The line moved quickly as each individual raced down the chute without much regard for the previous rider. While I thought it was a foolhardy decision, I was pleased with each inch closer it delivered me to the open mouth of the slide and unknown route of the plastic tongue. My bare feet arched away from the dry and pointy floor boards. Under normal circumstances, I would have never surrendered my feet to such sharp and dubious unfinished wood. But I was drawn to this ride in ways that still eluded my logical mind. The support structure was old, rickety, unstable, with splinter teeth that pulled away from the beams. Separate pieces of the poorly molded, plastic chute was connected together shoddily; stinging ridges bit at the flesh that bulleted by. Brown water cradled the body on its journey, leaving a rank, organic film on the skin after emergence on …wherever the Other Side was.
Come to think of it, I could not recall if I ever saw the patrons that rode exit in the same place… if they exited at all. Thinking on the matter (though not much), my eyes barely recognized the fact that there was now only two people ahead of me. I had previously decided that I was going to wait a full thirty seconds, at least, after the person in front of me went in to dart down myself. I didn’t want my ride to be spoiled by rider collisions or an obstructed view. (Nothing is more dissatisfying than having another’s experience infringe upon one’s own when submitting to the Great Letting Go.)
The brunette (about my age) in the bright red bathing suit was having trouble committing to the action. She sat, then stood, then sat again. Looking back at us with an apologetic smile, she stood up again and began stepping forward and back in a ritualistic, indecisive dance. The boy with matted (blonde?) hair ahead of me (about a decade our junior) crossed his dirt-caked arms and began rolling his eyes in melodramatic exasperation. In an attempt to overcome her own apprehension and to break the rising impatience around her, the brunette laughed nervously and made a self-deprecating comment, mostly to herself though she was looking at me and the boy for reassurance. The boy tilted his head back and looked down his nose at her before muttering “I’m done waiting,” and popped into a streamline as he belly-flopped in the shallow water. Splashed with murky water, she frowned a little as she looked down at her suit. Her eyes then asked me to wait for her, and I obliged after feigning consideration by summoning words of encouragement. After a couple more minutes and some impatient groans from the others in line, she tentatively pushed herself down the shoot, her eyes looking for support from the sky, the random seagull, the hazy sun, or anything else that might be sympathetic to her confused desires.
Finally, my turn. My lips took their time rounding over silent numbers as I counted the seconds since her departure. Peering into the floating grime and muddled reflections, my mind glossed over the possibilities of where I was headed or why I wanted to do this at all. There was no sensible reason, just these etheric hands guiding me to the mouth and my insatiable curiosity. I stepped into the water; it was lukewarm and a little gritty. My feet wanted to recoil, and my nose crinkled. But I pushed the criticisms and warnings about sanitation down, and realigned my determination with my curiosity and necessity for novelty. Head-first or feet-first? Sitting upright or lying down? I don’t remember which position I chose before launching myself into the Unknown.
Brackish water, slung to the sides of the chute, flowed into my nostrils and partially open mouth. The light shifted from the yellow-white haze of polluted city daylight to sudden black as I passed between open and tunneled segments. Adrenaline began to surge with each new twist or sensation. I spilled down hills and whipped around turns, the underside of my thighs, against the plastic, hot from the speed. Passing swiftly through the air within the tunnels, smells of mold and organic decay were augmented. Was I now in the alimentary system, headed to the belly of the ride? I kept going down…
“Hello, and welcome.”
A lean, attractive man with dark, curly locks behaving erratically over his hazel eyes greeted me. I took his warm hand, extended from a flamboyant cuff of a blouse underneath a burgundy jacket sleeve. I held my hand in his, and let him initiate his measured shake. I didn’t want him to let go; he caught it and cleared his throat as he dropped my hand. “First time?” He asked me.
I raised a well-groomed eyebrow and gave a bit of a smirk as I headed off to the iridescent purple-blue-green wall to my left. Light (unknown, artificial-looking source) danced of the facets, enough to give those with a predisposition towards it seizures. The more I moved, the more light danced. At this point, I noticed I was holding something. A collection of prints, photos and papers in a somewhat ragged but thick gray folder. I repositioned it securely under my arm, freeing up both hands to explore the intricacies of the wall. As if my hands were trained, they found several nooks and niches quite easily. I sensed the organization within the wall and intuitively found its switches and safes. Pressing it just so, I managed to open a section up for me to step into. As I moved within and between the crystalline walls, I found artwork, lockers and old arcade games wither made of or embedded into the walls. High above me were small trails on shining crystal; higher still were ornate chandeliers and hanging lanterns made from the iridescent matter.I saw no particular structure I could call a ceiling though.
