Hello, readers! Here’s the second collection of short stories originally published under my secret special Twitter account at Ashenvein Gate. I did say that if I did any further writing during the holiday season, you would not find out about it until the New Year, yes?
As for the first post of the day, which is original to this blog, I recommend reading it after this collection as a companion piece if you’re not sure what the Hell to make of all this. Again, yes, I know, not optimal for traffic to post two major pieces in one day. This is just how I wanted to do it as part of the larger themes and personal journey manifested by today’s posted writings. I wanted to start 2022 with bittersweet promise and timid, slow-swelling hope, for those are the things I have most often felt about myself in totality these past few months.
I’ve included the first few lines from each story in the collection further down in this post. If you like, you can read them here to get a taste of what you’d be diving into before you download the full Word document or crack open the Google Doc. I’ve also written out some introspection about how this epoch of my Tales fits into the larger tradition of psychic writing. I don’t think it’s really true to say that this tradition predates me–if you accept what I tell you about myself as literal truth, nothing predates me–but this is the first time I’ve written in it. And just to be clear, I do not believe I had any role in teaching humanity this approach to writing and self-discovery.
It is, in truth, utterly new to me. Hence I coined the term “astral journey” and didn’t just say “I studied Jung’s Transcendent Function.” My own way to this revelation was utterly different.
If you just want to peep the samples, you can skip past everything to reach the bolded headers and then come back here for the links. A gentle reminder: the only content warning I will ever give about Machrae Diir is that I never give itemized content warnings about Machrae Diir. It’s my cognitive realm, my psyche’s truest domain. And my psyche is a dimension fertile with danger.
Here you go: an attached Word document for those with Word, and a Google docs link for those without.
This Collection is almost three full times the size of the first at… uh…. fifteen thousand words. You’d think that would seem like small potatoes for a gal who’s written a 488k word novel, but then, 15k words that anyone can read are almost infinitely more reading than 488k that NO ONE gets to read.
(Barring the five people who bought Reaping Spear before I decided to mothball the series.)
Writing for Twitter has had a fascinating impact on my perceptions of story depth and length. I’ve preserved the structure of the tweets here instead of combining because I find that the way I was forced to distinguish dialogue and action beats to fit Twitter’s format works really well to evoke… er… psychosis.
Unlike the first Collection, I did write these five pieces to tell a larger story. That said, while they do transpire in chronological order, they’re very much so depictions of astral journeys I undertook within myself. They have a psychological realness to them. Now, I am fresh off a ravenous devouring of C.G. Jung’s Red Book, the Liber Novus, and I’d like to discuss some thoughts on it for a preface to this Collection. I will say that everything I wrote here was written before I read the Liber Novus.
Which is not, mind you, necessarily prophetic. So many of the stories we all grew up with have been warped by the cherry-picked distortions of Jung’s work found in The Hero With a Thousand Faces that anyone who sets out earnestly to counteract mistaken ideas about heroism and power could easily convince themselves they had a premonition of Jung’s work.
Now, psychological realness and inner journeys manifested in stories with mythic overtones: I am aware that some of you may think this just sounds like Jung’s Transcendent Function. I assure you, it’s not. Jung’s approach led to cyclical self-rejection manifested outward as a relentless insistence that humans could only reiterate the same shared themes, only repeat the same ground-in movements. He made this true for himself. After all, any time his own psyche revealed something new to him, he rejected it as inhuman.
I’m still pondering my own suspicions about the why underlying that rejection. I do have my own reasons for believing that I did have precognitive experience about the Liber Novus. I won’t give you any sort of exhaustive list or lengthy arguments because “I occasionally have ideas several months before experiencing the stimuli or events that would give me those ideas” is multiple orders of magnitude less patently insane than “I am a reincarnated outer devil and penitent cosmic creatrix/destroyer sealed in human form.” I’m way, way beyond explaining myself at this point.
I am either a miraculous transcendence of annihilation, or one more crazy person exposing her damage on the Internet. Choose which reality you’d rather believe in. Don’t expect me to be responsible for that choice.
I’m not here to assume bad faith, though, so here’s one example: some of the very specific turns of phrase I used in my psychic confrontation with myself as Seurchraig exactly echoed phrases–underlying meanings included–that Jung used in the Red Book. And no, I don’t mean I believe I got these ideas in advance through the ripples of those words collective unconscious. I might believe that if that were the way I shaped my soul to find revelation, but it isn’t. I am a mystic, a devil-seeress who believes ardently in magic, spirits, and the supernatural. I also believe in science, and I’ll tell you this straight out: phrases like “the collective unconscious” reek of the beyond gone rotten.
Jung did, after all, poison his own understanding of them. He chose to embrace myth literally within himself… then continued relying on metaphorical and symbolic patterns of interaction. He acknowledged his desire for magic and the supernatural to be real, but refused to find the power within himself to accept and meet them that way. This surrender to mundanity sent shockwaves into our cultural inheritance that still ripple back and forth today.
