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Thursday, June 21, 2018

Princess and the Heating Man- Chapter One



Chapter 1 “The Vision”

       Amber fingers of light marched over the rugged mountains of the Algarve coast of Portugal, to illuminate a beautiful couple, wandering the beach arm in arm. Shoes in hand, they glanced at each with shy smiles as Atlantic waves covered their feet with cool water.
The sun was rising in all its golden splendor, turning the breakers into curved jade walls. Gulls cried out to sea while the steady winds gusted and flattened their clothes, sometimes the two laughed as big waves drove them shoreward.  Birds raced through shining silver mirrors of water, paying no attention to the pair of lovers.
An old man watched them from a distance on a balcony, his wrinkles like erosion valleys carved around his eyes, imagining their story is a beautiful and perfect one.
Surely there were there passionate nights and days of ecstasy, with stolen kisses across Europe?  Maybe by fountains in Paris, or while drinking at pubs in London, or wandering old canals in Amsterdam? A new beginning? Or was this the last date? Either way, the memories, souvenirs, trinkets, tickets, and seashells found on this very walk would fade over the years in musty drawers and files, but still reside in their minds, the old man thought.  
        The rays then traveled out to sea with the Westerlies, the legendary breezes that propelled ships from Europe and chilly, coal smoke- choked cities to the Americas, and freedom under swaying palm trees. Along the way, rays illuminated thousands of black waves to make them into green foam-streaked hills things of beauty, arriving and leaving on an ancient rhythm, one by one, their surfaces imprinted with reflections from the morning sky.
        The beams found an antique 60-foot ketch pitching and rolling in the seas on its way north to England, sparkling foam flowing around the bow as it slashed through swells, while the captain confidently spun the wheel. All was right in his world; the bracing sea breeze and billowing sails, a beautiful wife and child below, and money in the bank.   
        The rays shone through an ornate brass porthole and lit the face of his sleeping six-year daughter, making her smile, as if her skin had detected the light.  Oddly enough, she really was having a lucid dream about the sun at that very moment, knowing instinctively she would wake up soon to another splendid day on the boat. She had her family and a large orange cat, who would sometimes sleep across her body like a heavy pillow, which she loved.
        The sun smiled on the scene, but could not dally, so it kept moving across the vast ocean to illuminate the pounding surf at Virginia Beach. 
        There stood a stern statue of Neptune, staring back with defiance at the advancing rays, brandishing a pitchfork. The bright sun marched a hundred miles westward to light up the intricate Islamic-styled spires of the Mosque. If you happened to be there, you would see the sand colored bricks begin to glow, as minarets, colorful blue tiles, and arched windows became one of the most beautiful buildings in America.  That same spectrum lit up the lovely dew-covered rose bushes on Pine Street, and cobblestones in Shockoe Slip.
        The beams moved westward over rolling Piedmont hills to reach the Blue Wall, as the early settlers called the forbidding Appalachian Mountains. Green valleys and hills glowed with sunshine, one by one, roosters crowed, the dark hollows became shady paradises, and beautiful streams sparkled and preened. Windows opened, doors creaked back, and faces turned east.  It was happening, a brand-new day for all.
The exquisite light finally traveled through the mountains to arrive at an open space lined with a grove of oak trees, through which a stream flowed, causing the tiny waterfalls and pools to sparkle.
        Seven teenagers gathered there in the darkness before dawn. They called their space Avaln, short for Avalon, the mythical Celtic heaven in Britain.
        It was the obvious place to do their ceremony, there were elaborate overgrown Victorian gardens with ancient boxwoods, various nooks and crannies with rather strange statues, cryptic inscriptions on random stones, bird baths and fountains that were not particularly normal if you looked closely, and runestones.
        The beams from the sun were finally arriving, it was June 21, 1973, the summer solstice. Merln pronounced the date and time in a solemn voice, holding an antique pocket watch.
In minutes, their faces were beginning to warm up and eyes stung from the light blazing everywhere, it landed on the tops of the oaks, touching up the honeysuckle vines, and caressing the nodding daisies. It made the paint on their white horse below gleam. It was everywhere, bright and beautiful, and perfect.
        In the center of the clearing was Merry, a cross-legged seventeen-year girl of astonishing beauty, sitting on an Oriental rug with her eyes closed, and displaying a knowing smile. Her face was framed by long braids of brown hair ala Grace Slick-Pocahontas, and her skin was smeared with blue chalk to simulate woad, a plant dye Celts wore on their faces in battle. Her hands had reddish streaks to symbolize alder sap on them, a sacred tree of the Druids.
        In front of her on the flat rock were treasured albums, Piper at the Gates of Dawn by Pink Floyd, Abbey Road by the Beatles, and Straight Up from Badfinger. To the side was a picture of John Lennon, circa Revolver period, that Merry thought was very sexy. The novel Thunderball was next to The Drifters by James Michener, already worn and battered despite its recent release. Merry felt a special connection to the doomed Monica.
        On a nearby rock was a copy of Dante’s masterwork, The Divine Comedy, opened to the Inferno, and beside that was a La Belle Époque illustrated folio of Midsummer’s Night Dream. To complete the layout, her treasured Bible was placed next to a first edition of Steppenwolf, signed by the author.      
        In an ultimate place of reverence in their tableau was Stone Soup, a short story about a woman who put on a big kettle of boiling water in her village when everyone was hungry, with only a stone at the bottom.  She then told everyone she had the makings of a soup, though she really didn’t. Word spread, and people kept bringing little bits of food, and soon there was a real soup for everyone.
        The Golden Bough by Frazer, sat next to a small branch of charred willow. When the Romans attacked Avalon, the Druids burned willow to help repel them.
Below the ledge was the shape of a white horse about twenty feet wide and ten feet deep, carved in the hillside, made by clearing brush and digging in a foot or so and painting the dirt white, copying the famous Celtic Uffington Horse in England.  Merry had seen one on a hillside from a bus far away across lush green fields when traveling to Stonehenge, and remembered how haunting it was, a stick figure of an animal on a low hill. She liked the fact they carved hundreds of them into the hillsides all over Britain, there was a deep psychic connection with the land and the horse.
Lord B told them their ceremony would not work without their own horse carved in the hillside, he was quite specific. They really weren’t sure about that, but who disobeyed someone who had worked on Dark Side of the Moon and Abbey Road?
He also said the ceremony should only be thirty-three minutes long, he reminded them Jesus had died at age thirty-three, and Dante put the same number in the Inferno, they were reminded.
        Lord B pronounced on his first visit that there were ancient geometric ratios everywhere, when you measured the rooms and garden areas. Other special features included a very elaborate antique sundial, magnificently decorated with astrology signs, and the base was Bacchus, the god of wine. The house was called the Tower, after a famous house with unusual decorations and history, in London.

