A Deeply Planted Seed: Chapter 3 – Astronomia

The full moon held court in the summit of the bright starless sky and would have been quickly hidden by thickening clouds except Melissa was tired of this shit and brought the dream to a standstill immediately after becoming lucid. As such, the sun did not rise to challenge the usurper of its noonday throne but remained hidden below a horizon that did not exist.

“Not this time.” She looked up at the unmoving light with the same lack of warmth as it gave. “And I know better than to call the Sun. The Sun is there.” She pointed to the ground at her feet. “On the other side of the world. This isn’t Day, no matter how much you have brightened the sky. This is Night, and I’ve been reading this scene wrong all this time. No wonder he keeps getting the jump on me.”

Melissa turned around and looked at the gray featureless landscape around her. She had interrupted the dream before pareidolia could construct a false world to spring shadows from. “This is Night, and I am here, and here I am.”

The sky darkened from the false appearance of noonday to an indigo so deep, only the knowledge of it being the night sky prevented it from solidifying into black.

Melissa closed her hands in front of her face. When she opened them, it was with the motion of opening a book. A thin deck of cards fluttered into the space pulled apart by her palms. She took the deck and moved one card to the top of the deck while holding up another. Whispering a voiceless prayer that her lucidity holds her aunt’s magician away long enough for her new attempt at control to work, she held out a card to the full moon still holding the summit of the sky.

“Moon! Hide your face! It is time for the stars to be revealed!” She pulled the card down and as it moved towards the deck in her other hand, the moon in the sky slipped from the summit towards the edge of the horizon in front of her. It transitioned from the phase of its fullness to the phase of its newness as it left its power. As Melissa slipped the card between others in the deck, the night became truly black as the luminary’s absence.

She felt terror attempt to rise up from the ground and chitter up her legs as the unseen atmosphere thickened against her skin. The only light now was from the glow in her chest and even that was barely able to touch her hands as she held them close for the next step in her dare.

There was so little time to prepare before going to bed. Almost all of the blog posts and social media groups she had consulted about using tarot cards for magic assumed that the magic user was awake for the work. The few that assumed that sleeping was involved told the magic user to tuck the deck under the pillow before bed. None had any advice for a lucid dreamer to use tarot cards as a focus in a dream.

She had used the phrase Rebecca taught her to remove any magic from the dream. After all, the card reader said it was sciencing and science banishes magic, right? This next step would rely on deep associations to bring magic back from the power of childhood wonder. She felt silly as she turned over the top card of the deck. How many times had she said this rhyme without considering the realities it could summon?

“Star light, star bright, first star I see tonight, wish I may, wish I might, let me have my wish tonight.” She lifted the card and held it over her head, far out of reach of her heart’s glow. “Elpis! O bright hope! Show yourself to me in this terrible dark night and be a beacon of understanding to lead me out of this devouring darkness!”

Melissa felt the card dissolve out of her fingers. Even as the night suddenly thickened to smother even the glow from within her, she kept her mind’s focus on her goal: To summon a representation of the Star tarot card.

A sudden light soundlessly detonated high above her. Thin spikes of light streaked out in all directions to pierce the quivering shadows. The crown of the sky was pricked by the light as it dislodged the darkness in grains and motes which settled to form a black sand that spread under her feet.

Melissa stood in wonder under a canopy of stars so thick and bright in number that she wondered if this is what the night sky looked like before technology obscured it. She turned and moved to trace something that looked like an artist’s rendition of the Milky Way from one horizon to another and back again.

She realized that one star in this newly reborn night sky was very much brighter than the others. She stood still with her face turned up to face it. After a few moments, she realized that there was something else in this reconstructed landscape and this new thing was directly under the star.

She lowered her gaze to see the blank faced judge standing in front of her. Though the collection of light from the collection of stars above her was enough to outshine her heart’s glow, the closed black robes of the judge reflected nothing but appeared to be soaking in the light around them. Their mask was something like metal and something not like metal and something like matte white and something like perfectly reflective and completely absent of any facial features one would expect to see on a mask at all.

Melissa’s reaction was as even as the judge’s silence. Above them, the brightest star in the sky unfurled a beam of light that fell upon the judge.

“What is the understanding that you seek? Of what would you know more?” Their voice rumbled with a deep tone that avoided her ears entirely and was interpreted instead by her bones.

It has been three weeks since Melissa had seen any of the three judges from her ordeal with the Major Arcana of the tarot. When the ordeal ended, she was glad to be done with them. Now, she was about to cry in relief at the sight of the most enigmatic of the three.

