Some Kind of Surreal Future


 
The strangest encounters may come to fruition
from the day-to-day-to-day.
And we only know how to answer them
tomorrow . . .

A long time ago in a grassy field non-existent now beyond the neuroses inflicting me with memory, a girl with red hair and a flair for the dramatic told me that she spoke Spanish, fluent or near to. Well, I the relentless student who’d yet learned a flimsy representation of this musical tongue, in all my youthful eagerness gave wide audience to her. What she spewed forth was gibberish, something approximating a fourth-generation distillation of pig latin and actual Latin. Or in the moment, that nonsense imprinted on me so.

Life was simpler then, when we wept
from even the most frivolous aggression
against our being. The bully was always
in the effort not the ends.

But now . . . People rarely look me in the eye. Most incoherence directed my way comes strangled by an equally enigmatic anxiety. The last person to say “hello” to me did so with a sickening note of vapid goofiness. Love cannot flourish in such a wilting place.

Quiet reigns, for I’ve no endgame
save a fascination with the bubbled ends
of the fragmented future . . .

I wonder what became of that red-haired girl and the wound she nursed slit from my unambiguous disbelief. What would she say to me now that the springtime of her naivete has ripened and fallen away? What burgeons from maturation’s blood? Perhaps I can conjecture.

“My life will be bookended by lies.
So will yours. I only hope they will be
beautiful.”
 
 

Rain Must Fall


 
The forecast read “Rain.” In fact, the trusted meteorologist of much local renown had predicted “record” rains which meant sheets over sheets of precipitation laid upon the greater metropolitan area.

The liquid sleep.

Though the roads remained a corridor of motion (with the added slash of insistent tires through muddy puddles,) most of the outdoors went quiet. Activity regressed to its hives.

“Avatar of love,” said I, “why then under the mirky canopy of storms do I feel an emptiness that seems unredeemable? Am I simply crazy?”

“Oh, no.” said she, “Your mentality is not up for question. I know from insanity. I’ve stared deeply into its soul. You are far from Persephone’s lair on that subject.”

(We do often think of evil as confined:
to lairs, to labyrinths, deep in caverns
and catacombs.)

I watched the raindrops melt onto the pane of my kitchen window. Out in the yard, the grass bed flexed and shook in the downpour. The trees shimmered glumly. An eon of thought crawled on through, inched and inched one spindly step at a time.

Later that evening, dew shook from a silky web, fell silently, and disappeared into the wetness below.
 
 

The Boy Who Grew Up to Be a Hero

Mordor, they called him, a cruel nickname but meant as a joke. They saw darkness in him even then, childhood often an unrevelatory time. How much glee he took to acts of aggression during playground games. How his tantrums took on a hysterical strain and desperate grievance at times. How his humor centered on the misfortune of others.

Most damning, he coveted the iron comfort of control, that every situation and its participants should appease him without even a whimper. In his eyes, his decrees wore their own crown.

I remembered all of this far removed into adulthood but spoke none of it when he passed away at a less than ripe age. Instead, at his wake I spoke of how the diagnosis of a disease that would most probably conquer him had shaken him only for a modest moment. His resolve to not only live on but still thrive bloomed titanic before our eyes. “I’d never met someone so brave.”

It was his fiancee however who related the “real reason” for his childhood nickname. “Even in the greatest darkness,” her voice rose to the ceiling, her grief defiant, “there is a place of greater hope beckoning to us.”

Do we live only one life or many of them interwoven? We trail so much uncertainty as we walk this world. I remain as present as I am able no matter how mundane the events of the day. Yet some part of me though comforted wants to plummet back into the magma of my origin.

Endings

seside

A fish bobbed its head above the swaying waterline. Up there, all whispered or maintained a silence. The nearby shore was empty save for one aimlessly waddling gull. The vegetation beyond held fast.

The fish dove back down into the salts, reflected upon this dry world. “They must have destroyed themselves,” it concluded. “No threat in their midst could’ve been enough. Not like the sea. Fear swims with everything here.”

