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2. yesterday

Hilda Leek

I open the now-old wound, and the book begins to collect my blood again.  Originally, I’d planned to wake up Cameron when I reconnected with it.  But I’ve decided to let him rest.  It’s so much effort for him to be awake.  When he rests, he grows.  I expect he’ll awaken on his own soon enough.  But I want him to grow as much as he can, as soon as he can.  So — for now — he sleeps, curled up inside of me.  I’m resting too, sitting comfortably in a familiar chair in a house not my own.  And, you know, I find myself thinking of the Cards of Bellbrun.  There were 27 of them:  one for each letter of the so-called Roman alphabet, and the blank card that signified the Lost Letter of the True Tongue.  And I remember the lessons written on each one.  There, on the Cobalt Hand, the Two Who Were One showed us each card, again and again, until they were burned into that little space at the center of our foreheads where the spirit lives.  In times like this, when the wrongworld around us is so uncertain, I take solace in the cards, flipping them back and forth in my mind and thinking about what each one means to me in my current situation.  It genuinely helps.  It is not so primitive as Tarot or I-Ching the other petty ways to find patterns.  Plus, I wasn’t making things up when I said this book was there to teach the disciplines of my faith.  You should know the cards, and learn them.  They were as follows:

ANATHEMA — “The True People do not accept the wrongbody.  Pity is not acceptance.  The wrongbody withers before the light of the True People.  One cannot be the other.  One cannot be both, either.  Remember also that consistency of thought is a minor key.”
BELIEVABILITY — “The True People know when you are lying. Lies block the path to the Magical Forest when you tell them to a True Person. But when you lie in the right way, to a wrongbody, the Key gets closer  Clarity of Purpose is a minor key.”
CHILD — “The True People are all children, even if they do not look like it on the outside. You will know them by their words and their eyes.  Children see things with certainty.  Certainty isn’t certainty until it’s true.  Truth is a minor key.”
DEVIL — “What wrongbody’s call a DEVIL is actually a Treasureseeker. They wear red hoods and robes and live on an island made out of gold.”
EXHIBIT — “Wrongbodies reveal themselves, if you pay attention. See the traits they exhibit, like selfishness and greed. Avoid exhibiting these traits!”
FRAMING — “Everything connects to something else. Everything is a picture inside of another picture. Expand your mind and see the big picture!”
GENEROSITY — “People exist to give.  Remember that always.  And remember the motto of the Cosmic Circus:  Give Until It Hurts.  Giving too much is never enough.”

HORSES — “Horses can never be wrongbodies. They are always good, and you should always trust them. Learn from them, too. Watch what they do, and copy it in your own life. Be like the horses.”
INTERRUPTION — “Interruptions can be good.  Like when your life changes, and you meet someone new.  But remember — someone speaking out of turn is what caused the Cosmic Circus to fall out of the sky. Don’t interrupt.”
JACKAL — “Animal messengers of the Treasureseekers.  But some of them are good.  Some jackals can even be heroes.  Looks can be deceptive AND deceiving.  And there is a difference!”
KINDNESS — “Kindness is giving, and giving leads to Generosity.”
LEGENDS — “Wrongbodies don’t like Legends. You are Legends. Keep secret that you are a Legend, until the time is right.”
MAPMAKERS — “The Treasureseekers are always making maps, always looking for more treasure. Enough is never enough for themn. That’s why giving of yourself is important, so you won’t end up empty like them!”
NEONATE — “This is YOU! Both of You are Neonates. This means you are learning. And learning is the best way not to be a wrongbody! Learning also requires obedience.”
ORPHAN — “The Prince of Death protects you both, but he failed to protect your True People parents. Your Earth parents love you very much, but if you tell them what you’ve learned, the Treasureseekers might find out, and the Prince of Death can’t come to Earth until the Xystus is opened.”
PRACTITIONERS — “From time to time, you will meet other people who know the truth about the True World and the True People. We call those who know the True Way Practitioners.”
QUILT — “The universe is like a big patchwork quilt. The Cosmic Circus rides the stitches. And each one of us is a patch in that quilt. When we stitch together with each other, we make the universe whole again.”
REUNION — “When we come together, we find True Unity. And True Unity is the secret to finding the Key back to the Magical Forest and the True World.
SNAKESKIN — “Sometimes, something that seems like it could only be bad can be really good instead. Snakeskin can hide a poisonous snake, or it can make beautiful boots for people to wear. You have to learn something before you can decide whether it’s good or bad.”
