Saturday, February 25, 2017

Princess Tara Chronicles: Blue Tara; Or, How Is a Hyacinth Macaw Parrot Like a Tibetan Goddess?

Chapter Five
Part One

Jean and I scrambled to get dressed. "Don't I have any say in this?" Jean asked.

"Can't you be a little less dramatic?" I asked.

"There's too much at stake to waste time screwing around," Tara insisted.

"Such as what, exactly?" I responded. "The fate of the world, and all that? What do you want from us?"

"I need you to find the turndun," she stated.

"What?" I asked. "What in the hell is a turndun?"

"It's not in Hell," Tara calmly responded. "It's on Earth. It's an instrument that will allow me to summon a gathering of the Taras."

"A gathering of the Taras?" Jean said, grabbing my arm. "You mean there's more of them? Or her?" She pointed to Tara.

"I wouldn't know what a turndun was if my life depended upon it," I insisted.

"Your life does depend upon it. And her life. And the life of all the living. You study ancient cultures and things, do you not?" Tara asked me.

"Yes he does," Jean piped up. "He's an historian."

"Then I need you to find the turndun. I need to awaken Garuda from his epochal sleep so he can summon a gathering of the Taras to the coming battle."

"Who is Garuda?" Jean asked.

"King of the Birds. Messenger of the Gods. Right?" I responded before Tara could reply. "I don't know about anyone else, but I need a drink."

Grabbing a bottle of wine out of the fridge I filled two glasses for Jean and me. I hesitantly looked at Tara and held the bottle up. She grabbed it out of my hand and chugged the bottle down. Jean and I sat down at the dining table. Tara stood on one foot, like a parrot, her right foot raised up and placed against her left knee.

"Am I right?" I asked Tara. "King of the Birds?"

Tara nodded. "Garuda has been asleep for an eternity. And only the turndun can awaken him. He must summon the Taras before the Winalagalis unleashes his gods of war for the final reckoning."

"So this turndun thing. What is it? And better yet, where is it?" I asked.

"The turndun is an instrument that allows Garuda to call the Taras to gather for battle. Only the turndun can summon the Taras from their hiding places around the world."

"And where do we find one of these turndun things?"

"There is one in a place you call the Burke Museum, here in Seattle," Tara replied. I was dumbfounded. I knew the Burke Museum well from my teaching days at the U Dub. Many of my archaeology seminars had been held in the museum lab.

"Why me?" I asked meekly. "How did I get involved in this?"

"I sent my most trusted servant, Aboo, to find someone who was knowledgeable, brave, generous, and trustworthy. Most importantly, someone who would rescue me from my exile. Someone who would not shirk from the truth of the coming apocalypse."

"Geez. So now we're dealing with an apocalypse?" Jean smirked.

"Let's back up a moment, shall we?" I interjected. "Who is this Aboo fellow you mentioned? I think I might have noticed running into a servant of a god."

"The great bird you met that directed you to me at Charlie's store. The Blue and Gold macaw parrot. That is the form Aboo takes in your reality. He chose wisely, yes? He needed to find someone who could be trusted to follow through. And you did."

"My mistake, for sure."

"No mistake at all. A great opportunity."

Jean jumped into the conversation, "Maybe you should tell us more about this apocalypse. What can one person possibly do to stop something as big as that?"

"The Winalagalis has scattered his demons and his witches throughout the world of men. . ."

"And women," Jean added.

"The world of men and women. The chiefs in all endeavors of humanity. Police. Military. Courts, Government. These chiefs have been targeted and replaced by the demons of Winalagalis."

"And Winalagalis is. . . ?" I asked.

"Winalagalis is the God of War of the North. He killed his shaman and escaped his homeland. In ancient times the shamans possessed the magic to keep the demons in check. Now his power is unlimited. He will not be stopped until he gains dominion over your world. He has placed his demons in positions of power throughout your world. These demons can take any form, animal or human. They can resemble any person or animal and move about your world without causing alarm."

Suddenly the thought occurred to me that maybe I should be paying more attention to the news. Was it a coincidence that Dear Leader suspended the Constitution when he imposed his New American Order? The military draft had been revived to bolster the ranks of the armed forces stretched thin by foreign expeditions and domestic counterinsurgency campaigns. Dissent and public protest were strictly forbidden. The news media had been nationalized and only state sanctioned news cleared for broadcast. Following the lead of San Francisco, the Seattle City Council just approved a plan to designate Seattle as a Free City, free of federal tyranny. Portland also debated a similar proposal. Many people on this coast floated the concept of an independent Cascade Republic. Needless to say, Dear Leader was not particularly happy with these developments.

I asked Tara, "How high does this conspiracy go?"

"There is no limit imposed by man," Tara said. Could Dear Leader be the Winalagalis, I wondered?

"Okay. Say we find the turndun. You awaken Garuda. Garuda calls the Taras to battle. Then what? What can we do that could possibly make a difference? The Winalagalis killed his shaman you say? If only the shamans have the knowledge and the power to contain the Winalagalis, then what can we do?"

"You are an historian. You study the mysteries of the past. You can find the knowledge of the shamans and make it powerful again. You can find the Tlogwe. You can stop Winalagalis."

"The Tlogwe?" I asked.

"The Tlogwe," Tara repeated. "The gift of special powers. The ultimate treasure the spirits grant to those brave enough to enter their realm."

Jean and I looked at each other. No pressure, I thought to myself.

Jean piped up, "Why do you need our help at all? You're all powerful, are you not?"

