Not The Listmaker (according to Attila)

Not The Listmaker (according to Attila)

“I don’t know who she is, and I don’t know what she is, and I don’t know where she’s from, and I don’t know anything about the why. I am here to inform you of my knowledge of her existence, but the truth of the matter is that I do not know who she is, at all. She never came up on my list before the disappearance, and nobody seems to really know who she is, and yet, everyone knows her, now. It was the perfect scheme, perhaps, or the perfect plan, I guess. Again, something I do not know, for which I traveled to your front door in search of answers.” The person to whom I am speaking sits back and mulls over the words. She is looking at me, and I don’t really know what to make of her look.

And then, he sees us off in the distance. Well, us is loosely defined at this point. She has made green. He sees me, and just as I realize that he has indeed seen me, I decide to leave, but as I’m leaving, Attila rounds the corner. Luckily, she sees me seeing her and immediately looks for him and then, quickly sees him too. He sees us seeing him now and freezes, mid-step, on some plushy grass just north of the fountain around which he must still walk in order to reach us. Calmly, Attila reaches me as I curl at her feet under a table. “Don’t order anything, please,” I plead. “He will not make his way over here. We’re in public. Relax,” she coos. “I will do the cooing, thank you very much, and now is not exactly the time for such relaxation, lady!” I whisper-scorn. She uncrosses and re-crosses her legs, inconveniencing me greatly so that I must reposition myself.

“At least order the eggs benedict,” I suggest as I curl down into my best surveillance loaf and keep watch for him. Attila’s foot begins to tap. “Please,” I paw at her. “My god,” she responds, exasperated. I see him just as a motor vehicle of some sort passes by on the street a few short meters from the table we’re seated at now. “Attil,” I mutter as I stand and slowly walk back, away. “It’s alright. I think it’s alright,” she attempts. “She isn’t here anymore,” I inform. “Thank you, I do know this,” Attila informs. He definitely means to make his way toward us, but I do not know what he hopes to do. Of course he has to be absolutely gorgeous, dressed in a frothy summer gown, hair flowing, almost floating on the air with the lightheartedness of a lover as opposed to my Listmaker. “That is not the Listmaker,” Attila whispers. “Oh,” I squeak and then wonder, “Are you going to let him come over here?” “Of course, that is what he intends.” But then what happens? I wonder again but to myself. “Nothing will happen if he does nothing,” Attila answers. “That was private,” I scold.

Slowly, he crosses the threshold of the restaurant’s outdoor patio space. Gliding on air, he holds out an arm burdened with a small silk purse adorned in sequins, hand sewn, no doubt. He sits. His toes need some work, but his heels look good, and overall, he smells fresh. “Darling,” he begins. “She’s not here,” Attila answers. “Of course I know this,” he states. He pauses as if taking a beat for a hit of a cigarette, but he is not smoking. “Where is she? Tell me this, and I will be gone in a flash. Nice suit, by the way. Who made you that one?” Another airy beat. “She is supposed to be here,” Attila answers, truthfully, amazingly enough.

They both simultaneously switch their top legs and bottom legs in a cross-legged switcharoo. “You are so fascinating, you, Attila, darling,” he swoons. “And you bore me, Sir,” Attila smirks. “The older woman would be disappointed, but, of course, you already know this,” he smiles with a smug air of one-upmanship. “But she is no man,” he spits. Attila sits back and crosses her arms in front of her chest. “What the hell do you want?” “But you already know, dear.” “Fine, take the cat.” What? Me? “Yes, you,” Attila states as she reaches down and picks me up and sets me on the top of the table. “Her name is Tuna, and she’s a novice, but she’s done well so far,” Attila explains. But I thought that I was yours, I mew to myself, confused. “I’m sure she’s wonderful, but I want HER,” he shouts with a slap on the table and a quick, chair-squeaking rise. “You cannot avoid my messages, Attila. Everyone knows you did it,” he offers in finality. Gracefully, he turns and walks away. Once in the street again, he disappears.

