He Arrives

He Arrives

Dawn, with a faint shimmer of sunbeams peering through the cracks between the trees, while the grassy, unkempt lawn begins to warm, he arrives. Aware of her forthcoming arrival later in that day, he knows better than to cross paths at this time. They cannot, as it were, make green just yet. The stakes are too high; they are identities all too fragile. He grows weary of chasing her down in order to travel through space and time, constantly arriving at places unknown to them, only to find that they must travel yet again with no knowledge about the bigger picture. This time, he decides, things will be different. Of course, they’re always different, and yet, the sameness of their situation continues to follow, forever, endlessly in a loop they now feel trapped within. He remembers the words of the old man’s warning. There’s no way of knowing when or where happens before, there is only what he knows … without doubt. And the order of his remembering suggests that he must be here now.

He stands on the porch of the Listmaker. Whether or not he has arrived at the correct house, he cannot know, until he knows. Knock, knock, knock, upon the tattered and torn, half-screen door that stands between him and the front door. He waits for the semblance of movement within the house. It’s all too possible that the inhabitant still sleeps at this early hour, hence the stillness and quiet within the house. He knows, however, that if he has found the Listmaker, the Listmaker ought to be awake by now. He attempts to look through the windows that line the front of the house, but they are all closed up with thick curtains. Still, he waits another moment and looks out over the property. Birds chirp to welcome the morning. Light twinkles through the trees. A cool breeze blows over the lawn as the overgrown grasses sway. Knock, knock, knock, he tries again, only to be met with more silence. A small twinge gnaws at the palm of his left hand. Lifting the hand to his face to get a look, he sees that there’s a ladybug on him, scratching at the inside of his hand. He takes a closer look. The ladybug seems to be grooming itself, rolling around almost as if it’s itching it’s back and washing it’s face. He keeps watching.

Then, the ladybug seems satisfied and shakes itself off, looks around as if deciding to where to trot off next, but instead of choosing a direction, the ladybug looks up directly into his face. “Hey,” he states casually. The ladybug waves a little wave. Shocked, he’s taken aback a bit. What the? Curious, he tries again, “Hi, there. What’s going on?” It looks to him as if the ladybug shrugs and then sits. The ladybug looks around again, seemingly deciding on something. “Can you understand me?” he asks and then immediately feels stupid. Nodding, the ladybug walks up his palm toward his pointer finger and then walks to the tippy tip of his pointer finger. Once settled upon the tip of his finger, the ladybug nods again and then gestures with its face to sort of either look or move in that direction, which would lead him over his left shoulder, off the porch and onto the lawn. This is crazy, he laughs at himself, but he already decided that he’d listen to this creature, despite the impossibility of the situation.

He steps off the porch and walks in the general direction of the pointing ladybug. Once he reaches the lawn, however, the ladybug motions to take a right, which leads him down the side of the Listmaker’s house. He sees a beautiful patch of flowering plants and looks down at the ladybug, assuming that is where it wants to go. He stops for a moment, waits for further instruction. The ladybug turns around and faces out, facing his same general direction, then points to the garden. Ah ha, he thinks to himself, proud. He walks to the patch of flowering plants, and as he edges closer to the garden, the ladybug pulls on the tip of his finger with a little halting motion. He twists his hand around so that he can look the ladybug in the face. The ladybug nods and then makes funny gestures with its front legs as if picking things off his finger. “What?” he asks, slightly confused by the mime. The ladybug points down. He kneels down. The ladybug points at the orange nasturtiums, turns to face him again and then makes an “x” with its two front legs. He laughs out loud, “Ah hahaha, okay. I get ya.” Slowly, he walks around the tiny patch, presenting each different type of flower to the ladybug as the ladybug promptly nixes each option with the “x” symbol it makes with its front legs. He chuckles at every dismissal.

Finally, as he approaches a cluster of tiny white flowers, the ladybug shimmies a bit, as if excited. “Yea?” he laughs as he asks, “Is this gonna do it for ya?” The ladybug turns to look at him and nods in confirmed excitement and then waves him off with the right front leg/foot. As the ladybug turns to jump off his fingertip, he whispers, “She’ll be here later. Can you lead her here please?” The ladybug turns around and stares into his eyes for just a moment before it shakes its head and drops it low in a somber sort of way. “Why not?” he asks, peeved. The ladybug remains somber, not looking at him. He guesses that the ladybug cannot make such a guarantee, and he knows that the likelihood of her recognizing the ladybug is infinitely small. He sighs audibly and concedes, “Yes, I know what you mean. Can you at least promise to try?” The ladybug cheers up a bit and nods enthusiastically. “Okay, thank you,” he states as the ladybug nods and turns out, away from him, toward the cluster of tiny white flowers, ready to take a leap. “Alright,” he begins in farewell; “Later,” he again casually bids. The ladybug shimmies its backside and prepares to launch and just as it begins to jump off the tip of his finger, the sound of a snapping tree branch cuts through the air. Stunned, he jolts a bit and then quickly checks on the ladybug. “Goddammit,” he spits aloud in frustration. There, atop the cluster of tiny white flowers, the ladybug lies on its back, wings spread wide and broken, dead.

He treads out from within the patch of flowering plants and stands at its edge, looking back toward the tiny white flower cluster. He can barely make out the speck of the ladybug. Whatever, he self-soothes. Clouds form overhead and threaten rain. From the side of the house that he currently stands, he sees a porch extending out from the back of the house. As the patter of scattered raindrops ease into a dull roar, he runs to the back porch that is luckily partially covered by a torn awning. He looks through a sliding glass door and realizes that he can see into the house since whatever blinds or curtains hang on the inside remain open. From this location, he can see the kitchen and the living room area that opens into what looks to be a study. Dark, he cannot make out anything too specific within the study, but the disheveled nature of the area makes him think that the Listmaker might be uncharacteristically unorganized. But then he notices the kitchen and living room areas are immaculately ordered. Every little thing seems to have a place, except that there are two mugs sitting on the counter that separates the kitchen area from the living area. He also notices that there’s a carton of almond milk sitting out, which seems odd, but since he doesn’t drink almond milk himself, he decides he doesn’t know if that’s common practice. Nevertheless, the two mugs stand out to him. A visitor? he wonders. Did she arrive early? Fuck. What’s with all the early arrivals lately. She’s totally out of sync or something, he considers.

He gives the glass door a knock, Knock, knock, knock, knock, knock, and waits for a signal of movement. Maybe someone answered already, he thinks as he remembers, the fucking dead ladybug. Still raining, the droplets enlarge and turn into a straight-up downpour. He accepts that the awning will probably not keep him dry much longer, but to his delight, the falling water stops, almost all at once within just a minute. Parting ways, the clouds reveal the light of the sun and an uncomfortable warmth overcomes him. Knock, knock, knock, he tries again. He waits.

A sense of unease washes over him, and he can’t quite place the feeling despite the strong recognition. Breaking and entering into the house, he decides, however dubious, appeals to him greatly. Can he spare another moment, no matter, and wait a bit longer before enacting such drastic measures? Without a watch and with little to no sense of the relative time of when he currently exists, there’s no way of knowing exactly what time it is, he realizes. There’s also no knowing when she will arrive. All he knows is that he needs to speak with the Listmaker and be long gone before she appears. Pacing the back porch, he mulls the options. No matter how hard he tries to look forward, to catch a glimpse of any hint that may help him decide, he comes up blank. He seethes. Someone meddles with mesh and fabric, sewing in bits and pieces that help only the few, a self-serving individual who requires … something … something very specific, he concludes. Bound to the now that is now, he keeps pacing the full length of the porch, waiting, drumming his mind for the recollection of something … anything. The most recent words of the old man ring out in his mind, She will not be difficult to find because she does not know that she needs to remain hidden. And then a flash of understanding hits him between the eyes as he whispers, “Mox.” If Mox knows where she is, and the old man feels confident in finding her, then the old man can easily know what Mox knows. So where is Mox now? If I can find Mox, I can know what the old man knows, and then I’ll know what the old man wants. The unsettled feeling returns with full force and reminds him of a different time, a different life, lifetimes ago. He recalls the first time he encountered a Listmaker.

A long time ago, he awoke, thrown like what always happened during any other time after making green, into the middle of a life being lived. This, of course, was one of the earlier iterations when the sudden transference from one when into another thrusted his mind into a full-on spin, which caused a numbness starting from the crown of his head down through his entire body, lasting, most often times, around ten minutes. Unable to move or think during this time, he would simply stare out in a strange gaze, existing in the planes of nothingness. How to describe this process proves impossible, but nevertheless, he would, if he could, say something to the effect of, “If air could speak to the annoyance of constantly being pushed, shoved, and encroached upon.” Anyway, this one particular time, he was but a small boy child living in a village in the steep valley just below where the three peaks meet. There, within the village, a Listmaker lived, the first Listmaker he had met, not “first” as in the linear perception of time before a different meeting but rather, as first first within his existence. But that is all beside the point. As a small boy child in the village, he was an orphan (the kind whose parents left him for dead, as opposed to those whom Death takes, not that one is more or less tragic, the distinction is what’s important), running hither and thither, free to be wherever whenever he pleased. His appearance caught the peculiar attention of a specific person within the village, who, for all intents and purposes was this Listmaker.

This Listmaker lived on the upper-most outskirts, nearest the end of the official village ordinance, at the place where the river begins to flow through the village. Being well-known and seated among other peoples of prominence, this Listmaker became quite fond of him and he of this Listmaker. Most days, when this Listmaker had written the boy child into this Listmaker’s list, he would visit this Listmaker, sit and chat for hours at a time about nothing specific. He never really knew exactly what this Listmaker found so fascinating about him, but he found this Listmaker’s general nature fascinating. What he learned was how this Listmaker would write a list for each day to which this Listmaker would then adhere to, absolutely. Some days, at the boy child’s request, this Listmaker would sometimes make a list for him, and then the boy child would find that he, too, would be bound by the list for that day. He, of course, determined this strict process hilariously fun, a feature to his life that drew him ever closer to this Listmaker and this Listmaker’s precise skill. On other days, the boy child would arrive at this Listmaker’s house to find that this Listmaker already knew all of the questions he had planned to ask, and as each question rose to the surface of his mind, this Listmaker would simply answer each question before he uttered one word, essentially making the entire conversation quite one-sided. The scene of a young boy silently sitting in an armchair while this Listmaker spouted out seemingly random information must have looked serenely odd to any observer.

Some villagers enjoyed the eccentric nature of this Listmaker (although, unknown to them as a Listmaker), especially since, as a mostly garden-loving village, the villagers could always find a healthy ladybug population of which this Listmaker generously allowed the distribution. Many villagers, however, decided that this Listmaker and all of the surrounding hearsay made this Listmaker a person who ought to be generally avoided. Nevertheless, this Listmaker’s prominence within the village could not be ignored. Most failed to understand how this Listmaker grew to be a person within the upper echelon of intelligence within the community, and those who did understand this Listmaker refused to share the significance. This refusal to disseminate this Listmaker’s eminence confused the boy child greatly, so the boy child, as he grew, would try to convince the villagers of this Listmaker’s power. But whenever the boy child would visit this Listmaker, this Listmaker would kindly request that he cease his attempt to change the mind’s of the villagers. After the concise request, this Listmaker, without fail, would end each conversation about the boy’s need to convince others with these words, “Ignorance is not the fault of the ignorant. Ignorant people are fully necessary; they balance the intelligent. If everyone’s ‘intelligent’, statistically, there are still the ten percent who would be the intelligent, not including the distinction between the ten percent of the top ten percent, making everyone else, the remaining ninety, the ignorant, cycled forever, on a continuum with each new batch of intelligence birthing ignorance and filtering out the ten-percent that’s deemed intelligent.” And every time this Listmaker ended the small condemnation of his frustration at “stupid people,” the boy would roll his eyes, until one day, when the boy was no longer a boy, he looked at this Listmaker as a sorrowful revelation befell him and asked, “Why don’t you just write lists for everyone so that they can live better lives?”

With his question lingering in the air, this Listmaker consulted the day’s list, and then answered him with a question, “Would you want to write a list for every person who came asking for one?” “Yes,” he answered without hesitation; “If I could educate every person who came my way, I would, without another thought.” “Yes, exactly,” this Listmaker pointed out; “I, too, would educate every person who came my way.” And then that sorrowful feeling slapped him in the face again. He understood what this Listmaker said. He understood the truth this Listmaker explained. He understood the Listmaker.

