This is an astral post, so if you are not interested in such things, you do not have to read.
I sat for a good long time, mulling over the sudden clear picture of how much of a stubborn shit I was. I took it further than just the sandbox, thinking back and back and back again. I could clearly see every moment in which I dragged my feet. And I had to wonder how much of the bullshit I had been going through and that I had gone through would have gone more smoothly and easily if I had just stopped being the stubborn shit I am. The problem, though, as I thought about it, was that I didn’t think anything would have gone smoothly or simply just because I had accepted whatever the task, the request, the movement forward happened to be. Perhaps, even, things would have gotten worse if I had just accepted my fate for what I saw it as being. Maybe things would have been ten times worse, roaming this fucked up desert if I had just willingly gone to it instead of trying to ease my way through. Maybe I wouldn’t be anywhere near the end game, as I felt that I was, now if I hadn’t been the stubborn shit that I was.
But, what, specifically, was I being a stubborn shit about in this context?
There were so many different things to choose from at this point that I, honestly, had to figure out what Papa Legba was talking about. I sorted through the most recent options for “stubborn shit.” There was arguing with Sekhmet. There was being bored by the parties and the Duat shenanigans. There was attacking Sekhmet. There was my continual attempts at trying to ease my passage through the desert. There were so many different options to choose from that, for a quite a while, I couldn’t quite figure out what it was that he was talking about. There were just so many things to choose from. “Gah,” I said to myself. “What’s with everyone needing to be fucking cryptic all the damn time?” Frustrated with what I felt was so damn cryptic in his response, I fell back against the sand, crossing my right leg across my knee.
I sang to myself, more than slightly off-key again. While singing, I let my thoughts roam in whichever direction they so desired. I had found that, on occasion, if I wasn’t paying too close attention to the matter at hand, then things would jump out and, metaphorically at least, bite me in the ass. While I wiled away the time, I began thinking about a couple of my IRL (yet online) friends and what they would do in like situation. My thoughts strayed to a particular person who had been going through a similar process to myself in recent weeks. I thought about what that person would do in this situation. And giggling to myself, I figured they would probably just end up dying. Not because they were bored to death or because of anything else, but their practice is intrinsically tied in with death in many different areas. And they seem to die a lot, honestly. I thought about that for a few minutes, giggling and then sobering a little bit. Then I sobered completely and sat up ramrod straight. “Oh, shit,” I screamed. “You’ve got to be kidding me.”
There was that intuitive little nudge going on deep within that was telling me to pay attention to where my thoughts had strayed – death. I had gone to that unequivocal and intense place that cannot be argued with. Death, of course, can mean any number of things. In Tarot, the Death card tends to herald a rebirth of sorts. And wasn’t that what this whole thing had been about? I was supposed to shed the skin and start anew, being reborn as the bennu bird. Of course, the really big thing – metaphorical or otherwise – was that death was kind of one of those scary things. People have always freaked out about receiving the Death card in Tarot. Even after it’s explained that the card is a metaphor for rebirth, they’re still frightened. It’s not so much the act of death, itself, but the fact that what was on the other side of that doorway that was enough to frighten them out of their very wit’s. And in all honesty, wasn’t that what I was waiting for? A big, huge, not-boring doorway to appear? Death, doorways. They were all connected.
For a moment, all I could think of was that line from Ghostbusters II: “Death is but a door. Time is but a window. I’ll be back.” But that only kept me lucid for a few seconds before I began to freak the fuck out.
First things first, though; I cursed a blue streak.
I decided I was wrong, though. There was no way that I had to die. Outside of the metaphorical rebirth cycle that everyone goes through all of the time, death, to me, was pretty fucking solid. It was that big, huge, gaping doorway that meant you moved on to your next life. It was permanent. It was when the Man in the Black Cloak showed up and helped to cast you out of your physical body. Of course, I knew that in many instances death on the astral wasn’t the same things as death in real life. But, as far back as I could remember, the only deaths I had ever suffered from had been ones from real life moving on to the next real life. I had never died in the astral. I had gone to places where dead souls hung out, of course, but I had never actually died. There was no fucking way I had to die.
But even as I told myself that it wasn’t possible, I could hear Papa Legba reminding me about being a stubborn shit.
Maybe I was just being more of a stubborn shit.
I stood up and began to pace. I couldn’t very well just sit there and think about these deep, frightening truths. I had to be doing something while thinking about these deep, frightening truths. And that was the gist of the matter: I was terrified of the thought of death. Death, as I said, meant a permanent death. Rebirth was rebirth, but death was death. They weren’t entwined no matter what the Tarot cards said. They weren’t intrinsically tied! There was no way! If they were, they would have decided that the Tarot card was named, Rebirth, not Death. If that was the case then people, such as myself, wouldn’t so fucking terrified of the prospect of dying. They would look forward to it and the next cycle that its entry heralded. I, of course, completely understand that I was being silly here and worrying too much about semantics. I needed to worry less about the literal interpretation of what death was… right?
