October 2002 A Conscious Evolution Newsletter
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 Articles:

Astrology and Free Will

Gary Zukav: Compassion and Karma

Astrological Cycles
of the New Age

Bound Thereby (fiction)

Metamorphosis Writing Contest

Stonehenge, Part 2

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October Star Watch

Book Reviews: The Path, by Whitley Strieber

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Metamorphosis
Index of All Articles
Volume 1, Number 2

Opinions presented in Metamorphosis are those of their respective authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of others associated with the newsletter.

Bound Thereby
a fictional tale

by Maria Barron

October in New England is colder than a sorcerer’s gaze,and I shivered to be in it once again. It seemed a bad sign to be called back for a family funeral, when I had made my break and gone west only two months before. I had screwed up the gumption of my 26 years and headed for sunny California, not so much for the change of place as for the change of people. Mostly, truth be told, I had felt that I had to get away from the weakening remnants of my family, a strange group of aging aunts and uncles, distant in their attitudes but demanding in their needs.

Somehow they struck me as silently scheming, determined to keep me around to serve them, running their errands in the evening after my day job and shivering through years of New England Octobers. These older relations all had fine homes, but they’d been brought up to find virtue in the chilling air. No one with any spine lights the furnace until November, Uncle Seymour had told me on many a frosty autumn night.

The ridiculously large lock clunked open and the ornate door scraped softly against the wooden floor of the entryway as I let myself into the home of my now late Uncle Seymour, God rest his soul. There was the familiar creak of hall floorboards, just outside the massive front room that Uncle Seymour always insisted on calling “the drawing room.” Other than that, the grand old place was quiet as a tomb, but then, it always had been eerily silent, even when my uncle was alive.

Still, I gasped when I turned on the drawing room light. For a moment, I felt like I’d entered a crime scene. “Signs of a struggle!” I thought in a flash. But, no ... no, he didn’t die like that. He died of a heart attack. His sister, Aunt Winnie, who lived a few blocks down, had told me so when she had called me home.

“The coroner has come and gone,” she said. ’Seymour’s heart always was his weak point, dear.” Dirkens Funeral Home, she reminded me, is still the mortuary favored by The Old Families like ours.

Flailing, then. I could picture him flailing as he fell. Knocking over the lamp. I shivered. Thank God the coroner had come and gone.

But there was more to the disorder than just the chaos of my uncle’s final moments. There was longer-term chaos apparent here. It seemed that Uncle Seymour had, very uncharacteristically, left a great many of his things strewn carelessly about the drawing room in his last days. He had always been so particular about how his valuables were displayed: his antique books, his ebony carvings, an old jeweled sword, custom-made for a long-dead crusader. All scattered about now, like toys tossed aside by a spoiled child.

His earthly home had truly been a mansion, but suddenly it seemed all worn down and shabby, in need of too much attention. The heavy velvet draperies between the drawing room and formal library couldn’t have become so dusty just in the few days since my eccentric uncle had passed on to points unknown. Oh, devil take him, anyway! It wasn’t so much the mess he’d left for me to clean that made me curse him, it was the other mess he’d left me. I, and only I, was to enter his house, according to the instructions he’d left with Winnie. I alone was to determine how his things would be distributed to his sisters and his brother, to my cousins and to myself. “An honor,” my aunt had said. But here in his gloomy house, with his death still present in the details, it felt more like a curse.

“Well then, get started,” I prodded myself, just as my uncle would have done. “First things first. Too early in the season for the furnace; use the fireplace.” He had at least stocked a fat woodpile next to the grate, and I built up a roaring blaze to beat back that October feeling. I shoved open the draperies to let in the last of the fading afternoon sunlight and decided to add one last log to the fire. That’s when I found the envelope, sticking out of the wood-box, right under the last log I grabbed.

It was just waiting there, like a hidden message to me from Uncle Seymour, who knew I would do first things first. A large manila envelope, old and dry and brown, like an elm leaf in the fall. I ran my hands across it, smoothed my palms against the length of it. Something about the feeling of the pages within, and the sound they made as I shifted the package from hand to hand, made me think of yellowing parchment. On the front was a note, in Uncle Seymour’s bold and elegant handwriting, with just a touch of shakiness in the lettering: “This Envelope is to be Destroyed, Unopened, Upon the Death of Seymour Blanchette.” Yellowing parchment, it felt like, somehow. And something else I could feel in there - like a lump of sealing wax impressed on some letter within.

Well, now. Sealing wax and old pages - “Oh my God,” I said out loud, and sat down hard on the rug by the woodpile.

What if the old story were true? If was foolish, but … could it be true?