Seated now on the edge of the porch, he sits and fondly remembers his first encounter with a Listmaker. Then, he remembers why he is sitting on the porch of a Listmaker now. He takes a deep breath and ultimately decides that he must break into the house. This meeting cannot be wasted. Thus, he stands himself up and walks to the sliding glass door. First, obviously, he tests the door handle. The door slides open easily to the sound of the frame’s sealant resisting the detachment. You have to be fucking kidding me, he laughs to himself. Slowly, he slides the door open just wide enough to enter through the threshold. Right hand on the glass door’s handle, the left braced upon the door frame, he pokes his head into the house, “Hello? Hello? Is anyone home?” He waits. Silence greets him. He waits a bit longer. A noise from the kitchen. He jumps ever so slightly. The refrigerator kicks on. “I’m coming in now,” he shouts out to whoever may be hiding. One foot at a time with a brief pause in between, he quietly enters and then slides the door shut behind him. “Hello?” he again shouts aloud.

Bright, straight and serious, the kitchen space beams in modernity almost to the point of futurity. Similarly, the living area looks so strict that it almost seems as if nobody could possibly ever sit on that sofa. To the mugs on the counter area that differentiates the kitchen space from the living area he walks since the pairing of the mugs stands out to him. Everything about the kitchen sits immaculately clean and ordered, yet the two mugs sit, still half-filled with cold coffee, dried droplets of coffee stain the countertop near the mugs. A bowl of sugar sits, exposed, the lid of which abandons the sugar to the elements. Warm, a carton of almond milk accompanies the setup. He examines the carton and reads: REFRIGERATE ONCE OPENED. He sets the carton down and looks around some more, but there’s really nothing else to look at within the kitchen. Scrubbed clean and shining white, the sink sits empty along with the dishrack. Figuring that there is probably not much else to be learned in the kitchen, he scans the living area. Again, the space is clean and ordered, not a speck of dust or creased cushion/pillow to be seen anywhere. Even the plants stand tall at attention, perfectly balanced as if rotated regularly. He moves on through the living area into what looks like a study.

In heavy contrast, dark, rounded and overly ornate, the study features a heavy wooden desk facing out through the window. A full floor-to-ceiling bookcase, also of dark wood and crammed to the brim with books, line the entire right wall of the space upon entrance from the living area. A wooden step stool sits in front of the wall of books, while a wooden, chartreuse-cushioned armchair sits in the small corner made of the small piece of wall shared with the living area on the left, when facing the corner, and the wall shared by the stairs to the right, the corner directly behind the chair, assumedly being centered with the countertop in the space beyond the wall that separates the kitchen space from the living area. A person wishing to walk from the living area into, what seems to be, the entryway must walk through this space and if in a hurry, might bump into the aforementioned armchair. As he examines said armchair, he notices that perhaps it sits a bit askew since the rug upon which the front left leg of the chair, if sitting in it, rests is curled up under the leg and a tiny scuff mark suggests that his assumption holds true. The other chair in the room tucks under the heavy wooden desk and greatly resembles the desk as if, undoubtedly, part of a set. Of the rolling variety, the chair lacks cushions but provides arm rests, and the chair itself rocks forward and back on some sort of spring attached to the spoked-style legs set upon a wheels and castors system. He pulls open the drapes. Not a single speck of dust relieves itself from the fabric. Sun shines through the room to reveal the extent of its disarray. On edge, he peers out through the window and eyes the property. He sees no one. Nevertheless, he remembers the backdoor and jogs through the house to lock it. Returning to the study, the room seems dramatically worse in the light of day.

A seriously chaotic mess, the room, strewn with slips of paper, full sheets of paper, pages of books, whole books, writing utensils and other stationery-related products, suggests some sort of malfeasance, especially when considering the general atmosphere of the other two rooms. Hanging on one of the walls, a clock reads ten minutes past seven. Unsure about the exact time but not knowing any better at this exact moment, he reads the time as being logical, given that his arrival had to have been sometime around half-past six that same morning. He rummages through the slips of paper. “Lists,” he whispers to himself. Sheet after sheet after sheet of list after list after list cover every inch of the desk and carpet much of the floor. At random, he picks a slip off the floor and peruses line by line. The paper upon which this list was written feels smooth, old, only slightly wrinkled. Taken as a whole, the slip curves on itself a bit as if it has been rolled up. Of course, he is fully aware of the Listmaker’s proclivities to make lists, and so, the nature of the elements within the room do not surprise him at all. What is surprising, however, is that the room seems devastatingly disheveled.

Where is he? he thinks to himself, remembering that he must speak with the Listmaker. He does not really have the time to figure out what happened here, unless, he realizes, whatever happened here was not intentional, and hence, the reason behind the Listmaker’s absence. He mulls a few options while scanning the room for any further clues. Imperatively, he decides that he will search the rest of the house, if only quickly to see if any other information about the Listmaker’s whereabouts jumps out at him.

Onward through the study, he stands in the entryway, behind the front door. He looks through the small round window out to the lawn once again, still, no one. A hallway lines the right side of the staircase and ends at a door with no knob but rather, has a horizontal, rectangular metal panel where one ought to push in order to make one’s way through the door that he assumes leads into the kitchen. Through the entryway to the other side of the house, another sitting/living area opens out into a dining room. Both rooms match the sleek, sterile modernity of the kitchen space and other living areas. He pokes a head into each room, but nothing seems out of place. Testing to see how clean the space actually is, he runs a finger over half a dozen, seemingly random surfaces and each surface affirms nothing but sheer, obsessive cleanliness. He sighs a deep sigh, the sort of sigh one sighs when things do not add up, no matter how hard one tries. Back to the entryway and up the stairs he goes.

Half-way up the stairs he comes to a landing and then the stairs take a one-eighty and continue upwards. The second floor opens out into one large room that covers the area of the second sitting/living area and the study below. Lined fully with floor-to-ceiling windows, the wall that looks out onto the front of the property houses French doors that open out onto a porch the length and depth of the front porch below. Around and to the right, once scaling the staircase, the room continues to open out into a futuristic office full of variously aged technology. To the left, a wall with a set of double-doors. A queasy sensation hits him in the gut. He does not want to go into the room, but he knows that he must. The fear of finding someone unsavory almost deters him. Stubborn is the most common word other people use to describe him, and while his stubbornness may sometimes be confused for bravery, he would not describe himself as a brave person. Nevertheless, he summons the stubborn and reminds himself that he must find the Listmaker as soon as possible.

Knock, knock, knock, he gently taps on the door. Silence. Knock, knock, knock, knock, a little louder this time, and then he waits. Silence. Indecisive, he considers the most beneficial/safest door to open if an intruder hides within the room. Inconclusive, he opts for the right door so that he can easily punch with his free left hand. Cautiously, he creaks the door open. Dim but not dark, the room smells of a fresh breeze. Immediately, he notices the lumpiness of the bed and then sees the face of a man at its head. Startled at the figure of a human being lying in the bed, he jumps and then whips his head around to furiously scan the room for an attacker. Through an ajar door at the far end of the room he can see the fixtures of a bathroom. Another set of double doors remain closed at the foot of the bed. Quietly, he jogs to the bathroom, and at the ready, he jumps into the tiled space. Empty. A quick look around exposes nothing. He jogs back into the bedroom and swings the double doors open wide. Prepared, he soon realizes that the enormous walk-in closet sits nearly empty. Of course he is relieved that no threatening person jumped out to disable him, but he also feels a little disappointed at his cowardice. Nevertheless, with his safety procured, he rushes to the person in the bed.

Lightly, he presses two fingers to the carotid artery in the man’s neck. A pulse. Closely now, he looks at the face of the man in the bed. “The Listmaker,” he whispers aloud. He does not know whether or not he should call an emergency service. He decides that he really cannot do such a thing, since, in all actuality, he should not even be here. She’ll be here soon anyway, he thinks to himself with the understanding that for her to have “found” the Listmaker in this condition will be safer for the both of them. He searches the area surrounding the bed. A little unnerved, he peeks under the bedspread to see that the Listmaker is fully clothed. “Hmmm,” he sort of murmurs to himself. Sitting now at the edge of the foot of the bed, he wonders about what could possibly be going on. There exists little about the world in general that he does not or cannot understand, but situations of this nature are of the variety that he rarely comes across. Presumptively, probably no “normal” person would come across such a situation. His mind clouds with skepticism, uncertainty and worst of all, suspicion. “Fucking old man,” he scowls under his breath. More words of the old man press upon his mind. Know this, the voice of the old man surfaces, by the time you realize you should have heard my message, I will be unable to cooperate, for the answers to the questions will have been discovered.

“Fuck,” he spits aloud, and then looks over to the Listmaker to see if he had aroused him. Frustrated he rests his face in his hands. And then he sees it, something small and round under the bedside table. Frantically, he rushes over to the bedside table and gets on all fours. With his face pressed on the ground, he sees that he can easily reach the thing. Retrieved, he holds a spool of, what seems to be, thermal receipt paper. The same stuff from downstairs, he recalls. The top portion has been ripped off with the first line partially reading:

1811           what the stran               wants

Just above the last entry the lines read:

1800 – 1801 Consult the day’s list

1801 – 1810 Complete tomorrow’s to-do list

1810 – 1811 Answer the door to see who knocks

and account for the earlier part of the day in its entirety. “Yesterday,” he whispers to himself as he reads the date at the top of the list, and then he notices another list beginning at the top of “yesterday’s” list with the latest hour nearest the bottom as the spool unrolls. As he unspools the list, merely looking for an end to the present list, he reaches a timestamp at roughly 0758 hours where the list ceases to outline the beginning of the day, “Today,” he quickly realizes. The first timestamp on “today” or the last line item the Listmaker wrote “yesterday” reads:

0758 – 0805 Water open-air garden

With the list’s end being before the day began, he begins to wonder why the Listmaker failed to write in the first part of the day. He looks over the list for “yesterday.” The day begins at 0630 with these two items being the first on the list:

0637 – 0638 Get out of bed

0630 – 0635 Wake

“‘Today’ lacks a wake time,” he audibly contemplates. Then he examines the list closely, reading each item, until a very specific happening captures all of his attention. “Shit,” he speaks aloud.

He reads the lines over and over again, and this is what it reads:

1206 – 1207 She will arrive

1207 – 1210 Walk out and greet her at the edge of dirt drive

1210 – 1211 Invite her in for lunch

1211 – 1215 Make her feel comfortable, offer water

1215 – 1235 Make sandwiches, attempt small talk

1235 – 1255 Eat lunch and discuss why she is here

1255 – 1256 Ask her directly what she wants

1256 – 1257 Ask her again

1257 – 1258 Reiterate that she must

1258 – 1311 Listen

1311 – 1312 Agree to her request and convey the urgency of the situation

1312 – 1313 Walk to desk and find a free sheet of paper

1313 – 1314 Prepare her list

For an unknowable amount of time he stares at the list, until suddenly, he grasps the gravity of the event listed that he now reads. “What fucking time is it?” he asks himself as he searches the room for a clock. His eyes rest on an analog clock on the wall that reads a time he does not understand. “Seven-ten?” he mutters; “Still?” And then his entire body grows cold. Quickly, he checks the pulse of the Listmaker. “Okay, good. Hang in there, please,” he begs the Listmaker. Running out of the room and down the stairs, he has to figure out what time it is. Through the front door he burst into the front lawn, out in the sunlight. Overhead the sun still sits fairly low, just over the tops of the trees. Okay, motherfucker, okay, I have a little time, he determines. Back in the house now, he furiously digs and searches through the stacks and piles of lists. What he looks for, he cannot be too sure, but he is sure that he’ll know it when he sees it. 

Part III: When

Part III: When

Encapsulated within a nightscape of galaxies far beyond and throughout, an island made of hopes and fears wraps itself around water, purple and pooled. Centered, a glass house, seemingly molded and melded as one piece, as a whole, floats as an island upon the pool wrapped on an island. A single blue droplet drops. Splunk. A white and blue mist swirl as the droplet spits up an even smaller droplet that eventually falls only to spit up another, even smaller droplet in a continuance that spawns forever. Formless again, she reaches both hands out in front of what she used to know as her “face”, only to see … nothing. The nothingness of herself feels weightless, free, chilled.

