OUT OF ESSEX – CHAPTER 28
I’m not afraid of storms, for I’m learning to sail my ship
Louisa May Alcott
After the sparring, Maggie chose to return to her room. Her excitement bubbled. New worlds were opening.
“At your service.”
“A question about a film, The Matrix.” She had watched it, on God’s advice. “The martial arts software programme that was front-loaded into Neo. Does that exist in reality?”
“Yes.” She had known it in her waters. She asked if it was available. “Indeed yes. Any software is available to souls in limbo.”
She clenched a fist in delight. The Place walked its talk. Now she moved again, tiptoeing across a dark landing and back. Bladder empty, ready for more.
Again, she found herself astride the Highway to Hell. Following Morgana’s guidance, she reached an area dominated by a round cylindrical tent, with a conic roof. Yurts had been deployed in Central Asia, by Genghis Khan’s hordes. Stepping inside, her vision was overwhelmed by repeating geometrical patterns. Morgana later explained how these were based around the five unchanging elements of the cosmos: fire, water, earth, metal, and wood. The patterns embraced the interior walls, also suffusing the furniture and embroidery, which looked Arabic to her untutored eye. Musky patchouli notes swam in the warm air.
Mid-yurt, a candle-lit table was draped with a purple and blue Moroccan tablecloth, emblazoned with more of the fractal configurations that characterised Islamic art. Bottles of wine loosely punctuated bowls of olives and flatbreads. Sporting pink pyjamas, Morgana arose from a deep leather sofa, smothered by a sable throw. She held out her arms. “Mags, you made it. Grab a glass and meet Mary. We’re having a girlie evening!”
Not for the first time, Maggie found being dead quite incredible. Pouring herself a large red wine, she looked at Mary Magdalene, perched, in vivid purple pyjamas, on a massive pouf. Lustrous auburn hair topped an olive-skinned, Levantine face, in which sat a fathomless smile. Music played softly: a zither and flute cocktail, flavoured by tambourine backbeats.
As the first glass settled, Maggie seized her opportunity to ask timeless questions. Mary responded in detail, beginning with the resurrection. While Morgana lit a spliff, Maggie listened, spellbound. Mary described her time as a disciple of Jesus, one of those deemed worthy of his gnosis, or secret knowledge.
She told of life with Jesus in South Asia. Their yogic and tantric practices. She emphasised how red hair often characterised their DNA line. Maggie pinched herself hard.
Once Jesus had left his human body, Mary taught and healed through the laying on of hands. “I passed on the essential teaching of Yeshua that the true divine mystery is love.” Her hair shone like a sun. “I also initiated women into the Sex Magic of Isis, and in using their life force to heal and elevate themselves.”
Maggie could think of nothing to say. She vaguely remembered Isis as an Egyptian goddess; Mary as a prostitute. She sensed they could both see through her.
Mary told how she had taught knowledge of herbs for healing, and the use of essential oils to alter consciousness, “to experience the spiritual worlds directly.” She had passed on the “inner teachings” of Jesus to smaller, more advanced groups. “I revealed that all persons are nothing less than the living mother/father god. Maggie, there is nothing separating you or anyone else from this numinous reality – except belief.”
Maggie was sad. Nobody had ever discussed this in Grantham, or in Parliament. Now the strange thing happened again. Morgana looked to have lost several of her toes. Mary carried on. “The core teaching was to use their powers as prime, supreme creators in their lives. I also taught this to men, but not the Sex Magic of Isis.” She paused, eyes flashing. “I let their wives teach them that.”
Grinning, Morgana commanded nearby minions to bring food. Maggie poured another glass to steady herself. The claret had a focused intensity: blackcurrants, coffee and chocolate.
Mary took a draw, offering the joint to Maggie, who tentatively accepted, taking a single puff. Mary spoke with horror of the Middle Ages, when the patriarchal Church reached rock bottom, and many women with her knowledge of healing and self-transcendence were labelled as witches and burned at the stake. “Ironically, this frontal attack was committed in the name of the Holy Mother Church, meaning of course the Church of Rome. To this day, the Church places females in subservient positions.”
Maggie glanced at the label on the bottle. 1945 Château Mouton-Rothschild. That name again! Memories that seemed like future visions came flooding back. Or had she surged forward? After several more puffs, she perceived with total clarity that N. M. Rothschild & Sons would be hired to advise on the 1986 privatisation of British Gas. Or……had long ago been hired. Time had become meaningless. And that the same bank would advise – or had done – on most of the UK’s other privatisations of state-owned assets: British Steel; British Coal; all the British regional electricity boards; and all British regional water boards. It seemed odd. Why and how could that happen?
