In another life, Chris saw himself running with the buffalo. His moccasin covered feet kicked up the dry dirt of the rain-starved land, tracing the ancient path of the herds that use to roam here. While the smell of sweet-grass and sage flooded his nostrils as he crested the small hill before reaching the plains that spread out before him.
The last five miles had been the hardest for Chris, but now he could no longer feel the aches and pains of his body, or the straining of his muscles taunt against his skin. Perspiration fell in beaded rivulets from his face and down his chest; releasing the impurities through his skin. Spirit, mind, and body were becoming one a process that had begun in the ‘Inipi,’ceremonial sweat-house.
He finally stopped to rest at the base of Shining Rock leaning over to rest his hands on his knees while his lungs sucked in the chilly air between clenched teeth. The Sun’s rays had not yet touched the pointed Rocks that loomed before him. He wanted to be in place before the first fingers of light touched the rocky peaks. He wanted to watch the Father caress Mother Earth’s body with the warm breath of early summer.
“Mother yearns for the touch of Father on her body,” He heard his Grandfather sing.
Climbing up as far as he could he sat between two rocks hoping to warm himself from the lingering night chill clinging to his damp skin. He had chosen this place because it reminded him of his Grandfather he had begun his vision quest here when he was just a boy. They had come here when Chris was just fifteen to watch the sheep.
Grandfather told him about the old ways. He sighed, that was before the ways of the world began to entice him away from his people and the land. Chris only barely listened to what Grandfather had told him that day because he was in a hurry to meet his friends and see what new treasures they had brought back from town. A bottle of wine maybe some cigarettes, or a little weed.
“There is no going back!” he heard his Grandfather whisper on the wind.
He had wasted many years in the world, but now this would be the beginning of his quest, his purpose, the meaning of his life, and the journey to self-discovery. His time in prison had taken that away from him, instead of a name they gave him a number, instead of plains to run across there were bricks to wash. No that is not true, he said to himself. I went willingly, I gave it away.
He grabbed the beaded leather pouch tied to his belt, fingering the blue design that reminded him of her. It made him smile thinking about the time she spent sewing the designs on the bag so full of love and kindness. He closed his eyes to draw on the memory of their last meeting when he had stood behind her mother’s house and sung the words of love four times.
Chris smiled and wondered. What would she say to him now? Too much time had gone by and he had been ashamed of all he had said and done when he left this precious world and sold his soul to the cities that surrounded the reservation. What were his last words to her? He did not remember. The song meant nothing now.
The bread still warm from his mother’s stove. Honey smeared on top and the smell of wild clover enticed him making his mouth water in anticipation. He bit into the crispy flour and chewed slowly, savoring each morsel as he swallowed, feeling it slide down his throat. Taking a drink of water only after the taste had long disappeared.
Chris exhaled noisily and leaned back against the rock while wishing all his days were like this one. The kind you didn’t appreciate when you are young. Looking out over the plains below he watched the high grass sway in the wind as first light touched the long blades making them look golden.
For a moment, he felt his resolve begin to falter. Why was he doing this now? It wouldn’t bring her back. He and Grandfather would never fish again together and he would probably not win the trust of his family. Stop, he chided himself, there were no deals to make anymore he had let his dreams fall through the torn hole in the web of his boyhood Dream Catcher.
He heard his Grandfather say, “Look to your future!”
He leaned back and smiled to himself. I can’t give up now, he thought. No more will I sell myself, or try to serve the ways of two worlds. I will choose what is right and walk the path of honor.
He took out the willow twigs, beads, and deer sinews laying them in front of him on the ground. Then he began to weave the string of his new Dream Catcher through the twigs while he waited for his vision quest to appear showing him the way to another life.
…Good dreams slip through the web and into the sleeper during the night…bad dreams become caught in the web and are perished by morning light.
Despite her confusion, she could see the angel clearly. Great white wings beat slowly above her attacker’s incomparably handsome face. His beauty was sublime, his body living alabaster. And he smelled (Lord!) a thousand times more divine than the most heavenly perfume she had ever known.
Then full understanding struck and she realized completely what was happening to her. She was being raped. Her cherished virginity was gone! She felt the angel’s mighty strength as he moved within her, saw the straining splendor of his features as he approached ecstasy. Then his seed shot forth. Fragrant and overflowing, it drenched the sheet on which she lay.
