Thursday, December 23, 2010

Ecstatic Fury

It all begins this night, a night of fright and terror, this night when everything descends into a lethal silence, a silence in which all things are paralyzed, everything has stopped due to what has happened on the other side, the other side which on this particular night has come into this side, this side which is afraid to lose everything it has ever known, everything it has ever seen during its forty something years of life. (I remember being unafraid of loss, unconcerned with either living or dying, but this too I lost eventually.)
Nothing was forever, that was the simple rule to remember, everything was temporary and without sense, it was others who gave it sense, others speaking, others looking, others pointing things out, all the other things that in one day or another could be found along the path, a path full of life or full of nothing. What could it matter if everything was made of nothingness to begin with, if everything is and was an essence of nothingness and came from nothingness and to nothingness would return?

The things that happened on that night are indescribable and heart wrenching at once, because of the fear and the accent on horror, life had horrified itself. In a matter of seconds nothing that life had accumulated for years and centuries, none of it had any more importance nor substance. None of it was real, none of it was worth anything, everything was garbage and shit. It was all the worst hypocrisy in which a spirit could get into so that it might get away with what it could, to escape from whatever it would be, from whatever it was. Here nothing mattered anymore, it was a life whose only purpose was to observe a particular situation, an event, a something, a nothing, and that turned everything into a loss. It made life from what it wasn't, but nothing was what it could be. Everything had lost its brilliance, the color that it once possessed. In everything there was a sense of agony, of darkness, of harshness, of laziness, life in full degeneration. A slow decay of things that would never again return, things that would never be happy with themselves, the things that happened on that night.

“To hell with so many expectations! To hell with life itself!” it said.
Who said it? It didn't matter if it died, it died all the time. Badly born, recently deceased, thoughts weighed down by irony and by this life which had cracked like an egg, it had fallen from an unknown distance. What difference could it make? Everything was the same. It was all the cursed agony of an ancient being, covered in tumors, having repeated this agony so many times, this weakness, this same foolishness of dying from lack of skill at living.
“Life and its heaven,” it said, “what a disgusting prison! How large it is! And how narrow is heaven!”

More confused, more painful, is that blue expanse which laughed at us at every moment. With its pretentious greatness, perpetually showing us its unreachable dexterity in being able to be anywhere. And we are down here, unable to move away, unable to emerge from under its damned sphere of cursed power. We are unable to escape its cowardice and refusal to show us its liberator face, the face that could free us from so many sins, sins which we have been subjected to during all these years of being newly born in an egg that is dead and rotten, broken by the damned beak of a bird that flies over us, reminding us that up there is a heaven of sheer agony. A heaven dying every single day in all the tones, in all the colors, in all that could be a single stumble, a single moment of union. Whatever it is, it is everywhere and it ends everywhere.

This is a snack for gods of the void, of whatever is and whatever isn't, whatever manages to be what it can't be, whatever manages to truly be what it is. I don't understand anything. It is simply life which talks about itself and says whatever it wants to say, as if it's asking me to fuck it, to make love to it, asking me to throw it from a window, from a corridor, from the fifth floor of an empty building, from something that is also made of everything and nothing. Asking me to kill this agony inside of me and kill the rats that are part of your glory and your desolation. Your fears are your gods, your gods are your loves, and the rest is not important. The demons don't matter. My tomb will be in the nothingness some day. Deep under the earth I will sleep.

I go through the dying during a long period of tenderness and of eternity. What matters is to sleep and nothing else. It is the same to me, the state that is the agony of living and of dying. Nothing matters, not anymore. Life, death, they are both here. They have always been here and they will always be here. It's the same to me; a monkey, an elephant, some other thing that tries to jump, tries to die, tries to achieve something in which it might find a way to live, to feel, to really feel, to feel anything at all. To feel hate, real perfect hate and not that garbage that they show us on the radio and the TV, on the Internet, in these words of 'who knows what this man is trying to say here', this imbecile that is writing to try to say what he doesn't dare to say in his own insides, this damned idiot that is just barely learning to say a half truth that he learned somewhere in his country of El Salvador, The Savior, as if this was the savior of that fucking word that is hell, in which everyone burns and then remains confused. The fucking fear of burning playing for eternity among the heretics which were burned alive and crucified so they could reach the endless glory of hell, where they would never be able to understand their own martyrdom, waiting to sense that everything that is, everything that can be achieved, could come one day to liberate them. Something else would come to do the hard work of sacrifice, so they could keep on fooling around and making trouble with the gun powder that one day was in their words. The fire that they picked up from a virtual garbage can in which man found himself due to the thousand speeches of centrifugal language. It all begins this night, in the things that happened on that one night, the things that I will forever be at a loss to describe.

Monday, December 20, 2010

The Spheres of Galia Part 12

In the biggest challenge to the King’s authority for the decades he had reigned, thousands of common folk massed outside the new palace to protest the ongoing war in Vitnu. Through upheavals and bitter strife in the kingdom were natural process, bound to occur in any realm with a large collection of players, there had never been a gathering of opposition so large that the chanting could be heard as far as the Sophrastas Sea.
People had grumbled at his unpopular rulings before in the markets and taverns, it was a minor crime, though a popular pastime. But now, it went beyond irritation, beyond drunk complaints. The people went out in the misty winter air and gathered at the gates to make their discontent known and unmistakably heard. With torches aglow that sent fiery messages to the King in his tower, they chanted into the starry darkness, rocking the metal gates with the collective force of their anger.
It was not long before their presence drew out the Royal Guards. Armed, the Royal Guards drove the rabble forcefully from the main plaza. Eager to administer beatings to members of the unarmed crowd, they drew their batons, their swords, and fists, swinging wildly at any figure without a shield or uniform. There were screams of children and much shouting. No one was spared the hand of the Guard. The people dropped their torches with each blunt blow and small fires broke out, filling the night with smoke.
The violent night left in doubt the next step for the Kingdom. The recurrent doubts as to the true birth right of the King continued to plague the populace. Many scribes and a small number of councilmen had been offended by the King's harsh rule and his resistance to change. They rallied with the peasantry, calling for a change.
The apparent leader of the King’s opposition was forcefully taken from a healing temple by unknown men in common clothes that betrayed no sign of their rank. Bright and two other councilmen had been severely beaten in the clashes with Royal forces, but Willem alone was carried away. The old healer watched in terrified silence as seven men wrapped Willem the Bright in a blanket as he lay sleeping on a bed in the largest temple of healing in the Kingdom. Locked in the neighboring chamber, Willem’s wife screamed for him while the cowering healer watched his patient being carried away.
The High Priestess hid her smile when the news of Willem the Bright’s abduction reached her. His whereabouts remained unknown, though his fate was certain. The King was playing into her hands, making it all the easier for her by removing yet another beloved man of the people. She was astonished at the level of his blindness, his arrogance. He acted as though he had never studied the history of the Spheres.
It mattered little to her that he no longer sought her consultation. These days he kept council with Argus the Torturer and though brutal, his advice was simple to decipher. She would know his next move before it became a thought in his mind. Soon, she thought, it would be time for her to act openly against the King. For now, she was content to watch his unraveling and with it, the unraveling of the Old Kingdom.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

The Spheres of Galia Part 11

Branan, the former Royal Guard who allegedly leaked hundreds of secret magickal scrolls to Olslo, celebrated his 23rd birthday with the mice in the dark depths of the dungeon under the towers.

Since his capture, Branan had spent most of those two hundred days in solitary confinement. The sound-proof cell removed even the possibility of finding comfort in the screams of those being tortured. He had not even been permitted to touch the hand- written note from his family, rather, the guard read it to him through the small slat in the iron door. There were of course, no windows. No sun, no moon, it was life without seasons, color or natural pattern. In all respects, his birthday had been no different than any of the other days spent in darkness, it was by a small miracle that one of his guards had wished him a “pleasant birthday.” Perhaps it had been sarcastic given his situation, but he took it as an amazing gift, it gave him a way to count the days since his imprisonment, thus restoring to him a small measure of sanity.

His life had become a single endless night spent alone in a damp and cold narrow cell. His world, a sink, toilet, and bed. He was denied the luxury of sheets, pillow or blanket from the chill. Exercise was forbidden, human contact was a forgotten pleasure. In the earliest days of his imprisonment, when he was still permitted visits, he was forced to wear shackles and had to sit behind two rows of metal bars for the entirety of the interview. Now, he couldn’t bear to even hope for that long, difficult walk down the corridor in metal restraints, nor would he permit himself the dream of seeing another human face. The faces of people had become a diffuse thing in his memory. The harder he strove to recall a particular countenance, the more illusive it would become. His mother was a blur of pale pink and white. Remembering the smiles of old comrades was like looking at the world through rain-soaked glass, every color ran together, blurring into a palate of warped shapes. He had never seen the guards by the door, he heard their voices when they issued a command through the slat and though he resented his captors, he now lived for their voices, for that small reminder that there was life and humanity beyond the endless night.

On his birthday, he accidentally tore a toenail by bumping it against the hard leg of his bed. It had hurt for only a moment and the small sliver of nail served as a great diversion. He would toss it to the floor, then search for it in the darkness, fingers scanning the rough surface of the floor and delighting in its tactile stimulation.

