Level 8: Clearing

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“Yes,” he said, “I am here. And you are lucky to be here, too, after all the absurd things you have done since you left home.”


This, dear readers, is my mom. Prepare yourself.

My mom looked deflated, like a balloon three days after the party. Her skin hung in baggy folds; the scars of a champion. Her entire life she struggled with her weight and now, in the gentle twilight of middle age, when most people gave up and accepted their fate, she found a way through. My mom was unstoppable. Give her enough time and she would turn Jericho to ash.

“Oh, honey,” she said as I struggled to open the door. It wouldn’t give. I needed her help. “Oh, honey,” she repeated once we had it open.

“I’m fine.” I said and turned around, limping back to Shelob’s lair.

The room reeked like pain and sickness. The shades were drawn, my computer glowed incessantly. My poor bonsai, was he dying, too? I had forgotten to water him. Maybe my mom would do it for me.

Oh, honey!” My mom gasped when she saw my apartment. At least I had managed to sop up the vomit.

I lay down on my bed and tried to listen to Tobolowsky. I didn’t care what my mom had planned, I just hoped it would be quick so I could get back to moaning. She got down to it immediately.

When paramedics arrive on the scene they take your temperature, pulse and blood pressure. My mom, who is a nurse, hooks you up to a frequency specific machine and then broken Jesus on a crosses you.

“This is a frequency specific machine,” she pulled a plastic box with lights and buttons out of a bag. Four wires extended from the body. Each terminated in a sticky mouse pad like material about the size of a note card. “This program will attack those parasites.” She stuck one pad to each shoulder and shin. I found her presence suffocating and tried to brush her away. I also knew we needed some ground rules or I would be belching blackened death shit in no time.

“Mom,” she hit buttons and turned knobs on her little device. “Mom.” I whispered louder.

“Hmm?” she answered distractedly.

“I need you to listen.”

“I’m listening.” She continued fiddling with the contraption.

“Mom, look at me.” I was taking control, bossing her around. She had come over the mountains to help but this was my cave. Shelob and I were in control. “I’m glad you’re here,” I lied. “Thank you for coming,” yeah right. “But I need you to pay attention. There is one rule and I need you to follow it. Are you listening?”

“Yes, honey, I’m listening.”

“Sometime today I’m going to start hiccupping. It will be very painful and last for about an hour. Look at me mom, stop messing with that thing.”

“It’s called a frequency specific machine,” she repeated, “and I’m programming it to—”

“I don’t care,” I interrupted. “I need you to focus.” She lowered the device. “If I start hiccupping I need you to stay away. Do not touch me or talk to me. It’s very important that I remain calm and focused or I will start throwing up. Do you understand?”

“Yes, Nathan.” A slight edge of condescension.

It wasn’t enough. I decided to belittle her, punishment for dropping everything and driving over the mountains to nurse me back to health.

What do you understand?”

She looked at me with the contempt I deserved. “I’ll leave you alone if you start hiccupping.”

She had fallen for my ruse. The trap was set. I had only to wait and in time she would stumble into it. “Thank you,” I said and rolled over. It was a painful, slow affair, every movement tortured. When I had finished, Tobolowsky rewarded me with a story.

My mom told me a bunch of stuff about the frequency specific machine and how it realigned things on the RNA and DNA level and you could program it to heal the body in all sorts of ways and how this particular program was one of her favorites and blah, blah, blah, blah, bull shit. Once she had the sticky pads in the right spots and the knobs and levers programmed correctly, she told me to sit up so we could half-a-Jesus-on-the-cross. “Four bottles,” I warned her.

When I was a kid, my mom told doctors that I was deathly allergic to every sulpha drug. I always suspected she was lying and that her story was designed to ax the most powerful tools at the doctor’s disposal. Now I was doing it to her. My mom loved supplements and could easily prescribe 100 pills a day. That was fine if you thought supplements helped, but it was a billion tons of placebo if you doubted her methods. I had doubted her methods since childhood when I realized I could control the outcome of her diagnoses. So, partly to be a dick and partly as revenge for making me swallow 19 spoonfuls of beta carotene infused applesauce so long ago, I had been imposing limits on the numbers of pills I would take.

“Eight,” she countered. My mom loved bargaining and never paid garage sale prices if she smelled a deal.

“Five,” I said. “But no more than four of each type.” The numbers were arbitrary. I didn’t know anything about holistic medicine; I just didn’t want to swallow handfuls of pills. My stomach could barely handle water.

“Seven, and I’ll give you a back rub.”

“Sold.” I stretched out my arm and the testing began. As per usual I messed with the results, forcing outcomes and deciding for myself what was wrong with me. Our haggling had been irrelevant. I needed to go through the motions or she would get suspicious, but I wasn’t taking more than 12 pills from four bottles and I knew enough about her system to make sure that was all she prescribed.

