Coffee & Contemplation: The Importance of Friendship

Note: Publishing work from my past is quickly becoming a series of sorts. There are so many pieces I’ve written that haven’t seen the light of day since Writer’s Workshop back in high school. Sharing them here seems like a cheat way to keep up with regular posts, but it’s also a little cathartic. I get to look back on how I’ve changed over the years, for better or worse. I get to reacquaint myself with an optimism and hopefulness I might have lost. This next piece highlights an appreciation for camaraderie I wish I could still embody. I also express my hedonistic and everlasting love for coffee, which thankfully has not changed. Let’s do this!

I have always been fond the coffeeshop atmosphere. A proud addict of the caffeinated drink myself, I am often found lingering in these havens of ripe conversation and artsy individuals. Today I am a part of this greater experience once again, with a double-shot espresso in hand and an ear toward the people around me. Listening in on various conversations but never truly committing is my speciality, for I am an observer. Today I bear witness to the remarkable manifestation of friendship among a group of fellow students who I am lucky enough to call my friends. These individuals have inspired me with their kindness and unwavering sincerity.

I believe that one never truly appreciates something they hold dear until it is gone. This is the most troubling form of ignorance, and we all suffer from it. In turn, one of the great aspirations of life must be to learn to incorporate gratitude in our perspective and appreciate the blessings we take for granted. Such blessings include our friends, or the people in our lives we trust with our uninhibited selves.

I’ve begun to realize the inherent nature of friendship. Making friends is not merely a search for another individual you can relate to, but the spontaneous “coming together” of two souls, each walking the path of existence. I don’t think we can control who befriends us. It merely happens. Increasingly I find myself drawn to the metaphor of leaves dancing in the wind to describe life. A leaf has no navigational capabilities, and so it is propelled into the great oblivion, careening throughout space and time and bumping into its brethren along the way. Many friends are made, and some are even lost.

The ultimate lessons come from our friends, for they are the very pinnacle of teachers. They gift us with love and kindness. They nurture our hearts and cultivate our spirits. They shed light when darkness falls and the path before us becomes murky. These are our true friends, the ones we never lose. A true friend is one who imprints a piece of their heart in another’s soul. Life throws us all into a mess of blessings and curses. It is our job to disentangle and learn from each. Our friends are here to teach us the way.

And so my day at the coffeeshop comes to a close. I glance at the kind folk around me and think about how truly lucky I am to enjoy such decent company. I stand up and push my chair in, taking care not to trod on anyone’s book bag. I throw my empty paper cup into the garbage and exit the shop, surrounded by a troop of comrades who have unknowingly imprinted my life with the simple yet profound lesson of appreciation.

The Significance of Names

Note: Here is another interesting piece written back in high school. I stumbled upon it amidst my insightful yet often cringeworthy delve into lost writings. There is a chance it was never finished, so I simply confined it to my forgetful, mental to-do list. Nevertheless, it marked my discovery of “Om,” the sacred mantra of Brahman in the Hindu religion. It would be a disservice to my younger self not to share. Shall we begin?

A mere name is sometimes capable of expressing deeper meaning, implying something of greater importance, and instilling a value previously overlooked. They are symbols in their own right, tools used by the workers of language to shed light on otherwise unspoken subjects. In ancient times, names were thought to hold extraordinary power and even to act, in some ways, as a separate manifestation of a person. The power of names was also applied to deities and has endured in religious tradition for centuries.

I have always found a mantra-like power resonating from particularly powerful names. Sound currents and profound words can be used to strongly influence the mind and spirit. They have the potential of bringing a certain harmony to life and even inviting a tide of sometimes much needed optimism. Thoroughly understanding the power of names can both enrich and enlighten one’s consciousness.

A name that has particularly impacted me is Om (or Aum), a sacred utterance often found in Sanskrit mantras. With a meaning suggestive of a deity, it actually implies a primordial vibration from which the universe was originally created. Om is the eternal beauty and sustenance found in all aspects of reality. It is the order of the cosmos, and going one step further, is reality itself.

Om is comprised of three sounds, of which a distinct meaning can be super imposed upon each. The first sound “A” stands for the entire physical world we can experience. The reality we perceive through our senses is most attributed to this sound. The second sound “U” stands for the world of thought, as opposed to physical reality. This includes the imagination, dreams, and abstract thinking. The third and final sound is “M,” the unmanifest condition. According to the Vedas, what could be found before and after creation is the meaning of the sound of “M.” It is the unified state of the cosmos, the great fabric of which everything else is a part of.

In essence, Om is the composition of all there is. It is what existed before, it is what exists now, and it is what will exist later. Words may only be a conglomeration of letters, strung together in a particular order to imply a sense of meaning. But like Om, those words may harbor a message from a deeper, more inexplicable state of being.

Journaling Update

Back in February I wrote a post detailing my plans to take up the arduous yet cathartic task of journaling. I am here to say that for the most part, this goal has been met with success. Sure, there were some missed days and uncompleted entries. But this was something I kept at in hopes of instilling discipline and a better state of flow in my life. I was surprised to discover that once my pen hit paper (or in this case pencil hit iPad), I enjoyed the process immensely. Knowing that I would be my own audience gave me an unbridled sense of freedom. There are things I etched down in journals that I never would have had the courage to blog about.

