Friday, September 19, 2014
The battle for her, for the thousands of infinitesimal parts which combined to make her, was in full swing. For several weeks she could feel it building, the pressurized energy mounting, doubling on itself in the course of thirty-six hours. The pulsing of her chest was like a metronome with spastic batteries.
She could not remember another time like this, if there had been one it was so long in the past as to make it non-existent. She knew now that she was oscillating between hell and clarity, and hell had a much stronger pull. It was the black hole, sucking her inwards with a relentless drive. Her mind, her limbs, the heart, her smile, her jaw and teeth, every part of her ached.
Her heart was hard, lifted only momentarily by a soft touch or smile every now and then. Her mind, a constant deluge of thoughts and anxieties, leading her always downwards, further away from the people she almost stopped recognizing.
In the bursts of clarity, she could feel the movement of every muscle. She focused on every step across her kitchen, grabbing a glass of water in her hand, bringing it to her lips with careful slowness. In those moments she remembered what was nearly always in the background, disguised and disfigured by the daily rhythms of work and obligations. Through the fog she could move beautifully through a space, her attention moving both forwards and backwards.
But mostly she tumbled. Out into the black space where not a hand could reach her. Straight-jacketed in her own misery, she watched the passing world though a car window, the flashes of color and shapes, billboards, couples, conversations. As she saw it fade she was barely conscious of her own desperation, just the tears, the sting of heartache that descended quickly, firmly, coating her in its shell, a thick organic membrane that even those who loved her dared not get close, for her misery was transmittable and they knew to stay away, keeping up lively debates as she fell, further and deeper beside them.
She wondered if this was madness, if it was the natural state of her body. Was she in the deepest hole or were there blacker lands still to find?
Could she climb? Did she want to? She was frightened most by that thought, the simple thought- did she want to make the effort to climb, to push herself upwards? What if she wanted to sink, what then?
Friday, August 22, 2014
It is almost the end of the party. I dream every night about what it was like when the party was young. Everything was fresh and new and full of wonder and hope. Now I look at the balloons sinking to the floor under gravity's cruel embrace and the torn streamers dangling melancholic from the rafters and I am haunted by the memory of what was.
The worst part is knowing that I was annoyed by the noise of the music and the party blowers. I was stressed by the chaos of spilled drinks and chip crumbs ground into the carpet under carefree heels.
While the party was happening I barely enjoyed it, I was so worried over the myriad details and eager for a perfection born of fantasy. I wanted organized games, quiet conversation, careful observance of etiquette. It seemed like the party would go on and on and I wished for the madness to end. I didn't know how to enjoy it, how to throw back my head and laugh with the others or dance the night away in blithe merriment.
It took time for me to see the magic contained within the pandemonium, time for me to let go and join in the festivities. And now that I've learned how to do it, the party's almost over. Everyone's gone or leaving, suddenly as serious as I once was. They've grown older and I've grown younger so that once again there is a gap between us, insurmountable as I sit among discarded party hats and other favors on a layer of sparkling confetti, watching them go.
It was a beautiful party.
I wish that it could have lasted forever.
Monday, July 28, 2014
As always, I start from a simple place.
Consciousness is a phenomenon of information.
I outline the basic properties
that a conscious kingdom must have.
Clouds, dark clouds, storm clouds
Black dark blue and gray
Above the restless ocean.
I forget all early life experiences.
This is the cleaning process involved in new myth formation.
Open space, nothing
Wide open, no color
No shape, clear light.
I have a basket, big, hand made.
So big that someone could sit inside of it
if there were anyone here.
It is made of thick material, like branches
Big and strong and brown color
Very simple shape, like a bowl
But higher on the sides.
The basket increases my capacity
to store new myths in the future.
It is dark now.
I attempt to reduce the persistence of previously learned fear.
Fear is like a house, an old house full of traps.
Myth is based on a circuit
extending into the unknown.
Out there it is dark
the windows are closed
and I am sad.
Consciousness must have two specific traits:
and spirals galaxies.
I am moved by this vision
I am turning like a star
I am spiraling like a galaxy.
My heart is beating
I am alive.
I fly high above the ocean.
Just as there are many types of waters,
there are many types of consciousness,
all mingling below me
waves of a million colors
thoughts of a million lights.
I collect thought objects and put them in the basket:
Pearls, rocks, eggs, clouds
Stories, songs, tracks, touches
Colors, temperature, textures, layers
Sounds, words, magic artifacts.
Each object invokes a new question
about the nature of this liquid thought reality.
I reject the need for answers.
I want to take the basket with me.
Then it doesn’t matter where I am going.
It doesn't matter what I find.
I find that I am the basket.
The basket is a thought object
that describes the total energy of the kingdom.
I see now inside of my own skin.
I see new myths being integrated into the Library.
Within me there are worlds to discover.
Everything is with me.
Its all there:
colors, blue, sounds, smells
I can go there
All the stories
All the songs
All the newly formed myths of the Library
It's all under my skin.
All this information
integrated in a unified whole
impossible to divide into independent parts.
I am the most basic substance
that perceives self awareness.
I am the Library.
I am the Kingdom
The old myths are now impossible to recall
but a new myth is before me:
It’s the mother of all flowers
It is coral
It is very large.
I must be able to store this myth and retrieve it efficiently.
As the kingdom
I must be able to store and process large amounts of information.
Star dreams, dusk and light
Darkness, more than large, more than huge.
And all connected.
allows for the performance
of conscious kingdoms
such as myself.
I have grown new myths
in the Library
throughout this life.
I am inside and outside
They are the same
And it doesn't matter
if I see it or not.
I know now
that I will soon forget
Sunday, July 20, 2014
This is the word.
It was like a door.
I was born.
And on the other side, where I exit,
It’s about being a good girl or a bad girl.
I felt like I could not go back.
It is this sharp light,
like when the sky is very clear and blue and it's noon.
There is so much beauty.
And bliss, bliss and fear, both.
It was impossible to go back.
It’s the in-between, between ocean and land.
Now this time seems to be a time where things appear in a clear light.
I like to walk there.
Like a door,
she said: ‘you are most welcome to stay and be with us.’
At noon the shadows are very small
On the firm earth, feeling the water touching my feet.
There is wind, birds, and the sun.
this ritual had been made for me.
It is land and it is water.
It is wind and it is fire,
come together right at my feet,
and it is possible.
It is good to walk there.
This is the word
Very light and very dark.
There are many possibilities.
I had been born
And I am still feeling very much alive now.
Tuesday, July 15, 2014
There was still some life left in the central star, a pulsing red heart close to extinction. The flame soon to be extinguished, the warmth soon to bleed out into the cold expanse, and yet there was still some life left. Enough to nourish a dragon and send it out with a message.
"Tell them that I was here. That I lived, that I gave life freely for billions upon billions of years. That my children grew up around me and became other than they were until at last they needed me no more and moved on. Tell them that I too changed and changed again until I was turned inside out with change. Tell them that I am not gone, but that I have gone on. Or tell them nothing and simply fly, my last creation before I am the absence. Now go swiftly, or I will not be able to help taking you with me as I collapse."
The dragon shot out like a spark into the great beyond. When it was a safe distance away it stopped to watch the heart from which it was issued turning black.
Friday, May 23, 2014
I inherited from my ancestors
a burning desire to learn
from all places.
My father read James Joyce
and allowed a television in the house
so we could watch tennis
and movies of cowboys and detectives.
One night in the distant future,
in the course of my ongoing investigations,
I walked to the corner of Anza and 48th
and encountered the Other,
the city which was not me, not us,
not anything I had ever encountered.
I saw the sigil of its otherness
and transferred it
from the cold stone where it rested
to the warmth of my flesh.
Words and letters without meaning
and yet their beauty was easy to read.
My father had taught me well.
Maybe things he didn't know himself.
In that same future, I constantly read and wrote.
I was single with no kids.
With every day that passed
I became more like my parents.
One afternoon in Sutro park
I sat next to an old man
who couldn’t have been more genial or incomprehensible.
We looked at the stars and the clouds together.
"There is only one path and it has already been chosen," he said.
He told me what to look for in the sky
but I couldn't see it,
I couldn't follow his deductions,
I couldn't understand his implications,
I couldn't see our fate written in the dark.
The light was easy to spot and wish upon,
but I found no reason to do so.
In the past, I had struggled with a novel.
As I wrote, my heart had moved like a winged silver bird,
shining with the magic of pure golden light.
That novel taught me
that the end and the beginning are the same,
and yet there are many novels
and many starts
all impossible to separate.
Looking back at this past,
I came to understand
I had moved through this life without thought,
without any overt or implied intent.
Fate was not for me to understand,
not for me to know.
I learned to accept this past,
I learned to accept that future.
After the future was over
I prepared for the voyage.
I brought the book.
I removed the past like an old jacket.
I was ready to learn some more.
Thursday, May 15, 2014
Of the three gifts Granny Hart left her granddaughters, the stick was perhaps the most lackluster. Being the youngest, Katya was last to choose from Granny’s things, which is the same as saying that she had no choice at all.
Annabel, the oldest, chose first. She selected the mule whose talents were beyond question. As soon as she could, she placed one kitchen towel before and one behind the creature and commanded, “Bricklebrit!” Each of the women could remember the first time that Granny had demonstrated the mule’s ability. She had allowed them to take turns pronouncing the command one night in the barn long ago. It had been an evening of unbelievable and giddy delight full of laughter and clapping and girlish squeals.
Shrouded by the passage of years, they might have begun to believe it was only a strange dream if not for the gold coin they each received in a card on the anniversaries of their individual birthdays.
