WOLF IN THE BOTTLE

“Wolf in the Bottle” collage by Lisa Paul Streitfeld, 2004

It began, as adventures do, with a dream.

It was the day of the eclipse and she was dressed in white chiffon, participating in a wedding march.  A voice told her she must take the dark stranger beside her as her companion.  She was adamant in her refusal, insisting she was on the way to meet her soul mate.

She ended up with the stranger.  She asked why and was told it was her fate.   The stranger had the face of a wolf, glassy eyes, teeth bared, leering tongue viciously lapping…

eclipse

1.

Look not upon me because

I am black, because the

sun hath scorched me.

                  -Honorus of Autun

Just an instinct.  In the darkness our instincts are all we have.

She felt his energy before seeing him.  In fact, his pre­sence filled the nearly empty Onyx Cafe, setting her nerves on edge.  But all she saw was her own face, reflected in shattered mirrors around the cafe gallery under a chalked message: YOU ARE NOT YOURSELF.

The sun had descended into the mercurial fountain and Narcisse had lost her ability to reason.  Or at least that is what Narcisse believed, for she attributed her every mood in those days to the rotation of the planets.  The only feeling that surfaced during the long and ominous shadow of the moon over the sun was a strange, im­perceptible feeling that her life of self‑imposed isolation was about to change.  The con­fusion turned outward with a strange message on her answering machine.  A woman stating that she would be sending a hundred dollar check to read the horoscope of her friend, who came on the line and introduced himself in an English accent.  Two days later, a check arrived in the mail with the necessary data on Steven James.  The voice intrigued Narcisse.  She rushed to the computer to pull up the chart.  Many years of concentrated solitary study had honed her psychic powers; she could not only read a chart on sight but retained it in her memory.  And the sight that day caused her to collapse on her futon; she knew she would fall in love with this man at first sighting.

Now, as she watched the steam from her tea pot merge into a cloud of white vapor, she knew the bearer of the chart had arrived in the flesh.  A feeling of destiny had her in an iron grip.  She was strapped down to the electric chair and didn t throw a glance at the man who held the detonation switch to her future.  When she turned in his direction, holding her energy down through a supreme effort of formidable will, all she could see was darkness.  His eyes!  How she burned from the intensity of  his stare!

First, the fascination.  Then, the terror.  As the wolf from her dream clawed through the cotton web spinning through her cerebrum, Narcisse felt so exposed, so vulnerable.  During the dark moon, she had been purified from a ten day fast and daily ses­sions of high coloni­cs by a female tyrant who claimed to have been born in a concentra­tion camp dumpster, the dark mother who dredged up her most primitive fears.  “STOP HOLD­ING!” the woman screamed.  And when Narcisse couldn’t let go, the woman turned off the machin­e and shoved her to the toilet.  “You are HOPE­LESS!”

Summoning her will as the shadows danced, Narcisse decided to forget the man and focus on the chart.  She couldn’t concentrate and began to write instead.  Frantic scribbling.  Astrology symbols appeared where she expected to see words.

A shadow fell over the page.  She looked up.  How different the enigmatic stranger appeared now that his features entered her light.  In fact, her immediate impression was, this guy is glorious.  Tall, agile, sensual, with an angular face that seemed to belong in some avant garde fashion spread.  Even while standing still, he was a kaleidoscope of male images–boyish one moment and wolfish the next.  He appeared playful; his sly grin revealed mischief as he stared over her shoulder.

“Is that poetry you are writing?”

“Does it look like poetry?”

He nodded.  All innocence.  Then shrugged.  She read that message as well.  Don’t mind me.  Just having some fun.

The page was full of astrological symbols.  Embarrassed, she shoved the notebook out of the way.  She loathed discussing her life passion in public.  She knew she had spent too many past lifetimes defending her beliefs.  This time around she just wanted to BE, without excuses, without explanation.

His friendly smile was scanning her face for signals.   I m a writer,  he said, making an effort to divert her with flirtation while probing her with his microscope lens bulging eyes.

Narcisse perked up.  “Oh really?”

“And an actor…”

There weren t many surface signals to read.  She had not one shred of designer clothing, wore no perfume, or makeup, carried no status symbol.  Her pen was a standard Bic.

She inadvertently pulled back.  An actor!  An expert at disguises.  Trained in deception!

“I’m working!

He had to let her know that, because nothing was worse than being scoped by an actor who can t get a job.

Something in the way he moved gave her warning.  He jumped around, all agitated nerves and ungrounded wires.  Catch me if you can, was her reading of his body message.  Enjoy me today because tomorrow I’ll be gone.

“You live around here?” he asked, nodding at the street behind him, a street which separated the calm oasis of moneyed Los Feliz from the raging sea of East Hollywood hustlers, pimps and derelicts.

“Around the corner.”

“I’m living in Beechwood,” he said, referring to a chic and expensive neighborhood in the nearby canyon populated by musicia­ns and film people.

“HMMM…nice,” she responded, wondering if he hoped she would be impressed.  Or perhaps, he wanted to appear more bohem­ian than chic, even though, in certain angles, he looked like a model from the pages of a slick men’s magazine.

Darkness was so chic this year.

“Been here only a few months.  Just moved from New York.”

“New York?”  She wondered if he could be a serious actor after all.  “To do film?  You like it here?  Plan on stay­ing?”

His movements slowed as he gazed at her with an intentionally soulful gaze.  “No matter where you go, you can’t escape from yourself.”

She laughed.  Despite it being a horrible cliche, the remark hit its mark.  Yeah, like the B-1 Bomber.  Target met, object scanned and fire away!  Strange how men, a series of men, could attempt to pick her up with a line but it only took one perfect remark to capture her heart.  She thought it was quite ingenious of this magnifice­nt creatu­re to tell her precisely what she wanted to hear.  Could it be that the little boy actual­ly wanted to grow up!  She graced him with the bright smile she reserved for only the best players in the illusive game of love.  “It takes people years to learn that…”

He laughed.  “I’m fast.”

“I’ll bet you are.”

He appeared so noncommittal, so restless.  Like he wanted to pick a woman up just so he could put her down again.  Suddenly, she remembered her appointment and searched the coffeehouse for her still to be seen client.

“Expecting someone?”

“I was supposed to meet someone here.  To read his chart.”

“What sign?”

“Capricorn.”

He looked around.  “No Capricorns here.”

“How do you know?”

“Good bones.  Posture.  Serious.  No one like that here.”

At one time, energy like his would have intimidated Nar­cisse.  In fact, such intensity would have once sent her to the floor.  No more.  Today, she tested and concluded that she simply didn’t want to be bothered, staring at him as if to say, Go away!  I’m not prepared for you!  

Catching her reflection in the window, she understood the reason for her abrupt turnaround.  She was too naked!  Face, body, hair…devoid of artifice.  She turned back to her work, sending him signals in place of words.  Go away.  You wear a mask, a cloak of darkness.  Then you approach me wearing this seductive smile, this irresistible invitation to danger.  How can I greet you when I am so vul­nerable, all prepared to fly with a soul mate whose chart reveals so little mischief?

“You live around here?” he asked, inching closer.  He liked his women cold and aloof?  How did Narcisse know that?  The same way she always knew a man’s anima.  It was an instinct she was born with and it got her into trouble as much as it saved her.

She nodded without looking up from the chart before her.

“Just you and your computer?”

She laughed.  “That’s about all that fits in my apartment!”

“Where are you from?”

“New York.”

“Manhattan?”

She shook her head.

“Where?  Long Island?  Port Chester?  Scarsdale?”

“You are asking too many questions!” she cried.

He leaned closer.  “How about this…what sign are you?”

She hid her pleasure at his receptivity to her life passion, the basis of all her alchemical work.  “Aquarius.  What are you?”

He crouched down beside her and answered in a hushed tone, as if sharing a confidence.  “Double Scorpio.  Gemini Moon.”

She was taken aback.  “My heavens!  You are really danger­ous!”  His smile was most seductive.  “I don’t really see it as dangerous.”

“I know.  I am an astrologer.”

A spark ignited in his eyes.  She could see it.  He leaned closer, to draw her knowledge out of her.  “I’ve been told I am very psychic.”

“Incredibly,” she replied.  And she couldn’t resist adding: “You like your women detached, don’t you?”

He turned on the charisma with a movie star smile. “Yeah.”

“You have trouble staying in your body?”

“I should do yoga.”  He seductively stretched an arm over his head.  The sex and sensuality simply oozed out of him.  Narcisse succumbed…only to be hostile witness to the inevitable pulling away.  “I’m going to work out now.”

He leaned over the table and wrote on an empty space in the midst of her scribbling.  His name.  His phone number.  His birth data.  “What’s your name?”

“Narcisse.”

“Narcisse,” he repeated with a laugh as he stole a glimpse into the mirror above her head.  “Call me.”

“I better look at your chart first,” she responded with a winning smile.

He winked and confidently sauntered away.  She stared after him while attempting to throw off his energy.  He is too seduc­tive.  Too dangerous.  Too handsome.  Too dark.  Too clever.  Too much like me.

His name was Demian.  And she wanted him.

PROLOGUE

December 13, 2013. The place is the Lupang Prabang health and Wellnes Spa carved out of the jungle of Laos. Astara is wearing her NOI dress with blue lightening tunic, her energy vibrant. The interview takes place before a book signing and after her morning Embodiment Workshoop.

Q: How does it feel to be releasing your second book in the ASTARA trilogy in far off Lupang Prrabang in a Health and Wellness Spa.

ASTARA: This is a very special place that embraces a holistic model of healing combined with art. As you know from my books environment is key as a reflection of the inner state. This final book in my ASTARA trilogy is about the process of alchemical transformation in the body as well as the soul. This is the mission of LPH&WS. So the two merge for a single purpose: to increase awareness of the process of healing in order to embody the Aquarian Age archetyess.

Q: Can you briefly describe the archetypes as you understand them?

ASTARA: There are many – the shaman is certainly a major one – but in this book it is the Aquarian goddess and her Beloved, the Aquarian Venus and her Mars in Leo counterpart.

Q: How are these developed in the text?

ASTARA: I am on this path of emptying myself, the book opens with my fateful first round of colonics ever, and then the inevitable happens – the attraction to the dark vampire archetype, in this case a devastating actor, who wants to feed off the energy without having to give in return.

Q: You found this to be a rite of passage for the young woman of today?

ASTARA: Not for every woman, certainly, but for the young woman who has the karmic condition of seeking and embodying the Aquarian archetype.   What comes after the embodiment, eventually, is the partner, who is the consort in the ancient myths.

Q:   Did you follow the passage of the ancient myth in the narrative of this novel?

ASTARA: Not quite. That religious adherence to the cycles of Venus in her evolutionary cycle to embody the Aquarian Age archetype came later. At this stage was simply the awareness and the preparation for what you might call the assault of the archetype, because that is what an archetypal possession does to you, assaults the personality.

Q:   And you write about that as well?

ASTARA: I had already been through that – the possession of the Sky Goddess archetype in her desire to possess the Beloved at any cost, that was the subject of my first novel, Champagne Tango, which I revisited in a 2007 performance piece.

Q:   Tell us about that experience.

ASTARA:   The performance was almost exactly a year in length – five chapters of five days each. The chapter with Champagne Tango was the first, the fire, or calcination, which is the desire, the passions threatening to get out of control and send one into psychosis. This I experienced in a real life unrequited love affair, which is the subject of the novel.

Q: How did you incorporate the novel into your performance piece?

ASTARA: I had a large poster made of the book cover that covered the wall. There was a bed with a black satin sheet where I sat with my laptop before the typewriter spilling the ribbon containing the very first draft of the book. The writing in the gallery space became the first publication of my fiction – the instantaneous publication of the Internet was the remedy for my worst fear and greatest desire – having my words published. I didn’t realize at the time that I was resolving a universal problem surrounding the dark feminine energy.

Q; What problem is that?

ASTARA: The vast patriarchal conspiracy against having a brilliant woman connected to this energy be heard. Throughout history, creative men would feed off this energy and then take part in having the woman thrust back into the darkness and labeled crazy so no one would believe her story of misuse and abuse of her deepest yearning – to be heard. My desperate need to resolve this dilemma gave birth to Wolf in the Bottle. The characters are all real.

Q: You indeed turn the table don’t you, by using the dark feminine energy of the male creative types you meet in Hollywood to fuel your own creative writing?

ASTARA (laughs): Yes, I even told one of my consorts that I used his energy to write the very sexual script of Champagne Tango and he said: “I charge for that.” But at the same time I cared about them and was desperately struggling to save them from being possessed by this vampire archetype. This was way before it became part of pop culture, it was still hanging around the fringes of the art and film world in the early 1990s when this book was written, but it was highly visible in fashion as “heroin chic.” Yet, there were no works of literature that interpreted this energy as an unequal exchange that continued to destroy the feminine psyche even as it struggled to triumph over the negativity and become whole.

Q; Which pretty much sums up the theme of Wolf in the Bottle…

ASTARA: Yes, the quest to become whole is what drives all my writing no matter what the form – criticism, prose, poetry, screen writing – the voice arises out of the quest to become whole. No women could possibly fulfill this journey until the 21st century because the pathways were blocked by the patriarchal grid containing the archetyoes.

Q: A new archetype had to be born for it to happen?

ASTARA: Yes, that is what Astara is Born was about, the birth of a new feminine archetype. It took another 15 books to become fully aware of this archetype and embark on the step by step process of embodiment.

Q: So, where does this leave women now that you have the trilogy complete?

ASTARA (smiles): It leads them to the next book, GODDESS, which is the experience of embodiment, the Aquarian archetype chakra by chakra.

Q: You make it sound like an excavation.

ASTARA: It is an excavation!   One ruin at a time. The patriarchal goddesses all have to be reinvited now that the divine feminine has returned to Earth. This is the task of a new generatio of writers – to relate their stories of embodiment and make everyone aware of the obstacles that still exist to the full fledged freedom of the feminine. It is an essential journey we are all embarked on as we enter the Aquarian Age. Failure to embody the authentic feminine means a failure to live the Aquarian mythology of equal partnership. This is being played out in the culture with the question of gay marriage but we mustn’t ever forget that the true battle lies inside each and every one of us.

Q: And that is the task of the artist.

ASTARA: Yes, particularly the literary artist. We must develop the awareness to perceive these new archetypes and the will to embody them. I agree with Jung when he said that unless human beings who can embrace the opposites emerge, humanity is fated to destruction.

Q: Thank you Astara, for an illuminating interview in your electrifying outfit.

ASTARA: Yes, the lightening bolt is a constant remeinder of awareness.   To wear it on the body truly instills the meaning of a – wera –ness.

It began, as adventures do, with a dream.

It was the day of the eclipse and she was dressed in white chiffon, participating in a wedding march. A voice told her she must take the dark stranger beside her as her companion. She was adamant in her refusal, insisting she was on the way to meet her soul mate.

She ended up with the stranger. She asked why and was told it was her fate.   The stranger had the face of a wolf, glassy eyes, teeth bared, leering tongue viciously lapping…

eclipse

1.

Look not upon me because

I am black, because the

sun hath scorched me.

-Honorus of Autun

Just an instinct. In the darkness our instincts are all we have.

She felt his energy before seeing him. In fact, his pre­sence filled the nearly empty Onyx Cafe, setting her nerves on edge. But all she saw was her own face, reflected in shattered mirrors around the cafe gallery under a chalked message: YOU ARE NOT YOURSELF.

The sun had descended into the mercurial fountain and Narcisse had lost her ability to reason. Or at least that is what Narcisse believed, for she attributed her every mood in those days to the rotation of the planets. The only feeling that surfaced during the long and ominous shadow of the moon over the sun was a strange, im­perceptible feeling that her life of self‑imposed isolation was about to change. The con­fusion turned outward with a strange message on her answering machine. A woman stating that she would be sending a hundred dollar check to read the horoscope of her friend, who came on the line and introduced himself in an English accent. Two days later, a check arrived in the mail with the necessary data on Steven James. The voice intrigued Narcisse. She rushed to the computer to pull up the chart. Many years of concentrated solitary study had honed her psychic powers; she could not only read a chart on sight but retained it in her memory. And the sight that day caused her to collapse on her futon; she knew she would fall in love with this man at first sighting.

Now, as she watched the steam from her tea pot merge into a cloud of white vapor, she knew the bearer of the chart had arrived in the flesh. A feeling of destiny had her in an iron grip. She was strapped down to the electric chair and didn t throw a glance at the man who held the detonation switch to her future. When she turned in his direction, holding her energy down through a supreme effort of formidable will, all she could see was darkness. His eyes! How she burned from the intensity of his stare!

First, the fascination. Then, the terror. As the wolf from her dream clawed through the cotton web spinning through her cerebrum, Narcisse felt so exposed, so vulnerable. During the dark moon, she had been purified from a ten day fast and daily ses­sions of high coloni­cs by a female tyrant who claimed to have been born in a concentra­tion camp dumpster, the dark mother who dredged up her most primitive fears. “STOP HOLD­ING!” the woman screamed. And when Narcisse couldn’t let go, the woman turned off the machin­e and shoved her to the toilet. “You are HOPE­LESS!”

Summoning her will as the shadows danced, Narcisse decided to forget the man and focus on the chart. She couldn’t concentrate and began to write instead. Frantic scribbling. Astrology symbols appeared where she expected to see words.

A shadow fell over the page. She looked up. How different the enigmatic stranger appeared now that his features entered her light. In fact, her immediate impression was, this guy is glorious. Tall, agile, sensual, with an angular face that seemed to belong in some avant garde fashion spread. Even while standing still, he was a kaleidoscope of male images–boyish one moment and wolfish the next. He appeared playful; his sly grin revealed mischief as he stared over her shoulder.

“Is that poetry you are writing?”

“Does it look like poetry?”

He nodded. All innocence. Then shrugged. She read that message as well. Don’t mind me. Just having some fun.

The page was full of astrological symbols. Embarrassed, she shoved the notebook out of the way. She loathed discussing her life passion in public. She knew she had spent too many past lifetimes defending her beliefs. This time around she just wanted to BE, without excuses, without explanation.

His friendly smile was scanning her face for signals.   I m a writer, he said, making an effort to divert her with flirtation while probing her with his microscope lens bulging eyes.

Narcisse perked up. “Oh really?”

“And an actor…”

There weren t many surface signals to read. She had not one shred of designer clothing, wore no perfume, or makeup, carried no status symbol. Her pen was a standard Bic.

She inadvertently pulled back. An actor! An expert at disguises. Trained in deception!

“I’m working!

He had to let her know that, because nothing was worse than being scoped by an actor who can t get a job.

Something in the way he moved gave her warning. He jumped around, all agitated nerves and ungrounded wires. Catch me if you can, was her reading of his body message. Enjoy me today because tomorrow I’ll be gone.

“You live around here?” he asked, nodding at the street behind him, a street which separated the calm oasis of moneyed Los Feliz from the raging sea of East Hollywood hustlers, pimps and derelicts.

“Around the corner.”

“I’m living in Beechwood,” he said, referring to a chic and expensive neighborhood in the nearby canyon populated by musicia­ns and film people.

“HMMM…nice,” she responded, wondering if he hoped she would be impressed. Or perhaps, he wanted to appear more bohem­ian than chic, even though, in certain angles, he looked like a model from the pages of a slick men’s magazine.

Darkness was so chic this year.

“Been here only a few months. Just moved from New York.”

“New York?” She wondered if he could be a serious actor after all. “To do film? You like it here? Plan on stay­ing?”

His movements slowed as he gazed at her with an intentionally soulful gaze. “No matter where you go, you can’t escape from yourself.”

She laughed. Despite it being a horrible cliche, the remark hit its mark. Yeah, like the B-1 Bomber. Target met, object scanned and fire away! Strange how men, a series of men, could attempt to pick her up with a line but it only took one perfect remark to capture her heart. She thought it was quite ingenious of this magnifice­nt creatu­re to tell her precisely what she wanted to hear. Could it be that the little boy actual­ly wanted to grow up! She graced him with the bright smile she reserved for only the best players in the illusive game of love. “It takes people years to learn that…”

He laughed. “I’m fast.”

“I’ll bet you are.”

He appeared so noncommittal, so restless. Like he wanted to pick a woman up just so he could put her down again. Suddenly, she remembered her appointment and searched the coffeehouse for her still to be seen client.

“Expecting someone?”

“I was supposed to meet someone here. To read his chart.”

“What sign?”

“Capricorn.”

He looked around. “No Capricorns here.”

“How do you know?”

“Good bones. Posture. Serious. No one like that here.”

At one time, energy like his would have intimidated Nar­cisse. In fact, such intensity would have once sent her to the floor. No more. Today, she tested and concluded that she simply didn’t want to be bothered, staring at him as if to say, Go away! I’m not prepared for you!  

Catching her reflection in the window, she understood the reason for her abrupt turnaround. She was too naked! Face, body, hair…devoid of artifice. She turned back to her work, sending him signals in place of words. Go away. You wear a mask, a cloak of darkness. Then you approach me wearing this seductive smile, this irresistible invitation to danger. How can I greet you when I am so vul­nerable, all prepared to fly with a soul mate whose chart reveals so little mischief?

“You live around here?” he asked, inching closer. He liked his women cold and aloof? How did Narcisse know that? The same way she always knew a man’s anima. It was an instinct she was born with and it got her into trouble as much as it saved her.

She nodded without looking up from the chart before her.

“Just you and your computer?”

She laughed. “That’s about all that fits in my apartment!”

“Where are you from?”

“New York.”

“Manhattan?”

She shook her head.

“Where? Long Island? Port Chester? Scarsdale?”

“You are asking too many questions!” she cried.

He leaned closer. “How about this…what sign are you?”

She hid her pleasure at his receptivity to her life passion, the basis of all her alchemical work. “Aquarius. What are you?”

He crouched down beside her and answered in a hushed tone, as if sharing a confidence. “Double Scorpio. Gemini Moon.”

She was taken aback. “My heavens! You are really danger­ous!” His smile was most seductive. “I don’t really see it as dangerous.”

“I know. I am an astrologer.”

A spark ignited in his eyes. She could see it. He leaned closer, to draw her knowledge out of her. “I’ve been told I am very psychic.”

“Incredibly,” she replied. And she couldn’t resist adding: “You like your women detached, don’t you?”

He turned on the charisma with a movie star smile. “Yeah.”

“You have trouble staying in your body?”

“I should do yoga.” He seductively stretched an arm over his head. The sex and sensuality simply oozed out of him. Narcisse succumbed…only to be hostile witness to the inevitable pulling away. “I’m going to work out now.”

He leaned over the table and wrote on an empty space in the midst of her scribbling. His name. His phone number. His birth data. “What’s your name?”

“Narcisse.”

“Narcisse,” he repeated with a laugh as he stole a glimpse into the mirror above her head. “Call me.”

“I better look at your chart first,” she responded with a winning smile.

He winked and confidently sauntered away. She stared after him while attempting to throw off his energy. He is too seduc­tive. Too dangerous. Too handsome. Too dark. Too clever. Too much like me.

His name was Demian. And she wanted him.

 

My child. I named you Narcissus after the flower which bloomed on your winter birthday. The white petals were lost against the purity of the freshly fallen snow. You had that innocence, the virtue which escaped me, my child. I knew when I first looked at you, I knew, even before the Hungarian arrived to read your horoscope, that your destiny would lead you to the philosopher’s stone which has eluded me all these years. The seeker must be pure and practice the art of patience, and I, my beloved daughter, fail on both counts.

Alas, I have sinned too many times. I couldn’t even touch your precious body on the day of your birth. My hands were blackened by the fire, crevices filling with dust.

     You never did like to be touched.

     I watched you float your hand in the sunlight, mesmerized, and I watched again as your mother lifted you from your crib and offered you her breast. You refused that earthly nourishment and turned your tiny head to the gilded mirror where you stared at your reflection with those emerald eyes which could see into distant realms. And then I knew, you had the fortitude to do the Great Work, to carry on what I have started and bring change to humanity. Work which I, selfish sinner, was not adapted for.

 

During the increase, that is,

during the fullness of the lead, which is our ore,

my light is absent and my splendor is put out.

Narcisse entered the small theater in the old wooden building housing the Tracy Roberts Acting Studio on Robertson Boulevard to watch her friend, Sophia, perform with her lover. Narcisse and Sophia looked like twins that night, dressed all in black and with hair slicked back into a tight bun and cat eyes glowing. Normally, the two friends were contrasts of light and dark. Narcisse had long, wispy blonde hair and curves where Sophia had dark ringlets and hard angles.

Sophia had described her lover to Narcisse over the phone: “He is an Australian adventurer, with a different woman for every day of the week.   We met at a psychic fair. A fortune teller told us the only way our relationship could last is if we joined the carnival together.”

Sophia was wearing a strapless black satin gown with a leopard scarf and black lace gloves against a wilderness which highlighted her white skin and severe angles. She spoke of fire while a golden man child in white silk danced in circles around her with a veil over his head.

     It was a warning. The sun eclipsed by the New Moon is treacherously pierced by Cupid s arrow. Man and woman were opposites‑‑cold and moist Luna with prose alluding to impenetrable depths and man child’s solar light deliberately hidden behind a veil. As the veil was stripped away, he lit up the stage with a cherubic smile.

Darkness followed, greeted by applause.

Narcisse was on her way up the stairs to the exit, when Tracy Roberts herself, with make‑up attempting to hide the wrinkles, reached out her hand. “That was very, very good Sophia,” she said.

Narcisse withdrew her hand, embarrassed. “You are mistaken. I am not Sophia.”

 

Daughter, listen, I am a madman. To be here constantly here in this before this fire…soot on my face, hands charred from my efforts to create the perfect flame. Oh, my child! The happiness I sacrificed for these experi­ments! How I long to depart this material world!

     Let me explain what brought me here. My methods. I must reveal the secrets so you can continue the Great Work. My dreams foretold of the future in which you, my daughte­r, would take over in the laboratory and pursue my course until the bloody end. Just think, daughter, when you uncover the Philosopher’s Stone…you will discover, at last, a place of rest on this earth.

     My moneys are nearly gone. I will have to leave you and your mother to fend for yourselves. Never have I sought profit from the Great Work I have devoted my life to. It is the cause of humanity to which I apply myself. Daughter, please understand! This work I do for you! Daily I make inroads, hacking a pathway out of the darkness as black as the onyx pendant I gave you on your last birthday. And you, daughter, must seize your destiny and travel down the paths I have forged…pushing further into the beyond. Intrepid explorers are we, fair daughter, plunging into the final frontier–the darkest pockets of the human mind. Do not take this responsibility lightly. Pearls are not to be cast before swine. The tradition you inherit is an ancient one, depending on bonds of secrecy for its very survival.

     And here, at our point of departure, I must pause to warn you of the dangers. The devil comes in numerous disguises. It has no gender, no morality. No affiliation with any life form. It changes shape in order to confuse and deceive. Evil has no claim to life. It can live only through human energy. Primary evil has only one ambition: to take over the planet.

     You mustn’t fear, daughter. Fear erects holes. Fear creates an opening where energy can slip through. We become so weak, yet we must not permit our weaker selves to guide us out of danger. Go forward in strength, daughter!

One step at a time.

The preparation may take years.

No time limit can be set.

Some have a natural tendency, or gift,

to dive into the mysteries.

Some can never enter.

–Pro. Albertus

The Englishman never appeared for his reading. Narcisse made a tape and sent it to the return address on the en­velope, believing her client must have read her anticipation and stayed away.

In the game of love, only some play. It was like Sophia’s performance with her lover; the dance revealed everyth­ing about their courtship, the male hiding behind a veil of illusion the female sought to penetrate.

Falling in love is just a projection. More frequently, Narcisse was more frequently informing her clients of this truth. And who should know better than she? Even as a child, Narcisse could never refuse the opportunity to gaze into her own soul as mirrored by the beloved. Inevitably, an instinct pulled her out of danger.

This Demian creature, however, offered a challenge she couldn’t refuse.

She prepared for the battle (isn’t love between a man and a woman always a contest?) the way a surgeon prepared for an operation. First, the examination of the chart. (How fortunate she was to be the recipient of such data from a sign which was normally so secretive!) His sexual pat­terns took prominence over everything, as typical with a Scorpio, the sign being ruled by the genitals. The haze was clearing. She could see that he felt powerful as long as he kept to his pattern. However, the wolf would emerge in unknown terrain.

Narcisse was aware of how differently she and Demian per­ceived life; she relied on her mind while her opponent relied on his instincts. And there was something else. He was destined for fame…or infamy. She thought he should be warned and picked up the phone only to put it down again. No, better to wait until the planets were in a more precario­us position. If love was a game, she intended to take risks.

All her years of preparation led to this.

6.

 

Angel, will you ever forgive me for loving you this much? When you slept in my bed that night, I couldn’t even touch your translucent skin. I could only gaze upon your beauty and thank providence that you were mine.

     Daughter, I confess. I have obligations to you and your mother…yet there is another woman who obsesses me. We met briefly at a lecture. She entered the cafe last night and I knew I must have her.

     Your mother forbids me to see you, daughter. She has banished me from the house. I live in the cellar now, burning with the flame. My biggest regret in life right now is the Work.   My obsession with alchemical mercury has removed me from you, dear one.

     Late at night is when the wolf emerges. I slink through the streets, struggling for invisibility, a beggar, a branded man, an outcast from society. Until at last…an unseen hand guides me and know I am not alone. It is then that the wolf disappears and I am myself once again.  

7.

Alchemy is like surgery. Every good surgeon seeks a second opinion before moving in with the knife. Narcisse sought out Sophia, who worked as a reader in the Queen of Cups, a fanciful two storied tearoom in Venice decorated like the inside of a child s playhouse with antique dolls and teddy bears and children’s primers on antique bookshelves. Psychics swathed in brocaded silk sat at mahogany tables reading cards and staring into crystal balls.

She arrived with Demian’s chart in her pocket and sat at a corner table, patiently waiting for Sophia to be free. Her friend was getting quite a following. The blonde with stringy hair currently placing herself under the psychic’s penetrating eye was recognizable–a former rock star, presumably seeking insight into her next rise. The news was not good, for the client’s frown deepened the longer she listened. Narcisse ordered some tea and enjoyed the show.

Sophia finished with the faded star and picked up the cards. Narcisse slid into the vacated chair and placed Demian’s chart on the table. “Tell me…wouldn’t he make a good tantra partner?” she asked, a bit too anxiously.

The psychic was silent as she keyed into the chart. Narcisse squirmed with anticipation.

“If he could lie still long enough.” She traced her index finger along the difficult angles. “Look at his behavior with women.”

Narcisse gulped. “I know. He has a huge mother complex.”

“Hmmmm,” replied Sophia who otherwise remained silent.

“He is a poet,” Narcisse hastily added. She was regretting her decision to seek a separate opinion now. Just because you are more psychic than me doesn’t give you the right to run my life. What about your live‑in lover? If you can have a little boy, why can’t I?

“What about this,” Sophia said sternly as she traced her finger across another hard angle. “He could be notorious.”

Narcisse laughed. “I’m quite certain he already is!”

“What are you doing? Just being seen with him could ruin your reputation.”

Narcisse grabbed the chart from the psychic’s hands.

“Wait a minute,” said Sophia. “I’m not done looking at it.”

“Thanks for the hit,” Narcisse replied, getting up. “I gotta go.”

Sophia halted her with a concerned gaze. “He is going to hurt you.”

“No man has ever hurt me. I am too clever.”

“There is always a first time.”

“NEVER!” Narcisse cried, backing away.

8.

Child, I beg of you on the womb of Sophia, the guiding priestess of alchemy. Don’t do as I have done. Don’t throw life away for the Work. It isn’t worth it. Today, I have completed the manufacture of alchemical mercury. I have imprinted the head of Nefertiti on the stone and strung a red ribbon through her third eye. This stone will be cleanse the body of toxins, creating a passage for the snake. My reward is poisoned hands, cracks like crevices filled with dust, oozing blood.

I couldn’t touch you on the day of your birth for the pain. I blame the unforseen powers for my predicament, to have made such a dis­covery and be rewarded with crippled limbs!

