Short Story: Vasilis [King]
Part II of the archetype series
This is part of a series of short stories that cover the archetypes. These are the nucleus of all of human being’s “collective unconscious”. They govern our psychology, behavior, development and fantasy. This is all towards a bigger effort of writing a novel that inspires better health. If you are not subscribed, click below to get our weekly posts in your inbox.
Recap: In Part I [Magician] of these short stories, we learned that Zelda is a rich tycoon who has been deserted by his wife and the land of his 100-acre ranch has not been fertile ever since. As he wonders what is wrong with the soil, he gets a surprise visit from his daughter who reminds him that it is his 65th birthday, and offers him five grams of psilocybin mushrooms. Zelda ends up going on a journey to the underground, where he meets Osiris the god of fertility and he shows him what he’s been running from.
Part II. Vasilis [King]
Osiris disappeared into the rocks of the cave. The sound of thunder struck from the outside, and water started filling the cave. Two ravens descended from the cistern’s opening where the light came from. Their wings were a bouquet of green leaves and orange flowers. ‘Great Spirit Great Spirit’, they chanted in concerto.
Each raven flew to one of Zelda's shoulders, and carried him up towards the light. They went through the roots, into the soil, and above the ground. Zelda saw patches of green grass above him transform into the white hairs of the rabbit's back.
He smelled the incense and knew that he was back home with Sandra. He opened one eye, and Sandra removed the blindfold with her smiling dimples. He was ecstatic to see her two eyes. He recited the whole deal to her over a light dinner that she cooked.
He couldn’t sleep that night until sunrise. He had not done that in decades. He walked out barefoot into the garden. He admired how beautiful the golden arrows of sunshine were as they rose. He looked into the house, and by the window, lay an old wrench flat on the wooden shelf. The sun rays trickled through the window and created a golden aura around it. He smiled with a sense of contentment and possibility.
As Zelda approached the house, a raven croaked with delight as it did during sunrise. The raven belted out its cry as it flew over Zelda’s head; a head filled with a newborn curiosity. For you see, Zelda began experiencing a wonder about the things of the land, sea, and sky. It replaced the previous day’s contempt for the same that would manifest (loudly and brightly) during precious sleeping hours.
Zelda’s eyes followed the raven, and soon a glowing orb of warmth under his diaphragm urged him to follow that bird1. As if it knew it was being followed by a mere land-walker, the raven paused every 100 feet, waiting for Zelda to catch up. “Was this one of Osiris’ ravens?”, he thought before quickly stopping himself.
Zelda knew where the line was between a drug-induced hallucination and the plane of reality. He appreciated his moments with the mushrooms. He appreciated the beauty, the terror, the expansiveness, and the feeling of calm that now flourished in his being.
However, Zelda did indeed know where that line was.
But Zelda also knew that he was beginning to question everything he thought he knew. “I’m following a Raven through 100-acres of dead oak trees”, he pondered with a calm but tepid resolution. The oak grove that populated the majority of his estate had withered away over the years, leaving towering fossils of what was once a living and breathing arboretum. But even surrounded by the botanical undead, the air was still crisp. The aroma of jasmine infected the air, a decade after the last flower had bloomed.
The raven landed on a curious birdhouse nailed onto a random oak in the grove. It was the birdhouse he and Melanie, his ex-wife, had built with Sandra when she was a little girl. During the last seconds of the Great Melanie Purge of 2021, Zelda couldn’t seem to part with this one beautifully asymmetrical item. It reminded him of a time when Melanie was his partner in crime; a memory that stung as an icy-cold shower in winter. Despite the dark shadow it cast upon Zelda’s warm sunrise; it also reminded him of his precious and youngest daughter. Yes, it brought back the moments that actually mattered to him. Memories that stand-out in contrast to a sea of meaninglessness. “Why did I keep it here all these years? But alas, the ravens of Osiris have captured my attention and… what the fuck am I saying?”
