The Astral is Balls.

I kind of feel like this is every experience I've ever had over there summed up in one 60s fabulous Spider Man meme.

I kind of feel like this is every experience I’ve ever had over there summed up in one 60s fabulous Spider Man meme.

Two years ago, I felt my mind start to shatter a little bit at a time. I couldn’t understand it at first – I didn’t recognize it for what it would inevitably turn into. The thing is that so few people actively talk about having their head cracked open. I mean, sure. I read TTR’s blog regularly and I’ve combed through almost every entry that has ever appeared about having a broke open head. But you know? I just figured I was the girl who sat on the sidelines and nodded at all the good parts, made commiserating noises at the bad parts, and made sarcastic remarks during the in between.

My head wasn’t supposed to crack open. I wanted to have a broke open head because, honestly, I didn’t recognize or realize what it would entail. Reading blog posts is fine and dandy, but it still doesn’t quite get across all the fucking bullshit, responsibility, and fuckery that comes along with having your head cracked open. It’s that whole “grass is always greener” syndrome. Just because the grass looks greener doesn’t mean it really is greener. Honestly, looking down, I have to say the grass looks decidedly dead and brown.

That’s the thing about perception though; the only one that matters right now is my own.

So you know, the months passed and the crack widened. I honestly thought it was a good thing and maybe, back then, it was a good thing. It started off as a steady trickle, you know? It’s kind of like how someone had turned on a faucet, but it was only just dribbling out. I would have random moments feeling like I was in two places at once or odd dreams that I couldn’t really explain away to subconscious mind bleed through. It all seemed cool.

As I began to realize what was happening to me, mostly through interacting with spirit workers and paying close attention to messages/dreams I was receiving from the netjeru, I worked hard on opening that little hole in my brain wider. The point was so that I could work appropriately and conscientiously on the things that needed to be done. For about three to six months, I did everything I was instructed to do as best I could – I mean, let’s face it, I’m no more for deadlines than Douglas Adams was – before I learned my first major lesson about having a broke open head:

The trust of the innocent is the liar’s most useful tool.– Stephen King

What I learned as my head was broke open was that trust was a very precious gift and that it should never be willingly given, but earned. It doesn’t matter who it is that you trust, either. It doesn’t matter if it’s a best friend, a lover, a god, a demon, a spirit, a ghost, a transfigured family member, etc. It doesn’t matter who it is that you have provided that precious gift to unless they have proved themselves able and willing to protect your trust for the gift that it is.

You see, I went into the whole business of having a religion with the mindset that the gods can be trusted. I don’t really know where this mindset came from. It was just there one day when I was doing my thing. I trusted and I trusted foolishly, blindly.

But you know, now that I think about it, I have to admit that I am a blindly trusting fucking idiot. I always have been. I can look back down the years and see all of the little things that could have added up to me not getting hurt in relationships and friendships – things that I completely fucking ignored because I trusted the person not to hurt me – and I suppose you can guess what ended up happening. If not, I’ll give you a little hint: I got fucked over.

As if I hadn’t had it happen often enough with human relationships, I got to learn the lesson again with gods. I have to admit that it was pretty fucking jarring to get fucked over by a god. I mean, looking at the situation as objectively as I possibly can… I can admit that in the grand scheme of “you got fucked over,” this was pretty minor. But it opened my eyes enough to make things that much harder as the crack widened and yet more fuckery and woo came flowing on down the sluice way.

I can’t honestly say if the lesson stuck. Or maybe I just assumed that my gods wouldn’t fucking do that to me because, that god was just hanging around to get some shit done.

Sometimes, I really laugh at my own naïveté…

As the gates began to open more regularly and remain open for longer periods of time, I got more lessons. A lot of them were personal and painful. I don’t think I can fully explain to people how painful or even how personal. It isn’t just a matter of working on some things that have been sticking with me because of things from when I was a kid. Oh, no; it couldn’t be that easy in the slightest. The pain-filled lessons have had to span centuries and numerous lives until I was dizzy from it all. My second major lesson in all of this has been:

It takes considerable knowledge just to realize the extent of your own ignorance. – Thomas Sowell

What I realized as I really started paying attention to the numerous lessons I was getting handed like some school child was that I didn’t know a fucking thing. Sure, I was well read and I could tease out tidbits and interpretations with the best of them. I could spend hours upon hours, combing through documents and books looking for the tiniest little thing that would help me leap forward a little further on this whole crazy fucking ride called life. But at the end of the day, with as much knowledge as I’ve gathered, I still don’t know shit.

