On earth as it is in heaven

Friday, 30 July

As soon as I arrived at Elmfield House yesterday afternoon I knew that Leonard and I would get very little work done. Leonard was in an exceptionally chatty mood from the second that I walked through the door and he was eager to tell me about a phone call that he had received from Sophie’s father. The latest round of hospital tests indicate that Sophie’s condition is improving and her father hopes that they will be able to visit us sometime next month. Leonard was so excited at the prospect of their impending visit that he could barely contain himself and we spent around half-an-hour talking about Sophie and his plans for her arrival. Although I enjoy these pleasant conversations before starting work, I worry that we are spending more time talking than working these days and I am frustrated when we make slow progress during a session, particularly since the journey to and from Elmfield House is proving to be somewhat of a challenge given my recent uneasiness in public.

Leonard eventually began to collect his equipment together and I took my bag into the bathroom to change into my sitting clothes, but I could see through the frosted glass of the bathroom window that the weather was not in our favour. Dark clouds were gathering outside and the air, even in the small bathroom, had the suffocating tightness of an impending thunderstorm. We managed to squeeze in an hour at the most of work before Leonard decided that the light was too bad to continue and shortly afterwards a bright flash of lightning lit up the workroom and signified that a storm was imminent. Sure enough the first rumbles of thunder quickly followed and the room descended into darkness. 

I confessed to Leonard that I was not keen to venture home in the bad weather and resigned myself to an afternoon of herbal tea and theological discussion (which is never a bad thing) so Leonard packed away the equipment and headed into the kitchen to brew up a pot of Melissa (Lemon Balm) tea. As he left the room he flicked the light switch by the workroom door and bathed the workroom in a gloomy yellow wash from the single light bulb that hangs from the ceiling and he emerged from the kitchen only moments later with a large ceramic teapot on a tray and a selection of bourbon biscuits arranged decoratively on a plate (I find it amusing that he still goes to such great trouble to present food and drink to me even though I have been visiting his house for over six months now). He poured the tea into the mugs and the room was filled with the sweet and warming smell of lemon balm. I clutched my hot mug to my chest, wilted back into the armchair and tried to make myself comfortable as I watched Leonard sort through a pile of books on the floor in search of his bible, but there was something deeply unsettling about the stifling air in the workroom, the brooding and cathartic rumbles of thunder that punctuated our conversation and the dull glow from the solitary light bulb that cast dark shadows onto the bookshelves and wove a sickly, nightmarish ambience into the room. My nerves had already been set on edge by the persistent squeaking and creaking noises coming from the upper rooms and although I realised that the strong winds outside were to blame for these noises, to my mind it sounded as though someone was walking across the uneven floorboards upstairs and opening the doors at random. I have never felt so claustrophobic and generally spooked in Elmfield house as I did yesterday afternoon - even nipping to the bathroom was a rushed ordeal!

The bible passage that Leonard selected for discussion was the accusation made by the scribes in chapter three of the Gospel of Mark that Jesus performs his miracles with the assistance of the demon Beelzebul. I suspect that the eerie atmosphere in the workroom may well have influenced his choice of subject matter but, given my nervous state at the time, I would have much preferred to defer an analysis of a story about Beelzebul, demons and exorcism until the next sunny day in the garden! Leonard handed me his bible and asked me to familiarise myself with the story, so I flicked through the pages, located the passage and read:

‘And the scribes which came down from Jerusalem said, He has Beelzebul, and by the prince of the devils he casts out devils.’ And he called them to him, and said to them in parables, How can Satan cast out Satan? And if a kingdom be divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house be divided against itself, that house cannot stand. And if Satan rises up against himself, and be divided, he cannot stand, but has an end. No man can enter into a strong man's house, and spoil his goods, except he will first bind the strong man; and then he will spoil his house.’