"No," said Tara. "I am the Ekajati. My powers are great. My enemies fear me. I move Heaven and Earth to spread the knowledge of the evil arrayed against us. I gave my right eye and my right breast in my fight to stop this evil. But I am not all powerful, or Winalagalis would not be in ascendancy." She continued, "I am Blue Tara, but I am not invincible. I am one of twenty-one Taras. The sisterhood of the Taras is a force to be reckoned with. If it can be summoned in time."

"Okay," I said. "Say I find the turndun. You awaken Garuda. Garuda summons the Taras. Then what?"

"You must find the magic the shamans possessed to contain the Winalagalis. The Taras can defeat the Winalagalis in battle, but only if the magic he possesses can be contained. If you fail this, there is no hope for the Taras, and no hope for your world."

Jean took my hand. "Like I said, I like guys who save the world." I bent over the table and kissed her, keeping a wary eye on Tara while doing so.

Part Two

Jean spent the night with me. And Tara. Me anyway. We awoke in the morning to find Tara in her parrot form perched asleep on her stand. Jean had to open the coffee shop and I needed to visit an old friend, my former office mate from my teaching days at the U Dub, Dr. Michael Bulgakov.

There probably is no more class stratified system in America today than university education. Regents, deans, coaches and department heads rule over a medieval fiefdom that the Borgias would be proud of. Tenured professors comprise the knighthood and baronial caste. Adjunct professors find themselves little better than the dregs of the medieval class structure. Janitors are considered more useful by the ruling elite and treated better.

The location of a professor's office gave the best visual evidence of where they fit on the medieval totem pole. Tenured faculty enjoyed offices in sparkling new glass office towers built with the avalanche of tech money flooding the campus. Non-tenured or adjunct faculty, well. . . Michael's office, my old office, lay in the catacombs of the university's cathedral to knowledge and reason, the gorgeously collegiate gothic stone Suzzallo Library, built in the 1920s, back when books and education were still an object of veneration and worship. Specifically Michael's office resided in the sub-basement. This had one advantage. From my time in these catacombs I recalled that I never had to worry about interruptions. My students could never find me.

After parking in the visitors' parking garage, with Tara perched on my shoulder, I walked across Red Square, named not for any socialist tendencies on campus but for the red brick it was paved with, and around to the back of the library to a little known and little used doorway. Thankfully, Tara drew remarkably little notice or attention as most students and staff we passed were walking bent over their mobile devices. It never ceased to amaze me there were not more accidents caused by such inattentive walking over the uneven brick surface.

I opened the unlocked door and hustled down two dark and dingy flights of stairs. A well lit and welcoming open door at the end of the drab concrete hallway indicated the professor was home. From force of habit I entered without knocking.

To stretch his stingy adjunct professor pay Michael had set up housekeeping in his office. Not kosher, but stealthy enough in these dark catacombs not to get picked up on the university's radar. I knew he kept a cot in the closet and used the university gym for showers. Michael sat at his desk with his back to the door, his black office cat Margarita snoozing on a mat at his feet.

Margarita got a glimpse of Tara on my shoulder, let out a howl that could wake the dead, and jumped on Michael's lap, knocking Michael over backwards in his chair. I managed to catch the chair before he fell over on the floor. The cat jumped onto the table and arched its back, its short black fur standing on end. Tara fluffed her feathers and dug her paws into my shoulder.

"Well, fuck all!" Michael exclaimed, jumping up and shaking cat hair off his pants. "What is this? I didn't know you got a bird." Michael brushed himself off. Medium height. Slightly chunky in all the wrong places. Could stand to spend some time in the gym working out. Short cropped brown hair thinning badly and turning white on the ends. Clark Gable mustache. Standard adjunct professor outfit. Khaki pants, polo shirt, and sweater vest.

"Mike. Meet Tara," I said. "Glad to see that Margarita is still doing well after all these years." Margarita's fur was solid black with a tinge of red, except for a white spot just above her eyes, almost like a third eye.

"Hello Tara," Michael said.

"Hello," said Tara.

"It speaks," said Michael.

"More than you know." Tara and Margarita seemed to be trying to stare each other down.

"So what brings you to the catacombs. It's been what, a year since you've come down here? You don't call. You don't write."

"Been busy roasting coffee."

"So now you're into parrots? Must be nice to win the lottery." Michael had never quite forgiven me for abandoning academia. Or knowing when to give up.

"Still no new office mate?"

"One was assigned to me, but she took one look at the place and never came back. Don't think she ever formally relinquished her claim, because no one else has been assigned down here. What brings you back, besides showing me the bird?"

"I need your help, Mike," I said. "Specifically I'm picking up some research on Northwest Coast ethnography." A bit of a lie, but I ran with it. "You know anything about something called a turndun? In the Burke collection?"

"As a matter of fact, yes I do. The Burke asked me to evaluate it for its cultural significance. Why? How do you know about it? It's really top secret. Hasn't been publicized at all."

"So what is it exactly?"

"It's a turndun. Also called a bullroarer. An ancient musical instrument with great religious significance that allowed people to communicate over vast distances."

"How does it work?"

"It's a serrated wood slat, about two feet long, attached to a long cord. You spin it around your head either horizontally or vertically and the sound it creates from its vibration can travel for miles. Long or short pulses depending on its rotation, level or vertical, can create something of an ancient Morse Code."

"I need to see it."