A pull on my shoulder to my right. My hand slid softly over the cool, smooth faces of the lockers until I felt the urge to stop. Tap, tap, tap in three specific locations on the face, and the locker clicked open. Nothing remarkable was inside, merely small trinkets that I didn’t recognize. I shut the locker quietly and continued to explore, walking down random hallways, following my whim.
Telegraphic snow sputtered high on the wall in one room to which I was delivered. No projection source could be identified. The crystalline hearth was a few hues lighter than the walls and stood out considerably. I doubted it housed any fire known to mortals. (I was unsure if there indeed was a fire burning inside that my human eyes mistook for confusing light play.) I walked passed the stools and benches. Didn’t indulge in the presented foodstuffs on the table (they all looked to shiny and waxy anyway). Images flickered (in front of me? behind me? within me?). Geometric shapes rotated in spaces that switched in and out again rapidly. Each rotating object looked like glass etchings, condensed fog or spiderwebs. My pointed finger crooked outward to the empty space around me in anticipation and hesitation. I simultaneously wanted to and didn’t want to touch. As I moved slowly to the other walls within the room, I found rotating objects seemingly embedded into or projected out of the walls. Some looked in/out only inches from the surface of the walls, while others looked in/out many feet or yards.
I stopped in front of a rotating cube that seemingly hovered about six inches into the wall. Its movements switched between fluid and jagged, spinning effortlessly for a few seconds before it began snapping through differing positions abruptly, like skipping music. The cube itself could fit within the palm of my hand. I decided that it pleased me and that I was going to take it. The task of pushing my hands into the wall was surprisingly easy. There was some tension and pressure around my skin and between my veins, but movement within the wall was much like shifting solid sheets or disks through molasses. Move slowly and with purpose, and flesh could adapt (or the wall could adapt to flesh) just fine. Move quickly and unpredictably, perhaps the sheets would feel like needles or knives. My hands closed in around a rectangular structure that seemed to be the ‘container’ for the cube. It felt a few inches thick, like a frame that I could clasp tightly between my thumb and the rest of my fingers. Extracting it took some time, pulling treasure through what felt like drying concrete now.
It came out dry and thin, no thicker than cardboard. On it was what looked to be a drawing of the cube (pencil), a composite of all the positions within one space. Lines pointed from areas on/within the cube, leading outward to the empty space, where math and unknown symbols were scribbled. I ran my fingers over the writing, detected no grooves or smudging; the markings were permanent. Picking at the edges of the ‘cardboard,’ I found that this, too, was seemingly indestructible, at least from superficial insult. I stowed the cubeboard in my gray folder and easily found my way back to the main room, where I had been greeted.
To my delight, the dark-haired man was still there, almost in the exact spot where I last saw him. His eyes caught me instantly, though he was in the process of greeting others; he shifted them quickly back to the other woman so to not appear rude. I felt his calls in the quick glances he stole and his shifted stance, pointing a foot my way. His hand unsuccessfully fought the urge to gesture to me ‘one moment;’ the microsecond message conveyed perhaps unconsciously with the hand that rested by his side while the other gesticulated a show for the woman. I hung back patiently and enjoyed watching him become slightly antsy. After some more words, the woman thanked him, took something from him (a flier? a pamphlet?) and walked away. He began to say something to another greeter, probably excusing himself for a bit, and then my view was obstructed by a cleanly shaven, bald, attractive man in thick, black framed glasses. My eyes attempted to dart pass him, but he moved with my intentions so that he was the focus. I’m sure my annoyance was written clearly on my face, but he just ignored it as he donned his charm-laden smile and continued his welcome spiel. Most of his words ran right past my brain without a hint of acknowledgment, except for “Labyrinth.”
“Blah blah The Labyrinth blah blah. Maps and guides, blah, blah, blah. The Labyrinth blah blah blah.”
I almost asked about this title when a hand, complete with the ivory and burgundy, patted the bald greeter’s shoulder. “I got this,” my hazel-eyed man said as he motioned to me. The greeters exchanged looks of contempt and irritation. No doubt this exchange aired the subdued competition. I wondered if all the greeters were in competition with one another. Looking around, I took note of a handful of other greeters, both men and women, that spotted the quiet tension. Most turned away quickly after a facial tick of commentary.
