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  • Amy Winstanley

Doubt - a short story

Published in "What ties ties, ties" - by Print Art Research Centre Seoul, South Korea. A book of texts by artists Amy Winstanley, Younwon Sohn, Mariah Blue, Lana Murdochy and Kathrin Graf.

Available at: http://goodpress.co.uk/writing-artistsbooks/2020/7/11/yeesfmd2wjoconu0cgy5gajbecs8un



Doubt


She put down her book, and took up her pen. Then, she wrote;

There is a theory that the expanding universe at some point will contract, and if this is the case, can expand and contract any infinite number of times, thereby quashing the big-bang theory of one instantaneous ejaculation of life that came out of nowhere – a mighty phallogocentric idea if ever there was one – to seem rather rigid.

She paused and smiled. Then, she continued;

So, the idea of a flowing, pulsating universe that could be one of many, aligns more to the cyclical nature of life itself, adding also to the mysterious, the unknowable and somewhat spiritual notions of existence. From this, questions arise like, what were they like before? How many have gone before? Could there have been ones very much like this one? Almost, or not quite? Which can spark the imagination no end, and does make for a wonderful tale in itself.

She put down her pen and took up her book.


Reality is every possibility

‘Shall we start then?’ she asked, using her straightened posture as a mark of authority, her deep voice strained in the higher octave that was necessary for oratory augmentation. ‘Shall we start?’ she repeated, as the chairs scuffed the floor and the rest of them trailed their sentences off in quick succession to turn their attention to the speaker. ‘Yes? Okay.’

The others nodded their heads in affirmation and settled their legs underneath their chairs or crossed them over their knees, placing their glasses of water on coasters that sat on the low round glass table that was in the centre of the circle of chairs, some taking another sip before doing so.

‘Good. Thanks for coming,’ Strenvich said in an octave more comfortable for her. ‘This week I think it’s Warna, Sumi and Traelise’s turn to share.’ Some throats were cleared, Sumi nodded. ‘Who would like to begin?’ In the corner of her eye Strenvich caught this nod and so swung herself round to face Sumi, placing her palm out towards her she asked, ‘Sumi, would you like to start?’

Sumi smoothed a crease in her trousers noticing a couple of crumbs from the biscuits consumed earlier, brushing them off lightly, looking around the group, she said,

‘Yes. Hi everyone. I’d like to tell you about the cabin I stayed in last month. Well I’m not really telling you about the cabin, but about what happened in the cabin.’ Strenvich coughed, remembering what happened in another cabin she stayed in once, but knew it couldn’t be the same one.

Sumi continued, ‘I went to stay in a cabin about an hour from where I live. It was nestled in a copse of pine trees at the bottom of the hosts large garden. I found it advertised as peaceful, off the beaten track, close to good walks and a short drive from local amenities, which suited me well given how I was feeling,’ she paused as a small lump formed in her throat, ‘I needed to have some time to myself, somewhere not at home – everything reminded me of her.’

Sumi’s voice trailed off for a second, the group made a small murmuring sound of sympathy before she continued. ‘When I got to the cabin it was getting dark, I made myself a small meal of fish and vegetables, found where the heating was and got the place warm as soon as I could and decided on an early night.’ She fiddled with another crease in her trousers, looking down at it like a landscape from a great height. ‘In the night I dreamt that someone was standing by the bed, a dark figure in the dark room, tall and broad, I didn’t know who it was as I couldn’t see a face. As soon as I noticed the figure an arm came down and pressed its hand on the left side of my abdomen, softly at first but then harder, until it was really painful. I felt confused – why was this person here, why were they pressing on my stomach so hard?’ Strenvich’s eyes were fixed on Sumi’s fingers fiddling with her trousers, she could sense this was a scary memory, fear laced her words.

‘Go on Sumi,’ Strenvich encouraged.

Sumi continued, ‘At that moment I woke up with a start, but there was no relief in waking. The darkness in the dream was exactly how it was in the bedroom, the bedroom too – exactly as in the dream,’ Sumi was emphasising her words, looking intently from one person to the next, ‘I was lying on my back in exactly the same position, I could feel my stomach hurt from a pressure of a hand that wasn’t there, a figure that wasn’t there, but was there a second ago.’ That I could not see with waking eyes, she thought but didn’t say aloud.