Of course, the fish knew nothing beyond the bare minimum of history and mythology. Yet like so many of the living, its mind imposed a definitive narrative on the universe and one quite cynical in explaining the nature of others. Know-nothing becomes Know-it-all via hubris: the oldest story in existence.

“Why of course,” the fish’s thoughts ambled onward. “The atmosphere is so thin and wispy up there. What they must have subjected themselves to in order to survive . . . ”

Perhaps the urgent impulse toward self-preservation is the most potent form of self-destruction? Whatever the case, the mass extinction of humankind came and went without a tear shed from the creatures of the deep. Neither from shell nor scale did empathy emanate.

“Such wasted lives.” The fish continued its descent, slow and light, true toward the wavering sands.

This is right. To be here. Swallowing the brine. The intensity of the plunge farther and farther behind–

* * *

A fish bobbed its head above the swaying waterline. The slosh of the surface undulations startled it momentarily. Its eyes fixed upon a mother and her two children out for a walk along the nearby shore. The middle-aged woman seemed intent on the journey. Her progeny however kept halting their progress to marvel at some feature in the sand or half-remnant of buoyant plantlife. “Keep up,” she admonished them.

Yet the fish perceived none of this nuance, only the smear of light across its vision. Then, the intimacy of color dissipated, and nothing remained to displace it.

The Origin of Hope [A Fragment]

. . . and laughter bestrode the world, an angel of unfathomable size. Our joy unbounded swept the plains, hills, mountains and oceans. Only the woodlands remained dark and anxious, rustling with the designs of madness.

      Then, one seed blossomed into a thousand tiny lights, each a pure dollop of hope, and their gleam cast any remaining sorrow to the heavens. The stars weep for us now, tremble in the night, so that we may content ourselves with dreaming . . .

The Nihilism of Doubt

At the age of four, that unredeeming void first emerged, opened itself above me, not necessarily in the sky but nonetheless overlaying the pungent blue. Then, I was in the front yard near the Filbert tree that I never did attain the courage to climb. I don’t recall fearing it.

It was bleak, blob-like. Somehow despite the purity of its darkness, it seemed to shimmer. The void expanded in a slow bleed, and at its full breadth, I heard a faint whisper, a toneless one coming from within it. These words impressed themselves upon me:

“Everything is nothing.”

Then with startling abruptness, the void dissipated as if a nervous daydream. The spuriousness of that experience would’ve caused me to have written it off as such had that void not returned several more times, in each instance gaping at me on a non-descript day, cutting like a strobe of dark through the brightness of living.

I’m terrified of a few things, anxious at many more. However, that morbid maw of nothing has never stirred me, even in the worst of times. It ought to. Else I fear I might perish before the warmth fades from both the muscles and emotions that drive me.

The Parable of the Gem

 
In an ancient woodland that bordered a burgeoning empire, a beautiful and obviously precious gemstone could be found lodged high up a giant fir tree. Anyone who approached below could see the gem glittering in the sunlight from dawn until dusk. However, none dared climb up after it, for the locals told of a curse that befell any intrepid pursuer: “Should someone reach the high branches that held the gemstone, they would be transformed into a common songbird, and no known method could change them back.”

Some enterprising folk concocted and executed other methods aimed at freeing the gem from its perch; others attempted to knock the tree itself down; all to no avail. So, for a long duration it remained only an object of forlorn gazes.

Eventually, an animal trainer hit upon the idea of using a hawk to retrieve the gemstone on the notion that a bird could seize it without succumbing to the curse. This man captured a wild hawk, and after month upon month of trial and error, using shards of glass as a stand-in, he was satisfied that the bird of prey would pursue the gem with haste.

However, the man had been unable to keep his sessions a secret, and a few of the other locals caught wind of his efforts. Therefore, on the day he set out to dislodge the gemstone, a small throng of “curious” men and woman (who of course vowed not to interfere) came with him. Judiciously, the man with the hawk also decided to carry with him a weapon, just in case.

