The Skeleton Key to Eternal Reverie
by Daniel Pecheur
“The dream is the small hidden door in the deepest and most intimate sanctum of the soul, which opens to that primeval cosmic night that was soul long before there was conscious ego and will be soul far beyond what a conscious ego could ever reach.”-Carl Jung
On the night of the wild storm, Joseph busied his thoughts in the strange discoveries he had made in the ancient book collection of the house. The dusted and wearied shelves comprised a hermetic treasure trove of secrets, which slowly and subtly worked its bewitching power over the young man, feeding his imagination a feast of most unusual fodder. The evening transformed into inclement night while he rummaged through the ruins of volumes from the earliest prints of Arabian Nights and the writings of Paracelsus to Agrippa and The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam. He spent nearly an hour poring through a withered tome filled with fantastical art of the occult. Demonic, hell-stained images of medieval grotesques haunted the sallow pages and weird pastel scenes distorted by all sorts of bogeys and chimeras cast a mysterious spell upon the mood of Joseph, with overtones of some other realm. A shapeless life force inhabited these crumbling pages, vibrating staccato in the background behind the roaring pell-mell of thunder and cloudburst.
As the hour approached midnight, heralded by the brooding chime of the library grandfather clock, Joseph decided to quickly browse one last codex from the shelf—one that had peculiarly riveted his notice: a decaying grimoire of exceeding age bound in black leather studded with intricate designs in gold-leaf. After lifting it from the shelf, Joseph studied the esoteric symbols engraved into the cover. Circles, stars, a sun and moon merged into a single orb, astrological signs, and kabbalic geometry of interconnected mystical puzzle shapes. The interior of the book being no less inscrutable than its façade, he couldn’t fathom the meaning of its cryptic hieroglyphics or the medieval Germanic writing ornately inscribed across the parchments. Yet he was, nevertheless, greatly mesmerized by the catalogue of alchemical illustrations and ciphers. One section in particular moved him to intensive study—on the art of dreaming. He looked over a series of arcane images with sigils and words of instruction and incantation. A mystical eye beetled over a key plaited in pure gold and damascene tracery. On subsequent pages he tried in vain to decipher kaleidoscopic panels of medieval illustrations arranged in some luminous and methodical configuration. Upon one page he fixated over a complex web of spheres all distinguished by their own unique array of scenery orbited by a constellation of symbols, intersected together by a series of keys shaped like the ∞ glyph of infinity. Unbeknownst to him, what he beheld there, in fact, depicted a minute conception of the dream cosmos, out of the fertile designs of medieval occultists. Each sphere represented a different dream realm, penetrated only by the subconscious astral projection. And to only the most discerning among them could these keys be ascertained: each key designated for one sphere only—save the dream skeleton key that could unlock all dream portals and divulge to the mystical eye an infinity of secrets unattainable to the supraliminal levels of consciousness. It goes without saying that the grandeur of such a cosmos is unfathomable; and however extensive its web appeared in this representation, it conveyed precious little of the wider scheme. The network of dream-kingdoms is of course boundless and self-perpetuating across the infinite expanse of collective unconsciousness.Yet this tiny blueprint of the phantasm-cosmos unleashed a powerful potion through the thoughts of Joseph, steadily gliding toward the abyss of somnolence. After closing the book and retiring to the guest bedroom around midnight, the impression of that hieroglyphic scheme never once ebbed away. His mental prowess declined into indolent suppleness, colored by a soft, flowery imprint, like disembodied angel-eyes watching from the heavens. A dormant well of inspiration suddenly roused, a gaping thirst surging from deep within, overtaking cognizance and fatiguing his faculties. At last he surrendered to rapturous oblivion.
1st Stage: Hypnagogic Limbo
Vaporous cobalt blue mists inundated Joseph’s waning vista of consciousness. The mental cords loosened and relaxed into an indefinite plane of perception. Shrinking into the reach of unconscious event horizon, all solid thought dissolved into fleeting fancy, almost ungraspable, apprehended in a wispy sliver for but a second before another slid into its place. Each successive fancy in the reel far outgrew the preceding in its bizarre proportions, yet becoming progressively insubstantial as each new fancy seemed further removed of vital fiber than the last. Monstrous mountains tangled in shadowy forests, a lowering dome of ghostly stars exalted to unplumbed heights, endless lines of giant telephone poles in a nocturnal flatland, undulating rhythms of flutes surmounted by a vague, orchestral undercurrent of throbbing chaos, followed by a deluge of dark violet and blue dew-drops, and splintering into serene quiet while gauzy glows of light streaked from obscurity. Unaccountable shapes and landscapes waxed and waned in his vision, clouded by an inaccessible blur, effacing the details and never truly registering. A groping silk-shroud inside his head coaxed him into total passivity, lulling all the candle flames of consciousness into idle stupor. As he receded into the shiftless bubble, a raven cloud form eclipsed him in an ether-void and ushered him closer to the annihilating threshold. Unthinking bliss gave way to a weightless descent. The thrall of time dissipated while he passed into the evanescent gates of limbo, absorbing a symphonic wave of colors—pink, roseate, crimson, violet—with complete senselessness. One moment he floated outward, starting to escape his physical shell, sensing nothing but eternal pitch-black engulfing him. Then he received another massage of tranquility, while translucent rays of angel-light interrupted the nothingness of sight. Bugbear darkness fired ripples of a distorting penumbra across the blank-slate field of vision, while dancing from some unannounced distant specter, a ring of fluorescent fairy-figments glistened in pristine radiance. The figments softly crystallized into a beautiful maiden’s countenance, flushed with a purity of realness. Her delicate features remained concrete for but a moment, long enough to inculcate him with a most exquisite emotion. She was all he ever wanted. He had never seen her before. Joseph then inhaled a fresh draft of air, magically scented like the temperate shores of a beach which he could not see. He prepared to mentally embrace the whole enchanting impression, yet his faculties had now bereft of him of anything to exert. Alas the black vortex magnified over his comatose train of thought and an imperceptible magnetic force, the ghost in the machine, conveyed him across the threshold and through the subconscious gateway into the limitless, deserted spaces.
2nd Stage: Dream Overture- Ground Zero
Joseph ambled forward slowly, undirected by any purpose, across the vast, unoccupied space of shadow. The solid floor on which he stepped carried no reverberation, yet somehow with a puzzling delay of sound emission, a staccato pitch of echoes murmured from somewhere far off in the cavernous canopy that enveloped this realm. He crossed a wide courtyard, all obscured in ink-blotted formlessness, never wondering what sort of situation he approached. Then the vaulted apparition took on a physical semblance, like an elusive mirage suddenly sapped of its ethereal quality and betrayed as something quite mundane. Though here not something so simply mundane yet thrust upon a spectator immune to wonderment. In the impalpable transition, the shadows delineated an imposing architecture that supported a soaring palatial gallery, shining in snowy alabaster and crystal-like colonnades of marble. Yet somehow it was still prosaic and incidental, despite its queer enormity and surreal aspect of splendor.
