Vignettes of Ruin and...

Posts Tagged ‘dream’

Dormis, Somnia & Obscura

In The Nightmare on October 4, 2011 at 7:32 pm

Dormis, Somnia & Obscura (The Sisters of Sleep)

Original Artwork by Linda McKernan

I am honoured to present this painting in oils, inspired by Dormis, Somnia & Obscura here on the Gods of Vice. Although technically, from left to right, it’s really Obscura, Dormis & Somnia. There are little clues that identify each one.

Linda is extremely gifted, you can see more of her work here. The painting above now belongs to her series of works called “Cailín Beag.” (Gaelic for “little girl”).

I am amazed that something so pretty could come out the darkness I’ve felt writing the entries in this place. Looking at Dormis in repose, I feel the compulsion to close my own eyes, to try and follow her to wherever she has gone. I ascertained once that Dormis only grants a restful sleep devoid of dream, but I cannot help but think that here, she herself is dreaming, and it is good.


Medicatus (Holy Words from the Bastion of Fleeting Mercy)

In The Nightmare on September 25, 2011 at 4:31 pm

And Medicatus said on the 15000th day of the first age, come to me my child, follow me into the grey lake where the searing coals of suffering become cold diamonds.

Bow to the God of Inertia. Cut the  cord of strife that has tied you to the heartbeat of the Earth and allow yourself to drift away upon the surface of vagrant waters.

Just don’t look back.

Don’t look back to the lake shore where the effigies of the people who once were loved, now cast in pillars of salt, stand like sculptures commemorating a glorious past.  Their white eyes, emptied of your shared memory, only condemn you to a lonely onward road. They won’t allow you to turn the hourglass upside down and reverse the ravages of living in times where nothing mattered except the wanting of times that none of you had.

Never look ahead.

Never look ahead and give credence to the fears that brought you here to my kingdom. The fear that the black clouds gathering over the rolling fields of golden destiny beyond are the mantle of despair you have refused to wear. You couldn’t bear the weight then, and you won’t bear the weight now. Don’t follow the stony, puddle- splashed path that emerges from this lake, winding through ragged, thorny briars and desiccated thistles brings you to the domain of the Tower. Because once you reach it, you cannot turn back. This overwhelming obstacle to completeness, ascending into the sky with such startling certainty will only compel you to obey its form and push open its heavy wooden door with both hands and step inside. There will be nothing else for you to do, but climb the ever-tightening spiral of its ancient staircase until you are confronted by the uppermost glassless window. The assault of an urgent, impetuous gale that seems to push and pull you towards it until there is nowhere now to go, but down.

Just don’t look below.

Because in the receding depths, when the water rushes and roars into your ears until you think there is no room left for sound, you will be able to detect the faint cries of some troubled soul. In hearing it, something in you will awaken as the cry becomes an unbearable wail you cannot ignore. You will try to flee from it and so open your eyes, only to be confronted by the horror of what condemning your suffering has done. Below you, bound by weeds and silt, the bones of your life are trying to grasp your limbs and drag you down with them, the yawning, gaping sockets and holes where eyes once beheld you with love, where lips once kissed you as though in a dream, where fingers once reached out for your desperate hand: now only tormented remains exist. Their memory, contorted by your bitter recall, their faces, lost in your determination to eschew the fact that you once had it all before your own self loathing crushed it.

Unexpectedly, you find your voice and with it, the realisation that anguished lament you’ve been trying to escape has always been coming from you, a long pitched scream, tearing up the atoms inside. So you open your mouth to let it out, let the scream out and let the water in.

But only the idea of drowning has its solace.

So don’t look down.

Instead, take this tiny white pill and stay here, cradled by distance, coddled by safeness. Close your eyes and forget where you are and who you’ve been. Let me take the world away, piece by bitter piece, until a chemically constructed calm settles the battles in your blood.

