Dreams run like rivers which feed the sea; I am solitude, I am a language unspoken. There is a silence to my words, reflected into wind, written on waves, dispersed and unheard.
A sundry collection of my tall tales, organized into the fantastical and the fatuous. If inclined, click on a title to read.
Mysteries & Manifestations
The threnody enveloped the people of the catacombs with an absence of silence; it covered the dry walls in a restrained embrace, flushed the dust from the interstices like sweat. There was no locus for the music, it was ubiquitous and tangible. Sound seeped from every pore, resonated from every crevice, blossomed like a fog in all directions. No location was louder or softer, there could be no escaping the strain. The people acquiesced, as usual, and allowed the timbres to burrow within their being and unleash the floods of emotion. Sentiments, like sediments buried for what felt like an eternity, would be unearthed and experienced. Soon their tears coated the ossuaries' floors and became unified with the dirt; the mud lived and breathed simultaneously with the requiem's tempo. Their bodies received a membrane of mire, took on the appearance of corpses caught in volcanic ash. The inhabitants appeared to almost vanish into the surroundings, hidden beneath a skin of powdered, moist stone which danced upon their prone figures in tiny waves of vibration. As each person lay motionless, entwined within their deepest sorrows, a single woman summoned the strength to rise and walk towards the nearest opening. She moved quicker as she began to see the faint glow of daylight around a bend in the tunnel. Her mind struggled with the sounds of the weeping, it droned and merged into the mysterious song, strengthening it like a choir would heighten an adagio. She pulled herself along the wall, gripped each outcropping and dragged her weight closer to the edge. Finally she was at the exit and gazed in awe as the sun broke the distant cliffs. Atop them, in silhouette, were dozens of people. One after another they walked to the edge and stepped into the radiant void, vanished from view like fireflies blinking out into darkness. She felt they were still there, not gone, but altered. The music in her head intensified, the yearning to join the others became overwhelming.
I needed to learn how not to speak, the light behind our eyes should be enough, a wave no longer rushing towards the shore. Ice and steam, water, always water. All one needs to know. Your light, my light, our light, it never goes out just scatters into the existing brightness. The night gives way to the day, the reverse side has a reverse side, neither are singular. Find me wherever you look but don't use your eyes.
He could recite those words verbatim having read the letter so many times. Like the most beautiful sunrise of his life, she had come and lasted such a short time, had gone out with no trace and no matter how many sunrises he watched none could replace the perfect one burned into his memory. All he had was her letter. The catacombs had been thoroughly searched, there was no evidence of her existence and no explanation for her disappearance. He woke early each day and sat at the edge of an aperture to watch the sun climb over the valley, hoping to see her far below. There was nothing to see but what he always saw.
He thought to himself: We are nothing but spirits, memories of the past. I don't even know how long I've been in this place.
In a dream she touched his face, her eyes layered in details he had never noticed or appreciated, circles of delicate gossamer. A ring of jeweled spires swirled into a darkness that glowed with infinite acceptance. Where have you been? She only smiled and pulled him closer, he felt her softness for the first time, he felt her for the first time: as she really was, not as he remembered. There were no words to describe it. He woke with the memory of something greater than himself and remained motionless for the threnody to begin again.
He thought to himself: I am nothing but a memory of someone else. I don't even know how long I've been asleep.
The music particularly drained him that day, he had no more tears to shed. Instead of waiting for the sunrise, he decided to sit at the edge of the aperture. No one he knew had ever seen a sunset, the catacomb wall faced the opposite direction. He marveled at the distant escarpment bathed in the sun's final rays glowing with subdued colors. Like her eyes; yellow melted into orange, bled into purple and ultimately faded into blue, dissolved by the night. A night such as he had never seen before, a night of warm calm. In the settling darkness he noticed subtle movement across the hollow: people, gathering at the rim.
He thought to himself: I am nothing but her memory, and she is my memory. I don't even know who remembers whom.
Dissolved in sound, he found himself embracing the dwellers with the song, his song. The elegy completed, he drifted out of the catacombs and dispersed into the sky. It heaved with brightness and some of the people in the valleys thought they could hear the cliffs softly humming, see the air around them gently suffusing their faces with a coruscation.
"One of the spirits has left."
"Don't be stupid, Old Man. There's nothing in those cliff dwellings but dust."
The Old Man shrugged his shoulders and thought to himself: There will be plenty like you to replace the ones who awaken.
The full moon reflected on the pond like the eye of a Stygian cyclops; it watched without blinking, a celestial adjudicator. Shivering in the warm, damp air, cloaked in ambient light, the woman waited nearby. They would soon be here, the sound of rustling leaves alerted her to their proximity. It was the subtle tumult of thousands of teeth clattering, Mephistophelian souls lumbering through the surrounding fields, headed towards the still lagoon. A blight upon a demarcation, a heavy wind like the breath of unending sleep, forcefully entered through the soul. A shudder raced down her spine as she lingered, afraid to turn around. Across the smooth water she noted dark silhouettes emerge from the inky blur. The clicking teeth grew louder, it would be over soon.
A year ago she had relocated from the frigid Midwest to this half forgotten island in the Caribbean. A lifelong fascination with lightning had finally created an undeniable impetus to photograph it with the intent of unlocking the mysteries she knew must reside within the powerful force. This island provided a unique opportunity of near daily storms over the temperate sea. It was a place she could rely upon to feed her desire. Each afternoon and evening she would set her tripod towards the horizon and wait, where like clockwork the clouds would blossom from nothingness into looming bands of energy hurtling jagged spears of fire into the ocean below. It took her months to begin to notice what she initially assumed was a glitch of the camera sensor.
The white stabs of nihil which cut the sky with incredible regularity slowly developed dark halos around the bleached streaks of discharge. She had never noticed the phenomenon before, it was as if the canopy was being fractured and the sable vacuum of space rushed in like water through a crack. The sky quickly healed these wounds, but each strike from the charged atmosphere seemed to weaken the restorative power of the heavens. She returned to the same location early the next day and photographed the clear blue firmament. All seemed perfectly normal until she examined the photos with scrutiny. She was stunned to see what appeared to be subtle scars scrawled into the vivid azure plain. These weren't visible to the naked eye but somehow her camera had captured the violent remains of the night's previous storm, striated lesions of current.
That evening she went back to the island's edge to document another round of outbursts. The display was fierce and with a freshly gleaned foreknowledge she was confident she could discern the creeping blackness edging around each strike of lightning. It was like oily blood surging into a gash and instantaneously congealing. Having seen it with her eyes she was convinced it was not a distortion of her lens. She had much to study now and her lifelong hunch and interest in lightning was proving to have been prescient. For weeks she chronicled the phenomenon, the wounds were growing in size, widening, and healing slower. Soon the void beyond our world must surely break through, our protective skin of reality was attenuating.
That night the moon was as round as she'd ever seen it, it owned the sky and lit the clouds with an electric blue cast. There had been no activity so far and as she was about to pack up for the night a deafening explosion ripped across the sky; tore a hole into the troposphere, a rift which refused to close. Like a footstep into sand that quickly fills with water, the breach was suffused with an almost milky fluid, it flooded the dark blue sky with a sidereal absence. She stood in awe while the horizon darkened to pitch, watched in horror as it poured from the fissure and slowly filled the ocean with a starless molten nonexistance. She fled.
The morning dawned without incident, she found herself still safe, still alive in the relative comfort of her small seaside apartment. Pulling the curtains back she noticed it, a slight discoloration where the puncture remained and the sea was too deep and unnaturally colored. Something had drained into our existence, she had not dreamt it. With apprehension she waded into the yawning daylight and hiked down to the beach. She tried to ignore her fears but the dread engulfed her every thought, it crept up her body like a shadow that cannot be seen. There were already a few people milling about on the shore and none seemed to be concerned or aware of anything amiss. She decided to force herself to relax and returned to the familiarity of her home.
By the time evening approached she had convinced herself she was overreacting. She wasn't. When the sun finally disappeared beneath the horizon they became visible. Hundreds of black shadow people populated the littoral, countless more slowly emerged from the ominous breaking waves and headed ashore. They had no substantial form, no features, they were solid but ephemeral humanoid shapes. Holes punched into and through reality, these beings were so black it was painful to stare into the void they created. She opened the sliding door, quietly, and became aware of the noise. At first she thought it was the rustling of leaves but gradually her addled brain recognized the sound of teeth clicking, a thousand skulls chattering for a food they could never digest.
Almost in the exact center of the island was the pond. She stopped her car and decided to wait for oblivion, there was nowhere to hide. One by one the interlopers emerged. A ring of nonnative gloom marched towards the moon's reflection, a vortex of tenebrous specters with invisible mouths feeding an insatiable appetite. She closed her eyes and prayed for absolution, covered her ears to restrict the maddening din from overpowering her senses. They walked into and through her, around her, over her; she was nonexistent to the shadow population. Motionless except for breathing, an inhuman frigidity transected every atom in her being each time one stepped within her anatomy. A blight upon a demarcation, a heavy wind like the breath of unending sleep, forcefully entering through her soul was each passing monstrosity. She yearned to wake from this nightmare.
