Darkness and Silence

The Book of Onei is an antinomian dream grimoire, providing deceptive yet true information about the art of Oneiromancy or dream magic in the form of poetry, fantasy, and intentionally ambiguous instructions.

John Bauer (1882–1918)2

If you want knowledge, seek out darkness and silence.

 

I glance behind me, but there’s no way home.

The waves are foaming like a rabid dog,

Like monsters, always watching. On my bones,

On every branch and rock and fallen log,

The ice lies thick. The silent heavens sleep-

Unreadable, malicious. Earth is still.

She won’t disclose the secrets that she keeps.

Night creeps a little closer. From the hill

I hear the howl of wolves. I feel the eyes

Of basilisks upon me. Lions roar.

Don’t question heaven. Do not leave your door.

 

Dream necromancy is dangerous, especially if the spirit discovers your secret name.

 

Animal masking allows you to contact the cthonic powers.

 

To honor the gods, fumigate small images of them by hand in a cloud of incense.

 

The gods crave meat; the meat craves fire.

 

There are two types of death in dream. The dead force is like a black hole – without consciousness, dead and soulless although capable of movement. The live force is the exact opposite.

 

The universe is like the desert: a vast empty space made up of tiny particles lit by a blazing light.

 

There is no final invitation to Onei. You must find your way each time.

 

The pattern will always assert its essential points. Only a certain level of play exists in reality, and that which is destined cannot be prevented.

 

Some genii loci will abandon their home if it is clear-cut or otherwise abused. It becomes a soulless place.

 

There are time travelers who visit different eras by possessing dreamers as they sleep. If they come upon you in a night wandering dream they will try to stop your throat so you cannot get the words out, but if you force the words out you should be able to say your protective charm.

 

The whole world is filled up with gnosis. It is people who must become free in order to fill up gnosis.

 

– from the Book of Onei, Part II: The Lore of Onei

 

Image by John Bauer

The Book

The Book of Onei is an antinomian dream grimoire, providing deceptive yet true information about the art of Oneiromancy or dream magic in the form of poetry, fantasy, and intentionally ambiguous instructions.

Sidney Sime ~ It (1911)

When the sun and the moon still gave no warmth, and maneating giants still roamed the earth.

 

There is a book in Onei that contains all knowledge, including the knowledge of first things. If you are given access to the Book it can be a blessing or a curse.

 

I opened up the Book to find the place

That spoke of ancient things. My hands were cold,

My lips were purple. And the lamp was old –

 

It guttered angrily and cast off smoke

That stained my fingers black. I found the page

And what it said was this – “There was an age

 

In which the sun and moon, though dimly white,

Gave off no heat. Like lifeless rocks they hung

Above a world where primal darkness clung

 

And in that darkness, there were moving things

Like giant, hungry shadows. In the deep

That ancient chaos still remains asleep.”

 

– from the Book of Onei, Part II: The Lore of Onei

 

Image by Sidney Sime

 

Sorrow of the Gorge

The Book of Onei is an antinomian dream grimoire, providing deceptive yet true information about the art of Oneiromancy or dream magic in the form of poetry, fantasy, and intentionally ambiguous instructions.

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A shock of light above the gorge,

One moment of the sun.

The cliffs are like a closing mouth

Of frozen rock, and north and south

The frigid waters run.

 

I pause and glance ahead. The path

Is vertical and thin.

An ancient, rusted chain is here,

I wrap it round my hand in fear.

It bites into my skin.

 

The roots and boulders, tangled thick

As fingers intertwined,

Jut out as sharp as broken bones.

I cross a heap of ancient stones

And pour out half my wine.

 

“Come out and taste the wine,” I call,

“Come out and drink your fill.”

The wind comes roaring through the trees

And something in me dimly sees

The spirits of the hill.

 

I light an incense-stick and bow.

“I know it’s cold up here.

The world has changed, and we have come

To hate the things we started from,

The magic and the fear.

