Rescue Mission, Aborted
Copyrighted by Lorna Tedder. Originally published in Love in the Third Degree.
They say I like to save people, but that’s not why I’ve come to the forest. I’ve come for answers.
I’ve received a disturbing message from a man I haven’t seen in quite a while. He was a good friend and I cared about his well-being. I don’t understand the message, and he’s clammed up. Sigh. I think he’s in trouble, but I’m not looking to rescue him…just to look for him.
And that’s why I’ve come to the forest. I don’t know what I’ll find, but my intention is to find answers to what’s happened to him and to assess his condition.
The forest is serene and peaceful. I’ve only recently discovered it and I’m not so good yet at finding all the treasures here but I trust I’ll find what I’m looking for today, particularly because the part of the forest I’m walking through is more jungle and unknown terrain than I’ve seen before. The grass is tall and such a bright green that it hurts my eyes. I’ve not been here before and I really don’t know what I’m looking for, but I have no fear of danger here.
Often in my meditative work, others come to me—guides, angels, Higher Selves…Deity. I don’t normally go to them. It’s extremely rare that I go to them, and I’m quite inexperienced at what I’m trying to do.
I glance around this narrow clearing in what is otherwise now a bright green jungle, and for the first time, I notice an opening in the ground, like a cave or tunnel leading into the side of a cliff. Foliage is all around it, yet the opening is clear. Something about it reminds me of the ancient Sumerian myth of Inanna, who descended into the Underworld and was slain by her darker twin, only to be resurrected later after hanging on the wall for three days. I brush away those thoughts and walk into the tunnel.
This place is quiet, eerily so. It’s not huge—more than arms’ length wide and tall enough I’d have to stand on my tiptoes to reach the upper dome of the arching tunnel. I press my palm against the earthen wall to my right and feel its cool dampness. It’s solid earth, more like clay, with no bricks or wood or any other material. The corridor is softly lit here, torches in their antique wire sconces at intervals of around 12 feet. I feel the floor of the corridor under my bare feet, and the soil feels like fresh grave dirt in loose, semi-dry scatterings of tiny clods. I look down at my bare feet beneath some sort of flowing dark-colored skirt that has been shredded and sewn together. I leave no tracks—nor has anyone else—yet this way had definitely been well-traveled and the dirt is packed down. It just feels like grave dirt.
The tunnel opens out a bit, somewhat wider and brighter now. I’m aware as I walk deeper into the tunnel that I am far inside the earth, and there is definitely a sense of the grave and burial here, even though it’s bright and peaceful. The corridor ahead is straight, and the forest and daylight are long behind me. I realize suddenly that in my meditations, I never look back. I know what’s there, but I never look behind me and I never turn around. I just keep going forward.
I don’t hear anything in the tunnel except, perhaps, the crackle of the torch flames. I wonder if Ereshkigel’s hounds will be here soon, as they were for Inanna. But I am not afraid. I am looking for my friend, this man from long ago.
Ahead, at the end of the corridor is a T-formation leading to other corridors. There’s something on the wall there—a floral arrangement or sculpture or some kind of design, but I don’t pay it much attention. I do not even look to the left. I stalk to the end of the corridor and veer right, then stop.
He stands there, my friend, about 6 feet inside this corridor. Someone is with him and I’m aware of this person but it’s only a shadow or invisible, and I am standing slightly to its back. It doesn’t see me. They are standing, facing each other, with him looking to the side at me as I stand there. They aren’t speaking, just standing there. He is dressed in business casual with a tie, clean cut, definitely fitting a certain image. He looks well, physically, yet there’s a heaviness about him. He doesn’t take his eyes off me, but he sinks his hands into his pockets. I wait to see if he seems glad to see me or if he’ll introduce me to the thing in front of him or if he’ll react at all. He just stands there and looks at me. He never looks away. Nothing happens.
Except the puppy in the kitchen bangs his food bowl and I’m jolted back to the entrance of the tunnel.