Finally, she noticed the silence, a cocooned stillness, a lifting of the nocturnal rattling of ravenous mouths. She watched as the last few forms vanished under the mirrored pond, water now so impenetrable even the glaring reflection of the moon was consumed by the preternatural creatures. The cyclops' unblinking vigil had come to an end. She instinctively looked up. The once full moon was slowly fading out, like a hand sliding in front of a lightbulb, an opaque veil of extinction. The familiar comfort of the glowing satellite which had protected and reassured generations of humanity declined into the starless sky for the final time. It blackened to a perfect circle somehow darker than the lightless welkin, an infinite abyss which now seemed inescapable. A great hunger welled up inside of her, a voracious craving she could not comprehend, and with it came an uncontrollable gnashing of teeth.
He lit the oil drum and sent a flame high into the air, roiling tendrils like demon hands grasping for the moon. Pacing the perimeter he scanned the sky for signs of the dirigible riders. He needed them to show up, to locate his signal fire and to release him. With focused attention he squinted into the dark firmament, examined each star hoping to witness it blink out for a short time, an indication something was floating above. Hours later, when the conflagration consumed itself, he lost expectation for the night. The riders would not pass through the region.
The road opened before him, he wasn't driving, he didn't know who was driving, but he was finally heading in the right direction. Not far ahead thousands of birds circled, an ebony mass, conscious and free; a singular organism made from many individual organisms. The auto increased in speed, white clouds disgorged from the yawning blueness to engulf the birds and squeeze them from the sky. He turned his head to catch the look on the driver's face, he saw himself look back. Tiny claws latched onto the car, the creatures had been forced to descend, they dug deep into the metal and held on like living hood ornaments. Once fully covered, the remaining birds clasped onto one another thickening the avian hide of the vehicle. Gravity lost the battle, the driver let go the wheel, up they went. Wings beat in defiance, their sound drowned out the engine. A wild concentration of plumage concealed the automobile as it hurtled towards the clouds.
He woke feeling optimistic for the first time in months. Tonight, he knew it, the dirigible riders would arrive. The barrel was prepared, the blaze created, the tension palpable. To every direction he scanned, behind every point of tiny light he calculated. Nothing. Until one star blinked out. Then another, another. They were close. His heart raced at the prospect, he calmed himself down and sat by the fire, never altering his skyward gaze. Within the hour, directly overhead, hovered a dead spot of darkness. There was no sound beyond the slight breeze through the leaves, he could almost hear music in the rustling. A rope materialized from the inky depths, dangled a foot from the earth, an arm's length from where he stood. He backed away and waited. A form emerged from the blackness like a body rising from the night sea. A hand reached out toward his.
The automobile stuttered and the engine's hum was replaced with silence. He was unsure of his surroundings, nothing was familiar. Eyes like clusters of stars, ears full of vibrating feathers, he allowed himself to drift off into the shadows. The dreamer dreamed himself, unable to wake from either world, unafraid of the space between where he had been and where he was. A canyon's edge softly revealed itself through fog, forgotten music picked up amplitude echoing off the deep walls. Ten massive stone gates, hundreds of feet high, marked the ground below. They were strung like harps, steel cables moored into the ground. The winds set them vibrating, creating a reverberating euphony; monuments, swaying, resonating, humming in unison, a chorus of portals. He dreamed himself listening, merging what he was with the nothingness of sound; tangible but formless.
He woke with a sense of freedom. Thunder below, fire above, he hurtled through the sky and chased the clouds, his body tethered at least a hundred feet behind the speeding dirigible. Wind raced into his pores, concentrated blasts of light shattered the air around him, the weather erupted in a fury of welcome. Deafening rumbles merged with blinding shafts of luminosity, his skin tingled with electricity yet he felt protected. At least twenty other brave souls trailed along on individual cables behind his dirigible; the pilot drove the awesome machine with deliberate ferocity pulling the willing cargo. Above and below, countless dirigibles swam through the atmosphere like empyrean whales, all towing full loads of passengers similar to his.
For days they circled the earth, occasionally picking up new travelers. As he acclimated to the absurdity of his new reality he began to sleep in flight, but did not dream. Why dream when he was living his wish. He was free. Finally. Why dream. It was the price paid for liberation.
One morning many weeks later he pulled himself along his cord until he was within eyeshot of the dirigible pilot. The captain knew what it meant, he had seen it before, a crew always changes. The commander disappeared into the cabin, returned holding a knife and gestured to ascertain the certainty of the request. The passenger stared steadily into the captain's eyes and nodded "yes." Dreams can only be useful for so long before new ones are needed. With hands made of pure sinew and fingers like snakes the pilot severed the line and ejected the drifter from the ship. He began his descent. The view was spectacular as he plummeted, the sun bathed his face. He closed both eyes, unconcerned, and for the first time in months,
Who are you?
I've always been with you.
I wish I had known this before, I wouldn't have been afraid most of my life.
You're not afraid now.
I'm tired of hiding from a future I can never predict.
The future has always managed to take care of itself. You're just along for the ride.
It's time, I think I'm ready to go.
We can stay a while longer, if you like.
No... no, it will just make it that much more difficult to leave.
Alright, my friend... I'll drive.
They drove towards the night, a crimson band arched over the distant mountains.
It was ten years ago today I first saw the book. It was in an alley, tossed aside in a manner which suggested nothing but indifference. It was my way of passing the time back then, to roam the streets behind houses, seeking absolution in the filth of garbage bags and oil stains on blacktop. There is a comfort in the detritus of lives; mishandled and abandoned, packaged neatly into bags, piled into containers so that uniformed workers can toss the memories into a large truck never to be seen again. Normally I ignored the debris but this book beckoned me. I was unable to disregard the pull and pocketed the tome for later perusal.
There are moments in each life, moments that flash like welder's sparks in the eyes, turning points which are not merely turns in the road but a plummet from a cliff. At first I had no inkling of such a consequence. In fact, it was weeks before I recalled the book and decided to read it. The title is not important, suffice to say it was mundane and a step above amateur in content. None the less, after I had consumed the prose I began to quickly develop quirks in my perspective. Initially they were subtle and I was able to pass them off to peripheral refractions, audio hallucinations or flights of daydreams. I was prone to all before, they were merely enhanced and I felt no need to concern myself with their amplitude so long as this 'glitch' subsided within a week or so. Having a mind such as mine one becomes accustomed to ignoring moments of near insanity. Unfortunately the tide was increasing and the glitches would become bursts of normalcy. Normalcy in the sense they were happening regularly and could be termed "normal" however abnormal they were.
It was obvious within a month I could no longer function around people. The voices held sway in my ears, the shadows played not in the corners of my eyes but out in the wide open. They informed me everything they uttered was from the book, yet not one phrase was verbatim. No, these voices professed they used the language contained within the monotonous writings and reassembled them into the True meaning. Detangling a puzzle for me to bear witness to, the door was being unlocked and I was the vessel to be opened. My scintilla of concern was manifest, the pupa stage birthed into emergent mania. I had retained enough control to remain hidden from life and try to battle these demons, but the shadow people insisted I acquiesce. I wished they would speak but they remained mute, allowing the disembodied to do the talking.
I was informed the time had arrived and the path cleared. Resolved to my doom I stopped resisting and reclined onto my bed. There I shielded my eyes no more and followed the dance of darkness upon the ceiling while an inhuman chant reverberated deep within my head. The confinement of the room was shattered, the walls dissolved, the sky belched forth and I was laying in a field. It was more realistic than reality. Everything was in focus, the scents tumbled into my nostrils in unimaginable ways, my ears heard layers to sounds it had not dreamed could exist. I rose to my feet and slowly turned around, agog at the view. My eyes saw realms beyond human limitations, as though cones and rods had been added to my retinae which increased perception. The world was alive, faceted with so much detail it staggered the mind. The shadows no longer were transparent, they were realized, they were individualized, and they walked towards me. The chanting had mutated into singing, microtonal yet harmonious. What had been a sinister shadow world of psychotic metamorphoses, which had been skewed by the translation into human perception, was now revealed to be beyond imagination. My perspective was unimpaired, I had been invited to share in a place on the far side of dreams. I was no longer afraid.
I spent days wandering the countryside. I was so overwhelmed by the precision that words failed to formulate, my entire cognitive ability was applied to consuming the environment. I may have only spoken a few syllables, I cannot recall. The atmosphere was alive with polyphony, I felt no need to clutter it with confabulation. The denizens came and went, always with a kind smile and a warmth of concern. I never slept nor ate, I assumed I was dead. I didn't mind. After time, however, my senses began to adjust and slowly the magic and detail grew less and less; I was adapting. The mind can be terrible, it becomes bored with stimuli and reduces what was once painfully beautiful to something rarely noticed and taken for granted. I did not want to feel that way about this place. I asked to return so I could cherish these memories before they soured, that I could replace my unremarkable life with the sense of awe I had been privileged. Perhaps when I was better prepared I could appreciate such a realm without the mind ruining the super-natural.
