Fiction

Falling

1

The light fades into blackness, the air fills with silence. Within the darkness indistinct forms twist and writhe, then stop, hovering motionlessly around me. After a while they start spinning around, moving faster and faster, until finally their forms melt into a blackened blur. Vague, almost human shapes step out of this blur, assemble into a line, then set off, heading towards the surrounding hills. The line marches on through the day, reaching a way-station of some kind just as the sun begins to set. I walk up to its door, carefully push it open, then step inside and look around: the reflections of several statues of the Virgin Mary placed on a sort of ledge above my head glow off of the brightly polished tile floor, dark hallways lead away from the waiting room on my left and right, an empty clerk's cage sits against the far wall.

The others, having followed me in, mill about aimlessly, unsure of what to do next. I look up at the statues: the Virgin's face looks back down at me from every angle, her vague smile a silent proposition, her slightly spread thighs a hint that her virginity may be more apparent than real. The others finally raise their heads and begin to stare intently at the statues, convinced that they alone are capable of admiring her perfection. This pointless self-conceit briefly transforms her smile into a slight frown, then the humor of the situation strikes her, and her smile reappears.

The building dissolves around us, her hands spread slightly, as if in welcoming invitation, then she looks up and examines the newly exposed sky. I look up as well, scanning the heavens for signs of life, but see nothing, and wonder at the absence. Everything bursts into flames, the ground shivers at my feet, the stars vanish, replaced by a blackness that does not appear to have ever been brightened by any light.

I raise my hands towards the sky, but then stop, remaining frozen in that position for so long that I forget why I had raised them in the first place, then look carefully side to side, as if in that way to determine just what is happening at the moment, or perhaps to catch some hint of what to do next. No hint comes, of course. I lower my arms, look around, to see if anyone has been watching me, then walk away with a purposeful gait, hoping in that way to dispel any suspicions that my behavior might have raised.

The day's sounds melt into the darkness, leaving behind only an unbroken silence, which slowly envelopes me, then begins to draw me into itself. Strange objects surround me on every side, whispering greetings to me, or perhaps simply murmuring into the stillness with no purpose at all while gods inflate themselves into infinite spheres, offering me invitations I find hard to refuse. A tall, darkly shrouded figure floats up between a column of hands holding out an assortment of offerings, none of which I can quite make out, but it scatters the ones closest to it with complete disregard, perhaps even contempt. The hands quickly withdraw the offerings, an odd rustling sound erupts from their general direction, then fades away. The heavens explode out and in, spreading in every direction simultaneously. Panicked, I look at the others, but they do not offer any help.

I walk away, casually this time, no longer caring if I attract attention or not. The land around me fades, shifting with the winds and currents. I stare ahead, grimly, refusing to think back, refusing to see even where I am. I bring up my hands, gingerly placing them together, trying to ignore the roar of sound around me. The skies cloud over and boil, forming odd patterns I am sure must be some kind of message, although I am unable to decipher its meaning. I stand there, oblivious, looking down at my hands, shaking my head, whispering a word or two to myself even though I have no idea at all what I am saying.

And then everything stops. The world vanishes, the lights blink out one by one, the walls around me shiver, then fall into dust. As all motion ceases I feel myself being pulled both in and out in a most disconcerting way, as if something inside of me were drawing my organs, bones, muscles, cells, blood, skin and hair towards itself steadily, while at the same time the entire universe surrounding me was pulling at each and every of my constituent atoms in order to disperse my very subtlest parts to every point of the zodiac. Everything grows brighter, dissolving into a blinding glare while the moon slowly shrinks away.

I stop and let myself breathe for a moment while the winds blow the dust up, forming it into miniature little tornadoes, then stretch out my hands and greedily look up at the sky. As I stare up into it, its surface pulls apart into wide fields of flapping blues and dark oranges, which wave out over the grass waiting just below the ground's surface for the first sign of spring. I take my head into my hands and twist it around and around until everything is convoluted, turned inside out, and upside down, then laugh for the first time while the shapes around me struggle to assemble themselves into some kind of coherent form. I stare at them, fascinated, but then forget to watch their motions momentarily, at which point they reach into me and begin to transform me into themselves, through some mechanism I am unable to immediately comprehend. I laugh again, as if for the very first time.

