Edelle Arndt

Triumph over Terror (Redemption from the Wilderness)

We can run and hide from everyone and everything.

But eventually we have to face our own reflection. And that, my friend, is the most petrifying (and liberating) thing. 


It hit me like a viscous wave – body impossibly fluid and heavy at the same time. I hadn’t felt this sensation in 8 years, but it felt so familiar…as if this was my truest reality all along.

Here we go, again. 

The purples and oranges and lavenders and reds and brights! all blended together to create a kaleidoscope of eternal possibility. Yet I was starting to feel like I was in quicksand, unable to move even as my feet were wispily gliding through the artificially illuminated dirt paths. Still, I kept walking.

I drifted away from my friends because I thought they wanted to be alone together. Without me. 

I walked through the persnickety doors now flung open inside my expanding mind and I found myself in a smoky quartz tunnel of all the old stories-of-myself merging and coalescing into One Giant Lesson.

Every thing, every word, every glare that I encountered as I walked the festival grounds was pointing towards the fact that I was being watched. Each step, each thought, and each breath was meticulously monitored and recorded and scrutinized. I was in an experiment. And I was the only subject. The entire world was my witness. 

But who is actually surveilling me??

My heart felt the cascade of ancient wounds violently surfacing within. My mind felt cannibalized by its own fearful appetite. I was stepping to a funeral march of alien sounds reverberating through the boisterous bass frequencies that rumbled across my chest and throughout the entire campground.

I wanted to cry but my soul kept choking on itself. My thoughts melted. I saw the festival logo brightly reflected against the trees. I saw bulldozers and zombies and military bunkers… and the sirens!  


Too late. They aren’t letting me escape.  

It doesn’t matter. Where would I even run to? I’ve lost all my things, and they’re tracking my every move. I’ll just wait until they come after me. I’ll surrender, but on my own terms. They’ll understand, won’t they?? But I have to get back to my camp. Hmm…where IS my camp? Where am I walking to?? Why am I walking there??? What is over there that’s going to make me feel any different than how I do now? What, is Home? 

I kept walking; to where, I wasn’t sure. Every conversation I overheard on the way was carefully constructed to let me know that they knew everything about me. I was in my own version of the Truman Show. Big Brother was everyone else. But me. Every pair of eyes were staring directly at me, crafting a spectrum of high-pitched madness like acid on a fresh wound – except that it was stuck inside the crevices deep inside my abdomen, like the most coiled knot inside my stomach.  

Choo, shaa, cakacaaka….

“Yea, we all knew he would be lost,” I’d hear them say.  


I saw their eyes laughing at me.

My thoughts and limbs and each point of my body felt phantom and lifeless; absurd. I felt pure blackness oozing and haunting me. 

Shit. I’m lost. But where was I going again? I know this path. I’ve been here before. So many times. So, many, times. 

I stopped. I found a corner between two trees and sat in surrendered meditation. I heard the music fainting away, but was creating just the right amount of symphony for the shapes to brighten inside my second vision.

Then all became a calm river, a Fibonacci sequence of swirling symbolism, a succession of perfect geometry forming and disappearing through fractals. Sacred breath. Release. I felt a small bit of warmness, peace. The shapes and lights were merging and colliding and expanding. All the galaxies and stars were cosmically dancing, creating a beaming light show inside my flickering third eye. 

I felt another presence. I opened my eyes slightly. He looked at me with the gleam of quiet understanding and extended me a solid handshake, assuring me for a split-eternal moment that Love was still the highest law. “Thank you”, he uttered. “Have a great night. Much love to you, my friend.” 



I let out a breath and was comforted for a few moments.  

Breathe. Breathe.  


Wait, but isn’t this part of the script?? 

Relax?! – never! That’s what they want! 

They want you to disrobe, to let your armor down so they can pierce that tender soul of yours and leave you bleeding. Again. 

Maybe everyone that I helped in the past was just a reflection of my inner story. They were all just pieces of me trying to tell me that I needed so desperately to be led, to be re-assured of my place in this world, to set my feet back on the path, to stop creating Hell, to stop the hurting, and to stop taunting God by missing the whole fucking point. 

Hmm, that couldn’t be the whole picture.  

I’ve seen this de ja vu a million times before. The same signs, everything around me pointing the same way – in circles, so they can corner me and lead me astray again. The same thing keeps happening! This sinister music, these dirt roads, the lost guide…they were all telling me where to go but, as it turns out, they’re even more lost than I am!  

I’ve been here before. So many times. “They” are keeping me here. I’ve been here before, over and over and over and not realizing that I signed up for this excruciatingly insane game that always and never changes. It’s all the same thing, the same trip. I get it now! I see through the artificial veil: this whole place is designed to test me and they’re all in on it! Why couldn’t I see that?! How could I be so comfortable, breathing and wide-open-vulnerable, sleeping next to my enemy. He’s not a friend! He’s a demon disguised in artificial light.  

