Him & Them

Him & Them

Day after day he continues the slow, dark climb out of obscurity. Exposure, the never-ending chase for … for … he runs; he examines; he punches himself in the face until … until the person around whom his entire world revolves takes notice and delivers … delivers … the semblance … a semblance of … resolution. He wants to go to there; there is where he will … will … the will to dare to dare to … want … the wanton … he stops; he paces; he wrings his hair between the unscrupulous grasp of his fists to force the mind to … give … to reveal … to tell all its secrets. The lies he tells himself satisfy him no longer, and when reality meets expectation, he runs with the perception … a perspective on … the perceptive nature where … when the behavior reflects the person behind the reinforcement.

She came to him in but only the vaguest sense. He felt her, the warmth, the love, the heat of longing between their sexual intercourse, and just as she was willing and able to give him everything he desired from her, only her, she vanished. Hidden, he remembered to tuck her behind his ear. Forgotten, that is when he lost her behind his ear. Every so often, when in the clutches of the luckiest of situations, she whispers to him in the cold, dark nights of forgotten dreams and remembered nightmares. Vastly unknown to the typical passerby, he sits, anxious, astutely aware of everything and yet, nothing makes any sense to him at all. He wanders, not as a not-lost wanderer. He feels, quite lost, most often times. The obscurity defines him in exactly the way that he would like to be defined. He moves within the world largely unnoticed. The people do not see him unless they know to look for him, but what kind of person looks for something about which they know nothing? He wonders, not as a self-seeking victim.

And there in the distance, a speck of light lighted and now lit by the flare of nostrils, an eyebrow lifted. He walks toward it; the lit light that was lighted grows. Closer now, he attempts to sneak up on it; the lit, lighted light retreats. He reaches a hand out towards it and easily takes hold of it. He ignites the light with a smooth, even blow of his breath. The light springs to lively life and scatters like confetti. One more deep breath in, Find her, he exhales. Consumed. The back of his right ear begins to burn. A gentle whisper, I am hidden; he remembers. You are lost, the gentle whisper continues. I am sleeping, he echoes within himself.

His eyes blink open; upon his back, the soothing, warm rays expanding above him suggest morning. Warm. He rolls over and feels the silken skin of a woman. No, he does not believe. Running his hand up the side of a naked, female body, the flesh is warm as his hands melt into the woman beside him. His hand reaches the shoulder of the female body, and just as he presses to roll the woman over to look upon her face, the gentle whisper of the voice he knows to belong to the woman he so desperately hopes is the woman lying besides him now envelopes him, I am hidden. Wake up. The droplets that release themselves from his face collect, and as the air meets them, a cold chill resonates from around the creases of his nostrils and that border where his face becomes scalp. His eyes open wide, wide awake. On his side, facing a wallpapered wall, he feels cold. Tears … the tears that burn … the burn of emotion … a stream of forgotten dreams that dry … the dried tears that salt the waters that brings life to all life. As he sits up the loneliness … the emptiness … no … he remembers. The feelings represent something more akin to despair, although, despair is not quite the word either. He’s been alone and lonely for so long now that the feeling feels normal. Honestly, he is sure, he does not know if he would like to depart from his feelings of loneliness; it sounds so … so … exposed.

“This is how the crazies live,” they say, “ They like to perch.” Perched, he slides on his butt down to the foot of his bed so that he may look over the balcony, into the common area. The common area is a large, vaulted open room with two dozen sets of stairs lining three of the four outer walls. The fourth wall, if standing directly in the middle of it, looking toward it, to the right, houses the doorway into and out of the common area, which leads to the waiting room, a comfortable room where visitors may visit, and where other sorts of administrative necessities are found. The fourth wall, to the left, houses one large doorway into and out of the common area, which leads directly to an outdoor, lushly lawned, activities-conducive space and leads down a short corridor through which the dining area is accessed. In between these two doors, the wall consists almost solely of large, floor-to-ceiling windows.

“The crazies like it this way,” they say, “They like to hear the goings on of other people.” The ladders lead to the semi-private sleeping areas of the sufferers. Each ladder boasts colored steps of all different variants, but they [the steps] are of all the same size, about a foot deep and a foot apart, vertically. Upon assignment of each sleeping cubby, the staff offers each incoming, new registrant the option to choose among a variety of colors for their ladder. These options, however, are not endless. What is available, nevertheless, ranges from a monochromatic scheme in a tint or shade, coordinating complementary colors, a rainbow-ordered set, or a random assortment. All must choose a color package, or a color package will be chosen for them. To look around the common area, at the ladders today, three ladders are missing the steps entirely, which means the sleeping cubby above is unoccupied. Some sufferers have opted for a random assortment, but most, oddly enough, have chosen the rainbow set. One sufferer has a monochromatic scheme of green tints, while one other has a monochromatic scheme of purple shades, “The closest,” they say, “to black without being black, which, of course, is not an option.”