Joseph saw majestic statues exalted on abnormally large pedestals, glittering in haloes of transcendent white. He walked far and wide across the unending distension of floor, now seen clearly in a surface of pearly tiles. A reflection of eerie fog-light flowed up from the floor into the shadowy dome overhanging the gallery. As he advanced further into the cave-like bowels of the unending gallery, vague distinctions suddenly revealed a more puzzling aspect of the place as strands of a crystalline light blended with the preponderant mass of shadow obscuring the walls of the gigantic edifice. He traversed a floor of gold ingots widening outward into a mouth of shadow, shimmering faintly with glass-walls of silver. He witnessed the dazzling allure of polychrome marble and preternatural enamel polishing the ornate delicacies along the colossal walls, magnified by the sumptuous stucco that shined gloriously in spectral gloss. An oeil-de-boeuf window sparkled like a moonstone, radiating brilliantly and then mellowing into a pale glow of opal. The sepulchral vagueness of the gallery opened up into a heavenly illumination of transparency. Diamond-studded shafts spilled down liltingly from some unfathomed height, subduing the enigmatic ghostliness of the atmosphere while punctuating its seemingly boundless dimensions. A spiraling staircase mounted from the gold-ingot floor and ascended high into an impalpable second level. Joseph careered up the stairs, which dilated into an increasingly mosaic-like geometry of patterns. The perspective continuously strained upward into a tantalizing illusion of infinity. It wavered off into different trajectories, a shape-shifting loop dipping and swerving into a silvery atmosphere, ever more faint and elusive. A low, resonant rumbling of Aeolian harp music wafted up behind him from some exceeding depth, assimilating with airy subtlety into the hypnotic aura that predominated. Canvases of paintings enlisted his sudden notice as numinous rays of light scattered off of the surrounding walls. He glanced upon bleary images of what he somehow recognized as Caspar David Friedrich’s evocations of the sublime in nature and fog-swirling seascapes of Turner —all distinguished by the ethereal brilliance of color while all the particulars within them eluded any remoteness of clarity. Vibrating conceptions floated through the misty air and penetrated the unguarded recesses of the wanderer’s mind. He translated from the splendor of colors vast panoramas betraying the secrets of a perfect reality, tapping into the depths of enchanted lands. Rainbows melting into tempest-vexed maelstroms, a sunken ship trapped in a tomb of ice—so cadaverously ivory white, its ghostlike watercolors bathed in silken twilight evanescence over a slumbering sea while the emergent lunar eye pierced the darkening sea surface with its inebriating, sterling nectar. To a daunting height he climbed, his vista narrowing into a blurry flux while disfiguring flambeau-light exalted the yawning dome to wild proportions, inaccessible to his eyes. An abstract mass of cobalt-blue and electric lightning-white gyrated in a cloud-like vortex, burgeoning and thickening with exaggerated formations, then decompressing and threading out into a more lucid web of interior décor. Haunting storm-sky darkness of the El Greco impression loomed overhead like a dreamy mirage varnished in a deep mystery of violet. Then it disentangled from Joseph’s view and he saw it recede into a prism body of translucent light that slowly brought into concrete formula the marble-coated setting of the gallery’s upper floor. Crystal chandeliers dangled from the marble ceiling of perfect white, coruscating like royal jewels in flamboyantly grandiose display. Trompe l’oeil ornamentation traced over the ceiling in superb gilding. Like optic illusions, the chandeliers and surrounding gilded cherubs defied the physics of perception as he walked beneath them. He crossed into a salon of the gallery where all the specter sources of light converged. He ambled from room to room, all perfectly symmetrical, suffused with lacquered walls of pristine white marble. The rooms flowed with a cryptic energy, accentuated by the milky iridescence flowering from the walls. It conjured up a fantasy-tinted impression of glittering crystal caves. Only the omnipresent and ineffable bloom of something sacred within these walls tamed the singeing brilliance of diamond light that abounded. The rooms of the gallery extended endlessly into a colossal labyrinth, deepening into a mystical gulf, progressing evermore with perplexity, cloistered beneath hallowed vaults of architecture and furnished with an unwavering aura of gravity in the perfect silence that felt both staid and brooding. Sleek porphyry columns imposed over hauntingly lustrous porcelain chambers. Random pictures in several of the gallery-rooms anointed their fantastical streams over the celestial white flood, blazing with stucco pigments girt around oblong mirrors. He saw painted abstractions and fragmented scenes that struggled to cement some objective image. Visions of Kandinsky, Pollack and Miro merged into a perception-twisting cosmos of bizarrerie spangled with diverse chimerical shapes and hyperreal color effusions. Flourishes of gold-dust wildly glowed off the canvases alongside dappled splurges teeming with crimson, cerulean and royal violet. For a moment he lost the bearings of physical form and merged with the body of light, uniting mystically with the serenity of the inner canvas realm. A lurid glow of some incandescent stormscape swirled its flames outside the frame of the canvas—some dreamy abstraction that suggested primal elements tossed into a chaotic whirlpool with which he seemed to flow.Insensibly he plodded through a series of vacant rooms, reposing under a queer pall of shadow and only slightly illumined by the sleepy projection of some black light reflecting off the ice-crystal walls. He traveled down a narrow tunnel dilating and contracting in the perspective of an all-encompassing magic lantern. Ephemeral figments diffused in cloudy fluorescent space. Pixie-castles and phantasmagoria flickered in a kaleidoscopic glaze, distorting the gallery vista into a cubist vault. Sacred geometry wound infinitely in golden spirals through total silence. He zigzagged into another room, perfectly cylindrical with radiant chrome walls engulfed in a starry sheen. Silver electricity beamed off the walls like lunar orbs, invested with a celestial energy. In a trance, spellbound by vapory bubbles of protean light varying from sapphire to jade to fuchsia violet, he danced through a cloud till he arrived in another chamber, exalted to the august height of a cathedral. A parquet floor oscillating in mercurial geometric puzzles contorted his vision through a string of wild misdirection. The apparently solid porphyry surface dissolved beneath him into a misty chessboard of gossamer pink and gold. The disorienting sense of space plunged him into a floating rotation as glassy silver figments orbited around him, glowing ever more radiant in a preternatural phantasm. An ice grotto burst with elfin illuminations of light, swelling in silvery plumes.The lucent magic of the vast chamber swelled in star-like fairy rings and cascading mists of silver released from the glitter of the towering walls. He saw jewel-encrusted Faberge eggs and ivory pearls glittering through their cases of glass, entrancing him with a magnetic fervor. Painted impressionist colors drizzled off of canvases in a slumbering cloud-like vagueness. Incomprehensible images infused his vision, anesthetizing him into a placid void of thought that absorbed a cosmic harmony of color, beyond form and objectivity, enclosing all within a surrealist spell filled by fantasies of Poussin, Chagall and Gaugin. Ad infinitum he limped forward into the ever-expanding crystalline dominion that brightened more sublimely in each new chamber with the airy gauze of liquid silver. Gaudi-like architecture mushroomed fantastically into rainbow rivers of light, blurring the division between solid and ethereal. Humming musical undercurrents paraded in a formless profusion of harmonies, whispered in vibrations hypnotic from the painted fairy splendor of stained-glass starlight. The bizarre melody of music curved abruptly, fusing transcendently with the glassy veil of all perception and transporting all the marvelous vistas he beheld into a serpentine corridor, plastered in gleaming snow-flake serenity of purest white mist.Into vagueness and incoherence he languished. The numinous halo consuming the gallery was suppressed visually into the supernatural suffusion of gem refulgence protracting from the omnipresent nebula of light. It blazed in wondrous majesty, completely impossible to decipher. Through a tunnel he ventured, a tunnel encompassed by sparkling fairy-rings that spiraled and protracted whimsically. Cubist images leaped from the aureoles of white fire, dappled in serene hues and fantasy designs. He morphed into a floating progression of painted specters. He glided weightlessly down the vault colored in the impressionism of Monet and Van Gogh, blustering across a continuum of marble corridors. Porcelain corridors in a lucid pale white of the phantom-moon glaze… For a moment of unmoving time he shrunk into an obscure vapor pool. An ink-blotted corridor of pure shadow isolated his vision far and away, removed from sentience and even the basest sentimentality, reduced to a cloudy lens peering into a window of the purely incomprehensible. Then at last, through some melting gust of oblivion, he dissipated into the gallery tabernacle—the holy of holies baptized in a deluge of empyrean light coruscating through the glass countenance of an oeil-de-boeuf oculus.The oeil-de-boeuf window filtered within the sacred gallery the enigmatic shade of dark blue, quintessential of the fleeting blue hour . With vibrating whispers that echoed in a sacred symphony of pulsation, the bewitching blue luminance ignited a phenomenal transformation all around. The silk-like fibers of the wall dematerialized into an ethereal substance that merged two parallel paintings into an inexplicable mural—half real, half imaginary, one with the steaming mists of Turner, the other in the idyllic brushstrokes of Friedrich, both evoking the splendor of a pale golden-white abbey. From the oeil-de-boeuf emanated a magical light source of heavenly gold that streamed through a portico in the abbey, guiding him through the ghostly wall of silver crystal into a narrow corridor of pristine white marble. A vaulted archway overhung the portico, crowned by a keystone of the mysterious Green-Man head, wreathed in a beard of leaves.The Green-Man visage perspired with a mystic pneuma of vitality, reverberating strangely through its hollow eyes. Its leering gaze pressed upon Joseph so profoundly, as though it had encroached instantly upon the inner-most recesses of his soul. Joseph stared back into the Green-Man’s eyes and together they were locked in a silent communion, magnetically entwined within a shared spell of energy flowing between them. All else around evaporated into a ravenous blur of blinding twilight blue. Then a starry luster loomed from the graven cavities of the Green-Man, welling up in fiery gold vehemence. It flickered like an elusive ignis-fatuus, a brilliant shapelessness engulfing his vision and inclining his fancy toward an imperceptible phantom-realm while it decrypted from the air an occulted portal. Everything in Joseph’s vista darkened into a bottomless vacuum that seized upon him with an inescapable sucking vortex-force. It happened to him at the edges of unconsciousness with such fleeting oblivion, devouring any semblance of time or space. Like a vanishing ghost, he faded into the void.