The phone vibrated. It was Sandra.
“This doesn’t feel like my usual drug-induced hangover.”
“It’s called an afterglow, dad. Look, I’ll explain later, hurry up and come back! I’m hungry.”
Zelda arrived at the house, carrying the awkwardly-built family relic that the raven led him to.
“Is that Hotel Sparrow??”
“Is that what we named it?”
“Dad, how could you forget Hotel Sparrow?! Hotel Sparrow has only the very best accommodations for robins, bluejays, and doves this side of the Sierras. Hotel Sparrrooooooow…”, she began singing the fictional jingle she and her family composed.
“I found myself following a bird through the grove back there. Is that what mushrooms do? Do they compel you to follow birds and other flying things?”
“Well, in a way dad, yes. Remember how I said mushrooms make us see ourselves from outside ourselves? They also help us see everything else from that same greater perspective. We start to recognize the wisdom and magic that exists all around us in nature.”
“So this is… permanent?”
“It can be, if you want it to be. ‘They can put you in the room with Christ, but won’t necessarily keep you there.’2
The aroma of pancakes filled the space and two of them stood in silence.
“Hmm”, Zelda exhaled.
“How does it feel?”
“It feels… different. Good. Warm. Kinder?I almost ran over to shake Billy’s hand this morning.”
“The gardener? Alright, dad, I see you! Mr. Fiorello LaGuardia, champion of the working class! Or are you turning more into a John Muir… hmm…”
Zelda’s cell-phone phone rang. It was Keith, Zelda’s “replacement”, as he was lovingly known. Melanie fell in love with Keith during a 100-day Bikram yoga challenge. Melanie and Keith together completed 100-days of hot, sweaty yoga, and 98-nights of hot, sweaty kama-sutra. Melanie left Zelda for Keith many years back, giving Zelda full custody of the girls. It took years for Zelda and the girls to find their own groove, but eventually a new, fractured normal set in.
The comfort of mutual hostility was interrupted, when Keith and Melanie decided to have a spiritual awakening. Ten days at a vipassana retreat, and just like the brochures promised, their lives were dramatically altered. While attaining humble presence and non-attachment, they also became quite annoying to Zelda. “They smell like patchouli, those two. It’s weird! It's fucking weird!”
Since that retreat, Keith had begun calling Zelda every other Sunday, in the hopes of healing the deep wounds of that whole torrid affair.
Eventually, Zelda stopped picking up the phone, and Keith kept on calling. Like clock-work, at 10 a.m. every other Sunday, the phone would ring. Yet today, he felt like picking up the call. Zelda wasn’t ready to change his life too quickly, lest the vertigo set in prematurely. A man can only take one step at a time, no matter how many mushrooms he consumed the night before.
“Keith again, Dad?”
“Right on cue.”, Zelda replied, now shifting his attention back to the birdhouse.
“He just wants to have peace, dad. Look, I have to go. I’ll call you.”
“Dad, you did great.”
“Hon, take Hotel Sparrow”
“No, you keep it. I think it will help with your integration.”
“My what now?”
Sandra’s arms squeezed around her father’s neck, kissed him on the cheek, and disappeared like a flash. The door slammed, leaving behind 10,000 echoes through the lonely caverns of his castle.
The phone vibrated again. “Keith?”. Keith never called a second time. While this was curious to Zelda, the call remained ignored.
Zelda had fully drifted into the distant past. “Was she unhappy then?” Behold, the trailhead. This question led Zelda down a well-beaten mental pathway, lined with a meticulously-architected series of phrases and questions (like linked cars in a bullet train), shooting him straight to the pits of shameful rage. It went something like this:
“When did the unhappiness start?” → “Was it work?” → “I gave her everything” → “She asked, and I provided.” → “Then she blamed me for not being around.” → “She found something new and shiny to play with.” → “You can’t ask for the world, and pretend it doesn’t come with a cost.” → “How could she do this to me? To us?!” → “She ruined our lives! She fucked it all up!” -> “And I could have stopped it.” → “Fuck, could I have even stopped it?” →“She saved herself from me”
“There is a black sorcerer that will infuse you with more shame and guilt to keep you locked inside of your house. Instead look beyond Zeldaaa, and everything will make sense in due time. You will understand why the soil has been so weak, and why your heart has been so sad.``
Osiris’ voice echoed as it did the night before. As Zelda looked out a nearby window unto the land, the warmth in his belly drew him back outside.
