Tuesday, August 31, 2010

First Of All

First of all,
there are many questions,
many things I’ve never asked you
many strands that cling to my thoughts
like thick green ivy
over an old wooden banister.
There are many questions
and this is one of them
only one of them.
One of many.

I had been writing and reading about this
About that day that I mentioned
That night in a circle
With a kind of silence punctuated by the noise of cars and people,
A crowd of bicycles outside the door
Whispers and an old man that says no
Even if you want him to say yes.

I remembered that day, that moment.
And you want to know
Why that moment and not another?
It is never easy to answer that question.
Why am I writing this now
And not a year ago
Or five years ago
Or a decade from now.
Why today?
Why moments before I have to go
And it’s already late
And I’m still sitting here writing.

In itself, it stood out,
Because it had a brilliance to it
A certain shade of colors
That refused to fade into each other
That refused to decay like a lonely afternoon
It held a promise
And also a door that closes
A door that we close ourselves
Then it stood out even more
For other reasons,
Reasons that I could say I didn’t begin
At least not the me that is consciously speaking.

She mentioned it several times.
I never fully followed her down that route.
I didn’t want to.
Not even then.
(Old habits,
and it is all about habits really.
Yours and mine.)
When she did mention it,
it made me hesitate,
it made me doubt the rest of what she told me,
it made me wonder what she was getting at
it made me look away.
She was clearly wrong in this one thing.
In this, she was wrong
She had been wrong
She would be wrong
She had to be.

Just the fact that She mentioned it,
that in itself made it so I would remember it
more clearly, more often
than I would have otherwise.
When it came into my mind the other day,
Completely out of nowhere
Under the cooling stream of water from the shower
I thought that there was some kind of clue
hidden in its its folds,
a path, a route, a way towards understanding
understanding what happened
between us.
What happened at the beginning
what happened at the end.

I don’t have a preconceived notion of an answer.
I hope you don’t have one either.
I don’t believe such answers are simple.
I see it more like a detective story,
A detective story that refuses to yield an ending
A detective story where we are the detectives,
But we are also the criminals
And the only witnesses,
The only witnesses that can be trusted
Even if we constantly lie
To others
To each other
And to ourselves.

Now it’s just a path
We could have followed
A path we didn’t follow
Like so many others
One more among many
And it is only to be expected
That we should think
That it is as it should be.
What else could we possibly

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Tale With A Soul

On the brightest of sunny days, a flying contraption soars on a current of crisp blue wind. Two hundred feet above the earth, an oversized metal bird on a rogue mission. Its speed is overwhelming. It easily leaves behind the flocks of white birds on their yearly migration. It maintains its smooth speed through the aggressive wind that attacks us as if we were its sworn enemies.
I sit upon a wooden bench at the helm, a rickety old fence post, probably stolen from a neighbor’s yard. There is no floor, and my legs dangle loosely over the seat, each new gust of air sends them swinging wildly, like the limbs of my companion.
The machine is small and compact, made mostly of copper tubing, sheets of metal and a huge brightly colored air balloon which keeps us afloat. It looks like a lunatic’s invention, created quickly from a doodle using found scrapes and stolen debris. It has traveled far to make this journey, centuries or more, but there is an excitement that permeates the whole of it, blanketing us in newness and innocence. This is a maiden voyage, clean from any past experience.

“All that you see below, all of it. I want to tell you something about it. I want to clear certain notions from your mind, I want to bypass this, the surface, and go straight for that which lies underneath.”

His words make me think of you. I can’t help it. I remember that day, you know the day I mean? The day I ran over to touch your little feet. They were miniature toes with even tinier nails, you were just ten weeks old, of course you couldn’t possibly remember.

How can I even remember it now? When I can’t even say for sure how I came to be up here.

That day you still looked shocked to be in a world of sunlight, a complex web of sounds that came from all directions, that surrounded you like a hurricane of feathers spiraling towards your eyes.
You looked at me with gray-blue eyes. I had been wearing my glasses all day while working in the bright rays of spring, but as I looked at you, I remembered to take my glasses off instantly. It was as if another well of knowledge opened up, the part of me that knew this was different, that this required contact without barriers, that this required more than I was usually able to give.

We are directly above a city. A potpourri of structures stretches to the horizon in all directions, a striking mixture of large and small buildings, civic plazas, offices, houses, museums, and monuments.
This is the eternal civilization- the one that has spawned countless poor imitations. This is Rome as it could have been. This is the city philosophers have spoken of…the ideal city thought only to exist as a concept.
The walls shine, scrubbed clean and glowing in every possible glory. Their hues are soft and inviting, only the palest shades of marble have been used in their construction.
Under the light of the full sun, everything is immaculate. Stretching to eternity, the avenues are precise and wide, dividing the immense landscape into navigable blocks. They are so clean…so exact. Their possessive symmetry shouts far into the sky and reaches my ears. The best engineers and mathematicians have created these roads and I am breathless in witnessing the precision of their art.
I reach up to touch my face and there are no glasses. These things have been left in the past.

“What you see below, the surface… it is all false, it is an illusion. It is underneath those streets that you will find what is real, what really counts.”

I looked at you that day while your Dad stood still observing our interaction.
I wonder what happened to him? I wonder if he is now in some flying contraption like I am? If he is, he is not thinking of me. I am sure of that. But I surely think of you.
Your lovely father wore you like a precious necklace upon his chest, maybe sensing you then as the tangible creation of his love, worn right above his heart. You wouldn’t know what that meant, you were just a baby, you smelled of milk and newness.
Maybe you felt his breathing, hanging there suspended on his chest. You and I looked at each other until you finally looked away. It seemed that you never would.
You had just come into existence right then. Your material form, your body, your eyes, your crying, your name…none of it was here, there, wherever it was that all this happened. You came from some other elsewhere, from a place I wish I could remember, but now I can hardly remember anything. And yet I can remember you.
You came from a place I wish I could recount in colorful stories that would paint my dreams in infinite dimensions. But is the price of travel paid for in language? Did you maybe come from a place that spoke in other ways, ways I still don’t understand?
Without a shared language between us then, I looked into your eyes and I hoped that you could see the stars that had collided within me. I searched in your grayness for the missing pieces of the sentence.

“Listen to me as you look down there, listen to me but not with your own inner cities, your own shining streets. Let my words slide into the tunnels that multiply under your conscious thoughts, let my words travel through forgotten passageways made of mud and ice.”