The blonde boy sitting beside Merry was nicknamed Merln, the undisputed leader in charge, resembling a Byronic Robert Plant, complete with flowing locks and the lot.  He had dropped a letter in respect for the original Merlin on the suggestion of Lord B, who demanded showmanship at every turn including a nom de plume. They also changed the spelling of Avalon to Avaln.  Nearby was Mo, Ginger, Lovey, Fessor, and Skipper.
Beside the books and albums were several burning white taper candles, a universal symbol in many religions, from Haitian voodoo to Christianity. Many of their ideas for this ceremony were randomly taken from their readings about priests, faith healers, shamans from Peru, gurus, imams, witches, seers, preachers, and especially Druids. She loved many beautiful passages from the Bible, fancying herself on occasion as a Mary Magdalene in the presence of Jesus. The Fessor turned in various strange religious they politely turned down.
She looked with satisfaction at the sage bundle that smoldered beside a beautiful antique crucifixion cross, which was next to a tiny Buddhist shrine containing some old rosary beads.  There was an Egyptian eye to ward off evil, a small statue of Lazarus with coins and tobacco at his feet, a major Cuban voodoo saint, and a golden scythe on white cloth next a large sprig of mistletoe.  Pliny the Elder described Druids cutting down mistletoe with a golden scythe to fall on a white cloth, because the ground would cause it to lose power.  
Merry found the story fascinating, and she visualized men in white robes gathering around while someone climbed up and cut the sacred plant, with a guy recording it in Latin off to the side. Merln had discovered some in an oak tree, and he was happy, as mistletoe from oak is by far the most powerful.  
        On the cloth too was a small bunch of barley, an ancient and sacred grain, brought there because of the traditional British folk song John Barleycorn Must Die.  Recorded by the English band Traffic, it describes the symbolism of killing barley with a scythe, one of the most famous folk songs ever, and they loved playing it. Merln sang and played some killer mandolin, both melody lines woven in with Merry’s voice, which bore an eerie resemblance to Sandy Denny, a folk singer in England who appeared on a Led Zeppelin album.
        There were nine acorns in a small crystal dish, inspired by John and Yoko's effort in the late sixties to send acorns to various world leaders to promote peace, so they might in turn grow an oak tree themselves. And nine was the ultimate number in Japanese culture, influencing the Beatles with Revolution #9, in which they used scraps of old tapes in Abbey Road vaults of a man speaking “number 9, number 9” in a disembodied voice.
        If that wasn’t enough for the number-obsessed Merln, there were nine circles of hell in Dante’s inferno, and nine planets in the solar system, along with Beethoven’s last incredible symphony, the Ninth. Merln loved to blast it on his stereo and see people frowning, though he turned it off before the oratorio, it was too strident, he’d never liked chorus much.
        They found a stand of alder trees down by the lake and made a flute from one of the hollow branches, just as the Celts did long ago. Lord B had showed them how to make one, explaining the musical and spiritual significance of the tree in general in a short lecture. Fender guitars normally were made of ash, but some were made with alder, he told them, and the pilings in Venice were alder.
        Before this special day, Merln and Mo had worked hard in the weeks to determine exactly where the rays would fall at sunrise on their altar on a given day. They moved the crystal a tiny amount each dawn and made precise calculations with a beautiful ink pen set Lord B had given them.
        They always removed the beautiful pen with great ceremony from its exquisite rosewood case, dipping a finely-made steel tip into the antique crystal ink well, and writing notes in their best calligraphy, sometimes spattering the paper with ink. Then they would carefully place it all back in the case. 
        To tease them, Lord B would not tell them how much the pen and inkwell was worth, or who had owned it. Benjamin Franklin? Byron? Poe? Lafayette?  His sister Nicole had told them the British Museum was very angry for not being able to acquire it from him, but even she did not who had owned it.
        Merry’s crystal had been mounted on a flat piece of holly wood, which felt like ivory, it was so pale, heavy, and finely textured. It was the second-most sacred tree of the Celts next to oak, and always won its metaphysical battle against oak at the winter solstice, because green leaves, red berries, and white flowers were superior to the bare branches of oaks at that time of year. But at the summer solstice, the oak had luxuriant foliage, and easily beat the holly tree. She imagined the trees as knights walking on their roots, jousting and sword fighting in a field, with hooded Druids watching from the sidelines. 
        Merry had found Avaln when wandering Teenage Wasteland, as they called the hundreds of acres of rusted and abandoned factory buildings near their town. She was happily quoting T. S. Elliot words from his Wasteland and humming the Who tune from Baba O’Reilly that gave the place its name, when she saw a lovely stream.