I have realized that everything I had thought I had known about my religion, my path, my gods, my relationships, for fuck’s sake even my life was only a simple grain of sand in the desert of eternity. I had thought I had it figured out, mostly, but you know what? I didn’t have a damn thing figured out. I had blinders on and in order to really get to the nitty-gritty, I had to get those blinders ripped the hell off so I could truly see for the first time.

And what I saw was both beautiful and frightening.

I was transformed and remade and destroyed and put back together again. When that didn’t work out properly, I got to do it again. And when that way didn’t really work out, either, I had to do it again. When I got sick of doing that same old song and dance, I ended up being forced to do it against my fucking will because what I wanted didn’t have a damn thing to do with what that broke open head part of me needed. And I have had to keep transforming and changing everything I thought I had learned, everything I thought I knew and I have had to keep transforming myself with each new gush of that broke open head all just to incorporate yet more mind-boggling fuckery.

Sometimes, it’s almost like a euphoric, ecstatic moment where pain transcends into pleasure and then back again into pain. Sometimes, it’s almost like the darkest abyss filled with every frightening monster that hides in the dark, intent on destroying you utterly. In either case, you have to learn to deal with the shit going on around you while you feel like you’re ready to shatter for the millionth time into a thousand fucking pieces.

As that trickle turned into a steady gush, which in turn ended up as a waterfall with cascade effect like possibilities, I realized a lot of things about myself, my life, my path, my religion, my gods, my friendships, and everything in between. I’ve realized a million different details that were once thought impertinent really weren’t and the bits I thought were the most important have fallen to the wayside, completely forgotten. In the midst of that rubble, I learned the most important lesson of all:

Details create the bigger picture. – Sanford I. Weill

At the end of the day, all the harshness of this new reality has made me realize that the transience of the now is only outweighed by the “bigger picture.” I’ve talked about it, tagged it in posts, and commented on it here and there. The bigger picture is the end result of all of this. While I find it difficult to order myself and my life and my path and my personal relationships and the relationships I’ve begun with my gods in a manner that may, one day, benefit that bigger picture, I know that it is what all of this broke open head business is about.

Bigger picture.

Even just writing those two words can cause such a multitude of emotions within me that I cannot even begin to describe them all: horror, joy, terror, calm, pain, ecstasy, etc. Even just those six words cannot do justice to what it all is to describe it in any attempt at detail.

At the end of the day, even with all of that emotional capacity tapped out and felt in one form or another, I have to admit that I’m just bitter tits about it all. At the end of the day, I sit down and I have to admit to myself that while being a part of something bigger may be nice for some people, at the heart of it all, I’m a selfish fuckface and bigger picture can really piss me off.

It’s only been a little over a year though since I get hit face first with the brick wall of bigger picture and I hear tell from other people that the bitter tits might wear off. I don’t know if that’s true, but I can hope that’s the case. The bigger picture I see is viewed through a lens smeared with Vaseline, but I’m assured by the gods that it looks pretty nice. I guess so; I’ll just have to take their word for it.

Across the Universe

Across the Universe by onwatersedge via Flickr

I remember what it was like all those years ago, looking in upon what must have been a spectacular tea party when people talked about their godphones and their broke open heads. I can remember knowing that I just wanted to be like them. I guess the real lesson in all of this is that “looks can be deceiving.” Or maybe, better still, the real fucking lesson is “be careful what you wish for.” I got my wish and I honestly, truly have to wonder if it was all worth it.

Maybe one day I can look back at all of this fuckery and say, “it was totally worth it.” But I’ll admit to harboring a fear that when that “one day” comes a-knocking, I’ll never be able to say that it was worth it but that I’ve hated every fucking minute of it and I rue the day I asked for all of this. Sekhmet tells me I won’t hate on it forever. She says it’s a good thing, but I honestly can’t tell if she’s just trying to get me to stop bitching about it all or if she really means it.

Further Reading

  1. Astral Don’t Care by TTR
  2. I Am My Own Guide by TTR
  3. Devo Magix: Vision Questing by TTR
  4. Musings on Pain and Astral Travel by TTR
  5. A Good Horse by TTR
  6. For Everything There is a Learning Curve by TTR
  7. Before and After: A Comparison on Being God Bothered by TTR

Re-Opening Scabs.

