I feel your pain. Please stop sharing!

What’s the unit of measurement for pain? (Hertz)

The only thing we never get enough of is love—the only think we never give enough of is love. H Miller

“Greeks thought myths were activities of Daimons who shape our characters & lives. I’ve often thought there is one myth for every person; if we knew it, we would understand our actions & thoughts.” W. B. Yeats

What he found after hastily removing layers of packing material from the battered box Dea sent him—was a stack of ragged earred notebooks. Atop the stack, held in place with crisscrosses of lavender ribbon, was a brief, handwritten letter. Across the top of the letter, in red block letters, were the words: READ ME FIRST. This was followed by a line of text in heavy, black letters: Personal papers estate of Dea Brentain; contents are hereby entrusted to Griffin Garner Northfield.

            His world blurred; pain radiated throughout his body, pain akin to what Huxley called a fascinating horror. The black ink mirrored his pain; the paper it was written on reflected his love, a fancier name for pain. The word ESTATE seemed to pulsate before his eyes. He blinked back tears as thoughts ricocheted inside his head. Too late, too late, but in the end she thought of me. No, this is some ghastly mistake, a prank. He clumsily pulled the sheet of paper free and started reading:

Dearest Finn:

If you’re reading this, I’ve somehow gotten myself killed—which means you’re in dreadful danger too. My murderer is known to both of us. I will explain. By the time you receive this package, news of my demise may have reached you. My photo might have appeared in one of your tattlers, asking for information regarding the circumstances surrounding my death.  I hope not; it’s better you learn in these pages how I’ve gone from visible to invisible, and what I now ask of you.

You’ve always had my love. Our finding each other was a mad, mystical marvel. If only it occurred before you met what you’ve always loved more, before I…

I’ve left this world, neither resigned nor relieved, but rather as my name implies—DEAfiantly, with purpose and forethought and more resolve than regret. One living person must know the circumstances, the perils and passions that have ruled my life; that person is you. I entrust you with vital intel you will need to understand what brought us together and kept us apart, what gave me joy, and what nearly destroyed me. While you may do what you like with what you learn—I know you’ll do the right thing—because I no longer can.

Heed my warning, tell no one, do nothing until you’ve read these journals. You’re intrinsically linked to the weighty disclosures laid bare within these pages—as is your wife, my daughter and family, and a few other persons of note.

I’ve put my trust in you; it’s deeper than the trust I have in my daughter Langley. Regrettably, her love and loyalty has been tarnished by the impure metals of a less than perfect childhood.  Swear at me for the burden I’ve imposed, but don’t refuse to read further. You must accept the consequence and price for having known me. Your life is in danger Finn─from this moment forward—because of what we were to each other—because of what you know and will comprehend absolutely after you’ve read these journals. Be fiendishly clever; follow the instructions given to the letter. Know that I’ve always held your life precious—no more so than now.

My daughter Langley must know a portion of this truth—but not until you do. You’ll learn why you were the obvious choice to tell my impetuous daughter about what happened, the link that exists between our families, and the price they exacted from us.

Here’s what you must do: remove the notebooks, and transfer everything to a briefcase or duffle bag.  Burn the box and wrappings post haste.  Tell your assistant you’re taking the remainder of the day off—to do some strategic planning or militant marketing—whatever it is you do at Wynn-Lennox. Go to a quiet, private place and start reading. Notebooks are marked in the order intended to be read. I’ve booked and prepaid a room for you under an assumed name. Reservation number and details are at bottom of page. This is most important.  DO NOT, under any circumstances, let Meredyth know about your plans or your whereabouts.  You will soon understand why. Be diabolically careful and covert.  Until you’ve finished reading this material, no one can know you have these books. If you ever loved me, do this for me and for yourself. May my devoted daimons keep you ever safe.

Endless Love, Dea Brentain, lately of this world

Griffin (Finn) fought to control the unwelcomed bile, rising up, scalding his insides like hot oil splashed on bare skin.  He breathed in slowly, and took a few sips of water.  The internal churning told him this was no hoax; Dea was dead, perhaps already buried, dead and decomposing, gone.  There would never be another chance encounter, a letter turning up in his private PO Box, or the lilting magic of her voice at the other end of a phone. There would be no happily ever after.

            She was wrong. He wasn’t bewildered or angry. He felt destroyed—the loving, caring part of him felt utterly and irrevocably damaged beyond repair.  Griffin Northfield the executive took over. The Finn she once knew numbly watched as his counterpart gathered the remains of the box towards the center of his desk. He grabbed scraps of paper, cardboard, and tape. He crushed and flattened the contents into a compact size, and shoved it into a large manila envelope, which he sealed. 

Griffin dialed the combination on his eel skin briefcase and scanned its contents. He tossed out several thick files marked CONFIDENTIAL, as well as a large computer print-out of a financial report he needed to review.  In went Dea’s notebooks and a folder of what looked like newspaper clippings and photos in thin plastic jackets, and a fat rose silk covered volume tied with a bedraggled black velvet ribbon.  The business card sized note attached to it read:  Open Me Last.

            Griffin twirled the lock and grabbed the handle firmly.  He threw his trench coat over his shoulder and picked up the phone to call his assistant, then dropped it.  Instead, he tucked the envelope full of paper scraps under his arm, fumbled through the door and walked briskly to his assistant’s desk.  She looked up, surprised and somewhat startled.  She had been about to buzz him.  His 3pm appointment had arrived and was sipping lemon tea in the outer lobby. 