‘That you could not see with your waking eyes?’ Warna asked as though she heard Sumi’s very words which caused Sumi to twist round on her seat and look straight at Warna,

‘Yes,’ Sumi said almost with a sharp inbreath, ‘I thought of her, was it her trying to tell me something? If it wasn’t her, was the figure sinister or friendly? I couldn’t tell – but I was scared. And it took me ages to get back to sleep.’ The group gave out sympathetic hmm’s and ahh’s.

‘Thanks Sumi,’ Strenvich said with a smile and small manner of impatience, sensing a need to get the next story started. ‘Warna, you seemed to know what Sumi was thinking there. How about you next?’

Warna shuffled in her seat, coughed, put her hand through her hair – changing the parting from left to right – put her elbow on the back of the chair and started with confidence,

‘So, I was in a taxi going to the pub with my pal, it was pissing it down outside, not a long ride but we couldn’t be arsed to walk in the rain.’ Strenvich slightly winced at Warna’s choice of words, Traelise sniggered. ‘The taxi woman had a really weird accent, could tell she wasn’t from here, started talking to us about the weather, really boring chat like. My pal rolled her eyes, I thought about interrupting her with the story about how our other pal used to deal green behind the taxi depot place – just to knock her off her boring perch like – when the taxi woman suddenly slammed on the breaks, obviously ignoring the red signal that was ahead until it was almost too late – fucking nearly hit a cyclist, I kid you not.’ Strenvich’s teeth ground slightly at Warna’s crass vocabulary, ‘Anyway, the taxi lurched us forward and the moment my back hit the seat again I was suddenly aware that I was in another taxi, in like the fifties or something. No joke – I was suddenly aware that I didn’t like the pearls I was wearing – I frickin wasn’t wearing any pearls! Or so I thought.’

Traelise interjected, ‘Was it like you just knew you had lived that before?’ with excitement in her eyes.

‘Not even,’ Warna replied, ‘I hadn’t lived it before.’ Traelise, slightly disappointed, dropped her shoulders a little, ‘I just knew that those pearls were not what I wanted to wear, the event I was going to was not something I was looking forward to and my friend in the taxi was actually my sister!’

Fraiden’s eyes narrowed a little, like a faint bell had been rung in the distance and if only she could discern it better, she’d understand what it meant.

‘I just knew this was someone else’s memory that I now knew. Fucking weird eh?’ Strenvich closed her eyes for a moment, trying to block out the swear word, ‘Kinda awesome though too eh?’ Warna batted Traelise’s arm with the back of her free hand. Traelise jumped a little and then let out a small laugh to cover her reaction. Warna looked pleased with herself. Strenvich smiled – pleased Warna’s turn was over – and faced Traelise.

‘Trae, please, start your story dear.’ Strenvich nodded to Traelise and smiled a smile with a distinct glint in her eyes, Warna thought.

‘Thanks Stren,’ Traelise said, warmly back, holding her gaze with Strenvich a little longer than necessary, Warna thought.

‘Oh aye’, Warna said with a smirk, batting her finger back and forth from Strenvich to Traelise, ‘I see. You two like…’ and gave a small wink to both. Strenvich flushed, straightened her back once again and said in a lower tone, looking down at her notes,

‘If you could start, Traelise.’ Traelise shifted in her seat, looked down at the floor and began.

After Traelise had finished her story – which consisted of Traelise hearing the sound of a steam train coming along railway tracks that had been abandoned sixty years previously, which made her run in the opposite direction until she realised no train could actually pass (to which Warna exclaimed, ‘Ghost train?!’ and Traelise had nodded with slight annoyance that her experience was being branded by such words) – the group were uncrossing their legs, getting up out of their seats, finishing their glasses of water and making to leave when Fraiden, who was still seated, all of a sudden started up in a loud voice,

‘I want to share with you a story about an old woman who lived high in the mountains, above the tree line and where no one thought it possible to build a hut, let alone live in one.’

They were all caught mid action, they didn’t know what to make of this, the designated three who were to share their stories already had, they were finished for the day weren’t they? Strenvich seemed to corroborate their confusion by the frown on her face and asked,

‘Erm, Fraiden, your turn is next week…’ but before she finished the sentence Fraiden piped up even louder.