"Not likely. Like I said it's top secret. Seriously. The feds have stepped in and sealed access to it. Me and the museum director are about the only people allowed to handle it."

"Why would the feds care about an old Northwest Coast artifact?"

"Well, they don't say, but there's something really odd about it."

"Such as?"

"Its antiquity for one thing. This particular turndun was excavated in the 1890s by the great Franz Boas on English Bay where Stanley Park sits today." Boas was a legendary pioneering archaeologist and grave robber. The Indiana Jones of the Nineteenth Century.

Michael continued, "Most turnduns in collections in this country are no more than a few hundred years old. Wood artifacts just don't hold up well buried in dirt over extended periods of time. The oldest turndun ever found was in the Ukraine by a Soviet archaeologist. He dated it to be about 17,000 years old, which is highly suspect. The Burke turndun. . . well, we got the radiocarbon dates back. It was twice as old."

"That's not possible," I retorted. "The Bering Land Bridge was not open that long ago."

"Precisely. The Burke has me trying to figure out how the dates got so screwed up."

"They're not," Tara said. I had almost forgotten her on my shoulder. Michael's jaw dropped to his knees.

Part Three

"I guess this is where I explain there's more to Tara than meets the eye," I said.

Before Michael could reply, Tara spoke again, "Or maybe your friend can explain why Black Tara is living with him in this dungeon."

"Black Tara?" both Michael and I exclaimed simultaneously.

Michael's black cat jumped up on his desk and stood straight up on her hind legs. "It is my pleasure to serve you, Lord Tara," the cat called Margarita said to the parrot called Tara. Michael and I stood dumbfounded. A talking parrot already stretched my credulousness to its breaking point. A talking cat seemed utterly beyond comprehension.

"I'm going to sit down now," Michael said. "Either you're going to explain how you pulled this trick off, or I'm going to check myself into the university medical center."

Tara continued speaking. "The being you call Margarita is one of the twenty-one Taras, the ones who protect. Black Tara, the Terrifier, serves me as my instrument of wrath, punishing evil with whatever force necessary. With the ferocity of a tiger she devours any demons that stand in her way. With her three eyes no demon can hide from her." Parrot Tara bowed to feline Tara. "It is my pleasure and honor to find you here."

Michael stood up. "The parrot keeps talking nonsense, and you're not explaining it to me," he said with noticeable exasperation.

"It's not nonsense," I replied. "Tara is a witch." Michael's mouth gaped open. "Apparently your cat is a witch, too."

"Enough already. How are you doing this? Ventriloquism?"

"This is going to be tough to explain. Maybe you better sit down."

Tara had other plans. Tara let out a screech and Michael and I both fell to our knees with our hands over our ears. Suddenly we appeared in my Ballard apartment, but before either of us could react Tara screeched again and just as suddenly we were back in Michael's office. My head throbbed in pain as I picked myself off the floor. Michael lay curled up on the floor in a fetal position for several moments before managing to get back on his feet. I didn't think I was ever going to get used to this time space bending.

"Believe me, I went through this same state of denial when this first happened to me."

"Okay," Michael said. "Say I'm not just totally fucked up. How did you get involved with a witch? And how did I get involved with a witch?" Margarita sat hissing under his desk.

"Just a couple of historians saving the world, is all," I smirked. "We need to get the turndun. There's an evil deep within our government that needs to be rooted out. I'm also thinking the key to rooting out that evil is buried somewhere in the Boas field notes."

"The feds sequestered all the Boas field notes. Everywhere, not just here at the U Dub. The Internet has been scrubbed of any digital copies. And library copies all across the country have been seized. Can't imagine what the feds want with those field notes."

"I can," I said glumly.

"This is getting too deep for me," Michael said.

"I thought so to at the beginning. But I learned there's a reason Tara chose me. And there must be a reason why Black Tara chose you."

"Say all this is true. What can I possibly do. I have a career to think about. I don't have the luxury of winning the lottery."

"Oh come on Mike. You don't have a career, for Chrissakes. You teach Intro 101 classes. That's not a career. That's treading water." Michael looked at me glumly. "Sorry to be so blunt, but it's true. I was in the same boat. If you haven't achieved tenure by now you never will. Now we have a chance for a breakthrough that will blow the dust and cobwebs off this corner of academia all the way to Hell and back. I need your help. Tara needs your help."

"To do what?"

"We need that turndun. And I need to look at the Boas field notes."

"Well, Hell. The turndun is under lock and key in the basement of the Burke Museum. And the Boas field notes are locked in the Special Collections room on the main floor of this library. What are you going to do? Just walk in and ask for them?"

"No, I'm just going to waltz in and take them."

"You're kidding?" Michael said.

"You just saw what Tara is capable of."

"Somehow I don't think it's that easy."

"What do you know about the Winalagalis?" I asked.

"Winalagalis? The god of war of the north Winalagalis?" I nodded.

"Bad dude. Fierce warrior. His home base is on the Northwest Coast among the  Kwakwaka'wakw peoples. From there he travels the world in his magic canoe making war and basically making a nuisance of himself."

"If he's just one dude, how much trouble can he cause?"

"Oh, there's more," Michael replied. "Way more."

"Do tell."

"He has an army of ghouls in his service. Let me see. There's Toxuit. He's invincible. There's Hawinalal. He's immortal. Same thing I guess. He has monsters at his beck and call. A gigantic cannibal called Baxbakual. Baxbakual has a giant pet cannibal grizzly bear called Nanes. Though cannibal grizzly bear is probably redundant. There's Nontsistalal, a fire breather, maybe the origin of the fire breathing dragon myth? So, monsters, cannibals, dragons. Even zombies. There's a zombie called Hamatsa who turns people he eats into cannibals themselves."