 

“The face of death is hid behind

This horror we have made.

But fools prefer what’s clear and bright.

They turn their backs on every sight

Of mingled light and shade.

 

“Still, there are things we owe the ghosts.

And some do not forget.”

A mournful bird came floating by.

The mountain ghosts did not reply.

They haven’t answered yet.

 

– from the Book of Onei, Part II: The Lore of Onei

 

Image by Eugen Bracht

A Journey to Onei (3)

The Book of Onei is an antinomian dream grimoire, providing deceptive yet true information about the art of Oneiromancy or dream magic in the form of poetry, fantasy, and intentionally ambiguous instructions.

Andreas Achenbach, Norwegian Coast by Moonlight, 1848

“The Book of Onei is not The Book,” my father once said. I remember him still, walking beside me on that sunless beach – but was it before he had died, or after? “The Book of Onei is only a guide, a book of riddles that don’t always lead to any answers, a book of truths within lies. I have been to Onei many times, but I have never been to any of the cities or nations mentioned in the Book of Onei, nor have I seen their ruins, nor met their citizens. As far as I can tell they do not exist, and most likely they never existed – not even in Onei.”

 

“Then what is the Book of Onei?” I asked him. “Is it just a fraud?”
“The Book of Onei is both a key and a lock,” he said. His face was haunted, as if he always listened and always waited – perhaps for a footfall. “Those stories mean something, but I do not know what. The Book of Onei hints at something, but I am afraid to ask.”

 

“Perhaps all this darkness is just a means,” I said, and yet he would not hear me and would not answer.

 

“So what is The Book, then?” I asked him.

 

“It contains all knowledge, all knowledge on any topic. It contains the secrets of the Primal Darkness! It is the gift of the Veiled One, the most ancient of all the Powers in Onei.”

 

“Did she give it to you?”

 

“And why would she have done that? I snuck in to the library, the Great Library of Onei, and I stole what I wanted. I walked out with the Book of Onei in my coat pocket! What power would give me any aid or comfort?”

 

“Maybe that isn’t something she would even care about. We know nothing about her. Perhaps the Book of Onei means nothing to her. Perhaps she wanted you to have it. Perhaps if you had ever made use of it, she would have shown you The Book.”

 

Still he did not answer, would never answer. He only looked at the ocean, at the light that flickered across the dark waters, and recited a poem:

 

“I’m Prometheus,” he told me,

“I’m the traitor and the thief.

But his eyes were still defiant

Through his horror and his grief.

 

Then the eagle stuck its beak in

For the hundred millionth time,

And I watched in guilty wonder.

Was I worthy of his crime?

 

Have I used the gift he gave me?

Have I kept the embers warm?

Have I fed the god inside me

Striving daily to be born?”

 

And now here I stood, deep beyond the Borders of Onei, among the gorges and mountains. How far would I travel, how many mountains would I have to cross, until I discovered the secret? Was there even a secret to be uncovered, or only lies within lies?

 

I dug into my bag and found the Book of Onei, opened it up to a random page and read a poem about these mountains.

– notes found in the handwritten original of the Book of Onei

 

Image by Andreas Achenbach

When the Sons of the Crow Came Down on Onei

The Book of Onei is an antinomian dream grimoire, providing deceptive yet true information about the art of Oneiromancy or dream magic in the form of poetry, fantasy, and intentionally ambiguous instructions.

Dark star a postcard by Vasily Alexandrovich Kotarbinski {c.1900}

When the Sons of the Crow came down on Onei, the terror of their first appearance was like the rising of a blood-red star. Their eyes were feral and vengeful and they were clothed in rags, black tatters like the wings of crows. Their fury lit first upon the City of Wisdom, which they destroyed completely in seven days. Men said that the Sons of the Crow were the fools of the wasteland, driven out from the City of Wisdom and returned now to take their vengeance, but none could say for certain. The Sons were like howling furies when they went into battle, and the wise could do nothing but die before them.