            “Can’t stay,” he told her waving his arm. “Tell Mr. . . . whomever I can’t, well—send him my apologies.  I shall be away the rest of the afternoon.  Cancel any other appointments on my schedule today—Monday as well. Right, and lock the files on my desk in the safe.  After that, take the rest of the day off Marsha.  Yes, take the day off, and tomorrow—Monday as well. Let the service answer the phones. And Marsha, I require 700 pounds from the cash account.” He riffled through papers on his assistant’s desk, found a blank scrap of paper, initialed it and passed it to her. “There, that should work as IOU. You’d better call Riegel and tell Mrs. Northfield I’ll be away—for several days at least. She’s on holiday—just leave a message. Right then, that’s it.”  He shifted the bulky folder under his arm and waited for his efficient assistant to unlock the cash drawer. 

Disconcerted, Marsha examined the ring of keys carefully until she located the correct one. 

“I really need that right now,” he added, flustering her even more.    

Marsha Mason, his American born assistant for the past eight years didn’t know whether to be scared or amused. She’d often encouraged this charming, but terribly serious man to loosen up and do something spontaneous. Her move to England had certainly been a spontaneous decision for her. She’d never had one moment of regret. Both the climate and hearty food agreed with her. She’d put on a few pounds but her English husband didn’t mind.

She was itching to ask her boss what was up. She kept what she was thinking to herself long enough to say, “Yes, Mr. Northfield, I topped off the cash yesterday.  I’ll tell the gentlemen in the lobby you were called away to one of the factories.” Marsha scooped up and counted out 700 pounds of crisp notes. She’d have to replenish it Monday, or Tuesday, since he was giving her Monday off.  “There you go sir.” And thank you—for the vacation time.  You do know tomorrow is Saturday. Shall I  . . .”

            He was gone before she could finish her sentence.  The man in the lobby started to rise as Finn raced by.  His knee connected with the spoon resting in the saucer and it flipped into the half empty cup of tea, sending drops of warm liquid across the waxy polished surface of the antique mahogany table.  “Buggers,” the man muttered.

            Marsha scurried across the lobby, composing an explanation in her head for the sudden departure of her boss. The clumsiness made the stiff little gentlemen seem less rigid. Picking up a starched napkin, she swiftly blotted the spilled tea.  “I’m so sorry.  Mr. Northfield was called away to one of our—software sites.  We deeply regret the inconvenience to you and your firm.  If you’ll step over to my desk, we’ll reschedule the meeting.”

            Outside, the March breeze blew chill, sharp air around and down collars as people hurried to their destinations. Finn left his car garaged and hailed a taxi about three blocks from the headquarters of Wynn-Lennox Limited. He stopped at an ATM and withdrew more cash.  He was oblivious to the weather and told the driver to take him to a small hotel near Kensington.  He paid the cabby, over tipping him in his haste to exit, and hurried into the hotel’s lobby.

            Sixty seconds later he left through a side exit, and walked through a narrow archway into an old, cobbled alley used for deliveries and storage of hotel refuge. The alley was deserted. He went to a dimly lit corner, placed the manila envelope on the pavement, and set it on fire. Several times he poked the smoldering contents with the toe of his shoe.  Finally, he stomped on the small pile of the charred remains, satisfied it bore no resemblance to the package he’d received.  The breeze caught ashy scraps and swirled charred remains into the air. 

            He returned to the street, located a phone booth and placed a trans-atlantic call. There was no answer at the other end. He donned his trench coat, pulled the collar up, then hailed another taxi to drive him to Terminal Three at Heathrow. He tipped the cabby and went inside. A minute later he was hastily walking through the enclosed walkway connecting the terminal to a hotel lobby. Finn went straight to the reservation counter and asked for the room reserved for Mrs. Smythe. When he was asked to show some form of identity, Finn feigned embarrassment. He confided to the clerk he wasn’t Mr. Smith—he was meeting a friend, and slid a 20 pound note to the clerk, adding he’d appreciate the clerk’s discretion. The skinny young man with a spikey hair cut and a prominent adam’s apple nodded. He gave the clerk more cash  to ensure a bottle of good English gin, a large container of tonic, and a plate of sandwiches would be delivered to his room immediately.

            Finn glanced towards the expansive lounge area, where businessmen and women were busily engaged in conversations, puffing cigarettes, gesturing with their hands. No one seemed to pay any attention to one more conservatively dressed businessman. The elevator stopped on his floor and he quickly moved across the open catwalk corridor to his room, which sported a view of the hotel’s cavernous atrium through the picture windows of his room. He shut the curtains, and feeling slightly absurd, checked under the bed, opened the small closet and peeked behind the bathroom door before opening his briefcase.

            After room service arrived, he placed a Do Not Disturb sign outside his door. A bit nervously, he again checked the lock and glanced around the room. His briefcase lay open on the bed. He’d placed the stack of Dea’s notebooks on the desk.  Finn broke the seal on the gin and poured a generous measure into a tall glass.  He added cubes, tonic, and several wedges of lime, and took a deep swallow.  He left the plate of sandwiches untouched but did toss down some salted nuts in a small bowl on the tray. He carried the drink and the bowl to the desk.

            It was time to do what Dea had asked. It wasn’t time to mourn her—yet. He reread the letter she had placed atop the notebooks.  Nothing had changed. The words still revealed the very worst scenario Finn could have imagined. Though they hadn’t spent more than a few weeks together if he totaled all their snippets of shared time, as long as she was still in the world, he could manage, he did manage. Now, in the space of a few hours, everything had changed.  Absently, Finn refreshed his glass, topping it off as Marsha was fond of saying. He opened the cover of the first notebook, a black and white composition book, upon which Dea had drawn an arrow and the words ‘Start Here.’ He observed the pile on the desk contained several other nearly identical composition books. Two notebooks stood out. Both were ornate and heavier, with gold embossed bindings. Both covers had purple cabbage roses and odd symbols traced in silvery ink. He flipped through the densely written pages, then picked up the book labeled start here. Several loose, typewritten sheets had been inserted at the beginning of the notebook, dated 1972. He smoothed the sheets, controlling an urge to press the faintly floral scented pages to his chest. He began reading.

