By John Thomas Tuft

The single candle flame danced as she led the way through the drafty, dark hallways. Strange muttering sounds came through the walls, some sounding like eerie moaning, others like smothered screams of laughter. “Not many come down here,” she said. “Especially without any particular urgency for it. Did you find out it’s your time to go?” I shrugged. “No, I’m just getting up in years a bit and wondered what was down here in one of these…” She stopped and looked at me. “Soul chambers? This is the dwelling place of the soul.” As we continued on, I realized that now I was walking on my tiptoes. “Is it indestructible?” I asked. She stopped again. “You and your questions! Souls are the portable and potable version of your ‘self’.” With an emphatic nod she set off again. “Keep up, please.”

Now, you know me and there is always one more question…at least. “Why are we using a candle? Seems very Jungian…’Souls are portable and potable.’ Like a jug of drinking water?” Once more she stopped. This time she sighed, “They told me you would be difficult. Yes, like a jug of drinking water. What did you expect to find in here? Cherubs having cookies and milk?” I scratched at my beard. “Maybe.” She got a bit more animated. “This, all of this,” she said, waving her arms around, “comes from our imaginations. All that out there, the earth the sky, the stars, the universe, the billions and billions of universes, everything that reaches to where time ends and the Great Beyond begins, is the product of a creating original imagination.” I couldn’t help myself. “COI? We come from COI? How does that work?”

By this time, her hands were on her hips. “When we are born we have the seeds of imagination within us. What we do with it is up to us. When we die, whatever grew from our imagination goes back to rejoin the COI. Got it?” Sometimes I know when to shut my mouth, but usually…nope. “Does COI know we have a piece of…it…within us?” She finally smiled. “That’s not the question. The real question is, do I know I have a fragment of the COI inside of me?” I thought I might be catching on, so I said, “So whatever I do shows what I think about having a fragment of COI, my own imagination, within me?” She nodded. “You might get cookies and milk after all.” I pressed on, “So religions and faith, poems and prayers and promises, artworks, music, wandering thoughts, the desire to love and be loved, to make something of ourselves, all over this world, is all flowing from our imagination, our fragment of COI?”

Thankfully, she shook her head yes.  “But remember, also, there are also things that wound our souls, things that wear at it. Soul splinters, you might say.” “Soul splinters?” She crooked her finger and I followed her on down the hall. She stopped in front of a door and threw it open. The stench of rot about knocked me over. “What on earth is that?” She closed it. “Dishonesty. That’s what it smells like in here when you misrepresent yourself. It’s a splinter that oozes pus in your soul,” she arched her eyebrows, “and a source of painful inflation in the heart of whomever you lied to.”

She opened another door. The walls oozed slimy liquid. “The walls in here are coated with splinters of resentment, and all the secret hurting that you hold so close.” Milk and cookies seemed a distant dream. “Are you telling me that whatever I do with my imagination, my fragment of the COI, has an affect on others?” She thumped me on the forehead with an index finger. “Welcome to life among the living.” As we started toward an exit, I spotted a bright red door. “What’s in there?” She hesitated. “I won’t open that. You never open that without permission.” I was intrigued. “Really, really bad?” She grew pensive. “It is sacred ground.”

“What is it?” I told you I always have one more question…at least. Her answer brought me up short. “Trauma. Trauma has a special place in the soul. If the basic trust that is the foundation of life is broken, torn and tattered into fear and anxiety, by unspeakably painful actions or the withholding of love, the soul grows very quiet around it. Protective even. If someone shares their trauma with you, you are on sacred ground. Otherwise, the soul threatens to splinter. Even leave.” I felt the stillness settle around me. “Now do you understand?” she asked as I bowed my head. I could only ask myself, Do I?

May the COI bless you and keep you, each and every one. Which, of course, means get busy blessing each other, and keeping each other. Selah.

Words are magic and writers are wizards.