So here I am to say that this is an endeavor I am going to keep up, making it a permanent ritual in my life. Journaling has helped me dispel many of the half-baked musings and anxieties that haunt my mind at the end of each day. Everything in my head is nebulous—an interconnected web that solidifies near my point of focus and fades away into ambiguity at the periphery. This area of inexactness is what causes the greatest source of stress in my life. Having a regular outlet to pen down this junk gives me focus and perspective. Really, it’s a tool that I wholeheartedly recommend to everyone, but especially those with a chaotic mind such as mine.

All of the magic happens on my iPad with a trusty Apple Pencil. In the beginning I considered using an old-fashioned composition notebook to scrawl my scratchings. There is nothing more grounding and conducive to the ever elusive “flow state” than hand writing your notes. And the tangibility of a notebook devoted to a single purpose has its charm. Yet I am an ardent lover of convenient and intuitive technology, so my iPad is now fulfilling an unforeseen destiny. My journals are cloud synced, locked by facial recognition, and ready to peruse at a moment’s notice on ALL of my devices. Not that I do so, of course, which leads to my next point.

I generally don’t like looking back on my past journals. This flies in the face of my expectations, which were conditioned by my love for rereading old blog entries. But what I decide to pen down at the end of each day, for my own eyes, is an altogether different beast than the articles I craft for an audience. The words are rougher, the ideas rawer, and my integrity fully intact. I am not presenting myself, if you will. I have true freedom to be as messy, honest, and insecure as I please. Such is the beauty of having a personal journal. But generally speaking, looking back reopens a can of worms that I have already sealed shut. There is no need to stuff back into my head the anxieties I have already dispelled. This brings to mind an image of Dumbledore pulling strands of memory out of his head and into his pensieve.

This does not mean I find looking back totally useless. I have a plan at the end of each year to read through all of my entries. I can see how much I’ve grown and changed throughout the months. It’s hard to imagine a better way to get this kind of perspective. The second part of my plan is to write a “year in review” post detailing my highlights and conclusions. And finally, I will permanently delete all of my journals to make a fresh start for the new year. Out with the old, and in with the new. I am always looking for a new self-improvement project. This little experiment has turned into something I wish to make a solid fixture in my life. Healthy habits and rituals are a proper step in getting back on my feet and climbing out of this pit of purposelessness.

The Merchant of Death (Pendragon #1) by D.J. MacHale

Merchant of Death

The Merchant of Death by D.J. MacHale

Publisher: Aladdin
Release: 2002
Reading Platform: Apple Books

Synopsis: BOBBY PENDRAGON is a seemingly normal fourteen-year-old boy. He has a family, a home, and even Marley, his beloved dog. But there is something very special about Bobby.

He is going to save the world.

And not just Earth as we know it. Bobby is slowly starting to realize that life in the cosmos isn’t quite what he thought it was. And before he can object, he is swept off to an alternative dimension known as Denduron, a territory inhabited by strange beings, ruled by a magical tyrant, and plagued by dangerous revolution.

If Bobby wants to see his family again, he’s going to have to accept his role as savior, and accept it wholeheartedly. Because, as he is about to discover, Denduron is only the beginning….

Review:  I find it only fitting that my return to book reviewing begins with the series that started it all. About ten years ago, in the midst of my early teendom, I stumbled upon this little gem of a novel by D.J. MacHale. The Merchant of Death became the catalyst for my interest in YA fiction and kindled a passion for sharing my thoughts on the many novels I voraciously read. You could even say that the Pendragon series as a whole marked the embarkation of my journey through website building, blogging, and written commentary.

The inspiration was so thorough that I begin a fan club for the series, appropriately called Dark Matter. (For those familiar with Pendragon lore, you will know what I’m talking about!) The site evolved into an all-encompassing book club and eventually became my stepping-stone into the wider world of book reviewing and spiritual pondering. I don’t know why I never got around to a proper review for the books in this legendary series. They were certainly formative to the imagination and creativity of thirteen-year-old Ty. Perhaps, knowing how special they were to me, I was afraid of failing to do them justice. Well, a different state of mind and a decade later, I’ve decided to remedy that. And so, without further ado…. Hobey-ho, let’s go!

Like many of my favorites in the genre of YA fiction, The Merchant of Death is approachable to a wide array of ages. Contrary to what some might think, I value brevity and inclusivity of speech over obtuse language. The ability to reach a larger audience is sometimes more valuable than catering to the literary minded. In this case, The Merchant of Death succeeds by not alienating those of a younger age group who would benefit most from the themes of life it presents. But of course, one could argue this praise is better directed to the genre at large. My point is that some books are hastily judged by their intended audience instead of the potential universality of their content.

The greatest aspect of this approachability I keep waxing on about is the relatability of the protagonist, Bobby Pendragon. As a perfectly ordinary teen who is thrust into extraordinary circumstances, we are coaxed into reflecting upon our own life and the seemingly uncontrollable events of our own destiny. Many of the trials and tribulations Bobby faces mirror our own struggles, albeit embellished by fantasy. We see him endure the loss of his old life, a shattering of preconceived beliefs about reality, and his trust in important life figures put to the test. But most importantly, we see him make mistakes and endure the consequences of his actions.