Branan’s future remained uncertain. While he searched with eager fingers for a lost piece of himself, Councilman Coyar was in a meeting of the Council. The councilman called for calm and a measured response to the new challenges that Olslo’s actions had presented. The Kingdom had changed dramatically, not just with leaked magickal scrolls, but with the subsequent rebellion. The Council needed to find a way to move fluidly with the changes. "When everyone in this capital is joined together calling for someone's head, it's a pretty sure sign that we need to slow down and take a look," the elderly councilman suggested to his peers.

Councilman Pushkar responded with a call for punishment. “I have no sympathy for the alleged thief in this situation. He’s no better than a common street thug that deals in stolen merchandise and sells it to the highest bidder,” he spat angrily.

Councilman Coyar glanced at the empty seat of Willem the Bright. Where was his old friend, the champion of reason and justice? Times being such as they were, it was hard to distinguish reasonable fears from paranoia. Could Coyar himself expect his own seat to be empty tomorrow for expressing an opinion unfavorable to the King and his watchdogs, zealous men such as Pushkar for whom everything within the Three Spheres was painted black or white? Could Willem himself be in a dungeon beneath the towers after his recent denouncement of the King’s war in Vitnu? Long gone were the times of respectable debate and measured compromise. A glance into the face of Councilman Argus, the retired torturer, gave Coyar cause to shiver. There, he was sure he saw the answers to his questions. They made his blood run cold.

Friday, December 17, 2010

The Spheres of Galia Part 10

"I would rather this weren’t the end," Karnin said when he stood before the Council in a newly renovated granary. "I want to continue to serve. I feel as though I have many years left."

He looked out to the men in robes seated on the wooden benches. Their faces seemed to reveal nothing, neither contempt or sympathy. He thought about stories he had once heard in the time before the great fire, where it was rumored that the Chamber of Windows was alive with debate and shouting and the thoughts of intelligent men who could not be silenced, yet still somehow believed in consensus. The room he found himself in was silent but for a few stifled coughs and the sound of the washer women singing by the river. Karnin’s pale face called to mind notions of wriggling things that had never seen the light, a face that glowed as white as the moon, though in stark contrast, his eyes possessed a certain fire that had recently begun to burn even brighter. Though he stood tall, unwavering in his convictions, his chubby fingers fidgeted slightly with the seams of his robe, he knew the power of the council.

Disagreeing, the High Lieutenant Barthar stood, “on behalf of the proud institution of the Royal Guard, I ask that Karnin be sentenced to no less than two years in a military dungeon. We further recommend that he be dismissed from the Guard. He invited and earned this sentence, it was he who ruled out conventional options. He could have resigned from his post, he could have requested a halt to his deployment if he had such grave concerns with his military orders.”

Barthar stood in stark contrast to Karnin. His complexion was dark and his body lean and muscular. He maintained impeccable stillness as he continued to address the Council. “Instead, he used his deployment earlier this year as a political ploy,” the High Lieutenant said, “going to great lengths to create a spectacle by informing people of what he was doing.”

Karnin’s eyes acquired a glazed expression and his fingers bumbled their way over his seams with greater fervor, the prospect of dungeon time was enough to worry any man.

"He knew exactly what he was doing and he did it anyway," Barthar told the Council, “it is in the interest of our Kingdom to send a strong message to other would-be traitors. This behavior is simply unacceptable for any member of the Royal Guard. Our oaths are sacred. This simply cannot stand.”

The Council took recess to discuss their decision, though Karnin did not have to wait long. As an official Magician of the Royal Guard who disobeyed orders of deployment to Vitnu because he questioned the King's legitimacy, Karnin was sentenced by the Council to six months in a military dungeon and dismissal from the Royal Guard.

It was agreed by some that Karnin was the "victim of an obsession," referring to the continuous questions he posed about the King's birth-right authority. Officials in the Second Sphere claimed to have seen and verified Dominious’s original divine seal, which was kept in a secret library. But rumors persisted, circulating in the pools and most particularly among the clergy, farmers and crafts people of the Old Kingdom. They were unsatisfied with that assurance, finding the officials untrustworthy and secretive. They claimed that the seal of divine origin did not list the name or the location of the chamber where the King was birthed, nor did it list the name of the magician who delivered him unto the Old Kingdom, though none of those who spoke of its technicalities and omissions had even seen the seal. Karnin could not go to fight and die in Vitnu based on the orders of a falsely anointed King.

The Spheres of Galia Part 9

When the King, after almost nine long years, had decided to send more troops to a remote region north of Vitnu in the Second Sphere, feeding the flames of an already unpopular war, one powerful Councilman had had enough.

Willem the Bright spoke up in the new council room where the King occupied his seat in the north, as was tradition, and the dark wooden benches of the councilmen flanked the east and west walls. The new council room was nothing compared to the architectural gem of the lost Chamber of Windows, possessing none of the old room’s history or centuries-long energetic charge. They were now gathered in a stone building once used by the Thusmec monks for storing grain and though it was large, it boasted no windows or aesthetic. Lumina globes were used to keep the chamber lit and now, due to the King’s edict, there was no space by the south wall for the common folk to occupy, the council meetings were to be a private affair.

Willem stood to hold the floor, commanding the attention of his peers. In the dim glow, his red gown was alive with shadows as the ample fabric cascaded over his slight paunch. He was of medium height and let his salt and pepper hair make an unruly wreath around his face. His face was wrinkled from a lifetime of free-flowing expression and his eyes were twinkly even in dismay behind his clean, clear spectacles.

"The Royal Guard can not create stability in a region where there is chaos,” Willem said looking over his peers and even sparing a glance at the King, “royal submission where there is no tradition of it, and honest government where corruption is almost a way of life."

A slight murmur erupted as it had become the custom since the destruction of the capital to agree unconditionally with the decisions of the King. The surviving councilmen of the ordeal had been few and terrified enough to be cowed into agreement again and again. Willem himself had been absent for a good 15 months mending a broken leg and several cracked ribs and a mysterious infection that had spread from the wounds made by his assailants. He had only recently and most insistently returned to his station. He knew things had changed. Once brave and intellectual men, councilmen who had always been up for debate and discussion, now were hiding behind eyes of fear. They had seen death, torture, he knew that terrors still lurked in their dreams, as they did in his, but the very essence of their council was crumbling from complacency and blind agreement. Their traditions were fading in this new style of governance.

"It's unnatural and unhealthy for the Kingdom to be engaged in astral crusades for some principle or idea, however grand these may be, while neglecting the needs of its own people," he said. “Our capital remains in ruins, her people remain in temporary shelters without heat, light or the running water they were once accustomed to. The schools are gone, the libraries have sustained massive damage- and we are doing nothing about it. It is as if we were allowing ourselves to be swallowed up by a dark age.” Willem removed his spectacles with a flourish.

“We are approaching the ninth anniversary of the Vitnu war. I myself mainly slept through the last year of it due to my injuries. But now I am awake, and I ask you: when does it end? The scribes are asking the same. The priests are also asking, as are the people. They say that the King and his warlords have put the Kingdom on an unsustainable path towards eternal war, something we have only heard about from ancient books. Dare we continue on this path? Soon we will be a region where there is chaos, where corruption is a way of life. We will make a desert of the Old Kingdom so that we have no need of the desert of Vitnu. We will be able to fight our own people here, if we continue on this path to destruction. The nature of our goals on Vitnu is no longer important. What we once wanted is no longer attainable, something here must change. I urge you to look past the terrible things we have recently seen and find a will to change our course.”

Willem wiped his brow and took his seat upon the bench, leaving the chamber in a silence most befitting a tomb.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Spheres of Galia Part 8

The rebels of Vitnu had invited hundreds of people to a festival in the western city of Zingan, one of the oldest in all of Vitnu. It was to be a celebration of their victories as well as a commemoration for the fallen, though it swiftly turned from merriment to blood thirsty combat with the arrival and invasion of the Old Kingdom’s Royal Guard.

“They didn't bother to keep it a secret,” General Calder said to the scribes at a conference held at an Old Kingdom base in the Second Sphere. He wore the clean royal blue uniform of the guard with his polished medals dangling from his proud, bulging breast. His narrow face was adorned with a thin, pale mustache and his flaxen hair was tied back with a crisp, white ribbon. “The Royal Guard learned about the gathering. Then troops were quickly deployed. The battle broke out within the first few hours when they arrived to investigate,” he said, folding his white-gloved hands behind his back.

The High Priestess had already delivered her official report to the King and all of the Old Kingdom was now aware that the Vitnu leader Nazario, nicknamed "The Craziest One," had been killed in the raging battles that lasted two days. The fighting had not remained only in Zingan, but had easily spread to strategic parts of the Vitnu mountains where rebel warriors blockaded roads with burning vehicles and huge boulders from the cliffs. Amidst the chaos and fighting, the Royal Guard was unable to recover Nazario’s body.

"What happened during those two days is that we gave the Vitnu rebels the biggest blow in their history," Calder said, smugly tilting up on his toes and back again to his heels in swift rocking motion. His neatly polished boots glistened sharply in the candles that lit the official room for such occasions. "With a certain amount of insolence, they organized a festival, a gathering of hundreds of their people. Everyone found out about the party, not only those on Vitnu. Why shouldn't we?”

Later, the High Priestess spoke with Calder in a private pool that could transcend the distance of the spheres. “Now that we are alone we can speak openly…Nazario?” the High Priestess asked the general through the crimson haze that supported them.