3rd Stage: Carnival Phantasmagoria of Penumbra-Land
The carnival music thrilled vigorously over his head and danced off into the outer reaches of an uncanny ambiance. The golden-brunette haired girl was sitting beside him. She was all he ever wanted. He had never seen her before. A fragrant enchantment galvanized his senses into what felt like a complete awareness of a rapid procession of motion in which he was now enthralled. His heart convulsed in curling tides as his body was propelled violently forward on a spiraling track, racing sharply down a precipitous slope before twisting nearly sideways. The roller-coaster trembled with wild momentum, thrusting him into an unseen trajectory dizzying out of focus. Fireworks scintillated in disproportionately gigantic bursts of light. Light of ethereal blue, emanating in a brilliant sheen. In a timpani-like percussion, thunder sounded in catatonic protraction. A blossom of rainbow watercolors scattered and slivered down a faint night-sky like tinsel-icicles in weird slow motion. He felt the radiant flame of her proximity. Her eyes exuded a candid fervor of emotion excitedly seeking some burst of outpouring. The texture of her face appeared velvety, bathed in lambent sprinklings of star-luster. In a moment of pristine simplicity, she relaxed her arms near his in the compressed space of their car, communicating through her pores an intimacy of affection. As the car careened around another arching dip and plunged downward weightlessly, an exhilarating tremor throbbed from his chest. The magic of butterflies spawned from his innards, so coaxed and disarmed by a burgeoning insurrection of wildfire, searing with inexhaustible warmth.In a matter of seconds perhaps, the coaster-car seemed to launch up a height climbing hundreds of feet. He saw her smile—laced out of sweetest mirth while her angelic face crimsoned and a twinkling spun from her eyes of hypnotic azure. He clasped her hand tightly. The roller-coaster soared heavenward then swerved upside-down in a gigantic loop. Yet the bolting, unbridled pace froze into a negligible quiet of the background. He could only experience her and the inebriating fusion between them that silenced time and space. All inside himself he felt a tender coaxing as though his blood and flesh had converted into a cotton fabric of all-sustaining joyfulness. It exceeded his faculties and he couldn’t contain what was ripening within him, goading him over the edge of impotent delirium. The cords of his heart throttled violently as something burst at the seams, hastening intemperately toward a total breakdown—inundating blindness—incensed conflagration razing and rushing in a flurry of fumes all over the plane of consciousness.Sudden plunging descent. The body thrown into hubbub confusion, ripping down through the undefined straits of vertigo. Adrenaline whipped up in a rabid current, blistering feverishly in his blood, almost mauling him into a blackout swoon.Then they alighted. The ride was over.They walked together, through the revelry of bubbling electric-lights and frothing carnival music saturated in an uproar of hysteria, amassed in a shapeless conglomeration in the ambient background. The music of desire embodied in a singular shrine of flesh. To torture the wild symphonic rapture from within, to fasten mercilessly around his heartstrings and bait him into the heated impotence of all-devouring passion. The whirling dervish of beauty tethered him in her orbit and narrowed the world into a tunnel vision trance. Feverish excitement leaped from the sprawling expanse of festivity, leaped out from inside him in searing flamboyance. Surreal wraiths of neon cobalt color suffused the night recesses in the sky with spectacular holograms frenzying to and fro in a maddened transmutation of form, size, and hobgoblin strangeness. A fanciful orchestration of pastel-varnished phantasmagoria swept over the amusement park world, billowing with an unbridled storm of life all smeared blearily into a cacophony of neon rainbow excess. Joseph imbibed the sweet perfume of candied treats and ice-cream sundaes soaked in chocolate syrup. Fluorescent mother-of-pearl haze whirled aloft while puffs of hot-pink flourished from the cotton candy caterers. Popcorn stands crowded by shadowy masses and a magnificent ferris wheel electrified like a gaudy Christmas tree colored the foreground, beyond which a cloud-castle infinity of roller coasters dominated the plane in spiraling and zigzagging non-Euclidean mountains of track. He surveyed them far and wide, seeing a tapestry of Tetris-like shapes in tints of magenta and lime green furnishing to the bizarre sense of unreality a series of inscrutably mammoth constructions, seemingly built on protean building block figments. The towering monsters of steel intersected in a bewildering network of impossible shapes and proportions, like Gordian knots and Mobius strips .She evaporated completely into the air, like a phantom, vanishing without a trace. She left him there, bereft, in a gaping, dissatisfied hole of emptiness—starving, famished, mocked and spurned. Abandoned. The aching pangs of desire writhed with inclemency; at first scorching him through and through and then stripping him down into naked cold until he suffered nothing but the grinding sorrow of his viciously wounded heart. He stared longingly across the hollow of darkness, crippled as an infant cast helplessly into menacing desolation.Back in the iron-clad vacuum of aimless solipsism, Joseph succumbed to an abrasive still in the air. Funereal silence now reigned over the carnival grounds, languishing into a gloomy fog of faceless night. The ebon pall waxed over the whimsical land with devouring barren blackness. The flowery fluorescence was now obliterated and in its place Joseph saw a vast eldritch scene, sunken in refuse and discolored corpses of machinery—a withered, lifeless amusement park. It was starkly vacant, a ghost-town, stagnating in a nuclear winter moroseness of total still and festering disfigurement. Cyclopean shadows of unresolved configurations yawned over the muted fairgrounds, once fertile with bubbling life, now left in a mournful state. Empty ticket stands and ashen coaster-rides festered in the likeness of some ancient pagan necropolis. Heaps of confetti and torn popcorn bags were littered across the grim hollows of waste strewn together in disintegrated Sheol pandemonium. Mechanical corpses exhaled a mild miasma, like burning-sulfur that faintly whispered over his senses, brewing in the dead air a pervasive blasphemy of total death in its grossest abhorrence. Pale inklings of Jack-‘O-Lantern fire beckoned him further into the benighted womb. Sad vestiges of life shriveled into colorless vanities of existence, all lost here in the gluttony of the Penumbra-Land. He staggered drunkenly through the misty no-man’s land of the fairground carnage, solemnized by silence—silence absolute, impregnable, ominous and apocalyptic…Every impression he inhaled produced a sickening melancholy in his waning emotions. Depressing splotches of sallow gases piled over his field of vision. Had he been in possession of his faculties, he would have combusted with repulsion. But alas, he was a thoughtlessly meandering spectator. The soporific air drained his senses into stupor and devoured him in its squelching balm of bog-gases faintly tinged by the odor of catacombs. He saw only dreary, vacant colors that coated over nothing but a panorama of wanton decay. Then he noticed, obliquely, that the deserted amusement park took on a most austere incarnation of solitude, alienated so far from the ashen fragments of mirth that once seethed in revelry. He saw nothing but shadowy images, suggesting livid expressions of the grotesque, dominated by a turbid plague of extinction that sapped the scenery into total indefiniteness—a blurred, obscene omnipresence of charcoal shade.He saw the extremity of this uncanny weirdness in the waxen shapes of a merry-go-round, dilapidated and unstrung in sickly distortions of the Underworld Damned. Insanity sculpted in Beelzebub horse-faces, dribbling with gross candle-like pigments, melting in monstrous elongations, and gaping demon-like with their rounded, cavernous eyes. The sepulchral ring of horses beetled over him ponderously, brooding in their macabre casts of terror. Their inky shadows enveloped him in funeral obscurity, gnashing at his flesh, swallowing him whole in the icy captivity of non-existence. Horses once spangled in fantastical hues of fairy-land, now wholly devoid of enchantment and desecrated into an assortment most profane—the death horses, grimly raven and sickly white, directing the Underworld chariots into the annihilating mouth of Erebus…Slowly, languorously, with mournful resignation, the merry-go-round revolved with him, tightening the reins of shadow around his ebbing scope of vision. Around and around in a senseless eternity of motion, he floated in the shapeless apparatus; around and around, ever spinning like a lost satellite in the infiniteness of jet-black space. He grew dizzy, feeble, and inordinately nauseous. All sorts of strange sensations crawled out from inside him, like insects feeding on his flesh, antagonizing him with inexorable tingling, scattering all up and down his body. Though his riddled perception felt all the orbiting motion as so excruciatingly sluggish, consciousness receded into whirling helter-skelter delirium. Defenseless against the clutches of madness, an invincible darkness ensnared him into a paralyzing inebriation, blinded and numbed into mindless torpor.
A vast, solid irregularity of structure hovered before him, overcast in mountainous shadows, spanning a nebulous tract of space that wholly enclosed around his vision. It then slowly unveiled itself from ambiguity as a decrepit, old movie cinema, glowing in dim luminescence from the still functioning façade lights. Ghost fog-lights in frail crimson oozed from the gilded plates that betrayed the cinema signs over the empty ticket booths. The features of the edifice grimaced with a forbidding aspect, its frame and walls had been begrimed and gnawed away by the exhausting forces of time. It stood in prominence like a hulking, petrified Gothic behemoth, queerly formulated like a hybrid of the Silent Era nickelodeon and a lavish movie palace, wrought in grey obscurity void of any discernible concreteness. He approached the cinema and scanned the few palpable traces of it available to his eyes. He saw torn old movie posters with glaring, illegible letterings and horrific, leering eyes in black and white. Sensational images of horror films. Flitting, sensational faces of bogey-monsters, twisted and gnarled, muffled beneath cloudy grey layers. He saw a blood-red spattering from one poster, burning phosphorescently in molten crimson. Zamiel. The whispered name inexplicably shuddered from the subconscious vault. Then he looked upon the half-revealed entrance to the cinema, crowned by a gaudy frieze of Art-Deco designs studded around ornamental bas-reliefs of dreamy opulence. There were gilded cherubs and faceless caryatids, more seen by silhouetted subtlety than manifest coherence. From the engulfing shadows emanated a darkening specter of mist, diffusing into a gargoyle figment before scattering in all directions, vanishing into the cinema. The power of the darkness bewitched Joseph and before his next thought could take shape, he’d been spirited through the bronze entrance door. He drifted into a palatial foyer dominated by velvet red—deep, sensual, infernal red. Zamiel. Premonition of evil. Prelude to a nightmare. He stood in the gaping hall, assembled in unimaginably giant proportions, haunted by a sinister gloom lurking in the rotten shadows of this wearied, old cinema.He then pored over a long concession stand brought into distinction by a weird, creeping white-blue phantom glow. The glow fell eerily over the red velvet floor, conjuring up an orgasm of light so unworldly that it blistered him with a heavy nausea—the searing discomfort of being sundered infinitely across the gulf of the unreal real. A hazy figure stood at the end of the counter, piercing Joseph’s consciousness with his long, sunken stare. It was an emaciated old man dressed urbanely in a black suit with a gold vest. Suddenly Joseph stood right opposite the old man, facing him from behind the counter, yet still he appeared to him out-of-focus.