I hear the muffled roar of a junker being pushed past its limits just behind me. This cacophony is not alone as I am. Instead it is a fervent combination of tires fighting what I can only believe to be rugged back roads with gargled metal music that sounds more like the shrill of a boisterous demon. Hidden beneath all this disarray are the muted whisperings and sparse laughter of men stranger than the roads we speed down.
The chaotic atmosphere reminds me of my family’s drunken gatherings comprised of howling matches and blaring music that I would oftentimes hide myself away from. Admittedly, I would sometimes crawl into the upstairs hall to look through chipped wooden railings that felt more like prison bars the older I got. However, shortly after seeing a growing shadow on the opposing wall accompanied by the clamor of my intoxicated family, I would retreat to my room.
In this case however, my cramped space smells reminiscent of a gym locker from which I fear there is no escape. This mental inclination proves to only be a construct as my entire body is jerked to and fro. We must be there, wherever there is for that matter.
This subtle movement possesses no lulling attributes as my captors deliberately stomp their way over to the trunk as if to make the experience all the more unnerving. In fact, my heart seemingly beats faster with each crunch of the dirt beneath their shoes. Sweat drains from my face and feet. Breathing becomes nearly impossible in my pillowcase head covering now wetted with my saliva, as I gag on its linen interior. Who’s to say what is to become of me now?
This certainly wasn’t part of the plan, but neither was my falling out with God who I consequently wanted to scream out to at that very moment. Yet as the trunk keys begin to turn, so does my doctrine. My anguish-filled past comes into focus and I am reminded of the many times I was left to rot. A fate I may very well suffer at the hands of these masked men. The feeling and the accompanying images become all too real, now I see a multitude of dermestids or maggots eating away at my flesh-torn carcass.
After the trunk is flung open, a bright light illuminates my pillowcase allowing me to at least try to escape. All I manage to do however, is squirm around like a helpless worm as my captors join together in laughter.
“Look at ‘em. He’s as helpless as when we found em.”
Yet another comments on my pointless struggle in a belittling tone, “poor Phillip. Probably wants to go home to his mommy.” In the back of my mind, I question how he knows my name. Before giving it any real thought, I manage to heave myself up out of the back.
Before I am able to squirm more than five feet away, one of them comments, “I thought you told Josiah you were an eagle scout.”
“I was, just because he broke free doesn’t mean I can-knot tie a good knot.”
“You know, I wonder why you didn’t make it as a comedian. Look, all I’m saying is if you tied a better knot this wouldn’t be a problem in the first place!”
A third more taciturn member finally speaks up whilst rubbing the back of his head. “Um, guys. He’s trying to get away.”
After a moment of silence in which I writhe so fast the coarse dirt tears at my arms and legs, the leader discredits my progress. “You really think he’s gonna get away hogtied with a pillowcase over his head?”
“I don’t know... maybe.”
Blood pours out of my many blisters and cuts, as they continue to bicker. “Exactly, so why is it a problem he broke out of the trunk?”
Upon hearing this booming yet raspy voice I pause and think to myself, ‘I don’t recognize this voice. Could this man be here to save me?’
I tune in specifically to this novice man’s voice to hear, “Can’t you simpletons do anything right?” Upon hearing this I change my technique and roll away as fast as I can. After all, they say only a madman does the same thing twice expecting a different result. Maybe this man was mad. All I know is I’m not sticking around to find out.
“I asked you to bring our new adelfós here discreetly, not lead him to believe you brought him here just to kill him.”
“How else were we supposta…”
“…The past cannot be changed, Oliver. All you can mend is the present. Remember what I told you?” By now I am starting to believe he truly is mad, but then again maybe so am I. I mean, I am still rolling away to hardly any avail.
“Yeah, I remember.”
“Good. Now go help our adelfós up and show him a proper welcome to our oikogéneia.”
With that, I try to roll even faster but get hardly any further before they pick me up in their arms and take off my mask as well as their own. Immediately I recognize them. “What the hell is wrong with you guys?! Look, when I said I wanted to join your little gardening community, I didn’t realize that meant you were going to kidnap me in my dorm.”
“Sorry man, I guess I misunderstood.”
I immediately reject his hollow apology. “You think? What’s so secretive about this community anyway?”
“That, my friend, is not for me to tell."