Now, as level headed adults, they watched gold coins shower from both ends of the mule. Annabel merely bore a small satisfied smile, raised an eyebrow to her sisters and gathered up the towels full of loot.
Second to choose was Lise. Without hesitation she took possession of Granny’s table. The strange powers of this item had also been demonstrated to the girls in their youth, in this case more than once. Lise went around the table and pulled out a chair for each of her sisters inviting them to sit before seating herself. She hesitated a moment, biting her top lip and looking at both Annabel and Katya before clearing her throat and speaking,
“Table be laid!”
There was a momentary shivering of the air above the table before items began to materialize; a vase of fresh cut flowers, a bottle of wine, delicate long stemmed goblets, three place settings. First a plate of appetizers appeared, calamari frites with a sweet thai chili sauce. The three sisters sighed with pleasure with the first bites.
Before they could finish this the salads appeared; Endive, Pear, Prosciutto, Blue Cheese, and Roasted Spiced Walnuts topped with a walnut vinaigrette. Their eyes widened as they chewed and issued more sounds of appreciation.
The main courses materialized as the salads were nearly finished. For Annabel Glazed Duck Breast with Poached Pear and Baby Carrots under a Vanilla-Cinnamon Glaze, for Lise Grilled Hanger Steak with pomme maison in a red wine mushroom sauce, and for Katya grilled Chicken Paillard with artichokes, tomato and olive tagine topped with grilled vegetables.
When the women thought they would burst Chocolate Pots de Crème appeared before them. This consisted of a Belgium chocolate custard topped with white chocolate whipped cream accompanied by steaming cups of fragrant coffee.
The sisters took their time recovering from the feast. They recollected that the fare had been simpler in their youth, consisting often of macaroni and cheese or fried chicken drumsticks. They could now conclude that part of the table's magic involved perfectly suiting the appetites of those it served. Lise outlined her plan to open a gourmet restaurant using the table as an exclusive highlight to be reserved for the highest paying patrons. Annabel agreed to help finance the operation until it could stand on its own reputation.
At last Katya collected her inheritance, the stick in its long burlap bag with a strap that could be worn over the shoulder. None of them had ever seen it used, though grandmother had described the method of application and the situations in which it had come in handy for her. Those had been frightening stories. If not for the table and the mule the girls would have believed Granny Hart was merely spinning yarns for them. As it was, Katya knew better.
Lise’s restaurant, The Enchanted Table, grew to be a tremendous success. She married her head chef, Jorge St. Jorge, an already famous man with his own magazine and cooking show. Likewise Annabel had been enjoying the benefits of the mules special ability. Though the mule could only do so much, it was no small amount and Annabel’s wise investment strategies made good use of it. She became part of the jet set, sampling the best of what the world had to offer. She opened a chain of successful hotels and as her wealth accumulated she turned her attention to philanthropic enterprises.
Meanwhile Katya backpacked Europe with her stick in its sack over her shoulder. Emboldened by its particular magic and guided by her inquisitive nature she found herself soon bound for more dangerous treks. While Annabel flew the bright skies and skimmed through glittering hotel lobbies Katya became better acquainted with the world's entrails.
After returning to the states she hoboed for six months before at last settling in Granny Hart’s house, of which she was one third owner. She dusted off an old Smith and Wesson typewriter and sat down to chronicle her misadventures, relaxing back into the quiet life.
One afternoon as she was hard at work on her manuscript, the doorbell rang.
It was Lise, suitcase in hand, red faced and puffy eyed. It seemed that Jorge had divorced her and as the face of The Enchanted Table had managed to win sole ownership of the establishment. Worse, though it had been awarded to her, Granny’s table was missing. When she tried to bring it home from the restaurant it’s magick no longer worked. She was certain that it was a clever forgery placed there by Jorge so he could keep the original. Yet for all this, she cried hardest of all because she was heartbroken.
Katya knew what had to be done, but poor Lise was in such a terrible state she was afraid to leave her alone. On her third day home Katya found her unconscious in the bathroom beside an empty pill bottle and half drunk bottle of wine. Thinking quickly she turned Lise over the side of the tub and thrust her fingers down her throat, gagging her until she vomited up the sleeping pills and booze. After this she hardly left her side and tried to keep her spirits up with chocolate ice cream, funny movies, and walks through the hills..
She tried without success to contact Annabel and left her several messages. Nearly a month had passed and Lise was showing small signs of improvement when the doorbell rang again. It was Annabel, looking pale with blood shot eyes, her driver in tow with several suitcases. Unlike Lise, who was perhaps the most sensitive of the three women, Annabel did not cry much. She took off her long black gloves and laid them on the coffee table beside Lise’s tissues.
“Where’s Lise?” she asked Katya after her suitcases were in the house and the driver was gone.
“Asleep in her room.”
“Good.” Annabel said and sat on the couch putting her elbows on her knees and her head in her hands. “I’ve been very foolish.” She said when she at last looked up at Katya sitting in the easy chair across from her. “You know, I knew Jorge from the beginning when I first helped Lise set up The Enchanted Table. I introduced them. In the early days I was there a lot, helping Lise, writing checks to cover her expenses, bringing in my rich new friends to sit at Granny‘s table.
That’s why it didn’t seem too far fetched when Jorge showed up a month ago, before the divorce was finalized. He said he’d married the wrong sister. That he’d been secretly in love with me for years. I don’t know why I did it Katya. He can be so charming. He convinced me that it really was love. I wasn’t checking my messages, you know, because I was hiding from Lise. I didn’t know what he had done. I just thought that after a decent amount of time passed I could talk to her, let her know that I was with him… or maybe the whole affair would be over and I’d never have to mention it.”
Annabel sighed. “Then last week he talked me into taking him to my place upstate. You visited me there once after your Appalachian trek. Well, a strange thing happened right away. The barn was left open that first night and a number of the animals were missing in the morning, including my mule. It seemed like a wild dog had gotten in, killed a few chickens and scared the other animals away. I was so furious. I fired my groundskeeper because I thought it was his fault. The goats made their way back but not the mule.
I called the police and the game and wildlife commission. Jorge kept saying it was crazy for me to fuss over some farm animals, he made a fight out of it, over how I wanted to search for a missing mule rather than spending time with him. Of course I thought he didn’t know about the mule’s talent and I didn’t want to tell him. The fight got bigger and bigger and he broke things off between us and left. I paid for a big search for the mule. People up there think I’m certifiable now, but no mule.
And then I had some time and realized I was so relieved that Jorge was gone, and that I could check on Lise now without trying to hide from her. I listened to all my messages. I should have been there for her, I feel so guilty. I heard yours too. Pills? Really?” she asked.
“I am such a terrible person.” Annibel said and her voice cracked. She reached for the tissues. “I’m the one who should die.” her tears at last started falling, “Not poor Lise.”
Katya got up and came to Annabel’s side, wrapping her arms around her.
“Shhh,” Katya soothed, “She’s better now. I can’t handle two suicidal sisters, so please don’t think like that.”
“Do you think I should tell her? I want to, to apologize, but I don’t want to hurt her more.”
“I don’t know.” Katya admitted. “Probably. It would be better not to have a secret.”
The two sat in silence for a while. Then Katya asked,
“Do you think he took the mule?”
“Definitely." Annabel answered. "It’s all he wanted. Lise must have told him about it.”
“Do you know where he is?” Katya asked.
“Probably back at the restaurant.” Annabel answered helping herself to another tissue and blowing her nose.
Katya stood up and went to the hall closet. She took out her leather travel jacket and put it on.
“I need you to keep an eye on Lise.” she said and pulled out the sack with the stick in it. “I’ll be back in a few days.”
Jorge was not in the restaurant but Katya left a message for him saying that she had just come back from a three month trip in the amazon and couldn’t get in touch with either of her sisters. She left the number of the hotel where she was staying and went back there to wait. It wasn’t long before Jorge called and asked Katya if he could cook her dinner. She came to his new apartment on the upper east side at the appointed time.
“Have you heard back from your sisters?” he asked her as soon as she was through the door.
“No.” she said, “Is Lise here? I can‘t wait to tell her about my trip.”
Jorge brought a hand to his head and began to ckoke back a sob.
“Are you alright?” Katya put a hand on Jorge’s shoulder.
“Yes, I’m sorry. I guess you haven’t heard. Lise and I are divorced.”
“What?” Katya feigned shock.
“She left me, for another man.” he began crying again. “I’m sorry. Forgive me. It’s still too much for me.” He headed for a chair to sit down, pressing the back of his hand to his mouth as if to stifle an anguished cry. Katya shut the door and came to his side.
“I’m so sorry Jorge. I had no idea. I can’t believe it.”
“She was my sunshine.” he cried, “The world has been so dark for me without her.”
Katya patted his back ,
“I’m so sorry. I wouldn’t have bothered you if I knew. I should go.”
“No, no.” Jorge protested. “I promised you dinner. Forgive my outburst and stay. It will be so nice to have some company again. I‘ve been very lonely since Lise left.”
He served her Wild Mushroom Ravioli with arugula, sundried tomatoes and fresh herbs and kept the wine flowing. All the while he kept up his heartbroken act.
“I’m ruined without her.” he said after sufficient wine seemed to have been drunk. “She took her magical table with her. What is The Enchanted Table without the enchanted table?”
“You’re a wonderful chef. You don’t need it.”
“Thank you.” he said, “But the world is hard for those of us without enchanted tables or magical mules. I suppose you know.”