        Splashing in the shallows, tripping on slick rocks, and fighting through bushes with wet shoes and scratches on her bare legs, she emerged from the woods to a spectacular view to the east. A handful of crows in a dead tree not far away croaked in harsh tones before flapping away, otherwise it was quiet over the valley. They all caught up with her, and looked around, feeling something special was happening, a door opening.
        Exploring the area, she was stunned to find a stone that looked just like the altar at Stonehenge. She recognized it right away, she’d just been there recently with her parents, and sketched it.  She loved the Stonehenge scene in Thomas Hardy’s Tess of the D’Urbevilles, when the doomed girl lying on the stone was given just a few more minutes, while the authorities were held at bay.
        It was time. The sky in the east took on a touch of gold and pink which stained the clouds, and shortly a pinpoint of orange at the curved edge of the earth strengthened till it blinded them, and then it happened.
A small rainbow briefly beamed from the crystal and shone onto the altar stone a band of color, just as it had on Mt. Sinai, where she’d bought it. Skipper and Lovey said they did not see it, but Lord B comforted them and assured the two what was most important was telling the truth, like scientific observers relaying facts.
         The crystal had an interesting history.  Years before, on the top of Mount Sinai, a bright-eyed and most adorable ten-year-old Merry had marched up and asked the man for his best crystal, for a good price, of course.
         He made a bow, and spoke something about a princess worthy of adoration, looking her over carefully. He searched his boxes and handed over one around the size of a large apple, with a section sticking out to the side. It had been found near the pyramids, and he only gave special stones to people based on their vibrations, this little girl had entranced him. She then stood holding it aloft and turning slowly around in a circle, as the arid purplish brown Sinai landscape stretched out around her. When the clear stone passed in front of the sun, a small rainbow had appeared. Her little sister had said “That was AWESOME, do it again!” 
        The birds were erupting in song while bees grew louder on the honeysuckle nearby, and the sun’s heat increased.  Merry saw from behind her closed eyelids a deep black color, splintered with golden light, as the sun strengthened. She ignored her cramped leg, a small rock digging into her ankle, a bug crawling on her arm, and the heat rising.
         She thought they were on a voyage through a sea of space, moving with all the other objects, joined in an ever-changing planetary relationship matrix that progressed like a fine watch, as the astrological signs came and went.
        They were at the end of the Pisces now, and it was the dawning of the age of Aquarius, according to the two thousand-year astrological cycles for the planets.
        She thought of the Gaelic phrase for sea routes “Astar Mara,” the invisible streets in the water, what a lovely phrase. What would you call lanes in outer space? They were traveling in one as the planet Earth, moving through the galaxies, ever outward, spaceship earth suspended in face.
        Far down in the valley a solitary airplane droned, otherwise it was quiet and calm.  Bees explored the honeysuckle nearby, one landed on her arm, and she shook it off.  She thought about a little-known fact: bumblebees could dislocate their wings and vibrate them at a C # pitch to loosen pollen on certain flowers.    Suddenly she felt the urge to sing, and she started the first melody that came to her mind, scatting in her pure and breathy voice.
        The haunting notes barely topped a dozen total, but it was enough for the heart of a new song. The Fessor immediately saved them in his mind, his musical memory had benefited them many times. No tape recorder was running, because Lord B forbade their use at ceremonies, as they could distract and steal the thunder.   
        After a pause and a count of four, they began their acapella version of Because by the Beatles. The lovely harmonies bounced off the rock face behind them, the natural curved wall reflecting the sound. 
         They sang Chapter 24, a harmony-infused track on the first Pink Floyd album Piper at the Gates of Dawn. Merln played his flute to provide musical backing for the intricate harmonies, and Here Comes the Sun by the Beatles was next.
         The group took a breath, and finished with Carry On Till Tomorrow,” by Badfinger, which was quite Beatlesque, and produced by Paul McCartney and George Martin, who did the strings. They sang the chorus, holding the last “on,” for several minutes. Merln emulated Pete Ham, Mo was Tom Evans, and Merry’s high voice soared over all over them.
        The beautiful interplay of their voices was a continuous sound, just as someone was giving out of breath, another came in. Lord B had taught them how, almost like a vocal relay, and they felt it was an extension of humming OM.
        Then silence.  
        It was Merln who broke the spell, quoting Poe's “Al Aaraaf:

         “He was a goodly spirit- he who fell:
          A wanderer by moss-y-mantled well--
          A gazer on the lights that shine above--
         A dreamer in the moonbeam by his love.”

         Merry responded with the next four lines, they both knew it by heart.

         “What wonder? For each star is eye-like there,
         And looks so sweetly down on Beauty's hair;
        And they, and ev'ry mossy spring were holy
        To his love-haunted heart and melancholy.”

        And Fessor came up with the appropriate Dante quote:

        “It was the hour of morning,
        when the sun mounts with those stars
        that shone with it when God's own love
        first set in motion those fair things”

         They rose and went to the glade to spread blankets and cushions on the moss in the welcome shade by a little waterfall. Around them were moss-covered statuary of gnomes, elves, dryads, and trolls, and a battered fountain honoring Vivien, the Roman goddess of such places. The heat was coming on, and they felt drowsy.
        It was not long before a tape of Dark Side of the Moon was played at full blast, heavenly music; in fact Roger Water’s wife had cried after listening to the very first mixdown on headphones. Pink Floyd no doubt had borrowed Beatle magic at Abbey Road, and then added some of their own.
        Merry also shed a tear at the end. She felt deep empathy and a personal connection with Clare Torrey, the woman who scat sang in Great Gig in the Sky, there was something unbearably sad in that song.
They were all tired from the vision ceremony last night, and no one had gotten much sleep. Time passed, Merry was now daydreaming, very close to dozing off.
 Something caused her to turn her head and open her eyes.  About fifty or sixty feet away was a white deer in the stream, his snowy fur dappled in the sunlight, and large antlers bobbing gently as he drank.
         He raised his head abruptly and looked in her eyes without fear, the large brown eyes staring. Seconds went by, and her vision blurred slightly. She knew the white stag represented the Otherworld in Celtic legend, and that a taboo was being approached, such as when Welsh mythological figure Pwyll trespassed into Arawn's hunting grounds. Were they at the doorway of something forbidden? In Arthurian history, the animal represented spiritual quests, as they were very rare and hard to capture.
       The animal stood still. She remembered antlers were metaphors for rays of the sun or tree branches, and Celts would wear the stag's skin and antlers in their ceremonies, so Christians made it shorthand for evil.
The stag abruptly turned and ran away with very little sound, and branches and leaves swayed behind him.
         She looked around, but everyone else was asleep except Mo, who looked at her with eyes wide. The two now had this unique experience together, something subtle between them had changed, though it would be a while before they realized what it meant. Nothing was said, it was plainly understood.
        The rest of the group woke up and heard the story, saw the tracks in the stream, and noted Merry and Mo's look of absolute wonderment, and believed the story. The others, especially Merln, were deeply jealous. No one in the area had ever seen a white stag, it never appeared again.

