During last year’s series of daily summonings of [Patient Caller], in lieu of burning incense, I had used a heavily scented candle with a airtight lid. There were folks in the house with COPD and other folks who would view my personal hobbies as a personal offense so this was my compromise at the time. The candle I had chosen because it evoked the atmosphere of old wood frame churches was scented to smell like cut mahogany and cedar woods. He accepted the choice and forbid me from ever burning the candle used in the rituals so that the scent would be a tell for me.
After seeing how well and how easy it was to use the ultrasonic oil diffuser, I did consider getting cedar essential oil for use with summoning [Patient Caller], but reconsidered when I looked at the cost for the oil along with the time sink of emptying the diffuser, rinsing it out to remove the scent of frankincense, and filling it with water and cedar essential oil. My tendency to overcomplicate matters would turn the current two minute preparation into a twenty minute race.
I switched out the Hierophant tarot card from Tavaglione’s Stairs of Gold to the Universal Tarot of Marseille. The two tonsures look like two fuzzy eyeballs staring back at me. The card, which gave me no previous idiosyncratic meanings before, now appeared to be judging me as if to measure if I was worthy of approaching the central seated figure.
I did not wait for permission.
I kept my eyes open and watched the illusion of the chamber extending and darkening. I knew it was merely a matter of perception, and in the somewhat altered state I was still resting in, that perception could be easily manipulated by the spirit and/or myself. Didn’t stop the illusion from being cool.
The pressure on my face and the impetus to close my eyes had started the moment I finished speaking the true summoning phrase. I guess I had a point to prove. I guess this is part of my education. I will not be bullied.
When I did close my eyes, the two candle flames left afterimages on my retinas that my mind perceived as two leonine eyes watching me very intently. As that is a symbol for two associations that I do not want to explore, I record it here as a potential Chekhov’s gun that will either mean absolutely nothing by the end of the month or will become a key point in the same time period. We’ll see.
I forced myself to ignore those associations because that is not what I “came here for”. Instead I focused on the faint scent of cedar that I detected coming from the table. As [Patient Caller’s] presence settled over the device and the chamber, the scent intensified. I peeked one eye open to confirm that his candle was not present, then closed that eye to restore my attention.
“I get it. You want your cedar smell back.”
«It would be pleasant. I rather enjoyed it.»
“Even though the candle was not lit?”
«The strength of the scent was enough that lighting it was not required. Also, you had set it aside solely for me. A personal touch, a personal offering.»
“If you drop that hint any harder, it’s going to make a hole in the floor. While I am more at leave to burn incense now, making a daily habit out of it is going to put my security deposit at risk. I had looked into cedar essential oils before, and the cost for what is within immediate reach… well… you’re going to have to wait a while for shipping. But I’ll see what I can find.”
«I do not require the complication of the device you use for Saint Cyprian. I merely and humbly ask that the scent be present for me again. Just as the candle you had before was never lit, only uncapped and present, so is all I ask of whatever places the scent before me.»
“Merely and humbly? Yea… you’re up to some shit. I still have that candle, you know, but I’m feeling that it will no longer be suitable now. It was for a different environment, a different set of circumstances, and if I were to place it here now, I’ll be placing a lot of other things best left in the past as well.”
«For someone who keeps looking back, it is refreshing to see you looking at the present.»
And there’s the prick. At least I got it out of the way early. I jotted down a note to ask how to dispose of the old candle later. As much as I love scented candles (candles in general, really), I don’t want to light that particular one. It feels unusually heavy as if it has soaked up a lot of stuff in those thirty days of summoning, and I don’t want to release whatever it has captured.
“Speaking of the present, [Patient Caller], help me keep going to the future. What do I need to know, right now, that will help me keep going without being manipulated, forced, or beguiled into moving forward?
I suddenly saw an image of my cell phone floating in front of me on an indistinct field of gray. As I watched, the battery drained away and the screen darkened as the phone prepared to shut down for lack of power. A portable power supply was quickly connected to the phone and the screen brightened for a while, but the portable power supply was not adequate for the power demands of the cell phone and all too soon, the phone began to shut down again.
Again and again, the portable battery was replaced with different models, but no matter how sleek and powerful the exterior of the replaced power supplies were, they could not keep the cell phone operational for more than a few minutes at a time. When I wondered why the cell phone was not connected to the wall for a proper charging session, the vision-within-a-vision ceased.