I will never be able to work again.

I went to the hospital to be bandaged and inquired about you. They showed me to the nursery and I tapped on the glass but you didn’t acknowledge me. Your father!

I have driven you away. You enter this cycle of incarnation knowing you must distance yourself from me. One day when I am gone, you will go through my library, my secret writings meant for your eyes alone, and ask yourself, was this man mad! But, my child, you mustn’t for­get…this madman was your father and he, with all his ugly warts and human passions, lives in you.

9.

A fire raged through the laboratory where Narcisse performed her experiments, a basement room in an old house two blocks from her studio in Los Feliz. Her father’s notebooks were demolished. His leather bound volumes on the ancient art, disappeared in the flames. The lamps, crucibles, dishes, beakers, filters, strainers, pans, jars of herbs, racks of metals all in ruins. No trace of the images of green lions, tail eating dragons, kings and queens in alchemical baths, gold and silver trees bearing fruit. Tables of the principles, materials and operations of alchemy symbolized with letters of the Greek alphabet were ashes.

All that escaped the devouring flame was a fragment of his writing…

I looked out of my window tonight and saw Venus shining brightly beside the almighty Regulus. Do you know the goddess of love is Hades? Truly, it is so hot on Venus, the surface could melt. And when it rains, the drops are sulfuric acid. The goddess of love is burning. I burn for you, my daughter, and this is why I must let you go. The work will allow no attachments. Death is preferable to limping onward in such pain.

10.

To escape the memory of fire, Narcisse traveled to the magical hills covered in purple sage overlook­ing Ojai, a spiritual community in the mountains, just ninety miles northeast of Los An­geles. There she nestled in the woods and snuggled under a down comforter while the black velvet sky extended white diamonds on her slumber. She prayed to Orion, her protector, as she spied his belt strung with pyramids through the opening in her yurt.

After two days of solitary meditation, Narcisse emerged for a meal. Over a savory dish of eggplant, organic mush­rooms and brown rice, she met Lila, a woman with snake sandals and hewn dress. Narcisse followed the snakes through the forest to a tepee. Inside, a huge clay serpent uncoiled before an alter.

Lila handed the astrologer her chart and that of a love interest, a man she described as a businessman and poet.   As Narcisse suspected, the wild woman was a Scorpio. The man was her opposite, a Taurus.

“It is very dangerous,” the astrologer warned. “Pluto opposing his sun is sending him into the underworld.

“We aren t involved sexually. Not yet…” said Lila, with trepidation in her voice.

“You must only go if you choose. You will have to be his guide and you must expect nothing…except of course the knowledge you will gain on your journey.”

Lila slowly picked up the charts. “I think I already decided to let go of him.”

Narcisse understood. Her work had acquainted her with the human fear of intimate attachments; no wonder, for attachments are liable to imprison the soul. Yet, it pained her to watch her clients resign themsel­ves to a life without meaning­ful relatio­nships rather than cope with the pain of disappointed expecta­tions.

Now, the astrologer could read her own fear in the snake woman’s eyes as she said: “Once you enter the fire, you must go all the way.”

calcinatio

1.

Alchemical works carried out during

the constellations of the ram and the bull;

that is to say, the spring, during which the operation

whose purpose is to gather the celestial essence.

Spring arrived, and with it…the yearning for rebirth. Narcisse was perched on the edge of a sexual awakening. Yet, the encounter with the Scorpio had made her extremely wary, for she knew her energy patterns. After the Uranian lightening bolt…ine­vitably arises the Neptunian flood..­.the fas­cina­tion which seizes one as by magical spell and places the soul behind bars.

Narcisse took the sensible way out and sublimated her passion into fiction. And, after splattering emotions across a page for two weeks, the nameless heroine is confronted, at last, with the man in her dream…and immediately descends into despair. In drawing the male character, Narcisse realized how much he was like Demian–while extremely passionate, he hid behind roles. She made her character an actor.

The futon loomed up like a buoy on a tumultuous sea. She hung on for her sanity, lying face down to the rose cotton. The strain of using her psychic energy to project into the future was threatening the future she intended to will into manifestation. The hazards of being psychic were a fact of Narcisse s life; she anticipated events before they happened. At times she wondered why she bothered to live at all.

After a day (or was it a week?) of astral traveling, sidestepping the demons of the lower astral plane, Narcisse managed to drag her exhausted vehicle off the futon and up the street of the little village of Los Feliz to the health food store. Inside, she stumbled around, searching for something to piece herself back together…a miraculous remedy to get her locomotive back on track.

An unseen force pulled her…like a suction hose of a vacuum. Instinctively, she whirled around to deflect the onslaught…and nearly smacked into Demian. Stay away, cried that all too reliable inner voice. He only wants to play and today you are too weak to play.

He stood passively before her, one eye open, the other shut, groin playing that same sex or death beat from the belt buckle, all nervous mannerisms, the raging hose leaving red marks on her pale lunar surface. The serpent fire, devouring as it uncoiled. Biting, twisting, scraping. All hunger, no satiation. All take, no give. Wolf s salivating tongue seeking to devour all.

The arrow had pierced her heart. She had fallen and there was no homeopathic remedy to this particular malaise. Yes, he was even lovelier than her delicious concoction on the computer screen. So flagrantly wicked! More stunning than a GQ model. And tall. a numinous wave in fluid motion. He presented all manner of possibilities in exquisite angles.

She frantically searched for a way out. There was none.

Hey, he said.   Didn t we meet..?

His appearance changed since she saw him last. His haircut was stylish and his glasses made him appear more serious. What a chameleon, she thought. You look so different.

I always look different.

She turned her back before he could pull her…deeper still..and snatched a bottle of primrose from the shelf, making a bee line to the check-out stand.

He followed her.

I m trying to decide where to live, he was saying.   Los Feliz or Silver Lake.

She smiled, understanding his game. She could talk him into living in Los Feliz and they could be neighbors. He could seduce her into bed when he arrived at the door to borrow sugar. No. Not sugar. Her hypoglycemia made it impossible to keep sugar in the house. The mere thought of sugar made her crazy…his pull was much stronger than she remembered.

Perhaps because he looked so stylish this time, with a new haircut. His locks were so thick and black. She wondered if he was Sicilian. Maybe she was too vulnerable. Yes, that was it. She was too weak. She needed more solitary work in her laboratory. It was too soon for her to become a player. Besides, Sophia had warned her about these dangerous players roaming the Hollywood streets. Libertines disguised as lovers. Superstars in films of their own making. They pull you in through the second chakra, Sophia told her, the emotional center where all attachments are made. YUUUCK!

She lowered her head to the ground and told him that she preferred Los Feliz.

He followed her to the cashier in the back of the store, near the organic produce section. She felt him stalking her and feared her knees would buckle. No vampires today please. How about some…

Spinning around, the remedy to her ailment appeared before her in the tangible form of a clump of wheat grass. She pointed to a small plastic cup.   One of those, please.

The wall held her up as she waited for the man to grind the grass into slippery green liquid. She swallowed it in two gulps. It left a horrible aftertaste.

No immediate change in condition. She had to get out. Fast! So vulnerable was she to his will, his amazing will, the primordial power promising a life of servitude in exchange for a stupendous orgasm. Why her when there were so many whores in Hollywood, on the street beat and warming the seats of movie premieres. Why the hermit, an old crone way before her time, who can go months, years, without any sex at all? Her propensity was to disperse her energy up and out into the atmosphere rather than drawing it down to the resting place of the snake, the base of the spine.

For the first time in a lifetime, the body knew the answer to a question that her mind couldn t comprehend–why she was attracting this one above all others. Her empty colon told her. Not the man, but the experience. The emptiness simply longed to be filled.

I have this problem, he was saying in an intimate, nearly confessional, tone of voice.   There was a long paused and Narcisse waited for him to fill it. He continued: Maybe you can explain why I can t finish anything I write.

She narrowed her gaze and concentrated on her third eye before responding.   Your energy isn t focused. I told you that when we met.

His expression was bewildered, yet astute. His smile, innocent and seductive.   His movements, deliberate and out of control. She couldn t understand how one individual managed to embrace so many contradictions.

She turned to pay the cashier and said: Look, I am about to collapse.

Do you still have my phone number?

Did she keep it? She couldn t remember.   Give it to me again, she said.

He borrowed a pen from the cashier and proceeded to scribble on Narcisse s bag.   Call me.

But you are moving.

He shook his head.   Not for a whole month.

She gave him a warm smile before turning to go. And her smile grew huge and satisfied as she headed to her futon. Didn t she know she would encounter him again? The actor s psyche was already intertwined with her own. There was no getting rid of him until the entire drama was played out. She only hoped it would happen quickly so she could continue on the speedy journey to the Philosopher s Stone. Could her soul mate be far behind?

Adventures in alchemy had taught Narcisse a few things. There were no coincidences in her life…only projections, which drained, and syncronicities, which had the counter effect of energizing. She avoided falling in love, for example, because falling in love was a projection and, ultimately draining, at least in the case of unrequited love, the only love she knew. On this particular sunny day, the syncronicity of running into the character from her novel sent her home in a burst of energy, eager to plunge deeper into her writing. Only through her writing, could she discover the meaning.

Words are magical things, Narcisse thought as she turned on the computer. She already knew the female protagonist was no longer a victim but a heroine who accepted the actor s challenge and began to probe for truth under all the lies. As the narrative began to unfold, the text formed into a gigantic question mark: if the Demon Lover is obtuse, clothed strictly in black, then who is this stunning creature displaying so many shades of darkness?

Narcisse turned off the computer and fell on the futon, mesmerized by the leering tongue of the devil in Mexican mask above the sliding mirrored door of her closet. She pondered her growing obsession with the real life actor. What role could he possibly be playing in her life? Not the Demon Lover! Too quick. No way would this character hang around long enough to suck her dry.

No, Demian wasn t the Demon Lover. The Demon Lover is obtuse, impenetrable. Demian wore his darkness as a protective cloak. Underneath were numerous subtle shadings, like a Rheinhardt painting leading the viewer into fathomless depths. In fact, before Demian, Narcisse never realized there could be so many shades of black. Perhaps she had become too accustomed to the throngs stumbling in darkness through her neighborhood, in darkness, hiding their true faces–that they weren t vampires at all but trendies masquerading as creature of the night because it was the hip thing to do–to wear black with a sneer while acquiring an appropriately dead gaze with no life behind it.

A true vampire can t be dead. He is deadly, retaining life by sucking the life blood of others. Yet, for his victims to willingly surrender, he has to give…and even then…the bite must be lethal. Only when the feeling of falling is so exquisite…only then will one gladly wipe out an entire existence in order to receive. The Demon Lover offers only death but the vampire gives life…until he finds his victim.

Narcisse got up from the futon to write.

 

we artists are all vampires.

hovering at the edge of the shadows,

lunging forward into darkness from time to time,

to feel our own aliveness.

 

It was the absolute truth. Narcisse had suffered from this disease of the soul all her life and her secret was in maintaining the balance.

One must be willing to give as much energy as one takes.

If the balance is upset, you die.

Vampire or victim…either way…you die!

She stopped writing to stare at the devil again and her own reflection, below. Immerse in thoughts of the Demon Lover, she spoke out loud: you have no respect for balance.   You are greedy. Ravenous. You want everything for yourself without having to give a thing.

With that, Narcisse turned off her computer and lay down on the futon in an attempt to get some rest.

There is no rest for one who s subconscious is filled with leering demons and gargoyles wresting free from the depleted and outworn structures of the mind. Her dreams filled with the darkest of the night creatures, all wearing an enigmatic beauty as a deadly mask.

The primrose had little effect. The fact was, ferocious activity at her computer drained her. And she couldn t stop! After writing twenty pages in a mad attempt to clear the dark matter out of her subconscious, she collapsed in the rose colored sheets, unable to move. a friend called and asked what evil was at loose in the world, and she started a breakdown of the planetary movements until the phone dropped from her weary hand.

Eventually, she managed to get to her nutritionist, a mad scientist with a wiry body and a few loose connections who, she suspected, got high off his computer. His office was in a modern, professional building on respectable Wilshire Boulevard, at the edge of Beverly Hills. All very clean, very efficient. No mess. Only a computer screen to tell the tale of what goes on in the body.

He wired her up and punched some keys. She listened to the beeps and watched the gage resister.   Ahhh, he said.   Just as I suspected.

She peered into the screen and gulped as she glanced at the list. Herpes, candida, mononucleosis, others not in her vocabulary.   Nothing serious, I hope.

He punched some more keys.   Just a moment and I can give you an analysis.

She nervously bit her lip and he said Ahhh and punched the print key and sat back in his chair, as the printer coughed up the verdict on her misbehavior.

One of those vampire diseases, is what she was thinking. One of those ailments when the adrenals are depleted and the ability for fight or flight is lost and the entire machine goes into an early and slow decline.

Narcisse s latest obsession was thinking of the body as a machine. She wanted hers primed with the latest technology, and she kept it watered and oiled between check-ups.

It occurred to her, as he stared at the print out, that the present she lived in was mankind s future. What kind of future, she wondered. One in which humans are reduced to data on a computer screen? Emotions traced to imbalances? Love…an equation?

a response, at last.   It looks like you blew out the third eye from all that channeling, he said.   Some sort of entity is attached to you.

Her immediate thought; is his name Demian?

     Must have picked it up on Hollywood Boulevard.

What were you doing on Hollywood Boulevard?

The doctor didn t look at her. He knows computers, she thought, but he doesn t have much of a bedside manner.

Attracting entities, I suppose.

Now that the scientist mentioned it, she did feel something on her, an invisible vacuum cleaner, sucking away. He handed her a bottle and told her it was energized water and said she should drink the whole container, right way. She opened it and swallowed the contents.   Instantly, she felt herself again. They agreed it was a wonderful product.

I should buy a case, she said.   An exorcist once taught me how to remove entities with a sacred feather. Where do you suppose one can find a sacred feather?

He stood and removed various bottles from the shelves. She knew the routine.   He placed each on a metal plate and the computer told him by a manner of bleeping if the product was what she needed.

Maybe you should leave Hollywood.

She had the urge to confess. She told the scientist about Demian while listening to the reassuring sound of the beeping computer. She told him how they met and how strong was the attraction. He put three bottles aside and started scribbling on one of his procedure forms and she dreaded the size of the bill.   Strange to have that encounter when I was carrying an entity, she said.   Maybe I got it from him.

The healer chuckled as he filled out the bill and put the three bottles of medicine in a bag.   Follow the instructions on the sheet and stay in bed for a few days. You are completely stressed out.   He reminded her to pay the receptionist on the way out.

She stumbled out of the office with her bag of goodies and stopped at the water fountain to take a dose. At home, she climbed onto the rose colored sheets but couldn t rest with the devil leering down at her. She rose in the night to drape one of her hand woven Mexican shawls from its horns.

3.

In the heavens you see man,

each part for itself

for man is made of heaven.

And the matter out of which

man was created also indicates to you

the pattern after which he was formed.

 

He uses sex as an escape from intimacy.

Narcisse couldn t rest until she made a decision. If Demian was indeed a roadblock along the highway she must walk to find her soul mate, than she knew her options: the obstacle must be removed; steered around; or she could be patient until it disposed of itself by its own volition.

When the question was taken to the I Ching, the response was INFLUENCE. a time for contemplating the attraction of the sexes found in nature, the guide said.

Aha! So that is it! she happily exclaimed to her mirror.

There was more. a changing line. INFLUENCE changed to HUMBLE VIGILANCE, a warning to maintain a low profile and keep occupied through mundane chores.

She still had the work. All she ever had was the work. Her writing kept her sane. Her computer was the laboratory for the Great Experiment now that all the rest was gone. And so…she conjured Demian s nefarious image on the screen. Words blocked him out. Words. So many words. Spilling out of her faster than she could type. It felt like a possession. And she had already given in…letting the obsession take over…until she remembered the oracle…HUMBLE VIGILANCE. She tore herself away from the vassal to face the mundane. And so…she managed to cook herself a meal, to clean and wash sheets and clothing in the machine in the basement.

About midnight, she returned to her computer. She wrote about her future. Demian s future. Their future together. Finally, she tired of projections and made herself some tea and sipped it slowly, savoring the cinnamon taste as she contemplated the nature of attraction.   If an astrologer can t figure it out, who can? she mumbled to herself as she entered her astrology program. All night and into the dawn, she obsessed with symbols.

By midday, Narcisse decided to act. Putting the two charts together, she printed out the composite horoscope of herself and Demian and zoomed across town to visit Sophia, at the Queen of Cups. She was sitting at a table eating a sandwich.

Can you give me a hit? Narcisse asked as she placed the chart before the psychic and a twenty dollar bill beside it.

Sophia studied the chart. Once again, Narcisse winced. She hated being relegated to the role of the errant child, a bratty child who refused to listen to her wise mother.   Narcisse, it is impossible, said the wise woman.   All those hard aspects to the moon gives so much instability. So much tension between you two. You suck one another in and jump right out.   It is nothing but a big game of who can abandon the other first.

Narcisse grinned. If anything, she felt secure with the amazing tool she wielded with her astrology.   I know it is a game. But it is the first time I have found a guy willing to play for such high stakes.

Games aren t necessary. They really aren t.   Sophia shook her head and put the chart down on the table. She gave her friend a gift; one of her more compassionate looks.   You have such difficult karma in relationships. The very thing you most fear is the very thing you crave.

He is the same! Isn t that what love is about?

Sophia relented.   You have to work through it.   She glanced at the chart again.   What you can do is let him know you have his number.   Let him know he isn t going to play you for the fool.

Narcisse nodded.   I know he is a wolf. But wolves are loyal..they mate for life.   She leaned over the table.   Tell me…how did you meet your husband?

The psychic narrowed her gaze and picked a card from the center of the deck.   It was the High Priestess.   Do whatever empowers you, she warned.   If you feel yourself losing control, you must get way. If you get too obsessed, you have to let go. And no matter what happens…don t give up your power!

Narcisse folded up the chart and gave her friend a kiss.   Thanks Sophia. You are so wise.

4.

To those who are ready to travel the road of alchemy,

I say patience. Patience.

Patience!

–Frater Albertus

From the time her father first held her up to the mirror, Narcisse had been instinctively aware of her ability to become a man s inner woman. Shining and moist, the feminine Luna had to be lover, sister, bride, mother and spouse of the sun. Yet, only after beginning the study of astrology did she gain any control over this charade. Her behavior had always been determined by the rules of attraction. A man hopelessly, impossibly, in love could never abandon her the way her father did when he left to pursue his alchemy.

The brilliant whiteness of the Full Moon combined with the blackness of the New Moon. Luna s ultimate effect on the sun was from her own dark nature. Through numerous misadventures, Narcisse had learned…the greatest risk of becoming a man s anima, or soul, is the loss of self; inevitably she would take on his feelings at the expense of her own. Love inevitably turned into hate, for what was the sensation of falling but a projection of one s unconscious contents, resulting in the sacrifice of one s autonomy for another?

Aided by her father s genius, Narcisse had learned to transform her desires into creativity. She meditated with the imprint of Nefertiti on her Third Eye.

Now, seven years after initiating a frightfully lonely journey into discovering the mysteries, Narcisse s labors were about to bear fruit. At last she attracted the energy she needed to uncover the Philosopher s Stone. His name was Demian and she was already burning for him.

The first stage of the Experiment, the fire, had begun.

5.

The alchemist s taking possession of his prima materia

is truly a magical act. The operator must go to the place in person

and allow himself to be guided to the substance that is destined for him.

Guidance by astrology is necessary at this stage.

She waited two weeks for the proper opening. On a melancholy Saturday night she called him. His greeting sounded slightly dazed.

She reminded him of their accidental meeting.   Remember me? she asked and he interrupted her to say, oh stop , in a lilting bedroom tone.

Her patience had paid off. She could feel how receptive he was.   What are you doing? she asked, aware that her voice was mimicking his tone of seduction.

Reading, he said, drawing out a fantasy with the single word. And she thought, he is my dream, an intellectual who hates being gorgeous.

Oh? I m looking at your chart. Your star is really rising. Do you have a film coming out?   She had to learn not to give away so much so soon. Next time.

Noooooo.

Your chart is amazing. Fabulous. Are you sure this is your time of birth?

What time did I tell you?

Oh, didn t her instincts warn her?

Nine o clock.

Yeah, something like that.

He refused to be pinned down. Even by the stars.

     WOW! she said.   Some people want to be actors but you…really are an actor. You must get up in the morning and ask your mirror…

Darling, he said, in a deliciously wicked tone, I don t know who I am.

Still sucking her in. They both knew he was acting. He was always acting. But the script was meaningless anyway. Energy told the tale.

She laughed.   Scorpio with a Gemini Moon. What a combination! Hermes and Hades. You love to go deep down in the tunnel with a flashlight. Hermes, you know, was the only god who could travel from Mount Olympus to the underworld.

MMM. Hades ruled the underworld?

She knew this man would love her forever if she helped him uncover his myth. If she was looking in her mirror at that moment, she would have seen his darkness in her own reflection but she was focusing on his birth chart as he bragged about his ability to swing between the opposites.   Last week I was staying in a three hundred dollar a day hotel suite and now I m sanding the floor of my new apartment. I ve lived high and I ve lived low. I don t care.

You can pull out!

His laughter confirmed it. He knew he was fast.

Where did you move?

Silver Lake.

Not exactly neighbors. But within flirting distance.

She couldn t take her eyes off his chart. She knew that if she kept her energy focused in her forehead, he wouldn t be able to pull the snake, through the force of his magnetism, downward where the energy would constellate into an unwanted archetype. All those dark compartments of his mind, she thought. What if he pulled her in and she couldn t get out?   God, you could lead me right into psychosis, she told him. And did she ask for it by calling him during such a precarious planetary lineup?

I wouldn t do that! he cried, in mock horror.

Fascinating, she thought. The natal chart can tell the story of a character. For those who know how to read them, the horoscope reveals just about everything. Everything but the most essential thing–the consciousness of the person.

The surgeon probed for clues as to the awareness of this creature called Demian.

     Good to be sanding, she said, moving in deeper with the probe.   Grounds you.

What does my chart say about my relationships with women?

She laughed.   You suck them in and then you pull out.

Silence on his end. To keep him engaged, she blurted out: You are a teacher.

He was certainly to be her teacher. The I Ching told her so. He was to teach her all about the nature of attraction–the opposing magnetic forces that bring male and female together for the purpose of promulgating the species.

I m like the lost whore, he moaned.   I had to have them all. The chambermaid and the princess…

And then what?

No response. She realized he wasn t going to reveal everything in one phone call.   You get bored, she said.   Someone else comes along.

I have to be attracted! Otherwise I can t do it. I can t stand it if a woman is all over me and I m not attracted.

The rules of attraction. To follow them, she would uncover her destiny…or fall into her fate.   You are extremely seductive, she said.   Don t try to seduce me!

I wasn t trying to seduce you. You were seduced by me!

Denial. The chart was full of it. Narcisse knew that whatever this actor was afraid of confronting would be repressed. His only outlet was the stage or the screen. A wave of sadness overcame her as she realized what little hope there was in having something real with this man.   You are a sensationalist, she told him.   You can always pull out. Your instincts…simply amazing.

Her instincts informed her that his instincts would save his ego from a certain annihilation. But isn t that what sex was, a death in order to transform?

I used to be a sensationalist, she said.

What happened?

It got too dangerous. I transformed.

Look! he said, his voice impassioned.   I m not looking to have a house with a picket fence!

No one says…look, it is one thing to make a conscious decision not to have a commitment. It is another…to avoid commitments altogether. You are ruled by your unconscious behavior….Your mother complex.

Wait, he said.   I want to read you something.   He put the phone down. She heard a rustling of paper when he returned.   Listen, he said.   My mother wrote me this letter.

And he proceeded to read a wrenching confession of desperate love. I adore you. My heart breaks that you won t respond to my letters, take my calls. Son, I only wanted to love you the way a mother should love a child but now I realize that I loved you too much. Everything was perfect in my world when you were in my bed. I was so desperate to love you.

He stopped reading. She was slightly unbalanced by the revelation but some instinct told her she was being tested. Pretty intense was all she managed to say.

He dismissed the whole episode.   I won t have anything to do with her.

Your mother, she said, because some instinct told her the identity of the author.   Is she sane?

No!   He spat out the word.

And so, they had something in common. The men she attracted always had crazy mothers.   My father was psychotic.

Silence again. She took refuge in the mental and stared at the chart. “…Could become famous. Pulled me in…to warn you. So much power you have. Don’t fuck it up. Stay conscious!”

“I’m conscious!” he cried, a bit too defensively.

Her response was written across her mirror in invisible ink:

 

Sure you are. That is why you need me. Other women you need for sex. But me…you want my knowledge so you can really be conscious.

Her mind swirled from fantasies. An image of the two of them naked on his mattress in his empty apartment.

“Are you doing yoga?” she asked.

“Yea,” he responded. “It’s great.”

“That is why all those yogis are so good in bed. They practice yoga.”

“Did you have sex with a yogi?”

“No.”

“I imagine you are very flexible.”

She watched her reflection as she raised her leg to her shoulder.

“Right now you are looking in the mirror, he said.

“Pretty good,” she replied. “You are psychic, aren’t you?”

“I’d like to be more psy­chic.”

Her image in the mirror brightened. “Transform.”

“How?”

“Tantra. Your chart is wonderful for tantra. I’ve been looking for a partner. I’ll do tantra with you but you have to clean yourself out first.”

“What is tantra?”

“Tantra is the yoga of sex. A ritual in a sacred space. We pray to the male goddess and the female goddess.”

He laughed.

“I have been celibate for three years,” she was saying. “I have to keep myself pure.”

He scoffed. “I’m thinking of going to New York. To act in a production of ‘Dangerous Liaisons .”

“Good casting.” She didn t bother asking the role.

“I don’t know. What do you think? Should I go back to New York to do the play?”

“You just got here!”

“Yeah.”

Words on the mirror again:

He is used to running away.

Why not run some more?

“What were you doing in New York?” she asked.

“Running around,” he replied. “Listen, I’m moving. Give me your phone number.”

The numbers tumbled from her mouth. Did she have any choice but to give it to him?    He rambled, hesitant to cut off the connection. “I met a lesbian the other day. She said she liked my energy but doesn’t sleep with men. What’s the difference?”

Narcisse didn’t respond and he asked if she might be a lesbian. She laughed and said: “If you are attracting women you can’t have, you must be changing…”

“Come to the Dresden Room,” he said, cutting her off.

“No, I can’t go out. My hair is dirty.”

Silence.

“Well…if something is meant to happen between us, it will,” he said.

The actor knows the impact of a departing line.

“Like fate? Like soul mates? she said, while she was thinking, Dangerous Liasions 1990.   Just an excuse for not wanting to take responsibility.”

“Hmmmm.” He was obviously not in the mood to argue. Could his instincts be telling him something her astrology couldn’t?

As they cut off the connection, an awareness came through. This man was to be her teacher on the nature of attraction. For this, she felt a tenderness and, as she hung up the phone, she regretted not telling him all the things she wanted to share.

What she didn’t realize is…the Experiment had already begun: the energy was being contained in her womb, a natural alembic.

6.

Lead is poisonous

It is so demonically possessed,

so shameless, that those who

wished to investigate it fall into

madness through their lack

of knowledge of gnosis.

–Von Franz

Narcisse didn’t recognize Demian when she saw him again. He appeared at the Onyx on a particularly smoggy day wearing torn jeans and a black muscle shirt revealing a jagged scar on the shoulder. So rough. So crude. The sight repulsed her.

Upon seeing her, he did a double take, the exaggerated shock to cover up his embarrassment for the wolf. Poisonous as lead. He was a projection of her shadow, Saturn, the planet of Karma, and the confrontation pained her.

“Oh, hi,” he said nervously.

He was restless. Circling around like an animal before painted images of skeleton marriages. Wanting to leave, yet drawn into staying. The wolf in the bottle.

Narcisse, having recovered from the shock of seeing him in such a raw state, was secretly pleased at how quickly the Great Work was moving. She granted him an amused smile, feeling very much in control. The wolf was in her territory now; there was no reason to fear. Saturn was in charge. The more conscious person, herself, would have to do the work of laying down the boundaries. She was not going to engage in a union of death. Narcisse demanded life.­

He was so cool as he pulled up a chair and sat, removing a script from a manila envelope. “Congratulations,” she said. “You finished.”

“Not quite.”

He handed the pages to her. She leafed through them. His gift was evident. “You certainly have talent.”

You can help me.

She smiled back at him, gladdened by her secret. Such potentials existed in his crudeness. So ripe for transf­ormation into alchemist’s gold. And she wondered…could he eventually rise from the ashes like the Phoenix and carry her off on his wings? Could she be so lucky to make it through all four stages of the Experiment with this partner or would she have to switch mid-stream? The process was all that mattered. Even if he flaked out on her, she intended to make it through to the end. And so…she did a little act of her own, feigning insult.

“You want me to do everyth­ing!” she cried. “You want me to be your astrologe­r, your script reader, your confident…and…what else?”

His smile was nervous. The street tough disappeared and the wicked libertine emerged. He wanted to make a crack about sex but didn’t dare. She wrote in her journal:

He can find sex in any cafe in Hollywood. No, he doesn’t want

me for sex.

He was in high voltage that day. An ungrounded crackling wire, releasing destructive ions into the already toxic air. The charts predicted this. Sophia warned her. Spontaneous combustion happened when they were together. Like electricity on fire. The artist knows of the time and labor needed to render a chaotic mass orderly. Many years ago, a guy who triggered this charge would have sent her crashing.

A cup fell from a nearby table and smashed on the floor. Destruction on all sides. She didn’t want to look at him. He repulsed her, in fact. She concentrated on the script, flipping the pages to a scene where the woman was kicking her actor boyfriend out of her apartment: “Let’s talk about this,” the man said. “Now you want to talk!” cried the woman. “You never wanted to talk before.”

She considered the reading fair warning and closed the script. “The writing looks good but it needs editing. Look, you can’t spell and you can’t show this around with all these typos.”

Where can I find someone to edit?” he asked, looking straight at her as he sensuously licked his upper lip.

She wondered what his kisses felt like as she examined his neck. And she wrote:

Oh, the bite of the vampire is so good. One bite and I will be your love slave until I die. Perhaps longer.

Such danger only increased the stakes. The fire burned in his eyes as he looked at her. “What do you charge?”

She stared back.

Love without boundaries is what you offer in exchange. After the first bite…you want more…and more. We would no longer have to eat. We could dine on blood.

“Charg­e? For what?”

His laughter was wicked. Or was it merely charming? “Editing.”

“I don’t know. I’ll have to think about it.

He put the script back in the envelope. “All right. I’ll call you when I get back from New York.”

You are going to do ‘Dangerous Liaisons’?” she asked masking her disappointment with curiosity. He nodded and rose from his seat and she asked him what made him think he was coming back so soon. He answered by turning on his heels and departing with a seductive smile, leaving Narcisse to write:

What happens when the vampire disappears and the demon lover emerges? You are trapped. There is no more ecstasy. Only pain. Ser­vitude becomes a way of life.

 

Reading what she wrote, she shook her head and said out loud: “He is going to transform!”

7.

Only laws that are basic and of true

cosmic value enter the work. There

can be no speculation in alchemy.

Alchemy is based on facts.

With patience, experimentation and

perserverance, the student will obtain these facts.

There is no other road than the one which

all alchemists have traveled–experience.

–Frater Albertus

For all her years of preparation,Narcisse needed more time. She visited Sophia in her small studio in Santa Monica where she borrowed the volumes on a­strology and relationships missing from her shelves. Narcisse had gained considerable self-knowledge during the five years she spent doing alchemy in her laboratory. However, the work on relationships hadn’t even begun.

Her research confirmed her mission. She imagined she was a deep sea diver probing to the bottom of a mysteri­ous force named Demian. In one of the volumes, she actually uncovered the existential dilemma spelled out in huge neon letters across his natal chart: he can’t be attracted to a woman he likes and doesn’t like women who attract him. The text advised that the individual with his complex build a friend­ship from an attraction or otherwise, develop an attraction with a friend.