I hesitantly trail behind as they nonchalantly lead the way up a makeshift trail cutting through a hogback. On either side of the trail is a series of candles that must be excruciating to light every night, despite the pleasant aura each individual candle gives off. As my attention is pulled back to my foolhardy leaders, I start to wonder where their diplomatic commander, with whom we’re likely off to go see, was located.
The ominous ambiance of the boondocks surrounding keeps me in a state of perpetual fear as we near the top of the trail. Here I can smell a campfire burning in the distance along with the sound of merriment to some, but to me merely a reminder of my dim-lit past.
Despite the trail being consummated with candles and a fire in the distance, I struggle to make out the surrounding area.
The closer we get, the more I regret even appeasing Oliver with small talk that ended up being bigger than I could ever imagine.
“I see you finally bring us our new adelfós.” The casually dressed man speaking does a pompous curtsey before placing his arms around the girls aside once more.
One of them sizes me up and touches the bottom of her glossed lips with her tongue saying, “I think he’s kinda cute.”
I avoid her stare as the man holding her contradicts her compliment in a slur. “I thought you said I was cute.”
She innocently twirls her straight brunette hair as she retorts, “yeah but… I don’t know...”
With a scowl the man retracts his arm and says, “what do you mean you don’t know? I’ve been your boyfriend since you ran off with freak show and you tell me you don’t know.”
As the girl opens her mouth to reply, a man appears out of the black. “Welcome to our oikogéneia Philip. We’re glad to have you here.”
“Some of us are at least.” The disgruntled boyfriend replies then promptly takes a sip of his beer.
This man with uncut hair and rags for an outfit, seems to pay him no mind as he goes on, “Now, I bet you are wondering what a couple of college kids such as yourself are doing up here in the middle of nowhere. And to answer that question I would like Maya here, to share a little story.” The rebellious brunette girl stands as I sit on an unoccupied log.
“Before I joined Josiah’s oikogéneia I was a lost cause trying to find my place in the scary world around me. I had just graduated college with a degree that meant almost nothing to me just so my parents could see their little girl become a nurse. So when the time came around for me to get licensed, I moved into my ex boyfriend’s place upstate.” Her current boyfriend rolls his eyes. “He was trying to make it big as a rapper but between all the drugs, alcohol, and parties, I knew he didn’t stand a chance despite his talent. “At the time I would go for walks at the park just to get away from his day drinking fits and that’s when I ran into Josiah.”
“At first, I thought here’s another drugged-out hobo who claims to know people’s futures.” She pronounces futures in a way only a Boston native could. Making me wonder if I was still in Rhode Island at all. “Anyways, he goes on to tell me if I keep walking down the path I am, then a couple of men are going to rob me. Of course, I thought nothing of it at first, but when a group of men did rob me of everything I had, he was there.” Once again, she reveals herself through a Bostonian vocal fry, when she says her final phrase. “Not only was he literally there to pick me up off the ground, he put me back on my feet. As you can probably guess I was a bit skeptical at first and even asked him how he knew that was going to happen. To which he replied, ‘Magna Mater told me.’ Which got my brain churning, like who’s this Magna Mater chick anyway, and what does she have to do with me?”
I too thought to myself, ‘great yet another enigmatic Greek phrase thanks to the two-eyed, two-horned, purple prose using… well, however it went. A digression stemming from an obnoxious tune my mother played for me as a child. Despite it being as annoying as it was then and now, it sufficed to let me fall into a pit of gut-wrenching homesickness as Maya went on.
“Anyways, after Josiah got me into the whole agricultural business and taught me all there was to know about the goddess who feels more like my own mother nowadays, tragedy struck. In a matter of a week, all our cash crops went bad, and once again, I was stuck in a downward spiral but now had a hippie to keep me company.” She glances in Josiah’s direction, looking for approval. He smiles and nods his head, to which Maya returns a bashful smile before continuing. “We considered all of our hopeless options before eventually going back to square one.” She pauses for effect. “Mrs. Magna Mater herself. And as soon as we practiced a little piety and pur...”
Her intoxicated boyfriend interrupts,
“piety and purity, we get it. Just get to the point, I wanna go to bed.”
Josiah's friendly smile metamorphosizes into a grimace as he looks Maya's boyfriend in his eyes. “Most would have the simple courtesy of letting others hear the story as if it were the first time.”
