Then I wake up. But I had not been dreaming. Nor sleeping. This is an interesting situation, that much is for sure. Or maybe I should say – I feel like I just woke up; my eyes are blinking in the light, my head still has that sensation of not quite thereness that signals recent sleep. Maybe I have missed something, I don't know. Then the door slams, a voice cries out something I can't quite get, then there is silence. Everything has slowed so much that I actually have time to notice this happening. The air itself takes on a syrupy texture, as if its molecules have been slowed down so much that they no longer have anywhere to go. Or maybe it's me. No matter what the case is, I am glad that things have brought me to this point, even though I can't really explain why, since there is nothing particularly noteworthy about where I am. But still things seem more or less ok, although of course that could change tomorrow.
I suspect that whatever was going to happen has already happened. Why I believe this I can't say; the clouds over my head can bring no great argument for or against any position I might take, but that is not as important as some other considerations, things that exist I suspect really only to give us something to do while we work out whatever it is we are really supposed to be doing.
Well, no matter. It isn't something I can figure out at the moment, and besides, I am as I mentioned a little tired. I look up at the once again closed shutter, then down at my hands, wondering if I did something wrong, or if I have as I suspected merely misinterpreted everything that has just happened. Despite the fact I will probably never know the answer to this question, it seems to me that it is definitely worth asking. The sky is scattered with clouds, the square I am sitting on is covered with a dry coating of dissolved leaves, probably from the preceding fall, but there is no way to know for sure. Everything is still, the leaves rustle over my head, the streets are empty. Maybe I don't belong here after all. I wish there was some way to know, or to get at least some idea of what was going on.
The girl, meanwhile, has woken up, and looks around, confused. The bedroom is strange, unfamiliar, definitely not hers though. She sits up in bed, not realizing that she is naked. The narrow beam of sunlight has vanished, following the arc of the sun to some other room, in some other town, directed to some other square. She looks down, somewhat surprised to see her breasts exposed, then looks around, to see if there is anyone there, but the room is empty. She gets up, noticing a mirror over a dresser, and looks at herself. She is not fat, not thin; her breasts droop down slightly, but are more or less firm – not large, but not small. She looks harder, trying to see just exactly what she is, but cannot quite manage to get a grip on the image in front of her. Her form begins to grow more solid, then swims into focus in the mirror. Her eyes are dark blue, almost gray – it is hard to really say, since it is a little bit too dark to make out subtle color differences.
Afraid that someone might come in without warning, the girl looks around for something to cover herself with. A small stack of neatly folded clothing sits on the chair next to the bed. She lifts up the top piece, an antique looking bra made out of a faded lace material that feels like it might crack if she bends it too hard. Curious, she tries it on, and is happy to find that it fits quite well. She puts on the panties, made out of the same lace material, then a long dress, which is remarkably comfortable, then finally some stockings, and a the pair of shoes that was sitting under the chair. She walks over to the mirror, looks herself over, not unhappy with how she looks, even though the clothes have a vaguely unfamiliar quality about them, as if they belonged to some version of her that was never born, but could have been. Her long, dark hair blends well with the subdued fabric of the dress, while her body is accented nicely by its cut. Satisfied with her study of herself in the mirror, she turns, walks over to the door, opens it carefully, then peeks out into the hallway, which is even darker than the room she had been sleeping in.
She walks down the stairs, not sure if she should find the owners of the house and tell them she is there, or if she should just leave, without alerting anyone to her perhaps illegal use of the premises. She opts for the latter choice, feeling that, since she had meant no harm, and could not even recall having come in, there would be little gained by attracting undo notice. And besides, who would care? There would be the question of the rumpled sheets, of course, but other than that, no real change would come about the lives of the house's residents, whoever and wherever they were.
The air is cooler outside, the last bit of daylight is lingering, fed by a faint orange glow on the horizon. She crosses the street in front of the house, then makes her way to the square, curious in a way she cannot quite fathom about the person she sees sitting on one of the benches. She touches my shoulders lightly, not sure why she is where she is, or why she is doing what she is doing. I jump, then look around wildly, as if I were trapped, or suddenly exposed to a very bright light. She says nothing, preferring to see my reaction, wondering who I am, and where I have come from. The night air begins to grow even cooler; I button up my jacket, then look up at the girl, not sure what to say. She looks down at me, feeling vaguely sorry for me, but also sensing that this is someone she needs to be with, for reasons not at all clear to her.