A shit-eating grin came across the bald man’s face. “Of course you do.”
My man came between me and the bald man and turned back to the other greeter, waiting for him to leave us. “Is she new here?” My man was not expecting the question and furrowed his brow. “Because you know, newcomers are not allowed to roam the halls without an escort. Surely you already asked her that before you allowed her to scout the area.” This was not a question; it was a threat.
“I am not new here, in fact.” I said, stepping up so I was just beside my man.
“Oh,” the bald man said rather loudly with much affectation, drawing the attention of other greeters and newcomers alike. “My mistake. Terribly sorry. You must already know Ted. I’ll just leave you two alone.” He proceeded to dig his heels in and put his index finger to his chin. “It’s just…” he shook his head a little. “Well, it’s just that… I’ve been here for a while and I can’t seem to place you.” He stared at me with a smirk he let leak out the sides of his mouth as he feigned bewilderment. The tenacious bastard was engaging in foreplay before the inevitable interrogation.
“My look changes quite frequently.”
He nodded. “Hm. Well…” he looked me over, making it obvious to both me and Ted that he was indeed checking me out. “I have a knack for remembering…” Pause and his eyes slid down my body. “…faces. And I’m sure I’d remember you.” He winked.
I shifted my stance, brushing up against Ted. I felt the heat licking off his body; his stony face did not betray the hot temper.
I was beginning a reaming about how none of this was any of his business when the bald guy’s aura changed. “What is that?” He motioned to the folder. Again, not a question, an accusation of some sort.
At this point, some of the other greeters gravitated over and were bending their ears (not so subtly either) to hear us. I looked down at it, now in my hand, and raised it in front of me to examine it. I didn’t really know what it was. I knew it was mine; I had the feeling it held important information. But the only piece of information I was sure about was the cubeboard. I hadn’t felt the urge to check to see what else it held. To him, I probably either looked like I was a moron or that I was taunting him, staring blankly at the folder that I flipped and turned in front of us. He clenched his jaw and took my uncertainty for provocation. Quickly, the folder was snatched up and pulled open by the shithead greeter.
Inside there were notebook pages full of diagrams and comments, the cubeboard, a moving snapshot of what looked to be static and snow, fluid apparitions contained in tablets and numerous photos and sketches. He leafed through some, moving away while trying to focus. Ted grabbed at the folder and many sheets fell to the ground. We regained possession of the folder and I crouched down to gather up the notes. Onlookers could not make sense of the contents of the folder nor our squabble. It seemed some eavesdropping greeters may have had an idea about what was going on, why the contents of the folder might be important, and who I could potentially be or represent. (I still had no idea though.) Ted kicked the bald man away as he was trying to shout something. Another greeter, a 30-some man with long brown hair and an easy-going vibe, pulled the bald man off in another direction, telling him to calm down. Female greeters started at the scattered materials without assisting.
After Ted and I reassembled the notebook, a small swarm of people closed in around us. Salespeople? They were definitely trying to solicit something to me, each one pushing a folder in my hand and attempting to talk louder than the other. Many of them were women in skirt suits and updos with bleached smiles and tired eyes that strained to twinkle brighter than her neighbor’s. Ted attempted to keep them within arm’s length, holding up his hand while trying to get their attention. “Ladies!” And then “Sir, please, don’t crowd us,” as a well-dressed man with a comb-over squeezed his way to the front. As Ted pushed back at the crowd, I looked down at all the folders being tossed my way. Many had names scrawled across the front in fancy fonts. Some had photos, phone numbers, emails, ID numbers or hologram images. Every folder was crisp, clean, eye-catching, pretense oozing from every square centimeter.
The squawking was silenced by Ted’s impressive bellow. “You all must leave now. You are intruding on our time.”
Catty remarks and sour looks were flung in Ted’s direction. A lot of “She would be better off with so-and-so,” and “How did he get so lucky?” “What does she think she is doing with him?” “He doesn’t know what he’s doing.” “She doesn’t know what she’s doing.” “Probably worthless anyway…” One young woman demanded that Ted give me his folder, waving her finger in the name of Protocol and Rules. She crossed her arms, intent on watching him complete the task.
