Always, the freezing water poured in. Then, after the reflexive gasp for one last breath, every muscle stiffened in terror. Always, thousands of horrified screams came. Always, they were rife with hatred as much as fear.
“Atlan-Kol!” they screamed and he did not know what that meant. “Serpent!” they screamed as well. This he understood for it was in English tinged with some unrecognizable accent. And always, Andy Crowley knew somehow that the way they said serpent meant betrayer — and that, by betrayer, they meant him.
Then the handsome man would appear — a mariner in both style and comportment. At once alien and somehow familiar, he wore a dark blue cloak trimmed in silver embroidery. Always, there was the battle to retain dignity in the presence of this man in blue. Always — in the end — there was the loss of that battle and the shame. Then, finally, mercifully it seemed after the anguish of drowning, there was the peace of oblivion beyond the threshold of the construct of self in the embrace of the truth of The All.
The dream did not distress him now as it once had. Observing his breath, he fixed his third eye on Boromir’s horn on the Fellowship of the Ring poster over his bed. This was every morning now. The drowning dream happened every night.
The smell of bacon meant Ruby had come home last night. Excitement at seeing his sister pushed the dream completely from his mind.
From his vast collection of concert shirts, he chose Pink Floyd for today (they were Ruby’s favourite).
He just hoped she wouldn’t try to talk to him about mom and dad. Pausing for a moment he lamented his broken parents. Then he resolved to live in the moment. Why would he let even a fleeting thought of them befoul his mood? The drowning nightmare was behind him (at least for today) and the bliss of bacon was in his nostrils.
In his hallmark high-top sneakers, worn loose, tongues out, and laces suspended miraculously just this side of flailing every which way, Andy Crowley bounded down the stairs for big breakfast with his big sister.
Andy felt no malice for the people who facilitated the monstrosity of high school. He knew they meant no harm. But, understanding the damage it did, he could not help but resent the institution itself. As a learned mystic, he knew its true function: indoctrination into reductionism. By fostering the propensity to delineate reality into conceptual constructs, wolves in sheep’s clothing had rendered the masses vulnerable to the indentured servitude and conspicuous consumption that perpetuated and maintained the gilded cage they called civilization. Religion, countries, political parties — even the delusion of the distinct self — all served the same elite agenda: reduce the middle class to ego-drones stitching together costumes with shit from the mall paid for by selling their labour for a pittance.
He was not completely above humanity’s expulsion from Eden, but he had already learned enough in his esoteric research to resent what he saw. Going to school, he had surmised, was a lesser of evils thing. There were few other tolerable alternatives in this society and so it made sense to work on not being resentful about having to participate in the petty, narcissistic nonsense of it all.
For now, he took to listening to music to distract himself from his estrangement from his culture and he found some escape from it in philosophical conversation with the malcontents in the smoking area and at the arcade. Andy Crowley’s true education was such that he was an empathetic and compassionate soul. He did have friends; and his neighbours Deb Holcroft, Nick Morris, and the guys he played Dungeons & Dragons on Friday nights had become even more important to him after his parents had left him with Ruby.
Today had been a successful one as far as high school goes. He had skipped physics without getting caught and had reclaimed high score on Mario’s Bros. at the arcade.
His mind was free to spend the bus ride home mulling over the drowning dream and the man in blue again.
Having become somewhat accustomed to the once overwhelming horror of drowning he had begun to piece together the notion that the man in blue, the mariner, was calling to him. More and more Andy was getting the impression that the stranger wanted him to accompany him somewhere. Was this a breakthrough or was it wishful thinking? A plan to visit the astral plane where it intersected with the realm of sleep began to form in his mind.
He leaned his head against the rattling window and thought of slipping into meditation to enhance his objectivity on the matter.
This too was a problem he had come to understand about Western culture in his training. The diminishment of awareness of truth and reality resulting from over-emphasis on selective perception of conceptions used to fabricate and sustain ego.
Meditation was at the heart of the mystic’s education. Mindful awareness of the present moment was the basis from which manipulation of probability (a practice known as sorcery) was possible. Andy had given up smoking in the summer going into Grade nine because he found his meditation sessions went deeper and longer without the nicotine in his system. And since meditation was the only means by which he could access the aetheric echo of the ancient library at Alexandria, enhancing his capacity for it had become his highest priority. He had quit drinking too. Seeing what booze had done to his dad had made that even easier than giving up cigarettes.