I refuse to give up. I want to know why he just looks at me and gives no indication that he’s happy or glad to see me. I know he recognizes me. What is he doing in this place? I want to know what the thing is with him that is more presence than physical. I retrace my steps and a second time, he simply stares at me, his hands in his pockets, shame all around him. I can’t get beyond this place. I reach this spot and nothing happens.
I’m back at the entrance. This time I’m pissed. I didn’t come all this way to give up. Damn it, I want answers! I stalk down the earthen corridor for the third time, turning fast to the right where I’ve found him twice before. He is still there, just looking back at me, blinking, his hands deep in his pockets. There is shame around him but he bears it in pressed and well-fitted garments so no one can see. I look at him and see a flash of something at the same time that hits like a double lightning strike, showing me two things at once.
To the left, there at the T of the corridor, I see him hanging on the wall like Inanna of the legend. He is part-bird with arms that are great black wings behind him, pinned to the wall, and him leaning forward, hanging there in pain and humiliation. And in the next flash of the lightning strike, he is hanging crucified on a cross, his bound arms to the wall behind him, holding him back as he leans forward, gravity pulling at him.
I gasp and look up, realizing that he is indeed in trouble, though he doesn’t move except to shift his gaze.
The thing in front of him jerks her head sideways to look at me in that way that happens in the movies where a monster is suddenly aware of fresh meat and with quick reflexes is focused on it. What was only a presence becomes visible. She is tall, like an Amazon with a raven’s mask, except that I’m quite sure it is no mask. There’s something of The Morrigan in her, Goddess of Death and Transformation. I don’t know if she means him harm or she is simply there but this is certainly her domain. We regard each other for a moment. I do not move. I will not move. We give one another the respect you would give a serpent. She turns and stalks away, down the corridor we’re standing in and is soon out of sight.
I rush to him. He doesn’t move, doesn’t respond, says nothing. I offer to take his hand and lead him out of the Underworld but he keeps his hands in his pockets and his head down. I hate seeing him like this. I tell him again and again that I can help him find his way out. He only looks down. He is so close to the main corridor and can so easily walk out himself if he chooses to, if he knows that just a few steps will get him to freedom.
Without saying anything, he tells me he can’t. Without saying anything, I tell him I don’t understand.
He looks to his left, in the direction the Amazon went, and begins to walk that way. He wants me to follow. He’ll show me.
The hall leads deeper into the Underworld but it’s wider here. The torches are bright. The air is warm. About every twenty feet is a gate built into the arch of the tunnel. From floor to ceiling, all the way across, with thick iron bars. The arching gates have openings on one side, about 6 feet high and 2 feet wide. These gates are open and he walks through easily with me following. They remind me too much of the 9 gates of the Underworld where Inanna had to pay by disrobing and giving up her treasures to enter. I am fully clothed except for my usual bare feet. I have the impression that he has already been stripped.
The ninth gate is near the end of the corridor, a dead end. It forms a little room with a bunk in it. Very sparse. The gate, floor to ceiling with the opening to the left, is unlocked and swung open wide. We reach this gate, this dead end, and he turns to face me. With great sadness, he steps through the gate and closes it between us, leaving me on the outside. I’m stunned.
He stands on the other side of the gate and wraps his fists around two bars and just looks at me, sad and ashamed. In an instant in his eyes, I see a flash of him in this place, screaming in agony, his face contorted. This peaceful-looking, well-lighted, warm-aired dungeon is the hell he’s chosen. He had a choice of leaving, either finding his way out on his own or with my help. Instead, for now, he’s locked himself inside. For whatever reason, this is where he wants to be right now or at least, where he thinks he has to be.
I won’t break him out. I won’t force him to leave. I won’t say goodbye. I may come back. I don’t know. I am at a dead end.
But I do something I have never done in a meditation before, ever. I turn and go back the way I came, the way out is incredibly easy, and I’m very quickly back out into the daylight alone.