With a sigh, he removed the light gray, ratty folder from his inside jacket pocket. Coffee and water stains rippled the fibers and curled the edges. Frayed edges of worn notebook and sketch paper stuck out the sides, no flaps holding them in place. Quotes and lyrics were written in black ink and marker across the back. Turning over, big bold letters declared “TED FUCKS.” My eyebrows went up. He pressed his lips together, glanced at the floor before shrugging with a smile.
The woman stepped up to me and whispered, loud enough for Ted to hear, “If you want any serious work done, call me.” She handed me her smooth, thick folder. Shooting Ted a contemptuous look, she headed off, heels clicking with purposeful rhythm. Ted began to lean in, and, as if she had Ted-deflating radar, she shouted without turning “In fact, call anyone else besides him.” Her clicking heels did not miss a beat.
I tapped my finger lightly over the declarative, revealing phrase on Ted’s folder. My inquisition was soften by playfulness. He exhaled, shrugged with open hands and said, “Everyone takes everything too seriously around here.”
I looked at the folder, “Ted fucks, huh?”
He proffered a sheepish smile, executed horribly; the obvious slight dilation of his pupils and mischievous glint in his eyes destroyed and feign of innocence. I had no line of questioning regarding his interest in me; I already fully knew it from his physical responses. His shiftiness indicated some uncertainty in his speculation of what I thought of him. So I smiled. “Good to know.” He let out a relieved laugh, and before he could get too distracted, I sat in a nearby chair and motioned for him to come sit next to me. “I have something to show you.” I opened my folder on my lap as he came and took his seat next to me.
Shuffling through the materials, I came to the cubeboard. “That.” I said as I pointed to it. I didn’t pick it up; instead, I let him lean across my chest so that his face would have to come near my breast, his breath hitting my bare neck and collarbone as he moved in close to see the writing. And if we didn’t have such things to talk about, I would have goaded him into taking me right there. After being momentarily distracted by my flesh, he focused on the cubeboard. “Huh,” and he laughed a little in delight.
“You know what it is?”
He nodded enthusiastically. “Yup, I know exactly what this is. And I feel fortunate to know the person that can Extract.” It was a compliment, the underlying implications I could not completely grasp. He was excited, and though I saw the intention on his face, the kiss still came as a bit of a surprise. He tasted sweet; we lingered. Then he stood up and took my hand. “Come on. I have a lot to show you, and we have a lot to talk about. Here is not the place.”
I gathered up the folders (mine and his), leaving the rest behind in a messy pile. Through the river of people, we made our way quietly and efficiently to the entrance of The Labyrinth. We disappeared like ghosts behind the glittering walls, and I felt cradled by warmth.
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First, your soundtrack:
My brothers and I arrived at the park about two hours before sunset. The vehicle that delivered us was a strange mix of a hippie van and a school bus. It felt like we were returning from a field trip or sporting event, yet we were dressed in suits and professional duds. We were all itching to get in some exercise at the park before sunset, maybe run a couple trails and do the circuit work-outs. All of us changed as quickly as possible at different ends of the van/bus. Some little fleshy dragons that could be mistaken for insects if one didn’t look closely enough kept flying in the window near me. They were cute and distracting, but they quickly became annoying as they insisted on buzzing around my head or landing on me. Some of them would bite or spit fire so I shooed them out the window several times. Once they were all out, I closed and locked the back window. Peering out, I saw our driver for the first time.
He was a small, thin, pale man, dressed in grays and blacks. A baseball cap covered his bald head, and the chains hanging from his wallet jangled as he walked. He looked at me through the smoke escaping his mouth with other-worldly, luminescent, steel-gray eyes. Storm clouds rolled in him and imps sought to escape his skin. Before becoming too transfixed, my brothers called for me to finish getting ready. I nodded and put on my sneakers. As I was tying them, the driver walked over to the front of the van/bus, a fresh cigarette hanging from his mouth. He began to bullshit with my brothers. As he talked with them, the sky changed rapidly. The sun quickly dropped closer to the horizon. The driver made eye contact with me before walking outside again. The numbers on the clock had jumped 30 minutes in their three-minute conversation.
My brothers shook their heads, as if they had water in their ears that they were trying to dislodge. I made my way to the front of the bus. A Brief History of Time, constellation maps and the Beastie Boys’ album Intergalactic were sprawled out on the floor of the van/bus by his seat. I rose my head to see the driver outside smiling as he crushed his cigarette under his foot. As quick as he was to light another, he seemed to jump out of my view.
The weirdness was apparent to me, but I filed the feelings away for now, deciding not to act. I still didn’t know what this encounter meant really.