At the top of each ladder, a cubby—the width and depth of which is large enough to house a bed large enough to sleep a large man comfortably, enough space for that same large man to lay on the floor next to the bed with arms and legs almost fully outstretched, a small dresser drawer that doubles as a bedside table, and as for the height, the ceiling of the cubby would force this same large man to bend nearly at the hips—reaches up and back, away from the common area’s walls. The three walls of the cubby are windowless and outfitted with wallpaper of various nature scenes, which may also be chosen. Lined with a balcony half the height of the cubby, the fourth wall serves as the cubby’s entrance and exit point. The banisters of the balcony must also be colorful, but usually, the installers simply match the colors of the banisters to the colors of the steps. Only once has a different color arrangement for the steps and banister ever been requested, but most believe this is due mostly to the fact that the sufferers simply do not know that they may request an alternate color arrangement. Lest not forget that the cubbies themselves are meant, first and foremost, for sleeping. Rest and leisure time, despite this, may be spent within, no matter. Each sufferer, however, must also clothe themselves within this space so as to not be in the nude when descending the ladder into the common area, but when the clothing is simple and slightly uniform, wriggling into each day’s outfit is no chore. The sufferers may also opt to don a simple robe and clothe themselves in their bathrooms.

As a point of concern for the safety of each cubby’s resident, the ladder also serves the purpose of … safety. Pressure sensitive, the steps of the ladder turn on the one light inside the cubby. That light, of course, may then be switched off via the touch-sensitive pad that controls the cubby’s light and temperature. Thus, when an intruder attempts to enter a cubby in which that intruder does not belong, the lights of the cubby turn on with hopes that the inhabitant, if at night, is awoken to the intruder’s presence. The steps also light up a small notification in the security room. No incident has ever come to fruition due to the seemingly unsafe nature of the ladders. That’s not to say, however, that none will occur, but since none has yet to occur, the ladders remain as a seemingly fair resolution.

To the right of the foot of each ladder is a small door that leads to a private bathroom beneath each sleeping cubby. The bathrooms are fairly typical in that the entire space is molded of some sort of rust- and mold-resistant material that is easily wiped down. This, of course, is for each sufferer’s safety. There are no bits and pieces that can be removed from other pieces. Sizable, there’s floor space where a large man may lay down upon the floor between the sink, toilet and bathing areas, but who would want to do such a thing?; no matter, the option has been made available. The bathtub, also of a size that may fit a large man comfortably, has only a faucet, which prohibits the act of showering and removes the need for a shower curtain along with its accoutrements. Small areas around the bathroom light up to reveal where to press to flush, per se, command hot or cold water to flow, soap to dispense, etc., etc.

An analyst makes her way through the common area, which at this time is being used for group games and artistic projects, toward the bottom of the monochromatic ladder of green tints. He sits, perched upon the edge of his bed, arms resting upon the banister, chin upon the arms, looking out with little interest at the activities below. The analyst looks up at him, “You have a visitor.” “There are no approved visitors on my ‘Approved Visitors’ list,” he responds. “Yes, but this is a matter of … clinical interest. Your visitor has requested to visit you, despite whether or not you will benefit from the visit.” “I do not wish to visit with my visitor.” “Unfortunately, you do not have a choice.” “If my visitor is, in fact, here to visit me, then of course I have the choice to refuse. If my, quote, visitor is not, in fact, a visitor, then label him or her accordingly.” The analyst sighs, “It’s such a battle with you. You’re the one who wants to be here. So, comply.” He’s always had a soft spot for this particular analyst, the no-bullshit type, and he’s always kind of thought it odd that she was the only one, after who knows how many tried, who understood him. “I see,” he supposedly concedes. “As if,” the analyst retorts, “I’ll give you five minutes. He’s in the waiting room.”

The Island of Isla

The Island of Isla

Where the temporary thrives,

all else ought hide.

For where the temporal achieves,

there much is bereaved,

and then all is lost

but at just what cost?

To a bridge lit ablaze,

from deep shouts on a chaise,

the chandelier turns each bauble,

as cries ring, sing and squabble,

to speak of the secret transitory,

overwhelmed by the lies of their story.