Bubbles form in the distance. She hears their whispers. Back so soon? the bubbles ask. Is it soon? she questions. Far too soon, but the question is not why. Understanding that the how, obviously, seems more pertinent, she wonders, I have been here before? The bubbles swarm and swirl about her, The sun has barely set before you returned. Do you not remember? She admits and reveals the thing she could not reveal and thus, kept tuck away just beyond Attila’s reach, I remember that I have forgotten, but I cannot remember what it is that I’ve forgotten. Letting out bubbles, the bubbles continue, What else do you remember? She waits for a moment until something tickles the back of her mind, The Executioners? “Yes, indeed we are,” the Executioners exclaim with delight; “What else! What else?” She feels a pang of familiarity, I’ve been here many times. “So many times that we’ve lost count! What else! What else?” But what is this place? “When.” When? “Yes, what you mean to ask is ‘When is this place?’” When is this place? “It is now.” When was I just a moment ago? “The Will.” Will I stay here forever? “We hope not!” Then to when am I going? “The Was.” Why? “Oh, of course, no one could tell you that, not even us.” Why not? “No one can know such a thing.” How much longer will I be now? “Not much longer now, Red is coming.” What is that? “Not what. Who.” Who? “Who what?” Who is coming? “Red is coming.” Feeling frustrated as if she’s talking in circles to a school of bubbles, she lets the question go.

What am I supposed to do now, until Red comes? “But you already know.” Yes, I’ve forgotten, however. “Forgetting is the least of your worries, Blue.” What’d you call me? “Blue. You’re Blue.” I am? “Oh my, we are afraid the forgetting is quite bad.” But can’t you remind me, help me remember? “Unfortunately, there are some things that simply cannot be told. But we do know when to send you to next!” When? To when will you send me? “No, not to when but to whom.” To whom will you send me? “You will know as soon as you know.” She sighs, slightly defeated but feeling optimistic. Can I go now? “No. Red has not arrived.” When will Red get here? “Not when, where.” Where will Red get here? “Where will Red arrive.” Where? “Who knows.” She lets out another sigh, examines the nothingness that feels like her physical form, but alas, she sees nothing of her physical form.

A green light shines through the water, floats above and beyond the liquid. She wriggles her formless self to the surface. Glowing, the glass house shines bright over the purple pool of water. My house. “Yes,” the Executioners sing as each bubble leaps into the air, disappearing, only to reappear once they hit the water. She feels a soothing warmth radiate from the bubbles that swim around her as they carry her toward the glass island.

Feeling the smooth, rounded curves of a house made of glass, floating upon a pool made of water, an overwhelming sensation of satisfaction overcomes her, Do I live here? “No.” What? Why not? “How could you?” the Executioners wonder. How could I not? I’m about to right now? “No, you will not live there.” What do you mean? “You’re not alive, of course.” What? How did I die? “Oh, you’re not dead.” Then what am I? In some kind of limbo? “When. When are you?” No! What? If I’m not alive and I’m not dead, WHAT am I? “When are you?” Ugh! she screams out in confused frustration. She swims around the rounded island until she reaches stair-like indentations. Pulling herself onto the glass island, she reaches the place where a sort of lawn might open out across the homes of yore and looks out over the water. On the horizon, a dark nighttime sky filled with twinkling suns and dust. She walks around the house looking for an entrance. Nothing. She can, nevertheless, peer through the glass into the house. Without some brighter light, though, she sees nothing except the radiant glow of the green light. Remembering, she takes another look down at herself again, still also nothing. Tired and a little weary, she finds a ledge upon which to sit where she can dip just her feet into the water. Warm now, she feels content, looking out over the horizon.

She sits for an unknowable amount of time until finally, the Executioners whisper out to her once more, “We think that you will be leaving soon.” When will I return? “Of course, no one could know such a thing.” Of course. “Don’t forget us.” I will remember. “No, do not forget.” I will not forget. “And be careful. The when to where you are going seems fickle and formidable.” So you do know to when I going! “Of course, we can know many things.” To when am I going then? “We cannot know for sure.” Ugh. What am I supposed to do? “We cannot tell you what to do because we do not know what will happen, but there exists a … a person … a Listmaker, who can do such a thing.” What? Who? “A Listmaker can make you a list.” A list of what? “What to do.” How will I find him? “You will have to travel there.” But I cannot control my destination. “You can’t? You remember this?” Wait! Oh my hats-on-a-tree. Can I control where I go? “Not where. When.” She stands with excitement, Wait, can I control when? “When what?” When in time I arrive. “That would mean you can travel through time. Who says you can time-travel?” Oh, that’s right. I don’t know; I forgot. The Executioners swirl even harder and faster at the edge of the pool where the glass-house island floats.

She remembers a time when she lived in a town built into the side of an enormous boulder. Not everyone lived within the boulder, of course, but the main area of town was set inside it. She, being of the orphan variety, ended up living with a nice family who lived a little down the way near the base of the hill where the three creeks meet. Atop the hill sat the most wonderful library where she would spend all of her days reading and getting lost in all of the ideas she found there.

An odd little feeling tingles at the tips of her toes. Still dipped in the purple water, she wiggles and stretches them to relieve the sensation. Slowly she lifts her feet out from the water, but alas, there are no toes, no feet, just the perception, the impression of them. She sighs and continues to remember the memory.

Around the time she was in her late teens, she and some friends used to explore all of the little nooks and crannies, dark alleys and hidden caves around and within the small town’s boulder. One day, at some point, she was separated from the rest of her friends. She never really felt the so-called pangs of fear that so many other people seemed to grapple with on a daily basis, like fears of death and pain. The only fear to which she could relate was that of broken heartedness. She never fully understood the pain, of course, for she never remembered loving anyone, but for some reason, she always felt somber, melancholic, lost. It was on this day when she found herself alone within the town that she stumbled upon an interesting shop that seemed to sell various herbs or other-type plants all neatly sorted and organized in glass containers on countless rows of wall-to-wall shelving. A young man, roughly her age, came out from behind a curtained doorway, and without looking at her, while reaching behind a countertop for something, said something to the effect of, “I’m glad you came back for your wallet.” As the young man stood to face the customer, he immediately recognized her, but she did not recognize him. “I’m sorry,” she said; “I have never been in here before. I think you have me confused with someone else.” Still staring, the young man muttered something inaudible. “Sorry,” she stated, not apologetically, of course, but politely; “I didn’t catch that.” The young man began looking around the space as if the walls were going to come down around them or something. “I, uh,” the young man attempted, and then he burst into a joyful tone and with a huge smile responded, ”Holy fuck! How did, you shouldn’t, maybe we, uh, wait.” Confused, she continued to stand in that shop while the young man ran back into the backroom through the curtained doorway.

A moment later, the young man returned with a package for her, “You should leave since we don’t know the exact parameters of this iteration.” “What?” she asked, still fully confused. “What, what?” the young man asked, also confused by her negligence and somewhat aloofness. “Here take this, and then I’ll be in touch with you,” the young man urged while setting the package on the counter and motioning for her to take it. Despite not knowing exactly what was going on, she decided to take the package. “Yes, that’s good,” the young man stated, still smiling; “I’m so happy to see you. You look amazing. You’re so beautiful. How’s your life?” “Uh,” she wondered aloud; “I’m sorry, but how do you know me?” At this point, the young man now also felt confused and, knowing the risk, walked around the counter to face her directly, “What do you mean?” She inched away from the young man and suddenly felt that pang of heart-broken, stomach-emptying dullness. She leaned forward to look at the young man’s face. Immediately, the young man’s face changed, softened, and then he dropped his head and spoke almost in a whisper, “Take the package, open it somewhere safe, when you’re alone, and come back tomorrow. I’ll look out for you just after midday.” “What’s in the package,” she asked. “You’ll find out as soon as you open it,” the young man explained with sad, aching eyes as he looked at her. Not really knowing what to say at this point, she turned to leave the shop. Just as she reached the door, she looked back behind her, “Thank you.” “I’ve missed you so much,” the young man responded. She stopped and turned to face him again, “What did you say?” “It’s nothing,” the young man clarified; “I’ll see you tomorrow.”

Thoroughly uncomfortable, she left the shop and walked toward her house. As she watched one foot step in front of the other, the lighting of the world around her changed, like when some thick clouds passed in front of the sun, but instead of growing dimmer, everything turned bluer. She looked around herself and saw that everything was turning blue. Confused, she suddenly heard the voice of the young man, and then she saw him running toward her from the shop. The space between them took on a purple hue, but when she looked from side to side, the world was still quite blue. “Come here! Come here, now! Run!” the young man yelled; “Run toward me!” Shocked, she could not move. “Hurry!” the young man continued to yell. As he drew closer, the world started to turn green, a violent, shocking green. She decided that she would listen and started to walk toward the young man who was running toward her. Within another few seconds, the young man grabbed her and held her tight, “I love you. I’m sorry I didn’t find you sooner.” The warmth of his body felt so good to her that she let go of all the random feelings she felt and responded, “I love you, too. So much.” Her own words startled her, but they revealed themselves to be true. The young man grabbed her face with both his hands and looked deep into her eyes, “Whenever we end up, I promise, I will find you.” “I don’t know what you mean,” she gasped as tears began to fall down her cheeks for some reason unknown to her. “I know, and you’re going to be alright. Just try to remember to stay calm and stay on the move. Also, try to remember …”

She wracks her mind for the last thing that he said to her, but there’s nothing. The last thing she remembers is a whooshing sound almost like the sound a zipper makes in the dark. She looks beyond the pool of purple water, through the horizon and then tilts her head to gaze up into the nighttime sky. She splashes the water with her feet as she tries to remember the guiding words of the young man. “Stay calm and stay on the move,” echoes through her mind. What did he mean by that? she wonders.

Bubbles, the Executioners swirl around her feet once more, causing a small whirlpool that begins to splash her. Feeling the splashes but seeing no evidence of getting wet, she sits, and then she remembers. “I remember something. I think,” she says aloud to the Executioners. “Yes,” they respond. “But I don’t understand it. Is it a memory or something else?” she asks. The Executioners swirl around some more, “Do you not remember what you remembered as a memory?” She thinks for a moment, “I have no memories because I don’t remember anything.” “Yes, we have talked about this already,” the Executioners admit. Standing now, indignant, she raises her voice as she pitches forward to shout at the water, “Then why won’t you help me and answer my questions!” she asks. “We do not have the answers,” the Executioners explain; “We know what you know, and if you don’t know something, we cannot know it either.” “But you told me about the Listmaker,” she contends. “A Listmaker,” the Executioners clarify. “Okay, fine, a Listmaker. So, what? You told me about that, and I didn’t know that that was who I needed to visit,” she continues. “Yes,” the Executioners concede; “We were able to tell you about how you need to find a Listmaker because you already know at when you need to arrive next, even if you are not aware of it now. Somewhere, deep in your mind, you already know when and where you need to go.” She accepts this on some level and then asks, “How?” The Executioners cease their swirl, “You just don’t remember.” Frustration flushes her face. “Do not fret,” the Executioners cheerfully bubble again; “The when is coming, and once you are when you are supposed to be, you will begin to remember, but only if you can find a Listmaker.” She sighs and audibly grunts, incensed. And then a small whisper tingles the tips of her toes, Stay calm and stay on the move. “Ugh!” she exclaims at the waters. “Yes,” the Executioners agree; “Stay calm and stay on the move. The when has come. It’s time to leave.” Filled with worry and dread, she shouts, “Where am I going!” “Not where, when,” the Executioners reiterate. “Fine! When!” she shouts in futility. The Executioners disperse and their answer radiates through the air in a murmur she can barely hear, “But you know. Find what you cannot remember.”

With the final breeze of the Executioners words, the purple pool begins to swell. Red droplets of rain fall from above and turn the purple pool into a crisp clear. Intuitively, she jumps into the water. As if the glass house was lit from the inside, a blinding white light expands out from her glass house and fills the surrounding space around her. She melts. She floats. Colorful droplets of various pigments slowly splash and sprinkle above her and diffuse all around her. She warms. The scene of a lush, green landscape forms before her. Underfoot, a dirt road stretches out, cutting through the green foliage, eventually opening out into a clearing, which leads to a dark-blue shuttered, white, colonial-type, country home in desperate need of repair. The sun beams down upon her face as she lifts her face to it. Stay calm, she reminds herself. Then she remembers the next part, Stay on the move. And so, shod in her fancy shoes, she walks down the dirt road toward the semi-tattered house.