 

The Sons of the Crow were led by a prophet, a man who wore a long black crow’s mask to hide his face. The name of the prophet was Eyes Like Flowers, and the heads of huge sunflowers spilled out from the eye-holes in his black mask, so that none could tell how he could see.

 

There was a story about Eyes Like Flowers, but none could say if it was true or not. According to the story, the prophet was originally a common criminal, arrested for inciting a riot in the streets of the city. When the wise men of the city declared his death sentence, he only laughed strangely at them but would say nothing. They tied him to a stake and prepared the bonfire, and the man who would soon lead the Sons of the Crow began to sing. His voice was like the harsh screech of a cawing crow.

 

When my eyeballs bloom like flowers

And my hands go forth to war,

When the bell that tolls the hours

Cracks and falls and rings no more…

 

According to the legend, Eyes like Flowers became a prophet as he sang the song. Gigantic sunflower heads burst out through his eye sockets, and his eyeballs fell out just like little glass marbles. His hands burst into flame even though the city Headsman had not yet lit the match, and the bonds with which they had tied his wrists burned black and snapped off.

 

The clock on the great brass tower in the center of the city, a beautifully complicated mechanism of gears and dials, had just been ringing the hour of noon. As Eyes Like Flowers sang the words of his song, the bell in the clock-tower suddenly cracked, falling to the ground in an explosion of bricks and splintered wood.

 

Across the length of Onei, on the Blue-Green Ocean, a hot wind began to blow. The sun blazed like a malignant eye, and the drought began that destroyed the Pearl States. By the end of that decade, large sections of the Blue Green Ocean had been boiled away to desert, gleaming whitely like a plain of salt.

 

As Eyes Like Flowers sang his song, the Wise – who had been watching his intended execution from a nearby balcony – had their crimes laid bare before the people of Sophia, appearing as flickering images on the passing clouds. Qaran the Luminous, the great philosopher, was exposed as an embezzler of the city funds. Tendress the High Priestess was shown taking bribes from the wealthy to preach whatever they wanted her to preach. Setnel the Astronomer had stolen another man’s greatest discovery, then had his rival denounced as a fool and driven out into the wasteland.

 

It went on and on, and the people of the city were enraged by what they saw. The rioting that followed lasted for three days and four nights. Eyes Like Flowers disappeared, only to return at the head of his black-clad horde some ten years later. But all of this was only a legend, because no one outside the Sons of the Crow could say for certain, and the Sons of the Crow did not answer questions.

 

What is known is this. The prophet who was known as Eyes Like Flowers wore a crow mask with a long black beak, and long tattered robes that looked like crow’s wings. In the eye-openings of his mask, there were giant sunflowers. When the Sons of the Crow came out from the wasteland, he got up in front of them and sang this song:

 

And are we not of the sons of the crow,

Who worship a hidden creed?

Or those who seek but do not know,

And hear, but do not heed?

 

When they heard these words, his followers howled, and the frenzy of their bloodlust blotted out all other sounds. Man and woman, young and old, the Sons of the Crow held their spears on high, while their commanding officers held curved white scimitars. The Wise of Sophia sent out their army, but the army was massacred before the gates of the city. Those gates were barred, but the Sons of the Crow laid siege to the walls. The people of the back streets rose in rebellion, slaughtered the guards that held the gates, and threw them open to the Sons. They say the light from the flames could be seen in Qotar, but Qotar is more than two hundred miles away from what are now the ruins of the City of Wisdom.

 

That too is mere legend, but this is not: when the Sons of the Crow came down on Onei, the terror of their first appearance was like the rising of a blood-red star. From city to city and from land to land, the Sons of the Crow brought blood and fire. No one knew what they wanted and none could say what they believed, for their Prophet spoke only in riddles and poetry. To the High Priest of the Adoration in the Plain of Day, Eyes Like Flowers sang these words:

 

I climbed a staircase to the land of birds

And told them what I’d learned.