This is for you Finn and (indirectly) for those who nurtured, loved, cheated, or denied me. This is my explanation─or dare I say—contrition. Though some may blame me or try to trash my legacy, I forgive nearly everyone. For I was loved─deeply loved by magnificent people. This is, in part, my love story back to those that loved me.

These books will show how my life evolved—without you in it. It was never dull. Many will assert it was a life of privilege; I would disagree. Bottom line—it was never enough­—never immense enough, sweet enough, or tender enough. In the end, it became too long—or perhaps just long enough, for it ended well (I presume).

        At this ripe age of 42, I’ve accomplished my goals; ambitions reached fruition, and I’ve watched my daughter take her place in a world more suited to her than it ever was to us.  She will reel in the elusive prize we could never contain in our nets. She’ll do it because she’s an intelligent, gutsy young woman. A woman you can be proud of, and should be, because in many ways─she’s yours—or should have been.

            Finn dropped the paper, grabbed his glass and drained it. What madness was this? He should place another transatlantic call and get these extraordinary details confirmed. He could call one of his directors, or his press agent. Dea, what have you done, what have you withheld from me? Still, her warning had been quite explicit. He must read through everything first.

         Please forgive me for not sharing her—until now. The circumstances—I will tell you, as well as exactly what happened to me after we parted in Santa Fe. It stops now—the hurting, the wondering, and waiting. Though I’ve been—translated into another dimension, love abides. Don’t search for my remains; do not mourn. Haven’t we been mourning each other’s absence for over 20 years? Let this be the end.

         Live, get to know Langley. She isn’t your physical child. Our child did exist but was torn from me by forces then beyond my control. In these notebooks, you will learn why we couldn’t be together. Langley is your soul child. Trust me and keep reading. And after you know everything, consider putting your company in the capable hands of another workaholic, and walk away. Only the first step is difficult.

         Find humor in what remains. Life shouldn’t ever be grave (no pun intended) or morbid. If it feels that way, it’s time to go. It’s not your time, darling Finn. I wrote my own obituary, and dare stuffy editors to break with tradition and print a death notice that contains the highs AND lows of a life fully lived.

         Isn’t our mistakes and imperfections what defines us and exposes our shadows? Owning up to our transgressions and shortcomings, I’ve concluded, helps us evolve. At the end of our 15 minutes, shouldn’t we be the best we can be? And shouldn’t we choose when it’s quitting time?

         I’ve lived part of my life as a corporate version of a boardwalk prognosticator who gazed into the crystal lens of a camera and told the masses what they wanted to hear, and as much truth as they could stomach. I’ve been carefully vague and enigmatic, until recent years…

         The irony is I understood the sham, where the good divided from the true, still I allowed exaggerations and lies to be broadcast. Too often I’ve known who would win—elections, Oscars, coveted social or scientific prizes; what stocks and airplanes would crash, what commodities would go mainstream and which would bust. You benefitted more than once from warnings and predictions I shared with you.

So here is my final prediction: fevers created by plastic, then by computers (your forte), and now by the Internet, will be replaced by biotech breakthroughs and new sources of energy and fuel. Invest wisely. You’ll love again. That’s the truest prediction I can make with certainty.

         This past few years have been both amazing and arduous. Do you remember our debates about the philosopher’s stone, grail, the possible sources of singing blood and weeping statues—the knowledge the ancients guarded or thought was forever destroyed? Secrets they believed would never manifest again in this world. I found them. Yes, this sounds insane. Please keep reading.

There was no secret about loving you Finn. I have held you close in my thoughts, and within the circle that forms my very core. These pages contain poor expressions of the complicated sum and substance I could never reveal─until now. I owe you an explanation about our entangled fate—and the forces that kept us apart.

The answer is larger than us both. It’s intertwined with your wife, Meredyth, who is most assuredly, this very moment, scouring the UK for you. She knows about us. She’s known for some time─at least since our last meeting in Paris. Now that she thinks I’m dead, she’ll come after you.  I’ve explained everything in these pages. But first you must read my early journals and remain hidden. It’s all there─the answers you seek, and many you didn’t. Every price I paid, every bloody last farthing, as you might say, is accounted for in full. Have patience, follow the dark, ink bricks of my life . . . Endless love, Dea

Griffin scanned the page again. “Meredyth knows . . . she’ll come after you . . . the price I paid.” What price? What does the women with whom I’ve had little more than a business relationship with have to do with the only woman I’ve ever loved? He was sure the two women had never met. He was fairly sure if Meredyth had known, she wouldn’t have cared. She had her own lovers. This was insanity. His head ached and his stomach rumbled. He folded the sheets, and scraped his chair back. In the bathroom, he splashed cold water on his face, and grabbed a sandwich from the plate. He chewed while he paced, not knowing whether to smash his fist into the tartan wallpaper, or sink to his knees and beg for oblivion.

            Common sense prevailed. He finished another sandwich and a handful of cold chips, hung his clothes in the closet, and jumped into a steaming shower. His tense muscles ached from holding back emotions he was trained to suppress. He held his arms stiffly in front of him and pressed the palms of his hands against the white tile wall. Griffin’s head drooped forward when hot, stinging beads pelted his neck and back. In that pose, hidden from everyone, he acknowledged—for a solitary moment—the pain Dea’s death and her words inflicted. Gut wrenching sobs were muffled by the indifferent onslaught of water, its wetness mingled with his tears. After, he donned the hotel provided terry bathrobe, and grabbed the first notebook. He poured a modest measure of gin into a fresh glass, threw two bed pillows behind him, and began reading Dea’s first journal.