The sky begins to burn a darker red, fading over into black, then the first stars begin to pop up, brighter, and much better defined, than I have ever seen before. I get up, suddenly knowing that I want to be with this girl, but not knowing how this can happen. We turn, looking at each other, unclear except in this shared feeling, but not really even clear when it comes to that, for such feeling are never clear, since they do not really live in the same world that our words and thoughts generally are found in. But such questions will not go asked tonite; instead, the girl asks me if I am hungry, to which I answer yes, having just taken note of the growling in my stomach.
She takes me to a small bar/café, I am not sure which word describes it properly, but the food is good, and filling. We do not talk much, and what we do talk about does not touch on the reason we are sitting together in a small bar in a small town engaging in small talk. And that is all for the best, for it is in the end completely pointless to try to figure out such matters. What is not pointless is the way her eyes shine when we talk, and the subtle smile that plays out around the corners of her mouth. Because we do not know what else to do, we order some wine, drinking it while the last light of the day vanishes from the horizon. The streetlights flicker on, throwing down somewhat harsh yellow pools of light, then a few cars drive by – the first, I suddenly realize, I have seen in this town. So there are people here after all.
As we drink the wine, it comes out that she does not know how she got here either, but simply woke up, already here, but with little other information to go on. Since my experience is much the same, we find that we already have a common bond. Such things are useful, if not slightly deceptive in their familiarity, since being plopped down somewhere randomly is not the most solid foundation to build on, but, given that that is what we have, we begin there. But this point is not really so relevant. More so is the light that shines out of her eyes, along with some slightly suggestive movements her body is making under her dress. Her voice floats on, carrying me away, pointing out to me the simple fact that life without that precise voice has never been real. That is how we really know anything is true, in the end, simply by the sound of things, not even the words themselves, just the sounds, the way the words move the air, the way her lips touch the rim of her wine glass, the way she speaks through the silence as she sips the wine, then, finally, the way she, after putting her glass down, lets the words flow out again, no longer in a hurry, no longer needing to explain anything.
In a sense I have finally come home, but in a weird sort of way, a way that has nothing to do with a house, or a geographical location. I find myself holding my breath for fear of making the whole thing vanish with one wrongly timed breath, but the night does not shift, the air is still cool, occupying just the right amount of space, not too thick, not too rarified. My hands move through it at exactly the right speed when I reach for the glass – my movements are hampered by neither the sluggishness nor the gelatinous sticking that might otherwise serve to warn me that my movements have grown out of time. Her eyes continue to shine, her lips continue to form words that soothe something inside of me that has too long gone unnoticed, but hardly unaffected. It is as if her words held some balm which was a part of life itself, and which, when denied me, would simply laugh before going on its merry way. For any denial it was ever faced with came from me, and not it, since it was always there, from the beginning to the very end, and simply had to be let in, which is always the very easiest thing to do, if we would just learn to see things in that way, which is not the easiest thing in the world to do, I will readily admit.
Perhaps I just had to be ready to give up; perhaps falling is the only way to get here, and maybe, just maybe, that will be the only way to continue. Luckily I don't have to come up with an answer to this, or any other question, at the moment. The wine frees our words from the demands of reason and common sense, slipping them back into the mold they sprang from in the first place. I welcome this return, recognizing it by the feeling of no–resistance that surrounds each word as it floats into the bar's slightly smoky air. And by the way each finds its way so easily into me that I barely notice its entry. And, maybe most of all, by how, once inside me, the words nestle in the spaces between the things we take for granted so much that they begin to eat us alive, from the inside out. Her words have no interest in any of that, and those things can only quiver, shaking like cowards, then slink out by any route they can manage, hoping that their exit will attract no attention, since they would flash away into a faint vapor if ever exposed to any light at all, no matter how dim.