"Geez," I sighed.

"Wait, there's more, like they say on television. My favorite demon hands down is Qoaxqoaxual. A giant raven who feasts on the eyes of the people devoured by Baxbakual. You want me to go on?"

I shrugged. Michael continued, "And if that's not bad enough, these dudes pack some serious heat. How about a magic harpoon which brings death to anyone it's pointed at? Burning fire which consumes everything in its path? And you can't kill these suckers because Winalagalis has got this water of life which resuscitates the dead!"

"I didn't actually say it was going to be easy," I offered.

"So say this is all true and real. How you think you're going to make a Goddamned bit of difference is beyond me." Michael sat down at his desk and buried his head in his hands. Margarita sidled up to him and rubbed her head against his leg, purring gently.

I said, "We've got Blue Tara on our side. And now we've got Black Tara as well. That must count for something."

End of Chapter Five

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Princess Tara Chronicles: Blue Tara; Or, How Is a Hyacinth Macaw Parrot Like a Tibetan Goddess?

Chapter Four
Part One

I wandered into the bedroom in something of a daze to find some clothes and get dressed. Slipped on my shoes and grabbed my jacket and keys. I walked up to Tara and said, "Come on. Step up. We're going to go see somebody." I didn't dare leave her alone. I might find I didn't have a home to come back to.

I got in my truck and Tara hopped onto the passenger seat head rest. She didn't make a sound for the half hour or so it took me to drive down to the Pike Place Market. Not a peep out of her. Not a peep out of me.

It took about four loops driving around the market before a parking place opened up. I parked the truck and gathered Tara up. This time no chocolate pretzel. No coffee. No cookies. I ran past the brass pig and down the hill climb to Charlie's Bird Store.

Tara finally perked up when we got to the door. "No. I'm not going back in there," she emphatically said. "You're not taking me back? What are you doing?" she pleaded.

"I need to talk to Charlie."

"I'm not going in there."

I opened the door. Tara suddenly flapped her wings and before I could think to grab her feet she was fifty feet in the air and flying out of sight back over the top of the market.

I ran out into the street in front of the shop screaming, "Tara!" An oncoming car slammed on its brakes. The driver laid on his horn and yelled before swerving his car around me, "Get out of the road you stupid fuck!"

Charlie appeared at the door. "Tara?" he asked, looking around when he didn't see her with me. He already knew the answer. "You can't bring her back here, boss," he added. "I have a 'No Refund' policy."

"She flew off my shoulder and up over the building when I tried to go into your shop. I've got to go look for her."

"She'll be okay, son. Take my word for it. So why did you bring her back here?"

"Well, I didn't want to leave her at home unattended," I said. "Something strange happened to me last night. And I think you might have an idea what it is," I added.

Charlie froze.

"The weirdest thing happened with Tara last night," I continued. I know you're going to think I'm nuts, but. . ." I paused, trying to think of the right words. "I might as well just say it straight out. Tara raped me last night." There, I said it. I paused. "Maybe rape is the wrong word, but she took certain liberties with me, and I'm not talking about the god-damned parrot."

Charlie looked at me for the longest time without any noticeable reaction. Okay, he hasn't fled into his shop and locked the door. That was a good sign. Finally he asked, "Tara show herself to you as she really is?"

"Yes, she did." I replied. Charlie leaned back behind his door and flipped over his 'Come In' sign to the 'Closed' side.

"Buy me a beer," he said, "and I'll tell you a story."

"Okay," I agreed.

We walked up to the next level of the hill climb and dropped into a Mexican dive called El Puerco Lloron. Apparently Charlie was no stranger here. Charlie called out to a husky tattooed Latino guy with a goatee and spiked black hair behind the counter, "Buenas tardes Raúl. Necesitamos cervezas. Dos para mí y dos para mi amigo."

"¿Su amigo está pagando por la cerveza Señor Charlie?"

"Igual que siempre hermano."

The guy named Raúl deposited four ice cold glass bottles of Negra Modelo on the counter. Charlie grabbed two. I grabbed the other two. We sat by the windows, looking down over Elliott Bay where we could see the ferry boats coming in and out of Coleman Dock.

"This is going to be a two beer story," Charlie offered. He spread his lanky body over the metal folding chair and propped his back against one of the concrete pillars in the room. We drank in silence for a few moments.

Charlie finally broke the silence. "So you know there's more to Tara than meets the eye?" he asked.

I wanted to say, 'No Shit Sherlock!' I said, "she made somebody disappear last night." Charlie didn't show the slightest surprise. "We were in downtown Ballard and some old bag lady tried to attack her. Kept calling her a devil. Then suddenly she just vanished. Into thin air. And that wasn't even the strangest part."

"There's more?" Charlie asked.

"After we got home," I continued, "she scared the shit out of me. She transformed herself from a parrot. . . a parrot that just by the way can make people disappear, she transformed herself into some sort of freak that can bend time and space."

I half expected some kind of reaction from Charlie. Nothing. "Not a freak," Charlie interjected. "Not hardly."

"Maybe that's the wrong word. Extremely beautiful in a very frightening way. Did I mention she was totally naked?"

Charlie looked up at me with a bemused look. Finishing one beer he started the other.