Deandra and Sebastian had each taken a mild sleeping pill so they could rest on the overnight flight to New York. Without exception, all Deandra’s trips to New York included a side visit to a private clinic on Long Island. Sebastian wouldn’t hear of any delay today. Mid-morning Sunday, they were quickly ushered through Customs and then boarded the company’s propjet, which flew them directly to (Reagan) National airport. Martin Brentain, Dea’s brother, and Geneva, his wife, had arrived earlier. They booked suites at the Four Seasons, and everyone ordered a light supper from room service.

Martin had little appetite. He’d tentatively identified the burned body in the garage as that of his sister’s. Early Saturday morning, Martin and Geneva Brentain were abruptly roused from a deep sleep. Martin received the news from his niece, then stoically relayed what Langley had told him to his wife. A thin line of tears trickled down Geneva’s pale face. Watery dawn light sifted through the curtains of their muted blue bedroom, glancing off lovingly polished black cherry furniture.  Geneva shook her head slowly. “Poor, poor Langley, the child must be beside herself. Martin, what shall we do about your father?”

“This was no accident, murder, more likely—not suicide. How many times did I warn my sister?  I’m sorry, Gen. Give me a moment to pull it together. Why don’t you ask Edith to pack enough clothes for three or four days? That’s my girl. Ah, come here.” The couple embraced, Martin’s arms circled his wife’s plump frame.  Geneva felt like a balloon from which the air was slowly leaking.

“I’ll drive over to father’s and let Caresse know what’s happened. She’ll keep the news and the public from him until he’s feeling better. Do you remember where Grandee’s staying in England?”

“Likely the Savoy. Covent Gardens is still one of their favorite parts of London. He’s awfully fond of that eatery, Simpson’s. Your Grandee says they still know how to do a proper afternoon tea. Do you remember the huge meal we had at Simpson’s a few years ago? Oh, how can I even think about something so mundane with this latest tragedy…?”

“Don’t chide yourself dear. I suppose I should contact Grand Sebastian and let him relay the unbelievably bad news to Grandee.”

“Oh, Martin, I would never have thought we’d be planning to bury your sister—so full of life. If only we’d known. She’s always been so impetuous. And now that poor child . . . ”

“Dea didn’t conform to anyone’s idea of normal.” Martin grabbed a pair of grey flannel trousers and a crisply ironed white shirt from a closet that featured a chandelier and huge, velvet tufted circular settee. Geneva tossed him a v-necked preppy looking cashmere sweater with a green and black diamond pattern and fetched a pair of socks from their highboy.

“Gen, call the office and let them know we’ve had a family emergency. I’ll call Harvey before Monday morning and provide more details. And turn on the TV. News of her death is likely all over. I need to go see Caresse to ensure father doesn’t hear the news on the TV.” Will you chose a dark grey blazer for me, perhaps the double-breasted wool? “The shave will have to wait,” he murmured. As a parting gesture, he swiped at the tears careening again down his wife’s face, grabbed the keys to his jag, and headed downstairs.


At the airport Sunday, Martin gazed admiringly as Deandra walked to their waiting limo. He jumped out to greet his chicly attired grandmother. Her coifed hair, in ten shades of silver, was surprisingly thick for a woman over 90 years old. It was swept into a classic French twist and secured with an ebony clip. If one looked closely, the clip was carved with minute faces of menacing creatures. Her signature necklace, a heavy, ornate silver disc etched with triangularly crossed lines, swung from a delicate filigree chain. It seemed to draw attention towards her. Sebastian walked yards behind, deep in discussion with a gentleman who exited the plane carrying a thick black leather briefcase bulging with papers. It was Milt Kaminski, the family’s personal lawyer.

“Grandee. As always, you look astonishingly calm and elegant. Let me take your case.” Martin raised his arms and attempted to kiss and embrace his grandmother, who held the sleek lozenge shaped case in front of her, slightly raised.

“Don’t be silly Martin; he’ll get it,” Deandra pointed at the limo driver. “Now, let me look at you.” She cupped his face in her long, bony hands, then lightly moved his jaw to the right and left, letting go abruptly. “Such a perfect countenance, even on a day such as this—except for the stubble. Is there something wrong with your wife—or is the Washington air too dense for her? Deandra leaned inside the limo, and glanced at Geneva, who gave her a hesitant smile, then turned and addressed Martin again. “Where is my great granddaughter?”

“Yes, we’re not sure of her whereabouts. It’s been rather confusing. She rang me yesterday morning initially, since then we’ve only exchanged voice messages. We’ve been unable to… catch up. She indicated she’s been assisting one of the detectives investigating the—fire. Langley’s very adamant it wasn’t her mother in the garage. The body I identified at the morgue was badly burned. Now you and Grand Sebastian are here, I’m sure she’ll contact us. Your suite at the Four Seasons is just a few blocks from Langley’s condo. If you’d like, we could . . . .”

“I’d like to see my great granddaughter. Is that such a difficult request? I would hope you had the presence of mind to realize she needs protection, at least until we’ve determined just went on at Dea’s. Exactly what did you see when you identified the body. I want you to describe everything.”


Saturday am: “Good Morning. This is Marsha Mason, Mr. Northfield’s personal assistant. May I speak to Mrs. Northfield? I have an important message for her from Mr. Northfield?

“Madam is not at home. She is expected later today. Would you care to leave a message?”

“Yes, well perhaps, er no—message at the moment. I’ll try back later.”

“Very good madam. Good day.”

