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.
Reattach Men Slow
Ancestral Wet Ohm
Settle A Charm Now
Sacrament The Owl
A Castle, Then Worm
Who Melts A Trance
Castrate Men Howl
Watchman, Else Rot
Canal Meets Worth
A Worm, Then Castle
Mothers Wet Canal
Two Carnal Themes
Mew A Harlot Scent
Wham A Recent Slot
A Camel When Trots
Transact Whole Me
Her Canal Most Wet
Won Carat Helmets
Cow Letter Shaman
A Rematch Lest Own
Worth A Male Scent
A Mental Hot Screw
Lets A Wretch Moan
Whet A Smart Clone
Saw A Trench Motel
The New Rascal Tom
Attach, Else Mr Now
He Met Worst Canal
Carnal, She Met Two
A Hot Welt; Men Scar
Cast Her A New Molt
The night was a haze of visions.
A majority of my memories centers around a cabin in the woods. In one storyline, it was the setting of a romantic assignation. Up in the loft, I rolled between milk-white sheets in the sparkling rays of the morning sun. He had already left the bed. I inhaled his scent and savored the lingering sex in the air. My body was like a sponge for the delicious indulgence of pure sensation. Every touch was a secret luxury. When he returned upstairs, the light danced off of him like fire-water. Each ripple of his perfectly cut body was accentuated; the way his skin shone caused my eyes to retreat back beneath my eyelids every now and again. Sadly, I cannot remember his face, but every fiber of me knows him, my Lover, as The Morning Star.
At the next flicker, the cabin has changed, as the inhabitants have as well. I’m a little girl, no more than ten years old. I see a tall man lumbering through the cabin in a state of dismay. He is not my father. I hold my doll tightly to my chest as I watch him pace in front of the roaring fire. The walls reflect red flames woven between menacing shadows. I am silent.
The scene shifts yet again. Where my doll was a second ago there is now a suitcase of sorts. The pacing older man has become a sly devil of a charmer. His eyes undress me as he places my bag on the chair nearby. The wolf’s tail, poking out from underneath his unbuttoned, oversized, collared shirt, flicks with pleasure as he lunges in to taste my neck. My hand reaches up the back of his head, tugging at his hair and caressing his pointed ears. Between my fingers there’s fur or skin as one transitions into the other and back again.
The red walls seem to close in on me, and I can see the monsters that have emerged from the shadows. They stand beside me and behind me with their hands on my shoulders, acting as caretakers. The door slams behind the pacing man as he storms out into the night. I am left with the monsters… that dry my tears with their large, scaly fingers. Sharp nails run gently through my pigtails as I hear attempts at soothing tones through rough throats and guttural voices. I am offered a seat on the lap of a 15 ft tall, black and green, bipedal reptile with large brown scales running down his head and back of the neck like Mohawk dorsal fins. Once in his lap, he rocks me to sleep in front of the fire.
The same cabin is now a mess of clothes, empty boxes and overturned furniture. Investigating each room, a story assembles in my head. There are two children’s rooms, a master bedroom, a den and kitchen; this was a family’s house. A young girl left many stuffed animals behind in her hot pink room. A young boy didn’t manage to grab his action figures before the family hurried out. What happened to them all? I can only see speculations in my head. The only obvious details are a struggle, a hasty escape, and the unlikelihood of return. But then, I hear the door. There stands the disheveled mother with both her ragged children.
Our tryst is cut short by the sounds he hears in the distance. “Sorry, Love, I’ve got to go,” he says as he pulls his pants on while still eyeing me hungrily. “What is it?” I ask as I sit up. He nips at my lips, and I feel a cold nose on my cheek for a second. “Stolen car. They’re after me.” The Wolf peeks at me from behind the Thief’s skin. He throws on his green jacket and tosses me a key before he opens the front door. A paw sweeps me off the bed forcefully and pulls me into his body. Our faces collide in unchecked hunger; one more deep taste before he’s off. “Meet me again,” he growls as he motions to the key.
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.
I am a love of that I am a reflection and emanation. Kisses under the stars. Tall grass reaching for our bodies. This figurative heart is also the lips of Nuit.
I am suspended in Time and Space. Hanging from my foot, I feel the rush of blood to my head. I am Red at every extremity.