Shadow work is probably one of the most grueling things we can ever undergo. I’ve often known that I need to work on things and I have just as often shied away from the prospect, knowing how much pain I could and would unleash upon myself. It’s not just fear that has kept me from working on these traumas, but it’s also the knowledge that I will still need to smile and interact with others, others who may not understand and who may not care, as you work on bits of you that have been folded into the very fabric of your soul.

Picking and pulling apart your soul is hard work, but even with all of that, you still need to live your regular old life. If you don’t answer the questions of people around you, they’ll start asking you what’s wrong. And if you are very busy pulling yourself apart, there is no way that you can explain it to them without sounding, well, without sounding a little unbalanced, a little unwell. So, of course, you have to continue to live your life as you normally would and maybe they’ll forgive the fact that you’re just a tiny bit off your game for a while since you’re so busy destroying who you are on a fundamental level in order to rebuild yourself into who you may have been without those damned fucking traumas having gotten in the way.

I ripped a scab off the other day. It was gross. You know what it’s like to rip off a scab from your knees, when you’re a kid? It’s kind of painful but you’re just like intent on fucking ripping that shit right the fuck off. I don’t know why kids feel the need to pick at their scabs; I used to do it and my son does it unless it hurts too much. I don’t know if picking at scabs is really useful when you skin your knees, though. You end up with scars if you do that. But sometimes, I think, the scars are useful because you can wear them proudly and point out to people that you survived.

I’ve done a lot of shadow work in the last few years. I know that I’m not perfect and I know, clearly, that I have a lot of things to resolve. I doubt, most times, that I will be able to remake myself into the form I want to be before I die, officially die. Rebirth is all well and fine and a part of shadow work, but I mean honestly and fully die. I know that I’m only thirty [-one] but sometimes, the uphill battle to get to where I need to go is so difficult that I can’t be bothered. I just can’t look up any further at the cliff face I’m climbing and I just stop.

But the thing about shadow work that I often have to remind myself is that that there is an ultimate plan in play. Sometimes it relates to bigger picture; sometimes it doesn’t. I have a lot of issues that I have to contend with on a daily basis; issues that I didn’t realize how deeply they impacted me until I started picking and pulling at what needed to be reformed in order to work through the trauma and come out the other side. I thought that after the yearlong work I did regarding my ex would be sufficient for the needs; I was wrong. I was very wrong.

I guess shadow work is one of those ongoing processes that we all have to explore and go through. Each person’s journey will be unique, of course, because the issues that we have faced and how we came out of them relatively intact is going to be completely different. I can write whatever the hell I want to and say what I think people will need to hear, but whatever journey we have been on is [probably] going to flavor the unique shadow work before each individual. There’s no all-purpose way to do this, unfortunately. There are only some tricks, some ideas, and some possibilities to throw out there for those looking to learn.

My best advice? Be prepared to fuck yourself sidewise ten ways to Sunday, screaming and crying [internally], and hoping that you get the fixing you part right one day.

Ripping that fucking twat waffle of a scab off was some really fucked up shit.

I have discovered a lot of triggers in myself lately. I don’t really like that terminology, honestly. I understand the point behind it and this gif set illustrates it the best. But the reactions that I have to those moments aren’t necessarily “trigger” like. I don’t have a flashback; I tend to have a flight-or-fight response in all honesty. If I see it, I can fight it out and end up in an emotional avalanche coupled with such terrific physical reactions as increased respiratory and heart rate; cold sweats; and the shakes. Other times, I end up fleeing the fuck away from whatever the hell it is, either physically or mentally, and I bury myself in a world that doesn’t include such things.

This doesn’t really help in the long run, I admit. The point is that I have to get through what has happened and, hopefully, build something workable. I don’t have any blueprints, though, so I’m not really sure what “workable” means. I can assume what it means by its very definitions, but when it comes to breaking yourself wide open and see what parts fit together after removing the tender bits, well, maybe not everything will really be so fully functional at the end of it all.

I wish there was a manual for these types of situations. I really wish there was this one way that would make everything work out appropriately. Everyone just follows the instructions and everyone can come out the other side, maybe not completely whole, but relatively close to that. It would be like one of those dance floor mats that teach people who to do the samba or the waltz; you put your feet in the designated places and teach on autopilot. Unfortunately, no one thought one of those mats was in our best interest when they realized that we have to destroy in order to become reborn.

Rebirth is a terrible process, but it’s the process we all need to go through at some point or another.

