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.
It started as a coming-of-age story, set in a university of buildings of cobblestone with a prestigious and arrogant presence. This particular man-boy was no ordinary one. The story started as most of these stories do:
He had a different life than the others; one they didn’t or could never know, and so, it was one they didn’t (and didn’t want to) understand. He worked nights at a nearby motel with his only friend, a large girl with facial piercings, beautiful hair and second-hand clothes. They were both maids. Pushing cleaning carts in their cyan-green uniforms (a poorly-enforced code with which they took liberties), they would often talk about their day, their hopes, the people they knew as they drank cheap hard alcohol hidden in some of the plastic containers.
Silver dazzled in the sputtering fluorescent light as a turquoise stone swung on the end of the long sterling silver wire. With every step, the turquoise peeked out from behind his thick, black curls. “I had to defend my jewelry today again,” he said as he took a swig.
Conversation happened, but was a bit more strained than usual. When things ‘got weird’ between them, the ritual to take the edge off was to inhabit an empty room for half an hour. They’d drink some more and talk, but use the room as a contained area, like a confessional or secrets’ box. Tonight they got into the double bed and sat upright, passing the plastic bottle between them. After some drinks he lied down and positioned his body to face the window as she started to speak. She felt distant from him, like he wasn’t telling her as much as he had in their past. She wanted to be closer; she wanted it to be like old times. Didn’t he trust her anymore? Pause. Or was there something else? He didn’t provide answers or assuage her fears; he remained quiet and motionless. He didn’t turn as she placed her hand on his shoulder. A shiny film of drool reflecting the stale orange lights from outside pooled on his pillow. She sighed in disappointment.
“I know y’all gonna change those sheets now before I get back with some ice,” said a strained deep voice from the door.
In her focus, she must not have heard the door open. She was greeted with an impatient stance from a tall, muscular body with a loud mini skirt and halter stretched across it. Long, red nails were being tapped on the door frame while hair extensions almost broke free from the headband as s/he shook her head in chiding. The queen’s eyes met the young girl’s as a righteous finger shook in the air.
“Wake that little boy up and get him outta my bed. Y’all two are lucky I aint tellin yo manager.” The queen huffed and made a small scene as she walked quickly down the hall.
The girl sighed again.
The movie cut to the next scene in school. In these scenes I began to transition into the man-boy’s place. Two things occurred, but I cannot remember their order. I’ll start with what I feel may have been first: The House (again, The House always comes before the critters).
He/I had cut school that afternoon. I slipped out while everyone was talking and eating lunch outside. My friend was still inside somewhere, and she was likely annoyed and still wanting to talk. I took the opportunity to get on my scooter and leave campus; no one else would know I was gone. It only took me about ten minutes to get to the city limits. I exited the city and followed a sense of urgency. The expedition was unplanned; I had neither a map nor supplies. Structure fell away once outside the city. Traffic lights were few and far between. Stretches of road were long and winding. Businesses were mostly long closed down or nearly empty. The air was fresh but buzzing in a different way than it does within the city walls, untainted by human thoughts. I traveled through rolling hills of green like an ocean swim.
And then I arrived. A small corridor between two stone walls overgrown with ivy was my way in. I parked my bike outside and slid between the walls. At the end, acres of land opened before me. This looked like a private estate. The lawn was well maintained and saturated green. A garden wrapped itself enchantingly around some small houses and sheds. Paths seemed to spring up right under my feet, and they led me to a hole in a wall, an empty stable and a tiny, furnished house. All of these were overgrown with ivy or honeysuckle. Looking through the hole in the wall, I saw more land of the same, with gardens and greenery and fruit. Though it may not have seemed so special, I found it difficult to avert my eyes. They felt stuck on the scene. Slowly a dewy haze crept in from my peripheral vision. I heard music on the wind and melodic voices singing.
If it was not for the raucous in the stable beside me, I would probably still be staring down that hole. I literally jumped at the loud noise, like a stable door being slammed shut. When I looked though, nothing in or around the stable seemed to have moved. I almost loss my balance as I examined the stable. I grabbed my head as it began to ring. With one hand on my head and the other out in front of me, I stumbled away from the wall with the hole, the tiny house and the full-sized stable. Walking back the way I came in, I saw some things I did not notice upon first gaze. So strange that I missed a large tan sign claiming this was an estate and the gigantic House many yards away. Unfortunately, my distorted vision did not allow me to read the name or address on the sign. An old man’s voice came out of nowhere, followed be his very presence next to me. His image was blurred, but I take it he was the grounds’ keeper. The House looked well-kept and full of life until the man touched me. My thoughts raced with him through a gutted-out House that barely stood except for its pretentious façade. I pulled myself free of his grip and charged to the corridor between the walls.