Melissa had anticipated being challenged and had memorized a quick answer in preparation. The words flowed from her in a slow but steady pace. “Understanding of what I need to do to save myself, of what I need to do to heal myself, and of what I need to do to adapt to this new world I am now living in. That is the understanding that I seek and what I would know more of.”

The blank faced judge did not make any motion or sound in immediate response, but Melissa had the sudden assurance that her request had been heard. She tried to stand still on the black sand as even footed as she could but the starlight sparkling around her stung like little pricks on her skin prodding her to flee.

When the judge did speak, they showed no movement. The mask, the fabric that encased them, these all remained static yet Melissa almost winced from the loudness that would not be ignored. “You know what I am. You have other means available to you that can reveal what you seek. Even if you accept what I will offer, I am not jealous of you. You are free to walk away, free to accept help elsewhere, free to blend what you have learned from me with what you have learned from others.”

Melissa nodded with acceptance before realizing why the judge’s declaration felt odd. “You didn’t give me this kind of a choice when I accepted you before. Why now?”

“You didn’t allow yourself a choice to be made then.”

Melissa looked down at the carpet of glittering sand at their feet. While the robes of the judge extended to the ground, there was no mark of their presence. She wanted to argue that Rebecca had said there was always a choice, but just as her ordeal of the Star tarot card reconciled two apparently contradictory meanings, she understood that both the judge and Rebecca were correct in their statements and it was only her perspective that determined which was weal and which was woe.

“That’s fair.” She took a deep breath. The movement stoked the warmth in her chest and for a moment the space between her and the judge was flooded with something that reminded her of the glow preceding dawn. She felt as emboldened as she was terrified and rested in the turbulence before speaking. “So. What do you have to offer?”

The judge stepped forward, pulling the constantly descending beam of starlight with them. The light settled on their head and shoulders like a veil with the train held high in the infinite sky. They lifted a black gloved hand and reached into the form of their chest for a moment. By the time they had come to a stop just beyond Melissa’s reach, they had withdrawn a card from their body. The card, initially as black as the substance of their robes, solidified and lightened into a white card of the same shape and material as the deck she had summoned in the dream. They held the card upright. The side facing Melissa was blank.

“I offer the same as I had offered before. To receive it, you must take it as you had before.”

Melissa eyed the card and remembered Rebecca’s advice. “I’m supposed to test you, to test the Star that sent you, and to test what advice I receive.”

The judge nodded without moving. “This is prudent advice and worthy to be tested in itself.”

Melissa’s fear was supplanted by her annoyance. “Look, I already have one Rebecca in my life. I don’t need a Diogenes to go with.” She laughed and sighed before looking around. “You know, this is a very nice change. I don’t know how that bastard is being kept away from the dream for this long, but I’m not going to complain. And yet for all that has changed, look what has not. Here I am, back again at a choice that I can’t risk turning down.”

She stepped forward and took the offered card from the judge. It matched the summoned deck perfectly. She turned the card over. Ten holographic spheres arranged in a flat triangle floated within the surface of the card. The triangle turned even though she held the card still. The spheres turned counter to the rotation of the triangle. Each time she thought she could see which way any one component of the card was turning, the entire structure would turn counter to her assumption.

“I don’t recognize this tarot card. What is it?” She looked up to see the judge now standing several steps away from her and directly under the sponsoring star again. She did not hear them move but she heard their voice with every mote of her being.

“It is the seed of your understanding.”

She looked back at the card. “How am I supposed to find this deck? Do you know how many tarot decks there are in the world? This doesn’t look like any of the popular or historical decks I’ve seen.” She looked up expecting the judge to have disappeared. Their silent presence surprised her.

She held the card before her. “Unless this isn’t about the cardstock.” The judge remained silent and still. Melissa looked back at the card but kept it at arm’s length. “This is about what the card represents. This isn’t one of the majors, but I don’t recognize the suit.”

She tilted the card back towards her. The triangle formed by the then spheres continued to roll and rotate. The card did not have a title or a number. No color hued the background or the spheres even though she was able to distinguish them. There was nothing on the card to indicate what the deck’s theme was or what suit was it duplicating.

She tilted the card towards the imposing figure. “Judge, what does this card represent?”

“Here, the card does not represent anything. Here, in this space, in this place, the card is. And what that card is, is the seed of your understanding. Do with it as you will.”