Lists of Lists

Lists of Lists

He writes a list for the day. Adamant, every single task that must be accomplished he outlines within a doable amount of time and writes each item on a roll of receipt paper. To transpose a day’s list here would be impractical and purposeless. Nevertheless, an example of the day’s first hour:

0630 – 0635 Wake

0637 – 0638 Get out of bed

0638 – 0639 Walk to bathroom

0639 – 0645 Relieve the pee

0645 – 0646 Wash hands, rinse mouth with water

0646 – 0647 Dry hands on brown and blue towel

0647 – 0649 Exit bathroom, return to bedroom

0649 – 0650 Put on robe

0650 – 0651 Walk to kitchen, turn on coffee maker

0651 – 0652 Pick a bowl from the cupboard and a spoon from the drawer, set both on eating counter

0652 – 0653 Grab coffee mug from drying rack and turn upright onto the counter in front of coffee maker

0653 – 0654 Choose an oatmeal from fridge and grab almond milk, place on eating counter next to bowl and spoon and counter in front of coffee maker, respectively

0654 – 0655 Pour oatmeal into bowl and almond milk into mug, return both to fridge

0655 – 0656 Stir oatmeal with spoon and wait to reach room temperature

0656 – 0659 Sit at eating counter, wait for coffee to finish

0659 – 0702 Open blinds

0702 – 0705 Pour coffee into mug, sit at eating counter, sip coffee as oatmeal warms

0705 – 0710 Eat oatmeal, drink coffee

0710 – 0713 Wash bowl and spoon, set in drying rack

0713 – 0714 Refill coffee mug with almond milk and coffee, turn off coffee maker

0714 – 0716 Grab newspaper from front porch, breathe in thirty-seconds of fresh air

0716 – 0717 Walk to desk, set coffee on desk, sit with newspaper

0717 – 0730 Read newspaper

At some point during the day, “Write tomorrow’s to-do list” is the next thing on the day’s to-do list to do. The circumstance of listing the task of writing the next day’s to-do list creates an irregular sensation to write another list listing what ought to be listed in the next day’s to-do list, and so, a new list forms, which ultimately returns him to the day’s list that needs to be finished, but the completion of the day’s list rests upon the listing of the next day’s listed listings. 

Eventually, night falls, and the room grows dark. He consults the day’s list but soon realizes he does not know the time, and just as the thought hits his conscious mind, the clock begins to chime. Eighteen hundred, he thinks to himself. He consults the day’s list once more and reads:

1800 – 1801 Consult the day’s list

He consults the day’s list for one minute, and then he reads:

1801 – 1810 Complete tomorrow’s to-do list

He begins to complete the next day’s to-do list, always in reverse order by writing what must be done last first, when the doorbell rings and interrupts him with the first hour of his day left bare. Unsure again of the time, he looks at the clock, the time reads 1810. He consults the day’s list.

1810 – 1811 Answer the door to see who knocks

Obedient, he walks to the front door and opens the door—a stranger. Cautious, he keeps his foot behind the door. “Good evening, sir. I hope I’m not interrupting,” the stranger begins; “My name is Cinoa. How are you today?” “One moment please,” he responds as he shuts the door. He consults the day’s list.

1811 – 1814 Find out what the stranger at the door wants

Noting the three-minute allotment for this particular interaction, he decides to consult the next few line items.

1814   – ____ Do as you’re told

____ – ____ Return home

He agrees and walks back to the front door. As he opens the door, the stranger, Cinoa, speaks up before he can get a word out, “Please, sir, I just need one moment of your time.” “Okay, yea, sure. How can I help you?” he responds.

Cinoa, stuttering, nervous, “Jus, just, uh, one, uh, moment.” Wringing a few sheets of paper between his hands, Cinoa looks down at the sheets and mumbles slightly as he reads. “Right, yes, oh right, yes,” Cinoa whispers to himself. “Are you the owner of this house?” Cinoa finally asks. “Yes,” the homeowner states. “Great. Then please, sir, come out here with me, if you don’t mind. I’d like to show you something,” Cinoa reads from his sheets of paper. “Very well,” the homeowner obliges. The two walk around to the side of the home, an aged, cumbersome house of natural wood. Cinoa points to a corner of roofing, “See that there?” “Sure, yes,” the homeowner acknowledges. “That’s a good sign that you’re in need of a new roof,” Cinoa explains as he consults his sheets of paper again, and then he continues, “Do you mind if I get on the roof to check for any other problem areas?” “Sure, that’s no problem,” the homeowner again obliges. Cinoa looks at the homeowner, then back at the sheet one more time, “No.” “No, what?” the homeowner asks. “You were supposed to say, ‘No,’” Cinoa clarifies. “Oh,” the homeowner states. Feeling a little shocked, the homeowner apologizes, “I’m sorry, just one moment, please.” Cinoa nods and stands, “I’ll just wait here.” The homeowner walks sideways for a bit as he dismisses himself from Cinoa’s presence and returns to his house to consult the day’s to-do list.

1823 – 1825 Walk back inside house to consult the day’s to-do list

1825 – 1828 Return to stranger and refuse the offer and be adamant that it’s all a sham

1828 – 1830 Argue with the stranger and escort him off the property

1830 – 1831 Return home

Running now, the homeowner rushes around the house to speak with Cinoa, “I’m sorry, you were right. No, I’m not interested in whatever you’re trying to do here. It’s all a sham of some sort or something, I’m sure.” “Okay, sir. There’s no need to get angry. I was simply trying to provide you a necessary service,” Cinoa responds. “Aren’t you supposed to insist?” the homeowner asks. “No, I’m to respond politely and respect your wishes,” Cinoa states. “I think you’re supposed to try to convince me that you really ought to look at my roof. I mean, look at the thing; it’s nearly falling apart!” the homeowner insists. “It’s not up to me to convince you,” Cinoa explains. “Then what are we to argue about?” the homeowner states at the same time he realizes that they are indeed already arguing now. “Ah, yes,” the two respond simultaneously, satisfied. “Great,” the homeowner smiles as he motions with an arm to lead Cinoa off his property. “Perfect,” Cinoa states while collecting himself and acknowledging the homeowner’s gesture to remove him from the property.

They two walk together amicably along the side of the house and across the front yard to a small dirt driveway. “Have you lived here long?” Cinoa chats. The homeowner simply looks at Cinoa. “I get it,” Cinoa responds; “No small talk, eh?” “Not today, apparently,” the homeowner concedes. “Sure, sure,” Cinoa mutters to fill the silence. Once Cinoa reaches the dirt drive, the homeowner turns on his heels and heads back to his house. “Alright, bye! Thanks again,” Cinoa shouts out. The homeowner ignores the farewell, does not wave a hand and quickly hops up the steps to the front porch, never looking back.

1831 – 1833 Through the front door window, verify that the stranger left.

He walks back to the front door and stares out over the front porch and front yard, through the window. Cinoa still stands on the dirt drive; he waves at the homeowner whom he can see through the front door. The two stare at each other over the distance that separates them. He stands for the allotted two minutes, but Cinoa does not leave. Anxious, he consults the day’s list.

1833 – 1834 Invite the stranger in for coffee

He walks back to the front door, opens it and stands upon the front porch. Waving at Cinoa now, he shouts loudly, “Do you want to come in for some coffee?” “Sure,” Cinoa gladly accepts; “I thought you’d never ask.” Cinoa makes his way to the house while the homeowner leaves the front door open, makes his way back to his desk, and consults his list.

1834 – 1835 Make coffee, take list with you, keep in pocket

1835 – 1836 Ask the stranger how he likes his coffee

1836 – 1837 Prepare two mugs

1837 – 1900 Make small talk

Hearing Cinoa’s feet hit the wood floors of the foyer, the homeowner shouts, “I’m back here, in the kitchen. Keep walking straight past the stairs and down the hall. How do you take your coffee?” “Black’s fine or with one sugar cube, if you have sugar cubes,” Cinoa admits as he reaches the kitchen. The kitchen opens out to the left after the hallway. Cinoa appears in the doorway between the fridge and a full-length, cupboard-type pantry. “Come on in,” the homeowner invites as he busies himself preparing the two mugs; “You can sit at the eating counter over there.” Comfortable, Cinoa makes his way through the kitchen, past the kitchen’s middling island countertop area, behind the eating counter to the stools that face back into the kitchen. “I’ll stand,” Cinoa decides. “If you must,” the homeowner jovially comments.

Cinoa has a look around. The kitchen opens into a living-room area that’s carpeted, unlike the hardwood of the foyer and hallway, also unlike the kitchen which is floored in some sort of blue tile. One large, blue couch sits on the farthest wall from the kitchen, an even larger window sits behind it. The wall that extends out from the left side of the couch, back toward the kitchen is littered with small windows all of various shapes and sizes. Each window has accompanying blinds that fit exactly within each respective window’s shape and size. “I like those windows,” Cinoa admits. “Yes, they are nice,” the homeowner agrees. “How long have you lived here?” Cinoa asks. The homeowner looks at him, as if studying Cinoa’s intent. “Not long,” the homeowner lies. “Really?” Cinoa questions; “That seems odd.” “How so?” the homeowner humors. “Well, it’s just that the clean, modern interior of this house definitely doesn’t match the almost rotting exterior of the thing,” Cinoa explains. “What does that have to do with how long I’ve lived here?” the homeowner asks, confused. “Oh, nothing, I suppose,” Cinoa mutters.

The coffee maker gurgles and puffs a short spout of steam to signify its completion of its task. “I don’t have any sugar cubes, but I do have sugar,” the homeowner offers. “Oh, no sugar then,” Cinoa responds; “Black’s fine.” “Sure,” the homeowner obliges as he pours the coffee from its pot. “Say, you have any family?” Cinoa, feeling nosey, asks. “Yes,” the homeowner lies again. He places the strangers coffee in front of him on the eating counter while he remains standing within the bounds of the kitchen, “Please, have a seat.” “I’ll stand,” Cinoa states, almost defiantly and then prods, “And?” “And what?” requests the homeowner. “Your family,” Cinoa clarifies. “Yes, I have family,” the homeowner reiterates. “Of what sort?” Cinoa prys. “Of all sorts,” the homeowner retorts. “Very well,” Cinoa concedes with a small chuckle; “I just thought we were gonna get to know each other a little. I mean, you’re the one who invited me in.” The two sip coffee for a moment, quietly slurping, silently standing. 

‘Be a good little girl.’

‘Be a good little girl.’

Patiently waiting, Attila stands by the only door in the room while the students slowly make their way toward her so that they may all walk together to the banquet. As the last set joins the group, Attila easily reaches down for her duffel bag with her right hand as she pushes down upon the door handle to push the door open. In an unnoticeable instant to the students who follow behind, Attila gasps as she attempts to grasp the door handle, under the realization that the door needed to be pulled open. A wave of grief, suspense, the cold chill of horror washes over her and presses deep into the top of her right shoulder creating a trigger point that shoots electric pain through the upper right trapezius of her back and down through her right arm. She drops the duffel.

In slow motion now, the room begins to tear into thin strips as if the reality around her were made of paper. As each strip releases itself from the larger whole, the strip itself pops into confetti-sized shards that wisp away like ash from a campfire. With body tied to the pace of the disintegrating room, Attila’s eyes are free to roam about at full speed. The students tear in half and away they float. Once time catches up to the setting, Attila finds herself walking through a threshold, into a large, open, airy, dark, sparkling space. Looking behind her now, subtly, over her left shoulder, she notices the revolving door through which she must have just arrived.  A sharp, beautiful, tall couple swirl around the door and into the space. Dressed in the fanfare of fanciful festivities, Attila feels as though she must be underdressed. To her surprise but not really, she looks down to see that she is indeed dressed appropriately. In a perfectly floor-length, emerald gown, adorned over in black lace, she pokes a toe out from under the thing to see the rounded toe-box of a simple, black patent-leather, stiletto. Of a white with a metallic sheen, the sort of raw metallicity of platinum, she also wears gloves. Unknown to her at the moment for without a mirror, how could she know, Attila wears platinum earrings that are shaped like small wings with the inside of the wing portion that lines the outer edge of her face encrusted in spinels of black and a green that matches her gown that slowly disperse into the naked metal. Conscientiously, she touches her hair, some sort of waved, curled, loose updo.