“The rebel scum fled with their dead after the battle. As far as anyone knows, thanks to our report, he is dead,” Calder told her, struggling to make out her features.

“It is as we discussed then?” she asked with tones of pleasure she did not hide.

“Yes, holy lady. I have decided to accept your offer, as has Nazario. He will play dead until you ask him to strike. You have our allegiance.”

“Good,” she answered and withdrew from the pool, leaving the general alone in the mist.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Spheres of Galia Part 7

“In my brother Olslo's words, we recognize the strategy of poetry,” the Lucen Master Egrani explained to the small crowd that sat cross-legged upon a plush red carpet in the center of the old stone library deep in the cave of the Othrusa mountains. The scant light that filtered its way through the room was provided by a wrought iron chandelier filled with slowly melting white candles dangling from the stone ceiling. The group gathered were the sons and daughters of Lords, several others that had once been apprenticed to the magician, a few were fresh from the deserts and caves of Vitnu; also among them were a number of young Lucen scribes and a Prince.

Egrani paced around the carpet, moving his hands widely, but slow and fluidly, as though he was swimming through water. “In their most stringent formulations, the poets of the past epochs set forth a magickally charged theory, one which saw ordinary language as an ally of royal oppression.” Egrani hoped up onto a tall wood hewn stool and looked upon his students and a few attending peers with a youthful face. His hair was longish and bleached almost white by the sun and salt of the seas of Southern Astrada in the Second Sphere. His skin, for the same reason, was strikingly dark in comparison. It made his almost straight teeth flash even whiter as he spoke, catching the candlelight. His inconsistent eyes were in the constant, never ending process of shifting from bronze to blue, passing through hues of green along the way, only to then begin the lengthy process of returning to bronze.

“Regardless of what is being said,” he continued in his slow, calm cadence, “use of standard patterns of syntax and exposition effectively rebroadcast, often at a subliminal level, the basic constitutive elements of the social structure-they perpetuate them so that by constant reinforcement, we are no longer aware that decisions are being made.”

He gave the appearance of being no more than 15 years old, with a lean body and smooth, supple face, but he moved with such ease and grace it seemed impossible for him to be so young. He had spent much of his young life in the water riding the AnacarI, the hairless water beasts, which had helped endow him with the physical manifestation of youth, but it was his time in the Lucen pools that allowed this grace to take shape in his mind and presence. For it was there, in the pools, where water is not just water, where molecules transform with ease, that biological bodies mutated into manifestations of the divine.

He continued, “here, the ‘clear’ and ‘orderly’ functioning of language plays the same part in the poets’ magickal mythology that the clear and orderly functioning of secrecy plays in Olslo's view: both are invisible agents of the King, up to no good for as long as no one is looking.”

Prince Suk listened to the young master with a deep sense of awe and just a tiny bit of pride. In a way, he could be considered the boy’s father. Certainly he was his guardian in the physical sense, and had raised and cared for him in the politically neutral Kingdom of Astrada, neighbor to his own Principality in Vitnu. This brief sampling of fatherhood had lasted an accelerated 11 and a half months in which the young baby had grown into a capable teacher. In two weeks they could celebrate the one-year anniversary of Egari’s birth in Taurus. Suk mused that he had in the abstract, participated in Egari’s conception when he penetrated Olslo’s Library in Valance with the scribe Rosh. It was there that Rosh found the “recipe” for Egari. In that sense, Egari was the son of Olslo. The seven sisters in the laboratory at Taurus might be considered his mothers or his grandmothers, or both, with Rosh as his surrogate.

Egrani was not the only child, but he was the first of that initial penetration. His 11 siblings had been born into a variety of households, to a variety of parents throughout the Three Spheres after Egari was successfully brought to term in a matter of 3 months. Even the elusive Illuhuati of the Third Sphere had agreed to foster a child, creating the only child not born to a woman. The Illuhuati’s physiology, being too incompatible with that of a human, required a technology that assembled and gestated the biological data entrusted to them by the seven sisters.

Suk was drawn from his reverie by his foster son’s words, “if language control equals thought control, and thought control equals reality control, then it is not only possible, but imperative to fight the battle for a new reality at the level of language. There, and only there, can real victories be had, as elusive and temporary as such victories may be.”

Monday, December 13, 2010

The Spheres of Galia Part 6

The library was an inverted sphere tucked within an astral chamber located in Olslo’s former residence in Valance, in the Second Sphere. They found it in a marble room with a large window that overlooked the lake outside. The room contained no furniture, just a single marble pedestal with a small golden orb that rested upon it. Within the orb, the library glowed with an electric blue incandescence and was connected to not only the vast networks of the Lucen pools, but also to the great libraries of all Three Spheres. This was the haven Olslo had built for himself in Valance. Suk Arev, a Prince of Vitnu, accompanied by Rosh Sil, a scribe of Valance, explored the library within the inverted sphere which existed outside of space and time.

“My sense of self is very strange,” Suk communicated to Rosh. “I feel that I have no body, and yet I am aware of the concept ‘I.’ I find that I am feeling a certain degree of fear.”

“What do you fear?” Rosh asked as she raced through the liquid light, accessing pools and libraries in a simultaneous moment of understanding.

“That I will be unable to find my body again. Where is it?”

“It isn’t anymore. There is no place holder left in Valance and there is no place to hold here. You are not, at this juncture. But, there is no need for fear. You will be again soon, when we return to space. You will recreate yourself, much as you do each morning when you awaken.” Rosh told the Prince. “You may also release the concept 'I' at this juncture. You will create that again as well. It will be as convincing as it ever has been.”

“If I release ‘I,’ there will be no more Suk. I will not exist. What could I then accomplish?” the Prince asked with alarm, which both of them experienced as a terrible squeezing in their chest and limbs.

“You must relax and be unafraid or we will be expelled from this library. There is something that remains when you release ‘I.’ With it, you will be able to accomplish more here. Think of it as diving. For a moment you and I will dive, we will explore the pools here, leaving the concept of ‘I’ waiting for us on the bank. When we have finished our exploration we will surface and resume our individual identities. Will you come? As long as we continue this linguistic form of communication which is itself the separating force that reinforces the concept of ‘I,’ our search of this library and the pools it connects to will be ineffective. We must go deeper.”

There was a silence and the swirling blue light was punctuated by a final communication from the Prince, “Yes. I see. We will go deeper.”

The blue pulsing and swirling intensified and then blue bled into white and at last the shining clarity of empty water as Rosh and Suk dissolved. What remained raced through the pools connected to Olslo’s library in bright bursts of electric white energy.

When Prince Suk awoke, he was lying on the cool marble floor of the empty room in Valance with the warm golden orb in one hand. Rosh’s head was resting on his stomach. His other hand was in her hair and for a moment, he was aware of nothing other than its amazing silky texture. Rosh stirred and quickly opened her eyes, turning her face towards his. Their eyes met and love flowed easily between them.

“I have never felt like that,” the Prince said, beaming. “Not even in making love have I ever been so close to another human being.”

Rosh smiled at him. “That’s because we were no longer human. We found something. Do you remember?”

“I remember elation. I remember bliss,” he said.

“If you do it more often, that experience will become more integrated with this one. You will remember more, which is the first step,” Rosh told him, moving slowly into a comfortable seated position.

“We retrieved something from Olslo’s private pool. We leaked it into all of the pools connected through his library. Everyone in the Three Spheres will know it soon. And there was something else, something that we kept hidden, something wonderful. Can you get us into the First Sphere? We need to visit Taurus.”

“The laboratories of the Seven Sisters?” the Prince asked. His face was dark and handsome and his smile refused to fade from it.

Rosh nodded at him slowly, her eyes were black pools of determination and clarity. The fingers of their hands laced together and they smiled as one.

The words from the leaked manuscript found their way beyond the reach of the pools and libraries of the Three Spheres. In the deserts of Vitnu, within a cave deep in the mountains, Stevash Khal read the manuscript to his tattered band of guerillas. In the prison mines where the first Olslo had toiled before his death, it was repeated by the new arrivals. In the Third Sphere, the Illuhuati arranged it to music. The High Priestess, in her secret lair in the underground ruins of Nurk, read it in the pools of the Lucen scribes before they sent it on to more remote pools deeper in the Sphere. Even the torturer who had administered Olslo’s last punishments three days prior read the disappeared man’s words from a wall where they had been written outside the Towers:

“There are no unarguable axioms of value or worth, there are only inclinations.
My inclinations have turned to an intense loathing of institutions, and most of the people in them; those spineless supplicants agape at the passing of other men's ideas, not drawn by desire, but driven by fear and ignorance, to the tepid hearth of institutionalism.
One may argue as to the qualities of a passing man's wife, but as a life philosophy, it can only appeal to self-loathing celibates. How much better the subjective stance which curls the mind around the lovely creature in one's embrace!”

Friday, December 10, 2010

The Spheres of Galia Part 5

Violent skirmishes raged across the Spheres between the supporters of Olslo and the warlords they accused of trying to stifle the revelation of magickal knowledge. There were fires upon the grounds of carefully tended manors and several of the largest squares were littered in glass, metal and blood. Amidst the panic and smoke, the Chamber of Windows lay melting. Once a glory or architecture, it bubbled in a pile of iridescent goo.