Shadow work is some fucked up shit.

But so, too, are the experiences that we’ve gone through. It’s all some fucked up shit. People think that the end goal is some kind of utopia or something. I don’t think that’s really possible. It sure sounds sweet when you look up what other people think a utopia may be like, but I don’t think perfection is really the end goal. We’re imperfect creatures with wants, desires, and feelings. No matter how old we are and no matter how ornery we may get in that old age, we still have those wants, desires, and feelings. They make us imperfect, I think, but they keep us human.

One particular trauma, specific to the ex-husband here, keeps coming back to me. I’m not re-living it, per se, but I’m poking at the hornets’ nest that is that moment in time. There are other things associated with that moment; things that I honestly can’t even begin to fully comprehend. The worst part about this is that the single moment I’ve been working on is tied seemingly imperceptibly to everything else. While I can focus on this one thing right here, I have to admit that it means pulling apart bits of other things as well. I end up with a giant fucking mess on my hands and wonder, how the fuck am I supposed to pull out the good parts while shedding the bad parts and end up, nominally, whole at the end of it all?

No manual; no road map.

We just move forward with a hopeful look that things will end up better at the end of it all. And when things get hard, there are ugly tears with snot running down our faces and blotched cheeks and sobs so hard that you can practically feel your ribs breaking from the pain of it all. At the other end, you can only hope that what ends up coming out of it is all right and that, you know, you were able to put the pieces of you back together.

To be functional.

To be “normal.”

Okay, maybe just to be relatively complete.

Sometimes, when I’m working hard on those things, I try to desensitize myself. I know that this type of therapy is used for certain disorders and most often phobias. I don’t think what I’m putting myself through, reliving this shit, is really a phobia. But desensitization has worked, slightly, so that I don’t freak out publicly. I can have that frightened, scared rabbit moment in the confines of my own home, usually locked in the bathroom underneath the shower spray so I can grieve or hurt privately. I don’t recommend this therapy type, in all honesty; I don’t really know if it’s helping at all.

Sometimes, I just poke at things like a kid with a stick. I don’t look at anything; I don’t read about anything. I just follow the yarn until I come to a point that needs to be plucked about. Poking things is all right, I guess. It gets me a little farther, I think, than the desensitization. But the problem with poking at things means that, at some point, I’m going to awaken something that I didn’t really want to wake up. And then I have to deal with the aftermath of that. Periodically, that aftermath is at work or when my kid is up and asking for a story or when I’m lying in bed at night, staring at the ceiling. The angry monster inside of me surges and I know nothing except that monster. I’m not sure if I really recommend this type of shadow work either; I couldn’t say if it’s beneficial or not.

Sometimes, I just let it lie. I leave it alone and wait for something to occur to me, an epiphany of sorts, and hope that I can parse out the meaning of that epiphany when it happens. Shadow work, in my opinion, isn’t always on the go type of stuff, but can also mean lazing around while you wait for the next thing to come to you, in my case, an epiphany. The problem with his particular trick is that, maybe just maybe, there are other factors pushing me toward resolution and I can’t wait amount for that single moment of clarity to happen. I don’t think this is helping me at all, but it gives me a rest at least from the hard work.

Sometimes, I ignore all of my hang ups and try to just live my life. Nothing is wrong with me and I am perfectly fine. This is a lie I’ve told myself for years; it’s still there in the back of my mind. But when I look at myself in the mirror after assuring myself that I’m okay, I can see the lie in my eyes, in my nose, in my hair. It’s all just hanging around, the big fat epic lie, and I know that I can’t hide from it anymore. As scared as I might be, I have to move forward. I don’t recommend this at all. Don’t lie to yourself. As painful as the work will be, lying to yourself makes it that much harder to break things down to their fundamental parts and work them back together again.

As I was saying, I started ripping off the scabs with full abandon recently. I didn’t care what scab I was going to rip off; I chose one at random. The scab, though, was connected to another one and another one. I ripped that fucking thing off like nobody’s fucking business and got a punch to the face for my trouble. It hurts, you know, when you do it that way. It hurts worse when you’re pulling off emotional and mental scabs than it does when you’re picking at physical ones. You don’t know what sort of pain you’ll unleash when you pick at them, of course, which is probably why it hurts worse.

I ripped off that fucking scab and reveled in the moment, briefly. It was nice to feel a little free. I am free, I screamed, from this pain. And then it came back twenty times worse and whatever heka I thought I was doing by screaming that out loud was wrong. I wasn’t free because there was more lurking under the surface wound. A lot more. I didn’t realize how much more.

