there anything I can get you, Ian?”

Ian’s reply of “woodland soup” was almost unintelligible, but Djalma laughed and patted his arm. He was back in just a minute. Ian suspected the soup was already on the stove, as he heard no sound from the microwave.

Ian sat up and fed himself a little. The effort of doing so hurt immensely, and he quickly lost the ability to use his arm. He didn’t mention this, but Djalma must have realized what was going on and began to help Ian with the soup.

Needing the assistance of a young man to feed him was humbling. It was not quite so humbling, however, as the affliction that had brought Ian to need the assistance.

For the next few days, Djalma made sure Ian had food and water. He did the laundry, kept him company, and helped him hobble back and forth to the bathroom. Ian was grateful for the company and the help.

Knowing that Djalma had to help him out of a mess only because he had ignored his advice shamed Ian considerably. Whenever he tried to apologize, though, Djalma cut him off and asked to be repaid with a promise of full recovery.

Until Ian was able to maintain consciousness long enough to carry on conversation, Djalma entertained them with reading poetry and philosophy aloud. Some of the books, he had brought. While waking to some of Djalma’s readings, Ian was reminded of items from his own shelves that had not been read in some time.

Several days later, Ian finally became cognizant enough to realize he had been out of work without explanation. When he tried to get up for the phone, Djalma explained that he had already told Ian’s manager that Ian had a severe virus and might need a couple of weeks to recuperate.

For some reason, Ian found that bit of magic a little harder to believe than most. Work was something he had never spoken to Djalma about. It was hard to accept that Djalma’s little inexplicable feats could have made their way into the stiflingly rational world of software. The doubt must have been apparent in Ian’s face. Djalma smiled and nodded.

“No big deal. You are very organized. The personal phone book under the phone has your manager’s name and numbers.”

Even so, Ian knew his manager’s name wasn’t listed under “I” or “M,” for “Ian’s Manager.” Who cares? he thought. By the time he considered the possible ways Djalma could have found the information, his interest in the subject was exhausted.

In another day or so, Ian was still too sluggish to function well at work, but he could have managed well enough at home. Ian was certain that Djalma stayed partially to make sure there wasn’t another rushed journey back to Katerina—and partially just as a good friend, visiting. Ian thought of telling Djalma he could go back to the mountains—but he didn’t know how his friend would get there—and besides, he was enjoying the company.

Card games passed the time. Some of the games Djalma knew; some of them Ian knew. Djalma’s poetry readings revived Ian’s interests and he in turn shared some of his own favorites, such as Emily Dickinson’s “Much madness makes divinest sense,” and pieces from a locally published collection called, Strike a Chord of Silence. Ian came to enjoy the Taoist poetry that Djalma introduced him to. The poets’ uncomplicated attention to nature, along with the accompanying ink drawings in one of the books, made Ian think of Katerina.

When Ian felt up to it, he told Djalma the story of his last visit—which had put him in the state in which his friend had found him. It was a way of thanking Djalma for his care.

“Thank you for making sure I knew to look for the reason Katerina and I were in contact with each other,” Ian started.

Djalma looked up from his book and smiled. “So, you know what that is now?”

“I think I have a starting point. And that bit of information probably saved my life. How did you know it would be so important?”

“I didn’t know,” Djalma replied. “The suggestion was based on pure intuition. I knew how remarkable what you were experiencing was, the reality expansions. It’s barely possible that one might encounter a sequence of random contacts over a very achieved lifetime, but this has been a repeating communication with a specific person. And if the contact isn’t random, I speculated there would have to be some powerful initiator to make such a thing come to pass.”

Djalma paused for a moment and then laughed to himself. “Most of all, I was making my suggestion out of a blind emotion. You could say I was being a mother hen.”

“Whatever your reason, Djalma, I don’t think I would be here if not for your insistence to repeat the Vow if I got lost. I am sure it allowed Katerina to help me out of a terrible situation.”