         Merln then recited:

         “And all my days are trances,
         And all my nightly dreams
         Are where thy grey eye glances,
         And where thy footstep gleams-
         In what ethereal dances,
        By what eternal streams.”

        He was a master at remembering the best lines of plays and poems, quickly improvising if he forgot, and delivering something believable on the spot. He had acted many times since childhood including in their favorite, Midsummer’s Night Dream, which they both appeared in. She learned a lesson from him while on the production, he was fearless, boldly making decisions on the fly, and staying calm. They were both fifteen, and after the play, they spent a couple of hours alone when the nanny vanished, wandering the streets of White Chapel, making jokes about Jack the Ripper.
        After the poetry they settled around the stream, talking quietly about the night before. She described walking over to their makeshift “cauldron of prophecy,” as the priestesses usually called it in Welsh legends. It really was a large wok that Lord B bought in China, hundreds of years old. They filled it with water from the spring nearby, an added touch, as water sources like springs and lakes were sacred places in Celtic culture.
In addition to mugwort, they added bay leaves and the herb cinquefoil to create a traditional “clairvoyance brew.” Mugwort was related to wormwood and had a long history of magical and religious use worldwide. Anglo-Saxon tribes believed it was one of the nine sacred herbs given to the world by the god Woden. The Latin name was Artemisia, so its connection to the arts was close, and indeed the poets in Paris were fond of absinthe, made also from wormwood. It was used in solstice celebrations by the Celts, who attached sachets of it to their garments as they danced around the maypole. Merry found some growing in the nearby ruins of the factories and identified it from a book.
It was uncertain what was really in the punch they drank, besides those two herbs, but she knew she felt differently afterwards. Mo thought nothing else was added, but she could not totally believe that. Merln felt something more was in that drink, maybe crushed morning glory seeds.
        Merln had held the white candle over the wok, and Merry peered down, but the black water showed no images. She thought of the Lady of the Lake, and the countless fables that had people seeing things appear in bodies of water, surely an apparition of vision was here for them.
She tried to imagine she was a Roma gypsy in a gaily painted cart in Transylvania, looking intently into a crystal ball, or divining Tarot cards for a queen in a remote castle in Germany. Then she was the great female Celtic warrior Boadicea, painted blue and waiting for a dawn attack to drive the Romans from Britain. 
        She was Nefertiti in Egypt at the Temple of Hatshepsut wandering the Valley of the Kings or at the pyramids worshiping Osiris and Isis. Maybe she was Guinevere in Camelot, wandering through daffodils by the sea, and handing King Arthur a scarf at the joust under castle walls. She was a witch in the haunted New Forest of South England during World War II, casting spells in a sacred grove of oaks against Hitler, a true story that she loved.
        She was Isis waiting for Orpheus to rescue her from Hades, or Rhiannon flying over Wales on a white horse, looking down at silver springs flowing by emerald banks of moss.
        Nothing showed in the dark water. The small fire below popped loudly, and a coal flew out on the ground, and the pungent smoke tickled her nose.         
         She almost felt silly, how would she “see” something in the water?  Were they really tuned in enough to the universe to see the future? She imagined Ouija boards, how did it work?
        Merln recited a description of Charon, the ferryman who takes people across the River Acheron to Hades, as described by the Roman poet Virgil in the 1st century. It was during Aeneas's descent to the underworld that Syble directed the hero to the golden bough, one that will allow him to return to the world of the living.
        “There Charon stands, who rules the dreary coast –
     A sordid god: down from his hairy chin
    A length of beard descends, uncombed, unclean;
    His eyes, like hollow furnaces on fire;
    A girdle, foul with grease, binds his obscene attire.”
They shivered at the words, her foot was slightly cramped, and she coughed slightly.  She had stood in the same place for almost thirty minutes, and was restless.
  Then the Skipper began an “om” with his bass voice, and the others joined in.  She then felt something in herself switch on, a pressure growing throughout her body, something new she'd never felt before. They all joined in the sound, humming in harmony and unison.
The vision came slowly into focus, she was flying over a wide plain on a magic carpet past hot air balloons, waving at people in the baskets, and looking down at small houses stair-stepped between the steep cobbled streets. In the distance the sea shimmered, and more mountains stretched out in the distance.
As she got closer, she saw hundreds of people leaving their houses, and joining a street parade, one by one, increasing in size as it passed, more families joined in, young and old. Many people waved from balconies and threw flowers, and offered encouragement to the parade.
Some carried gray objects the size and shape of suitcases, that looked like stone, but were actually hollow wooden boxes.  They were light, so even older people could carry them. She watched various people push stacks of them along in carts, they were everywhere in piles and being used to construct the stages and buildings. Others carried poles and different pieces of the festival structure, dropping them off at the site.
She looked at the guy driving her magic carpet. His tunic said “Charon” on the back, like the logo of classics-inspired motorcycle gang member in Hades. Going to hell, were they? She had giggled to herself in the dream, was she really in the air, riding on to the River Styx to Hades with a very handsome guide, who looked rather like a member of the Hell’s Angels? Below the Charon colors was another name, Neil Cassady, the legendary driver and Beatnik who inspired On The Road.
        She saw other people carrying silvery triangular-shaped panels several feet long on each side, with translucent cloth stretched over them, like frames for paintings. Each one locked into the next to create domes like Bucky Balls, or other shapes. Large rectangular panels covered with canvas and attached together by cloth hinges, were carried in to make walls.
        A very old bearded man in dressed in white walked at the head of the parade carrying a willow branch, which smoldered as he walked. The woman behind him carried a bundle of sage, and the procession arrived in the center of a large flat area.
