by Kyla Ward
My Mage character speaks for himself below. Of course, once the danger started it was more like "Um -- don't you think it would be wise to hide now -- maybe if we all just put our guns down and talked sensibly about this -- oh my, you're a vampire, aren't you?"
Physical: Strength 2, Dexterity 2, Stamina 2
Talents: Alertness 2, Athletics 1, Awareness 3, Expression 2, Intuition 2
Entropy 2 (Egyptian)
Backgrounds: Arcane 2, Avatar 3, Library 3, Sanctum 1
Merits and Flaws
Preface to a Personal Journal
by Rodney Vivian Utterly
I suppose a preface is appropriate, now that for the first time I am attempting some real methodology. I write, however, for myself and self alone. This is the twelfth volume in a series of journals started when I was nine, and precocious. The first three were read once, by my parents and presumably by the priest; but that does not matter. What matters is that I write for no one else, it is the only way to keep my thoughts clear. I must use my own language, avoid all the traps of common phrases and the assumptions that go with them, especially in the terrain I now traverse. I, and I have been aware of this from very early, am engaged in an exploration where the path exists only for my instinct, and of whose ultimate goal I am unsure.
I was born on the third of October in 1966, at an airforce base hospital in Turkey, where my father was working. We moved back to the family home in Epsom for me to be christened, for my family was Catholic; and I grew up there, though my father made constant trips back to Turkey, and once I was old enough, my mother and I joined him. He was a language teacher who worked with the Armed Services; my mother was an ESL teacher specialising in the Near East. I spoke fluent Arabic by the time I entered Primary School.
I understand, though my memories are scanty, that I went through considerable psychological disturbance as a child. Between the ages of four and eight I displayed a pathological sensitivity to outside stimuli, and experienced horrendous nightmares from which I could not easily wake. I went to school only intermittently, and there were apparently intervals in which I would communicate only with a toy cat called Douglas. My parents, thank goodness, were the staid, sensible type of people who would never think of mental illness; they described me as "sensitive" to family and friends, nursed me through my attacks and tried to find logical origins for my nightmares. My mother in particular spent hours quietly reading to me, and all else beside, for that I will always love her. By age eight I had developed a semblance of being normal; although, as said, precocious, and preferring the company of books to that of other children. I might also add I was considered a beautiful child. Add to this that I was sent to a good Catholic boys school, and I consider any further comment on my schooldays to be unnecessary.
But I must say something about being brought up Catholic. It was the Catholic Mass that gave me my first ideas of ritual. While my family saw what they saw, and experienced what they experienced, I saw it was a form of mechanism. I have never really connected what I do with the occult; the Mass was my basis, and the way symbols acted on my sensitive mind. I started to make use of symbols in the simplest ways; no more complicated than "step on a crack, you'll break your back". My first rituals, that are written down, involved escaping the notice of our local priest, for while he was preaching his eyes tended to wander, and he had a horrendously loud voice once he found a target. The other side of this, of course, was that it taught me that symbols and rituals could be created, and the church for me quickly lost any intrinsic power.
I realised just how differently I experienced things from other people only gradually, and went from being ill at ease in the society around me to at least understanding why. My only friends throughout my school years were the librarian and the History Master -- for I had decided to be an archaeologist by the time I was thirteen: It is difficult to explain this particular fascination, even to myself. Perhaps the position ritual has held in many civilisations of the past; perhaps simply that I have always found the past to make so much more sense than the present. Darren Bolt, the History Master, offered me books, intelligent conversation and shelter from my tormentors. I think he taught me how to have a friend. This may seem a ridiculous thing to be discovering at age thirteen, but I can remember how the world appeared to me then and it was a lesson I needed to learn. He's dead now, though I suppose in any case we would have gone our separate ways. He died in a car accident in 1985; but by that time, school time was already over for me. I heard about his death just after I received my acceptance into Cambridge.
School time had ended the year before. I will describe what happened in some detail, because it was a turning point for me. I changed.
