The Ancient Science of Soul Travel by Harrison Kim

A homeless man starts a relationship with Ally, but must contend with her paranoid father; by Harrison Kim.

Out of the hammock, feet in the dirt. Wow, what a thunderstorm last night! I dreamed lightning came from the skies and cut my throat with a bang. Woke up breathing hard, I saw flashes migraine bright and constant through the plastic sheet above me. Rain pounding on that sheet. It held, as did the rope between the trees holding the plastic peaked and triangular. I cocooned and rocked below, in my custom-made hammock.

I lay and think of the woman with the strange request. Yesterday, I played my guitar down at the beach for some coins and she stood there listening. A petite older lady wearing bright red lipstick. I played Cat Stevens' song "Father and Son," and she walked to me afterwards and said she had a problem with her own father. He's living with her and he's threatening and violent. What should she do? She dropped fifteen dollars in my hat and talked and talked.

I guess because of my voice and tone, and maybe the Stevens song itself, she chose me. After I told her that indeed hers seemed like a terrible situation, and asked if there was anything I can do to help, she wrote me her number. Ally 594-3847. She grabbed my visual attention from the start, swaying to the rhythm in a black bowler hat, her curly black hair puffing out the sides. A lilac white face behind those red lips. She's been on my mind, the urgency in her voice. She'd been holding back a long time.

Last night lying in my hammock I called Ally on my cell and she talked two hours, till the phone died. She talked about how her Dad sat around dismantling appliances and watching TV and telling her he was very sick, very, very sick and how could she even slightly consider moving him out, and besides that, if she did, he'd disown her and drop her from the will.

"He has a lot of money, but he lives like a street person," she said. "He brings old pieces of metal home and keeps them on the carpet, he's always complaining there's not enough room."

And she said she wished she could escape, just fly away up to the nebulae maybe, soar away from the noise and condemnation and bitterness. Myself, I can relate, thinking like an eagle with sharp and precise eyes, following the variable urban ground as I trace my flight path from the hammock to her apartment.

And then she asked, "Do you know about the ancient science of soul travel?" which clicked one hundred per cent for me. Not only was I imagining eagle flight at that moment, I have studied soul travel since reading guru Paul Twitchell's works in high school. I have in fact many times tried to push my soul out of my body and rise away and look down on myself. The best I have done so far is to eagle dream, and you never know where that will take you, because imagination can shimmer to reality if you get that far back in your spirit head.

There must have been a synchronicity. To meet this lady, who is not only a fan of my music but also of my beliefs. A lady with such troubles, she needs support and strength to carry on.

Ally says she's a care aide at the Ellen Burton Center downtown. I thought should I walk by there on an afternoon. Just to see her. I am not a small talker, we have that in common. Ally jumped right into her subject, and that meant sincerity. It's interesting that the millstone-round-her-neck Dad is secretly rich. This is something to keep in mind.

Her soul travel ideas inspire me. It is hard to begin the journey, though. When that lightning flashed, I felt my soul slam back into my body, an eagle crash diving into the sea, from where we all came, and that's why it felt like a slit throat, the tearing between falling and landing. I can't let life bring me down like that.

I moved to this city in my corporeal form with 100 dollars only, applied for welfare and stayed in the cockroach hotels, playing my guitar for cash on the street, paying the other buskers and the street enforcers their territory money, learning to negotiate and make friends with potential enemies. I learned tact and diplomacy, and with my muscle bulk and tallness, got some respect. I work hard at my playing, and save by staying in the forest, because I'm from there, under the canopy. I know the bush. Our family grew up where it's only the trees and the whistling wind, in the back of beyond.

But I don't dwell on past negativity. I need the positive to make a new start. To fire up the soul, make it soar, like Ally says. We have so much potential and we squander it all by playing with machines and eating bad food and being all caught up with work and ungratefulness and argument and apathy. This is not my game. I have to be relentless. I have to win. That means travelling with the upbeat, though I'm starting from the wilderness.