I’m tired all the time; I’m weepy all the time; I read too much to hide from the pain; I delve deep into the work when I’m sleeping, hoping that one day I will wake up and it will be better again. Someone told me yesterday that this was long-term shit, at least a year or more. I can’t say that I’m shocked by this, but it still sucks that I have so much fucking hard work ahead of me.

There’s no manual about how to do this hard work, so I have to hope that what I do, at least a little, works well for me because otherwise, this job will take me that much harder.

I ripped off a scab the other day; I ripped that motherfucker off and screamed with the power of my own intentions. I just have to remember that, I think, while I work hard on this shit. I just have to remember that moment when I screamed and reveled, thinking about burning down my enemies with the power of my own thoughts. If I remember what it’s like to feel that way, then maybe, I’ll be okay through the next year or so.

And maybe, in the end, I’ll come out of it a little more whole than I am now.

Bonded.

I wake up on a dais, surrounded by candles. Underneath me is a chaise lounge, covered in red fabric. It is soft and smells elegantly, as though it had been perfumed just before I was placed on it. On the golden stone walls are a million mirrors, which reflect back the light of the thousands of candles that are carefully arranged around the floor. The candles are all white pillars, new in some places and little pools of wax in others. I slowly sit up, pulling the blanket beneath me more tightly around me.

I am naked.

I sniff my arm and realize that not only is the lounge on which I lay heavily perfumed but so, too, is my body. I look down at the simple white blanket wrapped lovingly around me and then look around the room again. I know where I am. I may not have seen this room in any of my other explorations, but the place has a feeling of such intense familiarity. I know that I am back with her. I am in her home and she has taken care of me, again.

I think back, trying to remember how I may have ended up here. The last thing I remembered was crying to Papa, asking him to let me stay for a little longer. I had asked him to let me stay out of fear and anxiety. He, of course, denied my request as I had already knew he would. He could not allow me to stay. I had things to attend to. What bothered me most about this situation was that I had been left on her doorstep – I knew without even remembering that was the case – and now I was here. I had decisions to make, he had schooled me, and now I couldn’t run away to ignore those decisions.

Slowly, I climb from the lounge. I look back and am chagrined to see that the lounge I had been laying upon had been perfumed with bright red rose petals, similar to the types I use in my rites to her. The perfume I had been smelling was a mix of whatever unguents I had been bathed in as well as my body weight crushing the life from the rose petals. I wrap the white blanket around me more securely, hoping that my little breasts will keep it up long enough for me to get into comfortable clothes.

I gather up the excess edges of the blanket and begin to walk through the candles. As I pass the mirrors, I glance at my reflection, startled by the change in my face. What had once been, almost constantly, pinched in anger or emotional turmoil was smooth. I also saw that my hair was, for once, lively and well maintained. There were no leaves or sticks within, as was oft the case. It had been well cared for. I reach back and pull a hank to my face and note that my hair had, also, been bathed in a lovely scent.

I continue to walk through the maze of candles, walking to the large double doors in front of me. Before I can even reach them to open them, they open by themselves. There is no one there to have opened the doors. I glance at them and see little golden words at the edges that are as brilliantly lit as the flames of the candles.

I walk into the hallway, looking left and right. I am trying to get my bearings, but it is difficult. In this place, the halls often look very much like one or the other. I could be in a completely new place or I could be down one of the many passages I have taken before. Double doors line the hallway and I shrug, deciding that walking right is just as well as turning to the left.

The walls between the doors are punctured with finely crafted words and imagery. I reach out and touch a relief. Sekhmet wears the green she is often shown with, her sun disc and uraeus done in elegant detail. The eyes of the snakes within her headdress sparkle at me and I realize that they are set with rubies. Her dress, too, is fashioned with netted beading and these shimmer as well, indicating that the white-gray alabaster is real. I continue walking, mesmerized by the beautiful details that reveal themselves to me.

As I walk past yet another series of double doors, I stop and realize there is an unfinished relief on my left. I turn to it and am startled to see my own likeness staring back at me. My hair is thick and black, my eye mercurially changing. I can hardly tell what stones may have been used outside of some agate that is able to change as I continue to stare. I am kneeling before Sekhmet, my solitary eye looking very much as though I am in adoration. My body is unfinished, having only been completed to the hips. Sekhmet stands in her red-hued glory, a crowning achievement to whomever crafted this beauty.

