Wednesday, May 30, 2012


Chapter 1
The Girl Who Sang
When Maia announced that she would be holding a concert to celebrate Vega's 17th birthday, there was much talk and chatter at the Palais du Louvre about what would really happen when Maia sang for the first time in over fifty years.
Maia was a distinguished and very important member of the Parisian ‘Society des Artistes Independents’ but she had not so much as uttered a note since her disappearance and return from the Underworld. Maia's voice was legendary, and although no living person had ever heard or seen a Halo, as it was forbidden by the ruling Emperor, the older people believed that Maia was some sort of savior. Maia had aged gracefully, miraculously so, to the point that there were mumbles that she had brought back the Fountain of Youth or some bewitched elixir that gave rise to such beauty and youth as she possessed but again this was all mere conjecture. Maia laughed at such tales and enchanted the children with stories of angels with silver wings and dragons with hordes of gold until their parents took them away, shaking their heads and reminding their wee ones that the modern world contained no magic, dragons or angels with such wings.  Still, it seemed entirely unnatural that Maia should possess such beauty and her aura cast a spell over all who came in contact with her that suggested mysterious things were afoot. 
So far, however, in living memory, there had been no mystery, no magic, no angel wings, so people were willing to humor Maia and she even served for a while as part time language tutor to three of the Barnes-Nobles girls, who swore they had seen a strange woman entering and leaving Maia's residence at the Palais after one late afternoon lesson. Maia had remained on good terms with the Barnes-Nobles, who were willing to forgive her oddities in exchange for her extraordinary skill with languages. Other than that Maia had few visitors and in fact even fewer friends as most people were secretly in awe and some degree of fear of her powers, whether they existed or not. 
Maia's only and favorite visitor was her niece Vega, a girl whom many said bore a remarkable resemblance to Maia herself, with her soft blonde curls, hazel green eyes and olive skin. Maia and Vega shared many hours together, behind closed doors, until the neighbors began whispering that perhaps Maia was training her in the Halo and other esoteric acoustic arts. Though they strained their ears to breaking.capacity and the whispers grew ever louder, the rumors could be neither confirmed or denied. 
Maia and Vega shared a love of music. 
"Vega is welcome to a room here anytime," Maia announced to Vega's parents, the Fieldings, one sunny Sunday afternoon in the.village green, in a rather conspicuous spot where nearly everyone could overhear them. 
"That way we can share sigils whenever we need," concluded Maia as if it had already been decided. No one had the faintest idea what sigils were so that sent the rumormongers away with even more to chew on. Maia just smiled quietly to herself. 
Every year Maia had given concerts at the Palais du Louvre and every year people had gone away satisfied, although secretly wishing that Maia would do something out of the ordinary. To be sure, the talent was wide and varied and Maia attracted musicians from all corners of Middleworld. So knowing that Maia was about to sing created exceptional circumstances. 
Everyone pitched in. Rumors of the up and coming concert travelled abroad and in the weeks beforehand strange tents began to be erected all over the village green surrounding the Palais du Lourvre. Even stranger characters inhabited them, and folk that had always suspected Maia of being in league with demons or worse grumbled that this all supported their point of view.
The worst of these was Ava Gripe, now well past her prime and edging on an equally unfathomable age as Maia but not so fair of face. She spoke with some authority because she had known Maia as a young girl and blamed her for the untimely demise of her own mother, Mrs Gripe, the old orphanage owner. Since there was nobody to contradict her, Ava was free to hold forth on all subjects, such as how Maia had inherited the Palais du Louvre, why she really would never sing, what demon company she kept in her bed and all sorts of other scandalous rumors that only a half-witted soul would ever deem worth considering. Ava looked after the orphanage when her mother died and there had only ever been one tenant, a young boy called Altair, who as it happened was on quite friendly terms with Maia and Vega. 