Unfortunately, the outcome of the hawk’s effort did not accord to plan. It did on its second pass reach the heights of the great fir and grasp the glittering prize there. However, halfway into its descent, the bird began to shimmer in a magnificent fashion and cycled through a blinding array of color. The assembled men and women awed into gaping and had to shield their eyes from the intense illumination.
When this stunning phenomenon died away and every present eye cleared of it, the throng found the hawk nowhere in sight while a very surprised looking man had appeared within their midst. He wore tattered clothing and was disheveled in many other respects as well. This new person was rightly terrified. His eyes darted around, and his body moved in fits and jerks, indecisive as to what was a threat to him or what a reasonable person in his current situation ought to do. All other mysteries aside, the men and women around him deigned to engage the one apparent ripe opportunity for inquiry: he had some large object in his mouth.

“He’s got the gem!” someone shouted, and once-restrained humanity began to collapse in towards the stranger who was still too out of sorts to mount much resistance. A flurry of arms and hands snaked over him and constricted his movements. Many fingers pried at his jaws, jarred his mouth open, and removed . . .

A simple grey stone.

The greedy hysteria broke and released its victim. The man in tattered clothing crumpled to the ground, covered his eyes tightly, and wept. His former tormentors turned their fervor toward the landscape to scour it for any sign of the gemstone which a quick glance could confirm no longer was high above the forest floor. The man who’d trained the hawk called in vain toward the trees for his avian protégé.

After a brief search, a pair of the more empathetic members of the once maddened seekers of fortune turned their attentions back toward the man who’d (from their perspective) appeared out of thin air before them. By then he’d composed himself somewhat though he remained fairly bewildered and watched the goings-on around him with cautious curiosity. The pair asked him who he was, where he’d come from, and whether he was a wizard or a warlock. He admitted not knowing. They queried him farther but his memory failed him over and over. The only question he could answer was: “What is the last thing that you remember?”

He answered: “My life before now is a total blur except for one thing. I know that as I child, I was chided for my ambition. It was then that a voice, soft but stern (perhaps my mother or my father), told me that some things belong to the earth, and some things belong to the air. Then there are some that belong to both. Those are the temptations one must ever avoid.”

The two listening to him, failed in their own words at responding. What could they say or do then? For, in the wake of these strange events, what they valued seemed to be all but forgotten.
 
 

Fragment of a Story (Exit)

He started down the road with collected visions of the city in tow. Their words still rang in his ears, so pitched with anger and frustration. I think their garden is wilting he found himself thinking. The stagnant traffic roiled silently with accusations against all the other grouped travelers walling each other in. On a deck hanging from a nearby apartment, a defeated-looking man shouted impotently at a group of loitering teenagers below. They believe only in the failure of their neighbors he almost said aloud this time.

When toward the outer edge of the city the roads finally opened up, he began to pass row upon row of well-kept houses all staring at him importantly. No one ever dared to question the manor, yet all buildings lie: with civilized facades, groomed acres, but closed doors. The most beautiful opportunities are inviting he believed though often their grounds are thorny.

He turned onto a street lined with strip malls. In one, a rundown mechanics shop boasted a twelve-foot-tall sign that read JESUS LOVES YOU. Would Christ have been a mechanic? Would the Son of God have believed in machines? One who is inscribed so majestically in books must only believe in words. Theirs is a simple power. He spoke next aloud as if he needed to hear how these last thoughts upon exiting resonated back within him: “I know what my beliefs are; however, I don’t know what to call them. I have never seen their face.”

A Venerable Strategy

He paused in the middle of his diatribe then assumed a wounded tone as if he anticipated skepticism on my part. However, the conviction in his voice never wavered. “I love my own mother. But doggone it, she doesn’t need a power chair.” His words took on a quieter intensity. “You have to keep walking. That’s what allows us our humanity.” He was more wistful than angry. “They want to put us all in machines and charge us an arm and a leg for the favor.”

Yes, the proverbial They, ever concocting pernicious plans out of our deepest fears. I didn’t share his anxiety at the technological solutions that awaited us at a ripe old age when our biology inevitably fails us. I did allow myself a nod of agreement and a joyous laugh at his concluding remark. “If that ever happened to me, I’d cover myself in honey and go on a bear hunt.”

Indeed. One man’s mercy is another man’s fatal indignity.