Over the years I had gone to other white witches for various reasons and I noticed that their techniques worked where my mother’s failed. That was the thing about contact reflex analysis, both parties had to be willing participants. Every witch developed her own methods, my mom’s stopped working for me long ago; but the cunning folk she periodically dragged me to had systems that did work, and in frightening ways. One in particular was Donna, who reduced me to tears by the end of our first session.

Donna’s belief was that our emotions were as integral to our health as anything else. Her version of CRA targeted the underlying psychological causes of disease. Her house was decidedly eastern, complete with fancy rugs and statues of elephants. Her living room looked more like a yoga studio than a place to watch TV. We sat on the floor with our feet crossed and she diagnosed me. I don’t know what was wrong, in fact, I’m pretty sure I wasn’t even sick. I think it was more of a preemptive strike against possible illness. I was moving to Los Angeles via Alaska and my mom wanted to get me on a supplement regimen to keep me healthy while I endured the rigors of America’s wintery north.

At the time I was a budding rock star, desperate for my Big Break. I had read a book that told me I needed to move to Nashville, Los Angeles or New York in order to ‘make it’ in the music industry. This was 2001 or 2002 and no one had figured out that the music industry had changed. There was no longer a safe, warm center.

My plan was to race up to Alaska, work in a cannery for three months, then use the money I earned to buy a car and move to LA. It didn’t go so well. Two years later, I was in the Bering Sea throwing up all over myself while slaughtering halibut and cod.

After Donna figured out which vitamins I needed, she moved on to the second phase of her treatment: clearing. Clearing involved searching for the core of my emotional problems. Sickness or, in my case, potential sickness, represented the leafy greens. You could rip them off, but for true wellness one had to destroy the root. Donna instructed me to clasp my hands together and hold them in front of me like I was about to fire a pistol. I was then told to look down at my crossed feet while she asked me questions and manipulated my chakras. Each question was accompanied by downward pressure on my outstretched fists. If my arms grew weak, it meant one thing and if they stayed strong, it meant another.

She poked and prodded, zeroing in on the essence of my being. Donna was powerful and renowned. My mom had access to her because she was also a witch, but your average patient had to wait a long time to meet with this guru of the healing arts. By the end of our session, I understood why.

“Has this existence been wounded?” Donna asked while pressing down on my arms. I don’t remember her exact terminology or if my arms fell or remained strong. Details of our meeting have been obscured by time. Still, what follows is as poetic as it is true.

The world deepened, the pin hole closed. Deep purple. I hovered in a quiet, dark place, the healer’s voice my only connection to Is. “Don’t be afraid,” she said. “I won’t let you fall.” Fear or excitement gripped my throat. My heart raced, but my heart always raced. Donna’s voice came to me through the void. “Is the trauma physical?”

Unbidden, the world within filled with images of my many battles. In some, my knee gave out, in others, I fought with dragons, but through each scene the joyful determination on my face was unmistakable.

“Is the wound spiritual?” Things shifted. An angelic mount bore my armored body into an eternal sky. White light filled my vision and a golden glow pulsed with holy light. From my mouth, a song of praise joined the eternal chorus. My tongue was a fiery coal.

“Is it emotional?” The Is went dark. Cold demons pressed their lifeless flesh around my being. Their eyes glowed black, more felt than seen. I began to tremble. “Don’t be afraid,” she said, “I’m still here.”

“I can’t see you.” I said to the night.

“Your heart perceives what your eyes cannot.” She answered. “Is the pain Mother?”

This is the Magic card I was thinking of when I wrote this chapter’s descriptions of my mom. I’m not saying she looks like a gigantic frog, only that her soul is large and unstoppable. Everything on the card is perfect, especially the italicized flavor text at the bottom. My mom is a beast.

Footsteps in the distance, panicked and thundering. A herd of wild beasts? Something enormous moved through the darkness. The Craterhoof Behemoth appeared, her eyes wild with anger and fear. Something was threatening her baby. She charged through the black, bashing Satan’s minions with her mighty head. With each powerful stroke, shadowy bodies flew into oblivion, tearing the black and revealing blue sky. Her nostrils flared. She was searching for my scent. Beneath her mighty feet armies died, trampled to death with each step. She roared and the ground shook. Horrified, demons fled in terror, revealing green grass and trees. Her myopic eyes strained, searching for the child that meant more to her than a thousand glittering gems.

“Mom!” I cried. “Over here!”