‘There wasn’t even a stove in the hut, only a dark square slab of black stone attached to the south facing wall that absorbed the winter sunlight and exuded the warmth back into the hut, hopefully for the rest of the day. The woman acclimatised herself to get used to living with an average of 11 degrees inside.’

The others were beginning to be interested and so started to sit back down. All these weeks Sumi didn’t really give Fraiden a second glance until now – how big her brow is, how lovely the curve of her eyebrows that seem to frame her pale blue eyes like the dark treeline of an alpine lake. The noise of their chairs moving to accommodate their bodies once again slowly ceased as Fraiden continued,

‘This woman was a solitary woman, easy and content with her own company, with her collection of small rocks and with her books that were arranged into little towers around the arm chair and sides of the hut like they were forever waiting to go horizontal on a shelf.’

Traelise looked at Strenvich and back at Fraiden – how similar their hair is, Traelise thought, not noticing till now the seemingly exact copy of copper brown, like the fresh conker nuts she used to forage for as a child underneath the autumnal sycamore tree. ‘She was interested in almost everything. Her books spanned subjects like botany, geology, etymology, psychology, biology, stone circles, crop circles, mechanics of bikes, swimming anthologies, music almanacs, and, of all things, the entire collection of Enid Blyton’s “The Infamous Five”.’

Warna let out a snigger, Strenvich, for once, did the same.

‘Go on,’ Strenvich said, in apology. Fraiden didn’t seemed fazed,

‘On most days the woman liked to walk among the rocks outside the hut, collecting samples of lichen and mosses that seemed to grow in abundance there. One day she was looking at a sample under her microscope, which she often did in her make-shift science lab which consisted of her microscope, her telescope, a note book, two petri dishes, an assortment of dried chemicals in test tubes that she managed to barter from a professor of science in the university down in the nearest city approximately 100 miles away, a pair of tweezers and a paperweight that had a snowy scene of Perris that when you shook it the fake snow would swirl up in a frenzy and lie hectically around the plastic Trifel Tower.’

This time is was Sumi who sniggered, and immediately regretted it by going to a poker face and looking down at her creased trousers once again.

‘Wait,’ Strenvich said, putting her forefinger up to her mouth, ‘I think I’ve heard this story before, is it the story of an old woman called Ness who finds the –’

But Fraiden interrupted her with, ‘The old woman is looking into her petri dish with moss and chemicals swimming in it when she sees a tick crawl into the dish. She has no idea where the tick came from, she’s thinking, there’s no deer up here.’ Fraiden stopped for a second and looked down at the floor as a new thought interjected it’s way in, ‘Sorry, her dog, it’s her dog. She has a dog. The tick comes from the dog.’

Warna started to roll her eyes, the others shifted uncomfortably in their seats, Strenvich sensed cracks in the story but then felt a sudden sympathy for Fraiden – what powers of holding people’s attention she had with her certainty of the story was now waning and Fraiden seemed a little distressed by this. Then Strenvich remembered that Fraiden had a problem with memory – that was written in the notes she had scribbled the first time Fraiden joined the group.

‘Go on Fraiden,’ Strenvich helped, ‘she’s looking in her microscope and the tick, from the dog, has crawled into the chemicals in the dish.’

‘Yes’ Fraiden said loudly, and with enthusiasm, ‘Yes, the dog was apt to getting ticks in the summer and hosting them till late autumn. It was late autumn when the old woman was doing this experiment. Anyway,’ Fraiden made a movement with her hand as if to wave away a side-thought. ‘As much as she hated ticks, she could see the struggle of this unfortunate one as it writhed about in the soup of chemicals, its limbs contorting into unnatural positions, slowly drowning to death.’

Was Fraiden enjoying telling the details of this description a little too much? Warna thought, vividly imagining the tick squirming away.

‘The old woman had a profound sense of the ticks suffering, almost hearing it scream and feeling its pain.’ Fraiden went on, ‘In her notebook she wrote, once the tick was deceased, that she understood her, the human being, to have an intense empathy for the tick, the non-human being, and for this to mean she could identifying her ‘self’ in the tick, and for this idea of the self to be evident in the empathetic behaviour of one being to another and that there must be identification to have compassion.’