The shapes begin to materialize slightly as the dark reddish light that had surrounded me diffuses, then dissolves into my pores. The particles of light carry with them thousands of tiny new worlds that whir about more and more rapidly, then begin to spray out a delicate fog that slowly condenses into a warm sea while the hordes of tiny new worlds hover over it, hurling lightning bolts into the pitch blackness of the steadily deepening waters, under whose surface small creatures scurry about collecting the food that sprouts up in response to the electric fluxes that offer new homes to their spawn.

I get up, only to find that the laughter in my ears has faded into a dull whine, while what I believed I had held in my hands slowly vaporizes, then leaves me clutching at thin air. Inside of the stillness what has gathered all this in the first place grows quietly as the day moves along. I sing a short song, to remind myself to keep moving, and sometimes to remind myself to simply do nothing more than stop. The song echoes around me while the refrain has gotten stuck in my head, looping around with such a clearly discernable pattern that once in a while I catch a glimpse of its actual form, vague, but still unmistakably there.

I fall into the gently surging waves of the newly born sea as the winds rise with increasing fury while the last particles of what I was holding so firmly in my clenched fists flash into a vast sphere of nothingness. I watch the proceedings doubtfully, then look around, unsure what to make of the dry, very roughly ploughed clay field covered with dried out corpses, their brittle skins holding in lumpy piles of bone. I scatter small handfuls of seeds to my left and right as I carefully make my way through the shriveled remains while the day's light fluctuates into uneven intensities of deep reds and oranges, with dark blues and greens flickering here and there, but these last two never appear anywhere I am looking directly at. I stoop down to pick up some of the dried out limbs, which separate easily from the bodies with light pops and crackles, then examine the detached pieces intently, but the lingering stench of rotted flesh soon makes holding them any longer too difficult, so I drop everything, laughing at them as they fall. The pieces dissolve into a small cloud of dust when they hit the ground; the sun bursts into a giant ball of flame, which spreads so rapidly that it completely consumes me in its rush towards the outward reaches of the universe. The fireball sprays the landscape with intense currents and subatomic fluxes whose utter and complete formlessness completely envelopes me, sucking me into both themselves and my dissolved surroundings.

Stepping gingerly to avoid falling, and because seeing itself has grown problematic, I very carefully negotiate the narrow path that crosses the cliffs whose very existence has grown so uncertain that I tempt myself into thinking that I am finally free. Long ropes, with surfaces having the consistency of stiffened gelatin, whip around me before I can move out of their way, twisting so tightly around me that my face grows blue then purple, puffing out into a distended form ready to burst with the first pin's prick.

The wind curls around my legs, following a strange, almost neurotically precise pathway whose brightness blinds me and so tricks me into taking its offered hand, but this offered hand is nothing more than a particularly sick joke. The joke expands, distorting its image, and pushing against the loosely stacked piles of bricks around me, whose surfaces bear images I cannot focus in on for more than a millisecond. The space left between the moments in which these likenesses flit about pulls me in and takes me up to its mouth, suggesting visions that have never exposed themselves to the light of this, or any other, day. A horde of softly whispered stories rush in to fill the microscopic spaces left between the waves of shimmering images that surround me, beating their furious fists against the disappearing blocks of light and dark, the alternations of which defy my every effort at categorization.

When I try to take a longer look at these rapidly shifting phantasms, something immediately pushes me down and twists me around, removing and replacing my component parts at seemingly indiscriminate abandon while the skies shift and roll through an endless array of preformed patterns.

I begin to fall head over heels, down endlessly, further, past even the watchtowers whose jobs were proscribed so long ago that even the shrouds of the myths that had covered them have slipped away, leaving behind only a forgotten vacuum, which still serves its purpose with a certain rusty glee. The morning fog fills my lungs and stretches its tentacles through my ears, pulling at my eyes and stroking my tongue, pushing outwards, past the sun and stars, past perhaps even the guiding hands of the gods themselves. I open my clenched fists, look around, push a little this way and that, then stop, out of breath, and perhaps, out of time.

