From The Gleam

“I can already tell it wasn't good news,” Peter said, obviously reading my down-turned eyes and lack of smile, perhaps the color of my cheeks. “Usually, when you come back, you're bubbly,” he added. “But you look like you are about to tell me my cat has cancer.” Peter was plump, like me, with the hint of an East Coast accent and constant twinkle in his eyes. He was also invisible when looking The Other Way. Not just to me, but to everyone and everything. As an empath, having a friend I cannot read is delightful. And he was right, it wasn't good news, but not all bad, either. He leads the way, in silence, to my study where light refreshments are waiting. We sit side-by-side on the antique sofa, where I've often slipped from my body into the æther. But the trip I just took required a more controlled and thoughtful environment. I grip Peter's hand, “They showed me quite a bit.” “Was Saffron there?” he asks. I snicker, “Why do you call her that?” He shrugs, “'Saffron' seems to match her essence and I can't pronounce a string of animated, hyper-dimensional ideograms.” “Yes,” I say. “She was waiting for me at the Carnival.” I take a deep breath and exhale slowly. “Do you want the bottom line or the whole story?” I ask. Peter just raises an eyebrow. “'Whole story' it is, then.”

The sky was a kaleidoscope of pinks, purples, and colors I can't describe, rotating, folding, emerging. It's always breathtaking. But they created the Carnival for me to have a familiar place to walk, to anchor my perception. They know me and treat me with some level of respect afforded to those who pass their tests. She knew why I was there. They always know. She was shorter than me, humanoid but shaped like a bowling ball with pale / grey / ashen / luminescent skin and blue / black / red hair in a pony tail / pixie cut. She gave me cotton candy flavored like dreams. “You must / will ask / plead / already know,” she said. “How can we stop it? How can we save ourselves from the hatred fueling the move toward authoritarian fascism?” I asked. “You cannot / will not / must not / could never / not your fault,” she told me. With a gesture, she showed me how far back it goes, how helpless we are against the sins of our ancestors and our descendants. The flood of information, pictures, sounds, words, entire histories was far too much for a human mind to comprehend. But I've been here enough times to know the rules are different. I was able to “slow it down” and comprehend what she was telling me. The world we live in is based on slavery, colonization, conquest, manufactured inequality, and brutality. She showed me versions of earth where there was no Inquisition, no Alexander the Great, no Genghis Khan, no British expansion, no slavery, no extermination of natives, no treating one human as less than another for reasons beyond their control. Thousands of variations. Millions of possibilities. They created worlds unrecognizable. Certainly you and I did not exist, but neither did the countries we know, the languages, the technology. They were so far removed from here as to be fantasy. And they were the only worlds that did not succumb to this culmination of hatred. She showed me as far back as the founding of the United States that it was already too late. All we can do is shift the timeline. There are some things mankind must experience so that we do not forget what we are capable of.

“I'm sure that's not where she left it,” Peter interrupts. “They don't do that.” I nod, “True, but it's not much better.” “I have privileges. The privilege of generational wealth, the color of my skin, a home that is paid for, the ability to see other people's truths before they do.” I squeeze Peter's hand, “Friends I can trust and lean on.” “Being an out lesbian pagan puts me at risk, but I can protect myself,” I say, adding only in thought, “for now.” I lower my head, “She suggested I bolster our defenses and, along with everyone else, experience humanity seeing itself as it really is.” “She said we must acknowledge and confront what we are in order to become what we might be.” “She reminded me that I have been spared the violence that murders and marginalizes people for their gender or the color of their skin or the deity they worship or any uncontrollable circumstance of their birth. I have been immune to the violence inflicted on others for not being male and heterosexual because of my privileges.” I turn and hold both Peter's hands. He can see the change on my face because he smiles and nods for me to continue. He knows I have a plan. “I want to work with Doug and Eric, even Emma and Eunice to turn our shared acerage into an official sanctuary, fully warded and protected. We'd need your expertise with runes, obviously.” Peter chuckles, “If we can't save everyone, we'll save who we can?” “For starters,” I say, grinning. Peter squints and I can tell he's working it out, thinking about the specific connections, knowledge, skills, talents, and resources of each of my neighbors. The psychedelic techbro, the lycanthrope luddite, the conspiracy theorist empath, the bitter faeries living in my garden, the sacred space we all maintain and respect. “We're gonna organize a resistance,” he says flatly. I'm beaming, slowly nodding, “We are going to organize a resistance.”

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