Forget the machinations of suburban indoctrination. Forget the house, the car, the dogs, the little children. Forget the gym and rocket salad. Forget the gas bill and Sky Sports as an added extra. Forget garish romanticism of the 80’s and how nothing good has happened since. Forget the job, unchallenging and patronising. Forget relationships and constant compromises. Forget failure and death.

Just forget.

Entropia Libra (the Inevitable Descent into Chaos)

In The Nightmare, Wrath on August 4, 2011 at 10:48 am

“You choose the destination,” he said, “and I will build the ship. I will make sure it is provided before. I will look after our little family.”

I was so used to working alone that it was an alien notion, to not have to be that way anymore. At first, it was uncomfortable. Relinquishing control and being only responsible for oneself can be a difficult thing.

“Are you sure?” I was tentative, naturally suspicious.

Because nothing has ever been this easy.

“I’m sure,” he said with conviction, and I believed him. And so he began to cut the wood and assemble a solid ship with unexpected artistry.Yes, Vincent worked hard for his sobriety. I could see him struggle until with practice, he became so good at it, I couldn’t see him struggle any more, and I forgot much of what had passed. After enough time, we uncovered the threads of stray dreams and bound them once again to our ship. A new home beside the sea, we said. We wanted it once, maybe we could have it now. He even rescued a little puppy from a life of abuse and declared him ours: his shining little life, inexplicably unmarred by his suffering, became our beacon, our hope that yes, new beginnings were possible.  We slipped from the overcast loom of perilous cliffs upon the summits of which we once played our parts, caught between wanting to drag ourselves to safety, grasping fistfuls of cool dark earth and wanting to fall, down, down, down onto the jagged rocks below. Or perhaps wanting to watch each other fall. But those days were long gone. We set a course for that not-so-distant shore and allowed a carefree breeze to uplift our patchwork sails and carry us over unknown, but calmer seas.

The Age of Vice was in decline.

Spectoris- who was that? Substantia: I never heard of her. Apathia fell unconscious. The reign of Intoxicatus seemed well and truly over, more like a tired nightmare churned out by Obscura than something that really happened.

I just didn’t need them anymore. I enjoyed the peace. I liked the silent anonymity of these new purgatorial waters, that seemed to promise heaven.

But this transient gift of solitude only served to enslave me for the wanting of its permanency. All complete things must eventually become undone. Even mountains crumble over the vast reaches of time.

He turns on me. And he isn’t drunk. All this time, I continuously overlooked one vital thing, and that was his prescribed duty to Medicatus- the God of Anti-Depression.

How many gods do I have to face down before I just simply give up?

I gaze back longingly at the calm turquoise wavelets while I seek out something to hold on to. But I am too late as our so called ship is pitched into the heart of a violent vortex of rage and suffering. Vincent is suspended above me, condemning me and scathing me with words that have just enough truth in them to throw me into disarray. I lose my footing and am hurled across the deck. The sea I loved has turned on me and tries to drag the ship down into its underworld. The waves lash me but I do not let them claim me, as I hang steadfast to the edges. Below, the sea churns with foam, the vestiges of mermaids who lost their own battles in the dark grey of a merciless ocean.

Then it all stops- for a moment. The dogs huddle together, bedraggled and miserable. I am crushed by my guilt, my Culpa Immortalis. It is my fault the ship ended up here. My fault. I am to blame. I look frantically around for Vincent, but cannot see him.

Because he has become something else entirely. The temporary peace is demolished as a colossal Leviathan breaks through an oceanic portal and surges towards the heavens. The ship is plunged underwater, but just as quickly, it is freed from the watery enfolds, and raised above it. I manage to get back on my feet, wondering how this is possible, when I realise the ship is ensnared in the serpent’s tail. But it has only saved us so it can bestow a more cruel fate. It starts to squeeze. I look into the face of the monster and search from some tangible trace of Vincent’s humanity, something I can reach out to in its eyes. But it just seethes at me through narrowed yellow slits and intensifies his devastating assault on our ship, until its seams splinter and burst with deafening cracks and there is nothing left beneath me as it all disinitegrates into the open, roaring mouth of perdition in the waters below.