“Oh bugger beans,” Marsha Mason exclaimed aloud. Finn asked me to do one simple thing, casually mentioning it may be a matter of ‘vital importance’ and I can’t manage it. Should I drive over to Wynn Lennox Woods and wait? Nope, not a capital idea, that one.  I could nip over to Gresham’s for a nice, filling Ploughman’s Lunch and a pint to calm the nerves, then try ringing again. Yes, that’s a better idea…


A scrap of paper taped to the front of the book bore another quick note in Dea’s handwriting. “Please excuse these juvenile literary attempts. The entry that begins this journal is perhaps not so aptly titled: Dea Defies the Gods. There are no earlier journals because I was shipped abroad to an English boarding school after mother’s death in 1968, and had little privacy. I’ve removed many of my trivial teenage rantings. What you will read you may find hard to accept. Don’t judge until you’ve read everything. Finn took a deep drawl of his drink and opened the notebook.

December 18 1971. Fall semester ended and they let me come home to Eire Indigo. It’s the only real home I’ve known. Grandee and Grand Sebastian bequeathed it to my parents after they were married. So many things have changed. The outside this year is decorated tastefully rather than festively; boxwood topiaries wear stiff gold bows and a huge evergreen wreath with wax fruit hangs on the door. A 10 foot tall balsam fir stands sentry in the foyer, bedecked with nothing but gold ornaments and white twinkle lights. Mum would have been furious; this must be Grandees doing. 

But I shouldn’t complain, so much is fresh and clean, like this notebook, the snow still falling, and the boys I know who are becoming men. Last night the game of chess with Carl got intense—he advanced—I played coy—a stalemate was the only possible outcome. I may only be 12, but I already know what I want—to become a woman. He whispered kisses into my mouth! It’s what I want more than anything. My daimons also told me what I have to do. And I think mum agrees. She’s been helping me from the beyond, or from wherever it is she is. How can that be? Is this an O’Hennessy gift or affliction?

I haven’t encountered anything like them. I never even pretended to glimpse the alleged ghost that haunted Mr. Leland’s decrepit house next to the private school I used to attend. I didn’t see any Bloody Mary specter in the mirror during a sleepover a few years ago at Maggie’s, though I was the first one to repeat her name five times. That’s not to say I haven’t had my fair share of strange experiences. Grand Sebastian is positive I have the sight others in our family were born with. I have a knack for reading others thoughts (and bullshit). I can find lost things and tell the provenance of an item and who had owned it if I concentrate hard and say a few words of gibberish mum taught me.

Today, I managed to snatch a few frosted cookies and a biscuit for Tuatha before getting ousted. I left the glass of milk our butler poured me on the counter. Milk’s for kids; I’m a woman now with real breasts, curves, and a bloody period every month. And I’ve been kissed by a king; okay he was a boy whose last name was Koenig, which meant king. I heard arguing coming from dad’s library and glued my ear to the closed door. My grandparents are spending part of the holidays here, before leaving to spend New Year’s in Edinburgh.

Grandee was arguing with Grand Sebastian about some ceremony she and the lavender and liniment scented Brigita’s would be conducting at solstice near the springs that fed our lilypond. My name was mentioned, so were the words virgin and essential.  Jeepers! I nearly shouted aloud when she said they couldn’t wait another year; they must do it now. They must initiate me. They needed to channel my adenos, whatever that is …. The rest I couldn’t make out. I stomped off to the only place in the house that gave me comfort, my mother’s workroom in the largely abandoned cellar. Tuatha followed at my heels.

I ran, unmindful of the watchful eyes of Mrs. Leigh, Grandee’s #1 spy and our housekeeper. A part of mum remains here, in work left unfinished, in the dust and lingering odors of jasmine and musky sandalwood—exotic aromas from the incense she burned. There was a faint trace of kerosene wafting from the heater she used to take the chill off the room and heat water for tea and her rum grogs. Though she’s been dead for over 3 years, there’s a trace of her clove studded orange slices, crystalized ginger, and the sugary nutmeg she sprinkled on apple wedges. Sometimes I’d suck on the fruit; the sweet, tipsy fruit could make me giddy.

This was the least elegant part of the old house. Her drawing board/layout table took up a third of the space in table mode. The two stone walls that were part of the NW corner of the house still held drawings and sketches. The other walls were plastered with fabric swatches and a few of my now curling grade school drawings. A kerosene heater stood near the door and away from most of the flammable items. She was an interior designer, well known for her flair to texturize rooms and elegantly combine classic and modern styles, using unexpected color combinations.

The day bed against the far wall served as dog lounger and a place for mum to nap if she was overly tired or drank too many grogs. Under the bed were boxes of my old toys and books, including several collections of ghost stories. A heavy cupboard, its layers of paint peeling, stood next to the bed. It held drawing supplies, more fabric swatches, her needlepoint essentials, yarns, a copper tea kettle, and odds and ends. I shook a few of the tins. It sounded like they still contained food. I knew this room and had searched every inch of it the past few years, thinking she’d left me a letter, some sort of message.

My brother Martin never came down here; it was cold and damp. He preferred the bookish atmosphere of my father’s library. He was allowed to sit in the oversized wing back chair next to the fireplace as long as he remained quiet. I picked up one of mother’s needlepoint tools, a rusting needle punch lying on the drafting table. Her vivid, intricate tapestries hung in museums and private collections in the US and abroad. In anger or anguish, I began stabbing the stone wall. Mortar fell to the floor. A small stone became dislodged and fell through the other side, making a dull thud. “Mum,” I think I cried aloud, “damn it, why’d you leave me? Who’s going to save me from Grandee and her crones?”