Slightly perplexed but no longer surprised, Attila takes in the room as she continues to stand in, what could essentially be considered, the middle of the space, although, since the space acts as more of a foyer than a room in and of itself, the space in which she currently stands sort of lacks a center. No matter, she stands and looks about the place. Curved, the wall with the revolving door continues around behind her for a bit and then reaches around the left side of her, and then, it seems as if the wall comes to a point with the right wall that reaches away from the revolving door to the right, only to curve as well around the right of her, meeting up with the left side of the wall somewhere far away, down a hallway, the hallway that also curves slightly to the right and disappears, the hallway through which she would eventually walk if she walked exactly straight for fifty meters or so. Before she would reach that hallway, however, a wide staircase would tempt her to ascend toward the upper floors. The stairs, as they rise upward through the space narrow. The half-way landing serves as a small balcony that looks out through that left wall, made solely of glass that extends back into that hallway and up to the ceiling of the fourth or fifth floor. Turning on itself, the stairs continue to climb until reaching the second floor. She counts. Four balconies lookout and down into the foyer area in which she currently still stands, causing the airy atmosphere. In her immediate space, a tall, silvery tree stands, decorating that left wall. From the outside, the place must glow wildly in the night. Perched atop the silver tree, a red bell twinkles ever so often.

Attila decides to examine the tree more closely, since, as the awkwardness of her standing there dawns on her, she realizes that she must look quite awkward. Slowly, she gracefully glides over to the tree. As she gets closer, she realizes that the tree is not a tree at all. Instead, individually potted, white poinsettias sit inside a frame to make the shape of a tree. Dusted in a silvery glitter, the whole thing ignites into a blaze of light as the glitter on the leaves reflects and refracts the strands of white light wrapped around the metal frame that holds each potted plant. Curious, Attila reaches out a hand to touch a leaf. Just as she does so, the arms of a small child reach out toward her. She screams and drops the glass of champagne. The champagne spills all over her dress before it shatters all over the floor. When did I get that glass? she wonders, quickly. The giggles of small children emanate from within the tree. “Why you fucking little. Get out here right now!” Attila whisper-shouts. More giggles and laughter. Embarrassed, she looks around to see if anyone has noticed. Of course, everyone on the first and second floors notices and every eye in the place looks directly at her. A server makes his way to her with napkins while another server fetches something with which to clean up the mess. “So sorry,” Attila sings with a nervous giggle. The people return to their own business. As the server with the napkins approaches her, Attila looks down at her gown to assess the damage. Looking up to the server who rushed to her aide, she notices that the server does not have a napkin, but instead, he stands there with a tray of champagne glasses filled with champagne.

“Ma’am,” a server begins, “would you like a glass of champagne this evening?” Attila looks around the room, and at its center, she still stands. “Uh,” she stammers; “Yes, thank you.” The server gives her a courteous nod and excuses himself from her presence. Then, Attila sees a shadow of herself walking toward the tree. Once seen, the shadow disappears. Remembering the faint recollection of the earlier happenings, Attila walks, determined, toward the silver tree. Knowing what she knows, she stands just far enough to hinder the trigger of the mischievous children hidden within. Looking around the room as if unaware of the tree, Attila quickly approaches the tree, grabs for the poinsettia from which the arms emerged, removes it from the frame creating the shape of a tree, and throws the champagne into the unsuspecting face of the child sitting within. A child screams out in disgust. The sound of maybe two other children laughing satisfies her greatly. “Crazy bitch,” the champagne-covered child spits and mutters barely audible. “That’s it,” Attila remarks as she begins to tear potted poinsettia after potted poinsettia from the tree-shaped frame, revealing the hidden children inside. Gasps of horror and sheer societal disbelief roars throughout the festive space. A few of the servers and staff rush over to help quell the disaster. “Get out here right now!” Attila yells; “Where the fuck are your parents!” A distinguished-looking gentleman runs, well, walks quickly, as a gentleman in the presence of his societal peers never runs, toward Attila and subdues her by grabbing her by the waist with his right hand and by the left arm with his left hand. “Attila,” the distinguished gentleman whispers as he continues to hold her tightly and walk her away from judging eyes; “Darling, please don’t embarrass me and your mother like this.”

Walking down that hallway now, Attila thrashes herself free from the distinguished gentleman. She looks at his face and a name rises into her mind, Nigel … dad … fuck. “What the fucking shit, Nigel? Those fucking little brats need to be punished,” Attila fits in a storm of rage. “What kids? Those kids under the tree? Oh, shit, Attila. Don’t tell me you’re forgetting again,” Nigel responds. Forgetting? Again? The rage subsides as a new emotion takes control. Fuck. Orphans … the party is for the fucking orphans. “And I just fucking … goddammit,” Attila speaks aloud after the remembrance catches up with her. “I swear to god, Attila,” Nigel fumes; “Your mother knew this would not be a good idea. So, for jesus-fucking-christ’s sake, get your shit together or get the fuck out of here, now!” Nigel backs away from her a bit and drops his head, looking defeated, “I have to go deal with this shit storm now.” “I’m sorry,” Attila says, emotionless with eyes that dare her father to say more. “Just … just leave,” Nigel states as he begins to walk away. “Wait, Dad,” Attila attempts with a voice of childlike innocence. Nigel stops walking for a moment but does not turn to face her. He sighs, “What?” “What day is it? Like the date. What’s today’s date?” Attila asks. Nigel turns and faces her now with a look of utter disgust, “Attila, I cannot do this with you again.” “But,” Attila tries again. “No!” Nigel yells with the slice of his right hand; “Shut up! Just shut the fuck up and get the hell out of here! Now!” Stepping back a step from the sheer force of her father’s violence, Attila feels a small twinge of trigger-point pain shooting through the back of her right shoulder and down her right arm. Nigel breathes out a deep breath and continues to walk away, toward the festive festivities. Alone in the swooping corridor where the two walls, through which the revolving door allows entrance into this god-forsaken place, seemingly come to a point, Attila turns her back on her father as well and begins to walk deeper into the curving hallway.

Double doors approach on the right as Attila walks. Of the sort that signify a kitchen must reside beyond them, each door swings from outer hinges, never fully making contact at the center. Two large, circular windows allow a viewer, either looking in or peering out, a view. Attila stands on the perceived outside, and therefore, looks into the room, a large, industrial-like space, unlike the kitchen in which she taught her cooking class earlier … today? Attila suddenly wonders. Clinks of pots and roars of fans vibrate through the doors into Attila’s ears. Maybe not, she decides and continues to walk on, down the curving hall. One of the doors opens behind her, and a voice speaks out, “Attila!” Attila turns to see the person who yells. A name surfaces, Wen. Wen continues, “There you are. Your mother asked about you, but I didn’t know where you were.” Attila looks at Wen blankly and then looks down at the floor again. The carpet has an interesting pattern of wreaths or something, Attila notices as she cocks her head to make sense of the design. Where have I …? Concerned, Wen interrupts the thought and asks, “Are you alright? You don’t look so good.” Attila looks up at Wen’s face once again and cants forward a bit to get a better sense of Who is this person? “Attila?” Wen asks not for confirmation but rather, to focus Attila’s attention. “Yes,” Attila responds. “Why don’t you come in the kitchen, and I’ll get you something to eat,” Wen offers, again very concerned. Attila searches for an answer, Goddammit. “Are you hungry?” Wen asks. No. “Sure,” Attila responds and walks toward the double doors that swing. “Alright,” Wen states, satisfied, and then continues with what seems to be a bit of personal knowledge, “You can hang out in here for a while. I know how much you love these things.” Do I? Attila wonders to herself, and then forces out a small chuckle to normalize the situation.

And then, as Attila approaches Wen, Wen grabs Attila’s left arm and forcibly pulls Attila through the one open door of the double doors and shuts it behind her. Thrown, Attila lands on her knees and elbows on a warm rug atop a hard, wooden floor. Quickly, she scrambles around to see the door through which Wen threw her. A single wood door swings in at a small, rapid pace the way that doors of this kind do just before they come to a stop, centered within their frames. Motherfucker. Seated upon the floor, she gets a good look at the place. Nothing stands out as knowable. The room is a sort of sitting area that she assumes connects to a living or dining room through the swinging wooden door. Behind her and to the right, the room has a large, open archway that leads to some foyer-type passageway. Directly behind her, large windows open outward, bay window comes to mind. She’s always sort of liked windows in which a person can sit. Behind and to the left, an over-sized plant that’s beginning to be scrunched by the ceiling, forced to bend forward, climbing the ceiling now. On her left, a soft, white sofa. Ugh. She can see, what looks to be, the front door, also wooden, with a stained-glass window embellishing the upper-half of the door. With a deep sigh, she lies down on the rug and stares. Clouds, painted in a realism unmatched by anything she’s seen before, the clouds begin to move, in a natural pattern of an actual skyscape. Interesting, but nice, floats through her mind as she relaxes ever so slightly.

A searing tension strikes her through the trigger point in the back of her right shoulder before she even hears the words of the people not yet in the room with her, she feels them. A young man and young woman appear behind her. The woman holds a pair of massive, all-metal, silver bladed, solid-silver scissors. “Why are you sitting on the floor?” the woman asks. Attila takes in the two. The man holds a duffel bag, Is that? “Yes,” the man answers. “What are you doing here?” the woman prods further. “I,” Attila starts; “You wanted me to drop by sometime, so here I am.” Of course, Attila just shoots in the dark, until she realizes a small, perhaps significant realization. Slowly, she peels herself off the floor and takes a knowingly unwelcome seat upon the white couch. “Please don’t sit on the couch,” the woman sighs. Attila quickly stands up, “Oh, sorry.” The three stand, the man and woman stare at Attila while she stares back, splitting her attention between them. For an unknowable amount of time, they stare, and eventually recognize the impasse.

Finally, the woman speaks aloud, “Tell us what you know.” “There’s nothing to tell,” Attila admits, knowing full well that there must be something she can say, but what that thing is remains lost on her. “It’s been a strange day,” the woman consoles; “Let’s just keep it civil.” “Sorry?” Attila asks; “What do you mean by ‘civil’?” The woman looks down at the scissors, adroit, then turns them within her hand. “May I at least have my bag?” Attila gently pleads. “This is not yours,” the man explains. “Of course it is. I lost it at some point,” today?, Attila states with a little defiance. The young man and young woman laugh aloud, albeit softly. “Oh my, oh my,” the woman mocks, and then continues, “I guess this will have to be done another way.” The woman begins to walk toward Attila. Attila evades the young woman, but the man blocks the front door. The man gestures as if compliant and steps out of the way. A straight shot to the stained-glass door. Attila makes a move to exit, and the woman throws a glass vase onto the exposed wooden floor where the rug on which they currently stand comes to an end. The distance to the long, narrow rug that assumedly runs the length of a hallway unseen from this perspective is too vast for Attila to jump safely. Why am I barefoot? “You’re almost naked,” the woman clarifies. Attila looks down, she is indeed almost naked, dressed in nothing but some underwear and a t-shirt. What the fuck? 

She decides to make a run for it and jumps only to land on a few shards of glass. Sharp, the pain from the glass stuck in her right foot makes her hurriedly step down upon her left foot only to pierce her left foot with more glass. She launches herself to the rug in front of the front door. Gently, she reaches down to examine her feet closely. The young man and young woman look amused, and then they look at each other. Precisely, slowly, determined, the woman walks toward Attila and merely walks over the shards of glass as the pieces crinkle and crunch under foot. Attila, almost crying now, crawls toward the front door. Lifting the enormous scissors on high, the woman means to stab Attila through the back. Just as Attila grabs for the door to pull it open, the door falls away from her, and just as she falls through the doorway the scissors make contact with her flesh.