As I was running from The House a wind kicked up suddenly from the opposite direction that I was running. In a strange daze of pain and disorientation, I began to panic at this manifestation. If this was a magic land, well, then I’d fight back with its own rules. I called for my broom to come save me. My Will guided it right to my hands. I jumped aboard and blasted off to the walls. The House, angry with my attempt, gained gravity to distort space. I felt myself being pulled in by its force. To answer its threat, I shrunk myself and dissipated to avoid its gravitic grip. It seemed to shriek as the sky began to crumble, but I had made it to the walls.
My head pain was its worst just before entering the walls. As soon as I managed to slide myself in, I recombined into myself and the pain and ringing dimmed as my vision cleared. I stayed between the safety of the walls and rested until I felt more sober and in control. Looking back toward the estate, I could see none of what I had just experienced; it was just a wash of trees and green.
I fled back to the university on my scooter, eager for some normalcy of everyday life. My parking spot was still free so I took it. The face of the clock read a time that was virtually no longer than my scooter ride within the city limits; I was not even late for my next class, which happened to be “Wellness” (the college cop-out name for gym). I hadn’t been able to change so I showed up in my suit. The instructor made me play basket ball regardless. We had numerous courts, all on the lower floor of the gym. The design was such that a running platform was above the court and stairwells were at either side of the court leading up to the running track. I was on the stairwell when the instructor winged the ball in my direction. I caught it, but the instructor’s impatience and distaste was more than apparent.
My reaction was just that: a reaction. Without thinking, I shot the ball at the wall opposing him with the same gusto. The echo was like the thunder of Zeus announcing his displeasure. My plans to stare down the instructor were foiled by distraction. I heard two balls fall from the wall, one right after another. This anomaly immediately got my attention; a human vendetta was small potatoes compared to physics gone awry in the “real” world.
Indeed there were two balls on the floor, but neither of them was a basketball. They were about the size of one, but one was white and the other was black, and they both seemed to be growing. The balls unfolded into two creatures that stood about 10 feet high. They were both bipedal and had bodies similar in structure to humans. They were sexless and their appendages were malleable, morphing from arms and hands with opposable thumbs to tentacles to robotic cylinders with claws or clasps. Their faces were different, but both animal-like. Though these animals represented were no animals found on earth, the best likeness my human mind could grasp was a rabbit for the white one and a horse for the black one. They both greeted me and telepathically introduced themselves. The white one was Odds and the black one was Ends. They huffed and blew some smoke as their eyes began to twirl and flash. A speech seemed to be eminent, but was cut short by a ball that made contact with my head. They dissolved into the air and seemed to traffic back to the hands and face of the clock, with Odds filling the spaces of the faces and Ends bleeding back into the hands and numbers.
To be continued…
I found myself at a retail warehouse – some strange mix of Bed, Bath & Beyond and Best Buy. At first, I could not distinguish myself from some of the shoppers I saw: the newly-wed couple, the lone intellectual, the overly enthusiastic child, the exhausted mother, the care-free bachelor, and the malcontent teenagers. They were all there, and I grappled to figure out who I was this time around. Or was I the disembodied Watcher again?
No. The Salesman could see me. As I found my body and my orientation, I felt his eyes already on me, as if he had been watching since the second I entered this dreamscape. He was an attractive man of somewhere around 30 years. His skin tone and hair color hinted at a lineage descended from desert-faring people. Immobile he stood, with his hands held behind his back while his eyes interrogated my presence. Eyes just like a gun, with all the world in his cross-hairs; he was not of this world common to the shoppers. But, then again, neither was I so it seemed.
As shoppers approached him with questions, he morphed into a dozen different people. Each one was tailored to the customer’s tastes, and he always got the sale. I watched through the newly-wed couples’ eyes as he saw an attractive young woman addressing the novelty and fun found in the item while she saw a warm, mild-mannered man appealing to her sensibility and frugality. He herded them from one aisle to another and finally, to the checkout. In my examination of the Salesman, I ignored the customers as much as they seemed not to see me.
