Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The Bavrogar - A story and illustration for Halloween

The Bavrogar
By Kristina Carroll 

Somewhere in the gray creases and folds behind your eyes is a cold and twisting swamp. You won’t find the entrance to this labyrinth in the daytime; you won’t even find it in the easy chaos of dreams. But in that uneasy midnight of the soul, when you've woken staring into corner shadows and glancing at hours that swiftly devour sleep in a digital glow; this is when the way opens. This is the path to the Bavrogar.

It starts with a shiver and a clammy uneasiness. Fog creeps from between roots under the bed sheets and into your lungs. A path yawns under your feet and wet, rotting leaves cling between your toes as you take one step then another, hoping movement will shake the chill. Green, wet hair weeps from leaning branches to caress your neck. A light that always floats just beyond the next tree whispers answers, and you follow because going back means only questions.

When the flicker of light disappears and stagnant mud gives way to sticky, black pools, that’s when you see it. A skeletal finger of smoke leads you between trees to a pond with no reflection of the silent spirit floating above and the snuffed bone-yellow candle in its hand. The Bavrogar is the place and it is the figure. It is the smoking candle and it is the cold chill that surrounds everything here. The delicate face of the spirit is beautiful but any detail of features forgotten behind the melancholy of one who has no dreams. For there are no dreams in the Bavrogar. Never any of its own anyways and never for long. But that is why you have come here, after all, to the cold swamp with your fever of bright dreams that burn away sleep. Hope is often an uneasy burden and there are few fears like those of dreams that may fail. Fear has led you with bare, dirty feet to the Bavrogar and its sweet face is a painting of compassion.

Come. The Bavrogar says. Come, let me take this fever that burns you so. This little dream of yours, it is too hot, so terrifying. Think about how peaceful and cool you will feel without it. And I am cold; can you not see how this dream will keep me warm? You do not want it, let me take it from you and you can sleep again. Sleep like a babe without fears or hopes. Such a beautiful sleep.

You hear the words like cold water behind your eyes. It soothes you and comforts you. Yes, you think. This dream is too big for me, how much easier it would be to leave it here. Yes, take it and let me sleep in peace. The Bavrogar softly smiles and holds out the candle. A chill winds up from your toes and out your head as the candle lights with a burst of white-hot flame, burning fast and blinding. You throw up your hands to protect your eyes and wake with a start. Cold sweat makes the twisted sheets stick to your legs and back, but you don’t remember why you've woken and turn over to fall into a black, hard sleep.

When you wake, it will be as if from the dreamless sleep of one who has been walking all day. You will feel light and rested, suddenly unburdened and certain that life is going to be easier. And it is, for a while. After all, life without a dream is very easy.

Yet somehow, you will always feel just a little colder than you used to.  The sun is never as warm and the colors never as bright. For when you leave something with the Bavrogar, the Bavrogar leaves something with you. A shadow on your vision and a string of smoke behind your eyes leading you back to that mirrorless pond. For the bone-yellow candle never stays burning for long in that place, and with each dream you surrender to the Bavrogar, it becomes easier and easier for it to call you back. Until all you will have left is the white-hot dream of life itself to light the Bavrogar’s candle.

© 2012 Kristina Carroll