She screams out in pain as she collapses on the floor while a heaping mound of coats, shoes, umbrellas and the like pour out from the closet behind her. “Attila!” yells a voice. Mom? “What did I tell you about playing in that closet?” her mother continues. Weeping, heaving on the ground in unbelievable pain, Attila shouts out, “Mom! I’m going to die!” “What the hell are you talking about? Get up!” her mother berates. “Mom! My feet, my back, I’ve been tortured and stabbed!” Attila continues, convinced. “What? There’s not a thing wrong with you. Get up, now!” her mother shouts even angrier this time as she grabs Attila’s arm to bring her to a stand. What the? Attila gets a look at her feet. Nothing. She pauses for a moment, no pain. She grapples at her back, nothing. And then something even stranger reveals itself to her; she looks at her hands. Why are my hands so small? Why is my mother so … tall? What the fucking hell is … “Go to your room right now! I do not have the time for these games yet again, today, Attila. March!” her mother yells while pointing up a set of stairs. Lost, confused, Attila looks at her mother in disbelief. Her mother’s face softens, “Attila, darling, today’s not a good day. Please, just do as we talked about and play quietly in your room. There are very important people coming over tonight. I need you to be a good little girl, alright?” As her mother spoke, her mother slowly bent down to make eye-to-eye contact as she gently placed one hand on each of Attila’s shoulders, and then almost begs, “Can you please do that for me?” A sharp pain sears through Attila’s mind. She flinches. Her mother watches, “We can talk about whatever’s going on with you tomorrow, okay?” Silent, Attila turns and walks up the stairs. She has no idea where to go, but continues to walk in whatever direction feels right.

A door is cracked open. She walks toward it to find what looks to be a room for a small female child. A sigh. I don’t know. Sitting in the far corner of the room, a full-length mirror looks all too appealing. Attila approaches the mirror, and as she gets a full look at the situation she glimpsed downstairs, a new reality befalls her. She grabs her face, the face of a small child, dressed in a small dress, shod in small, black, patent-leather shoes.

>…<

continued on weekends, until The End^^

…also, on Medium @amateurtattletale

Liminial Illumination

Liminial Illumination

“Hello, everybody! I thought that I would just check in with you all today with this video here to share my meditations on beauty and my daily regimen of the ‘Four Hs’ for sanity. I know that the world is a busy place that becomes busier with each passing day, and I also know how important it is to feel your best, to be your best self, and for me that always includes looking my best. If I don’t look good, I definitely don’t feel good. So, this is what I’ve done for all you beauties who want to succeed every day at life.

“First off, I’ve compiled a checklist of the ‘Four Hs’ that you must complete by the end of each day in order to find the balance that I have finally found after all these years of building my expertise on beauty and what that means. They are so important that not only have I outlined what each ‘H’ stands for along with its essence, I’ve also researched the best products that you can use in order to see the quickest results. The important thing to remember is that beauty belongs to you. Whatever you define beauty as is what beauty means to you. So, feel free to use this video as a guide to finding what you consider beautiful. Let’s get started shall we?”

“Hey, man, thanks so much for being here,” the host begins. “Oh yea, of course, it’s my pleasure,” guest one responds gratefully. “So, let’s just get started, shall we?” The guest nods in approval, “Yea, of course, why not!” “Great! So, I hear you have a concern that you’d like to share with all of us,” the host inquires. “Yea, you know how I’m sort of a big deal,” the guest sarcastically suggests as the audience laughs and cheers on cue. “Well, yes, I suppose you wouldn’t be here on my show if you weren’t,” the host complies. “Right. So, yea, I have this concern that has something to do with the color of your couches,” the guest continues. “Oh. I see, and what is it about the color of my couches that is of such great concern?” the host humors. “Yea, see look. I mean, your show is the only show I do watch on late-night television, and the thing I’ve sort of noticed is that a lot of your male guests wears suits that are very close to the color of your sofas, which sort of suggests that maybe the color of the sofas weren’t a great choice. I mean, it’s sort of distracting when a guest almost matches the couches. It makes the guest either look cheap, like, ‘Why does this guy own a suit the same color of sofas on a soundstage?,’ you know?” the guest explains. “Ah ha! I see what you mean. Yes, you, too, have fallen prey to the matchy-ness tonight,” the host jests. “No,” the guest clarifies, “I don’t lie, I watch your show, and look, my suit exactly matches the color of these couches. I even had my manager call your people to find out exactly what color these couches are so that I could buy a suit in exactly the same color. See, it’s like I’m part of your set,” the guest laughs forcibly. “Okay, okay. So, then what color are these couches?” the host asks curiously; “I genuinely don’t know.” “It’s cerulean!” the guest exuberantly states while cheering for himself. “Ah, I see. Well, I suppose there’s not much I can personally do about it, but I’ll be sure to bring it up at the next staff meeting,” the host concedes, and continues, “I’ve gotta say, you are the first person to mention this seemingly outrageous problem to our attention.” The guest feigns ignorance, “Am I really? Wow, that’s sort of incredible. Well, you know, I always just like to do what I can.” “That you do,” the host agrees, and directs, “Well, we have to take a quick break now, but maybe you can hang out with us a bit more and share more discrete observances. And then we’ll talk about why you’re really here. We’ll be right back, folks!”

“Later this year, if you don’t know it already, you know it now … the greatest movie of all time, featuring the greatest actors of all time, depicting the greatest moment of all time hits every big screen across and around the globe. Pay money to see it, or don’t see it at all! The Greatest Movie, Ever! Coming soon to a screen near you.”

“I always start my day around six-thirty in the morning. I usually wake up feeling relaxed and rejuvenated through the last step of each night, which will be the last step of this video. So, what I’m saying is that even though I wake up feeling so rested from my nightly routine, I don’t necessarily feel fresh and lively. Therefore, the most important part of my morning is the first ‘H’ — HYDRATION. Now, let me be clear, hydration is key throughout the entirety of your day, but hydrating fully, first thing in the morning, will change your life. I soooo totally promise. Since I’m such an avid supporter of keeping one’s self hydrated and well-lubricated to take on the day, I first sip water out of this Brand Name water bottle that sits on my nightstand after I fill it with fresh, filtered water the night before. When I wake up, I sit up in my bed and just drink as much water as I can. Sometimes I drink a little too much and then have a funny feeling stomach after my first cup of coffee, but that’s okay. I always feel much better after some breakfast.

“The next ‘H’ stands for HOLISTIC. When I think of holistics, I think wholeness, you know? Like I think of a full-body experience, and that experience comes in the form of a cleanliness. My favorite products come in a Brand Name set that includes cleansers and moisturizers for everything from my face all the way down to my toes. Obviously, the cleansing step needs to be gentlest on the face and strongest on the feet. So, this Brand Name set makes the whole, haha, get it, whole process really easy, which I think makes the system very holistic. There are six bottles included within the set, two for each area of the body. They’re color coded too, so the two face bottles are this gorgeous light blue, the body bottles are this incredible blue blue, and the foot bottles are this, almost like majestic, deep sea blue. Take the face bottles and just cleanse and then moisturize the face. Do the same on your body and your feet, and there you have it! A holistic cleansing system to start off your day while showering and maintaining a holistic sense of cleanliness.

“Now, as your day progresses, different sorts of challenges will come your way, and it’s important to set aside time to HEAL, the third ‘H,’ like right?, to my ‘Four Hs’ for beauty. You know, like how some days are just filled with toxic people or toxic situations? I mean, some days are just totally awesome, but still it’s good to heal from the constant giving of yourself throughout the day. No matter who you are, you give give give, all the time, usually without giving it much thought, you know? So, I think it’s really important to find time throughout your day to heal, and my favorite way to heal is to wash my hands. I love how washing your hands is like a metaphor for washing your sins or washing off the grime from your day. So, that is absolutely why I love Brand Name hand cleanser. I mean, just look at this perfect, purse-sized packaging. It’s just perfect and beautiful. So, I just keep this in my purse so that whenever I need a little moment of healing, I’ll find a washroom where I can wash my hands. Then, the best part is that I then use Brand Name lotion to really set in the rejuvenation. When I return to the world after washing and moisturizing my hands with Brand Name hand cleanser, I always feel healed, ready to take on whatever more the day throws at me. I totally know that it will help you too!”

“Welcome back to My Late-Night Spectacle. We’re here with one of the greatest actors of all time! He will be seen later this year in, The Great Movie, Ever. We have a clip from the movie to show all of you,” the host opens; “Is there anything you’d like to say before we roll it? Do you want to set it up somehow?” “No, not really,” the guest admits. “Alright, then. Here it is for your viewing pleasure,” the host introduces.”

“Later this year, if you don’t know it already, you know it now … the greatest movie of all time, featuring the greatest actors of all time, depicting the greatest moment of all time hits every big screen across and around the globe. Pay money to see it, or don’t see it at all! The Greatest Movie, Ever! Coming soon to a screen near you.”

“Wow!” the host congratulates; “That really looks great.” “Well, thank you, sir,” the host accepts. “I heard that this particular movie only came to be after a huge battle over something. Can you speak to that something at all?” the host asks. “No, not really,” the guest sternly states; “There are matters that ought not be shared in public. I will say this, though, the presumption was that this movie would be the greatest of all time, and so when the producers gave the task to the director to make sure that the movie would be the greatest ever, more than a few battles ensued, if you know what I mean,” the guest alludes. “Well, no we don’t know what you mean, but whatever. We’ve got to get to our musical guest for the night. Thank you so much for being here, man,” the host graciously excuses; “We’re gonna take a quick break, but stick around! When we return, So-And-So performs her new hit single, ‘Such-And-Such’!”

“Music makes the world go ‘round. Music is what makes life special. Access your favorite tunes from the hippest artists anywhere at any time with no fees, no suggests, and no commercials. STAUNCH provides everything you’d ever want to hear, even those songs you never thought you would ever love. Through the range of your device, STAUNCH brings every perfect harmony directly to you at no cost. Simply open your device to the STAUNCH service, and we’ll take care of all your data forever. No payments, no hassle, thank music! STAUNCH, we’re here to give you what you want.”

“Finally, the most important time of my day begins around ten at night when I cut myself off from the world as a small HIATUS. I think it’s important to not be so connected all day, so I usually take a bath, alone, with no distracting elements so that I can enjoy a nice little hiatus away from everything. The product I absolutely adore is Brand Name bath time soaps and suds. I just drop the Brand Name, wonderful smelling, bauble into the tub, and it transports me away from the ugliness in the world, into my own little sanctuary where I can feel beautiful and be beautiful. I mean, that’s the whole point of all of this anyway, right? I want to be as beautiful as I feel, and the Brand Name baubles do it for me every time I need a little escape.

So, there you have it, my ‘Four Hs’ to healthy living! Follow my regimen, and I know that you will find your beauty, too. You can have exactly this same luxurious day if you follow the links on my page where you can buy all of these Brand Name items for yourself. My ‘Four Hs’ for beauty have led me to where I am today. Without them, I don’t know what I’d do. I know you’ll love it too! Alright, well that’s all for this video. I hope you all have a great, beauty-filled day! Muah!”

“And now, please welcome the most popular single of the day on STAUNCH, ‘Such-And-Such,’ performed by the highest-rated artist on STAUNCH, ‘So-And-So,’ here to perform her most popular single.”

If you want to hold tight

Lovers in the moonlight

Givers from the highest height

Reach for something

Reach for anything

If you want to hold tight

Lovers in the moonlight

Reach for everything

[chorus]

Sometimes people never know

Sometimes people never know

What you say

What you say

What you say

You mentioned me out there

Over you my heart tears

Go beyond to face fears

Search for something

Search for anything

You mentioned me out there

Over you my heart tears

Search for everything

[chorus]

Sometimes people never know

Sometimes people never know

What you say

What you say

What you say

All I wanna do is make a move

All I wanna do is see the proof

To feel and share the love of all the world

All the world

All the world

[chorus]

Sometimes people never know

Sometimes people never know

What you say

What you say

What you say

If you want to hold tight

Lovers in the moonlight

Givers from the highest height

Reach for something

Reach for anything

If you want to hold tight

Lovers in the moonlight

Reach for everything

[chorus]

Sometimes people never know

Sometimes people never know

What you say

What you say

What you say

“‘So-And-So,’ ladies and gentlemen! You can access the single on Staunch! Have a great night! See you tomorrow, here in the same place at the same time! Good night!”

Yes, you can lie.

Yes, you can lie.

But not to her.

As if being pulled backward through a tight, spiraling tunnel, a free-floating hand touches pointer finger to thumb while the three remaining fingers spread like feathers, a square television, those strings of lights that people used to, unsafely, wrap around flammable trees after the trees are parted from their outdoor roots and dragged indoors to die, those twinkling lights, an escapade, image after image flies swirling by, at first, glimpsed within the periphery only to come into sharp focus, alive, mocking. She hears a lullaby. Far away. ‘Time.’ She feels what most others can only see. Out there. ‘Space.’ She wonders if the paper that tears sheds tears shed. Here over anywhere. ‘And the will to rebel against both.’ Who, she contemplates, believes a liar?