I offer up my heart as a torn entity. In my struggle between the binaries, I express both forms simultaneously.
I am captured by Life. Celestial forces pull at my chest and wrap me in electromagnetic fields. These forces are hands in my flow, attempting to redirect. When my eyes close, stars explode behind my eyelids and the fire rises within me.
Caught in a sea of darkness, I see my monsters and the spoils of war float by. Temptations to which I submitted mimic the color of the bleeding sun. The rope is within reach. I seek to extract myself from this Ocean of bruise-blue and this Sky of blood tears.
One foot on a black hole, another on the sun that is slowly being sucked in, I stand, a knife in one hand, with broken skin and bruised body to face the shooting stars and Windows of opportunities floating in Outer Space.
Masked I am: all Blue and smirking.
Fires and serpents at my feet that I cannot fight: my hands are tied and my arms spread wide. There will be no yelling through this duct tape. There will be nowhere to move when the archers take aim at the bulls eye marked on my chest. A phantom heart resides in the background, with the rainbows peeking from the storm clouds and the incentive on which I am to focus.
Tied up in electricity, I cannot help my fascination with the fire butterfly in front of me.
A hand emerges in the heavenly light. Inside its palm is an eye that cries for a reason that I do not know. The walls of this room have no beginning and no end. The doorway is through the flesh, and the night sky can be seen out my window.
I am bound in the colors of Fire, though I don the colors of Water. I reach through my element to the one that binds me, never allowing the physical abomination I face to shake me. I even ignore the easy way out.
I stand in front of an explosion. It is not for others to know if I initiated it or not.
Locked in a space I can reach through, I peer into the Unknown. Perhaps I care little to use the key I know is there to unlock myself at the present moment, despite the water slowly rising in my cell.
An angel stands in a stream of Water and Light. All that she emits conspires to spell out your name.
Perhaps I look much like a leprechaun among the flora. Yet I sit within the constructs of this world, laughing all the time in the face of Death.
My strength keeps me hanging on and glaring into the face of my opponents.
I am both the malformed entity with dragon wings and the one that loves such creatures.
The epiphanies I come to are etched in my skin. I write my Truth on my body for all to see.
The saga presented in the beginning continues… lovers on the beach, hand in hand and skin to skin. There are two fish I know so well that keep us adhered.
He looks like a nazi, with anger and coldness to match. I am naked before him, coming out of the Water to face whatever may be waiting for me in the blood of the setting sun.
Within me thrive beauty, music, life, fantasy, destruction, innocence, enchantment and growth.
Beyond Time and these cities of Men, we reside in the clouds together, as forms of what we can conceive.
Possessed by something else entirely, my eyes are now in reverse.
I will break through that which holds the key in order to get it.
These images and forms are cast in beauty and pale pink and live within alien landscapes.
I see. I listen. My mouth is shut.
All incarnations were called to join in one room. I was lying on the floor. The first to arrive included the Angelic, the Demonic, the Primal, the Sullen and the Fantastic.
One of the stories: The hunter holds his fallen love.
Within my eyes, his image is never really gone. The fires and finely sculpted body, complete with the Mythical implications, still burn my eyes.
I am leaving. I am taking this key and locking the door behind me. I know not what the Path holds for me, but I see vague images of Lovers, Guides, Demons and the cloak of Night.
This Djinn is too sultry to not become captivated.
A target for some unknown archers, I sit with a crown on my head and scepter in my hand. My throne is stone and these blues and violets are so heavy this time.
Where Ocean, Sky and Moon meet, the Goddess emerges. She absentmindedly creates whirlpools with her fingers as she is so lost in her own head.
Another of the stories: This time she cries out among fallen trees as she holds her lifeless Lover in her arms.
Incomplete: A fire dancer and a woman meet.
He enters from the back door. He is cast among shadows and holds clenched fists. The bare light bulb swings above my head, and all I can do is look at the ground.
In the green-blue haze, a new creature emerges in the face of dragons and clown-faced skeletons.
Laughing ‘til tears spill down my face, a rainbow wash of entities spring forth from the subconscious. She touches my head while this one dances by my shoulders. I see the ones I know from dreams and the One we shall all know on our last day.
