By David Townsend
He tossed about in the bed, unable to settle. He could hear the drone of the TV and his parents shouting above it. They were always arguing, but it was Christmas Eve and it shouldn’t happen. His father was drinking again. And there was further discord. In the next room his sister Mandy’s CD vibrated to the base of a group vainly hoping to be the latest band.
It was Christmas Eve and it was horrible. When you are thirteen Christmas is supposed to be great. He had decided that. But it wasn’t happening. His father was out of work again. His mother was on about the cost of everything and apologising that Christmas is going to be a bit tight this year so don’t put your hopes on anything much.
It wasn’t fair. He felt miserable. And his few friends made it worse. Not deliberately. They were just excited by family parties and presents they were expecting and all puffed up and glowing. He pulled the sheet tight around him and wished that he could disappear.
He reached out and touched the pile of books on his bed-side table. They were all about magic and hypnosis. Tricks you could learn, and imaginary worlds that only worked in your head where magicians performed amazing feats. He totally wished he could be that sort of magician or a master hypnotist and knew it was fantasy.
Somewhere nearby some cracker went off. His father said that they were illegal except for the government. Maybe someone was having fun... He would have cried except he would get it if his father heard.
He hated Christmas. Father Christmas was all rubbish anyway. It had been his father all the time when he was little and now even that had stopped. He hated Father Christmas as well.
-o – O – o-
He knew it was in the middle of the night and he was awake with his eyes closed, but there was light in his room and he cautiously opened part of one eye. There was a strange greenish light which seemed to be coming from the other side of the bed and he rolled over to see.
The light seemed to be all around a boy about his own age who had a smiling bright face and was dressed in a peculiar green hoodie that went all the way down to his knees.
“Hi, Jake. I’m Torvald. I hear that you don’t believe in Santa.”
Jake struggled upright. The boy glowed. This was a dream. You never knew what was going to happen in a dream. He waited.
“You can talk, you know. I’m perfectly real.” said Torvald. “You’re having some trouble with Christmas, and for some reason the Old Man decided that you should be given a bit of a hand. Put this on.”
He tossed a hoodie similar to what he was wearing onto the bed. “Come on, let’s get moving. Things get a bit hectic this time of the year.”
Jake was dreaming, he knew, and in a dream you did things. He climbed out of the bed and pulled on the hoodie. Thankfully no other kids could see him dressed like this with the thing down to his knees. The material felt funny like moss.
Torvald took his hands. “Look into my eyes, Jake. Deep, that’s right. Take a deep breath.”
Jake found himself standing in the same position inside a log hut. There were bunks along one wall and clothing scattered here and there. A trumpet and Christmas decorations and two ice-hockey sticks and a poster for some band Jake had never heard of were stuck between windows. He could see snow outside.
Torvald was grinning. ”I always seem to land back in the dormitory. Like coming home, I suppose.” He let go of Jake’s hands but took his arm. “Time to meet the Old Man. Let’s go!”
He led Jake along an outside walk way. It was covered and had a low wall on one side, but the snow swirled around. There were other cabins and some bigger buildings, and pine trees, thousands of pine trees, all blanketed in snow. Some brightly coloured birds flittered about, almost like Christmas decorations on the move.
Jake was suddenly aware that he was walking bare-footed with snow drifting under his feet, and he was wearing nothing but pyjamas and a hoodie. He didn’t feel cold. It was odd.
They came to a larger building with a solid looking door. Torvald banged hard and there was a shout from inside. He pushed the door open and they went into a large room with a big fire burning in a huge hearth. Draped over the back of a chair right in front of Jake’s eyes was a massive red jacket with a white fur collar.
Jake looked up and there he was, behind a big desk poking at a computer. He was thinner than Jake expected. Fierce red braces stood out on a purple shirt below a sparklingly happy beared face topped with white hair.
“Hello, Jake. Have a seat while I just solve this little supply problem.” It was a rich, booming voice that fitted him exactly.
Jake chose a seat near the fire. The room was a shambles. There were several computers and hundreds and hundreds of book of all sizes. On the floor near him was a book with the title ‘Quantum Physics. A view of Zero Point Field Energy’, and another which read ‘Jenny and her Magic Kitten’ with a cartoon picture of an over-satisfied kitten and a four-year old girl. There was another which said “Jake learns Numbers” and he decided that he wasn’t that Jake.
There was a Christmas Tree, and the decorations were brilliant. There were lots of presents underneath. A big shaggy dog wandered in, inspected Jake, and ambled over to be stroked. The dog’s tail was longer than Jake’s arm and whisked about from side to side, knocking things about, but no one seemed to mind.