Sitting forward on the edge of his chair, Djalma laid the book on the table to his side. “Really, now? How did she help? I imagined that the only threat you might run into was the physical drain from visiting too frequently.

Ian tried to get off the couch alone. His body forced him to reconsider just what was involved in jumping from one reality to another. Ever since he ceased to be bonded to someone else’s body when in a parallel life, most of the impact on Ian seemed to be mental or emotional. His experience in the void showed that if he mishandled the gift of reality shifting it could cost him his life.

Djalma was up and offering assistance. “No need to rush yourself.”

“I was just going to get a piece of paper.” Ian settled back onto the couch but remained upright. He pointed over to a stack of books to one side of the room. “Could you please? There is a piece of paper inside the flap of that top book. Have a look at it.”

Opening the book, Djalma stared down at the inside flap for a while.

“Read it, please,” Ian said.

As Djalma read aloud, Ian recited along.

Both fell silent before finishing the Vow—as if simultaneously realizing that it was something not to be recited without specific intention.

Djalma asked, “This is the Sacred Vow?”

“Yes. And I think it has something to do with the immediate reason that Katerina and I are in communication. It seems we have made a very strong commitment to each other. I am certain that quoting this verse allowed Katerina to pull me out of a disaster during my last journey.”

“Would you like some tea, Ian?” Djalma started to walk to the kitchen.

Ian was surprised at Djalma's subdued response. Ian thought the story he was about to tell was something remarkable.

Djalma called back from the doorway, “I assume you’ll need some food and drink while you fill me in on the gaping holes in your story.”

While Djalma made tea, Ian managed to get up and move about. It was an odd pain that he had, mostly internal, like that poison he’d felt in the dark days before Djalma had given him the token. Every part of Ian’s body hurt, but he was much improved from when he first returned from that last visit—Ian suddenly thought about Katerina and her baby. Why couldn’t he have helped her?

Ian stood motionless, lost in his memory until Djalma returned with tea and food, and broke into his thoughts.

“So your recent visit was something troublesome?” Djalma asked.

Ian moved slowly toward the couch. “Yes I had a visit with a manifestation of Katerina with a baby. It was really painful. Someone was taking the baby away from her.”

Just recalling it drew Ian’s consciousness back to that place. “I couldn’t help her, and I was getting angry and panicked. I think my strong emotions about the situation eventually forced me out of that alternate life.”

Djalma seemed to have some idea why Ian was stumbling over his words. “You’re not completely disengaged from that place yet, are you?”

The question didn’t make much sense to Ian. He took the residual emotions that he felt to be no more than anyone else would feel after a traumatic experience. Of course he would never be the same afterwards! He had been utterly useless in saving someone he cared about from harm. More than someone he cared about! Someone he was deeply connected to.

“Please tell me how the visit ended, Ian.”

“I could do nothing but watch as they took the baby from her. Katerina was suffering greatly.”

Djalma was very patient. He seemed to have some idea of his friend’s need to take time going through his recounting of the event.

“My rage became so intense,” Ian said, “that I found myself back on this couch just when Katerina was about to be harmed. I got bounced out of that reality. One moment I was struggling to help her and the next, I could only see the light of my study coming through my eyes.

“The return was painful, as though I physically collided with this location, and sort of rebounded, feeling not quite in this world, not fully out of it.”

Ian became silent periodically. At each delay, Djalma would wait for a time and then call on Ian to continue. It was a good thing, because otherwise, Ian would become completely mired in the memory of that moment.

“I don’t remember exactly how it happened, but I had an unfamiliar sensory experience. Instinct told me that this particular sensation was the doorway back to the place I had just left. I felt like I was still in the recoil of the returning bounce, and so I directed all my attention and emotion at the doorway.”

Djalma cringed and ducked his head.