He remembers a time, so faint yet so lit, in the distance just beyond his grasp like smoke that flees in every direction away from whatever birthed it, which really means that a thing made of itself, unto itself finds itself repulsive, like the snake who sheds a paper replica when it grows beyond the means once known to it, to no longer be unlike the rock, unmoved unless moved by an outer force over which the rock itself has no control, for as a rock, to be shaped demands the infliction of something other than itself, to no avail, and without the purpose of knowing anything within itself, the small fragment of an imagination lost in the glow of a thing that does not exist unless something looks upon it, and even then, a malleable piece of fruit erases anything unwanted, every antipathy, but hate equates love with the unnecessary toil to be seen against only something that contradicts the wanton existence, like black and its nemesis, white, for to tell a tale about time is to tell a tale about nothing at all, since, according to him, all things only exist against the telling of time, therefore, without it—time—there nothing can nor may be anything but nothing.

Nevertheless, beyond that he sees only the dark, silken stream running slowly down her back from the crown of her head. Immobile, if only temporarily, he forgets to breathe. A twitch, the small itch on the outside of his left ankle saves him as he almost loses sight of her. He runs, but not to catch her. He follows, but only to know her.

For weeks, he cannot recall, perhaps even months, he watched every move to which he was privy. For endless distances, unknown to him, he traveled the depth and breadth of numerous orbitals to step in every step of her movements, to witness every action of her being, to know every moment of her waking. What he did not know could not be known. At that time, however, what he knew meant everything. Obsession, he tells himself, no, something else entirely. Isla, he overheard one time, “Like -iss as in hiss with a ‘la’ like to sing,” put a name on the being he so frequently sought.

Isla’s silken hair, nevertheless, proved difficult to catch. At every moment, at every turn, her hair was on the move. Every day filled with activity and experience all in the name of living life to the fullest, to smell those roses. But stop!, he would sometimes shout at no one, You’ve got to stop to smell those fucking roses! Isla being the traveler who supposedly traveled to see the world, but then an odd little thing happened where she ended up traveling the world for the world to see her. Like a tourist who never actually builds a life in the place where she lands, but rather, who stops only long enough to take a picture of all the people who live each day for her entertainment.

Soon (or maybe it was years) he realized what Isla had, and sadly, it was not much: a series of photographs to mark the passage through each new place, “a collection of memories” (as per her bio) to share with strangers she’d futilely meet along the way. The ego of the go-getter, the wanderer, the perpetually lost, albeit, according to them, on purpose, must be a powerful thing to behold. No longer intrigued by the lone Isla, he finally approached her to ask only one, simple question.

Perched alone at a rooftop restaurant that overlooked the rhythm of a halcyon sea, with the strung light markings of platitude, as servers preserve table-top candles that blink in that way that makes people feel as though they ought to be entranced, Isla sits in a pair of red heels that present her as adventurous, a backless dress to reveal her female confidence, that silken hair in just-off-the-beach waves. Slowly, he cogently walks toward her and sits across from her in the one remaining open chair of the two-top bistro setup. Taken aback and slightly on guard, Isla states while attempting to ooze her sexuality, “May I help you?” “Yes.” “Well, get on with it then,” Isla prompts through an ever-rising anxious air as her right hand rests on her lap as the tips of her middle and thumb fingers press the anxiety from her mind, while her left hand gently spins the chalice of wine around its base. “You will die tomorrow,” he begins, “Did you find what you’re looking for?” The faint movements of Isla’s hands stop altogether as her eyes begin to focus on him more closely, in a voice half filled with humor, half filled with confusion, “Excuse me? If, I die …” she attempts to clarify only to be cut off. “You will die tomorrow.” “Please leave me alone, sir. I would like for you to please leave,” Isla states with finality, on the cusp of standing so that she may leave if he does not. “Just think about it,” he says while rising and excusing himself from the table.