You were a piece of that distant earth then, a piece of matter that breathed and cried and slept. You grew inside of a woman and came out into arms that were waiting. Was I that woman? As much as I clearly remember you, I can’t really say. You took a single breath and with that unbidden impulse you began your life, a life I would only briefly touch.
Was it the smallness of you, was that what struck me then, is that what strikes me now? Was it the strange materialization of a new being that was so natural and yet, so completely strange?

“If my words find a way in there, I guarantee that they will change you, in ways that you can’t even begin to imagine.”

You looked at the trees and the faces that cooed at you without judgement, for all judgement would come later. You seemed without character, without personality, an empty vessel which would quickly be filled with words and ideas and thoughts, taught how to count and tell time and speak in predetermined sounds that fit together like Legos. Soon you would be polluted and the smell of milk would fade.
Would you be able to remember why you came here? What you left behind? Would you learn to use your new language to describe your experience coming through the tunnel and filling your lungs with warm free air for the very first time?

How did I find myself up here, in this strange flying contraption? How did I come to sit here with this man that even now looks strangely into my eyes, as if he knew what I thinking, as if he knew that I was thinking of you, you back there where I can’t reach you, you somewhere that I have left behind, maybe in that city that we pass over, maybe in a city we already left behind.

Maybe you come with me. Maybe you fly along with me and my companion. Maybe I will never leave you. Maybe you sit still waiting, waiting for the day when we come down from here, the day when we stop flying. Maybe you sit waiting for the day when we once again take in a single deep breath and open our fresh new eyes, ready to explore, eager to make change, eager to discover together, together as one.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Ok, bye

Hey Kim, this is Joe. I don’t know if these magenta colors would be here on their own or if it is the medication that I am on, but I think that I've been and I thought about that. Have you been? I mean, like the Jaguar, “I am here!”. I think I have been, and you once were, all though I can’t or shouldn’t really speak for you.
I started doing that as soon as I met you, assuming that what I thought was happening with you was real, not just a projection of my own inner world. There are some parts of our time together that I hope were a piece of some objective reality, that they were more than just what I alone thought at the time. But that would be a bending of the basic principle that has taken hold of my consciousness, this understanding that reality is always subjective.
I’m sure I should be going now. It’s been, what, 15 years? 15 years and I’ve never said goodbye, all though we’ve been apart all this time Kim. Okay, bye. Is that what must be said? Is that the word that makes the death final? The separation of one from itself. Is it me, or is it you Kim? Which one of us carries the torch of the real?
Neither. Isn’t that right? Consensus reality ceases to be when there ceases to be a consensus. No more me and you together. We are two worlds apart. Even now I wonder, were you? I was. I have been. Am I still?
It's okay, because I am on the scene. I still am. I only talk about medicines when the pain is too intense, when I want a reason for the chaos. I set it up so that there is some explanation, but I am a matter that flows beyond such stuff, sticky pills.
That is the “weather balloon” explanation for these experiences. I am beyond it, but as soon as I have the opportunity I will shrink down to size. Not because this happens. I am out of that.
There was someone there today, right at the threshold and they demanded to speak with you. With you Kim. It seems they thought you had been and maybe still were. Yeah, I hate to see them there, by the door, waiting for you.
If you get a minute, hold on to it. Fill it out. Like the good old days. Be there, like a letter that was written 15 years ago and is marked with extra postage so it'd be delivered neat either way, whether it was sent then or now.
I have a nice evening planned. This is the night when we’ll sit together counting fireflies until we’re dizzy. That’s the one I’ll go to, or the one I have been in before. Either way, the best thing would be for you check on the way.
If you are there, see if I am, or if it was already too late then. It’s a moment I’ve been hopeful about. It’s possible that it exists before the separation, the schism.
I love you.
That might be untrue. If I loved you then we’d be together wouldn’t we? Because love is what draws bodies together, the glue that makes life and the opposite of life is death, and separation is death and we are now separate.
I have eaten the fruit that grows here in limbo, so I shall never be fully restored. It can never be okay. I ate the weather balloon. The excuse. The part of me that ate the fruits of this land will always remain here, separate. Something lost. The part that bought the con.
Will you comb the beaches of Elysium in search of the fragments of my soul? My Isis? And now I don't have to go ahead, in this, I can stop. I can go back. Is this the game mom brought down for us to play after dinner? Am I still playing red square, blue square… on and on? I don't know.
I was then and I thought you were too. Now I don’t know. Shall I say it? Or leave it unsaid? Okay. Bye. I don't know. I don’t know, but I think that I've been and I thought about that. Good bye.

Friday, August 6, 2010

A Walk Through Eternity

“Eternity is here and now. Right now. As you read these words. It cannot be otherwise.
Eternity is not a very long time, longer than all your memories, longer than you could ever imagine. Eternity is not very slow, something much slower than what we could conceivably endure.
Eternity is not loving or unloving, not hateful or compassionate. Eternity is not reward or punishment.
Eternity is not and cannot be something that will happen someday, something that has happened already.
Eternity cannot happen for to happen something must have a past and a future and eternity can have neither.
Eternity is what is left when past and future are gone.
Eternity can hold no sequences and no trails of cause and effect.
Eternity is complete because it cannot be otherwise.
There is no time to be lost or gained, no time to fulfill lacks or to form wishes. Eternity is simply no time at all.”

I thought of the words on the old book as I stood on the border, looking in. This was not the first time I thought of them. It probably wouldn’t be the last. The words caressed me in ways I didn’t find fully pleasant, something about their implied meaning disturbed me, hurt me somehow, something rose up within me to defend my inherent right to events, my right to chains of causality, my right to the forward motion of time. The something that rose then stayed in my chest, having nowhere to go. And there it lingered and it could only grow as I replayed the words in my mind once again.
There was a great circular labyrinth in front of me and I stood on the edge, right where the narrow path of white stones began. Should I go in? I wondered. Is this the time? The right time? I asked myself in silence. Will there be another opportunity if I were to wait? Will this moment return or will there be another similar enough that it will make no difference?
My mind was clouded with thoughts, tinged with self conscious doubt and human concerns. As I whirled in the middle of pros and cons and other random waves of kinetic brain activity, I felt the moment closing. I felt it moving past me, rushing like a slow inexorable current, slow but definitely moving…drifting through my finger tips as I stood there debating inside my head. The moment was about to move past me like a cold little stream past a heavy rock, unafraid to leave me in its wake on its way to an unknowable destiny, some place where I would never be.
I could feel the three women behind me squirming slightly, their bodies preparing for departure, ready to move up the hill and begin our lunch. Something we had all been waiting for with impatient eagerness. This was not the time for distractions. This was not the time. It shouldn’t be. I felt it passing, all of it. A thread of nothingness on the black current of emptiness, drifting away from me while I stood still, trying to decide. I knew it was leaving now, maybe forever. Soon, even the decision would be gone.

