Thursday, September 30, 2010

The Jogger & The End of Everything &

I. The Jogger

Leaving the red and heat-scorched road behind, he veered down the trail into the shadows of the forest, grateful for the respite from the sun’s relentless burn. Tall, slender pines swayed with a breeze. Cicadas sang. Off in the distance, he heard the ancient warning of the rattlesnake, but he ignored the primal fear rising on the periphery of his senses. The bulk of his focus placed on his pulsating heart and the steady beat of his feet hitting earth as he jogged. The wilderness was just a passing landscape: a fading entity less real than the internal thrum of blood pumping through veins.

The humidity pressed down upon him. His sweat-stained shirt stuck to his chest and back. He felt movement all around, but shrugged it off, assuming it was the flock of wild turkeys he knew frequented this forest. There was a rustle in the wild blackberry bushes lining the path, but he left it behind without giving it any thought.

The kudzu laughed as it entwined itself along the trunks and branches, an exotic import dominating a new home. Dragonflies gathered together, forming thick clouds which hummed with the beat of millions of lacy and translucent wings. The ghosts of empires long gone – hidden beneath centuries of ancient hard-wood forests which preceded the current pines – whispered riddles in languages lost and forgotten.

And he jogged, oblivious to it all.

The mystery surrounded him, shimmering like heat waves on asphalt. There are windows into other worlds and realities that all too often go unnoticed as we run past them at a relentless pace. He left his past to find a temporary present sparing no thoughts for the darkness ahead.

II. The End of Everything

“We are nearing the end,” she said. Her hair shimmered beneath the sun as it waved, wind-swept and disheveled. I had never seen her look more beautiful.

“The end of what?” I asked as I pushed the throttle forward. The boat sped up and I squinted despite my sunglasses because the sun was magnified and fractured by the ripples all around us.

“The end of everything.” She smiled at me, her teeth fell from her mouth, and her beauty melted. She aged and degraded from beauty queen to corpse to dust, and then she blew away.

The lake became primordial ooze, and it stunk. It stunk with the rot of life, the stench of reproduction, a hint of honeysuckle beneath it all. With the stench there was beauty, the promise of spring, the rebirth from the wreckage. Roses fertilized by manure.

The vision passed quickly like a summer storm and I saw her again. Smiling and beautiful, she rubbed a swelling and exposed belly pulsating with new life as she lounged on the padded seat next to me in her maternity bathing suit.

“Or is it the beginning?” I asked.


Beneath open skies, flowers bloom and sway with a delicate breeze while casting shadows in silence.

Thursday, September 23, 2010


I understand how the person I used to be shaped the person I am today. I see it now as I look at myself in a distant time. I’m awkward. My hair cut is terrible. I reek of cigarette smoke and other kinds of smoke. My breath stinks from cheap malt liquor. I hear the words coming out of my mouth and cringe at their crudity and sometimes downright idiocy, and I remember self-righteously believing that I was absolutely correct about all that crap and venom spewing off my wagging tongue at the time. Obviously, I was wrong. I know that now that I am looking at myself through the clarifying filter of time.

Is it wisdom that changed me? I would argue this, or would like to, but I know that it would be untrue. I am no wiser. I understand that now. The only truth I’ve learned since then is that I don’t know it all. I can never know it all. There is simply too much to know.

So, I sat down and asked him (myself) questions. He (I) was sullen. I remember this day and know I did not want to talk to a creepy old guy in a stained white polo shirt with long curly hair and a beard full of potato chip crumbs, not when Tansy was there with me, halfway drunk and emotionally vacant.

I had lusted after her then. I could not see the bloated burn-out of an alcoholic she would soon become. I could not know the regrets she would feel daily because of her misspent youth that I myself helped misspend. Could there have been something like love there? I like to think so sometimes, but I know better. My vision was limited then as it still is now. Maybe when I get back I should call her? See how she’s doing. Last I heard, she was three months sober. I clapped for her at that meeting, but it was my last meeting before figuring out time travel. Not that I could go back to the meetings now. I’m not exactly sober these days.