By resisting his destiny and the call to do what is right, Bobby inadvertently causes the death of someone who was trying to protect him. The ripple effect of this mistake shapes the entirety of his proceeding journey. Whereas before he had a protector and a guide, now he and his comrades are more alone than ever. But as you will see later on, in a matter of fate, this occurrence was necessary for Bobby to confront his own selfish desires and rise to the occasion of fulfilling his greater destiny.

The character development of the protagonist witnessed in the first novel of this series alone is enough to continue reading. There is a bit of a redemption arc in here as we learn that Bobby forgives himself for being afraid of his destiny. His mistakes were a direct effect of fearing his newfound responsibility to the welfare of an entire people and civilization. By overcoming his fear and riding the waves of fate, he was able to save the lives of hundreds of people and become a better person in the process. As we see at the end of this particular journey, he marks this realization with a telling statement:

I feel as if I learned a few things. I learned that it’s sometimes okay to think like a weenie, so long as you don’t act like one—at least not all the time. I learned that it’s okay to be wrong, so long as you can admit it and are willing to listen to those who may know better.

As already hinted at, a major allusion of The Merchant of Death is the great tapestry of fate that is woven out of an unpredictable pattern of causes and effects. The theme of providence or a higher order guiding one’s destiny is prevalent at every turn. Where Bobby’s mistakes seem to be terrible setbacks, they are in fact serving a greater and unseen purpose. It encourages one to have faith that everything will turn out right in the end, even if it seems impossible at the current time. As the credo of the mysterious Travelers in the series goes, “This is the way it was meant to be.”

In a nutshell: D.J. MacHale embarked upon an epic and wholesome journey with The Merchant of Death. There is so much more I wish to say about this series, but I must save some musings for my reviews on the proceeding novels. I tried to keep plot specifics as vague as possible so you can find out more for yourself! As a very formative read in my early years, I can’t give this fantastic story enough praise. Filled with themes of friendship, destiny, and redemption, there is enough food for thought to satisfy the appetite of any reader. If you enjoyed this review, check out some of my other ones here.

MacHale, D.J. (2002) The Merchant of Death. United States: Aladdin

Conversation with a Friend

Sometimes the greatest of insights arise at the most unexpected of times. Good conversation can be the perfect lubricant to get ideas flowing and those mental gears turning. With permission, I’ve shared an existential concern of one of my dear friends below. The universe has decided to use my head as a data dump again, so I’ve also shared my thoughts on the matter.

Friend: I don’t know — I just feel like I don’t know what road to take, because all I truly want to be is happy. I know it seems selfish, but I just truly want that. I want to be at peace and happy with everything that I am and everything that surrounds me, and I don’t know how to go about it. I see a few roads to take, but I feel like the road I’m taking will sooner or later kill me. I’ll reach a point of complete burn out, and I don’t want that. I just want to truly rest and find a way to do what I love — to hope that doesn’t take away all of my energy.

Me: The answer that I’ve come to, after all of my soul-searching and pondering, is that there is no right answer. There is no single path that will navigate you around all of the suffering, conflict, and confusion that life has to offer. One has to wonder if it is an almost necessary experience to doubt yourself, burn out, and question if you are doing the right thing. Sooner or later, every life path will kill you.

Look around and tell me if you see a single soul who has reached a state of true peace and happiness. If you say yes, I will tell you to delve deeper — beneath the surface — where you will undoubtedly uncover their very real and present fears and insecurities. We have a habit of portraying our successes without the context of our failures. The two go hand-in-hand.

The best advice I can give is to let go of expectations and any semblance of control you think you have over life. You are too intelligent to believe the lie that is a comprehensible order to the universe for long. It is too vast, varied, and twisted for any one of us to discern a “right” answer. Trying to find definitive clarity amidst the chaos is like trying to catch air with your bare hands. It’s all relative.

The answer is everything; it cannot be distilled into a statement, direction, or philosophy to live by. Simply let go, and allow the tidal forces of energy to carry you toward the nonexistent destination. To be carried without resistance is to live. 🌹

Dark Night of the Soul

What follows is something I should have addressed long ago. A personal foray into the topic of mental illness is something I have refrained from discussing, partly due to my own confusion and uncertainty on the subject. However, I feel as if I have finally reached a point where my thoughts on the matter might do some good to those who are interested. My journey is never ending, and I cannot claim to be a perfect authority. But I hope I can bring some insight and wisdom to the suffering we all endure.

Being one of those unlucky individuals with probable depression, I have often wondered why I have been cursed with such a plight. The unfairness of the world weighs heavy as I contemplate the darkened state of my mind. Why do these successive patterns of negative thinking have no end? Why can I not look upon people and the world with joy and optimism? I feel that looking into my past, and my reactions to past events, is the best place to start this inquiry. There was a time when the child within me reveled in every delight. There was a time when I felt nothing but curiosity and adventure upon thinking about the world. Those bygone times have since faded into obscurity and dull memory. But why?