I awoke where I had last been, alone on my bed. I was very weak and had lost a fair amount of weight. I stumbled to the window and peered out, saw a world with new eyes, heard it with fresh ears. Yes, the detail was here too, it was beautiful. In my life before the book I had been too cynical to witness, too "grown up" to appreciate. I let the surfeit of my surroundings become mundane; I had habituated and forgotten. For now it would be enough to merge memory and reality, to recall the world as a child would see it: fresh, intricate and overwhelming. But I had a sad sense that this would soon vanish into the shadows of routine. The book I had found in what seemed a lifetime ago was an analogy to that life. It appeared typical, dull and of little elegance. Yet within the commonplace parlance existed a world beyond aspiration. With the right appreciation our world was no different, it holds wonders that are always there if we only remember.
She has scars on her arms, organized striations suggesting purpose, not accident. Her eyes rarely rise above the horizon but when they do they feel more than see. You can get lost in those eyes, it is a place beyond contentment, a country of isolated incidents. Almost no one knows what is inside of her. She keeps to herself, keeps those eyes lowered and wanders the twilight of regular perception; a ghost. In a state of heightened awareness some may observe her in the crowd and feel recognition. I do, I've seen her many times even if I don't remember. Focus my energy, shut down my incessant mind chattering on and on, -will- myself to notice.
She is there. Real. My gaze is physical in her world, like an outstretched arm beginning to grab hold. It is a presence to her, she knows I know. A subtle smile crosses her lips, her eyes remain downcast. My reaction is to look away, to not cause her unease, but something inside is stronger, it yearns to understand. The crowd lurches as always, unaware, skirting my motionless body. A few half awake individuals scrutinize my stare but are unable to ascertain the subject of interest. To them I gape at a wall, she remains invisible to all but me. Their time is too important to worry about a crazy motionless man, they occupy themselves with personal thoughts and continue on.
Now that I'm finally awake, forever was a long time, I slowly walk towards her. She remains still, like a shy child at a dance waiting to be approached. I outstretch my arm and make contact, flesh to flesh; her hand is small, soft, tangible. She refrains from looking at me. Concern fills my heart and I gently rub her scars, try to wash them away. Our eyes meet for the first time.
Nine roads lead in, three lead out. Viewed from the sky the city is perfectly round, twelve routes equally spaced radiate towards their own horizons in all directions. Closer inspection reveals nine lanes leading in, traffic runs one way. Three roads funnel away from the megalopolis, there is no return. As far as can be seen these roadways traverse the landscape, fading into the haze. The city is perfectly contained within the walled ring, no satellites or suburbs, life only happens in the strict confines. Heading towards one of the nine gates, the massiveness of the burg is apparent. The curvature of the walls seem straight, the circumference so vast, yet they also tower skyward hundreds of feet. What was once a range of mountains appears to have been shorn, carved, forced into shape for the use of the population. It is beyond imagination and technology. The city is solid, a monolith of stone eviscerated from the massif, many miles wide.
Within the limits a labyrinth of streets confounds the intellect. Hundreds, thousands of buildings and structures jut out of the ground clawing towards the sky. Nearly all are brightly painted. A handful of grey premises dot the tangled jungle of jewel toned buildings and with no markings one is left to guess at their importance, their significance apparent because of the drab exteriors. It would take hours to make it to the center of the city, but before this is considered most of the thoroughfares succumb to darkened exits and continue on in artificial light below the surface. Spiraling down, a seemingly infinite amount of levels are revealed. The boldly colored buildings have been replaced by soft shades of neutrals. Yet down here in the ersatz twilight a few buildings can be glimpsed, painted in the most intense shades of red, turquoise and yellow; the exact opposite of the surface dweller's designs.
No one is certain how deep the city goes. There are entire families, generations, who have never seen the sun. Everyone is free to leave whenever they choose, anyone is welcome to live here. Giant machines tunnel deeper and deeper, carving out more and more residences. The city is a hive. It asks for nothing in return, it offers protection and community. It loves all equally. To live on the surface is to be one of the chosen. It is a great honor. The city takes care of all, regardless of their status, there is little to worry about. Safety and security more than make up for the lack of daylight for the vast majority of the denizens. Those who arrive are quickly given a home, protection, comfort, the knowledge that the struggle to make it 'out there' is a thing of the past. Most are satisfied with this even if it means they may never be outdoors again.
For him sanctuary wasn't enough. There were the dreams. He had no idea how long he had lived below. He could recall a time he dreamt of nothing in particular but as time passed he began to see a world inside himself each night. More and more this world revealed itself: fields of red flowers, cloud banks burning orange, rolling blue seas, green valleys, a presence.
I divert my gaze, her arms are unblemished. She smiles and places my hand on my chest. There's a slight discomfort to the touch and upon observation I notice three scars in the same pattern as the three exit roads. I instinctively stroke one of the scars. Her hand encapsulates mine and she leads me away.
The crowd, eternally moving in the congested city, becomes ghostly, ephemeral, out of time. There is a door I have never seen before in the singular richly painted building. She leads me into a tiny room and shuts the door. A shudder goes through my body yet I'm not afraid, it is the small room moving, disengaging from the rock. It jolts upwards and within a few minutes comes to rest. The door opens, sunlight floods the space, it is almost too bright.
The bustling mass of humanity is encompassing, I can see through their semi transparent forms. A spirit world, the once corporeal society I lived amongst. Who are the phantoms, us or them? They move at a slightly quicker pace than I recall, we slide across the stone buildings like shadows cast by spires. As the sun rises higher we both are drawn towards the furthest wall, a place with an egress at least a hundred feet high. The third road runs into the blue expanse till it fades from sight. There is hesitation on my part, the outside is unbridled, it is primal, it is not safe. She senses my doubt and stops. Her hand touches my chin and tilts my head, looking face to face. I begin to remember her more, there's something in her eyes that is panoramic.
We stumble through the archway, walls disintegrate, the heat of the day bathes me unlike anything I can remember. She lets go of my hand and smiles in relief. I feel it too. Turning around I see no sign of the massive city, there is only the landscape. The landscape I've dreamed before, and again when I first looked into her eyes. I turn to thank her, to ask her who she is. I am alone. A breeze stirs, the scent of spring fills the air, an air of redolent stillness. Small rock houses dot the terrain, wisps of smoke waft from chimneys, cobblestone roads crisscross the hillsides. I head towards the town, I sense I've been here before. I have. I once called this place home. It has always been home.
They came out of the oceans, out of the rivers and lakes, emerged onto the coasts of every continent, the banks of every sea. These were not items washed ashore by the tide, these were sentient beings consciously choosing to abandon the hidden depths of the water. It was an organized arrival, they appeared quite suddenly and at the same time of the day in whatever part of the world they were in. The previous night had progressed without incident across the globe, but as the sun rose on every beach and seaside, along every riverbank and bay, they surfaced and waited. No one approached them, not out of deference but to an inhuman threat that surrounded each creature. Warning signs were obvious. The closer one got, the more severe the complications. At first, a slight ringing in one's ears, closer still and the ears began to hum, like the brain was immolating itself. Some managed to get a bit closer and experienced ragged shots of pain down their spines, had loss of vision, buckled over in agony. Distant observers noted that with the close presence of these daring people the entity’s bodies pulsed, produced a massive display of bioluminescence so powerful it could be seen in broad daylight. No one knew what to do, but all stayed clear. They exuded an abstract intellect, these aquatic fiends, an awareness that transcended their hideousness.
Such strange creatures they were. Composed of a central body, like a transparent ball six feet across, each had eighteen equidistant thin appendages rotated around it’s equator. These legs bent upwards about five feet, reached a joint, then bent back to the ground. It appeared as though some horrific sidereal spider had arrived from the depths of the cosmos, multi-legged and translucent. Even more disturbing was what lay contained within the central mass. With an outer skin like thick, liquid glass, inside could be seen what appeared to be a huge brain. Throughout, the flesh throbbed a subtle light-show, colors gradually changed into one another. Within, a biological mass of something, large and powerful, like the mind of a forgotten god. For two days they did not move. By some estimates there were thought to be near one million of the creatures across the planet’s surface. Then things began to change.
At dawn on the westernmost coast the first ones began their song. It had been a cloudy morning and the sun barely made an appearance, but the beings rose upon their legs, rose to over ten feet in height, and began emitting a sound. It was immense, it was illogical, and it seemed to dissolve the clouds. The sky cleared as if a giant dial had been turned. The blue vastness consumed any and all haze, swallowed the clouds into mysterious, invisible holes, allowed the sun to burn unhindered. Their song increased in magnitude, it could be heard for miles, it would be heard the world over by everyone. Imagine the sound of a distant train echoing off canyon walls, imagine the sound of a thousand airplanes passing one mile overhead, imagine an Aeolian harp made of telephone wires stretched between a valley playing in a hurricane. Now imagine all of this combined and conducted by an idiot god. The ground vibrated, or more likely it danced in tune with it. The entire planet sang the song. With the coming of the sun came the aria of these beings, and nowhere in the world was a cloud to be found by the end of the day. The sky had been drained of everything and still they sang.