In the Light of Shadow

In the Light of Shadow

A crystal-like chandelier floats just below the ceiling of a long-narrow room. The width of the room fits only the chandelier, and the width of the chandelier echoes that of a person in good health. Sparkling, white, as if from nowhere the light flickers throughout the space creating patterns seen only against the shadows it makes. Lacking physical bulbs of light, the chandelier, as if from within, merely emanates a rich, stimulating glow. Ever so often the baubles gently clink against each other creating the twinkling sounds to which all other sounds are compared. Round, perfectly spherical, the chandelier begins to slowly rotate around its center.

Fuchsia, the light of the chandelier slowly grows in intensity as it changes hues. Red. A rod iron bistro chair rests in one far edge of the room, and on the chair rests the older woman. Legs crossed, right over left, the older woman sits calmly with hands folded upon her lap. The older woman inhales a deep breath. With an exhale, the older woman must wait. The chandelier returns to its colorless clarity.

Cerulean, the light of the chandelier slowly grows in intensity as it changes hues. Blue. A brown leather armchair appears in the far edge of the room, opposite the rod iron chair, and on the chair appears the storming woman. Cross-legged, fully comfortable upon the ample chair, the storming woman cautiously places her elbows upon her knees, clasps each hand with the other, her chin rests upon her hands. The storming woman stares at the older woman who sits across from her on the other side of the long, narrow room.

Returned to its colorless sparkle, the chandelier greets them both, “A bridge burns.” The women sit, the older woman quite stiff and unapproachable, the storming woman quite relaxed albeit on guard. “It’s the way, Attila, through which all ways are made,” the older woman speaks aloud. “It’s the way, Ma’am, by which all things are learned,” the storming woman responds. They sit, each staring at the other, for an unknowable amount of time.

Laughing, the older woman concedes, “She cannot know what she does not know.” “Unknowing,” the storming woman explains. “Could not,” the older woman again concedes. The storming woman feels a tingle of suspicion, “A gap in knowledge does not ignorance make, however.” “Everyone relies on some truth, no matter how small,” the older woman replies. “A fabricated truth is still truth.” “Of course. A fabricated lie is also truth.” “Of course.”

The room bends. A realization immediately hits them both. “Attila,” the older woman warns. “No,” the storming woman demands. The chandelier begins to slowly blink. Keen on the change, both women dart their eyes to the light’s source. “Curse you!” the storming woman yells. Chartreuse. “And to you too, dear,” the older woman calmly responds. The sound a tree branch makes when a branch breaks sears through the tiny space. Black.

Empty, the room returns itself back to a long, narrow shape. The chandelier shakes itself off like a wet cat. Clear, crystal-like, sparkling and clean, the light spreads patterns against shadow throughout a place where color forfeits.

 

The Girl Child with Locks of Gifts

The Girl Child with Locks of Gifts

By Iya Sun

 

On a purple pillow of silk thread that rests upon a cherry floor table, which resides inside a lush bamboo house that was built atop the middle-most peak where the three peaks meet, sits an inordinately small, human, girl child named So Jeong. The day of her birth was like any other day in a world where people, as they are called in civil society, are born. Despite this casual beginning, the Swinging Leaves foretold many ages ago that on that particular day, a girl would emerge into the world with special gifts for each who would travel to look upon her face. With just a single lock of the child’s hair, the traveler would be granted the one wish for which the traveler had traveled the great distance. This, however, came with the small condition that neither the person who plucked the single lock from the girl child’s head nor any member of their future line could ever return to pluck a second strand.

For days, sometimes even months, travelers would travel from distances far and wide for a chance to climb the middle-most peak where the three peaks meet. Giving no thought to the condition upon which the granting of a wish rests, many traveled to solve problems of the moment. Few rarely withstood the journey to the base of the mountain. Even fewer successfully made the climb. But, if even a few from every thousand that journeyed summited, the number of hairs plucked from the girl child’s head subtracted quickly. By the time So Jeong was but six years old, she had almost no hair at all.

