The Pulse: The Soul Star & Alberta
The Ties That Bind
Güsfreude simply couldn’t accept it. The angels dancing on a pin were fine. She always liked angels. But what good was dancing when she knew others couldn’t walk?
How could she gaze through Omar Khayyam’s Seventh Gate at the mysteries of the universe, and how could she watch as each morn a thousand roses brings, when the world she cared about was going to seed? How could she float through Celestial Wonder when her grand-daughter wept in chains?
Whether at Naishapur or Babylon, whether the Cup with sweet or bitter run,
The Wine of Life keeps oozing drop by drop, the Leaves of Life keep falling one by one.
Each Morn a thousand Roses brings, you say; yes, but where leaves the Rose of Yesterday?
The hardest truth Güsfreude learned so far was There’s no going backward. Time’s wingéd chariot is on a one-way journey. She knew she could never go back and make things right in Eden Valley — that wooded paradise where she went to escape from all the wolves in sheep’s clothing. And where, her grand-daughter on her way through the dark forest, she’d been swallowed in her bed.
She could see the world now, a blue pinprick of light in a sea of black. She could see Antonio’s manor, cloaked by God knows what dark magic from the prying eyes of the Baulians and the Vicinese.
She had underestimated Beatrice’s gullibility — and her desperation. She had taken Antonio for the Cheshire Cat when he was in fact the Carpenter.
As a girl, Beatrice lived in her own private Wonderland. She believed that boys could fly if they really wanted to, that a Knight would always be true to his Lady, that a princess would spring wide awake if she was kissed in the right place at the right time, and that all men who dressed in black leather jackets and wore Gucci shoes were fairies from the Neo-Platonic Realm. Even after she got married, she still believed in these tales, although the Cheshire Cat was nipping at Alice’s petticoat, Peter Pan was lying to Wendy, and the Carpenter was getting out his saw.
On their wedding night, Antonio pushed Beatrice into their bedchamber and tied her to the bedpost — in what Beatrice thought was a playful game of lovemaking. Antonio brought out a book called The Temptation of Saint Anthony, ripped the pages from its sewn spine, and taped a page to each part of her body that needed to be cleansed of its unspeakable sin.
Knightly deeds became nightly fears, and Beatrice could see that Camelot was about to be stormed by a legion of blood-thirsty mutants. Orcs and trolls were massing on the horizon.
The Red Cross Knight, who Beatrice assumed was a paramedic, was found poking holes in her underwear. She read in the morning paper that Sir Lancelot had split the Round Table in two and was now scheming with a band of Norman thugs in the Anglo suburbs of Montreal.
In defence of Beatrice’s naïveté, one should remember that there are reincarnated Buddhist monks in lonely monasteries, who, after 40 lifetimes, still can’t tell the difference between Platonic Beauty and the Beast.
How then was Beatrice to see Antonio for what he was? How was one so gentle to defend herself against this Age’s most recent reincarnation of Sin — a professor of Literature and Legal History, a fiend who could bend the laws of language and the language of laws?
From the moment of his fall, this most reptilian of litigators overturned legal codes and commandments, transforming the world into his own private kangaroo court. Legions were at his service: from Los Angeles to Kolkata, the jury chambers of the world were haunted by his angry ministers, his false affidavits, his extradition loopholes, and his switchblade-thin technicalities that liberated the most vicious of brutal psychopaths.
Beatrice asked her tormenter: “Why did you bring me to this dungeon, anyway?”
Antonio responded, “If, deep down you didn’t believe you’d sinned and needed to be tied even tighter to this rack, you would struggle to free yourself.”
Beatrice was in fact struggling to free herself, yet the ropes were so tight that you couldn’t even see her wrist move.
Beatrice tried in vain to wrangle her way free of her marriage contract. Yet Antonio had, with the help of the County Courthouse and the Catholic Church, tightened the clauses with Indian rubber, and bound up the loopholes with leather straps. After endless pleading, she managed to convince him to untie her and instead monitor her movements with an ankle bracelet. If she went as far as Turner Valley, she would receive a jolt of electricity that would make her grit her teeth in agony.