A server walks by to hand her a check. Isla stops the server to pay him immediately. “It’s already been taken care of, ma’am. This is your receipt.” Isla grabs at the elbow of the server as he begins to walk away, “Have you ever seen that man before?” “What man?” “The man who was sitting across from me just here. I assume he is the one who took care of my check?” “I’m sorry, ma’am, but I don’t know who you’re talking about.” “There was a man just here. Sitting across from me.” “Was there? I’m sorry, I guess I didn’t see him.” “Who paid for my check, then?” “You did. This is your receipt.” Isla scrambles for the receipt to read a vague line item list of her meal. As she places the receipt on the table the receipt pops into a puff of small smoke. “Of course,” Isla sighs in frustration. “Is everything alright?” the server sincerely asks. “May I have another copy of my receipt?” “I’m sorry, ma’am. We only give the one copy. You’ll have to wait until you get home to print off the memory.” “Yes, I understand. Okay, thank you,” she states dismissing the server. Of course I suppose I’ll have to print off more than the mere receipt, she thinks to herself, and yet, she makes no attempt to make her way home. Suddenly overwhelmed by a memory of an exchange that she knows for certain transpired, a flash bursts through her eyes as everything she had experienced over the past day or so furiously rewinds itself before her.

“Isla,” the voice whispers. “Isla, wake up,” the voice continues as the sound diffuses throughout her mind. Barefoot, Isla feels the cold hard ground beneath her feet. Eyes open, she catches her own reflection in a mirror. After a moment soaking in her surroundings, she concludes that she stands within a bathroom filled with the signifiers of luxury. To her right a wall of glass with golden accessories shimmer in the filtered light of the skylight above. To her left a wall painted with a scene of women bathing in a lush garden, and a dark, wooden door cracked open to reveal a golden toilet. In front of her, a countertop of pink marble, inlaid with sinks and faucets of gold, stretches the length of the absurdly enormous space. Three small pink chandeliers of equal size hang equidistant from each other and each wall as they twinkle light and sound. Isla turns slowly to look over her shoulder, large dark double doors. Turning fully around now, she reaches for both gold door handles at once, one in each hand, pulls down simultaneously and swings the doors open wide. A blast of pure light hits her square across her entire body. She raises both arms to shield her face from the blow. Her hair throws her back a few steps.

Eyes, they adjust. The bathroom in all its luxury, Isla realizes, pales in comparison to the palatial space she finds herself in now. A gentle rustling like that of a person stirring in a bed full of large linens. A bed. Slowly, Isla tiptoes toward the bed where a person obviously sleeps. Just as she reaches the bed, the sleeping form turns to face her. She approaches with curiosity rather than caution. The crown of the person’s head reveals, assumedly, a female. Dark, long hair streams upwards on the pillow. Isla moves closer. A small gasp releases itself from Isla. Her own sleeping face stares back at her. But how?, she thinks to herself. What is happening? How is this even possible?

The form of herself begins waking movements. A sigh. A yawn. Outstretched arms reach high above her head. Isla steps away from the bed and moves toward its foot. The form of her blinks her eyes open but continues to lay within the soft covers. Isla breathes the shallowest possible breaths. For what seems like an eternity, Isla stands, eyes fixed upon the form laying in the bed. A small toss and a turn. The form of her sits upright as the form of her pushes back the covers. Isla jumps back slightly frightened, but to Isla’s amazement, the form of her seems to have not noticed Isla standing there. The form of her swings her legs over the side of the bed, expertly stretches her neck, rolls each ankle five times inward and then out, looks over her right shoulder to glimpse the beautiful day just beyond the four enormous floor to ceiling windows. Isla and the form of herself stare at each other, but as Isla stares at her own form, the form of her stares right through Isla. With wide eyes, Isla pitches forward to see if she can catch the form of her’s attention. Nothing. The form of her makes her way to the double doors of the bathroom and closes both doors behind her.

The room fills with mist as Isla appears upon a sandy beach, waves foam where the salty waters of tears long spilled meet Earth. Slowly turning about herself, Isla recognizes the scene. Adamantly, she begins to walk toward a knowing place, and as she approaches, she slows almost to a standstill through the recognition of her own voice, which filters throughout the air. Just beyond a collection of oversized beach umbrellas, Isla remains directly behind the ferrule of the closest one as she slowly pokes her head around its canopy. There, again, Isla spots herself standing and chatting comfortably with some local man. Isla begins to recall this exact moment of conversation with, with, what’s his name again? Inching ever forward, Isla can hear exactly what they’re talking about.

The form of her smiles, and with a giggle says, “Oh, yea. I’m staying in a palatial suite at that hotel. It’s quite marvelous.” Isla hears this but knows that she did not, in fact, stay at that palatial suite while she was visiting this place. Why am I lying?, Isla whispers to herself. Feeling testy, Isla stands to make herself known to the form of her, but the form of her seems oblivious, yet again, to Isla’s presence. The form of her and the local man continue their conversation. “So, how long will you be here?” the local man asks. “Oh, I’m not sure. I’m sort of free to go here and there however I please. So, forever, I guess,” the form of her responds. Isla gasps, No.