Develop an attraction? Narcisse wondered if such a thing were possible. Can one cause lightning to strike through will alone? No, it can’t be. Sexual attraction, along with the secret of creation and the constitution of the life force, is inexplicable…one of the mysteries of the universe sought by many and understood by a select few.

The instantaneous attraction between Narcisse and Demian locked them into a war of wills, a game of desire. She had to be strong to triumph over the ravenous wolf that destroyed her father. The raising of the vibrations was the only way out. It was also the only way through. A do or die dilemma with gnosis as the only guide through the dark chaos of original matter. There were keys to be found in Sophia s bookshelves. One text prescribed the establishment of boundaries while the foundation of the relationship is laid. Alchemical experiments are highly volatile. Like ticking time bombs, they can explode at any time.

What is Alchemy? Nothing but the raising of vibrations. Narcisse believed it was her destiny to use Alchemy, as taught by her father, to elevate attraction to a sacred art. The realization of cosmic consciousness with a partner and merging into one with the Absolute would deliver the gold for which alchemists risked lives and fortunes. Her life was empty of   The distractions of money, career, romance and family. Conditions were ripe to begin the Great Work. She saw her path proceeding through images discovered in old alchemical texts. The King and Queen lay copulating in a fountain and covered in dew. Having been immersed in the alchemical solution, they rise as the hermaphrodite, symbol for the united male and female.

In her years of preparation, Narcisse had plowed through her father’s diaries and writings numerous times. She was to benefit from his deciphering of the codes alchemists used in their writings to guard against their secrets falling into the wrong hands.   And now, the eclipse had delivered her the lead and she was feeling intimi­dated by her task, for not even her father could guide her in the forbidden zone. She had to go further into the lead than he. The task was frightening. How many al­chemists sacrific­ed everyt­hing in their search for the Philosoph­er’s Stone? How many risked their lives to find it?

8.

Taking on the Work exposes the alchemist

to a deliberate submission to difficulty and danger.

On an external level, the alchemist could lose their

health, their money, their lives…

–Frater Albertus

Sophia’s lover took the women to a party in the English garden of a charming tudor house at the end of a fairy tale lane in the Hollywood Hills. Narcisse dressed in one of her friend’s silvery, glittery cock­tail dresses and rhinestone pumps. Sophia had been an actress and her closets were filled with all sorts of masquerades.

The question of attraction was still gnawing at Narcisse as she sipped her Perrier. She stopped all conversation by asking a tired bohemian with blonde stringy hair and purple platform shoes leftover from the sixties: “Can a woman be in­dependent and still be in love?”

“No,” the woman responded, with a hard to conceal bitter­ness. “Absolutely not. Believed in free love. Spent my life guarding my independence. My only relationships…only long distance. Juggled boyfriends. And then…”

“Yes?” Narcisse asked as she leaned forward, curiosity peaked.

“I surrendered to a Scorpio.” She took a bite of cheeseca­ke and wiped her lip with her napkin.   “I decided I was missing out on something by not having a relationship. So I made a conscious decision to be with a guy. You know…it’s like having a plant. You have take care of it and eventually…if everything else falls apart, you go on living just to keep that plant alive. Even if you want to die…you will never let that plant die because you worked so hard to make it grow. That was my boyfrie­nd before…”

“Before?”

“…the Scorpio.”

Narcisse thought about her own inability to have rela­tionships. Her plants always died. Her animals too. Secretly, she wanted them to die so she wouldn’t have to take care of them. That was her fate…always too busy rushing into darkness to take care of the living. Not anymore, she decided, right there. “The next man I sleep with is going to be a commitment,” she declared, ignoring all the other people who might be listening.

“You can’t say that,” the brunette woman beside her replied.

Narcisse excused herself and slipped into the bathroom to write:

Perhaps she is right but I am tired. So weary of this vampire existence. Give a little. Take a little. Give some more. Spend inordinate hours going over the balance.

As she reapplied her red lipstick, Narcisse thought about how her fate didn t permit her the resources to finance an emotionally draining relationship. She knew it was impossible for her to be committed to a man. Her only loyalty was to the alchemical process. And failure, she knew, would be a fate worse than death.

9.

To experience! To realize! To have found the

light that shined in the darkness !

–Frater Albertus

The vampire in Narcisse was a meticulous thief…it only stole what it needed to get by. And it always gave more than it took.

Demian & Narcisse.

     Narcisse & Demian.

This meeting of vampires promised a performance worthy of the stage. He coveted her knowledge and she wanted his fire to fuel her alchemical work. Sucking a bit here…a bit there..­.retreat­ing until the next meeting when the feeding frenzy begins anew.

Formidable opponents they were. Narcisse had her knowledge of gnosis. Demian had his instincts.   Mirrors were all they had as protection. The actor was confident of his ability to decei­ve, for his profession trained him to hide true motiva­tions behind images. Little did he realize that Narcisse had been doing the same her entire life. She learned to hide her negative emotions after suffering through her father s repeated abandonments.

The alchemist was determined to embark on this journey with eyes open wide. This lead specimen reflected her soul to her…a part too shameful to reveal. With the uncovering of the gold in her womb, Narcisse would prove at last that she was capable of love and worthy of love in return.

And the best thing…the process was chemical. Words would be unnecessary. Holding back was essential to the success of the Experiment. Words can kill.

The intensity of her thoughts sent the alchemist whirling. Demian invaded her mind and she feared he wouldn’t let go. Yet, when her mind was emptied, she mourned for the loss. When his energy entered her in this way, as if by demonic possession, she feared for her inability to contain it. Uncontained thoughts turned to destructive entities.

She was aware that her past behavior had been categorized by her culture as love addiction but she had thrown off all labels wh­en she donned her lab coat (she purchased one in the hospital thrift shop and was beginning to feel good about replac­ing it with her usual black attire) and prepared her ritual solutions.

She placed a piece of lead on a small mirror on her altar. The card of the High Priestess from her tarot deck rose behind it. Narcisse prayed that she be cold, cold as the white moon when it was full, thereby earning the right to become the object of Demian s fascination. Once he delivered his soul, the price extracted from the Scorpio would be heavy; he would have to become her friend.

10.

The goal of the alchemist

was the uniting of the sun

and moon, the male and

female energies, into the

conjunctio.

–Jung

Weeks went by and Narcisse heard nothing from Demian. She retreated into her usual solitude, wearing her yin and yang earring and gazed at the Hermaphrodite while repeating a mantra: I will work on my own integration.

A wade down Hollywood Boulevard churned up unexpected treasures. First, she entered a bookstore and purchased a book on display about androgyny. Next, she was attracted to a bouti­que displaying a T‑shirt with the emblem: I HAVE BECOME THE MAN I HAVE BEEN SEARCHING FOR. She purchased the shirt and began wearing it to bed–a reminder that the object of the work was not the man but the integration of the inner male and the inner female.

10.

Alchemy is nothing but the art which

makes the impure into the pure through fire…

It can separate the useful from the useless,

and transmute it into its final substance and its

ultimate essence.

–Paracelsus

He appeared beside her as she was reading her book on androgyny while enjoying the sun at an outdoor table at the Onyx. Inside, the walls were covered of paintings of the fiery masculine sun and the moist feminine moon.

“I called you the other day,” he said in a low voice.

She was so happy to see him, the container was forgotten. “S­ure you did.”

“I just threw all the furniture out of my apartment,” he said, his intimate tone fulfilling his intention of drawing her into the my­stery.

How did he know her dream man had no furniture in his apartment? He must be psychic! “Why are you down there?” She motioned to a seat. “Sit down and talk to me.”

He nervously darted his head around. “There is a woman…don’t want her to see…

The alchemist thought it a terrific waste of energy–to attract women only to run away once their interest was secured. Leaning closer, she created a safe space for him to confess. “Tell me.”

He slowly rose and slid into a shadowy corner of the seat, placing a spiral notebook on the table. He lifted her book to view the hermaphrodite on the cover. “You always read books like that?”

She nodded as she wondered why he looked so different. She realized he was wearing glasses. He took them off and she saw the frames were empty. She understood the symbol and wrote her interpretation in her journal:

He just pretends to see but he doesn’t really want to see. He prefers to live in the fog so

he won t have to take respon-

sibility for his actions.

“Are these just a prop?” she asked in amusement. “Today you are masquerading as an intellectual?”

His nervous grin caused her regret. Her training had taught her not to make a man feel self-conscious when she was in his space. To do so would cause him to bolt, leaving their relation as abstract as her astrol­ogy symbols.

He opened his notebook. “I’m writing this play. Listen…”

He proceeded to read some dialogue between a couple who are at the point of making love when the woman informs the man they are standing in her boyfriend’s apartment.

Narcisse interrupted to ask: “What is she doing with this man if she already has a boyfriend?”

No,” he responded. “She just said she had a boyfriend.”

“Oh, like she wanted to appear unattainable. That is you Demian. Only wanting a woman you can’t have…”

He glared at a woman leaving the cafe. The woman tried to ignore him–a psychic feat comparable to trying to bulldozer which plowed into your car.

“Rare…the woman who can send me into a trance state,” he said in an eerie voice.

“Someone from a past life.”

“When I’m really in love…”

She shook her head. “It isn’t love.”

He grinned with pleasure. “Just energy, right?”

She nodded.

“Don’t you ever fall in love?” he asked.

“All the time.”

His look was startled and she took the trouble to explain: “It doesn’t last. Falling in love is a projection. It drains you.”

“I’m into bodies, though,” he said, in a voice that was nearly apologe­tic.

She scoffed. “Body parts to be more accurate. Your Venus is in Virgo.”

His eyes flashed amusement. “What sign am I good with?”

“Pisces?”

He frowned. “No, I can’t handle Pisces.”

“Cancer?”

“The only girlfriend I had was a Cancer.”

Narcisse made a face. “Cancer women are manipulative.”

“And not mental enough,” he said. “How am I with Virgos?”

“I don’t know. You tell me. You must have been through the whole zodiac a few times by now.”

I’m dating a Virgo. Too picky. What sign is good for me?”

She laughed out loud. “Demian, my dear. You have so much adversity in your chart. You have to find some peace in yourself before you can be happy with anyone else.”

He frowned and tried a new tack. “Aquarian women like me. My grandmother was an Aquarius.”

She smiled. “Aquarians treat people like puzzles.

He withdrew with a laugh. “You will never figure me out.”

She didn’t respond. He got restless and she opened her book again to read. He rose from the table and disappeared inside and returned to circle nervously around, like an animal looking to mark territory. “Is there a used bookstore around here?”

She pointed him in the direction and he disappeared around the corner. She fingered her yin yang earring as she returned to her book. The significance of the encounter wasn t lost on Narcisse. Demian s intention was to pull her out of the abstract and into life. He was becoming anima possessed, as men did when they fell into her mirror. So, the Experiment was proceeding as planned but a good deal of wisdom was needed to entice him to stick around long enough for the complete work to take place. Fire is a rearrangement of molecules through visible combustion. The power of the inner fire could rearrange the DNA in the body! The information Narcisse was to receive through her body would determine the course of its transformation!

He returned in a short while with a book and slid into the shadows of the booth. “I have to meet a girl later,” he said, under the shield of his darkening aura. “I know what she wants…”

“Sex.”

He nodded with lowered lids as she drank in his perverse beauty.

“Do you know how to say no?” she asked, hiding her amuse­ment.

A nervous smile crossed his sensual lips. “I’m going to tell her I’m busy. I’m going to stay home and read this book.”

She leaned over to look at the title, “The History of Western Civilization”, and laughed. “Ha! I already figured out your problem with women.”

He moved closer, throwing his shadow over her and she continued: “The women you like you aren’t attracted to and the ones you are attracted to you don’t like.”

He grinned and then laughed, embarrassed by her insights. “Every man must have that problem.”

“No, not really.”

He moved out of the shadows and she could see his expression. It was open, contemplative as he spoke:. “I was sitting in a cafe in New York City trying to pick up a girl. When I looked up, my therapist was staring at me through the window.”

“Did you feel self‑conscious?”

He shrugged. “I figured it was time to change therapists.” Leaning forward, he seductively pulled her into his confidence. “But really…don’t you think…timing? Maybe I just need to experience everything before I am ready to settle down.”

“If you live that long.”

“I stay healthy.” He stood and did a yoga stretch. Narcisse was impressed with his body.   Tall, lean, graceful…a body made for sex…and yoga. “All I want to do now is have sex and yoga, he said.   Yoga is great…so sensual.”

He succeeded in stirring her. The little whore, she though­t. She managed to mask her lust with an impassive gaze. A strange and eerie wind blew and he darted his head around, looking like a trapped animal. She handed him his glasses. “Don’t forget these.”

He put the frames in his pocket.

“No,” she said. “Put them on. I want to remember you as an intellectual.”

He donned the mask but his sly grin gave him away. “I can be whatever you want me to be.”

Her gaze was purposefully soulful. “But who are you real­ly?”

The laughter was wicked as he danced away. She knew the answer already. He was the man in her dream. The one who was fated to be her companion on her way to finding a soul mate.

11.

The noble author of the

Hermetical Arcanum describes

it as a Herculean task.

–Frater Albertus

To build her strength, Narcisse meditated on the tarot card image of the woman holding a lion by the mouth. The lion symbolizes the worldly passions…the greedy child at the center of his uni­verse, wielding absolute power, destroying whatever it can’t have. The image of the green lion in Alchemy was a symbol of the male lion being transformed by love, as the Venus ruling copper turned green under the effects of the female sulphur.

Narcisse knew she must be strong to overcome the blockade of the illusive actor–who dredged up the primal passion which threatened to keep her from the Work. She pondered on the journey before her as she stared at the veil covering the mask of the devil above the mirrored door to her closet and a revelation hit her…pushing the boundaries of the uncon­scious was her work, the work of the artist. Triumphing would mean turning fate into destiny….to submerge in the reflec­tion of her own darkness so she might emerge whole.

She taped the Strength card to her mirror and the image of the green lion beside it. A reminder of the universal law: the lower nature must be tamed before one is granted entry into the king­dom.

12.

Fire was the most important element

for the alchemical work. Fire clearly

responds to the generative power, at

first aroused and then turned inward

for the purpose of contemplation.

Alchemists have always warned against

uncontrolled fire. A violent flame might

well consume the entire work.

–Von Franz

Thereafter, Narcisse and Demian were locked into a mating dance similar to that performed by Sophia and her lover. The male continued his role of the aggressor, taking the lead. As the female responded with a movement of her own, her partner withdrew. The attraction was the only assurance that either partner could be won back.

And so it went. In this manner, Narcisse was not only led out of her abstract world of symbols and into life, but the apt role reversal revealed her patterns. The male was acting the female and the female was male. They were in unknown ter­ritory, these two, making up the rules as they went along, her knowledge of gnosis pitted against his primal inst­incts. At least, they both knew how to read symbols.

Narcisse, with all the encounter groups and therapies of her precocious youth, had experienced a great deal about Eros in her thirty six years. She knew she about to enter the place where Eros takes over, eroding her ability to function in the mundane world. In this place, her rational mind was of little use. Only her instincts could guide her.

She had always been instinctively aware of the power of Eros. At last, her journey would lead her into a conscious understanding of the nature of Eros. It was this bid for knowledge that forced the alchemist to live constantly on the edge. She craved the danger, for the danger was essential to keep her close to the fire.

13.

Mainstream alchemy is a discipline

involving physical, psychological and

spiritual work. If any element is taken

out of context, the wholeness and true

quality of alchemy is lost.

In her dream, Narcisse was led by Demian into a bar filled with demons. Magician smirking behind his black satin cape. The Demon Lover seducing with his smoldering gaze. The Vampire with his bloody fangs. The Devil breathing fire with his horns piercing her naked breast. And there, he left her to fend for herself.

The night journey alluded to the deepest fear of the artist: being drawn into the shadowy depths of a murky sea and abandoned. Demian certainly was leading her to a level of dark­ness she hadn’t experienced since her father. Even the shadows in the world around her seemed sharper and vibrant, as if they had a life of their own. She now perceived light in the darkness and darkness in the light.

Los Feliz was a cozy village when she moved in. The Italian and Armenian shop owners greeted one another as they raised their awnings in the morning. Narcisse lived in an old world building with white lattice fences protecting balconies accessed by double French doors. Yet, in the time since she met Demian, the growing ranks of the homeless appeared more menacing as they stepped in her path, demanding money. She handed them hunks from fresh loaves but they wanted to devour all. Frequently, she arrived home from her trips to the bakery without a morsel.

A neighbor appeared at her door one night demand­ing money. He was tall, over six feet, and much darker than Demian. Narcisse thrust a dollar in his face and quickly shut the door. Her landlady scolded her the next day. “Jack is a wolf. Don’t give him a thing.”

Narcisse directed her energy at her computer screen:

One person can’t stop the world from starving. One person can’t even satisfy a wolf. Wolves are always hungry. You can never give them enough to eat.

 

The alchemy was working. She knew her instincts about Demian were on target–the sum they created had far greater power and un­predictability than the parts. Clearly, if they didn t use the power for creation, it would be used for destruction.

Walking through Demian’s bohemian neighborhood of Silver Lake, Narcisse stopped in front of a gym. A Tai Quan Do competition was taking place. She stood and watched, intrigued by the focused energy and the raw physical power of the competitors. An instinct sent her into the office. The Mexican behind the desk had dimples. He told her if she signed up immediately she would get a month of classes free. She whipped out her credit card and purchased a crisp white uniform with her three hundred dollar membership.

“When can I begin?”

“Right away.   He pointed to the dressing room.

She picked up her uniform and left the office. The competi­tion was over and the floor was nearly empty. She went to the dressing room and put on her stiff white suit, tying the white belt around her waist, wishing it were black. The stroll across the polished wood floor in her bare feet took her to the leather punching bag. Smack in the middle, she saw the face of the Demon Lover. She kicked him in the teeth. Hard.

The instructor appeared by her to demonstrate some moves. She exhausted herself with her efforts and, after changing clothes, retired to Millie’s, a trendy neighborhood eatery across the street. She sat at the counter and listened to the gossip among w­aitresses about an extremely hip New York actor.

They were talking about Demian.

No matter where she went…no matter what she did…she could not escape from him. The fire…she could feel it burning in the base of the spine. The location of the spiritual fire was a continual reminder of the material power she would attract through her conscious decision to do alchemy. Oh, the temptations which would taunt her in the Great Work which lay ahead!

14.

Mainstream alchemy is a discipline

involving physical, psychological

and spiritual work. If any element

is taken out of context, the wholeness

and true quality of alchemy is lost.

In her dream, Demian was driving her up and down the hills, ignoring her inquiries about where they were going. All he wanted to talk about was work.

She got a temporary job doing data entry at the Jewish Federation on Wilshire Boulevard. It was a form of surrender to such menial work. She sat beside a good natured Chinese accoun­tant from Hong Kong who listened to her financial woes and advised her to marry a wealthy foreigner in search of a green card. At the other end of the room was John, a Philippine teenager from the ghetto who vividly described the shootouts at the parties where he worked as a disk jockey. Across the way was Sally, a manic depressive from New York who came to Los Angeles after escaping from a halfway house. She was a big woman who dressed in plastic mules and flowery prints and stuffed one piece of junk food after another into her rubbery, milk white face. She complained about the hardships of living in a fleabag Hollywood Hotel and provided daily accounts of her attempt to storm the gates of Paramount in search of a job.

Narcisse felt sorry for Sally and attempted to heal her by listening to the tale of her destructive father and relating the myth (Cronus, who ate his children). Sally turned into a demon and warned Narcisse, in the most crude of terms, to butt out of other people’s lives. Nar­cisse took the advice and ran out that day to purchase a Walkman. She listened to metaphys­ical talk shows as she worked and when she got tired the upbeat, John lent her his Depreche Mode.

Narcisse viewed the job as a form of service to the serpent power. The kundalini was far more concentrated, it seemed to her, in the Jewish Federation Building than any other in town. She practiced holding energy with the Israelis in the elevator. Yes, the alchemical power was guiding her even in her temporary job placements.

The job suited her needs in its lack of stress. The alchemist needed to store up energy for the Experiment. When the timing was right, she had to be ready.

15.

To much ego results in overheating the process

The fire should have no greater warmth

than fresh horse dung.

-Von Franz

He called to ask if she was willing to type his play into his computer. It seemed a rather pathetic attempt at a come on. She mocked him. “You mean you can’t type? You have a computer and you can’t type?”

“I write in longhand,” he explained. “I have better things to do than type.”

Sparks were pummeling between them. She didn’t like the sound of his ego. It was the challenge of the calcinatio to hold the wolf at bay.

I don’t need you to hire me. I have a job.”

“How much do they pay you?”

“Twelve dollars an hour.   It was a lie. They only paid her nine.

“I’ll pay you ten.”

“Forget it. You aren’t serious about this.”

“Yes, I am. I need a secretary. You know that Thomas Wolfe had a woman who lived with him. She typed everything he wrote.”

“Well, you aren’t Thomas Wolfe.”

“Listen, come over and just try it. See how you like it.”

“Ha! You just want a girl in your apartment so you can attack her.”

At this stage early stage, playfulness turns quickly to obsessiveness. Narcisse was careful to break off the conversation before she said something she would regret. Although she had given up relationships in favor of an immersion into the ancient arts, she was fully aware of the societal dilemma: people didn’t remain in relationships long enough for trans-formation to take place. How many times had she been defeated in the past due to the hideous appearance of the wolf? Not anymore!

But, she was up for the challenge of this new male. She suggested they get together so she could read his tarot. He said he had a friend visiting from out of town and suggested she might like to meet him. She knew he was projecting and set up a meeting on the night of the New Moon. Initiating the relationship under the Virgo Moon reflected the amount of work they would be doing together. Such timing to the start of a relationship was ex­tremely critical…lest Eros take over her life…r­endering her unable to sleep, to work, to eat.

Thanks to Luna in all her shadowy depths, the importance of this relationship would be the Work.

THE PROJECTION OF LUNATake of golden marcasite and of stibium, equal parts

Pour them together into a fusorium 27.

From the fusorium it is extinguished in strong alkali.

Project in succession, and you will find much Sol in the

separation of strong waters.

–Paracelsus

She entered through the front door of the Dresden, a fifties era piano bar around the corner from her apartment building, wearing black boots and black bicycle shorts with the lace bottoms and an ov­ersized jacket. A force pulled her towards the decadent dark­ness. He loomed like a giant from the shadows, laughing like a mischievous boy who has just gotten   caught with his hand in the cookie jar..

“Demian, what nasty thing have you done now?” she asked, following him to a booth.

They sat on opposite sides, backs straight against the white leather, facing one another.

He laughed again, turning up his charisma full blast.   What happened to your friend? she asked.

“He didn’t want to come.” He looked under the table and poked up his head to ask what she was wearing.

She lifted her leg. “My bicycle shorts.”

His face darkened, blending into the shadows. She knew the rules, but decided to break them. And she rubbed it in by saying: “I wore them just to turn you on.”

He grimaced and motioned to the waitress, an elderly woman with caked make‑up and horn rimmed glasses. She appeared at the table and Demian charmed her with a movie star smile. “A glass of wine for her and a glass of tomato juice for me.”

Narcisse asked for club soda instead of wine. She needed to remain pure in order to perform at maximum potential. Demian stared at a pretty girl in a printed dress sitting alone a few tables away. He demonstrated his will, his amazing will, and got her attention. “Don’t I know you from somewhere?” he asked ever so sweetly while sneaking a wicked grin to his companion.

The girl was puzzled. “I don’t know.”

“At a casting?”

“No,” she naively responded. “I don’t work in film.”

“Oh?” he said, turning on the charm. “What do you do?”

“I’m a secretary.”

“Really? You ought to be in pictures.”

Narcisse retreated into the shadows with a smile, all too aware that the wolf was testing. “Aren’t you an actress?” he asked the girl. “You ought to be in movies…”

“All right, Demian. Enough,” Narcisse scolded. She turned to the girl. “He is a naughty boy. I can’t take him anywhere.”

She passed the test. Demian smiled at her triumph and relaxed against the back of the seat. Barely into the first date and the boundaries were already established. She was assured he was ready. The alchemist had done her homework well. Years it had taken her to learn such timing!

“How goes it with you?” she asked. “Have you gotten better about creating boundaries?”

He shrugged. “I’m letting a lot of people go.” The expression of vulnerability made her want to forgive. “I tell them I have to go. I leave.”

She nodded. “You are like me. You attract vampires.”

The waitress brought their drinks. She imagined his tomato juice to be blood. “Have you ever had your cards read?” she asked.

He shook his head.

She removed the deck from her handbag and placed it on the table. “Shuffle. When you feel your energy is in them, cut into three piles.”

He finished with the cards, leaving Narcisse to pick up the three piles and spread them on the table. She took a few moments to study the cards, knowing she wasn’t about to reveal all…for the reading was sure to be about their relationship. Swords‑‑the most troubled suit in the deck‑‑­predominated. Swords are dis­astrous for a relation­ship. Words said and later regretted.

For a psychic to read someone whose energies entangle them is a challenge. How can one tell what is real and what is a projection? For example, the Queen of Swords. The card appeared in the place of the immediate future and foretold of a cold and possibly cruel woman entering his life. Who could she be? His mother? His inner woman? Narcisse?

“A woman is entering your life. She is very critical. Cold,” the reader said as she tapped the card. “It could be your mother.”

He darkened. “I’m not speaking to my mother.”

The projection of Luna! The Queen of Swords was his anima, his inner woman, and he will project this nastiness onto the first available hook, like herself. Wasn’t that the story of her life? Men projected their anima and she became that energy. Where were the men with the healthy animas? Married.

She looked at the cards again. “There’s a lot of turbulence in your career.”

“I’m considering changing agents.”

She looked at the outcome. The Knight of Swords. A card indicating hasty action.   “Wait. Don’t do anything. Mercury is going retrograde.”

He became restless, waving towards the waitress and reaching into his pocket for a bill which he tossed on the table. “Let’s go.”

As she gathered the cards, he sauntered to the front door, leaving her to gulp down the last of her drink.

At the front door, she saw him hitting on a girl talking on the telephone. The little boy disappeared and the wicked playboy had taken his place–the devil in a tuxedo pressing for a phone number.

“Cut it out Demian!” she cried, more amused than perturbed.

He detached with a charismatic laugh. She removed her journal from her purse and scribbled her observations:

What abrupt reversals of energy we experience together! First, seduction, then the chill of the star detach­ment. We are speed balling with this energy. A powerful dose of marijuana mixed with cocaine. Did I ever dream I would meet a man who would reveal my archetypal patterns so completely?

She pulled him out the door. “Don’t try to make me jealous. It isn’t going to work.”

He came up close, seducing her into forgiveness as he led her to his black jeep and unlocked the door to let her in.

When she entered, she scribbled some more:

 

The Queen of Swords contains a warning. He will turn me into her if I’m not careful, bitter towards him and every man who ever mistreated me. And when I become poisonous, he will feel justified in discover­ing how horrible women can be.

“Where should we go?” he asked as he started the engine.

She responded without thinking. “The Obs­ervatory.”

He didn’t question her choice of locations. Perhaps his unconscious agreed with hers that it was best to begin their liaison with perspective.

He drove to Hillhurst. The gate to Griffith Park was closed.     “I know another way,” she said, directing him to Ferndell, a rundown garden spot where gays went cruising. He made small talk, deliver­ing lines from what she knew was a well reh­earsed script. He was accus­tomed to first dates.

She pointed down the road which cut through the park. It was blocked. He stopped the car and she stared out the window and indulged in a fleeting fantasy where they stood before one another on the grass and experienced a love without boundaries.

“We could get out,” she said with tripidation, catching sight of her sly grin in the rear view mirror.

He abruptly swung the car around. “No, I’m not going to neck with you in the woods!”

Oh, he was certainly quick to spot her evil intentions! She covered up with a laugh. He drove out of the woods and past the carefully manicured lawns. At the light, he hesitated a moment before driving west. She relaxed into her seat, satisfied to let him take control.

“Where you consciously aware of what you were doing in the Dresden?” she asked.

He nodded and turned right on Franklin, a street lined with glamorous homes made more intriguing by their proximity to the seediness of a Hollywood in decay.

“If you are aware of this compulsive need to hit on every woman who crosses your path, then why do it?”

His devilish grin was hidden by his hunched shoulders over the steering wheel. “Not every woman!” he cried. “I have to be attracted!”

She sighed. His glance towards her was serious, penetrat­ing. “I wouldn’t think you to be the kind to be bitter.”

For Narcisse, becoming a man’s anima was as natural as breath­ing. “I’m not. Not usually. Where is the moon tonight? Virgo. All I want to do is analyze you.”

He shrugged. “Just be yourself.”

“Which self?” she mumbled, in a voice too low for him to hear.

“Are you hungry?”

“Not really.”

His sly grin again. “I know you’re hungry. You are just being shy.”

Actually, the power of the attraction eroded her appetite. She used to think this was love..when she couldn’t eat…she couldn’t see straight. Now, she knew it was merely chemical.

The Experi­ment was work­ing…a reaction was taking place.

He drove down Franklin Avenue and parked in an empty space before a strip of outdoor cafes. They got out of the car and he lead her to Prizzi’s, a mod Italian pizza parlor with outdoor tables shielded by red and white striped umbrellas. He sauntered in, carrying his notebook, greeting the waiters by name. A sidewalk table was cleared away. “This place reminds me of New York,” he said as they sat.

Do you miss it?”

He nodded, moving restlessly from one seat to another. “I’m adaptable.”

“Are you still doing yoga?”

He nodded, accepting the menus. They decided to share a pizza with everything on it. As the waiter walked away with the order, Narcisse conce­ntrated on focusing her energy in the head so the wolf wouldn’t des­tabilize her. And she pulled out another mirror, relating her chaotic history.

“I could never stay in one place,” she told him. “You know where I’ve been in the last ten years? First New York, then L.A. Europe, then L.A. again. Washington, then New York, then Mexico City, Buenos Aires, Rio, New York again and Los Angeles.”

“What were you escaping from?”

“Myself,” she responded with a devilish grin. “What else is there to escape from?”

His grin mirrored her own. The reflection pleased him. She didn’t bother mentioning the excruciating work she did to ground herself the past five years, the Experiments tried and failed, the diaries filled, occult books studied to the point of myopia, the complex manuscripts she authored–all mere preliminaries to the Great Work. He opened his notebook and read some dialog­ue: a character wanting to erase the tapes in his head.

“Yes, that’s right. You have to get rid of the old tapes. The tapes are your unconscious patterns. Habitual behaviors.”

He stared at the page. Reflecting on his own life, per­haps? Her smile was encouraging. “You can break through the old patterns now,” she told him. “You have to keep regenerating yourself.”

“I am.”

The pizza arrived. The wolf devoured the food‑‑tearing at the cheese with fangs dripping saliva. The writer communicated by reading dialogue from this scenario: the female wanting sex and the male insisting he no longer wants to waste his sperm.

He watched her pick at the pizza: “I know how you eat,” he said with a knowing glint in the eye. “You eat yogurt and bran muffins and apples and bread.”

She nodded.

“You eat things. You don’t eat meals.”

“You are psychic!”

“I’d like to be more psychic.”

She laughed. “Preserve your sperm.”

He peered at two women speaking with southern accents at the next table and asked what they were eating. They were friendly…open. He got in easily as one of them quickly replied: “I don’t know but it’s delicious,” one of them said. “You want to try?”

“Yeah,” he replied, moving further into their space.

The stranger lifted her fork to the mouth of the wolf, which clearly wanted to devour all..”Watch it,” Narcisse warned. “You don’t know how many diseases he is carrying.”

“That’s all right,” the woman said with a giggle. “The wine will kill it.”

Their accents were explained by the fact they were from New Orleans. They related their impression of Los Angeles (smog and gorgeous people) until the waiter arrived with the check. Demian withdrew money from his pocket and threw it on the table. He stood and announced to his rapt audience. “I have to take her home now so I can beat her.”