Whether or not she refers to herself or to others, there is only one thing she consistently confirms, “The only truths are lies.” Of the lies she tells, there are favorites, and a particular favorite of the moment goes something like this:

In a far away place at a far away time, a girl named So Jeong lived in a small village seated in a mountainous valley. The valley, flanked by steep hillsides covered in the sorts of trees unlike those that change hues with the seasonal change from warm to cold and bloom with the seasonal change from cold to warm, instead, glow like hot flames always, begins to split at a point where the three peaks meet. From the place where the three peaks meet, the valley opens slowly into unknowing lands covered in apathy and cordiality. Despite this slow opening, the valley remains compact for many distances, and within this treacherous narrow, rests this small village in which she lived.

All knowable things stem from the point where the three peaks meet, and of those peaks, the middle-most peak, confirming the obviousness, stands tallest, reaches highest, pierces beyond the clouds, into the bluest of blue skies. As if hanging like a large bell from the sky itself, the middle-most peak reflects the blending of the bluest of blue sky against the fiery red and orange trees in a luxurious hue of a rich purple. At the base of the three peaks a small lake pools and gently releases itself through the narrow valley to the unknowing lands below where fields are covered in a soft, groundless, green grass. Groundless, not literally, of course but rather, the green grass grows in such thickness that the dirt within which the grass must, presumably, grow cannot be seen. Thus, with the height of the three peaks to the west and the flat, unknowing grasslands to the east, the village sits in the middle of time.  

As the story goes, she lived in this village among people who refused to speak of the three peaks, for the beauty of the middle-most peak was such that to speak of it at all would diminish its truth. Therefore, nobody born within the village ever spoke of the middle-most peak where the three peaks meet, and most never even looked upon the face of the middle-most peak. Those who were caught looking in the direction of the majestic peak suffered great reprimands. Born, however, in some other far away land at an even further away time, a small boy, according to the villagers, she says, looked upon the rocky, snow-capped, ever-present, middle-most peak every single day for hours at a time, but even he held enough respect within himself and never spoke of the magic to which he bore daily witness.

This, of course, like all things, changed. Forced upon the villagers through forces unknown to them, strangers from the unknowing lands began visiting the village and speaking of the peaks, even the middle-most peak. The villagers, being the good citizens that they were, responded not to what these strangers asked. A stranger, she explains, would approach a villager and ask questions regarding the peaks, questions such as, “Which way is the fastest way to the middle-most peak? How do you reach the three peaks? Have I arrived at the place where the three peaks meet?” Being from the unknowing lands, these people, of course, knew not of what they spoke. Thus, most villagers simply ignored these unknowing strangers, while some responded with questions of their own unrelated to the strangers’ inquiries.

Of course, anyone who stood so near to the peaks as the villagers and the intrusive strangers could see the peaks for themselves, no matter, the villagers simply pretended as if they had no idea about what peaks these strangers spoke. For a time, the crowds of strangers plodding through the village grew and grew with no apparent reason. Since the villagers could not speak of the three peaks, none asked the strangers about the purpose of their expeditions to the three peaks. Within the shortest amount of time, she continues, the villagers could no longer stand the constant prodding, treading and overall disrespectful nature of these unknowing strangers through their immaculate, peaceful valley. What could be done, however? The irrationality of it all made no sense to the villagers, and so, within that first short amount of time, all of the villagers stopped speaking to the strangers all together. Message of the silent villagers traveled quickly, and soon enough, the strangers ignored the villagers in return. The problem of the strangers’ travels, nevertheless, still remained, and despite the strangers’ seemingly learned, new-found silence, the villagers’ anger began to grow in tandem with the growth in the number of traveling strangers.

Left within the conundrum as unwilling participants in the obvious cliche to refuse passage to any unknowing stranger but willing still to rise to action against these unknowing strangers’ flippant inattention to the villagers’ way of life and the calm of the valley within which they live, the villagers decided they needed to come up with a plan that would resolve this conundrum. What they chose might be of great surprise to those unfamiliar with the ways of the valley’s villagers, she confesses almost with warning. What the villagers decided could never be known for sure, since the pleasure of telling this particular story, she teases, revolves around the differing fabrication of the villagers’ decision during each retelling. Thus, in this account, the villagers agreed to do nothing, to continue ignoring the passage of each traveler who journeyed to the middle-most peak where the three peaks meet. Familiar with the terrain and the general hostility of the wildlands in the village and throughout the valley, the villagers soon gave no concern to the travelers, as the number of travelers who made the return trip seemed impossibly small. To their best estimate, perhaps only one in every ten travelers traveled back down through the valley toward the unknowing lands. Assumedly, the villagers thought that the few who seemed successful, those who were passed through the village on a return trip, were actually only those who turned around before even attempting to scale the middle-most peak. What the villagers did not know, however, was that, yes, most did indeed perish before reaching the summit of the majestic peak, but some were simply living at the top, waiting for some unknown thing.

How was all of this known?, becomes the next obvious question to which she gently reminds that a small boy, a foreigner himself, spoke frequently to each unknowing stranger about their travels, since, he, decided long ago, would look upon the middle-most peak and would thus, be willing to speak about the middle-most peak to those also willing to speak of it. Nevertheless, what he learned could not be expressed nor shared with the villagers themselves for to shed this sort of knowledge upon them would disrespect the very thing they held so dear. Thus, as each traveler passed, much was learned about the unknowing lands but was never disseminated through the minds of the villagers.

For an entire age the unknowing strangers traveled and made their way through the village. Soon, the small boy was an intelligent man, and an entire generation of villagers had known nothing else other than the consistent, burdensome flow of the strangers. As the story goes, in one iteration the unknowing strangers pass through the village until the end of time, silently traveling through the village on a quest still unknown to the villagers. In a different iteration, at the end of the age, an exodus took place when all of the surviving travelers descended the middle-most peak en masse over the course of just a few days, with not a single other unknowing stranger traveling through the village ever again. Either outcome holds a certain probability of occurrence, with an infinite number of other outcomes being equally possible, although less probable, which would all make sense to the villagers if they knew why the strangers journeyed. Thus, for the iteration wherein the strangers traveled endlessly forever, the number of travelers decreased greatly over time until only a handful of strangers were ever seen over the course of any amount of time, and life for the villagers resumed its usual pace with the ever so often sighting of a unknowing stranger who was consistently met with no attention at all. As for the iteration wherein the strangers descended en masse all at once, of course, the villagers simply returned to their lives, never reminiscing of the age when strangers routinely passed through the village.

No matter, the story that matters depends on the person who believes the lies that she tells, she tells. Thus, the story that matters, today, reveals a sojourner so interested in the lies that the truth shall fall upon eager ears, into a willing mind. When the iteration wherein the unknowing strangers travel forever through the village, becoming sparser in number as the age grows long, the excellence of this particular tale sheds light upon that wanton truth of this eager sojourner. Accordingly, she excitedly begins, that story was told to her through a woman born within the village, who not only knew of the event that happened so quickly and yet so unwittingly as the only witness, but also, the woman was privy to the particulars surrounding the subject of the story as [Name] held the prestigious title of friend. Luckily for the eager sojourner, [Name] willingly tells the story as such:

Near the beginning of the age of unknowing strangers who traveled through the village en route to the top of the middle-most peak where the three peaks meet but before the strangers began traveling, you would’ve seen a small boy, belonging to no one within the village, who appeared in the cool, damp, morning light of the sun that signified the change away from the warm season toward the cold. Impossibly small yet impeccably clean, the small boy went unnoticed for only a minute before a similarly small and clean old man stumbled upon the small boy. The possibility that the small boy belonged to someone in the village beyond the old man’s knowledge was small but there, you could see it. Thus, the old man walked the small boy into the village center where, within an instant, the majority of the villagers around the village center gathered to hear the words of the old man. Immediately, all of the villagers understood that the small boy was either lost or abandoned since not a single person recognized him. And so, being the small, narrow village that it was, a few villagers, including you, cautiously approached the small boy with a slew of questions only to be met with silence. As the world spun beneath the warmth of the sun, the boy sat in the center of the village center as villager after villager attempted to lure words from the boy’s mouth.

Unreasonably quiet, the boy sat, calm, studiously listening to the concerns whispered between villagers. Finally, the boy stood from his small perched crouch upon the ground and spoke that he lived there before some time ago in the future. You were confused by the words yet delighted to hear them, the villagers agreed upon a family, your family, who lived on the edge of the village where the hospitable grounds of the valley became treacherous hillside, to take care of the small boy, if only for the night until a more permanent solution could come to fruition.

To the small boy’s delight, the impermanence of the eventual situation became the permanent solution, thus, the boy lived temporarily with every household in the village, and over time, the small boy eventually grew to consider a small corner above the village laundry, where he worked for you ever since he curiously wandered into the space within the first week of his arrival, his home. Still attached to a handful of families around the village, the now young man popped in from time to time to share meals and share life, but the young man’s silence remained constant, never speaking unless spoken to or unless absolutely necessary.

Then one day, the young man began to feel something strange, a feeling with which he had never really coped. This feeling, this oddity wreaked havoc on him emotionally, and upon you as well. And soon thereafter, the young man, once impractically quiet became boorish and coarse, perpetually yelling almost screaming at things that were seemingly out of his control. When, for instance, the water at the laundry was either too cold or too hot to properly soak and wash an article of clothing, cries of agonizing frustration rang out throughout the village center. You were the only one who could console him. When, as another example, the seasons changed the young man felt hot during the cold season and cold during the warm season, the young man would strip down, bare assed, and throw his clothes into a heap and shout profanities of his disapproval toward the skies and at you sometimes. The small children merely laughed at the young man while you constantly, consistently attempted to shield the children’s eyes and ears from the hostility. This behavior, of course, caused tension between you and him and between the villagers who had raised the young man so selflessly and the young man himself. Fortunately, the angst and exhibitionism died as quickly as it had arrived, and within a short while, the young man was back to his usual, quiet self, although, according to you and some of the other villagers, something about the air around him had changed, but whether or not this was for the better, the villagers asked, but you could not say anything for certain. Nevertheless, the villagers remained warm and loving to the young man, and in return, the young man behaved himself in a highly respectable manner, ever trying to return the favor to you and all the village.

The strangest part to all of this, however, became the timing of the young man’s period of anguished outbursts, for within the same short while that the young man’s outbursts ceased, the beginning of permanent change within the village and its villagers itself was marked. Of course, only the smallest reminder could render the sojourner aware of such an event. Unbeknownst to the villagers, the first of the unknowing strangers were already making their way toward the top of the middle-most peak where the three peaks meet, and so, as you and the villagers settled back into life in the wake of the young man’s placated fits of rage, a new swarm of irritants traveled toward the village to disrupt all the villagers once more.

The arrival of the first group of unknowing strangers created an unease throughout the village, however, the villagers themselves could not speak to the unease as it spoke of the middle-most peak, about which ought not ever be spoken. The young man, astutely keen on the unease of the villagers knew not exactly what to do at first and so, paid close attention to the unknowing strangers. It was at this moment when the young man decided that he would, in fact, do the only thing that he could do, which was to speak to the unknowing strangers about the middle-most peak where the three peaks meet. In all actuality, being not of the village, never had a villager looked down upon the young man for gazing, daily, at the face of the most majestic peak. Instead, the villagers would oftentimes look upon the face of the young man, especially when he was a small boy, as the young man looked upon the face of the middle-most peak. Through the small boy turned young man, the villagers chattered, they could glimpse but the smallest sliver of the peak’s majesty. And so, when the moment arrived that the young man struck up that first conversation with an unknowing stranger, the villagers looked on with great anticipation to see how the young man would react.

Disappointingly, the young man rarely gave any physical gesture or emotive expression to hint at what these strangers from the unknowing lands were doing, and as the respectful young man he was, the young man never spoke of the strangers’ travels as it would incite the inadvertent participation of a villager in a conversation about the middle-most peak. Thus, the young man took great care to speak with the unknowing strangers when the villagers were busy about the village, and he took even greater care to keep the knowledge to himself. Consequently, the young man learned much about the goings on in the unknowing lands, but still, he remained, happily, within the village, that was, until the day he saw something he was sure could not be.