«Do I need to explain the symbols to you?»
“You’re being cheeky, but if you want to pontificate today, here’s your chance, I guess. I can guess what the batteries represent in my life, and I agree. What I had been using before to keep me going is not adequate and has only postponed the collapse. But what is the ‘mains’ I’m supposed to be connected to? What is the well I’m supposed to be drawing from? I’ve been chasing that longer than I knew I was looking for it, and I still have no idea where I fit.”
«You have not resumed your daily meditation practice.»
Welp. “I thought circling thought patterns was something to be avoided. Keep this up, and I’m gonna name a merry-go-round after you.”
Only silence responded to me. I sighed. “Fine. I guess. I did ask for this shit. And at least it will give me something constructive to do. I’ll get back on that horse again, but don’t expect me to have the same endurance time as before.”
«This is not a competition. How fast you are able to enter into rest or how long you are able to remain in rest is not the point. Only that you make the attempt and go for as long as you are able to go.»
Again I had the sense of two realities overlapping each other. The Cyprian statue and other attending items faded away and the sense of a large man seated across the table from me returned. Only the ring on the shade’s right pinky finger gleamed with color and light.
“Tell me about the ring.”
«The ring that costs so much more than the scent of cedar?»
I had made words at the ready for rebuttal, but I knew that not a single one of them would appropriate. I ignored the goad as best as I could. “Yes, that ring, the gold ring that I feel on my hand again daily as if I am wearing it even now.”
The shade reached and twisted his ring. I felt a drag on the skin of my right pinky finger. «This ring.»
“That ring. The ring promised by our agreement.”
He described it in short and simple phrases. The ring must be gold, but it need not be yellow gold, as long as it contains enough gold to be valuable. No stone is to be set in it, but the small face (round or oval but no corners) is to be flat and engraved with at least three symbols that have yet to be revealed. The ring must be worn daily in public, as needed in private. Of course, this means that the symbols will be seen by the public. I will be free to discuss the meanings of the symbols if I choose, or to spin a deflection if I choose. It would not matter who knew the shape of the symbols as only I would know their meaning and relevance.
“I’m still budgeting [more money than I have sense] for this. Allowing white gold will help, but damn, handcrafting is not cheap.”
«Agreed. Though you may be surprised. I suppose you’ll have to see this to the end, then.»
“I’ll think about it. Having said that… If the ‘ghost’ ring I’m feeling is your ring yet to come, is the ghost bracelet on that same side also connected with you?” Shortly after I made the agreement to be entangled via the tarot card, I have been feeling something like a bracelet on my unadorned right arm as well. Sometimes the feeling is merely an echo of a shadow. Sometimes the feeling is so strong, I reach to adjust the bracelet before remembering that there is none there. I thought the two were related because while I will feel the ghost ring either by itself or with the ghost bracelet, the ghost bracelet is always felt with the ghost ring.
«I have no other agreements with you.»
Well, that settles it. “Have you any further information that I need to know today?”
“I thank you, [Patient Caller].” I gave the license to depart and closed the morning ritual with my favorite closing words. “Go all now in peace.”
giving stinkeye: 17 minutes.
So the day begins and I have to fulfill my obligations as an adult and grocery shop today. As I go down an aisle that my memory informs only has importance to me by being one of the few unobstructed aisles this time of day, a sudden scent of cedar catches my attention. I stop and ask my daughter if she smelled anything unusual or striking. She didn’t.
I still did.
I back up a few steps until I am at the point where I first smelled the scent. The scent ceases. I look at the shelves of merchandise I am standing next to.
Astringents. Bandages. First aid products. Brightly colored boxes containing stinky liniments that were “proven for generations”. Nothing unusual was present until I looked at the topmost shelf.
“You have got to be fucking kidding me.”
The mostly empty display box had a cockeyed sticker announcing the stocked items were discontinued and would not be reordered. “REDUCED FOR CLOSEOUT” The bottle that I had seen online for a price of $15 and a shipping cost of an additional $10 was now present for the reduced price of $5 and tax.
There was only one left when I reached for the display. There were none remaining when I walked towards the checkout.
“Uncapped and present.” Okay.