Nightfall came but the singers continued into the darkness. For exactly twenty four hours they intoned. The break of dawn arrived the next day and they stopped. The silence was almost overwhelming. These silent monsters then were the first to leave. Carried into the waters with amazing precision and control, their eighteen legs propelled them from wherever they came, back to wherever they headed, to the mysterious protection of liquid earth. As each one disappeared from view another would follow. And so it went around the planet for the duration of the day. Finally, all had returned to their origins, and still the entire sky was cloudless. The planet had a barren blue skin; she was naked and rainless.
Dawn came again to the western coast, a brilliant dawn, followed by a pure, dry azure morning sky. When the rays of the sun finally reached their zenith a miracle occurred. Out in the distance could be seen the creatures. They had risen again. Each surfaced and sat on the cresting waves. Along the entire horizon floated the sea spiders; a strange system of huge buoys. In total silence and one by one, the beings flew straight up into the sky, launched themselves like missiles and exploded thousands of feet up. Brilliant flashes of incredible force ensued, each monster erupted into gigantic outwardly foaming masses that, when dispersed, reformed the cloudless sky to a clouded one. As another after another filled the sky with itself, the world began to retake it’s former shape. Huge billowing cumuli floated, the result of some bizarre transformation of these unknown creatures from the waters. Slowly it became apparent that there was a distinct difference in these new clouds. Faintly, and with a strange sense of comfort, could be heard a sound. Raining down from the sky was not water, but the alien melody of the clouds, the nadir of the terrible scherzo the beach creatures had sung the day before. It was now the delicate drift of the new sky people, barely audible but apparent if sought. Perhaps the time spent on the surface had been that of an ancient race reaching it’s pupal stage, only to be reborn into our atmosphere. Perhaps this strange race had come from the waters to be transmuted to a purer form. Perhaps we shall never know and someday become deaf to their song, like we were deaf to the songs of the clouds before we knew them capable of singing. I hope not.
Deep within the labyrinthian streets of The Stone City was a forgotten room, open to the sky, hidden from those who did not believe. When the sun would set into the desert, having desecrated the Moon's palace with it's rays, the shadows of evening came. They crawled over the pitted walls, consumed them in their darkness. A prayer for the death of the day was uttered in some unnatural language and the night was returned to it's rightful glory. The room welcomed it's king, the Moon, with twisting nocturnal veils that danced across the stone walls. The roofless chamber came alive with the soft light of the lunar god, it carved shadows totally unlike those of the sun; they breathed along the walls, flowed into and out of one another, lived. Only in the Room of the Desert Moon did such things occur. Whatever strange denizens still inhabited The Stone City wanted nothing to do with this nighttime parlor and it's unholy alliance. It had become a fable, this room, but those who knew, those who trusted in it, kept out of it and asked no questions.
The guides had taken him only so far, they would go no further. With great assurance they provided him with directions and as much provisions as he could carry. He figured he had almost a week's worth, which should be enough for a round trip. They would wait ten days for him, but no longer. He accepted this compromise and set out alone. The man traveled for days without contact, had pushed on full of faith, his only friend. When he finally reached the massive, jagged entrance to The Stone City he fell to his knees. The place seemed deserted. It reeked of inhumanity, smelled of time immemorial, felt alien and confusing. This was the place he had sought. No one knew who had built the city; it was in it's way an eternal city. Eternal in the fact it had always been written about for as far back as things were written. He doubted it was truly eternal, but it was old, older than recorded history and even though it was thought of as a cursed place, he needed to find an answer. It was time to learn if the question he asked was to an answer he didn't want.
The streets twisted in such an illogical way that he quickly became lost. The roads were covered in sand, everything was burnt and blasted from the relentless sun and the hammering of the wind blown grit. Huge walls erupted from the ground, like the city had grown from the land as a mountain does, or perhaps it had once been a mountain but been cunningly hewn into a city. It was a massive metropolis, a gargantuan circle of rock fifty miles in diameter. Everything here was stone; dark oppressive stone. Carved into the buildings were openings, some human sized, some much larger, and others much too small. Windows poked through in odd places, the walls fell into each other, twisted spires climbed for hundreds of feet. There was no logical design here, to his mind, but in a way he knew it made sense. The sun caused the odd structures to cast bizarre shadows into the lanes, sharp strokes of darkness crisscrossed others, painting abstract geometric designs on the walls. Every so often he would look down and catch the distant remnant of a foot print. There were others here besides him. He saw no one, nothing. After half a day's journey around the city, not knowing where he was, he found a small antechamber. His provisions were still adequate and he quickly satisfied his craving. He sat down and watched the final rays of the sun course through the towers of the obsolete city.
He woke to a strange sound, jumped up and searched his abode. The man cautiously walked out of the opening into the street and peered around. He saw only darkness. The moon had come out, it was near full and seemed to glow with a slight blue hue. Exhaustion took over and he shrugged off the strange color; a hallucination due to his lack of sleep. He did not wake till the next morning.
Again he stalked the streets, weaving deeper and deeper into the city. The furnace that was the sun constantly bore down upon him. He tried to remain in shadows when possible, but he had recently developed an almost uncontrollable urge to find what he sought, even though he didn't know what it was consciously. In his own way he was traveling a straight line to his answer, a straight line that was impeded by the broken reasoning of the street's coiling paths. Down a final road did he walk, where before him ascended a sheer wall over one hundred feet high. In the center of the massive barrier was a circular opening six feet wide. He climbed through the mouth and into the proceeding room. It was cool and dark. He turned around and saw the street behind him, watched as it got darker by the minute as the day came crashing down. In the back of the massive room was a darker hole, a doorway. Passing through this threshold he found himself in another room. It was crude and the walls slightly sparkled from some crystalline deposits. In this way the man proceeded, through seemingly countless doorways and rooms, deeper into the bowels of The Stone City.
Some rooms were small and dark, others had distant roofs with vents, allowing air and light in. Others looked to be the burrows of giant beetles, dug from the bedrock. One was full of old mounds reminiscent of a burial chamber. He kept moving forward, forward in his mind, not by conscious design. A force seemed to compel him in the correct direction and he listened, finally nearing his destination. The penultimate room soon arrived and he felt a chill. It was more than cold air, it cooled him in a way previously unknown. Ahead, through this room and out it's door, was a roofless chamber that glowed with the nighttime air. He had found what he sought. Not forty feet away was the Room of the Desert Moon. Each step carried the weight of the previous step, all his answers were to become questions, and he couldn't turn back; he walked into the moonlight.
The lunar God stood watch over this interloper, it brightly shown down and illuminated his movement. Tonight he was full, round and blue. The man looked up and witnessed the moon in all it's glory, softly exuding a cobalt haze that turned the fifty foot room into a reflecting chamber like deep, dark ice. The Room of the Desert Moon was a large circle, having one high, smooth, ring-like wall. The only way in or out was through the doorway the man had come from. Shadows cast from imaginary objects crawled upon the circular wall, scaled the twenty foot heights to where the ceiling should have been, then somehow managed to travel across the ceiling, even though it wasn't there. Above him danced an array of nocturnal haze, non shadows on an intangible ceiling. The rocky floor joined in and the milky apparitions swirled around his feet, yet they never touched him. All the while he remained uncovered by these strange shadows.
He stood motionless in the center of the room, an observer to the dark dance of the moon's minstrels. The man had been carrying a sack with him and he removed it, placed it on the floor in front of himself. Kneeling, he pulled out an obsidian sphere. It was shaped exactly like the moon, inky black and delicately carved with craters. A miniature black moon, the inverse of the real satellite. The shadows that had been slowly floating across the walls began to race. They spun and darted, they seemed to try to fling themselves off and onto the man. An improbable wind picked up, hundreds of tiny vortices spun across the space, blowing in all directions. The moon turned bluer, it intensified and hung even heavier in the starry, cloudless sky. The man lifted the orb over his head, challenged the moon. He was battered by wind, surrounded by shadows, and he stood his ground. Then the voice called out.
Deep within the impenetrable stone he heard the cry. It was a human sound, a lost and forlorn yell. He waited. His eyes shut, his skin pelted by the wind, the voice floated forward. Finally, after what seemed years but was only minutes, the voice ruptured forth from some dark corner of the room and came screaming into existence. He had never imagined it would be so loud, so painful and so lonely. When he opened his eyes he saw what no one alive had ever seen. He saw the Moon's Mistress.
She wavered before him, a ghost of white intensity, a spirit solid enough to be seen and blown by the wind, yet immaterial and ethereal. She was beautiful, young, haunted and he desired her. He reached his hand out, passed it through her milky body. It was ice cold, inhumanly frigid, and he instinctively pulled his hand back. She smiled into him, smiled with her mouth but not her eyes. Those eyes were gelid and black, like the orb. A slow step took her closer to the man. He couldn't move, still wanted to feel her embrace, even though he knew it would be his last. She stopped and spoke with a voice like dust blowing across granite.
"You have a question, no?"