“Do you have a ticket?” the old man inquired coldly.“What do I need with the ticket?” Joseph asked, knowing the question was stupid while it naturally just spewed from his mouth.“Midnight at the Wolf’s Glen. Of course, the Wolf’s Glen. At Midnight, the Wolf’s Glen. It’s what we are playing here.” Not a touch of emotion sounded in the crackling voice of the old man.“I have no ticket for it. I may need one for it.”“Of course,” the old man replied as his body jumped up and over the counter in an unnaturally fast-forwarded motion. He placed some object into Joseph’s hand and said to him, “This is the ticket. Only ticket for the midnight show.”Joseph looked at it and saw that it was nothing like a ticket at all, but an emerald and lapis lazuli amulet fashioned freakishly into the likeness of a horned gargoyle-chimera.“Zamiel! Zamiel! To the midnight of Zamiel! To the Wolf’s Glen! Zamiel!” the old man shrieked upward as though suddenly riveted by some terrible agony. Joseph saw the old man’s blurry face stretch distortedly, his mouth wrenching wide open like in the famous Munch painting. Next he heard the thunderous organ music storming from a measureless distance, reverberating with seismic propulsions in the floors and walls.Strange, haunting organ music. The music synchronized with the atmosphere of blood-red.Joseph marched far down the dark hallway all deformed by beetling shadows, bleeding with red-velvet light. He marched resolutely to the shrill undulation of the organ music, ever maddening its’ booming and staccato pulse in cataclysmic ferment. It groaned with the agonizing lamentation of a death-mass. With each curving corner followed, he saw more how repellently the old, dank cinema sank in disfiguring grime, sweltering with oppressive odors, and foundering into a crypt of ebon sickness that defaced the halls. The nightmarish ebon sickness, spreading in ghastly, silken shadows, enveloped around Joseph in his search of the Midnight viewing auditorium. As the annihilating pitch-black ingested him into its jaws, only one thought could be elicited in his mind, like an insufferable echo: Zamiel. Zamiel. Zamiel.Thus the gargoyle key of Zamiel unlocked the portal to “The Wolf’s Glen…”
4rd Stage: Through the Infernal Nightmare Portal- “The Wolf’s Glen”
He tasted toxins, a virulent influx of toxins. He glared down the corridor of lurid scarlet-flambeaux and immediately became sensitized to an evil presence. Something beyond form and expression flooded the air heavily with icy, gnashing pangs. A monstrous evil—faceless, colorless, odorless, yet stained irrevocably into the shadowy atmosphere of marble and stone. What he saw before him was far from lucid, blanketed over in a shadow shroud of obfuscation, infested with the colossal specter of this inconceivable malice, daunting in its impregnable omnipresence. Tremors of some murmuring echo, like the hollow droning of a demoniac incantation, traveled up through the walls from some unfathomed vault below.Moon milk falls on grass,Spider’s web spun from blood… These foreboding words quivered somewhere in the background in aloof dissonance. Bloodied pale-light loomed before him, flickering phantom-like, out-of-focus, absorbing his consciousness and singeing through his thoughts like hellfire poison. He feared the setting in which he had now been led astray. Every creeping nuance of the malignant unknown sweated through the stony floor and castellated walls. He felt inextricably enclosed, drawn further into the bowels of some medieval stranglehold, darkening into a fatal void…Perhaps he was in some Gothic manor, eerily constructed in the fabric of a most diabolical nightmare, unhinged in its power to ensnare and contort perception with deadly disarray. The crimson fire-phantom twisted the angles of the stone corridor, flushed the cavities of space with a burning luster so grotesquely red that it rang Joseph’s mind with hysterical convulsions. Dead-end, jet-black blur overlapped by incarnadine streams of blood, fading into midnight Sabbath evanescence. The pall of raging delirium clasped over him, impairing all reason, eviscerating reality into a hideous aberration, exciting his blood into a violent frenzy. The bedlam bogeys stung him with their Belladonna-soaked fangs.He choked on the miasma of an occulted thought—a thought spawned from the curse of Zamiel. Then he lapsed into the void, the void from whence there is no return. The void extended into a subterranean realm sleeping far below in dragon-like shadows, exhaling a cadaverous odor from its pitch-black obscurity into which the leprous drops of candlelight seeped and trickled. A gossamer veil of spider-web shadows widened over a sculpted frieze, betraying a stone portal that led into a vault of the most unfathomable depth.Something definite had once inhabited the void, something of an aura so supernaturally vibrant, now half-extinguished into fragments, trespassing over the veil, approaching the gates of Hell. Joseph passed almost without notice into a vast space circumscribed almost imperceptibly by spectral stone passages of a medieval dungeon. The pale vapor of the flambeaux bled black ink down the porous stone wall. Gnashing hobgoblin faces materialized, etched like waxen stains in the expressions of chimerical demon-spawn. The witching hour spread its curtain of ebony, opening the ravenous mouth of the untamed nightmare vortex.He saw only a forbidding skull and crossbones emblem sealed over his head. Then from flickering wisps of shadows, innumerable skulls lowered at him. Blackened skulls, fractured and melting like bitumen, glaring wickedly with their sunken eye sockets.
Midnight mystery, blood-red united to eternity of blackness,Death of twilight, ravages of the night-incubus, borne from the shadows,The shadows in the pyre of vanishing moonlight,In the depths of the Wolf’s Glen…
An infernal mixture of shadows and smoke crowded over him, entranced him in the voiceless devil’s song, and distorted him through a blinding perdition of space.Black and white film scene… Burial vault. Ornate scroll-shaped stone brackets were mounted on the walls, belching spectral rays of red flame. In the center of the flagstone-floored chamber, decaying with entrails and shadowy imprints, a lone skull sat. It was a most unholy token, warped in features so ghastly livid. It stared at him ominously, eliciting a vibration of evil rhythms. He saw the whole scene all in the faded discoloration of a black and white perspective, punctuated by a towering mass of something unthinkably loathsome that had yet to unmask itself behind the charnel stone walls.A detached staccato wail pierced the walls, dissipating in a low droning note, like a quivering death-knell. Then he heard footsteps. Then voices. Murmuring voices that amplified with a league of shadows elongating over the floor.Three men entered the burial chamber in costumes of old-fashioned décor that had been groomed by some European aristocracy. Two of them, wearing uniform derby hats and dark grey suits, had a look about them most pallid and appalled, as though chilled to the heart with morbid disbelief under the all-pervasive curse of the sinister atmosphere.The other man, who wore a top-hat and a black draping cloak, showed a most intent and searching inquisitiveness as he led the other two across the chamber. “The stench of red death has led us here gentlemen, to the fortress of Zamiel, in the underground crypt of the Wolf Glen’s castle. Be careful to not fall into the shadows. They are deadly dangerous.”Joseph watched them all cross the ashen scene warily, totally removed from his presence that was as a disembodied spectator caught in the trap of the monstrous phantasm. One of the men in derby hats paused in sudden alarm, gasping and taking a step backward as a blurry mass of shadow emerged over the stone-paved ceiling. “This is really the abyss? We are stepping into most unholy darkness if this is truly the dominion of Zamiel…”The air stiffened with mute foreboding. Some creeping bane of evil announced itself silently in the overhanging cast of shadows that darkened the chamber into infinite dusk. The chamber expanded into a dank and impervious cauldron of darkness most profound.Cold light. Sickly leprous moonlight fell upon the chamber without any window to admit it. Cold and ominous slivers of pale coruscation swamped over Joseph and the skull in the center of the room, accentuating its macabre features. The man in the top-hat stood before the skull that began emitting a terrible glow from its malevolent eyes. He then extracted a ring from his coat and brandished it before his two followers. It shimmered transcendently like crystal glass through the morose black and white shade. “Gentlemen, stand back now please,” he said gravely, “only I bear the seal of Solomon which has the power to ward off the evil of the dark huntsman, Zamiel. The skull before us will now summon his presence and you must remain stealthily behind me unless you wish to incur the diabolic terror of death at his hands. Doom is all around—evil doom, it lurks here!!!”A muffled, waxen pall of devilish crimson flashed over the monochromatic fogginess and the truculent eyes of the skull ignited in blazing flames. Fuming embers leaped from the skull and swelled into incandescent orbs around it, quickly repelling the three men to a cautious distance. The skull throbbed about, while its molten expression twisted into something fiercer and baleful. A sudden percussion thundered from within the vault, throwing the walls into a low, rumbling ferment that reverberated with otherworldly sounds. Solemn, groaning echoes pealed from every direction, clattering in helter-skelter vibrancy. A whisper of death-music diffused from the subterranean caverns below—in sounds most hollow, remote, and almost imperceptible. It split through the stone chasms with undertones of some hypnotic and obscene chant. Garbled successions of inhuman voices wailed in a most dissolute crescendo, rising in an obstreperous abomination of chords that repeated over and over in a totally incomprehensible hubbub.Zamiel… Zamiel… Zamiel…The leader of the trio eddied around in a convulsion, holding the sacred ring toward the skull with startled resolve. The other two huddled around him, frozen with gaping expressions of the most nightmarish apprehension. The leader shrieked, “The devil’s fire! This is the devil’s fire! Unholy doom! The demons invoke Zamiel. Zamiel, in all his forty-two names! Blasphemy! I know all those names! Protect us, protect us! Doom is flaming up from the pit!”A riveting aftershock collapsed over the walls and hurled Joseph into the mouth of shadows. A strident chorus of screams blared into his ears with preternatural amplitude. Everything was thrown out of focus. The black and white coloring dampened into indistinct ghostliness. Then into his view a spectral crimson light bled forth in an infernal deluge. Asphaltic shadows burgeoned up like turrets