Find Me When You’re Lost

A subservient once heard from his master, “Find me when you’re lost.” The subservient took great comfort in the phrase his benign master would often use to hearten him. The subservient always took it to infer that his master would always avail himself in times of need.

The subservient waited on his master hand and foot, being in constant reverence of such an established authority that was simultaneously charitable beyond reason. Eras went by and the master passed into old age.

Though weak and feeble, the master remained a pillar of strength and nobility in the subservient’s eyes. The master finally passed unto death but in his last breaths, he looked into the eyes of the subservient and for the first time, the subservient saw frailty, uncertainty, fear and death in his master’s gaze.

In this last breath, with the alienation of quietus in his eyes, the master said to the subservient, “Find me when you’re lost.” For the first time, the subservient heard these words, aligned them in his mind, and felt them become a harbinger of desperation. What once was a decree, in an instant, gazing into mortal fear, became a dire plea.

The subservient went from his felled master and pondered the phrase that had once quelled all variables in his mind. He experienced a sorrow that scarred him potently and profoundly.

The words of the master who was an unshakable pillar, took on a stark and ghostly form when spoken by the master who was trembling in the face of mortality – even though words were exactly the same.

In the last moments of his master’s life the subservient realized that his master was not offering an unwavering beacon, but was actually begging to be rescued from an unknowable abyss.

This realization cast the subservient into darkness and he found himself lost. It was at this point that the subservient, all too late, learned that you cannot find anyone when it is you that is lost.

The Imposition of Darkness

There was a day that I sat down with whom I would consider one of my best friends. This friend of mine was always pretty cavalier about recreational drug use, but kept it light. Then there came a time when I noticed his casual drug intake was trending upward. It was around this time that I got to sit down and have a heart-to-heart with him. Just the two of us.

The conversation began slow. He and I were sitting in such a way that I could only see the side of his face; his profile. He would only turn to face me when he was talking about something that was particularly pertinent.

So at one point, he turned to me and said, “I think I saw the devil.” After asking incredulous and rhetorical questions, I just let him speak.

“It was about a month ago. I was passed out on the couch and woke up in the middle of the night. As soon as I opened my eyes, I knew I was being watched. I didn’t think, I knew. I looked around the room. It was dark but then I saw something darker than the normal nighttime darkness of my living room. It was about the size and shape of a man. I just lay there, staring back at it. I mean, it didn’t have eyes, but I was just staring into it.” He paused here. “It scared me a lot. I mean I know I had a lot to drink, but I’m telling you, I was certain in that moment that what I was seeing wasn’t just my imagination or some hallucination.”

“So I’m staring back at him and then it starts to move closer to me. I don’t know how, but I knew it would do no good for me to try to move or run away from it. I just sort of let it get closer to me. It’s getting closer and it’s just…expanding. It’s darkness I mean, it just starts enveloping the whole room. Then, just before all I can see is the darkness of this thing, it stops so that from the fringes of my sight, I could still see some of the wall and the ceiling and shit. He-he, it, if there is an omniscient being like the devil, I doubt it has a gender-anyway he just stays there so that he is almost all I could see. It doesn’t move any closer. And I can do nothing but lie there and stare at his darkness.

“It never moved again. It just stood there over me as I’m splayed out on the couch. After a while it becomes apparent that nothing is going to happen and there was nothing to do but lay my head down, close my eyes and go back to sleep. And that’s what I did.”

“Jesus, I’m surprised you were even able to go back to sleep. I would have been scared shitless.”

“That’s the weird thing,” he started again, “I was scared but somehow I knew that the only thing to do in that situation was go back to sleep.”

“And you’re positive it wasn’t just a dream?” I asked.

He turned his face away from mine and explained, “I wasn’t so sure at first, but I’ve only told you the half of it. I would have been able to shrug it off as a dream if I weren’t still seeing him.” I stayed silent. “The next morning I woke up and the blackness was gone. Everything in the room was normal. But then I started noticing something: if ever I let my eyes focus on anything for a little while, any time I am at rest, left to my own devices and the silence of my mind, I see him. A blackness not so imposing or large as that night but it’s surely there. A spot of darkness behind everything I see. If I sit and stare long enough, he gets bigger.”