"She had this skin that glowed blue like cobalt," I added. "And then she made love to me. Or at least I think she did. That's when I passed out."

"We may need more beer, son," Charlie said.

Part Two

"Looks like Tara showed you more of herself than she ever showed me," Charlie offered. "When Tara first came into the store her owner dropped her off and ran. I mean ran away as fast as she could go. Was supposed to just board the bird for the weekend, but the lady never came back. Never called. Nothing. I mean who in their right mind abandons a bird worth as much as Tara? So I'm setting up Tara's cage," Charlie continued, "and this guy comes into the shop and starts teasing the bird. Pokes at her. Tries to pet her. Touch her. So she bites him. He's so mad he hits Tara with his fist."

I looked up at Charlie. He continued, "I come running out of the back and I'm ready to tackle this guy and beat the crap out of him. Before I get half way there Tara lets out this tremendous shriek that stops me dead in my tracks. And shuts up every other bird in the place. And the guy plum just disappears."

Charlie chugged the remainder of his beer. I motioned to the clerk to bring another round. Charlie continued, "So I get on the phone with the aviary over in Spokane that Tara came from. Just to see if I might get an indication that something is different with her. It's run by this Indian guy. Not Lone Ranger and Tonto kind of Indian, but Indian Indian. From India," he added in clarification. I got the picture.

Charlie said, " I started telling him a small part of what happened and he started blabbing to me about mantras and Buddhas and reincarnation and all kinds of witches and gods and goddesses and shit. I decided I better drive over to Spokane on my closed day and meet this guy. Long day but it was worth it. I got him good and drunk and got one hell of a story out of him."

The clerk brought four more beers out to our table.

Charlie nodded and continued, "See, there's this ancient race of warrior witches that can take animal form in some of the most wayward and godforsaken parts of the world, far away from normal people. Tibet. The Ural Mountains of Russia. The Andes. The Northwest Coast. Tara is one of those warriors. An Amazon. A Jason and the Argonauts kind of Amazon. Not the bird kind."

I started thinking four beers might not be enough.

Charlie continued with his story. "This witchcraft was all fine and good when the world was large and distances were great. Humans and witches kept to their own worlds. But as the world got smaller and distances got shorter, well then, the world of witches and gods started spilling over into the world of men."

Charlie started on another beer. "Then the most powerful of these witches, these gods, decided they would enslave mankind to do their bidding. They started hiding among us in positions of authority and power. Those they couldn't subvert they killed. And took their place. See, these witches are shapeshifters. They can take animal or human form and hide among us. The only checks on their powers, the only protection people had, were the ancient shamans who knew how to counter their magic. Now, even the shamans aren't strong enough to stand up to these witches."

Thirteen years of graduate school down the drain, I thought to myself.

"So this Indian guy lets out that these warriors only reveal themselves when there's a threat to their existence. Which means a threat to our existence. And apparently there's a threat. A bad threat. A god of war, a warlock, a really bad hombre, killed his shaman on the Canuck coast and escaped his homeland and is extending his empire over the world of men. This god of war is called Winalagalis."

Okay, I thought. What the hell have I got myself into? "You know anything about him?" I asked Charlie.

"Only that he comes from a race of warriors in Canuck Land, called the Kwakwaka'wakw."

"So what do we do?" I asked very rhetorically.

"That's where Tara comes in," Charlie said. "Apparently there's a whole passel of Taras. Twenty-one different kinds of Taras. But the Blue Tara, what Tara is, is top dog. . ."

"Or top parrot," I interjected.

Charlie continued, "Tara is one of the fiercest and most powerful warriors of them all. Did she have a battle axe?"

"Yes she did," I responded. "And just one eye and one breast."

Charlie reached across the table and grabbed my hand. "Tara is one of the most powerful and one of the most secret of the warrior witches. She only shows herself to special people." The hair on the back of my neck bristled. Hell, all the hair I had left on my body bristled. "That's why not everybody can see her the way she really is. But the people she shows herself to, those people have a special role in whatever game she's playing. Your seeing Tara as she really is is both a blessing and a curse. For your sake," Charlie whispered, "I hope to hell she's flown off and you never see her again!"

I didn't know what to say. "And you know what else?" Charlie added. Oh My God, there's more, I thought to myself. "There's more than one of her. Blue Tara that is. Something about the birds that bred her. . ."

"Duke and Duchess, you mean?"

"Yeah, Duke and Duchess. There's something about them that's magic. The magic that's in Tara and the others comes from them."

An old proverb came to mind. When you find yourself in a hole, you should probably stop digging. Okay, maybe not completely germane, but something along those lines. Charlie polished off his beer. "You know where to find me," he said. "I got to get back. Whatever you do, you be careful boss," Charlie said shaking my hand. "You're getting into a whole world of shit like you've never believed possible."

"And I've got to go look for Tara." I paid the tab and headed up to the top of the market. I figured I'd stop by Starbucks to pick up a coffee to counteract all that beer I just drank. Up top, I found my truck surrounded by a crowd of people. An assortment of tourists, hobos, and vendors. I forced my way through the crowd. A crowd of people surrounded my truck because they were staring at Tara perched on the bed of the truck.

I was relieved but in no mood to show Tara off, let alone talk to anyone. I skipped the coffee. I stepped Tara up and we climbed into the truck and drove off.

"We need to talk," I said. To Tara.

Part Three

But first I needed to see Jean. I dropped Tara at the apartment. I poured leftover caprese salad into her dish and told her I'd be right back. I decided to risk leaving Tara unattended. I couldn't go through the rest of my life with a parrot attached to me.