Finally, one night, on the brink of death with only a few strands of her hair left, So Jeong cried into the night in grief for all that had been taken from her. Out of fear for the precious life of the girl child that might soon be lost, the Swinging Leaves built a small bamboo shelter to shield her from the travelers’ sights. The hopeful travelers continued to travel to visit the girl child, but for an unknowable amount of time, she sat unseen, which left the travelers with unfulfilled wishes. Alone now to heal and grow strong, the Swinging Leaves presented the girl child with a gift: The Four Cats of Wisdom. Over the course of the next, unknowable amount of time, The Cats would arrive. They were to provide her with warm, loving company while also instilling within her pillars of wisdom.

The first and oldest cat was named Gami the Gentleman. Gami possessed a coat of black with only the simplest white markings. A thin white moustache lined Gami’s upper lip; his chest was aglow in livery, his paws shod in white socks and mittens. Gami was, first and foremost, a gentleman, and as such, his instructions gave way to the girl child’s understanding of wisdom as a privilege, not a right. It was, according to Gami, So Jeong’s duty to forever learn, grow and understand, to always maintain and prepare her mind for the reception of knowledge.

Louie was the title of the second-in-line, and he was a Listener. Covered in a luscious bundle of the softest, fluffiest white and grey fur, Louie remained pleasant, always. Content to merely sit and watch the activities of the others was what made Louie, Louie. He never complained nor did he ever demand that things not be so. No matter what came his way, Louie the Listener heard the good, the bad and never made a fuss. As a Listener, he considered everything that came his way equally, and as the Listener, it was Louie who taught So Jeong about how the key to learning anything was through listening to what others had to say but more importantly, through listening to what she held in her own mind.

The last two cats of the Four Cats of Wisdom were, in fact, twins and as such, arrived simultaneously. Even though they were twins, they did not look exactly the same. Both wore fur of a similar fossil and charcoal striping. Anko wore white knee-high boots, however, while Choko wore white socks and mittens. Choko also donned a brownish moustache, while Anko was clean-shaven. The twins Anko and Choko arrived with a fury, in a flurry of chaos that resulted in the temporary loss of Louie the Listener. The one thing Louie could not tolerate was the raucous rambunctiousness of the twins. They were so cacophonous that Louie could not do the one thing he did best, listen. Despite the temporary hubbub, Anko and Choko quickly began their teachings, and not long after his departure, Louie returned.

Anko the Amicable taught the girl child many things about how to share and spread her knowledge to others. To be friendly, according to Anko, shows respect, and to respect, Anko instructed, instills comfort, and when a person feels comfortable, Anko continued, a person feels confident, and through confidence, Anko surmised, can a person accept who they are, and only after a person accepts who they are, may they accept who they are not.

Choko’s lessons were the most difficult for the girl child to ingest, for Choko was titled Choko the Champion. Choko consistently challenged the girl child in ways that seemed irrelevant to her, and yet he insisted that she would one day understand. That day, however, could not ever be determined or known, as explained repeatedly by Choko, since to know when one needs to be brave does not courage require, and courage is what makes a champion. For it is within the unknown that the courageous succeed. When a champion succeeds, humility requires courage. When a champion is bested, courage fuels grace.

After ages and ages, the girl child finally regained a full head of beautiful, long black hair that shone bright when the rays of the sun filtered in through the tiny slivers between the shoots of bamboo. One day, So Jeong desired so deeply to resume her task of giving gifts to those who made the arduous journey. She, however, did not know how or when this could possibly be accomplished. Thus, she hummed a small tune about all the wisdom Gami the Gentleman, Louie the Listener, Anko the Amicable, and Choko the Champion had taught her. Her song now finished and lingering within the walls of her shelter, the wind slowly snatched up the song as it seeped out between the bamboo’s cracks and delivered it to the Swinging Leaves.