Outside the warehouse was an unremarkable desert that felt like a hole in the world. I could hear and feel the wind, but strangely, it seemed not to move anywhere: no origin and no destination. The Salesman appeared behind me, and assumed the same stance as before. His eyes spun through several colors and shapes. We stood in silence, glaring at each other. Neither of us were looking for answers or explanations; we seemed beyond the point of interrogation, now into the phase of silent accusations. Was I the Accused or the Accuser? Did (does) it, would (will) it, should (who cares about “shoulding” anyway) it really matter?
Nothing happened in the desert. We eventually walked off in the same direction, not together, but not completely apart from one another.
We entered the old house turned base. Those we knew were inside doing whatever it is they do. It was something important to them, some political activist activity or some kind of “rebellion.” It was of little importance to both the Salesman and myself, though, everyone else seemed unaware of our disinterest. They spoke to us as if we were thick as thieves and blood brothers. Perhaps that is how they saw us. Truth be told, the Salesman and I were far “closer” in those ways than either of us with any of them. They were of the world of shoppers; that very great fact immediately places galaxies between us. Whereas the Salesman and I- we were two of a Kind.
The activists continued on with their activities, speaking nonsense words to us. We sat in opposing chairs and communicated via eyes. I knew my eyes were much like his own. The flickers of information and subtle changes went unrecognized by those of this world; our eye changes were above (or below) and beyond their perception range. The activists probably were consciously unaware of the effects of our exchange, but within minutes, the base became silent and still. No one asked aloud if anything was wrong, but they gradually gathered close to us. Some sat behind the Salesman and some sat behind me.
Stories were told through the movement of gas molecules, but no one spoke a word. Images of the desert were transmitted and imprinted in the air. There was a boy that looked very much like the Salesman, only he was about fifteen years his junior and of the world of shoppers. He was not as quick, clever or confident as the Salesman (his idol and role model), but he would never admit these things to anyone except in prostration to the Salesman.
This boy set out into the desert on a mission. My side did not know his mission, but we had hints about his mindset. He carried a messenger bag full of unknowns. It felt like weapons that lacked conviction, and I knew the boy lacked expertise. Perhaps a gun with blanks or perhaps a knife he would wield unconvincingly. Images were choppy, like a reel that has been edited or spliced. In the desert he found some men and he found some women. He passed by the men, making eye contact but no threats. With the women, he would attempt flirtation. The ones that returned the flirtation made him sweat. If they giggled, he would sweat some more. If he construed the giggling for ridicule, out came the gun. He would command them to kneel and place their hands behind their head. Many would cry and beg for mercy, which would empty out his eyes while searchlights flooded his mind. He prayed for the Salesman to guide him, constructing His image in his mind. Then the Salesman slipped into his body. During this time, the boy had no recollection of the actions taken. He would return to himself as the women walked away, unharmed, without a care and sometimes even in high spirits. He would torture himself with attempts to remember the details, but the Salesman requested that he be content without the memories.
This cycle repeated many times on many days of many months to years. Before grabbing the gun and turning it on a woman, the boy told himself that he would go through the motions himself. Whatever it was he was doing, he would be the one to do it. He would remember. The Salesman would take pity on his condition and allow him. Or else he would rebel against the Salesman and reclaim his body and mind. But time and time again, the Salesman would appear in his mind, calm the boy and disarm him. The boy would retreat and feel safe and warm as he drifted to sleep.
There was one time when the boy awoke while he was still holding a gun to a woman. He had recollection of him/the Salesman ordering the woman to praise aloud Ha-Li (THE Godform). This particular woman refused; she was the first to do so. The boy panicked. He consciousness fled in and out. The name of Ha-Li was used in vain and blasphemed. Were there gunshots? It was difficult to know. Suddenly, the woman disappeared from the images. The boy walked back to the base like a zombie in sweat-soaked clothes and an empty messenger bag.
His body tumbled into the room, startling those immersed in the mind-movie-story. Both the Salesman and I watched him; neither of us moved from our chairs. He shouted at both of us- words of hatred, pain, remorse, renunciation, and accusation that bled from disillusionment and delusions. He waved a key in the air in a triumphant defiance that neither of us quite understood. He said he would enter The Room of God, and that neither of us could stop him or dissuade him. We could not go with him, he stated; he proclaimed that he knew we were of the Damned. If we were of his world, perhaps we would fear for him or attempt to stop him from opening that door with the silly key he waved around.