I can remember the day, after my parent’s divorce, when my mom told me we were moving to Kansas City. I recall the thought of leaving my family and friends behind, of switching schools and starting my life anew. At that moment, my heart was imbued with more excitement than anything else. I had yet to experience the harsh reality of my entire world being turned upside down and ripped to shreds.

My eagerness and bright-eyed wonderment lasted quite awhile. In my new environment, surrounded by new and strange people, I managed the culture-shock seemingly beautifully. It was an undercurrent of resentment, personal failure, and disenchantment with society that ultimately led to my embitterment. I feel as if I squandered the last of my energy in high school, with no future intake to supplement it. By the time college rolled around, I was running on existential fumes. It’s amazing how long I was able to deny to myself the full extent of the problem.

Life is comprised of cycles and tidal movements of energy. For a successive period of years, we can live with forward momentum, our sheer force of will and passion carrying us onward. But in a brief moment, all of this enthusiasm can change for the worse. The forward momentum gives way to spiritual friction, or resistance. This can commonly arise from some form of trauma, but in my case it also happened to be a procession of existential realizations. It may be a controversial claim, but this is the beginning of a natural process.

I suffered one of these traumatic realizations without recognizing what was happening. The act of my world turning upside down destroyed my momentum and instigated the friction. Looking back, I see how unavoidable this process was. I was indeed on the doorstep of a personal “dark night of the soul.” This was something that garnered the scorn of my subconscious. This was something that I could not accept on a truly innate level, and I therefore made it infinitely worse. I wish I could have realized my folly sooner, but alas, I could not.

One of my biggest flaws has always been misguided idealism toward the people in my life. With my cursed ability to see the potential of humanity, I unfairly hold others to unattainable standards. I see the possible greatness in everyone, but often at the expense of not accepting their imperfections. When I finally started to see that the people I loved were not living up to my idea of them, a painful and bewildering dissonance befell my soul. This comprised the gist of my existential realization. In hindsight, much of this mental shift could have arisen from simply growing up. But I believe the combination of a major life change and an evolution of my awareness created the situation.

So many of us fall into depression at some point in life without recognizing the process for what it truly is. With a healthcare industry that puts emphasis on the material and chemical, we are often left in the dark to depression’s true meaning. While we treat our symptoms in order to remain functional members of society, the underlying causes of our inner darkness are left unaddressed. According to Buddhist teachings, life itself is suffering. But the growing pandemic of mental illness highlights the singular nature of this moment in time. It is indeed a repressed spiritual nature and an ignorance of the natural cycles of the soul that are grievously dampening our wellbeing.

As younger generations become increasingly unfulfilled and lost in this materialistic society, they are taught the wrongness of depression. The dark night of the soul is a time where old concepts and attachments die. With proper guidance and understanding, it can lead to a state of renewal that is necessary for spiritual growth. The metaphor of a phoenix rising from its ashes embodies this rebirth philosophy. We all have the shadow of depression in us, but sweeping it under the rug and denying its existence lets the darkness fester and eventually consume the soul. So many of us never receive the direction we need to traverse our shadow.

Depression settles on me now, and I feel the icy clutches of nihilism reaching out. How do I combat the dark insights my tainted intuition conjures up? Am I failing, or am I working through a process that is a natural part of my spiritual development? These are the questions I ask myself on the most difficult of days. The disappointment I have toward society mirrors the disappointment I have toward myself. Hate for others is rooted in a fundamental hate for oneself.

All of my introspection has led me to the simple conviction that love is the answer. The part of our soul that lies in obscurity and depression is just as worthy of love as the part we take pride in. Only by having compassion for our inner darkness can we transcend the breaking down of tired concepts and attachments. Only by recognizing and accepting our shadow can we eliminate the power we give it through denial. Only through true love for ourselves can we fulfill our spiritual destiny.

Note: Dipping my toes into the world of podcasting, I thought it wise to play around with possible formats. This simple narration was easy for me, and it provided the experience I needed to create a better workflow in the future. I have ambitious plans for Head Junk, and I can’t wait to divulge more in my official introductory episode, which is coming soon. For now you can find my episodes on Anchor, but they will soon be available on most streaming platforms (Apple Podcasts, Spotify, etc). Thank you for all of the interest and support, my dear friends.

A Newfound Compassion

As I look out upon the world, I am overcome by the strife that plagues humanity. I bear witness to the repeated acts of selfishness that are rooted in fundamental failures of communication. I see how our fallen species has lost its understanding of the most important universal truths. I gaze into the hearts of men and discern their villainous intentions. And yet, this dreary perception is not the whole story. Once your eyes have been opened to the ugliness and imperfection of this reality, it’s easy to experience a natural slide into dejection and cynicism. As one who is conscious of the rising jadedness in his heart, I am compelled to see the spiritual futility of such a perspective. There must be something I’ve missed — some greater understanding of all things — to give me hope for the future.

If a person’s behavior doesn’t make sense to you, it is because you are missing a part of their context. It’s that simple.” ~ Devon Price

The vast majority of misunderstanding in our world stems from the false perception that everyone thinks precisely like you. Familiarity with the variety of cognitive functions, and their many different ways of manifesting in the psyche, negates this perception. The morals and ethical beliefs that you keep rooted so deeply in your identity may not be applicable to another, and thinking so will merely give you false expectations of their behavior. No, we are all such beautifully multifaceted creatures. And while our fundamental similarities will always outweigh our differences, there is too much variety in the human makeup to hold everyone to a single set of standards.