But before he could leave the house, the phone vibrated a third time. A lump in Zelda’s throat materialized. He hadn’t spoken to Keith in two and a half years, since that time Keith asked him if he had his chakras polished. “What could this guy want?”
“Yes, Keith. What can I do for you?”
One never knows the moment that can transform the heart of a man. It is never a single moment, but usually a succession of seasons, songs, uncooked meals, lost jobs, rewards credit cards, premature ejaculations, winning teams, crypto sell-offs, and unrequited affections that can lead a person towards automatic detachment. One never knows when this is about to happen.
The sounds of a 144,000 shimmering razors fluttered around Zelda’s head. He oscillated between nausea, relief, confusion, and deep sadness. Wrapping up the call, a now unhinged Zelda stood with a birdhouse in one hand, a phone in the other. Zelda hurled the birdhouse aimlessly across the room. How anticlimactic it was to have the birdhouse land squarely on a decorative pillow, unscathed by Zelda’s wrath. This fortunate act of mercy by this $599.99 West Elm purchase snapped Zelda back into his original aura of temporarily abandoned cool stoicism. Zelda found himself, again, alone in his prison of steel and silicon.
The year was 1999, it was a happy time to be a New Yorker, and a young Zelda was no exception. From the belly of an Irish pub near Gramercy Square, a group of NYU students with fake IDs in hand emerged. They stumbled, celebrating what would be the second of three consecutive championship titles for the New York Yankees. A much younger Zelda walked down Irving Place, arm in arm with the love of his life, a much more alive Melanie Greenfield (of the West Hampton Greenfields). The air was cool and not so windy, appropriate for a late October New York evening. A southern breeze carried faint aromas of car exhaust and pizza. From the bar area was the smell of drunk New Yorkers: a combo of libations and bodily fluids. Together these made the iconic aromas that saturated the Greenwich Village air during the late 90s.
As was the custom, Zelda would take Melanie on extravagant nights out in New York, while the babies stayed with a sitter. “Yes you are the mother of my children, but you’re still the woman I married, and I never want you to forget that.” Memories were still alive of his own mother, raising five boys, and losing her identity in the process. Haunted by his mother’s sadness, Zelda attempted to make sure Melanie did not follow suit. “I will give you everything in this world”, he would tell her.
Melanie would receive Zelda's gifts, even though she didn’t need to be showered with such materialism. She was an up-and-comer in her investment firm, and on her way to make partner. Together, they were making it happen in the big city. But Zelda needed to make more happen than others did. His motivation: to give his family everything. His shadow motivation: even he hasn’t discovered that yet; but we all know who’s running the show here, don’t we?
Like many others during that time, Zelda made enough money to never work again. Eventually, things between the Wall St. power-couple shifted. Their “both of us against the world” ethos began unwinding. The immense torrent of wealth pouring in dissolved the need for a good fight to be fought at all.
Melanie missed the hot days cramped up in a small Forest Hills apartment, having to take two trains to work every day. Adjusting to an easier life felt much more difficult. But she held onto “just you and I, against the world.”
But, the world was too threatening for Zelda.
As the young couple crossed paths with the inebriated celebrants, a cocky sophomore bumped shoulders with Zelda.
“Watch your step, asshole”, he chuckled with his friends.
Zelda’s throat closed up and a flash of heat radiated across his forehead from right to left, and he paused.