For a heartbeat or two he paused; then, with renewed ardor, he resumed his assault. Held in his feathered glory, she was dimly aware of her body. How thin it was, and how her small breasts were crushed by the angel’s muscular chest. As if he read her thoughts, he pulled back and passionately kissed her breasts.
The angel gently took one of her nipples between his lips and began sucking. Suddenly something snapped inside her. She raised her fists and beat at him insanely.
“Stop it!” she screamed. “Get off me! Get off!”
Oh, if only someone—a neighbor—would hear! Come to investigate and help her!
But there was no sound of approaching feet, and the angel continued to pound away as if she were on an anvil and he was determined to beat her into some fabulous shape. Again and again he drove against her, his wings beating with the force of his passion.
“Let me go, you’re hurting me!” she sobbed, striking his shoulders. But her small fists bounced off like grains of sand. As he moved, his pure white wings beat faster and faster, buffeting her with waves of scent. And now she felt again the rise of her despoiler’s excitement, the throbbing of his celestial staff between her frail, bruised thighs.
This time when it was over, the angel released her and lay down beside her. He rested. It might be for only a few seconds, and she knew she had to act. Groping, her hand found the water glass on the night table and raised it in trembling fingers. She smashed it against the corner of the table, then drove it at his face, toward unblinking, cerulean eyes that shone with the innocence she had just lost.
Yes, innocence, for even in her rage she suddenly realized the angel loved her and had meant her no harm, that his passionate violation of her body was intended as a gift. And so, because he possessed neither malice nor even the ability to suspect it, the angel did not lift a single finger to stop her.
The broken glass pierced his right eye, turning its pure blue pool into a fountain of gore. Bracing herself, she ground the glass in. She swung her hips and mounted the stricken angel, gripping the shattered glass in both
hands. She twisted it left, then right, using all her strength. The angel screamed in sweet, reverberant, bell-like tones, and despite her fury, she saw that he was beautiful even in his agony. She watched his mighty hands rise and seize hers.
But he had no strength—could not force her off! Indeed, even as she slashed his cheeks and nose, the angel’s body began to shrink. The majestic wings crumbled and the divinely sculpted muscles withered, exposing slender ribs straining against the flesh. And she? She was growing, filling out! She felt her hips widen and her breasts swell like melons. How full they were, how tender! Why, she was voluptuous now, as glorious as he had been.
Looking triumphantly down at the angel’s ravaged face, she saw it turn into that of her brother. Her brother, who in his own innocence had crept into her bed one night when she was twelve. She laughed. Nor did she stop when the face turned, with lightning rapidity, into the faces of all the men she had sold herself to down through the years. She watched them flicker as countless variations on one dark theme, until they faded and she found herself staring at her own face, at the innocent, untouched child she had once been. Almost, she could have wept—if she had only remembered how.
Then the face was the angel’s again, and she suddenly remembered something. Over the years they had wrestled with each other many times, and always, following her triumph, she forgot him. It was as if she had created him alive from her imagination, over and over again. The angel’s ruined lips parted in prayer, but she knew she would bless him only with her hate, and feed her emptiness with his beautiful, shining life. From this vulnerable innocence she would renew herself once again, and find the strength to go on.
Finally, when the once radiant face had shriveled and caved in, she knelt upon a pile of fragrant dust which smelled sweeter than jasmine. Locking her door, she stepped out and walked along the street till she reached her corner. A couple of the girls were already there, dressed in tight, short skirts and high-heeled boots.
One of them, a fat blonde leaning against the lamppost, turned her painted face as she sauntered up. “A little late, ain’t ya, Angela? I took your place.”
“I can see that,” Angela said. She reached in her purse, pulled out a cigarette and lit it. Then, because she ran things on this corner, she told the bitch to move her fat ass before she lost it.
Leaning back against the lamppost, Angela exhaled a long stream of smoke. She watched it rise on ghostlike wings toward the night sky, then settled back to wait.
John is a retired English professor from Norfolk State University in Norfolk, Va. He has published three hundred stories in The Speed of Dark, Weird Tales, Whitley Strieber’s Aliens, Galaxy, The Age of Wonders, and elsewhere. In addition, he has published thirty books, including SF novels such as Speaker of the Shakk and Beyond Those Distant Stars, winner of AllBooks Review Editor’s Choice Award (Mundania Press), and Alien Dreams,
A Senseless Act of Beauty, and (YA) The Merry-Go-Round Man (Crossroad Press). MuseItUp Publishing has published several novels, including the first three in the Inspector of the Cross series. Musa Publishing gave his sci-fi time-travel story “Killers” their 2013 Editor’s Top Pick award. Some of John’s books are available as audio books from Audible.com.