“Are we doing this or what?” I called to my brothers. “It’s getting late fast.”
They stopped fiddling with their ears, and we all emptied out of the bus to run among the trees and ponds, toward the setting sun.
I’m in a house. But who am I in this house? Am I the cyberpunk woman with white hair and blue lips, dressed in a black and purple gown? Am I the little girl standing in the upstairs hall in a party dress, with my black hair done up in ribbons and barrettes? Or am I the hired help, somewhere in between these two females, that is supposed to be getting everything in order for the wedding? I think I’m the hired help: the 20/30-something woman in the crisp, white, button-down; the simple, black pencil skirt; and brown hair pulled so tight in a ponytail that my eyes always look like they’re slightly watering.
What am I doing? …besides not being productive and holding things up currently. My boss, a domineering matriarch with permanent frown lines and etched, sinister eyebrows, barks orders at me from the bottom of the staircase. What am I doing up here? Isn’t everyone dressed already?
Oh… OK, now I know what to do.
The little girl is not ready. She has no tights and no shoes, and she is starting to pick the rhinestone barrettes out of her hair. I take her hands.
“You mustn’t play with them right now.”
“But they hurt.”
“Oh,” I make a frowny face as I kneel down to talk to her. “I know it hurts. Barrettes suck. But you only need to wear them for a little while. After the ceremony, you can take them out. OK?”
She rubs her eyes and nods. “If it makes you fell any better, my ponytail hurts like a bitch.” She looks at me. “Uh… don’t tell the other adults I said that. OK?” She nods. “Great. Now, we need to get you in tights and shoes.” We go into her room.
As this is going on, the cyberpunk bride is arranging her “veil:” a silver headdress that extends over her head like horns and below her chin like tusks. Blinking lights frame her face. For some reason, she stays on the stairs while others prep her and workers try to squeeze by her to move from the top levels to the bottom ones. She seems cold and distant, almost dead underneath her impatient and dissatisfied exterior. She looks at her pointy, black nails or the glass, spherical chandeliers above her. A young man, who I soon identify as the groom, comes into view at the bottom of the stairs. His attire matches hers: black and purple with silver accents. His hair is wind-whipped; the black and white colors make it look like an electrified skunk has latched onto his head. He is shouting to the bride about something. I’m not sure what the argument is about, but he is certainly less than pleasant to her and she is certainly less than happy about or attentive to what is going on.
As his voice escalates, the girl, now sitting on the bed in her white tights and patent leather shoes, begins to cry. I don’t ask, but she answers.
“He always so mean to her. I hate him.”
I am guessing that the bride is probably her sister or half-sister. The bride is too young to be this girl’s mother, and the relationship seems too intense for it to be niece-aunt or cousins. As I am doing my assuming, the girl becomes very still, as if she is listening to me.
She changes. As she dries her eyes, I see that they have grown older and changed color. The muscles in her face tighten and she assumes a new persona. Her voice is that of a grown woman… or rather, female cyborg.
“I am Out of Time,” she says to me, plainly. We both pause. She flickers back into the little girl. “I don’t want to be here, like this.” She begins to cry again.
I try to handle the situation. So I start the only place I really can.
“OK. OK.” I lay my hands in the air. She flickers back to the lady cyborg; her mannerisms and demeanor show me who she is moment to moment. I ask her: “What Time are you in?”
“Many. I live several lives simultaneously.”
“Some I don’t know. Sometimes I cannot control where I go; I just pop in. I don’t know how many lives I am living exactly, right ‘now,’ but I do know that she’s me and she’s trapped.” She flickers and cries. Instantly, another young girl that looks almost exactly like her, except with blonde hair, appears behind her.
“Who’s trapped? Who’s ‘she?'”
Two, three, four more girls, all very similar, but slightly different, pop into existence.
Flicker. The voice is now a blend between the adult cyborg and the little girl. “The bride. Out there. She’s me. I’m her. She just doesn’t remember. He made her forget.” The crying of the girl with black hair begins to reverberate all around in the room. The other young girls look around with dry eyes. Many look focused on a task, or at least, are driven by strong feelings. They begin to talk in unison about numbers and counting and manifestation. I cannot make sense of it all.
I hear glass break outside. The chandeliers, they fell from the ceiling. Broken glass is strewn all over the upstairs hallways and down the staircase. The bride is nowhere to be found.