A cold, misty wind billows across the beach as Isla appears just outside a shabby hut. Terrified, Isla pushes open the door to the hut. There, sitting upon a makeshift cot made of branches and dried grass lays an old, dying woman. The dying woman looks vaguely familiar and again, does not see Isla standing within the tiny space. A moment later, a young girl comes trotting into the hut with a bottle of water. “Isla! I’m here!” the young girl shouts despite the need for shouting in a room no larger than a modest bathroom. What? No,  Isla thinks to herself. The dying woman nods and motions for the young girl to bring the water to her. “Still no words today?” the young girl chants while she pats the dying woman on the forehead. The dying woman motions with her hands some sort of thankful gesture. “It’s no problem,” the young girl sings as she helps the dying woman up into a seated position and feeds the dying woman some water.

A warm mist disperses throughout the hut as Isla appears upon a dance floor in a thumping night club. Oh, god, no, Isla mumbles to herself as she recalls a moment in this place that would fulfill the dying woman’s inability to speak. No, Isla mutters, Why is this happening? Again, knowingly, Isla makes her way to a private table in the balcony area of the club. There, again, she sees herself flirting shamelessly with a short man. Apparently, the short man is trying to make a move on the form of her, but the form of her keeps writing down something on a napkin and pointing to it. Isla shakes her head, aware. Wanting to be sure, however, Isla makes her way behind the couch where the form of her and the short man sit. Yes, Isla confirms, Dammit! Upon the napkin, Isla sees the form of her writing down something about how the form of her has no voice and how she’s sorry that she cannot speak. Fuck, Isla speaks aloud. A moment later, a girl friend comes along to collect the form of her. The girl friend says, “Let’s go Is, there are some serious hotties over here,” as the form of her makes big eyes as if to say, “The act is on right now.” Picking up the cue, the girl friend nods her head as she meets the eyes of the short man, “Oh, hey. Yea, sorry. She doesn’t know how to speak. So, please, can you leave her alone?” The short man excuses himself, “Oh, yea, sure. Well, it was nice to meet you.” “Yea, sure,” the girl friend waves as she sits down next to the form of her. The two begin to chat as quietly as possible while still being able to hear each other. Isla rests her hands on the back of the couch as she bends over in a nauseated state.

Mist.

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.

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?”

The Circle’s Corner

The Circle’s Corner

“You said that last time, but what you fail to understand is that we’re in a large sphere.” Ladybug looks at the lorikeet, “What did you just say to me?” “Do you want me to repeat what I just said?” the lorikeet asks, filling with concern. “Yes,” Ladybug demands. The lorikeet looks about itself a bit, “Well, I said that you said that last time, but we’re in a sphere.” “No, the other stuff,” Ladybug groans with a get-on-with-it gesture. The lorikeet lowers its beak and sighs, “I said that you fail to understand …” “Yep, that’s it.” “I didn’t mean to …” “But you did,” Ladybug smirks. Content, the two continue fluttering around.

“Yea, there it is. That corner right there,” Ladybug points. Around again they swoop by as the corner disappears. “What in all hell?” Ladybug whispers. “I think you’re right there, Birdie.” Knowing better, the lorikeet remains silent. “So, you know what to do in this instance?” Ladybug asks. The lorikeet perks up a bit at the thought of being needed, “Yea, but you’re not going to like it.” “Just. C’mon,” Ladybug groans. “Well, the light’s off,” the lorikeet explains. “What? Now? How?” Ladybug shouts. They come to a rest on a small tile ledge floating a little lower than their flying altitude. “The Monitors,” the lorikeet states solemnly. “Only maybe. Shit,” Ladybug sighs.

Preening, the lorikeet quietly calms itself. Ladybug, mulling over the situation finally asks, “When?” “At Midnight.” “No, not when, Birdie, when?” Ladybug retorts. Somber, the lorikeet lowers its head and sighs, “Just after the Listmaker finished the list about which you flew to him.” Ladybug falls back onto its haunches, “How do you know this?” “You summoned me. Remember?” “Right,” Ladybug remembers; “Right after I left, and now we’re here.” Ladybug moves itself to the top of the lorikeet’s head, “Sit.”

