Village Site Taken Over by Fiddleneck

   The morning after Justin arrived at his friend’s house in the foothills, he decided, without telling anyone, to explore the surrounding woodlands, so he rose as quietly as possible and tiptoed out of the house. He discovered a nearby trail immediately and followed it to a creek that flowed through the property, vanishing at one point into some rocks and falling about thirty feet to the floodplain. Justin found a steep trail down to the base of the waterfall and sat down on a cold, smooth rock, the air so quiet that he became aware of the rhythm of his own breath. A large sycamore leaf floated down like a rudderless boat and suddenly twirled downward toward the creek. Justin for a fleeting moment felt that he was God experiencing itself, the observer, the observed, and the act of observation all at once.
   Justin had never considered himself before that moment even remotely religious, so the sensation was totally unexpected. Even though his personality had been completely erased during that split second, Justin wanted to experience the sensation again because he had felt at the same time a powerful, sympathetic connection with all things. The trail which had led Justin to that moment suddenly fascinated him, so he followed it as it snaked through the woods with an undeniable logic, for Justin found more than one creek on the property, and the trail, he realized, was part of a web of trails that connected the different streams, establishing the shortest routes between the different sources of water.
   Justin found himself revising his opinion about the lack of intelligence of cattle when he discovered a flat stone with both deep and shallow cups pounded into it, thirteen of them. The trail continued to the other side of an old fence that seemed held up mainly by the tension in the barbed wire, so Justin rolled under the wire and ambled to a ridge where he found three more pounding stones and several large, hollow indentations in the earth. As he gazed at a pounding stone, he noticed a long, tapered rock in the weeds; he picked it up and slid it into one of the deep cups. It fit perfectly.
   As Justin followed the trail further into the woodlands, he heard a loud thud, then another, a rock tumbling through the branches of the oak tree above him. Justin ran for a large outcropping of rock about twenty feet away. As he dashed around the rock, he was knocked backwards as though hit with the force of a charging linebacker; a sharp pain radiated from his eyebrow. Sitting up as he regained his senses, Justin discovered that he was unable to see with his right eye. With his left eye he could see the legs and torso of a large, slightly overweight man.
   “You’re on my property,” the man stated flatly.
   Justin angrily retorted, “You didn’t have to knock me down. I think you might have made me blind in one eye.”
   “You’re on my property,” the man stated again.
   “Look, I didn’t know that. I just got here last night. I’m visiting a friend. I was just exploring these trails. I didn’t mean to bother anyone.”
   “You’re bothering me. The trails on this side of the fence belong to me. You’re trespassing.”
   Justin looked the man over with his good eye. The man was young, probably eighteen or nineteen, not much older than Justin himself. “I’ll be happy to leave. Just point the way,” Justin offered.
   “You’re not going anywhere. You’re on my property. I own you.”
   “What? You don‘t own a thing,” Justin muttered.
   “Well, you see, when my father died, I became owner here. This is all mine, and I can do what I want with anything on my property.”
   Justin’s eye, which was swelling noticeably, throbbed. “You’re kidding.”
   The man kicked Justin hard in the leg. “Still think I‘m kidding?” Justin grimaced and curled up into a ball, and the man looked him over again. “You’re mine,” he stated flatly. “I own you. Get up!”
   “What do you think you‘re doing?” Justin whined.
   “I’m going to feed you to the coyotes. I’ll cut you up and throw your little pieces all over my property if you don’t get up right now.”
   Justin slowly got up, teetering on one leg. The man pushed Justin, almost hard enough to make him fall down again. “Where are we going?”
   “Oh, I have a special place for lawbreakers up there in the hills.”
   Justin hobbled along, noticing what appeared to be an open mine not far off.
   “Aren’t you helpless, just like a little girl?” the man sneered and shoved him again.
   Justin fell to one knee, his right hand landing on a large, broken branch next to the trail. He swung around, hitting the man as hard as he could in the temple with the branch. The man fell to the ground and groaned a little, but didn‘t move.