Narcisse laughed and he smiled with pleasure as he picked up the leftover pieces of pizza and gave them to a homeless man who appeared at the table with an outstretched palm. As they waved to the women and walked away, he said: “You are the only girl who gets my jokes. Other girls think I’m cruel.”

“They don’t understand your sense of humor.”

They strolled to his jeep and he paused before unlocking her door. “What should we do? Take you home? Is it past your bedtime?”

Narcisse shrugged.

“Let’s get some coffee,” he said, taking her arm and leading her down the street into the Bourgeoisie Pig, a dark coffeehouse with black walls and baroque art and brass chandeliers. They sat at the counter and he ordered two cappuccinos. Gazing at her with interest, he asked: “What do you look for in a guy? Looks? Intellect…?”

She shrugged. The answer was simple. “Ene­rgy.”

“You know my problem with girls,” he said, with a look of regret. “All they want is to fuck me…”

She got the message. If she put her hands on him she would be branded like the rest. The wolf was trapped in the bottle and all she could do was become his mirror. So she replied: “I have the same problem with guys. I really want to be friends but …”

He grinned in delight. The boundaries were set. They weren’t per­mitted to touch: their only penetration could be through the mind…which is why the wolf was under glass.

“I’m trying to create a vehicle for myself,” he said.

“It’s simple. Just project yourself into the future and put it on paper. Writing is a wonderful means of grounding your­self…when future happens, you can walk through it because you already experienced it in the writing.”

He blinked repeatedly. “I don’t have the confidence.”

She nodded. Actors need writers to present them with their script. What an exceptional actor he would be if he dared to write his own-‑a shaman with the world as his stage! She had seen this potential in him. It made him a standout among the legions of gorgeous creatures around them…all wanting to act. And this gift of acting was the reason the universe had selected him, and no other, for the Experiment. Just then, one of the throngs tapped Demian on the shoulder. He was tall, a leading man type with curly hair.   “Hey Demian, I want you to meet my agent.”

Narcisse was rapidly crowded out. She wasn’t even intro­duced. She removed her journal from her handbag and wrote:

Is this what it feels like to fall in love with an actor‑‑not just any actor but a rising star‑‑to get lost inside his orbit while he basks in the light of a new projection?

She drifted in and out of the conversation.   What will we be seeing you in?” the agent asked Demian, who mentioned two television shows which weren’t familiar to Narcisse because she didn’t watch television (she never developed the habit as a child. Her father called the set an idiot box and threw it out the window one night. It was never replaced.) Demian mentioned he was up for a big role in a film, leaving Narcisse to wonder if Hollywood intended to intrude on the Experi­ment.

All this attention caused the wolf to roar and this aud-ienc­e, being accustomed to narcissism, loved it. The hit she had which told her this was a rising star was proving correct; Demian had that rare combina­tion of charisma and true acting ability. As protection to his art, he clothed his talent in a fox fur of glamour but psychics such as Narcisse were trained to see through such deception. Eventually, the actor and his agent disappeared, leaving Demian to motion towards the vamp behind the register. “What deserts do you have?”

Before them was placed a dome covered platter of three layers of fudge cake with slivers of pure milk choco­late on top. Demian ogled over it. “Look at that,” he said in a mocking tone. “Narcisse, wouldn’t you just love a piece?”

She shook her head. “Oh, no. I’m hypoglycemic. I go crazy just looking at sugar.”

He turned the cake around, examining it from every angle. She groaned and looked away. “Demian, you shouldn’t eat sugar either. It’s so bad for you. You are so sensitive…you need to watch everything you put in your mouth.”

He ignored her and indicated to the guy behind the counter. “I’ll take a piece.” The huge grin was meant for her. “Two forks.”

Her mouth drooled as they were served a huge piece of sin. He handed her a fork and she called him a devil. “Positiv­ely evil,” he said, with a wicked smile. “You know what evil is spelled backwards?”

“Live,” she mumbled as she watched him stab the cake with his fork. He lifted it to her watering mouth. She parted her ruby lips and he shoved it in. And another bite. And another. Finally, she pursed her lips shut and watched the wolf devour the rest, licking the fork and plate clean. Wolves are always hungry.

Restless again, he looked around for a diversion and found one leaning against the wall. He opened the checkerboard and placed it between them. “You ever play checkers?”

“Not for years.”

He removed the checkers from a box and she helped him set up the board. “Okay, you go first,” he said. “Loser buys dinner.”

She made a move. He made his. She made another. He boxed her in. She pondered which direction to go and he counted under his breath to set her on edge.

“Cut it out!” she cried.

His laughter was wicked. The wolf intended to trap her.

She decided on a strategy. He quickly moved in to make a double jump. The next move she made, she jumped him but he performed another double jump in retaliation.

“You practice these moves at home!”

He shrugged. “Just instincts.”

Once again, she couldn’t make up her mind.

“It’s your turn,” he said, tapping his foot impatiently on the side of the counter.

She made a move and he jumped her again. She pushed the board away. “I don’t want to play anymore.”

“Sore loser,” he muttered, grinning smugly.

Checkers wasn’t the only game he aimed to win.

On the way home, she asked Demian what he did with his anger. The mere inquiry had the effect of arousing the wolf. “When someone makes me mad…you know what I do? I say: ‘GET THE FUCK OUT OF MY LIFE!'”

The warning was to be heeded. The alchemist must be ex­treme­ly careful lest the fire get out of control, throwing the entire Experiment into chaotic disarray. The toxins alone could easily destroy her.

17

For the impure always remain impure,

dirt remains dire; but the pearl concealed in it

is taken out, and it is this pearl that is transfigured.

For the pearl itself has never been impure,

it has only lain hidden in the darkness.

–Paracelsus

Their journey took them deep into darkness, yet they rarely ventured beyond the confines of the neighborhood. Hollywood was always dark in those days…particularly in daylight. The streets are crowded with lost souls wandering through an unconscious sea.

She let him take her to Mann s Chinese theater where they waded through tourists examining footprints of the stars. He was the only man she ever desired who paid her entrance fees. This allowance on her part had to do with his habits; he was generous with women to assuage his guilt for leaving. Narcisse was familiar with such behavior; her past gener­osity often originated in the dark side of the heart.

He was restless in the confines of his seat and wanted to leave. She accompanied him down the aisle and out the door and he wandered back to the neighborhood. The wolf is only comfort­able in his own territory.

Back in the wilderness, she knew, they were doomed to encounter the victims. They strolled by the outdoor restaurant where he took her on their first date and nervously hid behind her while whispering through clenched teeth: “TURN AROUND.”

“What is going on?” she innocently asked.

“That woman…don’t want to see her.”

She turned to look but he grabbed her arm and took a big stride in the direction from which they came and made her walk all the way around the block to his jeep.

The women. They seemed to be everywhere. Tossing him hostile glances. Propelling him into darkness. Such is the karma the wolf creates‑‑and recreates‑‑for himself. He uses women for his dark night of the soul and is haunted by reminders. The faces of the scorned appear in the mirrors of the cafes and the window panes of storefronts. All reflections of his inner woman, blending into one…the demon goddess.

Narcisse was amused. She took out her journal and wrote:

So he is notorious after all. Hadn’t I known from the start? My reputation could be ruined through this liaison…this very dangerous

liaison. No, I will triumph. The Great Work will be a success,

a triumph over my dastardly fate

to forge a destiny.

His black jeep felt like a hearse that night. The devil was driving her to her own funeral. Her awareness propelled her onboard: after death comes the transformation.

“I could get a bad reputation hanging around with you,” was her impassioned cry on the drive to her building.

His speedy response: “Better than no reputation at all.”

All the way, he made fun of her solitary life. “…s­itting in your closet reading your astrology books. Where is that going to get you?”

“A lot further than you are getting fucking strangers.”

He laughed and gave her a sly grin. “Don’t be nasty now.”

Alchemists were all too aware that the power they activated could destroy as easily as it could create. The force would certainly threaten all boundaries…smashing struc­tures she had taken years to build. It had been years of prepar­ation for the work and now that the Experiment was underway, she risked every­thing in her willful attempt to carry it through.

As for Demian, Narcisse was all too aware of his ambition, the insatiable desire to make it to the top of his profession. She also knew if she focused on this blind spot, she could prolong the dance. The dance bought her time…to be female.

As she went to bed that night, Narcisse was all too conscious of the fate that had delivered this actor to her door. Her choice was written across the sky by the stars. Sur­render or flee.

The only alternative was to dance.

17.

If the alchemist brings to light that which

lies hidden in nature, one must know that those

hidden powers are different in each thing–they are

different in locusts, different in leaves, different in

flowers, and different in ripe and unripe fruits. For

all this is so marvelous that in form and qualities the last

fruit of a tree is completely unlike the first.

                                                                   Paracelsus

 

 

He was too big for life. Perhaps he wanted to be in a relation­ship so he could learn to be small.

They returned to the same coffeehouse as before, with its black walls and ornate mirrors and brass chandeliers and Baroque furniture. He bought her a large frothy cappuccino and lead her past the statue of Venus emerging from the half shell to a secluded back room, filled with shadows. Two ornate armchairs faced a brocaded couch. Gargoyles peered down from the ceiling.

He put his coffee on the table and collapsed on the couch. She made herself comfortable in an armchair and pondered the fate that kept her enthralled by the enigmatic, the unob­tainable, a love without boun­daries..­.

His voice pierced the shadows. “I had a miserable childhoo­d. It’s a story of neglect, sickness, abandonment.”

The details of his early existence he described were a maze of contra­dictio­ns. Dark rooms filled with cobwebs in stone mansions. Too little money among too much opulence. Rice and beans eaten off gilded china. A desperate, high strung mother who married badly and expected her kid to fill her inexhaustible well of neediness. It all appeared to Narcisse as a hazy dream, the real indistinguishable from the imagined. The Baroque details he painted matched their present environ­ment. She wondered if he was regressing to a former life.

“I never got any affe­ction from my mother,” he wailed.

“You look for affection through sex,” she replied, in a soothing voice. “In truth, sex is a defense against affection.”

There was an overwhelming sadness about him. A mournfulness which permeated the room. Perhaps, she thought, it was an act. “I’m the lost whore,” he moaned.

“And you want me to redeem you?”

He shook his head.

Narcisse was content. She never dreamed that she would feel so comfortable in darkness. She did it for him. He needed her darkness as a container for his light. Spirit without a con­tainer becomes dispersed, leaving only chaos. At that moment, Narcisse was convinced that this actor’s role was to reveal the spirituality that exists in matter.

“This room becomes you,” she told him. “You should have it. A living theater.”

A sadness washed over her. He belonged in the theatre–a world foreign to herself. She felt inadequate for not being able to share such an important part of his life.

He lifted his head. “Maybe you are just looking for material…You are a writer.”

“Does that bother you?”

He shrugged. His birth chart was an open book‑‑a rather strange fate for a secretive Scorpio. But he had lived in the shadows too long. Perhaps her role was to be his guide on his night sea journey. She could enter the darkest depths of his ocean and pull out the substance to give his life meaning.

His power to pull her was so strong, she forgot about the experiment. The fact that she could lose herself so easily in him was an indicator of the danger of her chosen journey.

“You are a writer too,” she reminded him.

Oh, but they both knew…he wouldn’t be as kind to himself in his writing as she. She had this habit of cloaking her loves in a filmy veil where blemishes are con­cealed and mysteries are highlighted.

He got up and circled the couch. “For me to fall in love it has to be indirect.”

“Demian, I don’t believe you have been in love.”

A kid in a striped collegiate sweater appeared in the open doorway and called Demian’s name. The intruder had such an innocence in his sweet face, a total incongruity to the darkness of the two.

Demian abruptly pulled himself out of his semi‑trance state to look for the person behind the voice. He smiled in recognition. “Jonathan, how are you? Come on in.”

The kid was hesitant as he entered the room, throwing a nervous glance to Narcisse…as if caught in an illicit act. The intensity of their mood was broken and inhibitions took over. Demian shook his head, as if intoxicated and trying to clear it, and strived to make the kid feel comfortable.

“This is my friend, Narcisse. She is a writer,” Demian said. He looked at the kid with fondness, then at Narcisse. “He looks like a character in an Eugene O’Neill play, doesn’t he?”

They exchanged news of the theater and Demian drifted again, causing the kid to rise. “Demian, Julie would like to see you. Come by for dinner some night.”

“Yeah, sure,” Demian said, still somewhat intoxicated by what had transgressed earlier. “I’ll bring Narcisse.”

The kid said farewell and left. Narcisse fixed her gaze on Demian. “If people see me with you, they’ll think I’m your whore for the night.”

He nodded. “Does that bother you?”

She shook her head. “I don’t care what anyone thinks.”

He lay on the couch again. More confessions. “Sometimes I have two or three woman in one night.”

“Do you ever feel shame?” she asked.

He shrugged. “Sometimes. Other times it is just like a computer or a machine…”

“An exchange of energy.”

He pierced her with the intensity of his gaze. “I had to experience them all. From the scul­lery maids to the Ladies in Waiting…”

Ladies in Waiting? Now she knew he was diving into past lives.

“…In the beginning I warn them: ‘this is just about sex’.”

“You tell them that?”

He shrugged. “Some men make promises. Some bring presents. I’m honest.”

The man she thought she knew‑‑what did she know‑‑had disappeared and someone else had taken his place. A Sade style libertine from one of his past lives. Or perhaps a character from a film. Just as she was about to hook in, he changed again, appearing like a sad and frightened little boy, desperately seeking comfort yet desperately fearful of self‑revelation.

“What of the wound?” she asked him.

He shrugged. “Everyone wants to be healed.”

The wound seemed to suit him. He treasured his wound. It

provided him with his myth, a mask to hide behind so he didn’t have to feel.

She lowered her head and her blonde hair cascaded over her face. “You know the tragedy of love?”

No response. He stared at her with big eyes and she told him in a soothing voice which surprised her in how little it sounded like her own: “The very same person with the power to heal you has the power to destroy you.”

The darkness completely took over then. His face disin­tegrated into the shadows. Strangely, she felt detached, like she was watching a play that was about to come to a close. Perhaps, his entire performance was only an act. She wondered about this and the illusion that drew people to the theater. Did they choose to live on stage because everyday existence is too drab, too boring, too real?

He brought up his mother again in a voice that pierced her thoughts. “She had so many fears. She couldn’t be a mother. She was crazy…”

Yes, of course. Everything made sense now. The Queen of Swords had revealed herself. The acting was only a game…a ruse to hide his inner­most feelings. Narcisse knew this because the men who wanted her‑‑not the men who thought they wanted to have sex with her but the men who really wanted to possess her–they all had mothers who were insane.

And so, she played along, nodding to let him know she under­stood. “My father was psychotic. I know what it is like to have demons appear at the dinner table.”

Wasn’t this her greatest fear? The man she sur­rendered to would be like her father, bringing all his demons to the dinner table to smash her fine china, inherited from generations of women intent on controlling their men.

“My mother was so needy. I got sick. It was my body’s way of saying…I can’t cope.” He bowed his head further into the darkness, deep into the shadows of the gargoyles with their leering grins. “I hate commitments. Commitments feel like death.”

“You associate love with attachment. But love…a love that is pure doesn’t confine you. Love sets you free.”

He bent his head. “That is what I’m seeking…a love that is pure.”

Silence.

“I am terrified of intimacy,” he said. “And affection makes me gag. Can’t stand…I HATE SYMPATHY.”

Squinting, she attempted to bring him back into focus. Yet, the man who had accompanied her into the room had long since disappeared from her view–former loves had taken over his body. Ghosts from her past, archetypal energies filling this empty vessel before her. He had something of them all…the revolu­tionary genius, the sensitive poet and the dark magician. Demian contained all the gods and in Narcisse’s extraordinary vision they emerged…one by one…all too willing to lead her through the door to the unknown.

He sat in the armchair next to her and loosened his wrist before diving into a monologue. She recognized a passage from Richard the III. As she watched him, an amazing thing happened. He transformed. His arm went limp and his speech became slow and laborious. He became, quite simply, possessed.

A group of giggling girls clothed in darkness entered the room. Not truly vampires, for when Narcisse looked closely, the emptiness in their expressions was revealed. They had nothing to give. Fake vampires out for an evening. This was 1990. It was a dark time for humanity and this year it was hip in Hollywood to parade in black while cloaked in a stylish emptiness to accompany a haunted stare. She wanted to ask these girls how they kept their faces so pale in this sun drenched dreamland? But facts of life in Hol­lywood were remembered once more. Pots of greasepai­nt stashed in the drawers of inhabitants along with resumes.

The performance came to an abrupt end with the invasion of self‑consciousness. Demian’s wrist went limp. “Let’s go,” he said nervous­ly, like a frightened deer caught in headlights of an oncoming car.

Before she could respond, he was out of the room.

He was unnerved as they departed the premises. She held his hand to calm him and said in a soothing voice: “It’s the moon. You were slipping into the unconscious.”

He nodded and, taking her hand, guided her further into the dark night of his soul.

18.

Mercury is both inwardly and outwardly pure fire;

therefore, no fire can destroy it, no fire can change its essence;

it flees from the fire, and resolves itself into an incombustible oil

spiritually; but when it is fixed, no cunning of man can volatilize

it again. Then everything can by art be made of it that can be produced

from gold, because after its coagulation it perfectly resembles gold…

–Basil Valentine

Mercury turned retrograde. From past experience, Narcisse knew of the bizarre occurrences precipitated by the planet’s chan­ge in direc­tion. During this three week period, Hermes, the trickster, emerges from the unconscious and fools one into self-revela­tion.

She ran into Demian at the Onyx. He told her he was taking a girl he met on location to a holiday in New York.

“Don’t make travel plans,” she warned him. “Mercury is retrograde.”

He scoffed and drove off in his jeep. The next thing she knew, the wolf was at her door. She didn’t want to let him in. An experiment had gone wrong and the stench was as deadly as lead. He barged inside and sniffed around, making a horrific face. “YOUR APARTMENT STINKS.”

She folded her hands defensively across her chest.

He circled the room. “What is that stench? Can’t you smell it? It’s disgusting that you could live like this. Don’t you have any incense?

She shook her head and opened the window. It was important that he not know her intentions. The energy had to be contained or the experiment would never succeed. “I’m sorry if I destroyed all your il­lusions,” she murmured.

The wolf repulsed her now, and she was tempted to call the whole thing off.   So crude, so rude, so dark. She never real­ized how hairy he was…an unruly animal who projected his own stench onto her apartment.

She kicked him out.

Later, he called. Howling. Attempting to explain.

“The stench…memories…childhood memories. My mother was a maid. The stench…she brought it home with her.”

She had read it all in his chart. Mother’s Milk gone sour. “I don’t want to hear about this,” she said firmly. “Tell it to your therapist.”

The wolf howled. Louder this time. “Don’t worry. I’m going to be out of your life soon! Just wait a few weeks.”

“Why so long?”

“I HAVEN”T SLEPT WITH YOU YET!”

“Oh, yes…how nice…to fill me in on this delectable tidbit.” He only leaves after he Fuchs them. Until he Fuchs them, he has no reason to leave.

The wolf growled and she told him in a firm voice that she wanted to get off the phone. A loud yelp caused her to slam down the recei­ver. She tore the chord from the wall.

He rang her from outside the building the very next day. She went down to greet him and they sat on the porch together in the sun. He looked so sad. She asked if he remembered what he told her over the phone. He shook his head and she said: “Hmmm. I have information on you that you don’t have.”

How lovely he appeared when he suffered! Narcisse had an amazing weakness for beauty and the loveliness of his despair succeeded in pulling her right back in. “What’s wrong baby?” she asked.

“She backed out on me.”

“Who?”

“The girl I was taking to New York. She said her father wouldn’t let her go. I already paid for the ticket and I can’t get a refund.”

Narcisse smiled in smug satisfaction. A sign from the univers­e. Let the wolf be caught in the bottle. That’s where he belongs.

“Her father? How old is she?”

“Seventeen.”

Narcisse laughed. “Seventeen? You are lucky she bailed out. Her father could have had you arrested for rape.”

He was still frowning.

She consoled him. “In a few days you won’t even remember her name.”

He brushed his fingers across the severe angle of his cheekbone to remove a nonexistent tear. It was deceptively simple act, for in that moment she realized how incredibly sensual he was. She hadn’t been aware of this in the past because he wouldn’t allow her to touch him. Even now…s­he felt herself reaching out for him…a­nd the closer she came..­.the more he pulled away.

Oh, how he intoxicated her! Being so close to him felt like a narcotic. “It’s skin,” she murmured, in a voice too low for him to hear. She recalled what she had written in her computer the night before:

Skin is chemistry. He won’t touch me because he knows…­yes he knows…he will melt into my embrac­e. Skin is the truth and all the rest is a lie.

Now, she studied him. “Yes…there is something about you…”

He laughed nervously and moved away. “No…” he said in an agitated voice. “Narcisse, you are a good Jewish girl.”

She shrugged. “If that is what you want me to be.”

Pensive, he stared into the distance. “My therapist tells me I need to be with people I can be real with.”

She observed him like she was seeing him for the first time. Yes, it was an impressive cloak of glamour he wore…a fox fur in which all his insecurities were hidden. So he wasn’t a wolf at all. He was a vixen.

“I read some of my play to a woman on the phone,” he said, still sinking from despair. “She told me I hate women.”

“Really?” Narcisse exclaimed, in mock surprise. “Where would anyone get an idea like that? Just because the women you write about have so many unfortunate accidents…like getting run over with the lawn mower or having their hand caught in the garbage disposal…”

He frowned. She took his hand and gently stroked it. He had Hermes’ hands, slim and agile, good for picking pock­ets. “You hate women but you also love them. Just keep the opposites in balance in the heart and you’ll be fine.”

His look revealed that something in him knew she was speak­ing the truth. Confident that she was reaching him, she con­tinued: “Your Venus is opposed your Mars. It’s the position of the great lovers.”

He instantly perked up, with eyes flashing. “WHY DIDN’T YOU TELL ME THAT BEFORE?”

“Why should I feed your ego?” she asked.

As he looked at her, a glint entered his eye. “I told my therapist about you. I told her that there is no chemistry. She agreed. There has to be chemistry.”

Trouble. He is in denial and manages to fool even his therapist. She got up to leave, remembering the legions of lovers she had left after meeting their blocks. It was a pattern now…drawn into the whirlpool by the initial attraction­…flattened by the obstruction in the psyche. Usually, it hap­pened fast–after one night of passion. She knew how hopeless it was to do anything about it: better to move on than expose herself to the dangers of striking down anoth­er’s bar­riers.

Before her computer, Narcisse wrote:

 

Making love to someone who is blocked is like sucking a tit without milk. Even therapy can’t help. A blocked person is wasting their time and money in therapy.  

She ran to her bookshelf and pulled out a book on alchemy and the truth appeared on the page:

When there is blockage, there is no poten­tial for deepen­ing the relatio­nship. All one can do is withdraw and let the uncon­scious process continue. The fire breaks through the blockages as it rises. That is what makes it so dangerous. The flames strike with a fury that can send an unconscious person over the edge.

* * *

Any thoughts Narcisse had of calling an end to the Experiment were wiped out by the discovery that Demian had therapy in the very same building where she worked.

Mercurius, the patron saint of alchemy, had performed his job.

19.

To be sure, Alchemy is a

slow process. It is evolution–the

raising of vibrations. It is not a subject

that can be mastered by means of

the intellectual facilities alone.

He led her through the secret door in the bookcase and into a dark, cave like bar where they were greeted by a handsome young man holding the hand of an erotic blonde in a skin tight black dress.

Demian twitched in his linen suit. They were standing in the Magic Castle on a hill above Hollywood Boulevard, off limits to all but magicians and their guests. He had told Narcisse en route that he felt funny going on a date in a suit but she decided to ignore his discomfort and give him the space to act like a man for once. He finally got around to introducing her to the couple, long after she recognized the energy they were carrying…the sucking of the vacuum­…an energy of addiction.

Narcisse could recognize such an energy anywhere; she had spent a lifetime escaping from it. How beautiful they were…those two love addicts. The young man was an actor with a remarkable resemblance to James Dean–revealing an identical illusive enigma, the far away look in the eyes…and the hunger.

They two couples was guided into a small rotunda where an audience in evening wear watched a magician in a tuxedo pull a rabbit out of a hat. He continued with a series of coin tricks and ended by trailing a multicolored scarf from his sleeve.

The group was led into a theater where they were seated before a stage. A dark haired magician appeared with his buxom, curly haired assistant in a beaded gown.

“WE ARE ON THE LOVE BOAT!” Demian shouted in a loud voice.

A voice from the audience quieted him as strange and surreal surroundings enfolded them. Like a movie set with casting by Starline Tours. Young women in red lipstick and ill‑fitting glitz. Middle‑aged couples in polyester and sequins.

“This would be a good setting for a film,” Demian said to Nar­cisse. She nodded. “Let’s come up with an idea.”

“You start,” he said, leaning towards her.

“There is this magician who has learned all the tricks but gets seduced into wanting real power…” The words toppled from her mouth and she wondered if she was channeling the story of a former life.

“Shhh,” said the balding middle‑aged man behind them.

Demian and Narcisse got so caught up in their story that they missed the show. “It doesn’t matter,” said Demian. “These magicians only do tricks.”

The castle seemed to be full of mystery. They meandered down a winding stairway to the basement, investiga­ting the nooks and crannies and the relics of the magician trade displayed behind glass.

Narcisse gazed at Demian and wondered if this was what love felt like…to feel safe while standing in a dungeon full of mystery. She yearned for the most profound love of all…one which could accompany her to the furthest reaches of the mind. Oh, she thought, if only we could surrender to the mystery!

Yet, as she gazed at a display of magician’s wands, she knew she couldn’t control such a future. The best she could hope for was to continue the experiment. And she wondered…how many alchemists were ruined by their greed? The insatiable hunger for power over the invisible forces of the universe. How many who tried were sent to their death? “GRRRRRR” He was growling at her. The hairs on her neck bristled.

“What was that for?” she innocently asked as she dared to move further into his space.      The demon laughed as it danced.

“Underneath that school marm appearance of yours is….grrr. Get it?”

“You’re projecting,” she retorted, with a haughty toss of the head.

She pointed to the display case where a wax magician held a flask and said: “Why don’t you just stuff yourself in that bottle?”

He growled again, setting her skin on fire. The skin was the container for the body and the body was the crucible where the alchemy–the transformation of lead into gold was to take place. Narcisse was beginning to understand these things now. Her body contained the intelligence and she was listening.

The men decided to dine in the castle. Narcisse accompanied Jenny to the Ladies’s Room. Jenny went straight to the telephone and said she was checking on her roommate. “I’m really worried. Her boyfriend is threatening to kill her.”

“Why?”

Jenny shrugged. “Obsession.”

In the mirror, Narcisse could see a reflection of Jenny’s fear. She wondered, as she often did, what was projection and what was real. Watching Jenny, she noticed how off‑balance she was…it seemed she was about to topple over in her heels.

Jenny left a message voicing her concerns and as she hung up the phone, Narcisse said: “Peter really likes you.”

“I like a guy who has some self‑confi­dence.”

Narcisse laughed. “Stay away from actors!”

Jenny turned and asked in a hushed voice: “What is going on between you and Demian?”

“Nothing. We are just friends.”

Jenny raised an eyebrow. Narcisse didn’t bother mentioning that the date nearly didn’t happen. Demian told her on the way that he had another option for the evening. He tossed a coin: friendship won out over strange sex.

Narcisse smoothed back her hair and straightened her plain linen dress. He may make fun of her appearance but she was dressing in accordance with the boundaries. She knew her place and it wasn’t to seduce.

They met up with the boys at a table offering a splendid view of Hollywood. The waiter greeted Peter. We discovered that he was the person who extended the invitation to Peter. Peter told us the story of how they met at a party.

“It must have happened for a reason,” said Narcisse.

Peter was solemn. “There are no accidents.”

Demian insisted he wasn’t hungry. Narcisse decided on a plate from the salad bar and he ate off her plate. They enjoyed indulging in these little intimate acts.

Watching them, Jenny was amazed. “Demian, I’ve never seen you look so happy. Where did the two of you meet?”

Narcisse replied without thinking. “In a past life.”

Demian grinned with pleasure and reached over for a piece of bread. Jenny asked Narcisse if she believed in ghosts. Narcisse nodded and Jenny described a poltergeist that landed on her chest the previous night.

So that is it, Narcisse thought, she is possessed. She told Jenny she needed to strengthen her aura. “There are so many demons floating around Hollywood. When you have holes in your aura, anything can get in.”

The dark discussion sobered the foursome. They ate the rest of the meal in silence. Peter mentions a party in the hills. The boys split the check. On the way out, Demian lifted a strawberry from the buffet and seductively dropped it in Nar­cisse’s mouth. “What a tease you are,” she told him.

The demon danced again. “We are just friends, Narcisse. Don’t forget it.”

In the jeep, Demian put a baseball cap on his head. The gentleman had long since disappeared and a new archetype was emerging. He switched roles too quickly for Narcisse to keep up.

He drove in a frenzy, all worked up over Peter’s obsession. “Oh, he is really gone on her. He won’t go to the party because he is afraid her old boyfriend will be there.”

“Love addictions are lovely, aren’t they…”

He drove to the Formosa Cafe, a famous Hollywood watering hole decorated in Chinese diner with seductive lighting and autographed photos of stars on the walls. Jenny and Peter joined them in a booth. Demian had disintegrated into the role of a bum in his baseball cap with his tie undone and his suit rumpled. He appeared intoxicated…though Narcisse couldn’t remember him having anything to drink. “Demian, what happened?” she asked. “You looked so handsome earlier.”

He simply grinned and stretched his arm along the top of the booth, close enough to touch skins…but not quite. Narcisse realized he was a shameless tease but she was intent on staying centered.

“He is a chameleon,” Peter explained.

Yes, thought Narcisse, but where is his core?

“On a ten day shoot I look different every day,” Demian said.

“A girl could never get bored dating an actor.

The water came for the order. Demian asked for tomato juice for himself and beer for the rest of us. Jenny excused herself to make a phone call. As she disappeared from sight, Peter’s haunted expression turned to outright despair. “It is a question of character,” he said with a clenched fist. “One has to be strong­.”

Narcisse gave him a compassionate look. “I had a terrible obsession once. It almost killed me.”

Peter looked pained. She wondered if he was really so tormented or if he was simply playing a role. Jenny returned without saying a word about her phone call. As the drinks appeared on the table, she brought up the old days at the Actor’s Studio in New York. Jenny dredged up a memory of Demian spending the night on one end of her couch while she lay at the other end. Peter appeared haunted by the image of his beloved embraced by the wolf. Narcisse was stunned by how beautiful he appeared in his suffering. With his classical features and chiseled bones, he looked like a Gayamedes descended. And underneath, the marble, the wolf was struggling to emerge…

As Narcisse gazed upon Peter, Jenny and Demian began speak­ing in code. They were nodding in agreement over their mutual problem of sexual addiction. Peter’s eyes glazed over. Narcisse felt him leave the room and she joined him in the ethers. He had told her he was an Aquarian. In the mirror he held up, Narcisse could see her own reflection…the terrible fear of the power of the emo­tions. Isn’t the repression…the denial…what makes one so obsessed?

At that moment Narcisse developed an acute awareness of past patterns. She left her body rather than allow her energy be pulled downward. Floating to the ethers with Peter, a voice came to her from the distance. She recognized it as belonging to Demian. “What do the Aquarians have to say?” Peter said well looking at Narcisse. “Shall we take a dive?”

Narcisse got centered in her body again and became aware that the place was closing. “I say we are about to get kicked out of here.” Jenny excused herself to go to the Ladies’s Room. The rest of them walked outside. Demian suggested having coffee and desert at the Bourgeoisie Pig. Peter got that haunted look and insisted he couldn’t go there. He tossed a nervous glance at Jenny as she approached. Demian took him aside and they launched into a discussion until they appeared to come to a decision.