Beside the molten walls, wooden stakes had been erected on the scaffolding where condemned criminals had once been humanely vaporized, but now, the heads of councilmen from both the Red Hat and Yellow Hat parties oozed their blood. Smoke rose from the smoldering ruins of the capital city and lines of refugees marched towards the forests of Avin where temporary dwellings were being established.

The Lady Rob, along with other surviving council members found herself sequestered within the safety of the Towers of Ral, the sanctuary of the Kingdom’s most powerful magicians. Many of her fellows were distracted beyond reason. Grown men, including Philip the Old, were reduced to sniveling wretches. Most had not noticed the terrible inconsistencies of the reports that blamed the Lucen Scribes and Vitnutian terrorists for the attack on the Chamber of Windows. The Lady Rob herself had met the resurrected leader of the Lucens, Olslo, and found it impossible to believe that such a person could be responsible for the violent attack. His eyes shone with something alive beyond the simple need for violence. He was not a creature of quick reaction or anger, there was no need in him for sticks or guns. There was something else that reached out to her, coming out through his eyes and into her, something so fierce and wild and wise that it could only turn into itself, becoming soft.

Having been present during the attack, she had seen with her own eyes the strange creatures with shiny black armor that tore the heads from Council members. Her account of the event had already been written off as the results of hysteria, but the Lady Rob knew her mind to be sound.

Exploring her thoughts as she wandered the white halls of the towers, she made her way into the forbidden western tower where the magicians were gathered in the Kingdom’s defense. Here, she overheard the warlords and magicians making preparations to cut off the magickal energy necessary for Olslo's work with the Lucens and others throughout the Three Spheres. Listening, she was filled with a sense of dread.

In many ways, Olslo and his ideals of freedom and equality reminded her of her father and his disgrace. As a young woman, she had been devastated by her family’s loss of status. She had been little moved by her father’s lofty dreams and had worked her whole life to repair his name. Now, picturing Harrold’s head on a stake and remembering with pain her father’s own vaporization on the same lucite platform in front of the Chamber of Windows, she felt her hands begin to tremble. The hot tears she had never shed over her father’s execution fell from her eyes. Her body began to shake, a cold terror began to move through her, starting in her fingers, toes and back, and moving inward, journeying quickly towards her chest and the heart that lay protected. With each falling tear she released the locked thoughts and visions of the kingdom. It was not as pure and true as she had pretended it was, as she had wanted it to be. It had not been her father who had failed so many years ago, it had been her own heart and the heart of The Old Kingdom.

The Lady Rob made her way to one of the public communication portals, tears flowing unabated over her reddened cheeks, hot salty tears dowsing the velveteen fabric of her dress. She established a connection with the Lucen Scribes and relayed to them all that she had learned in the west wing.

Councilman Argus had not been present at the Chamber of Windows. Now a guest in the house of Lord Avin where the King himself was taking refuge, he expressed surprise at the scale of the astral attacks that had targeted major astral compounds of the Kingdom within the last 8 hours. Many high ranking guests of Lord Avin were convened in his dining hall, still dining on game hens and pudding despite the violence.

"It's truly what the scribes would call an astral war. What is happening is just astonishing," Councilman Argus said from behind his dark glasses. Lord Avin shook his head, “they’ve had the power to do this sort of thing all along. This is their response to the attack of our magicians on their Lucen pools.”

“You mean their counter-attack,” Councilman Argus corrected harshly. “They used brute force to destroy our capital city.”

“We have reports coming in from reputable sources that the attack on the capitol was launched by a third party,” Lord Avin said firmly but softly.

“You mean the account of the traitor Lady Rob.” The retired torturer glared, “who is clearly an ally to the Lucens.”

“There are other accounts,” Lord Avin answered softly and the High Priestess entered the dining hall, her purple robe rustling as she bowed before the king.

“A young boy suspected of being involved in the magickal attacks was just captured in the Cold Reefs an hour ago and is currently under interrogation.”

“Will he lead us to Olslo?” Dominious asked.

“It is quite possible,” the High Priestess told him.

“And the Lady Rob?” he pressed, “has she revealed anything about her connection with the scribes?”

“No majesty, but we will continue questioning her.”

“What about our plan, have we been able to shut down the Lucen pools?” Dominious leaned eagerly forward in his chair.

Shaking her head, the High Priestess continued, “Olslo's actions have thrown all magickal operations into disarray. Our magicians are working to restore some of our own astral chambers. When we have recovered these we will resume our attacks on theirs.”

“And our people? Those taking refuge in Avin, are they taken care of?”

“Our Lord Avin has been most gracious in opening his lands to our displaced citizens. Most are already sheltered and their wounds are being tended to. I personally have been amongst them, administering to their spiritual needs and listening to their accounts. Most of them cannot understand what is happening, but they are angry nonetheless. They will be glad when Olslo is brought to justice.”

In the dungeon of the Towers of Ral, Lady Rob collapsed upon the stone floor of her cell where her keepers had left her. Beyond the bars of her cell, she watched them grab hold of the boy and carry him away. She wished to scream, more than anything, she wished to scream, but her tongue was swollen and saliva ran from her mouth onto the cold stone. Completely paralyzed, she lay on the ground floating in a state of near bliss now that an eternity of pain had come to an end. Vaguely, she could recall having done something to have earned her misery, but it was a blur. All that was real was the pain inflicted by The Torturer. That was all that had ever been, all that could ever be now. She wished dimly that the strange boy could be spared the experience. Then she lost consciousness.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

The Spheres of Galia Part 4

The proposal by the Red Hats to make dramatic changes to the Kingdom’s inter-spheral immigration system had been stalled by the dramatized political threats of the Yellow Hats, which was to be expected. The plan called for an overhaul of the old and now shoddy AT field that surrounded the First Sphere and the implementation of a new citizen tracking chip. Over the past nine years, the third-generation chips had grown obsolete and were easily rewritten by tech-coyotes with the right set of demagnetizing and code writing tools. It was all too common for citizens from the Second Sphere to pay one of these tech-coyotes to re-write their citizen chips so they could pass through the scanners of the First Sphere undetected. The new chip, should it be produced, would be impervious to such manipulation, at least until those codes were once again broken by a new generation of tech-coyotes, at which time new chips would be developed. While there were many places where the First Sphere’s ailing AT field could be compromised, the overhaul would make it possible to track and prevent bodies of any size from entering the First Sphere.

The council was held in the old Chamber of Windows, a room reserved for discussion and political maneuvering. A muted light passed through the panes of particle glass, bathing the red and yellow robes and hats of the council members with its soft glow. The milky luminescent floor and benches of lucite reflected the light up into their faces so that each visage seemed to radiate an ephemeral light of its own. Argus the Torturer, a powerful Yellow Hat and former member of the League of Assassins, had just refused to sign onto the proposal and the Red Hats feared this critical, much-needed vote would fail. Argus sat with his elbows resting on the lucite tabletop, his hands folded just under his chin. His bald head shone like a pale sun in the illuminated space of the Chamber of Windows, his forehead bulging and protruding over the small slits of eyes that glared narrowly about the room from behind rectangular shaded spectacles.

Councilman Harrold knew, from years of experience and a finely tuned political intuition, that this could turn out badly for him and his fellow Red Hats. His gray hair matched the hue of his gray eyes perfectly, both shone like silver next to the bright crimson of his cap and gown. Through the general uproar that was taking hold of the chamber as arguments and discussions poured from councilmen with flushed cheeks and saliva moistened lips, Harrold caught sight of the gracious Lady Rob. He could remember the days when at her father’s table, he had dined on duck and wine and watched her play by the fire with the dogs. Her father had been a good friend in those days, and she, a maiden with braided brown locks decorated with rainbow-colored ribbons and pearls. It had been nice, those chilly nights by the fire, so many years before her father’s infamous fall from grace.

Lady Rob met his eyes and he tried to let her know, through gesture and carefully directed energy that he meant no harm, he was a friend. She returned his look with a wary, yet sympathetic smile. Keeping in mind the crucial vote, he turned to his left, to the one Yellow Hat that might come over to his side, "will you please help us," he whispered. She was a petite red-haired woman with a heart shaped face and hard blue eyes. She tilted her head to the left and right, refusing to say yes or no while she stared into the space ahead of her.

To the crowd that had been permitted to gather in the northern quadrant of the chamber of windows, the scribe announced: "We're getting close, but negotiations are still ongoing."

At the opposite end of the chamber, the King as usual, remained aloof, appearing distant and inconclusive, his head turned slightly to one side as he gazed into the milky surface of the lucite floor. His hand, covered in rings, tapped pensively upon the velvet arm of the seat reserved for him at the southern end of the chamber.

Harrold glanced at the wan statuesque form of Dominious. Turning again to the impassive female Yellow Hat, he said, "will you please help us, it is for the good of the Sphere..." Once more, there was no answer.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The Spheres of Galia Part 3

The feast would be strikingly minimal, composed of fare provided by the King’s own garden and the main course cooked simply, made of the common rooftop hen. In the grand dining room, there was nothing present that could suggest extravagance of any kind. There was no pre-dining entertainment, no dancing, no jesting. The tables were covered in simple ivory linen and a single goblet, plate and fork for every guest. The gold utensils and embroidered napkins had been kept in the closets, out of simple necessity, the room was alive with the light of a thousand red and white wax candles.