He turned his face back toward me and gazed in my direction intently for a few seconds. I couldn’t resist to ask the obvious question, even though I was frightened to hear the answer and I’m sure he was hesitant to tell me, “Do you see him now?” He maintained eye contact with me and said, “Yes.”

“What does he look like?”

“Like nothing. Like blackness; shapeless but deep blackness.” He broke eye contact with me and looked back in the direction he was sitting, perpendicular to me. “Sometimes I can’t even say that I physically see him, but his impression is there and I’m certain of it. I actually wish I saw him every time because it’s when I can’t see him that is most distressing. I know he’s there whether I can see him or not.”

A better man might know what to say to a loved one that just told him that he sees the devil on a regular basis, but I was at a loss. I’ve heard ghost stories before but nothing like this coming from someone I would consider a very reasonable man, someone that I trusted and frankly, loved.

Indeed, what is there to say? But this is what I ventured: “I can’t imagine how you’ve been dealing with that. But I gotta say, I’ve noticed you’ve kicked it up a notch with the pills and booze.”

He looked back at me and said, “If I focus on anything for too long, in other words, if I’m not distracted, he gets bigger. So, I keep myself distracted.”

“And that helps?” I inquired.

“It does,” he said calmly, “but it use to help me a lot more than it does now. It’s getting worse. It’s getting closer to me. I don’t just see him, he’s in my mind and I can almost feel his weight bearing down on my body. I know I’m not going to be hurt but I know something else, I can just feel it.”

“What?” I asked.

He called me by name and answered, “Somehow, some way, he’s coming for me.”

To this day I couldn’t say with any certainty what he meant by that. All I knew was that I was scared and worried for him. And, as it turns out, I had cause to be. Eight months after we had this conversation, my friend stopped his heart with a lethal mixture of codeine and oxycodone. It wasn’t determined whether it was accidental or intentional. I wept a great deal for my friend but, like he must have, I saw it coming.

 

Interpreting Dreams

“So I’m in a field and I come upon a single tree. It’s not big. The canopy of the thing is maybe seven or eight feet high and it doesn’t cover a whole lot of ground. Anyway, I kneel down underneath it and I start noticing glimmers in the dirt at it’s base. I guess somewhere around this time it starts to rain pretty hard. But the canopy of the tree is guarding me from it like an umbrella so I’m not getting drenched and I’m not paying the rain much attention anyway. Instead, I’m intent on these glimmers I’m seeing in the dirt at the base of this tree and I begin to scrape at it.”

“Well, I’m digging through the dirt with my hands at this thing that is partially covered up and I pull it up to see it’s a coin. A nickle or quarter or dime or something. Then I notice more. Some are partially buried with only their centers exposed and some are just lying there atop the ground, plain as day.”

“The more I look, the more of them I see. All silvery coins just lying there in the dirt under this tree. Anyway, I start digging and picking up these silver coins–they were all silver, mostly nickels and dimes but some quarters too, I guess the important thing though was that they were all silver coins–all the while the rain is falling and I am staying relatively dry under the canopy of the tree. There are a few drops here and there that make it through but nothing that draws my attention away from excavating these coins. They are covered in dirt obviously and I’m gathering them up in my hands one by one.”

“Then the idea occurs to me to wash them off in the rain. So to give you an idea of how small this tree that I was kneeling under was, all I had to do was take them in my hand and reach out so that they caught the rain that was falling outside of it’s canopy. And this may have been the most vivid and impressing part of the dream: after washing them in the rain and bringing them back under the canopy, I held them in my hands and they were the most vibrant and clean shade of silver I could imagine.”

“They were beautiful, really. Like freshly minted coins. Then I gathered more and rinsed them in the rain by simply reaching my hand out. I did this until I had more crisp, clean, silver coins in my hand than I could carry. They were spilling out of my cupped hands in fact, but I wanted to take them all. I couldn’t though. And it ends with me trying, almost desperately, to corral all of these coins. And failing.”