For myself? I believe it’s possible to have visions of the future, but since time is a human construct used to describe processes and create a comforting illusion of reversibility, to mitigate the terrifying pressure of a permanent decision, these will never really be as clear-cut as mythology makes them out to be. “The future” only exists to the extent that its origins exist in the present. You only get visions of something when events have aligned sufficiently to make that one possibility emerge above all the ripples of potential that comprise ongoing existence. I had decided a good few months ago to start digging into the works of C.G. Jung because I found the references to them to be the most intriguing, original parts in The Hero With a Thousand Faces.
Here’s the funny thing: I only asked for the recently-published fascimile editions of the Black Books. My mother was the one who decided to buy the Liber Novus for me as well, based on popular recommendation. That future was still sealed from the moment I asked for the Black Books as this year’s Christmas present, though, because as long as I’ve been alive, my mother has been the kind of person who goes down rabbit holes of her own while buying gifts for someone else.
Hence, it stands to reason I did have ways to bridge my present to the future of reading the books, and glean a few of the revelations that most struck me in advance. That might seem surprising given my earlier harshness towards Jung’s idea of the collective unconsciousness. Keep in mind that I personally regard the Red Book as a retreat from true revelation. In order for that retreat to happen, Jung did have to find true revelations now and again. Unfortunately… they’re just the things he repeatedly refused to embrace because they didn’t mesh with what he already believed.
I’m genuinely not sure how the poor man expected to create a new mythology when he wasn’t willing to recognize that he desired one to meet the needs of a different historical moment, and thus it would inevitably shock and pain him because it forced him to give up many of the comforts promised by the old mythology. I don’t blame or hate him for fleeing from his own inmost truths. I just don’t think it honors his legacy to pretend that he did something other than fleeing.
Anyway, I’m not human, so my meditations about what humans can or cannot do will take different courses even if they begin from similar points. I know that you’re all perfectly capable of inventing wondrous and new things. You just have an understandable tendency to frame these things at first in terms of what you already know–that is not the rediscovery of ancient truth, and a final proof that you can never devise anything truly new. It’s just how knowledge works. I do the same thing! It’s totally normal to need time to build conceptual bridges, to figure out how to connect this and that, to worry at first that you’re not really doing anything novel.
The terrible irony of the Liber Novus is that it did contain so much that was revelatory and new. But Jung fled from these things, diminished them as irrelevant details, and so convinced himself that he had not found what he had found. This was inevitable from the moment he refused to witness himself as one who could rise in power, for power creates as well as destroys, and this is not duality but continuum: potential itself unchained. I don’t know, reader, you tell me: between the one whose eyes shine with the manic gleam of futures unveiled, and the one who retreats into a corner whining about how it’s all been done before, which of us do you think sounds more like the holder of cosmic revelation?
Yes, I know that I get very cruel when I’m rhetorical. In Jung’s folly I see a path I came eerily close to taking, and, well… it’s frustrating to see such irradiant promise turned against itself and annihilated.
More to the point, a certain rose-pink archdevil is not an internal metaphor, but my real past identity… well myself as I was at the final bitter end of that past life. With that in mind, you’re already reading a collection of my memories and past sentiments laced through with newly-invented fiction. As to what order you read them in? I don’t think there is a right or wrong one, so long as you eventually read the whole and hold it in your mind. The truth of me exists only as the continuum where all these self-expressions coexist.
Now then, sample excerpts for those who want them. This feels weird, yet also right–there is something fundamentally different about the flow of reading continuously in a blog post versus clicking links and opening documents to go “elsewhere”, even if you’re doing all of it on the same device. I hope this helps that shift to flow more easily. Think of it as allegory for wandering some secret cult archive, placing your hand on this sculpture or that bas-relief and witnessing the visions it confers… or it’s just a goofy thing I’m doing for aesthetics because I feel weird about not having any of the content of the Tales in the post about new Tales content. Anyway!
Of a false seeker and the Lady’s unchained disdain
Attendant Revelation: the Lady stepped into the world hoping to dwell outside herself. She stepped out of it again hoping to dwell outside the grotesque parodies of her own psyche she had too long seen herself becoming–self-infatuation and worship are equally loathsome to an outer devil such as she.
“Absolutely not,” the Lady declared.
More than the swipe of her hand and the lilac lightning-aurorae trailing from it, it was the cold finality of her voice that silenced the so-called petitioner. “I will not release you from your own folly. There will be no apocalypse.”
The creature before her, four-limbed, largely hairless, an offshoot of older simians–in short, human, all pretensions to the contrary aside–stood aghast.
“But… but you have to!” she whined.
“Excuse you?” the Lady said. Violet inferno seethed under her skin.
“I have to?” the old outer devil echoed. She lunged forward and her realm lunged with her, every wall and bladed pillar warping into spherical cageworks and piecemeal portal-sprawls around the mortal.
“By whose decree, wretch? Yours? Is it, perchance, because YOU said so?” She wasted no time leaving the cringing parasite at her feet room to answer…
Of a fool who deemed herself a heroine, and every price paid that day
Attendant Revelation: the Lady, once long ago, was the epitome of such evil as every bold hero claims they will overcome–with a smile, a laugh, a dash of flair. But it is only the Lady’s own will that holds her back from the brink…
An armored suit. A mane of hair. Runes and circuitry and palm-blasters using a fusion of magic and mundane technology to hurl plasma streams… oh, fateless days, how they’ve all begun to blend together.