The door was a plain one with chipped white paint and an old handle that rusted over a bit. It was on one wall of the house/base. Nothing else was kept on this wall; the wall had a way of rejecting wall hangings. It broke mirrors and absorbed any ink or paint so it was always a bare, plain, old, white wall. From the outside of the house, there looked to be a sun room on the other side of the door. It was constructed of white boards and columns that held the unbreakable glass in place. We could see the other side of the door through the glass from the outside. Nothing was in the room, which was all the better considering anything under glass in hot dessert sun would bake.
The boy took off his shirt and went into one of the bedrooms to change into a new pair of pants and a gray, zip-up hoodie that he left open. The Salesman and I saw him in white robes in flashes as he moved from the bedroom to the door. He shouted some more nonsense and then grandly unlocked the door. The activists were shocked that they key worked. They backed away. It seemed that even the boy was shocked that he had found the one, magical, working key. He was awestruck and regarded the inside of the room with much trepidation. We smelled the fear wick off him and heard his heart beat like a jackhammer. He molded his face to something he thought to be impressive and victorious as he turned to the activists in his sorry facade.
He lifted his foot to step inside and no sooner than he made the motion did the room respond by sucking him in as if he had opened a vacuum. The activists did not see this, though. To them, he had merely stepped inside as light spilled at his feet, and the door clicked shut behind him.
The Salesman and I met him inside, as one merged entity, through projection, as the flesh remained outside the door, and half of our minds entertained the activists’ questions. We questioned him on how it felt to be in The Room of God. He was unregulated. His sense of time and self kept fragmenting and reconstituting in what may be considered fractions of seconds. His articulation fell away from him as symbols and words ceased to make sense. He paced and bounced around the room while simultaneously melting or solidifying into what might be described as “the floor.” His spirit was in agony as he struggled against dissolution. Two simultaneous visions: one of the bare, white room and one of Space, phased in and out for him. They collided and melted into each other. He could not make sense or hold onto to either.
The activists had ran outside to find out whether they could see him in the room or not. Some were shocked to see that he wasn’t there at all, while others were saddened or terrified to see him in such a degraded, raging or self-mutilating state. They fought over the reality.
“He’s dead in the corner!”
“What?! No, he isn’t. He’s inside beating his hands to a pulp against the wall.”
“What are you talking about? I don’t see him.”
“You don’t see him because he’s not there in the room at all.”
“What are you, blind? He’s catatonic and drooling on himself.”
“Oh, I thought he was just asleep.”
“Where? I still don’t see him.”
“Maybe he’s hiding?”
“He’ll be cooked to death in there…”
In any vision, they all agreed on one thing: It must have been the wrong key.
I know the place. I’ve come upon it time and time again. Within the last couple years, its occurrence has coincided with the presence of a close friend.
Did I wake up in the old, burnt-out school? I’m still unsure why I’m called back to it so often. Perhaps the eyes that opened in its windows a decade ago still have me in their sight.
It is night and I am looking up at vast skies with quickly condensing and shifting clouds over pinpoint stars and a last-quarter moon. The air is chilly. It must be Fall. The school stands in front of me, with its hollowed innards breaking before me. Open purulent wounds reach for a way to fill the school’s gaping soul.
The experience of it, being near it and in it is hazy… the inhabitants, the spirit, the time loops… all a seeming fabrication of a drugged mind.
And then I am out. I am in another Haus, one filled with young people joyously intoxicated, dressed in bright colors and hemp jewelry. I savor the twilight, the cotton-candy clouds bleeding into the sky as it phases out from red to blue.
Music is playing. People are dancing and laughing. The time stop-starts as images and moments are stretched and condensed, whisked and revealed, made inconsequential or marvelous. Conversations whirl around my head as I float from room to room, landscape to landscape. I cross open fields as I hop discussions. The sky changes before my eyes as my friend stands close to me and we say some words. Something begins to unfold… another world, the sequence of time disrupted and re-established so that one world is a few seconds ahead of the other. The sun had set, but stopped before whirling around to a noon-day position. I see it frozen, not emitting light or exchanging gas, just stationary in its position. A second sun, completely identical except for the position in time and space, meets it at the -2 position. Time elapses before me, accelerated to meet the point in time that my friend talks to me. It is night and both the suns have set.