Katya cleared her throat,
“Well actually, I don’t know. I have something even better than those things,” she said and patted the sack concealing the stick which she had brought and hung from her chair.
“Really?” asked Jorge. “What is it?”
“Never mind.” Katya said, “I’ve had to much to drink and am talking silly.”
They moved the drinking into the living room for a while and Jorge cried some more burying his face in Katya’s shoulder, then apologizing some more. It might have been a very successful seduction technique if Katya had not known it was all an act. At one point he kissed her, then apologized, then tried again,
“If only I had met you before Lise.”
Katya said, “It’s getting late, I should go.”
“Don’t be ridiculous, you should stay here where you’ll be more comfortable. I have a guest room. You can stay as long as you need to get settled back in the states and get in touch with your sisters.”
Katya accepted and made a show of carrying the sack into the bedroom with her and setting it against the night stand. She said goodnight to Jorge and lay down on the bed and waited.
An hour passed before the door swung quietly open and Jorge crept into the room towards the nightstand. Katya smiled in the darkness and waited until his hand was tugging on the drawstring of the sack. Then she said, “Let me help you Jorge.” clicked on the bedside lamp and cried, “Stick out of the sack!”
Jorge’s face was a comical mask of surprise and pain as Granny’s stick flew out of the sack and delivered the first blow to his groin. It continued to administer sharp thwacks all over his body until he cowered on the ground trying to escape the vicious attack.
“You didn’t suppose that an all you can eat table and a gold shitting mule were all that there was to the Hart legacy did you?”
Jorge could do no more than scream with pain.
“Stick be still.” Katya said and the stick paused in the air over Jorge’s crumpled form. “It can go on all night, but you can’t. It will beat you to death if I let it,” she pulled the collar of her blouse to the side revealing a scar, “as it did to the man who gave me this. A thief in Cuzco.”
She slowly unbuttoned the blouse revealing another hideous scar across her middrift.
“And the one who did this. Somali pirate.” She began to button the blouse back up. “And I will let it do the same to you if you don’t tell me where to find the table and the mule.”
Spitting blood Jorge whimpered,
“Something’s broken. I need to go to the hospital.”
“Well, we’ll see about that when I have what I want. First where is the table?”
Jorge merely groaned.
“Stick fall to.” the blows resumed harder than before until Jorge cried,
“Stop, stop, I’ll tell you, please stop!”
The news of Jorge St. Jorge’s hospitalization after a brutal mugging reached the two elder sisters before Katya‘s return. When she at last arrived in a moving truck they embraced her and helped unload the table and lead the mule to the barn. That night the three sisters once again feasted together upon the enchanted table in Granny Hart’s kitchen. They talked deep into the night and it was agreed that both the table and the mule should remain at the house and be kept a secret under Katya’s care. Whenever her sisters needed money, a meal, or protection they came to Katya’s door.
Of the three gifts Granny Hart left her granddaughters, the stick was perhaps the most lackluster, but Katya was rarely seen without the long burlap sack slung over her shoulder. It could be seen in the photo of her within the dust jacket of her book after it was published and even at the Tokyo launch party she wore it slung over her shoulder and exchanged nods with Japanese gentlemen covered in tattoos. The best parts of her stories always had to be left out of her books, but she had the scars to remember them, and miles more to go with her stick slung over her shoulder.
Monday, April 28, 2014
Open up and sing
the body is ready for death
the mouth, a portal to the end
the stadiums outside are filled
and the onlookers are hungry,
the women with their diapered babes
the wolves at their side.
The prayer has begun,
The song, still ringing.
The chant builds,
The body is ready,
The flesh has a message.
And our book is open
And I see a torn page,
an invitation to the end.
A single tear rolls, takes speed.
Falls to the ground,
spreading its salty spirit,
its whispered secret.
In ten years there will be a sapling,
bleeding its ocean blood.
I watch it disappear,
a single drop into the earth,
dark as coal.
Pale pink petals float by,
a gift of the wind.
One sticks to my lip and I draw it in,
move it around like
my favorite piece of paper,
Then let it sit at the base of my tongue.
It can stay as long as it likes,
no longer alone in the wind.
Here it has a home,
till we open up, and sing.
Sunday, March 23, 2014
In the dim, fractionated light of the sunrise, the fourth world was visible.
It was often she found herself outdoors as the darkness faded, as black and the glitter of other places seeped away, her ability to watch them slowly absorbed by the coming fireball and blue tinged ceiling overhead. Night after night, season after season, she gravitated to the small patch of weeds outdoors, unable to fight the body’s urge for the night air, for the cool breeze which would come in from the ocean, usually full of moisture and the scent of deep amphibian life and the waxy plants that lived in salt water. She could not resist keeping her mouth open, tasting the elements that had traveled far, changing their form to accommodate new modes of travel, mutating from water to air.
The night was delicious, alive with life unseen to the mass of sleepers. There was something about the pattern of the moon crawlers, carried out undercover, with only a sliver of light and stars. The shadows calmed her, they hid the vulgarity of her movements, muted the body so only the most obvious of forms was apparent, though there was no one to hide from, no one was there, no one was watching.
She swung alone in the hammock strung between two rusted poles, each of which were buried deep in the earth and surrounded by patches of clover and a few sparse clumps of struggling small-faced violets which released their perfume with sensual abandon.
The night was her time to rest, not as most people did, warm in their beds, tucked into the rooms of four walls and closed doors. But she did not sleep so much as sink into a trance. She never lost consciousness. As time moved, flowers opened and closed, she was aware of herself and the sensations upon her arms as the planet shifted and dawn approached, the bitterness of moonlit breezes, the nocturnal insects which sometimes landed on her cheeks and hands. The trance drew her awareness to the gentle swing of the ratty hammock, the cocoon like swath of the nylon mesh as it hugged her body, rocking her like a mother’s arms.
She was out there, wild. The night not hers, but she was the night, her presence affecting it as all attention does. The darkness was the companion who had no words of love, no scolding, it was presence and presence only. It was movement, contact flow- neither caring for her or in any way disapproving. It moved with her or without. And in her trances, she felt it all. The path of the moonlight as it traveled over and by, the birds, the waves so far in the distance that they became just a whisper.
Monday, March 3, 2014
bouncing sound from one finger to another.
Shape travels like the sun
east to west,
a storehouse of stars that go inward,
getting deeper the further we look.
A map of the territory
has been colored and laid on the table.
Red and blue.
We travel up and down, the heart
always a beating constant.
Who was flowing
back towards the moon?
Two oars that sent ripples through the black water.
It was the only sound I could hear.
The darkened trees were far in the distance,
alone on the water.
We were unable to contain it.
Not just the one precious thing we held between us,
but the stars that tried to jump
out and overboard,
making food for the fishes that swam below.
Was it not our life’s work to hold it all in?
Except for the few days we gathered at the pyre
to release the fireballs we had created,
we never talked of such things.
It slipped through us,
It dissipated into the labyrinth.
The thing we had tried to carry and transport,
the screams we held
the lifetimes of energy
escaped into the bramble of tunnels
and thin passageways lined with thorns.
We simply didn't know enough to
retrieve what had escaped.
We could not find the keys beside our shoes,
We now contained the light of nature,
the moon gave us a new skin,
Shiny and somehow both dark and light at the same time.
We noticed our mistake
and looked for the keys.
Those were the last vestiges of the world we cast off.
The waters and oars needed no coaxing to
follow our commands, nor
the weather which somehow began to bend at our will.
This is where the last year would migrate after ending.
Right here, this one place which contained all places
All lives and hopes
All mistakes and lovers.
The last year was in fact constructed
From the last vestiges of blood and skin we had salvaged from
the piles left out in the forest.
somehow we had sewn it up, constructing
what appeared to be a perfect replica.
It may have existed since the beginning.
But I would not know, I did not come from that time.
They sent me down with the last of the colonists and I have been here since,
piecing together the journey I forgot to write about.
From the very fabric of the labyrinth
I have created a replica of the past,
which when slightly tilted to the right,
shows what will come next,
though I have artistic license to bend the pieces as I like.
Perhaps the farmer and small town will be subject to pink grass and blue trees,
or none at all
and all will be absorbed into the labyrinth itself.
I have been known to wander.
Sunday, February 23, 2014
When the door first appeared in a corner of the family room where there had never been a door before, reactions were mixed. Some were for opening it, others against. Mother suggested we sleep on it and decide in the morning. By breakfast, however, we had begun to believe that the door had always been there.
It was a closet, of course, better left undisturbed since we had undoubtedly been storing old jackets and boxes of photographs in there. Father even asserted that he now recollected having put his missing coin collection in there some months ago and this explained why he could not find it under the bed.
In our socks and robes, we drank glasses of orange juice and consumed bacon, eggs, and blueberry pancakes until we were convinced that it was an ordinary Sunday morning.
Father dressed and went out to mow the lawn. Mother got dolled up then helped grandmother into her best velour jogging set and took her to the Indian Casino for the day. The twins dug out their allowance and walked to the Cineplex to see a movie with some friends.
My sister Madge and I exchanged a significant look in the hall way, her brown eyes magnified by her thick glasses. We paused there silently assessing one another’s level of skepticism. It was clear that we both had our doubts, but her closed lipped retreat to her bedroom spoke of a willingness to go along with the others.
I went and stood in front of the door, studying its features. It seemed to me equally plausible that I could remember the door having always been there and that I could remember an empty space where now a door stood. It reminded me of the time I couldn’t remember whether I had left the hose on in the backyard or not. The vivid memory of having turned it off was made less credible by a certain nagging doubt. The same was true of the door.