   Justin stumbled at first but began to run, partly limping, partly skipping, toward the barbed-wire fence. He rolled under and slid down the incline on fallen leaves, hitting his shin against a rock. When he looked back, no one was in sight.
   Shocked and sickened by the pain in his shin, he pulled himself up and stumbled toward his friend’s house, suddenly fearing that he had killed the man and imagining the trouble he might be facing if the authorities found out, especially since he had been violating the sanctity of private property when he committed the crime. The police might suspect that the landowner had only been defending himself against a robber or burglar. There was no evidence to the contrary. Justin wondered if he would be tried as an adult even though he was only sixteen.
   “This is bad, bad, very bad,” he muttered to himself. He didn’t know if he could trust his friend Robert to believe him or to keep a secret. Justin vowed not to tell anyone, and he only hoped that the owner wouldn’t come looking for him--if the owner had survived. Justin had, after all, told the man that he was staying with friends. How many people could be living in the vicinity? But then maybe the landowner wouldn’t want anyone to know about his own antisocial behavior. The owner had seemed pretty sure that he would get away with whatever he was planning, even if he had only intended to scare Justin half to death for the fun of it.
   “What if he is bleeding to death right now…and I don‘t do anything?” Justin thought to himself. Even though the man had brought it upon himself by acting like a psycho, Justin would be a murderer if he left the man to die, in which case he knew that he, Justin, might be perceived as the sociopath.
   “But what if I do go back to help him and he ambushes me again and does what he wants with me and kills me?” Justin thought. “Robert has no idea where I am, and the psycho is probably pretty pissed off right now, if he’s alive and conscious.” Justin looked over his shoulder, his right eye still perceiving only a blur.
   “This is one of those defining moments, maybe,” Justin thought. “Like some angel is watching me now to see what choice I make.” Then Justin remembered the broken branch. Maybe it had blood on it--and his own fingerprints. What had he done with it? He was tempted to go back to find that branch, if nothing else, but in his condition he wouldn’t be able to defend himself or run away if he encountered the psycho again. He might have to bury the body, say, in the mineshaft--while Robert’s family, all the while, was wondering where Justin had gone.
   He had to sneak back to find the branch, but he knew he must go a different route even though he didn’t know the terrain. The trails were no help to him now. His adversary probably knew every inch of his land and had already positioned himself at a suitable lookout point to watch for Justin’s return on one of the trails. Justin decided to climb up the hill above the trails to find his enemy before his enemy found him.
   A moment before Justin was about to roll under the barbed wire again, he glimpsed his foe stumbling toward him in the distance. Justin ducked down, hoping that the psycho hadn’t seen him, and Justin crawled down the hill and climbed up the other side of the creek, positioning himself behind a rock. His enemy stopped at the barbed wire, his head and hands covered in blood. The psycho stood a long time, gazing toward the house. Justin remained still behind the rock, occasionally gazing at the fence. Finally, his enemy was gone, still unsure, Justin hoped, about whether or not his neighbors were harboring him.
   Robert’s sister Leah was sitting in the kitchen when Justin sneaked in through the back door.
   “Robert, Justin’s here,” Leah shouted.
   Robert came running into the kitchen. “Where’ve you been, man?” he yelled. “I’ve been looking all over for you!”
   “I’ve just been looking around outside,” Justin replied. “I guess I lost track of time. I thought I’d be back by the time you got up.”
   “Well, at least you’re in one piece,” Robert grinned. “Do me a favor next time. Leave a note or something.”
   Just then, rain started pouring down. “That’s one of the reasons I was worried. We’re supposed to get a lot of rain today. I didn‘t want you wandering around lost in the storm.” Robert looked closer at Justin’s face. “What happened to you, man? Your eye’s all swollen.”
   “Oh, you won’t believe this. I tripped and fell headlong into a tree root.”
   “Same ol’ dufus, huh? Some things never change!” Robert got Justin in a headlock and tousled his hair.