and orchestrated a smothering assault over the scene. Blackness occulted everything in a formless nightmare. Harrowing madhouse screams perforated and echoed in blood-congealing violence. A massive implosion of a heartbeat rattled senselessly, perhaps from within Joseph, or perhaps from without.Joseph nearly swooned. He staggered across a vacant passage. He could hardly descry any detail. The accursed realm had sunk into incoherent darkness, beset by impenetrable shades. Then a dense mass of shade assembled into a towering, corporeal entity, delineated in a most grotesque aspect. Joseph peered at it, trying to ascertain its nature through the shadowy cloak hanging over it. It was the nightmare incarnate, concealed by black and crimson cerements that consummated in a hood over its face. Joseph then saw something vaguely—that quickly reduced him to a most abject impotence of fear. He saw a waxen death-mask, hideously deformed beyond the pale of human comprehension. Only for a second did he witness the demoniac monstrosity etched in the pale features of the unholy visage. The mask of Zamiel, the dark huntsman…Fainting, fainting into bottomless horror, Joseph felt nothing but the sting of gripping cold, compelled by evil forces… Disarmed physically and mentally by the mauling perversion of fear that saturated his blood, he spun about in dazed delirium. The shadow-demon was pursuing him steadily; he could feel the impending thrall of its dark power. The blinding cloud passed over him. Then he saw only a series of tombs. Black and grey marble tombs. Tombs shaped in human effigies—figures of medieval knights. He saw a statue of a knight. Then he saw skeletons—an excess of skeletons strewn grossly about in teeming piles. An apparition of pale, sallow light flickered from a flambeau, divulging the presence of a hollow niche within the crypt wall.Joseph studied it through the shadowy murk to discover it was something like a fireplace. Within its pitch-black void a glowing vapor skulked, infused with an awful luster. It gazed upon him like a lone, watchful eye. Cyclopean, evanescent, malicious. An eye of lurid scarlet—evil, predatory red. For a moment he saw a most haunting visage: disembodied, glowing red with hollow, sunken eyes. The face of the evil spirit.The Wolf’s Glen.So he thought. The only association that tinged his thoughts in those haunted innards of the crypt. The portal to the Wolf’s Den.You must enter.The voiceless voice commanded his instinct. He crossed the threshold and extinguished into the devouring blackness of the void.The Wolf’s Glen…Unable to see anything, he floundered for several agonizing moments, feeling inextricably engulfed in cobwebs while a spate of mammoth, hairy spiders crawled all over his spine. Unchecked spasms of terror bombarded his chest, sapping him of breath and feeling. All was lost in the monstrous nightmare maelstrom…Then the supernal raven dark transformed his vision into a most obscene frailty of shadow-subdued gloom. He found himself within a tightly vaulted dungeon, wrought of blank platinum-sealed stone. A booming alarum clapped from the shutting of the giant vault-door behind him. The implacable malediction of this sudden entrapment engraved itself instantly upon Joseph’s psyche, echoing in the cavernous recess of the chamber.He was locked behind the Door of Perdition. Locked. Hopelessly locked with no chance for escape. For this door, once sealed, could never be opened again. There was no key forged in existence to undo the incarceration within its adamantine cloister.The grinding perplexity of his entrapment rendered all powers of reason null and void. The musty fragrance and absolute silence endowed the impenetrable iron-clad dungeon an unlimited power of oppression over the senses and soul of its lone prisoner. The ruthless stone walls, besieging him in unadorned phosphorescence, conveyed a ponderous weight over him, incapacitating him with the power of their total sovereignty upon his fate.The walls seemed to enlarge, bewilderingly, into a gargantuan tower cell that dwarfed the prisoner into heart-rending insignificance. Powerless. Joseph faced the unimaginable torment of the nightmare as it closed its shell of dusk over his sight. In the cloistered conundrum, in the oubliette of impossible excruciations, shadowy excrement cramped over him. Stuck—in a noose, in a psychological strait-jacket. He was left enslaved to a famished eternity, stifled beyond repair, darkened into the feeblest coffer of consciousness in which only brooding terror fed upon the naked morsels of thought.Dark space ruled interminably over everything. Swallowed up in the Wolf’s Glen where everything inside Joseph deteriorated into nothingness. For eons he seemed to slumber half-consciously in abysmal shadow.Only after eons and eons of miserable decay did Joseph finally discover a gleaming shape hidden under the shadow-shroud. Something like a precious stone emitted a golden luster, deep beneath layers of cloud that appeared so infinitely far out of reach. Upon the arousal of noticing it, he recoiled within himself, struggling to unfetter his faculties from the muted inertia that kept him immobilized.From the stolid yoke he released himself, frenzied with a surge of desperation as the tantalizing glitter of the ethereal object floated up toward him. He strained through the nebulous beasts of shadow, losing himself for a moment again in pure blackness before the golden illumination liberated him at last and brought him into contact with its solid surface.Lo and behold: the Golden Decryptor Key. A magical key forged from the secrets of a long lost art, designed to unlock the portals of the deepest crypts in the metaphysical plane, from the Stygian nightmare pits to the empyrean zenith of the cosmos, the Ether Portal, removed by countless billions of dream-spheres. The key was flat and rectangular, plated in immaculate gold with a burnished glass-like emblem inscribed with hieroglyphs. It seemed altogether timeless, like something primordial and ancient, yet futuristic at the same time, framed in divine perfection.Then he saw the key suddenly as a gold death-head, not unlike the token skull of Zamiel, but shrunken and distilled into something auspicious. Then, through a flow of golden mist, he saw it again as a scarab gold-bug. Protean distortions advanced and then receded as the dense layers of shadows thinned out around him. The shape of the key blurred into a celestial gold light that trampled over everything in Joseph’s vision.The vaulted walls closed in with groaning dissonance. A vociferous clamor of cracking, grating, and collision crashed over Joseph, for causes unseen and unknown. Like an apocalyptic uproar in the forces of nature uprooting mountainous titans, the crumbling damnation of the vaulted prison severed him from consciousness. A chaos of torrents obscured all thought and catapulted Joseph into a nether-realm of slumber, abstracted into total shapelessness.The Golden Decryptor Key had unleashed its power.
5th Stage: Tantalus Twilight in the Insatiable “Blue Hour”
Drugged out in a quiet paralysis for eons immeasurable, nothing tangible passed through the dormant darkness in Joseph’s perception as his astral soul voyaged across yet another invisible threshold. Gradually, fragmented forms began to articulate in a puzzle of airy color splotches. Joseph’s intractable insensibility was succeeded by a famished desperation and an ardor of primal simplicity that sought some kind of immediate replenishing gratification.Joseph found himself somewhere chilled and tasteless. He sat at a table under dim blue lighting inside an opulent restaurant spanning a lofty edifice under a glass domed ceiling and walls bedecked in gaudy decor. Vague twilight blue light blanketed over the vacant, baroque splendor. Blue light defined the color of the scene: blue light that slivered through the electric luster in spidery fog, toned down and seeped into the pomp of the artificial atmosphere, rather than radiating over it. A soft, subdued tranquility of piano music hummed in the background, enhancing a preponderant aura of lifelessness, instead of infusing it with any chord of vitality. Monotone, monochromatic sterility bathed in a vapid veneer of pomp and éclat. The implacable quietude of the place pressed itself immediately upon Joseph, alienating his emotion and tormenting his sudden monstrous agony of hunger.All was empty—a gaping and inexhaustible emptiness. Inside his stomach a bottomless pit stretched and sunk, gaining total possession of Joseph’s being with merciless pangs of the most basic unfulfilled need for nourishment, as though he had consumed nothing in ages. A vital need wholly untouched, left groaning and gnawing and scraping against the walls of dungeon-void. The dire urgency of his burning famine ravaged every aspect of his consciousness and permeated the scene with something of cruel taunting—a grandly festooned illusion, orchestrated to incense, madden and aggravate his salivating appetite. The muted and mournfully lighted atmosphere of the restaurant, the lavish Blue Hour, cast an ice-sheen over the vast salon that gave a varnish to its deeper undertone of inaccessible remoteness and total alienation. The sterile blue luster stagnated hopelessly on the counterfeit glamour that hosted tables full of people, blurred into figments— nothing more than expressionless stick figures. Perhaps they all engaged in lively conversations around their dimly lit tables, but it wasn’t clear at all. Whatever sounds the background mass may have produced simply accumulated into unintelligible humming that blended into the softly monotone and melancholic piano music that chimed without any variation.Inanition, hopeless inanition, left pitifully unstrung in the desert of yearning, endlessly waiting in futility. Everything within had long dried up, depleted into a barren cavity. He saw vague outlines of richly apportioned servings of cuisine and glasses of wine and water seated on the surrounding tables. Riches in abundance assembled for the faceless crowds to slake with unquenchable relish. A revel of diners could gorge themselves shamelessly with a garden of delights, while he remained bereft in the torrid, scorching climate of morbid desperation. The concealed luxury of the scene from which he was hermetically secluded only tightened his bondage to the undiminished longing. Foggy blue-light soaked into the aloof restaurant scene. Uncaring, indifferent, distant from him. Hours may have passed, but all the same every second roiled him in the ever dilating void of hunger. Silenced in the impossible temptations of an impending satisfaction that leered at him from every shadow of the figment people, he languished there under the canopy of blue light. Consciousness ebbed into nothing more than a torture-apparatus, bogged down in the interminable hollow vanquished by impotent famine. He felt gasping discord in the pit of his stomach. Sharp, twisting spasms strained through his spleen and blistered through his brain with gargantuan pressure. Surreal blue light snaking over him, teeming in a desolate fog, spreading its rays from nowhere. Enveloped by spectral blue, searing through his innards, precipitating him to the edge. Dried up, dreary, destitute desperation, craving with every fiber for a single speck of nourishment to mitigate the wallowing desert inside. Just one meager bite to save him, to rescue him from these unspeakable depths of anguish, rooted in a need so primordial, so instinctive, so absolutely vital.Then he saw her—the unnamable her, sitting across from him. She solidified out of a ghostlike fresco into a concrete apotheosis of the flesh. Her