TRIAGE — “This means helping the people you’re most able to help, even though it might mean not helping other people who need it. There are a lot of True People hidden in the world, but we are helping you right now because you’re both so important.”
UMBILICAL — “When two — or more — people connect in a special way, there’s magic going on. Think of a baby inside a MOTHER’s stomach. That’s a special connection that’s made entirely out of love. All the different ways people connect are natural, and good, and should be celebrated and not feared.  We’ve got a lot of things to do.”
VENOM — “Wrongbodies spit venom, but it isn’t always easy to see. Sometimes, it can seem like words. Sometimes, it can come from violence. But it’s all bad. It’s never right to be venomous, not even when defending yourself. Be calm. Be brave. Be loving. And Give Until It Hurts.  You’ve got a lot of things to do.”
WEB — “The Treasureseekers want to tear apart the fabric of the stitches of the universe and replace it with a web they control. We fight them in their efforts.  We’ve got a lot of things to do.”
XYSTUS — “A Xystus is a gateway between the True World and the many wrongworlds — the lost worlds of the wrongbodies — of which this Earth is bit one.  There is no current Xystus open anywhere on Earth. But if we work together, and love each other enough, we can open the gateway again.”
Y — “The Symbol of the True People.  It represents the idea of three becoming one. Follow the example of Y.  We’ve got a lot of things to do.”
ZYGOTE — “When wrongbodies try to stitch together, they create a ZYGOTE. The more people there are, the harder it is to get everyone to stitch together. We have enough people on Earth already to try to stitch together. Let’s protect the universe — MOTHER Earth needs all the help she can to get better from all these wrongbodies without us adding more! That’s why we stitch together in special ways to make sure there are no ZYGOTES.  We’ve got a lot of things to do.”

And the 27th — the Card of the Lost Letter.  The symbol of the True People before the Cosmic Circus fell.  With the texts all lost to the Final Fire, Cameron and I have had to rely on memory … which, as I’m sure you know, is not reliable.  But my mind is still sharp.  And I pay attention to the world around me.  For instance, I can even tell that Evelyn Diedz’s ties to this book have indeed been severed once and for all.  After arriving here, I took the time to make sure it would stay that way, by using the Knife of Promise to cut away the parts of the book’s cord that still held her patterns.  Such an act cannot be undone.  Then, I drew out my own cord and held it to the book’s, keeping the two ends together until they began to move; then, they wove together into once.  I expect future readers of this book will have to learn to do these kinds of things on their own.  I’ll explain later, when my thoughts aren’t wandering like this.  For now, let’s suffice to say that it was a long, painful process.  But I did it, and the book is mine now.  My need trumps all concerns over her consent.  That I’m able to write these words should be proof of that.  My need won.  Though ,… I do admit that I have to keep telling myself that.  And, yes, as I said … at one time, this book had belonged to a hated woman named Evelyn Diedz.   But I have liberated it.  Liberation, like need, also trumps consent.  Those who suffer often don’t even know they need to be liberated.  Diedz won’t get back her book — not ever.  I have to make that clear.  I demand more proof of myself:  I want to see the connection again, so I follow the glow of the book’s golden cord, from the center of my bare chest to where the book is now lying atop a plastic tray on top of some piled-up magazines.  On the cover of the book, there is the equally-vague shape of the letter ‘Y.’  And I know what the ‘Y’ means.  It’s more than just a symbol of power or blood, or even both things working together as they so often do.  You’ll learn all this, if you see out the end of this book.  And if you pay attention.  And you ought to be paying particularly close attention, because this is the new gospel, written by the progenitors of the new word.  And when I’m done writing this new gospel, the doors of the universe will be thrown wide-open once again, just as they were decades ago.  The Cosmic Circus will reappear, and those who’ve come over to this world from our home can return back to where they were first born.  But accomplishing all that takes disciples.  Which is why anyone writes anything, isn’t it?  And doing that — writing down what really happened — requires you to understand hard truths; that’s just how the world works, like it or not.  It wounds you. It burrows itself into you.  And, often, it forces truths right down your throat.  Reality doesn’t care how comfortable you are in how you think things ought to be.  Reality doesn’t care whether you enjoy an experience; you just have it.  Reality isn’t interested in consent.  Reality wounds you as it happens, like it or not.  And, make no mistake, these last few days have wounded me.  Right now, I’m seated — comfortably, I might add — trying to recover from those very wounds.  I’m badly burned.  My skin still hurts from where Evelyn’s fire touched it.  