“We may experience Eternity. But this experience won’t be in the past, it wasn’t in the future, it wouldn’t be in our memories of that perfect psychedelic trip into the infinite maelstrom, or that amazing moment of meditation when the walls disappeared and all the people turned transparent like new plastic bags, or that one instant when you and I fell in love and we both knew it as clearly as we knew where we were sitting, as clearly as we knew each other’s names. It won’t, it wasn’t, it wouldn’t be the sudden burst of direct Knowledge that came over you that one day, that one day that we can all vaguely remember. Yes, all of us. It has happened, will happen, would happen to all of us. Every single one of us.
It wouldn’t have been in the future, in that bright final day when I finally accomplished the Great Work and I fused with the True Self that I found standing behind the illusion. It didn’t come when I was finally Awake, fully and beyond mistake, or when I completed my spiritual progress through a thousand lifetimes of abnegation on my way to glorious liberation which came and went before I knew it was happening. It didn’t even come the days before my death, when I finally surrendered, fully and completely, when I finally started to Work. It couldn’t have. It didn’t. It won’t. It can’t.
Our experience of Eternity can only be Now. Now as you read this. Now as you hear this. Now as you think this. As you think it in the words that are here written.”

A small bird chirped at me from a nearby tree. A soft breeze blew wisps of hair across my forehead. Without another thought, without a clear sense of purpose, without a final bout with the constant plague of imagined consequences, my foot suddenly took a step forward. My first step into the labyrinth, my first step onto the path. And as my foot took that step, my mind was completely taken by surprise. It had been left out of the decision. It was being taken for a walk, like a small dog that suddenly realizes what is happening as the door closes behind him and the cold air hits its pudgy hairy face. "Oh, I guess I’m doing this.After all that thinking, I guess I’m just going to do it." I said it to myself where nobody could listen, inside the place where nobody could reach.
My mind was shocked, but willing to go. I looked down at the path directly in front of me, at the narrow bit of dirt outlined in gray stones. I remembered myself. I remembered what to do. My right foot touched lightly upon the path, I felt the soft dry earth beneath me, I felt the heel as it made contact with the ground. Each step slow, each movement deliberate and carefully noted.

“The experience will not be soon,
The experience will not come a moment from now,
Just as it didn’t happen a moment ago.
Just as it didn’t happen before you can remember.

Nearly thirty steps in, my mind started to dart around once again, a reinvigorated ping pong ball bouncing on a fully enclosed spherical table inside my skull. "Was this a good time for this? Will they be mad? Did I mess up the space? This is probably taking too much time! They are all waiting to eat. They are all so hungry. I’m hungry myself. This is the last thing they want just now. To be waiting for me while I slowly move through this little maze of rocks. And now I can’t even see them. I can’t even turn around to try to read the thoughts behind their faces."
And then, a calmer voice, another player in my secret private game of bouncing phrases and flying single words: "You’re doing it now, you can’t turn back, you’re in the middle, you made the decision, something made it, something inside of you…so do it as best as you can.And keep on going. There is no stopping now. There is no stopping."
My hands were swinging, the air drifted through my curled fingers like soft kisses in the momentary resting point of a long uncertain journey, deep in the middle of the night when it seems that such a journey can never end (but it always does.) My left knee bent as my whole body prepared for the next step that was surely about to come. I turned the corners carefully, slowly, watching the ground as the outlined path turned back upon itself, watching it curl back to what I had already left behind, to the path of pale which seemed already so distant.
"This just keeps going!" I thought. I put my attention back on my feet. I felt my arcs stretch with the forward movement of heel to toe. The breeze touched me again and tousled my hair. The path was still there. Curving away ahead of me. Ahead and behind and both at once, blurring into a confusing knot where the future and the past twisted themselves around each other.

“Our language, our imagination, our projections, our world of symbols… they have all conspired to give us an image of Eternity as a really long time, a time so long that it might as well be forever, a time where actions stretch forward into an insistent periodic repetition without friction or decay… Eternity as the white washed heaven of the Christians, the gardens and virgins of the Muslims, the complex Bardo chambers of the Tibetans, the rising cosmic steps of the Gnostics, the monstrous and heroic houses of the witches, the many colored visions of the shamans, the fiery dungeons of the ancient and secret God Pan. All of these may in fact be real (or real enough that we may have the pleasure and pain of experiencing them for a very long time) but they are not the experience of Eternity. If something is happening, then it will stop happening eventually. If something some day stops happening, it will eventually come back. As surely as these words will one day disappear. As surely as these words were always written, long before I seemingly made them appear from nothingness onto a blank white page.”

When I first started on my journey, I had heard the voices of the three women on the outside. I was able to imagine how they saw me, how they might see me, how I may have looked from the distant places that were outside. I imagined their thoughts even if they were only my own projections. They kept talking among themselves and I felt safe in their neglect.
But when I was focusing on my feet, somewhere along the way, their voices had dropped away into a kind of strange silence, their voices which were known and unknown, their voices which were real and imaginary. The space was now profoundly quiet, except for the rustling of nearby leaves and the occasional car tires swishing on the asphalt of the road below. It was me and the labyrinth. Me and the elements. Me and my effort. Me and the path.

“But Eternity cannot begin and cannot end. It is not an extension of time. It is itself outside of time. Time cannot reach out to swallow it. It overcomes time and envelops it like an infinite snake that has transcended all restrictions. We are, you and me, right now, in the midst of Eternity, projecting images of illusory lifetimes onto a never changing Clear Void. And the void itself remains the same, no matter how much the illusion changes.
The longing for the experience of Eternity is a struggle that can never be completed. As long as there is a struggle, the goal has not been reached. But if the goal has not been reached, the struggle cannot end. And so, like Achilles, our work will always be just a hair short of the Eternal Turtle that moves just slightly out of our grasp. Ever so close. Ever so far.”