I hustled down the street to Caffe Umbria. The hour was just past closing but I hoped that I could catch Jean before she left work. Jean was locking the door when I ran up.

"Jean!" I almost yelled in her ear. "I need to talk to somebody," I told her. "It's things about Tara I can't make heads or tails of. I think I'm going nuts, and I just want to talk to somebody I know is sane. Like you,"

Jean took my hands and blurted out before I could continue. "Am I glad to see you." You are? I thought to myself. Things are looking better already. "Where's Tara?" she asked.

"At the apartment chilling her paws, I hope."

"Did you catch the news today?" she asked.

"News? No, what's up?" I don't watch television anymore ever since Dear Leader imposed his New American Order. "Too depressing," I told Jean.

"That bag lady that was here last night. She was picked up in West Seattle by the cops and taken to the psych ward at Harborview for evaluation. She kept raving about devils and parrots. So it was true, what you said about her." Just then I glanced across the street. The shopping cart stacked with plastic bags still sat parked next to the bell tower.

"I've got something to tell you," I told Jean, "that's going to blow you away." Jean kept holding my hands. I took a chance. "You doing anything? You want to come by for a glass of wine and see Tara?" I thought I'd throw the bird in for good measure. "I just live up in the old St. Charles Hotel."

"Love to," Jean responded. My heart raced. We walked back up the street holding hands.

Back in the apartment I poured some wine and we sat at the dining table. "Okay, here goes," I said, taking a deep breath. "Buckle up."

"Okay," Jean said as she took a sip of wine.

"Tara is a witch."

Jean slammed her wine glass down on the table. "She's a what?"

"Witch. Goddess. Diety. Take your pick. She does things that witches and goddesses do. You know, if it walks like a duck. . ." I paused. "And that's not the weirdest part. Tara is not a parrot."

We both turned to look at Tara perched quietly on her stand.

"Well, she looks like a parrot," Jean tentatively offered.

"Okay, she's a parrot. But she's not just a parrot. The parrot is just the form that people see. In reality. . ." I pondered whether reality was the word I was looking for. "In reality she's an Amazon."

"You mean like Amazon parrot? Now I am confused."

"No, I mean Amazon warrior. Like in Greek mythology. Hercules and Achilles, and all that. Battle axe and all." Jean seemed somewhat incredulous. "Tara revealed herself to me last night. She took human form. If you can call a being with one eye and one breast human. She carried this huge battle axe. And did I mention, she was completely naked?"

"Now you're putting me on."

"I went to see Charlie today. He's seen what she does. He knows what she is. He knows how powerful she is. And he knows why she's here."

"He does?"

"Apparently the shit is about to hit the fan."

"So how do you fit into all of this?" Jean asked.

"Oh, no big deal. Fate of the universe. Survival of Western Civilization. End of the world as we know it. Just your average history professor at work."

"You used to teach at the U Dub, right?" U Dub is what Seattleites euphemistically call the University of Washington. Another method to differentiate true Seattleites from interlopers.

"Charlie said the people Tara chooses to reveal herself to have a special role to play in whatever game she's up to. But I don't think it's a game at all. It's real. Myself, I just don't see me wielding a battle axe any time soon."

"I like guys with battle axes," Jean joked.

"Now you tell me."

"I'm trying to make sense of this. Either you're feeding me one load of bullshit, or this is the greatest pickup line any guy has ever come up with."

"Or maybe it's all true," I offered. Jean stood up and bent over to kiss me. "What's that for?"

"I like guys who save the world."

I stood up and kissed her back. Lips to lips. Tongue to tongue. She tasted like a fine coffee liqueur. I put my hand up her sweater. Why you fox you, I thought. No bra. Instead I found a pair of perky breasts. Jean squealed as I fondled her nipples.

Jean unzipped my pants and pulled down my pants and shorts. Then she pulled down her skirt and undies. She pushed me back on the chair. Kicking her clothes off she put her arms across my shoulders. She straddled my thighs. I gasped as she slowly slid onto me.

It was hard to differentiate whether the skreech or the blackness came first. I thought I heard Jean scream. Or maybe that was me. Jean got to experience the entire space and time shift from blackness to whirling blue orb to Blue Tara's effervescent crystalline blue form.

When some form of reality reestablished itself, Tara stood before us just as I had described to Jean. Tara stood fully naked. Jean and I stood half naked. We stared at each other. This just isn't going to do my sex life any good at all, I thought to myself.

"He is mine," Tara finally spoke. Looking directly at Jean.

End of Chapter Four

Princess Tara Chronicles: Blue Tara; Or, How Is a Hyacinth Macaw Parrot Like a Tibetan Goddess?

Chapter Three
Part One

As the sun fell behind the old brickwork lining the west side of Ballard Avenue the fetid odor of salt water wafted over the street and assaulted my nostrils. The smell of salt water brought with it a distinct chill. I grabbed my jacket and started to clear the table. I appeared to be the coffee shop's last customer of the day. The 'Closed' sign hung on the door.

Music and muffled conversation spilled out of the assorted bars, eateries, and dance halls lining the street as the chill drove people indoors. The plaza around the bell tower emptied out except for one old bag lady. Elderly in appearance but probably not in age. Short. Squat. Stringy whitish hair stuck out of a green Seahawks wool cap pulled down over her ears. Soiled black dress about three sizes too big. Topped off by a frayed grey striped Pendleton blanket wrapped around her that dragged on the sidewalk. A pilfered shopping cart next to her looked like a veritable leaning tower of plastic bags. Her entire life metaphorically reduced to a stack of garbage bags.