“Some are spilling out of my hands. I don’t know though, for some reason, the way the rain was so effective in making the coins so clean, and the amazing silvery sheen of the coins after they had been rinsed in the rain, stand out the most to me about the dream. I’ve been thinking about it for days because the imagery has just stuck with me. But I have no clue what it could or might mean. What do you think?”

“Sounds pretty cool. There was nothing that happened after trying to gather all the coins?” Brian asked.

“Nope. Well yeah, there was, but it was kind of that weird segue into another dream that always happens. At any rate, I knew it wasn’t important, you know? The significance of the dream was definitely contained in the scene I just described to you.” Answered Paul.

There was a long silent pause as Brian contemplated the dreamscape that Paul just described. It was obviously important enough for Paul to share with him so Brian didn’t want to have nothing to say. Brian thought hard about the images described to him. Then something occurred to him.”You were finding coins–money–in the dirt?” He probed.

“Yeah. Cleaning them off in the rain that fell just outside the canopy of this tree I was under.”

Brian grasped on to the first inclination that came to him, “Well it sounds like maybe you are finding wealth, or riches of some kind, in humble places. Like maybe you’re pulling something from nothing. Diamonds in the rough kind of thing, ya know? How long have you been dating Melissa?”

“A year and a half or so. You saying she came from the dirt?” Paul responded.

“No, no man, just trying to piece things together.”

“Yeah, that was one of the first things I thought about too. Doesn’t seem quite satisfactory though. There was just something about how silver the coins became after washing them off in the rain.” There was another extended pause between the two, then Paul continued, “definitely something about how…unnaturally silver they became.”

That night as Paul was making his way through the streets on his drive towards his girlfriend’s house, the images he dreamt came to his mind again. He turned the stereo down so that all he heard was the working of his engine and other cars passing by. At a red light, the vividness of the coins came back to him. He became convinced that this was the crux of his dream. But there was still so much more to consider. He decided to take a detour.

“Hey, I thought you were going to be here sooner. I already started eating.” Melissa said as she welcomed her boyfriend into her apartment.

He kissed her and said, “It’s ok, I’m not really hungry. More tired than anything. I kinda just want to lay down, maybe sleep early.”

“Is everything ok?” Melissa asked.

“Yeah, work is just kicking my ass.” He embraced her warmly and gave her a reassuring kiss. Then he headed for the bedroom. As he lay awake in Melissa’s bed, she was doing dishes and cleaning up the kitchen. He was flat on his back and staring up at the ceiling. Then, very quickly, he sprung out of bed and reached into his day bag that he had placed next to the bed on the ground. He took out a small nylon pouch, a lighter, and a small plastic bag then stole away to the master bathroom.

He flushed the toilet but didn’t care enough to put up anything more in terms of a smoke screen. When he emerged Melissa was already changed and settling herself into the bed. Paul turned the lights off and joined her in bed.

Melissa drew close to him after they made love. “What did you have for dinner?” she asked him as she nestled her cheek against his chest.

“I didn’t have any dinner.” He answered in a drawl.

“You said you had already eaten.” She volleyed back.

He took a few beats to respond. “I said I wasn’t hungry. Never said I ate.” He was answering with few words and slurring his speech pretty badly.

She looked up at his face but he had his eyes closed and his expression was so blank that it all but gave him away. It seemed to Melissa like the standard template of a face before god puts any features on it. “Are you ok?” she investigated, leering ever more intently on his face.

He kept his face pointed toward the ceiling, his eyes closed, and answered shortly, “I’m tired.”

She reached across his body and switched on the lamp set atop her nightstand. Now he had to open his eyes. What she saw was a pair of glassy eyes in the dim light of the lamp. She hesitated for a moment, then spoke, “Don’t tell me–goddammit Paul, are you using again?!”

He didn’t answer–just shut his eyes up again, lying on his back.

“What the fuck Paul, did you just shoot up here in my room?!”