lambent features scintillated, her eyes of pellucid sapphire lulled him into a brief forgetfulness of his aching starvation. Her presence beside him forged a magnetic anchor around his heart and suffused the stark emptiness inside him with a pristine balm that breathed a refreshing, animating spring of emotion through his curdled blood. She smiled at him. A smile so simple, yet christened by a rosy hue so vibrant with redeeming joy, it liberated him and pulled him upward from the barren dregs of his bottomless appetite and immersed him in an unprecedented paradise of heart-pulsing fervor.She encapsulated every color of desire that had ever jetted from his bosom, she wore every facet of that sanctifying purity that purges the darkness from the soul and reinvents it by the transformative spell of beauty’s transcendence. She made tangible every abstraction that flowed beneath the rushing current of aimless dreams, swelling eternally along the gulf of desire, pacing unchecked along a zigzagging patchwork, moving evermore with violent momentum across the continuum toward the unknown shrine of that all-healing, omnipotent panacea that blesses with love all the incontinent ardor that before seemed unattainable and merely a mirage to keep life under its perpetual sway: to seek, lust, burn, suffer—unfulfilled and in vain.She was everything he had ever wanted. He had never seen her before.Only her ineffable radiance could give calm to the raging storm and stir something inside him that felt miraculous, mesmerizing and completely satisfying, if but for a moment. The voracious beast was tamed and in its place an electric torrent of emotion exploded, unimpeded and restless. The eclipsing angel-prism of her smile excited his heart into a savagely beating paroxysm, senseless of the phenomenal world, exalted to the sacred summit of ecstasy that could only be crowned by the precious majesty embodied by her features in which he was transfixed. A perennial dream had been consummated by the total euphoria she engendered with her affectionate glare.Her gemstone eyes sparkled, distilling a powdery star-dust into the phantasmal twilight blue. The hovering blue fog paled against the cast of her ebullient skin that shone so smoothly and serenely. She fixed her gaze closer upon him and her smile grew warmer. The world around appeared to shrink into an intimate womb around their table ensconced in a ring of cerulean blue light. The air between them blazed with intense energy. In total focus of her splendid expression, his heart vented uncontrollably, his thoughts at a loss of how to seize such a moment, how to cultivate the bliss inside him that made him nearly senseless. She quelled the mechanical droning of music to complete silence and shielded Joseph’s vision from the shadows of other people. Words and feelings exchanged between them without a sound being uttered. He knew that she knew the vigorous influx of beautifying emotion which she elicited in his soul, something impossible to communicate. How to enjoy such a perfect moment, how to ingest such a delectable aroma and appreciate its every nuance—it was far too inscrutable to him.The deep blue fog-light sputtered and spiraled into expansive ripples that orbited around the narrow circumference of the table. The blue wraiths ballooned into an enormous billow that stretched and hung threateningly over her and him. An ethereal cobalt mist shrouded over them in a halo and squelched her image under a dizzying, indistinct mass of light.Insatiable passions sprung from the gulf and glutted his life-blood once more. His release into the rapture of perfect had been but momentary and now something visceral usurped his senses. The thrall of his inescapable inner hunger again exercised its unwieldy wrath, though briefly suspended, rising upward to conquer his senses with tireless desperation in need of some substantial alleviation. Roused once more from its slumber, the dragon now fumed with infinite excoriation, disabling every fiber in his body and enslaving him to the rabid appetite of his body.Silence. Stark silence reigned all around. Now it was no longer a silence no longer replaced by heavenly enraptured music, but was a dead, stultifying silence that pervaded the still atmosphere. The solitary blue fog-light lingered indolently while the restaurant scene reemerged vaguely, seen evermore at a perplexing, alienated distance.The intoxicating nectar of those shadowy people excreted like a fragrant vapor into the air. All the pleasure of their succulent feasts, all the sultry moisture of their collective romance, aggregated into a single droplet of liquor that spilled upon Joseph, tantalizing him, goading him, and shackling him under a herculean weight of desire that could not be unbound or appeased.He felt non-existence. Immaterial. Invisible. Not a single soul directed any slight glance or attention his way. He waited and waited. Pointless waiting. Waiting without a futile spurt of fuel to summon the mirage again, to dangle its prismatic fruit once more enticingly over his eyes, suckle the weeping childlike hunger, to catalyze his appetite again with that angelic vehemence that blazes on wings of resurrection. No, only parched, uninterrupted, uncolored waiting was ultimately left to antagonize him till the severed string of Fate. The famished void inside widened in an exacerbating, infinite range. Hours may have elapsed as he wallowed there in the excruciation of immobilized delirium. A faint recollection finally formed itself in his mind. Was she still there? The cherubic savior of all his heated desire that had so quickly galvanized his heart into a seething inferno, before retreating into ashen obscurity? He saw nothing but the twilight blue mist clustering and thickening before his eyes.Then, through the blurring mist, he saw a fugitive specter that flitted across the dining room floor.It could only be her, so he believed. Then he twitched, he strained, and wrenched himself from the petrified languor of endless waiting. He jumped on the table and at once the whole restaurant was disoriented into absurd proportions. The floor contracted exponentially while the ceiling seemed to bulge twenty feet higher. Yet there seemed to be no consequences from his flagrant outburst as no one paid him any mind. Then he vaulted over the floor and chased after the dissolving glimpse that had transported him so vehemently. He raced at a preternatural speed, with all the desire inside him overflowing from the goblet of his soul.Next thing he knew he was in a dark alley way. The alley way protracted into a lone, shadow-laden street. The street enlarged into a vast circuitry of streets, painting in gloomy chiaroscuro the scene of a benighted city neighborhood. Ghost-town, void of life. The eerie omnipresence of mind-palling inertia crept evermore chillingly over Joseph.He saw the vague verisimilitude of streets with which he was deeply familiar. A nameless city, imprinted somewhere beneath layers of shadowy morass, disconnected from his memory lost in shadow. Every palpable aspect of the city discernible to him festered in grime, dross and impregnable gloom. Steeped in shadow all around, that it was a disturbingly sterile place seemed the only unequivocal truth branded upon its dismal features.Unadorned hollow spaces suspended among the glowering buildings, congregated like a death-mass of stone. Not a single trace of her pierced through the shadows. The ruins of darkness subjugated the mournful midnight city and fell over its solitary victim Joseph, left meandering in search of a long vanished fairy-light. Ghosts in the semblance of blank-faced people traipsed to and fro with mechanical procession in the distorted background. Joseph ambled among them, uncomforted by the fleeting footsteps accompanied by threadbare, elongated shadows. The demolished facades of the swarthy buildings and closed-down shops left him feeling afflicted with a more haunting emptiness. What for a moment teased him with a sense of the familiar, as though gravitating upon a pivot of home-like solace, drained all its dour color into cadaverous grey. It was reduced to something grotesquely alien—an unwelcoming, congealing mire of shadow. Cars were parked nonsensically throughout the street, dozens of them. Deserted, left in discord, perpendicular and sideways across the middle of the road, crossing both lanes. Cars reclined half-parked on the sidewalk, hanging over the edge. Cars, cars, meaningless lines of cars intervening with the hollows of urban desolation.He strayed further into the lonely bowels of the dead city and faded into its clutches. His thoughts disassociated from any inkling of the extinguished warmth. The elusive ghost of ecstasy had trailed off into plumes of mist. Her face, her smile, her aura—totally forgotten. He was left dejected, wandering into the graven waste of the defunct cityscape without any desire or direction. The sadness of her disappearance besmirched everything in the shade of oblivion. The oblivion succubus sucked the fuel from his veins. He was but a sleepwalker, concealed in the eternity of shadows, traversing purgatory without hope of release.His faculties evaporated into a pale grey-blue fatigue, ebbing into spellbound darkness. The negative energy jabbed at his core like a hundred hornets, beleaguering him beneath a mountain of black mist exhaustion that piled on till there was no choice but surrender. Smote by inalienable torpor-malaise, blood frozen, heart bludgeoned by torture apparatus and strangled in ice manacles. Consciousness then ceded with his vanquished drive and dissolved into colorless foam until there was simply nothing.Then Purgatory Station…He had collapsed by the steps of a slumbering train station in the starkly deserted center of the city. He saw the floating form of a cathedral-like wall plastered beneath a thicket of shadow. The inner recesses of the station entombed behind the wall sent whispering signals to Joseph’s half-wakeful attention. Some inscrutable voice called him, entreated him. Meanwhile, the silent stagnation that permeated the rankness of death all around him had left him dried up, feckless, and resigned to physical expiration. Yet perhaps, he thought, there was an escape route, hiding in the train station. But his heart had wasted away with the bitterness of spurned desire. The rotten stain inside issued still with grinding attrition, issued from a forgotten figment. What did escape mean anymore?He laid face down in the broken pieces of gravel beside the wall, while his view contorted into a slideshow of various perspectives. He saw below a bottomless pit of shadow. He saw above, jutting from the wall an alabaster scroll-shaped bracket from which a limpid luster of wan whiteness fumed. Then the whiteness secreted into the wall, forming in effect the projected shadow of the scroll bracket.His view shifted once more and the white shadow was a small white pillar with a sandstone-like surface. He thought he could descry a luminescent engraving of the words “NON PLUS ULTRA”.The Pillar of Hercules key. He thought about the pillar for a long moment yet felt comatose with listlessness and resisted any temptation to move closer. He simply let its image soak into his mind while it faded out of focus and gushed forth a milky crystal-light liquid that poured over him. The fluid crystal submerged his vision in its current and insensibly transferred his consciousness to a shiftless blur.For a long time, he thought and saw nothing. He only remembered a vague sensation of falling asleep in the open of the city center, careless of the distant spectators that may have passed like shadows and wind. Shadows and wind.