I lost skin, in fact.  I look down at my hands, and the skin is pink where I’m not bandaged.  But, as I just told you, I’m comfortable.  And tired.  Comfort has eluded me often in my life, but not at this moment.  And rest?  I never, ever get to rest.  But, for the moment, we’re all at rest — all three of us here. And I, for one, am savoring it.  I’m seated in a chair in a living room that’s not my own.  But I know this place.  I’m familiar with it down to small details.  It’s quiet here.  Quieter than you can imagine, if you’ve never been to one of these hidden, little corner-pockets of the world.  I’ve been here many times.  I’ve sat in this very chair before more times than I can count.  I suddenly feel myself wanting a cup of tea; I’d drink some, if it were possible to taste it here.  But I know better.  Just as I know this is only a temporary respite.  And even though I know we can’t stay here forever, it will do, for now.  And I find myself drifting off.  My heartbeat is slowing.  I become less and less aware of the pain that accompanies the book taking my blood.  It’s part of the comfort, too, the way it hurts in my skin and my muscles in those special places; I know those feelings.  I’ve been there before.  And it’s all made me bleed, so how is this different?  And this act of writing in blood — It’s not even visible to the naked eye.  The amount of blood the book requires to write my words on the pages — it can’t even be seen.  Nothing to wash away.  But it does make me weary, like I said.  Woozy, too.  I can tell I will sleep soon, at least for a little while.  And that’s what I need while I heal, is sleep.  So I will let the warmth and silence and timelessness of this house wash over me.  And I will pour my thoughts and blood into accursed Evelyn’s book.  Wash away that woman’s history and replace it with my own, until there is nothing left of her.  Until whatever blood she spilled to tell her story is just a little blot next to mine.  That part is almost pleasurable.  But I try not to focus on that, or I worry I’ll get lost, and the madness will come back.  I want to control myself.  I want to try to guide my thoughts — so that you all understand what’s happening.  And so I can focus my mind toward figuring out what comes next for the three of us.  Because things haven’t happened exactly the way we’d planned, like I said a while ago.  We’ve had to retreat from Pawn and Ponderer, you see.  I hadn’t counted on that.  But that’s what happened.  I said no, but the universe said yes.  And here we are.  It’s certainly true that I’d wanted to run when the fire really began to hurt me.  I’ve seen a lot of pain over the last few days, but nothing like that.  It felt like I was melting away.  But The Princess of War held me fast with one hand.  That I was melting didn’t seem to matter to her.  I said no; she said yes, and she won.  In her other hand, she’d held my one true love.  ‘Then CAMERON STYE will be REBORN!’ she’d said.  I remember.  I will always remember.  ‘Open yourself to him!  Accept your salvation!‘ she’d said, as she gave my love back to me.  That, too, had been a particularly intimate agony.  But it was a different kind of pain, because of what it meant.  I gritted my teeth and recognized that the pain was happening for love.  So I went through with the plan and accepted the pain.  And Cameron and I — we were rewarded.  She gave our love a second chance.  She gave me a second chance.  And then, after the Princess of Wars gave me my Cameron back, she ordered us out, up the stairs.  She said Evelyn’s Fire had poisoned the entire building.  That it was on the verge of collapse.  That we’d be lost if we stayed.  Then, the Prince of Deaths became like a huge shadow in front of us, pushing forward against the fire and shrouding us from the heat.  The Prince of Pestilences and the Princess of Famine came up the stairs with us, guarding us on either side.  As we ran out into the anteroom, I watched in horror as the world around us seemed to be melting, too.  The table, the projector, the box — it was all … dripping … like wax.  Same as I felt — dripping away in rivulets.  I was frightened.  Even so, a part of me wanted to taste the wax.  But I felt the Princess of Wars pushing me from behind, so I had to move forward.  More than that, though, was that I also felt powerful, myself, even though I was afraid.  I felt a kinship with the angels that I hadn’t felt before, until that moment.  Because, I, too, had someone to protect — to guard from all sides.  The baby I was — am — now carrying.  It made me feel, impossibly, like I was somehow an angel, too.  We made it through the fire, protected on all sides by those four sacred angels.  As we passed through the doorway at the top of the stairs, it felt as if we were being pulled back inside.  I used all my strength.  I felt as if my skin was being ripped off of my body.  But I made it out.  And then the angels were gone again. Now, we’ve relocated to the safest place I know.  And, as I recover, I write the new gospel.  And you too, whether you know it or not.  Whether you’re a wrongbody or one of the True People.  And all is coming into order, as it should be.  But there are complications.  