Perception, chapter 9 , — a cutting from my latest allegorical novel.

Just to give another glimpse at this story without giving too much away… maybe…. I hesitate to share this because more of my raw soul is bared within these words than you may think. But, I have found the best way to follow my own path to healing freedom is by paving it with the acceptance of vulnerable honesty. I am who I am. I know longer allow my soul to be overwhelmed by the confusing questions of why? how? why? when? and WHY??? Rather, I embrace what is, accept who I am, and move on to discover what I may change to grow out of the patterns of my own weakness.

Here is an earlier chapter from my allegory novel, “Perception” that I’ve been working on and digging deep into my own memories to truly analyse some of my behaviors in the past. I am trying to not be my own favored hero, but rather see what I have done including the things I am not proud of and the attitudes that have needed correcting. It is my hope, I can change and move on to be a better person than I have been.

As an introduction, the heroine of this tale, Gentle, has been stolen away from her homelands by Dark Messengers and has been tossed into a hell of a realm ruled by an indiscriminate Regent who relishes in tormenting everyone alike. In the event of her arrival, Gentle was shattered into three parts of her own person. There is the younger Gentle who is held captive as a song bird in a gilded cage. Then the Slave Gentle who is used and abused by all who the Regent deems interesting enough to pass her around to, and then the last is Shadow Gentle, the true soul of the girl who finds herself completely impotent to help any part of herself in this dark place.

Perception

By Gregga J. Johnn

Chapter 9

The shattered girl of three parts crumbled even further into her darkness.

The slave girl was washed and preened and prepped after each defiling night. She belonged to the Regent and he passed her around as a joint shared by all who cared to partake. But, he would not allow her to wallow in her despair, no. She was required to present herself in all his glory, by his side, as his trophy, polished and shining, available for any to stain. She was punished for the fingerprints of others, not for them having touched, but for her not polishing herself up new again to be the desired plaything, always looking fresh, no matter the rotting that festered within.

Yet, slave-Gentle did not cry. She smiled as was her duty. She enticed and drew near all about her. She serviced all their base needs with a laugh and in the distorted delirium, many found comfort in her. She was the tool of destruction, yet somehow, she passed on gentle care and those who came to her offered what little connection they had left to their own soul and she granted them healing. Yet, it was a healing so small that the Regent noticed none of it. And so this hell continued as a slightly better place because of her sacrifice.

High above, out of range of the reveling ears below, the song bird had been lifted up to just beneath the cavernous ceiling. No longer did the young Gentle quiver in silent tears. Her songs of suffering and sorrow trickled around the tops of the rocky cave and dribbled down as far as they could washing the souls of all who heard her in grace and mercy. Her gentle voice coddled the lost and agonized captives hanging in the cages of the dark night.

The shadow that was Gentle lingered on her own. She wandered the many hallways of the land and lost her mind to the endless twists and turns. If her incorporeal self could have touched the ground upon which she wondered then a groove of infinite meanderings would have circled with her aimless travels. She was mostly unaware of her movements, but for the occasional break in interest that caught her attention.

There were plenty of distractions about. Yet even the most interesting of such distractions could not hold her attentions too long as she became more and more engrossed upon her own demise in the darkness. In her repeated wanderings, she often came about to meet with other souls wandering in the night. Sometimes their company brought her closer to finding a reconnecting point with her other selves, but there was something within that kept her distant. She could not yet come to terms with the things her slave self was doing.

Her pity for herself was great. Her judgment and condemnation of herself was particularly nonexistent, however, she was entirely disgusted with the happenings of the slave girl and would not as yet, reconcile herself to such things. So even though others in the dark reached out through their own distress to offer her aid, she yet discarded them with almost a cruel carelessness.

As was her aimless habit, shadow-Gentle thought herself through the now familiar hallways of the place picking up random masks that she discovered littering the pathways and hideaways in the darkness. Each time she found a new mask, she would look through it and study what it told her. She began to recognize where each mask came from by the definitions of the surroundings that she perceived through it, as each city that was built upon the river all the way down the mountain, had their own way of programing the perception of their own masks.