“Let’s go”, Melanie suggested as she cocked her head away from the group.
“What’s that hottie doing with that Wall Street hack?”, one of the students blurted out.
“The same reason Steve Tyler fucks. Money, baby! The ultimate beer goggles.”
Did these kids know Zelda? He’d felt more seen than had in a long time; it was uncomfortable.
“Why don’t I shove my rich foot up your bony ass, you little shit”, the reflex kicked in. Zelda took calculated steps towards the group as the shadow took the driver’s seat.
“Zelda, let’s go… now.” Melanie started pulling on his arm.
“Zelda?!” The kids began howling with laughter. “Named after a Nintendo princess?!” The laughter echoed through decades and generations, filling the halls of Zelda’s fragile psyche.
“Oh you wanna piece of a princess?” Melanie shouted, reluctantly joining the confrontation. Things took a turn.
Zelda pinned the sophomore by the neck against the brick facade of the pub and began to squeeze.
“Got anything else to say to me?”.
His friends began pleading to let the sophomore, but no one used any force. It was clear this wasn’t a tough group of kids.
“You’re gonna kill him! Let him go!”, they pleaded.
“Ok, Zelda, let him go. This shit isn’t worth it. Let’s go home!” Melanie insisted.
And her touch on his arm, sent a rush of energy out of his head, and into his belly. He didn’t know what came over him. While it was understandable why he reacted, he didn't comprehend the intensity of it all. While his need to dominate is expressed with finesse and poise in the boardroom, every so often the beast is let loose, untethered and unfiltered.
“Fuck off, trash.” And with a downward force, threw the kid on the ground, where he laid there gasping for air.
“Ron, call the cops.”, one of them shouted.
Zelda began chuckling, all while resisting Melanie's tugs to leave this scene be. “I run this town, kid.” he exclaimed as if he transported himself into John Wayne film. “Giuliani was at my house on Thursday. You know what, I’ll just call them myself.”
Immediately they all ran off, shouting back, cussing, mocking the couple and the entire interaction. Zelda and Melanie stood there, both feeling quite lost and confused. After a time, Melanie tried to break the silence.
“You run this town’?”
“Felt like the right thing to say. It worked didn’t it?”
“And by Giuliani, I think you mean your Aunt Tilly”
“Only the second most powerful force in the five boroughs. Did the Yankees play tonight or something?”
“I'm shocked. Where’s your NYC pride?”
“Meh. I’ve always liked the Red Sox”
“I divorce you”, Melanie snapped back, leading to them both laughing. They held hands again, and walked towards 14th Street where he could hail a cab home.
“81st and Second please”, Zelda instructed the cabbie, and the two inched home through thousands of Yankee fans who poured into the streets.
Zelda pondered on the dead oak trees that populated a land created to forget his now dead wife. How can a man grieve when decades ago he swapped his tears for a payment plan? What would people say at the funeral? A holographic mourner appeared in Zelda’s mind’s eye: “I’m so sorry for your loss”, she says. “Now? Now you’re sorry? I thought she deserved better!”
Sorry for your loss was a condolence delivered 10 years too late.
He thrashed through the sea of fossilized bark, as a numbness grew in his chest. It appeared to be a little twinge at first, but as the seconds trickled by it was an absence of feeling that was growing. He felt the immense pain of absence, the absence of himself, the absence of his presence, or what little of it he had left.
For you see, the center of Zelda’s heart was no more. She left Zelda’s life several years ago, but she remained very much present in Zelda’s being. All those years loving and asana-ing with the hippie-scum who stole her from him. She transformed from being the loving center of his purpose, to the ground zero of his misery. But either way she was the center, and the rock, and the nail. She became the object of his scorn. She became the Nero to his Sebastian, Parasceve, and Photis. And like a controlled demolition, the structures of his psyche disintegrated, as the frame that held it all together turned to ash.
The raven croaked. It wasn’t even sunrise.