She’d been so tired recently. Sometimes I’d return from school and she’d be fast asleep on the day bed. Her empathic gift, which had helped so many, was killing her. She’d stopped talking about future dream houses we’d design and trips we’d take. She stopped telling me her magnificent stories about Celtic ancestors and their heroic deeds. She started talking about death. She said there shouldn’t be lies or half-truths about how we die. They teach sex education; they should also teach death education in school. She said some colleges were beginning to offer a 3-credit course called Thanatology.

In this section of the basement, which once contained the old root cellar, electricity had never been installed. A bit of light filtered into the room through casement windows. For her up close work, she strung a workman’s extension cord from the other side of the basement to here and used it to power a lamp. The extension cord was removed years ago. There didn’t seem to be any kerosene in the heater but I found several stubby candles and a pack of matches.

The small hole I’d punched in the wall revealed a cobwebbed hideaway. It must be the old root cellar. Abusing mum’s tool, I managed to loosen several more stones, and could now make out a space about 5×8 feet in size. Thick curls of dust made my nose itch. I vaguely recalled mum telling me workers cemented the outside entrance to the root cellar in the late 50’s during renovations.

The tiny room appeared to be empty except for a small, dark object on the floor, cobwebs, and lots of dust. I attempted to reach through the hole and grab it. Pain shot up my arm as pieces of jagged stone cut into my flesh. Blood dripped onto the dirt floor from a three-inch gash on my arm. A drop might have splashed on the object I’d tried to snag. The candle fell from its holder and sputtered next to the object I could now see was red ochre in color and marked with symbols.

The room plunged into darkness again while I fumbled for another candle and matches. That’s when these dimly outlined, sort of translucent blobs of light came hurtling out of the hidden space. At first, I accused whatever they were of being sent by Grandee and her crones. The next thing I knew, the candle and the object I’d been trying to grab also flew out of the old root cellar space and hovered in the air. The candle lit itself. I grabbed for it. That’s when I guess I fainted.

A bunch of things must have happened while I (and apparently Tuatha) were dozing. We’d somehow been transported to my old day bed. The chunky candles in wall sconces had been lit. The gash on my arm had been cleaned and was bandaged with a remnant of mum’s good damask fabric. I experienced a series of visions of bizarre and outrageous things. Mum was floating in a watery glass coffin-like box, neither dead nor alive. Clear tubes, some filled with an opaque, some with an emerald green liquid, ran from her body to a vibrating machine. A veiled woman stood behind the machine, whispering to someone wearing a white lab coat. The scene switched and a giant warrior I felt strangely close to waved to me from a hillside teaming with perfectly formed tiny people. They ranged from matchstick to 12 inch ruler size. They too waved at me. I knew his name was Aonghus but not how I knew.  I would later stumble upon the right word to describe this peculiar state: lucid dreaming.

Next, I saw a younger version of mum making entries in a fat, oversized book that looked strangely familiar. There was a faint odor of spice and musk. She hid the book in the false bottom of the ornate, silk covered box that held 100s of needlepoint skeins, needles of various sizes pushed into the felt and silk padded lid of the box, sheers, and an assortment of fabric swatches. That box sat on an open shelf in my bedroom.

I sat up and swung my legs around. Two vague shapes materialized into jolly round faces. They spoke to me telepathically, I think that’s the right word, because their mouths didn’t move. “Welcome Perdura, daughter of Aubra, descendent of the divine Deianara, daughter of Dionysus. Your gracious donation of life blood enable us to verify your bloodline. We have been waiting for you.”

I should have been scared out of my skull. Were these ghosts of people that died in the previous century? This house, according to Grand Sebastian, had been built in the late 1850s, pre-civil war. Tuatha remained asleep and unaware. “Are you like Casper, Jacob Marley, or other spooks I read about? Call me Dea. How is it I’m able to see and hear you? Who are you? What are you?”

The blobs chattered amongst themselves, then the one with a bluish aura spoke. “In the long ago, we were part of another realm of being. For many 1000s of your years, we have been consigned to your earth realm. You can see us unaided for reasons we will explain. We have been called by many names. To ancient Romans, we are genii; to Zoroaster, we are Fravashis; to the ancestors of your lineage, we are the daimone. Let us show you those who once dwelt here.”

If I remember correctly I somehow floated through the air and the thick walls into the root cellar. I had a soft landing. My feet plunged into the sandy ash floor and my arms grabbed a gnarled beam above to steady myself. Not ghosts, not wingless angels or frightening, horned devils with pointed teeth and horns; daemons, how curious.

On a screen inside my head, or was it before my eyes, native Indians on horseback rode past. Only part of the horses were visible, from the chest and tail up. They trotted mostly single file through a densely wooded area. The Indian at the front of the procession had painted his face in bands of black and yellow. He raised something that seemed to be half axe, half rounded cudgel and uttered a loud, piercing sound, then they all disappeared from sight. It was every bit as weird as the visions I’d had a few minutes earlier. Not only was I seeing ghostly images, I was talking without speaking to these pulsating blobs. I asked them who these Indians were, and remarked it made sense ghosts of past generations became demons and monsters in our time. I wondered if the beasts and behemoths in stories by writers like Lovecraft and Poe might be the ghosts of real creatures that existed when dinosaurs roamed.

Then I stopped myself. “Get out of my head.”

“No, you must let us reside within you, accept us as indwellers.”

 “As what?”

“You must let us be present in you.”

“Like become possessed; you want to inhabit my body? Sounds bogus. Why?”

The undulating, opaque forms spoke in unison. “No, not possession; the possessed are unaware of their possessor. Our link is shared; our link is of mutual benefit, more like your word symbiosis.

“When you wish our link to abate, or if you seek a space of privacy, return us to the vessel. Do you agree?”