I am transfixed by my own design, I have to admit. The imagery strokes my ego tenderly and I feel a welling of such love that I am overcome with the desire to weep. Instead, I choke back my own tears and reach out, touching my likeness gently. “Careful,” a voice says from behind me. That voice sends shivers up and down my spine. It is a voice of seduction and love. “You do not want to destroy accidentally what I have spent many, many years making sure is accurate.”

I glance over my shoulder and see her there. She is a vision of red and gold, the colors so bright that they hurt my eyes to just look at her. I blink back the tears that her beauty inspires and look back at the image. “What is this?” I ask her.

“This is you,” she says pedantically.

“Yes, I realize that,” I say through gritted teeth. Already, I can feel the age old irritation coming back. It hardly took long at all. “But what is the point here?”

“That is up to you,” she says enigmatically. I roll my eyes at the wall version of myself. “There is no need to be so irritated with me,” she continues. “You already know the answers to your questions. That old man taught you a thing or two and you understand, I think, a bit better about all of this.”

“I understand nothing,” I tell her softly. “I only have thoughts; thoughts do not necessarily equate to an understanding.”

“This is true,” she agrees. She steps up so that we are shoulder to shoulder. She looks over at me and I can see reflected in her eyes many emotions. They are dizzying as they pass – love, adoration, pride, excitement, happiness – before she looks back at me with her firm gaze. “This is what I have always hoped for.”

“You played games with me,” I remind her.

“I had to do what was done so that you would do this willingly,” she says softly. She reaches out and touches my cheek. I nuzzle her questing fingers with my cheek. I can feel the affection, something I had felt was dead and buried, coming back. I am a little off-put by this. I had expected to only ever look at her with bitterness and irritation, but I can feel my heart unbreaking, as it were. I swallow nervously and wait for her to pull away.

Instead, she turns me bodily until I am facing her and looks into my eyes. “I need you to be a willing servant,” she explains. “I did not need you to be in love with me and to follow me blindly. I did not need you to be an angry and sarcastic servant, always questioning and never doing. I did not need you to be a resigned servant, stepping into a roll you do not want so that no one else will suffer as you have. I need you to be my willing and loving servant, but someone who can see me for what I am.”

“Full of faults,” I retort sweetly.

“Terrible child,” she snaps back just as sweetly.

I smile at her and, overcome with something, I lean up on tip toe and kiss her cheek. “I understand much better now. That does not mean I liked it at all.”

“I should hope not,” she agreed. “There is a single thing left before it comes time to introduce you to the hordes as truly and fully mine.”

“What is it?”

“I cannot tell you,” she says. She seems almost sad that she is, yet again, dragging me into something that she cannot fully explain to me. “I need you to accept or deny me. That is all I can say.”

“Can I have clothes before I do this?”

She smiles at me and her gaze flickers over the slowly falling down blanket wrapped around me. “I think you look delightful,” she teases. She snaps her fingers and I am dressed, now, in a single sheath linen. It cups my hips and my breasts firmly enough where I worry that I may rip it if I am not careful. I wear jeweled sandals on my feet.

“That is a pretty nifty trick,” I remark.

“So it is,” she agrees.

She leads me out of the warren of passages that make up her home in the sandbox. All around us, silence mimics our footfalls. I see and hear nothing, not even Maurice. I open my mouth to ask her about him, but we have come to the forecourt. The sunlight streams through the open ceiling, reflecting on a single blue skullcap worn by a man in white. He turns around as we enter and offers me a faint smile. In his hands, he holds something wrought in gold.

I wait for Sekhmet to signal me, to tell me what we need to do.

Instead of saying anything, she indicates where I need to stand and then lowers her hand, further indicating that I should kneel. I do so slowly, careful not to destroy the dress wrapped around my body as I do so. Finally, I am kneeling on the golden floor, surrounded by a seeming perfect spotlight of sun light. I look up at Ptah as Sekhmet stands walks over to him, her heels clicking hurriedly upon the floor.

They confer privately, which I cannot hear. I am worried again. I know that the golden thing in his hands is meant for me. I think about all of the conversations I have ever had in the real world, about where things were headed. I remember that I am myself, even if I am hers. I remind myself that she said I could refuse her or I could accept her. I had to make a decision.

As they both begin to move toward me with the air of ceremony, I examine my heart.