The Haus and the school blend, and I am unsure what sun I am following. Perhaps I cannot handle the -2, 0 (or 0, +2) positions simultaneously. Perhaps I can handle it all too well, colliding realities into a superimposed collage of shifting opacities. He is with me in the Haus, in the school, in the -2, 0 and the 0, +2. I watch the suns move under my eyelids with my eyes open to catch the transgression of events and people. Two houses, two suns, two times, two of us to move throught them all. 2 on 2 on 2 on 2… I get lost in the multiplication and grin like the Chesire Cat.
I remember very few details. It was night, and I was staying overnight at a House for reasons unknown to me (perhaps I was too gone to leave). I didn’t even know the owner of The House. My mind fills in the holes…. I am pretty sure I arrived here with my brothers, and I think I was told that The House was one of brother’s friends’ place. For some reason, I found the environment unimportant up until a certain point. But what was that point? And who was I then? I was surely not the me that had arrived. Half of me was asleep, passed out in a haze of acid-splatter candy-colored-flavored frequencies of Hendrix and Morrison. The other half was me, and the me that filled the sleeper’s void was a new one.
I had regained a kind of consciousness in the screened-in, renovated patio area. The dark of the night sky told me is was well into the early morning hours but still a while off until dawn. My movements getting to my feet were slow, like fighting weighted balloons on my limbs and peering through petroleum-smeared goggles. I could function, but I was wobbly, breaking into a million pieces and fluttering back together in a fraction of a second. The motion lights in the back yard were on. I don’t remember when or in what succession they turned on. I just knew that something moved close enough to The House to trigger all of them.
As I walked clumsily to the screen door to get a better look outside, I noticed that not many people were on the patio with me, and the few that were had crashed. I was the only awake and the only one to bear witness to whatever it was that was moving outside. Peering out into the yard, I didn’t see anything, not even shadows. I was in full observation mode with no fear in me, just intrigue. While I was searching, I was hit with vague impressions or memories. I had no idea from where or who I was receiving them.
I saw colored paper lanterns, intoxicated Asians, fake gold decorations and numerous incarnations of The Dragon. Was this a Chinese New Year celebration? Music and spoken word mingled so I could not make sense of anything I heard. There was a strange feeling that seemed to loom over the party. The people that seemed not to notice the feeling ended up either leaving the party or falling asleep. Those that were left in the atmosphere showed signs of discomfort or uneasiness. Many did not speak of it at all, but tried to forget or ignore it. During this time, I had become a little more interested in finding out what was going on… was something here, affecting this room? My eyes scanned the yard of The House while my mind scanned the scene in my head. I felt the aire in the yard similar to the one over the room. I saw nothing with my eyes, but images of fire-breathers grew in my head. I took notice of someone toward the edge of the room that I had not seen amongst the louder festivities before the room had cleared a bit. The person sat quietly alone with his/her hair in front of most of its face. Were they rocking slightly? I saw a compilation of people in the person, some particular faces came out more than others. At this time my body had mimicked the scene in my mind; I found myself physically closer to the other corner of the room, diagonal from the screen door. I was looking into an empty corner and a compiled persona simultaneously.
Mentally we had a conversation. I felt my desire to find out “what IT was” (whatever my attention had drawn to.. the feeling, the aire, the creation of tension and unease). This persona likened the IT to a Dragon, but not the Eastern Dragons or Western ones even. IT took the form of a Dragon, but was not a Dragon.
“You’re chasing a dragon that will never help you,” the persona said aloud to me through stringy black hair. I knew they had experience.
I took this comment, knowing that the persona was speaking from experience. I did not respond with a comment, but with action. I dropped my interst in the Dragon immediately, determining that whatever IT was, IT was after whoever allowed it access to themselves. I was not about to end up like this emptiness in the corner. As soon as I had made the decision, the scene in my mind vanished, and I awoke in another part of The House.
I had been slumbering in quilts and sleeping bags on hardwood floors. The TV was on, some Asian action movie was playing in the background. Lights were on all through The House though it was still ~4AM. I heard a lot of noise from upstairs: music, talking, coughing, and walking. I knew the sounds were from my brothers and their friends in one of the bedrooms. Looking around, I saw that some people were still around me asleep or half-asleep on the floor or couches.
I was slightly dazed and disoriented, wondering what had happened in the last couple hours. Looking down, I found a pouch. I instinctively knew it was mine though it resembled nothing I have in waking life. The pouch was solid but was able to change shape, rotating from a tree stump to a small metal box to a card-holder to a glitter snowglobe with a faery statue inside. The items contained within it are still vague to me, but I can remember that they were rare, important and magical.