I called him (myself) over again, offered him (me) a pack of cigarettes – I knew his (my) weakness – and finally he (I) came over. I sat down on a fallen log on the stinking exposed bank of the riverside. It was fall and the river was at its lowest point thanks to the hydroelectric dam upriver. The air was full of the scent of falling leaves and rotting fish: a pleasant and nostalgic mix for me, even if the city folk back home would find it offensive. He (I) snatched the cigarettes from my hand and moved a couple feet away from me. He (I) lit a cigarette, inhaled deeply, and exhaled. He (I) nodded his (my) thanks. I motioned for him (myself) to sit down. We had a lot to talk about.

I asked, “What do you plan on doing for the rest of your life?”

He (I) released a bitter laugh. “What the fuck do you mean? I don’t even know what I’m doing this afternoon, man.”

“Trust me. I know exactly what you mean. I still don’t know what I’m doing myself. We’ll never know, will we? Not unless we find direction.” I sighed. I placed my hands on my knees and pushed myself up to a standing position. I looked down on him (myself). “Remember this moment. It will happen again.”

He (I) shook his (my) head and tossed his (my) cigarette butt into the river. Together, we watched it wash away with the current until we could see it no longer.

I turned and found myself gone. Tansy walked over with a lit joint in her hands. “Who was that guy?”

I shook my head. “I have no idea.”

“What did he want?”

“Directions, I think.”

I thought of the cigarette rolling downriver. It would eventually wash up against a distant shore with the flame long extinguished never to be lit again. There was a sudden burning in my eyes, the threat of tears, and I turned away. I wasn’t sure where I would go, but I knew it was time to leave the riverside.

Thursday, September 16, 2010


Her pain tore through her insides like a serrated blade, yet she smiled. She refused to cry out. She refused to be bowed down by that which she could not see. If it was unobservable, it could not possibly exist. To admit the pain was there, that it was real, would be to accept that unseen things were possible. It would mean the unseen could be real, even if unquantifiable or otherwise indefinable. This opened up too many possibilities she shuddered at internally. She remembered believing in ghosts and curses, but that was long ago, in a time much less rational than today.

Every test had been performed. Every sonogram and ultrasound came back clean. Various probes entered her through various orifices. There was no physically identifiable reason for the pain per her lab results and multiple examinations. They called it fibromyalgia. She accepted this diagnosis. It seemed to fit, but she held her doubts. She understood her doctors were simply classifying the unclassifiable. The doctors’ little checklists best matched up with this diagnosis based on questionnaires and spoken (if intangible and unseen) symptoms. The symptoms pointed towards a diagnosis, and the doctors prescribed treatment.

Yet, none of the therapies helped. None of the medicines worked, not even nerve blocks. The pain refused to retreat. It clung tight to her joints and abdomen like “white on rice” as her mother liked to say. Her sick days – once so plentiful – began shrinking away.

She wanted to know so much. She had so many questions. What was the pain? Where did it come from? Why was it here? And, most importantly of all, how could she make it go away? The doctors provided no answers. The medicines offered no solutions.

So she kept smiling as she lay in bed and stared at the ceiling fan. The blades twirled in cycles. She thought there might be meaning there, but could not fully decipher what it might represent. It could mean so many things. Her thoughts twirled with the fan.

The days grew long and the nights longer. The pain increased until it hurt her too much to move at all.

Her sick days disappeared. She stopped answering her phone.

She lay still. She refused to move. Movement only made things worse. So she remained motionless.

The fan spun above her in an endless loop.

She thought again that it might have meaning, but then decided that this, too, must be meaningless.

She lay still and grew stiff. Her smile remained as she turned to stone.

When the landlord eventually found her, he was moved to tears. He wanted to pay his respects. He wished he had thought of her sooner, but last time he saw her she smiled. He assumed she was okay.