The next day, the Swinging Leaves swung through the girl child’s shelter to share with her their decision. So Jeong giggled and twirled about on her pillow as she awaited the Swinging Leaves’ new arrangement. They had come to the conclusion that with the girl child’s hair now grown back stronger than ever, So Jeong was not only strong enough to endure the constant giving of herself to others, but also, she was now wise enough to fertilize the consistent, hasty growth of her gift-giving strands of hair. With that, the Swinging Leaves gave another small gift, that of a warning. To the girl child, the Swinging Leaves spoke, “Those who take from you will never give you anything back. Thus, if you do not know this already, know this now. Yes, you possess the type of gift only you can give, but you are not required to give anything to anyone.”

This warning came as a bit of a shock to the girl child for she did not know that she had a choice. A little stunned and confused, the girl child stood upon her pillow with greater force than the Swinging Leaves had ever felt from her before. So Jeong, with a small stance of anger, dismissed the Swinging Leaves from her shelter and demanded that they never return. To withhold such information, the girl child exploded, means the Swinging Leaves were then cursed. Patient, the Swinging Leaves left the girl child, never to be seen again. As confusion and despair burdened So Jeong’s mind, the Four Cats of Wisdom remained close but did not dare to utter a word.

Then, one morning, the girl child decided that she would hear each traveler’s wish before giving them a strand of her hair. In confidence, the girl child exited her shelter to find herself in the presence of thousands of travelers who had all also made their own shelters in which they could live until the Girl Child with Locks of Gifts appeared again. At first, So Jeong was delighted to see all of the travelers who had traveled and waited for an unknowable amount of time. Soon, thereafter, however, So Jeong felt a deep pang of fear. One traveler spotted the girl child standing gently upon the glistening tuft upon which her bamboo shelter was built. Within an instant the traveler shouted out something in a tongue So Jeong did not understand.

All at once, every traveler ran toward the girl child and each plucked a single hair off her head until there were no hairs left. With the final plucked hair, So Jeong collapsed onto the ground where she lies to this day, buried now to be sure, under the heap of dust and debris that make their way each day over the middle-most peak where the three peaks meet to settle and rest.

 

An Alternate Ending for the Emotionally Weak

Then, one morning, the girl child came to a conclusion about what she shall do. Feeling courageous, the girl child carefully stepped out from her bamboo shelter and sneaked a look at her surroundings. Immediately, the girl child noticed that the entire top of the middle-most peak where the three peaks meet was covered in small shelters housing travelers from all over the world. Slowly, the girl child crept back into her shelter to determine the best way to introduce herself. A moment later, the girl child opted for an ascent to the top of her bamboo shelter. Thus, with the help of the Four Cats of Wisdom, the girl child arose to stand on the roof of her shelter.

Loudly, in all confidence, the girl child made her presence known and greeted all of the travelers with a lovely gesture. The girl child immediately enchanted the eyes and minds of every traveler, and they all listened to their Giver of Gifts with great intent. Over the course of a short while, the girl child explained how she would indeed invite each traveler to approach her atop her shelter and listen to the motivation behind each traveler’s travels. Only after listening to a request will the girl child determine whether or not the traveler deserves a strand of her hair.

