This is part of the Pagan Experience 2016 prompts. Each month brings a new prompt with options for alphabetical weekly prompts tied to the monthly topic. For this blog, I’ll be doing a monthly post on the associated topic.
“You have no concept of privacy,” Hawthorne’s mother says to me over tea. She practically hisses the words at me, except she is a bit too dignified for that sort of nonsense. I hold my teacup like a lifeline. “I didn’t want to have anything to do with you.”
“I won’t write anything,” I tell her.
“You’re a liar,” she says. She lifts her tea with grace I’ve seen shadows of in Hawthorne. His family home is incredibly regal. His mother watches me with hawk-like dark eyes, heavily shadowed with eyeliner.
I am a liar; I’ll end up writing about her all the same. The first time I sit down to write a story about her, I mumble an apology. I can almost feel her disgusted glare. Most of the spirits of the West are magnificent and awe-inspiring, yet they rarely leave the impression that I am less than them. Hawthorne’s mother can’t wait to bring it up through perfectly white clenched teeth. ‘Little bird’ is not an endearment from her blessed lips.
The idea of ‘being silent’ is as foreign to me as any writer. Writing, I’ve heard, is cannibalism. When my partner and I heard that, driving home and listening to NPR, I couldn’t help but exclaim my agreement. I struggled to articulate just why it was so true, though. Writing consumes.
My writing as a teenager was the shallow consumption of the self. Being a teenager is an exploration of who we are and who we want to be, though those adventures never really end. The hormones just stop slamming you face first into a brick wall (for a time). My teenage life was kicked off with a bleak adventure to the ‘otherside’ via a few handfuls of over-the-counter painkillers and a trip to the ICU. I was as self-centered as any teenager. For a year or more I wrote pages every day about my life. All the minutiae was recorded. My emotions existed to be stripped down to the page.
Rereading the journal months after I’d written in it, I fell asleep.
It was when I hit adulthood that I began writing more honestly. Having jobs, fucking up my life, reading more literature, coming to terms with the monster called depression – my writing morphed from the whining posturing of my teenage self into whining reality. I felt as though I were coughing up my own spine. And I realized how quickly I could switch myself around telling stories.
“Don’t turn this into a story,” I remember my mother telling me one day after I’d begun entering adulthood. We sat at a red light, waiting for it to turn green so we could turn down towards her friend’s house. I had no idea what she meant then. I have no idea what she meant.
Everything is a story to a writer.
I wrote about myself in roundabout fashion. I was never myself. I was always masked, always someone else. It made the feeling of my tongue being yanked from my mouth more tolerable. Half the time I wasn’t writing about myself but just a feeling. My deepening connection to writing came as I formed the Otherfaith. Writing became divine. When I was full of awe at the spirits I needed to capture it. I hammered it down with words. The emotion and experiences always fractured into pieces, but I was able to bottle some.
It was no surprise to me that one of my oldest spirits appeared, when I was in the throes of inspiration, to show me how to symbolically devour my own flesh. I considered it a useful spiritual skill. Of course it was a metaphor for my ‘process’ as well. Writing ripped off and processed all the parts of myself. I could break them down and string them out. I could make them better. I could edit them to shreds.
I could edit the spirits to shreds.
Evelyn Llewellyn, Hawthorne’s mother, only takes Lady Grey tea. I sip coffee and hunch my shoulders when I meet with her. Over a year of marriage to Hawthorne and I’m no better terms with his mother. Her long nails tap, tap, tap against the table of the cafe we’re meeting in. It’s one her family frequents. I scratch my neck. She sips her tea, her bright lipstick not leaving a trace on the mug. I wish I had half her sophistication.
“I’m sorry,” I offer.
“This is why I didn’t want my daughter marrying you,” Evelyn says. She shakes her head. Her hair is just as dark as Hawthorne’s but completely straight. Hawthorne is a hot mess; his mother is prim and proper and well-dressed. I’ve thought of bringing that up to her before. She’d probably blame me and my human cooties – or human influence. Same thing.
“I guess it’s why the Clarene wanted me to marry Hawthorne?” I say with a soft laugh.
Evelyn breathes sharply through her nose. I stifle a despairing cry.
“No concept of privacy,” she snaps at me, not for the first time. “You couldn’t keep your nose out of it even if you tried.”
I did try, for the record.
“She just wants your story told,” I protest. “I didn’t even realize how deep your history was until.”
Evelyn appears to slam her fist onto the table, but no loud bang shudders through the cafe. I certainly feel no tremble of the table against my own hands.
“Enough. *I* didn’t want the story told, much less for your fingers to be all over it.”