The day was hot, and when considering the valley’s extreme altitude at the base of towering mountains, the close proximity to the sun made clear blue days, in the middle of the warm season, almost unbearable to the flesh. Nevertheless, the young man sat in the protective shade of a tree as unknowing stranger after stranger continued to pass through the village on their quest to summit the middle-most peak where the three peaks meet. It was on this blistering day that the young man saw something, rather someone, glowing in a halo of the most soothing blue light. Contrasted heavily against the fiery red and orange leaves of the hillside trees, the glow burst out, almost blinding the young man, which made seeing whatever rest hidden inside the bubble nearly impossible. Standing now, the young man looked around to see if anyone else within the vicinity seemed to notice this thing, hot aglow. Alas, there was no one else. Then, as the soothing blue bubble came nearer to him, the bubble calmed to a light, translucent gloss, through which the young man saw the figure of a woman.

Just as the woman looked up, however, and saw the young man, the young man began to realize the soft red halo forming around his self. Reaching out to touch the hue, the young man could no longer distinguish the halo from the world around him; the world, now overlaid with a hint of red, blushed. After remembering the woman the young man saw, before the young man could look upon the face of the woman one more time, the woman was gone, running down the pathway from when she came. The young man, frozen in disbelief, soon watched as the blushing world faded away to the clarity of his clear reality. Stunned, shocked, the young man felt his beating heart race through all of the possibilities, but nothing revealed itself as reasonable. The situation as a whole, the young man reasoned, was unreasonable. Despite this less-than-reasonable situation, the young man continued to sit, hour after hour, time after time, protected under the shade of a large tree, waiting, watching as the unknowing strangers streamed by, seemingly with no end.

After quite some time, the villagers began to notice that the young man had abandoned his post at the laundry, and so, approached the young man about his absence. Guarded and concerned with what the villagers might think of his account with the woman aglow in crisp blue, the young man gave up his perch under the shade of the tree that lined the path along which the unknowing strangers traveled with no explanation and returned promptly to his responsibilities in the village. His passive return, of course, lasted only a short time before the young man’s fits started up again. This time, however, the fits were focused and attentive to a specific issue with which he struggled within himself. The young man attempted to attenuate the fits through vigorous exercise and sexual exploits, but eventually, the weight of the matter slowly wore him down into the quiet, small boy of his childhood.

Here, of course, the young man dwelled for an unknowable amount of time, tucked away into the small corner above the village laundry, sleeping heavily, dreaming of lives long passed and of those yet to be lived, waking only to sip from a glass of water that slowly emptied, only to be refilled from time to time by the old man who first found the small boy, and upon waking, the young man would cry; he would cry the sorts of tears that salt the oceans beyond the unknowing lands, and then eventually, the tears would run dry as the young man fell back into a heavy sleep, becoming all the wiser to a truth that he knew but could not recognize until now. Now, of course, being then, way back when he first arrived at the future. At this point, you must deduce for yourself the words that he spoke that are recounted here:

[begin transcript]

I was alive once before a long time ago not yet happened. It’s an odd sensation really to awaken into a space, a place unknown at an age unfamiliar. Memory serves no man, but especially a man who went to sleep only to wake as a small boy, not even sleeping, but standing alone in a world that knew him not. He, the boy unfamiliar, realized quickly that the life he lives represented not the life he lived. As that small boy, the things I forgot wrap cautiously around that place within my mind no man can reach. But why?, ultimately always ends up being the question, a question asked by the fool who believes that he could ever know such a thing. At the very least, I knew that there are some things about which I could never know, about which I could never speak. How, for instance, did I wake as a small boy when the moment just before waking I remember being a man, an unfulfilled man searching for something, no, someone. The scent of her lingers all over my body, but not because we ever embraced each other physically, but rather, in the haze where time disappears through the absence of space, where space disappears through the absence of time, we become one, always one, together. As one, we are thrust through the present toward that place where time and space take shape once more, but our oneness is lost. I alone and somewhere newly old; she somewhere else, also alone. Fearless, however, would be the best way to describe this person with whom I am unwittingly tied. Absolutely, I feel lucky to have this, what would one even call it? A gift? A skill? A curse? Sometimes the limitations of language limit the mind. Even still, I wake; I search, but sometimes I wake and forget. I forget the essence of myself, the thing that makes me me, but what could that ever really be. What does it mean to be me, if the me in me can never be unless I know who it is to be me while unaware or unable to be that me in me as the torment of being dragged through every place at a rapid pace strips me of the I that I cannot know as the I of me?

Why any of it matters matters if I tell the truth, but the truth is something that I cannot share. Like she who is the liar, the only truth is that she lies. I too live the lies, the stories told by those who think they understand or at the very least, those who witness my disappearance. The problem, from the start, obviously reveals how much understanding, knowledge these so-called witnesses lack. I do not disappear. We do not disappear. Whether or not an observer or a person within my immediate presence can or cannot see me exists beyond my control. I cannot force anyone or anything for that matter to see the things that he/she/it simply does not or perhaps cannot understand to know. Thus, the understanding about who I am collapses, and to the minds that cannot comprehend such an existence, I disappear, sometimes only for a moment, usually, however, for forever. And now, the ambiguous disambiguates, or does it?

It can’t, obviously, apparently, circumstantially; the ambiguous must remain as such to the observer or else, the story lacks its essence. And the question becomes something else entirely, but what the question is, no one can know. But I struggle to keep this knowledge about the question to myself. If asked, I would tell, but then, to keep this question hidden would salvage the despair that she feels yet cannot name. We will each forget everything at least once, the old man tells me. No, not the old man from my village, a different old man, The Old Man. Ugh, I shall not tell. When the forgetting happens, which it inevitably will, all that can be hoped for is that it doesn’t happen to both of us simultaneously. Oh, but there is something here now. Someone calls for me in the distance beyond the motionless river, a body suggests that the matter at hand depends upon my leaving this place. I cannot leave, though, until I find her. And so, I determine that the best course of action means that I must interact with the world I know not, must make the necessary steps to understanding the unknowing strangers who began passing through the village only a few moments ago. The unknowing strangers, unknowing set the course for this village not mine on a path that the villagers also know not, but the beginning of a new age has assuredly begun, and I must not be here upon its close.

Thus, I sit under the protection of a large, beautiful aspen tree, perched within its branches, shouting to and at the passersby from the unknowing lands, all in a futile attempt to see but one person with whom I must connect. The sun rises, and then it sets repeatedly, scorching the flesh through the thinnest of air, and I perch upon a branch with despondence, a lack of hope in seeing the one person I need to see. But obviously, I do not know any of this while I am sitting there, questioning the strangers as they pass. Until one day, I see the oddity emblazoned in a translucent sphere of blue that eventually reveals a woman standing within the halo. I, too, am slowly set aglow in a vibrant red, and then, just as the woman saw me hot, flaming, she ran. I was ignorant of such events, and so, just stood there, upon the branch of my tree. When my consciousness returned to me, I looked around, and that there was a girl from my village, [Name], a friend whom I had known for the entirety of my life in that village, stood staring at me as if she had seen what I experienced. The emblazoned woman, when I turned again to look for her, was gone. And when I turned back to [Name], she was running back to the village.  What choice did I have then but to chase after [Name] since immediate action would be necessary to keep her silent about what she saw. I was absolutely unaware in that moment why I needed to keep her quiet, but I knew that I must. [Name] was convinced by the severity of the situation, and so, she promised to keep this particular event to herself. I know, however, that no one should be trusted with such sensitive information. For here I am now, telling of this occasion since [Name] blabbed her mouth about it to anyone willing to listen. But it’s like I say, [Name] doesn’t know the full story, nor will she ever understand its implications.

[end transcript, recorded by Unknown]

He always spoke of the event as if nothing about it seemed odd; he even asked that the specifics never be told. Yet, there he went, as usual, sharing everything he’d always specified ought to be shared. Perhaps he just likes to tell his life the way he wants to tell it. There’s no knowing whether or not any of it is true, except on the rare occasions when someone witnesses the event, the way the aforementioned or pre-described situation transpired, materialized. You, for the sake of the story as a whole, really should just move on with it.

And so, [Name] refrained from elaborating on the words of the young man who apparently had nothing more to add to her account of this particular event. No matter, within this village [Name] continues to live to this day. Very little is known about her, especially when considering her lineage through the upper-crust, as meaningless as that may be in a community such as the village embodies, nevertheless, [Name] could not be reached during the most recent travels to the middle-most peak where the three peaks meet, but according to village legend, she could no longer resist the temptation to share the event regarding the young man. According to the remaining villagers who shrink in number with the waning of each new moon, [Name] told of an unbelievable occurrence that would explain the sudden disappearance of the young man. No one within the village, of course, believed [Name], and over time, [Name] grew tired and weary. Then, like the young man, [Name] withdrew from the world and eventually, the villagers assume, left the village in search of the young man.

The unknowing strangers continue to travel through the village toward the middle-most peak where the three peaks meet, and to this day, the villagers endure in complete ignorance of the unknowing stranger’s reasoning. Every once in a while, rumors will surface about how the unknowing strangers are being endowed with gifts of great fortune as the loud words of the unknowing strangers fall inadvertently upon the ears of some villagers. The villagers, however, have little to no use for great fortune, for what would a creature who has everything it needs possibly do with more than it needs?

And so, as tales unfold within the dreams of great dreamers, she dreams on about a life in a land unavailable to her now, but that she remembers in the fully lighted force of tomorrow. She, of course, must return to the life of the now, no matter how much she despises the company. The strangeness of all of this happens to be, however, the fact that Attila leaves her no choice but to hinder the thoughts that require deep thinking. Where?, she begins to wonder but soon realizes she cannot humor. Into sleep she must return, retreat into the unknowing darkness where the possibility that anything could happen may happen, but more importantly, there, hopefully, she may mull over the thoughts that press upon her, desperate, assertive, allegedly of the utmost importance. She pushes them from her mind.

Can she, she wonders, hear the voice of Attila’s mind? How would she know, she supposes. The inner dialogue speaks, How can you ever know what you do not know? She responds to herself or to someone else, she decides, That same old question. It becomes trite upon its constant utterance. The voice within her, or perhaps not, she considers, speaks again, The situation would suggest that you can, in fact, hear my mind’s voice, or at the very least, we can speak to each other this way, easily. She thinks, But how to distinguish between the voices belonging to the minds of others and my own mind simply speaking to itself. The other voice contends, You cannot know what you do not know. She feels that pang of frustration. She cannot contemplate anything here. She wonders, Attila’s mind can only follow me so far, yes? The voice refuses to respond. Very well, she decides; Leaving this place prevails as the only reasonable answer. And then the voice speaks up, Where will you go at this late hour? She laughs aloud, The lateness of a place signifies its reliance upon the constraints of weaker beings. The voice laughs a gentle laugh of surprised gleefulness, and then the voice forgets that she has forgotten and speaks again, You cannot make green until you find him, of course. She knows not where the next thought originates from, but she allows the thing to fill her mind, Or unless he finds me.

Simultaneously the revelation hits her and Attila both, and she feels frozen in time as she hears the fast-paced footfall of someone, Attila, streaming down the hall. To where she can escape there is nowhere. Frantic, she steadies her mind to the stillness of impenetrability as Attila kicks in the door. Each knows that the other knows that they know that escape is impossible. Thus, Attila stands coolly, calm, as steady as she as they face each other through impenetrable minds. She, being younger and less experienced in the matter, blinks. Attila remains exact. Wise, no matter, she holds strong and steadfast in her dismissal and continued resolve to push every feeling aside; nothing rises that Attila may use against her. Attila, as master, reveals nothing. Locked in a stalemate where the fortitude of the mind matters more than life itself, the two unwittingly begin to intertwine consciousnesses with two others who also, at this time, are locked in a similar battle of the mind.

Surprisingly, Attila allows the feeling of this connection to rise to the surface of her mind. She hears the rise within Attila but holds steady. Soon they both begin to glow in a halo of radiant blue light. They look at each other. Both minds collapse into utter confusion. “But how can this be?” Attila breaks first. “You are the one who is supposed to know!” she retorts. Another moment more and they are both fully encapsulated into a world of opaque blueness. A crack. The clap of enormous hands. Green.

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.

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.

 

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?”