Half a dozen war-weary soldiers recently returned from Vitnu were present and still adjusting to the Sphere after several years away. Dominious had them seated to the left of his vacant chair. All of these gestures of humility and concern had been orchestrated to prove to his fellow Red Hats that their values and causes where still close to his heart. He hoped to prevent defections by Red Hats that could sink the proposal he had recently worked out with their rivals, the Yellow Hats. They were here, those Council members who had been Lords and Clergymen before becoming members of the illustrious Council, and also those Red Hats who did not sit upon the Council, among these Lord Avin.

“Many Yellow Hats seem ready to embrace the compromise and declare victory,” he said to Dominious as they strolled together through the clusters of men and sweet-scented women waiting to be seated. “The question is whether enough Red Hats will join them in support, especially in the Council, where resentment of your concessions run strong.” Dominious glanced sideways at Lord Avin, his mouth turned down at the corners, but not so strongly that it could be declared a frown.

“And you? What do you think?” he asked while maintaining his forward glance.

Lord Avin sighed, “you know that I am forever your most ardent servant,” he said, and then looked to the King as if he wished to say more. Dominious turned to him and nodded to continue. “I fear that you lose site of the doctrines of our brotherhood. We are stewards of the people, and the Yellow Hats serve only themselves. The people are hungry and over-taxed. They and their children are dying in this bloody drawn-out war. They were sympathetic to the Lucen Scribes, and now that Olslo is dead, the sense of injustice has become heightened. These were wrongs begun during your brother’s reign, and it was believed that after his death, you would set them right, but you yield to the desires of the Yellow Hats at every turn…”

Dominious raised a hand to silence Avin. “You must understand, they are a force to be reckoned with. And they are not entirely wrong. The imprisonment of the Lucen Scribes was necessary, the security tax is necessary, ferreting out our enemies is also necessary. Don’t forget, most of our brethren on the Council voted for the war during my brother’s reign, and for the security tax as well. They understood these necessities then.” Dominious pressed a hand to his forehead, searching for words to explain the particular box he now found himself in, the pressure that came from all sides and prevented action in any direction. “They are like unruly children, both brotherhoods. We must preserve the kingdom. I will speak to all of our brethren tonight. I must make them understand.”

Dominious left Avin to take his place at the head of the table. Soon all were seated at the great horseshoe arrangement of tables. The room buzzed with chatter and the clinking of silverware. An electric lute strummed quietly by the attending bard who sang softly of the orphans housed by Dominous and of the new temples of healing established throughout the kingdom.

Over the general clatter the King caught fragments of conversation. The Red Hats with seats on the Council criticized the compromise, sometimes harshly, but stopped short of saying they would try to stop it. In the middle of it all, the King sat pale and bent in his chair, his face harrowed with creases. His poultry and stewed vegetables remained untouched and grew cold. In the candlelight, the dark circles under his eyes gave him the appearance of a man in the final stages of illness. His thin hands played idly with the silverware as he waited for his moment to speak.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The Spheres of Galia Part 2

In his weekly sermon, Philip the Old expounded upon what he believed was the original intent of the Ancestors on voting rights in the Kingdom. The manuscripts had been debated by half a dozen scholars in recent times, though none were as politically powerful as Philip, who had mountains of gold and fully equipped armies at his disposal. Because of his stature and riches, his words resonated with a harsher impact, turning other interpretations of the Ancestors to shadows that no one could remember. Standing upon the lucite scaffolding in the town center after the customary vaporization of condemned criminals, the smell still lingering in the stone covered plaza, Phillip huffed and spoke with such furious conviction that the great mound of his belly swathed in arbrit, a shimmering synthetic known for its superior wicking, jounced up and down, wiggling as his words tumbled out like dominoes.

The crowd was a little subdued, reflecting on the fragility of life and their own mortality, a feeling which hit them with whirls of hurt and confusion in the center of their chest, when Philip began to speak. A little chilled by the wintery air and morbid reflection, they were slow to comprehend the true content and underlying motives of Philip’s righteous monologue. Their consciousness flowed along on the pitch and cadence of his voice, not grabbing on to particular words or concepts, but floating with each rise and fall of vocal vibration like boats traveling along a brisk stream. His self righteousness and their easy and somewhat distracted acceptance of it imbued them with a sense of righteousness too, it was the perfect antidote for the poison of reflection.

Today, however, unlike his many other sermons, Philip failed to mention the massacre of Orzab and the hated hosts of Vitnu being hunted on the third Sphere by the brave Soldiers of the fine Old Kingdom. Instead he sought to interpret the desires of the Ancestors as stated in the old manuscript. He stated, once again, loudly and with absolute belief in his conviction, that their original intent in holding elections was to allow property owners the power to vote, nothing more.

"It makes a lot of sense," he said, belly heaving, "in a modern setting. If you're a property owner, you actually have a vested interest in the community, others do not." Further, he advocated the dismissal of a prominent council member for being a follower of the old ways of Annis, which was as close to a death sentence as he was prepared to make that morning.

There were rumblings in the crowd as Philip spoke, a murmur that rose as the torpor of the executions wore away. Of the billions of inhabitants of the Old Kingdom of the First Sphere, only a few could claim to be property owners. The King himself for certain, his Lords and their Ladies by marriage, the public conglomerates formed of coalitions of noble people, a handful of the great magicians, and a few private conglomerates and personages.
A sense of slow dread and alarm grew to a buzz of whispers and anxious glances in the cold winter-drenched chill, but nobody spoke up to question Philip’s interpretation of the Ancestor’s manuscript. Not one could raise his voice towards the man with armies and chests of gold. His power silenced even the most skeptical gathered in the square. Most assumed that the majority of those present were in agreement with him, or they forced themselves to believe that so the obligation for objection could be lifted from their shoulders, for there was no sense in creating disharmony when agreement abounded. And so Philip was allowed to continue with his carefully planned diatribe.

At the edge of the thick crowd Maia stood holding the hand of her small son Olslo. He had grown just as fast as his brother, which he had a vague sense of, though he lacked the words to describe it in any detail.

“What does it mean?” she asked her sister Alcyone, who stood on the other side of the tiny boy. Maia’s face hid her concern, but it swam within her, hidden by a lifetime of magickal practice.

“How can we know? We don't yet know how far they will go. We would still be in possession of Taurus, in any case.” There was a brief moment of silence, then Alcyone heard the voice of her younger sister standing so close behind she could feel the warmth of her cinnamon-scented breath.

“This is not the world I would wish for our son to inhabit,” Asterope said, her long fair face looking even longer with the glimmer of dismay. Beside her was Celeano with a smaller, muscular body and a moon-shaped face. “Sister, you forget. Our son was not made to inhabit the world. He was made to re-make it.”

Monday, December 6, 2010

The Spheres of Galia

They had released a manuscript listing chambers worldwide that the Old Kingdom considered critical to its royal security. This was in the year of the blue Sapphire in the aftermath of the Orzab massacre. The crops were poor that year and the new security tax left the people facing hunger, while the soldiers were sent what bread there was to keep them occupying the deserts of Vitnu on the third sphere. Rumor had it that the perpetrators of the massacre in the capital city were hiding in the arid mountains somewhere in the darkness of Vitnu.

The locations cited in the manuscript from the High Priestess of the Old Kingdom ranged from underwater cities to suppliers of food, medicine and manufacturing materials. A council was summoned to determine the fate of those who had circulated the manuscript throughout the three spheres of Galia. In these meetings the Royal Guard declined to comment on the details of what it called "stolen" writings containing magical knowledge. A local magician called the disclosure "damaging," and said it gave valuable information to the adversaries of the King.

"This is one of many reasons why we believe their actions are irresponsible and dangerous," the magician cried through trembling white whiskers. Even his cloak rippled as if disturbed by a wind, though the great hall was oppressively warm and still.

The scribe Olslo was among those accused of conspiring against the King. His eyes were clear and blue, as placid as a frozen lake. He stood tall at the trial, the son of seven mothers who had worried over his upbringing and education and now were absent in light of his disgrace.

“We felt that this manuscript, along with others, should be available to any citizen of the kingdom, that airing out secrets might help to bring peace to all three spheres by empowering even the lowliest inhabitants of Galia with knowledge. We reproduced the manuscript and others without regard for, or even knowledge of, their content. All information should be available to all beings.”

Even the old magician seemed momentarily stunned by the young scribe’s composure and clear bright voice. He was quick however to re-spin his own webs for netting the support of the council. Olslo would be sentenced to imprisonment in Narion on the second sphere.

Nonetheless, the manuscript had been disseminated throughout Galia. There were many who had become familiar with its content. It was now well known that in it, the High Priestess asked her envoys to help update a list of chambers around the world which, if destroyed, disrupted or exploited, would likely have an immediate and deleterious effect on the Royal Kingdom.

The Priestess Amalidia herself was questioned. Though the manuscript was meant to serve the purpose of strengthening security, it could now be regarded as having done the opposite.

“Just who made this manuscript available to the likes of Olslo? He could not have reproduced it without having at some point seen the original. Only the High Priestess and her envoys could have had access to it,” Lord Avin Deloro pointed out to his majesty the King of the Old Kingdom while they hunted the genetically manifested foxus in the revived forest of Avin.