They didn’t care.

To birds, the world is made of clouds and air.

 

And then he inexplicably spared the Temple of Adoration from destruction by his horde, though the Temple of Wisdom was torn brick from brick and its priests impaled before the ruined walls.

 

Believing that the worship of Adoration must be favored somehow by the Sons of the Crow, thousands and thousands of people converted to that creed, and the whole land between what was once Sophia and what would someday be the Qalina became a stronghold of that faith. The Sons of the Crow did not always march, but disappeared into the deserts and the mountains for years at a time, reappearing to burn and kill. Yet when they did so, they showed no favor to any, burning the cities of the Adoring just as readily and as ruthlessly as any other.

 

When the fear of the Sons of the Crow had become too great to endure, and the fact that they favored no faith had become too obvious to ignore, a prophet arose from among the ranks of the Adoring. He was known as the Flagbearer, and he carried a flag before him into battle instead of any kind of weapon. All his followers did the same. The followers of the Flagbearer refused to fight, but only carried their flags ahead of them and stood before the Sons of the Crow. They died in their thousands, surrendering their own lives willingly as a shame and a rebuke. When the Flagbearer stood before Eyes Like Flowers, the mad prophet broke down and wept, singing these words as he fell to his knees:

 

We come to you with broken beaks

And wings like crippled birds.

It’s better not to even speak

Than lose the weight of words.

 

Then all of the Sons of the Crow dropped down to their knees, and their spears and their scimitars fell out of their hands. Their eyes were wet with sorrow and remorse, and the terror of their own damnation. But the Flagbearer replied with kindness:

 

On bended knee I sought the source

Of all that moves above,

And only when I knew remorse

Decided it was love.

 

The awful kindness of the Flagbearer shamed the Sons of the Crow so that they took their own lives, unable to live with the horror that they had made. And so the Flagbearer saved the lands that would become the Qalina, the Empire of the Adoration. Yet he was not to be honored, for the priests of the Adoration could never trust him. He had no blood on his hands, but the shame he inspired, the example of a thrilling and terrible love, had destroyed an entire army. And so they had him burned alive, and his followers scattered to the corners of the earth.

 

There were those who disapproved, but one old man who witnessed the execution nodded solemnly as the flames rose high. As he turned away from the pile of ashes, he was heard to say this:

 

He told me he could teach the art

The world was built upon.

And yet, within my secret heart,

I smiled when he was gone.

 

Image by Vasily Alexandrovich Kotarbinski

The Powers of the First Darkness

The Book of Onei is an antinomian dream grimoire, providing deceptive yet true information about the art of Oneiromancy or dream magic in the form of poetry, fantasy, and intentionally ambiguous instructions.

Nightmare image Valere Bernard {1680}

Alone at night, I hear the doorknob turn,

The hinges creak- and standing in the light

Are cold and silent men. I stand in fright,

 

And one by one they float in through the door.

Their suits are charcoal gray, their ties are thin.

On every mouth, a Mona Lisa grin.

 

Their eyes could just as well be balls of glass,

Their faces stuffed and mounted. Waves of dread

Pass over me and through me. Like the dead

 

There’s nothing there at all- an absent space

Just papered over by a face as clean

And free of comment as a pure machine.

 

“We’ve found him,” says the first one

And I turn, to try to get away. The power comes

And lifts me off my feet, completely numb

 

From crown to sole. Cold, drunken currents flow

And hold me in a field of fearful awe.

They know the truth. I disobeyed the Law

 

And now the consequence has found me out.

“You should have kept your mouth shut,” says a voice,

“Or joined the Legion while you had the choice,

 

“But chronicling our secrets…” As I scream,

Their faces start to glow. They circle in

Like feeding sharks. But, though I may have sinned

 

I still remain defiant. Down below,

In Death’s primeval waters, there is lore

Of hidden things that none have known before,

 

And I can steal it if I slip the trap.