Demian grabbed Narcisse’s hand and led her to the car.

“Come on,” he said, looking somewhat obsessed himself. “The night isn’t over yet.”

The wolf got wild in the confined space of the jeep. “He won’t go to the coffeehouse because that is where they had a fight.”

“Why don’t we just call it a night?”

He laughed the devil’s laugh. “We can’t leave them alone. We have to babysit them.”

Narcisse suspected that the truth was he wanted to hold onto the mirror a bit longer. Peter was playing the role in real life that Demian longed for…and feared.

“Did you sleep with her?” she asked.

“No, she isn’t my type.” He looked at Narcisse with a sly grin on his face. “I think you like Peter.”

She stared at him intently, wondering what his game was. “Well…Aquarians always have an affinity with one another…are you projecting again?”

He abruptly detached his energy, removing the projection (how draining they can be!) through an instantaneous act of self‑ regeneration.

“He is good for her and she doesn’t know it,” Narcisse said.

“People don’t know what is good for them.   He looked at her.   I know you are good for me.”

They smiled at one another for an instant. She broke the bond as she turned to the window. “That girl is incredibly seductive. It is really serious what is going on between the two of them. On a psychic level, I mean. How old did she say she was?”

“She doesn’t say. Actresses never say how old they are.”

“She said she was a Libra….She must have a few planets in Scorpio.”

He turned to her with a wide grin. “My, what a system you have.” He seemed nearly in awe.

“You want to buy into it?”

His nervous laughter cut through her. She knew he coveted–and feared her knowledge of Gnosis. But the cost of obtaining it was simply too much to handle.

By the time they reached the comfort zone of the neighbor­hood, Demian appeared to be quite taken with Peter Pan’s obses­sion. She claimed that he envied Peter. “You wish you could feel something so powerful for a woman.”

He tossed his head back and laughed while dipping into the ocean of denial. The car came to a halt and she gazed at his profile illuminated under a street lamp. He was really so

stunn­ing with his thick black hair and swarthy features and sensual lips. He was even more beautiful for being so cursed by his fate. The fate of a libertine.

Demian treated everyone to thick slabs of New York cheesecake and cappuccino under the red and white striped umbrellas at Prizzi’s. He devoured his piece and started on the one untouched by Nar­cisse (he mocked her battle with sugar). When he finished, he turned to her…the hungry wolf…wanting more…

The way home was blocked by fire. The wolf halted the jeep and led his companion to the flames. The sirens wailed and her consciousness was flooded by a memory…the house she loved so much being destroyed by fire…a fire brought on by her father’s misadven­tures in alchemy.

The flames were raging, inside and out. Narcisse remained centered only through a supreme act of will. She was predisposed to the fire at birth by a mysterious opening at the base of her spine but was gifted with the discipline to contain it. Character, she knew, was destiny and destiny was written in the stars.

An eternity seemed to pass before the fire died, leaving them free to continue on their journey. The waiting was another sign: the wolf was to be purged in the fire until all blockages are removed. Then, at long last, the transformation would take place.

21.

The alchemist must

stand their ground in the face of the fire.

The wolf needs someone to block its path of

destruction. If the alchemist is weak, the wolf

will run him right over.

–Von Franz

He made up for the bad behavior by taking her out to eat. On three consecutive dates he took her to the same Thai restaurant in Hollywood. Narcisse wondered if the restaurant, with its very hip black and chrome interior, and herself were the only anchors in this actor’s life.

The truth was…he intentionally avoided the hot spots. No longer did he want to leave himself open to the scorn of some woman he wronged. There were certainly enough of them in his past. Besides, Narcisse had to worry about her own reputation, despite the claims of the wolf that a notorious reputation in Hollywood was better than having no reputation at all.

He was restless inside the restaurant, eyes darting around as he moved from one table to another, trying to decide where to sit. They sat on opposite sides of a table in the center of the room. A pretty Thai woman with silky black hair brought menus.

“I talked about mirrors today in therapy.” he said.

“Therapy…in my building! I feel like I couldn’t get away from you even if I wanted!       “Listen,” he said, getting up. “If you want me out of your life just say so.”

He got up. She grabbed his shirt and pulled him down. “Let’s decide what we are having…”

They picked up their menus.

“You see…I never had any mirrors,” he was saying. “My mother didn’t give me an opportunity to see my reflection.”

He flinched. Narcisse followed his gaze to a blonde starlet type who just entered the restaurant. Her instincts told her it was another one of his whores. He motioned to the waitress. “Can we sit somewhere else?”

The waitress took their menus and led them to the side room where she presented an empty table beside a mirrored wall.

Demian made a horrified face at his reflection.   “I can’t stay here.”

Narcisse laughed. “You asked for mirrors!”

He nervously turned to the main room and stopped, remember­ing the woman. Narcisse waited, smiling in amusement. Would choose a projection of himself in a woman or a reflec­tion of himself in the mirror? He did a little energy dance before deciding to remain in front of the mirror.

“Vampires can’t see their reflection in mirrors, she said.   Only in their victims.” As they sat, she stole a glimpse of their reflection and thought about what a fabulous image they made…two vampires out for dinner. As he picked up his menu, she mumbled: “Order extra garlic.”

He laughed and the waitress appeared. Narcisse suggested Thai chicken and he ordered enough for two with broccoli and rice and coconut soup. He flirted with the waitress and changed the soup order to Thai salad. He flirted some more and changed his mind again.

It was hopeless to try to pinpoint the elusive Mercury.

The waitress disappeared and he started talking about sex. He had a huge grin on his face and she knew the perverse enjoy­ment he got out of filling her in on his sexual adventures. The talk itself didn’t faze her; yet the darkening of his aura was truly frightening. It is true, she thought, what the yogis said about the necessity of thinking pure thoughts to maintain a healthy aura. His vivid description of a sexual liaison was intended to gross her out before dinner. “This woman was a real fox. A nut when it came to sex. I made her a spaghetti dinner and she pulled me onto the table and we had sex in the tomato sauce which looked like blood but I knew this one was no virgin…”

Narcisse cut in. “Demian…you only tell me these stories to make me angry so we can fight and you will have a reason to walk away from this relationship.”

He gave her a smile she knew so well. Seduction and innocence masking his denial. “I wouldn’t do that!”

She remained firm. “You would too.”

“Would not!” he retorted, like a child confronting a bully on the playground.

He sneered at her. She became his reflection and sneered back. For a brief moment, the swords were drawn but Narcisse quickly pulled hers back. “I don’t want to fight with you, Demian,” she murmured as she tenderly placed her hand over his. “Truce?” she said and he smiled. All was forgiven.

The waitress appeared with their order and they began to eat.

“You know something I’ve found…” he said, in a pause between bites. “People who gross out over sex talk are good in bed.”

She savored the taste of the soup. “Yeah, and people who like to talk about sex all the time are lousy lovers.”

“Did you ever live with a man?” he abruptly asked.

“I lived with a lot of men. I lived in a fraternity house.”

“Really? No wonder we get along so well. I have something with you that I never had with a woman. We are comrades.”

She snuck a peek in the mirror at their images, basking in their reflections and she wondered if it was possible for the two of them to have an equal partnership. What sort of partnership when they were so busy mirroring a fear of commitment? And if the mirror shattered? How naked they would be!

For the Experiment to come this far, she had to hold up a mirror. But she was tired of holding up mirrors!

“You are a true bohemian, Narcisse.

Looking to the mirror again, at her image, Narcisse wondered if he said that because she was wearing a Peter Max shirt over her leather miniskirt or if he was slyly delivering another message…one that reads: you are not my type!

She got her answer as she watched him eye a buxom blonde entering the room in a tight red dress with a large bow under the bodice. “That is the kind of woman I go for,” he breathed, over an evil chuckle.

She wrinkled her nose. “All wrapped up for Christm­as.”

So many women. All the same. Narcisse was beginning to understand how he could be with so many women and retain such childlike innocence about relationships: he never stayed in a relationship long enough to get hurt…or long enough to grow. He sampled women like the yuppies sampled exotic foods. Grazed bit here…a bit there…and committed to nothing.

As he dipped a piece of chicken into the sauce he told her about his process of building his self‑confidence. “I’m not so nervous at auditions anymore. I feel like I can watching myself. Even when I make love I am watching myself. Do you do that?”

“I am always watching myself. I wish I could stop watching myself. My mind…it won’t stop.”

He laughed. “You need a boyfriend.”

She shook her head. “I never had one.”

When the check came, they agreed to split it and they exited the restaurant as equals. Comrades. Yet, he became feisty again as they arrived at the street crossing. “If I wanted to sleep with you, I could. Easy,”

Narcisse met the challenge, feet spread, hands on hips. “You really think so?”

The wolf nervously backed away.

In the parking lot, he unlocked the door on the driver’s side and promptly got in, started the car, and abruptly pulled away. The intention was to make her feel abandoned.

“Demian! That isn’t funny.”

He stopped the car. “It was your dream,” he said, opening the passenger door.

“A nightmare.”

She shivered at the thought of her vulnerability as she climbed in. He asked if she was cold. She shook her head, feeling it was far better to suffer in the cold than risk death in his embrace.

22.

Only that is gold which has been cleansed of all dross,

which through fire has been brought back to its native state,

to lead, which has gone through pure antimony, that is to say, has

been brought to efflorescence in antimony and has been properly

prepared and transformed. And just as this procedure amounts

to a testing of gold, so it may serve as a parable for the testing

of the resurrected body. For this body too will have to cast off

all dross of earthly life, and then it will have to go through

an even more difficult test by fire; it will have to go through

a melting, a preparation and elaboration comparable to the

stage of pure antimony, it will have to suffer a

transformation that will make it quite clear and pure.

This does not mean that the impure becomes pure,

and that the putrified and murky part becomes clean.

–Pro Albertus

In Zen Buddhist meditation, the master teaches his disciples how to keep the inner mirror free of dust. Narcisse wiped her mirror clean everyday, a little ritual reminder to steer clear of projections.

One night, during a torrid, bodice ripping heat wave, Narcisse complained about the temperature in her studio, which heightened her fever like an alchemical furnace. “Demian,” she moaned, “my apartment is so hot. Can I stay with you tonight?”

He stammered and drove in circles…and at the corner of Sunset and Vermont he spoke. “OK,” he finally said. “I’ll sleep on the floor.”

I was just joking, she said, watching the wave of relief cross his face. She asked him to take her home.

“Come to the store with me first, he said, turning down Sunset to the supermarket.

They entered the Grade A together. He grabbed a cart and, like a diligent wife, she accompanied him down the aisles. “My soap went into the toilet,” he said, as he put bars of soap in the basket. “What do you think that means?”

“Your life is going into the toilet.”

He stopped at the magazine counter to show her a photo of a friend in a movie magazine. “What do you think, Narcisse? Should I get my teeth fixed?”

He opened his mouth. Expecting to see fangs, she exited the store. He met her at the jeep and she teased him, pressing the question about spending the night together. He paused a moment and did his little dance, ending with a wistful glance: “Would­n’t that be wonderful?”

Before her building, he kissed her hand as she prepared to leave him. “I’ll never wash it again,” she murmured while gently holding her palm against her cheek. As he pulled away, she gave him a wave and a smile.

She dreamt she saw a demon in her mirror and got up in the night to wipe the glass clean.

23.

Periods when one become reasonable

even during a passionate possession…

those moments are the beginning of the

formulation of the inner rock…

the small piece of ground on which

one is standing becomes stronger and stronger.

–Von Franz

The wolf gave Narcisse a tour of his apartment. It was extremely clean, smelling like Lysol and incense. A mirror above the fireplace…And then the bed, his infamous bed. It filled the entire bedroom. He lifted a box of cassette tapes from the dresser. “Look at what I just bought.”

She moved closer to see the label. ENHANCE YOUR PERSONAL POWER IN SIX EASY LESSONS. It made her laugh. “You think listening to tapes is going to put you in touch with your power? You are an artist. Transform through your art.”

He motioned her to his computer, turned it on and entered three separate files to read parts of screenplays he was writing about his life.

“You know…” he said. “I think if I finish a script I could finish a book…”

“It takes commitment,” she said. “You don’t like commit­ment.”

He nodded. “The problem is…unless I read a book I won’t know how to write a complete story…”

His life was full of little existential dilemmas, peaks and valleys leading to a place of no exit. For example, he put her down for being cold and insisted he liked cold women. Or he declared his dedication to psychic development while engaging in indiscriminate sex. His soul was engaged in a constant tension between the opposites and he continually attempted to draw her into the battle. But she had located a tiny plot of ground and insisted on standing.

Nights together were frequently going round in circles in his hearse. He could never decide where he wanted to be. She just went along for the ride. Astrology gave important clues, but an alchemist could never know for certain when an experiment would take.

One night, for example, they drove straight into gang territory. Shots could be heard outside the open windows. He asked her how to get to Chinatown and she guided him deeper into the bowels of the city, near the train tracks, through streets of decaying warehouses. He made a turn down a dark street, leading nowhere and turned to glower at his companion.

Such was the dangerous game they played. How close to the edge could they go without falling into destruction? Instinc­tively they both knew that stepping over the edge could bring health…or madness.

24.

The chief skill of the alchemist was

in learning to contain the energy

in the alembic. In permitting

the energy to escape, came the

potential for disaster.

–Von Franz

She knew what he needed: to experience the dark night of the soul. Yet, it was his pattern to have women lead him into the darkness‑‑through sex. He sought women as his mirrors so he wouldn t have to grow. And in Hollywood there is no lack of women who will be martyrs to his mission to prove what whores all women are in the end.

In her computer, she wrote:

The journey to self‑realization is

treacherous. Few people go through with it. The opus that emerges from the alchemical transformation is freedom.

Freedom from obsession.

Freedom from compulsion. Freedom from the past.

Freedom from fear of the future.

Freedom to love freely.

Sophia, the goddess of alchemy, was accumulating knowledge. The more the wolf confided, the more she had discovered t knowledge was accumulating, the more, Narcisse kept knowledge to herself, the more he began to confide in her. “I use people,” he said dryly.      What do you get out of it?

There was no response.

25.

If it not were for the cleansing

and purging of the alchemist over

a great length of time,

like the subjects he is working with,

how could it be kept from the

profane and unworthy? Personal

greed has no place in alchemy.

Only that which has stood the

test of fire has been purified.

              

Whenever a man gave her problems about money, Narcisse knew the root of the problem was sexual. She had been living on the edge most of her adult life and became accustomed to going without.

Her men never got over it.

She accompanied the wolf to Chinatown, inside one restaurant after another until he made a decision. She was broke, and rather than having him pay, she decided not to eat. He ordered her a large jar of Saki and chicken teriyaki for himself. She asked if he intended to get her drunk.   He snickered and scowled. “You should be making more money!”

She knew his intention was to tear the firm ground she was now standing on from under her feet. And from all external perspectives, why shouldn’t she feel insecure? Here she was without career, lover or friend. And only a wolf for company.

He turned his attention to the oriental couples at the next table. “See the girl,” he said in a low voice. “She doesn’t want to be here.”

The waitress appeared with the order. He took occasional sips of Saki from her cup as he ate. Little intimate acts seemed intended to deflect the tension between them but she knew the whole of the matter was about sex. She picked up a piece of chicken from his plate and dangled it over her mouth before swallowing.

He glowered. “Look at her suck down that chicken.”

“Everything has to be sexual with you, doesn’t it?”

He finished eating and pushed his plate to the center of the table and removed a baseball cap from his pocket. A prop. He placed it on his head and began talking like a street kid. She grabbed the hat and he pierced her with a fierce gaze and spoke through clenched teeth: “GIVE IT BACK!”

She tossed the hat on the table. He put it on and the streetwise kid returned. “Take it off,” she said firmly.

Too shamed to meet her gaze, he removed the hat from his head. She smiled in satisfaction. Winning these little battles was important: she reminded him how his personality changed when he put on his “props”.

He carefully placed the hat on the table between them. There it remained, a poignant symbol of the roles he engaged in to escape from intimacy they both secretly craved. He growled as he paid the check. She offered money for her Saki but he threw it back at her. As she followed him out of the restaurant, she became aware she was walking with her hands folded across her chest.

All would be lost if she shut down her heart.

He walked quickly ahead and entered a shop and exited with a pack of cigarettes, shooting her a hostile glance as he placed one in his mouth. “Keep your mouth shut!

She followed him to the jeep. On the way back to his apartment, she attempted to subdue the wolf, while struggling to control her rage. From her place of firm ground, she knew it was a war of arche­types they were waging. He was the father who abandoned her, the lover who wounded her, the boy who disrupted her life with his mischievous games. The alchemist was aware, however, that there was no getting to the Philosopher s Stone unless she made peace with them all.

Once Narcisse fully regained her composure, she said: I know it mystifies you that we are so intimate without being physical. But, I want you to know that I won’t sleep with you until you trust me. If you can’t trust me, it won’t happen.”

He remained silent as the tension built between them. She opened her mouth to speak and he put up his hand. “Don’t say anything you will regret.”

This show of wisdom pleased her. She felt he was acknowled­ging what they had created together. Harsh words would be devastating. She told him that if he wanted to work through his patterns with women, she would help.

He flashed her a look of astonishment. “Why…?”

“I have my own stuff to work through.”

He parked in the street in front of his building and invited her in for the confrontation. “Just for a few minutes,” he said, in a voice filled with apprehension.

She made the effort but was immobilized on the front steps of his porch. His front door seemed to symbolize the impene­trable barrier, the wall of defenses, which stood between them. She took a seat outside as he unlocked the door.

“I want to read you something,” he said as he entered. He returned with a composition book. “What’s that?” she asked.

He told her it was a novel he started to write and never finished.

He took a seat and read her passages in a stage voice which succeeded in drawing her in. That the content was all about sex was no surprise to her. The narrator describing, in lurid detail, the perpetual hard on which directing the course of his life. In Church, the park, the street and the movie theater, the penis points the way. Attending to the hard on is the only constant…and it kept getting in the way. A need for roots and family was met living in a flat above a mom and pop store in an ethnic neighborhood. Otherwise, life is a quest to satisfy the cock.

His voice trailed off as he slowly closed the notebook. Narcisse was silent, containing the urge to break down the barrier symbolized by the door.

“That is it,” she told him. “Your entire complex is in that passage you read me. It is a human dilemma, you see. How can one find the ecstacy of the archetypal love experience in a day to day relationship?”

His sad nod was a reflection of her inner melancholy. “What happened?” she asked. “Why didn’t you finish it?”

He shrugged. “I got a part in a television show.”

She groaned. The same old problem. Not being able to complete anything. Not a relationship. Not a book. Not a script. Stuck in the same old pattern with too many avenues of escape.   “Perhaps…, she suggested, taking the story to its conclusion will transform you. You can call it ‘Confessions of a Womanizer­.”

The archetype in control, the suffering artist, she knew well. He romanticized poverty. His compulsions emphasized the myth at the expense of his personal happiness.

“I understand now. You squander your resources because you romanticize poverty. You sabotage your career for sex. You glorify Henry Miller…but the revolution is over. The

rebellion…it’s over. It’s boring.”

He entered inside and turned on the television. She heard him flicking the channels as she pondered the fate of bring trapped in a myth that no longer served. Wasn’t it time to discover new archetypes?

He called out to her. “Come on in.   The Deerhunter is on.”

She went to the door and, cautiously, entered to sit in the empty armchair. “I never saw The Deerhunter ,” she mumbled. Viewing the screen, she was sickened by the image of the dead deer and wanted to leave. He sensed her disgust and flicked off the television, sending them both into darkness. Despite the wall of silence between them, the unspoken was all too clear. The silent call of the vampire penetrated the night.

They were stunned into immobility by a mutual fascination …and fear. He knew by instinct what she knew with her mind…­the inevitable destruction which comes when the vampire turns into the Demon Lover.

She sat still and waited while silently recounting the rules. The one about not giving up her power came to mind as she rose and turned to the open door. She stepped back on the porch and turned to face the screen door, barricade separating the one who wanted to feed from the one who wanted to be fed. She couldn’t leave. Her feelings moved from

attraction to fascination to compulsion to revulsion to disgust, yet something compelled her…the mystery kept drawing her forward, into the unknown.

“I’m not about to approach you,” she told him in a quivering voice.

“You don’t know what you’re missing.”

She felt him stirring in the dark and a sudden chill seized her body while a darkness gripped her heart. The only thought was the prophecy of the I Ching. OPPRESSION.

She turned and walked away. Without looking back.

solutio

1.

Solutio was the phase of the opus where

the prima materia is put into the alembic

and dissolved in water. The prima materia

then breaks down and disintegrates. It

loses its defined shape and properties

and becomes fluid. Psychologically,

the solutio is where the boundaries of

the ego break down. It is the experience

of surrender…

–Von Franz

He talked about death all the time. When she was with him, at times she felt she was drowning. On the beach, she walked in the surf and imagined how it felt to surrender to the current, carrying her to a destination unknown….

Physical contact with the vast sea rendered her immobile. The sensation of having the tide rip the sand from under her feet was too much to bear. She returned to the solid safety of the boardwalk with the belief that she could never surrender. Narcisse couldn’t belong to just one man…not even a man who identified with all the gods.

Remembering the Experiment, the alchemist alerted to signals that a new stage had begun. She stopped at a booth where a man was selling jewelry and peered through a case of silver earrings for sale. Death stared at her in the form of the Grim Reaper‑‑a hooded figure with a sickle. She handed over the money and placed it in her ear.

The symbol was a reminder: the soul must die before it can be reborn.

2.

“If you want me, you’ll just have to take me.”

This was the pronouncement as he lay spread eagled on her floor after surprising her with a late night visit.

The act stunned Narcisse. She was frozen, immobile. Unable to make a move.

He quickly recovered and jumped up, inviting her to Victor’s, a new deli in a nearby mini‑mall, to satisfy his late night craving for a baked potato. On the way, she picked up an empty box from the dashboard.

“What’s this for?” she asked.

“Condoms,” he said with a grin.

She stared at him, defiant.

He laughed. “It’s for a deodorizer. I don’t use condoms.”

“No,” she replied. “Scorpios usually don’t.”

“You know that from experience?”

“No, one of my books.”

“Got to get your head out of those books and experience life.

“Aren’t you afraid of disease?”

He shook his head.

“I saw a chart like yours the other day. The guy had AIDS.”

The delight in his grimace incited her to strike again. “I think you must have herpes.”

The Grim Reaper was throbbing in her ear. By making light of his sexual behavior, she dispelled her fear. A message of Death and surrender she must.

Inside the immaculate and nearly empty deli, they sat on opposite sides of a booth. The tension caused her body to ache. She lay down her head on the wooden table and moaned. “I feel I must surrender to you.”

Aware of his respect for symbols, she revealed her Grim Reaper. He laughed.   Hey, I’m going out with a girl who wears an earring of the Grim Reaper.”

“I feel like I am dying,” she moaned, unable to separate the solutio from her belief that having sex with him could actually mean death.

He asked about her past. She wasn’t accustomed to revealing herself to lovers so she told him little. She did mention that her father was an alchemist who blew up two of their homes with his experiments.

He wanted to know what kind of neighborhood she grew up in and if her family had any money. “No,” she replied. “There was never any money.” He attempted to probe further and the wall came down. “You ask too many questions!”

His look was impassioned. “You want to not talk?”

She removed her journal from her handbag and wrote instead:

A novel idea, she thought. If we can’t talk we can’t mind fuck and if we can’t mind fuck what do we have? Nothing. Nothing but our fears and illusions.

He was uncomfortable with silence. As she wrote, she could feel him becoming restless (he rarely could sit still in her presence) and moved to the edge of her side of the booth with his back to her bare arm, tempting her to touch him. She didn’t dare make a move in his direction, but the electricity between them was intoxicating…she felt an urge to merge…as his hairs bristled against her skin. And she knew why they didn’t dare touch skins.

After dropping her at home, he called out: “Don’t lose touch.”

Just once. I want to make love

to him just once. Then, we can

go our separate ways.

 

 

The memories of her father’s sexual weaknesses flooded her mind and she knew she couldn’t go through with it. She couldn’t end up having the wolf destroy her, the way it destroyed her father. She use her father s knowledge to triumph over the wolf, thereby changing her karma, elevating her fate into destiny.

3.

Due to the fact of the solutio, Narcisse had no choice but to become passive in the relation­ship. He contacted her through late night phone calls.

“You can’t just sit back and expect things to happen!” he cried out over the phone, afte failing to rouse her . “A relationship takes work!”

Work? She wrote her response in her computer:

What does the wolf know about the work? It takes work to be feminine after acting out of my male side for most of my life. It takes an amazing amount of effort to be receptive and restrain the impulse to surrender or flee. The persistence it takes for me to stay centered as the wolf erodes the very ground I am standing on!

 

“We are going to have to do it,” he said.

“Do what?” she asked, biting her lip to keep it from trem­bling.

“Sleep together.”

She groaned. “What if it is no good?”

“Then we have to call it quits.”

“And I won’t see you anymore…?”

“…Oh,” he responded in a deceptively casual voice. “Once in a while…we can get together to talk about old times…”

Silence.

“What’s wrong?” he asked.

“Nothing. .

“Wow! You don’t reveal yourself to anyone!”

She hung up the phone and wept.

4.

Thus, through the mediation of the soul,

the spirit is reconciled with the body,

and the two are united in the blackness;

this occurs after at most, fifty days…

–Paracelsus

A woman from Narcisse’s past entered her life. Dominique, an exquisite French artist with hazel eyes and sunken cheekbones and style to burn which she displayed in a showcase house in the canyon. Narcisse was invited to her party. She decided to take Demian.

He arrived at her apartment wearing black, from his headband to his shoes. “Did someone die?” she asked.

He grinned. “I’m in mourning because I thought we were going to have a love affair and now I realize we aren’t.”

“You want to wear my Grim Reaper earring?”

He attempted to engage her with a seductive smile but his energy was too coarse to elicit a response from her. Anyway, she had become quite familiar with his manipulations.    What if I Iet you run over me like you do with everyone else…what would you have gotten out of it?”

He shrugged. “A blow job.”

At that moment, she performed an unconscious act, an in­nocent act which completely changed the balance of power between them. She removed her man’s shirt and revealed a splendidly shaped body in a tight cotton dress. It was turquoise dress and she bought it after the salesclerks exclaimed about how fabulous she looked in it. Never before had she worn anything which revealed her figure so splendidly.

His mouth dropped open. “You are going out dressed like that?”

“Of course,” she replied, guiding him to the door.

There was a message in his nervous grin that she was dealing him an unfair hand in showing off her curves but she refused to feel sorry for him. She was getting tired of protected the scared little boy. Let the man in him reap what he has wrought.

They brought Peter along, who was revealing his wound for all to see. Having twisted an ankle from playing basketball, he was walking with a limp.

The modern house was sparsely decorated but extremely stylish in its purpose, which was to showcase the art of Domini­que’s boyfriend, Marcelo. He was Latin, very handsome in his pony tail. It was a very avant garde crowd from the film and art worlds, girls in sixties bell bottoms and platform shoes with teased hair were as splendid as showpieces as the art, some consisted of flying penises searching for containers, and triangles and arrows, symbol of the male and female sex organs.

Narcisse’s companions were not in the mood to socialize. Demian was rather preoccupied in covering up his erection. Peter looked haunted and took off to search for a telephone. Narcisse got some chicken and salad from the barbecue and took a plate to Demian who sat, jacket over his lap, on the deck overlook­ing the canyon. Narcisse relished the feel of Demian’s hawk gaze while she chatted up an attractive male acquaintance on the way to the bar. She knew it was all a test. It was the first social gathering they attended together and she wanted to observe his behavior. How difficult it was to perform an Experiment when one is an essential component! Dominique came over and Narcisse introduced her to Demian. He stayed true to form and attempted to suck her in, but she was wary and asked his sign. When he told her, she replied: “Gemini and Scorpio men don’t like women. “They are game players­.

Demian surprised them both with the sincerity of his re­sponse: “I would like nothing more than to have a relationship.”

Such a simple remark, yet it won the loyalty of Narcisse for the day. For the Brazilian band was just arriving when Peter returned from the teleph­one, declar­ing his desire to leave and she agreed to accom­pany her companions back to Hollywood, much to the dismay of her hostess. She followed down the driveway as Peter hobbled to the car while leaning on Demian’s shoulder. Demian drove to Jenny’s apartment in Hollywood. She had just moved in and there were boxes every- where. Demian walked into the bedroom and said: “This is Hitchcock’s best film.” Narcisse followed. She sprawl­ed on the mattress and he said behind her. She enjoyed feeling him so close but the tension was too much for him. He abruptly rose and nodded to the front door: “Let’s leave these two lovebirds alone together.”

Jenny and Peter were nuzzling in the living room and didn’t even notice their friends leave. The wolf drove into familar territory. When the jeep arrived in Los Feliz, it roamed in circles. The driver didn’t want to let his passenger go but had no idea of what to do with her. Moments of empty space like this had Narcisse wishing they were having a love affair. How lovely it would be to go to his apartment and curl up on his bed to watch a video!

“Come to the video store with me,” he said, reading her mind.

She agreed to accompany him to the arsty video store in his neighborhood, but was wary of the tease, knowing he would seduce her into helping him pick out films to rent but wouldn’t invite her in to watch. And how could she protest? She was the one who drew the boundaries!

As it happened, she didn’t help him pick out videos but she indulged in a fantasy as she plunged into the comfortable cus­hions on the couch in the center of the store and scribbled a fantasy into her journal:

We stumble through the door of his house with the videos. No, we don’t have them. We forgot them in the car because we made love in the driveway…

He paid the cashier and guided her out of the store…to his car and drove in the direction of her apartment. He straightened his back against the seat and she rubbed her hand against his spine. “Do you give good massages?” he asked.

She was silent but he didn’t really expect an answer. They could read one another’s mind:

 

The intimacy we desire is impos­sible. For us to have sex…

                     Unthinkable!

Narcisse didn t respond, for she was thinking about how deceptive the physical act of sex can be. Because there wasn’t anything physical between them, they were both inclined to think their relationship had little importance. Yet, the irony of their predicament was not lost on her: when a man habitually takes a stranger to bed but refuses to give a kiss to a friend, what meaning lies in the physical act?

He pulled into an empty space before her apartment building. She opened the door and was about to get out when she heard him expressing an interest to enter. “Just for a minute,” he warned as he opened the door.

On the way up the stairs to her studio, he rambled on about Peter’s obsession. “I’m writing a play about it…performing it at the Actor’s Studio.”

She opened the door. “What is this fascination you have with obsession? I spent four years writing about an obsession. I looked at it from every angle. Worked it through. It isn’t

going to happen again!”

Silence. He sat on the couch on one side of the apartment, under the image of the hermaphrodite. Narcisse sat on the rolled up futon on the other. All that existed between them at that moment was tension.

When he spoke at last, there was respect in his voice. “You are an artist, Narcisse.”

She considered it the ultimate compliment from one who works in the arts. Yet, she felt he was saying much more. He was reminding her there wasn’t any true bond being established…they were simply two artist using each other…two vampires sucking blood…

testing the boundaries…always testing…to see how far they can go. As much as they were fascinated by a love without limits…they depended on their excellent survival instincts to draw the line.

He sneered, moving rapidly from a place of respect to disdain. “You live like a hermit. What do you at night in this hovel?”

She collapsed on the rolled up futon. “Whatever I want. I am free.”

“You remind me so much of myself,” he said in a soft voice.

“We are pure.”

He mugged in her mirror. Bared his teeth at his reflection, then got up to wipe it off. She thanked him. He asked if he could use her phone and she handed it to him. He called his machine. She could faintly hear the woman’s voices from her position on the rolled up futon. He frowned as he listened. “So many people want to have relationships with me.”

Her shrug was deceptively casual. “People always want what one can’t have.”     The next voice was furious. He hung up and flung himself back on the couch. “The Scorpio I was dating. Said she never wants to see me again.” He made a face. “She didn’t get what she wanted and it made her angry.”