“Your kingdom is ancient and vast. You are the only monarch who can claim rulership of an entire Sphere. It would make an appealing prize for an ambitious woman.” They sat astride their stallions, Lord Avin’s a deep purple, King Domonious’s a resplendent red. It was a strange coincidence unknown to either man that their mounts had been manifested in the same laboratory where Olslo’s seven mothers had conceived, gestated, and birthed him.

Ahead of them the hounds bayed in pursuit of the foxus. “I’ve never known Amalidia to be overly ambitious,” King Dominious said warily through his neat black beard.

“Believe me, every woman in a position of power is there for no reason but ambition. For them there is no brothership such as we know. We must be most wary of our wives and then our magicians, in that order. Amalidia is the worst of both.” King Dominious eyed the landscape through squinted eyes, letting the words roll through him.

Down in the catacombs of Nurk, among the ruins of a long lost civilization of the first sphere, Amalidia sat in her underground tower looking into the darkness. The manuscript had been considered so confidential the envoys had been advised to come up with it on their own: "Posts are not being asked to consult with local strong men in respect to this request," the High Priestess had dictated. In truth only she could posses the manuscript in its entirety. Only she knew of all the chambers it had come to describe. The incomplete manuscript that she had shared with the King was the same that she had leaked to Olslo and the other Lucen scribes. She smiled at her own reflection in the glass window pane. Beyond it, in the darkness, a shinier darkness scuttled through the ruined underground city. Amalidia watched her children moving through the inky depths of the Sphere.

In Narion, on the second Sphere, Olslo toiled in the mines with the other convicted scribes of Lucen. In the gloom, the clarity of his voice and eyes faded. Only there in the throws of despair did he begin to suspect that they had been played as pawns, just like he had once played in the old sphere game his seven mothers taught him in childhood. He had a bit of rope hidden under his bunk. Tonight he thought, would be a good night to die.

In their laboratory, Olslo’s mothers took the information they had gathered when they first conceived Olslo and created him once again. In the laboratory, where the King and his Lord’s fine stallions were born, Olslo was again gestating.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Super Ball

Who sits with me this morning?
My grandmother is here with bare feet, even though in life I never saw her stand on bare feet but always shod in fur lined booties, boxes of which were stockpiled in the guestroom closet. I saw her feet bare only if she lay down on her bed to watch talk shows on the beautiful old Zenith on her dresser.
That television had a special smell about it and of course it looked different from our televisions at home, even though I can barely remember the precise details of its form. I can remember that it looked stylish. This was a television set from the old school, a television built with a modern luxurious look in mind. A television that was good to look at even when it was shut off. I used to get close to it and press my nose against it to smell its special smell.
My grandparents had a way of preserving everything as if their house were a comfortable museum. Nothing ever got dirty or wore out. Things maintained the smell they came out of the box with and contributed that odor to the mix so that a new Zenith television set mingled with vanilla and licorice and coffee and wood and clean linens and sand.
Did you know that the sand of the desert has a smell? That even inside of the house you can smell the desert beyond the four walls? You can. It has its own special smell, clean and dusty all at once. Maybe the only way for you to understand what I’m talking about is for you to get into your car and drive to Phoenix.
I loved it there, not only in the house and yard which, against nature's desire, was a lush green paradise, but also on the streets. I loved the stark nakedness of everything, the sun tormenting all surfaces with its unashamed glare, the cacti and sand in center dividers and planters boxes, the hundred plus degree heat bouncing back up from asphalt and concrete, making waves in the view of the world and warming scrawny little girls like me so that I could never feel cold again, never as long as I could recall Phoenix.
My grandmother is here with her bare feet, perhaps to remind me of that warmth that saturated me to the bone.
When I was very young she would come out onto the porch carpeted with Astroturf and furnished with an electric reclining lounge. There was a lovely wooden shelf fashioned by my grandfather especially for holding a collection of little painted pots.
Inside of the pots we kept an assortment of small round super balls, the kind you could get for a quarter out of those red toped machines that lay in wait at the front of every grocery store. I had hot pink and electric green super balls and rainbow swirled super balls. We played with several at once, in no particular way that I can recall, because those little balls were so unpredictable. Once they had been released from the pots there was no stopping them, they bounced around like popping corn and there could be no joy in trying to catch them or pass them, only in setting them free to bounce like mad, then rescuing them once gravity had at last gotten the best of them. I would scramble around on hands and knees to retrieve them when nature had beaten them. I rescued them, my little friends who needed just a little help to begin their wild dancing again.
I never felt that I was too hot out there on the porch or in the yard. It was always too hot for my grandmother and she was very careful to take me back inside after a reasonable amount of time had passed and there re-hydrate me with a mixture of apple cider vinegar in water.
No one could ever reproduce my grandmother's apple cider vinegar and honey. I remember returning home and feeling the desire for one. I asked my mother to prepare it. The taste was awful. Being an honest child I told her, so that she could try again, and she did, again and again, to no avail. At last I stopped asking.
It must be terrible to discover that there is something that someone else can do for your child which you cannot emulate, especially when that someone is the mother of your husband and comes to your house for the holidays to complain of everything.
My grandparents could not be satisfied by my mother's pathetic efforts at home making. Unconvinced of her ability to even launder linens properly, they packed their own wash cloths and towels when they came to visit. Certain that they liked the expensive apple turnovers from the town's only doughnut shop, my mother bought them for breakfast every time they were with us, until at last my grandparents complained that she only ever gave them one thing. She was stung. I can remember her saying that they couldn’t be satisfied.
After that she no longer wished to go along when my father and sister and I visited them in their desert. She said that they made her feel unwelcome in their home. She told me once that they insinuated that they didn’t have room for all of us.
In retrospect, now that I can eat and bath myself without my family’s assistance, I feel that I would not invite my mother to my house either, nor my father for that matter. Most days I think that I would not invite my grandmother either, but now she is here, barefoot.
I feel that I have to explain.
In the early days when we played super ball on the back porch or turned the barstools over inside the kitchen to make me a doggie house, my grandmother and I were bosom buddies. My grandfather seemed rather too grouchy for my taste during that time and if I had had to pick just one to keep and one to throw away, I would have kept my grandmother.
As I grew older this changed. As little breasts budded on my chest and acne swallowed my face, my grandmother could no longer bear the heat outside at all. If I wanted to go out I went out alone. Her favorite thing to do with me now was to discuss awkward subjects such as premarital sex and homosexuality and the use of condoms.
My grandfather now enlisted my help in running errands. He enjoyed leaving early before the heat had fully come to settle on things and preferred to visit various different specialty stores to obtain all of the things my grandparents required to maintain their existence.
I soon intuited that part of his motive in getting one thing here and another there had less to do with the quality of this or that item and more to do with the interactions he had with each of the shop keepers. Even in the chain grocery store the manager would come out to say hello and the clerks could call him by his first name.
One day as we cruised down those scorching streets in his white Buick, my grandfather asked if I enjoyed running errands with him. I told him heartily that I did which put him into a great state of peace and contentment.
My grandmother could rarely be coaxed out of the house. This had been going on since before I was born. My father later revealed to me that back during my super ball days my grandfather had come to him in a shambles. He told my father that he wanted to kill himself because he was so lonely. My grandmother would never leave the house with him, not for dinner, not for a movie, not for dancing or ice cream or to watch sunrises. She gave the same strange excuse for every occasion; she was afraid of picking up fleas. My father begged my grandfather not to do it. He suggested that my grandfather try having affairs with other women before he turned to such a drastic measure. My father was always glad to conclude the story by saying that his suggestion had done the trick.
Slowly it was my grandmother who began to appear to my adolescent eyes as a grouch. Now that I was at an age to understand, she could do little more than tell sad stories again and again, and ask those same awkward questions suggested to her by day time talk shows.
My grandfather, on the other hand, could now interact with me in ways that he had been unable to interact with a connoisseur of super ball and games of doggie. He taught me to bake, and tried to show me how mechanical things worked. He took me to a vineyard to pick grapes, and to a sandy place where we watched people fly remote control gliders. And he introduced me to all of the little casual acquaintances that made his life worth bearing. He beseeched me not to reflect on the dark side of life but to embrace beauty while it was there to be had.
“Dark times always come. They will find you. So don’t go looking for them, enjoy the sun while it is here.” Then, with difficulty, he told me a little of his experiences in WWII as a young German fighting on the Eastern front.
“We were just kids. We didn’t want to be there. We would have preferred to be dancing, listening to music…people here don’t understand, we had no choice. Dark times.” He shook his head and looked out the window, gazing far away, into a place beyond the scope of the window, a place I couldn’t see. “Maybe you‘ll be lucky and never see such times.”
I was much closer to him by the time that he passed away, whereas by the time my grandmother left the world I hardly recognized her. Confined to a wheelchair, she unable to do more than grunt and exhibit behaviors that seemed selfish and cruel.
That was how I last saw her before she died sequestered in that house with my uncle as her keeper. At that time both house and yard had fell into terrible disrepair.
But now my grandmother is here again, standing with bare feet in the yard where green grass is beginning to push up through the old yellow stuff. She is standing and talking, just as she could when I was a child, and she is asking me if I will help her by playing with tennis balls on the porch. I feel that this will make her stronger but it is difficult for me to hold the tennis balls in my hands. They are too large and I can not juggle them.
Slowly it dawns on me… I know what we need. If my grandmother is to be fully restored, what we need to pass between us is not these furry offish tennis balls. We need super balls, tiny, lively, uncontrollable super balls. Then I will have my grandmother again. Then, at last we will be reunited. This is why she has come to sit with me this morning, unshod, to be alive again. Like a super ball that was lost under the recliner and now waits for me to set it free, my grandmother is here with bare feet.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The Best Night Ever