Still no answer or movement. Then Melissa climbed over him and reached into his day bag.

Paul snapped to life. “Hey! That’s not yours is it?!” It was like a comatose person being stabbed in the heart with a syringe of pure adrenaline.

That was all she needed to know. She stood over him beside the bed and he propped himself up on his elbows. “Goddammit Paul, when did you start using again?” She demanded.

“Not that it’s any of your business but tonight was the first time in over a year.” he answered coolly.

“Not that it’s any of my business?!” She echoed, most appalled.

He began puling himself out of bed and gathering his clothes that were strewn all over the bed. “Well, I figure it’s my body, and so long as what I do with my body doesn’t effect you in any negative way, you don’t need to know about it.” He responded as he pulled his shirt over his head and down his lean torso.

“Jesus, you’re a fucking asshole when you’re on that shit!” Melissa gasped out.

He began puling his pants up and cinching his belt. “And you’re a potty mouth when you’re sober so I guess we’re even.” He flung his day bag over his shoulder and made for the door.

“Where are you going?” Melissa demanded.

“Home.” Paul answered. He walked out of her bedroom and she heard the front door open and close quietly.

Once Paul was home, he shot up one more time. That night, there was a full moon and Paul could see it from his bedroom window as he sat, smacked out, on the edge of his bed. His high put him in a daze and he stayed staring at the bright, full moon as the thoughts passed from one edge of his brain to the other, and finally on to oblivion.

The moon shone a pale, milky white and while striking to behold, ‘nothing like the coins’ Paul thought. He could sit erect no longer and fell backwards on his bed.

Almost a week passed before he heard anything from Melissa. As he saw her name flash suddenly on the screen of his phone, he became aware just how much time had passed since the night he left her apartment. He was surprised at how long she was able to wait. He answered her call, “Hello.”

“Jesus you even sound high again,” was her greeting.

“That’s funny because I’m not.” He replied in a flat tone that made it clear that he had no interest in arguing her assumption.

“Yeah right, so–” before Melissa could continue any further, Paul stopped her. “If you called to scold me, I don’t want to hear it. In fact, whatever the reason you called me, you’re probably going to be disappointed.”

“I’m already disappointed. You’re using again.” her voice was still fiery after the handful of days since Paul heard it last. At this last statement of hers, Paul remembered her nature as it really was underneath all her layers of insincere kindness and civility; self-serving, and at it’s core, completely uninterested in the concerns of others.

He was getting angry and he didn’t want to grow angry from this exchange. “Melissa, I don’t want you to call me again. I don’t want you to text me, I do’;t want you to email me, and I definitely don’t want you coming to my apartment anymore. I don’t want to see you anymore–at all, in any sense.”

He could hear her huff incredulously, a pause, and then, “I can’t believe what a scumbag you must have always been–and how apparently good you were at hiding it for so long. I can’t believe your choosing fucking heroin over me.”

He put an end to her ranting right there, “Whoa whoa whoa…let’s make this clear. I’m not choosing heroin or anything over you. I’m just not choosing you.”

A week passed since Paul’s phone conversation with Melissa and he had scarcely left his apartment. He was deliberately putting himself through a hellish cycle–using to excess one day then letting a couple days pass while he suffered self-imposed withdrawals.

On his table were half-eaten meals that he couldn’t choke down. His bed was a mass of clothes. Sweaters that he would squirm into when his withdrawal made him steely cold, and shed when he began to sweat uncontrollably.

There were a dozen quarter-empty to half-empty plastic water bottles scattered across the floor of his bedroom. His fridge was empty but his kitchen was sloppy with haphazardly slapped together and abandoned meals that were starting to give the whole place a rounded, rancid smell.

Of course, during this period, he had not been to work at all which is what prompted all the calls from Brian that went missed or unanswered. Paul had let his phone battery die and only ever charged it and looked at it when he needed to re-up. In fact, as far as Paul could remember, he hadn’t left his apartment at all except for the sole purpose of scoring.

