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Apr 2013
Seeking the Enchanted Wood
beyond the Gate of Dreams
again another night
naked but for my Silver Key
that heavy antique carved
with undecipherable
stolen from the Messenger
of the Faceless One
hung from a chain around my neck
the Key to the Dreaming
a comfortable weight against my chest

I descend those too-familiar
Seventy Steps of Light Slumber
ancient worn stone cold under my bare feet
climbing down through the dusky emptiness of Pre-Dreaming
until they suddenly end
at Nothing at all

Without hesitation
(I've been here so many many times before)
I take the leap
and step off into emptiness
and enter the hidden Cavern of Flame

In the far corner of that inky darkness I can almost see
the shadowed forms
of Nasht
and Kaman-Thah
the Gatekeepers
whose temple this is
those towering black figures
bare-chested with carved, curved beards
and elaborate head-dress
stand stone-still but all-aware
waiting to judge my worthiness
I perform for them
a different routine every night
to demonstrate my power
my understanding
my worthiness to traverse The Dreamlands beyond

as most nights
I begin by conjuring myself a robe
a simple black thawb with cleric's collar
hemmed just below the knee
black linen gi pants
in the Thai style
and comfortable black tabi boots for my feet

Now dressed appropriately
I begin the ritual proper
so They may see
my mastery of The Dream

I rise myself up to float in the center of the cavern
in lotus-posture
and expand out from my center
a dodecahedral lattice-work of blue plasma
until it fills the space
and I float serenely in its center
From each pentagonal face of this construct
I then project white-hot jets of flame
offensive defense
effective ward against
the many horrors that await a Dreamer
But here in this realm of un-real
this is but simple hedge-magick

They require better of me

I reach out
and project myself
to the far end of the cavern
and instantly I am there
And then again
and then again
teleporting myself around the cavern
disappearing and re-appearing at random points
to demonstrate my control of Self
and reality here

They continue to stare down at me
black and stone-faced

I draw my perception down into the center of my form
and push Out
against my flesh
against my skin
until I feel it begin to tear
down my back
and I keep pushing
and Out
until it all comes free in one blood-soaked blur of agony
and I am left standing as
naked muscle sinew bone and nerve
From the scraps of my skin I fashion
a new robe to wear
to show them
my immunity to the horrors I will face beyond

they consent

From the center of the cavern erupts
the Pillar of Flame
floor to ceiling
I step into it
and my flesh-robe self-sacrifice burns away to ash in an instant
the price paid for passage
but I am left unsinged
and after a moment I step free from the flame
with a new skin
and again re-robed, as before
black thawb and gi and tabi
but now also something new
something never experienced before
(every night
something never experienced before)
something not of my own crafting
a blue turban
electric royal blue
adorned with an onyx jewel
I do not understand this gift
or who
or what
might be the giver
but I accept
with gratitude

An open door appears in the cavern wall in front of me
and I step through
and begin my descent
of the Seven Hundred Steps of Deeper Slumber
gleaming black stone staircase
descending into darkness
through an empty night
I know that at the bottom of these stairs lies
the Enchanted Wood
and further beyond the rest of The Dreamlands
Ulthar and Dylath-Leen
Oriab and CelephaΓ―s
Leng and unknown Kadath
and as I descend further and further
and closer to the Dream
I can feel my Self coming apart
as if dissolving into mist
and I try to hold my Self together
and focus on those far-away lands
and their cities of Dreaming
and remember how much I long to see them
how every night I long to see them
and I try
and I try harder
and I take another step
and I am gone

And then I am awake

I will try again tonight
as I try every night
and I will make my way to the Cavern of Flame
and I will perform my tricks for the Gatekeepers
and I will begin my descent of the Seven Hundred Steps of Deeper Slumber
and one night
maybe tonight
I will make it all the way
to the bottom
to the Enchanted Wood
and to the Dream beyond
and I won't ever
have to return
Michael Valentine
Written by
Michael Valentine  Maryland
   Lily Pia Kensington
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