Simply put, I am stunned. I had had no idea that words could be like this. I had always thought of them as sort of hard, inflexible things, which tied me up with little ropes, until I was finally stuck to the ground by a thousand different threads, each so silken that it could never attract any notice on its own.
This then was where I had always wanted to be. Her eyes gleam, telling me that she too has found the place she had been looking for. I do not want this night to ever end, and begin to think of some way to keep it from doing just that, but of course my thoughts cannot focus enough to let me get any real hold of the problem, which is definitely for the best, since plans in general have proved to be a bad way to live my life. I sigh, then look across the table at her, marveling at her face, her smile, her eyes, and, of course, at the way her breasts jiggle slightly when she moves back from the table to make some point or other. I can find no fault in any part of her, which is itself a relief, since fault finding is not something that really adds much to the value of life as far as I can tell. I resolve right then to listen to her in a way I have not done with anyone else before. Words of this quality simply can't be allowed to simply fly away into the vanished rays of the set sun.
When we are outside, we shiver in the rapidly cooling night air, holding onto each other's hands, feeling that there is something illicit in what we are doing. As if being home was no longer allowed, and would interfere with the upcoming quarterly profit figures. Whatever it is that I can't name surges back and forth between us, our linked hands serving as a conduit. After a few blocks I notice myself beginning to relax slightly, as if an old injury was breaking up, or a wall falling down, letting loose whatever had been hidden for maybe a little bit too long. I had been building something for so long, I had started to forget what it was, or why I was doing it. It had, in other words, become familiar, and habitual. This never works if you are aiming for something real. But it is always so easy to slip a little, choosing the familiar over the unknown. There is nothing known about whatever is flowing between us at the moment, however.
This unknown quality is the glue that makes it possible to resist in the face of overwhelming force. And to know how to duck your head, avert your eyes, and simply nod in apparent agreement to the claims whose rational foundations have grown so out of touch with anything real that they can gleefully proclaim themselves as the new real, the hyper–real, the beyond–real, the virtually–real, the let's–forget–this–whole–real–thing– anyway–and–just–get–on–with–business–real that had started making some very real inroads on what we used to talk about as my soul. Although she doesn't say anything, I can feel that the words that are popping up in my head are not so much mine as ours. I look at her out of the corner of my eye, understanding for once just what it is the muse means. She in her turn basks in the glow of recognition... the gods too have their faults, like us, and hers is simply wanting to be acknowledged. That is what makes her come, and that, if withdrawn, is what makes her go. There is little I can do in either case, since I am simply too stupid to do what is right on a consistent level, and so am always scrabbling around the edges of things. Her arrival, however, makes me wonder if I am actually doing something right, odd an idea as that might seem.
I do not speak of any of this, primarily because I know, without knowing how I know this, that she is there with every thought, so there is no need to explain anything, unless the point is simply to share the sounds of our words. Which in itself is a nice thing, like looking at the clouds form and break in the dark sky above our heads. The village is quiet again, no cars break the stillness, the yellow pools of light thrown by the streetlights grow less frequent, soon we have reached the suburbs of the town, but not the sprawling dead empty spaces I am used to, but rather simply the edge of the town, and the beginning of farmland, gathered in little plots, compressed, but cared for in a way that is obvious even under the faint light of the quarter moon that has slowly risen over our heads. We stop by an old stone wall, looking over it at the small patches of different kinds of vegetables, the few low–pruned trees, and the little shed where presumably the gardening implements are stored. She seems to sense my confusion, and looks up at me, expecting me to put into words what is quickly building up inside of me, but the words have no form, the sentences are missing internal cohesion, the feeling itself, which she could of course easily read, grows then wanes right before it has taken a concrete enough shape to be communicated. But she knows, no matter what, since she has the weight of experience behind her. She knows, that is, the fundamental fact of her irreplaceability. Of course, when I say she knows this, it is not as if she actually knows this in the sense that she can tell you that that is the case. No, it is more of an instinctual thing, and is what gives her the strength to go on even when things seem completely hopeless. Her character, that is, is constitutionally unable to give up.