He remembered he had come with a question, but now he feared the answer. "I can't ask you, but I have to know. Please tell me the answer."
The Moon's Mistress paused, she flickered like a candle, then spoke. "In everything there is no one."
She stepped forward, into the man, consumed him in her chalky radiance. He felt his soul dry out, he became nothing, everything. The orb he had held crashed to the floor and the moon above sighed in relief, lessened it's blue anger. The ghost continued forward and returned to the comfort and concealment of the stone walls, gone from view. Left in the middle of the Room of the Desert Moon was the man, or what he had become. The delicate embrace of the Moon's Mistress had turned the man to sand; his flesh and bones and hair and blood had been replaced with tiny grains of desert dust. The wind slowly blew him apart, spread him over the room, carried him into the sky, swirling out into the desert. By morning nothing remained of the man, only his answer, the question forgotten.
How long had he been lost? For days it felt, but that couldn't be the case since he should have perished by now. This much was clear, his time was running out and with no help or miracles he would die lost and alone, only to be discovered as a bleached and withered corpse in years to come. If he was found at all.
The sun was the worst enemy he'd ever had; it was merciless in it's desire to suck the remaining moisture from his already dry body. He sat down and waited. In every direction flowed the vibrating distortion of heat, turning the blighted landscape into a dancing mirage of nothingness, turning the sky into a wavering blue sheet. He marveled at how the heat made the sky undulate. It reminded him of water; he yearned for water. If only his hand could reach out and touch the sky to pull back a fistful of liquid. Reaching skywards he pawed at the air. Nothing. Without much hope he succumbed to his body and fell over, to sleep for the last time.
A cold breeze woke him. Had he died? Upon opening crusty eyes, those burnt pupils surveyed his situation. He was still where he had last been, the land hadn't changed. He had, though. Somehow, he was covered in a fine dusting of powdery white flakes; snow. What had become of him, he wondered. This could not be happening, so it must be a delusion. Lifting his arm to his lips he licked at the substance. It was cold and icy and wonderful. No sooner had he cleaned the snow from his arm with his tongue did it return, like frost forming on a window. It wasn't long before he had drank enough of himself that his strength began to return. Outfitted with a layer of protective cold and life giving moisture the man began his quest anew, to find escape from this lost place. All the time he knew he was dreaming, but really, what choice did he have but to dream till the conclusion. The odd thing was he had never dreamt so vividly before, another sign to him this could not be real but the last gasp of a dying brain.
After about two hours he crested a small hill and saw the tiny community in the distance, flickering like an illusion in the oppressive heat. He managed to remain quite comfortable in his skin of ice, sweating not a drop of precious water. As he walked down the only street in town, looking like a shimmering white specter, a weird thing happened. The townspeople watched the stranger slowly drag himself along the road but said nothing. Most looked on in amazement, some turned away. No one offered help. The man found a store and entered, seeking nourishment. He approached the startled attendant and asked for food, for help. He tried to explain his predicament, that he had wandered for God knows how long and needed something to eat. "Take what you want and leave." That was all he heard and all he needed to hear. Gorging himself on anything and everything, he ate till he hurt, never noticing that he had been abandoned in this strange place, never noticing the townspeople had locked him in the store. When he regained his senses and tried to exit, he found he couldn't.
What sort of trick was this? Hadn't he been through enough? Almost without knowledge of his actions he slowly approached the door and placed his hands upon the glass. Delicate tendrils of frost quickly spread from his white fingers and across the pane, encased it within the icing of the damned. Once frozen over it was no trouble to push his fist through the doorway's glass panel and shatter it to bits. The people ran, got far out of his way. The man shrugged this off, climbed out the opening he had made, and decided to leave such an unfriendly place. He found it harder to walk, though. Examining himself, he noticed the snow and ice had begun to thicken. He was freezing solid in the stultifying heat of day. His heart raced at the notion and he tried to run, hoping if he got out of town the congealing would stop. Perhaps a mile into his trek he took the final step. Those tired limbs could not break through the constricting ice he wore. He was frozen in place, frozen yet alive. The enemy he had so recently hated, that unforgiving star, now loomed above him as his only savior. With closed eyes he concentrated, searched for an answer, but all he could think of was the encroaching cold. What had been a barrier from the heat had now become an unbearably frigid hide of rime.
No one knows how or why, but that afternoon, in a small town somewhere in the South, in the heat of a torrid August sun, a man named Walter Parting froze to death, froze solid in the street.
Scars on the hand, misery in the heart. Walking the Universe alone, absolved of compassion, forgetting nothing, remembering shadows instead of form. The night revealed spaces invisible in the day, blocks of darkness twisted into strange geometry. Folded energy, alive, hiding from the sun, waiting. It opened it's eyes, rubbed the cicatrices. A way out, finally. The path was revealed in the raven formlessness. It desired to move, it enacted motion, it drank the nothingness and transmuted; incarnation, strength, will. It grew powerful.
Gnashing teeth chewed through shadow, spat light. Clawing limbs ripped energy into constituent particles. A river of null trailed behind it, the ground swayed. It reached the surface hours before dawn. The moon was missing, not yet new, it could feed for the short term in starlight. It's eyes scanned the surroundings, burned holes into the atmosphere, birthed a vapor trail of annihilation. As it moved, the space it had occupied wavered and blinked out. That area no longer existed in any form, it was pure vacuity. It continued to eat, digested all forms of energy, all things alive or dead and harbored a brutal hunger unable to satiate the emptiness.
Unaware of the annihilation beneath, the bird could only witness an expanding vacancy without comprehension. The monster below paid no heed to the animal, all was food. It would consume everything eventually. Slowly the obliteration spread, unknown to the inhabitants of the world; they would remain unaware for a very short time. At the first hint of dawn it retreated into the gloom, away from illumination. It closed it's eyes and conserved it's new strength, waited. A few more planets and it would be strong enough to devour the star. The black hole would reign in this section of the Universe. The time had come, the Destroyer was awake.
Bulletboy wanted wings. He was no longer satisfied being fired from the massive gun, clad in jump suit and brass helmet. The crowd loved the stunt, Bulletboy never failed to ignite a cheer, but the extraordinary had become mundane. The thrill of launching in a precision crescent across a stage had lost it's charm. What he craved was to fly, for real. No tricks, no costume, an actual unencumbered flight without artificial means.
In all his years as a famous entertainer he had never been injured; numerous times he survived misfires and accidents that defied logic. Without doubt Bulletboy knew, was certain beyond certainty, that he had a guardian angel. Such a wonderful creature had wings and Bulletboy desired them. He could no longer live without fulfilling his one wish and because of this he drove to the oceanside. There, on the bluff, hundreds of feet above the water, Bulletboy simply walked out into the great blue nothing. If he was correct, somehow his guardian angel would save him and, he hoped, in such a dire situation would be forced to present itself in doing so.
He plunged towards the earth and felt the warm embrace of safety. He turned to look into the eyes of aegis, eyes so deep and vast he forgot his motive. Bulletboy was gently lain upon the sand, awestruck at the angel of mercy. Slowly he rose to stand face to face with the One who had always protected him, who had enabled him to be the hero of countless children and a man who could dream more than most. The angel smiled slightly and reached around her back, disengaged her wings, spun Bulletboy backwards and affixed his prize to his spine. Tears streamed down his face, his joy was unbounded. He asked why. He felt his heart swell with love as an answer. Bulletboy slowly rose into the sky, his wings carried him as he climbed the sheer cliff he had recently plummeted and as he broke the plateau he knew the price he was paying. Gazing far below to where he had stood with his angel all he could focus on was his crumpled body on the beach; a broken empty husk. Then he noticed his angel walking away towards the sea.
Bulletboy flew down to the ground, landed within feet of the angel. Again he asked why.
"We are not celestial as your kind assumes, we're merely protectors for a chosen few. You call us angels, other species have different names, but we are something quite different in actuality."
"What would you do without your wings?"
The angel replied, "I will no longer protect. It was your greatest dream to have my wings and they are yours."
The guilt expanded across all of Bulletboy's form. He no longer desired to fly, he no longer cared about his ruined soma and apparent death. Bulletboy turned his back to the angel and insisted she accept her wings again.
"I always knew your heart would prevail." The phoenix held Bulletboy's hand and led him towards the surf. "Wait here and watch the horizon, the ship will soon arrive to ferry you to the other side."
"What other side? Where am I going?"
The angel tilted her head and drew a crooked smile, "I can't tell you that."
She soared into the atmosphere and was gone. Bulletboy rested on the beach and looked out to sea. In the distance something flickered.
The mariachi played. His hands gripped the steering wheel tighter, forcing blood from his stigmata. He was no Second Coming, he was a moron who had tried to catch a bullet in the palm of each hand. The bottle of vodka enabled him to tolerate the pain as he drove across the desert towards redemption. He cranked the music louder, half asleep, half drunk, barely containing the speeding auto on it's trajectory. A few fingers no longer functioned, he was certain tendons had been severed, but he didn't care. For the time being remaining conscious was the goal.