Incomplete: Her eyes are new and fashioned by the magic he weaves. Faces, jewels, symbols, and gifts float from his spirit to dress her as he wishes.
The Witch spins and weaves, playing with Infinity. Her tools are represented. Their fear is evident.
Fangs materialize over her. She is blue and black with Death entering her eyes, spiders crawling up her body and serpents reaching for her. A hand from below reaches through her chest to pull her down.
The Rogue Alchemist meets the Eye in the Sky. He masks himself in the presence of the Eye. The flow of Power is both ways, from him to the Eye and from the Eye to him. The water is blood and the sky is fire. His totem, the Raven, responds to his calls.
Incomplete: This Devil has maces fastened to his wrists. The poison plant people and fire woman appeal to him.
A boot squashes the sun. This man with the hammer hand falls under rain while snakes turn to flowers.
I ran and exploded into pure energy. On the other side, I emerged as a beautiful Faery from a red flower.
My totem speaks; he brings some Faery friends.
The Bull King comes to greet us. We become possessed: everything tainted red and blue.
Her gown eats the floor and her throne eats the sky. She sits with a cat on her lap. Her eyes have no pupils.
Abstract: Colors! A tree hand reaches for a pear. A sinister goatee is the stem to the pear. Eyes cry or protect. Hearts are flowers that birth spirals. Violet fire burns in the corner.
A portrait with a loving glow.
A boy sits in the corner. The shadow he casts creates a hungry woman.
Close-up of fascination.
The primordial Beach and Creation.
Elven couple by Water.
Abstract: Green man covered in occult symbols with a snake arm is distracted by the tongue of a half-face woman. She is hanging in the air by a neon eye as her face also emerges from a psychedelic tree. From the tree hangs a man in a noose and flowers grow. A butterfly with eyes flies by. A night Faery dances on spirals of Love next to the Raven of the Night.
A figure in a purple cloak approaches the light at the end of a maroon hallway of mirrors and torches.
A redhead by a brick wall.
Abstract: Happy, neon fish-face swims under the cartoon dog with a genie lamp for ears. A pink and purple Faery Steed is vaguely recognizable.
Abstract: A blue eye has eyelashes of feathers from which hearts trail. The hearts flow into cotton-candy clouds that pass over the full moon. These same colors spiral into fires in the corner, over which, “RED MEAT” is written. RED MEAT is at the foot of the bed, which remains unmade. Zzzzs trail off to the door, beyond which, the cat explores a tunnel. Dreamers’ thought-bubbles contain “X,” which runs into a path leading back to the blue eye. Clovers and clubs hang in the background, along with dancing plant people.
The Cosmic Jester peers into the ring of Existence, where pregnancies, births, deaths, reincarnation occurs. The lotus flower sits within the heart, that ends in Infinity. “ZERO” creates its own trails in the sphere. The Eye sees “SOUL.” The Jester smiles as the Dice at the end of his hat reflect in his eyes. Sun, Moon and Stars are all contained in his silly hat. Behind him, the Goddess stands among spirals of Creation.
A comic strip of a night of drunkenness.
Portraits of my friends and a coffee house conversation.
1st panel: I’m wearing a t-shirt that says “RAGE” as I crush cars, destroy buildings and burn people. 2nd panel: My face contorted in anger, I am fantasizing about throwing punches at some choice people.
A green-eyed man.
Fishies kissing my toes as I stand with a flower in hand, balancing against a tree and a toe in the pond.
Goddess(/I) emerges from a water lily. The full moon and a water snake are behind her.
Abstract: A cat hangs out in the clouds as a message in a bottle travels through the water below. Flowers spontaneously spring from the water, which gets kissed by a fish. Balloons soar upwards from the road with a cartoon car. A strawberry in the sun is dipped in a chocolate well.
Abstract: A woman’s face covers the page. There is the sun in her eyes. A fire butterfly passes over an unmade bed. Ice cream cones and cherries are directly above the bed, being licked. The moon makes music from the clouds. A cat is made from the letters in “MEOW.”
Realism: Tree Frog
Realism: Snowy Mountain Lion
Faery sitting on a pentacle. Lizard face eating a flaming ball on a fork.
Man emerges from a flower. A snake wraps around his waist. The sun is in the sky and a heart-shaped woman’s face with puckered lips is in the background.
