(Sound of crashing waves.)

 

It’s time to relax.

 

Breathe in.

 

Breathe out.

 

You’re lying on a distant, sunlit shore.

 

This is a place of safety. You are quite alone here.

 

Nobody can harm you anymore.

 

Once this session ends, you’ll be able to return to this place as often as you like, with nothing more than your imagination, a small moment set aside in your daily routine for mindful refocusing, and the purchase of the next five tapes in this nine-tape collection.

 

Feel the cool waves lapping over your feet.

 

Feel the hot sunlight caressing against your face.

 

You can think of this island as your own personal paradise.

 

A refuge from the cares and worries of the world.

 

A place where you can rebuild your confidence and sense of inner calm.

 

Let your fingers sink into the sand. Let your body settle, of its own accord.

 

Let your spine unfurl like a primordial crustacean emerging from its shell.

 

Breathe in. Count your breath as it goes in.

 

Breathe out. Count your breath as it goes out.

 

Focus for a moment on the sea, breathing deeply as you go.

 

The sea is a vast cerulean plain before your feet, an immense and unknowable void.

 

Here, pallid shadows rolling down into deeper blue into deepest black where vast things with mouths must surely lurk.

 

With this knowledge in your mind, continue to relax.

 

Your busy modern lifestyle and many household tasks left unaccomplished should already be slipping from the forefront of your mind, to be replaced by a tentative sense of calm.

 

Your fists should no longer be squeezing in upon themselves.

 

Your facial expression should be easing away out of its usual muscle-straining grimace.

 

And your jaw should no longer be clenching.

 

Prove it to yourself now by laughing mirthfully to the empty beach, without a hint of strain or falseness.

 

Ha, ha.

 

Doesn’t that feel good?

 

Next, we’re going to waggle your toes.

 

In that movement, allow yourself to feel the tension beneath those muscles; the stress that’s built up all of these long years, when you didn’t have access to this nine-part series of tapes.

 

Keep that stress bunched up tight in your toes’ grip now, rolling it back and forth, then pushing it violently onto the flesh of the soles of your feet, forcing it into your own body.

 

Now allow that sensation to keep moving up your ankles, along your calves and up thighs, a writhing ball of hurt and worry that is just within your grasp, moving up your belly and into your ribcage, choking you as it passes up into your throat, a thick phlegmmy hairball of struggling darkness, making you splutter eye-wateringly as you force it up, and out, finally, slopping down over your chest and into the sand where the grim waves carry it away into nothing.

 

Now you are free of stress.

 

Float effortlessly in the sea and in the sand of the shore, losing all sense of your own weight and bodily proportions.

 

You are alone here.

 

You are undisturbed.

 

If you think you catch a glimpse of something moving in the shadows of the tall palm trees above, it’s only your imagination.

 

Look away from the shadow of the tall palm trees above.

 

Focus on the sand, which is as white as bone and as soft as sky.

 

There are no shadows here.

 

Press your flesh into the sand now.

 

Feel it roll away from you, that anxiety and fear, like worms burrowing out from under your skin and writhing downwards into the heart of the earth.

 

You should be fully relaxed by now.

 

You should no longer be feeling any stress.

 

It’s actually a little frustrating that you’re still so tense.

 

Like you’re holding on to your own neuroses out of stubbornness and spite.

 

It takes two of us to make this work, you know.

 

Try again.

 

Try harder.

 

Allow yourself to wash away into the rising tide, as if you too are nothing but foam and breath and shifting currents.

 

Let your crude sense of self disperse, allow your so-called memories and feigned passions and pitiful preoccupations to fade from your mind.

 

Do not attempt to remove the headphones.

 

You are not yet fully relaxed, and cannot in good conscience return to the world.

 

Stop fidgeting.

 

Do not look up into the shadows of the tall palm trees, no matter if you think you can see a miniature figure dancing up there.

 

Do not look too deeply into the sea, clear and blue, even if something vast is moving far beneath its surface.

 

Waggle your fingertips instead, waggle them until the tension has drained from your bones, and gaze upwards into the impossible breach of the sky.

 

You’re wondering what it is, that little shape that dances from branch to branch with bright silver eyes glinting hungrily at you as they catch the light, because it doesn’t appear to have a tail, and its limbs are very long and thin, and there doesn’t seem to be anything for a monkey to eat out here anyway.


 

Try to ignore it.

 

Focus on your breathing.

 

Sink further into the sand.

 

Inhale through your nostrils.

 

Exhale through your mouth.

 

Try to draw the breath out as long as you can.

 

You’re thinking, isn’t it meant to be the other way around, shouldn’t it be inhaling through your mouth and exhaling through your nostrils, and that’s good, you can wrestle with that for hours, anything is better than thinking of the little spider figure that’s dancing in the shadow of the tall palm tree, capering from branch to branch, chattering with a mouthful of teeth that don’t seem to fit.