The rings were getting smaller. I turned corners more and more often until I suddenly reached the center which was both more than and less than I had imagined. In the small round heart was a mosaic stepping stone that had small stones and beads upon it. Signs that others had been here, signs that they wished to be remembered even if I would never know their names or their secret agendas.
I closed my eyes. I saw small sparks of electricity playing on the canvas of my eyelids. I raised my hands out to the sides, opening them wide.I then lifted them high above my head and finally brought both hands together in front of my chest. As if prayer. As if there was something there that would listen.

“In the deepest void within you, behind you eyes, behind your thoughts, behind your emotions, behind your secret wishes and desires, behind your bright nightmares and dark dreams, behind the twisting and gyrating thing that you think of as you without ever thinking about it, behind it all you have Eternity. Right now. Your experience of it relies on your ability to maintain your attention steady, to look inside and not be instantly repelled by the frightfulness of pure untouched Nothingness.”

Oooooommmmmm, the sound was not as pure as it has been, not as pure as it could be. I noticed that fact objectively and I held my attention on the sound and my diaphragm, even as the sound cracked slightly. I pulled my stomach in as my rounded mouth continued with the elongated vibration. I stood in the center, feeling the soft breeze, feeling the sun, hearing the sound of birds, feeling quiet, yet electrified and alive. My ego had fallen and I was overcome with a sense of lightness.

“There is a reason why we are here, why we move through time, why we play our parts in this infinitely complex labyrinth of time and space. There is a reason why things happen, why "we" happen as we are happening right now.
The reason is entrenched in that elusive experience of Eternity. When you enter into the heart of the Labyrinth, the inner circle that never changes, the secret chamber that never started and never can end, where there is no past and no future and no semblance of either… there you will understand the reason. It will be as clear as it ever was, as clear as it ever will be.”

My body turned back. I took a step, I raised my leg firmly like a soldier, placing it firmly on the ground. I took another step, a very short one on the tips of my toes. I slowly walked back through the rings, sometimes emphasizing the movement of my hips like a supermodel, other times walking erect and with a sense of formality. Other steps, I glided loosely as if I was about to grow wings from my back. I alternated between movements, improvising each like a chaotic dance with my attention as the thread of consistency. And the more I played, the more alive I felt. My smile increased the more I played and I shed more of myself upon the soil.

“This has happened a million times before.
To you.
This will happen a million times again.
To you.
You have experienced Eternity. Directly. And now you are here, in time. And the part of you that recoiled, the part of you that fell, the part of you that opened that door but only slightly, that part that saw the primordial union that cannot be seen, felt or heard, and ran away, afraid that it might have seen too much, afraid that the precious object of desire would never give it the compassionate pleasure of coming to an eventual stop...”

There was nothing else. My past was a distant part of my imagination, the future was never coming. There was only each single step and the thousands of movements which seamlessly created it . The labyrinth and I were playing. We were lovers in union. Dancers intertwined. Actors upon a stage. Beings in a living void.

“…that part of you knows why we perceive Time and why we imagine that there is a past and there is a future.
At the heart, right now, within you and without you, everything is still, quiet and outside of Time, beyond Time, around Time. Here in the innermost chamber we can truly say without any hesitation:
Nothing ever has happened
Nothing ever will happen.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Neo Pan

The Salon was an abandoned dimly lit throw back to the beauty schools of earth circa 1979. With a floor whose speckled gold and tan and black and flecked surface resembled a sheet of polished vomit and a row of rectangular mirrors facing barber chairs, I couldn’t think of a better place to improve my self esteem. Beauty shops were virtually non-existent in Neopan, at least places bearing that name and functioning as such were as extinct as old earth. What you could find were places like The Salon, where orphaned earthlings could find each other and exchange underground currency for black market items. I knew very little about what went on in such places. I knew very little about anything.
Like so many other Earth descendant humans I suffer from an undiagnosed neurological disorder. It might have been caused by the stresses imposed on it by the interdimensional transit that allowed the human race to survive their planetary mother, or it might have been a mutation caused by something in the habitats of Neopan itself. There were no explanations offered. Most humans of Earth origin experienced an at least minimal amount of confusion or memory loss or just plain dim wittedness. Maybe it was shock. In my case however, it was more severe. I had almost no long term memory and battled continually with a fog that had swallowed my past, muted the present and made the future seem subject to complete randomness.
I wandered into The Salon that day because I didn’t know where I had been or where I was going. I saw the neon sign out front and some genetic memory was dislodged from the murk. I decided I must have been on my way here, for a hair cut, and went inside.
A slender but curvy Latina with long soft black curls wore a white coat with the name “Estelle” embroidered over the left breast pocket. She chewed gum and looked me up and down as I approached the counter just beyond the front entrance.
“You have an appointment?” she asked
“Um.” I thought it over, “Maybe. I don’t know. If not I could make one, or maybe you could squeeze me in?” I asked hopefully.
“What did you want?” she asked me with narrowed eyes.
“Just a trim.” I told her.
“A trim?” she repeated and her jaw dropped just a tad lower during the course of her chewing.
I nodded clutching my knitted handbag.
“Okay.” She said after some silent deliberation, “Come on over.” And she led me to one of the chairs.
I sat down. She used her foot to pump up the height of the chair and then she covered my body with a black nylon cape. A smile stole its way over my face, triggered by a warm feeling that washed over my bones like…like something warm that we don’t have anymore on Neopan. Even Estelle seemed to be enjoying herself a little as she examined my hair and then wetted it with a spray bottle and rummaged through a drawer and produced some scissors and a comb. She started clipping and soon she was smiling back at me through the mirror, chewing her gum at a relaxed pace.
“I haven’t cut somebody’s hair in forever.” She said a little dreamily. I watched wet chunks of mine slip down the front of the nylon cape.
To my right in the back of the building there was a little office. Estelle turned my chair a little and I caught a glimpse of two men moving around a desk through the cracked door. She turned the chair again and I watched my own transforming reflection.
“My mom taught me how to cut hair in her shop in L.A. when I was six. Where were you from?”
“I don’t know.” I told her. She looked at me in the mirror and I looked back at her. “I forget everything.” I explained, “I only remember pieces sometimes, objects, or a place like this seems familiar.”
She went back to work on my hair without any further attempts at conversation. It felt good having another human being touching my hair, grooming me. When she was done I examined myself and nodded appreciatively. She whipped the nylon cape off and shook the hair to the floor. Then she retrieved a broom and a dustpan and swept all the cast off bits of me up and disposed of them. I stretched and admired her work.
“What do I owe you?” I asked. She leaned on her broom and shrugged.
“What have you got?” I opened the pink and purple hand bag and took out my wallet and opened that. She gawked, “You have credits?”
“I don’t know how many. Can you process them?”
“Yeah.” She said and took the little card from me. Setting the broom against the wall she headed for the office.
After a moment she came back out with one of the men. He wore a well manicured beard of an almost red and sandy hue. He smiled in a natural friendly way,
Estelle gave my arm a friendly parting squeeze,
“You’ve got plenty of credits. Dale’s gonna take care of it,” she told me. I went into the office with him. He closed the door and showed me to a chair after shaking my hand.
“I’m Dale.” He told me.
“Nice to meet you.” I responded, “I’m Izz.”
“Nice to meet you.” He smiled and I smiled back. “Well,” he said, “You have 2,895 credits. If you gave us forty that would be more than generous.” He sighed, “But I’d like to ask you for a tremendous favor instead. Keith?” he called and the other man I had glimpsed earlier poked his head in from another door.
“Come in here Keith. This is Izz, Izz, Keith.” He introduced us. “What I would like for you to do is transfer 2,800 credits to Keith. Then I will transfer 2,800 of my own credits back to you. That’s all.” He explained. “Keith needs it, and I want to give it to him but it’s better if Neopan officials can’t link the two of us directly. Will you do it?”
They didn’t need to twist my arm. I trusted Dale instinctively. The fact that he was wanting to hide something from the authorities only strengthened that trust. Some rational part of my mind ran the whole thing over again and noted the possibility that this might be a con and I decided to go with the impulse to trust rather than act out of suspicion. The decision was made in the blink of an eye. I nodded.
“Okay. That sounds fine.” I told him. Dale smiled again and proceeded to make the transfers. In a matter of minutes he was showing me the computer screen, and the verification of transfer from his account to mine.
Keith himself thanked me and I noticed for the first time that his eyes were a very pretty blue. I speculated that he might be my age or a couple of years older. Then he asked me if I would mind giving him a ride home. Why not? I couldn’t remember anywhere else I should be, although I had a vague nagging feeling that there was someone out there who would be missing me. I could almost picture that someone’s face. But I had no idea where to find that person and at the moment, Keith was my newest friend in a string of three brand new friends. I agreed and we set off waving goodbye to Dale, then Estelle on our way out of The Salon.