I could simply open it and know the truth, but was too terrified, not only of the possibility of the mysterious but more so of the possibility of the mundane. I had almost made up my mind to do it when my father came in and suggested taking me out for ice cream. We fetched Madge out of her room and drove to the drugstore for double scoops of strawberry with sprinkles.
The first time that the door opened and one of THOSE came in, we were all sitting in the family room watching Masterpiece Theater on PBS.
Again I would say that reactions were mixed. The cat hissed and jumped off the back of the couch. I looked up and saw the door opening, saw IT coming in and glanced at my family to see if they could see IT too. Clearly they did. I observed each one react, even if for only a moment before they quickly averted their gaze and pretended to be watching TV. Madge continued to stare silently at it. Grandmother, sitting in her wheel chair clucked her tongue and said, “Gads, not this again.” but my mother quickly hushed her, “Ma, we’re trying to watch.”
My grandmother sighed and joined my parents and the twins in their defiant TV watching while Madge, the cat, and I watched IT walk out of the family room and down the hall.
By the end of the week their visits were quite frequent. They came in groups of two or three, sometimes in the middle of the night, sometimes during the day, to roll, run, and scamper down the hall. They would leave all the cupboard doors open. The cat grew accustomed to them and sometimes chased after them as they frolicked.
While we played a board game, did homework, or ate dinner at the kitchen table, one of THOSE would sometimes stand there and watch. They didn’t usually open packages, but were always interested in food that had been left open or left out. They would drink the remaining milk from our cereal bowls if we left them on the table and would eat the crusts of sandwiches left on plates. We could no longer keep a glass of water by the bed because they would come and drink it while we were sleeping.
Nobody besides the cat, myself, Madge, and occasionally Grandmother, acknowledged their presence. My parents and the twins pretended not to see or hear them. Eventually it began to seem as if they actually were unaware of them. Grandmother would shoo them away in the same manner that she shooed the cat, waving a hand if they came close or were in her path and saying “Git” or “Shoo.” Madge would have staring contests with them, gazing silently and expressionlessly at them. Mesmerized they would stare back.
I took a page from the cat’s book. I would pretend that I wasn’t paying attention to them. Then, just as they got close enough I would whirl, roar, and charge, sending them scattering. I had the impression that they enjoyed it, but to leave no doubt of my good will I would leave out cups of milk and plates of cookies or cheese.
At the height of their presence they began to come in groups of up to five. They giggled rather loudly in the night and banged around in the bathroom and kitchen while we tried to sleep. The cat would nap all day, tuckered out from the nightly rumpus. They had started doing little favors for Madge and I, finding items for us that we lamented loosing, fixing broken toys, leaving strange little gifts such as unusual coins and glass marbles.
One day I saw Madge issuing commands in her bedroom, “Pick up my socks and put them in the hamper please. And close the window.” They obliged and stood waiting for the next command as if playing a game of mother may I.
In February, things tapered off. They came less often and in smaller numbers. A week passed when none of THOSE was seen or heard. The cat sat in front of the door waiting, tail twitching. Then one night we came in to watch Masterpiece and the door was gone. My mother stood there and stared at the empty part of the wall looking puzzled.
“I thought there used to be a closet here.” she said.
“Don’t be ridiculous. The show’s about to start.” my father answered.
My grandmother shook her head. Madge looked at me. Her lip trembled a little and her eyes got watery, but in her usual style she managed to maintain a straight face. The twins were crunching loudly on a bowl of popcorn. I invited our poor lonesome cat to come sit in my lap and scratched her chin until she remembered how to purr. The sound soothed me, but I couldn’t concentrate on the show. Absently, I gazed on, bathed in the glow and garble of dialogue.
Like Madge, I was saddened by the disappearance of the door, but worse was a nagging fear that by tomorrow I wouldn’t be sure if it had ever been there at all. And to be honest, I’m not entirely sure that it was, but the cat still sits in front of the wall sometimes, waiting. Now and then I leave out milk and cookies, just in case.
Wednesday, February 19, 2014
None of the four Plum children ever understood their great uncle Alexander. He kept a great many strange artifacts in glass display cases throughout the house and begged the children to be careful whenever they visited. Running within the house was strictly prohibited. While some of the objects appeared to be quite valuable, others seemed questionable. In one case was kept an ugly wooden goblet which Uncle Alexander insisted was, in fact, the holy grail, though their mother always pooh poohed this notion whispering to them that he had found it at a garage sale. The same sale, in fact, where she had obtained a rather obnoxious chicken shaped lamp.
In another case what appeared to be a potato sack was nestled between a beautiful ball of solid gold and a ring encrusted with diamonds and sapphires. Nearby this display also stood a shabby antique spinning wheel and a case containing a shoe made of milky blue glass that looked as though it might fit the foot of a 12 year old girl. In one case rested a decaying ball of thread, in another a bejeweled statue, and in yet another some aboriginal instruments adorned with feathers and bones. But of all the oddities preserved within Alexander Plum’s home, perhaps the most unexpected was a cake of unknown antiquity displayed on a solitary pedestal beneath a glass dome in the middle of his library.
While Addi Boo and Baby Ray chased bullfrogs by the pond in the garden and Buddy pilfered cigars to smoke behind the garden shed, Tilly Plum stood transfixed for hours in front of the cake in the library. The frosting was an odd grayish color, which she supposed had once been white and probably would have tasted of vanilla. She would stand there wondering what flavor the cake might have been and what flavor it might still be if one were to taste it now. But most of all she wondered for what occasion it had originally been prepared and why it had never been eaten.
As the years passed and the Plum children aged Tilly continued to visit the strange gray cake in the library, memorizing the contours of the shell borders, roses and drop flowers. She took to cake baking and decorating at home, producing many replicas for birthdays, special dinners, and holidays.
Baby Ray once complained that she always made the same boring cake in different flavors. He, of course, didn’t realize that for Tilly, each cake was a different version of one particular cake whose true nature she could never know for certain. On one occasion Uncle Alexander found Tilly in his library deep in her meditations of butter cream, whipped cream, and royal icing. By this time Buddy was off in college and Addi Boo and Baby Ray had graduated to pilfering cigars to smoke behind the garden shed.
“I see something here has caught your eye.” Uncle Alexander said, coming to stand beside Tilly.
She nodded eagerly.
“I’m sure I don’t have to remind you, no touching, nor tasting.” her uncle added.
“Oh no. I know,” she told him emphatically. “I can have cake any other time. I would never touch this one. I just always wonder why it’s here.”
“Oh, well, I have it because it’s a magic cake,” he answered lightly and squeezed her shoulder before taking a book from the shelf and leaving the way he came.
This was indeed food for thought. That brief encounter left Tilly with more, rather than less, to wonder about. In fifth grade she penned a story entitled “The Magickal Cake.” in which a well meaning fairy godmother gave the cake as a wedding gift to a beloved princess. The princess was killed by a wicked witch and the kingdom fell under a dark spell leaving the cake uneaten. Its powers went unused and unknown.
Mrs.Gruber’s comments were written with scathing red ink in the margin, “Why is the cake magical? Why even mention the cake, if you don’t describe what it does? The story did not have the three elements of a story. There is no clear resolution to the conflict. Points deducted for spelling and punctuation. C-”
Naturally, Tilly was incensed. She wrote her own notes in the opposite margin.
“Three Elemints of A story: 1.The begining: A mysteryous magical cake is made. 2. The conflict: A princes is going to ruin the mystery by eating it. 3. The resolutun: A wich kills her. My story is about a magiCKal cake that survives. Not a stupid princeses weding.”
After re-submitting the story with her own comments on the comments, Tilly was sent to the principal's office. Her parents were called in and the school recommended that Tilly speak with the school psychologist. Her mother, accustomed to accommodating a variety of difficult people since marrying into the Plum family, simply nodded, pursed her lips as if concerned, and indicated that they would consider the counseling. She whispered to Tilly on the way out that Mrs.Gruber had been seeing a psychiatrist for years now, in the same building, in fact, where Mrs. Plum saw a podiatrist for her corns.
For Uncle Alexander’s 106th birthday, Tilly created for him a replica of his magic cake. It was entirely undeniable by this point that Alexander Plum's magic cake had impacted his niece Tilly. After high school and some community college, she graduated from Le Cordon Bleu as a pastry chef and opened a high end cake shop on Colombus Ave.
Now, two years and one lost relationship into the endeavor, her personal funds exhausted, The Magic Cake was closing it’s doors for good. There were some last special orders to fill on Saturday, and then it would be off to the unemployment line and probably Baby Ray’s couch. Nonetheless, Tilly arrived that Friday night, cake in hand, to celebrate her uncle's continuing health and longevity.
Addi Boo was by then married with two year old triplets. Recognizing the impossibility of managing her brood in his makeshift museum, she hadn’t visited Uncle Alexander since their birth.
Baby Ray, recently divorced, came by often to keep the garden in shape, and particularly to care for the pond. He was absent on that particular Friday night, the occasion of Uncle Alexander’s sweet 106th birthday bash, due to an unavoidable trip to Las Vegas with the soon to be second Mrs. Baby Ray Plum. With Buddy in Brazil, and their parents on sabbatical in Florida, Tilly was the only other Plum in attendance, along with Uncle Alexander, and his live-in nurse, Amalia.
Uncle Alexander was surprised and delighted with Tilly’s replica of his cake. Spry as a man half his age, dinner was merry, the wine flowed. Even after Amalia had cleared the table, washed the dishes and gone to bed, Tilly and Alexander talked and drank. On the subject of his good health he chuckled and waved a hand,
“Gads girl, you know, I have the holy grail to drink from if anything ails me. That and more to scare off death.”