“The one eye of the Godhead is blind, the one ear of the Godhead is deaf, the order of its being is crossed by chaos. So be patient with the crippledness of the world, and do not overvalue its consummate beauty.” ~ Carl Jung, Liber Novus

By staying conscious of this, you are naturally inclined to have a more open mind. By reminding yourself not to pass judgement too quickly, you can be open to the possibility that there is a valid reason why someone’s behavior doesn’t make sense to you. And this openness will only ever bring you closer to a person, fostering a much better understanding of who they are and a respect for their inherent uniqueness. Unless you’ve truly walked another’s life path, you will never know what it feels like to be them every day. You will never know all of the traumas and experiences that contribute to making them who they are. Ease up on your misinformed and rigid expectations of their behavior. You might find that this acceptance warms your heart as much as their own. This is the root of all compassion.

“In all chaos there is a cosmos, in all disorder a secret order.” ~ Carl Jung

Every macro, societal, and cultural issue can be traced back to fundamental psychological causes. We are a collective consciousness. The many comprise the totality. The composition of underlying issues always manifests as a greater image of chaos and discord. From a purely macro perspective, this perceived chaos is what can engender cynicism and later nihilism in the soul. The greater, societal condition is merely a reflection of the internal, human condition. All of the world’s plights are natural consequences of spiritual and psychological failings. There is indeed a reason for the imperfection we witness in reality, and it’s from not realizing that this very same reality lives in each and every one of us. It results in a disastrous and heart wrenching lack of compassion.

“As above, so below; as within, so without.” ~ Hermes Trismegistus, Hermetic Corpus

The nature of reality and the shortcomings of humanity are both perceived and dictated by your perspective. You have the ability to make the biggest difference in the world by first making a difference in yourself. Instilling your way of looking at others with more acceptance and a broader mindset will let you better see the underlying machinations of the world at large. Open your heart to embrace the suffering of those around you, and understand that all the strife they’ve experienced made them who they are today. By truly staying conscious of the varied and multifaceted nature of the human condition, you create within yourself a newfound compassion for those whose hearts you previously judged without context.

A Journal Entry

I’ve decided to embark on a sort of experimental journey. Too often than not, my writing is hindered by an obsession for quality and unattainable perfection. This does nothing but keep me from publishing as much as I should, and it ingrains my practice with an overall sense of dissatisfaction. I need this to change for both professional and psychological reasons. I need to be able to remove the friction I feel when trying to put my thoughts on paper. This crusade for sculpting perfect sentences with perfect vocabulary is akin to not seeing the forest for the trees.

I started writing because I could paint an overall picture of what my imagination or subconscious was conjuring. Getting lost in the specifics of verbiage and technicality is a complete block for the state of “flow” I am trying to achieve. In Jungian terms, this would be due to an over-reliance on Ti, or introverted thinking. As this function happens to be tertiary in my cognitive stack, it is not quite the healthiest mindset for my personality type. Instead, I need to be engaging my auxiliary Fe, or extroverted feeling, to achieve the cathartic momentum and “flow” I am striving for.

The beautiful thing about writing is the infinite paths I can take to reach a conclusion. There is no black and white, or right and wrong. This gorgeous variability I experience is based in the extroverted feeling nature of my expression. Of course, this is all within the context of my dominant function, introverted intuition. But this deep dive into psychological types is leading us astray from the point of this entry.

To put it concisely, I need to stop being such a perfectionist with my work. I need to incorporate a more stream-of-consciousness style of writing. By starting regular journal entries where I let loose my spontaneity, I hope to become a better creator — one that is much more in touch with his intuition/feelings and less overwhelmed by the chaos of his mind. Wish me luck on this journey into unknown waters. I don’t know what to expect with this experiment, and neither should you.

Note: This idea came to me after being inspired by one of my favorite MBTI related sites, Stellar Maze. The specific article is geared toward how INFJs can activate their auxiliary Fe. I have linked it here.

The Mystery at Delecour Manor

I have documented below the strange events that transpired at the home of Lady Bertha Delecour, a well-to-do and aristocratic widow residing in an unspecified part of the English countryside during an equally unspecified time in history. This piece was dredged up from the annals of my early high school years, and it is likely the last remnant of a younger, funnier version of myself. Somewhere out in the universe is a video recording of this screenplay come to life, with yours truly acting out the titular role of Lady Delecour. Oh, if only you could have seen my wig. Anyway, let’s begin.

Scene One

Narrator: Night one of The Mystery at Delecour Manor. Lady Bertha Delecour prepares to retire for the evening.

Scene One opens in the bedchamber of Lady Bertha Delecour at Delecour Manor. Ostentatious displays of wealth adorn the walls and furniture. Garbed in nightgown and gilded slippers, the aged Lady prepares for sleep. She proceeds in removing multiple items of jewelry from her person, placing them on a bedside table. A quiet knock can be heard at the door to the chamber. 

Lady Delecour: Come in, come in! A slight lilt accents the Lady’s voice, but it carries well nevertheless.