It was all very homely in a way Jake had never experienced before and he knew it was just right. He relaxed so much he was on the verge of sleep when Father Christmas was standing at his side.
“Jake, let’s sort this. You’ve been having a miserable time and I’ve decided to do something about it. I’m not going to give you a kiddy Christmas Wish because boys often choose crazy things or are so shy they want something they could get themselves. And you being here is special. But just as a matter of interest, if you could choose anything you wanted, what would you ask for?”
Jake went inside himself and searched, but he really knew. “A happy family.”
“That’s a good answer. I made a good decision, picking you. You understand, of course, that most of what people know I do is make and distribute toys. Actually I create Gifts in ways you are a bit young to understand, I would think. I am arranging two Gifts for you.”
“One is a pendant, a charm you hang around your neck. It won’t look expensive and you don’t tell anyone what it’s about. You just got it as a present. You will recognise it when it arrives. You will be given it for Christmas and the person giving it won’t know they are doing it for me. I can’t give it to you because parents quite rightly want to know what’s going on when presents appear mysteriously.”
“The second Gift you will need to learn, mostly, but the Core will be done for you. That is quite certainly a Gift you want. And it comes from a friend of mine. You don’t tell anyone about it, but if they do insist, you can tell them you dreamed it, so it can’t be real.”
At this Father Christmas burst out laughing. He laughed so deeply and loudly that he rolled over backwards kicking his legs in the air and waving his arms all about. All the “Ho! Ho! Ho!s” that Jake had ever heard rolled into one didn’t get near it. For no reason Jake had to join in the laughing, and noticed Torvald was laughing so much there were tears running down his face.
Eventually Father Christmas rolled over and stood up. “Gosh, this is fun. Torvald, take Jake to The Doctor, while I get on with this.” He waved them away and went back to his computer.”
As they left the room, Jake whispered to Torvald, “Shouldn’t he be out delivering toys. It’s Christmas Eve?”
Torvald whispered back, “I know you won’t understand this, but The Old Man belongs to Another Way and time doesn’t go minute by minute there. He has plenty of time. And if you are in a dream, time can be different in a dream.”
Jake didn’t understand what he was talking about, but by this time they had come to a very ancient looking door with a wrought iron circular knocker in the middle.
Torvald banged the knocker vigorously, and the door opened so fast his arm was nearly pulled off.
An ancient man stood in the door. He looked furious. “Blasted elves! Schoolboys at heart for life! Can’t you just knock instead of rattling the whole neighbourhood?” He looked at Jake. “Ah! A visitor. Come on in.”
Jake looked at Torvald, who was grinning still. Torvald pushed him inside. “You mightn’t see me again, so good luck and a Happy Christmas and enjoy Doctor Mesmer!” He waved and walked away.
Jake was still speechless. But he found his voice and said, “Elves?”
“Of course. What did you expect? Well, they aren’t all elves, it’s true, and certainly I’m not. Come to think of it, there are quite a lot of humans here.”
Then Jake was flooded with an awesome awareness. “You are Doctor Mesmer. Mesmer the Hypnotist? Aren’t you dead? I mean I thought Dr. Mesmer died nearly two hundred years ago. You’ve got the same name.”
“True, and actually I’m the same person because we don’t die up here, well, not again, so to speak. But you can ignore all that stuff. It just gets in the way.” He put his hand on Jake’s shoulder and said, “This way. We have to work fast. They say that they have all the time in the world and then want everything done in twenty minutes.”
Dr. Mesmer took Jake into the strangest room he had ever been in. There were a lot of books, all with titles in languages he didn’t know. There were mind-boggling tub-like apparatus with wires and rods, collections of wand like metal sticks and heaps of scarves. There were rolled up parchments tied with ribbon and bizarre pictures on the wall that looked Egyptian.
“Disregard all that. They’re mementos. We have to do two things, but first you need to understand how the world really works. I’ll get you to wear some special glasses for this. Everything will look a bit different. Some people feel as if they are under water and get frightened, but you are not under water. You are just seeing your world differently.”
Dr. Mesmer opened a drawer beside him and produced a pair of heavy spectacles. They almost looked like caver’s goggles with a torch and video attached except everything was put together differently into a peculiar shape.
Jake put on the goggles.
Instantly he was in a rather misty ocean. The mistiness flowed around but seemed to be very strong around Dr. Mesmer. Suddenly it started to stream from him towards another part of the room, then eased back to a sort of eddy. Dr. Mesmer said, “Focus on me. What can you see?
Jake gave his full attention to Dr. Mesmer. “It’s like the mist is strongest near you. Sort of flowing from you.” He watched for a minute. “It looks a bit as if it’s flowing out of you. It’s all around you like it was a sort of a bigger you.”