And to those of you who’ve come this far with us holding fast to an open mind, I thank you.  And I apologize — because you’ve surely been lied-to about it all.  About the old woman, Hilda — me — and the man she loves, Cameron.  We’ve gone by other names in our lives; you may or may not know them.  Cameron Stye and Hilda Leek were the names we were given at birth into this wrongbody world; those are not our true names.  And we were given wrongbody names to hide our identities even further from the ones who want to destroy us: Octavia Burrell for me, Carlton Standford for Cameron.  But even those names don’t fully define us — because, on another particularly important world, Cameron is called by the sacred name Youknowme — the Prince of Bedtime.  And I am called Friendletta Flowergirl.  Our True Names that tell the story of our true legacies.  Legacies are paid for with spilt blood, but they’re also made up of the truths of our pasts.  Whether you like those or not.  Whether you want to say ‘no’ to what’s happened to you, you can’t stop what’s happened from having happened.  I learned that forever-ago, and you will learn it, too.  The things that will happen to you are going to happen to you, whether you like it or not.  It’s how the world works.  Saying ‘no’ doesn’t help avert your destiny.  In fact, it can make your destiny more likely.  That’s also just how the world works, like it or not.  We spend a great deal of time convincing ourselves — and our families — that we hold great power in the universe.  But that power is an illusion for all but a very few of us.  And it’s not something that can be earned.  It can only be in your blood, or taken from someone else’s.  If that leaves you feeling haunted or disturbed … well, I’m sorry to have to be the one to tell you.  But it’s nevertheless true.  And — something to remember, here —  some of us have had lives that led us to that realization long, long ago.  Like how it was for Cameron and me, when we were forced to confront the reality of the True World and the Wrongworlds — and of our places in each, and in-between them both.  Those first few initial steps of learning — they weren’t easy.  That’s where many of my most painful memories come from, those times.  Because that hadn’t gone as planned, either.  The plan had been for us to be twins, like the Prince of Pestilences and the Princess of Famines. There’s magic in twins, says Bellbrun, who speaks only the truth.  There’s power in twins.   Bellbrun told us about twin magic on the very first day of our True Education.  I imagine that the date will have significance someday; and, well, depending on when you read all this, maybe it already does.   January 27, 1967.  Just 22 days after my birthday that year, so I’d just turned ten years old, and had no way to appreciate how everything would change just a little while later.  I don’t remember many of the gifts, but one comes to mind now — the one given to me by the man I then knew as Mr. Malcolm Bell.  The gift was a little dog dressed up like a friendly hobo with soft plush body with a plastic face; the hobo dog’s jawline was darkened like an unkempt shadow of a beard coming in, and there were multicolor stitched patches instead of fur in some spots on his body, and he had little splints on one ear and one arm — and I say arm, instead of front leg, because he was sitting up like a person.  I remember, too, that the hobo dog’s splints didn’t come off, and I once remarked to MOTHER how sad it would be to be a little dog like that, with splints on me forever. I remember MOTHER laughed and told me I was her dear and to get to bed so I wouldn’t lose my luster.  She said all great actresses have that special quality — luster — that’s sort of magical glow, or sparkle.  It’s the thing that makes people want to look at them on the movie screen or on the television; I had that luster, too, MOTHER said.  Now, Father was a different story.  Yes, I got support from FATHER, too.  But he was the breadwinner, as we all understood it should be.  But both of my parents knew I wanted to be an actress, and a singer, and they were always looking out for me, each in their own way.  Back then, my only wish was to be in the movies.  Back then, we all lived in Ruck Valley , which is in the Catskills.  Right next to a place called Litwak Hotel Resort and Family Spa.  Oh, you should have seen the place back then.  It had its own version of luster.  A grand lobby, with everything in red and white.  With big circular couches that looked like cinnamon candies crushed on one end like a stubbed-out cigarette.  There were newspapers from all over the country there, in a big display.  Oscar Litwak, who had inherited the hotel from his father, said it was to show that the Litwak Hotel was ‘truly metropolitan,’ I remember.  Both MOTHER and FATHER would collect the newspapers every day to look for advertisements for casting calls for me.  They worked there, you see.  MOTHER had been hired to clean and FATHER had been hired to do maintenance and repairs — but, as truth had it, they usually ended up doing each other’s jobs half the time.  And, oh, they made the Litwak sparkle.  They gave that old place that luster.  They had ethics — something lacking in the world now.  Ethics and luster, both lacking.  