Something lurched into the highway a mile or so ahead. He shook his head to clear his vision, he must be bombed. Bombed and hallucinating from pain. He'd seen mirages which looked like water on the roads but never one so tangible. The elephant stopped in the middle of the interstate, he had to not only hit the brakes hard but swerve to avoid a collision. The car spun sideways into some bush and cactus, threatened to roll over and ultimately settled in a cloud of dust not unlike the cloud of haze surrounding his fractured mind.
As he came to, he had no idea how long he was out, he could see a line of majestic beasts trailing towards the horizon. A caravan of proboscidea displaced from India into the American desert. He turned the ignition and fired up the engine. At least the car still functioned. At least he still functioned. It took some doing but he navigated the auto onto the shoulder and paused to watch the caravan slowly disappear. By then the alcohol was wearing off and the pain was intensifying. He could barely grip the wheel but managed to fight past the agony and drive to the nearest town.
The blood clotted his hands to the wheel, it was an impossible torment to rip them free. Upon doing so, the vital fluid began to pour out, more than humanly possible. He panicked. Streams of ichor spouted, coating himself and the car. It bathed him in sanguine skin, he took on the appearance of a living candle. Soon the torrent slowed as the wounds congealed. The pain was gone, the buzz killed, he felt reborn. Boldly he stepped out of his vehicle and emerged into the daylight. The small crowd that had formed in the parking lot of the hospital quickly reversed as fast as they could. He smiled in his new red skin, he clenched his fists, everything worked.
The vermilion demon had manifested from a Chrysler chrysalis. Klaxons sounded in the distance, his horde was finally arriving. The ground began to shake slightly and he spotted the first of the caravan. The beasts increased their forward motion, ravenous and absurd. The town was small but fertile. It was feeding time.
The God was a forgotten deity and liked it that way. People were tiresome, selfish and stupid. Living in the mountain provided the peace of mind any immortal could desire, no human beings. Once worshiped in the image of a giant flying octopus with the head of a tiger, the forgotten one reverted to a ball of energy, just like any other God appears naturally. Why did these idiots need to have childish portrayals to link to their beliefs? A sphere of pure divinity just didn't cut it, too dull, better to pray to a feline headed mollusk. The younger generation of Gods, embodied as fantasy creatures, could fortify their egos on the fears of mortals now. Come to think of it, the Gods could be as asinine as their idolaters. It had to be admitted, there was an unhealthy joy in having a gentle, harmless goat slaughtered in One's name every full moon or enslavement and cruelty enacted in order to build a massive temple to appease a toga wearing giant living in a cloud. But for this God it had grown stale and pathetic. Solitude and reflection made more sense.
Years became centuries and the species once in awe of fire was now capable of incinerating the planet via intolerance, paranoia and a few red launch buttons. The forgotten God would not have cared a whit, only that these pesky anthropoids had encroached on the mountain sanctuary. The other old Gods had grown weary and left the solar system, leaving the planet to the loner. Centuries in the making, it was quite a comfortable bachelor pad, decked out in splendorous luxuriousness and overflowing with peaceful memories. It was a home, something treasured, not to be abandoned to hairless primates looking for mushroom cloud material. Unfortunately there were precious elements in the massif, they would locate the palace.
The God decided to return. No one would recall the once mighty being as a supreme power, these self involved hominids now primarily worshiped demiurges in their own image. Yet they told themselves -they- were made in their God's image. How quaint. The more the deity thought about returning, the more the thought made sense. A storm above the summit broke into a smile in unison with the God's mental image of the reaction gained when the population experienced a colossal flying octopus-tiger shooting lightning from tentacles, razing cities. Old school hardcore fun only a Toho studios aficionado would appreciate.
Thus came to pass the revival; a nameless terror, previously known as Pyrrin, but horribly new to the me generation. Electrical waves washed over the mountain's surface, cleansing it of soldiers. The beams were focused and intelligent, they destroyed only that which was willed to be destroyed. No goats were harmed. Pyrrin felt rejuvenated, the disgust for humanity rose to the surface after millenniums of repression. It wasn't long before faiths crumbled, hope was ruined, prayers unanswered and a not-so-new God ruled the planet. The puny race of egomaniacs had been reduced to a fawning batch of mewling sycophants. This time would be different. Pyrrin had access to cable and the internet. No more word of mouth and truths converted to mythology. That never worked, people don't listen to "fairy tales". One channel, one blog, one store to shop at. Pyrrin reverted to the natural state of eternal energy, seeing no need to continue to appear as a silly Japanese movie monster. A warning was issued to the subjects to be nice to one another or there would be Hell to pay. Within a week Pyrrin was alone, having been forced to enact his threat. People really were idiots but the mountain retreat was never more peaceful.
How Do I Sound
There is a time when one reaches a conclusion in life, an epiphany, a moment of clarity that rings forth so true and clear that the world view becomes altered. He had such a moment; it came in a flash, fully formed. It was simple and concise yet had managed to elude him for too long. He finally realized that he was a sound, a vibration; not a person. Sure, he had a body, had bones, possessed a brain, all the accouterments of matter. In reality, however, he was a soundwave; when he died he would be a beautiful drone, like the slow grinding aria of Earthly magnetic waves in the nighttime air that humans are incapable of hearing. His chord was like that, distant and drawn out, magnificent. In fact, he learned, we are all sounds. We all live in a key that plays the harmony of the cosmos. If he closed his eyes and shut down his senses he could almost hear the humming from within. It brought a wave of recognition, a sense of complete well being and it was all he yearned to hear. Himself as instrument, himself as song. To peel away the cumbersome meat and get at the reality. Could he wait for it, let it come upon him naturally in the slow dance with time? He began to doubt his will, the urge to hear himself was so overpowering. I learned of this through a chance discovery weeks after his disappearance. Scribbled on yellow paper were these thoughts, in fragmented form. Somehow I knew what he did because when I opened his window to let the summer air in I heard something. I heard it before I found his writings, so it did not come afterwards to me as an audio hallucination suggested from his documents. This I heard first and it was beautiful. It was haunted and unbound. Somewhere out in the plains of the blue vastness of sky drifted the lone call of someone I once knew, floating free in the ether of the euphony of being. Like a wave from the bellows of eternity he washed over me.
Man Of Light
There is a place only he knows about, somewhere deeply buried and cavernous. A place not sacred nor special, but sacred and special simply because it was his and his alone. The walls were full of thousands of tiny holes, the curved ceilings and floors sponge-like and cold. Each day, as the days added up like lonely miles on a tired journey nowhere, he spent contained within his place. He had no memories of who he had been, he only remembered what he was and where he was. It had always been like this to him. When he closed his eyes and concentrated, the light glowed faintly at first. Gradually it glowed brighter still till it illuminated around him, filling the air with gleaming white blueness as though each molecule gently exuded a tranquil fog of iridescence. He would always smile when he did this, knowing it was what he was and had always been. He was a man of light, a simple man with no one and nothing, a lost man with one purpose that he did well. How he shone in his darkness.
One night, far away from the man of light, a child looked up into the evening air. She wondered aloud to her Mother, “How come the Moon shines so brightly in the sky?”
I found the key that once belonged to the mouse, a key so small that no one had thought to look there. With deliberate care I picked up the tiny object and gently deposited it in my special tiny bag, made especially in the hopes of finding the key. Not one person saw my discovery so I made up an excuse about the futility of our quest and made a hasty exit. Once I was in a safe place I examined the key much closer. Pulling forth a silver magnifier I studied it and was amazed at the delicate carvings along it’s slender handle. I had no idea how a mouse, even one so renowned, could have attained such magnificent skill. It was in front of my eyes, the proof, so I accepted the fact that this was made by no normal creature but a divine one. As I was lost in admiration I started to notice movement from the periphery, but chose to ignore it. The sun had cast long shadows that disturbed me before and I had no reason to believe it was anything otherwise. It wasn’t until I felt the soft brush of fur on my leg that I was startled enough out of my reverie to glance downwards. I dropped the key onto the table. Surrounding me in my sanctuary were what must have been a thousand mice. They all sat up and stared at me. I cautiously returned their gaze and pondered my next act. Before I was able to respond, a beautifully colored mouse slipped to the forefront. I had never seen such a mouse. He had the markings of some exotic bird, possessing a blue face and red ears. His body was specked with emerald spots and his tail was pure white. This may sound ugly, as though he were painted, but on him it looked natural, graceful even. I knew he had made the key. Without thinking, I placed the key in front of him on the floor. The regular mice all sat back down, as though they where venerating a holy object. With no more than a cursory glance at me, the king mouse snatched up the key and worked his way through his followers. As soon as he disappeared in the shadows the rest dispersed in what I can only call an odd processional, devoid of human reason. Needless to say, I never mentioned this to my compatriots and, as far as they know, we never found the key.