“Exactly,” said the Doctor. “I call the energy Fluid, though most people don’t like the name and I was badly criticised for it on Earth. Now, I want you to look at yourself in a mirror. It’s a special mirror of mine. You won’t see another like it.”
He reached behind a bookcase and drew out a full length mirror, which he propped against a desk. “Have a look in here!”
Jake stepped in front of the mirror.
He was shocked. There he was, but the misty stuff seemed to be compressed against parts of his body. There were sluggish swirls here and there inside. The misty image looked squashed and brownish and flat.
Dr. Mesmer said, “That’s what your energy looks like. Now look at me again. Look intensely, as if you can see all the way into me. What do you see?
Jake stared at him, all the way in. “It’s strongest right inside you. In the centre.”
“Right”, the Doctor said, “That’s my Core. The inner strength from which I live and work. Now I am going to reorganise you so that you have a Core.”
Jake was apprehensive. “What are you going to do to me?”
The Doctor smiled. “It’s easy stuff. Take the goggles off. Now, look straight into my eyes.”
Jake looked into the Doctor’s eyes. It seemed a bit rude to stare, but he did as he was told. He was aware the Doctor seemed to be swaying and his hands moved through the air. Somewhere in all this everything seemed to cease. He just hung in space. He could feel movement sometimes, as if the Doctor was moving his hands around and downwards away from his body. He began to feel as if there were shifts inside him as if whole parts of his insides had been moved to another place, and he understood that some of these were mental rather than physical. It went on for a long time.
He came alert with the Doctor tapping his face. “Good. You need to do lots of work on this yourself. There isn’t time right now. I will get the information to you somehow. But while you are able to see, you should experience that. Focus on me really hard. Imagine there are arrows of energy shooting out of your eyes into mine. Do it!”
Jake put all his effort into shooting energy. He shook with the tension. Slowly the mist in front of him seemed to grow denser and then begin to flow towards the Doctor.
“That’s the way. See if you can put more effort in. It isn’t just thinking; it’s every part of you in motion. Good. That’s the way.”
Jake flopped. “That’s hard.”
“Of course it is. You never achieve anything without effort. So, look in the mirror. What do you see now?”
Jake looked at himself in the mirror. There seemed to be a column of the mist from the crown of his head down, radiating out, shining all around him. He felt fantastic.
“Hang on a moment,” Jake said. “What’s the Core? What’s it for?”
The Doctor looked surprised. “For the energy, of course. You have had all your energy suppressed so you’ve been powerless. You were told when you were little that you were not to express yourself, be yourself, so you have kept yourself all tied up in a knot. You are not happy. You aren’t balanced or relaxed. You worry all the time. You feel down.
That’s over. Your energy is now balanced and flowing out. From now on you will be and grow the way you want to. You’ll be assertive when you wish. And of course you’ll be cheerful and unafraid, because you have a strong Core. You have to keep working on it, of course. You will do that. So let’s get into the next bit. The way we use it.”
Jake found himself moved into the centre of the room. The Doctor asked him, “How did we start?”
Jake said, “I had to look into your eyes.”
“That’s right!” The Doctor‘s smile curled right up his face. “And what was I doing?”
“You were looking into my eyes.”
“Part right. Actually I was using Gaze. Gaze is a word that we use with a capital G. It’s a special sort of energy looking. There a various ways of doing it. This is just the basics. Listen. You stare without blinking. You have to practice that, every day, quite a lot. The Gaze is actually a focus of the energy you saw, the mist, the Fluid. As you focus it you change the energy in the other person. If you are looking into their eyes, they go into trance and will obey you and be healed. If you just focus on someone who isn’t looking at you, it will affect them. They may even be aware you are looking at them and turn and look you in the eyes.”
Jake was interested. “Kids try that at school. Staring to make someone turn round.”
“Yes,” the Doctor said, “But this is the real thing, and it isn’t just to make someone turn. This is healing. Do you understand that? It’s to make other people better, stronger, happier, and when you get good at it, heal some sickness. And you told Father Christmas that you wanted a happy family. Well, this is how you get it.”
Jake felt a bit confused. “You mean that I make things happen?”
The Doctor laughed. “You’ve got! You’ve got it. You make things happen. You have to work at it. You won’t be perfect. But you keep doing it. You’ve got it!” He laughed again. There seemed to be a lot of laughing here.
“Look into my eyes,” the Doctor said. “Actually you start with a spot just above where the eyebrows would meet. Fix on that spot and stare into it, as if you can stare into the person’s mind. Keep staring. Don’t blink, don’t waver. Imagine that little arrows of the energy are flowing out of your eyes into their mind and causing it to totally relax as you cause them to feel well or whatever you have chosen. This is your intention and it is very important that you choose a good intention and keep it.”