This inability to give up begins to flow up my arm, from her hand, and fills me with something I did not have before. I cannot explain it any better than that, I wish I could, but maybe that is just one of those things that have to be experienced personally to be understood properly. Beyond this I am not willing to go, for fear of annoying her. Our steps have taken us well into the farmed area, and the lights of the next village that is situated on top of a low hill in the distance grow brighter. But we do not go there, preferring instead to just sit by the side of the path, resting our feet. Because we have pretty much said everything we needed to through just holding hands, the talk we engage in remains small, but always fueled by that something extra which has made life worth living again. Falling is in the end the way I had to go, and falling will continue to be the way that keeps me out of trouble. I wish I could speak for anyone else; unfortunately, this will never be the case, which I suppose is why it is uniquely her hand in mine, and why we are here, and not somewhere else, and, perhaps most importantly, why our lives have never worked quite right when either one of us has been absent from the picture.
Then I wake with a start – the air is cool, the woods still rustle, the dew is still on the grass around me. I shake my head, unsure if this is a dream too, or if I have simply lost my ability to tell the difference. A wave of sadness washes over me; the day's first light is breaking through the thick cover of leaves, spotting the forest floor with little patches of yellow. These dreams have grown so real that I no longer want to wake up, the days in the woods are just an endless procession of steps that lead to nowhere. Tears trickle down my cheeks, but I have nothing to say, and no–one to say it to. A few shreds of memories remind me of what I was dreaming, then they too dissolve, leaving behind a peculiar emptiness that seems incapable of being filled. My dreams, if they are dreams, take on a faded quality, like an old photograph that merely suggests the beauty that had been but is no longer.
The questions that had haunted me have all vanished, the words I thought could keep me sane are now no longer to be found. The freedom that this suggests is so ephemeral that I no longer consider it to be anything worth considering. The ghosts that had lived inside this fictitious freedom twitch with nervous anticipation, sensing in a way that we have forgotten the coming changes. The leaves rustle over my head with the morning breeze, then quiet. Soon the light of the sun begins to warm the air, pushing aside the restless souls that had gathered around me during the night. Their words, however, do not vanish, coloring the air slightly, almost imperceptibly, but still unmistakable. A few carefully measured breaths allow them to enter me, then find their respective places inside my body. I had been fighting against this for so long that fighting had grown normal, transforming itself into a daily flow that had tricked me into its embrace.
The problem, it occurs to me, is not to be found in these woods. They are just here, a simple fact with no positive or negative value. They are a neutral component, nothing more or less. No, the problem lies somewhere else. I shake my head, then look down at my hands, trying to focus for long enough for the answer to come to me in that flash that marks moments of realization. But the answer has already crept into me, and is resting there, quite content to go on with its business. A squirrel runs around in the branches above my head, followed immediately by another one, in hot pursuit apparently, but then their roles are reversed, and the first is the chaser. They are playing. That is a relief, and helps distract me for a moment. Maybe I need to stop. Completely. Not just the partial thing that most people do, vacations they like to call them. But the forest is featureless, and offers no indication whatsoever. The squirrels have taken their game off into the distance, leaving silence behind.
I shake my head again, realizing as my brain shakes back and forth inside of my skull that I have come back here not because of any choice but simply through an increasingly chronic case of inertia. The answer is not here, despite the fact that I am. I close my eyes, following the shifting patterns of light to the tiny point of blackness that is always there if you simply don't think about it. This always–there condition is something to be aware of, if only in a sideways sort of way. I let myself fall into it, realizing that there is never any other course of action, and should never be one. The sound of the woods begins to fade, then is gone, leaving only that solitary point of blackness as reference point. Its edges grow, flaring into a dark orange, almost scarlet at times, pulsing in a way that is nothing other than a call, a call that will be answered, must be answered, but in its own way, on its own terms. I feel myself floating away, carried in arms that are neither hard nor soft, watched over by eyes that have lost neither their warmth nor their humanity, but of course I do not open my eyes to see, for then it would all vanish in an instant. But I can feel the vibration around me, moving around the circumference of the black space, filling in the cracks and holes that have grown slowly over the centuries.