Leonard pointed out that two charges are made against Jesus in Mark’s account: the first is that Jesus ‘has Beelzebul’ and the second is that Jesus is using Beelzebul to carry out his exorcisms. Leonard said that the question of whether the first charge is to be interpreted as Beelzebul’s possession of Jesus or Jesus’ possession of Beelzebul is key to our understanding of the passage as the former reading suggests that Jesus was demon-possessed while the latter clearly warrants a charge of magic. Given that Leonard had ridiculed my suggestion that Jesus was spirit-possessed on a previous occasion, I suspected that he would defend the latter option. And I was right. Leonard believes that the allegation that is made by the scribes is not one of spirit-possession but one of spirit manipulation and therefore it is a straightforward charge of magic. 

Leonard explained that exorcism and magic were very closely associated in the ancient world and simply knowing about demons was thought to demonstrate an inclination towards practising magic. Since the Gospel authors present Jesus as being far from naïve regarding the operations of demons it is natural that his enemies would make such a connection, however Leonard pointed out that Jesus does very little to defend himself from these allegations of magical activity and, rather than refuting the scribes’ accusations, he foolishly plays into their hands by openly demonstrating his knowledge of common techniques that were used by magicians to manipulate demonic spirits…

Our conversation was briefly interrupted at that point by the sound of heavy rain rattling against the windowpane and Leonard paused to check on the whereabouts of Hooter. After two or three calls of his name, I heard the scratching of the dog's long nails in the hallway and the workroom door creaked open. Hooter padded over and slumped down at Leonard’s feet, looking bemused as to why he had been summoned from his slumber at the foot of the stairs. I felt sorry for the poor thing as he looked up at Leonard with his big sleepy eyes but I was much happier knowing that he was in the room with us.

Returning to our discussion I mentioned, rather bravely and somewhat sarcastically, that I do not recall any instances in the Gospels in which Jesus engages in an elaborate magical ritual to summon devils and demons. Fortunately Leonard saw the well-intentioned humour in my comment and he asked if I was familiar with the basic principles of magical binding. He explained that the ancient magician believed that by ‘binding’ something he could restrain it from operating or forcefully unite it with something else and this technique was employed for a variety of purposes; such as to restrain armies, thieves or dangerous animals, to prevent crops from maturing or to separate lovers or bind lovers together. He said that magical binding is based on the theory of ‘sympathetic magic’ which imagines that the spiritual world is tied to the corporeal world by a series of invisible threads that can be manipulated by the magician in the physical realm to achieve equivalent results in the spiritual realm - therefore whatever is bound or loosed by the magician on the earth is also bound or loosed in the heavens. 

Leonard then instructed me to read two verses in the Gospel of Matthew (16:19 and 18:18) in which Jesus teaches the disciples that ‘whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven' and he asked whether I considered these verses to be informed by a knowledge of magical binding. I agreed that the terminology is suspiciously similar, but at that point in our conversation I was struggling to engage critically with Leonard’s reasoning because waves of tiredness were washing over me and my eyelids were becoming increasingly heavier with each word that he spoke. I suspect that the mesmeric sound of the rain beating against the window and the warming effects of the hot herbal infusion were truly to blame, but I honestly felt as though I had been injected with morphine or I had ingested a potent dose of narcotics that threatened to send me spiralling into unconsciousness at any moment. Although I was seriously in danger of falling asleep mid-conversation, I fought against my tiredness and tried desperately to concentrate on every word that Leonard spoke because I realised that I must seize every opportunity to engage him in theological debate. After all, these conversations are providing the fuel for my postgraduate dissertation and I now have an academic interest, in addition to a personal interest, in what Leonard has to say.


Tuesday, 27 July

I had not intended to discuss this at all here, but I have been contemplating this decision all night and I have decided that if this blog is to serve as an accurate and comprehensive account of my daily routine then I must be completely truthful about my relationship with Luke. I mentioned in a previous post that I am falling in love with him but, if I am entirely honest, the emotions that I am experiencing are nothing like ‘love’ in my normal understanding of the word. Our connection runs far deeper than mutual affection; he is like family now, if not closer. In fact I would describe it as an almost symbiotic connection. I realise that this is all happening far too fast and it is ridiculous to feel such great affection for someone that I have only known for such a short period of time, but when we are together it seems so perfect and ’right’ that it really feels as though we have known each other for many years.

