Zen There Was One

Glad you could join us for the next zany episode of Elliot’s Adventures. If you’re new here, you can catch up by returning to the beginning, and reading really fast…

Elliot Z
Photo credit: dreamworlds.ru

The moon had climbed only a branch or two higher in the tree when Yvonne returned with dinner to find Elliot cleaning dried blood from a slash on his girlfriend’s neck.

Looking away, she patiently reminded herself that her own savory kill still dripped from her talons, and she lay a beakful of mold-garnished leafy greens and a spongy-plump mushroom at their feet. Then, because that suffocating need to show well had woken from its long sleep, she couldn’t stop herself from discreetly tossing tufts of fur and shards of bone down to the charred forest floor.

Resentment simmered in her veins.

She kept one eye on her visitors, and as soon as Elliot finished tending to Cassandra’s wound, she reengaged her plan.

“I imagine you wonder how the woods came to be this graveyard of charred snags.” She waited for them to nod; they did not disappoint. “Would you mind if I told you the story as we dine?” Their head shakes answered. “Well, then, please,” she urged, “tuck in!”

Cassandra began nibbling on the deliciously decayed vegetation while Elliot scraped at the mushroom cap. Both of them kept their eyes riveted on Yvonne.

Tearing a shaggy strip from her meal’s skin, she flung it over the side to join the rest of the rubbish. She ripped a shred of flesh from the carcass and flipped her bill skyward. Catching the slippery morsel, she moaned as her eyes rolled back in her head and the blood-slimed meat slid down her gullet.

“This place is haunted,” she began. Their startled expressions pleased her. ”Oh, we didn’t know that when the trees were lush with leaves and I was young and carefree.” Her voice jumped an octave and her words shivered like icy spider webs. “Life was full of joy.” Closing her eyes and drawing a deep breath, she composed a calmer tone. “Our parents taught us how to hunt so we could grow to support ourselves. We found mates and hatched families of our own.”

She paused, appearing to look inward. “Year after year. After year.”

Her eyes slowly widened as she relived the tale, twisting her head from side to side in a slow and mesmerizing sway. The words were a low growl growing to an unbalanced quaver.

”That’s when the trouble began. With each season’s brood, the forest grew denser and more brittle as all joy evaporated. The tree tops filled with crackling, screeching, howling noises.” Her voice dropped to a hopeless drone, “And a somber spirit descended over the woods, smothering the hopes and dreams we used to have.”

She clicked her beak in clipped staccato, then wrung her words out of twisted tones. ”We bickered and quibbled, and every day, life was harder to bear. Tensions rose as the spirit grew stronger and angrier, yet no one recognized the danger.”

A tremor rolled through her, cresting in an earthquake of sound. ”Finally, fueled by unhappiness, the spirit’s anger burst into flame and flew from tree to tree, igniting each and every one as far as it could fly.”

She finished in a whisper. ”When all was done, I was the only one left.”

She sat in silent reverence, remembering the peace that had settled in her heart when the spirit’s fury was spent.

Elliot’s piping voice startled her from her reverie, poking at the distant memory of the clamor, the noise, the screaming confusion that came just before the flames.

“What became of the spirit? Is it gone? Will the others ever return?”

“No,” she began slowly, “I don’t believe the spirit is gone; in fact, I believe it is here among us now, and I think it is only sleeping. But the others will never return–” her eyes were glowing embers as she stared through them, seeing a time gone by, “–not if they know what’s good for them.”

To be continued…

“Two beacon tin you’d?!” You, having reached Zed believing that meant The End

Yep! Elliot and Cassandra haven’t yet completed their quest —  there’s more fantasy and adventure to savor. They’ll be back Mondays through Saturdays for your enjoyment if you’d care to join them. I hope you will.

Previously, on Elliot’s Adventures ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ Next time . . .

The final twofer, from May 1, 2016:

The Zone

beta 3
This is your brain. This is your brain on alpha waves.

Most people have probably heard of The Zone, and many of us have experienced it — that mental space where everything flows, things seem to fall into place without effort, and Time has no meaning. Artists, artisans, athletes, authors, drivers, gamers, inventors, mail sorters, mathematicians, meditators, readers, scientists — almost anyone doing anything that requires reflexivity or creative thought can sometimes find themselves in The Zone.

But fewer people know how to get there at will.

“At will? What are you talking about?” You and Doubting Thomas.