“Just a projection of yourself. All your women are.” She leaned against the doorway with a sigh while gazing down at him. “You naughty boy. What can I do with you? Years…I spent getting into my body and you reduce me to…psychic inter­course.”

She knew a physical relation between them would ruin everything. The Great Work would be no more once they had sex. Why? Because sex to him was conquest. And if she succumbed, the power stored in her womb would be lost. The wolf would take everything.

He lifted his head. “On thing you must know about me… I am motivated by fear.”

Her smile was triumphant. “Truth at last!”

He was mugging in the mirror again. “You make fun of my mirror! What about this mirror?”

“It came with the apartment!”

He looked at the devil above the looking glass. “You have to face the devil.”

She intensified her stare into his reflection and cried: “Oh, but I am!

His focus moved to a wooden skeleton holding a guitar. “That is you, Narcisse.”

She could feel his steely gaze on her as she got up to untangle the strings. She moved very carefully, with delibera­tion in every movement, careful not to disturb the precarious balance of energy in the room. The threads were too tangled; the skeleton refused to dance. She wondered if this was a symbol, a warning that her dance with the wolf had ended.

All that could come next was death. Surrender.

Yet, the very idea of surrender confused her. To whom shall she surrender? If she surrendered to Demian, would she be also surrendering to herself? Wasn t he a reflection of the deepest part of her? So many questions and she was impatient for answers!

“Do you have any food?” he asked.

Relieved for an excuse to be out of his line of vision, she entered the kitchen and found him a stale roll. She handed it to him and he tossed it on the floor in profound disgust. “You call that food?”

“Why didn’t you eat at the party?”

He didn’t respond. The expression on his face was impas­sive. She was through with the dance but at that moment she felt he would leave if she didn t keep tapping her feet to the same old beat. She knelt before her altar a moment and waited for the unconscious to lead her. It did.

“Get on the floor,” she said as she took her crystal pendulum from its satin box.   I want to check your chakras.”

He complied. She removed her crystal pendulum from its glass case and held it over his body. Moving from the top chakra down. “Your crown is closed. And your third eye. And your heart. Your throat is open.”

She moved the pendulum to the first chakra, the sex center, and watched it spin. Her hand trembled from the force of the energy and she dropped it on his forehead. “Clumsy girl,” he mumbled while sitting up.

She opened the tiny gold treasure chest her father had given her and the magical pendant of alchemical mercury from inside. She lifted the satin ribbon and placed it around Demian’s neck. “Wear this during meditation. It opens up the heart.”

He entered a yoga position and got up to pace the apartment. “Do you have any orange juice?” he asked.

She shook her head and he threw her a dollar. “Go to the store and buy some.”

A blank stare was her only response. He got up and suggested they walk to the Seven-Eleven down the street. They went for their stroll and returned to her building with the orange juice. In the parking lot she could feel him moving closely behind her…an animal stalking its prey. She swung around to confront him and said: “What a dangerous game you are playing.”

He got a pained look on his face. Begging for compassion. “I can’t sleep with you, Narcisse. I am into strange sex. I do want to…”

“I know,” she replied, placing the orange juice in his hand and turning to the steps.

As she slipped her key into the lock, she heard his voice: “Don’t lose touch!”

Sleep had nearly taken over when the ringing of the phone shat­tered the silence. She picked up the receiver to the sound of his voice, telling her what a good friend her believed her to be. She felt her heartbeat and believed it was his. Could the magic be working so soon?

“I know,” she replied.

“You looked nice today.”

“Thanks.”

His voice got tiny. “I can’t make love to you.”

“I know. You already told me.”

“Yes, but I want to tell you the real reason.”

She waited.

“It would make me too vulnerable. I have been the aggres­sor.”

“It is natural to feel that way,” she assured him.

Silence. She wasn’t ready to recognize the most awful truth. That she was just as vulnerable as he believed himself to be.

“Tell me what you want…” he murmured.

“I want to have a relationship.”

“I want a relationship too.” He paused. “I think”.

Silence. They could hear one another’s breathing.

“It is this myth I am living,” he said. “The myth of the suffering poet.”

“Demian,” she said softly. “Your myth has been lived.”

“Well,” he said. “One thing is for certain. This isn’t going to be resolved in one night.

Very sensible of you.   She could feel the firm ground he was standing. Hers got larger.

I’m looking forward to breakfast tomorrow.”

The warmth of his voice was endearing. “Goodnight dear, she said.

Before falling back asleep, she picked a tarot card. Six of Wands. The triumphant return of the hero from battle. She had surrendered to the solutio and was ready for the next stage: the Philosopher s Stone awaited.

coagulatio

1.

FIXATION OF MERCURY

Take of fixed arsenic, two parts

of Sal Ammonicac, two parts

of Fixed Sulphur, one part

Melt them together. Then take one marc of Mercury.

Warm it. Next, put it into the melted matter therein.

Wait an hour. Then, refine it in Saturn on the test. You

lose nothing, and you will have more than two part of the Sun.

You may then also take the Mercury which is coagulated with the

smoke of Saturn.

–Paracelsus

They discussed writing a script together over scones and coffee at La Conversacion, a cozy French cafe on Hillhurst Avenue. As Demian was in search of a star vehicle, there was no problem coming to an agreement on the theme: the actor who lost himself in archetypes and can t commit to relationship. They even agreed to open the story in a therapist’s office. The argument developed over the details of the characterization. Narcisse wanted to put the character on a trust fund and Demian insisted he be self-supporting through his art.

It isn t realistic. How many actors who truly practice their craft can live off their acting?

ME! he cried.   The year I was in the series I made two hundred thousand dollars!”

This news surprised her. “What did you do with it?”

He shrugged. “I spent it. I was always buying everyone champagne…Yeah, get that down.” He shoved an index finger onto her pad of paper. She was already inspired by the challenge of getting his soul on paper.

“Demian, she said.   We need to fictionalize a bit. We want to show that this character isn’t growing because he has a comfort zone of money.”

“Not a trust fund. I’ve known people on trust funds. They are jerks.” He leaned closer to her. “If we are going to write together, there is something we have to discuss.”

She read suspicion in his eyes and knew what was coming. He jammed his forefinger on the table and spat out the rest: “First, if we are having a collaboration but we are using my story, the credits are going to have to reflect that. And second, I want to know if you are using this collaboration as an excuse to get close to me.”

“But that would be manipulative,” she innocently replied. “Aquarians aren’t manipulative. Scorpios are manipulative.”

“I have to go play basketball,” he loudly announced as he grabbed the yellow pad from the table. “You write the treatment. I’ll write the first scene.”

She watched him saunter away and an inspiration sent her home to the computer and she wrote a ten page treatment without even taking a break. It was their story, beginning with their fated meeting at the Onyx. So absorbed she became in thefantasy of making a film with the magnificent creature called Demian, she walked straight out of her job…without looking back.   I m about to sell a script, she told them and they wished her luck.

The partners met at the same cafe the following Sunday to exchange ideas. Over the phone, she had warned him that the treatment was all about their relationship. “And what happens? he asked.   Does the actor run away with the astrologer from Los Feliz?” And she told him he would have to wait to read it.

Now, she handed it to him. His face remained impassive as he read and when he finished, he tossed it aside. “I don’t know about this ending.”

“You mean the part where they do tantra in the yurt?”

He ignored her and read from his legal notepad: “Okay,” he begins, using his hands to illustrate the eye of the camera, “ON a shapely leg…CAMERA moves to the thigh, the hem of a mini-skirt…up to the…”

“Demian! You can’t start a script like that!”

He looked bewildered. “Why not?”

“It’s sexist. I mean, it’s one thing to have a character be sexist but to open a script like that…it says something about the writer…I won’t put my name on it.”

She looked down at the pad where he was fiercely doodling. She decifered the image: a heart covered by jagged scribbles of blacker than black ink. The symbol was all too clear.   His heart was blocked. In her current state of extreme financial insecurity, Narcisse lacked the courage to confront his demons. This moment of awareness alerted her that she must simply get up and walk away.

And so she did.

* * *

He called during the week of her profound despair to tell her he was considering moving back to New York.

“Oh, grow up!”

“Just hold back your judgments and listen. A Scorpio friend of mine, JUST A FRIEND, wants me to come to New York and do a play with her. She can’t believe I decided to live here. All day…thinking…of going back.”

“I thought you wanted to get into film. Isn’t that why you came to L.A.?”

“No, I came to L.A. to escape from New York.”

“Demian, when are you going to stop running…?”

“She thinks I belong in New York.”

“Demian, she is manipulating you. Can’t you see that?”

He was silent.

“She wants to do the play with you!”

“I miss the stage.”

“I thought you were working on your writing! All this time you are trying to convince me that you want to focus on your writing and now you want to go back to acting!”

“I can write in New York.”

“Then go! I don’t know why you are asking me anyway.”

“I thought maybe I would get an objective response from you. Now, I can see I made a mistake.”

“Listen, don’t ask me to be co-dependent. I HATE CO-DEPENDENCY!

Just forget it, Narcisse. Forget I even asked.”

, Narcisse. Forget I even asked.”

“Go to New York. , Narcisse. Forget I even asked.” , N, Narcisse. Forget I even asked.”

“Go to New York. Good riddance. Don’t come back.”

The wolf howled. The phone clic, Narcisse. Forget I even asked.”

“Go to New York. Good riddance. Don’t come back.”

Th, Narcisse. Forget I even asked., Narcisse. Forget I even asked.”

“Go to New York., Narcisse. Forget I even asked.”

“Go to ,, , , Na, , , Narcisse. For, Narcisse. Forget I, Narcisse., Narcisse. Forget I even asked.”

“Go to New York. Good riddance. Don’t come back.”

Thel mate whose identity was beginning to take shape in her consciousness. She wrote splendid fantasies of all the things she would have once the Demon Lover got out of her way.

She was alone now. The only reflection in the mirror was her own lovely face. Could the gold be received through her computer? Wasn’t the Philosopher’s Stone to be discovered through her art?

YES. YES. YES. She shouted the affirmation into her computer. The yes of strength yes of the higher consciousness..­.the goddess saying yes to love…to life…to surrender.

Surrender. At last she understood what it meant. She had indeed surrendered, not to the man but the process and the process was driving her to write.

She remained at her computer for three days and as many nights. Her locomotive was running at rapid speed and she couldn t bring it to a halt until the story was over.

It seemed that whenever she let go, he myster­iously reappeared in her life. She saw his jeep on the street as she carried grocery bags from her car. He stopped and poked his head out of the window, gracing her with one of his mischievous grins. “I’m meeting someone at the cafe. What are you doing later?”

She shrugged. “The wash.”

“I’ll come by and take you to dinner.”

Not expecting him, she concentrated on the wash and making soup. Later, she was actually surprised to hear his familar rap at the door. She let him in.

The wolf seemed tame. Of course, appearances were deceiving. She fed him some soup. He gulped it down and asked for more. The wolf was still hungry. This reality has not changed. When will he burn out? Only the chart can answer that question.

“What have you been up to?” he asked as he sat on the couch.

“I started a new novel.”

He raised an eyebrow and licked his lower lip. “Stealing any souls?”

“Just one.”

She stared directly into his eyes. He responded with a nervous smile.

“Have you opened your heart chakra yet?” she asked.

Another nervous smile. “That was a long time ago.”

He shed his soup and sprawled on the couch. Narcisse locked her gaze, arms folded across her chest.

“When you came over the other night…you know…I have nowhere comfortable to sit in my apartment. I saw you lying on the straw seat and I thought I really would like to make love to you. But I was at the Dresden last night and I could have made love to any of the women in there.”

“But you didn’t.”

He stared into space with that sly grin. “When I fall in love again, I want it to be like it was when I was thirteen. Her name was Caroline. She used to bring me jelly sandwiches and we would hold hands in the courtyard.”

“Demian, your idea of love is so narcissistic. Mirrors. All you want is mirrors.”

He grinned. “I’ve had so many women. You can’t even imagine how many…”

“Tell me.”

A sheepish grin. “They are all flashing through my mind now.”   The archetype disappeared and his smile turned compas­sionate. “I’m not in love with you, Narcisse,” he said. “But I do care.”

She leaned forward. “That’s more important!”

The wolf showed his licentious face again. She imagined he could lure any woman into his lair. Any woman with an open heart and an ego prepared for death. “I try to be friends with women,” he said, voice begging for compassion. “They all want to fuck.

She was inwardly repulsed by the raw, primordial creature before her. Yet, her will was growing stronger at this stage of the Experiment and she didn t even flinch. Her mission kept her focused: she had every intent to WILL this lead into gold!

Yet, here he was, trying to sicken her with his incesant talk. “There was this woman in the gym today…I lured her behind the mirrored wall…” In a moment of utter detachment, she saw how strong was his sexual will–the scorpion stalking its prey, risking its own demise in order to sting. After this view, she would no longer be hypnotized by his blanket of addiction (in her dream, the symbol for sacrificial energy took the form of a lambswool vest).

The streets of Hollywod could have been paved with the hearts of his victims and Narcisse didn t intend to be next in the line of victims. Too bad you can’t have me, she wrote across the mirror with her eyes. She detected the wicked grin in his reflection and she knew he was sharpening his sword.

“Honestly Nar­cisse, he said, as he prepared to stick it in.   I don’t even think about you when I’m not with you.”

The Queen of Swords again. She knew how cruel his inner female could be…as cruel as her inner male who wanted to throw him on the floor, fuck him and kick him out the door. Yet, the alchemist knew how essential was self‑control at times like this‑‑lest everything be destroyed.

He talked on. Narcisse turned off the sound and watched with a yawn. The deeper the slide…the darker the aura….”Your talk is boring. You think your sex life is so exciting. One trip around the zodiac followed by another but it is always the same old story.”

The wistful came next. Could a wolf actually whimper. Narcisse doubted it. It was just an act, she believed, when she heard him say: “I’m tired of having so many women. Just one will do.”

“You have to integrate yourself first.”

Even as she spoke, the kaleidoscope of images in his actor s resume appeared in succession in her mirror. The terrorist. The street tough. The lunatic. All the roles he played on film. And the bigger role he played in real life–the wild man seeking conquest or death. Could he ever see his predicament from her point of view; if he simply surrendered, the new myth would emerge. But that took the courage of the green lion and a man with a closed heart had none.

“You could write, she said at last.   Perhaps if you surrender to your muse, one day you can surrender to a woman.

The wolf lifted its head to leer at its own reflection as the man prepared his sword. “You know what I think? I think you are the kind of woman who likes to be raped.”

“Demian! Is sex the only thing you think about?”

The devil was laughing behind the mask. Narcisse covered her heart to contain her disappointment. She was too weary for combat. Maintaining her steady control, she coldly assessed his block and instantaneously let go.

This stage of the Experiment she would have to continue on her own.

4.

The work shifts in the coagulatio

stage to the concrete. It was as

if the Experi­ment was put on hold

to attend to the mundane when actually

at this stage, the mundane and earthly

matters rose to the forefront.

Things were beginning to take form.

In her dream, Narcisse was working inside a telephone company. The unconscious was giving her a definite message; she was to communicate what she had learned from her instinctual encounters with the wolf, release the wisdom which was heavy heavy in her consciousness. However, she had learned thus far that she couldn t give advice unless it was asked for and she was beginning to doubt Demian s capacity for change. Not only was he not ready to enter the temple, she wasn’t prepared to lead him there.

In the end, she was saved by a tiny ad she saw in the classified section of the weekly newspaper. AQUARIAN AGE 2000. Underneath was a phone number and a request for psychics and astrologers. She called the number and made an appointment for an interview.

The survival instinct took over. Once more, in a lifetime of running, she managed to escape from the Demon Lover. No experiment was worth falling into that archetype.

On her street was all too visible evidence of the growing numbers of souls who were losing their way under the particularly deadly celestial influences that year. Lunatics surrounded her. Toxic Jack across the hall cornered her in the Onyx and tried to drum up her enthusiasm for his plan to house the neighborhoood homeless (this after he had his television set stolen by a drunkard to whom he offered a not so safe haven!) Jack was, in fact, becoming a magnet for the homeless in the neighborhood. It seemed that every late night adventure into the city wilderness, ended with an encounter of a wolf at the door, scratching to be let in or, at least, given a bite. It was a constant reminder of the pitfalls of running with wolves…the beasts were never satisfied…they all wanted blood.

She got the job and was told she could begin as soon as she completed training. In the class she met Claude, an astrologer born just a few weeks after herself. They exchanged charts and she immediately knew this gentle soul would be a loyal friend. Together they would grow in awareness and overcome the planetary afflictions which had isolated and alienated Narcisse from ehr peers and provided mirrors as her only companions.

The energy in the place was vibrant, pulsating with electrical charge. The general run of mystics and individualists and creative artists and shamans all sitting in cubicles decorated with mystical posters, astrology charts, crystals and precious healing stones.

At last, some structure to the chaos. Narcisse felt she reached the promised land–just shy of the Philosopher s Stone.   For $3.95 a minute, she channeled her wisdom to a voice at the receiving end of a telephone wire. The strangest thing…she had no idea what to say until the words spilled out. In fact, the advice she gave was so good…she began transcribing it in her journal.

Her existence was become survival. Narcisse regretted not having the energy to obsess over the Experiment any longer. What she didn’t realize is that, given the phase she had entered, she was doing precisely what she was supposed to be doing. Her proof was the wolf s anger. He didn t like her being a professional counselor to women (and the occassional splattering of men) who run with wolves. Wolves preferred to have their women broke. And dependent. Despite his displeasure, she held the energy well. Her center was rapidly expanding due to the grounding of the coagulatio and he calmed down enough to delight her with a show of admiration.

“I’d like to be more psychic,” is what he said.

Her response was brusque, but then, he was getting her advice for free. “Stop fucking around and learn to channel your energy properly.”

The wolf howled, causing Narcisse to yawn with boredom. The pattern was one she read at least five times a day (with all the mirrors over the telephone, she wouldn t have a need for any relationships!) The stories all appeared intricate but the plot was generic: the wolf ran around in circles, squandering all resources while his mate hoarded and still wasted away from want.

Short of sounding the bugle call for revolution ( DUMP EM she cried in her fantasy as she charged into battle on her white horse), how did she advise these callers She told them: Be Strong. Stand your ground. Only with its back to the all, will the wolf be forced to change.

6.

When you truly touch bottom

that is where the solid rock begins

the coagulatio.

He woke her up one night when he called to announce he hit bottom. “I’m coming clean.”

His image appeared in her mirror. He still looked dark.

“That’s nice,” she responded.

She didn’t even have to look at the planets. Her instincts told her that he has a long way to go.

“What are you doing tonight?” he asked.

“Working.”

“What about tomorrow night?”

“I thought you had a hot week‑end lined up,” she replied.

“My plans were canceled.”

“I work all weekend,” she told him. “I’m going to be too tired to see you.”

The effort it took to diffuse him exhausted her. She needed all the energy to do the work. Forty hours in an office with psychics (why did she once believe psychics were all spiritual?) Often as many as thirty five calls a night. Each story more devastating than the last. Demian may be out of her energy field but the Demon Lover was very much a presence in her life. He raised his ugly head in her readings of women, some who didn t even have the strength to cry for help. Amazed at how many of her coworkers were struggling with wolves, Narcisse was learning that one didn t have to be spiritual to be psychic.

To all of them, she related the tale: the Demon Lover will suck you dry. If you let him in he will take everything.

7.

During the coagulat­io, it

was crucial the alchemist

remain grounded. Falling into

delusion could reverse all the

painstaking results.

Disaster hit. Narcisse was laid off…indefinitely. Management overhired and the last to come on board were the first to go. And so by an ironic twist of fate, a psychic was thrown into a similar state as her callers: resources exhausted and the Demon Lover hovering around the door. What she had previously viewed as a projection, had become a frightening reality.

Now, she thought, I have the perfect opportunity to be a helpless victim. She sat quietly in her cubicle, waiting for a sign. It appeared in the form of the Runes. The bearded psychic with the sing-song voice of an ancient Celtic held his velvet bag before her. She reached inside and withdrew a stone.

“Ah…” he sang. “The symbol of change. Now, we ask how to proceed.”

Another stone.   Aha! The symbol of the eternal feminine. The Runes are instructing you to be receptive.

Uncomprehending, Narcisse shook her head.

He smiled. “It basically means to act like a helpless female.”

She shuddered at the thought. “Oh, I can’t do that. I’ve never been able to do that.”

He shrugged. “I’m just telling you what the Runes says.”

“I wish I could. Oh, to just be a damsel in distress and expect a man to save me.”

He bestowed her with a solemn expression of ageless wisdom. “Be careful what you wish for, you might just get it.”

She told him she wanted to ask another question. He held out the bag.

“What should I do about this relationship I am in,” she whispered as she felt the stones with her fingers. She withdrew a stone marked with an arrow.

He looked at it. “Ahhh, the symbol of Movement. The Runes are warning you not to stay stuck. Yee take action and seek–only after examining the response.”

She dropped the stone back in the bag. It made sense that if Demian were to run away now, when she was most vul­nerable, she would have no choice but to let go and move on. She thanked the Runes man and proceed to clean out her cubicle and say farewell to my her new friends. She felt a sudden surge of energy. A fresh challenge awaited and she was energized. On the way over the threshold into a new stretch of unknown, she greeted Zelda, the gypsy in black lace and kohl rimmed eyes. “Any love potions?” she asked.

“Yes, I have some “White Knight”.”

“There aren’t any White Knights in Los Angeles.

Zelda lifted a bag of red bath salts. “You need some Dragon’s Blood to cleanse yourself of negative thinking.”

“I’ll take both.”

Her last ten dollars were spent on coconut‑vanilla massage oil and luxurious oatmeal soap. She cleaned the entire apartment and prepared it for ritual in the manner described by the office witches. After lighting incense, she sprinkled the four corners of her apartment with sea salt (for protection) and drew a ritual bath. She rested on the sofa, taking deep breaths in preparation for the essential task.

Day blended into dusk. At last, she summoned up the nerve to call Demian. His machine responded. Her voice waivered; she couldn t hide her evil intentions. Regretting the move, she entered a state of trance as she watched the twilight shadows dance across the mirror. Darkness descended and the phone didn’t ring. He won t call, she thought, he is too psychic.

A slender silver ray passed through the window and Narcisse decided to prepare a full moon bath. Into a steaming tub of water, she poured a cup of coconut milk, a drop of red wine, Burdock root and lemon rind. She lay in the tub, scraping away all her fears with the oatmeal soap and sending up fantasies in the steam, which she later transcribed into her computer:

Yes, it will be lovely. The phone will ring as I dry myself and he will tell of his desires and appear at my door to lift me in his arms and together we will ride to the clouds on the wings of a phoenix.

8.

She was lost…so lost. The encroaching depression threatened to strangle the life force from her. Her texts advised that depression was inevitable with every stage of the process but no words of warning could have prepared her for what was going through.

The search for a diversion to avoid the descent to the underworld was long give up when Dominique called with an invitation to an “after hours” party. Narcisse dressed in black and drove through the Hollywood streets and down the Santa Monica Freeway to Venice. It seemed like a lifetime since she had ventured from her neighbor for anything but work at the hotline. She found the party by following the sounds of acid rock to the open doors of an art gallery. Inside, she encountered exquisite vampires leaning against images of erect penises and primitive landscapes. The faces around her were dark, perpetually in shadows, and particularly stunning. Vampires all of them. A gallery of past loves…exquisite creatures who could have been her lovers…all wearing various shades of darkness and a hankering to live a Rimbald life. Hungry wolves whose mistrust of women can be read in the fire spitting from their eyes.

The energy in the room sucked her vitality. Huge phalluses came at her like vipers. She had to leave. Vampires were becoming far too commonplace in Los Angeles. She was long since bored with them. And the boredom felt like death. She feared losing her grounding, in whichn Los Angeles. She was long since bored with them. And the boredom felt like death. She feared losing her grounding, in whichn Los Angeles. She was long since bored with them. And the boredom felt like death. She feared losing her grounding, in whichn Los Angeles. She was long sincn Los Angeles. She was long since bored with them. And the boredom felt like death. She fearn Los Angeles. She was long since bored with them. And the boredom felt like death. She feared losing her grounding, in whichn. She knew the pattern by now. Energy, at first freely given and then withdrawn, left a vacuum. Obsession filled the empty space.

She paused to watch the humiliation of a handsome young man making a desperate appeal to an arrogant young girl. She re­turned his overtures with an affronted snub. His frustration brought more darkness into the room.

The mystery was over for Narcisse. She had confronted the danger and all she found was fear. Black leather and a snide grin were effective masks but she was no longer fooled. She approached a stunning dark beauty leaning against a bold and daring image of a man talking to his phallus.   You are leaning against a work of art, she told him.

She thought about how much she was looking forward to the conclusion of the Great Work. When she was liberated she would no longer have the compulsion to seek out men who endanger precious objects with their carelessness.

Narcisse visited Sophia and her husband on the occasion of their baby’s first birthday. There were amethyst colored balloons and gifts in shiny wrappings and a scrumptious buffet of organic salads and sugar free wheat pastries. The festive atmosphere couldn’t mask the darkness. Sophia’s husband had changed‑‑from fair‑haired youth into a rogue.

On the balcony, the husband related his idea for a script: a young man with a psychic opening was getting uncontrollable impressions and he meets a sorceress who teaches him how to master his new power but she sets up a love triangle so he will be forced out of the union and learn to make his own way.

It was crystal clear, as if a sign was on the wall. The end of the marriage was imminent. Narcisse left the party feeling very sad, very alone. All she could do was pray for Sophia and her child and accept what she had witnessed as a warning.

Alchemists cannot afford to lose consciousness at any time.

The entire dynamics of a relationship were displayed in the performance at the theater the night that Tracy Roberts had Narcisse mistaken for Sophia. Now, the wise woman remembered. They didn t dance together.  He danced and she expounded on her wisdom, the serpent power burning her hands. The lover s face hidden behind a veil. If all potential lovers could read such dance signals, how many would duck Cupid s arrows?

NOTABLE ELIXIR

Take Dragon s Blood

and white salt peregrinum

Dissolve it seven times in water of pomegranantes.

Let the calx be imbibed,

and then frequently dry and desiccate.

Afterwards, dissolve sal ammoniac in water

of atrapment. With this water, pound the calx.

Dissolve for three days.

Afterwards, congeal in ashes to the elixir.

One part changes thousands of prepared Saturn into the best Sol,

which will be better than the mineral.

–Paracelsus

Desperate for change, Narcisse took the advice of a telephone psychic and changed her furniture. Not only that, but she began leaving her futon open during the day. As a result, her bed took up most of the space in her studio.

The first night of the change in floor plan, she discussed Demian with Sophia over the telephone while they watched him play a guest role as a young thug on a weekly series.   He has the charisma. Good angles, she said. And her final analysis?   He will need to experience stardom before he will settle down.

He claims to be disillusioned with Hollywood.

Narcisse, Sophia said in a firm voice.   He isn t ready for a relationship.

As the psychic spoke, Narcisse watched Demian s image on television. He was so alive. Next to him, the other actors appeared dead.

He surprised her with a call from outside the building at midnight.

“Are you dressed?” he asked, a shyness creeping into his voice. She put on some jeans and ran downstairs to let him in. He appeared from the shadows in the guise of an Italian playboy complete with a silk scarf knotted around the neck. Raw edges bore through the expensive linen jacket, however, carrying reminders of the wolf.

A wolf in Italian duds, she mused while brushing his cheek with her lips. He entered the apartment searching, as usual, for ghosts. Completely disorientated by the change, he collapsed on the couch and rapidly turned into a hurt little boy. “My weekend was terrible,” he said “Just terrible.”

“Did you watch yourself on T.V.?”

He grimaced. “Twice. In the hotel and in the airport.”

He told her about the girl he went to see, the girl he met on the set. The girl who showed up in the middle of the night at his hotel in San Francisco. The girl who offered him great sex but left him cold when she made a racist remark in a restaurant.

“I knew you were escaping from me, Narcisse said in a voice very much like Sophia.   Just about to face your greatest fear and you escape into sex with a stranger.

She was sounding more and more like Sophia and she relished it.

Visibly nervous, he donned the mask of the libertine to hide his vulnerability. “Do you think of me when you masturbate?”

His evil glance seemed to negate the expensive duds.

“I don’t masturbate. I meditate. Would you like some tea?”

He nodded. She made him some tea from an herbal love potion she purchased from one of the witches in the office. He didn’t touch it. She wondered if he could truly be so psychic.

“She was a baby,” he said. “I’m tired of babies.”

“Demian, don’t even start. I can’t listen to you put down Women any longer. Women you want to fuck. Woman who are fucked. These are my sisters!”

He laughed. A look of compassion. “Are you eating right?”

“Why, because I don’t have you to take me out?”

He grinned at his own presumptuousness. “It is strange. Now when I have sex it is like I could be in another room or someth­ing. She came four times and I didn’t come at all. I

think it’s the yoga.”

“Demian,” she exclaimed. “What a narcissist you are. A first class narcissist!”

He smile was particularly smug. “You can use this in your writing.”

“Oh, come on! Who wants to read about such a narcissist!”

He turned reflective. “I worry about our relationship. I can’t give you affection…I am repulsed by affection.”

She sat beside him on the floor. Too far to touch. “What a position you put me in! If I give you affection, I repulse you?”

He stared impassively at the ceiling. Physically at that moment they were so close, yet galaxies away mentally.

At last, Sophia forced her to recognize a truth. He was a libertine.

The creature before her wasn t the only person in the land experiencing the dark night of the soul. The actor s problems seemed so minimal compared to the desperate tales she heard over the phone. “Look, she said in the same Sophia tone.   My compassion for you is limited. You have money. You can pay to see a healer!”

He sadly bowed his head. “I wish I didn’t have money.”

She turned away from his performance and read the writing on the mirror:

 

A libertine favors a woman only in proportion to the plea­sure she can give him.

“It is a question of values, he said in a low voice, catching her gaze in the mirror.

“Right,” she replied.

Standing firmly on the tierra firma she had staked out in the unconscious, Narcisse was rather enjoying the parade of images in her mirror. Don Juan making way for the lost little boy, terrified of abandonment. And there was writing on the mirror as well:

Where is the Shaman, the Healer, the Magician? No where to be sighted in this passion play.

“I understand how you feel. About affection,” she said. “I hated having people touch me. The sex had to be quick. An astrologer told me that if I was a man I would be gay…”

He abruptly cut her off. “You are tired. I should let you get back to sleep.”

She took one last look at his image in the mirror. The scared little boy will accompany her out the door. The libertine disappeared. For now. The mirror told the tale:

A libertine cannot fall in love.

She opened the door and walked him downstairs. He hugged her. “Thanks for listening. You are a good friend.” And he departed with a wide grin on his face. Narcisse felt manipulated and used. His hug was like a consolation prize. There was no heart.

And her mirror contained the travel warning:

 

                     Love would destroy a libertine.

He left a message on her machine with his accurate birth time and mentioned how excited he was about having her do his chart.

The sound of his voice left her empty. She didn’t immediately bolt to the computer for information. Her instincts were now providing her with essential information. She no longer needed astrology to clarify her view of things. All she had to do is look in her mirror.

He isn’t ready for the coagulatio.

Nevertheless, the computer was spitting out his chart when he called from outside. She went downstairs to let him in. He was wearing an Armani tweed jacket with jeans and he stared at her little girl outfit, a torn petticoat purchased in a hip boutique on Melrose and a white sleeveless silk top. She felt his dis­tance as she brushed his cheek with her lips in greeting.

He followed her upstairs, his stare penetrating into her back. She knew what he was thinking: I can’t rape her if she is wearing virginal white.

On the landing, she turned. “Yes, you do have some vulnerability,” he said.

She led him into the apartment and went straight to the computer to rip off the printout. He sat on the open futon. She put her feet up on the computer table, consciously aware of the fabric falling to reveal her thighs. They positioned themselves self‑consciously, like a carefully choreographed play. Two polarized energies pressurized by virtue of their confinement. Even as they tempted one another, they were wary of making a false move for fear of upsetting the careful balance so painstakingly created after a year.