Thus, each traveler approached the girl child atop her shelter and began to explain why the rough journey was made. The girl child would listen to the traveler’s entire story, and at the end, the girl child would then ask the traveler three questions regarding their story. If the girl child found the answers to be satisfactory, the girl child would then offer three pieces of insight. The first would always have something to do with the meaningfulness (or lack thereof) of the traveler’s request. The second dealt with the scope, reach, depth and breadth of the traveler’s request. The third pointed at the self-awareness the traveler lacked. If, at this point, the traveler still stood before the girl child, the girl child would then offer her instructions. The traveler would then be sent away to fulfill the directions given by the girl child. If, however, the girl child found the answers to the questions the girl child asked each traveler after the traveler explained the journey, the girl child would simply send the traveler away, never to return. Cursed, once the traveler descended the middle-most peak where the three peaks meet, the traveler would soon forget that the girl child with locks of gifts even existed. Thus, the traveler never sought the girl child’s gifted hair ever again, not to say that the children of that traveler would also never know, but the traveler would not remember to tell them. What happened after the girl child sat and listened to traveler after traveler, day after day, age after age stunned the Swinging Leaves. Even the Four Cats of Wisdom could not have predicted what would follow. As the girl child sent each traveler away either with instruction or cursed to forget, those who were sent with instruction never returned to collect a strand of hair, either. Instead, each traveler was so grateful to have sat in the presence of the girl child that with great focus and concentration the traveler acted upon the instructions given. With great pride, the traveler soon found that his/her own action manifested the original request. Thus, the traveler no longer needed the strand of gifted hair to fulfill the request for which the traveler initially traveled.

Still, nevertheless, as the Four Cats of Wisdom peacefully paced around the girl child, travelers from all over the realm traveled day after day, age after age, to present their request for a strand of gifted hair while the girl child sat and listened day after day, age after age. As the girl child sent each traveler away with instruction, none ever returned to collect her hair. Needless to say, after ages of wisdom had been distributed throughout the realm, upon a purple, silk pillow, atop a bamboo shelter that was built upon a tuft upon the middle-most peak where the three peaks meet, the girl child sat with the longest, shiniest, strongest, black, most beautifully gifted hair the world had ever known.

Lingering Part 3/3

Lingering Part 3/3

[begin with Part 1/3]

It’s like I said, I can only show you what you’re capable of seeing. If you want or need to know more about we here travelers of timespace and the largely unreadable map, you will have to give up everything and everyone you know, and even then, you will not be a Bromide. But you will be able to live among them, as sort of a witness or proof of their existence. To Linger is to see, and Bromides are not keen on being seen.

 


to be continued … every Friday until The End.

 

Lingering Part 2/3

Lingering Part 2/3

[Read Part 1/3]

She screams as she awakens in a profuse sweat. And when a tear falls, does it get swept up and salt the seas, the trough of triumphs and failures, dreams and nightmares? The faint glimmer of candlelight haunts her as she shakes the smoke that condenses over her mind like a shadow of a whisper. Images attempt to reveal themselves through the light-sensitive paper, a stain, a reflection of all the things that ought to have been.

Burn that bridge as a torch to light the past so that the way—no longer relevant—is not trodden again. Follow the light not directly toward it. Follow away from it to know where the wrongs were done. Follow the flame when the road splits, the light guides the path not to take. Burn. She lit down from the fog of forgotten dreams, nightmares. The lighted path chases beyond the void through the darkness of everything she wants. The way, they say, is lighted so brightly that only a fool could miss it. Maybe she is the fool. She is definitely a fool, but the fool, she wonders to herself, I don’t know.

The patter of a shower trickling Ladybug clean twinkles in the silent air of a cold, empty space filled with nothing but the objects of a life shared with no one. “It’s never just a dream!” Ladybug shouts from within the cavern. A low rumbling response from the person at whom the voice shouts slides by inaudibly. The inaudible rumble continues. Silence. Feet. Someone pads down the stone-floored corridor to the kitchen.

A knock, knock, knock. Frozen. With the door of the refrigerator hanging open, she stands completely still. Knock, knock, knock. More feet trod quickly down the corridor toward her. With a heavy glance, they make eye contact as she waves her hand low and quick as if swiping a gnat in the air. Stillness. Time. Knock, knock. Slowly, cautiously, she makes her silent way toward the monitor at the far end of the counter. Whoever stood there stands there no longer. “Attila?” “You know who,” Attila answers. “You don’t want the message again today?” I ask. Of course not, she thinks to herself while flashing tetchy eyes at the petulant interrogator. She storms down the corridor toward the trickling shower. “Out! It’s time to go!” she commands.