6th Stage: Beyond the Pillars- The Ineffable at the End of the World
Eons passed in formless repose. His body remained frozen even as he began to feel, inchoately, that some gliding motion transported him somewhere. Then black-light fluorescence absorbed the void and melted into his field of vision. The black-light united with his being and burned into his soul a sudden revival of feeling.Next thing he knew he was standing on the platform of an empty subway station—far, far, far down in some subterranean depth. He had been deposited within a dormant station void of any life. Shadowy walls gaped all around him, carved into crumbling bedrock and occulted in titanic dark shapes that heightened the impression of an enormous hollow. It was the final stop: the station at the end of the world.He knew it somehow. The revelation echoed in his thoughts and echoed in the cavernous vaults of total darkness. He wandered across the platform, searching wearily for some hint of direction. A musty, narcotic stench bowled over him, dulling his senses into torpor. Into the disordered wilderness of shadow he plummeted, hearing nothing but the reverberation of his steps and the distant drizzle of some water in the sewage.Down labyrinthine halls he ambled, traversing passages of impossibly twisting straits, protracted into unimaginable lengths. His perspective cheated him into illogically sideways and nauseatingly upside-down walkways. Bogged down under the reins of shadows that condensed with each turn he made, he could hardly summon a single cogent thought and had forsaken all sensitivity to any underlying emotion. His blood had stiffened in the bondage of a sticky tar-like substance.Shafts of opal white coruscation cascaded down from some mysterious upper outlet. The shafts illuminated a cleft in the decaying wall, behind cobwebs and faded graffiti smears. He saw through the chasm, beyond two broken skeletal pillars, a vista of infinitude spanning the lowest subterranean depths: fragments of hexagonal walls toppled over a series of interconnected tunnels augmenting into an impervious riddle of obscurity where only a phantasmal fog-light gave any hint of the gargantuan disarray gathered around. He saw, in most ghastly form, a Tartarus panorama of extinction and decrepitude, dissolved in a funereal and moonless polar-night, entombed in the spider-webbed grime of eternal decay. A chaos of unholy refuse heaped across the ashen entrails of shadow, continuing forever in perpetual and piteous stagnation—eternity of mad disquietude embalmed in dull stone and leprous ashes under the silent requiem. The decadent refuse of long lost wonders, disfigured into colossal heaps of stone-faced aberrations—the sunken ruins of Atlantis. The end of the world. Nec plus ultra.The languorous flow of pale light streamed over him with a vexing chill. Weird greenish-white electric beams flickered and then vanished from different spaces surrounding him in the damp network of tunnels. There was nowhere he knew to go.Over a quagmire of sulfur-reeking bile pools and mists of ebony, he wandered down rusty corridors, moving in and out of insulated chambers void of color. He traveled far across a slime-stained tunnel shifting in and out of focus, narrowing into an isosceles triangle design. Suffocation. The low, sinking walls contained him in an intolerable strangle-hold, churning out a barrage of perverse odors.Into a sepulchral abyss he descended. Lo and behold, the valley of ashes. Dead subway cars extended miles and miles into malignant black shadow: mangled, mold-laden juggernauts festering in livid grey bodies of steel that merged totally into the vaporous night of shadow engulfing the periphery.He followed the shadowy vortex till it distended into ravening pitch-black where he heard the eerie gurgle of dripping water and rats running rampant on the walls. Then he stepped into a vast underground depot where a large swimming pool occupied the center of the cemented floor. He stepped closer to the pool, seeing that it was filled with dark aquamarine water that glowed mysteriously under a ghostly light.Trepidation constricted his tendons as he hovered over the edge, staring into the deep end of the pool. The aquamarine water shimmered strangely, glaring up at him with some latent malignity, hiding an unfathomed depth below it which he probed anxiously, unable to see any sign of solid flooring. Chains suspended along the edges, plummeting down into the water. The deep, deep watery abyss, hissing in tiny spasms from the foreboding silence.From the hissing evolved a gradual undercurrent of unsettling rhythm. The concrete supporting his feet began to writhe unsteadily while the walls fell under a wave of convulsions. The chains rattled hysterically as the undercurrent leavened into an ear-splitting groundswell upheaval. Seismic thunderclaps promulgated a cacophonous crescendo and then everything lapsed into quaking violence… Monstrous mayhem earthquake throwing the world into cataclysm chaos, Joseph lost his balance and nearly stumbled off the edge. In a moment he felt the stabbing grip of extreme terror, staring down into that bottomless abyss of aquamarine. The fear of drowning—of insurmountable forces pulling him down into the fatal jaws—annihilating panic knotted him under its duress in which the screaming desperation of his soul attained its highest pitch. Ripples of water, shaking chains, deadening uproar of the catastrophic ferment.He receded in fainting motion, his heart sapped of pulsation and all the shadows staggered backward with him. From there he hobbled downward in disoriented blindness, crawling like an insect down a precipitous descent into the nethermost stratum of tenebrous mystery.A sharp penetrating draft of cold air suddenly roused from the slumbering charnel-station depths. Beams of fiber optics and the violet strobe gleam of some faded lamp unsheathed before his eyes a wall spattered in graffiti. A kaleidoscope of graffiti swirled against the wall in a flood of intense light. The fiber optic glows sailed over the graffiti mural and cast a deep purple radiance over the series of images and lettering that went from boldly explicit and intelligible to something incoherently mystifying and esoteric. A radiant arabesque puzzle of graffiti trickled down the wall until it formed a complex spiral that spun circuitously and then dipped further down as the stone backdrop gradually softened into the airy texture of a parchment scroll—ancient and sacred. Within this strange fabric the bewildering spiral wove into a pentagram. Within the pentagram there were four ornamented letters from a secret alphabet. YHVH. The ineffable name. A miraculously refulgent sheen of gold suddenly sprouted upward from the floor. Joseph looked down and saw a glass vial that contained a liquid of pure gold.Mystery of mysteries—golden elixir extracted from an unknown alchemy, secreted here as though awaiting the lone visitor in the eons of silence. Its luminance burned feverishly in the air and reflected upon the delirious eyes of Joseph, who stood spellbound.What should such a sibyline elixir confer? He sought to appease his agitated flurry of interest and seized the vial. He imbibed the golden contents and at once felt a turbulent rush of electricity surge through his eye.His vision evanesced as a blurring shadow thickened over him and desensitized all of his physical being while kindling the inner third eye into wakefulness from its dormant darkness. The mystical eye, hardwired into the subconscious, never before activated, suddenly replete with mercurial plasma of energy, piercing through the veil to apprehend at last what dwelt beyond.Birth of light and darkness from the primordial void.Then, in a daze of euphoric abstraction, he deciphered the arcane writing on the wall: A kabbalic tapestry zigzagged in a dizzying cluster of permutations, at one moment revealing a set of forty-two characters and then increasing to seventy-two that multiplied into a total of three rows. Two hundred and sixteen letters. ShemhamphoraschNothing more than the slightest intimation of the unfathomable secret behind these letters penetrated Joseph’s skull and inundated him with seismic spasms. A percussion of prophetic voices, distant, unworldly and inarticulate, clamored vociferously within. Something like a crack in his psyche ruptured into an unfiltered torrent of supernova brilliance as, for but an instant, the unmediated discharge of divine ether channeled through his astral soul.He had imbibed something, without form, that his frail mortal constitution could simply not digest. It overpowered him, heaved him into splintering confusion while all of consciousness plunged into the fire of a monstrous whirlwind in which all that was before thought slackened into pure, defenseless emotion.The whirlwind glutted him in its tempestuous, razing frenzy, aimless, unabated, and exploding helter-skelter beyond the bounds of conceivable reality. He gyrated there, severed from consciousness, lost in the flux of melting colors and dizzying, unremitting pandemonium. The heart throbbed in the bellicose sputtering, yearning in wanton sickness for the unseen heaven of bliss, clinging to the fairy-ghost in the mist as it slipped through his fingers. The overheated engine of his heart gave out pitiful wheezes, sucking the last flames of blood from the catatonic beast within-- reeling and sinking deeper into the black cesspools of quicksand, unflagging in blood-boiling angst, tottering onward without purpose, beaten and vanquished into stultifying submission. Yet the infinity of desire respired with waxing resolve, caught up in the throes of nether-chaos, swirling and bursting into plasma pools, limping on in iron-clad insensibility toward the suppressive manacles that forever restrained his soul from that purifying baptism, forever taunting, whetting and keeping impotently athirst the indefatigable soul-- aspiring to the astral climax that ever retreated into an impalpable horizon, eternally shapeless, never realized. Vanity of vanities, forever hearing the wailing music from that herculean wellspring, that stinging, undiminished pulse.At last he was no more: spirited away by the flaming whirlwind into the shadows of primeval night.All was nothing. Blank. Darkness without void. Non-existence.