First thing she did was make a visit to the town lawyer, Bartleby. The visit was a disaster, however: he told her of the hopelessness of all such legal suits. He described to her how they all ended up in Edmonton, in a government archive presided over by a clerk named Edgar and his pet raven. Edgar had taught the bird to say, “dead souls, dead souls,” over and over till Bartleby concluded that it would be easier to put up with the darkest slavery than seek any form of justice in this world. It was better to escape, or — if you had an ankle bracelet — dream of a better place. The one concrete alternative he gave was based on the advice of a Frenchman named Francois-Marie Arouet: find a garden on the outskirts of your little town and plant tulips.
Having exhausted her legal options, Beatrice tried to bury herself in the fantasies of her youth. Yet in what fairy tale could she find the spell that would make her life return to what it was? How could she re-trace her steps to that first Immaculate Conception, that first golden apple of her innocence? It seemed impossible to bring back those moments when clouds danced across a ballroom sky of blue. Ever since her Granny died, the ballroom was looking more and more like a Hell’s Angels bar.
Beatrice only dimly recalled the time in her life when the hills were alive with the sound of music, and when the air around her wasn’t a dark glass plane crisscrossed by purple waves of electrostatic energy that Antonio sucked from the sky.
Antonio called his machine The Necrometer. It was capable of drawing in the powerful currents of energy that traversed the lower levels of the atmosphere. It stored the energy, which circled in ever faster currents, in a chamber beneath a titanium arm. The arm was pointed toward a vast void in space, somewhere in the direction of the constellation of Perseus.
Beatrice wasn’t sure who Antonio was referring to, so he explained that Perseus was a coward who everyone treated like a hero. Perseus fought what everyone called monsters, when in fact these monsters were the real heroes for standing up to the tyranny of Zeus.
As a girl, Beatrice would sit at the breakfast table with her mom and dad, staring out the window and over the roses at the fields of wheat. Oh, how she would love to sit with her parents again! To see the wind blowing and dancing in the sky. She would do anything to once more dangle her fingers over the circle of roses that surrounded their home.
Instead, she watched her husband pace the kitchen floor, occasionally picking up a knife and using the walls for target practice. Above their breakfast table was a gigantic slanting aquarium glutted with eels and sludge that Antonio had suspended from the rafters.
Her dreams that once floated freely in the sky had been submerged, polluted, defiled, and the electrostatic discharge that Antonio sucked down from the heavens sent piercing pulses into her skull and heart.
To bring back her simple prairie life was an impossible dream. It was like a promise made by politicians and priests — and she despised both. The Courthouse and Church had sanctioned the band of marriage that dug into her left finger like a miniature handcuff. Her marriage bed resembled a pillory.
Beatrice thought of her lost innocence, of that golden delicious gleam and wither it had fled. Desperate, she cried out, “Who has swallowed it? Who has hid it from my sight?”
Antonio heard this and laughed out loud at her stupidity. Such an idiot he’d never seen! While she understood the abstract delicacies of the great fairy tales, she was incurably naïve when it came to the actual deeds of goblins, gremlins and efreets. She’d read Snow White a thousand times, yet still she didn’t suspect that the apple he offered her wasn’t from the Okanagan Valley in nearby British Columbia. It was in fact the crimson, four-cylindered machine that lay five centimetres behind her sternum.
Dressed in a shiny black cloak, Antonio stepped out from the black forest of Academia and offered a ripe, fleshy, 50 kilogram apple to the waylaid beauty of the plains. She thanked the well-dressed gentleman and took the gift back to her mother’s kitchen. She layered it into the soft dough of her feelings, sprinkled it with sugar and spice (in this case cinnamon), and popped it in the oven. She then offered Antonio a large slice, which she placed next to a thick piece of cheddar cheese and a cup of Earl Grey tea.
Antonio would swallow her whole! And he would keep on swallowing her and eating at her for the duration of their married lives. For if she couldn’t grasp the blatant Freudianism of the simplest fairy tale, how was she to defend herself against the Nietzschean undercurrents of his Brothers Grimm?
Next: The Bind That Flies