A woman (me) from the waist down, in a mini skirt and heels. Young, hot man’s face in the corner reacting.
Infinity symbol wrapped around a crescent moon.
We had been traveling. Currently, we resided in a transitory nest within the city. The faces of my companions were fluid in space-time. They changed; I changed.
An average day it was certainly not. Something stirred in the skies. We all knew it intuitively and instinctively though we talked not about The Unseen.
The decision to go to the Ocean at The End of the World was unanimous. I do not remember how we traveled, but it had wheels. We arrived as the skies spun and changed colors.
A storm is brewing, someone seemed to say.
There were, at least, five of us, and, at most, ten of us. Either (/any) way, the numbers were split evenly so each person had a “counterpart” of the same gender. Mine was blonde and taller and less skilled than I was. She seemed to pop into existence as my feet hit the sand. Her hologram wavered with the clouds in the sky. Spirals formed on the horizon, indications of merging points and vertexes. The edges of The World became dark. All five (ten) of us panned outward to observe the land from a bird’s-eye (or space-eye) view. The Pattern: Shadows coming from all angles with a perfect circle of Light that was quickly diminishing. And who should happen to be in the center of that Circle of Light but the five (ten) of us.
We drew our Eyes back into ourselves and each assumed our stations. I sat, lotus-style, at the Water’s Edge. My counterpart was fastened onto me with a silver string around her waist. She sat in my lap, over my crossed legs, facing the watery horizon. It was my charge and my responsibility to keep her safe, to stabilize her form through the journey. I instructed her to close her eyes, to breathe as normally as possible. “You must stay with me; pull the c(h)ord tight. If you ever feel you are losing yourself, locate the c(h)ord and my body. Re-orient with me as quickly as possible.”
As the shadows closed-in, the others instructed their counterparts in the same manner. I felt the indigo rise to my eyes and brow as the skies darkened rapidly. I closed my physical eyes as my Third Eye burned bright violet in the Dark. The circle became a pinhole and then…
Nothing at all.
We were traveling (or not?), her/I and the Others. I felt her temptation to open her eyes, and I strongly transmitted “Don’t.” The blackness swarmed in and through what may have been our bodies. There were noises that may have been drums or shrieks, harps or hail, bells or singing, sonication or pressurization. There were sensations of gossamer webs, crackling embers, soft glow, a school of fish, amniotic fluid, riptides, needles, gravel, fine silk and wind tunnels. A kaleidoscope of taste-color crashed upon our faces and re-arranged our flesh. I kept the center, held it as a meditation of a grain of sand in a sandstorm. She remained still with me and followed where my mind willed her.
And with no warning whatsoever, the World returned. We were sitting on the Beach at The Edge. Ten dissolved to five, and the silver c(h)ords returned to our spinal columns as the violet gave way to indigo and, eventually, the flesh of our brows. The sky was bright blue with puffs of gleeful white clouds. Waves kissed our feet as we rose in synchrony. We returned to our vehicle and sped off.
One pair of eyes here; another there. There are certainly more; there are always more than are apparent. Sometimes they familiar, and other times they are completely alien. Does it matter if they are the same color or not?
The ideas pass from one to another and are repeated, morphed, passed through filters. It mutates. It mutates from thoughts as it mutates from eyes. The same purity that was there when it was found, is gone among the passing. Sometimes there are those that do not realize this or care at all that it happens. The information is the gem, the sought-after asset. The origin, the evolution, the clarity upon arrival or purity in revelation matter little compared to the exchange of the idea or the act of brainstorming. Coming to realizations together is different from taking another’s concept and adopting it, inherently changing it, to claim as one’s own.
We train ourselves to forget as we train ourselves to remember, continually fabricating a consciousness. The moves are not random, but this is not to say that they are predictable in the least. Like metallic balls traveling through searing liquid, we change form under the influence. All those physical laws descend with light-year speed, and we morph under the pressure.
A rebel is a single entity onto oneself. Rebellion is an assertion of a line, a barrier, a stop. Rebellion can be a risky or protective act, but it is always one of preservation of an aspect of Self, of integrity, a concept held dear… or at least held, anyway. That’s what matters: the holding, the ownership of the assertion.