That’s it. I have to get away from the fake lights. These alien sounds, this all-too-familiar resounding thump of the same stupid song echoing against the chambers of my disintegrating heart. My soul is on its toes, ready to run. 

Run! But only with your mind. Let your every step be gentle and ginger, as to continue the façade that you are completely in control and know exactly what is happening and exactly what you are doing. Because, to them, you really do. 

Journey Back 

I knew what I had to do. I had to march away from the lights, the fake ones. I had to take the first step away from the devious path created to keep me circling the festival grounds. Over and over again.  

Do it. Take the first step. You will not be led astray. Your body will follow your deepest conviction. Take the first step off the path. You know where the river is. You know the warm coolness of the moonlight. Follow its call, toward tonight’s salvation. Imbue each step with the peace of Home. 

I followed the rock path down the hill. My right foot was caught against a mound of twigs and I stumbled a bit. The light crisp-crack of my feet slowly grazing against the rocky pebbles started to soothe me into a welcoming sonnet. 

No, this isn’t right. I have to go back. There’s something I’m missing. I shouldn’t be falling downhill! Wait, I didn’t actually fall. Wait, why am I walking back to the lights? 


I go back to the festival, feeling the deranged comfort of bulging, wide eyes and screeching bass music. Lights, camera, mania. 

I scurry up and circle the lights again. People. Music. Zombie affliction. 

So many people. They all knew I would be lost here again.  

Where is everyone going? What are we walking towards? Did we create this Hell again? I find myself in a weird, calm frenzy. Okay, this script I’ve seen before. I probably wrote a good part of it myself. Bulldozers, the outside streets, cars, artificial lights. Everything is so carefully concocted to re-enact some feeling of joviality. But it’s an illusion, and I can see straight through it. I know I can escape if I wanted to. But I will stay. My battle with Self is not over. 

Thank you, for I can see so clearly now. 

I continue walking in circles for a short eternity but my rhythm now has some semblance of comfort and authority. I take each step with purpose, direction.

I re-orient myself to see the real light – the borrowed illumination of tonight’s full moon gleaming over the expanse of redwoods densely decorating the campground. The spotlight against the trees tells me I’m close – that I never was too far away. The music gets dimmer. I see the cool, calm river in the distance and all the little fake hurdles still trying to keep me away.  

Keep me away, from what? From myself, really. But I’m here, always. Always here. Never away from Home. Go back, and find yourself where you first were.  

I continue walking against my blurred intuition and find my steps crisp-cracking against the rocky pebbles again. I follow nature’s light and the manufactured anxiety starts to settle. The thick wall of manic energy lifts instantly.  

Ahhh, I sigh in visceral relief.  

I feel the welcoming brisk of the river and dimmed moonlight. I hear echoes of conversation of nothing in particular, and particularly not about me. I feel safer. 


I see the familiar lights inside our canopy. I find my tent and hop inside. I’m home, I think. I lay, my mind still hung-over from left-over cortisol from my earlier raging.  

My mind is still unsettled, still unable to shake the sense that I’ve become – or rather, have always been – a pariah. But these hallucinations are not screaming at me anymore…they’re but faint whispers. Still, I hear them.

They’re still plotting. They have me surrounded. But it’s okay, I won’t resist. I’ll trick the trickery. Nothing can evade me. 

I decide to leave the tent. A few of my friends notice me. One of them comes up and embraces me.  

“Good to see you. Sorry for losing ya”, I sheepishly utter. 

“No apologies, friend. Glad you’re here.” 

Here. Am I? Yes, but my body is still arriving. Still frantic and jittery. It’s ever so slight, yet I feel it.  

“I think I’ll lay and rest.”  

I return to my makeshift haven. I feel some comfort, and I make peace with the fearful voices in my head beginning to swirl and mesh with the de-crescendo of the music. I eventually drift off into slumber. 



I wake up and wipe away the many beads of sweat.  

Sigh. Smile.  

A new day has dawned. I feel dream-like, but the emotions have waned. My body is mine again. My mind is clear, filled with the familiar tinge of witty humor and my usual bird’s eye perspective of the day. 

What happened? I think to myself. 

The lesson – the familiar video of my oldest nightmare stuck on repeat: eternal separation. But I untangled much quicker this time. And I’m stronger and kinder to myself.

I have tamed the dark Shadow, and it kneels in front of me. The real me. The Self that guides and protects and heals; the wielder of the eternal playground.  

I am safe. Always. The child has conquered everything in his path. Abandoned, he was, but he has returned to family. Confined, he was, but he escaped and flew away. Attacked, he was, but he conquered all opposition. Every, single, time. It is a story written pre-cognition, and his life is an unfolding of perfect will. He has freed himself from the maze he created.  

I waded and rested by the river with my friends. Music. The vibrations welcome me back, and the melody carried me adrift into the sweetening swirls of laughter in the near distance.  

Haha, what a trip. 

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