Quitting smoking — or perhaps, he hypothesized, the unconscious refinement of his physiological systems from being such an accomplished meditator — had rid him of all the baby fat he had lugged through most of elementary school. Such was his transformation over the summer that Andy had begun to attract the attention of girls. Not that he would notice — or care. He regarded sexuality as contrary to his commitment to development as a sorcerer. Suffice it to say, two weeks into his first year of high school, some of the girls had taken notice of the new Andy Crowley.
To make matters worse, Scott St. Pierre had noticed that the girls had noticed.
The bus hadn’t even turned out of the school parking lot…
“Anzy!” St. Pierre’s voice pierced the headphones of Andy’s Walkman. Even Geddy Lee’s vocals cranked to ten couldn’t keep it out.
In Grade Two, Ray Barker — noting Andy’s challenges with his weight and his proclivity for black and white baseball-style concert shirts — had come up with the monicker “Andy Panda”. Over time, after Andy’s passive responses, first to that name, then to the punching and kicking that eventually accompanied it, Scott St. Pierre had come up with “Andy Pansy”. Evolution being what it is, this came to be shortened to just ‘Anzy”.
Andy had come to accept it. Violence is anathema to mystic sensibilities. When the bullying came, he just considered the source. Pity was more logical than revenge. Forgiveness was the stuff of salvation. Detachment was the stuff of enlightenment. All was one. Antagonism was contrary to the ultimate truth of being.
But today was different. He was not himself. The shit with his parents. The nightly drowning, death, destruction, and hate. No, he was not himself at all. And something was wrong. Something was physiologically, primally wrong.
Andy Crowley removed his headphones, leaned forward against the green vinyl seat in front of him, and hung his head to hide his face. Closing his eyes he caused the perception of the arrow of time to slow for him relative to everyone else, not just on the bus pulling out of Quinte Secondary School, but on the entirety of the blue-green jewel called Sanctuary across the multiverse, but known only by variations on the name Earth by its native inhabitants.
He had never attempted what he was about to do outside of the magic circle from the Clavicula Salomonis he had carved into his bedroom floor and filled with powdered iron and silver when his parents moved out.
And though only an instant passed for everyone else, what felt like a lifetime of suppressed fury cascaded into Andy’s mind. A lifetime of judgment, diminishment, and ridicule all at once.
“Atlan-Kol!” roared in his head. “Serpent!” A father tortured by reductionism and consumed by the false solace of alcohol; a mother tortured by reductionism and consumed by the false solace of church. A sister who felt she needed to take their place and should have been enjoying her youth instead of feeling the weight of that responsibility. The mariner in blue. The terrifying, sleepless nights. The consumerist indoctrination and fashion show that was high school.
With labels and divisions we will make them sad and lonely and afraid, and if they are sad and lonely and afraid they will shop.
He’d had enough.
He reached into his pocket and fumbled through the five Platonic geometric forms he always carried there. He found the 20-sided icosahedron, squeezed it in his fist, and extended his forefinger, third finger and pinky into the Shunya mudra that would help open the heart chakra. Turning his consciousness inward, he hurled himself headlong toward the center of his being. Leaving the annamaya kosha of the physical plane behind, he rocketed beyond the vijnanamaya kosha, beyond even the manomaya kosha, into the anandamaya kosha. Had he not trained so rigorously to resist the allure of the bliss to be found here, this is where the journey would have ended. From here he hovered at the mouth of the Moebius bridge beyond which the delta quanta churned in the probability vortices at the very heart of spacetimemind. Here, at the edge of being, the thin sliver of the patchwork of concepts that had become the construct known as Andy Crowley resisted another overwhelming compulsion to let go of the nonsense of self and so know ultimate truth. Here, nowhere and everywhere at once, Andy curled his toes over the edge of the abyss where deepest within and farthest beyond were indistinguishable; where imagination and manifestation were interchangeable equivalencies; where thought and reality were one and the same. Focusing his intention to summon the delta quanta across the Moebius bridge, then channeling it through his aetheric body and on to the material plane, he would twist form and fate alike to spell out a new reality in accordance with his desires. Subtly, he shifted the 20-sided die in his pocket while the finger that pressed it against his palm sought out the grooves of the number 20 that was engraved in one side.
Inaudibly, he began mouthing the incantation that would cause every one of Scott St. Pierre’s teeth to fall out all at once.
When the pad of his middle finger found the 20 the die grew cold in his hand. So cold there would have been pain — were pain possible here, beyond all such labels and concepts.