What had been happening, throughout my teen years, was that I was growing more sensitive. To an extent I was aware of of what was happening, and frightened not only of what I could see, but of myself. But at the same time, it was exhilarating. It became easier and easier to believe that I was something else; not just a sensitive, or bright or "girlie" boy, but something on my own. I was experiencing vivid and incredible dreams. Sometimes I would just be sitting in a classroom, and the situation itself, and everything I could see and hear would strike me as suddenly so strange and fascinating that I would sit there smiling or even start to laugh. I would incite these states. I was starting to experiment with them, which culminated in the first time I actually did something out-of-nature. I'm afraid, and as this is my journal I must confess, that what I was doing came directly from Frank Herbert's Dune books. There is a Bene Gesserit exercise described which involves meditation on your hands, to free the mind from the constraints of the here and now. You roll your perception of time back and forth to see your hands as a child's and then as an old man's. I made it work.
# # #
I remember vividly what happened next. I was wandering, in something of a daze, down my street towards the shops and the Green. The light, the sky, it all seemed like one of my dreams. I remember I was looking at the clock tower and there seemed to be another light on it from that of the day around me, and then I saw it starting to crumble. Everything around me, crumbling; I suppose I panicked then because there was a sort of jolt and the tower was sharp and bright in new sandstone. All around me I saw the incredibly bright and real forms, of men and women in long dresses and frock coats, and there were sounds I could not quite hear -- and then the sound of cars and the shouting, and the people and the Epsom Village Green circa 1984 hit me like a load of bricks. I was 'on', to a greater extent than I had ever been -- and I was unable to turn myself back off.
Now everything came in a tide I was helpless to resist or ride. Sounds would come from near and far; I couldn't understand when people talked to me half the time. And I went to Mass and was nearly physically sick; the incense, the chanting, but above all the sense of the mechanism, grinding on as good as visible to me, catching people up in its motions. I couldn't stand it. So I started faking sick -- and lord knows, I didn't have to try too hard. Soon I started faking it for school as well. I would just sit in my room; my mother tried to talk to me -- and then, after calling me one day for ten minutes from the lounge room, she found me huddled under my bed with my head in a towel. It made perfect sense at the time.
I can't in retrospect blame them for being worried; I assume they thought I was taking drugs. So they searched my room. I came home one day, and found my parents and a priest in the lounge room. And there on the table were my journals. Some were lying open. Some things were plain embarrassing -- my ten year old travel diary of Constantinople, or my somewhat personal teenage fantasies based on Keats La Belle Dam Sans Merci. Some were dangerous. The two years worth of ritual I had based on Susan Cooper's The Dark is Rising (you have to get a structure from somewhere, even when you are twelve), and my most recent ones for concentration, and the experience of Time. I kept on walking, past them, into my room, and shut the door. They didn't realise until some time later, presumably when they decided to beard me, that I was gone. A few clothes, my most precious books and I was out. It was no longer possible to exist in that house, they had read it all and I could never face them again.
My memories of what happened are hazy at best. I suppose I succumbed totally to my "malady", now there was nothing to hold me back. I remember an old house, very large and overgrown, and of course the things that I saw there. Eventually I became hungry. I found myself devouring a mixed grill in a cafe in Soho, and then I started, rather numbly, with the necessities of my new life. Eventually I rang Darren and said that I had a job, part-time at a bookstore, and asked if I could stay at his place to complete my final year because, of course, I still wanted to go to Cambridge. At his insistence, I rang home.
My parents invited me for a visit. Just to talk, and collect some of my things. Nothing would be said, they promised, except about my future and what I wanted to do. They kept their promise, I kept my job but I moved back home. They took me to Egypt those holidays, and for the first time I actually saw the stones and writings that I craved; I developed a positive craving. And, of course, I developed my new rituals, to control my extended perceptions.