And that is what prompted Paul to plug his phone in and look at it on this day. This was an “on” day so he allowed himself to shoot up but he was almost completely out. It was time to pick up and this is when he saw all the missed calls from his boss–these were wholeheartedly expected–but almost as many calls from his co-worker, friend of 6 years, and the only person Paul had described his dream to. Brian.

This triggered a new train of thought in Paul’s brain that was, in it’s current state, having plenty of trouble communicating effectively between lobes. He scrolled through all the missed calls and figured that this was a chore that should be handled in person.

Paul and Brian arranged to meet at a cafe that was close to their office. Brian was already there and seated at the outside table under an awning where they almost always had lunch together. Paul sauntered up to the cafe and spotted Brian quickly. As he walked toward him, he thought about how long he had known this man and how little he really knew him.

Brian sat back in his chair and just stared at Paul while he walked over. “Christ, I didn’t want to believe it, I didn’t even want to consider it. Fuck man, what happened?”

“Nothing.” Paul replied and sat down. He hated that his heroin use was always the first thing anyone mentioned. Which was, in part, why he secluded himself for a week. He hated even more that he couldn’t hide when he was high. Brian had actually told him once that he walks a certain way when he’s smacked up.

“Something must’ve happened man. You were doing so well.” Brian commented.

Paul was getting incredibly tired of hearing how well he was doing and that “well” equaled “clean.” Brian had known Paul when he was completely lost in addiction, and when he got clean and started living a life that most people would call normal; a job, a girlfriend, and lack of a swallowing addiction.

Paul was already getting frustrated with Brian’s words and began regretting his decision to meet him in person. But he closed his eyes and refocused as well as he could in his current state. “Like I said, nothing happened. Anyway I’m not here to talk about that.”

Just then, a waitress walked up and interjected. Brian ordered a latte and Denver omelette. Paul didn’t order anything.

“Really. What are you here to talk about? You know Melissa called me crying, saying that you broke up with her.”

At this last statement, Paul’s focus sharpened to a needlepoint. He didn’t say anything for a few seconds; just stared into Brian’s eyes. “Why do you suppose she called you?”

“Because we’re friends, and she was distraught.” Brian answered.

Paul let it go. “Do you remember that dream I told you about? The one with the coins and the rain?” Paul asked.

Brian moved the pupils of his eyes in an upward arc; thinking. “Yeah, I think so. Why?”

“I think I’ve finally realized what it means.” Paul said calmly.

“What’s that?” Brian inquired.

“Well you suggested that it meant that I would find something or somethings of value in humble places. Or unexpected places or whatever. And to be honest, I’ve been wondering about this dream–what it meant–until this moment. I know now that we both looked at the images all out of order. The coins don’t represent something outside of me. They actually represent me. My life. In the dream I rinsed them in the rain that fell outside the shelter of the canopy of the tree I was under until they were so beautifully, vividly, silver. Now I know that I have to cleanse myself, my life, of all the dirt that I’ve sunk it into over the years for it to be truly beautiful. I have to shed the dirt.”

“I agree,” commented Brian in a tone of relief. He continued, “You could start with that shit,” pointing at the crook of Paul’s arm.

“Nah” replied Paul. “That’s not it. There’s real dirt in my life. There was a pause between them and then Paul continued. “I met you here because I wanted to let you know that we’re not friends. I’m not going to see you anymore after this. I’m going to lose your number and I suggest you do the same.”

“Wow, where is this coming from?” Brian asked but Paul didn’t answer. Instead, he stood up, got ready to walk away and asked, “Do you remember my housewarming party? After I stopped using, had been working full-time for a long time, hooked up with Melissa, and leased my apartment?”

Brian answered suspiciously, “Yeah…”

“I saw you. I saw you and Melissa.”

Like a boxer on the ropes, Brian replied, “You saw us? That’s great, we saw you too. We saw Tim, Lindsey, Jared, Sam…Mike. We all saw each other that night. What’s your point?”

“You grabbed her ass. You grabbed her ass and she laughed. You whispered something in her ear and then you guys proceeded to exchange numbers.” Paul answered.