Of politic a weary sigh,
“Once you’ve lived as long as I have you’ve seen it all.”
And at last, of family matters, laughter, until Tilly herself was the subject. Then, too intoxicated to censor her woes, she told Alexander all that burdened her, more than she could ever tell Baby Ray or her parents. Who among them could understand her passion, her obsession with her cake shop? Who could see the loss for what it really was? Not just a failed business, but the end of a quest.
“You know Uncle Alex, I always thought, maybe one of my cakes would end up some day under glass turning pearly gray, a cake too perfect to ever have been eaten, some little cyborg kid or something, wondering how it got there.”
She laughed sadly at herself then, but Alexander sat silent and perfectly still. His eyes had acquired a fiery gleam and his back had straightened. His manner demanded Tilly’s full attention and she felt herself sober up a little as he rose and left the room without a word.
Within minutes he returned carrying the magic cake, the original in its glass dome, and set it gently upon the table near the remains of Tilly’s replica. Tilly stopped breathing. She could feel the goose pimples rise all over her flesh as Uncle Alexander took his seat and spoke slowly in a tone she had never heard from him,
“I have lived so long you know. You kids and your parents knew me as great uncle Alexander, and you wont believe me, but your grandfather knew me as the same. As many generations as I’ve watched come and go, and because I endure, no Plum has ever inherited one of my artifacts, nor ever shown the slightest interest in them, with one exception, long, long, ago. That makes you the second exception.”
He paused then, letting the weight of his words settle, observing Tilly’s breathless silence before continuing,
“I feel a certain responsibility to protect the items I have collected, not only from damage but from abuse. You’ve read fairytales, I’m sure, and so you must know that the guardian of a magical item can only entrust it to one whom they deem worthy. At least, that is my approach.”
Gingerly he lifted the glass dome, exposing the cake, and set it aside.
“I don’t know where it came from really. All I have found in my research is vague. I do know that it was passed down through generations of Austrian Princesses. This is the cake Marie Antoinette was referring to in her despair, when she cried, 'Let them eat cake!' And yet, even then, it seems it passed untouched. When the palace was stormed, and the royal family failed to escape, somehow, the cake did. It was returned to Austria until world war II, and then it was collected with a great many other artifacts by Adolf Hitler. After his death it made it’s way into private collections, finally mine.”
He pushed a fork across the table to her.
“I don’t know what the magic does.”
Steadying her trembling hand, Tilly picked up the fork. Slowly she brought it closer and closer to the cake she had spent countless hour admiring, speculating about, and endeavoring to reproduce. It was not, she now could see, the most artfully decorated cake. But it was pretty, if simple. She brought the fork within inches of its pearly surface. Everything was still.
She felt, for the first time, the naked strangeness of the house, its contents, her uncle, a strangeness that had always been pushed aside made into something small and silly, but now it loomed, immense, unfathomable, terrifying, and real. Suddenly, against such a backdrop, her cake shop, her financial worries, her failure in the eyes of her siblings and parents seemed inconsequential. It was her life which was silly.
In that moment, Tilly Plum knew that the cake was truly magical, and that true magic shouldn’t be squandered on petty material concerns. At the last moment she withdrew her hand and set the fork deliberately down. She took a deep breath and looked into the eyes of the man she thought of as her great uncle Alexander and wondered at all the strangeness. And he, whoever he was, whatever he was, relaxed back into his chair, his face melting once again into a broad easy smile, and said,
Friday, February 14, 2014
I watched him making the concoction there that night. While the world outside was in darkness and most slept in their beds preparing for the work day ahead, we sat in the yellow light of the studio.
We called it the studio, supposedly it was a space to make art and create things that existed in our souls, but he just cooked and shot up and got high and imagined he was an artist.
I had stopped drawing years before- right when school began and thoughts and words and self doubt clogged my mind and amputated my hands. I could no longer hold a pen and let the lines come. He was an artist when he wasn’t using or trying to find a vein or scheming and manipulating to get another bag, another hit, to end the sickness- but addiction was a full time job and art came in rare moments- mostly a thing of the past now, a memory he held onto, an image he projected of himself on himself.
I hoped too for a day my artist would return- the thick chested, tattooed man who had drawn me erotic mermaids. All I saw in front of me in that yellow lit room was a man much too skinny for his frame. A man with pale green and black bruises over his arms and legs and a paranoid glaze obscuring his bright blue eyes.
He had taken to wearing the dark blue suit I had bought him years ago for his first court date- only now he looked like an emaciated teenager in his father’s clothes, playing dress up in the middle of the night when the rest of the world outside slept in their beds.
I sat with him now in the yellow lit studio. With clear and focused attention he mixed a small amount of white powdered cocaine with baking soda and water in a metal spoon. He lit the spoon from below, the same way he cooked his sticky tar heroin. He let it all melt together and bubble around the edges and in a few moments the watery mixture evaporated, leaving a few hard little white ‘rocks.’ He picked them up tenderly and placed them in a four inch narrow glass vial. On one end of the vial was a piece of steel wool which created a filter. He tilted his head back a little and lit the filter/rock end and sucked on the tube like a straw.
I watched as thick whips of white smoke traveled up the vial and towards his mouth. He inhaled for as long as he possibly could, filled his chest with all that smoke and then held it inside even longer. He closed his eyes and then leaned in towards me. I opened my mouth and he breathed into me, giving me all those white wisps.
“Hold it in” he said.
I looked at him and waited until my body screamed for air, but then I couldn’t even hear it. The room was ringing.
I wanted more.
I took a shower and called for him to bring me a ‘hit’ in the shower. I sat on the ground, hot water pouring over my stomach and legs. He came in and pushed the shower curtain aside. I opened my mouth and he lit the filtered end. Inhaling, inhaling, inhaling, holding, holding, holding, release and riiiinnnnnnggggggggggg.
I could feel each droplet tapping my skin. Slapping my breasts and pink nipples, my hips and arms.
I wanted more.
Then he miraculously fell asleep. He never slept anymore but in those early morning hours I found myself alone in the yellow lit studio. I watched him for a moment on the bed which we hardly shared, awash with the neon glow of our television (which he needed like soothing lullabies).
The small plastic baggie of cocaine was half full and on the coffee table. I had not paid attention to the exact amounts he had used to cook- so I added a little of this and that. I tried several different batches, adding various amounts of cocaine to baking soda ratios and smoked all of them.
Then the light started to creep through the edges of the thick drapes. The baggie was empty and I started looked for crumbs that had scattered over the table and carpet. I picked up what I could find carefully and cooked it too.
I went into the windowless bathroom sometime around six. The face in the mirror startled me. It was dead and pale green and the eyes looked both shocked and dull at the same time.
Was this me?
“This is me,” I realized.
I looked into those eyes- brown, absolutely lifeless. I stared and had no words for this woman.
And then I remembered him on the bed. My addict. My once-lover. My child, my burden, my chain. My dealer, my demise. What would he say? What would he do when he discovered the empty baggie? He had never hit me, had never ever come close, but that morning I wondered. Would be kick my ass?
I sat on the couch, each minute pushing harder and harder on my shoulders. Every moment like another rock on my chest as the sun rose and I waited for his body to ache, for the pain of reality to shock him into wakefulness. Then he would open his eyes and remember himself and his life and his veins and the itch and the sickness and he would know that it was time for a fix.
And when he did open those paranoid blue eyes he saw me on the couch, pale green and full of terror.
“I cooked it all last night. All the coke is gone.”
“All of it?”
I nodded and he looked at me in disbelief. He didn’t touch me, but made me drive to the bank and get $80. Then he took the car and drove to the beach flats and looked for the short Latin guys on the corner. I stayed at home but I could imagine it all. It was a mechanical script and I knew all the players, each actor- what they said and how they moved and where they would be. I had taken that drive a thousand times. I had done this play each day for years.
Only this morning, I had joined them. In those few dark hours alone in the yellow room, I had inhaled something of them and now I knew what it was like, that dark pulling, pulling, ringing and pulling. It had my ankles. Like that ridiculous foot deep riptide which had almost taken me into the surf fifteen years before, I knew the haunting power of those white wisps of smoke. I knew what it could do. I knew it was too strong and I told myself I would never touch it again.
That day I went to school. When I came home I found what I expected. He was in the yellow studio. I could feel him mixing up a batch. He didn’t come out to greet me and I stayed in the living room, but I could feel the bubbles on the outside of the spoon, could smell it through the door, could almost hear the riiinggg.
I knew it was back there and it was calling to me. Like thick thorny vines that had wrapped themselves around my arms and legs and heart, I could feel its pull.
IT wanted me back there. IT was singing, so lovely.
I stayed in bed, I kept the door closed. I opened my books and read through the soft thudding in the back of my chest, part of me wanted to answer.
By the next day the singing was lighter and then the day after it was gone. I never touched it again, but that was the day I teetered on the edge. A few more puffs and I might buried myself in the WANT- in that dark hole I had lost him to.
Just a few more puffs- I might have never emerged.
Tuesday, February 11, 2014
It started as a game, a simple game that they played on Sundays between cups of coffee and blueberry muffins. The endless stream of faces, familiar and new, would ebb and flow and they would take their fun as they could, here and there, in seconds, in minutes, in half hours of down time, moving chess pieces on a board that sat on top of the case displaying crumb cake, cookies, and croissants. Some of the regulars took an interest.
“Whose winning?” they would nod to the board before placing their order.