We have shared several of these ‘moments of indulgence’ - as I so carefully and ambiguously described in a recent post - since our first one back in June and their frequency is increasingly by the day, almost each and every time that Leonard leaves the house now. I have avoided mentioning them until now because I was concerned that the reader might react adversely and consider me to be insane. But what do I care? I will explain everything and you can choose to either believe me or ridicule me. Take it or leave it. It makes no difference to me whatsoever. 

During our last encounter I took account of every sensation in my body so that I could describe it to you. The process in its entirety and the after-effects are a bizarre curiosity but it is the prelude to the event that fascinates me each time. I can see the first subtle changes present themselves in Luke more easily than I can see them in myself; his voice has a lower tone, his eyes have a heavy and distant glaze and he fixes on me with a determined stare. This might sound like textbook Mills & Boon to my reader, but it is far from it and Luke could not be any further removed from the romantic and desirable figure of fantasy that I had anticipated. In fact our first encounters made me feel like a newborn puppy thrown into a dog fight and they were very upsetting to say the least, so we have since agreed that a system of ‘mutual exchange’ is a far more favourable arrangement. If we enter into the same state of mind at exactly the same time then our emotions are effectively anaesthetized and the brutality of our actions does not leave a lasting mark on my memory.

The first ‘warning signs’ are very subtle in my case; I become extremely confident and I flirt outrageously, my focus is sharper and I can see a thick black border around objects and a hazy white border around people, my eyes either become sore and tired as though I am heavily medicated or I stare wildly at people and I am not ashamed to look away when our eyes meet. Luke becomes obsessed with books and magazines when he is in this state because the printed words pop out of the page and figures seem to float out of photographs towards him (it is always amusing to watch him gawking at a newspaper!). Once the sight transformations have taken hold then I quickly disconnect from my immediate surroundings and I watch events as though they are taking place on a giant TV screen around me. I am fascinated by the expressions on the faces of the people around me, voices sound louder, colours look more vibrant and the pads of my fingers become very sensitive and they tingle when I make contact with objects and surfaces. I have a desire to grab at things, to hold them and to study them and I desperately want to take hold of people and press them against me. And yes, I realise how crazy that sounds! I can contain these urges for a few days by using the deep breathing and concentration techniques that Luke has taught me in order to suppress the sharpening of my senses, to ground myself in my surroundings and to stem the flood of fluids that rush into my throat and cause me to choke violently, however once I suspect that I am losing control and becoming a danger to the people around me then I immediately seek out assistance from Luke.

When I am safely alone with Luke then I can relax and allow the process to continue. The next stage begins with an odd tingling in the lowest point of my bottom jaw on either side of my face, just below each ear. This tingling feeling spreads across my lower jawline, simultaneously creeping up into my ears and spreading beneath my tongue, causing me to salivate and my tongue to become engorged. The tingling moves into my lower front teeth and the entire lower jaw feels as though it is being drawn back and my nose and upper jaw are sliding forwards and outwards into an animal-like muzzle. I develop a strong sense of ‘pointed-ness’ in the centre of my face and my upper teeth start to hum and vibrate, which tickles ever so much! The odd feeling in my jaw calms after a while, but my hearing blocks (predominantly in my right ear) and noises become muted and distant.