“Paul, nothing came of that. We were drunk, ok? I’m sorry. Anyway that was years ago man, and you’re just bringing it up now?” Brian contended.

“Goodbye Brian,” Paul said and walked away.

A few nights later Paul gathered up the last few hundred dollars he had left in his bank account, called his connect, and bought as much smack as he could. Then he drove out to Santa Monica and parked about a half mile away from the pier.

He took from his car a heavy sweater that he immediately flung on, a flannel shirt, and a pre-prepped syringe filled with all the junk he just bought. It was late and all the patrons had vacated the cold windy beach hours ago but the lights of the pier were still blazing.

‘It’s nice’ Paul thought to himself as he trekked to where the sand begins to slope down and the foam sizzles out on the shore. He put the flannel down on the sand and sat on it. And with the cornucopia of unnatural light coming from the ferris wheel flashing and rotating off in the distance, the sound of the ocean threatening to soak or sweep him away, and a silvery moon shining in the sky, he shot up everything in the syringe.

He immediately fell flat on his back atop his flannel and saw the planes taking off from the airport low in the night sky. His hope was that he will have shed the last specks of dirt from himself.

 

 

Half-Empty

There were two shot glasses set atop the table in the dining room. There were four chairs around the table and three of them were empty. The smell of bourbon pervaded the room. One man sat in a chair that made it so the left side of his body was facing the sliding glass door that was the portal from the dining room to the backyard. There was no light shining through the glass of that door.

A nice bottle of bourbon sat half empty on the table in front of the man. He rested his forehead against the palms of both hands. The chair across the table from him was askew; it’s backrest facing more toward the sliding glass door than toward the kitchen counter like it would have been if it were placed neatly. The only sensation more prominent in the room than the odor of aerated bourbon was the thorough silence.

Just a few minutes ago however, the room was raucous with noise. The man’s throat began to feel sore. In this moment, he remembered how someone had told him that whiskey, or bourbon, basically eats away at one’s vocal chords–like acid for your throat.

He thought of this as he tipped some more bourbon into one of the shot glasses and knocked it down. He felt the burn against his throat and the warmth advancing on his gut. He also thought that with the shot, he could actually feel himself become drunker and more dour.

He immediately began musing to himself that stripped vocal chords might actually do him a lot of good. ‘Definitely more dour’ he thought to himself as he served up another shot of the fine bourbon. It was an expensive bottle and when he went out to procure it, the evening carried with it so much hope. As the night lurched on and the liquid inside of the bottle dwindled however, so too did that hope.

Another shot. This time to hear something besides the silence all around him. He made it a point to set the bottle down hard on the wooden table when he was done pouring, and to damn near slam the shot glass back down to the surface after downing the liquid. He let out a long, audible breath that to anyone else would have signified refreshment. But it just made him feel more miserable because when he was done with the brief spectacle, the house was silent again.

There was a little over a quarter of a bottle left now but the man was still keenly aware of his situation and felt that any prospects of a turnaround–any hope of rationalizing it all towards some optimistic end–were only growing scarcer.

He thought back to when the bottle was full. There was easy conversation then, and the loneliness the man desperately wanted to scare away, was actually hiding somewhere away from his senses.

Somewhere around when the bottle was 3/4 full the conversation was beginning to turn. In retrospect, the man thought that maybe that was the time he began placing too much responsibility on the other. ‘But if that were the case’ he reasoned to himself ‘then I was expecting too much even from the very beginning.’

When the brown liquid reached the middle of the label, the night began unraveling but the man kept going because at least it wasn’t loneliness he was feeling. No, instead, as the dialogue was getting heated, there was a frantic urge to salvage the night coupled with a wild lust to prove some mercurial point.

None of the words borne of this jangled state of mind came out sweetly. Before long there was a full-fledged shouting match erupting in the usually quiet home. As the man yelled, he felt the numbness of the bourbon in his throat and a fiery whiteness in his mind. He almost felt like shouting and being hostile were the best things to be doing in the moment. Nothing else existed other than the sport of being aggressive. It somehow felt good.