I open my eyes; she is watching me, smiling, happy that I have finally understood, needing to say nothing. My clothes are drenched with sweat, as if I had just gotten over a high fever, and my vision has that peculiar clarity that only comes after a prolonged period of great pain passes. She puts her hand on my forehead, stroking it slowly, still smiling. I say nothing, unsure where I am, or what is happening. Then the sun comes into the room, filling it with life. I look up at her again, trying to separate her features, but she is so complete that I can find no actual point where one feature merges into another. I stop trying, then close my eyes, feeling suddenly very tired.
Rest comes, then the sky fades into an undifferentiated grayness, a space without end, burning inside somewhere, then hands opening, eyes turning up to the clouds, looking with concern for something I cannot see. Then there is just an odd silence, broken by the cry of seagulls. Waves crash against the walls, the air is filled with salt spray. I look out into the blinding spray... then there is only blackness, into which i reach my hands, pushing against a thick gray nothingness, but of course that is a futile thing to do. I stop, then take a careful look at my surroundings: inside the swirling mass of darkness a dim light shines, spraying its rays across the landscape faintly, just enough to see the coarse outlines of hills and trees.
With a great effort I am able to lift my head: the sprayed light blinds me momentarily, but my eyes quickly recover, or at least, I think that they do. What I see, however, that is another story. I suppose we once called whatever it is in front of me a monster, but that term has lost its utility. If I reach into it, it will snap my arm off, there can be no doubt about that. I am not sure how we have grown to cut ourselves off from every mechanism we have devised over the centuries to help us in such times; as it is, I am left feeling quite defenseless, helpless even. Then the vision fades away, the daylight spreads into every crevasse, then the night comes, with its own collection of demons. But none of that is of any interest to me at the moment. What I am noticing is a gentle lapping, wavelets on a smooth beach almost, but slightly different from that. I dig my hands into the sand, feeling the larger stones beneath the smooth sand, wondering if there are clams or sand crabs. I look out over the ocean, wishing more than anything that I was there, wherever the horizon ends and land begins, but the waves lap up against the beach, no longer having to carry whatever it is that they were carrying for all that distance.
Small sea animals scurry about in the foam left by each receding wave, then dig into the sand quickly, before the next wave has time to wash them away. I sit down, looking at the water, wondering how I got where I am, and where to go from here. A seagull lands next to me, investigating the sand for edibles I suppose, then hops up on a big driftwood log, eyeing me warily. I do not move, preferring its company to my own for the moment, then gradually lie down, moving slowly to avoid scaring the seagull, until the warm sand forms itself into a soft mattress under my aching muscles. The waves crash rhythmically against the sand, the cry of gulls echoes across the beach, otherwise there is no sound. Sleep will, I tell myself, not help, but that does no good, and it comes anyway, pulling at my sleeves, holding itself up to a light I cannot quite make out the character of. Blackness will carry me away, I whisper to myself as my thoughts begin to spin out of control, little whirling dervishes whose eyes glint with the secrets of a thousand pasts, all forever to remain untold. Then that echoing phase begins, where I am not quite able to grab onto the sound, but am still somewhat conscious enough to realize that it has happened. Snakes twist around, unsure of where to go, the sky opens for a nanosecond, just long enough to let out a breath of something I can't categorize, then there is nothing, just the floating blackness, out of which might come who knows what, but whatever it might turn out to be remains irrelevant to me. Then even the blackness turns off, and a pure nothingness envelopes me, pulling itself in towards its heart, breathing with a voice that knows only an absolute nothingness.
When I awake there is nothing around me, no beach, no seagulls, no forest, no grass blowing in a mild breeze. I am just where I am, neither here nor there, sitting as if stripped of something I had not known you could live without. I look down at my hands, at these words, at the thoughts that don't quite seem able to take form anymore, then up at the sky, hoping against hope that a comet will come screaming down to take us all away in its fiery blast. But nothing, as I noted, is around me, not even a crashing celestial body. Sometimes it is important to just take stock in this way, to not try and fool yourself about what or where you are. This is the point I had gotten stuck on before. It has taken this kind of slap in the face to finally realize what I had been trying to learn all these years. You can't be anything other than yourself, but what this self actually is, this is the sticking point. And a trap of the very first order, so subtle in its nature that it is almost always missed, passed by as irrelevant, a Trojan horse waiting as long as necessary for its time to come, whittling its way into our hearts until they fall into stone, or the appearance thereof. Stone is not such an interesting thing, but, because of how little attention we pay it, it slips in, filling us until we become too heavy to move.
