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The Red Bull: Transmutation of Violence


By Amara MahralaPublished 3 years ago 7 min read

For a long time, a memory lingered just below the surface of my consciousness. Indistinct, felt, so real. Sometimes it rose above the realm of intentional thought and made itself known. I could not discern if it was a remnant from a childhood experience, the residue of a film or book, my own imagination seeking solidity or completion of a fairy tale begun . . . or the shadowy images, provocative and powerful, of a dream. I only know that when it dropped into my mind, and then departed, it nearly overwhelmed me.

In it was a creature. Of inordinate size and strength, a monstrosity of a being whose physical prowess was enhanced by supernatural capacities. The creature had gleaming obsidian horns, and massive hooves. Its body intimated no sense of weakness or vulnerability, it was more like a vessel than a being. The thing was encased in darkness, perpetually surrounded by a sense of portent, emanating insatiable hunger. Its eyes shown red and consuming when it approached. It thundered over the ground and the sound was terrible. All it wrought, all it thirsted for was destruction.

It was a bull. In the memory a young girl had fallen asleep, a girl the physical opposite of me. Her skin was the color of apricot, hues of pink and peach and cream. Her hair was like spun gold. And her eyes, the color of the ocean on days when the sun shines full on it and there is no hint of sorrow, only waves with tiny indentations moving with calm and fulfillment. A bright and unabashed blue. A blue like nothing more than newness, beginning. Without blame, without memory. The girl was beautiful, dressed in a quaint lace blue dress, a pale dress with white trim. She was full of equanimity and sweetness.

She lived in a country, the time long ago, not within my lifetime, and had fallen asleep in a carriage. I could not remember what had passed before she traveled along the road, only that much had already happened, and my mind, like her own, was lulled in a sense of protection and peace as I observed her. The bull fragmented the scene, the memory, the story that was her story, not my own. And that entire world. She was sleeping in the carriage, the horse was trotting along at a moderate pace, and it was the gloaming, that time when the sun settled below the horizon and all was softened. Violet and pink filled the sky, and before the crashing the energy shifted. Many crows flew through the sky, harbingers of terror. And then the bull appeared, thundering down the road, a speed one could not contemplate, could not escape . . . The sky turned red, and then there was only the sense of chaos, collision, destruction. I did not see her fate, my mind shut down before I could see. Or I did see, and could not bring myself to remember. Or it was a dream, and I woke myself up.

It was most probably a nightmare like other nightmares, those that emerged and visited all throughout my childhood. It was a nightmare, or a memory. It eluded me, and then rose and gripped me, and then disappeared again. I did not write it down, I could not remember its origin or specificities. Only that I loved the girl, she traveled in and out of realities like me, and had overcome so much just in the time I followed her. She was beloved, she was meant to be victorious. She should have been protected. I wanted so to build a fortress around her, as I can and do sometimes.

I did not think of the dream for a long time. But it came, like a sudden confrontation one cannot anticipate, into my mind weeks ago. On a forest path as I followed my two year old daughter, she looked at me. She was wary of the rocks I had carried her to, a ravine only months before she took great delight in climbing through, crunching the abundance of leaves underfoot, climbing over the rocks and picking up stones and sticks. But on this outing, she was unsettled. She did not want to climb, she did not want to explore. She wanted only to stay near me, be lifted by me, and I was so tired.

My daughter only recently began speaking more than two words at a time. Her speech is delicate, she takes care with her enunciation and her voice as it emits a word ~ so deliberate, musical, lilting. As a baby she cooed, and the sound was the exact sound of a mourning dove.

My daughter stopped in the woods and looked at me. She lifted her arms towards me and implored me with her eyes to pick her up. Her eyes enchanted me from the first, so round and large, nursing at night as a newborn I stifled laughter to look upon their roundness. They were like disks, like saucers. Comical, like a caricature of eyes. The only way I avoided laughter was to suspend myself in their pure beauty. A beauty made of darkness and shine and potential, charcoal and chestnut, light encircling black, an otherworldly beauty, and one filled too, with wonder and imagining far beyond the physical, yet intuitable within it.

I laughed at her, brushing away the uneasiness she projected. I asked, 'What's wrong baby?' She spoke then, in her plaintive lyrical voice, dancing with each word, leaving the proper space between each, 'Red Bull got me.'

There in the forest, in the presence of her I love most in this world, the monster came crashing into my mind. And my smile disappeared. I looked at my baby, and she fell to the ground dramatically then, and fluttered her long eyelashes, engaging in the play moments ago I had so yearned to see.

It took only a moment to realize she was acting out the scene of a cartoon she had watched with her brothers car rides in succession, in which a bull chases unicorns into the sea, and then is defeated by a beautiful unicorn turned human to elude his detection, then back into her form to overcome him. A beautiful creature . . . helped by others, to overcome what without that help was insurmountable.

But before that moment I was in my dream again. I was with the girl I was unable to protect, surrounded by a crimson night, the thundering sound of hooves, deafening, all encompassing. And a barrage of other images played in my mind with rapidity. Of razor blades and wounds, the scent of alcohol. Lust, violence, tides of unending pain, that are not obliterated with the passage of their accompanying experience, but lie in wait, like so many supernatural beasts. Weeping, screaming. Rage. Rage embodied, manifested. Rage suppressed. An endless cycle of pursuit, of predators and prey. Of war.

I have had nightmares all my life. When I became a mother their memories came streaming back, as did the fragments of dreams dazzling in their bliss, replete with bliss. I balance them with the reality before me. Mostly I open myself to the memories, for within all things lie lessons. I know that when they arise, there is a reason. If only an occurrence necessary to prompt my intentional confrontation, and subsequent release.

During the pandemic I stayed home with my children. I stayed home the year and a half long, I have never had a period beyond the 2-5 months permitted by employers to do so. I am a single mother now, and have been for as long as my daughter has breathed breath in this world. I have danced with the fears of this sickness, the weight akin to my journey in this life, the pressure unlike my journey in this life. I have immersed myself in motherwork, and most days playing with my children in the mountains or along the sea in this stunning city we call home, I am full of gratitude. It has been a year of transformation and power. A year I will treasure, for they were near me, and I was with my daughter for each of her developmental milestones. I was with my children.

I think the memory of this bull, the invocation by my child who only just began to speak, is an opportunity. For transmutation, for transference. There has been so much to guard, so much to fight, so much to anticipate for, while hoping fervently against. Never giving up hope. I think this memory came at just the right time.

I think over every sentiment from the frightening memory I can recall.

I remember the way the sky turned red, from inarticulable loveliness, to the color of blood and despair.

I remember smoke.

And the bull. The vessel. The figure of terror, seeking to destroy all in its path.

And I am not afraid. I will look upon it, I will not look away. I will not grant it any augmentation of fear. I know this body, this life, this dream is temporal. And what it seeks, what it truly desires. Is far beyond its reach, if only I make it so.

Thank you daughter. I will stay by you, and your brothers. I will not leave.


About the Creator

Amara Mahrala

Filipina and indigena writer, intent on manifesting the dreams of my ancestors/reconciling deeply stored trauma/opening worlds to my children through art. Sharing remembered experiences lived during unconsciousness and waking life.

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