Two of John’s major themes are the endless, mind-stretching wonders of the universe and the limitless possibilities of transformation—sexual, cosmic, and otherwise, as portrayed in his short story “Dark Angel”. He is the former Chairman of the Board of the Horror Writers Association and the previous editor of The Rhetorician and Horror Magazine.
When Ken Weene suggested I write a piece about Freemasonry for use on The Write Room Blog (and now on this page), I jumped at the opportunity. After all, I am an active Freemason who loves to teach people about what it is we do. It wasn’t long, however, before I realized I was overwhelmed. You see, Ancient, Free and Accepted Masons or Freemasons or simply Masons represent the largest, most complicated and dreadfully misunderstood fraternity in the world. People I know have called us a cult, a religion and a secret society. The following will explain why people think these things and will, at the same time, give you a reasonable introduction to Freemasonry.
No one is clear as to when the fraternity known as Freemasonry began. Our own, carefully preserved records claim we were around in the times of King Solomon, when the craftsman lodges of operative Masons began to turn away from the physical labour of building the temple at Jerusalem and moved towards the more speculative nature of the mind and soul, their working tools becoming symbolic tools with which to build a man with spotless morals and good character. Historical research, however, tends to suggest Freemasonry began in the 1300’s (when the first written records became available) and indicates the stories we use to teach our members are only complicated constructs.
Why the confusion? Well, originally, all the work presented to the initiate or candidate for admission to the Lodge was done strictly by memory. Vast lectures were learned word for word by one brother who would then teach it to a younger brother, and in so doing pass the knowledge along from generation to generation. Plays were put on with intricate costumes and great flair, all language being archaic in nature (and kept that way). There were no books to be passed down through the ages, just keepers of the work. If you were an authority seeking to destroy a Lodge—more about this later—all you would ever find were symbolic paintings and drawings that meant nothing to you. The real Lodge was kept safe in the minds of its members. Sometimes Lodges were even mobile, being set up wherever was safe and then taken down when the meeting was done.
There is also another reason the origins of Freemasonry are lost in the mists of time: all Lodges conduct their business behind closed and guarded doors—in secret! Why? What’s the big deal? After all, the only reason Lodges exist is to take good men and make them better. Could it be we are protecting the fact that our initiates are taught a beautiful system of morality that is veiled in allegory and illustrated by symbols? No, it is generally understood that our system is taught via stories, poems, paintings and special symbols that can be interpreted to reveal a hidden, moral meaning. The problem actually goes back to the days when teaching a moral message, other than that approved by the Church, was forbidden and its purveyors persecuted.
Today, however, Masonic Lodges are not secret in and of themselves. They stand in the heart of every town of decent size in most countries of the world. You drive by these buildings every day. Some are ornate and some are plain. Almost all of them have our main symbol located somewhere on the front of the building. It is a square and compass surrounding the letter G, which stands for God …
And if our existence isn’t secret and our meeting times are usually posted on the doors, why do the rumours of secrecy still exist? Well, prejudice for one thing. Freemasonry was non-denominational long before separation of Church and State, making it a very unpopular organization. The fraternity, was, quite simply, a form of heresy. Secrecy was oftentimes all that stood between a Mason and prison time or even an untimely death. In fact, even as recently as World War II, Masons in Germany had to go underground. You see, they supported Jews like they supported all other people of the world, and because of this they were persecuted as fiercely as were the Jews. Why, until just a few short years ago, the Catholic Church wouldn’t allow any member to be a Mason.
They even went so far as to create their own competing fraternity—The Knights of Columbus. I, for one, am thankful that practice has been stopped. Still, persecution persists: many religions believe an organization that doesn’t follow their particular path of salvation must by its very character be an agent of Satan. And this attitude is the big problem. For a man to be made a Mason, he must swear that he believes in a Supreme Being. We don’t care who or what that is—other than he/she/it must punish vice and reward virtue. We don’t even care what book you study from, be it the Bible, the Quran or some other written work. Freemasonry simply urges you study daily from the pages of your holy book or from the words of your religion. We want you to have a strong moral guide from which to learn. Freemasonry will teach the initiate many lessons about morality, charity, truth, upright character, brotherly love and … but he will learn much more by studying his own religion every day. Some people (religions) just don’t like these practices.