The horror closes in. My fingers make

A sign of power, and I bolt awake.

 

My wife’s asleep beside me in our bed.

The kitchen light is flickering. Outside,

The city sleeps. And I am still alive.

 

– from The Book of Onei, Part 1: The Art of Night Wandering

Image by Valere Bernard

The Three Types of Dreamer

The Book of Onei is an antinomian dream grimoire, providing deceptive yet true information about the art of Oneiromancy or dream magic in the form of poetry, fantasy, and intentionally ambiguous instructions.

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Lightseers- night wanderers who most easily or frequently contact celestial and benevolent entities.

 

Earthseers- dreamers who dream true things, but of Earth and not of Onei.

 

Darkseers- night wanderers who most easily or frequently contact cthonic and horrifying entities.

 

It’s not that the blue-green mountains don’t appeal.

I can feel their majesty,

Their sense of distance.

It’s just that there’s also something else-

For instance,

The something wicked that this way comes

In the witching hour,

The drunken trembling of branch and stem

And the formless Power.

And if I should sometimes prefer

To attach myself

To some beautiful chaos-

I can pay what it costs.

 

– from The Book of Onei, Part 1: The Art of Night Wandering

Image by Albert Pinkham Ryder

Offering Prayer

The Book of Onei is an antinomian dream grimoire, providing deceptive yet true information about the art of Oneiromancy or dream magic in the form of poetry, fantasy, and intentionally ambiguous instructions.

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Burn the appropriate candle and recite this prayer when you leave an offering to the powers:

 

This hungry pit shall open wide

And gorge on meat and wine.

These flames will burn as night-clouds turn

To watch this work of mine.

 

This shaft will gape so none escapes

Its toothless maw tonight.

While blue-white stars look down in awe

To see the flames so bright.

 

Oh gods of endless space and sky,

Oh gods of underneath,

Oh gods who live and gods who die

And gods who wait beneath,

 

Accept these morsels from my hand,

Drink deep, and eat your fill.

I seek no benefits tonight

Unless you share my will.

 

– from The Book of Onei, Part 1: The Art of Night Wandering

Image by Henry Fuseli

To the Keeper of the Gate

The Book of Onei is an antinomian dream grimoire, providing deceptive yet true information about the art of Oneiromancy or dream magic in the form of poetry, fantasy, and intentionally ambiguous instructions.

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A prayer with offerings to gain entrance to the Borderlands:

 

Phantoms of the forest gather

In the shadows of the trees.

Hidden voices whisper, whisper.

I have come for all of these.

 

Praises to the guardian spirit,

Keeper of the in-between.

There are ways that I must wander,

And you know what ways I mean.

 

Here beneath the bone-white birches

And the blue-green spruce and pine

I have brought you bowls of chicken,

Goblets filled with rich red wine.

 

Spirit of the borders, hear me.

Throw the doors of twilight wide.

Tell the skulls that guard the pillars,

Grant me leave to pass inside.

 

– from The Book of Onei, Part 1: The Art of Night Wandering

Image by Arnold Böcklin

A Journey to Onei (2)

The Book of Onei is an antinomian dream grimoire, providing deceptive yet true information about the art of Oneiromancy or dream magic in the form of poetry, fantasy, and intentionally ambiguous instructions.

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Crossing over into the borders of Onei, I saw a thick and shadowy forest. It’s always like that, by which I mean there is always a barrier – not that there is always a forest. And this forest was deep, as deep as the waters of a still, black lake without a wind to ruffle its surface. I heard no birds, felt nothing but a malevolent watchfulness. At the edge of the trees there stood a pair of pillars, guarded by two grinning and silent skulls. The dead stared back at me in blind resentment. I was alive and they were not, and that’s more than enough.

 

The guardian sat there dressed in red, its face obscured behind a cloud of smoke. It nodded solemnly as I approached, waiting to see if I knew the invocation. The heads in the pillars had failed to give it, which is ironic of course. You compose it yourself.