7th Stage: The Crossroads at Conundrum Tower
Dissipating across eons of spheres, channeled through ether dust storms, transcending the last veils of visibility. Stranded at the outer edges of subconscious reality… Beyond the shadow of the moon and the gold-mine in the sun, where the lunar and solar energies blended into a single liquid of light through the alchemy of the unknown, melding into a crisp nectar of immortality—all contradictions made one. Here in the dimension of the non-place, immune to the ravages of time or the limitations of space, where even parallel lines could intersect…Thoughts scattered in a million cosmic trajectories, a nebula of meteor shadows and astral rays that crystallized in the limpid shell of an infinite desert. There, lo and behold, in the deposit of cryptic sands where wisps of colors diffused and solidified in a painted enigma—the nexus terminal of the eternal rainbow. Consciousness raised to the hundredth power. Stretched out across the sprawling blanket of carnelian red sand, he looked around at a changeless and unwavering landscape that existed completely in it of itself, bearing no correspondence with any outer forces of nature. No sun or moon. Vaporous sandstone red mystery swathed the sky, spreading like an ethereal haze that projected some unknown light source. No shadows existed here in the land where natural laws ceased to hold sway. No shadows at all. The billows of sand abounded interminably, clothed in pastel phosphorescence, denuded of all human imprints or inklings of the mundane. Nothing but the raw, untouched, primeval unknown illumined beneath the last twinkling twilight of a forgotten golden age. Where the oasis mirage of paradise gardens once prospered, now nothing but the unvarnished reality of the Infinite reigned.He wandered for days upon hours, perhaps, without perceiving any progression of time. The clime remained perpetually steadfast as an immutable ambiguity without any current of wind or any impression of cold or heat. He traversed an endless monotony of carnelian sand dunes in a motion somehow between walking and floating. All the while, an aching, restless need clawed at his innards. Perhaps hunger. Perhaps thirst. Perhaps something else that could not be described. It was beyond his comprehension.He searched for manna wafers across the glistening red surface of sand, hoping some godsend could assuage this puzzling need. At certain intervals, he saw loafs of some shiny, diaphanous substance scattered across the dunes. Yet as soon as he drew closer, they shrank away and evaporated from his sight. The sweet scent of honey drifted languorously over him and impelled him to continue onward to find the substantial manna.Without warning Joseph came upon a monolith of rock, coruscating like a preternatural gem under the crimson glare. It was a rock of some auspicious quality, hoarding within it a fountain of refreshing water. Massah and Meribah.The diamond-like luster of the rock’s surface swam dreamily over Joseph’s hardened glare, sprinkling him with vibrant fancies and unmitigated salivation. He tapped his hand several times on the rock, assured that this form of supplication would summon the enchanted sources from its inner reservoir. Within moments, the monolith answered him with a geyser-sounding suction. From an imperceptible cleft in the rock, a silvery torrent burst in copious pell-mell. Yet as soon as the water cascaded from the rock, it dissipated at once into the red air. Joseph tried fecklessly to soak his hands in it and lap it but he tasted nothing. This was not the living water. He tasted only marah bitterness that dried up inside his throat, leaving his repudiated desires to quarrel ever more tirelessly, resisting the paralysis of defeat. Over another series of blood-red carmine dunes he trekked across a confounding span of time that felt like days, perhaps months, perhaps an eternity. Then the riddle of this realm took on a tableau of far more perplexing proportions as he gazed out over a suddenly emergent horizon. Thousands and thousands of standing rocks that occupied a measureless expanse of desert. Thousands of identical rocks arranged in endless rows and columns without any slight deviation in its perfectly symmetrical design.Primitive menhirs assembled in some bizarrely conceived configuration that escaped, by infinite degrees, any paltry kind of comprehension his addled mind could afford. The mere sight of the uncannily vast aberration strained his mind to its boundary till it numbed in the noose of a riddle. Before he knew it he had already submerged himself far into the stone-forested maze.He meandered across an unnerving distance which boggled his perspective in countless shifts, radically alternating in angles, depth and proximity relative to the stone sentinels. They faded from transparency, rotating in and out of focus as a beguiling mass of grey Martello-like towers. All the while, a mystical sensation unfolded through the air, driven by the smooth, undulating rhythm of a zephyr wind. Enlaced in the wings of the zephyr symphony, Joseph drifted carelessly over the powdery lime-green mist that wreathed the menhir pillars.He was conveyed along a zigzagging path that gravitated in slow motion upon a bell barrow mound. From its apex he saw a flamboyant spectacle of phantasmagoria twisting and inverting into impossible objects so wildly until he could no longer register his thoughts. Descending over the barrow, through a warping maelstrom of hyperbolic space in which flurries of rainbows drizzled over a cornucopia of geometric Tetris blocks colliding and crisscrossing every which way.The path led him across infinite spaces, floating with images across fairy-rings of light like meteor showers. Shooting stars. Hypnotic brilliance that darted across his vision far too rapidly to be apprehended.Then, upon a mound of glittering silver sand that swelled up on a bulging wave, a giant diadem of lustrous snowy raiment took form. Joseph’s eyes focused, like a camera lens moving into close-up view, and he was seized by a violent epiphany that became distinct in the icy form under a serene gust of wind. He saw her.She was everything he ever wanted. He had never seen her before. She froze before him in a thrill of rapture, calcified in a pigment of alabaster. She was enclosed within a sleek pillar of salt—forever locked inside a perfect moment, immune to the clockwork of time.
She renewed his feeling of desire with a languorous pang that soared from a low drumming to an orchestral fanfare of music that flooded his senses and trembled rampantly within his chest. From her a fervent impetus flowered in his heart and fertilized him with a flaming zeal. He also felt envy for her state of being—her changeless, dreamlike hypnosis shielded behind the crystallized sarcophagus, insulated forever from consciousness.Nirvana bliss.In the thrall of her beauty, he fell captive to the rapturous paroxysm of music—syncopating music thundering insane through his head till he felt himself torn away on the blasts of the storm wind, abducted and displaced and dismembered from the current of emotion into which he had swooned. The angel cast in salt faded once more into her insoluble secrecy, forever taunting the heartstrings while retiring further and further—the intangible phantom of beauty always pursued and never attained; thus eternally sacred and divine in the web of reverie, in the stained-glass illusion of heart-rending damnation. Joseph was thus separated from the snare of her impression and carried eons away, on a bombardment of inky vapor-trails, through multiplying swarms of gnats and locusts, through hail and blistering fire, through an ocean of blood and then across a yawning night dome of total darkness.Released at last under a canopy of mystical light, seeping downward from some inaccessible height of mystery. Sequestered at the half-formed edge of infinity, he was swept up under sandy mists and curling scarlet vapor plumes, out in the unknown nowhere of that crimson desert where no thought belongs. He had reached the crossroads. He was marooned amidst the seamless plateau of scorching terracotta sands. The dawning canopy magnified its solar glow into a sulfurous cataract of blinding star and comet-studded flames, dancing into an infinite cloudlike firmament while weaving from its misty elements a cylindrical Titan body.From a gossamer framework, silhouetted in blazing streams of ethereal, translucent fiber, the mountainous mystery solidified into a stone-wrought immensity. The tower loomed augustly over him in its sublime scale, flanked on its outer rims in a resplendent framing of chryselephantine and paved in a cathedral-like body of pure platinum. It had been designed like an impeccable symphony of stone and exerted an aura so ponderous, as though to steer away any spectator who dared to fix it into the study of contemplation. Something far too overwhelming for the eyes to absorb in its prodigious sum of facets that inspired feelings across the spectrum. It exhausted his sense of awe with the herculean assortment of emotions thus evoked, including: bewildering bafflement and incapacitating incomprehension, a stunning exaltation of thought to its loftiest throne, along with spellbinding trepidation and wonder, and a degrading humiliation of being so grossly insignificant beside something that transcended his faculties by infinite degrees.Conundrum Tower. The portal to the deepest mysteries of the subliminal cosmos. An arched portal door stood at the center of the tower foundation, forged of unbreakable adamant. It wore a countenance most inexorably grave, to shield behind its indestructible bulwark the forbidden intimations of the numinous.On the other end of the crossroads, where the path diverged over a crescent slope, Joseph saw a crater-like pit sunken to an unthinkable depth from which a silvery gas lightly exhaled. From above, the lacquered whirl of rainbow precipitated sharply downward, curving over the slope and pattering the final dew-drop vapors of its pixie colors along the rocky surface. The rainbow arch terminated at the mouth of this crater depression, trickling airy sprinkles upon a concealed portal. Joseph knew it, instinctively, that should he incline himself into the trench of that crater, he would have to confront the passageway to the supraliminal through which he would return to his physical incarnation of being. So where the rainbow ends, reality begins. Thus Joseph found himself caught up between the two opposing gateways: The one, through the tower, leading infinitely further into the dream cosmos, consummating in the most mysterious empyrean realm of the noumena. Or back to the comprehensible of mundane phenomena, down the crater hole that would launch him back into lucid consciousness, back to the waking life of Joseph as the Joseph of mortal knowledge, mortal desires, mortal suffering…Or was it but another bugbear? Another foolish-fire to goad him into the nightmarish jaws of monstrous torment? Should he relinquish to this temptation—the return to the comprehensible, perhaps he would only fall farther down the bottomless pit of darkness.Perhaps all was but the conjuring of that fiendish will-o-the wisp? All was figment, all was reverie, all was nothing more than eternal chasing into an inconceivable rapture that could never be reached.He turned all his attention to the inaccessible entrance of Conundrum Tower. He stood there, facing that vast door of adamant, pondering the unknown wonders that existed beyond. He grappled with a sprawling riddle of emotions that spread discord like an eclipsing shroud over him. Pierced all over, wincing and writhing, wrestling with demons and lusting with feelings of the insatiable.He pounded at the adamant door, pounded robustly with all his vigor, hurling his body into it, beating his fists at it while his heart throbbed mercilessly in vain. Not even a sound could be created by his ceaseless blows upon it. The tower and all the inner secrets it harbored exceeded Joseph’s faculties ad infinitum.What mystery, so great, so hermetically sealed could be hoarded up within this confounding bastion?Impenetrable, incomprehensible terror of all terrors! Implacable tyrant of the ineffable, locked invincibly from his failing powers of apprehension. He wanted nothing more but a peek, a brief indulgence for his restless desire, to just simply probe for a second and see the sublime in its most haunting intensity!No vision from his mind could ensnare even an inkling of such godlike forms! How he hungered now, in a sudden kindling of ferocity, how he swelled beyond his own capacity to thrust himself through that portal and be immersed into the inner sanctum of the paramount Conundrum. All in vain, all in vain.For worst of all, he knew, that here at the final stop of his odyssey, he possessed no hope of gaining admittance and trespassing upon the sacrosanct quarters of the immured enigma.The skeleton key had eluded him at last and would assume no final form for his succor. He gazed hysterically into that unbreakable fortress that denied him even the simplest satisfaction. He was impotent against this indomitable impossibility that had outgrown even the enchanted vagaries of this unreal existence in which before he had always obtained some manna or nectar to nourish his fancies and propel him deeper into the elusive shadows of the infinite.Bereft of the skeleton key. Joseph shrank into quavering consternation and he felt himself become nothing but an infinitesimal insect-like figment against a towering colossus of mystery. From that mystery was born the one and only shadow in this realm—the shadow that fell from the tower and draped over the hapless creature groveling against it. The shadow that devoured this impoverished product of lust and desire, the shadow that annihilated his last miseries of consciousness and at last exterminated the dying wisps of his astral soul.Alas, Joseph was no longer there. He had evaporated into the nothingness, defeated by the unattainable mysteries against which he had struggled so long. Whatever may have remained of his essence, there in the dream cosmos, simply floated as a lost figment, eternally aimless and drifting on a zephyr wind over the mists of infinities, through amorphous corridors without beginning or end, between the endless series of portals that hid from him insuperable visions… Floating, floating, floating in eternal reverie with an unconscious hope, ever dormant, that perhaps a skeleton key may intercept him again and release him—release him through either side of those bewitching crossroads, to deeper realms of dream-visions or the waking life of reality.