Upon my acceptance I moved immediately into a student flat, and did everything necessary to create an amicable, but distant relationship with my parents. All quite natural. I think, they're actually quite proud of me, their Doctor son.
College -- employment; nothing that would seem unusual on the outside, except as a certain level of achievement and success is remarkable. Even the events of '84 could be construed as teenage rebellion. But I believe that there are others like me. I believe there are whole, huge structures existing and operating outside the limit of the perception of the majority; I only wish I felt a little easier about it. But I jump a great deal; at Cambridge I discovered libraries, I gained new friends. Now I was in a milieu where intellectualism, fine blonde hair and blue eyes were not considered debits. I kept my dreams and my experiments to myself.
I gained my contacts and eventual position with the British Museum entirely as a result of the 1988 Cambridge Student Dig. The Cambridge site is in Memphis, and I know the Pir Remesu excavations like the back of my hand by now. Of course, I do have a slight advantage, which brings me back to '88 and the most ambitious experiment I had up till then attempted. In retrospect is was dangerous, but how could I resist? Here on the site of my favourite dream of all, to see back. I achieved it; as I have done since, but never will I forget the first time the ruins took life around me; what I smelt and heard; my pronunciation of the hieroglyph tongue is contentious -- my actual verbalising is in fact argued against in some quarters. But I am right.
I took two weeks to make it back to the present. When I opened my eyes I was in a Cairo hospital and I panicked. That part, before my senses settled down, was a nightmare; but what else were my friends and supervisors going to do? I have since taken much greater care with external arrangements when experimenting. They wanted to fly me back to England, recommended me to specialists -- I still get concerned questions occasionally. But I couldn't leave, I said, I had to go back to the dig, I had to see if I was right. I got back to the dig, and from apparently noticing some structural inconsistency, unearthed the body of murdered noblewoman buried with all her tall-tale accoutrements in the floor of a disused kiln. The preservation was superb, her hair and linen all intact, and I was the first to touch her. That was when, responding to some inner prompting, I took the rock crystal charm she had on her wrist. This was against every professional ethic, but I did it; the charm was never logged.
I have often felt that Egypt was in some way especially friendly to me. Of course, the period immediately after my discovery of the charm, and my return to England, I felt quite differently. What I was now seeing, especially in the vicinity of the crystal, was not a memory . Or if it was, it was a walking, waking memory that remembered itself and its possessions. This was a real, full-on haunting, and I do not recommend it to anyone.
After a while, of course, I got used to the idea, and learned to control my contact with this other realm, using the charm. I have seen other spirits. I think it may be possible to communicate with them, but I am not sure this would not be a dangerous risk. For instance -- I could very easily discover the name of my first apparition. I would just have to concentrate on it, and I would know. But for some reason I have always skirted this possibility: once I knew the name then I would be hard pressed not to say it, and I have a bad feeling -- I still startle violently, when unexpectedly glimpsing a strange figure in a room or down a side passage. My co-workers find this amusing.
Perhaps I would too, if I had not started seeing strange figures so regularly of late.
These are not spirits, I would certainly recognise that. They fit in too well with my intuition of ordered structures, of the inhabitants of the world of extended perception. I have come to the conclusion that for some reason, by some organisation, I am being watched. If you know what to look for, you can piece together quite a lot about the possibility, and even the nature and history of arcane societies -- again, I wish I found the possibility as pleasant and exciting as I once would have done. But I am not a child any longer, and I have grown up on my own. I have certainly never needed assistance in my work -- perhaps at times it would have been convenient, but never needed.
But those who live outside an organisation, be it a school or a religion or Professor Gross's drinking clique', are viewed with suspicion or amusement at best, and at worst blind, murderous hatred.
Well; all this is conjecture. I take the idea of a threat seriously enough to have removed myself from England this Autumn; I am on this year's Cambridge Student Dig as a supervisor. I am supposed, thus, to look after the welfare of twenty assorted students, but I will be back in Egypt, and if something wants to follow me there, well. Then I will know.
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