I tried not to give too much thought to homeless people. Sure, I regularly made donations to the Ballard Food Bank. I participated in holiday food drives. I occasionally dropped old clothes off at Goodwill. That's about as far as it went. Many homeless people are mental cases and I preferred to give them a wide berth when I encountered street people on their territory. Thanks to debit cards I never carried cash with me and I dreaded the inevitable request for spare change.

Something about this bag lady unnerved me. She sat under the old Ballard City Hall bell tower and seemed to stare directly across the street at Tara. I was certain of it. I tried to ignore her, but everytime I glanced over she became animated in response, in the way head cases tend to be animated with their involuntary and unselfconscious street performance theater.

My packing up seemed to be her cue to act. She suddenly scurried across the street with more energy and purpose than I thought possible for a hobbled old bag lady.

"It's a devil!" she screeched, just like I imagined a parrot might, pointing a gloved hand at Tara. "Don't you see?" she beseeched me. I froze in stunned silence. Startled, Tara in turn awoke out of a slumber on my shoulder and fluttered down to the sidewalk.

"It's a devil come to roost!" she yelled again, this time running at Tara. Tara excitedly ran circles on the sidewalk while flapping her wings.

"What the fuck are you doing?" I yelled back at her after collecting myself. Thinking she intended to harm Tara I grabbed her by her shoulder as she ran by me and flung her back away into the street. She fell on her butt, but with surprising agility and speed sprung back up and commenced after Tara once again.

Tara stopped running in circles and faced the bag lady. With a couple of sharp flaps of her wings against the pavement Tara hopped up on the back of the chair I had been sitting on. She collected herself and suddenly screeched with a volume of sound I did not think could be humanly possible. But Tara was not human. I clasped my hands over my ears to muffle the sound and my eyelids involuntarily shut so hard my eyes stung.

I next thing I noticed, Jean stood next to me grasping my arm and pulled my hands away from my ears.

"Are you okay?" she asked, her face furrowed with worry.

"What just happened?" I asked.

"Your bird screeched so loud I almost dropped the tray of dishes I was washing. Is she okay?"

We both turned to look, me fearing the worst. Tara sat quietly on the back of the chair ruffling her wings while she preened her feathers.

"Where did she go?" I asked, whirling around. The shopping cart was still parked next to the bell tower.

"Are you okay?" Jean asked me nervously. "Tara's right here."

"No, not Tara. The old lady. The bag lady. She tried to attack Tara."

"What? What bag lady?"

"There was a bag lady right here," I insisted. "She tried to attack Tara. She was screaming some shit about Tara being a devil. The last thing I remember was Tara screeching."

We both turned to look at Tara. And then looked at each other.

"Okay," Jean said. "Now what?"

"You didn't see her? She was right here. I swear."

Jean gave me that crazy funny look I feared.

"Tara must have scared her off. She can't be far. You sure you okay?" Jean asked, grasping my arm again. That was twice in one day. "Can I get anything for you and Tara before I lock up?"

Too confused to recognize an invitation when one stared me in the face, I just said, "I think I should get Tara home."

"Okay," Jean said. I seemed too late to notice the note of wistfulness on her face. "You take care of the princess. I'd hate anything to happen to her."

Jean walked back into the coffee shop. I put my arm out and asked Tara to 'Step up.' Without hesitation, she hopped on my arm and ran up on my shoulder.

"What just happened?" I asked rhetorically, to no one in particular, certainly not Tara.

"I made her go away," Tara responded.

Part Two

I pretty much muttered to myself all the way back to my studio, trying to comprehend my question and Tara's answer. Mostly I was trying to pretend I had not in fact heard Tara say, "I made her go away." Unfortunately I distinctly heard Tara say "I made her go away."

Once inside I commanded Tara to 'Step up' and placed her on the play stand, thinking she must be getting hungry. I know I was getting hungry. As if reading my mind, Tara responded, "What you got to eat?"

I froze, incredulous. I stood next to a parrot that first claimed to disappear people, and now wanted to see a dinner menu.

Tara turned her head, fixed one coal black, or one fiery pit of Hell black eye on me and asked again, "What you got to eat?"

I shook myself out of my lethargy and pointed to the dish of parrot food on her perch.

"Are you kidding me? I want real food," Tara exclaimed.

Without thinking I took my chance and asked Tara, "What happened tonight?"

"I made her go away."

"You said that already," I said, admitting to myself that she really did say that. "How can you make her go away? You're a bird." Seemed self-evident. Birds don't generally disappear people. Shit on them, sure. But disappear people? Not so much in my experience.

"I'll tell you if you give me some real food."

I stared at the parrot. Okay. I was losing it. I made a mental note to call my doctor soon as possible.

"I promise," Tara said. "I'll tell you if you give me some real food."

What couldn't be happening was really happening. A parrot, a big blue beautiful parrot, was talking to me. More like at me at this particular moment. And not in the 'Polly Want a Cracker' sense. I tried to compose myself.

"I want some food," Tara repeated, with a note of exasperation in her voice.

"Well, I've got some caprese salad in the fridge I was planning on eating for dinner."

"What's a caprese salad?" Tara asked with considerable interest.

"Cheese, peppers, tomatoes. . ."