I look around me, here in the park forest among the beech and poplar trees. The air is fresh and the sky is calm. The slender trees all round, misty, still, and damp. The green ferns lifting in the light. Above, a white sun obscured by drifty cloud. I walk my way out of the bush, carrying the red day pack. Tread on the mulchy land with waterproof boots, squish and turn, down the root layered path to the road.

I walk two klicks over to the University student Union building. Washrooms always open. The gurgle of twenty-five sinks and toilets a welcome clean up sound, it's very important to brush the teeth.

Then, it's across campus and down, down, down to Wreck Beach, the nude beach, but this morning just a few potbellied aged ones stroking their chest hairs and moving their feet in the sand. I hike past, along the lowering tide edge. Across the inlet I witness such blue waters and high wild mountains. What a happy morning, here as far West as possible, where the sun sets in the sea.

I turn a corner and view the towering glass of downtown, an emerald and ebony heart pointing out, inside it so many thousands, including myself. Striding through the arteries, a little blood cell going to do his part. But within me also, a heart, and it must pump my life as the crowds pump the city's. As long as there's purposeful multitudes, the system lives, and so do I. Crowd energy picks me up and carries me along. I pass the towers of the West End condos, and one of them is where Ally with the nasty father resides. I check the address on my phone and sure enough it's on this older four storey apartment block she lives.

I stride to Ally's door and ring-ring the bell, she answers in that chirpy invitation voice, maybe much surprised to hear from me so soon, but she even comes down the stairs to greet, and hugs me too, saying last night she soul travelled and viewed me where I slept and it seemed all green and washed by the rain.

"Wow," I said, "That is interesting," because I haven't told her I'm homeless by choice and living in a city wilderness park.

We go into her apartment and it's crowded with dozens of stuffed toys and clothes boxes and many shelves of books, wow, so many books in this day and age. A couple of cats scatter behind the couch, I smell the litter already.

Ally must be in her late thirties, she's my cougar lady maybe, 38 to my 23, this is fine because opposites can attract. Her hands are long and slender and there are many rings. The air of mystery is much attractive, as is her patchouli scent and the sight of her bra where her blouse puffs out between buttons.

And there's her Dad, with a needle and fishing line fixing a purse, the aged father, pale white like no blood in his square and sagging face. He looks up and says, "Hello, are you Ally's new friend?" and sticks out his tongue.

He begins a rambling explaining about all the bad things in the world from the way nothing works any more to the water meter conspiracy to how the country's being run by lemmings and lizards, and on and on. Maybe he never talks to any people for months, because the whole place blocks itself with piles of stuff heaped around. It'd be even hard to get out, the stuff sucks you back with its darkness and density. Ally brings me a coffee and it's pretty aromatic. She stirs it for me. On the cup are images of roses and lavender.

The old man though is starting to grate on my nerves, because the more he talks the more animated he becomes and when I look up or slightly away he leans forward and is loud saying, "You're not listening! You're not looking at me, boy!" Boy is not something I like to be called, and the guy's breath is like rotten sausages. I'm a complete vegan these days and not used to overpowering meat stench.

What's worse, the sex intensity I'm starting to feel for Ally is thwarted by this miserable chatterbox, and positive energy is replaced by irritability and tension, two things I left home to escape. I can't take a lot of tension, it goes right to my legs and arms and they have to move, to do something, even if it's punching a wall.

"You see how he is? You see how he is?" says Ally, right in front of the Dad, and she motions me into the kitchen. "I can't stand it, twenty-four hours a day of this," and I understand what she means, no wonder she must dream away to soul travel. I tell her this and she sighs and touches my elbow.

"Come into the bedroom," she says and we pad across the floor right by the old man gesticulating. Hands push out to pull me back, his head's still bobbing and he's whining and barking because I'm not staring into his eyes with rapt attention.

"You're just like all the others!" he says. "You're here for only one thing."

"Leave him alone!" Ally says and he shows his teeth at her, or what's left of them, and laughs.

