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.

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?”