Monday, May 28, 2012

The Seventh Night

The Seventh Night
By Stephen Skelton
I dream every night about the Atori cake shop.
In those dreams it is a halfway house, someplace between the earth and the stars. 
I am part of that mystery, In that dream a boy dies. Every time. I don't know how or why. I don't even know his name. I am guilty by implication.
The Atori cake shop is in a time warp, not part of the 'now.'
It's longer somehow, encompassing pasts and futures. I am stuck in the middle, unable to move forward.
Until I find her.
The Atori cake shop is a silver thread connecting us. Like an umbilical cord, it has a pulse, life, a beat all of its own.
We are part of that beat.
I wake up but I don't feel myself. I want to ask someone "What am I doing here?" "Why did you place me in this world?" There is no one to answer. The beautiful girl beside me is asleep, dead to this world. She wasn't the one I met at the Atori cake shop.  Perhaps someone on the train, running right next to my apartment, which woke me out of my recurring dream, can answer. Find the place where I belong. I don't think so. Only she can answer me. The girl I met at the Atori cake shop. I sit up and reach for the glass of water beside my bed and two aspirin. I’ve been taking them regularly ever since these dreams started, as if they're trying to tell me something. "Hit you hard enough on the head, maybe then you'll listen!" the dreams say.  The morning light is gray and it is raining. The last thing I want to do is get up and face the day. I know if I bother to get out the yoga may and stretch I'll feel better. Maybe even the headaches will go away. Then I'll feel more like myself. I'll be able to reach out and touch the girl I met in the Atori cake shop again. Hell, yeah, that might even help me remember the part of myself that still lights up now and then. It might force me to do something rather than wallow in an artist's pit of despair. I stop. Yes, she's here now, somewhere close, listening. That's it, that's why I feel separated out from myself. She's listening to me. The girl from the Atori cake shop. She's dangerous. 
The Atori cake shop is a petite patisserie in Yokohama. I go there quite often to get cakes. No, let me be more specific. Strawberry shortcakes.  She was there too.  Standing right in front of the last piece of strawberry shortcake, the one I'd had my eye on. She'd pointed to the piece. My piece. This has got to be he best piece of strawberry shortcake I've ever seen is what she'd said. Just like hat. My words. My cake. If she hadn't spoken those words right in front of me like that I doubt I'd even have notices her. My attention was totally on that last piece of shortcake. Funny how destiny deals you a royal flush like this only once. It can happen in the blink of an eye. Turn your head to catch the eye of a pretty waitress and you've lost it. Gone forever. It'll never come again. So you have to be very aware. Very very alert. 
The Atori cake shop is special. Mysterious, kind of. I don't know if it truly existed halfway between the earth and the stars but it felt that way. Every customer that entered was distinctive. I knew some of them. Artists mostly, like myself or musicians and writers. A potter who held exhibitions in the Lakes Districts in England twice a year. A singer-songwriter everyone knew who had been famous in his youth and now did mainly charity concerts. A florist who did the most expensive celebrity weddings in Omotesando. Each customer came with their own unique melody. A hum, a laugh, a song, a bright twinkle in their eyes. The cakes flew out like hot cakes. There just didn't seem to be enough to go around. Each unique melody was accompanied by a specific cake. The hummers chose a meringue base, the laughers, chocolate, singers like me preferred fruit, while the twinklers took the custard cremes. Atori was filled with melodies all day long. 
The girl in front of my strawberry shortcake was singing Joe Dassin's 'Les Champs-Élysées' in a soft tone, with a beautiful lilt, the very song I was singing in my mind!
What a mysterious place, the Atori cake shop, a place between the earth and stars where two melodies can meet.  
Atori reminded me of a symphony in four movements. The first, allegro, when all the customers bustle in, intent on ordering, the second, andante, when everything in the universe slows as the brain clicks into gear to make its choices, the third, scherzo, as very quick exchanges are made between the customers and the shop girls and sometimes each other as a way of acknowledging that we exist in this mysterious world. The fourth and last, as each potential lover bustles out again. 
Atori is not a normal cake shop and it was never designed that way. The owner, in an inspirational moment, realized that everyone looking for love needed a place to meet so that she would provide it, disguised as a cake shop. A stroke of genius really. Everything blossomed from there. 

Saturday, May 5, 2012



What if reality met fantasy?

Fact met fiction...

History met legend...

What would it look like?

What if angels could speak?

What would aliens say...

If you could talk to the animals...

If we could understand nature...

Connect with the planets and the stars...



The mystical properties of words

Friday, May 4, 2012

What if Angels could talk?

What if angels could talk?

What would they say to us?

They would understand KOTODAMA.

Kotodama or kototama (言霊?, lit. "word spirit/soul") refers to the Japanese belief that mystical powers dwell in words and names. English translations include "soul of language", "spirit of language", "power of language", "power word", "magic word", and "sacred sound". The notion of kotodama presupposes that sounds can magically affect objects, and that ritual word usages can influence our environment, bodymind, and soul.
This Japanese compound kotodama combines koto  "word; speech" and tama  "spirit; soul" (or  "soul; spirit; ghost") voiced as dama in rendaku. In contrast, theunvoiced kototama pronunciation especially refers to kototamagaku (言霊学?, "study of kotodama"), which was popularized by Onisaburo Deguchi in the Oomotoreligion. This field takes the Japanese gojūon phonology as the mystical basis of words and meanings, in rough analogy to Hebrew Kabbalah.
The etymology of kotodama is uncertain, but one explanation correlating words and events links two Japanese words pronounced koto: this  "word; words; speech" and  "situation; circumstances; state of affairs; occurrence; event; incident". These two kanji were used interchangeably in the name Kotoshironushi 事代主 or 言代主, an oracular kami mentioned in the Kojiki and Nihon shokiKotodama is related with Japanese words such as kotoage 言挙 "words raised up; invoke the magical power of words", kotomuke 言向 "directed words; cause submission though the power of words", and jumon 呪文 "magic spell; magic words; incantation".
Kotodama is a central concept in Japanese mythologyShinto, and Kokugaku. For example, the Kojiki describes an ukei (or seiyaku誓約 "covenant; trial by pledge" between the sibling gods Susanoo and Amaterasu, "Let each of us swear, and produce children".[1] Uttering the divine words of an ukehi[clarification needed] supposedly determines results, and in this case, Amaterasu giving birth to five male deities proved that Susanoo's intentions were pure.
Kototama or kotodama is also fundamental to Japanese martial arts, for instance, in the use of kiaiMorihei Ueshiba, the founder of aikido, used kototama as a spiritual basis for his teachings. William Gleason says Ueshiba "created aikido based on the kototama principle," and quotes him that "Aikido is the superlative way to practice the kototama. It is the means by which one realizes his true nature as a god and finds ultimate freedom."[2] Mutsuro Nakazono, a disciple of Ueshiba, wrote books on the importance of kototama in aikido.[3]
While other cultures have animistic parallels to kotodama, such as mantramana, and logos, some Japanese people believe the "word spirit" is unique to the Japanese language. One of the classical names of Japan is kototama no sakiwau kuni (言霊の幸はう国?, "the land where the mysterious workings of language bring bliss"),[4] a phrase that originated in the Man'yōshū.