I felt hot and cold all over, like a scared and awestruck 16-year-old; the girl I was 10 years ago when Sandy came to visit. She was a distant cousin who stayed only a week and became even more distant afterwards. But while she was here, she urged me to leave and succeeded in scaring the wits out of me for months. She said Uncle Seymour worshipped the dark side; that he idolized all that was deathly and horrible, and that he had somehow, clandestinely, come into possession of some old, stolen manuscripts. How he got them, and from whom, she didn’t know. But they were, she announced with teenage certainty, quite definitely original manuscripts and letters of Edgar Allen Poe. And what’s more, she said, she wouldn’t be surprised if they’d been delivered by Satan’s own demons. It had set my young heart nervously a-flutter back then, and I had peeked on the shelves behind my uncle’s extensive, leather-bound Poe collection, seeking but never finding evidence of ill-gotten manuscripts. It wasn’t until months after Sandy left that I worked out how utterly improbable it was.

But now my heart was thudding again. In here! Maybe. In this envelope! Maybe The Raven is in here - the beastly bird’s hovering form, drawn by the author in his ponderings, evermore adorning the bent corner of the second handwritten page. Here! The Pit and the Pendulum, and how many more stories of darkness? The historical significance! Maybe. Oh my.

But how to explain how one happens to have come by them? No doubt they’re worth a great deal of money ... but ... oh... no. Selling them would surely be illegal if they’re stolen in the first place, I realized. He wants me to get rid of them.

My thoughts were running wild.

I threw another log on the fire. I held the envelope up to the firelight, but couldn’t make out a thing inside. I decided I needed a cigarette. I tried to quiet my mind. What would an ordinary person, who’s not from this strange family, do right now? It always calmed me to try to bring a more sensible approach in amongst my relatives’ eccentricities. How would normal families handle this?

A sensible person wouldn’t be thrown into a panic by some teenage idea that her uncle had made a clandestine deal with the devil, I told myself. Okay, fine. I’m a young woman, entrusted by her uncle to carry out his last wishes. I should just do it and be done with it. I have enough decisions to make about the things he did leave behind for his heirs.

Probably it’s only his old tax returns anyway, and he thought he’d need to keep a dignified secrecy about his financial affairs even in death. Poor old villain. He was a funny guy. But not bad, of course. Always kind, in his own rather chilly way. A wave of guilt washed over me. Why couldn’t I find in myself some affection for him now? Why entertain these dark suspicions?

I argued it out with myself. But in the end, the years of family loyalty decided the matter. The envelope said not to open it, and I owed my uncle that respect. If he had hoarded some ill-gotten memorabilia based on his obsession with a horror writer who lived an insanely haunted life ... well, let Uncle Seymour take that up with St. Peter. That’s not my situation to sort out, I decided. And it’s probably not true anyhow. The old man made it through this life with his name unsullied. If he committed a crime, let him take it with him to his death.

I crossed myself before I put the envelope in the fire. Later, when I thought about it, that struck me as kind of strange, and I wonder if it did me any good. I placed the package deliberately, directly into the center of the flames, and I assured myself it was the right thing to do. I left the room, and I didn’t look back.

There was still so much to do in that old house, but first I wanted a cup of tea from the kitchen, down the labyrinthine hallway in the east wing. In colonial times, the kitchen was separate, but the house had been expanded to enclose it since then. The disorder in the kitchen, I saw, was worse than in the drawing room, and I set to work there, resigned to the size of the task.

If I had known then what I know now, I wonder if I could have changed a thing. As it was, I just didn’t see.

I wasn’t in the drawing room to watch the fire split the envelope open, to see the yellowing parchment, the black ribbons - black! - come spilling out, or the letter with the seal in dripping blood-red wax. I didn’t see which accursed page of Poe’s tortured writings fell burning from the fireplace, or what item, left carelessly about by my uncle in his dying days, caught fire next and spread destruction. By the time I knew about it, it was too late. Too late to save anything. Too late to do anything at all but watch the firefighters pour water into the charred remains of a once-fine house.

This scrap of parchment, with the bit of ribbon held on still by just the faintest bit of blood-red sealing wax ... this I found blowing round and round in the garden. A relic that once bore the seal of my uncle’s eternal doom. It is my curse now, and none but mine. I have seen to that, I assure you. I have made the necessary arrangements with the owner of the seal. This emblem of destruction, sign of a sordid pact, must follow me to my death. And so it shall, if only I can find someone trustworthy to dispose of my things when I go. The arrangement, you see, has stipulations as to the disposal of the relic.

I must keep it now in a manila envelope, marked for destruction upon my death.