The freshly showered, still mildly damp Ladybug and I sit on the hard sofa while Attila, the storming woman, calmly paces the living room floor before them. Lost. She reaches down for the pad of sticky notes sitting on the coffee table, winces. The smallest cut runs along the inside edge of her left pointer finger; an amount—undetectable to the naked eye—of blood smears itself along the edge of the bottom-most sticky note.

The blood runs wild and free within the paper. Suddenly the pad of notes awakes and screams, “Aaaahhhh! Where am I?” The blood droplets desist and listen to the lamentations of the paper. “Wha, what happened? I can’t move! I can’t breathe! I can’t see! Something feels so terribly wrong!” the paper howls. The blood droplets remain silent. “There’s, there’s nothing here. What is this? What am I?” Feeling empathetic, the droplets, in their gentlest voice, chime in, “Hey.” “Ah! What? Who’s there?” “It’s okay. You don’t have to be afraid. We’re some visitors,” the droplets console. “But, but where are you?” “Can’t you feel us?” the droplets ask as they begin to run wild along the edge once again. “Ah! Stop that!” the paper screams half in terror, half in delight. “Oh. We’re sorry.” the droplets lightheartedly giggle. “Do you know where I am? Do you know what happened to me?” the paper asks sorrowfully. “We’re afraid we can’t really help you with anything like that.” Silence unfolds between them. “Maybe you could try to remember the last thing you remember?” Deep in thought, now, the paper tries its mightiest to remember something, anything. “Air, the freshest of air, big open blue skies with clouds and birds singing,” the paper sighs with ease. The droplets understand something; it’s small, they decide, but significant. They creep to the furthest corner of the paper as the paper laughs a small laugh, “Uh, that tickles! Where are you going?” “We told you. We’re just visitors. We will be off now, but we will always be part of you.” A faint rush of terror overcomes the paper as it feels the droplets dispersing, “No, wait! But I still don’t know what I am or what happened to me!” From a distance now, the paper hears the final echo of the droplets, “Well, we wouldn’t be able to tell you any of those things anyway.”

Still storming, Attila jots down a few numbers onto the pad. A red light glows above the front door. She looks. Someone stands outside. Ladybug turns to see at what the storming woman looks. Silence. A thin slip of clear film slithers through the slit in the door. The red light goes dark. The storming woman slowly, quietly slides over to the door to reach the clear film. “The message?” I whisper. She walks toward the kitchen and slips the film into the monitor. A familiar voice only she can hear begins, “Attila, she arrived today. I don’t know why. She never got the package. She didn’t know why she was there either. She just showed up. She seemed … lost. I think her arrival marks … you know. I don’t want to say more, but she made green, and then I lost track of her. I have to track her down again. Don’t ask. She’s living somewhen of the Numerical Years. Again. I’ll be in touch.”

Attila presses a button on the screen and the film ejects itself then evaporates into a cloud of smoke. “It’s a message,” she finally responds. Silence. The wheels of Attila’s and Ladybug’s storming turn hard until a voice speaks, “Stop.” They both glance over at her. “None of those things will help either of you. You have only the two options milling about between you two. Time will not be your friend.” “But,” Ladybug begins. “No.” “Quiet,” Attila spits. And then, through the dark, dank corridor of their living quarters, down a hallway, the three stop and face a large, open doorway, concealing itself as a blank wall that opens wide like sliding doors. Attila looks back at the tiny cat lingering at the threshold where hallway meets a perpendicular hallway. “Turn the page,” she states aloud.

Lingering Part 1/3

Lingering Part 1/3

But everyone knows that it is within the droll that the magnificent—the exceptional (meaning those of exception)—thrive. Of course, I do not know why this is so, but my ignorance does not influence whether or not the truth remains. All I know, is all I know, and what I know is that as a Lingerer of the lowest order, you will be burdened by your own morality, sorry, I meant, mortality, but now that I think of it, your morality is probably at stake, too. But, if you want to know all that I know, you will first have to make your way with me to a different when. Be a fly on the wall as promised, although, I’m not sure if a fly is the best form to embody. You choose. And quick. Turn the page.