* * *

Keith took me to a dirt lot across the street. The sky was black as coal and all we had to see by were the yellow street lamps and the neon signs flickering in the occasional shop window. There are no stars in the human populated habitats of Neopan. That’s because we live underground. I wouldn’t have known if you could see stars from the surface, or whether even there was such a thing as a surface. This was how the new world was.
Most of the store fronts were empty. Windows were smashed and walls were covered in graffiti and even some of what would qualify as street art. “Fuck the Lizzies!” was scrawled across the wall of the building adjacent to the lot. That was the same as saying, “Fuck the Police” or “Fuck our helpful big brothers, the Neopan authorities.”
I kept looking at Keith’s face as he unlocked the door of an ancient maroon Buick. His flesh seemed a little flushed and small beads of perspiration were forming beneath his hairline. Stubble looked like sand scattered over his cheeks and chin. It was frightening and exciting to be so close to a complete stranger. Taking in the otherness of his face was like inhaling glue fumes. It made me dizzy. He handed the keys to me and got in the drivers side door, scooting across the bucket seat to make room for me.
“You know how to drive, right?” he asked casually.
“I think I used to.” I told him.
“Well, it’s automatic, and nobody knows how to fucking drive anymore anyway.” There weren’t any other cars to contend with. The street was silent. I nodded, started the engine, then buckled my seat belt.
“You want to go that way.” Keith pointed the direction out and I put the transmission in drive.
We didn’t talk much after that. He only said things like turn left here, keep going straight or turn right. I obeyed. For a while the commercial wasteland continued. Without warning we turned onto a street crowded with people. They were clustered around burning garbage cans and antique boom boxes. Packs of them were huddled on the sidewalk playing dice while others fought in the middle of the road. Some were passed out in the gutters under piles of filthy rags that might have been their clothes.
I crawled to a stop as they mobbed around us, pounding on the windows, shouting, talking, coaxing, demanding. They were trying to open the doors. Someone came towards us with a crow bar raised over their heads…and I gunned it, pressed my foot down on the peddle and accelerated into the mass of bodies. I hadn’t known that I’d do something like that until I was doing it. Somebody bounced off of the wind shield. Someone else went crunch under the wheels. The others all hauled their asses out of the way.
“Oh shit!” Keith was shouting, his hands pressed against the roof of the car.
I screeched down the street.
“Which way?” I demanded as we approached the intersection.
“Left.” He answered.
In a matter of minutes we were back on empty streets.
“I’m sorry.” I said. He was much calmer now, though very sweaty.
“It’s alright.” He was much calmer now, though very sweaty and twice as red in the face, “You probably did the right thing. It’s my fault. I misdirected you. Right here.”
We were on a dark residential street. The places looked big and like they had been built in the 1980’s on old earth. These were spacious custom homes, I realized. They would have been considered tiny hovels by the time 2010 had rolled around. It seemed weird that I should have such specific memories of architecture and yet be clueless about the details of my own personal life.
Keith directed me into a driveway and the garage door rolled open for us. I parked it and we sat there for a moment, not moving or talking. Then Keith scooted closer to me and reached an arm around my shoulder. My heart was thumping rapidly. His lips were about to touch mine when I leaned back and out of reach.
“I really want to kiss you right now, but I have a feeling that there’s a reason I shouldn’t. Someone I’m forgetting.”
He looked only a little hurt, like he had to consider that I was just saying it to let him down easy.
“Come on,” he said motioning with his head and we both got out of the car. He pushed a button on the wall and the garage door rolled noisily back down. He opened a door that led into the house and yellow light spilled out into the empty garage. It was inviting. Keith motioned for me to follow him inside.