The First city masks were, naturally, most familiar to her. When she looked through them she saw they had no value or definition for the winged messengers that guarded the place, and so these messengers were invisible through that perception. But these masks did label many other bodies in the place as dark messengers. In fact, most of the people in the place were labeled as evil and to be avoided at all costs. The random creatures of fantasy that wandered had no recognition label either. But pretty much everything else she looked at had some sort of warning label of extreme danger and recommendation to either eradicate or completely avoid.

Actually, most masks mislabeled or just could not quantify anything she saw in the place with her bare eyes. Gentle had hoped to find some sort of defining answers to help her understand where she was, why she was, and what she was to do. But, typically each mask either ignored and blocked out the sight of everything about her, or morphed the images into something that was the complete opposite of what she saw. One mask would deny any of this realm even existed, while another transformed everything she looked at into flowers and care filled guides. No matter how many masks she found and tried on, none gave the Gentle shadow any more insight into her surroundings.

Shadow Gentle returned to her aimlessness and retreated deeper into the mists of the hallways, only noting the occasional shiny thing that caught her eye. There was a plethora of masks that lay about. Many of the physical bodies that wandered the hallways of the Regent’s realm had been processed upon entry. Their masks were taken from them, discarded, and newer, smaller films of blindness were cast over their eyes. At first Gentle thought they had been exposed, as she, for the look of their filmed over irises appeared just as hers. But, upon closer inspection…

The first time shadow-Gentle became aware of this practice, shivering in the dark, was on that first day of her splintering. In the darkness she tried to take in all her eyes could see before the fear of what she saw overwhelmed her soul. When suddenly in the black, she saw a blinking of hope! Hope it was, for she saw his eyes. The uniquely patterned irises of her foster father, Hope, the father of her beloved Reliable, those irises were there blinking right back at her. She scrambled as best as she could (with little understanding of movement in shadow form) to where the eyes looked back at her. But, what she met with confused her so that her mind shuddered even more with a lack of comprehension.

There before her was an old woman. And next to her was another old woman who turned to see her approach. Their eyes were exactly the same. Then another younger man glanced up at her, and another, and another from the hiding congregation. They all had the eyes of Hope.

Gentle tried to speak, but only a rush of wind shivered the onlookers. They looked away from her, caring not about this new apparition. The shadow girl frantically flew from face to face until she found another pair of eyes that she didn’t recognize and then another, but even those patterns were repeated over and over. Only a very rare few had unique patternings to their eyes and these souls were as lost and as confused as Gentle.

When Gentle’s mind broke with all the confusion, she just wandered about as the other shadows that flitted among the various creatures of the place. It was not until her vague wondering lead her to an entry hall and she observed the de-masking of newcomers and the application of prefabricated films upon their eyeballs that any understanding began to grow.

The Regent’s messengers had copied the pattern of Hope’s eyes (and a few other select perceptions) and were planting just enough hope, just enough inspiration, and just enough imagination into the vision of their captives so as to keep them alive for another day of torment.

In perceiving all the horrors of this dark place, Gentle’s mind cracked even more than she thought possible. It wasn’t until sometime had passed that anything else caught her attention enough to draw her out of the steaming mists of her own mind. She began to discover that the only connections that ever gave aid to understanding where she was, were the brief moments of respite she allowed herself in occasionally connecting with other lost souls she met in the darkness.

Once such gentle-fellow in the night was Dragoman. He wandered the dark hallways and offered help and guidance to those in torment. He reached out to heal the wounds many held secret within and even though most shrank from him, yet still he offered. He had a gift in his hands that was unlike what most had seen before but as his demeanor was seeming harsh or blunt many ignored him. Yet in truth, he was not harsh at all, only blatant in reminding those caught up in their distractions that they had need of healing and an even more pressing need to leave off their torments all together.