The door opens and in steps Mrs. Pennykettle, the portly, middle-aged housekeeper of Delecour Manor. She carries a silver tray laden with tea, crumpets, and a folded newspaper. 

Mrs. Pennykettle: Your evening tea, mistress. I also brought this morning’s post. You forgot to read it during brunch. She carefully lays the tray on the bedside table and hands the newspaper into the expectant hands of Lady Delecour. 

Lady Delecour: You have my thanks, Mrs. Pennykettle. You may leave now.

The terse attitude of her mistress fails to deject Mrs. Pennykettle. The matron quietly leaves the room, closing the door behind her. Lady Delecour opens the newspaper, periodically sipping her tea. After a few moments of silence, her eyes widen comically, almost in imitation of a toad. Chest heaving, she spews her tea over the side of the bed. 

Lady Delecour: What tosh is this? UFO sightings in Surrey? The nerve! Blasted press spewing whatever nonsense around they please. I’ll no longer subscribe to this rot.

Lady Delecour tosses the paper on the floor with bluster, giving it one last indignant glance. Dousing the light with a scrabbling hand, she prepares to sleep. With a final mumble about “nonsense aliens,” her eyes begin to close. Almost immediately, from outside the window, lights begin flickering noticeably. They shine into the bedchamber, hopping from walls to furniture. Lady Delecour stirs with a start, notices the lights, and sits up in bed. 

Lady Delecour: Mrs. Pennykettle! Come hither! My sleep has been disturbed.

The light suddenly fades out as someone can be heard politely knocking at the door. Hair in disarray, Lady Delecour leaps from the tangled covers and scrambles to the door. Heaving it open with long, unconventional fingernails, she grasps her housekeeper by the blouse and drags her inside. The door slams shut with a bang. 

Mrs. Pennykettle: You called, Madame? She calmly disentangles herself from the wild woman in front of her and smoothes down her wrinkled apron. 

Lady Delecour: There is a crook loitering outside my window, shining lights in my face, and disturbing the peace! There needs to be some kind of law enforcement here at once!

Mrs. Pennykettle: Walking to the window and peering into the dark, she replies, Are you sure My Lady? I cannot see the faintest light. In all respects, perhaps you are confusing dream with reality. Knowing a reprimand was due, the matron lowers her head and averts her eyes. 

Lady Delecour: Spittle flying from her wrinkled lips, Lady Delecour offers her rebuke. You are in no position to question my sense, Mrs. Pennykettle. Move away from the window, woman, and allow me to look for myself. Absolutely preposterous!

Swiftly moving aside, Mrs. Pennykettle offers no rebuttal to her mistress’s remarks. She is the perfect example of a proper housekeeper. Meanwhile, Lady Delecour peers out into the night, clenching the silk curtains with an iron grasp. With a jerk, she steps back. 

Lady Delecour: Aha! Some ungainly figure wanders about my garden. Call the officers! Bring in that crook! I will not have thieves and trespassers on my estate. She looks again, this time trying to determine any distinguishing features of the figure. In puzzlement, Lady Delecour realizes it is her gardener, Mr. Potts. The hour is late, but nevertheless he carries a rake in his arms, seemingly still at work. Why, it’s Mr. Potts! Whatever could that idiot be up to at this late hour? Loitering outside my bedchamber window and shining lights in my face! He is a spy, I tell you Mrs. Pennykettle! He must be arrested! Call up the station and have him taken in!

Mrs. Pennykettle: Right away, My Lady. She swiftly exits the room, making a phone call to Officer Daniels, the chief of the local law enforcement. 

Mr. Potts is summoned to the parlor without explanation, and he obliges. Meanwhile, Lady Delecour rises from bed and prepares herself for company. She exits her bedchamber and makes for the study where Mr. Potts unknowingly awaits his imminent arrest. Mrs. Pennykettle returns with more tea and crumpets, and the trio settles down in tense anticipation. After a few moments, a knock can be heard at the door. Mrs. Pennykettle steps forward to answer it, revealing a tall, well-built man with chiseled features. 

Officer Daniels: Good evening miss. I received your call and left the station immediately after filing a report. Is the proprietress present?

Lady Delecour: Good evening to you, Officer Daniels. You have my thanks for arriving so hastily. She glances surreptitiously at Mr. Potts, a grimace intensifying her already severe features. I don’t believe the matter could have rested until morning, sir. You see, this man, my gardener, has proven himself to be a crook and a spy! He sneaks around at night, shining lights in my window, looking for God knows what. My privacy has been compromised this night, sir, when I awoke to find this man outside my window in plain sight. He must be arrested!

Officer Daniels: One moment my good Lady, you say this man was shining lights in your window?

Mr. Potts: I en’t done no such thing! I be finishing up the weeding in the petunia bed, like I been planning these last two days. I carried no light, neither! Dressed in filthy, mud-smeared trousers, a stained shirt, and grungy hat, Mr. Potts carries a garden rake in his hands, only enunciating his statement. Nevertheless, in his back pocket rests an electric torch, which he has apparently forgotten about. Lady Delecour notices this and points out the lie with vehemence.