        The man pointed to the ground, and the woman pulled a small box from her robe and opened it. With the sun flashing on jewels inside, the old man blessed them, and placed the box in the hole in front of him. It was tradition in India for precious stones to be buried in ground-breaking ceremonies.  The box was made of Celtic woods; oak, holly, alder, elder, ash, and willow.     
          She stood at the gate to the festival and watched as the first person walked up with his brick and spoke the first lines of A Midsummer Night's Dream. 
        “Now, fair Hippolyta, our nuptial hour.” It was written in beautiful calligraphy on the inside of the brick, and someone took it and stacked it in a pile.
        The next participant came up and said: “Draws on space; four happy days bring in,” the second line from the play, and handed over their brick.  A small woman comes up with her brick and says in a quiet voice: “Another moon: but, oh, methinks how slow,” and so on through the play. Brick by brick, delivered line by line, all 3423 lines, and the whole play was presented.
        Merry took off again with Charon and swooped over the entire festival area. She saw it was laid out like a monkey, with a tail that curved outwards a dozen times, like a spiral maze. It was one of the extraordinary designs carved into the desert at Nazca in Peru, she had seen it from the air in a small plane with her parents and always remembered the monkey.
        There were fifteen stages, Charon said, but one was always hidden, that was Buddhist tradition, only fourteen could be in sight. Twelve were the same size and layout, but the thirteenth was mysterious, a concept stage, that came and went, it appeared on the other stages as a production, often a disruptor or Lord of Misrule. The fourteenth stage was for rehearsal and recording and the fifteenth stage was the main amphitheater. Charon told her all this in his deep echoey voice.
        She landed at the Taj Mahal stage, where bricks were being whitewashed, and then carefully locked together, like Lincoln Logs. Others were installing a long reflecting pool that kids would splash in. 
        In the center of the plain a perfect scale replica was being built of the original legendary Greek amphitheater called Epidaurus, in which a whisper could be heard all the way to the other side. Musical gear was being placed on it, and people gathering around.
         She saw a pile of the wooden bricks on the ground and one said “And Robin shall restore amends,” the final line of Midsummer's Night Dream.
        Nearby a replica of Stonehenge was being built, complete with a round table in its center where people dressed as knights were seated. It was a sort of a Monty Python train wreck with a King Arthur-Druid mash-up, and the low hill behind with a ruined chapel at the top was the supernatural and mystical Glastonbury Tor in England.
        They took off, and glided over a Machu Pichu replica, and then saw an impressive pyramid placed next to a Sphinx. Past that was an Angkor Wat temple with elaborate trimmings, made of tan bricks. To compliment it, a model of the Reclining Buddha in the Grand Palace in Bangkok, was being constructed. 
        Onward to a Mayan temple with palm trees, and a bit of sea created by a blue piece of cloth. Cuba loomed up, the El Morro castle at the harbor entrance, and a famed Havana night club, the Tropicana.
They landed nearby, and a man gestured to them, and pushed aside a curtain. She entered a small room where musicians were practicing hard, and people milled around. They waved at Merry, and smiled, but went back to pen and paper and computers.
Eventually, Charon opened a door to reveal students playing harps, taught by a slender blonde instructor. Merry sat down at a harp and began playing.
        She couldn’t remember exactly what happened next in the vision dream, but she knew she eventually stood on a stage that looked like the Shakespeare’s Globe Theater and delivered a rousing scene from Hamlet, or was it Macbeth?
         Out on the festival grounds again she saw more pre-historic stone monuments being built; Easter Island, Carnac in Brittany, New Grange in Ireland, and so forth. Gypsy music was playing from a nearby stage, and whirling dancers spun their skirts to the ancient beat, she became haunted by the fiddle playing from heaven. It was not surprising gypsies showed up in the vision; her family had once been on a trip to Romania, where they saw the colorful and elaborate caravans of the gypsies, and the small dark people staring back with no expression. She understood they put a baby on a blanket with a knife on one side, and a gold coin on the other. Whichever direction it rolled was its destiny.
        Another stage was blues, still more had rock and roll, and the odd thing was that the volume was always perfect, with stages situated just right. One had contra dancers moving around in elaborate patterns to a ¾ beat, and another a string quartet, the next one was jazz.     
Then they entered a quiet room, where a woman began playing piano and singing, with a deeply spiritual sound to her voice. She realized with a start she was watching herself up there, in a dress that she did not even own, and singing a song she did not know. 
Next, she was at one of the many little cafés having drinks with her mysterious guide, who occasionally leered at her and brushed awfully close sometimes, she thought. She ignored him, it was just part of her life.
Suddenly she was taken away from the crowds to a small room, where a musician sat in front of a microphone. A woman came in and handed him several pages, which he put on a music stand. Then he turned over the hourglass, having one hour or less to make a song. He glanced at Merry, smiled, and began to work.  She left him alone, it was a private moment. 
Pushing through the crowds between the stages, with delicious smells floating on the air and vendors setting up booths, she saw people carrying plants, vines, flowers, statues, pieces of artwork to the stages.  Various ribbons at the stages and restaurants were proudly displayed, like a state fair, each one announcing best food, best decorations, best song, best costumes, and so forth.
        The last stage was loud and set at a distance, it had tape recorders set up on the stage playing random noises, and people bashing various weird instruments for a cacophonic sound, probably inspired by John Cage. Jesters, clowns, and performance artists stood around in odd groups, there was even a knight in armor with Christmas lights draped over him. It was facing the opposite direction and had the number thirteen written on it and the word “prophet” written on his back.
        They walked back to the main area, and she saw a cluster of people standing around a reel-to-reel tape deck and a large console, each wearing headphones. Charon said it was the sacred compilation tape, a mixtape, the Holy Grail, if one listened to it, the result was like the Sirens, or the Greek goddess Circe drawing you in to a wonderland rabbit hole, from which you never returned, or wanted to.  You had found Avalon, Shangri-La, Nirvana, and ordinary music was never good enough again.