I pause to take a breath, realizing that, as usual, I have gone too far, and have passed by the whole point. It is such a subtle balance to maintain, really too much for me if I am realistic, but I don't make any claim to be that. This time around, however, I remember being here before. Different action is called for, an analysis of the possibilities and obstructions. Words will have to be put to the side, except as tools. Words, that is, will have to return to their roots. This is another point that can sometimes get lost, especially when we are very good at words. A few slow breaths take me away from the face of panic, allowing me space to catch sight of something that had been eluding me for a while now. But everything comes in its time, it is said. Those sayings can hide truth very well, waiting for us to notice quite patiently, for centuries if need be, but their words will force themselves back on us sooner or later. For this patience itself is a part of the whole matter, and so has no choice but to manifest itself in such a self–consistent way. That is why all anyone ever needs to do is just let themselves go. Then to fall, as far as necessary, the distance and speed a function of various parameters that have been injected into us by hands we will never see.
I bend over, vomiting violently across the faint outlines of the ground by my feet. I stagger slightly, shake my head, then recover my balance, my head still spinning sickeningly, and look around. Harsh outlines reveal a rocky landscape dotted with low lying bushes or trees. A faint orange glow begins to light up the horizon, then a large black bird lands at my feet, staring up at me with its glaringly red eyes. But it is not angry, that much I can tell, thick–headed as I am. Maybe curious, maybe a little disappointed, maybe not disappointed at all, but just investigating in a disinterested, almost professional manner. It is times like these that I am no longer sure about who is really the superior one. The full repercussions of the this idea are quite difficult to actually accept fully. The words, of course, can be spoken easily, that is not the question. We are simply very vain creatures. Beyond that there should not really be very much to say.
My head begins to clear, as it often does after my having vomited, and, although my skin still feels very clammy, and my pulse is racing, my vision clears more and more as the moments pass. The country side around me takes on an almost crystalline tone, bursting out of itself then sucking in its lungs for an enormous breath, large enough to suck in everything around me. The feeling of recognition flashes up again, twisting around my legs and lower thighs, then slithering away into the receding darkness. With the increasing light I feel able to begin to function again, awkwardly, even ungainly, but still function. And that is all I have ever asked. I reach out and touch one of the thinly barked bushes, almost chaparral like their its wiry stiffness, but still able to bend enough to avoid breaking. I smile to myself, wondering where I have been, and why. The orange tinted bark peels off to reveal a shiny wood. The sky grows bluer by jumps, then the day is all around me, its faint breeze chilling me before the warmth of the day has had time to set in. The large black bird takes a few hops, landing with a light thud on the ground by my side. It looks up, staring at me more intensely this time, very clear in its intent to communicate whatever it is that it has to tell to me. It is times like this that the absence of language gets to be more and more useful. Its eyes burn into mine, holding me in their focus for longer than I would have thought possible. Eventually I have to look away, but not before it has reached into me and seen all there is to see, good and bad alike. The sun burns down on my face, the shadows thrown have taken on an extreme, almost surreal quality. The bird looks away, then seems to smile. Or that is the feeling, anyway. I look out over the chaparral covered landscape, reveling in its substance, forgetting for once the coming heat.
My hands twist slowly around each other, turning this way, then that, all in a way I have seen somewhere before, although the sense I had had of recognizing this particular place has proved to be wrong. Mistakes like this fill the world with misconceptions and awkward twists that seem to defy all attempts to make any sense out of them, but I am left looking at the bird, unable to quite get a grip on anything. Then the day slows, the sun spins in an oblong circle above my head, the sky, previously dead, sodden almost in its lack of animation, bursts into a song I had heard somewhere once, long ago. I am afraid to fall asleep, or to dream, even if I do manage to stay awake. Nothing really remains to do, everything has spun itself out completely, the day's end signals all that, and much more. The bird had had more to say, but I will have to be satisfied with what I got the first time around. Opportunities like this come only now and then, and have to be treated with some care, or else they just vanish into a puff of smoke. The image makes me laugh, to myself, then I put on my coat and head out the door.