Her heart found what her eyes could not. With a bellow she thundered up the hillside, tearing grass and trees, uprooting boulders. The remaining shadows screamed in trembling anticipation, pathetically trying to hold their ground in the face of one so great. The night fled before her. The armies of darkness withdrew. Their retreat revealed a fantastic world of billowing clouds, majestic waterfalls and perfect flowers. My mother’s massive legs locked and began a sliding halt. Her inertia spun her 180 degrees and she came to a stop above me. She roared at any would be pursuer. But our enemies were gone. Her tree like legs formed a protective fence around my kneeling, naked body. She stomped the earth, daring evil to attack. Eventually she calmed and sniffed the air. Only when she was certain Satan had fled did she allow herself to look down at the object of her affection. I reached up and pressed my cheek against her mighty nose, then went down on all fours and roared in triumph, a baby imitating its mother.

“Is the wound Father?” asked Donna. In the distance, a million miles away, a tiny, silly man struggled to push a sunflower seed along the loamy ground. The seed was twice his size but he was not giving up. What he was doing and why he was there, no one could say.

“Is it Self?” She asked.

Stabbing, searing pain. A sword thrust up from out of the earth and impaled me through my stomach. It tore left spilling blood and guts on the grass. The blade stuck out my back like a misplaced, broken wing. I cried out in pain.

The Craterhoof Behemoth looked down in confusion and horror. A hand with strong, misshapen fingers had pushed out of the ground and stabbed her child through the middle. I looked at my own strong, misshapen hands and realized they were the same. The beast roared and raised her foot into the air.

“No, mom! No!” I wrestled with the hand that was my own, attempting to remove the sword.

She stomped down, pressing the weapon deep into her foot. The blade flared with malicious intent, flames erupting up its evil sides. The Craterhoof Behemoth roared and pulled her foot away then stomped down again, crushing me, not comprehending.

“No! Don’t!” I yelled, “Stop!”

But she could not hear or refused to hear or did not understand. Again and again she slammed us into the ground, and with each stomp the sword dug deeper. She roared in confusion. I cried out in pain.

“Enough,” said Donna, appearing before me in the darkness beneath the earth. My arm thrust up through the ground. Blood dripped down onto my shoulder in a thin stream. The roof shook with pounding stomps as my mother continued to crush me. I pulled my arm through the hole and held the flaming sword defensively in front of me. Who was this woman and how had she found me? My skin was ivory, my eyes black holes. My clothes, where I wore any, were red and decorated with vile symbols. This was Nega Nate, the most fucked out villain at the end of every video game I’d played as a child.

“You are not welcome here,” my Bane-like nega voice warned.

“Is the wound pity?” she asked, advancing forward.

“Fuck you.” I slashed my sword through the air, inches from her face. She did not flinch.

“Is it pity?” she asked again, coming closer.

I winced and backed away, “No.”

“No, what?” she continued her advance.

I looked away and swung the blade reflexively, knowing it would not find its mark. “No, my lord.”

Donna waved her hand and the sword evaporated like smoke, its flame extinguished. The only light was the glow of our faint auras. Hers was gold. Mine was black.

“Is it self-loathing?” She prodded.

“No, my lord.” As I retreated my foot caught. I stumbled and fell.

“Is it fear?”

“Yes, my lord.”

“Past or present?”

“Future,” I said through clenched teeth.

“Of failure?”

“No, my lord.”

“Of love?”







The vision vanished. Back in the room with the Asian furniture and incense I began to cry. Sobs poured down and splashed all over her thick rug.

“Time,” said Donna. “You’re afraid there isn’t enough time.” She touched my back and let me cry. “Time to do what?” she asked.

“Sing.” I said. “I have so many songs to sing.”

Smash cut. A million years passed. My insides were wrecked, my dreams, abandoned. I sat on a bed with sticky pads sending current through my frail form while my mom diagnosed me with wacky methods.

“It looks like your body wants homeopathies,” my mother said.

Homeopathies were these tiny balls that dissolved under your tongue. You didn’t have to swallow them and they tasted like honey. Yum! I made sure we were taking lots of those.

“Alright, honey. You lie down and let the frequency machine run its cycle. It should take about 45 minutes. I’ll write out your dosage and then start cleaning up. Our appointment is at 6, so we’ll need to leave in a couple of hours.”

I lay down and listened to The Tobolowsky Files. My mom filled out a gridded piece of paper with times and the number of pills to be taken at those times. By manipulating her method, I had “let” her prescribe six different supplements, one less than we had bargained for, but two more than I wanted. The contest of wills had ended with her up a point. She tried to get me to take my first dose but I refused. My stomach hurt too badly. She gave up and set about cleaning Shelob’s Lair. My mom was a nurse and if things weren’t spotless she got nervous.

Shelob looked up from her place beneath the earth and hissed weakly. She did not like her cave being disturbed, but Sam had run her through and she was too weak to fight. For now, we would watch and wait.

After a while the hiccups set in. I closed my eyes and tried to find that Zen like place of comfort and peace, breathing slowly, letting my body relax. My tongue slid away from the roof of my mouth, my face melted into the— “Nathan, honey, would you like me to—”

“No talking!”