To assuage his guilt and pay his respects, he put her on display in the playground in the center of the apartment complex. It seemed the only sensible thing to do. Now, she smiles throughout the day as children play. The kids twirl on a multicolored steel merry-go-round in cycles while tight clusters of their laughter crowd upwards towards an open blue sky. At night the stars cycle above her. Inside the statue, her ghost imagines it all means something, all these cycles, even if these hints at meaning sometimes grow confused and indefinable. Yet, she learns to accept these hints as something resembling meaning.

She smiles now, not to hide the pain, but because the pain is going away, replaced by mystery.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

The Death of Orpheus

Orpheus looked up at a circular clearing in the ceiling of the forest. Wisps of chilly fog clung to the dirt and long grass swaying around him. Bumps rose on his bare ankles from the cold. He stared heavenward and waited for Apollo to appear. In anticipation, he tuned his lyre then began singing out psalms to meet the rising sun. Wild animals gathered around. They grew tame and peaceful and listened.

The sun appeared, flaming and orange and bright. Its light began to break the chill. Orpheus smiled. He paused in his singing. He heard another song, a darker chant, rising with the new dawn.

A woman emerged from the forest. Bare skin covered in dirt and leaves. Thick tresses of wild hair – that may have once been blonde, may have once been black, but were now a muddy brown – splayed out around her head like Medusa’s serpents.

“Will you join us? Will you play your lyre to Lyaeus? Will you dance with us and succumb to wonderful oblivion?” The woman gyrated her hips and ran her hands down her body. She began to gasp. A smile crossed her face. Her eyes rolled backwards to hide her iris and reveal only whiteness.

“I am Apollo’s poet. I only sing his song.” Orpheus ignored the woman and resumed his song to the sun.

The woman stopped her ecstatic dance and stared at Orpheus. She snarled. “Have it your way!”

A spear rushed at him. The man sang harder and the spear, tipped with leaves, passed him by and left him unharmed.

Other women emerged from the forest. None of them were clothed in robes. They were only clothed by dirt and filth and dried blood. They chanted and sang and danced and laughed. They rushed at Orpheus and attempted to tickle him and seduce him with leaves and flowers and hinds.

Orpheus ignored them and continued his psalms. The sun became brighter as it rose higher in the sky.

The women grimaced as they touched Orpheus and found his body unresponsive. His discipline, his song, carried his concentration.

“This is the one who scorns us!” the first maenad cried out.

The women laughed and picked up stones. They threw them at Orpheus. He sang as rocks bounced off his skin, leaving him cut and bruised and bleeding. But he would not be broken. The attacks only strengthened his song. The attack gave him something new to sing about.

But soon the Bacchantes emboldened their own song. They beat their own drum at an opposing beat. Orpheus lost his way and lost his song. Once the psalm ended, he cried out to Apollo for help as the women rushed him. They tore skin with tooth and nail. They ripped flesh from bone and rendered organs to one another, presenting them as flavorful offerings to Lyaeus himself. Blood dribbled down filthy chins. The God Who Releases appeared pleased as the women danced in abandon in an embrace of primal ancient rite. The world as it was faded and shifted around them. The world devolved into a depraved feast.

The animals of the field, those innocents who had gathered to hear Orpheus’s songs, became prey. They were ripped and torn and devoured while still crying out. The brays of fallen oxen became part of the maenads’ song. Beating hearts, extracted from chests, beat to the rhythm of their drums. There was laughter and ecstasy within a riot of terror, and chaos danced in the light of the newly risen sun.

Orpheus was ripped apart, tendon by tendon and bone by bone. The echoes of his song were lost in the mindless maelstrom of abandon.

Orpheus's now silent decapitated head eventually floated on winding streams to Lesbos. Apollos rescued the silent head of his poet from a hungry serpent.

But this was all above. Below, Orpheus’s ghost sank beneath the blood drenched soil.