The tickly vibration in my upper teeth is alleviated by the application of pressure and so in order to counteract this uncomfortable sensation I have an overwhelming urge to open my mouth and press my teeth into something like a teething child relieving the pressure of new teeth breaking through the gum. It is not a controlled decision to bite but rather an overwhelming need to bite. And it is usually around this time that I start to smell it - that salty-meaty odour that I can taste on the tip of my tongue as soon as it enters into my nostrils – and while my rational mind tells me that my subsequent actions are distasteful, a deep-rooted and almost intuitively primal part of me knows that what lies beneath the skin is highly desirable and I will be rewarded with instant gratification, albeit with a somewhat shameful aftertaste (I can only imagine that this same self-conscious internal struggle is endured by the smoker when succumbing to a cigarette craving or the alcoholic upon taking another mouthful of liquor).

I find the procedure of breaking the skin to be unpleasant, clumsy and embarrassing, but it can be dealt with quickly and painlessly if executed correctly (Luke usually helps me because he is very conscious of his appearance and he doesn’t like to make a mess). It is like breaking through the tough bitter peel of an orange to get at the juicy fruit inside – terribly messy and frustrating but well worth the effort! The pleasurable shock of the transition from cold skin and dry teeth to warm liquid and wet tongue is like diving headfirst into a pool of tortuous ecstasy. I realise how horrifically pretentious that sounds but I make no apologies because there is no other satisfactory way to describe it. That first moment of immediate gratification is what makes me come back for more. Each taste bud on my tongue has become extremely sensitive and Luke’s blood is the most electrifying substance that I have ever tasted. If you have cut yourself and licked the blood from the wound then you will be familiar with the bitter and coppery taste of blood; it is thin, cold and not dissimilar to sucking on an old penny. But Luke’s blood tastes divine. In fact I would go as far as to say that it burns. Have you ever had a shot of strong alcohol that is so potent that it turns to vapour upon the very second that it hits your tongue? That is how Luke tastes. His blood has complex salty and metallic qualities and there are deep textures that I have never tasted before in any food or drink that I have ever consumed. Exceptionally salty cheese or a strong brandy are mildly comparable, but if I could recreate the process with normal food and drink then there would be no need for this abhorrent ritual! Having said that, I am not repulsed by the thought that I am consuming the vital fluids of another person. It honestly feels as though the blood belongs to me and I am absorbing part of myself through Luke, but I realise that I have a close bond with Luke and I doubt that I would feel comfortable performing the same intimate act with a stranger. 

I must mention at this point that the bond between Luke and I is not sexual in any way; the sense of wanting Luke is no different to the sense of wanting a drink when you are thirsty or wanting to eat when you are hungry. I would not say that my hunger for my sandwiches at lunchtime, for example, is a sexual urge. Yes, the physical embrace, the surge of aggression and the struggle for dominance that takes place has strong erotic undertones and the sexual tension is intense in the initial stages, but once the skin is broken and the driving impulse is satisfied then there is no further interaction between us. We are attracted to each other and a sexual relationship may develop in time, but at the moment our bond runs far deeper than physical attraction and maintaining a certain amount of emotional detachment is proving useful for practical purposes. 

We have had several serious conversations about the consequences of our activities and Luke has presented me with a number of problematic scenarios that we might encounter in future: separation, addiction, persecution, barrenness and rejection of the physical and spiritual kind. The list is a little intimidating. The idea that we could be separated and the health-related issues concern me, but I’m not worried about the possibility of addiction because I believe that I am mature and restrained enough for addiction not to become an issue. After all, I enjoy a drop of alcohol once in a while but that doesn’t make me an alcoholic! I can understand how someone could believe that partaking regularly and in substantial amounts might increase their strength because ingestion does have a noticeable effect upon my physical body. I can feel a sharp current of electricity coursing through my body afterwards and I have already noticed some surprising side-effects, so if I was inclined towards experimentation or desperate to achieving the highest attainable level of physical perfection then this process could potentially become very addictive indeed. However not all of the after-effects of our exchanges are pleasant: I get out of breath very easily, my nails are like brittle glass (I have been wearing a lot of nail polish to strengthen them) and I am constantly drinking glass after glass of cold water. The muscular pains are by far the worst part and it feels like I’m going through puberty all over again! I have been experiencing a deep, almost menstrual, ache in my arms and legs which, in a perverse way, is somewhat comforting because it reminds me of Luke throughout the following day. I have complained to Luke that I often feel far worse after our exchanges than I do beforehand, but he assures me that the pain of abstinence is much harder to bear than the pain of indulgence and I am not inflicting any long-term damage on my body so there is no need to be concerned, particularly since the physical changes are not noticeable enough for my friends or family to pass comment.