But they certainly would make the Litwak glow, as much as any wrongbody could.  ‘Make it shine in the sunlight, make it shine in the snowlight,’ MOTHER would say of their work at the Litwak.  We all lived together a little ways back from the Litwak, in a house that had at one time been a series of three separate one-room cabins that had been joined together into what FATHER called ‘an easy home to like.’  It didn’t have luster.  And MOTHER and FATHER explained that they didn’t have it either.  As if I couldn’t tell that, myself.  As if I didn’t sometimes recoil at … coming from them.  Or recognize the wrongness that I should be considered their daughter. Even before I learned the True Story, I knew as a child I couldn’t have been theirs.  I remember sitting in the grand lobby of the Litwak, watching the well-to-do New Yorkers come and go, dreaming I was one of them.  Imagining myself becoming invisible, following the twisty pattern of the lobby rugs until my parents would lose sight of me, and sneaking into the back seat with departing couples with their furs and jewels and shiny everything.  Shiny smiles.  Shiny lives.  So beautiful.  Picturing myself in fine dresses, walking in and throwing a hand in the face of the help and saying I’m sorry but I’m afraid that just won’t do.  MOTHER and FATHER, for their part, did what they could to assure I was introduced to everyone who came to visit the Litwak.  ‘If you have a jewel, you show it off,’ is how MOTHER explained it.  They’d have me sing the nonsense-songs the wrongbodies enjoy — boats and candy, a trip to the zoo, you know the kind.  Most were kind and offered friendly chuckles or talk of how ‘de-light-ful‘ I was.  But it wasn’t until Mr. Malcolm Bell that anyone saw my luster.  He saw it.  I remember the way he stared at me.  Later on, he told me he was ‘struck stupid,’ because he’d forgotten the beauty of the True People.  He told me I was ‘an outright revelation.’   He liked to call me a revelation a lot.  He made that struck stupid face a lot around me, too.  But he wasn’t stupid.  He was a genius.  Even then, he’d been working so hard to save the Magical Forest and the Cosmic Circus … and even all the wrongworlds like Earth.  And I knew so little about what being a revelation really meant.  But Mr. Malcolm Bell knew; he kept on returning to the Litwak more and more often after that, and talking more and more to MOTHER and FATHER.  And then came the auditions.  So many auditions.  Singing and dancing and posing.  Making this face and that face.  Mr. Malcolm Bell would get up close and look at me from every angle.  He told me later it was because he had to be sure that what he believed about me was true; he explained that he’d been fooled so many times before by wrongbody tricksters pretending who knew more than they ought to — wrongbodies pretending outright to be True People in the hopes of stealing from us.  Mr. Malcolm Bell had told MOTHER and FATHER he’d begun working on a grand project and he wanted me to appear in it if he could only ‘get all the balls in the air at once.’  And then, finally, years after we’d met, came that telegram that it was happening.  TK Wanderlad.  And I was going to be a star.  And then the trip to The Cobalt Hand, the private boat owned by a man who then called himself Mr. Peter X. Brun, who was co-producing the show.  We were going to spend two weeks at sea, going over our characters.  MOTHER and FATHER — I remember they seemed odd that morning.  Doing everything slowly until they dropped me off, and then in a great hurry to see some racing picture at the cinema.  I wasn’t really paying much attention to them, myself.  I wanted to find out what producers do.  And actresses.  But my adventure wouldn’t just be about that.  It would be about so much more.  After MOTHER and FATHER left, I remember the first thing Mr. Peter X. Brun said to me on meeting me:  ‘My, what a lovely,’ he said.  And then he added: ‘Say, do you have a guess about why this boat is called the Cobalt Hand?‘  I told him I didn’t, as we walked up the steep gangplank.  I remember Mr. Malcolm Bell waiting behind.  I looked back, and he was just looking up at me with that struck stupid face.   Then, Mr. Peter X. Brun put his hand on my shoulder and urged me ahead of him, saying ‘Because the atomic number of cobalt is 27, and 27 is my favorite number.’   I asked him about the hand part, and he said ‘Because there are 27 bones in a human hand — and that’s important..’  I remember just looking at him, and he had kind of the same struck stupid look that Mr. Malcolm Bell did.  ‘And the number 27 is a very important number,’ Mr. Peter X. Brun said quietly to me.  ‘For me, and for you … and also for a very special boy,‘ he then confided. I remember asking what boy he meant. ‘One who’s waiting for you, onboard The Cobalt Hand.  You’ll see.‘  And I did.  We did. There’s so much more to tell … but. ah — Cameron is stirring, and so I’ll disconnect for now and attend to him.  Cameron, my beloved out of all possible beloveds. Youknowme, my Prince.  My beautiful, precious antichrist-to-be.  You are my revelation.

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Published inpart 3

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