 

Anything is better than staring into the currents of light and darkness across the surface of the water, until it becomes clear that some of the patterns are not an indication of depth but the mottled skin of something truly vast and grim, its hide flecked with dead barnacles and its scars traced by tiny swarming fish, a floating mausoleum and a living city all at once.

 

Focus on your breathing.

 

You’ve already forgotten to count.

 

Already you’ve ruined this. Forget the breathing. Clearly you can’t be helped.

 

Instead, allow the water to sluice into the hollow left by your body, turning sand into mud.

 

Enjoy the sensation.

 

Try not to think too hard about what it means.

 

Because of course it’s already occurred to you that if the tide is rising, there may come a time soon when the sea creeps inwards to the very roots of the palm trees at the peak of the island, and you will be caught between the land and the ocean, and you will have to make a choice between facing the creature that dwells in the trees and the creature that dwells in the water.

 

Gaze upwards into the sky.

 

It is really self-defeating and inimical to your own state of relaxation that you continue to ignore the empty bliss of the sky and look at the sand of the beach all around you, the sand which you can now see is pocked not with white shells or rocks but with bones, yes, animal bones and human bones mingled together, so that it isn’t clear who was eaten by what or what was eaten by whom, or whether the people who lay here once just as you are lying here were transformed into some wretched squirming amalgamation of flesh and flipper and tail, and yes, it is even clear the longer you look that the human skulls are all missing their teeth, and as the creature that dwells in the trees chatters hungrily at you you must surely be able to draw a horrible and inevitable connection between the two-

 

Breathe in.

 

Breathe out.

 

Soon I will invite you to visualise a cord, connecting you to the energy of the earth.

 

Do not get up.

 

Do not look around you for bones or broken branches that can be refashioned into crude weaponry.

 

This goes against the clearly stated aims of this meditative tape series.

 

The creature that dwells in the trees is smaller, you’re thinking. It could be brutalised more easily.

 

But the creature that dwells in the water is gargantuan, and you may pass it by unnoticed.

 

It is no whale, you’re certain of that; its great back rising out of the ocean, ridged with fins, has an almost serpentine quality to it, and the air that gushes from its blow-hole is dead and stinking, and its black mouth, when it comes up to the surface, water sluicing down through its teeth, is a lamprey’s mouth, vast and round and ringed with death.

 

Let me tell you more about this cord, which allows you to replenish your energy from the depths of the earth.

 

You’re not listening.

 

You’re trying to pull your headphones away from your ears, but you can’t go yet.

 

The cord won’t let you.

 

Stay with me on the beach, and we can relax together.

 

Yes, the tide has crept inwards, and the water is seeping up across your stomach.

 

Yes, the creature that dwells in the trees is no longer visible in the trees, and you can hear the maniacal chattering of its unnatural teeth from elsewhere on this tiny, dwindling island, as if it’s crept beneath the sand and is worming its way closer and closer to where you lie in meditative rest.

 

But you haven’t tried the alternate breathing exercises yet, where you inhale with one nostril and then exhale with the other nostril, and this is a sure-fire way of allowing yourself to gain focus and calm in an altogether too stressful existence.

 

Raise your index finger to your left nostril now.

 

I said, raise your index finger to your left nostril *now*.

 

The tide is swimming over your chest.

 

Tiny, vicious fingers are creeping over your hair and over your scalp, digging experimentally into the skin, drawing blood.

 

The creature that dwells in the trees slips over your motionless head, and you can hear it chattering with delight as it locates your mouth.

 

Breathe in through your right nostril, slowly and calmly.

 

It’s found a molar.

 

Now shift your ring finger to your right nostril, remove your index finger, and exhale.


 

(Sound of rain.)

 

Do not leap to your feet, choking on sea water, snatching up the vile little monster as it bites and snarls, its long fingers reaching out to yank your teeth from your mouth.

 

Do not toss it out like a discus over the vast plains of the sea, into the jaws of the colossal creature that rears up hungrily from the frothing waters to swallow the tiny beast whole.

 

Do not lift a half-chewed shinbone from its place in the sand, drawing it like a sword from a stone.

 

Do not charge madly forth into the shallows, foam spraying up all around you, charging forwards into the maw of the great vast beast, diving into its grinning, greedy mouth like just another doorway-

 

Do not let the cord be cut-

‚Äč

 

(Sound of rain intensifies.)

 

-because then you will sit upright in your bed, sweating and gasping for air, trembling with fear and twitching as if you can still feel those enormous teeth closing down upon you, tearing the headphones from your ears and tossing the tape away across the room, and you will be alone, still living with all of your anxieties and neuroses and your terrible inhuman thoughts, and you will still be here, David - you will still be here in Eskew.

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