But as the Dark Messengers tormented Dragoman as much as they tormented everyone else, few actually allowed him to help for they were yet to see him help himself, not that they looked or saw what he did to seek his own freedom. So many continued blind and indifferent to him in the consumption of their own torment.

Not even Gentle could see that his eyes were afflicted just as hers that he wore no false film over his eyes, nor mask of forced perception, but that he saw as she, if she’d had the singularity of self to look about. In fact, despite his own lost state of soul, he wandered not without aim, yet set upon seeking a way out. He found himself drawn to the Gentle shadow, for he had observed the Gentle slave and heard, even, the songs of the caged Gentle and desired to know more of this complexity that haunted the night.

He sought out her company, but only on a few occasions for he was already well familiar with the carelessness of the company of wayward souls and didn’t enjoy the constant casting off of his attentions.

He found himself sitting beside her in the crowded loneliness one night, so he asked,

“Do you care for company?”

Shadow Gentle barely heard him and just nodded in acquiescence.

“I see you are somewhat disjointed in your existence.”

The Shadow stared off vaguely.

Dragoman reached over to her and held his hand above her wrist and tenderly traced the outer edge of her shadow with his fingertips. Solid skin seemed to congeal together under his touch and Gentle suddenly noted his presence. She watched his fingers carefully reach around her arm and actually lift a solid manifestation of her hand to his lips as he kissed it. The shadowy girl shivered as the seeming tangibility seeped up her arm with a deep warmth and traveled over the expanse of her whole person and she sat there next to him, blinking.

“How did you do that?” Gentle asked.

Dragoman shrugged and said,

“It’s just what I’ve found I do.”

Gentle held his hands in hers and examined them. All the chaos and wailing, arguing and raucous laughter pitching in the dark about them seem to quiet as she looked to see if she could discover what it was about these hands that tendered such healing.

He whispered, caught up in his own observations of her,

“You are so beautiful.”

But she filtered his genuine care away from her heart and looked at him with the skepticism she had learned in the Regent’s realm.

Dragoman could not help himself but leaned in to kiss her with tentative sweetness. Gentle could not help but respond. Yet, as he drew her nearer the native fear of the place began to swell within and surge about her like a storming ocean.

“Come away with me,” he urged her. He stood and led her to the edges of the darkness.

Gentle followed with emotions as petrified as the cavern walls about her.

Pulling her into a secluded corner, Dragoman drew her to himself again and kissing her passionately, he stammered in his affection,

“I may have found a way to get back home.”

Gentle trembled in terror, and a million excuses flooded her mind. She could barely see for all the confusion. So she pulled away from him shaking her head.

Dragoman dropped his gaze in resignation,

“Will you not give me even a chance?”

Gentle could think of no reason why she should. She barely knew the man and her outer-self started to quiver and the edges of her solidity shifted.

Dragoman watched, expecting how it would happen.

Gentle began to dissipate again and she backed away suddenly overwhelmed by all the noises in the darkness. She turned and her Shadow fled in the night.

Dragoman shook his head in defeat and whispered to himself,

“I cannot change your perception.” He watched after her flitting dissipation, “If only you would see my offer as genuine.” Then he too turned and continued his questing in the night.

Gentle’s frightened fleeing sought familiarity and she felt herself drawn to a compilation of prison cells where most within spoke the language of First city, or similarities of that. Within this quarter of the realm she came into a large holding dungeon where many of the cages were filled to overflowing. But shadow-Gentle was familiar with this and paid little heed to the bars and simply flittered where she would. Some captive occupants withdrew from her in fear, others tried to grasp her for help. She passed by them all carelessly.

In the corner, there was a large cement box with only a single low space at the base where a food dish might be pushed through. There was silence from within and Gentle would have passed by thoughtlessly if the food dish had not scraped out from underneath and tried to drag one of the randomly discarded masks back underneath with it. Gentle snatched the mask from the dish’s grasp. The dish clanked about trying to find its prize again, but then withdrew slowly, alone.