“Before I agree to anything, prove yourselves daemons or whoever you are. If you knew my mum, then tell me something no one else knows but me.”

The golden blob shimmered and spoke, “No Eudaemonos, you’ll confuse or frighten her further. Let us assume forms more identifiable and pleasing.” The blue blob morphed into a 3D image of an owl. The golden blob became a laughing, scantily clad Buddha with a fat belly and strings of red and golden flowers round its neck. From a corner of the root cellar, a third, reddish-pink blob came screaming towards me. It grew in size and assumed the shape of a large, glowing snake, a python perhaps.

They identified themselves as Eudaemonos the Wise; Agathos the Mirthful; and Agon the Conqueror. “No Agon, you mean Challenger,” said the owl. “Our vocabulary is limited and time is of the essence. We are your daemons.”

In unison, they invaded my head with their words. “You will come to understand. Passed down into your line are her memories, transported in your DNA—and microorganisms that predispose you to robust health, heightened awareness of the signature of objects and beings. These parasites alert you to danger, when not compromised, and enable you perceive what others cannot. It is why you must fast until solstice; you must follow our instructions without fail.”

“We shall tell you many things about your mother, about how she came to suffer from the very gift she used to heal so many. When she put your newly born canine in the holiday box under the tree of evergreen, she attached a tag with his name Tuatha. Later, when you asked, she told you the Tuatha was a divine tribe of Erin who possessed magical powers. They were your ancestors, about whom you have much to learn before solstice.”

“Okay, I’m impressed. You were either easedropping or mum told you about giving me Tuatha. But solstice is nearly three days from now. I’ll starve. Do you want me dead you creepy old specters? What did you mean parasites?”

There was collective sigh. “You may eat grain made into bread and drink water pure. You must heed us and do this or your grandmother will gain control—of your will. Do you understand Perdura, daughter of Aubra? We weren’t in time to save your mother. She beseeches us to save you.”

“Only Grandee calls me Perdura. My name is Dea. What do you mean my mum wants you to save me? Do you know what happened to her? Did you put the image I keep having in my brain—mum trapped in some glass box with tubes running everywhere? That’s not what death looks like.”

“Let us link into you and share our knowledge. We will show you. Trust the visions we deliver. Follow every instruction. We must haste, our power abates.”

From a crevice between flat, exposed root cellar stones, a package bound in waxed calico cloth wrapped with a crumbling length of leather edged forward, then plopped into the sandy ashes near my feet. Before I could bend and retrieve it, the package levitated and hovered in front of me. Underneath the wrappings were three slim books. One had a black cover, the second had a red cover. The third book was cream colored and filled with gold and silver symbols.

“What our words cannot convey or that which you must learn by heart, you will find in these books. Read the black book first, in entirety, then the red. Leave the adorned book with us for now.”

The two books thumped against my budding C cup breasts, and gave me a strange electric shock. No, it was more of a lightning bolt jolt that reached from the crown of my head to the soles of my feet. It made me giddy.


Griffin rubbed his eyes. How could this be true? He got up and stretched, started to reach for the bottle of gin, but decided to make a cup of tea instead, adding two teabags to the cup. He returned to the bed to resume reading.


“You have asked many questions, daughter of Aubra. Some answers you will find in the black book. Do exactly as the pages ask. Tell no mortal. Show no mortal. Hide the books in the compartment where your mother’s notebook is stored; the notebook in your vision. Learn and practice the binding spell to ensure your study is undisturbed. Return here in three days, before the moon rises. Now leave us. Our strength wanes. There is much to learn. One last entreaty, you must lie about your catamenia when your grandmother asks, and she will ask and ask again.”

“My what?”

“Your monthly flux, your courses, your…”

“Ah, my period, a rather personal thing. Why?”

“Your grandmother wants to perform a binding ceremony, to force you to become a Brigida…and do her bidding. She’s assumed, correctly, your monthly fluxes have begun. You must tell her it has not. You must hide all traces in a glamour until you complete your training and initiation. We must go. Heed our words Dea, daughter of …”

I was back outside the root cellar, clutching two musty smelling books. I watched in awe as the stones I’d gouged out of the wall flew back into place, except for some telltale bits of mortar that remained on the floor. I guessed the red ocher lidded bowl was back in the root cellar as well. Great, would I have to carve up the wall again in three days?

So these ghostly, gossamer creatures were my personal daemons, not guardian angels. Which was good, considering how Joan of Arc’s supposed angelic encounters ended in her death. I’d read a few things about daimons or daemons when we studied Greek history. The philosopher Socrates claimed to have his very own daemon, a guardian spirit. How was it possible mum and I had three daemons? Some scholars credited a Sumerian god named Enlil with the creation of an underworld in which both daemons and ghosts resided. Enlil taught a few mortals how to compel these underworld entities to do a mortal’s bidding.  Daemon’s were tricksters, healers, protectors, teachers…allegedly. I’d have to visit the public library to learn more.

In Grand Sebastian’s library, there were several books on the history of Nelline County, PA and the tribes that had once lived there. I guessed the Indians on horseback in my vision were Lenape. The Iroquois, part of the Algonquin Nation, inhabited large stretches of eastern land—from the Chesapeake to NY’s Finger Lakes. The Lenape (Delaware) occupied the head waters of the Susquehanna and areas extending to the Choptank River. They interacted with Hurons, Cherokees (Kittuwa), Shawnees, and were a peace seeking tribe of warriors and strong women. I did a school report on Storm Cloud Woman, a descendent of first mother. She was a great healer and visionary, imbued with orenda, a powerful, invisible energy. It was she who prophesized the coming danger of greedy white men and the destruction of the confederated Eastlander tribes of the Americas.