   “What d’ya mean? You’re the clumsy oaf!” Justin struggled free of the headlock, pushing Robert away, and dashed down the hall, trying not to reveal the pain in his leg. Because the hallway was narrow and dark, Justin careened into a small table, figurines and knick-knacks flying everywhere.
   “Oh, damn,” Robert yelled. “You are a one-man disaster area! What’re we going to do now?”
   Justin looked at the pieces on the floor. “Are your parents here?”
   “No, man, they drove into town about twenty minutes ago. I told them you were still sleeping. They won’t be back for awhile.”
   “Do you think we could glue all this back together?”
   A figurine of a boy was in about fourteen pieces, but the others, a stellar jay and a moose and a girl in a pink dress, were only a little chipped. The rest was plastic.
   Leah, who was only thirteen but precocious to the point of exasperation, asked, “What did you do to my prince? You killed him!” She held the head of the figurine up to her cheek and pretended to cry.    Justin and Robert looked at each other, at a loss.
   Leah cried, “I know where we can find another prince just like him! Remember, Aunt Julie mailed Mom the same figurines two years ago as a birthday present. I know exactly where Mom is keeping them!” She paused.
   “Well?” Robert and Justin said together.
   “I’ll show you, but you have to do what I say for the rest of the day,” Leah grinned.
   Robert threatened Leah with a fist. “Mommy’s not here to protect you,” he smirked. “I’ll smack you!”
   “Go ahead,” Leah chirped, “but I’ll never show you if you do!”
   Robert gazed over at Justin, who appeared disheartened. “Oh, all right, but it better not be totally stupid.”
   “Okay, follow me,” Leah smiled, leaping up the stairs. Soon they were in a dank, cluttered attic, the rain faintly tapping on the roof.
   As his eyes adjusted to the darkness, Justin noticed among the boxes a large chest with odd masks or headdresses on top, two large pillars, one on each side of the room, and a sheet draping a big, rectangular object.
   “This is weird,” Justin stated flatly.
   “Didn’t you know? Everyone who lives out here in the hills is a little weird,” Leah smiled.
   Robert picked up a headdress. “We found this chest and those pillars and that huge mirror when we moved here two years ago,” Robert explained. “Who knows what they’re for? We just figured the previous owner was an actor or something.”
   “Oh, I know what they’re for,” Leah nodded.
   “Who cares, you runt,” Robert yelled. “Just give us the figurines or we’ll lock you in here all day!”
   “I’ll tell Mom and Dad if you do! I’m not going to show you where those figurines are until you do what I say,” Leah stated, without any expression on her face.
   Robert looked around at all of the boxes. “Ohhh, man,” he whined, “you’re always getting on my last nerve.”
   Justin grabbed Robert by the elbow. “Let’s just do what she wants. How bad can it be?” he shrugged, rolling his eyes toward the roof pelted by rain.
   Leah put on a headdress, which consisted of what resembled a full moon between two golden horns. “I am the Goddess Isis,” she claimed as she pulled a large embroidered robe from the chest. Leah handed Justin a strange-looking headdress that resembled a fat bowling pin with feathers on each side. “You are my brother and husband Osiris, who dies at the hand of his brother Set.” She handed Justin a white robe and a red rope for a belt.
   “Now you know how bad it can get,” Robert moaned.
   Leah handed Robert the strangest headdress Justin had ever seen. It resembled the slender neck and head of a swan, but it was actually a mask with small holes for eyes and nostrils near the base. From the top of its head flowed straight locks of golden hair. “You are ibis-headed Thoth, God of magic, who helps me resurrect Osiris.” Then Leah handed Robert a different mask. “But first you must show us the way as Anubis, God of the Underworld.”
   “I don’t want to play this stupid game,” Robert whined.
   “Quiet, fool!” Leah in her robe and headdress was suddenly as domineering as a queen. “You will do as I say or suffer the consequences!”
   “The tyrant speaks,” Robert jeered, placing the mask of a jackal over his head.
   Leah turned to Justin, “I must have your permission first,” she stated.
   Justin stared at her for a moment and then nodded.
   “Go now, and unveil the doorway to my world,” Leah commanded.