Fraiden stopped, feeling pleased for parting this information, looked round the group and smiled. The others felt a distinct note of anti-climax. Strenvich breathed a sigh.

‘Okay, Fraiden, erm, thanks for that.’ The others started to stand up once again, all feeling a little weary and sore, and a want for some fresh air.

‘I know another one!’ Fraiden asserted herself once more, there were audible groans, Strenvich tried to pacify with,

‘Okay, okay, thanks every one for telling their stories, I will see you all next week.’

Fraiden didn’t seem discouraged and started with, ‘I found this book in the library, in the miscellaneous section, a big book that looked battered and worn-’

‘Like our patience’ Warna said under her breath to Traelise who was in earshot, laughing silently.

‘It had embossed in capital letters down it’s spine,’ Fraiden continued, ‘with the word, DOUBT.’

At this everyone stopped in their tracks, half putting on coats, half zipping up jackets, half turning devices back on again. All of them looked down at Fraiden who was still seated, with faces of shock and disbelief. Mouths went dry, colour drained from faces, jaws dropped open. Strenvich looked at Fraiden who seemed confused that her words were having this effect, and asked slowly,

‘What did you say the book was called? And please tell me this is definitely what you saw.’

Fraiden moved a little in her seat, suddenly unsure of her memory, was it DOUBT or ABOUT or DO OUT? But I was sure it was DOUBT, hundred percent – she answered herself in her head – one hundred and ten percent. Sweat started to form on her brow, which she always thought of as too big for her head. Her anxiety grew and suddenly she was aware of her big eyebrows and her silly auburn brown hair she managed to dye the exact colour of Strenvich’s, maybe they shopped in the same chemist, maybe they bought the same brand, what was the brand? I can’t remember-

‘Fraiden!’ Strenvich said loudly, impatience boiling up and over the surface now, ‘What was the book called?!’ A pause. Fraiden looked shocked at Strenvich’s outburst.

‘Doubt’ Fraiden said in a mousy voice, almost too low to hear, which she sensed was not good enough and so said louder, ‘Doubt.’

There were small gasps from the group, some sat back down so as to not faint, Sumi being one of them. Warna feeling hot around the neck and prickly sensations in her hands asked,

‘What were the first lines in the book Fraiden, please, please, remember, what were they, what did they say, tell us, what were the words?’ Realising too many questions didn’t help Fraiden, and said again slowly, ‘What did it say?’ Fraiden paused but then felt a flood of memory burst forth.

‘I remember!’ she said excitedly, ‘This I do remember, so well, clearly, I can see the pages now!’ She marvelled at her brain to go from one dried up memory bank to a river of images and words, completely intact, to a desert of thought once again. When the memories came thick and fast, she delighted in what she could remember; whole passages to books, songs of great length, maps in minute detail–

‘Fraiden!’ Strenvich shouted again in impatience, bringing Fraiden back to the room again.

‘Yes, yes,’ she said, almost on the edge of her seat, everyone with fixed eyes on her, holding their breath, ‘I remember, I remember, it read…….’

Possible realities

Aite chose to sit in a different chair this time, the one that was closest to the window but faced away from it and into the room. Aite wasn’t sure why but went with it as Neaf was making tea in the next room and would be a few more minutes more affording Aite with time to change minds, or change chairs in this case. Neaf came through with two cups of tea, acknowledging Aites change of position with a faint “ah” and small smile. Aite took the warm cup from Neaf, thanking Neaf and taking a small sip before placing it on the coaster, carefully, on the table next to the chair. There were three chairs in the room, all with a small table next to them that had a coaster, a box of tissues and a time-clicker with large numbers quietly flashing the time, all facing towards Neafs chair. When it was Aites first ever visit here the option of chairs slightly flummoxed Aite, causing Aite to hesitate and ask Neaf where Aite should sit, to which Neaf replied, Anywhere you like with a small, warm smile that Aite would come to appreciate as Neafs inherent calm inquisitiveness and wish to create an atmosphere of absolute respect and non-judgement. A smile Aite liked.

Neaf sat opposite Aite, with Neafs usual look of inviting Aite to start without actually saying so.