"Yes. Yes. And yes! Please," she begged.

I dumped out the parrot food and spooned some salad into the dish. Flakes of cheese and slivers of red veges started flying off Tara's beak as she munched down on her dinner. She scarfed cheese balls down whole. "Anything to drink?" she asked.

"Would you like some wine with your salad, your highness?" I responded, not wholly in jest.

"Would I!"

Without thinking of the absurdity of the situation, I poured some cabernet into a wide brim glass and held it up to her. Her tongue started paddling like crazy as she tried to drain the glass. After Tara took several drinks, I raised the glass to my mouth and guzzled what remained.

"Okay," I demanded. "What happened to that bag lady? Is she dead?"

Tara appeared to collect her thoughts. "I made her go away."

"You said that already. Is she dead?" I repeated. Seemingly Jean and I would have noticed a body sprawled out on the pavement.

"I bent time and space and made her go away."

"You what?" Now time and space entered the equation. This could not be happening. Not to me anyway. I had two doctoral degrees. In history and archaeology. I believed in research and science. Not in parrots that talked about bending time and space.

"I'm sure she's fine," Tara added. I bent her time and space to the beach on what you call Alki Point. She'll wander around for awhile until the cops pick her up. They'll take her someplace where she can get the help she needs. Can I have some more of that wine?"

"How can you possibly know that? How can you possibly do that? How does a parrot bend time and space?" I had to ask.

"Are you sure you want to know?" Tara replied. I hesitated, but "Yes."

"Okay. Don't say I didn't warn you. But only because I like you. A lot!" Tara continued, "Some people can see me for what I truly am. Some people who don't live in your reality, like the old lady, can see me for what I am. I think that Charlie could see me for what I am. He had a sense. Or he suspected. That's why he was afraid of me."

Part Three

The sun had gone down and the cherry wood in my studio glowed softly from the vintage art deco wall sconces, sole surviving fixtures from the room's old hotel days. I looked at Tara. Tara looked at me.

Suddenly the room went dark. Not dark as in absence of light. Dark as in absence of existence!

I lost all reference to reality. I was floating in a void. I felt weightless. Astronauts at least can see the world below their feet, albeit two hundred miles below their feet. I could see nothing. I sensed nothing. I heard nothing. Not even my own heart beating. It was as if a black hole suddenly opened in my apartment from which no light or existence could escape.

After a few moments, or it could have been a few eons, with no anchor to measure time or space; after a few moments a bluish orb formed and commenced glowing in the center of the room, if there could be assumed to be a center of anything in this blackness.

The bluish orb commenced vibrating, then spinning, then growing, eventually encompassing the entire space of my existence. A damp pungent heat enveloped me and assaulted my senses, as if I had just stepped into a Savannah summer afternoon. I struggled to breath from the oppressive weight of this phenomenon, which came on me from every direction.

Black nothingness coalesced into a brilliant blue somethingness. My brain struggled to comprehend the new construction of space and time before me. The glowing orb became searing blue light and heat which turned into an apparition and then a solid construct.

She stood before me.

"Tara?" I nervously offered. My entire life's philosophy of existence and reality flew out the windows.

She stood easily six feet tall. With change to spare. Totally. Butt. Naked! Her only adornment was one huge battle axe hanging from a loop around her waist. Her long hair cascading over her shoulders was so black it shed light. Her crystalline blue skin glowed, not from the light in the room, but from the heat emanating from her body. Her body rippled with muscles. Most frightening and entrancing of all, however, was her one gleaming yellow eye.

She sported one pendulous breast. Jagged scars cut across her face and chest where her left eye and left breast should have been. She appeared frighteningly beautiful. And beautifully frightening.

"Don't be afraid," Tara finally said. Her voice had changed. Instead of a parrot's voice I now heard the sultriest voice ever spoken since Lauren Bacall's Slim asked Humphrey Bogart's Steve, "You know how to whistle, don't you Steve?" I didn't even pretend to understand how she could speak a language I could understand.

"You see me as I really am."

In my shock I could barely muster a reply. "What are you?" I finally managed to ask.

"Everything will be explained in due time," she offered. "We have all of eternity, if we choose it." I sensed that with her time and space really could be molded to suit her needs.

"But now I want you," she said.

"For what?" was the best response I could offer.

"Come here," she said, stepping up to me. It occurred to me she could have demanded that I 'Step up'.

She placed her hands on my shoulders and pulled me to her. Her crystalline blue glowing skin seemed strangely cool and soft to my touch, like Tara's feathers, even though I could feel the heat radiating from her body.

She stuck her one breast in my chest. "Don't be afraid," she whispered in my ear.

Her black tongue flicked out of her mouth and swept across my chin. And then my lips. I reflexively put my arms around her, mostly to keep from falling over. I commenced shaking. She pushed her tongue into my mouth, like Napoleon's Grande Armée marching into Russia, broad, strong, and determined. She met no resistance from me. One of her hands went up inside the back of my shirt. The other hand slid into my pants. At that point my consciousness dissolved into a state of unconscious being. I passed out.

When I finally came to I found myself sprawled out on my apartment floor. The time was well into the day. I found myself totally naked. Not even any clothes strewn across the floor.

I rolled over in an attempt to gain my bearings. Tara, the parrot, sat quietly and calmly on her perch in the window, one foot up in a napping position, gently preening her feathers with her big beak. She ruffled her feathers when she saw me stirring.

"What the fuck!" I said, not a question, but a statement.

End of Chapter Three