Only a wavy line in the distance gives away any hint of the true character of the substance around me, and even that vague line floats away into invisibility as I watch. I cannot maintain my form, no matter how hard I try, nor can I stand tall against an enemy who does not himself stand at all. The landscape which has slowly drifted into some kind of substantiality as I watch is covered with a thick syrup, almost flesh like, but a flesh that has not quite achieved solidity. Pushing my hands down into this sticky mass I pull up a glob of pulsating ectoplasm and look at the lights shining through its translucent substance. Satisfied, I throw it up, following it until it disappears in the dark spaces between the large pillars of stone holding up the roof which arches far above my head.

At the base of each pillar I find convenient climbing holds, spaced just far enough apart to give my hands a path to follow. After climbing for a few minutes, I look down at the softly glowing mass, marveling at the enormity of it all. The stone crumbles in my hands; signs to my left and right indicate possible alternative routes; above my head the roof groans, then settles slightly. The stone splinters and begins to flow away, without, however, becoming liquid in the process.

Moving very carefully I place my feet first here, then there, a little to the left, then over, slowly watching the fields waving with ripples of grain. My hands melt before my eyes, powerless to turn any way but inside out they begin to glow with a radiance born in the deep seas, in the muck that lines the ocean trenches, giving life to a surreal collection of something neither plant nor animal. Stepping becomes for me an exercise in restraint, while the moon shines down with its first darkened rays. Ahead of me, a road suddenly appears, so wide that I soon lose myself in its expanse. I rove side to side, unsure where the lane markers lie, or even if the surface beneath my feet can hold my weight.

Shapes float up to the surface of the road and extend their tentacles towards me, then begin to examine me with patient, and somewhat surprising, dexterity. I try to look back, in the direction I have come from, but find myself hesitating, having suddenly realized that I can find no real demarcation between the movements which struggle to pull me into their grasps and the light from the darkened moon, not to mention the sand that falls every direction but down as I try to focus on an hour glass floating in front of my face. Strange monsters, kept hidden beneath the surface for so long that even the memories of them had been forgotten, begin to writhe around my feet, complicating matters even further. I suddenly realize that the surface of the road has a current, like a river, and that I am being pulled along by it rapidly, until I am caught up in a foaming torrent shaped like a tunnel whose walls pulse then hum quietly to themselves while the roof drips down over my head. Finally the road has revolved so many times that the tunnel has turned on its head and now funnels me down into its heart, singing in a clear soprano that reverberates against the glassy walls against which I bounce on my way down. I look desperately for a way out as I fall steadily further in, but none presents itself. Pulling back my hands from the surface of the tunnel proves to me that resistance only provides the illusion of escape. With no other choice immediately obvious, I let myself fall without offering any further resistance. The air around me grows still, perhaps in the same way that the eye of a hurricane is said to be, allowing me to slowly begin to regain my ability to breathe.

Then the moon, which had been hidden up until this time, bursts – the pieces explode into the atmosphere, flaring out over the horizon in bright oranges, purples, and reds whose shades slowly approach the darkness of death. Sensing the possibility, for the first time, I let the reds fall into black, listening as the disintegrating sky over my head sings a thousand songs in strange but still somehow very reasonable harmonies. I fling my arms out to the sun, whose rays flow into my veins, filling them with an inhuman brightness which falls down into the very pit of the time that came before all that stands before me. The sun slowly begins to lose its edge, its light fades bit by bit, until finally I can look up at it with eyes bared, teeth clenched, mouth dry, hands hot and breath coming in erratic bursts. The light has finally completely entered my outstretched arms and swims within a center without any circumference, pushing out in hopeless effort at escape, revolving more and more quickly until a core of pure radiance begins to pull the black back into itself, pushing out against the emptiness, carving curved paths that roving eyes will one day give purpose to, and finally call out as truth, trembling at the hands of the gods whose laughter echoes through the heavens and shakes the waters beating against the base of the cliff up which I can only look with a blank stare, whispering promises to long dead virgins under my breath, hoping in that way to avoid the scrutiny any more obvious attention might attract.

