Beginning my climb up the steps reminded me of walking up a castle’s tower. Each step was a single dark grey stone which was very narrow. I kept my right hand on the wall as I climbed as there were no railings and tried not to look down. The light blue shimmering haze sparkled above me and I contracted on that and where I was putting my feet.
I thought about the first time Jane and Adam had taken me on a day trip to visit a castle in Wales. There had been a staircase like this in one of the towers and I, briefly separated from them, had decided to climb up it. The dark, narrow spiralling staircase hadn’t frightened me as it might have done other six year olds. I was a child of God and had nothing to fear or so I spent all my childhood believing.
I recalled the feel of the walls, much like the one I was now touching, as being damp and cold. The sound of my small footsteps scraping against the stone and shuffling upwards, echoed and filled my ears. I passed an arrow slit from which came pale light and carried on. I was excited, what was at the top? But before I could get there, Jane’s shouting voice broke the quietness and made me pause. She was shouting my name and demanding to know where I had gotten too.
What I had replied? Something like, ‘I’m up here, mummy.’ Then there had been a running of footsteps and Jane had yanked me off the step. She was shouting at me, telling me I was bad for wandering off, it was dangerous. Hadn’t I seen the sign and the chain? I wasn’t allowed here! She had somehow picked me up and bundled me back downstairs. Adam was waiting for us with one of the castle guards. I think they had been talking and thus that had been my reasoning for adventuring.
I paused on the actual step I was on and took a few deep breaths. That childhood memory faded and I looked up. It seemed there was still a long way to go. Carrying on, I tried to recall what had happened after that, but that seemed to be the whole memory. Of course, there’d been more trips to other castles, cathedrals, churches and most of them had also had tower staircases. We had visited the ruins of Bolton abbey one hot summer day and I was wearing a brand new white dress. I was about ten years old and thought I looked like an angel. There had been some event on and the place was full of children, adults and dogs. Maybe, it had been May Day or Easter?
We were all paddling in the river. I really remember that part best because of the way the water shinned under the sunlight as if it was diamonds. The sky was crystal blue with this huge glowing orange ball hanging over us as if it was God Himself. The water was cool and refreshing then I had fallen in and though it had been shallow, my dress had soaked the water up like a sponge. Jane had scolded me terribly and Adam, who left all the discipline to her, sat silently and watched. We had gone home early, I wrapped in the picnic blanket in the back of the silent car then sent straight to bed. Of course, they hadn’t argued. They never did, but there had been negative words spoken in low voices that evening.
I stopped again, my eyes almost sliding sideways to look downwards. Instead, I shot them upwards and looked at the blue haze. I was almost there. Trying not to hurry the last set of steps, least I fell, I reached the top and stepped on to a small platform. I faced the blue haze and looked around. There was nothing else to be seen.
‘What now?’ I asked, turning about.
Before me, the haze started to change colour, catching my attention. Green began seeping into the blue, like ink on a page and shapes began to take form. What look like a forest drawn by a child grew around me then I was sucked inside. A scream ripped through my throat and a train of colour rushed by me. I tumbled and landed heavily on damp soil. Pain shot through my bum and lower back before fading. I fell back and looked up at a dark blue sky framed by the tops of pine trees.
After a few moments, I sat up and looked around. The forest felt familiar, yet alien. The trees were large triangles of green pine needles balanced on brown triangle trunks. The grass blades under me were also triangle shaped. I stood up on shaky legs and listened. A river was flowing somewhere to my right, making a babble of sounds. There were no birds singing or wind.
Dusting off, I started walking towards the river. The odd trees were evenly spaced out as if someone had planted them like that and there were no bushes or flowers. I reached the river and gasped. Though the water was clear blue, the shape of the river was a triangle as were all the rocks and stones in and around the water.
I stepped off the grass and to the edge of the river, looking at the structure. Stones crunched underneath me and I looked down. Most of the stones had holes in the middle of them and were a range of bright colours, some of which shimmered. I picked up a dark red one, which glittered sliver and looked through the hole with one eye. The scene across the river before me changed, becoming black and white and I saw peering around a tree trunk a fox. Looking over, I tried to see the fox again, but couldn’t pick it out.
I put my eye back to the stone, but the fox turned and disappeared out of sight. I sat down on the river bank and remembering what Garson had said, pulled The Arcana out of my satchel. I looked up the keywords and pieced the meanings together;
To be in a forest is a transitional phase, follow your instincts. Alternatively, you maybe wanting to escape to a simpler life due to being weighed down by demands. To be lost in a forest means you’re searching your subconscious for a better understanding of yourself.