Are such problems, mostly in the past, the only reason Lodges have secrets? No, Freemasonry has always been careful about what it reveals to the uninitiated. For example, we all take an oath never to reveal the secrets or mysteries of a Freemason. Why do we do this? There are several reasons I can’t share, but I can tell you this much: some of the secrets are nothing but ways and means of identifying another Mason when in public. These methods, if revealed to you, would seem foolish. All I can say is remember Hitler. In his day if you couldn’t secretly identify yourself to another Mason, you were as good as dead! I believe these secrets that we must keep also teach us there’s a time to hold your tongue, to keep silent. They make us think about what we say and how we say it, thus helping us maintain a favourable image of ourselves (and thus Freemasonry) when out in the wide, wide world. Because, yes, we are taught to take what we learn as a Mason and use it in our daily life so as to be a leader, to be someone people look up to, to be a man people know is of good character and morals.
And finally, what about the mysteries? What are they and why are they to be kept inviolate? Here you’ll find the strongest reason Freemasonry has been deemed a secret society. Most Masons never study the stories and lectures hard enough and long enough to figure out what the mysteries are. There has been many a book written about the mysteries of Freemasonry, posing hypothesis after hypothesis. But given all the hidden meaning in our teachings it’s really no wonder the average Mason doesn’t know quite what it is he isn’t supposed to reveal. So, do you know what he does? He says nothing at all. In truth, many never even divulge their association with Freemasonry. I was in Masonry for 10 years before my favourite uncle told me he, too, was a Mason. He belonged to a different Lodge than I did and had no reason to expect me to identify myself to him as a Mason. It was just a chance remark I made one day that twigged it for him. So he challenged me with one of our forms of recognition, and I passed the test.
If we, as Masons, don’t know for certain what we can tell you about our unusual fraternity, then who are we to cry out when someone says we are a secret society, a religion or a cult? Only education, spurred on by us Masons can do that. Here’s what I tell people: We are not a secret society; we are a society with secrets. Freemasonry is not a religion; it does have religious aspects. Our fraternity is not a cult; it does teach a moral system through the relating of ancient stories and through the description of certain symbols, like the square and compass.
May I finish with a poem? It tells about our obligations and some of the ways to recognize a Mason (you can find them all on the internet, by the way, I just won’t tell you them myself); it also gives one the sense that there’s depth and goodness at the heart of this thing we call Freemasonry.
The Old Master’s Wages
I met a dear old man today who wore a Masonic pin. It was old and faded like the man, Its edges were worn quite thin.
I approached the park bench where he sat, to give the brother his due. I said, “I see you’ve travelled east.” He said, “I have, have you?”
I said, “I have, and in my day before the all seeing sun, I played in the rubble, with Jubala, Jubalo and Jubalum.”
He shouted, “Don’t laugh at the work my son, It’s good and sweet and true, and if you’ve travelled as you said, you should give these things their due.
The word, the sign, the token, the sweet Masonic prayer, the vow that all have taken, who’ve climbed the inner stair.
The wages of a Mason are never paid in gold, but the gain comes from contentment when you’re weak and growing old.
You see, I’ve carried my obligations, for almost fifty years, They have helped me through the hardships and the failures full of tears.
Now I’m losing my mind and body, Death is near but I don’t despair, I’ve lived my life upon the level, and I’m dying upon the square.”
Sometimes the greatest lessons are those that are learned anew, and the old man in the park today has changed my point of view.
To all Masonic brothers, The only secret is to care. May you live your life upon the level, may you part upon the square.
About Clayton Clifford Bye
The Contrary Canadian, Mr. Bye, is a specialist writer who has published many books, stories and reviews for himself and others, but he now focuses on his work as a ghostwriter who listens carefully to the customer, skillfully drawing out the story they want to get on paper. You can find some of his work on Amazon and at his eStore. Contact him directly to discuss the book you want to write and to inquire about rates:
You never know what life will bring, especially if you are of the feline persuasion.
My first memory was of warmth as I cuddled up to birthmother and suckled a protruding teat. All was blackness, though I was much too young to be aware of the difference of light and dark. It was a coziness and comfort with need of nourishment, and it was wonderful.
