Come up crash with the muses, fells dust into ash...
"This is not what was supposed to be."
"What is, what was, what will be is all as it is supposed to be."
"This was not supposed to be what destroyed him..."
"Who said it would destroy him? You are writing history that has not yet happened."
"The spiral is deepening. The abyss..."
"Oh ye of little faith. When the abyss stares up at him, he stares right back."
Come so close that I might see the light inside you didn't see
June 6, 2009... the end of the Sixth Era of Rancho Nuevo
Almost six months into the Jack's spiral into blind darkness, the calendar saved his life. It was the climax of the aftermath of the Excommunication War, the only chapter of the Jack's story to have large portions redacted. He'd underestimated the damage he suffered in the war and now the extent of that damage was becoming clear. An incident on the job that mirrored the darkest and bloodiest night of the war had brought flashbacks of such intensity that he not only quit his job, he stopped living. The once fearless adventurer who went into the unknown with a smile on his face was now curled up in the fetal position most days. He cut off most people who reached out to him, stepped down from any position where he had influence of any kind, and then embraced the descent into madness.
The calendar saved his life. Looking up at it on the wall by his desk, he closed his eyes.
"Every five years," he muttered to himself.
Let me hold you tight and arms, tight and arms you lost your chance
It wasn't the Excommunication War that brought about the end of the Sixth Era. The war was the Sixth Era, and it consumed five years of his life. It was PTSD and the Jack's decision, driven by the appearance of June 6th on the calendar, to seek help. As fate would have it, his search for a therapist brought him to one just a block away from his apartment. He'd been unable to drive, telling people his car had broken down when it hadn't. Driving triggered flashbacks, the memories of a dark and bloody night that began with him trying to drive through a snowstorm towards a bloody scene that rivaled that of any horror movie. Whenever he drove, feelings of dread overcame him. What would he find when he reached his destination? All he saw was the bathroom with its walls and floors covered with blood.
In Rancho Nuevo, the reflection within the unconscious, the Jack had retreated to the convent on the edge of the desert. He locked himself in a small room and assumed the position of a corpse on a stone slab. Even the Sisterhood of the Golden Sky was not allowed inside the room. He had locked and barred the door.
"This time he has to save himself."
"Have the angels abandoned him?"
"No one can help him, or anyone else, until he helps himself. Even the intervention that brought him back from death was brought about by himself. He just doesn't understand that yet."
While the Excommunication War had led to an improperly named Queen being redacted from the mythology, it had also led to the ascendance of the Judas Queen and the Snow Queen. In the darkness he couldn't recognize them. All he saw was the bloody bathroom and she who stood there bleeding from every part of her body screaming at him, "Please kill me. I can't seem to do it myself."
Come so close that I might see the crash of light come down on me
At the Blackjack saloon, business was booming, and Blackjack stared blankly as he handed out drinks to those who had surrendered to their own darkness. Their eyes were blank, white, and empty as they carried on taking vengeance upon each other in order to sidestep their own guilt, sorrow, pain, and weakness. They were far weaker than they imagined as they sought to empower themselves through their dominance over those who they saw as weaker when what they doing was trying to kill the weakness within themselves. The others reminded them of that weakness and the fear that accompanied it.
"You are the only Jack now," saud the red rider who appeared suddenly at the bar. "The ring is yours now."
Blackjack stared at him as he told him, "I am only a shadow."
"You don't have to be. This is your chance to make him your shadow and for you to step up."
"Your endorsement doesn't move me. The day I take advice from a goddamned seraph is the day I drink my own poison. I'd offer you a drink, but I don't think you assholes have any use for food or drink."
The red rider was gone now, but the idea remained. Blackjack could rise and become the Jack of Rancho Nuevo rather than a shadow that represented the Jack's darker impulses, which were most clearly marked by inaction and apathy. For that same reason, Blackjack had no interest in the title, his apathy covered all the bases. His apathy extended outward in all directions.
He closed his eyes and screamed out silently, "If you give up, then what are the rest supposed to do? Wake the fuck up." He needed the Jack of Rancho Nuevo as much as the Jack needed him. Darkness is incomplete with light, just as light is incomplete without darkness.
With good luck I'll find the dark stop me now
Find me to your heart
That light is dependent on darkness was the lesson of the Excommunication War. Not only the betrayal of the false queen, but the necessary betrayal of the one who came to be known as the Judas Queen. Her betrayal was the spark that awakened him during the war, to see the extent of the damage he caused when he absorbed enough dark energy to become a monster. It was the only way to win the war, but in the end he did not betray his own principles. That would begin to become clear through his ongoing therapy sessions.
"You've cut everyone out because you are afraid of what you might do to them, but what have you really done? You survived, you took damage, but you can move on."
That answer would change in time as the wounds became scars, the lasting reminder of that which we survive. Scars are a beautiful thing when you acknowledge them for what they are. Those without scars bear the burden of a life in which nothing is learned, nothing is challenged, and one becomes an empty vessel. Those without struggle are trapped within their own self-righteousness, falsely believing they are blessed. The curse of a life without struggle, loss, or pain leads only to ignorance of the entropy that surrounds us all. Our scars have meaning. Our scars have value. They are reminders of the difficult path we face when our journey in life is authentic and the difficulty involved in learning life's great lessons.
