Around four years ago I wrote a hypersigil story called ‘Shaped’, and Ino wrote her own version, just like she does with our writing prompts. It has been read on a PDF by around 200 people, and I also read it out in a few places; however, it wasn’t actually here on the blog before. Like a lot of hypersigils it didn’t work completely. Too complex, perhaps. I’ve learnt they have to be simple, direct and one-pointed, the same as sigils.
Here it is, and I definitely recommend you have a look at Ino’s version: an unusual style of language, but pretty spectacular poetry.
I sat looking into my dressing-table mirror and tried to concentrate on getting ready without letting yesterday’s event distract me. “Too pale, as usual”, I thought, “and the foundation cream just makes it worse.”
Ian was pottering downstairs with his latest electronic gadget. He wouldn’t have noticed if my face had been covered in purple spots. All he could ever see was what was connected with his own hobbies; that was why we had been in the electronics shop in the first place yesterday.
Ian didn’t work on Mondays, and he fancied spending the day with wires and plugs and some new device or other that played music or showed a film. So he dragged me round Curry’s in the High Street, although I’d made it plain that my choice was the new photography shop on the corner by Tescos, to choose some framed photographs from the ones I’d seen in the window when it first opened. Our walls were covered in pictures already, but most of them were cards blue- tacked up or hanging from drawing pins; it seems that I collected them from everywhere I went. A few more in frames would improve the look of the house and make it less like a hippie pad.
We did go in the photography shop as well, but much later, and there wasn’t time to look properly because they closed early on Sundays. It was while we were in Ian’s electronics shop that it happened. The whole of one side of the shop consisted of a row of televisions, all different sizes and all switched on, with the colour and contrast adjusted slightly differently on each one. When you see them together like that, it clashes. But not as much as the brightly-coloured splotch of shapes that I could see on the second-last TV.
I looked down at my hands as I sat on the end of the bed, for no reason because my nails didn’t need doing. I’d manicured them last night, to make it quicker when I got ready for work. The conversation from yesterday in front of the TVs in the shop rang discordantly in my mind.
Ian had barely looked up, or at me. “What?”
“Those coloured shapes, on the second TV from the end.”
“Eh? I can’t see anything.”
“You must be able to see it. There, on that TV- see the shapes?”
“No, I don’t. There’s nothing at all on that one because it’s turned off. It must need repairing.”
I’d never before seen anything that people around me couldn’t see. If Ian had been paying attention he would have noticed my slight jump, and how it took me a moment to get back to my browsing. He saw nothing except the DVD player he was thinking of buying, and now downstairs it began to play a familiar rock song: his favourite.
At least when I got to work there was an atmosphere of normality. It seemed my colleagues had all had a good weekend, and we talked lightly about that while I tried to keep my thoughts from straying into troubled areas as they so often did. For example, I would start thinking how I would like to be a much more efficient secretary than I was.
At lunchtime I wandered along to the television lounge. We are very well catered-for in my office; there are actually two televisions in the lounge, and a small kitchen with a microwave as well. Someone had been in before me and had left one of the televisions on, and there on the screen I saw the same blob of colours and shapes that I had seen the previous day.
It was far worse to see them in my familiar work environment than in an impersonal shop. It started off all kinds of associations about mental illnesses that I might possibly have, principally schizophrenia. I also thought for a moment about those stories in which people trick someone to try to make them think they have gone mad. But that wasn’t possible in my situation, given the two different locations and different sets of people. I turned on the second TV to see if the coloured shapes would appear on that one, but they didn’t. It was only on one of them, the same as it had been in Curry’s.
I memorized the shapes as well as I could, and that night after dinner I went into the bedroom where I kept my computer and began searching abstract art sites on the internet, to see if I could find anything remotely like them. Maybe I should have been searching mental health sites instead, but I couldn’t face that. I’ve always been interested in the supernatural, and I had seized upon the idea that it was a phantom picture, a ghost of a painting that existed in real life. In my mind I compared it with the ghost of a Victorian lady who imposes herself on a house. Only some of the visitors can see her, and those who can are not imagining it because she is the spirit of a real lady who was once alive. A phantom painting would transform my life and connect it with the exciting world of spirit.
I searched for a long time, but found nothing resembling what I’d seen. The room was getting dark now, and I had to move, even if only to draw the curtains and turn on the light. I could hear Ian clattering around downstairs; he hadn’t noticed how long I had been in here.
After that I would have let the matter rest, except for what happened a couple of weeks later when I called on my friend Monica. She only lived a few streets away and I often went round there for a chat. Monica usually turns her television off when she has visitors because she thinks it’s rude to leave it blaring in the background, and I agree with her. But several minutes elapsed before she actually pushed the button, and in that time I saw my coloured shapes once again on her TV.
Thinking quickly, I exclaimed, “is your TV all right? I can see some interference on it, coloured blobs.”