Lady Delecour: And what is that, you buffoon? In your back pocket! Let me guess, you forgot all about that blasted light you were shining so obtrusively in my window! You are out to steal my antique false teeth collection. I know it! Her glare is cold enough to wither flowers.

Officer Daniels, in a hasty assumption, now believes Mr. Potts is the prime suspect. He grabs the disgusting man by the arm and hauls him forward. Mr. Potts squeals but remains submissive. 

Officer Daniels: Please remain silent, you crook! Now, answer my questions very carefully. Do you or do you not confess to spying on the Lady Delecour? Were you loitering outside her window? Think very carefully before you answer, you degenerate hog! If you confess, I will personally ensure your punishment isn’t too severe.

Mr. Potts: I confess to nothin! I have only ever served old Bertha with honesty. Surely she en’t thinking I been spying on her?

Lady Delecour: It’s Delecour, you swine! Lady Delecour! Arrest this man, Officer. I want him banished from my property now! Her face is a curious shade of red and purple as she waves her arms madly in the air. Officer Daniels grabs Mr. Potts by the arm and drags him out the door of the manor, effectively sealing the poor, sniveling idiot’s fate.

Mrs. Pennykettle: I believe the excitement is over My Lady. You may retire for the night, if you wish. She calmly picks up the condemned gardener’s rake on the floor and tosses it out the door . 

Lady Delecour: Mrs. Pennykettle, I believe that is exactly what I shall do. You may dismiss yourself for the evening after cleaning this mess up. Goodnight to you. And with those final words, Lady Delecour departs the stage, eager to finally receive her night of sleep. End of Scene One.

Scene Two

Narrator: Scene Two of The Mystery at Delecour Manor. Twenty-four hours since the rash and hasty arrest of the gardner, Mr. Potts, has passed. The Lady Bertha Delecour prepares to retire for the evening once again.

Scene Two opens again in the bedchamber of Lady Delecour. The fusty, old aristocrat is clambering into bed, still smiling from her triumph the night before. She imagines to herself the torture poor Mr. Potts will be enduring. Her antique false teeth collection is finally safe from spying crooks. 

Lady Delecour: My household has been purged of thieves and buffoons. I may finally rest assured that tonight no fowl villain will disturb my sleep again. She settles down and douses the light. Her eyes began to close as she dozes off. 

After a few moments a steady light begins to shine through the window of the bedchamber. More lights join in, and a blinking, intermittent array is formed. 

Lady Delecour: They have returned, Mrs. Pennykettle! Quick, dial Officer Daniels! Mr. Potts had an accomplice. Practically leaping from bed, Lady Delecour stumbles to the window, peering into the night with growing insanity. The lights immediately cease. Although she can locate no figure wandering the grounds this time, her hope is not lost. I cannot see a bloody thing out there. Where is Mrs. Pennykettel! Mrs Pennykettle!

By this time Lady Delecour has become increasingly suspicious about her housekeeper. Her twisted mind is playing games, and for some unknown cause, she links those flashing lights to Mrs. Pennykettle. Silently she makes a vow to do everything in her power to have her housekeeper arrested.

Lady Delecour: Oh what a fool I am! It was that Pennykettle wretch spying on me. She is very clever, yes, always so calm and reserved. And Mr. Potts was her assistant! I see! I must phone Officer Daniels at once. Lady Delecour exits the room and heads for the parlor, where she phones the station, demanding Officer Daniels to arrive shortly. She hangs up the receiver just as the front door opens and Mrs. Pennykettle steps in.

Mrs. Pennykettle: Oh, Madame! I’m terribly sorry for leaving you. I was outside seeing about the hounds. They were starting up the foulest racket you ever heard and—

Lady Delecour: Keep silent, you dog! I know Mr. Potts wasn’t the ONLY spy on this estate. You are in the same boat, Pennykettle. I have phoned the law enforcement, and they will be arriving hastily. At that moment a loud knock can be heard at the door. Lady Delecour rushes to answer it. Mrs. Pennykettlle panics and rushes at the door in a fright, but at that moment Officer Daniels steps in and grabs her by the arms.

Officer Daniels: Is this the second spy, Lady Delecour?

Mrs. Pennykettle: Oh Madame! How could you believe I would spy on you? I’ve been faithful for well over twenty years! This is ridiculous! Please, Madame!

Lady Delecour: Be quiet woman! You and Mr. Potts have been out to steal my fortune for quite some time, I know it! I called upon you earlier, Pennykettle, and you never showed! And then you walk in through the front door so nonchalantly! What do you have to say for yourself?

Mrs. Pennykettle: Please, I—

Officer Daniels: As the gracious Lady already requested, keep quiet woman! If you confess to your crimes now, you may be spared a few years from prison. What say you? Do you confess? Yes or no?

Mrs. Pennykettle: I have never harmed or held intentions to bring harm upon my mistress! Surely, she must see reason! With a last, pleading glance toward Lady Delecour, Mrs. Pennykettle falls to the ground in a sobbing mess. 

Officer Daniels, shaking his head sadly, leads the poor woman out the door by the arm, officially arresting her. Lady Delecour smiles earnestly, for sure that her troubles have ended. She progresses to her bedchamber once again, completely at peace with her insanity. After dousing the lights, she falls into a deep reverie. End of Scene Two. 

