Sunday, July 30, 2006

Night Ride to the Baba Yaga

One cannot resist what L’Enchanteur bids, so I made my way down to the stables at the Duwamish Inn where I was staying. It was big and airy and many ears perked up and bright intelligent eyes turned my way as I entered. An elderly woman, small and spry, emerged from a stall with a loaded shovel.

“Don’t mind me—doin’ a little housekeeping for my guests….” She disappeared out a side door and came back a moment later, shovel empty.

“Now, what can I do for you, madam?” she chirped.

“I’ve been asked by L’Enchanteur to come here and pick out a horse.”

“Ah, yes. L’Enchanteur—smart lady, don’t you know. But, madam, you should know—you don’t pick the horse, the horse picks you.”

I sighed. “Yes, I’ve had experience with picky horses. My dumb luck I’ll get another ornery one. Just as long as this one doesn’t talk, I’ll be fine.”

“Talk? These horses don’t talk….except one youngin’ in the back. Still tryin’ to figure who his sire is. Odd little bugger. Won’t shut up. Anyway, let me open the stalls and we’ll see what happens.”

The stablewoman moved from stall to stall, tripping the latches and opening them all. Then she and I waited. Just as I was starting to fidget and flashback to school days when I was last to be chosen for a playground team, one horse, a long-legged blue roan, clopped out of the stall and stopped in front of me.

“Ah, Syren—who would have thought her? Well, madam, you will be well pleased if not a bit surprised with this one. No doubt, you’ll have a….wonderful… night ride.” The stablewoman looked a bit nervous and hurriedly scampered off.

“Wait! Night ride? What’s that? I thought I’d come back tomorrow and just take her for a little trot. Hello? Ma’am?”

The stablewoman was out of sight. I stared at Syren for a moment. “Night ride, huh? Can’t be any scarier than a ride on a thunderbird.”

Syren tossed her head and snorted. I think she was laughing at me.

Syren let herself be quickly saddled and then she rocketed out of the stable before I was properly mounted. I held on to the horn with one hand while trying to grab the reins with the other.

We pounded down the Inn Road, dark silhouettes of alder trees whipping past us. A waning gibbous moon raced along with us from behind the leaves. My vision could not pierce the darkness ahead of me, and I futilely tried to rein in Syren. Instead, she picked up speed. It seemed as though her legs had stopped moving and she was merely skimming along the surface of the road. The trees swooshed by faster and faster until they merged together into a blur.

I thought I heard voices, whispering actually, familiar whispers from long dead relatives, snippets of laughter from friends and enemies--I do not know which. Faces, like phantoms, faded in and out, faces of family and friends now forgotten, some by time and others by will.

I called out, "Syren! Slow down! Whoa!", but the blue roan was out of my control. Wind whipped my face and after all time seemed to stop, I could no longer catch a breathe. Darkness descended and I no longer knew anything.

When I came to, I felt something soft and warm beneath me. I sat up and wiped a fine, sugary sand from my face. Syren stood next to me and watched with inquisitive eyes.

"Syren! What's the deal!?" Before I could let loose with a barrage, I turned and was made speechless by the sight before me.

"We're not in Lemuria anymore, Syren!"

The horse snorted and stamped a forefoot. I stood up on a beach and stared at the sea that stretched into forever. Not a breeze stirred, not a wave moved upon the shore. All was eerily still and completely silent. Islands in the distance reflected with total clarity in the stillness of the water. The moon, devoid of her ancient markings, a perfect white sphere, floated over the horizon, poised to set, yet there was no movement. It was like being trapped within a photograph.

Yet, something was familiar. I had seen this in a dream. And the water, the shore, the moon-- these were all images that had at one time or another found their way into my artwork and writing.

Then it hit me: "Syren! This is my unconscious!"

Syren softly whinnied.

"But I'd thought there'd be more. You know, archetypes flitting around, or one of those quest characters, like the Trickster, hanging around-- all that stuff Jung talks about."

Syren shook her steely gray mane.

"No, wait, you're right. That would be the Collective Unconscious. But.... if this is MY unconscious, then why's it so dead? There's nothing going on. No wonder I get writer's block-- my Unconscious is a freakin' bore!"

"Great!" I picked up Syren's reins and prepared to mount. "I'll just pack up and head back to the Real World. Plenty to draw on there--- war, pestilence, global warming,-- who needs this place!"

My eye caught something. I paused and squinted. Away in the distance flashed a white and yellow light. At the extreme end of a point of land was a structure.