Auntie Daisy wraps her hand around another glass of white wine. Her dark purple matte nails tap nervously (or impatiently) almost immediately after touching the glass; her face doesn’t agree with this gesture. Stunningly white teeth bore from upturned, burgundy colored lips glisten like pearls under the dim kitchen lighting. The sides of her eyes are creased as she laughs until the other person blinks or turns away, then some heaviness leaks through her expression. All the married women over forty see loneliness in Auntie Daisy’s face. All the married men over forty see insecurity. The children see sadness sometimes, or at least something they know they would like to help abate. I hear the teenagers comment that she is “crazy;” they don’t respect her as an adult.
Daisy is coming up on her fortieth birthday. She has never been married and has no biological or adopted children. When she is not around, the family gossips about these facts. Daisy likes to travel and drink wine. She keeps up with the news and entertainment. Of her sisters, Daisy is the only one who seeks out conversations with people of all demographics, treating them as an equal regardless of age, gender, educational, economical or cultural differences (to a point). She is the middle child of three, and she was always the favored daughter. The eldest found a husband to provide for her; the youngest supported herself though she too found a husband. Though Daisy had a steady career she seemed to almost enjoy, which should (in any reasonable person’s mind) be sufficient to support her lifestyle, Daisy’s father often pumped money her way. This charity was not always in response to a request. Members of the family had assumed different reasons for the father’s generosity.
The sisters greet each other with smiles and warm hugs. They talk about how wonderful it is to see each other and how they should really make an effort this year to see each other more than just for the holidays. Food is eaten, wine is sipped, hands are alive with expression and joy, heads nod in agreement during conversation. People mill around the rooms of the house, sharing love and stories. When Daisy is in the other room, sometimes snarky comments or condescending laughs escape mouths. I wonder if she hears them. And if she does, does she care?
People have a hard time really listening to Aunt Daisy. Who listens to a forty-year-old, never-married, childless woman who works fair hours at a job she almost enjoys and travels the world sipping wine and keeping up with events while enjoying the comfort of Daddy’s cash cushion once she arrives back home?
My cousin, B, finally cut his hair; it no longer curls out from under his baseball cap like squid tentacles. Now he calls me John Lennon since money is too tight for luxuries like haircuts. That’s OK. He’s still young yet; he hasn’t experienced this mythical time much of the populace terms “real life.” I am pleased that he is doing well in his undergraduate studies; I hope when he finishes his degree the job market is better.
On this muggy summer day, my thoughts have already turned to winter and this coming Christmas. I had an idea last year about a deck of playing cards for the card players of the family; our faces would be the faces of the court cards and Aces. I chose to bring up the conversation to enlist my brothers and cousin for help. All three of them liked the idea immediately and said they would help collect photographs of the family (since they see them far more often than I do). My task was to find a printing company to actually produce the deck once we had put it together.
Of course, the most interesting and fun part of this project is assigning family members to certain cards. Who was going to be the infamous “Bitch” card (Queen of Spades)? I knew my choice. The role-casting had been self-entry on her part, an image she gradually built over time: impervious with a pessimistic kind of wisdom, but still soft inside (you just can’t say that aloud in a room other than family). I had many of the cards already planned out in my head; however, these would all change with the input of my brothers and cousin. I wasn’t intending that we had to choose gender-specific cards, but it seemed that I was ruled out by the assumptions of the other three. (Not that they are sexist, but they still have unconscious gender roles assigned and less gender flexibility. We were all raised in a “traditional” family structure with “traditional” gender-roles… so I’m the black sheep in this respect.)
Actually, that last thing I said, it’s not 100% accurate. B was raised by our grandmother primarily. My aunt and uncle both worked regular 9-5 jobs. They had some vacation, but not more than the average I suppose. My aunt chose not to stay home when they were young. My grandmother only lived a few blocks away, and she was retired. If she wasn’t watching the kids, she’d be recording movies on TV to add to her collection of one-time watched movies or she’d be reading another murder mystery. She had enough time on her own, about seven years since my grandfather passed away. My grandmother was a woman of action; she could only sit for so long, even with the company of her murder mysteries and TV movies.
It shouldn’t have surprised me one bit when B said: “So Grandma would be on the Ace.”
“Which one?” I asked.
“All of them. Grandma’s all the Aces.”