Gentle looked through the mask and found it to be a First city mask, although it was of a mildly finer quality than hers had been. She tilted her head and leaned into the cement wall to see who might be interested in such a thing.

In the dark corner was a large pile of rags. It was large in comparison to Gentle’s size as it towered above her, and was broad enough for all three of herself to stand side by side within. She blew a silent greeting and heard a rumble of discontent as the hulking figure hid itself deeper in the mess of attempted comfort. There was a rattling at the door of the cement block and she stepped back again to watch the jailers drag open the door with great hooks as if to keep something fearsome within at bay.

A snarl of vicious anger met the dark messengers as they entered. They responded in fearful mocking.

“Shut up, you big dumb oaf. Regent wants to see you.”

There was the sound of jabbing and a buzz of electric shock combined with a snapping growl and ear shattering howl.

Gentle moved herself to look through the wall again.

A massive male, the size of a small giant, with bare hands muddied by the foul, decomposing detritus that lay about, fought against his attackers. They prodded at his bulk with shocking javelins causing great gashes in his side. They barely subdued him with the pain, and only enough to toss some chains around him and inject him with some sort of dulling toxin. His spirit unwillingly complied as his body was forced to go with the trappers.

Gentle followed intrigued by the sight. The -something new- of it all made her wonder more about the story of this raging beast.

The dark winged messengers dragged and prodded the creature into the central room, before the Regent’s throne. Slave-Gentle was there, by his side, looking glamorous and desirable as always. The bellowing giant gazed at Slave-Gentle and quieted himself, somewhat distracted by her shiny appearance.

“Well,” scoffed the Regent, “aren’t you a hulking mess.”

The dumb giant growled quietly in his muted sounds, the muscles of his whole being clenching and straining against the chains. He darted his eyes around, taking in all the surroundings, but always returned his gaze to the shiny slave girl next to the Regent.

The Regent mocked them both,

“She is a pretty one, isn’t she?”

Slave-Gentle’s eyes began to show her sorrow. Her confident exterior caving at the sight of such strength chained so hideously.

“Awww?” The Regent smirked, “you like the big oaf?” He laughed and spoke aloud to all around them, “of all the great creatures in this place, this mountain of mutation is what finally catches your eye?” He was rather dumbfounded by what he considered ridiculous irony.

The Regent paced around them and slave-Gentle shifted uneasily in her seat while the giant growled in deep resentment at seeing such a beautiful thing mocked in mistreatment. The dark prince paused and thought a moment.

“Fine. I don’t see why not.” He held out his hand to the slave girl and spoke to the great chained beast, “I need your strength for my digging, but if you do as I require, you may have my shiny play thing to taste for yourself.” He tossed her into the massive bulk of the giant’s chest. “See how good I am to those who serve me?” The Regent kept a tight hold of her hand and threatened to pull her away from the giant, “Or, should I keep her to give to everyone else?”

The giant, ever so tenderly curled his arm around the slight waist of the slave girl and leaned his head over her to growl at the Regent to warn him against taking the new, pretty, shiny away.

“That’s what I thought.” Smirked the Regent, emphasizing his permissive gifting of the girl to the giant. Then he shrugged off the action as if he cared no longer and commanded his guards, “Take it to the mines,” and the slave-girl ceased to be his concern, or interest any longer.

The guards pulled, jabbed, and tugged at the beastly giant who roared threateningly at them, carefully protecting his new shiny. Then he tenderly lifted her onto his shoulders where she could ride upon his expansive back while he submitted to the prodding direction of the captors taking him deeper below into the construction of tunnels in the dark.

Slave-Gentle rode quietly upon his back and was hopeful that she might never have to be tormented by the Regent again. Shadow-Gentle also clung to a small hope and followed behind keeping herself concealed in the flickering darkness.

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