* * *

The carpet was a dark brown and there was lots of dark wood trim along the walls of white stucco. We passed through a sparsely furnished living room and into a kitchen, where the light originated. There was a tile bar, and standing in the middle of the room was…Keith, or a man that looked just like him, except this version of him wasn’t flushed, or sweaty. This Keith looked particularly cool and calm standing in front of the fridge, watching us come in.
The original Keith nodded to the new Keith who was also distinguishable from the original because of his clothes. He wore blue nylon sweat pants with a white stripe up the sides and a matching sweat shirt that was open and revealed a white undershirt. His face was also cleanly shaved.
“Hey.” The new Keith greeted us both, returning the nod.
“This is my brother Richard.” Keith introduced us, “Richard this is Izz.”
Richard put out a hand and repeated my name with raised brows,
“Short for Isabel.” I told him shaking his hand. I found that while Keith excited me by feeling slightly repellent and jagged around the edges, Richard calmed me and drew me in like a magnet of opposite polarity.
“Nice to meet you,” He said.
“You too.” I smiled.
“You want to go swimming?” Keith asked me.
“You have a pool?”
He nodded.
“Sure.” I said, “I love to swim.”
“Let’s go then.” He said, “You coming?” he asked his brother.
“Maybe in a little bit.” Richard answered. His gaze was very steady, as absorbent as a sponge, unlike Keith, whose eyes shifted from one center of focus to the next abruptly.
I followed Keith into what appeared to be the master bedroom. Sliding glass doors opened to the yard and the pool was visible, lit from within. The bathroom sinks stood under an archway at a 90 degree angle from the glass doors.
“There it is.” Keith said and started to strip out of his dirty blue jeans and bright tropical shirt. I followed suit.
There we were, both completely nude. I was standing by the sink having just dropped my shorts around my ankles and he was standing across the room looking at me. His skin looked even redder, his eyes wide and wild. I gazed back at him feeling the entire surface of my body become electrified under his eyes. Then he closed the gap between us pressing his body against mine. I was backed up against the sink. He rubbed himself against the wetness between my legs and I gasped. Then we worked together so that I sat on the edge of the counter and he slipped inside of me. That nagging feeling that I was betraying someone lingered, but I pressed my body against his, grinding.
“Tell me when you’re going to cum.” I requested breathlessly. It seemed like he was about to and I worked myself eagerly against him. Then just when I thought one or both of us would, he started to shout about a dog and stepped back, pulling out of me abruptly. He tripped in my shorts and fell to the ground and thrashed a little, protecting his face, screaming for someone to get the dog off of him, except there was no dog.
I watched him, confounded. Richard strolled in carrying a steaming mug and took the whole scene in. I didn’t know if I was embarrassed or frightened or none of the above. If I had been alone with Keith, or if it had been someone other than Richard, I might have been both, but something in his demeanor, in his calm no nonsense acceptance of the scene put me at ease. That and the fact that he looked just like Keith with whom I had just briefly become so intimately acquainted.
“This happens to him sometimes.” Richard explained. I crossed the room to join him watching Keith’s spasms. The shouting was turning to murmuring and all in all he was calming down, though still obviously completely removed from our reality for the moment. Richard looked at me and handed me the mug. It was coffee with milk. I had the feeling it was something I hadn’t tasted for a very long time. A whole new ecstatic sensation to rival the one I’d been experiencing just moments ago gripped me as I sipped the hot elixir.
“So he’ll be okay?” I finally managed to ask.
“Yeah.” Richard answered. “Just give him time and he’ll come out of it on his own. I presume he asked you to drive him home?”
I nodded. Richard nodded too.
“He probably felt it coming on. You can imagine what would happen if he was driving when this happened to him. How did you meet?”
“At a salon.” I answered.
“Oh.” He said stonily, “So you’re a guerrilla too?”
“Not a resistance fighter? Then what were you doing at the salon? Looking for drugs? Coffee?” He nodded to the mug.
“Um.” I shuffled my feet feeling like a very little fly caught in an enormous web. “I was getting a hair cut.”

* * *

Richard slipped a pillow under his brother’s head and took me out to the yard. There he fired up the Jacuzzi and left me sitting at the edge with my feet warming in the water, sipping the coffee. He returned in a little while and sat beside me Indian style, keeping his clothes dry. When the water was warm enough I slipped in and he started the bubbles going. The weird scene from the bedroom was starting to melt away.
“So,” he said after a while, “If you’re not a guerrilla how do you know Dale? Why run around with Keith?”
“I met them both today. I really was just getting a hair cut.”
“I just find it a little strange,” Richard said, “that you would go to the Salon for a hair cut.”
“I just … well, you know, since the transition I don’t remember anything. I don’t remember my life on old Earth, I don’t remember who I was with yesterday, sometimes, like earlier today, I don’t even remember where I was five minutes ago, and I was standing in front of that place and I had the idea that maybe I’d come there for a haircut, so I went in.”
Just then my face felt really hot and the tears welled up in my eyes. Embarrassed. Most of the time I just dealt with my condition, made no bones about it. But now I felt ashamed and realized that it was because I wanted Richard to like me, rather silly considering that I probably wouldn’t remember him by tomorrow. I turned my face away to hide my tears and bit my lip.
“I get it.” Richard said simply and set his coffee cup down on the pocked concrete. “It’s like Keith. He started having the seizures after transition. A lot of people are messed up.”
“You?” I asked.
He shook his head,
“No. So far I’m okay, like everybody, my recollection of the days leading up to it and the actual transition is foggy, distorted, but otherwise I’m fine.”
“So are you a… uh…guerrilla?” I asked.
“No.” Richard said.
“But Keith is?”
“And Dale?”
Richard snorted,
“He’s like the leader of the Rebellion. He thinks that they’re feeding on us, keeping us like live stock. He believes that all of the neurological disorders are being … induced in us intentionally, to keep us docile, manageable.”
“What do you think?” I asked.
He shrugged. Then he looked at me dead on and when I held his gaze he said,
“I think he’s part right. I think the disturbances are induced, but not to keep us docile. Think about it. I don’t notice people turning up missing. You’d think they would if they were being consumed by the Lizzies. I think they feed on our emotions, on our confusion, our fear, our anger. I think the disorders help to generate a lot more of that than would be usual, even for a population of alien refugees. That’s why I’m not a guerrilla. I think that they’re basically doing something that the Lizzies approve of, getting riled up, setting off bombs… How would you know if you had killed a Lizzie anyway? I mean, those aren’t their own real bodies. They generate them in tanks, or at least so they say, and inhabit them to make us feel comfortable in their presence. So when you blow up the body, whose to say that would hurt the actual Lizzie that was using it? It’s like the old wives tale that you would die in reality if you died in a dream, it’s bullshit. I died in the dream and I’m still here.”
We were quiet for a while.
“I wish I’d be able to remember that tomorrow.” I said softly.
“Where will you be tomorrow?” he asked me.
“ I don’t know.” I said and the bubbles shut themselves off.
“You’ll be here.” He said suddenly, swiftly. “With us. And you might remember.”
I smiled feeling the sweetness of the offer fill me up.