Then the walls around me creak in and out, swaying to a beat that hovers just out of range of hearing, moving almost visibly, throwing up the sky and burning with a white flame that creates and destroys with a pure joy driven from the first by visions of the impossible. I step back, startled, feeling at the surface before my hands, noticing how it pulls back as my hands advance. A quick look up confirms everything I needed to know, and leaves me free to move. I slide sideways to slip through the cracks better, drinking in a peculiar haste that gives me away to those who might suspect in the first place. I am filled with an anxiety; as if perhaps I had suddenly come to know that all would end one day. The feeling spreads through my flesh until I begin to laugh, head to hand to roof to sky to the trees outside. The darkly shrouded figure I now realize may be death itself comes and looks the situation over, shaking his head, sending dust flying here and there. He trembles, frowns, then turns, furious, and stomps away, while inside I laugh.

I have finally reached... somewhere – where I cannot say. The moon turns slightly to its left (my right), the sun hangs overhead, I spin around it once every hour, then at shorter and shorter intervals, until finally a blur of day and night pushes into my thoughts and takes my words, converting them into long lines of brightly colored painted stick figures. Wonder whispers across my face; my lips crack into a smile, parting to show a flash of white teeth; the future is held so closely that dark shoots into dark and I see nothing. Neither victorious nor defeated the battle has lost its form and focus. I look up, panting, body strained, ligaments snapping through my joints – the time... the time has come. Everything ever called arrives, the world looks down, the sands melt into glass and flow down into the sea. Given everything and sacrificing nothing becomes a mantra of futility. The sun streams out of the earth, vaporizing the edges of the cracks through which it seeps. The first movement comes – no one there this time, no one at all as the time and place merge, the light falls back into the depths and the cracks close with soft creaks. I look around, amazed, but unable to speak.

The parts click, the stars stop spinning, the moon reaches out to me, warming my insides. I let matters stand, lie, or fall where they may, then walk away, happily swinging my arms back and forth and whistling a little song. Blue-white light from the reflected sun illuminates my steps, the soil begins to vanish. The earth dissolves, pulling everything with it as it falls, then pushes me upwards until I float somewhere I have seen before, sometime... just exactly when I can't say. Turning without any sense of direction, uncertain of landing again, I raise my hands to my forehead, shading my eyes as I look out over the swells, searching for signs of the future in the churning of the dark grey clouds.

I step out, carefully making my way down forest paths, cool air filling my lungs, dried branches cracking under my feet. The noise extinguishes all other sound; only once I have passed by does the interrupted forest's conversation resume. Holding out my hands I wave them slowly back and forth, side to side, up and down. The hands of the clock begin to curve back and forth, making the telling of time more and more difficult, until finally only a gray blur covers the clock's face. That makes me stop, take note, and think for a minute. The small objects flying around my head begin to take form, then start doing polkas on my palms while seagulls wait to see if any decent scraps will fall during the scuffle. The seagulls fly off in the end, disappointed at the slim pickings, but not regretting the time spent. Still spinning around my head a thousand endless streams stretch me out over their surfaces and, pulling themselves into me through my hair, enter my scalp, pierce my skull, then swim the channel, landing on shores both firm and burning. The flame pushes up at me, wraps itself around my body, takes its roots and pulls me down into the ground, past the earthworms, past the mines and molten rock, into an arena filled with faintly alternating webs of reds and greens.

I step back, pulling the flames off my skin. Twisting to slip out of their last shreds, I look around – left, right, then slowly up, where a flaming circle sits impassively. I say nothing, breathe in and out a few times, to remind myself of where I have just stood, then force myself to keep walking, shaking my head to clear the fog, sighing when I forget myself, crossing myself when no-one is looking, then putting my head down, looking to find the stone floor, the vaulted ceilings, the colored light, the echoes of voices of those still old enough to know.