I awaken to a soundless world where the scattered debris of Before lays strewn about. I pull myself up and begin to pick my way through it, unable to make sense of anything or perhaps more truthfully, not wanting to.

I walk and walk until my feet blister and every step causes a burning pain. Hot tears I did not know I had in me roll down my dirt streaked face. A sob escapes me. This place is so devoid of life and so full of silence that I should discover I still have a voice seems strange to me. I feel so ready to give up. I sink to my knees.

It is then I become aware of being watched and as I raise my eyes, I am taken aback by the sight of a woman, so pristine and perfect and shimmering, I think she is perhaps a mirage.

She steps forward and opens her hand, and I see myself as I am now, kneeling, tired and filthy in the centre of her palm. In her other hand, I am as she is: calm, clean and content. Then she closes her hands and turns them over. My heart begins to pound as I try to discern her meaning. I am about to question her when all that falls through her fingers is warm dry sand that is carried away on the wind like smoke and dust.

It doesn’t matter where I am, where I run to, what I achieve or do not achieve. The end is the same.

Entropia has nothing more to say to me. I have survived the descent into chaos, from which I must now derive the embers of order.

With great difficulty, I get up once again. I can salvage something from these ruins. I always do. In the distance I see a dark figure slumped in the sands. Vincent has yet to open his eyes. When he does I imagine his hurt and fear to find me gone.

But even as I think it, I have already started winding my way towards him.

Orexis Finitus (the God of Feckless Infatuation)

In Lust on April 10, 2011 at 1:18 am

It was unusually hot for early Spring, and there was far too much work to do in this stuffy old Victorian building. But sweat creeping down the curve of my spine did not dissuade me from the tasks at hand; I was in no mood for distractions.

So when I was interrupted by a man trying to sell me his wares, I was not happy. He smiled and introduced himself, extending his hand. I scowled a little, studied him in such an intense way that I hoped it would induce unease and reluctantly shook his hand. It was on the tip of my tongue to say I did not accept unsolicited visits from representatives and appointments were imperative, but he took a breath and began to talk and for some reason, I let him. I was not interested in his product and had no intention of taking it on. But the Gods of Vice had other plans for me, since lately, I had been paying them no heed at all. We need to lure her back, said the Gods. Send something to tempt her gullible heart. And so Orexis Finitus stepped into the fray, to try his hand at subduing me into life-wasting worship. I didn’t fancy his chances: I had not had any real interest in men for years.

The man Orexis sent was good looking I suppose, but seemed quite unaware of it. His large hands belied the nature of his profession, he seemed like he did not belong in the suit. Or maybe it was his accent: I found it so pleasant. Where he came from- I normally had difficulty understanding these people. But every word from his mouth seemed warm and familiar, friendly and honest.

Whatever it was about him, I was caught off guard and moments later, we were engaged in the most wonderful and unexpected conversations. The workplace had disappeared and we found ourselves standing on an old flagstone path that led into an abundant, abandoned garden. Moss and tiny white alysium flowers had bubbled through the cracks. I was wearing a dress, my hair was loose and I was barefoot. He was different too. His dark hair was now a bit overgrown.  He was in jeans and a short sleeved shirt, his arms seemed strong and defined. I briefly imagined being held in them and the feeling of safety they might bestow. He turned to look at me and said “I wasn’t always a salesman, you know.”

“I know,” I said, and he lead me down the path. The air was laden with the fragrance of wildflowers and shimmered with the music of glorious Summer. Bees hummed around cascades of rhododendrums while tortoiseshell butterflies fluttered around heaps of black-eyed susans.  The path had been almost completely reclaimed by nature the further we walked, the grass soft and warm under my feet. Tangled plants were so tall and untamed that they were almost impenetrable. Orb spiders had constructed silken webs across most divides we might have otherwise crossed. We were surrounded by the serenade of insect song. A ladybird landed on my arm, it’s dotted shell scarlet against the milk white of my arm. I gently blew on it so it took flight again. I had to shielded my eyes against a sun that was white hot and almost unbearably bright.