A sudden nausea overtook the man. His breath was elevated, his heart: a rapidly beating taiko drum. Beads of sweat began pouring down his back as he ran through the oak grove, only to find himself even more lost. The smell of dead leaves and mint suffocated him, until he could not stand on his own two feet anymore. Like a pair of crash cymbals, Zelda met the earth; and the earth met Zelda. The ground cradled Zelda’s fall like a $599.99 West Elm decorative pillow would meet any discarded object of worth. There was no one left to hate.
With his face in the dirt, he could hear nothing but Osiris’ words. “You will understand why the soil has been so weak, and why your heart has been so sad.” Like a broken spell, a veil was lifted from his eyes. And he saw her. His beautiful wife. He felt the pain of a thousand knives tear at his ribs. The dried, acrid soil was a stark contrast to the succulent life-force of his youth, when he built and plowed. Not just in the boardroom, but Zelda was a force of nature, and could grow anything under the sun. Hard weeks of work in the big city would culminate in weekend getaways upstate. He kept a garden there that fed his family tenfold. The dried, acrid soil reminded him of the feeling in his throat he'd get for being the loudest man in the room. The rivers of play and wonder slowed, and energy repurposes for more important things. But so, his joy dried up years before Melanie left him, this was no secret.
The avatar of a villainous cuckold evaporated from Keith’s image in Zelda’s mind. He then remembered the man who also tilled the earth. He recognized that Keith was was filled with life, and gave Melanie the drink she needed after being parched for so long. He hated Keith for being what he himself couldn't sustain. But that's what made them so close. When Keith’s father died, and he came to live with Zelda and his brothers, they became thick as thieves, as they say. It was the thing that made them more than just family.
“This is the great tragedy,” Zelda said to himself. "That the ghosts I created feel more real than the ground beneath my face." Zelda was right. This was the tragedy of man. Angsty holograms can orchestrate lives, with projections so illuminated that they don’t need screens to be seen.
He knew he had the power to drain his family of life. He knew he made the choices that drove them all away. And he knew full well, he didn’t do it all for them. The dried, acrid soil now hydrated with a steady flow of a fractured man’s tears. The elixir of the courageous, only gifted to those brave enough to face themselves. And the dried acrid soil felt the cool kiss of water upon its cracked face.
Two weeks after the funeral, Zelda stood in his grove of withered trees, gazing back at the mansion he had built. It was an architectural dream. Zelda had hired one of the top architecture firms to realize this vision. He spared no technical detail or expense; any last convenience one would want in their home, he made sure there were 4 of them.
Zelda knew it was time to rebuild his kingdom.
And so he picked up the phone and called a demolition contractor. After that he ordered 144 tons of organic soil (and two tons of mealworms). After that followed phone calls to a lumber yard, a mason, and a chicken breeder.
Zelda decided he was going to rebuild his own house, and he was going to do it with his own two hands. But this would not be a castle of silicon and steel, but a home of wood and brick. Zelda knew this was the only way to feel life in his body again. It didn’t matter that his own fragile mental state, now influenced by psychedelic drugs, may deem this an extraordinarily impractical (and expensive) idea. But nothing mattered to Zelda anyway, so the value assessment on this plan did not bother him in the slightest. Zelda yearned for the feeling of aliveness once again. Zelda remembered his whole story and wanted to live into all that he brazenly threw away. Zelda decided he was going to rebuild his kingdom but didn’t want to do it alone.
“Let’s call Keith, and see what he’s up to.”
In 1985, the creators of Sesame Street made a full-length feature starring Big Bird:
A saying commonly attributed to either Alan Watts or Ram Das. Actually this is what Neem Karoli Baba told Ram Dass about psychedelics:
“These medicines will allow you to come and visit Christ, but you can only stay two hours. Then you have to leave again. This is not the true Samadhi. It’s better to become Christ than to visit him – but even the visit of a saint for a moment is useful. But love is the most powerful medicine.”