Luke has, however, repeatedly warned me about ‘the rage’. I am occasionally consumed by ‘the rage’ during our exchanges and it is best described as an overwhelming surge of limitless power and a painfully inviting temptation to destroy everything that is within my reach. Luke tells me that it is an entirely natural response and he says that even the Gospel authors reveal that Jesus experienced this emotion when he raised Lazarus, but he has warned that I must not, under any circumstances, allow myself to fully surrender to it (from the passionate way that Luke spoke I suspect that he struggles with it more often than he will admit to, so we must monitor that in future). I have assured Luke that I am in absolute control of myself and I am not a danger to anyone but, nevertheless, he insists that I guard against any unwanted urges by carrying a handful of old pennies in my pocket. I am to hold these pennies in my hand until they are warm and smell my hand to take the urges away. It is easily done; just a scratch or rub of my nose and the symptoms are suppressed for a little while longer. So far this has proven to be a very effective method of curtailing any stirrings when I am in public and preventing them from progressing beyond my control, but I have to be careful to hide these odd behaviours from Alex. I constantly worry that he will pass comment on my strange behaviour or - God forbid - he might see the marks on my body, but Luke tells me that it is only the first ones that leave a lasting scar so we were careful to do it somewhere discreet (on the lower left side of my ribcage). Luke disguises his marks very skilfully indeed and he has taken to wearing long-sleeved shirts to hide the small scars on his chest and arms until they have completely faded away. Leonard does not question the marks whenever he catches sight of them, which leads me to suspect that he knows what is taking place.

What must he think of us?

In the glass of your prison

A card from Leonard arrived this morning. Not a postcard, a real card...in a real envelope! The picture on the front is a photograph of Michelangelo’s La Pietà and inside, on the left hand side, Leonard has written:

Beneath this is a quotation from Alexis Carrel's Man the Unknown:

To progress again, man must remake himself.
And he cannot remake himself without suffering.
For he is both the marble and the sculptor.

On the inside right of the card, he has scribbled the following (evidently as an afterthought because the ink is smudged on this side of the card only):

I have no idea who Carrel is, but Leonard has helpfully added in small letters at the very bottom:

Leonard’s card was not the only surprise that arrived this morning - I also received my first email from Luke. Now I must check my email inbox for messages from Luke each morning in addition to checking the mail for postcards from Leonard! Luke has included a few photographs from my very first sessions at Elmfield and the message body contains two poems that Luke has written himself. He doesn't show his poetry to anyone, so I feel very honoured to receive them (he has included another tiny infinity symbol after his name too, which I take to represent something along the lines of ‘as always’ or even ‘yours forever’ - so sweet!).


I am frozen, you realise,
A soldier without orders.
An infertile angel
With dead eyes.

Heaven cannot take us on principle
Yet we have not delighted Hell.
And I know all too well
That a blemished egg cannot be returned
To its Father's nest.
I do not feel you reaching for me
Nor binding my hands.
Not that it matters.
Much like a blind actor at a mirror,
We bay and wail
And Death watches helplessly.

The Curator and the Id

On your first gasp of air
They seal the killing jar
And watch as you choke
In the sunlight and ethyl.
Poor captured psyche,
Preserved forever in a sealed tomb
With no door for your dying breath to leave.
But know that I will fight.
I will crack open my fractured heart
And blow into your punctured lungs
So that you can unfurl your wings.
There is no dust or decay here.
The air is clean and the waters are pure.

But if you were to drink
Then you would see so clearly
That I must hold you safe
From the ghosts and shadows

In the glass of your prison.