I stopped pacing and said, “Sekhmet… please.”
I waited for her to show up. I wasn’t being a pompous ass. I wasn’t being a stubborn shit. I was being a hurting snot. I wasn’t doing anything more than needing guidance. I just needed her to come on over and explain to me what the next step was. I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that I wasn’t wrong here – I absolutely needed to die. But the thing was that the whole prospect frightened me. I could feel my heart racing whenever I thought to myself, I need to die. I have to die. And then I would begin to hyperventilate a little to add to the joy of a racing heartbeat. I swallowed back the panic and the fear on this. “Sekhmet,” I said again. “Please, help.” I wasn’t demanding. I wasn’t screeching. I wasn’t yelling. I was flat out just asking for her to please, please tell me that I was completely fucking wrong here.
“So, this is the place,” she said behind me.
Well, if I had any doubt that I was onto the right path…
I turned to her. I could feel tears of anxiety and fear in my eyes. Before I could gather myself, I let her see me for the first time in a long time. I let her look deep into my watery eyes and let her see deep into the raw, aching core of myself. I let her see how much the prospect of what I was thinking scared me. I let her see just how this whole situation, from the start to right this second, had been effecting me. I was acting more of a shit and more of a spoiled brat because I was faced with things beyond my ken. I didn’t understand half of what I was seeing and half of what I was doing. At the very center of the issue was the simple fact that I was terrified out of my gourd. Every step, every word, every movement had been embraced by the intensity of my fear and had led me to slice with my words and lash out at the improper times. Now, I couldn’t very well lash out. I was too caught up in the strength of my visceral reaction to what I was seeing as the next step in the process.
“Oh, little one,” she said. And in that moment, we weren’t enemies. We weren’t two beings who constantly antagonized one another. In that single moment, she truly was my mother. She reached out and embraced me tightly. And I wrapped my arms around her mid-section, trying to squeeze her tight enough so that my body could drink her in. I wanted to be in tune with her strength. Maybe if I had more of that in me then I wouldn’t be so frightened. I buried my face in her chest and tried very hard not to sob at the thought. The whole prospect was enough to freeze me in place with my terror. She reached up and pulled my face from her chest so that she could look me in the eye. She offered me a small smile, almost in recompense for what she was asking me to do. She stroked my hair back from my face and said, “Oh, my little one. You hardly need to be so frightened. This is a natural process and all things come to an end.”
“I don’t want to die,” I told her fervently. “I don’t care what you think about me, but I’m scared, mawat. I can’t do this. I know that others have done this before and things have been okay. But I can’t! I can’t! You can’t ask this of me. You can’t just tell me that I have to die. I don’t want to die. That’s what I do when I’m at the end of the cycle. This cycle isn’t over yet. I’m still alive. I’m still breathing. I can move and I’m not being killed, I’m not being threatened with death, and I’m not old. Please, please make this happen some other way. I can’t do this. I’m scared. What if it hurts?”
She sighed and sat down on the ground, tugging me down with her. She pulled me into her arms, cuddling me to her tightly. I felt, for once, loved and wanted. I felt as though we were truly bonding together. And I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that no matter what, I was going to have to do what she wanted me to do whether I wanted to do it or not. I almost felt, secretly, that she was showing me so much affection in this moment, knowing that she was asking something I had never even remotely considered before and that I was paralyzed with fear at the prospect. I felt, almost, that she was playing me again. But in this moment, in this second, as she cuddled me to her and affectionately brushed the hair back from my face, I almost didn’t care enough to be angry about it. I just wanted to feel like she loved me.
“It will only hurt if you let it,” she assured me. She rocked me a little, back and forth. “Why is this so hard?”
“I don’t want to die!”
“You have always done what I asked of you, whether you wanted to or not. Whether you made the decision consciously or not, you have done it. What’s so different now?”
“Now, you’re asking me to face something that I’ve only ever considered to be done when someone is old or sick or being killed!”
“Now, now, dear,” she murmured into my hair. “If your friends are able to do this and have managed to come back, then what does it matter?” She took a deep breath and pulled away so that she could look me in the eye. “Are you ready?”
“And off you go,” she said. Without preamble, without even waiting for another protest, she shoved me hard in the face.