I heard rapping on the front door so I promptly hid my “pouch” before checking the peephole. Two cops were at the door. I answered, figuring they were called on account of the noise and that I would be able to placate their worries with reasoning with the boys upstairs. When did I become mom or Wendy? Both the cops were friendly enough and seemed to be more annoyed with being called for such a task rather than upset with the party. I was sure there was no problem… but then all 3 of us smelled something… definitely pot, maybe some other smoke as well, coming from upstairs. While they were fine ignoring the possibility of drugs a minute ago, their faces became stony at the smell.
“Ok, ma’am, we have to come inside now.”
In the room I had been sleeping in, there were 2 full glass cases of pipes and bongs next to another glass case of flasks and martini glasses. Strange novelty and antique items were interspersed within the glass cases and posters of old horror flicks, rock bands and Betty Page hung from ceiling to floor. The whole set-up conveyed an aire of seediness that the cops were very perturbed about. They asked whose House it was. When I claimed not to know, they became suspicious. They attempted to hold me responsible for the contents of The House and all the activities within.
I fought their accusations without pinning others responsible. The last pieces I remember were the cops trying to interrogate me while I kept the pouch hidden.
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.
Submit to or conquer the disorientation.
I feel the pressure in my ear canal. One side is a tighter seal than the other, and I know that the neon orange silicon putty is attempting a morning escape.
Utter half-coherent sentences while trying to establish or maintain balance on groggy footing.
Whimsical thoughts seduce me as my eyes pass over desired DOings. Bed = more dreaming (Recall the pieces… fragmented, disjointed, evading chronology. ) Ooh water. (Damn, I missed them… almost had it.) Sink = initiation of renewal. Mirror = encountering the ever-so-persuasive 2D. (Hello, Me. And how are we today?) This can go a number of ways: 1. fog-screen of persistent disorientation, 2. initiation of critical mind-chatter, 3. ignition of observational mode, 4. begining of a nondescript “Day,” 5. just acceptance, 6. unjust acceptance, 7. untitled acceptance, 8. indifference, 9. amusement or fear of potential indentity crisis, 10. care-free enstatement of pretend.
Shower = renewal ritual, detox, reset, comfort, Water Mother
12-20 ounces of caffeine-delivering warm beverage while going 60 mph as my mind whisks by the trees and green. (How much longer will these species survive, and how many are non-indigenous, invasive species? Is that how they describe us?)
“I’m fixing a hole where the rain gets in
and stops my mind from wandering
where it will go…”
A tone more ethereal than the original, dub cuts the reins.
Falling out a hole in the sky, I land with eyelids half-drawn under fluorescent lights and biosafety hoods. These are my hands in latex working with small life forms, hated because they are cancer. They are not like us; they don’t choose what they are. They are not like us; they don’t have a conscience. Motions are mechanical, and the sequence of events is routine enough to allow a piece of myself to float among the clouds.
A seemingly barren landscape of tile, biohazardous waste, machines and incubators is the quiet of the morning, hidden away from the hot thick of a sun’s revenge. Metal and concrete bang and mingle loudly outside my window as I sit in the ever-familiar, pink, broken chair. I don’t twirl anymore; it makes me sick.
The inbox has been sleeping recently, thankfully. It relinquishes my attention to scour websites and distract myself from not-so-imperative tasks for not-so-close deadlines. I am already bargaining with myself for afternoon freedom and dreaming of projects that afford me repose, hope and continual creative stimulation.
Bargain time spent in less-than-desirable environments to do important, analytical, detached work with justification for eloping to comfortable environments to do as my whim dictates.
Life is a series of rooms. Once I heard it, I saw it. I prefer the room in which to work to be uncrowded and uncluttered, more full of ideas and discussion than it is people. The room is constantly changing, moving as the inhabitants do. When I see it expand so that we are smashed up against opposing walls though still feeling cornered, yeah, I fucking opt out til reconstruction is agreed upon. When our rooms are seemingly effortlessly portable, fluid and forever-present, yeah, I’m in. There are still gonna be holes in the skies and minds. Such is life. Tunnels out and in, zippered pouches of space-time, blebbing and introduced bubbles… we make peace with our surroundings as they make peace with us (or not)… we change the environment; we change ourselves; we change others (or not)… we DO or we ARE (or ARE NOT).
There is so much.
Locate food source. Refuel. Flip switches to move on.