“I love the chirp of cicadas,” he said, “it reminds me of twilight in Catalonia.”

“Yes, I remember them,” I agreed. “And the scent of lavender in the warm night air. Heavenly.”

We stepped into a clearing, our arrival announced by a low breeze causing dry dead heads of honeysuckle flowers to scatter and swirl out of the way.  We were in the courtyard of a dilapidated cottage. It might have been a beautiful home once. But now a veil of ivy was drawn about the disintegrating walls. Rafters were exposed where part of the roof tiles were missing. The courtyard was surrounded by old trees, silent sentinels watching over the inexorable decay. Autumn had stained their leaves a vibrant yellow and red and the cooling shade provided by their dark boughs was a great relief. I opened my eyes wide, adjusting to the new light. We walked to the edge of a pond that lay glistening in the centre. It looked old and classical, the edges decorated in what was once brightly coloured mosaic, now faded and broken. The water was green with waterweed and algae, some lillies rested on the water’s surface towards the middle. He gripped my arm. “Don’t fall in,” he said, as mysterious emerald depths worked their hypnotic spell on me. The moment was dispelled when I heard a splash and looked around just in time to see a frog swimming away. Another was poised at the edge of the pool, ready to jump in. Quickly I scooped it up and covered it with my other hand.

“Look! A frog!” I exclaimed and prised my hands apart slowly, careful to not scare the creature any more than I already had. “It’s a common frog,” I continued, “but I have always thought they had really handsome markings, and they are such a lovely golden colour. Not at all “common.”” I felt him come close, I could feel his breath on my neck as he gazed over my shoulder to look.

“Yeah, I like frogs. Did you know we get lizards here? No one ever mentions it, but I was working down South before and I couldn’t believe it, there was this little fella, sitting on a rock, looking at me. I went to grab him and I caught his tail, but it came clean off and he got away…let’s go down to the beach and see if we can spot any around the rocks.” He headed off beyond the wood.

Right then a strong draught of wind upset the trees and their whispers grew harsh and loud. It tore dwindling leaves from branches, and sent them coursing across the yard. Goldfinches flitted away, disturbed by the upheaval. I shivered- for the first time, I wondered how I had gotten here and why I was with him, why I was following him? Where had all this longing come from? All I knew is I wanted to stay. But I felt our time together was running out; I just couldn’t bring myself to step out of the reverie.

So I went after him. The sun was settling and the horizon was aflame. The closer we got to the water, the colder it was. Winter was already advancing.

“I love this place,” he said, then gave me a sidelong glance. “You know we are the only ones who have ever been here?”

“How can that be?” I said, sceptical. “Who planted the trees? Who built the pond? Who erected the house?”

He hesitated, then answered, “You did.”

“But I don’t remember that. Why is it all forgotten and broken?”

“You left.”

Suddenly we were back in the Victorian building where I worked. Only now, the wonder had dissipated and I was filled with immeasurable sadness. Orexis had won. Inexplicably, I had fallen in love inside of mere minutes, in spite of the year that had just passed between us. Now I was doomed to wonder and imagine how my world might be different if only I had met him another time, another place. Perhaps that garden would not be unkempt, perhaps that house would be whole, perhaps that courtyard would not be in a perpetual state of Fall. I held my breath and watched, helpless, while the carefully constructed order of my life in between flights of vice once again dissolved into atoms of chaos.

“You can always call me,” he said, getting ready to leave.

I realised then what the ache inside me was: I had been missing him terribly, even though we had never met.  He was like a stunning reminder of something so special but forgotten, now gratefully recovered. I assumed all along he was nothing more than a fragment of dream. I gripped the idea so tightly I bled, holding onto it.

I had been lost for such a long time but now, here he really really was, ready to take my hand and finally lead me home.

And I cannot even remember his name.

Adoris Odious (the God Who Is More Than Just Vain)

In Pride on March 27, 2011 at 1:16 pm

“I am going to have to go home.”