“You like my new jacket?” he asked, lifting the flap to reveal the Armani label.

She nodded, not failing to notice how the jacket falls from his body in a way which slightly revealed the bare skins on his naked chest. “Are you wearing anything underneath?”

He moved ever so slightly and she got a glimpse of his torn white muscle shirt. She suspected he dressed so provocatively because he planned to seduce her. Even as a part of her followed him into the unconscious, she marveled at the way they managed to switch gender.

She looked to the mirror for the truth:

Who is the dominant partner? The submissive? Only the sexual act will distinguish male from female.

Narcisse suspected that the fascination, the speculation of who will come out on top, was the only thing that kept him coming back. With all his shape shifting, he probably couldn t make up his mind. She could see his chest moving as he breathed.

He is too intense in close-up.

Strange that she believed with the accurate chart in hand she would feel so much in control, yet the prospect of losing control excited her. She felt some imminent and unexpected event was about to happen, one which would throw the whole works into chaos.

“What do you think?” he asked as he nodded at the printout.

“You aren’t as much of a con man as I thought.”

“Go with your feelings!” he cried.

She stared at him, bewildered. “Feelings?”

“You are the Ice Princess.”

“I prefer to think of myself as the High Priestess.”

“Either way you are cold.” He snickered. “I like cold women.”

Narcisse was too involved in the process to take a moment to congratulate herself for achieving her goal. She had become his icy cold anima, the Queen of Swords. She yawned at her reflection. This entire business of projecting a man s soul back to him was becoming quite a bore.

He shifted uncomfortably. He couldn t look at her. It was as if her body couldn t register the shift in her energy due to the coagulatio.

“I’m still into bodies, he said, by way of explaining his bad behavior.

The mirror reflected his uncontained energy spilling of into entities:

The coagulatio grounds you in your own body. A successful coagulatio means you won t be needing grounding through sex!

Silence. They locked their gaze in the mirror.

He lowered his eyes from her reflection. “You are more than a body.”

More silence.

Agitated now, he rambled on about a former girlfriend, the woman he lived with

for years, who was in town.   She gave up acting but is living with a producer, he said.   She uses men to get what she needs.”

Detecting some admiration for this woman, Narcisse replied: “It figures. Guys like you end up with the most manipu­lative women.”

He raised an eyebrow. “Sylvia is very manipulative.”

“It is karma. Look at how you treated women. You run away from anything that is honest and true and you keep running until you end up in the arms of the very thing you fear.”

His nerves got jangled like ungrounded wires and attempted to cover up the dodging of the truth with a disarming smile but his masks no longer amused her.

She continued to watch their reflection, taking careful note of the distance between them. How strange and wonderful to be the audience and the participant in this final act of Dangerous Liaisons, 1990. The mirror wrote the epitaph:

The eighties are at an end.

     With the end of acquisition,

     is the dispelling of old

     archetypes, brought on by

     a breakdown in values.

“Demian, the only thing you look for in a woman is mirrors. I don’t have time to be any man’s mirror!”

He succeeded in rousing her passions. He laughed in delight. Love or hate is what he sought from her. Indifference he couldn’t abide. Yet, stuck in the old forms…he couldn t possibly comprehend that the new constellation taking place in the unconscious permitted a woman to be both passionate and detached.

She retrieved his solar return from the floor. One glance triggered an instantaneous gut reaction. The reading told her that after his birthday he would no longer need her to give his life balance. “This year you will be free of women,” she told him, in a voice too low for him to hear. Was it relief or loss she was feeling? Probably both.

“I did a rewrite of my play.” He opened his spiral notebook and proceeded to read the dialogue, changing his man­nerisms as he switched to the feminine voice. The tone had become more obses­sive. Impassioned. Fervent. Peter Pan was crazed over the discovery of Jenny’s job in a topless bar.

Narcisse made a face.

“Just hold back your judgments and listen,” he said.

She listened carefully. If the play he was writing was the most important link of communication between them, she relished the revelations.

He read on. The character he identified with said he couldn’t have sex with strangers any longer. He wanted someth­ing more meaningful. After a quick romp in bed, the character tells the Valley Girl he won’t be seeing her again.

He dramatically shut the notebook. She smiled inwardly, stared at the devil, and said nothing.

What a corner the wolf has backed himself into! Now he will have to transform.

“That is good,” she finally said. “It shows some develop­ment.”

He gave her a hard look. “It isn’t finished.”

A chill gripped her. As she suspected, tonight was the night of the showdown. Tonight they would uncover the truth hidden behind all the lies. How essential this confrontation was if they were to end with a grand finale!

I am tired of so many women,” he said, looking at the woman, not the reflection. “I just want one.”

“You have to integrate yourself first.”

He opened the notebook again. “I don’t know what to do about the other couple.”

“You make the woman so horrible. Jenny isn’t such a whore.”

“But she is working in a topless club!” he cried.

“But you have to show some another side of her. Some innocence, perhaps. What does he see in her?”

He shot her a look of enraged disbelief. “Sex.”

She squinted to see him better. The room was suddenly too small for both of them. She sent him a naked stare, meant to strip down all barriers. “Is that what you want to do to me. Hook me in through sex?” she asked in an accusatory voice.

“No,” he said, but she knew he was lying. He moved out of the light, where his eyes were hidden.

“Obsession is a difficult subject to write about,” she said. “If the characters are stuck in their obsessiveness, the audience is going to be bored.”

She removed the dictionary from the shelf and leafed throug­h. She discovered the word underlined. “Obsession. The domina­tion of one’s thoughts or feelings by a persistent idea, image, desire.”

He got up and began circling around the room. The wolf was ravenous. “Do you have any dope?”

“I thought you stopped smoking dope.”

“Don’t start with the mother tone,” he snapped. “Just find me some dope.”

She decided to oblige him and got up to look. “I had some in a matchbox that a friend gave me a long time ago. Now, where did I put it?”

The wolf started growling as she searched through all the baskets in the room for the illusive stash. Coming up empty, she lit an incense stick instead. The futon loomed before her. She fell beside him, so close they were nearly…

He flinched. She felt her womb filling with energy and thought about how this made women different from men: women can store energy in their womb.

“We can’t be alone together. We can’t be with other people. What can we do?”

They lay on separate sides of the invisible barrier as the smoke from the incense stick curled between them, a convenient veil to mask the truth. The tension excited her…his jacket had opened, revealing the dark, course hairs of his chest. She could hear his breathing. How very easy it would be to…

Oh, to break through the lead, now covered by a thin film of smoke. To conquer the fear of rejection. Or worse…the fear of annihilation.

She couldn’t do it. She was immobile. They had been through the fire together. And jumped into the water. Now, they were passing through earth. All that remained was air–a true communication rather than the innocuous flirtation they had engaged in. The open futon was a symbol as the root of their conflict, as with any man and woman, was sexual. Only the mirror revealed the truth. She waved away the smoke and saw it:

For an alchemical marriage to take place, both partners had to surrender to the feminine power, the source of all creation. If only one surrendered, the result was simply another battle in the longstanding war between the sexes. The outcome was a toss-up between triumph and disaster.

Surrender or flee–which was it going to be? His restlessness provided an answer. “Let’s go to the Dresden.”

She nodded and turned to the closet to retrieve a jacket.

They entered through the back door. The dining room was full of drunk kids, a clear signal that the place had become too trendy. The entire neighborhood had, in fact, become a gathering place for posing. At the entrance to the dining room, the wolf sniffed around and the actor stiffened. She followed his gaze to a table full of women. He turned to face Narcisse and she could read the panic on his face.

“Did you ever write about something and have it happen?” he asked.

There were mirrors on the walls of this place as well. And the warning was written across them in huge letters.

Surrender or flee. What is it going to be?

She looked from the mirrored wall to the table of women once again. One of the woman is staring at her with an intensity that felt like hate. The woman was attractive, well groomed, poised. She knew it must be the Virgo he mentioned. The one who disrupted their date with a concern about the tear in her pantyhose.

Narcisse swung back around to the mirror:

She is the Madonna. You are the whore. The whore in torn underwear.

Demian approached the table, abandoning Narcisse. All her nightmares had come to pass. No matter what mirror she gazed in, she saw greasy hair demons making obscene gestures, ghouls in grunge clothing and vampires breathing down her neck.

He had abandoned her in a sea of negative archetypes.

She stared at the mirror. Hard. Her choices were clearly written across the face of the she wolf staring back at her.

               Surrender or flee, what

                     is it going to be?

She fled.

On the street, she tried to calm herself as she leaned against a lamp post. The rapid beating of her heart told her how vul­nerable she was.

Then, like in a dream, she saw him emerging from the sha­dows, running, calling her name. If their liaison was a film, this would have been the moment they fell into one another’s arms, but this being life, the invisible barrier barred them from touching. He stopped a few feet short of her, panting, eyes flickering. She looked beyond him, to the street.

“That woman, she sputtered.   She looked like she wanted to kill me…

He imitated the woman, speaking in a falsetto: “Who is Demian with tonight?”

“Why did you go up to her?”

He scowled. “She is a bitch.”

She wanted to ask him why he came after her but she couldn’t speak. And anyway, she thought, why bother asking a man ques­tions he can’t possibly answer?

“Look,” she finally said in a firm voice. “Don’t involve me in all your karma with women.”

He nodded. The drawing of boundaries was one communication he understood. If the currents had shifted and they were no longer allies, but foes, the least they could watch out for is the intrepid borders around the safety zone.

They circled around the Onyx, not wanting to enter but not having anywhere else to go. They ended up at the Dresden, far from the woman who had been cast as a rival. A couple entered and greeted Narcisse, who invited them to share their booth. The couple was the same age as Narcisse and Demian and happily married. They treated Demian and Narcisse as a mirror and asked how they met. Narcisse made a vague declaration that she couldn t remember.

So many mirrors, yet a reflection of a happy couple was something the two hadn t experienced. In fact, the tension of upholding the projection became so great that after, hearing the tale of the couple s courtship, Demian felt compelled to leave.

The woman watched him go and turned to Narcisse with an incredulous look. “What an animal.”

Narcisse nodded. “A wolf.

Later, while preparing for bed, Narcisse picked up the chart she had dismissed earlier. A startling truth was revealed. She turned to her mirror and said. “We are going in opposite directions; he has to learn to be alone and I have to learn to be in a relationship.”

There were words already inscribed above her image:

Two ships in the night. Not destined to be together. But so utterly adrift when apart.

Narcisse was rehired at the hotline and attended the office Halloween party as Aphrodite. She was accompanied by Sophia, dressed as a vampire and her husband in baggy linen pants and bandana, the guise of a rogue.

“Your soul mate is coming in,” Sophia told her as they watched the parade of psychics wearing costumes not so different from their daily attire.

Narcisse nodded. “I have done so much work.”

“It isn’t Demian,” Sophia said, with an uncharacteristic harshness. “If it’s him, I’ll eat all the clothes in my apart­ment.”

Disguised as Aphrodite, Narcisse received many unsolicited predictions about love that night. Over the punch bowl, a drama queen who read the Motherpeace deck in the told her over a glass of punch that she will marry a rich man, a Latin. “He will be an older man,” she said, “with a powerful intellect. He will knock your socks off.”

Narcisse knew the woman was projecting. As was the reader in love with a sexy young rock singer who informed Narcisse of her imminent marriage to a fashion model.   Even when they came with good intentions, projections were projections. And she didn t even want a man! All she wanted at this stage was the Philosopher s Stone and with the gaining of the Self, her freedom..

As she sat eating a piece of pecan pie, a clown passed by. “You are hoping for something. It is about to happen.” She looked up, bewildered. “You are crossing your fingers,” he said.

Gertrude, a large black psychic with a boisterous person­ality, approached in a nun s habit. Narcisse asked for a home remedy for getting rid of a Scorpio.”

The psychic stood before her, hands on hips. “Now why would you want to do that?”

“Because a Scorpio needs sex and I don’t like sex.”

Gertrude laughed in big guffaws. “What are you sayin’ girl? You mean to tell me you don’t like sex?”

Narcisse became serious “No, really. You know spells. Give me a remedy.”

Gertrude grinned, revealing huge white teeth. “Put red hot chile pepper in dem shoes. Cha can’t fool me, girl. Cha don’t really want to be rid of him. Ask the cards, girl.”

The medium fanned the cards. Narcisse picked the Jack of Spades and two others. A large, middle‑aged psychic offered her opinion: “He’s too narcissistic to have a relationship.” They were joined by the psychic’s husband, wielding the wand of the magician. He professed to be clairvoyant and Narcisse asked him to draw a picture of Demian. He took a napkin and drew a head of a man with a wolf s face and scribbled a caption below: hey, life is great and I having a hell of a time living it‑‑and that includes you baby cause you are the best!

Sophia called to ask Narcisse if she wanted to participate in her yard sale. She had decided to get a divorce and needed to raise money for the lawyer.

“It’s time for purging,” Sophia warned.

There was a planetary line-up in Scorpio. Like the earth s plate being thrust downward into the core of a volcano so it can rise renewed, Narcisse was prepared to have to sink way down to the depths under the influence so she rise like the phoenix from the coagulatio.

“I’m going to confront Demian this weekend,” she told her friend.

“If you do that, you must be prepared to take the consequences.”

“I am.”

“Are you ready to sleep with him?”

“Yes. I can handle it. I’ll take my magic stones with me.”

“Narcisse,” said the wise Sophia. “You are just as vul­nerable as he is.”

Narcisse hung up the phone feeling depressed. She carried the depression through the sale, where an emaciated waif bargained Sophia for a pair of purple suede platform sandals. Narcisse feared the woman, for she saw a vision of herself in that particular mirror of wasted beauty turned to wretched decay.

Thinking about her own vulnerability wasn t the ultimate fear. The ultimate fear was the loss of projections. The closer Narcisse got to the final stage of transformation, the land of no mirrors, the more isolated she felt.

14.

From the diary of Narcisse:

 

 

NOVEMBER 18, 1990

 

The planets are lined up in a position of purging. I put on my black lingerie and black dress and wrap a black shawl around my head and shoulders. My lips are painted a bright red and my eyes are rimmed kohl. My snake earring is placed in my ear. Such rituals of adornment are essential to the task facing me.

    I don’t recognize the woman staring from the mirror. The tremendous beauty in the fierce gaze…I could fall in love with this woman.

 

 

RULE NUMBER ONE:

 

PROCEED WITH OPEN HEART.

 

If I close down my heart, I automatically lose.   I put an adventurine stone (green opens the heart) in my black lace bra and rub the protec­tive ointment given to me by a witch on my belly.

    

RULE NUMBER TWO:

 

I MUST DO WHATEVER EMPOWERS ME.

 

I meditate on the image on the Strength card‑‑the woman taming the Lion. Demian told me the he got rid of a girl once by holding up her hands and telling her they were like paws. I told him he was projecting; he is the beast.

     More images on the relationship by one last reading at the office: The Devil card warned of entrapment through lust; the Judgement card informed me to listen to my higher self; and finally was the Lover’s card, promising union, the reconciliation of the opposites.

 

 

RULE NUMBER THREE:

DON’T ANTICIPATE THE OUTCOME. REMAIN IN PROCESS.

 

The time has come to leave. Yet, I cannot move from my reflection. And in my image flash the faces of my former loves. They merge into one and the image is Demian. I can’t go through with it. Not without money in the bank. I am too vulnerable. If I succumb to him, my power will be lost and I will be out of a job. I collapse on the floor, clutching the stone bodice to my chest and project myself astrally to his door, repeating my affirmation: THE WHOLE TRUTH AND NOTHING BUT THE TRUTH…

She stands before the wire grating. The only light flickers from the television screen. She knows he is there; she can sense him. He can feel her presence, sniffing the door like an animal. She feels comfort in the shadows, secure he could not see her as she wrapped her cloak around her. She understood now why witches dress in black…to remain undetected in the night.

 

 

Truth. The word runs through my head in slow motion, like a record on low speed. I know the dangers of this journey as I project myself at Love’s Door, considering the losses…the way I so frequently did for her clients…

 

  1. The affair will end badly, confirming my evil

          suspicions of men and preserving my father

          on his pedestal.

  1. If he rejects me, I will be mortified.
  2. If the sex is great, our mutual pleasure will be sacrificed for the pain of one of us moving away.
  3. If the sex is bad, we will part forever.

 

No matter what happened, I lose. What a fate I have! To have been given this talent for attracting men, only to turn them away! And why? So I can preserve the father’s memory. Every monument I build is to him. The bookshelves in my apartment were constructed for him…my brilliant, scholarly father whose dark volumes held the key to the mysteries of the universe in the

 

 

 

study where I once slept.

     I bow my head before this man who I could love with every cell in my body…if it weren’t for the iron wall between us. The obstruction imposed by my mad genius of a father. The evil

magician, the sorcerer father standing at the door of the castle, casting a drawbridge over all my desires for union. His demands and his cruelties win out over my every attempt to bond.

   Yes father, I will continue to inhabit the higher realm of the mind. I will perch in the tower‑‑the citadel‑‑the lonely cold, isolated tower of the mind in order to build a monument of truth. All to preserve your memory. And along the way…I will sacri­fice my body, ignoring its cravings, repressing its desires.

     Yes, father. I will continue to pursue exciting, unavail­able men, men who crash their way into my life and leave a trail of destruction behind. Men who seduce me and play head games and lead me to believe they will travel to the ends of the earth with me‑‑only to abandon me in alien territory, dragged down by the

weight of my own suitcases.

     Yes father, I pledge my allegiance to you. You who thought you were a god and therefore didn’t have to abide by the laws of men. You father, who escaped into your reckless delusions while leaving the flesh around you rotting from your neglect.

     You father, who demands that I reject all men in order to

 

 

preserve your memory. You father, who guides me even in death to foreign lands where I am used and abused and tossed aside. Why do I always learn too late of the forbidden territories? But didn’t you encourage me to embrace all that you embraced? How could a child manage the journey when you as an adult fell into the darkness?

     The forbidden land which beholds mystery and fear…for so

long it was the fear that held me back. I took the journeys to

foreign lands where I didn’t speak the language and couldn’t manage the currency. I survived those ventures into the unknown but the journey I most feared was the one which led inside…Oh father!

     The fears! The men who sought my companionship for an evening and enticed me into the unknown world you inhabited. What could I do but run away…I always did run away. And now…with this monument I have built to your memory, I must walk away. I make this proclamation right now, oh father, that I will have these men‑‑too exciting, too unstable, too brilliant, too flamboyant, too charismatic, too seductive, too gorgeous men. These men who have led so many innocent maidens down a path of destruction. Oh father, I will have these men so well figured that there can no longer be a mystery to attract me. I will indulge my sexual fantasies with these men until there are no more orgasms to be had and I will continue on my journey until I

 

arrive at the temple of the goddess…the lap of the divine Sophia. And then, and only then, will I be free from this dance between the opposites which threaten to destroy me.

At last, she gained the courage to break through the barrier of the grated door and confront his shadow, flickering in the

light from the television. His expression was bewildered, as if he had seen an apparition.

“I have come to discover the truth,” she said firmly.

“Which truth?” he asked.

She faltered. Which truth indeed! There is no one truth with him. It was ever changing. How can a whirlpool of vacillat­ing contradictions have a truth? For there to be truth there must be a center. He had no center.

She stepped outside and closed the door, viewing him once again from behind the protective armor of the impenetrable barrier which hid their fears.

I slowly come back to my body. Feeling around for my limbs and

encountering a piece of the broken goddess statue on my breast. The message is clear: the old images are crumbling. I cry out to the night, to the stars and beyond: “Where are the new

images?”

Through the darkness, I hear a whisper: “They are coming. Be patient. Do your work.”

And so I do. I lift myself off the floor and head to the blank screen to write.

The work shifts in the coagulatio

to the concrete. It was as if the

Experiment was put on hold, to

attend to the mundane when actually

at this stage, the mundane and earthly

matters rose to the forefront. Things

were beginning to take form.

–Von Franz

Narcisse made extra money by working nights at the hotline and days at a temporary job at the World Zionist Organization. She was hired by Elizabeth, a dynamic, frenzied woman of her age to help arrange a conference.

The office was run by a former colonel in the Israeli Air Force, a powerful and seductive man, devastating to women. The Iraqi war turned the office into a mad house. Narcisse was answering three lines at once and feeling excited to be in the center of such a whirlwind.

“This energy you are feeling,” said Elizabeth. “This is survival energy.”

Later, Narcisse realized her boss wasn’t referring to the war or the Zionists but her own life.

The Zionist office was in the heavily secured Jewish Federation building. Narcisse was sitting in a chair, waiting for her lunch date. As the clock struck twelve, she received an amazing rush of kundalini through the opening at the base of her spine. She checked her astrology calendar out of curiosity. The moon had just entered Scorpio.

An inexplicable force pulled her to the elevators. The red light came on above the middle door and it opened. A dark, lean man in sunglasses stepped out carrying a powerful and threatening energy. He looked like a terrorist. Narcisse wondered how he got through the security checkpoint. A few minutes after the man exited the front door, Narcisse saw a familiar black jeep ride by. She felt as if she had been struck with lightening.

It was Demian.

16.

She felt very surreal, like she was acting in his film vehicle, when she appeared on his front porch. Someone was sitting in the armchair before the T.V., stroking the cat. As she entered, the figure introduced himself as Jason. He was terribly handsome…and macho. With the energy of a rebel. She knew he was an Aires because they talked on the phone earlier when she called Demian to ask about collecting her pendant and some books she lent him. Jason talked her into picking him up to drive him to Hollywood where they had arranged to meet. Jason was visiting from New York and had no car.

She sat in the chair and he gave her an idyllic stare. “Beautiful,” he said in an awed voice. She had prepared careful­ly for the evening, dressing in darkness so that her light might be perfectly contained. She had waved her hair, the effect, with dark eyes and bright lips, was striking. He was a bit out of his mind, but her presence healed him and he related his story: he had been staying with a cocaine freak suffering from paranoid delusions. They got in a fight and Jason called the cops. He got very animated as he described the goings on, jumping up, punching his fist into his palm, recreating the mayhem. He said Demian had to bail him out of jail.

He had known that she knew astrology and he revealed his chart. Narcisse already knew what ailed him: he was suffering from an opening of the kundalini and the energy was completely ungrounded. Yet, she was quite amazed by the chart he handed her. “Your chart is worse than mine. Much worse considering the size of your ego,” she said. “You have no earth in your chart. You are completely ungrounded.”

“How am I with a Libra?” he asked.

“A relationship isn’t the answer. You have to get some stability in your life. Demian said you were coming here to put on a play…”

“It didn’t work out,” he said, with an unmistakable ar­rogance to his voice. “The director didn’t understand the mater­ial.”

Another madman with boundless potential, wounded by the world s lack of understanding of his predicament. She thought about how far she had come to be able to remain calm in such a pre­sence, how when he father entered his psychosis, she would hide in closets…as if doors could keep away the demons! She looked at the chart again, getting his character into focus. “Your mother was crazy.”

He nodded. She thought about how she attracted them…these dark geniuses with insane mothers! Men who denied the feminine and sought to soar in spirit. And wasn’t she fulfilling her mission at this very moment…to appear before a prime example of these men to challenge everything they believed about the female being the weaker sex.

“My mother was so strong…everyone in the neighborhood was afraid of her,” he said.

“She had a lot of male energy,” said Narcisse.

“She played baseball with us and her team always won.”

Narcisse gave him one of the wise smiles she so frequently saw in the mirror these days. What he didn’t realize is that she had timed her entrance by the planets. He was bound to fall in love with her at first sight. “If you could attempt to turn inward,

you could eventually center yourself.”

“Oh!” he cried while wearing an amused smile. “I had this vision of myself meditating on a mountaintop.”

Narcisse was grateful for the opportunity to look inside the psyche of someone Demian romanticizes. A poet who writes songs and stores them in his closet. A playwright who disdains conven­tion, even if it means his plays going unseen. She knew this tale of angst…the misunderstood genius. Hadn’t she heard it many times? The demands that the world should change when they couldn’t even change themselves. She heard it so many times after living in Hollywood for six years. Like a broken record. She was bored with this form of rebellion. When she rebelled as a child, her father sent her to sit in the Orgone box. It felt like a padded cell. Perhaps that is where her fear of being locked up originated.

She focused her energy in his third eye and penetrated him with her stare. “You have to transform.”

He looked at her blankly, uncomprehending.

“You think if you calm down you will lose your inspiration. It isn’t true. You have to get grounded.”

She drove him to Gorky’s. His energy was so chaotic, so intense, he couldn’t manage to sit like a normal person. All the way down Sunset, he squatted with his feet on the seat. Survival energy from the root chakra. Only the Zionists could have prepared me for him, she thought, wishing, for the first time in months, that she had auto insurance.

As they made their entrance in Gorky’s, Demian’s smile gave him away. She did enjoy catching him by surprise…the only oc­casions when she saw his true feelings emerge from behind the succession of masks.

They joined him at the wooden table before the bar. “Look who has re‑entered my life!” he said as he bent down to receive the brush of her lips against his cheek.

“I never left.”

She bought Jason a beer at the bar and got water for her­self.

Demian and Narcisse sat across from one another. The attraction was so intense…they might as well have been the only two people in the restaurant. She looked in his eyes and could see he was very stoned. He told her he had just finished rehearsals for an old play he wrote. “Purging your past or returning to old habits?” she asked.

He ignored her and looked at Jason. “Narcisse and I tried to have a physical relationship,” he said. “It didn’t…”

She cut him off. “Demian can’t distinguish what is real.”    “All actors have that problem,” said Jason.

“I’ve been working on my play with an actress who says she is possessed,” replied Demian. “She’s looking for an exorcist.”

“Demian!” cried Narcisse. “You can’t be around that kind of energy without being affected.”

Demian snarled at her. “Oh, stop whining. Why don’t you try responding differently for once. Surprise me.”

He withdrew a baggie from his pocket and emptied some seeds on the table. “No more dope.”

Her look became fierce, yet she enjoyed being so conscious of her effect. “I hate you when you are stoned­.”

He turned away, too shamed to meet her gaze. She saw the opening and moved in further. “Sometimes I hate you when you aren’t stoned,” she added.

“Narcisse,” he said, in a measured voice. “That is pretty strong.”

She intended it to be strong. She had prepared a long time for this showdown. He was restless now, moving around like an animal. “I feel so dark right now.” The marijuana had made his aura so diffused, a host for every entity in the room. A most welcoming landing strip for U.F.O.’s, as they say at the hotline. At least, Narcisse thought, if there was enough consciousness to feel shame, he hadn’t become completely possessed.

She held her crystal close to her heart and laughed at his demons. “Go and clean up your energy and then come back and be civilized,” she said, surprised by how relaxed, how in control, she felt in his presence. The Experiment must be working, she thought. If she could be in such a dark space and feel centered, she knew the philosopher’s stone was in the works. She remembered being so sensitive as a child, when someone shot her an angry glance she could start to cry. Yet, she still felt the urge to comfort him. It was the energy of the co‑dependant which wanted to support him while he drowned in the unconscious where the ar­chetypes ruled. The place where individualism is lost and identification with the archetypes is found. He moved up close behind her and she knew his desire was to wrap himself in her and disappear forever.

Her body responded to the pull of the depths but her mind knew…this feeling of immersion is what the addicted call love… getting lost in the fog…the desire to escape from the mundane world together and float away on a silver cloud. She used to think this energy was love…now she recognized the bite of the demon lover. So exquisite…tugging at her…compelling her…suck…more…

“I’ve been thinking about our script,” he said as he com­pleted his circle around the table. “I want to do it.”

She knew it was the Demon Lover talking, using an appro­priate hook to pull her in. Talk meant little in the presence of such an energy. Her smile was self-contained: “Maybe I’ll write it myself.”

They sat at opposite ends of the table, staring. She felt the demon lover sucking energy from the room and placed a veil over her true feelings, willfully detaching through noncommittal body language. Survival…this is what the confrontation was about. The streets of Hollywood are a wasteland of the soul and she didn’t doubt that was where she would end up if she gave succumbed to the Demon Lover.

“Narcisse is really loose,” he was saying as he walked behind her and in the most sexual way puts his body against hers and pushes my back up. He needs the physi­cal…something to push against before lunging into the dark. They both knew how close to the edge they were traveling. The abyss lay below them and Narcisse was empowered by knowingness..­.hadn’t she set this up? All the years of preparation…and now a karmic debt was being paid. “I never had a mother,” he was saying.

Her response felt automatic, like carefully rehearsed lines from a script. “I’ll be your mother.”

He sat beside her. She looked directly at him, in her centeredness she was completely aware of her power to pull him. “It has been so long…” she murmured as she leaned close…close enough to wrap herself in their chemical allure. “How long?”     The attraction was so intense between them, she was con­vinced she could see their auras blending. Slowly…imper­ceptibly…they entered an altered state together. It was only Jason’s discomfort that pulled them back.

“How did you two hook up?” Demian asked in a nervous voice.

“Jason and I spent the afternoon together,” Narcisse said, smiling as she watched Demian darken.

“Yea,” said Jason. “She took me down by the river and we got it on.”

“How was it?” Demian asked, in a desperate attempt to mask his anxiety.

“She gives good head, not with the same intensity as you get in New York but sort of spaced…”

“Cosmic,” Narcisse replied with a giggle.

Demian pulled away to face the door. “I’m leaving.”

She laughed. “See, he is jealous.” Glancing at Jason, she added: Demian is very possessive of his friends.”

Demian stood and circled around his friend. “Don’t forget about the money I lent you,” he cautioned, placing his hand on his shoulder. “But it’s not about money.”

Money equals sex equals power, thought Narcisse. Jason was right. It wasn’t about money, it was about power.

“Not about money!” Jason cried. “He says that while standing before the American flag.”

Narcisse didn’t notice the American and Russian flags on the far wall of the cafe and now they formed a backdrop behind Demian. “He didn’t do it conscious­ly,” she said.

Demian and Narcisse were penetrating one another with their stares. So many times in their past they had stood at the edge but the timing was wrong or they lacked the essential ingredient which would pull them over to the other side. And now…the catalyst had arrived.

Narcisse’s many years of inner work had taught her patience and now her patience was paying off. She remained impassive… awaiting Demian’s first move.

“Let’s go,” he said, his voice full of foreboding.

She mirrored his trepidation. “I like living dangerously, but not this dangerously.”

At that moment, her entire being was aware of how much alike they were and how deep was their mutual understanding. They had the rare facility to make themselves empty vassals for the gods and demons alike. But, as a psychic told her in the office the other day: “The demons will always find a way to seduce you. What the demons can’t stand is love.”

Demian turned to the door. Jason pulled Narcisse aside and said: “Let’s stay.”

She shook her head and followed Demian to the door. On the way out, he asked: “Did he ask you to stay?”

She didn’t respond but reacted to his body, stiff with the tension of repressed emotion. “Are you through with my pendant?”

“That green thing?”

She nodded. The truth was made evident. The pendant turned green from his toxins. Now, she had proof that his process was stalled. He couldn’t have suffered enough. Real suffering burns clean. With Demian, there was too much soot.

“I’ll call you up and bring it by next week,” he said.

When she gazed in his pupils, dilated by the effects of the drug, she knew he wouldn’t do it. Turning to her car, Jason blocked her. “I want to see you again,” he said.

She was incredulous. Couldn’t he see the danger?”

“How will I find you?” he asked. It wasn’t a request. It was a demand. She looked up and thought she saw fangs emitting from his mouth. Instincts taking over, she turned her heels and entered the dark streets of Hollywood, past the packs of bloodsuckers and their wanna be brethren in their hip clothes with their deadpan expressions.

She failed to understand the trendiness of it all. It was a sad business being a vampire.

sublimatio

1.

Roasting in hell

brings forth the

Philosopher s Stone

— Von Franz

In her dream, the wolf was sensually licking his lips while at­tempting to seduce her into splitting a delectable pastry. She escaped to the marvelous selection of bread shops on the other side of the street. At the hotline, her nickname was still Miss Hypoglycemia but Narcisse had given up sugar. She wanted only real nourishment.

