Tuesday, January 1, 2008

~ the red man

Nicholas the Byzantine – destined to become a Saint and enter heaven – stared intently into a crystal globe which sat exposed upon the dark red velvet cloth in which it had been wrapped. At his shoulder stood the celebrated scryer, John Dee, who had travelled from London for this consultation.

- Do not concentrate, he said. Observe the sphere as you would observe your face in the mirror. Idly. Casually. Do not force your attention upon it.

- This act may be sinful, Doctor.

- Please, spare all your thoughts for the glass.

- You are thought to be an enemy of the Church.

- Will you waste my time, now that I am here?

Nicholas sighed. His gaze strayed from the globe, then flicked back suddenly, catching signs of movement, a swirling fog ... a miasma of queer potentials… Quickly, he scanned his surroundings. There was no chance that it was a reflection.

- What do you see? asked the scryer, smiling.

A cloudy mass, roiling ... Disturbing contours… Elusive shapes, dissolving even before they had taken form.

- Be calm now.

As clear as day, a figure was standing in the glass, staring directly back at Nicholas as if, indeed, he was regarding his image in the mirror. It’s face was lined and old. It wore a long white beard. Its eyes bore a hint of amusement… and kindness …

- A daemon, whispered Nicholas, breathlessly. I should never have …

- Hold! It is no daemon.

Dee furrowed his brow. He considered the grotesque sprite. It was robed in common bright red, possibly amaranth. Its clothes were trimmed with something that might have been fur. Perhaps of the mink, thought Dee, or the rabbit …

Nicholas felt sweat running down from his armpits. He longed to divest himself of his ecclesiastical garments, but dared not in the company of this man.

- Sight is but one of the senses, instructed Dee. Use it as your base to explore sounds, scents … To see inside the mind of this apparition. To deduce its meaning.

- Is it ... a man?

- I have read it in the gases. Sigils form in their ebb and flow. Dee paused. I believe this is your future.

Nicholas stared uncomprehendingly. The extraordinary homunculus redirected its attention to a vast sleigh of a design used in Lapland and the far Northern reaches. He saw eight reindeer bridled. Handsome looking beasts, but for one, whose nose burned red as if there was a fire in its very flesh.

- How? This cannot be our world. Do you see the imps? Their wicked little smiles? I am in the imagination of a village witch.

The red figure was bowed beneath the weight of an enormous sack, which he unloaded into the cargo space of the sleigh with the assistance of his ‘imps’ - their ears large and cuspidate, their martial uniforms a bilious shade of green.

Nicholas caught sight of what could only have been treasure: boxes of many shapes and sizes, wrapped in magnificent materials that gleamed beguilingly in the pale winter sun.

- base greed.. avarice … mumbled Nicholas, his lips sour.

- Of all people, you should know that only the corporeal existence is terminated by death. What you may be seeing is your soul …

- Then my soul has passed into Hell.

- Who of us can claim to understand the aethereal realms? asked Dee, himself wholly mystified by the vision. He struggled for understanding. If one’s memory is preserved in the minds of people – as I am certain yours will be, Your Worship – then may we not be witnessing…. a form of incorporeality independent of the Divinity, one that endures in the memory of men …

Dee’s voice faded from Nicholas’ awareness. Fascinated, and against his better judgement, he let himself be drawn further into the phantom world.

The bearded fat man in his tight red costume flew across a broad ocean lit by starlight. Ahead, appearing across the horizon, was a vast city spangled with light; burning so fiercely as if to abolish the very notion of darkness. And there were golden, mirrored towers that reached towards the clouds …

Is this heaven? Nicholas asked himself.

To his consternation, the spectre divided in two, in four, in eight. Before Nicholas could blink, there were thousands of red men diving towards the city with clear intent. Some, to his amazement, squeezed themselves down chimneys and feasted on cold meats and brandy. In each of these houses was a small tree weighed down by voluptuous baubles and flashing tinsels that might have graced the vestments of the Pope himself.

Before leaving, the red men emptied a sack of breathtaking abundance at the base of the tree.

Other red men appeared in vast, alien market places, where there were no rats or fleas, nor the stench of sludge pits; where merchants displayed luxuries of mysterious manufacture and utility - which people, in bewildering attire, fought amongst themselves to obtain. Here the red men would seek to lure children from the crowd - sometimes with the assistance of writhing harlots - to who they would dispense gifts from their bulging sacks.

A form of conditioning? mused Nicholas.

Not always did the red man appear in physical form. Sometimes its likeness could be seen on boxes, in which captive universes were rendered into two dimensions. The image appeared also in grossly illuminated manuscripts, enlarged massively on walls, even drawn in light – but always in association with wondrous treasures.

The symbolism was not lost on Nicholas. These treasures, despite their gorgeous appearance, had no value. For most items, Nicholas could not even discern a purpose. They were mirages. Bait. Tools to distil the low emotions from the hearts of God’s people. Before his very eyes he had seen innocents openly educated in the mortal sins of Greed and Avarice. The red men brought selfishness and venal desire to all - and sometimes, sadly, a fear that their gifts may not be obtained.

Always, the infernal red men travelled beneath the orison of good cheer, giving and – appallingly – the Christ-Child’s birth in Bethlehem. Always, they carried irresistible treasures in their sacks - luring, tantalising, wrenching the soul free of its innate goodness

He had observed negotiations between the red man and a
powerful guild of merchants. A contract was drawn, allowing them freedom to associate their popular brown beverage with the red man's name and reputation. It was here, he learned, that the horrific red and white apparel had its genesis

As Dee covered the glass, Nicholas fought to control his horror.

- Thank you very much, Doctor, he said in a tremulous voice.

- My pleasure, said Dee. I hope you… were satisfied? That you learnt something of use?

- Of use? Tell me, esteemed Doctor, is it useful to know that in the future you will join hands with Lucifer and become his regent on Earth?

[Dysthymiac sparked this off]

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lily was here said...

Ha! There's so much truth in there, and the darker
side is always that more interesting. Maybe thats why small children, who cannot speak yet, always burst into tears at his sight.. they know the secret :)
love Sue

Ann O'Dyne said...

Written so beautifully that even the marketing Managers of DJones and MyErr could read it and not know they had been hit.

I have a collection of xmas ornaments in the form of Santas.
I have always found them to be evil scary looking.

and Billy Bob Thornton in the title role of Bad Santa is a delight.

lily was here said...

I keep coming back to this one, its exceptionally good.