Many of you know the story so I’ll merely do a quick mention. My ears heard a rumble and all warmth and comfort was gone. My tiny body shifted and stumbled among bits of trash and debris, in search of birthmother. I felt movement, and though so young, I forced my eyes open in hunt of freedom. Above me, the noise grew louder and light grew dim. I cried out, first a mere me yew, not audible to the outside world. As my heart beat rapidly, I drew every bit of strength within my kitty self and stretched my vocal cords to their limits – ME YOW, ME YOW, ME YOW and would not cease the plea for help. I was petrified and the noise filled my ears to the point I thought my ears would puncture from the volume.
Roughness scooped me up and surrounded my form. It held me firmly in its grasp. Wind rushed into open roughness’s open slits and I felt coldness. I shivered and squirmed in fright. Then I heard it. A soft purrish sound that brought me calm; a softness of touch and warmth as strange noises cooed in my ears. Thus began the connection between new mother and I.
Suppose I was never the easiest kitten to raise, nor cat to nurture. There was something left inside of me that would always remain feral. Something wild and untamed, which released itself to the unknown. To bottle feed me was a nightmare, I am sure as I clawed and scratched against the hands which held my milk bottle. Mother later told me she had to wear gloves for I clutched her hands with my sharp nails and would not let go. What caused Mother pain, brought me a feeling of safety and calm.
Interacting with Father was yet another issue, well at least for him. From what I recall, and I am sure you may verify it with Father, I would wrap my kitten body atop his face, getting warmth from his thick mustache and beard. As Mother told it, I would sit on his face, and she feared he would be unable to take a breath. Laughter stopped this from happening. They both saw my actions as hilarious and Father would open his mouth and shoo me away. Not funny falling off someone’s face, but guess I deserved that for my unthinkable actions.
Years passed and I grew into a young cat, yearning for companionship. We had moved from a climate that was warm and sunny year round to one of snow and ice. I huddled in my home, amid down blankets and overstuffed pillows. Spring arrived with an urge to explore and I snuck out into the world to explore the gardens, trees and grassy mounds. That is when it happened, I met a friend, Mr. Jeeters; a black cat with white paws from next door. Seems Mother didn’t take to Mr. Jeeters. She saw us together, snatched me up, brought me back into the house and locked the door. Well! Not much I could do but settle into the windowsill and watch the birds and squirrels.
Changes were taking place and as the days and months passed I found myself growing fatter and fatter. There was squirming in my belly that I’d never experienced and sometimes it hurt; as if I was being kicked from the inside. Whatever could it be? I wasn’t eating anymore than usual. Was I going to die? Were there parasites within my body? Why wasn’t Mother helping me? She kept telling me I was a ‘bad girl’ and I was pregnant. What the heck is pregnant? They say time takes care of everything. Suppose that is truth. I felt pain and knew I had to seek a shelter. The next thing I knew was my body was instructing me to push and push and push. One, two, three, four, five; six times in all these little balls of fur popped out of me. I looked upon them, cleaned them and fell instantly in love. My babies! My kittens! I’d never been happier in my life and purred with contentment. I had never felt such love, not even for Mother. This would be the only time I would ever feel this special love again and perhaps that was for the best. I had other avenues to pursue.
Which brings me to present times. I have found my calling in life; what Mother calls, my purpose. Or as I like to say, my purr-puss. I have found a love for music and knowledge. Who would have thought an old, set in her ways cat would love the spotlight or new people?
It happened one day when I was sitting on the computer table. I heard a strange sound and drew close to Mother. The sound continued and it was pleasing to the ear. Next were voices of what I found to belong to Kenneth Weene and Kerry Hall. They called my name and it excited me. They knew me! Just some cat and they loved me! I ate it up and wanted more, so I sat next to Mother while the voices rattled on and the strange sound, I now know as music, continued to play. I was in Punky Heaven. People liked me and I did not fear them. Not here, not now, not in this place. I was safe and could interact with other humans.
Thus, is the start of my fame as Punky, Radio Cat for It Matters Radio. I am a Diva. I am spoiled from tuna, sardines and kitty treats. And I am in love with life!
Please join me each Sunday at 3PM ET US, beginning in 2016. You can find my schedule @ It Matters Radio!
I also write a newsletter from my litter-box each month, well, with the help of Co-Host of It Matters Radio, Mr. Kenneth Weene. Guess I should mention that Mother, Monica Brinkman, hosts the shows and they are live, on-camera, so I try to behave.