Jake followed the Doctor’s instructions. It seemed embarrassing to stare hard at an adult, but he did it. And he copied what the Doctor had done, rocking backwards and forwards, and moving his hands.
The Doctor made him repeat it again and again, until he said at last, “That will have to do for today. You have to practice and learn yourself. I don’t know whether you will ever be allowed back here for more. But you can learn by experience. Perhaps that’s the best way, anyway. I will lock this into you and send you on your way. Now look into my eyes again.
Jake looked into the Doctor’s eyes, a little differently this time, but it didn’t seem to make any difference. The world slid to a gentle halt and faded away.
-o – O – o-
Jake woke in a tangle of sweaty sheets. Sunlight streamed through a crack in the blind and it was already hot.
He slid out of bed. Christmas morning. The house was silent. He was first up. Time to investigate the Christmas Tree. He crept towards the front room. He was surprised to find that he was smiling. He had an expectation of good things way beyond Christmas.
Under the Christmas Tree were presents. He sorted out the little pile that belonged to him. The biggest was from his father. He opened it half hoping, half apprehensive. It was a radio controlled car. He had no interest in cars. He knew who would play with that – his father. He put it aside.
There was an envelope from Auntie Fiona. It yielded five dollars. She probably thought that was a fortune.
Next was a parcel from his mother. It was a pile of worn books tied up with string. There was a card from his mother. “I know you are interested in magic, so I brought these for you. Op Shop means you get lots more. Love, Mum.”
He undid the string. There was a piece of paper on which some Op Shop Lady had scribbled Children’s Magic Books. The top book was ‘A Hundred Tricks for Boys’. He already had a copy. Under that was “Party Tricks for Young Girls”. He pushed that aside in disgust. The next book looked more promising. It was “Stage Magic Secrets”. Under that was ‘Jenny and her Magic Kitten’. He stared at that for a long time. He was sweating and felt a little pulled apart like when you are in the car stationary in the middle of traffic and the vehicles all around you start moving and you feel as if you are going backwards. He lifted the book away. The bottom book was almost no surprise; ‘Hypnosis and Mesmerism. The Basic Exercises.’ It was a thick book. He opened it and looked at the chapters. His eyes ran down headings he was already familiar with. His dream came back in startling clarity. For just a moment he was very frightened. How did things like that happen? But even as he felt the fear it flowed into an inner certainty that he was in charge. He lived out of Core.
He picked up the present from his older sister. It seemed nothing more than a stuffed card. He suspected a handkerchief. He tore it open and found a pendant. His sister had added a note, “I know you don’t like neck things, but somehow this was just you. Love, Mandy.”
On the end of the necklace was a metal eye with a strange line around it. Jake felt his hair stand on end. He had last seen a big one of these on the wall of Dr. Mesmer’s room. He slid it out of the wrapping into his hand. It had energy of its own. He could feel it. For a moment he was more in Dr. Mesmer’s room than under the Christmas tree. He put the pendant around his neck.
There was a series of loud thumps. This was Mandy bounding down the passage, all 76 kilos of her. Predictably this was followed by an enraged shout from her father, who followed her into the room. He was bleary eyed from drinking, hair standing all over the place, in pyjamas he always managed to make look long overdue for the laundry. Mum hovered behind him, dragging on a dressing gown in alarm.
He glared at his daughter, shouting. “How often do I have to tell you to walk! Walk quietly! Some of us need sleep! Damn you!”
Mandy was thick skinned. “And a Happy Christmas to you too, Dad.”
Dad flushed and drew his breath in hard. Jake recognised the symptoms accelerating into a catastrophic storm. This could be hellish.
Jake’s hand went to the pendant. He knew with a certainty that he had never before experienced that he should take control. He was happy and at peace. He probably glowed! He shifted into Gaze, and stepped in front of his father.
“Dad. Dad! Look at me.”
His father glared into eyes that slowly transmuted the emptiness of all his lost dreams and hopes into a numbing awareness they were being fulfilled in his son. His breathing slowed, heart steadied. Flickers of an unfamiliar half-remembered happiness ran up the inside of his spine and into his head.
“Dad. Dad! Look at me. It’s Christmas. Happy Christmas!”
Dad managed a wry, half-apologetic grin. “Sorry. Sorry. Bad night! Happy Christmas to you.”
Jake really grinned. There was plastic Father Christmas hanging on the tree. He stared into its eyes and winked. Somewhere – wherever the dream Lapland was, they would know. He was on a mission. He’d started by causing the most amazing Christmas ever.
© David Townsend 2012
David’s other stories and poems are on Amazon/Kindle. The title is “The Secret Pirate”.