The young girls rise together and exit their bedroom. These mirror images begin to oscillate between one and many incarnations. When the girls come together as one, the image is of a young adult woman with black hair and violet eyes. She wears an oversized men’s button-down shirt. Her legs are bare and milky white. She wears no shoes and rolls her feet slowly from heel to toe.
Parents, relatives, the bridal party and guests all tell her to stay put, not to move. “There’s broken glass everywhere; you’ll slice up your feet.”
“I am aware,” she says as she walks forward without flinching or avoiding the glass. “You seem not to appreciate how much I do not want this. I will show you that I’d rather walk through broken glass (this broken Reality) than be a part of it.”
And she walks slowly and purposefully, never wincing or crying. In the windows and mirrors she passes by, all can see images of a thousand incarnations that she is, including the little girls and the cyberpunk bride, including tribal warriors and circus performers, including war machines and hummingbirds. The hallways are long, but she continues. Though glass embeds itself in her skin, she does not bleed on the forest-green carpet.
(Transcribed two years later:)
Hiking the Inca Trail was one of the most inspiring and sacred experiences of my life. This post is not about that. This post is about the days that followed that mystical and exhausting trek.
We arrived back in Lima from Cusco; already upon landing, I could feel the change of atmosphere and climate, physically, socially and culturally. We piled in a bus and headed off to the coast where my uncle, his two high school buddies and his friend’s son could relive their youth in sand, surf and beer. Despite their winter season, we had hopes of mild coastal weather. In my mind, I planned to swim, run on the beach, relax, read, go to town for cerviche and take a surfing lesson or two in the days to come.
From the populated city with strange billboards, rogue dogs and tattered housing, we traveled to a sandy ghost town on the coast. The streets were practically deserted. Most of the restaurants and shops had closed. Locals kept a few businesses open, but nothing more than a few blocks were in operation.
We were met with colorful totem faces at the gates of the resort; sea green, bright blue and yellow extended a cheerful welcome, contrasting the grey skies and misty air. Stepping across the threshold, empty rooms awaited us. One of the owners met us there and escorted us to the unlocked room. Two were next to each other, close to the eating area and front gate; one was around the corner, closer to the workers’ area and the back gate to the beach. Each had two beds. Since I was the odd woman out, I inhabited the isolated room.
After setting our stuff down and getting acquainted with the perimeter, the owner explained that he would be absent from the premises most of the time. There were two workers that spoke very little English. The only other residents at the time were a couple, and they would be leaving shortly. Since the town was closed down for the season, we had only one restaurant from which to order food, and only one taxi driver that would deliver food and take us into town. The one and only day we ventured into town was to get cash, eat out at one of the open restaurants, catch up on email at a cyber café and to collect fruit, canned goods, and alcohol for our rooms. All other hours for those four days was spent at the resort with only each other, the rain, the wet beach, the gulls, rogue dogs and the limited contact with the workers who made us breakfast every morning and ordered our lunches and dinners.
The chilly air, drab sky and turbulent waves told me that I was not going to be swimming at all this trip. Since the owner that offered me surfing lessons over the phone was MIA the entire time, I knew I would not be surfing. I communed with the sand dunes and shells when it was nice enough to sit on the beach. I may have been fully clothed in a hoodie and long pants, but it was peaceful all the same. One of my wishes had come true: I had the beach almost entirely to myself. Listening to the water was such a pure and simple pleasure that if not for the chilliness, I probably wouldn’t have left the shoreline.
The days passed slowly. At nights we played cards and drank bland beer. We donned hats made from alpaca wool and blankets bought from the plazas at Cusco. With nothing of interest on TV, hardly any electronic entertainment and no way out of the resort, we were left to each other’s company, the beach and our internal landscapes. When the men were out surfing, my first inclination was to “busy” myself. So I read… until I wanted a change. I tried to write and draw, with little success at first. For some reason, it felt forced (probably because it was). There I was, unable to get wrapped up in a creative whirlwind when I had the space, the time, the peace and the quiet to do so. Of course, when I was at work just a few weeks prior, I longed for the R&R, and when it arrived, I didn’t know what to do with it.
