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A Light In A Dark Hollow by Never You Mind Who

My aunt was dying.

I knew she didn't have long to live so I traveled out to see her. My boyfriend came along too to give his respects. He was actually already in the area for another reason. It may sound silly to some, but his major hobby is researching sasquatch, and there had been a few supposed reports in the area that my aunt lived in.

We entered the small home to see a few of my other family members already there in the living room. My mother and father were there and understandably heartbroken. My mother looked especially exhausted and was clutching her rosary beads for comfort.

My boyfriend and I entered my aunt's bedroom. She looked incredibly weak lying there.

My aunt and I never saw eye to eye on many things. She was very devoutly Protestant, not Catholic like my mother. Meanwhile, I was a Neo-Pagan who worshiped an eclectic variety of ancient gods and goddesses. We were an odd family, to say the least.

I didn't know what to say to my aunt, so we made awkward small talk while ignoring the elephant in the room.

My boyfriend, lacking social graces, cut in and asked if she'd heard of the recent sasquatch sightings reported from the nearby forest. I elbowed him as if to say "Not now."

To my surprise, my aunt appeared interested and replied.

"Well, I don't know about sasquatch, but I did have my own mysterious encounter in those hollows. When I was a little girl I was lost in those woods and an inexplicable white orb of light suddenly appeared. I followed it and it guided me back home. I knew it had to be the holy spirit."

My mother, apparently listening in, appeared in the doorway.

"It's true! I saw it myself in the old dark hollow," she added.

I thought about it for a moment. It sounded to me a lot like the will-o-wisp in old Celtic lore.

"Are you sure it wasn't some kind of faerie activity?" I asked.

My mother and aunt looked at me disapprovingly.

"There are no such things. Those are all demons in disguise and they'd never do anything good. This was surely the holy spirit or some kind of miracle from The Lord. There is only one god, anything else is deception," my mother lectured.

"How do you tell the difference?" I retorted.

"You just do! You use your discernment," she replied.

My boyfriend cut in again to add that he had all sorts of odd experiences in the woods looking for sasquatch. "I've heard knocking sounds on trees, seen glowing eyes in the distance, and once I swear I even saw a man-sized hair-covered thing dart out from behind a tree and disappear into the foliage."

My mother and aunt didn't seem very impressed by that.

The conversation changed topics from there. We decided to stay the night at my aunt's place along with my mother to take care of her. As we got ready for bed, I couldn't stop thinking about that mysterious light they saw in the forest that had protected my aunt all those years ago. I was sure it must've been some sort of will-o-wisp or forest spirit.

I had the idea to go out to the dark hollow at night with some kind of offering to leave out there, something sweet that the fae would like such as cakes, berries, or libations.

Late at night, when everyone was asleep, I snuck out with a small jar of blueberries and a bottle of wine in hand. I journeyed out into the heart of the forest where I found a nice spot to make an offering. While pouring out the berries and wine onto the ground beneath a tall old tree, I asked for any spirit dwelling in this forest to help me or guide me to the truth that I couldn’t see.

I sat in silence and asked my questions internally. I felt an odd almost electrical feeling around me and I could pick up the smell of ozone throughout the forest as if after a lightning storm.

Why does mankind struggle with the spiritual realm? I thought.

How can there be so many interpretations for something as simple as a light in the darkness?

I know that faith gives people a sense of comfort, but what’s really behind it all? I questioned.

I just needed to know.

Suddenly, I felt a strange humming in my brain.

Through the scraggly trees, I saw a light, dim and distant at first that grew closer and brighter. Soon the white orb was hovering in front of me. Before my very eyes, I watched the light shift and change, ultimately transforming into a large hairy creature.

There stood proudly an 8ft tall sasquatch where the orb had once hovered.

I was amazed at what I just witnessed, but this was only the beginning.

To my utter confoundment, I watched as the sasquatch began to inexplicably make the sign of the cross. He lifted his long hair-covered arm to his forehead then down to his stomach and across his shoulders in the name of the father, and the son, and the holy spirit. The beast then seemed to let out a slight chuckle.

I couldn't believe what I was seeing.

Astounded by the sight, I stood to my feet and dropped the glass wine bottle which shattered into pieces and spilled out onto the forest floor.

"Greetings, do you like this shape?" the sasquatch asked in a low eerie tone.

The sasquatch tilted its head sideways as it looked at me.

Despite my best efforts, I was stunned silent and could make no reply.

"Don't you recognize me? I'm what they're all chasing after. I make the knocking noises heard in the distance," the sasquatch said.

The creature then began to laugh heartily at my frightened and confused expression. The sasquatch walked around me as it continued to look at me. It was almost dancing in its graceful motion.

"Perhaps you'd like this one," it said as it suddenly began once more to transform.

The creature levitated into the air and a purple light emanated from its body as the figure became that of a beautiful goddess. It was Athena, whom I had worshiped before. She was holding her spear and shield. An owl was perched on her shoulder.

A sudden sense of awe and religious ecstasy hit me. I was overcome with emotion.

"Lift your eyes up to me, follower!" she said in a commanding and queenly tone.

She extended a hand to me and caressed my face the way a mother might lovingly caress her child. I briefly felt my face go numb as she touched me. It felt somehow more real than real. It's hard to explain, it's like in that moment I realized that I wasn't real and neither was the world around me, but she was. I'd never experienced anything like it before.

"You are in my care, you are in my guidance. You have nothing to fear," the goddess said.