She & The [Old] Man

She & The [Old] Man

Landfill. Yes, she thinks to herself as she climbs over a large pile of, what seems to be, garbage toward the archway of the front door through which she needs to enter; landfill seems like the right word. The heap never lets up. “Excuse me?” she calls through an outstretched neck while still atop the trash mound. Rustling. A man pokes his head around a corner just far enough to catch a blurry glimpse of red hair. “Excuse me, sir?” The man cannot see her very well at this distance, but she does not know that. He can, however, tell that she is a she, by her voice, of course. “Yes? What is it? I think that you are quite late, my dear,” the man shouts from behind the wall, unseen. She begins to clamber down the heap. “It’s not ready anyway,” the man continues on, “A message was sent to you days ago regarding this exact delay. Why are you here?” She stands silently. More rustling. The man emerges from beyond the wall around which he was hidden and slides into the less cluttered room in which she stands. “Oh,” the man states in surprise after now having a look at her. He takes a step back and examines her from a safe albeit oddly close distance. “Hmmmm,” he murmurs. She feels the urge to take off her shoes. “Not yet,” the man instructs. “How long have you been here?” “I only just arrived,” she answers. “No, when did you arrive here here,” the man urges. “Yesterday,” she responds after understanding what the man was initially asking. “Oh, yes,” the man sighs, “Your arrival does make some sense to me now.” The man stops pacing, makes his way to a dusty, darkened window sill, sits and crosses his left arm over his torso as if hugging himself while simultaneously propping his right elbow on the arm so that the fingers of his right hand may stroke his face.

The sounds of another person ring through the corridor beyond the garbage heap. She turns to see who approaches. “Ah,” says the shining face of someone she does not know although she does feel as though she must know him, “I’m so sorry that I don’t have any work for you this session,” the shining face laments. “May I, at the very least, take you out to dinner. I really do wish I could’ve given you the work. I love to send my money into the hands of people I love,” the shining face exclaims a little too loudly. Confusion. “I,” she begins, but the man cuts her off. “She doesn’t care. It doesn’t matter,” the man shouts with a dismissive flick of his wrist. “Well, just come on by for dinner whenever you have a chance,” the shining face blurts out over the heap as the face continues its ascent up the stairs. The man, still perched on the dusty sill, wonders aloud, “Is she supposed to be here now?” “As opposed to when?” she whispers. “Where were you just before you arrived here?” the man asks, and then finally corrects, “the old man.” “I was walking through a dark corridor with …“ she starts, but the old man cuts her off again. “So you did receive my message!” “I received a message. Then I went to go pick up the package, but when I got there …” “That goddamn corridor!” the old man shouts. She knows that this old man has the answer to the only question for which she needs an answer, but she does not know the question. “Yes,” quietly now, the old man speaks gently, “I do have the answer, but I cannot help you until you know the question.” “Do …” she begins. “No,” the old man replies.

They share the space of the cluttered room, the old man still at the sill, she standing on one of the only bare squares of floor. Through the dusty window she can see the glittery sunlight force its significance between the tiny cracks where the dust has not infected. She looks down at her shoes; they are of the dirty sort with which she is less comfortable. She watches the old man think. The realization that she will, unfortunately, have to wait in this … filthy place for an unknowable amount of time dawns on her. “Yes,” the old man states. “There is a room over there that is less, as you put it, filthy. Come.” She carefully follows the old man into a much nicer room that’s filled with ancient technology and plant-based materials. The only pieces of furniture are a bright purple velvet wingback chair, a piano stool unaccompanied by a piano, a large dining table unaccompanied by chairs, and a small table barely large enough to house one large lamp. “No, there is no bed in this place,” the old man answers, “but there is food. Are you hungry?” “Yes,” she responds with curiosity.