Before the clouds were allowed to float above the hills, before the water rejected the hazy sunshine, a small man lived in a small house made entirely of diamonds. When the alabaster rays of the new sun caught the faceted surfaces of his home the reflections would paint wondrous shapes of marvelous creatures on the surrounding mountains. The man would sit for hours and watch the images, losing himself in the nonreality of the world. Before long, he had become more comfortable in this land of light and began to fear the nighttime when the reflections would be replaced by inky starshine and distant breezes. On a particularly reddish-blue evening he watched as the sun set and was replaced by a terrible black sun. It rose in the northern sky and seemed to suck the very color of the moon out. The leaves of the trees began to rustle, like the breath of wild dogs, yet there was no wind. The poor man ran to his home and closed the door, fearing for his life. He passed the night away, praying to Gods long forgotten. When the dawn finally broke he was relieved to find the sun still rising. Gathering his courage, he walked out his door and looked out over the landscape he had come to know. It had somehow changed. Everything seemed to be in place and as it should be, but he knew it was altered. The greens were not so green, the blue sky seemed somehow paler. He turned to look at his diamond house and found it was made of diamond no more. His extraordinary home was now made of coal, dirty blackened coal. Tears welled up in his eyes and for the first time in years he wept. The Shadowing had fallen over the world and things would never again be so beautiful.
Love was in the air. A fetid malodorous specter clinging to each molecule like frost beads on grass. She was shaped like an inverted beer bottle. Her legs were so skinny yet her torso so large that you nearly missed the fact she had no neck and the top of her head was flat. She made a popping sound when she walked, the crowd instinctively parted wherever she went. Accompanying the popping sound was a constant whistle through her flattened nose. Her proclivity was to walk in circles, slowly sliding sideways and up and down, much like the symbol for the Olympics if scribbled in sand by a drunken child. As she inched her way towards the piano the whistling became louder. Fortunately it had always hummed in a perfect C and when merged with the rhythmic popping it blended into his piano playing perfectly.
Their eyes met. Well, one of his eyes met hers, his other eye had always been lazy and preferred to stare towards his left nostril. He was the piano player at the bar, a job one could assume would lend to many late nights with inebriated women. Unfortunately he had a pillow body with rope arms to go along with his motionless eye, a hairline cut as a jagged scar and a forehead so depressed it cast a shadow of a crescent moon. She began to blush and felt the rush of hope, a rush of yearning she had never let die. He felt it too. Tonight would be the night he finally got lucky. He imagined her spindly fingers getting lost in the cavity that was his forehead as he caressed her unibrow. The air was charged with electricity: not the type of romantic electricity one associates with intimacy, this was the pungent burning of scorched heat permeating the remains of charred flesh. Love was indeed in the air.
Editor- This is wonderful, spontaneous and direct! You say you wrote it just last night? I didn't know you had it in you, going by the copy you've submitted.
Copywriter- It is true, but hold on, the story gets better.
Editor- Please, continue.
Before he can continue there is a knock at the door.
Editor- Drat... Yes? Come in!
Featureless Man- So sorry to intrude, the secretary informed me you were available?
Editor- Yes, yes, what can I do for you?
Featureless Man- I am from Sheboygan, my name is Archibald Taitt. That is two Ts. Um... three actually. But I digress, your wife sent me to inform you she is leaving you.
Editor- But I'm not married!
Archibald Taitt- How about you?
Copywriter- I'm married but she already left me.
Archibald Taitt- Are you certain, I would not be sent on a wild goose chase, I assure you.
Copywriter- Oh, absolutely. If she came back she'd hardly bother to tell me she was leaving!
Archibald Taitt- I see, I see... Yes, makes perfect sense. It appears I have been given the run around. I do apologize for any consternation my abrupt accusations may have caused either of you. My sincerest regards.
Editor- Pish posh! You were doing your job, no harm no foul. Care to join us for drinks? My friend here was regaling me with a wonderful tale but I regret the hour-hand has pushed past five o'clock and any more of his story would fall into overtime. We are trying to cut costs.
Archibald Taitt- Perhaps I shall. I assume you know of a good establishment in the vicinity?
Copywriter- By establishment you mean hole in the wall?
All heartily laugh, don their coats and trek to the nearest watering hole.
Inside the bar a tin can band plays a song on stage. Women gyrate to the syncopation. The Dick Van Dyke Show’s Morey Amsterdam is fighting with a bald man, the spoon player of the band. There is a loud snapping sound, the bald man tears a ligament in his wrist as he settles his fist into the soft jowls of the one time "Buddy Sorrell" but now out of work sitcom-star. A dream suddenly ended, the man never again plays the spoon because of his damaged hand. He decides to turn his life around after stewing a few years in prison for attempted manslaughter. He marries the first woman who will date him. She is obviously from the south for she has two male names conjoined to create a "woman" name: Jodean. It isn't as sexy as "Billy Gene" or “Sylvester Stallone" but beggars cannot be choosers. They ultimately have a child and name it Heath. This is the beginning of my life's story.
The man known as "Knucklehead" lay motionless in the plaza, a deep gash across his mighty forehead rhythmically pulsed a thin veneer of crimson down his face and into a growing pool of congealing blood. Nearby stood the one called "Thumbsy," mumbling incoherently to himself while he rubbed his stomach. The two had been great friends, having met years ago in the psychiatric ward. Thumbsy was committed for obvious reasons, the most conspicuous being he had surgically swapped his thumbs for his big toes. One would assume he'd have been given the moniker "Toesy" if it weren't for the fact his head was shaped like a thumb. In his skewed logic he felt having toes for thumbs, and his thumbs hidden from view in his shoes, would lessen the visual impact of his head appearing to resemble a gigantic pollex. In reality it made matters worse, for now he had two (technically three) obviously evident deformities to coincide with an unmistakably unhinged temperament; a disposition which resulted in illogical experimental surgery. Rumor was he had accomplished the "switcheroo" on his own with only a bottle of whiskey, a guillotine used to cut picture frames and a needle and thread he had sterilized in a pot of boiling water. Obviously this was a fallacy, someone of great skill must have enacted the favor. I doubt the truth shall ever be known. Regardless, by this point it was necessary that Thumbsy be institutionalized.
Knucklehead was a different story, a more complicated individual, one forcibly removed from society not because he lacked mental capacity or intellectual penetration but because he was hideously deformed and appeared menacing. He was known as "Knucklehead" despite his possession of an IQ in the 140s. The nickname became an ironic epithet in conjunction with the factual meaning of the cognomen. He had, almost literally, a knuckle shaped head. Bald since birth, ejected into our mutual plane of existence looking like a stunted version of Star Trek's Captain Picard, he had very little in the way of facial topography. His visage was more that of a football (the American variety) with the features drawn upon it, a bizarre cartoon face stretched across a party balloon. As he grew to adulthood he retained the dysmorphia. His superciliary eminence merged seamlessly into an almost flat nose, the type of nose seen in poorly funded science fiction movies about lizard people with slotted nostrils, devoid of any sizable proboscis. He had no ears to speak of, they were small flaps of skin surrounding a cavity full of jagged hair; it was like looking into the mouth of a fly. Unlike his peers, he had never purchased an iPod because the ear buds refused to remain inserted. Adding insult to injury, the sonic vibrations created a disturbing rustling sound that coursed through the tangled mane of overgrowth which temporarily disoriented and dizzied him. Whenever he heard music he imagined his ear hairs aligning themselves like metallic shavings did when presented with magnetism. Compounding the matter, he always wore a turtleneck sweater (it was his 'style'), even though the neck eventually covered his mouth; it crawled up his weak chin like a Chinese finger puzzle seeking absolution. What remained in view was a man with the appearance of a giant knuckle rising from overgrown trapezius muscles, two glassy eyes gleaming from a spheroidal mound of flesh. Individuals, upon their initial glance, had the impression of Telly Savalas' head spinning in a blur while his eyes somehow sat motionless. Knucklehead's superior intellect could not prevent him from being forced to "seek help" in the County ward, much like Joseph Merrick.
Thumbsy was intrigued by Knucklehead, never having known a person to be more distorted than himself. The two gradually struck up a meaningful relationship, Knucklehead tried to guide and mentor the cognitively deficient human extremity. A time came when it was apparent that Knucklehead did not belong in such a place, he was misshapen but otherwise he was a kind, decent and perspicacious person. His parting words to a tearful Thumbsy were, "Remember dear friend, it is impossible for a man to learn what he thinks he already knows."
Knucklehead did return on occasion to check upon the progress of his friend but with the passing years the bond they had established weakened and Knucklehead forged his own mutant form of "normalcy" out in the real world. He continued to write to Thumbsy until his letters returned unread. It was about a year later when a strangely scribbled missive arrived in his mailbox. Knucklehead identified Thumbsy's scrawl and sat down slowly pondering the cryptic nature of the note. It appeared vaguely threatening:
Who loves ya, baby?