Orpheus now looks to Eurydice with confidence. He knows they are together, they will be together, and they will stay together. At last, he no longer fears looking back. He stares at her and smiles. She remains by his side and they love each other. Orpheus no longer feels the need to sing to Apollo. He finds eternal contentment with Eurydice as his new sun, and she loves him in return even without the glamour of song.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

The Blank

A tick-tock mechaman wandered around the shining metal room trying to plug into anyone. The machine was drunk on data, greedy for more. He wandered over to me. His iron wheels screeched and scratched steel floors. He rolled in my direction with his lead thrust outward. Sparks flew from his vision processors. I knocked him away, but he pushed harder against me. I took his lead and jammed it into the punchbowl and laughed as acidic smoke poured upwards from his circuit board. I poured myself a glass of punch and sipped. I received a fading glimpse of a million stolen memories. None of them meant anything to me. None of them were mine. At least there were none I recognized.

I was a blank. There was nothing left.

The data junkies had already taken me. Or rather, I had already given myself to them. At least that is what TomTammy told me. She was my best and only friend. She was the only other organic. It didn’t matter that we did not share the same mold of flesh. She was short and squat and walked about on a multitude of jointed appendages. Her pitch black exoskeleton shone underneath recessed mercury bulbs. It was only because of her that I knew who I was. I saw my reflection on her back and in her compound eyes. I saw many sides of myself reflected in those eyes. I was tall and pale with long legs, long arms, and a sprout of coarse, wiry, salt-and-pepper hair sticking out upwards from my head. A splotchy beard marred my face. My loose flesh was pockmarked and scarred. I looked nothing like TomTammy, but this did not matter. In my way, I loved TomTammy, and based on how fully she saw me, I liked to think she loved me, too. We shared something special being organic. The rest of the ship, the other occupants of this isolated place, rusted around us.

TomTammy walked over and told me my story:

“Once there was just me and the mechas. Then there was you. Then I wasn’t alone. We spoke and told each other our stories. We spoke of our homes and where we were before we came here. You were from a place of light and land and water. You came here to find out more, to learn, to study. Like the mechas, you were addicted to data. You came to converse, to learn. Then you drank with the mechas. Then they plugged into you, and you fell. I sat back and watched and hid. They had tried to plug into me previously, but my shell held me safe. They grew drunk on you. They pushed their leads into every available opening. Once there were no available openings left, they made their own. They cut into your flesh until you were slick with blood. I drank some of this – I am sorry, but I was thirsty. Then you lay still for a very long time. I thought you were dead. I came over to drink the rest of you – I am sorry for this, but I was hungry. Then I noticed you still stirred, if just barely. Your chest moved to take breath, so I carried you back to my web and wrapped you in fibers and sat next to you, watching you, feeling you through my strings. You awoke, you spoke, and I knew you had forgotten me. You had forgotten where you were, where you came from. You had forgotten yourself.”

So, TomTammy rescued me and reminded me of myself, even if I was forgotten, and for that, I owed her my thanks. I did not remember any of her story but knew it was true. I trusted her. She was the only other organic. I had to trust someone. Without someone to trust, there is no life – or no life worth living anyway.

I took another sip of punch and felt inspired. “Are you still hungry?”

TomTammy pulled up on her tiny appendages and rubbed her mandibles. A viscous liquid dribbled from her dark, gaping mouth. Her compound eyes blinked and twinkled. “Come with me.”

I followed. We pushed hungry mechas out of our way and walked to her web.

“Just lie there.”

I did as she said and balanced on a network of strings. The lines clung to my skin. They seemed insignificant and fragile but held my weight. She wrapped me tight with more strings that emerged from her abdomen, and I felt hugged and loved. It was good to feel contact, to feel pressure from something outside myself holding me tight. It was like the embrace of a mother or a lover or both. She hummed a song out from her carapace as she worked.

Once I was wrapped tight, she looked at me. She ran her appendages through my wiry hair, gently taking out the many knots. I closed my eyes and enjoyed her touch. “Are you sure you want this? You give of yourself with willingness? I would never take that which isn’t given freely.”

I nodded my head. “I love you. I want to be a part of you forever.”

“I loved you, too.”

She dug her mandibles into my neck, and I smiled as she drank me away.