* * *

The public pool was nestled in a cavern cut of black stone. Because it was a community structure it was policed by Lizzies wearing long black jackets and tall glossy boots. The look was completed by a hat with a visor, making the uniform evocative of that of an old earth motorcycle cop or a member of the ancient horror known as the Gestapo. Their presence in the suggestive uniforms was usually enough to send thugs elsewhere in search of quarry, to the abandoned commercial centers or heavily peopled apartment buildings. The area was lit with red and orange halogens and steam from the large Jacuzzi rose and circulated through the cavern keeping the atmosphere warm and moist.
I sat at the edge of the pool watching a school of Asian girls giggle and blow bubbles like sleek exotic fish. I could not remember what we were doing here, but I did at least recognize the man I was with. At least I almost did. It was either Richard or Keith, but because they were twins and I couldn’t remember how we got here, I couldn’t be sure which it was. He reached an arm around my waist and the calm coolness of the contact made me believe it was Richard. Hazily I recalled that we were here to meet someone. Keith?
I recognized the woman sitting on the other side of Richard too. Her long black curls lay over her shoulders like a lions mane. She wore a purple bikini. I couldn’t remember her name just then, but I knew she was my friend. Buffing her nails with a little file, she retold the plot of an old earth movie. Now and then I caught sight of the chewing gum being gnashed by her white teeth as she spoke.
My attention was drawn back to the Asian girls, giggling uncontrollably, blowing bubbles with their noses in the water. Suddenly a Lizzie was there to investigate their erratic behavior. He made an attempt to question the girls who could do little more than giggle louder. He dipped a finger into the water and brought it to his tongue for a taste. Instinctively I pulled my feet out and drew them close to my body.
“Cane.” He said to another Lizzie officer that stood by the main entrance. “They put cane in the water to get high, the whole pool’s contaminated.” Richard and I stood up backing away from the pool, doing our best to distance ourselves from the offenders. I wanted to leave but the other officer was bolting the door shut.
“Nobody leaves.” he announced to the crowd inside. No one was near the pool now except the quartet of young women. They were too out of their minds to notice that they were the center of attention. All exits were blocked and a third Lizzie rolled in a barred metal crate. He brought it to the edge of the pool and slid one end open, tilting the crate towards the water.
Something the size of two rottweilers splashed down into the pool. A Cleaner. It looked for all the world like a prehistoric ankylosaurus, but took to the water like a turtle. I knew they were used to clean the pools after hours. They filtered the water, deriving sustenance from the filth that was left behind, the dead skin, the hair, the microscopic bacteria … everything went in one end and came out the other as clean water. Now I watched the thing swimming eagerly towards the four girls. Horrified I realized what was about to happen. They were equipped to survive on slim picking’s but could handle much larger prey with the ferocity of a tiger shark. I rushed toward the door and pleaded with an impassive Lizzie to be let out.
“Nobody leaves.” Is all he said. Within moments the girls in the pool were shrieking in confusion and terror and pain as the water churned and turned red with blood. One girl had enough sense scared into her that she tried to clamber out of the pool. The Lizzie that had tasted the water booted her back in and she was the last to be devoured.
I hid my face in Richard’s naked chest. No one else made a sound. When I looked up again the pool looked sparklingly clean and the creature was crawling along the bottom attending no doubt to invisible morsels like the residual cane. The doors were opened and we were told,
“The pool will be closed for another 30 min. You may use the other facilities in the meantime.”
“Lets go.” I whispered to Richard
“We have to wait for Keith.” He told me, giving my hair a consoling stroke.
The Latina was sidling up to us, eyeing the Lizzies. Estelle. I remembered her name. We walked away from the pool, around the corner to the only window in Neopan. It was one of the few places people could go to catch a glimpse of the world beyond the catacombs we called home. The view wasn’t exactly pretty.
A glass window looked out over an immense raging gray sea. Lightening flashed like the licks of a whip striking the turbulent surface. Occasionally a leviathan would surface partially. I don’t know if a human has ever seen a whole leviathan. They were massive and were seen only in partial glimpses breaching, or fighting or possibly mating.
It was like the story about the blind men, each touching a different part of the elephant and describing it according to the fraction they had perceived. Everyone had a different vision of the leviathans. I thought they might be something like gargantuan bat rays based on what I could see now, but there was no way to get a full picture. Standing in front of the window I saw one fin rise out of the sea and felt the glass tremble from the terrific moan that rose from the water.
We watched the chaotic silver waves and the occasional slither of leviathan and the flash of the lightning.
“Has anyone ever been out there?” I asked.
“I heard there are ways down to the water, even though the Lizzies forbid it.” Estelle answered, “It’s for our safety. Those things out there would kill us.”
“Protecting us from Leviathans, just like they protect us from the cane.” I said absently. But suddenly the realization was dawning on me. If they didn’t want us taking cane or swimming in that maelstrom out there, there was a reason, but it had nothing to do with our safety.
“They’re for traveling. “ I said breathlessly. “That’s what they don’t want. They want to keep us here, they don’t want us transitioning again without them, away from them.”
Estelle and Richard stared at me and I stared out the window as some monstrous flash of steely flesh parted the frothing sea.
“I need to get outside. Close to a leviathan.”