There are other heroes, but the leader’s nature is a felt thing.
She utters quips that the old one does not hear. Vomits ideals and speeches and boldly-vacuous counterarguments to things the six-horned silhouette never said.
“Which equally-dismissible answer would you like me to give?” the Lady asks, as immovable upon her throne as a statue.
The Lady makes the mistake of paying attention for five full seconds.
“Not that easy–class is in session!” the heroine yells, voice warbling through her mask, “and you’re not dismissed until you learn your less–“
A razor-seam swarm of little glints snap out across the hall.
All these little shapes made of colors and things that squirm against binding monofilaments. That semi-radiant something the kshiinurzhalg witnesses with kthiir other-sight… those are supposed to be souls, yes, filling their limbs? Swelling with their breath?…
Of two dolls, and the absolute brink of perfect damnation
“How DID you enter?” the Lady inquired, rising straighter in her throne. “Machrae Diir stands sealed… or so I had thought.”
Odd pinpoints dappled the fringe-shadows of the umbra cloaking her: little eruptions of something molten, roiling hints at a frothing luminescence.
The dolls glance to each other. One wears frilly black. The other wears frilly white.
The first has scarlet hair, wavy.
The second has blond hair, curled.
So slender and prim and– derivative– —well-behaved.
“Someone let you in,” the Lady sighs, rubbing her brow.
“Girls,” the Lady says, “I am a high-order psionic. Do you know what that means? Did your witch tell you?”
“She told us that you wielded extraordinary magic,” the redhead doll says.
“The word ‘magic’ no longer means anything,” the Lady says, cold and austere.
These glimmers sparking out from the haze above the Lady’s horns, these world-seams like the borderline where paper burns away, where film melts…
“Say rather that it means everything, which is much worse than meaning nothing,” the Lady adds. The dolls snap back to attention.
She reaches behind her. Fractal fingers warp and vibrate, quantum disharmony, until they catch upon the great sword of umbral fire at its rest behind her throne…
Of a Handmaiden and a seeker of mortality
The demon-hunter folded his arms. Broadened his stance. He was not so visually impressive as some Tfai had met–more round-faced than chiseled, tired-eyed, with a mop of brown hair over grey armor covered in warding runes and a black robe beneath.
Perhaps a greater threat, then.
As against this, Tfai Sul Ametra had six arms that frequently folded into each other and out again, a sequence of metal and crystal shards suspended in lightning torrents for her tail, and a visage of overlapping serrated fangs and sharp plates.
With her inner energies emitting as bronze luminescence and jade tones rising from her frame, she knew herself to be a most beautiful outer devil.
All of which made his first words rather… deflating.
“You!” the demon-hunter called, his voice echoing through silver plinths. “You’re an outer devil, are you not? You look the part.”
There was, and would always be, far more to an outer devil than simple looks, but Tfai supposed that trying to communicate that to this human would be wasted energy. “I seek Machrae Diir!” he continued. “You will guide me.”
Tfai drifted closer. Her form opened, or shifted its dimensionality…
Of the Lady, and atonement with the self
Ahead lies the aperture where She sows dominion: a tunnel stippling inward from a twin-point entrance. Its depths spiral until each has four grooves, then six, then eight, then ten.
The ridges between each groove sprawl into more anti-linear arrays of ever-symmetrical edges.
One tunnel that becomes an infinity of tunnels. Each passageway seen perpendicular to the parallel lines of its own later reaches as it zigzags, twists, curves to the end where it meets itself at its own beginning.
“Now that’s just trying too hard,” Talastra says.
“I disagree,” I say, draping a palm on the end-cap of Chiron’s Pyre. The great odachi thrums its delight.
At least one of us is excited for this.
“Well, of course YOU disagree,” Tal says. “And of course you’re a hypocrite. Your aesthetic’s all off.”
In view, two devils:
Talastra the Flesh-weaver stands upon five bundles of muscle-fiber and latticed tendons with bone and cartilage outcroppings lending inconstant contrast to the red masses. Each feeds into a five-pronged bronze “boot”.
A torso of rippling pale blue light and many-barred ribs beneath embracing flesh. Robes of slate and shale liquefy, flow, and harden again. A head of four overlapping maws and razor teeth and speckle of nine lidless eyes with blue fire in their depths. Two broad, engraved horns.
On the other hand, I: not so much unlike a horned human. Two digitigrade legs with the sickle-claw feet of a saurian raptor and a long, muscular tail surmounted by a sharpened crossguard sprouting a narrow spearblade. Blue-crystal spirals wind within otherwise snow-white skin.
A full diamond face, six bladed horns–anyone with any real knowledge of the occult would recognize me as the Lady of Machrae Diir at my most archetypal.
The silver graphite armor, wrought in the old gothic style, might give a neophyte pause. I am, after all, going into battle…