The first day I felt unproductive despite the fact I had finished a book I had been meaning to read. That night was one of the most solitary that I can remember. The wind pounded against the glass doors as I lay in an unfamiliar bed on a deserted coast. In the morning I was greeted with grey skies and roaring waves again. It was difficult at first for me to give into the seeming “nothingness.” I paced and repeated old patterns of behavior to the best of my ability. As I begun to allow the time to fall over me as it would, I was graced with some slow inspiration; I let it creep into my sketchbook. It was of a different nature than which I had been accustomed. I spent more time sketching and reading in those few days than any other time in my life. Time was angled differently there, with strange and unpredictable periods of lengthening and shortening. Many things were different in that place. I noticed the difference in expectation, passage and association.
Dogs with no names came bounding through the center room as we played cards, perhaps looking for scraps or a temporary friend. Clouds rolled in a dance with the tides. The gulls called out messages as they landed on the shore. The night air was heavy with water and called us out for company.
Looking back, I should have taken some invitations from the Night to walk its beach. I am just thankful that I could drop out of the hectic world for a while to see another one. Without the people and the traffic of their on-season, I was able to really see that shore, able to experience it as it is. The isolation, once faced, was simple. The quiet, once appreciated, was comforting. The openness, embraced, was breath-taking. The grey, accepted, can be a gentle hand of inspiration.
Ribbons (various colors)
Horse Skull (mock.. but not mocking)
Glowsticks (yellow and green)
Pumpkin (and baked seeds)
Black, gray, green and yellow paint
I was walking along the perimeter of the white-burgundy room. The width of the perimeter was about 6 ft before the endless drop into the strange abyss from which the burgundy sheen emanated; the length of the perimeter was unknowable. The transparent blood streams and stark natural daylight filtering through gateways warped the angles and breadth of the room. The velvet cushions and whimsical beds closest to the wall on separate shelves elevated 3 ft higher seduced the serotonin. The spicy floral fragrances drew oe to the comfort provided. The room had no perceivable ceiling or ground, only the bedding perimeter followed by the walking perimeter with unpredictable open rectangular gateways to the outside. I knew not what the meaning of this place was. I observed the structural inconsistencies while feeling its pull on me to stop, to sleep, to lounge. Every inch was white textures to seduce the senses, from the walking perimeter floor to the endless walls stretching upward to an unknown space.
Reaching a gateway, I knew if I wanted to leave in a timely manner, I should take the oppurtunity. One could never trust one’s perceptions in such a place. Oppurtunities were blessings.
Walking into the daylight, my eyes burned from the glare. As I adjusted to the light levels, what I saw in front of me was far from what I had expected. A dark, narrow hallway greeted me; a dark hallway MADE of doors, endless closed doors.Every space that comprised the “walls” were some part of a door; it was as if they were attached at the hinges. Lights and sounds stirred within them, and yes, of course, I was curious of what was inside of each one of them. However, I knew that I had to press on to the end of the hallway.
I emerged somehow. I standing at the edge of an apartment complex that looked very similar to the one of which I was a resident. This complex was stretched to the size of a desert. The added space and confused arrangement of the buildings made it such that it could be said to resemble a labyrinth of sorts. The winds that rolled through felt alien and distraught, as if oscillating between urgency and stagnation. I saw people hiding inside apartments, huddled against eac hother in terror or splayed out in a drug-induced euphoric haze. Others ran frantically down sparsely populated streets, toting guns and infected with frenzy. What was happening? In what world was I delivered?
I spotted two figures strolling casually down a sidewalk. They were both men that fit into a that other-worldly “ageless” category. They appeared to be somwhere between 25 and 50, an optimal age range to shift between. The both wore dusty blue jeans and leather boots, and they both had the aire and build of an ex-military man. The “older man” had crew-cut dark brown hair, blue-gray steely eyes, and a broader chest that a muted blue t shirt covered. The “younger man” was a shade taller and thinner with longer, well-styled dirty blonde hair. He sported a plain white t shirt rolled up at the sleeves to hold his cigarette pack and shining silver sunglasses. He reminded me of the “man with no eyes” from Cool Hand Luke or Neil Gaiman’s Corinthian. I could smell their soullessness for miles and miles. Before I witnessed them take out a dozen people, half inside one apartment and the other half street runners, I knew they were beyond dangerous. They were near-perfect marksman.
Somehow I happen upon them. I’m immediately scared and confused. They are staring at me through glass doors of a hospital. I know their game now. They like to hunt. Their favorite prey are the strong-willed, the ones with survival instincts on ovedrive, the fight-or-flighters. They hunted those. The others that holed up in their homes waiting for their deaths were more brutally slaughtered. At least the ones hunted died quick. Maybe that was a reward for a life on the run, a life without peace or sleep, a life dependent upon adrenaline and good evasive choices… or dumb-fuckin’ luck. They got everyone in the end though, regardless of who you were or how hard you ran or fought.