Triangles symbolize your aspirations, truth and potential and represent your spirituality (body, mind, spirit). Alternatively, triangles are a warning of some kind, especially if they are yellow, red or orange.
A river if it is clear and calm means you are going with the flow, but it is time to become more decisive and perhaps enter a new stage of life. Fertility, prosperity, pleasure and peace are also symbolized by the water. Crossing a river represents an obstacle or issue that needs dealing with in order to move closer to your goal(s). Bathing in a river equals purification and cleansing.
Seeing a fox represents insight, cunning, cleverness and resourcefulness. Also, a period of isolation, you need time to ponder on some issues.
A Hagstone signifies your need to be protected.
‘A Hagstone?’ I muttered and looked at the dark red triangle stone with the hole in the middle. I was still clutching it in my hand and it had gotten warm. I had looked up stones last and it had been the first meaning. Something at the back of my mind tried to recall what was special about these stones, but I had no idea.
I re-read all the parts again then slipping The Arcana back into my bag, fixed my eyes on the flowing river to think. In a dream forest, I have to follow my instincts and become like a fox to find myself, but beware triangles. I glanced around and saw that everything was triangle shaped, but nothing was the three warning colours. I need to be more decisive, go across the river and also cleanse. I need to keep the Hagstone as protection.
Smiling and feeling a lot better, I pulled out my chain and undid the clasp. I threaded the Hagstone through and let it rest beside my cross. Looking through it once more, I saw black and white trees, the river and the sky, but nothing else. Slipping everything back under the white jumper, I got up and went to the river.
Kneeling down, I washed my hands and face in the cool water and thought about becoming clean. Cupping some of the water, I also took a few sips and felt a pleasant coldness in my throat. I dried myself on the end of the jumper then dug the prayer book from my bag and looked up the contents page. I didn’t find anything that matched what I needed, so I went straight to the Psalms and skimmed through them, until; Psalms 51.
‘Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin,’ I spoke allowed then read the rest of it in my head.
I closed the prayer book and slipped it back into my bag. I washed my hands and face again then stood up. The triangle forest was unnatural quiet. Glancing around, I decided to follow the river downwards and see if there was a bridge or stepping stones to cross over on. The water flowed calmly beside me, bubbling around large triangle shaped rocks and stones. Faster than I thought, I came across a pathway of large stepping stones. The river was lapping just over them and the stones looked a little slippery.
Carefully, I stepped onto the first one, clutching the satchel strap and keeping my other arm against the leather bag for stability. Water touched my boots and I heard a soft squelching sound. I stepped easily to the next, the gap between the stones was only small. Trying to fight down the expectation that something was going to happen, I went to the fourth.
Stopping, I counted another four stones ahead of me, which meant I was standing in about the middle. The river carried on, the clear water flowing somewhere known. I looked down at the riverbed and saw a clean sandy floor. Wondering, if there were any fish, I stepped to the next stone and looked down the other side. Not seeing anything, I carried on and walked across the rest of the stones.
Reaching the other side, I turned and looked back, feeling pleased. Ahead of me another section of forest spread out and I debated what to do. The trees to my left looked like they got denser and seemed to rise up further along. The trees to my right, heading down river, looked less dense and stood further back.
‘I’d keep following the river if I were you,’ a soft voice purred.
I jumped and looked quickly around. From a nearby tree came the long pointy face of a fox. It moved out slowly and padded towards me. The fox was red-orange, with a white triangle chest and two tails that ended in white triangle points.
‘Excuse me?’ I stuttered.
‘Didn’t you want to know which way to go?’ the fox asked.
I stared as its mouth form the words and I saw flashes of a pink tongue and white fangs.
‘And I’m telling you to follow the river,’ the fox replied as its’ tails waved around behind.
I glanced in that direction then back, ‘thanks.’
‘Your welcome. Oh and remember to use the Hagstone.’
I looked down and though I couldn’t see it, I could feel the red stone against my skin.
‘What does it do?’ I asked.
The fox’s amber eyes made a rolling gesture and it sat down, ‘it protects you from evil charms and nightmares. You can use it to see fairies, other fae and magic creatures, witches and traps.’
‘Oh. Thanks. That’s going to be really useful,’ I gushed.
The fox turned its head and muttered to itself. I frowned and caught what sounded like, ‘she forgets every time.’ Standing, the fox turned and giving a wave of its’ tails walked off.
‘Bye!’ I called after it.
‘Good luck!’ the fox shouted back.
I watched it disappear then started walking alongside the river again.
To Be Continued…