Which means I had been inside. This is interesting. I had had no sense of place, no inside or outside, no real anything, just this weird vision that lingered on, almost as if it were something of a biblical nature that demanded examination then broadcast. I had never had any real choice in the matter, and my annoyingly persistent attempts to maintain the illusion that I had had brought me nothing but trouble. This is the clarity that has begun to hit me. I shake my head, somewhat amazed at how things have proceeded, then look around, hoping against all hope to find myself in a place where I know I should be, with people I know I have met before, living each day as a continuation of the last, going back so far that as foundations go, no concrete could make it any more firm. I have not been able to shake this thought, no matter how hard I try. It will I suppose linger on forever, plaguing me, teasing me to do something about it, while knowing full well that that is the one thing I cannot do. It is like a Chinese water torture that has slowed even more, so much so that the victim simply forgets that he is being tortured between each drop, only to be startled when another one finally lands on him. Rather than wait for the next drop to fall, I begin to move, ponderously, like some ungainly land–whale, hoping in this way to get out of the way in time. More explicit than this I cannot be at the moment, although I have reason to believe that matters will clarify substantially quite soon. What grounds I have for this, I will call it faith, as perhaps merely an operational term, or perhaps the best possible description, given the circumstances.
I will admit that ending it precisely here, at this moment, is more than a little tempting, and always has been. And this has itself always been a sign that has shown me many ways not to follow. Each one of these has had its tempting elements, but the temptation is never all that satisfying, and soon grows boring. Boredom is the tool I have evolved to find my way past such obstacles. I suppose, or at least hope, that we as a whole can find which tools work best for us, although this hope is perhaps a little naïve, especially given the circumstances. I look behind me, to make sure that the door is still there, which it is, although it must have closed during the last few moments. Such is the price you pay for thinking too much – you miss some events that might have been interesting to witness. The important thing, however, is the apparent fact that I have somehow made it through a door. This alone is quite amazing, especially, as I noted, given the circumstances. I had not been looking for a door, but there it was, sprung from the bare soil, still raw in its planed surface, unfinished, unpainted, not even stained. Exactly, that is, the way doors should be. The fact that there is nothing at all around it is somewhat disconcerting, but I don't have time to focus too much on that right now. The mere fact of the door's existence, and the fortunately clear enough memory of passing through it, even if I did so in a state of almost drunken ignorance, serves to propel me out into the space before me, anxious, of course, but able to proceed, albeit with frequent backwards glances to make sure that the structure is still standing. I am, that is, dependent on its solidity. And that is not such a bad thing. We have to depend on something in the end, whether we know it or not. Whatever that something is can hardly be a matter of discussion or choice. Suffice it to say that it is a given. Choice is nothing more than coming to see this for what it is. Choice, that is, is a joke.
The water torture, the dead gray days, the nights of pointless dreams and vacant eyes, all these elements have forged a new subject, and this new subject has taken my eyes as its own. As it looks out over an as of yet featureless landscape, I marvel at the ease with which it takes a hold of my muscles and nerve fibers, and at the apparent familiarity it has with some of the more arcane functionings of what I had always thought of as myself. Perhaps I had just not done a good enough job taking care of myself, and now custody had been granted to this new agent, who was as of yet quite unfamiliar to me. That accounts for the odd hesitations I had been undergoing lately, and for the grayness that had covered my eyes so deeply that I had come to see everything as possessed of that attribute. And for the doubts that had torn at my stomach, dissolving themselves in an acid bath that knew neither end nor beginning. It accounted, it began to dawn on me, for quite a bit more than I was prepared to admit. The whole thing, in fact, stank of something not quite alive, but also not dead. This something has a name, but I am as of yet not prepared to divulge it, for fear of offending some of the parties in question. The primary thing here is to get a sense of what the lay of the land is, how my supplies are doing, if there will be any reinforcements imminent, and even if the day has an end. For that latter question is not so simple as it seems. Time has stopped, or stopped some while ago, obviously I can be no more clear than that. I am not sure if this is a good thing, or if it is itself a further warning.