I fell backward, screaming but not really. I went down flat into the sand and she kept pushing, her hand over my entire face. I tried to scream again, or rather, I tried to gather enough air to scream as loudly as I possibly could, but before another breath could meet my lungs, I was sucked into the sand beneath me. Her hand left my face and I was sucked down, down, and down some more. The sand embraced me totally and before I could even catch my bearings, I fell through the sand and into a black ocean beneath the sand. Bubbles filtered everywhere and as I looked up above me, I could see the shadow of Sekhmet in the fissure I had fallen through. Everything around her was white light, but her shadow moved slightly as she watched me being sucked into the carbonated ocean beneath the desert.
I began sinking.
Above me, I could see the outline of the fissure that I had fallen through. Sekhmet’s shadow was gone and all I saw was white light. It caressed my face through the black, bubbly ocean I was in. I could feel the heat, still, from the sunlight above. And then I was falling faster and faster. Or maybe, I was drowning faster and faster. It didn’t matter what it was that I was actually doing – I was sinking deeper into the ocean. And the further back I sunk, the further away from that sunlight I was. And the less I could see around me. As that white light faded from painfully bright to a dull ache somewhere above me, my eyes began to adjust to my surroundings.
I tried to look everywhere. I tried to see everything. Truthfully, there was very little to see. I could see bubbles everywhere. It very much reminded me of the carbonation in a newly opened soda. Deep within the body of that carmel colored soda (I drink a lot of diet Coke, so really it’s not shocking that I go there with this), one can see the bubbles rising to the surface after it’s been opened. And my surroundings reminded me very much of that. However, instead of the carmel color, I was surrounded by blackness. The bubbles, though, weren’t a lighter colored black – gray or what have you – but they were multicolored. They looked like soap bubbles that catch the sunlight. They were purple and pink and neon green; they were yellow and orange and electric blue and violet. They were very pretty in a Technicolor way. I watched the bubbles for a while until they began to fade from sight.
I was beginning to sink slower and slower.
The darkness became all pervasive and even the little hint of light above me was all but gone from view. I was surrounded by blackness. It reminded me of what I always assumed the Nun may be like. I’m pretty sure I wasn’t in the Nun, but it looked like it. I had always pictured that affable old fool as a black ocean and there I was, sinking in one. Whatever air was still in my lungs was expelled then as I thought about the Nun. If I wasn’t dead yet, then I was well and truly on my way. I thought back to the Nun and what it meant. I thought about what it would be like to meet the Nun. I also wondered if he was as lonely as I was beginning to feel. All in all, by this point, I had to admit that dying wasn’t as scary as I had thought it would be. It was actually kind of boring, to be honest. To stave off the boredom, I kept thinking about what it would be like to talk with the Nun. Maybe, after all of this was over, I could head out that way and see what the mound was like and see what the Nun was like. That would, I decided, be something more exciting, at least, than all of this.
I sank for a long time. In the grand scheme of things, it was a drop in the bucket in comparison to, say, all of the walking in the desert I had done. But, time is relative especially when you’re in the middle of the act of dying. And most especially when the act of dying was something that you had to do and because you couldn’t do it yourself, someone who cared about you a lot (or acted that way, at least) had made it happen. It felt like an eternity of darkness. And in that eternity of darkness, nothing profound happened. I was still expecting trumpets to play at some point and I had been disappointed thus far. While I fell, I wrote and re-wrote a strongly written letter to every production company in America, thinking about how they got it all wrong. Death wasn’t exciting or adventuresome – rebirth wasn’t exciting or adventuresome. The least they could have done was gotten just how fucking boring the whole damn process was. Instead, I had to imagine what sort of orchestral scores would have been playing if Hollywood got it right.
What I did notice, however, was that the deeper I sank, the more relaxed I became. This was something that became more pronounced even IRL. At first, I had felt like there had been a weight on my chest. And that weight, to me, had been pushing me ever further down. That rock had slowly lessened the deeper I had gone. And I noticed that with each passing moment as I sank down below, my shoulders relaxed. The knots that had been forming after weeks of wandering the desert began to slowly but surely fade. With each fathom above me, my heart rate slowed. My mind cleared. I couldn’t say if I ended up in a Zen-like state at the end of it all, but I felt very content. I had to assume this was what people felt when they meditated properly.
Finally, I hit the bottom. And this was when, I knew, I was going to die. I had been the act of doing so the entire fall down. The entire thing was like a play or a song, sort of. The opening sequence had been Sekhmet’s shoving me down. The bridge had been the act of falling to the bottom. And I was rapidly entering the finale. And that was when I was going to die. I thought about making the most of it – I could explore. But I had to be honest, there wasn’t anything going on. There was still no doorway. There was still no music. There were still no answers. But as my butt hit the bottom, I really didn’t care. It didn’t matter anymore what the next step was. It didn’t matter if I saw a doorway open. It really didn’t matter. I knew that I was going to end up in the Duat. And I knew that someone or something would make sure I got there.
I closed my eyes.