As the nonsensical argument blasted on, the man began noticing a strange feeling of being in his element. There was some great satisfaction that came from raging–by any means–against the numbness that grew more prevalent with each swallow of the brown liquid.

He cursed, banged his fist on the table, and screamed until he felt a grating in his throat, but it all felt good. Like throwing unfettered haymakers non-stop in a room flooded floor to ceiling with cotton balls. When the other had enough and the shouting ran out of momentum, the bottle was half-empty.

At present however, there was a little less than a quarter of the bourbon left and there was no numbness left in the man. Only an acute longing that would not disappear. It had come out of hiding.

Consumption had always worked in the opposite way for the man before, and he grew profoundly troubled with each slug he took down. But at this point, there was no other course of action to take. He filled up his glass once again and after this shot, a new feeling seized his consciousness–fear.

The man felt fear at seeing the liquid in the bottle almost completely gone and still being so far from any kind of resolution. There was almost no hope that the man’s longing, regret, and loneliness would subside by the time the bottle was spent.

But again, there was no turning back now. The man pushed his shoulders back in his chair, bracing his arms against the heavy table.He took stock of the room and allowed himself to listen to the silence. The noiselessness did battle with his burning thoughts and at the same time, fueled them.

He took the bottle in his hand and as silently as he possibly could, poured himself the last of the bourbon. He held the bottle completely upside down for several moments so as to let every last drop consolidate, build, and then drop meagerly into his shot glass. The glass was filled nearly to the brim.

The biggest shot of the night. The man raised it to his face, craned his neck backwards, opened his mouth and tilted the contents of his little glass straight down his throat. Without a sound, he set the glass down very gently back on the table.

Then, a brilliant flash of light went off in his mind. ‘Of course, that’s gotta be it!’ he thought to himself. ‘There just wasn’t enough of it. I was sharing!’ He clung to this feeble excuse  as a man cast overboard a ship will cling to a life-preserver. The observation consoled him as to how the bottle could be so empty with him still feeling so hopeless.

As he thought this, he heard the faint conversation of a man and a woman as they walked towards his house out on the sidewalk. For once, the utter silence of his home worked to his advantage as he listened very carefully to the sound. The conversation grew clearer as the couple got closer to his house. Then they were just outside his door.

Then the talking became a little fainter. Then a little more faint. And fainter still as they walked past the man’s home. The man turned his attention back to what was in front of him. The bottle of nice bourbon was now empty and there were still two shot glasses set atop the table in the dining room.

A Silver Tongue

Spring, 2003

In all likelihood, this was the final straw. Deniet had flown to Toronto, spent 4 days there (one day longer than necessary or planned for), and returned to Seattle without briefing anyone from the accounts team; all without ever once meeting with the client. Jordan Deniet’s tenure at Lewis & Sedgwick had been a precarious one that his colleagues could never wrap their heads around.

In drunken moments, Jordan even confessed to some of his coworkers that he got the job in part by lying about his education. “I’ve never even set foot on the OSU campus!” then he busted out laughing. This latest scoffing of company policy was the crown jewel of his myriad transgressions, however: a huge client completely blown off and ignored.

Jordan strode into his superior’s office to discuss this latest brazen act of disregard without the slightest display of nerves.

“How is Toronto in the spring, Deniet? I’ve never had the opportunity to see it.” Hollins sarcastically inquired.

“Oh, just fine. Beautiful city. Charmingly international.” Jordan replied without skipping a beat.

“Yeah, I’m sure you had a great time. Lewis & Sedgwick footing the bill and all. I trust you stayed entertained, well-fed…drunk.”

“You know it Mr. Hollins.” Jordan said with a smirk, his right leg propped up on his left knee, fingers interlaced over his waist.