Aite cleared Aites throat a little, so as to begin. I thought I would start with Eejupt. Neaf nodded once. We were in Eejupt for a half-moon cycle doing some work on weselves, a group of we’s that were helped along to gain further in-sight into weselves by a very experienced guide. We did things like float down the river Nill at dawn, chant on the roof tops at night directing we voices to the stars, and whilst we were there we decided to go on a tour of the pyramids. When in Romm and all that, or in this case Eejupt. Neaf smiled and gave a little exhale laugh through Neafs nose. Neaf liked Aites light-heartedness and how Aite peppered Aites words with slight comedic references. Aite continued. So, we got up early to make the first tour and found we were the only we’s there. The tour guide was quite surprised by this too as it was normally busier than that. Anyway – Aite took a sip of tea – we were led down into the pyramid, down a small staircase of stone with a rope for railings that seemed to go on for ever. The stairs occasionally took sharp turns back on itself so the whole stair case was a zigzag down into the heart of the pyramid, the burial chamber itself. Once we were all inside, we stopped to gather weselves, rubbing we sore knees, looking at the walls and discerning the size of the place. It was not much bigger than this room – Aite gestured to the room with Aites hand – I suppose the dead don’t ask for much. It’s the living that build pyramids for them, I’m sure the dead can suffice with less. Neaf exhaled another small laugh. Anyway, there in the middle of it was an empty sarcophagus. We knew it would be empty, grave robbers got there first years ago of course. Neaf nodded, half closing Neafs eyes in agreement. Once we had all had a look inside the sarcophagus – strangely rounded edges it had, like lots of hands over moon-millennia had smoothed its edges – the guides speak-phone made a crumpling noise of distorted voices. The guide looked concerned and so asked if we could leave we there whilst we went up higher to get a better signal-shot. We all nodded, feeling perfectly happy to be left there without the guide. Neafs eyes widened slightly to indicate a recognition of the significance of this. Aite continued after taking another sip of tea. Once we heard the guides steps fade to nothing, we all nodded to each other somehow knowing what to do and so we turned we head torches off so we were enveloped in the darkness. Aite paused looking distant for a moment, Neaf thought. One of we moved towards the empty sarcophagus and groped for its edges in the dark, and slowly climbed in, lying down feet and legs first then lowering weself gently, like getting into a bath, till we head touched the cold stone and we folded we arms over we chest with we eyes closed. We must have been about five turnings-of-timer each, laying there in the utter darkness, in the sarcophagus. Each of we took turns to do so, waiting without a word spoken between we, understanding instinctively when we were finished so the next we could grope in the dark and find the smooth sarcophagus edges to lower weself into it and lay still in its confines once again. Neaf took this moment to ask softly, How did if feel? Aite looked up directly at Neafs calm, pale and watery blue eyes, melting for a moment into a state of peaceful contentment, feeling the third eye energy-gate in the middle of Aites forehead buzz with a warm glow. It felt like we were melting between thousands of moon-cycles ago into thousands of moon-cycles ahead all at once, we felt like we were expanding and contracting at the same time, we felt minute and colossal – all of this collapsing into the very present so we felt very much there, in the now. It was incredible, but also felt so normal. Neaf nodded, I know, was all Neaf said. Aite paused in memory. Then took another sip of tea.