“Perhaps, I ought to have shouted this news at you at the beginning?” the lorikeet realizes. “You’re just realizing this now?” Ladybug laughs. “There’s nothing you could have done, and there’s nothing we can do now except wait.” Silently, the lorikeet twiddles the feathers on its wingtips as Ladybug rolls around on its back, each leg grasping every other. The Listmaker. “So where is the Listmaker?” the lorikeet asks aloud. “He is wherever he is that he goes when the Monitors turn off the light.”

“Where is that?”

“No one knows.”

“So he’s there now?”

“I hope so.”

“This has never happened before?”

“Not that I’ve known about?”

“And what’s going to happen to us?”

“Not sure about that either.”

“What are the potential outcomes?”

“I’ve never been here.”

“Oh.”

Suddenly, the slow zipper crunch of celery being cut through the grain, specks of purple light begin to fall through the zipper-shaped crack in the side of the sphere directly behind them. “What do we do now?” the lorikeet asks. “She sees us,” Ladybug explains. “Who?” “Not who, when,” Ladybug corrects. “When has come to see us?” “Yes.” “So what do we do now?” the lorikeet reiterates. “We jump!” Ladybug shouts as it jumps with all of its might off the head of the lorikeet, sails through the time of the sphere and clumsily lands on a purple droplet of light. Afraid, the lorikeet shifts its weight from one foot to the other and then again and again, “I don’t know.” “Fly, Birdie! Just fly!” And with this, the lorikeet closes its eyes, jumps up off the tile ledge and flaps straight for another purple droplet of light.

Just as the droplet of purple light catches the lorikeet, the two are thrown as if off a large sheet into the air. At the height of their ascent, the Swinging Leaves giggle and gently pluck both the lorikeet and Ladybug out of the Circle’s Corner and onto the roof of a small thatched, bamboo hut. “Thanks,” Ladybug waves. The Singing Leaves sway and sing a simple song. Exhausted, the lorikeet passes out to the tune. “Psht, figures,” Ladybug scoffs as the lorikeet hunkers down into sleep. Taking a look around, Ladybug whispers to itself, “The middlemost peak where the three peaks meet.”

“And you must be Ladybug, The Listmaker’s prized messenger,” a husky but cheerful voice calls out. Ladybug whips around so fast that its wings deploy and send it clear across to the other side of the roof. A short time later, Ladybug arrives back at the other side of the roof, takes a look over the edge into the radiant face of Fate. “Hello, Miss,” Ladybug bows with the flourish of its right arm and hand while tucking its left behind it. “Hi, Ladybug. I’ve missed you,” Fate smiles. “I’ve missed you so much, So Jeong,” Ladybug admits as it flutters down onto the uplifted hand So Jeong offers with delight.

“You’ve a message?” So Jeong asks, well knowing the urgent nature of Ladybug’s travels. “Unfortunately, I do not,” Ladybug admits. It clears its throat and then immediately puts on a face, “The Listmaker knows of your predicament, and The Listmaker wrote you a list.” “That sounds like a message to me,” So Jeong challenges with a wink. “I suppose you’re right. I mean, of course you are always right. I just mean that that was not what I needed to say,” Ladybug stammers. “Well am I made to wait in suspense for your enjoyment?” So Jeong asks, still delighted by her friend. Ladybug takes a deep breath, “Right after I delivered your message and I secured The Listmaker’s list, I left. I had other things to do. Apparently, however, sometime shortly after I left, the light went out.” So Jeong let out a tiny gasp, “At that time?” Sighing deeper now, Ladybug responds and continues, “Yes. I had summoned the lorikeet to help me with my next message for some squirrels who continue to, never mind, that’s not important. What’s important is that the light is out at The Listmaker’s Ranch. We suspect the Monitors, of course, but who would do this?”

Taking in all that Ladybug has said, So Jeong sits upon a purple silk pillow. Ladybug flutters to a petal of the flower rooted just in front of the pillow upon which So Jeong sits. “I don’t know what to do,” Ladybug laments. “You’re not supposed to know,” So Jeong answers as she leans down to fetch Ladybug from the petal. A sigh of relief relaxes Ladybug into a stupor, “Tell me what to do So Jeong, and I will do it.” Gently, So Jeong stands and fetches the lorikeet from the roof. Carefully, she asks the Singing Leaves for a nest. Softly, she lowers the two creatures into the nest, “Rest, Ladybug. Just rest. This is no longer your problem.” And ever so quietly Ladybug drifts off into peaceful sleep as it whispers, “It’s not on the list.” To which So Jeong replies, “It’s always on the list. Sleep.”

And then So Jeong turns toward me, “Lingerer.” “Yes,” I respond. “Come with me,” So Jeong instructs.