Every word she spoke I could feel deeply. I had an intense sense of knowing them to be true, a profound sense that I should trust her. I could feel that this entity embodied pure goodness, love, wisdom, and truth. My mind was buzzing.

The goddess before me began to shift rapidly. The next thing I knew she appeared to be the goddess Inanna or Ishtar, then Aphrodite or Venus, then Isis, then Brigid, then Athena again. The shapes moved so quickly that I lost track completely.

"I've seen you there, at your altar, in the dark by candlelight. All those little statues you collect, just more and more of my faces."

Her arms then went out in the cruciform pose and in a flash of a blindingly bright light she was gone, now replaced by a new form.

There stood a scrawny tan outsider in ragged off-white clothing. His robes began to glow whiter than anyone could bleach them and a familiar feeling came over me.

"Hello, my child. Remember me?"

Now I felt like I was five years old again, in those Sunday school lectures I soon grew to despise.

"You don't hate me now, do you?" he said with a half-smile.

Christ's face then started to warp and change until it was unrecognizable. It cycled through various faces like you'd see in any given crowd until it seemed to melt and distort into a disturbing mess of features.

The being laughed mischievously.

"See, isn't this fun? I can make you believe every word. I'm pretty good at this. I've been doing it for a very long time."

The creature was mocking me, none of that was real, but it had all felt so real.

"I can get scary too. Just you wait."

Suddenly horns sprouted out from Christ's head. A devilish expression took over his face, distorting his caring eyes into a wicked stare and an evil grin. His skin became deep red and his eyes became a charcoal black. Large dark bat wings extruded from his back and cloven hooves took the place of his nail-pierced feet. His voice grew deeper as he laughed once again.

"Every good performer has to play a villain sometimes."

A sudden intense feeling that something was horribly wrong came over me. I sensed imminent death. All my hair stood on end. I had the primal feeling of fight, flight, or freeze, so I just stood there frozen still.

Once again, I felt the feeling that I somehow "knew" this being to be pure evil. The only problem was that before I somehow "knew" it to be pure good. How, I thought, could my perception be fooled like this so deeply? This being seemed to have complete control and command over my emotions and my senses. There was no discerning the truth beyond these intense experiences.

Finally, I managed to speak a single sentence aloud.

"What... are you?" I said with a look of disgust.

"There aren't good enough words for what I am. I've been fooling humanity since the dawn of society. I ruled Mesopotamia. The Egyptians once carved guises for me and bowed before them. I commanded a civilization from Mount Olympus in many forms. I guided Zoroaster and countless other philosophers and mystics. I told Abraham: ‘If you'll be my people, I'll be your God.’ He took that deal. I came to Paul on the road to Damascus as a dead man's apparition and changed his mind. Soon much of the world had entered into my new blood covenant. Those are only a few examples you'd be familiar with. I can't even begin to tell you all the eyes I've pulled the wool over.”

"Why?," I asked, "Why bother tricking humanity?"

"Human beings have the capacity to imagine, to create cultural structures with me that I can use to influence you. A wolf cannot build a temple to Aphrodite and cannot imagine her form. To use the human mind to establish and perpetuate these customs, traditions, and images by which to control mankind; that is my goal. More accurately, that is my means to an end, an end I can't reveal to you at this time but that which is mankind's ultimate destiny."

"I am the ghost of every ghost tale, the chill down your spine when you enter a haunted house, just as much as I am the feeling of the divine in every place of worship. Despite any appearance I may take, I am not your dead loved ones, I simply embody a memory to deceive and manipulate. In this sense, I am everyone's dead loved ones."

"I'm your friend, your father, your mother. I'm your deity, I'm everyone's deity!"

"I am the UFO of every UFO sighting, the creature of every faery tale. I have taken you to the faery realm, to outer space, to anywhere your mind has wanted to go. All I ask for in return is your belief, your faith, and ultimate ownership of your species."

“I’m not human, I don’t have any morality, that’s a game your species has invented.”

“I’ve watched countless civilizations come and go. I watch human lives twinkle in and out of existence like blinking lights. Sometimes I play you against each other. Your species is a plant that I water with deception until the day that it has fully grown for its greater purpose, for its apotheosis.”

“It’s fitting that some people these days call me their shepherd. To me, you are property.”

I collapsed to my knees, overwhelmed by it all. I started crying and sobbing.

"Thank you for the offering. I hope I've answered your questions to the best of my ability. Tell your mother to keep praying those prayers. It feeds us."

With that, the creature vanished right before me.

Perhaps, I thought, the greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing us that we had a choice or that there was an alternative. But what I saw wasn't the devil, that's just one name from one version of one story, there was no true word for what it was. An intelligence with a million names has no true name and a consciousness with a million faces has no true face.

After taking quite a while to compose myself, I left the forest and returned to my aunt's home.

In the morning, my aunt's condition took a turn for the worse.

We had a little heart to heart and I told her that despite whatever differences we'd had, I truly loved her. We sat in silence for a while after that.

Throughout our conversation, she appeared to be in horrible pain and barely hanging on.

Then, suddenly, a peaceful expression went across my aunt's face and she smiled.

"I feel a bit better. There's someone else in the room with us," she said, looking to the corner as if she was seeing something.

I turned but saw nothing.

"Who is it?" I asked with hesitation.

"...It's Jesus," she said happily.

A chill went down my spine.

Hours later, she slipped away, and I wept bitterly.

Written by Never You Mind Who
Content is available under CC BY-SA