The light on the blank faced judge’s head and shoulders lessened into a trickle of photons that halted even as Melissa watched. As the sponsoring star dimmed to join the intensity of others in the infinite sky, the judge’s form dissolved into the nothingness from which all dreams are made.

Melissa stood alone on the expanse of black sand. The light from the multitudes of stars around her continued to be enough for her to see by. She drew the tarot card closer to inspect how it had changed with the dimming of the sponsoring star.

The ten spheres each had a mote of light in each respective core. Was she looking at ten glittering marbles or ten representations of unique universes? Still lucid, she admitted that not only were both extremes equally valid explanations in this dreamscape, but it was also just as likely that the sphere were both at the same time.

She held the card upright before her face. “It is what it is, and it is the seed of my understanding. And what am I supposed to do with it here where there is not a garden within sight?”

The equilateral triangle made by the spheres slowly stopped rotating. It came to a halt pointing down. Surprised, Melissa turned the card. No how she turned the card around, the triangle remained fixed in relation to the ground. Only when she turned the card level with the ground did the triangle resume its casual rotation. And even then, when she raised the card again, the triangle would reassemble itself so that it was pointing down.

Melissa knelt and dug a little hole at her feet and placed the tarot card within it. She filled the hole and patted it before standing. Immediately she felt a terrible weight on her shoulders and the sensation that she was smothered and unable to breathe.

She turned around in a panic to identify from where her aunt’s magician was attempting to gain entry into her dream. She meant to shout a challenge, but every time she opened her mouth, it felt like dirt was being shoved into it.

Finally, she realized the connection the blank faced judge had created. She fell to her knees on the black sand and frantically felt around to find the buried card. Finding the card, she pulled it from the shallow grave she meant to leave it in and dusted it off.

She began to feel relief the moment she had touched it. When she blew on the card to clear it of any lingering grains of sand, she felt a cool breeze flow across the back of her neck. Melissa was annoyed that the judge had not informed her of the connection but realized she had allowed her experiences of the physical world dictate her responses in the dreamscape.

She held the cleaned card upright and mused aloud. “Okay, so down doesn’t mean where gravity is pulling. It’s not a location here, so it must be a movement. Seeds are planted, so where am I supposed to plant this one?”

She did not realize she was addressing the card until the card responded. The triangle broke apart as the ten holographic spheres lifted away from the card to create a three-dimensional pile that assembled itself sideways on the vertical card.

Four spheres sat in a vertical square. Three spheres hovered in front of the square in a balanced triangle. Two spheres hovered in front of the triangle as a constantly moving pair. The last sphere hovered in front of the rotating pair. Altogether the spheres formed a three-dimensional figure with the point of the assembly pointing at Melissa’s chest.

Melissa watched this with wonder and dread. Of course the card needed to be planted in her chest, she realized, after all, it had come from the chest of the judge. The card didn’t need to be planted in the ground that would be left behind when Melissa ended the dreamscape. It needed to leave a mark and be planted within Melissa herself, in order for the understanding it carried to take root in her psyche.

She looked up into the night sky to identify the star that had sent the judge. While she found it, she did not recognize the constellations around her or the star itself. She resolved to remember the star’s location so she could research it when awake.

But that was for a later time and a different world. She still had the ten of spheres to contend with. She placed the card against her chest as if it were a knife that she intended to cut herself open with. To her surprise, the clothing her dream-self was wearing undid itself without any help from her hands and parted to expose her chest and the glow that came from within it.

“Well, that settles it, I guess. I’m supposed to plant this seed of understanding inside of myself. Okay. Let the seed be planted.”

She pushed the card against her skin. At the point of contact, her body became thick and fluid like gelatin. The card easily slipped into the form inhabited by her ego. As the card entered her, it dissolved to join the substance her dream-self had identified as “Melissa”. She kept pushing until her hand was all that remained of the invasion of her chest.

She pulled her hand out and watched her chest smooth and heal. She noted she did not feel any different and was not having any unusual or unexpected thoughts as a result of the ingress. She pulled the split fabric of her clothing together and it healed without any conscious intervention.

Melissa shrugged and lifted a foot with intention of literally walking out of the dream. Her eyes rolled up and she fell backwards as a wave of vertigo rose from her inner self and overwhelmed her consciousness. The black sand refused to catch her, and the ground parted to receive her with the same silent ease as her flesh had parted to receive the card. Melissa fell into a deeper sleep, from which no dream gave her the opportunity to avoid.

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