Monica looked at me strangely. “It’s fine,” she said. “I can’t see anything. You must be seeing things.”
I forced a laugh. “I must be. Maybe it’s a reflection you can only see from over here.”
“I don’t think so; there’s nothing like that in here. I think you should get your eyes checked.”
A few months passed. The phenomenon was constant, but random. Sometimes the glyph appeared on our TV or a friend’s, sometimes not, although after that first time it was always on TVs that were switched on. It was usually there in stores where a group of TVs were on display, but on a different one each time I looked.
I felt as if I was watching myself from a distance as I became more and more obsessed with the strange pattern. Even Ian had noticed how much time I was spending on the internet, and searching through libraries and art shops, and how my confidence, always low, had plummeted even further. I lied to him, telling him I was worried about my job, and I was taking a training course online in the hope of improving my prospects. By now I had covered the mental health sites, and I dreaded the side effects I had read about that anti-psychotic drugs could cause. I wanted to put off seeing a doctor for as long as possible.
Those were the hopeless days, when I would lift the computer off the cluttered table and replace it with drawing paper and pots of cheap watercolour paint. Then I would paint the coloured shapes, once or several times, and afterwards crumple up the paper and throw it away. A classic sign of obsession.
In the end I even began to dream about the shapes, and it was then, when I was at my lowest point, that my deliverance began. I googled the phrase ‘ dreaming about shapes’, and that simple search yielded results that sent me in an entirely new direction, like an explorer entering into uncharted waters.
Apparently some people have nightmares, often during their childhood or when they have a fever, in which they encounter geometric shapes and platonic solids such as cubes and dodecahedrons. They feel great terror, and yet they also have a sense of something profound and spiritual, something that opens up another dimension. Some who have studied this link it with stimulation of the pineal gland in the brain.
I jumped from one link to another, from topic to topic, following the bright stream of intriguing phrases such as ‘the building blocks of form’ and ‘the ideal of beauty.’ It was all very complex, especially Plato’s beliefs, but at the heart of everything that was being discussed was one subject: art.
Suddenly I found myself viewing the coloured shapes in a new way. A sharp citrine with a lemon edge to it: a brash dark pink, rose-maroon, all shot through with indigo of a starry sky. They were beautiful: They were art, and after all, hadn’t I been painting them? Crumpling up the paintings need not mean I was obsessed and mentally ill; it could simply be repeated attempts to get it right, to capture that ideal of beauty and those building blocks of form so that others could see them too.
Certainly I was spending hours on the computer and hours looking in art shops, but that could just mean that I was passionate about my subject, and was following wherever the research took me. I was in company with many other people who love their hobbies.
With this perspective, a subtle change began. The pictures on the television screens dimmed and became less important. It was the same with Ian’s self-absorption; I began to accept that it was just the way he was, and it faded in significance till it no longer bothered me.
It seems so long ago now when I first wrote this account. I paint every day now, and I’m doing very well; people buy my pictures, and sometimes I have exhibitions at the local gallery. I still work as a secretary but now I only do a few hours a week, and being an artist is much more fulfilling.
Occasionally I see a ghost, although not as often as those who are truly psychic, and I’ve learnt to trust my unconventional thoughts like the one about the phantom painting. It turned out to be an insight after all.
Ino’s version of ‘Shaped’.
Lilac on the walls, navy blue on the floor, and what do I see before me? Covering the television programme, blotting it out by being a blot, is a cacophony of many colours: sharp ones, lemon edge to it, brash dark pink, rose-maroon and shot through it all indigo of a starry sky.
I cannot let this go without
Capturing it for the world to see
What it was held captive me
It permeated my very being
Then radiated out from me
I could not turn the wellspring off
I thought I was not well, to be
Enraptured thus this star-filled night
That I have long endured
It pierces me; I am so wounded
Cannot be complete as me
The way I was before I saw
Those colours, shifting geometry
The pattern for the world to know
I tile my hall, my temple thus
With these the shapes and hues my palace
Here I shall pray and worship
In a shrine my own to my inner self
And that reflected in thee
Hollow bones as reeds: ink flows down through them. I have lost my mind, my light, my limitation, balance; all that made me most myself, with my restraint and inhibitions. Where has my light gone? Into darkness of the subterranean world of sorrow, and screaming, weeping, again and again. Cry out my name, my purpose, my preferences. I am torn from within; it pierces the opposite way, to the outside, bubbles up with all that I ever drove down and repressed, shooting forth to impale like the beak of a bird my sorry brain and tongue and even, subtly, my thought.
Swift, determined now to know the value of my vision
I tore it from inner to outer
Then stuffed it back to the inner realm
Purified, zombified, from life to death to life again
I poured it forth, resurrected
To do its business in the world
To play its role in the tumbledown
Shifting sands of what man calls reality
I riveted their eyes to this
The painting that tormented me
And freed me
By painting something else
Then many other things
Then mundanely, like an awkward toff
Then sublimely, like a master of his art.