A wide grin split Andy Crowley’s long angular face.
None on the bus saw his strange eyes — one, the blue of a sunlit ocean, one, the colour of roaring fire reflected in Martian gold — roll upward and inward to connect with the true sight of his third eye. Only the white eyes of the wizard’s gaze would have been seen by his schoolmates. But his head was down. His eyes were closed. And his long pale gold hair hung about his face. The darting indigo glare of his twitching, penetrating third eye came then upon on his forehead.
Suddenly then, as though across an incredible span of spacetime, like a lightning bolt into his soul, he heard Deb’s anguished voice. In an instant, reason returned and that small part of him that remained Andy Crowley rather than all things everywhere, remembered where he was and who sat beside him on the bus.
Paradoxically collapsing downward and exploding upward onto the material plane of everyday, waking existence, he silenced his mind, gathered together his identity and returned.
What had happened! A momentary lapse of reason? Hormones? Had he really just let a schoolyard bully push his buttons and reduce him to this!
Andy didn’t have time to admonish himself. This failure of discipline had already almost cost him everything. Deb could never know what he could do. He must maintain his composure. Detach. Forgive. Let go.
“Anzy, can speak for himself.” he heard Scott say.
“Jesus Scott, you need to let Grade Three go,” said Deb. “Do you need Nick to kick the shit out of you again?”
Scott St. Pierre’s face blanched before it reddened. “I need Anzy to fight his own battles, Deb,” he said.
“You need to not be a loser, Scott.” As Deb said it, she noticed Scott’s eyes surveilling the bus behind them. He was looking for Nick and when he discovered Nick had stayed at school for basketball, the situation was going to get worse fast. Deb shot a nervous glance at Andy. His head was down against the bench seat in front of them. His hands were I his pockets. Everyone would think he was cowering. But she had known Andy Crowley longer than she had known anyone else. She was catching a really scary vibe. Was this day he lost it? He could not maintain his legendary composure forever. Especially someone who had been through so much. Deb’s heart ached for him. She determined the best course was to keep Scott busy.
“Why don’t you –,” Deb stopped short when Andy casually sat up in his seat.
“Scott,” There was not even a hint of anger in Andy’s voice. Quite the opposite in fact. Cool wasn’t the word for it. Though he had almost whispered the words, every eye on the bus was on him now.
“Sit down.” If possible there was even more serenity in these words. A shiver ran up Deb’s spine and she wasn’t sure if it was a good shiver or a bad one. It was something completely new. The way Andy talked made her think of Sir Alec Guinness in Star Wars. “These aren’t the droids you’re looking for.”
Scott’s jaw went slack such that no words could come into it. His face was a mask of bewilderment. Then, with a muffled grunt, and a quizzical jerk of his head, he just turned, sat down, and tried to disappear into the worn green vinyl of the bus seat no one ever shared with him.
As though it was the only choice they had, everyone else on the bus turned away and pretended to go back to their own after-school conversations and plan-making. But Andy Crowley knew different. He knew all the murmuring on the bus was about him now.
Deb’s expression was one of astonished approval. She pressed her lips together in that tight smile that says I have no words in a good way and she gently shook her head to convey amazement.
After a long pause “You rock Andy,” was all she managed to say. And for Andy Crowley, the way Deb Holcroft — his friend for as far back as his memory went — patted his knee said way more than words ever could.
What’s happening to him? She thought; and the confusion she felt in that moment was the very best kind: that dizzying, disorienting turmoil that is more delicious than distressing.
Andy Crowley went back to listening to side two of Hemispheres by Rush. He tried desperately to ignore what he had seen on Deb’s face.
Is it possible? He thought. He really didn’t want it to be possible. Not really.
He had to focus. With his breakthrough on the mystery of the mariner in blue, he didn’t have time for Scott St. Pierre. He didn’t have time for any of the collection of nonsense that was high school. He didn’t have time to fall in love with –
Then, in a moment of honesty with himself, he knew fear. No matter what he told himself, he would always have time for Deb.
A new kind of panic set in. A pleasing panic with tinges of bright green magic on its edges. Then, in spite of himself, Andy Crowley grinned as he watched Scott St. Pierre get up and walk off the bus. No middle finger to the crowd. No smart-ass comment today. He didn’t even look back.
TO BE CONTINUED
in Chapter 2
Friday, September 7
7:00 p.m. EST