"I'm not the only one who's alone!" he shouts.

Now I go into Ally's bedroom with the heavy curtains on the windows and she slams the door shut, turns a key, then pulls out a big doobie and lights it right there, puffing deep. She says she works nights and now hardly sleeps all day because of her Dad, but the marijuana helps.

All of this stimulation does its work on my nerves, for I am a fellow who needs a lot of peace. I sleep outside because no-one bothers me, I can be alone in the swinging hammock in the evening, reading and quiet, just the rustling in the trees and the woodpecker living nearby. The coffee too upgrades my activities, as does all the second-hand smoke. Ally offers me a toke but I say no I'm not into that.

I've seen too many junkies and too many crackheads and I don't want to start anything mind altering. It should all be natural and positive, the taking in of the energy of the world and using it for success. Like I want to do here in Vancouver, something upbeat with my life, maybe a musical career. This all takes money. I tell Ally I earn up to fifty bucks a day playing guitar down by the water. She listens and says yes, music was what attracted me to you, I knew you were a good person.

But I'm not primarily good. My soul aspires to it. However, to survive I must merge, take on the things of the world, use them as the eagle uses prey, to consume and sustain my corporeal self, and realize my dreams.

Ally seems more than a little friendly when she's with the dope and all at once she kind of falls on me and holds me fast. I'm a tall guy but I let her push and she's on top of me looking down saying, "It feels good to have a man under me again."

There's a pounding at the door. I know it's the father, and he's banging and demanding and I can just see his old face wriggle.

Ally jumps off my lap and stubs out her doobie in a lip shaped ashtray.

I tell Ally, "I need to take control."

There's so much noise, the musty smell of the doobie and old newspapers and cat litter, and I turn the key, open the door and the old man falls forward into the room, staggering and waving his arms, "You can't fool me, I know what you're doing in here!"

He's about a foot from my face and I check him out, he's a long way from reality, just thinking about himself and his own misery. I back around him, he follows, and Ally is saying, "Leave him alone, Dad, he's just a boy," and I start singing because there's nothing else to do. As I back away and listen to his yelling I cover it with my own, and I sing some hip hop and dance around while he's stepping to one side, then another, trying to get by me or get to me, I don't know. I start pushing forward with my chest, this guy can't shove me around.

Ally's saying, "Let him by, Cody, it's not worth it," and she runs by us both over to the kitchen, "I'll cook something good, you can stay for supper," and the old man is still trying to get around, and telling me loudly how the youth of today screw their mothers and their sisters and how I can't keep it in my pants he'd like to take a jack knife and cut it off.

"Get rid of all these books! Just get rid of them!" he's saying maybe to Ally or me, then he commands in a sudden deep devil like voice, "Get the hell out of here, get out of my face and my apartment." And it looks like he's reaching for his jack knife, in his pants pocket.

"This is Ally's place," I say, and I push the guy and wow I don't know my own strength or maybe he's a brittle boned weakling, because he staggers backwards and falls with a crash on the bed, his head knocks the wall some. "You get out," I say. "You stay on the street once in a while, see how that feels!"

Ally's watching now, "That's enough, Cody!" because he's stopped yelling now, he's just staring at me in what looks like horror or amazement.

"You pushed an old man! You pushed an old man down," he says in a whisper now, and I am still singing my hip hop song right in his face.

"Set your soul free," I say. "Live for the day. Don't let the misery get in your way."

"You're crazy!" says the old man, but he listens.

I'm so relentlessly positive, it's my own song I sing, going to have a better life, free from trouble, free from strife. I smile and give Dad a little tap every time he tries to get up, which is fairly often, then not often at all, then he gives up and just sits on the bed, not looking at me. "Don't let it get you down," I sing the ancient Neil Young song, "It's only castles burning."

"What are you going to do?" There's Ally putting her hand on my arm. "You're not going to hurt him or anything?"

"No, no," I say, my other arm swinging. "He's just like my own Dad, but way more marinated!"