So here they are, looking right at me. Corinthian is grinning ear-to-ear while Steel remains more reserved. It is Corinthian that speaks first. He tells me that I’m playing. I say that I won’t. We have a discussion in which they both point out that I really don’t have a choice in the matter. If I don’t play, I die now. I am still a bit surprised that don’t shoot me on the spot with my protesting, but I guess they see me as good game.
Corinthian tosses me a loaded revolver. “Those are all the bullets you get,” he says, “use them wisely.”
Steel begin to explain to me “the rules,” as if I listening. Though I understand that my next action may be perceived as cheating (and who knows the penalty for that?), I follow through with my plan regardless, shooting Steel right in the chest as he talks. He stops talking upon impact of the bullet. Ripples run through his chest like water. He shakes his head a bit, but is still standing in perfect health. He looks at me with a chilly smile. “It’s Game On then.” They both laugh and relocate both them and me. It has to start as a hunt. Relocation is a random process.
I am in the middle of the complex with one less bullet, no plan, no maps and no idea where my hunters are (and “in reality” how many copies of them exist simultaneously). They are all and all are them.
I look around.
and I run.
It seems to go on forever. It feels that with every step, the humanity in me is slowly beaten out.I miss my loved ones so I go to the ones I know are left, this time deciding to huddle in with them instead of run.
We are on a third story apartment somewhere toward one edge of the complex. We took the first empty one we found. The musty smell, gaudy tiffany lamps and numerous quilts made it obvious that it was previously inhabited by an older couple. We stayed there, one person on guard every night. Our movements and noise levels were often kept to a minimum so to not attract attention. The paranoia was different on the inside; it ate away at a person all the same, but with different teeth.
One day I spotted the men heading down our street. They glanced over as I was looking out the window; there was no use hiding now. They were coming. With more than 2/3 the complex dead, there were only so many places left that they had not ventured. Here they came. I felt them right outside the door.
I would have panicked if I had not lost myself then.
I was back in the white-burgundy room. There seemed to be a thick smoke, more erratic lightig and stronger fragrance. The lights and sounds were no longer a underlying lullaby; they were an unabashed assault on the body and mind. Space eluded us all. People quickly became hysterical and crippled with fear or confusion. Most clamored for the elevated perimeter, not being able to lift themselves. Some fell into the abyss, while others clung to the wall in a fetal position. I wandered as straight as I could with a heavy, spinning head. I struggled to keep my eyes open and my goal in mind. Get to a gate. But most were closed up or nearly impossible to perceive. People had given up on finding them. They were blind to real light. I walked on, unwilling to give up.
The pace was so slow, and my body ached. But I walked.
Eventually, my efforts were rewarded with a dim gate. I entered, shielding my eyes this time. The hall of doors appeared in fron of me again, but they were angry now. The doors shook violently, as if everything inside each wanted out. The discordia pulled at me for attention. The chaos was maddening and equally intriguing. But I made it to the end once again. And I walked out.
When I came to, I saw their faces right in front of me. I had opened the door wildly and ruched forward, disregarding their guns. I knocked both to the ground and nailed each one of my knees in each man’s chest. I hit both clean in the face with my fist. My ears were greeted with the sound of breaking glass. It took a second for the situation to register, but when it did, I was unstoppable. Their heads were as fragile as glass. That was the reason they preferred the gun hunt and never one-on-one physical combat. Eventually, all the people would run out of bullets, resign themselves to their death or else fumble with their shots to the men. No one ever dared get close enough to them to administer a blow… when that was all they needed to do. I laughed and salivated as I smashed each of their faces into unrecognizable blood-glass-pulp.
The hunt was over. We were alive.
We write poetry to bleed truths.
It’s easy to cycle-in
Is an out-cycle truly a change?
The book is not the same as it once was.
Neither is my handwriting.
Now we are ErRAtic.
Now we simply let go.
Because… ? … that is what we are so often taught to do… ?
Window scrapings in the dark:
Still on the outside looking in.
Dancers I don’t know.
My muscles are held so tensely;
(pain drives people toward expression.)
Soft rolls under the tension the surface holds.
She sees better than I do in the dark. She catches small offenders that would otherwise go unnoticed.
We track progress:
like an animal for some,
like a formula for others.