Scene Three

Narrator: Scene Three of The Mystery at Delecour Manor. Lady Delecour is deeply asleep, and her snores pervade the entire bedchamber. Oblivious to her surroundings, the Lady fails to react when the lights begin once again.

Suddenly, in addition to the flickering lights, a loud cacophony of what can only be described as gibberish radiates directly from outside the window. The obtrusive noise awakes the Lady with a start.

Lady Delecour: Eyes opening with a snap, the Lady sits up in bed once again. Her gaze is riveted to the window where the light show continues with increasing intensity. She fights the urge to cover her ears as the uncanny sounds persist. No! Not again! What is this madness! I demand you to leave this estate at once, or the the law enforcement will be summoned! Depart! Be banished! Cease that unearthly racket!

The deranged woman rises from bed, loosing the clip in her hair and hurling it at the window with the might of a lioness long past her prime. Lady Delecour slides from the bed and stumbles to the door, just as the lights and strange gibberish cease. She stares around in bewilderment until a bump is heard in the hall outside. She steps back and her lined face twists into a grimace. 

Lady Delecour: Intruder! Leave my estate! I have phoned the station, and you will be arrested shortly. Vacate the premises at once!

Immediately the door to the bedchamber swings open, knocking the elderly woman aside and onto the floor. A wooden box labeled ‘antique false teeth’ slowly slides across the floor and onto the scene. Lady Delecour rises, staring at the box in shock. 

Lady Delecour: What is this? My false teeth collection! She leaps forward with vigor, bending down to unwisely grab the wooden box. As she nears, it jumps back toward the door by several feet, frightening the old woman. Oh! It moves! And she follows the box as it leads her out of the room and down the hall toward the parlor. 

The front door swings open as the Lady enters the parlor, and the box of antique false teeth exit the manor. Lady Delecour screeches in desperation, and leaps for the door. At that moment a great, thundering boom shakes the entire room. The Lady is flung to the floor with a vengeance as a first, and then a second, flying machine enter Delecour Manor. They skid to a stop in front of the dazed woman with lights flashing and blinking familiarly. 

Lady Delecour: Bloody— She is interrupted as the awful cacophony starts up again. Her hands go to her ears as the wailing intensifies. 

All at once, the two spacecraft settle and the lights cease to flash. Behind the tinted windows, Lady Delecour can easily discern a pair of humanoid figures. The incessant wailing seems to be emanating from these creatures and could very well be a form of communication. Huddling on the floor, the Lady forbids herself to bite her own tongue. Lashing out with harsh words, she is prepared to defend herself and her home at all costs.

Lady Delecour: Get away, you vile extraterrestrials! You may be real after all, but I will rue the day I allow any being to manhandle me. Step back at once and prepare to vacate the premises! Her voice quivers on the last note, and the aliens notice this with glee. The old crone is more frightened than she lets on. The gibberish continues as the pair discuss what to do with their pray.  

Lady Delecour is attached to the spacecraft via a good old fashioned rope and hook. As the aliens finally egress Delecour Manor, the wild wailing of Lady Delecour can be heard across the entire countryside, inspiring many fables and ghost tales. End of Scene Three. 

Narrator: And so the time of the aristocrat, Lady Delecour has come to pass. Nobody ever knew what happened to the poor wretch. Some say she was kidnapped and killed by the families of those she unjustly condemned. Some believe she was abducted by aliens. But aliens aren’t real….. Right?

Story Beginnings: The Concave

I flew high in the night, the wings of my soul perturbing the very aether that kept them aloft. Soaring above an icy expanse, my awareness flirted with oblivion, yet was held fixed by an ethereal river of light that I do not think mortal eyes could behold. Onward this great rush of luminosity propelled me, across vast and barren stretches of land. I was caught in the toroidal currents of the sphere and moving toward destiny with great haste.

The northern curtain greeted my passing with elegant sublimity. Folds and ripples of indiscernible scale graced the night sky. This was where the heavens were reflected upon the Earth. This was where the spiritual danced with the temporal. I was naught but a wisp in the air compared to this grandeur, yet inherently connected to the spirit it bore. Beyond these far reaches I did traverse.

As the firmament depressed and curved inward, my awareness sank into a vortex of light. In that far, northern apex of the world lay a forgotten portal. An entrance to the cradle of life, out of which poured the forebears of mankind. Currents of fire twisted around like a chain, propelling my existence deep into the womb of the Earth. There was no discerning the passage of time, as all humanly measurements were lost in this ascended state.

A line of red appeared where horizons met, quickly filling out into a dim star as I was swept forth. Centered in my sight, this dull, smoky brother of our sun was both the source and destination of the current. Maintaining an inward approach, I then witnessed the inside curvature of the firmament. Far below, across, and all around stretched lands of plenty. I was at the doorstep of destiny — a child of the great smoky god returned home.

Note: As with many of my imaginings, I can provide no backstory here. This was written with the intention of being somewhat obscure, based upon the recent images and ideas welling in my subconscious. Inspiration was derived from the works of Jules Verne, Edgar Rice Burroughs, and the adventures of Olaf Jansen, presented as a true account by Willis George Emerson.