Ally gently glides her hand to my wrist, and pulls me over. She sits us down beside the Dad because the Dad is kind of whimpering, "I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I won't do it again." It's like he was really just so anxious behind his energy and now I've pushed a needle into him and drawn out the troubles and there's nothing left but sadness, or maybe he just fears me because of my unpredictable lyric and dance ways. And the fact is I won't let him stand up.

I feel like my soul has left my body, my old body that is, the free spirit limbs and muscles and tendons and skin, I've soul travelled into an aggressive grown up form, becoming involved with the blockages and tight spots here in the city, and with this little family in particular. I can be a surgeon and let things flow again. Treat the problem without major cutting, I hope.

"Why don't we all have a bit of the supper?" I say.

Ally says, "Yes, that's a good idea, come on Dad," and we both lift up Dad and stagger him over to the kitchen.

"I'm sorry," he says between sniffles. "You hurt me, you hurt me."

It's like he can't walk, but I know he's just faking it.

We sit down around a table covered with potted cactus plants and, coming down touching our faces, some ivy and other leafy vegetation, it's a little forest right here in the kitchen, Ally's a real apartment farmer.

She brings us over some coffee and a few nutrition bars and some kale salad in bowls.

I look over at her and she looks at me, and the Dad looks out the window. We hang out like that awhile, until Ally points to a place across the street, "There's my other cat," and the orange creature is tip toeing stealthily along the top of a fence, on the other side of the busy intersection.

"He's a daredevil fellow," I say. "Living for his next foot fall."

The Dad looks up and then he stands unsteadily and says, "That's Jester, that's my old Jester," and he sits down again.

"Well," says Ally, "We seem to have calmed down some."

She's right, I can feel the vacancy, the emptiness, inside the Dad, and between Ally and I, kind of an understanding. I won't hurt Dad, at least not too much, but I won't let him push us around, either.

I leave after picking over the kale for quite a while, and fixing a lamp that's too high for anyone to reach but me. The Dad starts up again just before I leave, but this time it's all about his growing up during some war and how as a kid he used to walk along the railroad tracks to pick up grain dropped by rail cars. "It was so tough in those days," he says, "we were lucky to pick up enough for a loaf of bread," and I wonder how old he is, maybe eighty-nine, or a hundred and nine, Ally won't have to worry about him for much longer, I think. His soul will travel permanently soon, and I tell her as much when I leave.

"You can come back here anytime," she says.

"I will," I reach out and hold both her slender hands in mine, just for a moment.

When I open the door, Jester the cat comes rushing in. I hear the father's plaintive, "My friend, my little friend."

I travel back on the bus, first to my storage locker, where I pick out some new clothes. I charge up my phone in the office while hobnobbing with the staff who know me well.

Then I google search shared rental units. I need to save minimum eight hundred dollars plus a damage deposit to find a decent room. I can't do this on my own.

Sometimes a free spirit must be relentless in search of a dream. Realize and devour the shimmering prey. This soul will eagle soar and seek what's needed to open up true vision. I will clear what blocks Ally's heart, and make life flow anew. I will travel in from the wilderness, gently but firmly remove the poison Dad from her life, and seize the vacant space.


  1. Cody’s character (and soul) effectively unfolds with increasing creepiness. I’m afraid things are going from bad to worse for Ally. A good story, well-written.

    1. Thanks. Indeed, relationships can be tangled and complex.

  2. Well written in stream of consciousness form. Cody feels like a flighty character, but a good character reveal at the end.

    1. Yes indeed our experience and our actions with respect to experience shape our souls.

  3. Agree with David Henson. I would avoid Cody. I equate new age with old superstition.

    1. Yes it's a horror story in it's own way. Cody is very sure of his beliefs, and he is determined to get what he wants.

  4. Thoroughly enjoyed this, Cody is a powerful character, not necessarily likeable, great writing
    Mike McC

    1. Thanks, I used to live in a hammock in the bush like Cody fun swingtimes but you can't bring your dates home he he.