        The tape could not be recreated, though most of it was familiar songs by the Beatles, Stones, Pink Floyd, Badfinger, The Who, and the like.  These tracks were outtakes and special mixes made by Lord B from his private collection, acquired from Abbey Road and other studios.   
        Suddenly a band of people dressed in black and carrying instruments raced up to her, and carried her along to a massive stage, where thousands of people sat expectantly in the audience.
        First, she was led backstage, and she felt an air of adventure and excitement, the butterflies, the feeling of knowing you were going onstage to a large crowd, and there was a lot at stake.  A man came up with a clipboard, saying it was time.
         She walked onstage to a loud roar from the audience and flashing lights and tried to peer in the darkness beyond the limelight, but she could not distinguish a single face. There were signs saying her name in the crowd, and posters everywhere of the band, a huge crowd, and dream come true for an aspiring musician. 
        And then she sang her heart out with these great musicians, playing to an adoring crowd, until the vision gradually dropped away to nothing, leaving her with a happy dreamy feeling. She fell back into the arms of Merln, both were standing there suspended for a few seconds, and looking in each other’s eyes in the flickering light.
        He coaxed her over to the side, and put a cassette recorder in front of her, and asked her to describe what she had seen. She spoke brokenly in rushed sentences for at least five minutes, and only a third of the recording made any sense when they listened to it later.  But she did hum the melody from the song in the vision, enough of it for him to write it down. Their second song would come in the morning at the solstice, which was mere hours away.
She wrote several pages of notes in the dim light, then put them in an ornate handmade envelope, sealing it with wax from the candle using an official stamp owned by Napoleon, a gift from Lord B.
Wanting a moment of privacy to digest her overwhelming feelings, she told them she'd be back soon, and walked in the darkness to her secret place. It was a very secluded ledge overlooking the valley and surrounded by thick bushes, complete with a hidden entrance. It was her own paradise.
        When she got there, the landscape around her was bathed in a whiter shade of pale, with an ivory hue, a bone-colored glow of pearly luminescence, all emanating from the moon and spreading around her like a mystical vapor as far as she could see.
        An owl called loudly from a tree, and she could hear his feathers swoosh as he flew by, she was far enough from the noise of the party area to hear nature around her. Crickets soared in waves, so loud they seemed like a symphony, a perfect sound for a mystical night. Long narrow moon shadows from a trio of dead trees fell on the ground, she could see different shades of black and gray on the rocks around her.
         She'd never seen it this bright, and she raised her arms to draw down the moon, causing every nerve she had to hum. Looking around the horizon, she saw the light obscured the Milky Way and dimmed the stars. She loved the term to describe a road of stars sprinkled in space, far away, infinite.
        She knew the moon well and had been lucky enough to be at many special places when it was full, due to her archaeologist parents. From the mystical Newgrange stone formation in Ireland around the winter solstice to Mayan ruins in Guatemala at the spring equinox, she had seen extraordinary lunar scenes in her young life. She could not forget Carnac in France at the summer solstice, it gave her chills remembering the rough stones and the massive sky above. She did remember sometimes complaining about leaving her warm bed to see meteor showers and full moons when very young, but the sights left a deep impression.
        The mountains stretched out to infinity with each ridge of jagged peaks changing hue as they marched away to West Virginia, like color charts. Sometimes you could see ten different shades of black and gray, infused with purple and blue. 
         She unpacked another historic treasure: a small telescope her grandfather had given her, telling her that the famous astronomer Kepler had built it. She then became obsessed with the great man: who was a visionary astronomer and scientist, but also something of a pagan mystic too, interested in alchemy and astrology, to the dismay of some of his colleagues.
        She thought of the new romantic feelings for Merln. It was impossible to tell if he was interested in her, he often kept his thoughts to himself, and it drove her crazy.
        Who else could he want? She knew very well she was cute, that wasn't the problem, but others were intensely interested in him as well, there was competition for sure. He had money, he was kind and patient, and a most excellent musician. But unlike the others, she had serious musical talent, literary talent, and she was going to play it to the hilt.
        Soft velvet breezes wafted over the trees and caressed her skin, they rustled the leaves like small waves on a shore, and brought the scent of honeysuckle, the ultimate nostalgic summer experience. She laid on her back and looked up. A satellite raced across the sky at a furious pace, and she saw a tiny falling star, and made a wish. She pointed the telescope at the moon, and as it came into focus, identified some of the craters.  She put it away and dozed off.
        Suddenly she startled, someone was climbing up on the rock beside her, and she heard Merln say:
        “Johannes Kepler was born on December 27, 1571, in the Free Imperial City of Weil der Stadt, Holy Roman Empire, and died November 15, 1630, aged 58 in Regensburg, Electorate of Bavaria, Holy Roman Empire,”
        She chuckled at the familiar voice, he knew she would be using the telescope on the moon, she always was. 
        “Merry!”
        “Right here” she spoke out, finally.
         He approached her in the intense silver moonlight, his Greek fraternity/white Druid robe gleaming.
         “How did you find me?” She'd been so sure the place was impossible to stumble across.
        “I heard you singing a song, and figured you were up here somewhere.” She was stunned, she'd never thought she'd sing in her half-sleep state, and embarrassed that he had heard.
        “Oh, well,” she said, “I've been coming here for a while, it's my special place. Guess that's over now.”
        Merln responded, a bit abashed; “I'll tell not a soul on the face of this planet, ever.”
        The sincere statement reassured her, and they pulled close in the darkness, lying against a big pillow she had brought up there, looking up at the heavens in wonder. Merln declaimed:
       
