Shadow Castle

27 Oct

I dreamt of gold and woke to sheets of it streaming off me.

 

We were waiting around the royal swimming pool for Queen Elizabeth to arrive to celebrate her royal birthday.  The hours passed slowly, and Her Royal Highness was yet to show.  Prince Phillip appeared from time to time to promise us she would be there soon, but most of the gathered royal-watchers were beginning to give up hope.  Disappointed and disillusioned, several moved to retrieve their coats, leave their presents on the royal table.  Desperate to prove them wrong—to ourselves as much as to our fellow partiers—my friend Mary Ann and I grasped hands and jumped fully clothed into the deep-end of the pool.  Instinctively we knew that if the water turned to gold when we resurfaced, the promises would be true.  We also knew it wasn’t Her Majesty we were waiting for, but Him.  As we ascended, sheets of gold streamed from us, head to toe.  Tears of joy mingled with the shimmering water; we shouted in our elation, our conviction, our blessed assurance.

Thus, my dream.  My dreams are vivid and unique, incessant and recurring.  People often wonder at their meaning, ponder their source.  Some would say I read too much.  Guilty as charged.  I always have.  From before I could read the words myself, books have been my drug of choice; since I have learned to read, I have mainstreamed words and stories like any self-respecting junkie.  And I horde my paraphernalia in rooms of shelves like used needles piled in every corner.

One of my favorite books when I first learned to read was Shadow Castle, a modern fairy tale by Marian Cockrell. I still have the worn Scholastic paperback somewhere, in spite of cat pee stains (and odor), testament to my dedication never to part with it:  throw it away or wish it on some unsuspecting book sale.  I loved fairy tales—The Blue Book, the Pink Book, Grimm’s, Anderson—and even those by authors whose names I can’t recall.  They were more than stories; they were possibilities.

More than anything, I wanted to be a fairy.  As a child, I haunted the bright green “fairy rings” in my grandparents’ pasture, hoping against hope of glimpsing an ethereal form, listening for the whirr of iridescent wings.  I dreamed of flying, escaping all manner of wicked pursuers, blending invisible with the friendly shadows.  I was beyond grateful for my blue-ringed green eyes and slightly pointy ears, acquiesced to being “corrie-fisted,” switching the pencil readily from my right hand to my left.  If only, if only…

Like Emily, I dwelt “in possibility, a fairer place than prose…”  And when the mortal man in Shadow Castle who had fallen in love with the fairy princess was obliged to exchange 100 years and a day in fairy land while his elfin love was sentenced to serve the same time on this side if they wanted to spend eternity together, I entered that banishment with him, just in case, clapping my hands as Peter commanded, lest some fairy’s light become extinguished.

“If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales; if you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales,” that genius Albert Einstein supposedly opined.  As a child, I was a voracious reader, obsessed; as an adult, I am just as ravenous, addicted. As I have aged this side of paradise, I read more fairy tales, discovering Tir-na-Nog (Land of Forever Young) and W. B. Yeats and Lady Gregory who, being Irish and intelligent, took the wee folk (nee, “The Shining Ones”) more seriously even than I have.  Like Yeats, older and wiser, I follow the light cast by the sacred mythology out of the darkness of the abyss.

Shadow Castle got its name from the shady silhouettes flickering on its walls, evidence of those just across the border of the Other World.  As the century-sentence drew to a close when the mortal and his fairy love would be reunited, the shadows became more restless, fluttering with impatient anticipation for the spell to be broken.  Little more than a shade, a wraith myself, I, too, pace behind these boundaries, waiting to be set free.  And now, the days grow shorter:  99, 100, 1…

Many have called it a myth, nothing more than a child’s fairy tale, this promise of the Rapture.  But wiser men, like Einstein and Yeats, have seen beneath the surface, into the abyss and beyond, to where the Truth lives, shining and forever young.  “The foolishness of God is wiser than men…”

I dream of gold and wake to sheets of it streaming off me.

 

–Rebecca Luttrell Briley

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