“But you live so far away. You can’t stand for hours at a stop for a bus that never arrives. You can’t catch a tram that is full of junkies this time of night. You can’t catch a train because the stations are full of drunks. You can’t get a taxi because it will cost you a fortune!”

“No, no, I definitely can’t stay. Look, it’s…it’s because I forgot my make-up!”

This is what I tell friends who apparently like my company. They laugh like they think (or hope) I might be joking, and I smile to indulge them. But it is true.

I will not step outside without the illusion I can create with make up. I cannot leave without perfectly silken hair. And it is better to leave late at night where my now dishevelled clothing won’t have to face the unbearable exposure to a day full of sunlight tomorrow.

So I stand for fifty minutes at a bus stop in sub zero temperatures, refusing to give up and walk the half a kilometre back to the warm golden home of friends. I finally make it to the tram and I spend another fifty minutes on it, trundling into town, trying to be invisible to the prowling gang of rejects slithering down the aisle. But when I make it to my destination, the next train isn’t due for twenty seven minutes. I can hardly feel my fingers, they bluntly miss the appropriate keys on my phone when I try to text my friends to tell them I am alright. arjjoraldakjkdjoellsgfngo, I almost tell them before I give up and put it away. An old man lurches towards me. His skin is dark with dirt and he smells dreadful. He extends his greasy palm and his yellowed fingernails are long, cracked and full of crud.

“Have yeh got any money yeh can give t’me so I can…” He hesitates a moment and I see Intoxicatus rearing up behind him, pouring his fervour for alcohol into a mind that has already been devastated by him. The old man shudders and struggles and eventually splutters- “…and I can… spend the night in a hostel.”  Intoxicatus dissipates like smoke. His battle with his god over, he appears to relax a bit and briefly comes back to reality. His open palm falters and he looks around, like he doesn’t know how he got here. I lower my eyes and shake my head. I cannot help him. I cannot even help myself.

Finally, I am home, so happy to be home. I immediately check how I look in the mirror. Very acceptable! Because for the entire journey home, as the cold seeped into my bones, vapour stuck to my skin and the breeze knotted my hair, I felt ugly. Anyone who looked at me, I thought, they could see those spots I thought I covered up, why did that stranger have to sit so close to me, they could see my split ends and my tired red eyes, the tear in my coat, the sole peeling away from my shoe? But looking in the mirror now, I can’t see any of those things. So why would they? I am polished and unblemished. Pristine and pretty. It is a brief respite from trying to appear attractive.

Just as I pull away from my reflected image, some movement behind me paralyses me with fear. I should be alone, but clearly, something else is in here with me. I spin around to face it. But there is nothing. No one. As the hammering of my heart begins to calm, I wonder what fear looks like. I turn to the mirror and then I see her, standing right behind me.

Odious, the God of Self Loathing.

She is a fantasically horrible sight, her despair at herself manifested physically; though living, her body is fraught with decay. Her mottled skin sags and oozes, her bones are jutting through, her hair is sparse and straggled, encrusted sores score her scalp. Her nose has rotted away and as she smiles, a bitter expression of self-realisation, her receded gums expose unnaturally long stained teeth. She stares at me with deep twin recesses where her eyes once were. I know why she is here. To remind me that even when I feel alright, she is barely concealed beneath the surface.

My encounter with Odious changes how things look in the morning. I can hardly even bear to look at myself, I shrink back from the stark honesty of the mirror, I cower before its merciless truth. I cannot believe I ever thought I looked remotely acceptable…I am a travesty, unworthy of being considered or loved. I don’t think I will leave the house today.

Sitting at my dresser, it’s top covered in eyeshadows, gels, pencils and brushes, words materialise in my mind. You don’t have to feel this way. It is Adoris, the God of Compulsive Vanity. She gracefully sits down beside me. She looks exactly how I wish I looked! Creamy skin touched with rose, luscious richly coloured hair, she glows with health and vigour. But then she turns her gaze on me and I cannot believe it. Her eye sockets are dark and empty, but her stare is no less chilling. I recognise her instantly. She is Odious. Odious is Adoris. They are one and the same. She makes sure I never stop striving too look good or feel bad- that is the black power she feeds on, and oh, how she has feasted on me!