Despite my best efforts I had started to moan. The pain in my stomach and relentless spasms were too much. I could get through this without vomiting but I needed to groan every now and then. It took about three seconds for my mom to break her vow of silence.

I laid there hiccupping and sobbing while trying to relax. My mom paced about the room. After 10 minutes, she gave in and approached my bed. She began fiddling with the pads that were stuck to my shoulders and calves, anything to be closer to her baby. Feebly I brushed her away.

“You’ve shaken these out of place,” she lied. “Just let me stick them back on.”

Her presence was crushing. I could feel the press of her gravity. Her shadow displaced the air. It thickened to gel. I could not breathe.

“Mom, please. You promised.”

I stood up, despite overwhelming pain, and fought past her. I looked ridiculous. Two sticky pads clung to my shoulders and two more gripped my shins. All four were connected to wires just short enough to make walking an awkward affair. I shuffled the three steps from my bed to the computer. My boxers slid halfway off me. I sat down hoping she would think I was doing something important and go away.

Focus. Don’t let her get to you. You always let her get to you. Yell at her later. Stay calm. Don’t throw up.

“Nathan, I think it would be very soothing if you would let me—”

This picture is a reenactment. I mixed together a bunch of thai tea leaves and hot chocolate then splattered it all over my toilet. The scary part is this is almost exactly what black death shit looked like. The only difference is that my concoction is a little more orange than red. This is what I threw up for four days. Fuck you, Sauron. Fuck. You.

Mom!” I came as close to shouting as the Nazgûl would allow. Nine Black Riders turned their heads expectantly, looking for their opening. I breathed, trying to keep my abnormally fast heart rate down. My mom came to my computer and fiddled with the pads on my shoulders.

“It’s just that—”

“Please,” I whispered. “I gave you one rule. And you promised.” I was close to popping. I didn’t want her to hear me throw up, to see me so vulnerable.

“OK. OK.” She backed away a couple of steps. I pretended to check my facebook. I could feel her myopic, beastial eyes watching. I could hear her nostrils suck the wild air, tasting for danger. The hiccups continued to shake my body. It wasn’t long until I was bent and groaning. The agony increased. Legs splayed, boxers askew, two of the pads came unstuck. The Witch-king gave a challenging cry and raised his sword, taunting my mom, daring her to charge. It was the correct move.

She surged forward, fear in her eyes, smelling for her baby. She found the contact pads and started placing them back on my body.

No, mom! No! They’re baiting you.

The hiccups were too intense for me to warn her. Again, I tried to brush her away, but she smelled Black Riders and was trying to protect me. Pathetically I stood and tried to get by her.

Admiral Akbar, of the alien race the Mon Calamari. In George Lucas’ classic films it’s this guy who first realized that the rebel forces have been led into a trap.

The Mon Calamari Star Cruiser hurtled toward the enemy. On the bridge, Admiral Akbar tried to keep his fleet together. “Take evasive action. Green group, stay close to Holding Sector 57.”

I waddle-shuffle-limped into the bathroom, three contact pads connected, the third dangling from the electronic box in my hand. My boxers fell to my knees making the scene even more tragic and hilarious.

Not even my mom will follow me into the bathroom.

I thought about all the people she approached at grocery stores to warn about the dangers of bottled water, and remembered she could not be shamed.

“Admiral, we have enemy ships in sector 47!”

I closed the door behind me and hoped for the best. The Craterhoof Behemoth charged, slamming into my spaceship with a violent thud. The hinges held, but the frame did not. The door hung askew and would not latch. If she tried again we were done for.

The bathroom was dark and five degrees cooler than the rest of my apartment. I shuffled to the toilet and sat down, steadying my breathing. I let the frequency machine fall to the floor and tried to find Zen. Outside, the beast paced to and fro, wondering what to do. The hiccups continued.

Five minutes passed. I had it under control. I could do this. My mom approached.

“Nathan. What I was trying to say…” she began to open the door so I could hear her better.


The beast slammed her head into the side of the Star Cruiser. The wood splintered and broke off its hinges, she wedged herself a few feet inside, “…was that I thought it would be nice…”


“…if I poured you a bath…”


“…with ginger and honey.”

“It’s a trap!”

That was her plan? Ginger and honey? My apartment didn’t even have a bathtub! Well, it had a tub but the only spigot was for the shower. You couldn’t fill a bath if you wanted to. Even if I thought her idea was good, there was no way to make it happen. She pushed inside. Furiously, I stood and slammed the door with both hands, shoving her back with as much force as my shaky — hiccup —  arms could muster. The Nazgûl surged with a horrifying scream that echoed off the bathroom walls and shattered my mirror. I made it to the toilet with enough time to vomit my guts into oblivion.

to be continued

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These are the songs from this week’s podcast!
My Love

I’m Slipping

Here’s a track I made with invincible weapon Courtney. She’s a talented babe so you’ll probably like it.

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