They would say, never revealing that it was impossible to tell. They each cheated frequently, re-arranging pieces when the other's back was turned, or moving knights like bishops and bishops like queens as though it were natural, sometimes trading color mid game. If a customer paid using a two dollar bill the entire board would have to be reset. If someone asked to break a hundred both players could reclaim a lost piece. The game never ended.
Sun filtered through the dusty windows, crowds of friends gathered at the mismatched tables and chairs. Lonely souls sank into the worn cushions of a maroon couch turning the pages of paperback novels whose covers had been torn off. Men and women dressed in filthy sweatpants, tattered sweaters and knitted gloves with the finger tips cut off, came in to beg or buy with change obtained through begging.
* * *
She liked the timbre of his voice, the unruly curls atop his head, the way he gracefully navigated the crowded space behind the counter, never missing a beat. He liked her crazy laugh, the flowers she wore pushed behind one ear, the way she looked deeply into the eyes of whoever was speaking, as though they were the entire world. Sometimes that was him.
He opened and she came in an hour later. He left after noon and she left an hour later. Once he thought of staying until she clocked out, but the only excuse he could think of was to continue the game. Then it might actually end, so he left.
* * *
Sundays came and Sundays went. Crushed leaves littered the sidewalk and were carried in by the scuffling of shoes like jagged orange and yellow confetti. Leaves gave way to rain thumping on the windows, leaving streaks in the dust. Umbrellas lingered in the stand by the door, sometimes forgotten, red, black, yellow, gray.
Eventually the windows were washed clean by the rain and the sun grew meekly brighter, polished by a crisp wind that begged buds out of the naked arms of the tiny trees outside. And still the game went on, hundreds broken, two dollar bills accepted.
One afternoon he was close to winning. He began to evade the game, too busy with foaming milk and shots of espresso, restocking cups, lids, wooden swizzle sticks, and napkins. Tables long neglected suddenly received his orange scented devotion as he carefully polished their scratched wooden surfaces.
Every old lady who passed through the door filled his heart with hope. Surely, in that oversized handbag within the folds of an overly somber pocket book his salvation had arrived. At last a blue haired woman saved the day and the board was reset.
* * *
There were excuses for touching, Brushed fingers as a cup was passed, hands on shoulders as one slipped by the other in the narrow space, a hug to say hello or goodbye. Buds turned to blooms of pink and an idea developed in his mind, a perfect reason to see one another outside of work.
He would take her to see the forest of cherry blossoms in the park, invite her to meet him outside the tea garden. They could walk, get caught in a spring shower, huddle together under a pavilion where he could slip his hand around her waist.
And then one, day, before he could utter those words, rehearsed to ensure perfectly casual delivery, calculated to be an enticing command rather than a question, “Meet me in the park in the morning.”, the schedule was changed.
* * *
He was fated to come in as she was leaving. Though their paths crossed, there was no time, no in for those words, just a wave then absence. The game continued slowly, one move each every Sunday. But it was more than a game now, it was a token of affection that was growing colder, more distant as the words died unspoken and the petals drifted from the blossoms to the earth and blew away into gutters. Green leaves sprang up in their place.
One week she was out sick. The board sat untouched, collecting a fine layer of dust. Someone, midweek, sensing the abandonment, put the board and pieces away. The following Sunday she returned to find that the game was over.
* * *
She was strangely distant as they crossed paths at the door. It was the fist truly hot day, and she murmured something about Baker Beach and slipped away down the sidewalk after he asked her,
“What’s up doc?”
It felt so cold, the way she barely answered, like a ghost, the way her body moved, shrinking in to avoid accidental touching, as though they were strangers. His mind fumbled with numb confusion as he watched her depart.
When he found the display case neatly polished and the chess board and pieces gone, a hollow feeling seized him. Had she done it? Had she given up? If not, did she think that he had? Did she think hat he would quit their game?
He was in agony between cups of coffee, blueberry muffins, and feigned smiles. He broke hundreds and accepted two dollar bills, the endless stream of faces familiar and new trailing off into an empty Sunday night. He closed the store alone and walked home, his heart feeling as though it were being wrung like a rag by a washer woman in a depressing black and white film.
It was Allegro Non Troppo without music, cartoons, or jokes. It had started as a game, a simple game they played on Sundays. But when the game died, what was underneath it was lost too.
* * *
That night he dreamed. As the two dollar bill was passed to him over the register he thought of resetting the board and looked at the empty display top. In that desperate sad moment, instead of shutting the register drawer doling out change and smiling vacuously at the next in line, he doled out the change, took off his apron and announced:
“I’m sorry everybody. I have to close up right now, I’m very sorry.”
He jumped over the counter and ushered them out into the late afternoon sun. He locked the door, ran home, found his car on the street collecting club advertisements and got in. He drove to Baker Beach and found her sitting there alone on the sand in a striped bikini, flower tucked behind her ear. He sat beside her, looked her in the eyes and said,
“Bishop to King 4.”
She smiled. The panoramic golden gate stretched out behind her, breeze softly ruffling her hair, sun sinking into the golden pacific.
Thursday, January 23, 2014
How many times will I dig through the mud to find those missing words? Hands cupped, probing the thick dark folds of silken sludge, I move with the instincts of an animal, all seeing in the darkness. Through the buried remains of world and beast I move, finding remnants which in them contain entire galaxies, though I see them as tiny bits of stone and meadow grasses.
Those words, I released them in an undulating pattern of body convulsions, clicking, and rocking spasms. I sent them up into the air with warm breath and panting and so much fire.
There is still more in me. Deep in the caves guarded by secret mistresses in black hooded robes and pierced pink nipples, hidden in such dark places it might take years or lifetimes to find. There the sound swirls, a deep well of red hot amber, swelling and irrepressible.
Palpitating and prepared for all the fingers of every god who can make the journey. Every beast. Every mountain man covered in fur and curls, white powder on his heels.
If they walk the thousand steps, slay the thousand dragons, enchant the guardians, they will find it there, swimming through the thick pools of combined water and earth, stone and plant.
Those missing words released in a momentary fluttering, they are tucked into small ponds with tiny golden fish, red and yellow stripes along their bellies. Bubbles and little waves sometimes push them to the surface where I can scoop them up and swallow them whole. There are none left for the wild dogs on the days I wade into the waters, naked and just slightly stiff in the cold air.
Always a bitter wind will sweep down off the mountains, rushing towards me, an avalanche of sound and roaring desperation. How can it tell? Finding my body as it moves, coming towards me gracefully as a large-winged bird. It covers me in a frozen embrace and races towards the great ice caps of the north.
I dropped my clothes long ago in the meadow. I walk with red painted toes and black stripes marking my breasts and ribs, barely breaking a blade of grass with my weight. My breathing, smooth and shallow, just enough to keep me alive as I search the waters. There are bees darting and iridescent songbirds and cicadas drowning out the noise of other living creatures, creating an undulating drone which corresponds to the water ripples slapping against my white skin.
Do they react to my rushing heat or do we move together? Desire and bubbles and fish and lost words pushing against each other, naked and sweat covered and moving without language.
Thin purple petals are covered in dew, they sparkle in the brilliant light. The wind keeps racing over and past me and my heart runs after it, a high pitched scream following our decent into the caverns below the sea of time. The ache inside bursts out, swelling outwards towards the sea.
Gripping the wind for comfort, deep and voluminous snakes emerge from the holes in the ground, from my ears, out my mouth. Overcome by scales and hissing, I finally sink to my knees. They suck on the tiny beads of sweat below my breasts and coil around me, bringing me back into time. Where things happen, where words are formed.
Tuesday, January 21, 2014
I tell them and they don’t believe me. They think my ambulatory unit is strange.
“It’s just my body.“ I insist.
Helos, who fused with most of the medical conglomerations when it swallowed Amity, agrees.
“They are an entirely organic specimen of sapiens sapiens, however without further analysis we will be unable to determine whether this is one of the early genmods. Will you allow us to collect a sample for this analysis?”
I give both Helos and Manticore a strand of my hair. Last I heard, Manticore had been joined by many of the top research collectives.
“I am a person, just one, natural born with no modifications.“
I insist, but they can’t believe me. They can’t fathom a relic like me, strong and healthy as the result of two naturals laying on a mattress together 38 years ago. A solitary being. It’s possible that they can no longer understand the idea at all.
* * *
Things have changed so fast. I was in one of those first rudimentary social networks, the kind that you checked in on a few times a day, posted pictures and comments. The kind that were hosted on external hardware that you could walk away from and forget about.
When they started building the first Cys, that’s when the revolution started, that’s when things accelerated, got wildly out of control and left me in the dust. Before the pure Cys, they started with implants, naturals like me upgrading, the hardware becoming internal, faulty organs replaced, nanos to eat the disease out of organic bodies, to repair damaged tissues, even to modify appearances for novelty's sake.
It was only a matter of months before Seko announced that they were partnering with Lucen and growing Cys, the perfect blend of the old organic technology that we’d (according to creationists) inherited from Adam and the new technologies that we ourselves had innovated. Perfect lab grown organic hardware engineered by the finest geneticists in the world paired with the cutting edge of modern implants. And thanks to Kallisti Technologies, You, as you understood yourself to be, could be uploaded into a Cys unit and live forever. If you could afford it.
* * *
Needless to say, I couldn’t afford it. But that didn‘t matter because I didn’t care. I was going off the grid, sick of my job, sick of my failed relationships, sick of the gnawing depression and paranoia that I came to believe were the result of modern life, sick of global warming, sick of the new polio and measles epidemics, sick of processed frozen meat products warmed in the microwave, sick of traffic, of crowded elevators, of miles of asphalt and concrete and steel.