“Yes. You know what happened then,” Ian continued. “You told me not to rush the time between trips, but I wasn’t thinking straight. I was certain that if I could make the instant return, I would be able to handle the result.”

“Did you make it back?” Djalma asked.

Remembering the place where he landed made Ian flinch. “I didn’t see the woman again.” Before continuing, he took a moment to mourn her misery silently.

Ian was realizing how entangled he remained with the alternate existence he actually visited—Djalma was absolutely right—he now saw that he had still not disengaged from the world of the suffering Katerina and child. There was something cathartic about exposing the experience to his conscious mind, and speaking about it. But separating from her was saddening. Now, he felt he was leaving her truly alone and abandoned.

“I feel certain that you’re only a spectator in their worlds, Ian. You cannot affect what is already the reality there.”

Recalling some of his own speculations he was left with over the last few visits, Ian stopped Djalma. “I’m not so sure of that any more, my friend, but let’s talk about that later.

Djalma handed Ian a bowl of hot soup and placed a cup of tea on the table by the couch. They ate quietly.

After he finished his soup, Ian tried to continue with the story. “When I tried to return to Katerina and the child, I got into some kind of in-between realm. There was no light, and it drained any energy out of me that I called up. I had to hold my emotions in check. Every time I allowed myself any emotion, it felt like part of my physical body was being literally torn away.”

As he spoke, Ian reflexively raised his voice and said, “Damn, that hurt!”

Djalma recoiled at the loudness of Ian’s voice.

Ian didn’t say anything more for a while.

After some time passed, Djalma asked, “Are you all right?”

“Oh. Yes. Sorry, I was just remembering,” Ian said. “Not good. I felt like I was dying in that dark place, being drained of my life energy. I was stuck in some kind of void. Then I decided to gamble that you were right about focusing on the Sacred Vow if I got into trouble. I directed all the energy I had left at it.”

Djalma smiled. “That was a pretty big chance to take.”

“Not really,” Ian replied. “I didn’t have any other option.”

“Do you think repeating the verse was what got you free from the void?” Djalma asked.

“I think it made the Katerina of my tea visions hear me. Before I found myself back here and passed out, I was in her house. She fanned some smoky concoction over me. Then she told me to go home and come back when I was rested.

“The next thing I knew, I was on the couch, in great pain, and losing consciousness. After that, you were here.”

Sitting back and drawing a big breath like a kid at the end of a grand adventure story, Djalma said, “It sounds as if Katerina is the one you should thank. Not me.”

“Oh, I thank you as well,” Ian assured him. “But I am grateful to her. I thank her for so much more than just getting me back home. I wish I could get back to her, to tell her so. But I have no control over my destinations.”

Djalma made a funny little sideways motion with his head as if he were about to do something that he was trying to resist. “I may regret this,” he said. “But I know it means too much to you not to mention it, if I think this is a possibility.”

He had Ian’s attention. “What have you got, old man?” Realizing what he’d said, Ian wondered what was it about Djalma that made him seem like an aged familiar despite his youth?

“You may not have navigational control—”

Djalma paused as a tease, and it worked. Ian became fully alert, certain that Djalma was about to offer the treasure that he had been fruitlessly searching for.

“But it seems Katerina is able to help you.” Djalma grinned and sat back in his chair.

“Come on now,” Ian pleaded. “How is she going to help? If there is a choice, I will gladly return to the Katerina of the tea visits each time!”

“The verse,” Djalma said. “That verse must be something that you and she can use to contact each other. You repeated the verse over and over when in the void, and she brought you out of it, directly to her. Maybe, just maybe, if you enter a meditation while repeating the verse, like a mantra, she can hone in on you and guide you to her location.”

“All right!” Ian attempted to spring up from the couch. “Ooooh!” As pain hit him, he collapsed into a hobble. Eventually his movement smoothed into something of a walk.

“I think that might be it, Djalma. I won’t have to fall into those random lives, suffering along with unhappy, unknowing versions of our existences together.”