        “At midnight, in the month of June,
        I stand beneath the mystic moon.
        An opiate vapor, dewy, dim,
        Exhales from out her golden rim”

        Merry responded with the next four lines.

        “And, softly dripping, drop by drop,
        Upon the quiet mountain top,
        Steals drowsily and musically
        Into the universal valley.”

        They had talked a bit, and Merln was trying not to talk too much, saying he was nervous about the solstice ceremony in the morning, and how they should get some rest.
        A whippoorwill called, frogs croaked, the crickets surged and subsided like the sea, making way for the eerie sound of an owl hooting. The night pressed around them with its blackness, though lit just enough by the moon to be like a living breathing cocoon, an envelope of warm glowing air, full of promise, full of everything important.
        Merln reached out his hand to Merry's and felt a thrill when she pressed back, and they kissed. She was equally thrilled, and then they vanished under the blankets, under the fertile full moon, the goddess in Merry feeling connected with the universe, Jesus, Buddha, the stars, the entire darkness around them.
        Merln spoke “Te amo” (I love you).
        Merry responded “Ab imo pectore” (From the bottom of my heart).
        Later, they climbed down the hill to the flat area of the ledge, and collapsed in the tent, exhausted by everything. They had to be ready for the next day, the sunrise, and their solstice ceremony that meant everything.

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