“Whatever man.” He takes a quick swig of his beer that shimmers in the firelight.
Maya goes on without missing a beat, making me wonder how she ever achieved such high rhetoric. “After we practiced a little piety and purity, the great Magna Mater bestowed upon us hedges of fresh crops. Leading us to want to share this, our gift, with the world.” Maya and Josiah once again exchange smiles.
Seconds after, her boyfriend angrily gets out of his seat saying, “well I’ve had enough of the past tonight. See you at our tent”
Josiah watches him leave then looks to the group and myself. “We should all be going to bed now. We got an early morning ahead of us.” With that, the vast majority retires to their tents as I am introduced to my own. I toss and turn throughout the night pondering over all that was said.
After a restless night, I leave my tent to see Josiah meditating below an almond tree with his eyes closed. “Philip, are you ready for your walk amongst Mater’s masterpiece?”
“Yeah… I guess.”
He opens his eyes and arises, “very well then, follow me.” As we start down the trail, I want to ask him about the others but change my mind after he goes on a tangent about our surroundings like an elementary school teacher on a field trip.
“You see those pinecones? They are a symbol of Attis’ resurrection, Magna Mater’s first and only love. See, unlike most women who fell victim to Zeus’s lust, Magna Mater refused to mate with him.”
I opt-in a snide remark. “Okay, but what does that have to do with Attis.”
“I’m getting to that. See, Attis came into being after Zeus snuck into her quarters and masturbated onto her.”
“After doing so, she became pregnant with a heterosexual demon known as Agdistis.” He pauses to stare at the second landmark which is the statue of a woman I presume is Magna Mater.
“That Magna Mater?”
“Yes…yes, it is.”
“She’s more effeminate than I would have expected.”
Josiah looks to me with the same dismal look he gave Maya’s boyfriend. “Yes…yes she is.” He then turns around and continues to tell his story.
For a guy that can go on and on about mythology, he sure does give some mundane responses to people’s questions about the subject. It’s as if he was reading from a manuscript as he continued to rave. “Now even the gods feared the havoc Agdistis could cause. But personally…” He stops and looks back at me. “I think they feared change.” Whatever his point was in pausing, it pricked me like a needle in a haystack. “Out of fear our intrusive Zues snuck into his quarters and castrated him. Little did Zeus know, Agdistis’s aidoia would grow into an Almond Tree.”
“Once again, eww.”
“Yes, and as fate would have it there’s an almond tree right over there. But here’s where the story gets really crazy. The river god Sangarius has a daughter by the name of Nana. One day she saves an Almond from Agdistis’s tree between her breasts, and nine months later gives birth to Attis, who like the prophet Christ, had a different almighty father.”
‘Great,’ I thought, ‘A Sunday school lesson from a befuddled prophet.’
“Shortly after Nana birthed Agdistis, she gave him up and some local shepherds took him up.”
“Wow, a not so holy Mary Magdalene.”
Josiah chuckles then rambles on. “Precisely. Anyways, after he was given up to some local shepherds, he grew up more handsome than Magna Mater could bear.”
“Ahh, so there’s the connection.”
“Yes, you are a quick learner. After Magna Mater fell madly in love with Attis she watched him from afar. When she saw that he had fallen in love with an earthly woman, she became furious.”
“Let me guess, she castrated him?”
“Close but not poúro.” I can’t help but smile at his attempt at dry humor. “What actually happened was she drove Attis mad, and he castrated himself below a pine tree like those over there.”
The landmarks were so perfectly timed it was as if he was giving a safari tour. “Lets go look at that one while I tell you the rest of this tale.” As I approach the tree, Josiah lurks behind. “Now after Attis castrated and stabbed himself, his shed blood sharing the same magical qualities of his real parents grew the first set of violets known to man.”
I kneel down and begin to feel one of the bluish purple violets between my fingers. “What very few people know is that in separate texts I have had the privy to read, despite her basically committing manslaughter herself, Magna Mater still stood for purity, and of course piety. What many also don’t realize is that she in fact brought Attis back from the dead for three days to celebrate.”
“Like a perversion of the three days it took Christ to rise from the dead?”
“No, like the truth of yours and my history.”
“But in order for this celebration to occur, the sacrifice of a god-less man is to be made.”
“Sacrifice? What do you mean by…” As soon as I turn around, I face a cocked Roman blade and…