The assistance I had been looking for is not here, not in this moment, and, since this is the only moment I have to work with, I have to accept that that is the current situation. The truth of the matter is that there never is any assistance when it comes to these matters. Of course it is promised, and some even claim to be able to deliver on these promises, but I have never met anyone personally who could do this. The records show that they have passed through, of course, and I am not fool enough to doubt those. It slowly dawns on me that the only possible way I could know this is if I in fact did know something after–all, contradictory as that might seem to be. But there is so much I don't understand, and so few ways to find a method to reach into these questions in the first place that even the desire to do so might strike some as almost obscene by definition. These thoughts well up inside me, flooding the little dams that had been made against them, wiping them out with hardly a thought, then raging on, smashing and destroying everything in their path, and leaving me quite stunned as a not incidental side affect. Change had had to come, and change came. The earth below my feet retains its firmness, but also has an odd giving quality that was not there before, at least not that I can remember. The air quivers, almost as if it were waiting for something that will soon come, but has not yet made its presence known. Aside from that I can report nothing substantial.
I slowly begin to realize that it is in fact not at all my job to report a thing. I had been operating under a certain misconception, interesting primarily because I had known of its existence for longer than I cared to realize. And when this misconception broke, finally, it released a flood of toxins, the effects of which I am still trying to recover from. Where I am, what I am doing here – these are all irrelevant features, not really worthy of notice. The main point is the presence of what I am chasing. And that presence is so irrefutable that no more energy has to be expended in that direction. The flood of pain begins to reshape itself, forming a mantle of sorts that wraps itself around me, then falls away, leaving behind an odd tingling sensation I have never felt before.
I am standing in an old room, in a place very much like I imagine the chambers below the floor of an ancient cathedral might look if modernity had never placed its ill– conceived hands on its design. Of course I do not know where this room is, or if it is at all. Nothing is given out, nothing taken back, all is a wordless exchange. And out of that exchange, well, that is the secret that is suddenly confronting me. I know so little, and have virtually no defenses against a world that has fallen almost completely out of control. Why this should serve as a qualification is beyond me, but there is nothing else, and the day's light has a faded orange quality as it seeps in through the opaque glass of the small windows above my head that light the chamber. I shake my head, knowing suddenly that this will all vanish, immediately, and it does, without even a flash or tremor. I stand, completely still, completely filled with that odd awe that floats in on us at the oddest of occasions, reminding us that we are still to be numbered in the ranks of the living. More than that I am not at liberty to divulge, although it should be clear enough, even to someone as dense as me. The world, above, below, everything in–between, it all comes to a grinding halt, the ground itself shakes, then is still. I have found the mystery, but cannot name it, cannot describe it, cannot really give any indication whatsoever of its existence, but nevertheless I am filled with this certainty.
The room, the village, the burning sun over my head, the gnarled up trees, each has risen and fallen, and each had begun something that can never be ended. As the last tremors leave the ground under my feet, I look up at the sky, wondering if there is a blueness there, or it is all just a faded memory, a fantasy that will never be fulfilled, a wish that carries its own disintegration inside of itself. That then is the beginning, the end, the middle, all wrapped up into one compact little ball, small enough to fit in your pocket if you were inclined to put it there – something I wouldn't recommend, by the way.
Then my eyes close, my breathing, although still quite irregular, softens enough to let sleep begin its work, the blood pounds against my temples, offering who knows what price to the keepers of gates we have completely lost sight of in our great hurry to get somewhere we can never be quite sure even exists. As I pursue these threads my breath jumps several notches in volume, catching itself on itself as it were, then slipping loose, floating off into a space where very few will ever follow, me included. I struggle to reopen my eyes, but the effort proves to be too much for me, and I am left with only an ill–defined swirl to contend with, then even that echoes away into that space we all know but somehow manage to forget on a daily basis. Then even that is gone, and death has taken me back into its embrace.