I smile to myself, remembering a time when the trees lost their leaves and the sky flared up in candy oranges and transparent greys. Calmed, I look around again: the moon shines down in its early days, my thoughts rise, one by one – I let each of them fall in its turn, an overflow into a canyon whose depths yawn up at me in the middle of a grimacing horde of demons who laugh while dancing around pale blue flames shooting up out of the ground. I run faster and faster; but then I fall, having tripped over something on the ground. I stop and, getting back up, slowly step back, watching the liquid stone as it spins without a sound, making the air just a little colder and oppressive around me, but otherwise having no apparent affect. I watch the pieces as they fall into place then back out onto the ground, cracking the pavement with a thud before resting there, quiet, staring up at me, at the sky, at the pigeons flying overhead.

I pause, enjoying the moment. Working my way through the overgrown garden I reach the rusted gate set into the old stone wall and push it open, then look out over the orchards that form lines in every direction. Waves flash up, taking me in their hands, while a rapidly evolving sequence of slightly different shades of blue streak into whites above my head. I stand, stomach moving slowly in and out, feet reaching into the pitch- blackness to rebound against soft cushions of moss. For a moment nothing changes, then everything begins to revolve – spinning off, pulling in, spreading into the thickening air as I fly down into chasms of broken stone, catching my hands on the currents and eddies, climbing step by step, hands branching into vines reaching for the most invisible of cracks then pushing in, flaring out into the pre-atomic spaces. I pull myself up, following my hands as they spread out in front of my eyes.

The ground and sewer lines below pulse along under my feet, apparently following the same rhythm. I turn my head side to side, to catch the traces that linger in the air, my sense of smell guiding me just enough to let me make the next step. Flowers push themselves up towards the clouds before letting themselves go completely. My attention remains fixed on the outstretched material, while I carefully test the fit in each stone before moving onto the next, seeing if the joint has enough strength, breathing in and out several times to give myself the inspiration I need. Then the soil washes away, the waters boil down the slope and pull me so quickly from my support that I do not have time to realize what has happened as I fall away, until the cord snaps and the sun cracks a smile. I look to see if I can catch a glimpse of anything in the spray of water, but there is only the vaguest of forms visible, and even that vague form seems to be changing rapidly as I watch, too rapidly for me to lock any kind of concrete description onto it.

The undulations leave no time for thought but move as carefully as I could expect them to under the circumstances. The undulations begin to take on a more substantial form, then a wave washes over me, sands fill my pores, saltwater drips off of me while above seagulls wheel, side to side then swooping down, their eyes taking in the rush and pushing back the questions that never rise. The salt crystallizes on my skin; I look around, at the waves washing over the shore, at the slow revolution of the heavens, then breathe in deeply, over and over again, my hands pushing down on the floor, knees bent in half-remembered sacrifice, eyes held out and over the light that filters down on me, filling my head with a soft glow that seeps out of my tightly closed mouth. A thousand broken flower petals float down to the ground, each more radiant than the last, each more filled with its own moment of life than all the heavens and hells combined. They spin around, mixed in with all of those little heavens and hells, floating, drifting through the air, tweaking the corners of the spheres just enough to let loose a vague sound – the first element of a symphony, the dying note of an aria, the silent space between two notes.

The light brightens, spreads, shines into the cracks and crevices of my skin, filling my pores until my skin radiates a pale blue while my eyes spit out flames into a cold night. Collapsing under the spreading rays the buildings melt into pools of steel – I stare blankly into them, forgetting myself, forgetting the sky, forgetting the ground under my feet, falling face first into the mirrored surface while chasing after reflections of the fire that wavers around my hands and feet before its strands join into cables that pull me below the surface, into a world whose horizons refuse to keep a steady form. Before I am pulled all the way under I look up with a grin at the sky, at the heavens filled with those enormous balls of almost liquid stone, then the skies vanish and there is only a liquid silence.