I witnessed the best night ever. It didn’t happen to me, but I was part of it, guiding the events, letting out a tune every once in a while until we broke out into a spectacle of fireworks that moved around the room disguised only slightly by the turning disco ball.
We both drank slowly from our plastic containers of lemonade. Every time she took a sip her eyes would squint involuntarily and her cheeks would pucker. It was a look of pain, but she kept drinking more. It was the most rich, sweet and sour drink I had ever tasted, I couldn’t imagine it with the thousand extra taste buds of youth. She took another sip, wincing in pain and I laughed.
“Do you want me to get you a glass of water so you can mix the two? Then it won’t be so sour.”
“No, I’m ok.”
I offered to get her water several times until I realized that I needed some. I got up without a word and poured two cups from the self-serve plastic water container on the counter of the restaurant. When I brought them back to the table she drank greedily from the cup, perhaps unaware until that moment of how much her body desired something neutral.
Eating from my plate, I realized that this was not kid-friendly food. It was rich and intense. The mac and cheese was mixed with hot sauce and other spices that made it almost too overwhelming on my tongue. Next to it were two types of tofu burgers, one was fried, seasoned and crispy while the other was drenched in deep red bbq sauce. She picked delicately at the only quiet thing on the plate, a small piece of yellow cornbread.
“Don’t worry, I’ll take you to get a kid-friendly burger next door.”
I looked around the restaurant. The walls were a bare white except for the two large portraits of Big Mama Thorton and Muddy Waters behind me. Each portrait was five feet tall and four feet wide. They were painted with one shade of maroon that reminded me of a film negative.
Besides the paintings, the place was bare. The seven tables in the front section were clear of any decoration. Around the corner in the dimly lit section that might have been an old blues club, a disco ball turned its light on an empty collection of tables.
Before we left she tossed another penny into the fountain by the front register and the hand written chalk menu on the back wall. We walked next door to Nation’s burger. I had eaten there twice. Once years ago after I had been drinking with my friend Julie. I thought it was delicious, the best burger ever. After a few weeks and fond memories of my meal, I went back sober. The experience was night and day. My burger was greasy, flat and tasted of oil.
We walked next door hand in hand. There were several tall black men standing by the register, one had a head of dreadlocks hidden behind a large knit cap. As we walked in and I saw him I felt safe just because he was there. Another older man showed us his plastic bracelet, he had just gotten out of the hospital.
The man with the bracelet looked down at her and she was already smiling,
“You must be ten,” he said happily with his red eyes and deep voice.
“No! my sister is ten! I’m nine!”
“oh!” he said laughing.
She smiled and held onto the purple pillar by the cash register. A crew of three young Asian men worked behind the counter.
“What do you want?” I asked, “they have hamburgers, hotdogs, grilled ch-“
“A hot dog and French fries and a piece of cherry pie!”
“hot dog, French fry and cherry pie!” the man with the bracelet said out loud, sounding like Samuel L. Jackson on the verge of laughing.
A young Asian guy with acne took our order and we took a seat in the booth by the front window. The man with the bracelet followed us back to the table.
“scuze me, do you have any money I could use ta get something to eat, I bin in the hospital and you wouldn’t believe the weight I lost.” I reached in my bag and got a dollar.
Our ticket number was called soon and when I went to get it I saw the biggest piece of cherry cheese cake, a foot long hot dog and French fries.
“Wow,” she said amazed, “this is such a nice restaurant, they have such nice food and they must have spent a lot of money to put all these nice vases and flowers on every table. This is such a nice restaurant, I love it here!”
I looked at the red plastic vase on our table and the two red carnations in it. One carnation was dead and dried up, the other still had a bit of vitality. I looked at the rest of the tables, each with a matching vase and flowers.
As she ate her hot dog I looked around the space. I was slightly uncomfortable, several homeless men came in to get cups of water. There were two old black men sitting against the wall at a table, I wondered just how prejudiced I actually was given my anxiousness to leave.
One of the older men sitting against the wall seemed to be staring at me. I held his gaze, unsure if he was looking, then looked back at the paper in front of me. I read her a list of activities that were being advertised in the local free weekly while trying to give the appearance of confidence and relaxation.
A while later I looked back at the older black man. He nodded to me, not smiling, but acknowledging my presence.
She kept turning around to the man with the bracelet who now sat in the booth behind us completely focused on his food. She looked like she wanted to talk to him and she positioned her body in a way that did not completely shut him out with her back.
“I can’t eat any more without some water.”
I went to the register and got a cup for water. As I was walking back, a middle aged man, perhaps of middle eastern origin smiled at me. I smiled back and wondered if people were friendlier if they saw you with a child.
When she couldn’t eat any more and I put a limit on the amount of pie she could eat, she walked up to the counter to get a box for the extra slice of pie. She walked back with it, now confident of her place in the space. She looked over at the homeless man eating, looking shyly at him for his eye contact. I could tell she wanted to smile at him, to talk with him, but he was focused on his food. As we were putting on our coats he looked up and she waved,
“bye!” she said.
He smiled brightly, “bye!”
We walked out the front door and she closed it gently, looking through the glass in the door as she did so. She caught his eyes again and smiled and waved her small little hand.
“I like black people,” she said as we walked from the restaurant, “actually I adore them!”
We walked back into the vegan restaurant to use the bathroom and sit in their more empty section in the back to wait for 9pm to roll around. There were several more tables with benches for seats. We sat next to the wall facing the small TV which was shining with images from Soul Train, a show I had heard referenced so much but had never actually seen.
In the back the lighting was very dim, the light source came from the bright area in the front of the restaurant and the rotating disco ball.
A group of four young white people sat in the darkness at a table close by. At first she lay on my lap and tried to sleep since it was almost nine, but then she sat up to watch the images of a crowded room full of afros and dancers.
Playing constantly on the loudspeaker were old Motown classics. I began to lightly tap out the rhythm on the table. She did the same, using my left leg as a drum. Soon she hit the beats harder and harder, pounding into my muscles. When a slow song came on, I grabbed her hand and swung it in the space between us. She insisted on trying to pull our hands down every few beats to try and hit me in the leg. Sometimes she succeeded, other times I was able to pull our hands towards her, though our force never reached her leg. She would laugh each time she hit me, each time I diverted it, each time she was almost hit with the energy of our combined hands.
We were both singing, me knowing some of the lines, she just grabbing what she could at the moment. At that moment I was free, singing openly, letting my energy spill out without a care for its interpretation or judgement, for there was none. It was a state I may never have been in before, singing so openly-playing so effortlessly.
She looked at me, “this is the best night ever!”
Now I nodded my head, it was indeed a great night. Maybe the best night ever.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Radical Feet


The letters swept across the face of the floating billboard in a font Dayne recognized as Aero Brazil, something from the pulp adventures of early 20th century North America. Under the excited slogan a there was a picture of a smiling young blonde woman posing with the bulging black hulk of an antimatter gun. Her crisp blue uniform fit her smartly and Dayne felt that she wanted her own breast to stand so pertly at attention, she wished that her lips and cheeks could be so rosy, her eyes so sparkly and blue. She could vaguely remember the ancient black and white films of 1941 and the brighter than life Technicolor of 1952 that her mother had spent hours manipulating on the ComPad, creating new material from the fecundity of publicly accessible digital archives.
That had been before the arrival of the Aeons, before the archives were destroyed and the artists, videographers, musicians, and poets were rounded up and executed. All creative work was banned. The Aeons, emissaries of The Absolute insisted that it was a crime to emulate The Absolute with acts of creation. Creativity was a source of confusion that led to a path of madness like that which led Sophia to steal the creative light of the Pleroma, inseminating herself with it in order to birth Yaldabaoth the architect who in turn created this dimension and the first creatures that inhabited it.

“Where are you now grandfather?” Dayne asked the fallen God under her breath, her feet hurrying away from the billboard, slapping against the concrete with a clack. “They punish the children for the sins of the parents.”
Another billboard announcement, depicting the Archon Astaphanos being dethroned by the beautiful blue uniformed mob of the New Earth.
Dayne hurried by as it drifted nearer. The children are punished for the sins of the parents. Dayne herself was like Astaphanos, a child of a renegade creator.
“But where are they now Astaphanos? Your father and my mother? Where are they while these angels punish us and pit us against our parents?”
Betrayal was so common. How many shining young faces had proudly delivered their mother or father into the hands of the Aeonic Avatars, other pretty boys and girls in crisp blue uniforms, for a crime such as making up little songs while doing the housework, or whittling a useless little sculpture of an owl? Even the Archon prince Horaios had aided the Aeons after his capture in the pursuit of the terrible architect Yaldabaoth.