I grit my teeth. “You know, the story involves *my* family too, I have just as much right.”
She slaps the table this time, and the harsh sound does fill the room. The rest of the cafe falls silent and their eyes turn to us. I flush.
“I am the head of this family, which you are a part. You will not make an embarrassment of me.”
I lower my eyes to the table and nearly break a tooth with how hard I clench my jaw. The only one embarrassed here is *me*. Evelyn is one of the oldest spirits I’ve met in the West, yet she acts as if I have the power to topple her expansive empire. I knew marrying into Hawthorne’s family would provide its own challenges. But having Hawthorne *with* me while I deal with his mother might be nice.
“I’m still going to write it,” I mumble.
“I know you will,” she sneers. “You’re incapable of *not* doing so.”
I stare into my coffee.
It’s a story worth telling, damn it.
I call Hawthorne’s family the ‘Llewellyns’ out of ease. Whatever their name truly is, I can’t speak it. Evelyn would rather string me up by my entrails than let me know her holy name. I’ve called Hawthorne by ‘Llewellyn’ since I’ve known him. I only began applying it to his family as a way to differentiate between my spirit family and his, the one I married into when we wed over a year ago.
Hawthorne’s entrance into my life marked a decided shift in how I approached my magical and spiritual practice. Writing had factored into my religious life as a footnote. With his insistent appearance at my home, writing became the practice. Part of it was an attempt to cope with Hawthorne. I told him often he was just a character. I disavowed him in as many ways as I could. If I could just write him into smaller fragments, maybe he would disappear.
In hindsight, Hawthorne showed me how to engage in inspired writing. He taught me how to journey through words. Every attempt at cutting him down failed. He was certainly the starry, dark-haired brat I’d imagined him as, but he dodged all my flailing efforts to deny his selfhood. In trying to write him out of existence I was forced to learn the line between writing for myself and writing with the spirits. Writing journeys of him were infinitely more accurate than throwing my mental goop at the paper. (I eventually learned how to turn my idea muck into more concrete energy, though the experience of that was as unintended as most of my religious work.)
Being himself, Hawthorne didn’t mind being talked about. I could peel away his skin and pluck his heart out and he’d be happy as long as somebody was watching. He was, and is, a perfect match for me in a myriad of ways.
His family is another matter.
Evelyn – his mother – was a myth when I first knew her. She appeared as a silhouette in visions, her distinct profile striking every time I saw it. Hawthorne shrunk away from mention of her. I didn’t need to meet her to know she had an iron fist on her family. But as my journeys shifted focus, off of Hawthorne and onto spirit I’d never really know, she faded from memory. It wasn’t until we married that I had to confront her.
I offered her tea with a bowed head and many apologies. She sat stiff, like the Laethic spirits I’d met, and her hair fell in a determined line down her back. She was pale as the moon. Her lips could become a captivating smile. She never smiled at me.
She was an adopted sister to the Dierne. That much was obvious from the star imagery adorning every space around her. Her children were all part of the Dierne’s Court. It was later, when I was unintentionally stumbling into her history, that I saw her fighting alongside the silver god of sexuality and consent. She appeared far younger than I’d ever known her, blood dripping from a cut above her eyebrow and a gun dangling from her hand. She was muddy. I had never seen her with a speck of dirt.
She hissed at my knowing of her.
Writing is cannibalism.
Evelyn enjoyed my writing of her as much as any mother would. I can’t even count how many writers have horrid relationships with their family. Laying bare the sins and secrets of their kin earns ire. Writing puts down in ink our own perception of reality. The ink clashes with another’s. We cut them up and eat them so we can create sense, create beauty, create nice flowing sentences with the perfection combination of words. We find what tastes good.
And then we offer it to others.
Evelyn was, surprisingly, less defensive of her family than of herself. Then again, she trusted the rest of her daughters to have more sense than Hawthorne did, running off with a human writer like he’d done. But her ire toward me when I played with her origins was pale compared to her rage when I cracked open the egg of my own spirit family.
Star spirits seem exceptionally good at conveying a thousand years of disgust in one look.
I stare at Blake’s strung up body. Her stick-thin arms drape over the stone chair in the middle of the gurgling room. She is shadowed by the huge tubes behind her, the cords threaded from her body winding up and dumping some energetic equivalent of bodily fluid into the swirling, bubbling liquid in tubes. She wears the colorful silks I associated with the *Glateau Elves*, a variant of the Western fairies that make up the majority of spirits in the Otherfaith.
She tilts the remnants of her head sideways. I flinch at the slick sound, like eggs cracking against a counter. She has no mouth to speak. Her face is long gone. Instead of the flat-face the Glateau are known for, her neck meets a whirling mass of light and blood and sparks. Maybe I want to retch. My shoulders quiver.