 

I opened my copy of the Book of Onei, turned to a blank page, and began to speak. The words of my invocation appeared on the page in red and black. I know I said that I could hear no birds, but as soon as I had finished speaking a great flock arose, flying in rapid and violent circles about the nimbus of the sun.

 

The guardian stood, its robes the color of a thick red wine. It made a gesture with its hands, an ancient symbol I had never seen before but which I recognized immediately. What it meant was “proceed,” and it obliged the heads to stop their silent laughter.

 

It had no such power over the forest, which continued to brood in malicious silence. I knew my own tendency toward a violent melancholy and didn’t take it personally.

 

In a clearing between the trees that night I dug a pit with my hands, a place for offerings to the underworld powers. The pit was like a gaping mouth, a waiting throat, opening wide in eager wetness to devour the world. I lit a fire in front of it, honoring the powers of the empty heavens. The celestial deities, the stars and planets, the vast, blue void with its howling winds – I made my offerings to all that beauty, all that horror and all that wonder.

 

And then I crouched in silence, waiting for the spirits to render their judgement. I remembered a dream. The night when the Host came was a terrible night, perhaps the night that had driven me here. There is no horror like that horror, unthinking and childlike, the knowledge that there is something beyond death – and that it knows who you are. They almost had me that time, but I turned out to not be as powerless as the Host believed me.

 

I had my knowledge, the lore my father had stolen from Onei. He gave that power to me, though he had never dared to use it himself. I made a sign with my fingers, I broke the glamour of the wrathful dead…

 

And that was my answer from the forest spirits:

 

“The darkseer needs no permission to journey on into Onei.”      

 

– notes found in the handwritten original of the Book of Onei

Image by Sidney Sime

Seven Levels of Dreaming

by Chevigie {ca.1939}

The Book of Onei is an antinomian dream grimoire, providing deceptive yet true information about the art of Oneiromancy or dream magic in the form of poetry, fantasy, and intentionally ambiguous instructions.

 

1- the mundane

2- the curious

3- the mythic

4- the mysterium

5- a vision

6- an epiphany

7- annihilation

 

Mundane dreams are those that come in through the Gates of Ivory; they contain no magic.

 

Curious dreams are intermingled with hints and glimpses of magic.

 

Mythic dreams come in through the Gates of Horn; they are dreams of true and sacred things presented in the form of myth.

 

Dreams of the mysterium involve magic power, a drunken electric ecstatic presence.

 

Visions display the vividness and intensity of the Phantasia Catalyptica.

 

Epiphanies answer great riddles and questions.

 

Annihilation destroys the dream. That which waits here is the same as that which waits beyond death.

 

– from The Book of Onei, Part 1: The Art of Night Wandering

 

Image by Chevigie

An Antinomian Dream Grimoire

Resistance, the Black Idol' by Frantisek Kupka {c.1903}

This book is an antinomian dream grimoire.

 

Oneiromancy, night wandering, mythic dreaming – by any name, dream magic is the art of traveling to the world of myth and wonder in dreams or half-dreams.

 

The things you do there, the quests you experience there, and the riddles you answer there are up to you. Your dreams are your own dreams, although some dreams are shared.

 

Nothing in this book should be taken literally. Nothing should be taken as a metaphor either.

 

Miracles and magic happen every single day, but dream magic offers something much more wonderful than power – a secret that waits beyond dream and death.

 

I step outside. It’s true, perhaps- the years

Have folded me, transmuted me, and made

A different man. The mix of light and shade

 

With which I started is, no doubt, the same

And yet the shape is altered. I have come

So far, this time, from where I started from

 

It feels like transmigration. And my self

Can’t quite recall the self it used to be.

I look up, feeling old and lost, and see

 

A sky of midnight blue. The clouds roll past.

The dead leaves whisper. In the rising wind

Are hints of what I thought I’d left behind.