"What's that? It looks like a lighthouse." The light pulsed like a heatbeat.

"I knew there had to be SOME action here. Let's go check it out!"

I mounted Syren. "Sweetie, your re-entry really needs some work, so let's keep the speed down, shall we?"

Syren and I shot off down the beach toward the light.

Being in the backwaters of my own mind, distance had no meaning, and Syren delivered me to the lighthouse almost immediately. We stopped in a clearing in front of the lighthouse, a single tower of stone with the light I had seen on the beach still pulsing at the top. Like the beach, there was no sound and no other movement.

I dismounted and slowly approached the door. Embedded on the door was an intricately decorated tile with a calligraphic symbol embossed in the middle. I fingered the symbol and studied it.


I jumped and spun around. Standing behind me was an old woman. She was red-cheeked and wrinkled, wearing a dress and apron that reminded me of traditional Russian peasant garb. She carried a bucket of water in each hand.

“It means ‘destiny’. Could you please open the door?”

Still staring at her, I pushed open the lighthouse door. The old woman set the pails of water on the ground and stepped through the open door.

“Could you please bring those dear?”

I picked up the pails and followed her in.

“Set them there. Could you throw some wood on the fire and get a kettle going for tea?”

“Whoa, whoa, wait a minute,” I said. “First, who are you?”

“The Keeper of the Lighthouse, of course. Fetch me my wrap please. It’s a might cold.”

“You’re the lighthouse keeper? Excuse me, but it doesn’t seem that you get many ships out here from what I can see. Not much action of any kind. So what’s the need for a lighthouse?”

“Oh, no, we don’t get any ships out here; you’re right about that. But I need to keep the light burning, nonetheless.”


“Oh, you know why, my dear.”

“No, I don’t. What’s so special about that light?”

“Please, don’t trifle with me. I know why you’re here. You’re here to steal the light.”

“What are you talking about? I just came out here to look around.”

“You can’t have the light! I’m the Keeper!”

“Fine, whatever.” I edged towards the door. Things were getting a little weird and I wanted to jump on Syren and go.

“No! You can’t leave. You’ll tell others about the light.” The old woman advanced towards me.

“No, I won’t tell anyone, I promise.”

“You lie!” Suddenly, the woman’s face contorted. Her chin began jutting outward until it had curled up over her mouth. Her nose began growing until it hooked down. Her face took on the appearance of a large-mandibled insect.

Her eyes turned puss-yellow and her finger nails grew out until they curled under into claws.

I screamed and scrambled to open the door. Just as I slid out, I felt something grab the tail of my shirt. I yanked away and called out:

“Syren! Let’s get out of here!”

The horse bolted toward me and I swung up and into the saddle. “Go!” I commanded.

Syren took off down the beach. I craned my head around looking for our pursuer. I remember the tales told by the other travelers at the Inn. This must be the Baba Yaga and what she did to her victims was horrific beyond description.

Suddenly, a thought hit me so powerful that I reined Syren to a skidding stop.

“Syren! What’s wrong with all of this?”

Syren bellowed.

“Yeah, I thought so too.” I wheeled her about and we headed back to the lighthouse.

When we arrived, the hag was gone and the old woman, placid and calm, sat in front of the door peeling potatoes. I jumped off the horse before she had come to a complete stop.

“Hey! Listen to me, you old bat! This is MY unconscious; therefore, this is MY lighthouse, and if I wanted that light it would be mine too! Now, take a hike!”

The old woman dropped her knife and potato. She laughed so hard she had trouble staying on the stool.

“Of course, my dear, of course it’s your light!”


“Yes, I wondered how long it would take for you to figure it out.”

“Excuse me? Did I miss something?”

“Apparently, not until today. Yes, that is YOUR light. It is the light of your intuition. It’s been here in your unconscious all these years, pulsing, waiting for you to come claim it. Here.” She handed me a lit lantern.

“Well….. I’m confused…. Why all the theatrics?... Why didn’t you just say so?”

“If I had just offered it to you, you wouldn’t have wanted it. I had to make you work for it. I had to make you want it. With the light of your intuition in hand, this world in your mind will now come alive. Just wait and see.”

With that, the Baba Yaga started laughing again and then vanished.

Still holding the lantern, I climbed aboard Syren. “Let’s go home now.”

Syren whinnied. I looked into the sky just in time to see a purple pig with polka dots fly by.

Images and Text: Lori Gloyd (c) 2006