I know it can be done because I can do it.

I learned how in The Sharper Image store (when they still had brick and mortar stores), and I didn’t spend a dime.

Maybe you remember the alpha v. beta brainwave craze and the bio/neurofeedback machines that proliferated during the Seventies. The idea was to relax the normal beta wave brain activity to a lower level, the alpha wave, thus opening the mind to The Zone.

The Sharper Image sold a little bio feedback machine. You stuck your face against a kind of funnel-shaped frame that connected to a little box of electronics that emitted a sound and showed the wavelength of the wave you were experiencing — beta or alpha. If you changed from one wave to the other as you were in the frame, the machine would show you that, too.

I don’t know how it worked without electrodes like today’s neurofeedback machines have, but I was there with some of my sisters and friends, and of the six of us who tried it numerous times, I was the only one who made it change and achieved the coveted alpha wave state. Every time. Which the store personnel apparently found pretty annoying, especially since it was clear we had no intention of buying the thing. Or anything for that matter.

Anyway, I could feel myself doing it. It was like opening all the windows in my brain to let the buzzing out. Like focusing on Nothing in the mid-distance — a lot like those Magic Eye pictures that your eyes have to focus behind or in front of to see the 3D object emerge (or recede) from the computerized deconstruction of the image.

It’s a useful skill for constructing 3D models in your head, which I do as a seamstress when I alter or design, or around the house to figure out exactly what I need to create in order to fix something I’ve never fixed before. It’s the best problem solving tool I have.

And if I can do it, anyone can.

“And that’s an encouraging thought.” Gandalf the White, who probably spent more time in The Zone than anyone else in Middle Earth. Except maybe Galadriel.

What are your experiences in The Zone? What were you doing the first time you realized that’s where you were? What’s the surest way for you to get there?

One last time: I’ve fallen behind in my reading; maybe you have, too. I’ll be re-visiting these fine fiction writers to finish reading their A to Z Challenge stories. Will you?

#AtoZChallenge A-to-Z Fictioneers: Interested in original fiction? Here’s a list of writers who are writing stories for the 2017 A to Z Challenge. The author’s link will take you to their “A” post. If you know of any other story writers I can share, please drop the link in the comments!


Author: Sue Ranscht

I am a writer. Let me tell you a story...

32 thoughts on “Zen There Was One”

  1. Hi Sue. I’d set time aside today to visit Elliot (coz he commands my full attention which I can give now that April is over).
    He’ll be carrying on! Hurray!
    Looking forward to my morning cuppa with Elliot, for however long it takes for him to find what he’s looking for.
    Zone. How did you know? Yoga and meditation were among the causalities of the A to Z challenge. The few hours in the morning that I’d spend on my mat have been spent at the kitchen table instead while I’ve written my daily posts. And today, I’d decided to get back on the mat after catching up here.
    I’m not sure if I was aware of the zone before I started meditating (or trying to). I have a flimsy sense of what you mean. There have been times when a piece of writing just comes forth (almost on its own accord). Is that what being in the zone is?
    I’m just so happy that Elliot came into my life along with you this April:)
    Thank you.
    Z is for Zagreb and Zindagi

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hello, Arti! I am thrilled we’ve connected, and I love that you love my little serial. I’m still in the process of catching up on all my reading, so you’re well ahead of me.

      I think any time something we do seems to fall into place without effort, as though it’s meant to be or doing itself, that’s a pretty good indication you’re in the Zone. Being aware without being aware that you’re aware. Just being. To me, they feel like perfect moments — times when I’m at one with the universe and my brain can do things it can’t do otherwise.

      One thing I will do is continue to post Elliot’s adventures. lol. I’m grateful you enjoy them, and I’m honored that they will be part of your morning cuppa. Thank YOU!


  2. I read this yesterday and very carefully forgot to comment…firstly, I am so pleased Elliott’s adventures will continue, hopefully in the company of the lovely Cassandra..secondly I think that owl knows more than she’s letting on…thirdly, not sure about the Zone…I get told I’m away with the fairies!! Lol…👼👼- nearest I can come to a fairy emoji!!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. To be what??

    I had fallen behind on my reading, like so many have, no doubt. “No worries,” I thought yo myself . “I’ll just binge read after I’m done with the challenge and zoom through to the conclusion of Elliot’s adventures. Oh, how naive I was.