A few months after my small spat with Hawthorne’s mother, I was completely and totally minding my own business. I didn’t have time for the epic journeys that used to influence my life. We were moving, for fuck’s sake. (A simple month or two of moving radically altered my approach to nearly every aspect of my life, but especially online.) I didn’t want new revelations or ideas for stories. Trying to get my life in order, I was thinking.
My beloved spirits had a different idea.
Alynah Blake came thundering it, as she does.
“Hey, little one!” she called, tossing a hammer half her height in the arm before catching it. She held it loosely as if it were some small paperweight. “Tell a story for me.”
“I’m kind of busy,” I protested. Busy cleaning dishes and listening to Panic! at the Disco.
“Story time!” she exclaimed. She yanked me toward her.
Alynah is electricity. She is also stars and fire. She’s a unicorn and a wolf and a kirin. Being close to her makes your eyes water. Static ripples through you. She hurts.
So I listened when she gathered herself around me. I plopped myself down in front of my laptop and wrote like she damn well wanted.
There may be some misconceptions about how I weave my stories. They don’t come fully formed. I have to string together inspired visions with more drab world-building. Part of why I slowed in my story-writing is because my vicious editorial side came out. She would roll her eyes at my works. I knew I could write better. I wrote what flowed, what felt good. My self-editor wanted what read well. Cut it up, piece it together, weave it back with marvelous ribbons.
A few stories did come easily to me. ‘The Red Room’, about Aletheia 003 and William, gushed out of me in a day. Most of the 2013 stories are like that. I cut open a creative vein and let it bleed everywhere. Now I’m more likely to chain myself up like Blake and seal all my wounds with cement. It hurts more when I rip them open. But it gives me a new feeling to write about.
Blake’s story was the more common drip-drop I’m accustomed to. Alynah Blake instigated my writing of it, but she gave little advice.
I knew a few things about Blake before writing her: she was the first Blake and who we all got our names from; she was from the Temple of the Fathers (a part of the West) and a Glateau Elf; she didn’t have a face. I’d heard from other spirits that she was a ‘time-traveling demon’ who had ‘erased her face’ from history. An over-exaggeration, of course. Story-building, I could see her face. She was foggier than most spirits, but she was there. An impression left on a pad of paper that you only find when you rub charcoal on it.
She’d had huge golden eyes, a tiny flat nose, and hair over five feet long. “Ridiculous hair,” I thought. Hair longer than I was tall.
And before I’d married into the Llewellyns, Blake had been the head of my family.
Not that it mattered. By the time I came into the picture she was already the deathly still body sitting deep within the house of the Blakes. Alynah had known her before she’d been reduced to that, though, and like any good chaos spirit decided to bring chaos into my life by overturning everything I’d known about my spirit family. I knew Hawthorne and I were twins (which in the West meant we were ‘created’ at the same time). I knew I was related to the Blakes. I’d known since I was little I was related to some of the older spirits in the Otherfaith. I had gone through pride, anxiety, rejection, and settled at acceptance.
Alynah struck down and insisted that, no, believe her, there was so much more to the story.
I wanted to know more anyway.
Blake had been young and naive and new to the West. And in a moment, as fast as a lightning strike during monsoon season, the pieces of my spiritual life fell together. The Blakes and the Llewellyns were so damn close because Blake and Llewellyn – Evelyn Llewellyn – had been close. At least before Blake’s skull had been split open to release all the potentials that she held in her.
Where the Llewellyns were restrained chaos, Blake was overflowing with energetic possibilities. I saw her pulling spirits out of her gut. She skipped through time leaving splotches of herself behind. And the more she pulled out, the less she could keep it all together, until her face started cracking, until she starting oozing out a toxic gas full of spirits wanting out of her.
That was where Alynah came in. Alynah and her hammer. She wasn’t a hive-off of Blake but instead forced into the family through her mother Althea, who gifted her the last name ‘Blake’ despite Blake’s own vehement disagreement. Blake had cursed Althea to be despised by Alynah. Althea knew that hatred couldn’t compare to what Alynah would do to Blake, though.
All that remains of Blake’s face is a violent splatter of light and magic. It glows to this day still. But Alynah cracked open her head and let out all the spirits dying to get out of that shell.
Evelyn Llewellyn flashes her claws at me when I tell the story. Maybe the wound is too new still. All the memories she and Blake had together, with Blake hopping through time and interrupting Llewellyn’s life with colorful explosions, shimmer around her. Or maybe she just wants me to shut up.
Writing is cannibalism, but I find myself butchered even when I’m holding the knife.
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