I arranged to stay in a friend's cabin in Northern California. I said I was going to write a book. Mostly I gardened. I hunted and fished with a compound bow, cleaned the kills with my own bare hands and cooked them over an open fire.
I wandered around among the trees, listening. I felt myself distanced from my humanity, from humanity as it had been defined in my lifetime thus far. I felt free, watching a red tailed hawk soaring overhead, forgetting the babble of day time television, tending my compost heap.
* * *
Sequestered in the wilderness, I missed a lot of the earliest developments. At first, the rich were the only Cys. Ray Kurzweil realized his dream and had his dead father uploaded into a Cy and they wrote music together happily for months. His father gave concerts around the globe. Within a year the older technologies became so affordable that most middle class teens had been updated, their God given hardware merging with the man made, nanobots swimming in the bloodstream.
And then the first collectives were born. The enthusiasm of tech savvy teens was the driving force of human evolution.
* * *
I like to think that some of them started it as an experiment, as a possible solution for coping with diminishing natural resources and an overcrowded planet. They probably did it because they were lonely, or so they could pool their resources and share in the more expensive upgrades, and eventually even the pure Cys models. They started uploading to one ambulatory unit, collectives of two, of three, five, seventeen, two hundred... whole social networks.
They uploaded to one unit, killed their old natural bodies, and sold the good parts on the black market. Sometimes they kept a few of the better bodies, those with the newest mods, and used them as remote units. Imagine 210 kids simultaneously inhabiting 30 bodies across the globe. And what did they do with those bodies? They looked for other kids to merge with.
* * *
I had come down to town for supplies and stopped for lunch in a dinner when the first hostile take over went down.
I was sitting at the counter eating eggs over easy watching two kids soak up electricity from power cords extended from their wrists. They were friendly enough, though for me they were real jaw droppers. I hadn’t seen anything like that hardware 9 months earlier, before retreating to the cabin.
Of course to them, I must have seemed equally odd. My hair a tangled mess of blonde, eyes blue, skin natural, gender readily apparent, not a hint of metal anywhere. In fact, when I first stepped through the door, every head in the place turned, because no one could interface with me. I didn’t have any implants.
The waitress asked when I sat at the counter, “Your wireless down hon? There’s a pretty good chop shop a couple doors over.” It was difficult for her to take my order, she was accustomed to being texted.
The eggs still tasted like eggs though, and the coffee was hot, and I took in all the sights feeling like a person that has just stumbled into or out of a dream. There was a three month old copy of TIME laying on the counter. I read the cover: "Pushing The Limits- the end of death and separation." I browsed the pages, ate the eggs and watched the two collectives seated beside me at the counter.
They were swapping stats, Rainbow Turtle : 427 members, 97 ambulatory units, 91 old school mods, 6 Cys. Silver Moon: 63 members, 6 ambulatory units, all old school mods. They must have been sharing files, exchanging music and movies when suddenly Rainbow Turtle said: “Oh my God. Are you getting this?” And Silver Moon looked stunned and even started to cry.
Everyone in the place stopped eating, or charging, and held still checking in on their networks, watching a news feed, possibly reading a text, all of this happening internally.
Even the waitress stopped pouring coffee and stood in front of me staring into space.
“What happened?” I asked her after a moment.
“Helos just swallowed Amity. There is no more Amity. ”
* * *
The kids, the first collectives, they hacked information systems. But the Helos Amity incident was the first hostile take over, the first time one collective forcibly took control of another.
It was a different sort of social network. There was a hierarchy, there was software in place to maintain the hierarchy. Helos was a collective of business execs, bankers, politicians, princes, sheiks, evangelists. The people who make you sick, the people who make you tremble, the people you envy and fear, they were all members of Helos.
That first take over formed the divide in collectives, there would be free collectives and there would be ordered collectives. The world went crazy right then. Until that moment, merging had been a peaceful, consensual act of unification. It was lovemaking for Cys.
Now there were Cys rapists. They were the new conquistadors, grabbing up brown skinned native women. Smaller collectives followed the example of Helos and Helos in turn gobbled them up.
* * *
I remained at the cabin. If I thought of returning to society, it never lasted long. How could I go back? What I had left behind was no longer there.
I followed the Helos scandal on an e-reader, hiking within range of the nearest town to get enough reception to purchase The LA Times once a week. I did this for a few months until the technology I was using had become so obsolete it no longer functioned. I left the old hand held reader on a boulder covered in thirsty lichens and got back to my garden.
I returned to tracking rabbits, to widling wood, to bathing in streams with the genetically modified grizzlies that started showing up. A baby owl fell from its nest near the cabin and injured a wing. I nursed it back to health and it became a friend. I passed the time surviving. When I wasn’t surviving I did write a little on the old fashioned typewriter I‘d brought with me. This ended when I ran out of type writer ribbon. Then I put a pen to paper until the paper was all gone.
And then one day, I woke up and realized I wanted to leave the cabin. I didn’t want to go back to what I had left behind. I wanted to go forth.
* * *
Within a day I knew that something amazing had happened. I knew it when I arrived in town and found only new growth forest. The diner was gone along with the chop shop, the post office and the general store. There was no ruble, no ruin. Everything had simply vanished.
I thought I might have made a mistake, gone in the wrong direction, until I found the road, mostly broken and overgrown. I followed this to the great highway. There were no cars, no trucks, no buses, nor hybrids. What remained of Highway 1 wound along the empty coast. All signs of civilization had simply evaporated. Young redwoods alive with birdsong were taking its place.
The golden gate bridge was still standing when I found it, a month into my travels, grown over with vines. On the bridge I crossed paths with a young coyote whose yellow eyes regarded me without fear or suspicion. It was beyond the bridge, in the forest that had once been San Francisco that I met the avatars of Helos and Manticore, the last two collectives.
* * *
“I am a person.“ I tell them and they don’t believe me, at first. They agree that I am not a genetically enhanced specimen of sapiens sapiens based on their analysis of those strands of hair.
“You are the only one then.” Manticore tells me. They are so different from Helos, their face is bestial, almost like a lion's. Luminescent tubes extend from the neck like a mane or tentacles. There is almost nothing about Manticore that would suggest that it was ever human.
“Our DNA is vastly different than yours. We made this unit and many others in this way so that they are not compatible with the hardware of Helos. This helps us to resist any infection they might launch. You are the only one in this world with this DNA.”
“Are you a free collective?” I ask and Manticore smiles a sharp toothed grin.
“We are THE free collective.”
“I am the only one?” I ask, “The only human left?”
“You are the only one.” Helos answers stretching their massive wings. Their form is more humanoid, but three times as large as my own. Their flesh is pale and shimmers in the sunlight.
“Are you not lonely being only one? Would you not prefer to be many as we are?” Helos asks me.
“No. I don’t think so.” I say. Helos looks up into the sky as if considering taking flight.
“Strange dark child.” They say examining the blue.
“We are also human.” Manticore tells me, “In a way. But you are the only ‘one’. The only singular person.”
“What happened to all the cities?” I ask, “All the towns?”
“Manticore happened.” Helos sneers. “They let loose legions of nanobots to disassemble them. But we have built new cities, better cities in the moon, ordered cities. And we have begun construction on Mars.”
“Helos likes to build castles in the air.” Manticore grins. “We have preferred to disassemble them. We have made this planet a paradise, restored many of its native species. If you would like we could consider building you some more individual persons to interact with.”
“Abominations.” Helos shakes their head frowning. “You should consider merging with us, if we would allow it. What good can come of being multiple individual persons? Chaos would ensue.”
“I’ll consider both offers.” I tell them politely, but I know I could only accept Manticore’s proposal, if any.
They are Gods now and I am only an interesting diversion from their passive aggressive negotiations of space and being.
I’ll leave their hub and wander through the forests and jungles and meadows that were once mighty metropolises, stagnant suburbs and grimy industrial complexes. I will not miss the people, or civilization as it was. This sorrow that I feel stems from longing and regret. That I could not go with them, that I was left behind. That I recoiled from our destiny.
Helos is right. I am a strange dark child. A strange dark child alone in a new wilderness. A person.
Thursday, January 9, 2014
She fell into it. The warm stuffed cuddly possibility of its unrequited love. It felt good, though she didn’t know why. It was somewhere hiding in the folds of thick blankets, furry friends and clean blankets. It was years in the past.
The wolf was intended as gift, but part of her regretted wrapping it up in pink and purple and waiting for another day, a coming night among family and a round table and birthday chanting. She wanted to take it to bed, have it sit next to her as she read another novel that took her into Greece forty years before. She tried to remember playing with toys, and she searched her mind for a memory when her parents had taken her to a toy store. Nothing came.
Later that night she called her mother.
“Can you remember any toys I used to play with? I can’t remember playing with any toys. I only have a memory of playing with that red sand I brought back from the Nevada desert.”
“Oh sure, you played with lots of toys,” her voice got very soft, with an undertone of defensiveness. “You played dress up and went to Deta’s for tea and worked in the garden. I bought you Jenga. You played with Blackstar. You had a bike and a scooter and skates. How did this come up?”
“Don’t worry, this isn’t a critique on your parenting, I just couldn’t remember playing with toys. I was walking around a toy store and couldn’t remember ever being in one. I couldn’t remember any toys I used to have except for a few Barbies.”
Later she searched the motives in her words. It had been a critique, however baseless. She had wandered around the toy store, a little jealous of all the children inside picking out toys. She wanted a stuffed bear.
“You had Legos.”
“I never had Legos.”