"Your scars are what makes the work you do possible. Without them you can't relate to the pain of others. Without scars you are useless in service to others and you are merely a ghost in the collective unconscious. Why have you returned to masking them instead of embracing them?"
Let me hold you tight
Like rain and sunshine on a rainy day
Once upon a time, in the Golden Era of Rancho Nuevo, the Jack believed he could do anything and face no consequences. He used that power to reboot his life in a new city and to change his focus and accept that he had a mission he did not yet understand. He rolled with it, all the way up to 1999 when it all came crashing down around him. It was during that time that Tammy the Acolyte Queen had spoken the words that saved him then and would save him again. "If you give up, then what are the rest of us supposed to do." This time it was his own shadow that reminded him.
"Do you see it?"
"The patterns repeat themselves, which is why they are called patterns. Cycles of repetitive behavior, believing that doing the same thing over and over will produce a different result."
"The pattern of the three queens?"
"Yes, but this time there was a different result. During the Excommunication War, the Two and Three Queens were more powerful than the Redacted Queen. You have not yet put the pieces together. You still fail to see the forest for the trees. You see the literal truth, but not the metaphorical truth. What do the Queens represent?"
The Jack of Rancho Nuevo sat up, and staring at the walls of his room within the Convent of the Sisterhood, he pondered the question. He'd convinced himself that he'd broken the pattern during the Golden Era. By encouraging Tina and seeing her achieve her goal of finishing nursing school in the face of her fears and insecurities while asking nothing in return he'd felt like he'd resolved the issue of the One Queen, but the nature of the One Queen is that she is eternally unresolved. As with the quest for true enlightenment and transcendence, the purpose is found in the meaning, like the story of Don Quixote and the stories from many mythologies. That which can never be obtained is the grail quest. The only answer lies within, and it makes no sense to you until you truly understand the purpose of the unreachable goal. It is the quest that keeps us moving forward, for once a goal is achieved it loses its power and its meaning. It becomes a commodity.
Free me now so I can see
Taste the wind and be like me
The Jack of Rancho Nuevo left the convent silently and stepped out into the night. Looking up at the gray skies, he wandered away from the convent and the City of the Golden Sky and into the unknown. He decided he had to reboot his life in a new place, but that place felt empty and hollow. He went through the motions, doing only what he needed to survive and to do the work he did with adolescents in crisis with minimal effort. He still feared the damage he could do, having seen his own darkness during the Excommunication War and fearing that if he put his heart into his work he would succumb to his darker impulses again. The shadow of the dragon was upon him, red like the riders. He had convinced himself the dragon stalked him, a spectre of death reminding him that he was living on borrowed time. He'd misunderstood his dragon. It appeared when he was in danger of destroying himself. It was the dragon that kept the wolves at bay.
Then came the night a woman stepped out of the shadows. She was a woman shattered, betrayed, and broken. He'd heard her cries, he'd watched her try to pull herself together enough to return to her work. She was a nurse from the Jack's workplace and as the two of them stood face to face in the courtyard, he could not look away.
"Do you understand the nature of the Queens yet?" asked the voice.
For months he worked to remind her of her value and purpose. He got her to smile and to laugh, and once she opened her gates enough for him to see her inner light, he worked beyond being funny and goofy. She'd lost faith in herself, her self-esteem was shattered, and then he learned the true nature of her battle. The youngest of three daughters whose father had abandoned the family not long after she was born, she'd had three daughters of her own and a husband who would not be faithful or loyal to her. All she wanted was her daughters to grow up with their father, for this was the source of her greatest pain in life, her father's abandonment. She bore the brunt of her husband's callousness in the name of that.
"You don't have to sacrifce yourself," he told her. "You deserve to be loved."
And with that, he proceeded to fall in love with her, the last great romance of the Jack's life in this frame and the one that would rescue him by reminding him of who he was.
"The Jack serves the Queens. The Queens serve the realm."
The Healer Queen was a LPN who had been unable to finish her RN because of the turmoil in her life, but also because she'd convinced herself she'd fail. She saw her life as a repeating pattern of failure in which her children and the children she worked with were all that mattered. She needed to matter to herself, he told her just before she took her husband back after his latest betrayal. She became convinced that she'd disappointed the Jack, because she knew he loved her, and because she loved him as well. It could never be. They could never be together, but that didn't matter. The love was what mattered, and after that he began pouring his heart and soul into his work, showing his co-workers who he really was. The Jack didn't merely go through the motions of his work as he had for two years, it was who he was, always keeping Blackjack at bay.
This past week, the Healer Queen graduated nursing school. After eight years of balancing the elements of her chaotic life, she'd done what she once believed she could not.
"The syncronicity is obvious to you, is it not?"
"That I inspire women to finish nursing school?"
"You are still seeing the literal side too prominently. What is the meaning of the grail?"
"The Jack serves the Queens, the Queens serve the realm."
"All now with wings."
Lyrics by Hope Sandoval and David Roback
Copyright Wixen Music Publishing
As recorded by Mazzy Star