Today Aite felt like sitting in the chair that faced the window and the little trinkets that adorned Neafs window sill. Aite liked to look at some of the trinkets whilst Aite talked. It soothed Aite to look at the oval shaped ceramic that sat on a flat stone that had a streak of ochre red running around its curvature. Aite was always curious about the small brass cylindrical object, no bigger than a coin, that stood on ten triangular legs supporting a dome at the top with ornate carvings on it, and the azure blue vase that was shaped to a thin brim so only one pollinator-stem could be placed in it. Neaf handed Aite a cup of tea. Neaf sat down gently, placed Neafs tea on the coaster on the table and put Neafs arms on the chairs soft armrests and, as always Neaf was apt to do, let Neafs body relax into Neafs natural sitting position which meant Neafs legs were slightly apart, not suggestively Aite thought, but openly, like Neaf was a part of the chair and the chair a part of Neaf, solid, true and very much weighted to the ground. Aite began. We woke up one morning knowing a memory that we knew wasn’t we’s. Aite thought this statement might arouse a disbelieve in Neaf but then remembered this was probably utterly normal for Neaf to hear. Aite continued in a renewed confidence. Just bolt upright on we bed one morning when we were younger, with this memory. We knew, like we had lived it weselves, although we know this was not we memory but some-we elses. We knew that we had been in a taxee-cart from a long time before, going somewhere but the details of that didn’t seem to matter in this memory. But we were going somewhere in a taxee-cart with a friend and we remembered it must’ve been a party or something because we were wearing a string of pearls and this necklace was special, like we got it from someone special as a gift and so would only wear it on special occasions. Aite paused to take in the satisfying spherical shape of the brass ornament, thinking of the spherical pearls and how smooth their surface was. Aite thought about the pearls like Aite owned them, knew them to exacting details, whilst simultaneously knowing Aite never owned a necklace of pearls, let along any necklace for that matter. Aite preferred adornments that sat on window sills, not around necks. Aite never really knew why. Neaf could sense a slight derailing in Aites thought process and so coughed slightly which Aite heard as “go on”. And so went on, There was something unexpected up ahead, on the trail. The taxee-cart operator had to suddenly break causing we to lurch forward. As soon as we had any moment to realise what was happening another cart came slamming into the side of the taxee-cart. The moment is blurry but we know it was a bad accident, one we was in health-hospital for weeks, one that changed things for we, forever. Neaf could see the frown on Aites brow, the disturbance of the memory folding itself in to Aites skin, the tea undrunk, and so took this moment to pour a beam of calm into the room through the energy-gate on Neafs forehead. Aite eyes had been fixed on the brass object, then sensing something shifting in the room, like a dog changing position and letting out a sigh in enjoyment of the new found comfort, moved Aites eye to the smooth contours of the ceramic. Aite remembered Aites tea and took a long sip. Neaf smiled. Those pearls were embedded into we skin, we were later told. The surgeons had to prize them out with tweezers. Aite seemed to find this mildly funny, let out a small laugh and said, We’ve always hated wearing necklaces. Neaf let the pause of recognition hang in the air a little. And then asked, Is it important to keep this memory? Aite took another long sip of tea, enjoying the warmth wind its way down to Aites stomach, imagining, for a moment, the liquid was a ball of light radiating outwards to every part of Aites body, to all the extremities and back again. Aite felt a profound sense of relaxation, like every muscle was in agreement with each other, no aches or strange joint pains, just sweet release. Aite was in awe of the feeling, at the same time feeling right, like it was right to feel this way. Like that was the natural feeling of a body, not tired and crumpled, a little nauseated at times. Aite marvelled and let out a small No. And louder, No, this time looking directly at Neaf, it’s not important to keep the memory. Neaf nodded with a twinkle in Neafs eyes and a grin that seemed to embody sincerity. Aite placed Aites hand on Aites neck, feeling it to be smooth and free of any ornaments.

This day it was Neaf who walked first into the room and set Neaf down on the chair closest to the door, which struck Aite as slightly strange, it meant Aite had the choice of sitting in Neafs chair or not. With this choice Aite was hot under the collar with confusion and worry. Neaf could sense this and so indicated for Aite to sit in Neafs chair anyway, which Aite did carefully and noticed a cup of tea ready and waiting for Aite on the table next to the chair. Aite wasn’t even sure if it was polite to take a sip, it looked like Neafs usual cup. Aite looked from the cup to Neaf and could see the serenity had faded from Neafs face to one of strain, weariness and almost fear? Aite pondered. Just as Aite was about to start Aites story, even though it didn’t quite seem like the right time to bring this one up, (Aite had rehearsed the beginning on the way there as Aite wanted to remember the string of events in the right order) Neaf held Neafs hand up to indicate silence. This shocked Aite. Weren’t we here for Neaf to hear we’s stories and not the other way around? Aite thought. Neaf began to say, eyes pinned to Aites, It is time Aite told Neaf about the Book of Doubt. All the breath seemed to be knocked out of Aite, this was not something Aite ever thought Neaf would say, as Aite was forbidden to talk about it, plus how did Neaf know? It was drummed into Aite from a very early age, the pages in that book must never be said aloud, learned by heart, but never spoken by tongue – Aite heard Aites guardian say, remembering how Aites guardian would wish Aite goodnight by placing a kiss on Aite’s forehead but never before saying those words first. Neaf knew this too, surely knew the Book of Doubt was never to be divulged by mere we’s voices alone. Neaf looked at Aite again, this time leaning forward, You don’t have to tell me with your voice. But you have to tell me all the same, so you must picture the pages of that book, every single one, and put that in your mind so I can see it. Leaning in a little further, I have to know what’s in the Book of Doubt. Aite could see this now, clearly, her guardian said those words could never be spoken by tongue but by mind-sight, yes, of course, and of course it would be Neaf as the we who would ask! This was all falling into place in Aites mind, all the memories, all the stories, all this time it was Neaf who is the next carrier of the words of Doubt. Neaf! Ha! Aite felt a huge sense of relief flooding through every sinew of Aite, every pore seemed to radiate with a sense of joyful liberation, the Book of Doubt could be passed on and Aite could recline back in to a feeling of contentment with no guilt or shame anymore. What a magnificent feeling! Aite, smiling, nodded to Neaf, took a sip of tea and began.