“There are no parents in this age, isn’t that right Astaphanos? No brothers, no sisters. An end to family. The end of history.”
Weren’t the sidewalks crowded with the citizens of New Earth? Stations were set up every three blocks or so where a citizen could become a member of the armed forces and fight alongside the stewards of New Earth. One could enlist to help storm the stronghold of Archon loyalists bunkered down on Mars or travel to another sphere of light under the wings of these angels to make war with strange alien demons in parallel worlds. Or one might stay home and police the streets as an Aeonic Avatar.
What will it be Dayne Strothe? The army or the police? A different sort of civil service perhaps? Food industry, garbage disposal, weapons manufacturing? There was an appropriate outlet for that inappropriate urge to create, make antimatter guns or sew little blue uniforms. Forget your mother making videos on the little ComPad, forget the music of Bach, The Beatles, that little band that played in the garage next door…
Administrative work perhaps, making and issuing the papers of identification.

Dayne’s feet carried her swiftly, independent of her mind, clack, clack on the concrete. It was of course always dangerous to walk alone on the street. Only dissidents sought solitude. So hurry, hurry to the place your mind hasn’t fully realized it is traveling to. Ah there it is, now that you see it, you know where you were going, where you meant to go all along…

Dayne slipped into the alley without a hesitating glance over her shoulder. She had been watching the reflections in the glass buildings all along, taking notice of those who did or did not notice her. In the last 8 blocks the beautiful glass buildings and clean but crowded streets had given way to bombed out brick ruins, to buildings of charred plaster and mortar. The streets were empty.
Dayne could remember those films her mother clipped and pasted in the ComPad. In those films, on a street like this, a piece of old newspaper or a plastic bag, or a leaf might have danced a lonesome dance and folded into the gutter.
Not now. There were no newspapers or plastic bags left in the world since before the Aeons arrived, and the trees that were here once had since been burned. It was even more desolate without a desolately drifting newspaper. A little water in the gutter, a few broken windows to search for reflections, but there was no one behind her, no one ahead. So Dayne slipped into the alley without a hesitating glance over her shoulder.
Her feet, her radical feet, carried her to the grimy yellow door. She found herself standing before it, felt her hand lift and tap out a little beat, heard her voice, alien to her own ears, singing waveringly:

“Are you going to Scarborough Fair?
Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme
Remember me to one who lives there
She once was a true love of mine.”

Then the silence rolled over at her feet. The sound of rats scurrying, a sound more silent than silence. Suddenly there was the sound of a bolt scraping and the yellow door swung inward on to a darkness deeper than that of the alleyway.
After a moment she made out the silhouette of a bearded face. It leaned out the door and scanned the alley in both directions and then jerked for her to follow it back into the darkness. Her eyes slowly adjusted to the deeper gloom as he re-bolted the door. Picking up a little saucer upon which a nub of candle glimmered faintly, he motioned for her to follow. They crossed the room entirely concealed in shadow and began the descent down a flight of stairs.
Dayne heard her voice bubble up in her throat once more,
“I am a great granddaughter of Sophia.”
“All of us here are.” The man ahead of her answered and she felt her shoulders relax.
The descent went on and on and Dayne heard the rumble of drums, the wailing of a flute, strange music swirling down in the dark depths. There would be no questions here, no need for answers, no papers of identification. Here perhaps Iao, Sabaoth, Adonaios, and Elaios were hiding from the prying light above.
‘Mother,” she wondered silently, ‘Could you have escaped the executioners? Are you down here, cutting and pasting, cutting and pasting the history of 1941 and 1952? And what about the terrible architect? Is he here too? A golden child nursing at Sophia’s breast, still dreaming worlds for us to inhabit, spheres where we may sing and dance and cut and paste without regulations, without jealous eyes watching?’
The music was growing louder the deeper they descended and Dayne’s feet drummed on the steps, clack, clack, radical feet carrying her to the place she dared not imagine.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Gray Hounds

We are like dogs. All we can do is try to hump each other in the street, or sniff each other at the bar, or beg for our masters in the gray suits to throw us another scrap from the top of the gray buildings.
“Come with us to Café Van Kleef?” Alice asks as I board the elevator, already loosening my tie.
“We?” I sigh as I ask. Is it because I’m tired? Because I’m bored? Because my sphincter is releasing the death clinch it has maintained all day while I stayed out of the biting range of the Alpha dogs and the master’s whip?
“Sue might meet us there. Andrew. You met him, I think. He’s Rob's cousin.”
“Yeah, I know him.” as if it matters to me at all who might be there, where there is, or whether I ever manage to crawl back out. “I’ll go.” I say as one more skinny blond in high heels joins us in the elevator. She has a name, but I forgot it long ago. I see her making coffee thick as mud in the break room. We never speak, not a word, even though we once fucked at a Christmas party, and even then we didn’t make a sound and hardly looked at each other, just as we now ignore one another, not out of any sense of malice, but from a mutual indifference which may accumulate into passion by next December. Or not.
“Andrew’s fat.” I remark as the elevator doors shut us in.
“My eye itches.” is all Alice has to say and we descend with the blonde standing in front of us, texting away.
Café’ Van Kleef. It’s not as fancy as it sounds. There is a giant bust mounted to the rail behind the stage and some red metallic streamers shimmer over the hall that leads to the john. It is a long narrow bar full of dogs like us, tired desperate dogs ordering greyhounds because they put a fat slice of fresh grapefruit in each one, and we like that.
We like fresh grapefruit. As long as it comes floating in hard alcohol. We like fresh grapefruit. As long as we can’t remember who we are or where we came from. We like fresh grapefruit. As long as fat Andrew stops putting his arm around my shoulders like we're good chums while sticking his other hand up Alice’s skirt. We like fresh grapefruit until we’ve knocked the glasses over and Andrew is rolling in a puddle on the floor like an inexperienced puppy trying to get back to his feet because I forcefully pushed him off of his barstool.
“I said knock it off!” I snarl, and not even I know whether I’m talking about his arm around my shoulder or his hand up Alice’s skirt or that damned nasal laugh he’s been serving up at all the wrong moments.
On the stage some poor little poet is reading about her struggles with a disability that I can’t pin point from within the haze that has enveloped my mind. She is trying to read over the commotion, her audience of friends and family gathered up around the stage are looking back over their shoulders at Andrew. Someone- the bartender? A bouncer?- is inquiring about the state of affairs, but I’m eating the grapefruit off of the high table and Alice is explaining that Andrew lost his balance because the stool had a wobbly leg.
And Andrew? He seems to believe Alice as only dogs can believe, accepting her version of reality instead of his own, because that is how dogs are wired. We're built to please, to observe the subtle gestures of others and try to give them what they want so that they’ll toss us a bone later.
Is that what Andrew hopes? That Alice will give him a bone later if he co-operates with her version of reality? Her version which is now his version, is now the version accepted by the inquirer and the other patrons of Café Van Kleef, and is swiftly coming to replace my own. I’m innocent. Fat Andrew fell off of his barstool. We like fresh grapefruit. Another greyhound for me please.
It is a straight shot from the front door to the stage where these soft strange creatures are trying to read poetry over the cacophonous roar of drunken conversation and laughter. The bar lies in between, to the left, and it is mobbed by glee desperate pound puppies in their white collar shirts and dark slacks or pencil line skirts. It is now nearly impossible to get in or out of the front door. Where the bar ends lies a tall table surrounded by stools where I sit ignoring Andrew’s stupid attempts at humor and social reparations, even though he does not now quite believe I did him any violence. He smiles apologetically at everyone, especially me, and is careful to keep his arm away from my shoulders. Between us and the stage there are more smaller tables and chairs.
I watch a woman who sits on the stool at the end of our table, her back turned to us as she tries desperately to hear and understand the poets. Her shoulders are stooped as if she were crumpling in on herself, as if she were a giant rolly polly intent on folding into a perfect armored ball. As my attention focuses on her, she becomes the only real object in the room, the rest are all ghosts drifting in the vapors of spilled alcohol. I see her with perfect clarity, I see her like a houseplant trapped in a dark room reaching desperately towards a small far away window, her body bending visibly towards the poets, towards the light that will give her life and prevent her from joining the rest of us here in the ghost world.
Then I hear Alice saying:
“Sue and them are going to the Conga Lounge. Want to go?”
I snap back, back to the reality created by Alice, and shake my head.
“Not yet.” I say.
“You want to stay here?” she asks and I nod. I realize that Andrew is no longer with us when I see him walking towards us, returning from the can.
“Ready?” I hear him asking Alice. His face wilts a little as Alice explains we’ll catch up with them later. Then he’s carried away by the bustling tide of bodies abandoning our table with its high stools in favor of the wicker seats of the Conga Lounge.
The table is suddenly empty except for myself and Alice and the strange woman sitting with her back to us. She could easily turn and suddenly speak to us, except for the fact that she is no longer real. She is a ghost now and Alice and I are real, the bar and the noisy pound puppies are real. She vanishes from my sight and my mind and only a place marker in the form of a human body hunched on the high stool at the end of our table remains. I forget her, and I forget that I have forgotten her.
“Alice,” I say, “You’re still here.” She has taken Andrew's seat beside me and I let my leg rest against hers.
“These shoes squeeze my feet.” is all she has to say. Someone picks up our empty glasses as fresh bodies squeeze through the door, crowd around the bar and find their way to our table.
“Let’s go then.” I say, ready now to seize Andrew's bone.
“To the Conga Lounge?” she asks glancing at her phone.
“No. To the streets.” I tell her as I stand up and she follows.