“You are an artist. And your face is a blank canvas you must paint.” She hands me a brush and a make-up palette. I cannot deny her. She is too tempting, even though I now know how hateful her true form is.

I raise my hand and begin to draw.

Animus Fractus (the Broken Centre)

In The Nightmare on March 20, 2011 at 12:03 am

The pantheon of compulsions otherwise known as the Gods of Vice reside in a place called the the Animus Fractus.

I am going to tell you of the time I found my way inside it, though I believe it is a unique experience for everyone. It was under a charcoal sky where clouds churned with dark promise. Nothing good could grow and anything that had survived was stripped of that which gave it purpose. The trees were gnarled and leafless, flowers were dry and colourless as paper.

I treaded carefully, barefoot, along a path of razor rocks, not really understanding where it might lead, until I stood outside a gate of metals and jewels. There was something familiar about the gold and the blue gems, something comforting about the shining silver and the amethyst: a closer look revealed their origins. Among the precious bounty were links to others in my life. The sapphire and seed pearl ring my mother gave me. The silver dragon my sister gave me. The golden crescent moon my grandad gave me.

The diamond tear Vincent gave me.

Trinkets of a past forgotten, held me outside the gates that concealed a terrible truth. To go forward, I must let go and so I tore the delicate chains from their mount to reveal a barrier of bones. I knew these bleached remains belonged to me. I pressed against them and they opened to reveal a roofless rotunda of ruined pillars and cracked mosaics. Red vines wired around the columns, a dark liquid was being pumped sluggishly through their canals. I knew these were my veins. In the centre of a the room, an ornate bird bath stood silently- I could not help but feel drawn towards it, it’s cool marble inviting. I peered into the depths of the water, but I could not see past what looked like strands of russet seaweed. I swept it aside and as it brushed my fingers, I suddenly knew it was something else. My hair.

It was as I drew back in horror that I became aware of an inscription around the rim of the basin. Thou shalt not live thy life fully except through the surrogate of fiction.

A series of commandments were set out in cold green stone. Thou shalt never stop being fat so you will never stop striving to be thin. Thou shalt not ever let your wounds heal completely. Thou shalt never cease the pursuit of an ideal and ageless beauty. Though shalt never make enough strong decisions in time to elevate you from your pit of existence. Thou shalt only ever have success in consistent failure. Thou shalt only feel purpose when derived from anger and hatred. Thou shalt be set apart from others in complete submission to your addictions. Thou shalt be devoid of any feelings on these matters except in moments of utter loneliness.

Thou shalt watch the hours of your life pass from the outside of the glass.

The water settled and it’s surface reflected back an image that looked like me but could not have been me. My sunken eyes regarded me with a knowing sorrow I did not yet feel, and right then, I only knew a smothering panic. I looked up and I was surrounded by the Gods of Vice. Spectoris with his glazed eyes. Virtua Retailia laden down with bags of rubbish. Adora smeared in garish make-up. Epidarium scratching at skin that was already bleeding. Substantia stuffing so much cake into her mouth she could hardly swallow it. Damnatio smashing his fist into the face of Severity, the Goddess of Self-Punishment. Despero crying while Oblivio looked on from a throne of shadow, utterly indifferent.

Any second now, Obscura will confront me and rip me from this realm of dream.

But it was no dream. Flakes of  ash began to fall, the remnants of a life burned with regret, the confetti of a grim ceremony. The gods stared and did not speak; they did not have to, becasue I already knew what they would say. For they were not great deities residing in some unreachable kingdom, built on the backs of slaves who never stop being hungry for more. I stood there facing only myself, over and over again, in a great hall built from my bones, cemented with my blood and bound with my hair. I realised I had always known where to find my Gods. For all of us were prisoners in the Broken Centre, the place where my heart once thrived without the burden of vice.