Calling the Lenape peacemakers was both an honor and affront. Colonialists gave Lenape warriors womanly nicknames. A few of their women could sit in council meetings and voice opinions regarding the making of war or its cessation. These women wore wampum belts and feathered bands in their hair, but were not allowed to make treaties or hold any weapon other than a staff.

Most of Storm Cloud’s prophecies were of a dark nature and had sadly come to pass. She accurately predicted when a distant band of invading Creeks would attack their village, firing guns they’d stolen from the white man. They were therefore prepared and staged an attack on the marauding tribe before they reached their village. After killing nearly ½ their warriors, they gave the remaining men the choice to either join their tribe or die. The Creek warriors joined the Lenapes and exchanged stories, knowledge of good hunting grounds, and which sacred totem animals were best to employ to ensure bountiful crops, healthy children, and a good death.

In the early 1700s, in her 70th year, Storm Cloud had a vision more terrifying than previous revelations. The White Man would spread new diseases and push the Iroquois from their lands, despite having signed treaties and made promises otherwise. Near solstice, leaders and chieftains from many tribes: the Axions, Eriwonecks, Asomoches and Kechemeches; the Mohegans, Montauk, and Wolf clans; and the Mandes and Blackfoot gathered for a powwow. They came to hear Storm Cloud’s new prophecy and discuss potential solutions to ensure survival of future generations of Iroquois. She warned her people in advance—the solution would require great change, and sacrifices beyond offerings of tobacco and corn. They sensed the presence of Great Spirit, the deities of the four winds, and Old Hare, the keeper of the shapes their spirits assumed.

A lodge was erected; some say it was a Medicine and Machtoga (sweat) Lodge; others insisted it was a version of a Ghost Lodge. At this great gathering, red clay and copper pipes (appooke) of peaceful communion and talking sticks were passed. Game was roasted and harvested food was shared. A daring, perilous plan was formulated based on Storm Cloud’s vision. Every tribe represented agreed to support this long term plan.

However, the story passed down in US History books was that after the French and Indian Wars and the white man’s war of independence, the Lenape were greatly diminished by war, famine, and disease. Some migrated southwardly, to the territory of Louisiana or northwards to Canada. Those remaining retreated into the mountains and avoided all contact with the white man. By the 1830s, the Lenapes, essentially, were no more.

That wasn’t what happened according to mum, though she wouldn’t reveal how she knew it wasn’t true. My report was marked down because I left questions unanswered. Any intelligent person should have known the story in history texts didn’t feel true. Even at 8 years old, I could sense the story about the mighty Lenapes was wrong. Where had they gone? What was the connection, if any, between the Lenape and the daemons? 

I brushed myself off and roused Tuatha. Before I committed to reading these curious books and doing what the pages instructed, I needed get outside, let Tuatha run a bit, and ponder what had happened. To think, all this time, mum’s workbook, in her very own words, was resting in a box on a shelf in my closet.

The cold air slapped my face, reassuring me this had been no dream. Although, the line of pine trees and the darkening woods beyond kind of reminded me of Act II from the Nutcracker. Taking ballet was another of Grandee’s ideas. She assured mum it would make me less gawky, more balanced. I wasn’t meant to be a ballerina—to assume all those weird positions, though I had longs legs and what the ballet master said were graceful arms and a swanlike neck. Before I managed to get kicked out of class I danced in both Peter and the Wolf and The Nutcracker.

My experience in mum’s workroom had a few elements in common with scenes from Balanchine’s holiday favorite, though I was no Clara, and there’d been no wooden Nutcracker turned Prince to rescue me. The daemons could be compared to the toymaker/magician that handed out toys to the children on Christmas Eve. Since I wasn’t supposed to eat for the next three days, I was sure I’d be dreaming about sugarplums, Spanish chocolate, and all the gingerbread soldiers I wouldn’t be eating.

I wasn’t the least bit hungry. Perhaps I could fast for three days. My period was due in about a week, when the moon was waning. Mum had shown me how to use tampons, which I always flushed down the toilet; and I’d never complained about painful cramps. There had been no one to tell, no way to measure the pain. Step-munster didn’t care. Dad would have been embarrassed. I’d need to buy a new box of lady plugs and leave it unopened in the medicine cabinet in case Mrs. Leigh spied for Grandee. I can do this. Grandee and her crones won’t ever make me one of them. There will be no solstice initiation. 

Before this year ends, I will defy dad, Grandee (especially), Grand Sebastian, all of them if necessary. I’ll thwart Grandee and her Brigida Society’s attempt to initiate me. I also swear I’m ready to have my cherry popped, bean broken, peony plucked, sub sunk, fountain freed so perfectly. I’ll do it on my terms, my way; I refuse to attend the loathsome deb parties Grandee has planned, and the endless rounds of stifling social events. I’m glad to be home, though dad’s wife, Caresse, is the worst stepmother EVER.


A note handwritten by Dea stuck to the bottom of the page.

Finn, I sense your unease. You’re a man of tech/science & logic, driven by what can be proven—by what helps you realize a profit. To admit you live in a magical world of unimaginable events and beings might compromise your intellect, your pride. There’s much you’ve experienced you can’t explain, isn’t there? Remember our lively talks about superstitions and barriers erected by religions—rules that declared only a god could perform a miracle or do the seemingly impossible?  Please don’t dismiss my words just yet. I’ve so much more to reveal. My goal isn’t to persuade, only to inform. Trust your gut intuition. Remember what the Maharishi in New Mexico said.

Finn recalled the yogi said Dea was a siddhis, a Sanskrit word for someone with abilities not experienced by the general population. He said her abilities would save me. He was right, she did save my life, but…

Next up: P1, Chapter 6: Death, the last sleep, or final awakening (quote by Sir Walter Scott)