   Robert reluctantly stepped between the pillars and pulled the sheet from the mirror. In the dim mirror, the numerous boxes resembled large, cut stones, and Robert in his mask and robe resembled a jackal-headed man or God. Leah motioned to Justin to stand next to the pillar on the right, where he would remain unseen in the mirror.
   Leah spoke with the authority of a queen or a Goddess, “Great Anubis, God of the Underworld, revealer of the way, shaman of the heart, follow your dark path in the moonlight to find the pieces of my love, Osiris, so cruelly torn apart by his evil brother Set, his sacred body strewn all over the kingdom. I have wept for many days and nights, searching for the pieces of his body.”
   Even though he could not see himself in the mirror, Justin could see Leah, now totally consumed by her role. She was Isis, and Justin felt a twinge of compassion for her as she suffered from her husband‘s cruel murder. The snout of the jackal pointing directly at the glass, Robert too was apparently gazing intently into the mirror.
   All three of them now in silence staring into the dark glass, Justin was suddenly sure that he could see something floating far off in the distance under a full moon. All three of them seemed pulled by the moon into the mirror, and Justin found himself in complete darkness as if inside a tomb. All he could hear was a faint drumming like rain. He blinked: Perhaps he had only closed his eyes.
   Justin suddenly remembered how, after his father died, he had felt torn into about fourteen pieces, his spirit trapped in a blackness that others could sense but couldn‘t see, a blackness that he could not escape. He had lost his best friend and his girlfriend; he had lost interest in his schoolwork, in his music, his art, his writing; his brother had moved out of the house and his mother had withdrawn from everyone; he had lost interest in sports--he could no longer even hit a baseball; he quit his stupid job as a busboy and dishwasher; and he no longer attempted to talk to his uncles or his grandparents. They were all like fragments of himself that no longer fit together. He felt hopeless, cut off from everything, and they had sent him out to the country to recover.
   As though from far off, he heard the voice of Isis, “I have wandered the kingdom and found all of the parts, but one. We must prepare Osiris for rebirth.”
   Suddenly he saw Thoth and Isis, the God and Goddess of magic, hovering over him, murmuring incantations. He felt almost whole again, but something was missing. Soon he felt his personality melt away, leaving only crossed filaments of light that grew brighter, forming a white-hot cross with a glowing loop at the top. Then Isis seemed to pour herself over him like water, tempering the white-hot ankh of his soul. Finally, Thoth breathed into him, tempering him, reviving him with the breath of life.
   He rose from the wrappings that held his fragments together, and Isis took him to her breast as if he were a child.
   He felt renewed by a limitless source; he was a living drop in an immense ocean of consciousness, the river and the rain and the desert and Isis and Thoth and himself all part of one vast, throbbing fabric of energy.
   He heard the voice of Isis, “My husband, you are reborn as Horus, the hawk-headed God who knows the eternal now in himself and in all things. When you are ready, you will do battle with your brother Set, who brings chaos through his selfish efforts to own everything and control the world for his own enjoyment, and you will fight that need for power in yourself until you are the fully matured God of the Higher Self.”
   “I am resurrected!” Justin shouted joyfully, suddenly coming to his senses next to the old chest in the attic, Leah and Robert nowhere in sight. Justin got up slowly and tiptoed downstairs, finding Leah and Robert in the kitchen.
   “There he is,” grinned Robert. “Still in one piece, I see.”
   “What happened?” Justin asked.
   “You fell asleep on the floor as we were playing. We thought you needed to rest, so we left you up there. You seem to be feeling a little better, anyway,” Leah smiled.
   “Oh, I do. I had a strange dream, but I feel much better,” Justin smiled, gazing through the window. Justin could see a small figure far off in the distance on an ancient trail that curved down toward the floodplain of the creek.

Find a dark path.
Meet a mountain lion.
Explore the "experimental range" in the landscape of the Tarot.
Play a game.
The Middle Pillar Exercise.
Learn the basics of the Ritual Pentagram Spread.
Open a punished door.