“Don’t be careless and make me regret telling you,” Djalma said. “It’s only speculation. It’s also possible your return to Katerina is not something that can be repeated.”

Still walking somewhat clumsily around the room, Ian shook his head. “No, what you said about the verse rings true with me. I might have needed you to bring it to my attention, but now that I’ve heard the words, I feel its truth, deep within myself.

“I have to tell you, a few more visits as unhappy as the last handful, and I don’t know that I could keep taking those trips. I’m certain Katerina and I need to be in touch with each other, but I don’t believe the random locations are beneficial. In fact those interactions may be causing some harm.

“If Katerina and I can work to help each other, I’m sure we will be able to achieve our purpose—whatever it is.”

Djalma picked up his book and went back to reading. Ian was concentrating on exercising his weak muscles. “One thing you’ll need to consider,” Djalma added. “Even if Katerina can consistently bring you back to her location, there’s some reason she did not attempt to heal you after you were retrieved from the void.”

Ian slowed down and stared at Djalma skeptically. He was about to take offense at Djalma’s speculation.

“Don’t you think she would have mended your damage if it was possible?” Djalma said. “Even though you two can communicate, you still exist in completely separate primary realities. Katerina may have sent you home because it was impossible to make you well in her home world.”

Ian started to drop some of his defensiveness. “So, what are you suggesting, Djalma?”

“Keep exercising. Eat well, friend. I’m sure Katerina will share what she can, but you’re going to have to attend to your own well-being.”

Ian picked up a pillow from a chair close by and threw it at Djalma. The effort was feeble, posing only a comic threat to Djalma. It fell to the floor well before his feet.

“You need more practice, Ian. Get to work.” Djalma laughed and returned his attention to his book.

Moving around the furniture, Ian said, “You’re a good friend, Djalma.”

Over the next week or so, Ian told Djalma about all his other journeys. The two friends speculated on what the experiences meant, and spent some time discussing unrelated philosophies and sharing their individual poetry favorites. Before long, Ian was able to move more naturally, and felt well enough to make some meals in gratitude for all the help he had been given.

As soon as he could, Ian drove Djalma back to the mountains. It turned out that Djalma didn’t have a vehicle—but did not say how he had traveled to Ian’s house. On the way home, Djalma asked Ian to stop at Liz’s place. She had a fine meal prepared for the three of them, and they spent a few contented hours together.

At Liz’s insistence, Ian spent the next few days with her. She didn’t really seem to care to hear about his adventures. Mostly, she and he spent leisure time enjoying each other’s company. The added stay was very beneficial to Ian. Exercise in the mountains, good food, and good company were returning Ian to prime health. The loving support of another dear friend did him more good than anything else could have.

Djalma didn’t come back around Liz’s house before Ian left. Ian wondered if all Djalma's nursing efforts had worn him out. He pictured his friend roaming in the woods for a month before Liz would hear any more from him.

Thanking Liz and expressing his love for her as he left, Ian asked that she pass his affections to Djalma as well.

“I’ll be back in touch soon,” he said.

Liz smiled and went straight to the issue that had not been mentioned since he got to her house. “You have some visiting to get back to, don’t you, sweetie?”

“Yes, Liz. I’ll be smarter this time.”

“Katerina will be counting on that as well,” Liz said, as she waved and went back into the inn.

It was true. His friends had completely revitalized him, and Ian was eager to put their results to good use as soon as he got home. He didn’t mention it to Liz or Djalma, but he had taken additional leave from work, certain that he had more important business to finish.

copyright 2006 CG Walters

This is the Final Installment of the serialized portion of Sacred Vow ---about mid-way through the novel...

last week, The Void

C.G. Walters primarily writes fiction that focuses on the multidimensionality of our loves and our lives.

Autographed/signed copies of his current novel, Sacred Vow, are available from the author– or purchase from Amazon as ebook , paperback, or Kindle version

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