It was cold that morning and steam wafted from the top of his knobbed head; at a certain angle one was reminded of classic photos of the clouds blowing sideways off of Everest. Knucklehead sat down on a bench, his favorite bench. He hated to admit it but he was a creature of habit. This trait made it easy for Thumbsy to locate his old friend and he cautiously stepped out from behind a tree and ambled towards his reposeful compadre. A smile crept across both their hideous faces, hands were shook, thumbs and toes crossed and a warm sense of civility ensued as they caught up on recent history. It turned out Thumbsy had finally been released and was working on a life of his own. He knew how smart his pal was and sought help creating the perfect internet dating profile. It wasn't long until they agreed upon what they were certain was the quintessential foil to snag Thumbsy the woman of his dreams:
"I'm a firm believer we cannot control our own destiny because I've read the dictionary and the word 'destiny' means "events that will necessarily happen." But I digress... I've been told I am rarely symmetrical and do not look like Tina Yothers. I was once mistaken for Lotney "Sloth" Fratelli by a Mel Brooks impersonator, otherwise I am like the penumbra of a shadow, unobserved but present in daylight. Children fear me but I not them. I spent a year and half as an accountant in Sheboygan, Wisconsin, collecting wheat pennies and worrying about the weather. I wish I played the mandolin. I like the mandolin, I feel like a twenty foot man holding a regular sized guitar. If you want your eyes to glaze over and experience boredom beyond your wildest dreams just ask me to talk about velocipedes or cardialgia (bicycles and heartburn for you "knuckleheads" out there...) An hour will feel like an eternity. I don't like to have fun but I do enjoy mirth, hooplah and glee. I will admit my appearance is somewhat akin to a "pollex" (look it up, I don't want to spoil the fun) so I'm realistic in my chances nabbing a "hottie." Still, I'd like to meet you because I have a lot to offer and I know that special someone is out there! May our roads converge."
Thumbsy was terribly grateful for the help and excited to submit the profile on his favorite dating site. He had developed a rash between his big toe and pointing finger. Unfortunately the symptom of toe-jam occurred even when the toe was grafted onto the hand. A large glob of the stuff was currently present. Thumbsy flicked the clod from the nook, it arced gently across the space between them and unintentionally struck Knucklehead above the eyes. Thumbsy instinctively wiped at it and, having forgotten to trim the rugged toenail, unwittingly ripped a deep gash in Knucklehead's skin. Anyone who has feet knows how thick and jagged a toenail can become if hygiene is ignored. Knucklehead screamed and fell to the ground. Thumbsy was horrified at his negligence and began humming to himself, rubbed his stomach to calm himself down. He wanted to soothe Knucklehead's pain and started to sing one of his favorite songs by the Sundays:
crazy I know, places I go
make me feel so tired
I can see how people look down
I'm on the outside
oh here's where the story ends
ooh here's where the story ends
I had been dating a famous actress but I knew the relationship was in trouble when she began using her body double during sex. A thing like that stings the fragile ego of a man such as myself, a man who finds solace in the softer things, like butterflies. Not that I was one to complain too much. Unfortunately my denial of the obvious hastened the dissolution of our association. The actress, having long ago removed herself entirely from the relationship, had her parting words delivered with astute accuracy by the body double who was apparently a voice-over double too.
"The fact you'd not notice, nor care, that I am no longer physically involved has forced me to reflect upon what we have become and I do not want any part of it or you." She then broke character and said, "Yeah, me neither, Loser."
Dumped by two women within seconds. I stood motionless, one tear rolled down my cheek. I slowly lifted my right arm towards her receding body as the screen door shut; a pathetic attempt to will her to turn around. She didn't. I sat in silence, chewing the words in my mind.
Years later I ran across her, which 'her' I am unable to confirm since both the real actress and the body double had merged into a singular ideal in my memory. I had grown a flowing beard and only wore sandals and Bermuda shorts, I doubt she recognized me. I was happy for the anonymity; no need to dredge up ugly pasts and assuage guilty feelings through platitudes and futile well-wishes couched in an intensely awkward moment. I remained where I sat and glanced sideways at her through my sunglasses until she vanished into the crowd like the memory she was.
I had known the day would come, I had seen it as a precocious child aged six, the year I peaked. Knowing one has peaked at such a young age tends to adversely color the rest of one's life. It removes the zest and reduces everything which follows to a dull throb: like the feeling of glee knowing you've finally conquered a hill no one could climb only to crash coming down. Forced to live with painful ligament damage which prohibits any other such grand attempts, each movement is colored by the perpetual discomfort of your glory. A twisted dichotomy of success and failure coerces the past to always be remembered as such.
At six I could sense, I had a mind like a chasm, it channeled the future into discreet packages only I could process. I was prepared to meet the actress, I knew where I would fail and I knew our paths would cross again without incident years later, it had been foretold. The reason I amounted to nothing is because that six year old clairvoyant mind wasn't able to grasp any future knowledge worth a lick. It was akin to total recall of the commercials and not the content of the news. Had I been truly special I would have known lottery numbers, seen events of great importance and been able to warp my future into something unbelievable. I guess the irony is that to see my future as I did I had to be clueless about important events or I'd have seen my future as something much brighter to begin with. To remain at a level barely above sinking, and to know it is destined, should have alerted me to what useless knowledge I was privy to. Could I have mutated it if I hadn't let it lead me? What good is knowing the future if it cannot be altered or used to an advantage? I speak from first hand experience, it isn't worth much.
I pulled myself out of my reverie and got back to work peddling my "talent" on the sidewalk. It paid for my cardboard box under the viaduct, it was a better job than I deserved. I was dubbed "The World's Worst Ventriloquist."
Me: I heard you were sick for some time, a new disease I think.
Dummy: Ugg, it was terrible. I used to get a ride to work with a few other stiffs
-pause for laughter.
Dummy: We took the Holland Tunnel to work each day and after a couple of weeks I got very ill.
Me: What did the doctors say?
Dummy: That I had Car Pool Tunnel Syndrome!
-wait for laughter to subside.
As luck, or whatever you call it, has it I have finally reached the end of my road. The map I had written for myself as a six year old abruptly ends this night, run out like the Mayan calender. I was born with a bizarre defect that makes my tears extremely salty to the point crying is life threatening. Because I never cry, out of self preservation, I know the backlog of guilt and self pity will open a deluge of saline which could be unstoppable until I am a bleached corpse on a pile of sodium chloride; drained of animation through my tear ducts. Much like the dummy I speak through. How poetically just. I've seen things you people wouldn't believe. Black cars on fire off the shoulder of the Dan Ryan. I watched Mariah Carey in Glitter in the darkness at Tan Hauser Gate. All those moments will be lost in time like tears in the rain. Time... to cry...
Bingo was a baby. A baby colossus. His massive, singular eye possessed unbelievable power. Even though he was but a few weeks old, with his eye he could see through dimensional ramparts and hypnotize those who dared to gaze upon him. For a weapon, he could launch the orb, with tendril corded like bungee, as a sort of flying fist. No one expects to be punched by an eye. Bingo craved power but he was still young and foolish. His initial foray into ascendancy came when he encountered a herd of giraffes.
These 'camelopards,' as they were once known, are curious creatures. It was inconceivable they would not investigate the huge, one eyed baby resting peacefully in the field. Bingo was expectant, he knew what he had to do. When the giraffes approached and looked into his eye, Bingo emitted a blast of hypnotic suggestion, erasing the supple minds of these inquisitive creatures. Tabula rasa forged, Bingo had an inspiration. The giraffes slowly turned around and headed towards a nearby lagoon, submerging themselves in the murky water, allowing only their eyes and nose to be visible. The baby colossus had made gentle giraffes believe they were ferocious crocodiles. These were worse than most; particularly savage, ravenous and aching for a fight.
According to his habit, the fisherman known as "Original Joe" began trolling the large waterway early. He always saved the deep pond for last, waiting for the fish to allow the growing heat to warm the cooler water enough to enjoy the swim in what they thought was safety. Original Joe often caught his best supply in the deep pond. But today would be different. The paddle slurped against the negligible waves, propelling his skiff into the middle of the calm pool. Joe caught movement from the corner of his eye. He scanned the water to notice a large wake. Then another. Merging at his locus. The hairs on his neck began to ruffle, yet there was no breeze. Original Joe tried to reverse his boat and paddle out but it was too late. He saw what was behind the individual wakes, saw something he never would have conceived. Partially submerged giraffe heads drifted ominously towards his precarious situation. In almost perfect unison the giraffes attacked, knocking Original Joe from his dry perch. What happened next was hideous and gruesome. Poor Joe was mauled and digested in what seemed like seconds. Piranhas would have been proud.
On the shore from the other side cries rang out. The few townspeople at the lagoon had witnessed the unbelievable. No one could process the horror. Had they seen what they saw? Had Original Joe been attacked and eaten by a vicious herd of aquatic giraffes? They didn't have to wait to find out. Their cry of terror alerted the monsters to their presence; the giraffes turned their attention to the shoreline people. More food. Forcefully they swallowed what remained of Joe and headed to the beach. The heads broke the glistening surface, the necks materialized and the beasts rose from the liquid sheath like demons belching forth from the earth. The dread had been unleashed upon the unsuspecting fishing village in the unlikely shape of giraffodiles. Today, as ghastly as it was, would be a better day than tomorrow and the coming years. Bingo The Baby Colossus was just getting started in his reign of terror.