Spicy fish tagine and couscous arrived. As did another tangled thought. Some of her ministers had gone on to work for the bank, yet the time when she would have ministers still lay ahead. She yielded to the linear impossibility, enigma dissolving the binary.
Tucking in, Maggie suddenly heard an agonised scream. She almost dropped her bowl. Morgana’s reassuring hand reached across. “Nothing to worry about Mags. Beelzebub is ‘entertaining’ two senior ex-bankers from the IMF and JP Morgan.”
Mary touched Maggie’s shoulder, squeezing lightly. “Are you thinking about that name on the bottle?”
Maggie took more of the psychoactive smoke into her lungs, coughing loudly. She considered asking her companions’ view on interest-bearing loans; but forgot this when Morgana revealed that she and Sal still had a fabulous sex life after thousands of years together. She giggled, nervously, at the description of “mixed tails and tongues”. She changed subject to her period of limbo, and strange attraction towards martial arts.
Morgana replaced the music with the Byrds. Eight Miles High. Maggie revealed her favourite ‘pop song’ as Telstar, the first single by a British group to reach number one in America, in 1962. They smiled politely.
Mary and Morgana danced together, sinuously weaving in and out each other’s space, while walnut and almond baklava desert arrived. Chomping on the heavy, flavourful Greek pastry, Maggie was wistful. She struggled with simple, uninhibited pleasure.
It was time to leave. They all hugged. Morgana held out Maggie’s sports bag, flicking dirt off Satan’s nose.
Mary’s voice was suddenly a cleaver cutting the air. “OK, let’s lose this girly shit.”
Ten times sharper, massively less affable.
“We thought it might help you assimilate. But it’s time you spoke up. Can we help you? What has God said? My mother-in-law can be petty and vengeful, not to mention indecisive.”
Wanting more hashish, Maggie struggled for precision. A rabbit in their sudden headlamps. She was grateful for Mary’s summary; unprepared for its harshness.
“Let me start then. You fell out of alignment with benevolence, you and your fine friend Mr Reagan.” Maggie remained vulnerably silent. “Mr Raygun,” whispered Morgana.
A new Mary seemed to rise, then tower above Maggie. “I do not care about trying to pin labels on political philosophies. Those are just words. I do care – and so should you – that entire nations, such as Indonesia and Chile, were tied up, raped, and then used as economic guinea pigs for capital’s intrinsically plundering tendencies. The rich became richer, while the poorest continue to perish.”
Maggie’s vocals were paralysed.
“Let’s talk about Britain.” Mary’s face was contorted, almost wobbling. “As the captain, you steered that already tainted galleon into dreadful new waters. A shrunken welfare state; privatised public services; and rising inequality. Now, hundreds of thousands of British citizens cannot afford to live. Education, medical care, and infrastructure are eroding and crumbling. The country has sunk so low under those waters that many of its children are starving. Pupils go to school hungry. Was that your aim? Hungry children?”
Morgana was staring at her. Maggie could hear her eyes ask the question. (Is that what you wanted Maggie?). She shook her head.
Mary carried on: “Woefully, since your premiership, the very idea of neoliberalism – yes, I will name it – has steadily buried older British values and ideals. Replacing ethics and good daily conduct with a series of swindles, rackets and orgies. But no sex magic, oh no, none of that deep nourishment.”
Maggie drank in sound, noting Mary’s wet eyes. “No moral or spiritual response. Just greedy food orgies, worthless sports orgies, selfish property orgies, lustful pornography orgies, rubbish pop culture orgies, and empty travel orgies. But above all, to Britain’s eternal shame, the homeless, the starving children, have been incorporated into the country’s idea of what is and will be. Part of the fabric.”
An image came to Maggie. Of God’s ‘crapocracy’. All the financiers, oligarchs and sociopaths were represented by the lurid form of a sadistic teacher holding a ruler over the fingers of a petrified pupil, threatening more punishment unless there was complete compliance.
“So, come on, what in hell do you want here?” said Mary.
“To find Jesus. Where is he?” Maggie asked, desperation in her voice.
“Damned if I know,” said Mary. “He can be gone for days, weeks, months, so good luck with that. Anyway, you know where I am now. Don’t be a stranger.”