All possibilities is reality

In this universe – which one, the inhabitants of the universe will never know – there is a woman who sits alone in a room. It is a room made of stone. The room is round, with white washed walls and a round rug with an intricate pattern of geometric and organic shapes woven into its thick texture that sits exactly in the middle of the room. There is a narrow window set back into the wall that faces south. On the window ledge, which is as thick as the thick stone walls, sits a wide candle whose flame burns a pale yellow in the south facing day light. In the middle of the woven rug, on a large un-patterned cushion, sits the woman with her legs folded under herself, in what she remembers someone calling, ‘the lotus position’, although she has never seen a lotus in her life to see if it resembles such a thing.

Next to her, on a coaster, on the rug, is a glass of water. The woman is quite tired, the broken sleep with a strange dream about a taxi crash and the sound of pearls hitting the taxi floor, filled her mind all morning. However, she now feels comfortable, but if she was asked – which she doubts she will be – a little cold. It is November after all, and there isn’t any means of heating in the room (which was a slight disappointment to her, if she has to be honest – which she doubts she will be – when she was first shown the room). Even though she remembered to bring her woollen socks and in-door jacket, as was specified in the what-to-bring list – which she now doubts she read properly – she didn’t feel they were making much of a difference as she has been sat still for most of the day. Nevertheless, she thinks I am here now, brushing these slight inconveniences aside. She takes a sip of water.

As she was instructed some days before, she closes her eyes. She starts to feel calm and lets the mantra come into her mind naturally and effortlessly.

Over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over……..

…..there it is – the faint breath of the universe, breathing in and out, slowly, in and out. There is the slight warm glow on the front of my forehead that pulsates to the back of my head and back round to my throat. There is the uncanny feeling of time slowing down, or is it speeding up? There is the feeling that my consciousness is slipping further down into my body, but is also extending upwards, far beyond the limits of my body. There is the feeling of restful alertness, I’m not fully awake but, I am not asleep either. My mind is freely doing its thing; drifting between thinking and a kind of numbing of thinking? There is the feeling of spreading outwards and collapsing inwards simultaneously, of being at all scales. I’m neither mighty nor tiny. There is the feeling of tapping into something benevolent, enmeshed, abundant. There is the feeling of being hitched to everything else, simultaneously. It’s kind of lovely. I like it. Connecting to this strange, dark universe as it moves around, with and through me, if I can call me, me, envelopes me with a certain doubt for what I know to be me. But I think, now that I am residing in this space, now I am in the now, I am a little more contented with the unknowable, with this mystery, with this doubt, with….

……over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over.

There is a little ping of a small bell coming from below, reverberating up the spiral staircase that attaches the room to the eating hall downstairs.

Ah lunch, she thinks, great. I am a little hungry.

She lets her eyes adjust to the contours of the room, to the contours of this reality. Unfolding her legs, she feels their mass again, the circulation of blood, the contact of her feet on the floor. She gets up and stretches her arms above her head looking out of the window – the landscape runs into a distant grey hue, merging with the grey low slung sky – and lets her arms swing back to her side, breathing out a long sigh that causes the candle flame to go horizontal, fizzle to a tiny remnant and almost extinguish, before it springs back up again.

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