 

I used to know a way out. That’s a truth,

Though not a fact, exactly. There’s a feat-

You don’t ignore the facts. You merely cheat.

 

And still they call me – shadows from the fire

That burns behind the door. The dark, red wine

Of knowing how to walk the borderline.

 

I turn, and go inside. Tonight I’ll dream

And slip through boundaries, past seas of glass

And mountains hot as blood and dead as ash.

 

Prometheus and I, we share a knack

For abstract theft. And though it’s been too long,

Still, “Whom the gods destroy.” You know the song.

 

– from The Book of Onei, Part 1: The Art of Night Wandering

Image by Frantisek Kupka

Magic Harp-Strings

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The Book of Onei is an antinomian dream grimoire, providing deceptive yet true information about the art of Oneiromancy or dream magic in the form of poetry, fantasy, and intentionally ambiguous instructions.

 

Clouds roll across a purple sky.

The witch pours out a cup.

The orange coals of incense burn.

She knows the goblins, how they yearn

To come and eat us up.

The wind cries out as if it’s drunk.

The gods will soon be here.

The witch prepares a plate of meat.

The spirits come, and as they eat

She turns away in fear.

The Presence takes her, and her eyes

Roll up into her head.

Like passing clouds the spirits trace

Their shapes across her dreaming face,

The scriptures of the dead.

The gods are here, they’re always here,

Although they are not seen.

They walk across the purple skies

Or in a witch’s staring eyes

Or somewhere in between.

 

– From The Book of Onei, Part I: The Art of Night Wandering

Image by Franz Von Stuck

Journey to Onei

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The Book of Onei is an antinomian dream grimoire, providing deceptive yet true information about the art of Oneiromancy or dream magic in the form of poetry, fantasy, and intentionally ambiguous instructions.

 

Notes found in the handwritten original of the Book of Onei

 

I was nearly forty years old when it first came over me, the strange feeling that I no longer knew myself. I was sitting in my own house at three in the morning, thinking back on the life I had lived. You start off with so many choices and then you start to pick between them, and every time you choose one path instead of another all your options start to narrow in. You become who you are, and it’s easy to forget you could have been a lot of other things. You could have been once, but you no longer can. Now you are whatever you decided to be, and there are no more open vistas.

 

The whole house was asleep. You can only have thoughts like that in the first place when everyone else is asleep, because that’s the only time when your mind is free enough. It’s the only time when no one needs you.

 

I looked up at the fan blades as they turned and turned, and their long shadows flew across the ceiling like angelic messengers moving rapidly before the sun. My wife and my little daughter lay asleep in their beds, but I hadn’t slept in at least three days.

 

What I was thinking as I was lying there is that yearning is everything. The whole structure of the universe is based on it. The craving for fulfillment is in every seed, reaching up for the untouchable sun. It’s not an anomaly; it’s right there in the blueprint. So when a little girl yearns for her mother, or a man for his lover, or a mystic for the god she serves, it’s not some pathos to be cured. That suffering and that yearning and that loss is the fire of creation.

 

“Maybe we should take a trip to the mountains,” my wife had said that morning, lying with her head up in the crook of my shoulder. She was trying to comfort me, trying to give me something to look forward to. But I wasn’t sad, exactly.

 

“We are what we are,” I answered her. “And we can’t pretend. The dead come easily to us and the angels don’t. How often do you see the shining ones? How often do you see the dead? You know what we are as well as I do. We are darkseers, not lightseers. I’ve been thinking a lot about the basement lately.”

 

“I don’t like it when you talk about the basement,” she said, and pulled back to look at me. The basement is where the door is.

 

So there I was, sitting up awake and alone at three in the morning, not at all certain how it got this way, how I ended up who I am. I watched the fan blades as they turned and turned, and a strange memory came over me. A strange hunger began to grow inside me, not completely unfamiliar and yet almost forgotten. I stood up silently and slipped my shoes on and went downstairs, moving quietly so as not to wake my wife up. Not only was the door down there (though it had long gone unused) but the book was too – The Book of Onei, my father’s crime.