She thinks about what it is that she even wants to eat. “It’s difficult to know such a thing at this point,” the old man interjects between her thoughts. “What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think ‘food’?” Sandwich, she thinks softly in her mind. “A …” she begins. “Ah yes,” the old man concludes, “Good choice.” The old man leaves her in the velvet chair with knowing eyes. She feels … she feels …

It’s warm. Mox’s tree stands alone, distant in a grassy field lit by the sun’s evening glow. Air rushes by, caresses her face in a swirl of comfort. She closes her eyes and takes a deep breath of the fresh air. Exhale. Clouds form. With the flash of cracking thunder, a storm billows instantaneously over her. The sun, darkened, retreats. Her eyes burn. The stream of a familiar voice reverberates throughout the field. Muted, faded, the green of the grass turns pale. She runs toward the tree as it, too, loses its vibrant saturation. Colorless, the grey-scale off of which everything now no longer bounces the sun’s magnificent light strikes her with a vomitous ache. She stops and keels over. “You cannot know that which cannot be known,” the wind whispers as it blows through her hair. She blinks a single tear from her searing, watering eyes.

Cold and stale air hits her face. She opens her eyes to see the old man standing before her with a plate and cup in hand. “How,” she mutters. “It’s only been a few minutes,” the old man answers, “Relax.” “I …” she begins again. “Mox cannot remain hidden for much longer,” the old man responds. She feels something. With a little understanding that her words mean nothing to this man (old man), she begins a thought, Why am I here? “I cannot know that which cannot be known,” the old man replies. “Focus on what you do know, without doubt,” the old man instructs as he hands her the plate with a rudimentary sandwich made of flat bread, an orange sauce and something else she prefers not to know, “And eat this.” But what is it?, runs cooly through her mind. “Bread and cheese,” the man states flatly. Oh, thank you, she thanks in thought.

“Now, tell me about this tree,” the old man demands ever so benevolently while making a seat out of a stack of books and other plant-based materials. It’s not a tree. “What does it represent then?” I’m not to tell details to strangers. “I am not a stranger.” I have doubts. “Very well, then. Does it have a physical location?” Mind clear, she sits silently and eats her sandwich. Then she wonders how she can keep her mind so free of thought, but wait, this is a thought she is having now. The old man chuckles amicably. “Interesting,” the old man speaks aloud. Silence. “I’ll tell you if you really want to know,” the old man offers. Tell me what? “How it is that you can keep your mind so clear.” Does it matter? “Of course not.” Silence.

“If not the tree, then tell me about the boy who brought you here.” What? “The boy you followed into the dark corridor.” But … “It’s okay, I’m very familiar with him. He is why you’re here, in my presence.” Then tell me his name. “Why should I? You don’t even know his name. It was a faulty test of my trustworthiness.” I followed my feet and ended up at his door. “He was upset.” Yes. “You were expected much earlier.” Yes. “What was the delay?” I have doubts. “Where were you before your feet brought you to him?” My home. “And before that?” But you know. “Her presence haunts all, not just you. Could you decipher the contents of the capsule?” Yes. “But I am a stranger.” But you already know. 

The room begins to expand as if it were a balloon filling with helium. The old man’s thoughts make wind and disrupt every particle of settled dust. Calm, she sits. Noisy, every plant-based material rips violently throughout the space. And then, silence. When the mind works at its optimum level, time stands still while every tangible object floats in the limbo between being known and unknown. Through the window now free of dust she can see the glistening sun through the outer glass of the orbital. This place the (old) man lives in, she thinks, rests at the edge; there’s nothing but a cold, dark vacuum beyond these walls.

The room again as it was before the old man’s mindscape, “Interesting.” I feel like I’ve never been here before. “And.” And yet, I do not feel lost. “Do you know who you are?” Yes. “Who are you?”