I can see the places where there are scars from her touch. These are not just scars from this life, but there are scars from my many other ones. She has always had a hand in me, at some point or another. Other gods have also worked upon me, either at her behest or their own. The other two whose touch I have felt scar that heart are much fainter and older. They have not muddled with my inner workings in a very long time. All the most recent scars, from this life, are mostly healed.

But the heart within my breast beats, I remember, because of her. She has done a great many things for me and taught me to stand on my own two feet. She has also instructed me on how to destroy things that must be destroyed, how to maintain ma’at as well as live within it, and how to heal those around me. She has given me heka both of the soul and of the power needed to activate it. She has done a great many wondrous things for me, but she has also hurt me in ways that the scars speak to.

Those scars are painful to even remotely count, but I have to count the pains she has caused me in the here and now. I can see the moment when she ripped my love from me. I can see the moment when she hurt me so deeply, so painfully, that my love turned to dust in my very hands and the tears I shed for her… I can see the moment when she demanded I make a decision and I was saddened to realize that her eyes were set on others – she could and would manipulate them as she had me. She is patient. And I can remember the moment when I knew that I was so angry with her and so hurt that I wanted to run away from all of this.

But Papa had given me a lot of things in our forty days together. In that time, he had explained to me that I had been hurt, as a lover, and that I had to get over that ex-lover like hurt. He had also explained that I had a job to do and if I didn’t do it now, I would do it later. She has always been waiting for me to be ready. I could agree to the next step or I could deny it. In either case, I had to make a decision.

I could hardly open my mouth to tell her anything. I could count on each hand how much I felt used and abused. I could count on each time how much I felt loved and wanted. I didn’t understand what was more important.

Ptah was lifting the golden thing in his hands, bringing me back to the here and now. Finally, I am seeing it, clearly, for the first time. It is a golden collar and my heart shrivels a little, my stomach flips, and I worry that I may throw up in front of them and ruin the majesty of this moment. I can feel pins and needles in my knees as I continue to kneel, waiting for him to come to me. I can deny this moment. I can accept this moment.

I should make a speech with my answer, I think.

Ptah lifts it above his head. My head moves and my hair rustles with that movement. I think I may have nodded. I think I may have made a decision. I do not know. I can hardly think clearly. I stare deeply into Ptah’s eyes, waiting for him to say something, to ask me a question. He says nothing. He lowers the collar ever lower and I can feel my heart beat racing at the implications. I have to say something, I think, but my tongue will not move. It is as thick as cotton in my mouth.

I can see Sekhmet staring at me with worry in her eyes from over Ptah’s shoulder. I can see my future, in a way, as a pampered pet or as a well-loved servant. I can also see my future, my denial, as I feel the pain of an ex-lover all over again. I can see every possibility thrown before me and I can say not a damn thing about what I really want to do here.

What if I was making a mistake?

Ptah begins to lower it over my head.

What if I regret this?

What if things turn even worse?

What if.

What if.

What if.

And with that final what if, my final moment of panic, it is over my head and around my neck. The cool of the gold against my hot, sweaty flesh is almost a relief. The twin strings that hang from either side of the collar begin to wrap themselves forcefully around my arms. I can see them blending in with other tattoos that appear as this magical working takes effect.

The other tattoos are black and red and orange and green and any number of colors in that moment, but they are all superseded by the gold. The golden entwined around my arms and stops at the first knuckle of my middle finger. The snake head of the edges of those twinned, golden leashes wrap themselves around my fingers as though they are rings. And then, the gold begins to melt into my flesh and it burns.

I feel tears on my cheeks as they etch themselves into my body.

And then, it is over.

“It is done,” Ptah says. I can barely hear him over the pain of my own body.

“So it is,” Sekhmet agrees. I can barely hear her over the scream building my throat. The pain of this moment is superseded by my own angst and worry, by my own ability to speak. But as I look, the pain begins to fade as the twinned strings have finally become one with my flesh. I look up at Sekhmet, wondering if my lack of speech was her fault or if I was just so overcome with possibilities and what if moments that I couldn’t respond.

For the first time, in a long time, I began to worry that I hadn’t really changed at all. That I am the same being that the dark soul I had been bonded to had turned me into. As I look up into Sekhmet’s face, I see her love for me. I see how much she absolutely loves me and for a single second, I bask in the glow of that adoration. I can feel it, in my breast, reciprocated.

It hardly matters now what I say or do.

We have truly bonded.