 

The steps creaked as I walked on them, and the dead things whispered. The basement was where he had kept them bound, and they wouldn’t like my interference. But what else can you do with the dead? After all, you can’t kill them.

 

I took a match out and I lit the lamp, and rummaged around in boxes until I found the book. The door in the corner shuddered angrily, but I took the book out anyway.

 

The ancient chaos, the primal darkness. That was the answer to it all. My father had stolen this book from the Great Library of Onei, and the weight of that shadow had hung over us like an evil cloud. But I wasn’t convinced that what he did was wrong. Who are the Great Ones to withhold this knowledge?

 

The dead responded a few nights later. I had brought The Book of Onei up from the basement where it had slept for years. I had read aloud from its forbidden pages. I had begun to compose a few poems of my own about the dreams and the darkness, loose tributes to demonic geniuses such as Li Ho and Meng Chiao. I had even added a few of them to the Book of Onei.

 

In reading from the book and in composing those poems I had upset a fragile peace. The things in the basement slipped their bonds, which were only ever made of a certain mindset – a mindset I had not maintained. They came floating up after me late one night while I lay there staring at the ceiling in the lonely hours, believing myself to be wide awake.

 

My daughter stirred in her sleep and moaned. My wife opened her eyes. The whole house was permeated with a sickening dread, the presence that makes your skin crawl and the hair on the back of your neck stand up. The light in the kitchen blinked on and off. Deep in my stomach, nausea stirred.

 

“You’re going to do what your father did, aren’t you?” said my wife. “You’re going to go through the door.”

 

I nodded in the darkness of early dawn. “I’ve done it before,” I told her. “Before you and I were together. But I haven’t seen Onei in years.”

 

“You’re going over there to steal something.”

 

“Yes, of course. That’s what my father did, and it’s what I’ll do too. The things in the basement are getting restless, because they can sense the way I’ve been feeling lately. My father always said it was an evil book, that it had cursed him ever since he took it. But that’s not what I believe.”

 

“Why not?” she asked, a little harshly. “You’re endangering us all!”

 

“I think it scared him so much that he misunderstood it. He always told me that the dead things followed him over from Onei when he brought back the book, and that they were always warning him not to read it, not to use it, not to learn from it. But the primal darkness is the source of wisdom. He stole its secrets and then feared to read them, so he bound the dead up with spiderweb thoughts and left them down there to haunt his dreams. They made his last years one endless nightmare. I don’t want that to happen to me. I don’t want it to happen to my daughter either. She’ll inherit the book.”

 

“You could return the book,” she pointed out. “You could bring it back to the Great Library of Onei. Then the dead would leave us alone.”

 

“I’m not even sure that’s true. There is such a thing as retribution. And that would only make what he suffered completely meaningless. Prometheus didn’t give the fire back.”

 

“And look what happened to him! So what exactly are you going to do?”

 

“I’m going to learn how to use it. My father was never able to use the book, because he didn’t understand it, he didn’t know why it was so important to the dead. That is the knowledge I intend to steal.”

 

She was silent for a long time. The sun rose outside, and in the pale light my daughter stirred. She would soon be awake.

 

“How long will you be gone?” my wife asked. Her voice shook a little.

 

“Not long at all. I’ll be back before the sun finishes rising.”

 

“Or else you won’t be back. Not ever again.” I didn’t answer her that time. There’s no answer to the truth.

 

So I went down to the basement again and I heard the voices, whispering the things they always whisper, the threats and the warnings. I walked through the gauntlet of the voices as if they could not daunt me, although I was going into their place of strength. I had the book in my backpack. The door at the end of the basement jumped angrily as I approached it, rattled a few times, then settled in. I put my hand on the doorknob, said a prayer to the protecting powers, and paused for a moment in silent thought. Then I walked through into the land of Onei.

Image by Henry Fuseli