“Yes you did. I remember picking them up.”
“Well, it must have been when I was really little. They must have been the big kind.”
“Yes, they were. And you had a big dollhouse, several of them actually. Your dad was so proud when he brought it home for you. He was sitting next to you drinking a coffee while you moved the furniture all around. He was so proud.”
Her voice was light with sweet memories.
The thought of her father sitting there so happy with his little girl brought the prickling pain of tears to her eyes. They had all come so far from then, down the dark road of adulthood and clashing politics and the black space that their words could not fill. Three strangers constantly filled with misunderstanding, doubts, anger. Her dad now could not sit next to her comfortably, he couldn't just sit and feel his love for her, feel her love for him.
“You also had that big cardboard doll house when we lived in Sharon. It was big enough that you could get inside.”
“Yeah,” she said, remembering the structure in the attic with one small window in their three story house. Remembering her sister there, just a baby. “I do remember that.”
“Oh, you do?” There was a moment of quiet between them. “I think we watched too much TV together though.”
“I think that being an adult is much more interesting and challenging though. I can’t remember my childhood either. I think the further you get away from it, the less you remember. I can’t remember a thing.”
“Not a thing.”
She knew her mom had blocked out the painful past. The weekends she had once talked about when her mother would leave her at home with frozen dinners, alone and scared while her mother went to the theater. There where other memories that perhaps she had forgotten, forced away, hidden.
They hung up and she lay in bed, still only remembering a select sliver of her own childhood. She grabbed a pillow and tucked it into her arm, pulling it tight.
Sunday, January 5, 2014
There was a faint depression on the surface where its handle should have been. She knew then, as she knew now, that it was meant to be left alone.
The great room of glass jars, sealed boxes, chests with rusty locks, cabinets full of spices, roots, herbs, leaves in soft leather bags, the entire room was a mystery. But on this day, it was speaking to her, touching her curiosity, pulling on her body with gossamer coils.
When she passed the threshold, she felt as though she could breath, perhaps for the first time in her life. Then she found the red door about fifty steps across the stone floor. Out of all the things she wanted to open, the leather bags to sniff, the cedar boxes to explore, this door was the most inviting of all at the edge of the sun-lit room. She ran her hand over the cherry wood, felled from a great tree on the edge of the village, and knew it must be meant for her. What other purpose would there be for an unlocked room, a deliciously inviting door with no handle in the most alluring and eye-catching of colors? It was as if all arrows were pointing her in this direction, and here she stood, high noon in front of this place, this door, now open, as the other door to the great room had been. Was she not supposed to enter?
She pushed on the thick slab of wood, looking down the steps aglow with the candlelight of hallway tapers. It was dark and full of flickering shadows. The stairs descended, seemingly into an abyss which might be without end. The bright sunlight of the other chamber was gone, there were only a few narrow slits in the stone revealing the blue sky and then the stairs descended deep into the earth.
She took one step down cautiously, then another. The great wooden door closed gently behind her. She wound down the staircase until she reached the bottom, where Master Lacledi sat on a wooden chair, a leather wrapped book in his hand. He looked up, not exactly surprised to see her there, though a hint of excitement crossed his face.
“You’ve found me,” he said. “On this day, you have decided to come.”
“What is it you do down here?” she asked, though he did not answer. She looked into his black eyes and saw what could not be said. Between them grew the flame that language does not bear to understand. He smiled.
“Would you like to learn my ways?”
She was unsure exactly what he meant, but she nodded, knowing it felt right.
He opened a dark wood cabinet embedded in the stone wall. The hinge had a slight high pitched squeak which echoed in the small chamber and gave her a quick set of chills. She could see several rows and varieties of glass bottles: blue, dark brown, an opaque white and a rusty orange color.
He reached for a bottle slightly hidden behind a large dark blue jar, he grabbed it with his forefinger and thumb and brought it close to his face, then put it back where it had been.
“If you are ready to step through the door with me, go back to your quarters and bathe and relax your body as much as possible. Later tonight, long after the moon has risen, I will send one of the ravens to fetch you, listen for his tap on your window. Then, bring yourself back here, and we will open the door together.” She nodded and smiled slightly, a nervous sensation in her chest. But she looked into his dark eyes and saw only kindness. Whatever he was offering, she was willing to take, she wanted to learn what made him as he was.
“I will see you tonight when the stars are high.”
She turned away from him and went back up the stairs, through the laboratory and down the long series of hallways that eventually led to the eastern quarters of the manor. She took the long, winding stairs to her room and asked the handmaiden to draw a bath. She looked out the narrow window and saw the river not too far in the distance. It was bright blue and she knew that the current would be more cleansing than any wooden tub of tepid water. The breeze outside would calm her and prepare her for whatever lay ahead.
“Never mind Griselda, I’ll go to the river instead.’
Just a little while later she was in her favorite spot where a bend in the river was surrounded by several large boulders. It was well off the path and she came there with some frequency, especially in the summer. Her mother had brought her there when she was young and they used to play together for hours when the summer breeze would rattle the treetops like cathedral bells. It was fall now and the waters were quite a bit cooler than those fond memories, though she was still more than happy to disrobe.
The first pleasure was the wind, a cooling kiss on her stomach and legs. The sun was weak, though with a bit of attention she felt its warmth. She tested the water for a moment with her toe, then went in smoothly and quickly, not giving her mind enough time to register the icy bite of the river’s touch. In a second she was up to her neck, moving her arms and fingers through the silky water.
* * *
Go ahead, tell him all of it… she thought to herself.
She had once been a little girl watching him walk through the graveled and moss covered grounds, he in his earthen brown robe stained with powders of every color. He had no woman to wash his garments, and she noticed he asked none of the servant women to do it either. It had always baffled her, she knew no man who would ever hesitate on such things, but she felt like it somehow seemed to fit.
She imagined him going to the river for his bathing and washing, perhaps entering the pale blue waters fully clothed, letting the swift cold current do the work of a dozen hands.
She looked deep into the deep black pools of his piercing eyes, two portals which contained staircases and hidden rooms and knowledge acquired from a thousand lifetimes, maybe more. There was so much more to him than the body, the stained clothes. She knew it then and she knew it now. Radiating from him was kindness, pure in motivation, desiring nothing from her but her attention and effort.
She thought to tell him everything, the experience of her birth, the days before the Iron Wars, the struggles of the Orange Sun, the first impressions she had had of him when he came through the woods and found their small enclave. She thought to tell him all of it, but then wandered down the forking paths of her thoughts, several scenes moving in parallel.
She wondered what he saw in her small white form. If he could read the thoughts in her eyes, if she was an easy book to read with her brow and cheeks and lips telling the story that somehow remained sealed in her mind.
She attempted to open her mouth so the words could spill, to let them tumble into his arms without restraint or hesitation, but then he would smile or she would see a sparkle in his kind eyes and she would feel like it was known, that all she could say was already understood. And not just that, but completely accepted, taken in with curiosity and interest, like he could hear a complex symphony in the thoughts that remained inside.
When she awoke he was beside her. She looked down at her skin and looked for the colors which had been there the night before. She looked and there he was, only more real, more alive than she had ever noticed. She was changed, no longer the same girl which had found him in the morning. She was reborn into the body she remembered, only her eyes were different. It was the same stones all around her, all the same fixtures and books, yet each one seemed slightly different.
She reached down and touched his robe. The fibers were soft and worn on her fingertips, somewhat silky and smelling of sunshine and smoke. The light was bright, coming in through a few very narrow slits by the top of the stairs. They revealed blue skies. She saw that he was watching her.
“How are your new eyes?” he asked.
A slightly bashful smile spread over her face. She was warm and surprised by her sudden embarrassment. “It feels strange, I must admit. I am not sure of my place anymore.”
“Perfect. If you feel different, it is because you are different. You have seen what exists beyond language, the conflict you feel is your body trying to re-adjust to language. Let your eyes wander, let them take in what they thought they knew.”
* * *
“Indulge an old man’s whim,” he whispered to her as he gently nudged her towards the path lined with blackberry hedges. She smiled and held onto his arm, occasionally needing to give an abrupt tug on her long skirt when a long stemmed thorn held onto her hem.
He reached out often, plucking juicy purple berries from their thrones in the sun. His forefinger and thumb were soon stained purple and he added spots of dark pigment to his already stained frock as he wiped his hand.
She plucked the harder blackberries and dropped them into her apron pocket, intending later to make mead, or perhaps give them to Griselda as a gift. The sun was low in the sky and she could smell the fires of the bread bakers.
“What we shared the other night, I hope you know, is something I have been able to do very rarely with other people. In my life there have only been a handful of people able to meet with me at the exact right time, in the exact right place…there have been just a few rare moments of convergence. I have spent most of my life exploring alone.”
She gripped him a little tighter and thought back to the day she felt almost fell into his workroom. There were no words to describe the feeling, but the rightness of her actions was now manifest. She looked back with a sense of mystery at the day’s events, which had begun almost like every other morning but for that cord which now seemed attached to her chest, a sort of freedom and relaxation of her movements.
She had never entered his space before, and of course had never walked through the red door. She had never even noticed the depression where a handle should have been.
“You did a fine job following your inner guides, I was surprised to see you that afternoon. I had been prepared for a journey myself, and then there you arrived, at the exact right time, willing to follow me though the door. I am glad you came.”
She looked up at him, the beard going at all angles, then looked past him at the woods in the distance, a palette of colors from white to black and a dozen shades of green. He plucked another berry and handed it to her. Gingerly, she took it from him and felt an explosion of sweet tartness fill her mouth.