On the phones, she expended a good deal of energy attempting to bring both men and women to awareness of how they give their power away in relationships. Illusions must be faced if there is to be growth. Through her own experience, Narcisse understood why

change was so difficult; giving up illusions is painful.

She did call Demian to remind him to return her pendant and some books she lent him. “It has been an irresponsible month,” he said, by way of an apology.

“You are irresponsible!” she cried.

“Okay. I’m going to New York. I’ll drop it off on my way to the airport.”

That night, she dreamt he was a little boy clinging to her breast. When she arrived home from work the next day, her things were in front of her door.

“How are you managing?” asked Claude, her buddy at the hotline, as they relaxed in the cour­tyard outside the office. Through the window they could see the psychics in their eccentric attire reading cards in their cubicles.

“I think I am finally able to distinguish reality from illusion,” she replied.

At that moment they heard a large thud behind them. They turned to look. A bird was lying on the ground before the window. They walked over to survey the damage. Blood dripped on the concrete. “It broke its neck,” Claude said.

“This is an important omen,” she murmured.

“You were talking about illusions. The bird died because of an illusion. It had mistaken the glass for the sky.”

The message was written in her reflection on the glass:

Illusions can kill.

2.

Narcisse was just finishing her story about Demian when he called to share his triumph. “I finished a script.”

“Congratulations.”

My career is taking off. Just like you said.” He paused. “I always listened to you, Narcisse.”

“You may be the only person who did.”

“An agent wants to see the play I wrote.

“Wait until September,” she warned. “You have some cleaning up to do before you put yourself out there.”

He insisted on a reading. She hesitated, wondering if he could be using astrology as a hook to her affections. “Alright,” she said finally. “But it has to be professional. You have to pay me.”

He balked. “I don’t have much money right now.”

“What can you afford?”

He didn’t reply. His birthday was coming. She offered to draw his solar return out of the computer and call him after­wards.

As she glanced at his solar return, her chief emotion was relie­f. His karma was coming due. At long last, he will be forced to confront his relationships. Her intuition told her that once her confrontation with the wolf was over, she would be free to transcend.

Her job fed her own addictions. Narcisse continued to give up her power by asking others for readings on Demian. The response from the Runes man: “You should have already let go of this guy.” The next reading was by a tarot reader who told her that a confrontation now could mean the end of the relationship. The numerologist told her it was time to come out of hiding and face her own denial. All this time she had secretly hoped to spin in Demian’s orbit rather than accepting the challenge of following her own destiny.

Only her dreams gave her a glimpse of the ter­ritory she was moving into: the place of no projections. She knew in conscious­ness why the journey terrified her: the destination was a cold and forbidden land sparsely inhabited. In such a land, loneliness could only be remedied through a conscious relationship.

4.

An entire week passed before Narcisse got back to Demian.   And when they finally spoke, she understood why she waited. Anxiety about the future started him drinking and smoking again and with his energy so unfocused, she was liable to get pulled back in.

Holding her most powerful crystal against her chest and speaking in a grave voice that maximized her impact, she strug­gled to keep her heart open while warning he could ascend now or self‑destruct. He nervously accused her of worrying and she said he was projecting. Reminding him that she wasn’t going to be around much longer, she offered to put everything she had to say on tape for a small fee of sixty dollars. He claimed he couldn t afford it and she asked what he could afford and he insisted he had to go and said he would call her right back.

He didn’t call back. She viewed his silence as a victory, albeit a hallow one. She delegated his folder to the back of her files and changed into a black dress to mourn his passing.

5.

The story with Demian wasn’t over. Not quite.

His jeep came to a halt beside her as she walked down Hollywood Boulevard after leaving her car with her mechanic. “Hop in,” he said, through the open window.

He invited her for coffee at Gorky’s, which happened to be where she was headed. He filled her in on his life like they were old friends. He told her about a girl her fell in love with when he was on location. “She is coming to visit,” he said with a sly smile. “I want you to give her a reading.”

“Why?”

“You might be able to give her some guidance.”

“Oh, like warning to steer clear of wolves?”

He laughed, pretending to flirt. She was too removed from his complex to care. “Narcisse,” he said with a smile that actually seemed genuine. “I am so grateful to you. What you told me over the phone–that I could ascend or self-destruct. It was all I needed to hear. I pulled myself out of the darkness.”

Narcisse smiled at Demian. He smiled back. The connection between them was stronger but she felt a peculi­ar warmth with her detachment…it felt like love. And the male before her was reveling in it. Could it be possible for love to emerge in the shadows under the Hollywood marquis?

He had the most earnest expression. “Narcisse, I don’t know about relationships. I can’t seem to figure them out.”

She shrugged. “Just be free. And keep writing.”

He bolted up in a characteristic recharge and planted a kiss on her cheek. “I have to leave. You want me to take you back to your car?”

She shook her head.

“Call me,” he yelled over his shoulder as he bolted out the door. She watched him through the window as he danced across the street. She had never seen him look so happy.

Later, as she left the building, she turned the corner and saw his name over a storefront. The meeting was fated to happen.

6.

Time passed. Demian’s birthday approached and, once again, he entered her consciousness. Narcisse asked a neighbor at work for a reading and the card reader was bowled over by the response. “Wow! You really like this guy, don’t you! Call him!”

In her fantasy, they climbed to the top of Mount Hollywood at sunrise and held hands between the sun and the moon while peering down at the land of illusion.

She ended up climbing the mountain alone and witnessing the departure of the moon and arrival of the sun. As she stood on the peak with the moon on one side and the sun on the other, she was over­whelmed by an amazing feeling of peace.

This must be what integration feels like, she thought.

Back in her apartment, she called him on the phone to wish him a happy birthday. He invited her to his party on Saturday night.

The rest of the sublimatio was recorded in Narcisse’s diary.

November 25, 1991

FRIDAY AFTERNOON. I take to my bed and weep. No response from my ally. I can’t face the enemy. If I don’t go, the Experiment is over. I will have to begin all over again.

During the evening meditation, in the temple on Sunset Boulevard, tears streams down my face as I kneel before the altar. I pray for Mercurius to come and aid me. Tears stream down my face and I leave through the back door. Lost in a labyrinth of doors and courtyards–all seeming to go nowhere.             There is no way out.

The feeling of entrapment fills me with anxiety. Chaos surrounds me like a slimy bog. Madness is what I most fear…until a man appears with a light and shows me the way out.
FRIDAY P.M. I return to my death bed in a state of emotional exhaustion. Fighting demons in the third dimension. The ringing telephone brings me back. My friend, my ally, has returned my call. She asks about the party and now I haven’t the will to go. Mercurius speaks through her. She is definately in the mood to party. “Even if we don’t go to Demian’s,” she says, “there is a Halloween party in Silverlake.

My prayers have been answered. I rise from my grave to contemplate an appropriate disguise. The effort is too much. I fall back into the unconscious as my head hits the pillow.

SATURDAY, A.M. I ascend from the grave to draw a bath. Red Dragon’s Blood salts in the water. I hypnotize myself into a trance.

I arrive in the office wearing black. Bill, a friendly astrologer, a Gemini, sits in the cubicle beside mine with his computer and provides me with a reading on the party. “ a lot of talk about sex but no one is getting any,” is his quick assessment of the energy.

On the way home, I stop at a bookstore to purchase Demian a gift, “God’s in Everyman”. I pick up a volume entitled “The Seduction of Madness”, thinking of Jason as I leaf through.

Darkness is a comforting place for me now. The only place I want to be. I am feeling very calm, very quiet, as I return to my studio to collapse on my futo, where, once again, I enter a death sleep.

SATURDAY P.M. It is pouring rain, a rare occurance in Southern California. Sandra, my ally, my friend, arrives looking sexy and cute, in a tight black knit dress and lace gloves cut at the fingertips, puffing a Gitane through a rhinestone cigarette holder, a black beret containing her irrepressible curls. “I’m a French whore,” she declares with a laugh I recognize as belonging to Mercurius.

“What should I wear?” I ask helplessly while standing in my bathrobe.

She opens the sliding door of my closet and picks out a strapless bubble dress of red silk and a long black satin shirt with tails to go over it. She paints my eyes dark with kohl and lips a lavish Chanel rouge. The woman in the mirror before me, I barely recognize. She is stunning, hair wild, with a bold and dynamic gaze.

“You look fabulous,” says my friend, my ally, my mirror.

She asks if I am nervous. I shake my head and, transformed by my costume, I link my arm through hers and head for the door.

“Shall we go, darling?”

 

7.

The goal of the alchemist

was the uniting of the

sun and moon, the male and female energies,

into the conjunctio.

Narcisse was amused upon discovering that Demian s gathering consisted almost entirely of women. The room was dark, lit only by candles and the television flickering electronic images from an old Shirley McClaine film, “What a Way to Go”, about a woman’s illusive search for love.

The French whores entered on a thunderclap into the subdued, low key atmosphere. Narcisse in her exalted state –dynamic, vital, lips confident in Chanel rouge–and utterly detached. One could say she was possessed by Sophia’s dark sister. The power she carried in her womb! Women and men flew to her like magnets, but when she focused attention on just one man, there was no one else in the room.

A pretty woman with an open face introduced herself to the woman and asked where they met Demian. “In the red light dis­trict,” Narcisse replied, with charmed detachment. She could feel the wolf moving around behind her, in the shadows, blowing out candles, his male force propelled towards her womb.

Her state of exaltation made her strong, capable, invulnerable.

The girlfriend was slight, blonde, chainsmoking, nervous, young, and vulnerable. Narcisse had an urge to protect her, though she knew that she would soon be thrown out like yesterday’s wash. Demian was nervous, restlessly moving around, compulsively cleaning. He couldn’t confront Narcisse, yet he couldn’t turn his attention elsewhere. He made a point of introducing her to a man,another Scorpio. “I told him you were an astrologer,” he said, with unmistakable pride.

The friend handed Narcisse his chart. She imagined herself as the High Priestess in black and focused her energy in her third eye.   “You really have a good relationship with your mother!” she exclaimed.

The High Priestess was pleased that Demian had begun to associate with men who enjoyed good relations with their mother.

Jason slithered in, a lost wolf attempting to appear invisible. He remained in the shadows, licking his wounds, talking to no one. The High Priestess welcomed him with a hug and applied mental compresses to his wounds, his rejection by the wolf pack and subsequent downward descent, a sure fired case of life imitating art. She warned him to stay grounded.

He made a face. “I find nothing of interest in the mundane,” he wails.

“Do not succimb! Once your energy disintegrates, it is very difficult to climb out.”

The French whores ate the homemade lasgane in the kitchen where they were joined by the girlfriend of Demian. They ended up being the last to leave. Sandra held back, intent on watching the movie until the credits appeared, stalling Mercurius intent on heightening the discomfort of the Wolf. How well the friendliest of gods to men was playing his role–actually slowing down time so Narcisse could observe the effects of the Experiment she was creating, and her role as participant.

Sandra invited Demian and his girlfriend to the Halloween party. They declined.

Sitting in the dark car, as the rain pelted the roof, Sandra related her observations. “He was bored with that girl,” she said in a authoritative voice not sounding at all like her own.

“All his energy was directed at you. You rose to be the Queen..”

“Yes,” replied Narcisse, “I soaked for hours in the alchemical bath…”

“But he hasn’t risen to the Prince…”

Narcisse was dumbfounded by her friend, her ally. She never before spoke in such alchemical terms. And quite suddenly she realized Mercurius must have been speaking through her friend–leading her into the next stage–the sublimatio. At last, Narcisse was so absorbed in the process, the goal of the opus been long forgot­ten.

“Do you want him?” she asked. “Do you really want him? Are you willing to put up with all the bad behavior?”

It was strange to consider Demian as a partner. Narcisse had never thought about having Demian for anything other than the conjunctio.

“He would use up all my energy,” said Narcisse as she turned the key in the ignition.

“High maintaince,” said Sandra.

Narcisse started up the car without responding.

At the Halloween party, there were treats and tricksters and lanterns and skeletons and plastic bats and numerous games to play. Someone handed Narcisse a paintbox and she stood on a large whtie sheet in the center of the room. There she created a mandala in honor of her journey and colored it in various shades of black transcending into purple…a symphony of darkness vibrating to the single note of freedom.

As they wandered through the drunken pirates and stoned ghosts and leering strippers, Narcisse encountered a Hermaphrodite, a creature with two heads, male and female, and and a huge rubbery penis and vagina attached to its plastic skin. She joyfully stuck out her hand and saluted the final omen.

In alchemy, the Hermaphrodite is the symbol of the conjunctio, the final stage of tranformation leading to the Philosopher’s Stone.

conjunctio

1.

When the process

of individuation is conscious,

it leads to the Philosopher’s Stone.

Not a hardening of the personality

but to firmness in the positive sense

of the word. It is a rock that is also

a well.

                                    –Von Franz

 

 

At last, her prayers were answered. She was invited to housesit for nine months (the gestation period!) in a canyon at the far end of Malibu…where the purple sage mountains met the sea. The cozy cottage has the style of a Swiss chalet, complete with a wood burning stove and flying wooden mermaids from Bali and earth colored wall hangings of Mexican gods.

Narcisse was responsible for the care of three dogs and two cats, one black and one white, a symbol of unity. When they curled up together on the sofa they were like the yin and the yang.

The two and a half year cycle of eclipses were coming to an end. Time to surrender, and prepare for a new journey. The retreat was the place of her final letting go. Few possessions and no people were carried into isolation. For companionship, there were the animals entrusted to her care and the golden rays of sunlight and silver glow of the moon and the beckoning stars and the Goddess Pele thundering from the volcanic mountains and Ceres rising ravenous from the sea.

Every night, she sat beside the fire and prayed with Vesta, Goddess of the Hearth.

The silences of the canyon spoke to her. It was dark, like a protective womb, and she sat all day in the garden and filled herself myself with memories as she prepared to write the final chapter of her saga.

To reach the end, one must go back to the beginning…Narcisse remembered a psychic who once held her earring and described a vision of her as a little girl in the mountains, spirit uplifted with joy. At the time, Narcisse didn’t know if the psychic was projecting her past or her future.

The Experiment at an end, Narcisse practiced the art of self healing, recognizing her asylum as the cold and forbidden land from her dream. But the reality wasn’t that way at all.

2.

Spring arrived with the constellation of the Ram. Time to collect the dew and begin the Experiment once again. The alchemist was gazing at the splendid conjunction of Jupiter and the Moon when she felt a surging in her heart and a voice echoing through the canyon urged her to call Demian.

er expkstSeect behe practiced the art of self-healing and quickly was restored to health in the canyon. One evening, she gazed at a magnificent conjunction of Jupiter and the Moon. A sudden urge to call Demian seized her with a force and she knew she must heed it.

He was happy to hear her voice. She described her paradise and listened to his triumphant account of mastering his addictions. He mentioned being in the hospital due to a

myster­ious ailment–uncontrolled bleeding. “I collapsed on the bed of a friend. She took me to the Emergency Room.”

“Come,” said Narcisse. “Come here and you will be healed in a day.”

“I think I am beginning to see the light,” he said softly.        The light was on a mountain in Malibu. But to arrive there, he must first enter the canyon…the deep canyon which frighte­ned him in his dreams. The canyon which symbolized all that is feminine and, therefore, to be feared. The dark abyss of the Great Mother he spent a lifetime escaping was now crying out his name into the night. Come. Come.

3.

Jumping into the water…

jumping consciously into some experience,

an experience of life.

Von Franz

She waited on her mountaintop for Death to come. He never arrived. Instead…the rains came…

For an entire fortnight, it stormed without stopping. She huddled before the fireplace to write and the water flooded the floor of the room she used as her office, dampening the new stationary she purchased before arriving in her asylum, stationary embossed with a brand new identity. The universe was sending her a message…it wasn’t yet time to go forth in the world.

First, the fire. Next, the immer­sion…

4.

At last, the sky cleared. She ventured into the sunlight and tossed handfuls of wildflower seeds on the ground. Buds were opening on the trees. Crocuses were sprouting along the front walk. Spring had arrived in Malibu! The Spring of her renewal.

A healer named Chira came to visit with her supermarket of herbs. Narcisse related the story of Demian and his bleeding.

“It is a problem of coagulation,” the healer said.

“Of course! The alchemical stage of incarnation. He gave up sex and he flew too high.”

“He needs comfrey,” the visitor advised as she looked through her stash. “I’m fresh out.”

Narcisse made a mental note to purchase the remedy so she would have it available when her Love arrived at her door.

5.

The circulatio is moving

through the four elements,

repeating the process

again and again

on new levels.

–Von Franz

He didn’t come. Perhaps she wasn’t ready for the physical union. She needed to build her strength. When I am strong, the Goddess will emerge and swing the doors open wide to the temple.

The Goddess didn’t appear and Narcisse couldn’t let go. Her destiny required that she see this thing through to the bitter end. At last, she used an excursion into the city as an excuse to see him. She called him from a hip downtown art gallery, after arriving, too late, at the exhibition. His machine answered. She hung up without leaving a message and rushed over to Chinatown to buy herbs.

In the midst of the bright pagodas of Chinatown, she was immobilized while staring in the window of a hole-the-wall restaurant where they once ate. In the glass she saw his face. He looked so lovely…she became intoxicated all over again.

She rushed to the pagoda phone booth to dial his number once again. He answered. Her breath seemed to be squeezed out of her. He seemed in a daze, pleasantly stunned to hear her voice. “Uhh, can you call back in fifteen minutes. I’m on the phone.”

Her hand trembled as she hung up the receiver. She knew the only way she could go through the confrontation was to roam into the uncon­scious. By now, she had become well aware of how the unconscious had become a drug to her…she craved the unseen the same way an alcoholic did his drink, a junkie did his habit. The Great Work had taught her the beauty and power of the darkness and instructed her in the art of magic…creating change in accordance with will.

Narcisse roamed in circles, entering one shop after another in search of the herb promising a cure to his stalled process. At last, she entered a shop with a gold plated bong in the window and wooden drawers containing mysterious roots, packages of herbs with Chinese labels and intoxicating oils in glass vassals.   She located her herb in the form of tea bags and purchased a box from a Chinese man in a cobalt silk jacket who spoke no English. She exited the shop, empowered by her mission and the knowledge she would carry it through.

She simply had to see him in person in order to hand him his herbs.

Through the murky waters of the unconscious, she stumbled into a phone booth and dialed his number. He answered and apologized for still being on the phone. “It’s going on and on,” he said, in a slightly conspiratorial tone. “A break-up. You know how that is. I’d love to see you but not tonight. I’m going to a meeting at eight.”

“Oh,” is all she could reply to the obvious brush­off.

“I’ll come out to see you in…”

“Malibu.”

“Yeah, Malibu.”

“Farewell, Demian,” she said glumly, hanging up the phone. Standing paralyzed in the phone booth, she became acutely aware of her surroundings as all external objects seemed to move in slow motion around her.   One by one, she gazed at the brightly colored storefronts, the buildings with pagoda designs and the iron lampposts. Her gaze moved across the street and rested on a sign: LITTLE JOE’S. She laughed out loud. Joe was the character in Demian’s play. She muttered outloud. “Aren’t they both little boys–the artist and his creation?”

By the time she returned to her car, Narcisse knew not only knew what she must do, but the clarity of her mission kept her fingers clutched firmly to the steering wheel. The car and the car seemed to deliver itself to his apartment. She arrived at his building in a near trance state. Never, in the two years she knew him, did she ever drop in on him. It had to do with respecting the Scorpio’s need for privacy (her logs were filled with the wounded women who didn’t).

She parked around the corner and snuck up to his duplex like a prowler. Gazing through the window, she could see though the shade, his shadow sipping from a glass while holding the phone to his ear. A wine bottle was tucked beside him, into the corner of his armchair.

She decided to practice her patience and wait until he was through with his call. Taking a seat on the porch, she recounted the stories of ill-fated affairs between Aquarians and Scorpios. Her favor­ite was the Scorpio woman who was convinced her boyfriend was having her followed after she beat on his car with a baseball bat when he broke off the relationship. Narcisse advised the spurned woman to take up karate.

The cat scratched at her through the window while the conversation went on. And on. She waited awhile. And waited some more. Finally, just before eight, he hangs up the phone and turns out the light and exits the front door.

“Hello Demian,” she said, surprised at the calm in her voice. He was shocked to see her but after a momentary pause, he smiled and she knew handed him the box of tea. “I brought you some herbs.”

“Thanks,” he said. After a momentary pause, he nodded to his jeep. “You want to come to a meeting?”

“Sure,” she said, jumping up with a grin. He handed her a piece of paper with an address. “We are going to Glendale.”

“Why Glendale?” she asked as he unlocked the passenger door.

“The Hollywood meetings…too many celebrities. People in the business.”

She smiled as she climbed in. “Good for networking.”

He made a face as he took his place behind the wheel.

It was drizzling by the time they found the address and parked in the lot of an old church now used as a meeting place for veter­ans. The lobby was deteriorated with a few scattered armchairs and an old couch and a television. An wrinkled man behind a desk pointed to the stairs. “Meeting’s up there.”

The walked up the steps and down a corridor to a large room filled with chairs and a splattering of people all united by a dedication to find the spirits outside of a bottle. Not having a taste for drink, Narcisse never got calls from alcoholics. Her following was largely confined to love addicts.

A florid woman in a bold flowered dress and a pink at spoke with a loud voice from the podium, describing her hilarious adventure of a drunken arrest. Demian sat in a row of empty chairs in the back. Narcisse sat directly behind him, close enough to view the dark hairs sticking out on his neck. The electricity between them was so terribly strong…

The woman finished and the leader appeared at the podium and asked who was having a birthday. A few people raised their hands. “All those people are having a birthday?” Narcisse asked Demian, revealing her ignorance.

“A birthday of sobriety,” he whispered, pointing to the twelve steps written on placards on the walls. “Just one day at a time.”

The leader roused another person to the podium to speak. Demian looked around and made a face. “Why am I here? Shouldn’t I have moved beyond this by now?”

“Why don’t you get up and talk about it?” Narcisse offered.

He shook his head. “Let’s go.”

On the way out the door, he pointed to the refreshment table. “Have a cookie.”

“No thanks. I am a sugar addict.”

As they exited the building, he was still shaking his head. “I’ve never been to a meeting loaded before.”

On the way home, it began to pour. His jeep had no wipers and Narcisse feared becoming another statistic of driving under the influence. The attraction was so electric, it seemed to crackle in the damp. Yet, there was a sort of comfortable familiarity in their togetherness. “Oh, baby,” she teased. “I can’t drive back to Malibu now. Will you let me stay in your bed?”

He gave her one of his nervous smiles that showed his vulnerability. Amused…yet wary. She went on: “Come on. We’ll do an experiment and see if we can stay in bed together for a whole night without touching.”

“Women!” he cried, picking up his lines. “All they want me for is my body.”

“Demian, you sound just like a woman!”

He parked the jeep in the same spot in front of his building and jumped out. His stride to the door was cocky. “I already got fucked last night. I don’t need to get fucked again.”

When Narcisse closed her eyes she saw red…the color of the first chakra. A bad sign indeed.

He invited her inside and offered some wine. She asked for herbal tea and took a seat in his favorite armchair while noting the change in his furniture. The cat climbed on her lap. He sat at a table on the other side of the room and ate a sandwich while finishing off the bottle of wine.

The stage was set. She knew how much he enjoyed these verbal confrontations, an opportunity to test his will. But Narcisse had the benefit of knowing the planets were in her favor. She had waited two years for this moment of cloture. A full two and a half year cycle of eclipses was coming to a rapid end and Aquarians were having their way–at last.

The drama was at its height when the telephone rang.

He didn’t make a move. The machine answered for him. It was a young woman’s voice telling him that she was at home.

He smiled in satisfaction at the evidence of the betrayal he hadn’t even been aware of. The betrayal not of the woman but the process…She had called it right. He failed in the coagulatio…because he failed to do the work!

“Is that the girl you had sex with last night?” she asked.

He nodded.

“You told me over the phone that you don’t engage in casual sex anymore.”

He shrugged. “It just happened! We met at a screening last night and she went wild.”

“Sounded a little nervous, like she is worried you might not want to see her again. What happened to the girl who came to visit?”

His smile was smug. “I broke her heart. Two days after I arrived in her town to do a shoot, I told her it was over.”

“I really hate the way you treat women.”

“Now Narcisse…” said the libertine with his most seductive smile.

She shook her head to let him know the libertine could no longer move her from her center. “It will come back to you. This is the nineties. Karma comes round real fast.”

He blinked. Somewhere in his soul, her words seemed to register. She could see it in his eyes.   He looked sober as he said: “Something is happening…you…the phone conversation tonight. And yesterday a friend from New York…”

She gave him one of her wise smiles. “Time to pay you karmic debts.”

He took another sip of wine and she could see the libertine shifting into the demon lover as his aura darkened. “You must really want to get fucked to come all the way here.”

She didn’t react, knowing she must have triggered something deep for such bitterness to rise. But, for the first time, his weakness didn’t prompt her to protect him. All that mattered was how centered and powerful she felt to be sitting in his favorite chair watching his successive states of possession like she was viewing a film. Next time she would bring popcorn!

Perhaps because he could not move her, he tried honesty. “What I first noticed about you was your womb,” he said. “You have such a feminine womb.”

“That’s strange,” she said. “I never felt connected to my womb until after my operation.”

So they talked. The first really honest discussion they ever had. He thanked her for the book she gave him and said he read it all the way through and she said she felt he wasn’t one

god but all the gods and that the message she read in his horoscope was that as long as he believed in himself, he could move from one archetype to another without losing his center.

“My astrologer died,” he said.

“What does that tell you?”

He dismissed the question with a shrug. But she suspected he knew the meaning: he had gained enough self-awareness. The time had come to act.

She asked him about the women he broke up with that night and he said it was the friend who took care of him when he was sick and she asked why he had to break up if she was just a friend and he had no answer.

“I’m here to discover the truth,” she told him. “About your feelings…”

“I told you before, I’m not attracted to you.”

His response came so quickly, she knew it was automatic, a pattern of a lifetime. She sent him a penetrating look but he averted her gaze with lowered eyes.

“You can’t look at me when you say that,” she said.

He picked up the wine bottle. It was empty. He threw it across the room. “You escape into alcohol,” she said. “You hide behind your myths. If you could just come forth with your feelings…”

“That is just what she spent two hours telling me!” he cried.

They connected with a look and she said: “You really have come a long way to listen to a woman tell you that.”

He nodded and appeared receptive so she thought she would tell him the truth. “There was so much fate involved in our relationship. I met you at the only time in my life I was stable. I had no other options in my life but to help you through your process. It is strange. From the very start, I always felt you trusted me.”

He nodded.

She continued: “But I never trusted you.”

“It was impossible,” he replied. “How could anyone trust someone who was so busy running around…who could never stay in one place…”

She knew he was describing his mother. And his restless anima.

“And now?” she asked. “What about now? Are you worthy of someone’s trust?”

Silence. He moved into the shadows where she couldn’t read his expression. Out of the darkness she heard a voice, a low, husky, very female voice, telling this male representative what she wanted in a relationship. The voice spoke with great warmth while discussing the need for definition and commitment. The dance, she said, had long since become a bore. She went on to tell him something Narcisse never dared discuss…the alchemical work and how she journeyed through all the stages with him but now she was ready for the final stage…the alchemical wedding.

As above, so below, say the occultists. And the divine marriage she experienced in the heavens would some day take the form of a human relationship.

He was grinning with suppressed joy. “You have to stop with this noncommittal attitude of yours,” he said, shaking his head in his alcoholic stupor as if he couldn’t believe her words.

Yes, of course. But he was discussing the past. She was evasive and he was her mirror. “It was just a mask of self-protection,” she said. “You know, survival.”

He nodded. Survival was something Demian understood.

“Living in Malibu must be good for you,” he said. “You look great.”

He was saddened by what came next. But she knew that his instincts were too strong for even alcohol to dampen. And so she let her inner voice do the talking: “…we can’t have a relationship of convenience any longer. There isn’t any possibility of us running into one another now….If we are to move onto the next stage, there has to be a commitment.”

Positively giddy, he became. And his obvious delight only served to embarrass her. She thought about her friend’s warning. He was telling her now that he thought he could have a commitment with her and some inner wisdom screamed out: He isn’t the one!

She nodded calmly. Strangely, her spirit was not elated to hear him say the words she waited so long to hear. Perhaps it had to do with the amount of wine he had consumed. Perhaps because her wisdom was stronger than ever at that moment and the High Priestess knew his actions could not deliver on his words.

Whatever it was, Narcisse felt very much in control. She knew she was appearing before him on the right day and she was proud that her body led her here rather than her mind.

“I just don’t know if I suffered enough,” he said.

Perhaps not. There was still too much darkness around him.

He asked her about his fears and she told him that the devouring female which he feared was within himself. “You project that energy onto women. The only way you can understand her is to work it through in your writing. You don’t have to transform through a relationship. You can do it through your art.”

He nodded, taking it all in. They discussed more of their past and potential futures. More talk to mask vulnera­bility and fears. Finally, she dropped the tea bag in her empty cup spoke in a quiet, soothing voice: “I think I’ll leave now. We talked enough for one evening.”

They rose in unison. “Now a hug,” he said.

They met in the center of the room where she hugged him tight and whispered in his ear. “Come and see me.”

She kissed his neck. His skin felt so good against her lips…and their bodies fit so perfectly into one another. The feeling of unity seized her with an extraordinary grip. She was Shakti merging with Shiva and she wanted to dance! Yet, the moment was fleeting. He quickly broke away, even as she swooned.

“It’s so far,” he cried as he broke away and collapsed in a chair, his head falling into his hands.

She went to him like a goddess and stroked his hair as she kisses the top of his gorgeous head. “Farewell, my love.”

“So far,” he was saying while shaking his head as she walked out the door in the rain.

Too far indeed. The distance to the forbidden land was unfathomable to those who hadn’t done the work.

The Great Work is

an adventure

which never comes

to an end.

     –Von Franz

 

He didn’t come. But then…she really didn’t expect him. Would you do it if you were a man…not just any man but a man who believes in myths? Would you leave the security of your neigh­borhood and drive hours out of the city up a winding mountain road to enter a canyon to greet death? What man would do that a saint or a fool? The ride itself was too much of a commitment. Think of the things that could happen on the journey! He could get lost. His car could break down. He could get dis­tracted by some starlet he meets in a swank bar along the way.

But these things didn’t matter any longer. The rewards of alchemical experiment are not nearly so visible. Not yet. The most valuable lesson Narcisse learned in performing the Great Work was patience and timing.   And so…she sealed her opus by writing: In due time I will receive my rewards. I have all the patience in the world now.

And there were other distractions. The house. The dogs. The garden she intended to grow. But first, she knew, she would have to be dunked into the water again…and again.

The rains come once more. For three days she couldn’t get out of bed from despair. Her life seemed to be at an end. There was no future…no hope. All that exited was the darkness that came with death.

One night, the rain suddenly stopped and Luna in all her moist and silverly splendor, appeared,majestic and robust, from behind the clouds. Narcisse awoke from a deep sleep to the sound of a howling in the night. A sliver of illumination from the heavenly body beckoned her out hte door and up the path leading to the mountain. A howling sounded from the ridge. The trail shimmered like gold under her feet. She followed it to the top of the mountain and climbed on a huge boulder jetting over the edge like a spaceship. Still in trance, she moved towards the darkness. A shape appeared out of the shadows and into Luna’s glow.

Narcisse found herself gazing into the face of the wolf. the very face which appeared in the dream which signaled the beginning of her journey. In the yellow gleam of the eye of the beast, she saw her reflection. And in her image was her life and death inscribed in the image of the Uruboros, the snake eating its own tail. At that fantastic moment while the woman stood perfectly still in the strange glow of Luna’s glittering skirts, a woman’s cry echoed through the canyon:

“THE WOLF IN THE BOTTLE IS ME!”

THE END

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