* * *

Dale led the way down the dark winding passage, illuminating our path with a small oil burning lantern. I followed and Keith and Richard and Estelle were close behind. Nobody said a word, but I could feel the doubt passing between us all like an air born disease. The sound of surf found its way to our ears and soon we rounded a bend and were blinded by the glow of a sleet colored sky and white crested waves pounding a narrow rocky shore.
We gathered at the mouth of the tunnel, shivering in the salty air, feeling suddenly alive and refreshed. In a line we stood there, eyes adjusting, butterflies fluttering in our stomachs. I tip toed towards the water and Richard reached out and grabbed my arm to stop me. I looked at him and he swallowed hard. Then, slowly he released me and we all waded into the choppy swell.
The sea alone should have killed us, the way it tossed us around like little black ants in our wet suits. I swallowed briny water, felt it stinging my nose and throat. The hand of the sea pushed me down below the surface into its wet bosom. My friends were torn away from me, scattered in the watery maelstrom. The Leviathans came, two of them, aggravating the icy waters and birthing chaos in their wake.
Estelle was brilliant. I watched her manage to get up on a leviathan’s back and stand for a while like a surfer. A beautiful wind blown Venus risen from the sea. Then she fell and the Leviathan opened its enormous mouth, wide and round as an eclipsed sun, and she disappeared into the darkness, carried on a silver wave’s crest like Pinocchio into the Maestro.
Shock rippled through me. I had imagined somehow, that they would be gentle, like blue whales. The enemy of my enemy must be my friend. Like the contraband coffee that cleared the cobwebs from my mind. Like the cane that made people feather light and fancy free. They must be the final key.
A monster was bearing down on me though I paddled toward the white cliffs. I cried panic stricken, sobbing, swallowing the sea, picturing Estelle disappearing into the Leviathan’s maw. Why hadn’t it worked? Why couldn’t Estelle master the beast and set us all free?
Estelle, the star, the center. I had to be the star, the center of gravity, the point of convergence. I was the only one who could do it. I couldn’t expect any one else to obtain my liberation for me. I was the one. Stopping my furious dog paddling I turned to face the thing that was coming, its mouth wide open, a black hole, a collapsing solar entity drawing me in. Death. The womb. My ancient mother, the abyss, unchanging, eternal.
As I was swallowed once again I knew we had never left old earth. We had perished in a blinding flash, and yet we still were. I could not now die in the belly of this beast. Darkness would devour me. I would still be. I might forget what had happened to me, where I had been, who I had been with. I might forget them all, just as I had forgotten the family I had sat down to dinner with on old earth before the light engulfed me and my body burned away. Still I would exist.
“I died in the dream and I am still here.”
No one could ride the Leviathan in my place. If I wanted liberation, illumination, then I would have to be my own star born from darkness. Tumbling, laughing, turning inside out in the belly of the Maestro, my own self, I need not seek the protection of any big brother, the familiarity of a new shade of Earth, a further derivative of Neopan. I need not fall to the next point of convergence, the next easy dream in a desperate measure to escape the unending void that holds me in its suffocating embrace. I am becoming. Swallowing myself. My own center of gravity. A new heart of darkness expanding in every direction.

Monday, August 2, 2010

A Scream In The Night

A scream pierces through the night. Was it from out there in the world...or in here, under the covers of this full bed? I see a lonely woman in the night, hiding under a thick blue sleeping bag, winking away mosquitoes and night time animals and dreams that come with sweat, panting like they have only heavy love to spread. Did it come from me, that full octave resonance with bells of fear and pain and the things that have fallen through therapy cracks and tender kisses. From me? This sleepy body alone in a square room, the moon coming through barred windows while little girls sleep upstairs.

I hear it again, a long extended piercing note, high and shrill, a raven’s bell topping it off.. My eyes are open in the dark, seeing the shapes that wait silently for the sun to rise. For do they exist without sight? I walk towards them, yes, pulling the blankets back and all the barriers of many fabrics and weights. These are the walls, made of skin and plaster.I hold tight to the edges of the desk. It exists without sight, for I touch its smooth edges. A caress so euphoric that I feel the shelves start to shake. This surface that I touch, it is the night in its shapes. Long and dark. Thick and flat. Cylinders that wait for a hand. It is the light of the moon that streams in through the window. It is the world, shaped and compressed, formatted for use.

It is all so sharp, so perfectly clear, carrying with it all the world and all its people. I strip, letting the white panties I wear drop to the carpet. There is nothing between me and it...you...all that is there. Opening the door to my bedroom, I step onto the icy cold tile floor of the kitchen. To the right is the doorway to the garden and its impotent gold lock. I move slowly though the kitchen of obstacles. Boots left and forgotten, tripods and old computer parts. I move slowly though the minefield, my body tense with the expectation of pain.

The potted house plant senses the movement, somewhat irregular in the night. It calls to me, asking my plans. “Don’t worry,” I think to it, “I’m moving towards the moon, it has a secret to share.” The naked animal moves, a siren has gone off in the world of foliage and earth and they talk so loudly between themselves I think I might have broken some firm rule, but I keep moving, letting their chatter cover me like silken blankets from another world.

The door opens, almost without a touch. I have arrived. The moon begins to shine brighter, pulsing to a beat the flowers begin to hear. A gentle swaying begins. Grass, the hydrandrea bush, the deep purple succulents that open like a woman to the night’s light, the growing catnip shrub, still an infant. They all bop up and down, grooving to the ecstatic bass of the moon, the light at the center, the DJ for the garden, grown from the stars and the waves miles in the distance. I move by impulse, my head moving up and down, my chest pumping up, down, up, down, up down... to the rhythm my ears cannot hear. The sounds bypass my ears, going deeper in like a straight line, going through organs and bones, finding other spaces and doorways, moving for miles, beyond measurement into the world of the time-less where sound is just another kiss from the clouds, where rain come in like ecstatic bursts of strawberry flavor and piercing screams.

“Wait!” something seems to say. I stop, listening for the threat of an explosion. “Wait!” I look around, searching for a mouth and body, looking for something. Is it me? My voice? Another part of me that runs always behind, desperately running down the street in flip-flops and a tattered robe, waving my arms and reaching for the endless rope of tug-of-war.

I remember this night. This game, no, not really a game, but something like it resembling life. I remember now, doing this once before, dancing and swaying, bopping until I heard the call, and then I stepped away. I walked back into through the door, finding the kitchen tiles cold as ice, finding the abandoned panties and the luke-warm bed waiting for something to snuggle.

I remember, it was the sound of an explosion. A scream at the center that awoke me. The moon at the center. Those little pink dancing flowers that call for a partner. I had arrived in the garden, an active participant at the party, the orgy lacking tangible kisses, but reeking of sex fragrant earth. It was all skin and matter, so much so that I thought I might cry, but the thoughts absorbed into me and became new blood. The new rivers burned so bright and long, so sharp in their stinging life that I just had to swing my arms through the blackened night. Those fingers, stuck to this naked white body leaped as much as they could, screaming, so euphoric in their cries that I just had to let out a scream.