    I’m glad to see we’re not done here and I’d love to see where it goes next. If I may posit an opinion – could we see Cassandra’s character develop a bit in future episodes? She just showed up as someone Elliot fell for on looks alone and in a few short chapters, she was making goo goo eyes at him. Seems a tad unfair that we get a peek into Yvonne’s inner life while Cassandra does naught but giggle about her beau.

    Apologies for the unsolicited critique. I’ll be tuning in for the next chapter regardless. I’m too invested now!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Please don’t apologize! I’m grateful you’re willing to share your thoughts. You’re right. Cassandra appeared in Elliot’s life as the archetypal Damsel in Distress filtered through the Love at First Sight lens. But each character has a back story, and was on a journey of their own when they met our hero. I hope you won’t be disappointed in Cassandra’s. And I hope you’ll feel free to offer any critique you think necessary as we move forward. Thanks very much for being so invested.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thank you!

        I actually though back to your post about an unpublished comment right after I posted mine, worried that I may have overstepped a little. Glad to know that’s not the case.

        I’m also looking forward to learning about Cassandra. I’m sure you’ve got quite a tale to tell. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  4. I actually thought this would be ‘Zee End’ for sure…HA! Glad it’s not.
    And as for the Zone…yep, been there. But the only time I can summon it up at will is in the context of overcoming extreme pain…not in context of anything creative…strange but true. Otherwise, I find that if I give it opportunity to arrive; time and just starting in on doing the (he)art at hand, it often presents itself to me and I seamlessly enter in.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Surprise! I learned isolation exercises in a movement and mime class that proved to be helpful against pain. Any path to the zone is valid, isn’t it? I think just being open to it is the most natural.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Curtis! Be watching for that email — tonight’s the night! I hope the episodes to come don’t disappoint. Binge reading might be the best choice, plus, there won’t be any twofer to slog through. lol


  5. “Two beacon tin you’d!” – a more welcome phrase I’ve never heard. You can bet I’ll be planted here for more.

    I wonder why we don’t hear about bio/neurofeedback much any more. I’m thinking now would be a most excellent time to have people working consciously to ratchet down the collective stress levels.

    I’m pretty good too at altering states, and have that “felt” sense of it happening. But your description of it is amazing.
    I find it interesting you use it for constructing 3D models, etc. – as those are things I can’t do. I’m seriously directionally and spatially dyslexic. But you’ve got me thinking that entering the zone itself is simply blanking out the other distractions, so whatever particular “skill” you have steps front and center. Well, obviously, that’s what the zone is – but somehow I never quite understood it in that way. So thank you for that.

    BTW, congrats on a well-done challenge – a very fine month of April it’s been.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you. I’m happy you’ll be back, Deborah, and I’m really glad we’ve connected through this challenge. Your outlook is not only positive, but thoughtful and deep.

      I’m surprised you say you’re directionally and spatially dyslexic. Your artwork shows highly skilled right brain activity. Your compositions, colors, shapes, line, all work together to create elegant, emotional pieces. I wonder if you deliberately shifted into the zone with the intention to explore a three-dimensional creation, you might find you can tap into that skill you’ve told yourself you don’t have.

      I know it takes practice, and for me, it also requires a voice-free environment. If somebody talks while I’m focused on that mid-distance, moving pieces around in my head, the images evaporate. Betty Edwards supports this in her 1979 book, Drawing on the Right Side of Your Brain. I still haven’t read it all the way through, but it aimed me in the right direction when, more than 20 years ago, one of my favorite children’s theatre directors (who is now my writing partner) asked me to create something that had no pattern and wouldn’t even be made of fabric. Once I figured out what materials I could use to create the effect we wanted, I stood there staring at my supplies — well, at the mid-distance in front of my supplies — and started moving the pieces around in my brain.

      That experience set me free, and I learned what it felt like to make that state happen. (It’s also an effective way to bring on sleep if that’s what you want to do.)

      I hope you’ll give yourself the chance to unlock those skills, and I look forward to hearing about it. Congratulations on your own well-done challenge, too!


        1. Haha, Laura! The truth is, I haven’t written an ending yet because I’m not exactly sure what it might be. But I can tell you there is plenty of excitement, danger, ups, and downs in their future. The reason I’m sure they must eventually reach their goal is that I refuse to spend the rest of my life writing one story. lol 😀

          Liked by 1 person

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