Hollins laughed and continued, “Deniet, I’m not going to ask you why you didn’t meet with Nathaniel, I don’t care. You’re gone and that’s a foregone conclusion. And I’m happy. Your book here at Lewis & Sedgwick is closed so there is, thank Christ, no need to try and figure out why you ignored a client with a 2.4 million dollar contract on his hands. Now that I can talk to you like the normal piece of shit that you are, I am curious, not as your former boss. I don’t know, think of me as someone you would talk to casually at a bar. What did you do in Toronto while you were supposed to be working? What could you have possibly been doing besides getting drunk on the company dollar?”

Jordan answered very dryly, “Toronto is a very nice city. I walked around a lot. In fact I was walking to Nathaniel’s hotel when I got sidetracked by a promising canal tour. After that, I just never bothered following up with him. Oh, and on Sunday the Sonics were scheduled to play the Raptors, so I stayed an extra day for that in case you were wondering.”

“I wasn’t.” Hollins replied. “You can leave now.”

As Deniet stood up to exit Hollins’ office, the phone rang. “There is a good chance that’s Mr. Lewis,” he said with his back turned as he left the office.

 

Fall, 2005

“I slept with another woman. In Toronto.” Jordan spoke these words to his wife’s back while she was busying herself in the kitchen. The statement was completely unprovoked. They hadn’t even been having a conversation. He simply stood up from his desk in the study, walked into the kitchen, and made his confession.

Mya heard the words, perked her head up, and stared forward while trying to process them. They didn’t seem to make sense in the order he had said them in. She turned around to see her husband standing in the doorway of the kitchen. He was looking directly into her eyes. Her husband of 8 years liked to joke but she could always tell when he was saying something in jest. When he was serious, he had a straight as an arrow gaze and an insensate expression on his face. This was the look he wore this moment. She could tell he wasn’t joking but she asked anyway, “You’re being serious?”

“Yes,” while he nodded his head shallowly.

“You slept with a woman in Toronto…that was at least 2 years ago and you’re telling me now?” She was still clinging to an iota of disbelief.

Jordan nodded his head silently this time. One of the only times his wife had ever seen him at a loss for words.

“Why are you telling me this now?” Mya asked.

“I don’t know. The guilt is getting to me I think.” he answered.

Mya remembered the work trip on which her loving husband’s infidelity supposedly occurred. Mainly because one or two weeks after he returned from it, he was promoted to head of accounts.

That night, Jordan slept on the couch while his wife lay in bed trying to figure out what all of this meant to her. She could barely believe it was true. He had acted perfectly normal for two years and showed no sign of dissatisfaction prior to the trip. No changes and certainly no inkling of an extra-marital affair. Her thoughts kept her from sleep. The fact that he was able to play it so cool for so long scared her. She didn’t know what to make of this news but the more she thought about it, the angrier she became.

All she knew is that she would make him leave; stay somewhere else first thing in the morning for as long as it took for her to decide what to do. While she lay awake in bed, Jordan crept into the room. She allowed him to sit on the bed and they talked for almost an hour.

Jordan talked in the same tone he used with Mya almost a decade ago when he convinced her that having children, at any point in their relationship was a mistake. He emphasized the word mistake. Mya knew the tone well as she played that conversation over and over again in her mind over the next 8 years. In that conversation 8 year ago he pointed out eloquently and in great detail all that would–he assured her that this was a certainty–go wrong if they had kids. And she was convinced.

He spent the rest of the night by her side, holding her. The next morning, he was still in the house. And the morning after that, and the morning after that. She hadn’t even made him pack his bags.

 

Summer, 1981

When Jordan came to he was being pushed from behind across a driveway into a connecting garage. A pair of large, rough hands held both his arms behind his back. The hands twisted his arm up toward his shoulder blade whenever he resisted. He became conscious into a thick brain haze. He must have been drugged with something because there was an acrid, chemical smell, totally unnatural, lingering in his nostrils. He looked up and saw the moon low in the sky. There were heavy footsteps behind him. Jordan shook his head trying to dispel the fog in his mind. He craned his neck over his shoulder to see who it was that was pushing him but a sharp, hard twist of his arm by the man corralling him put a stop to all that.

The man–the fog slowly burning off from consciousness…wait, 2 sets of footfalls–the two men prodded him into the fluorescent lit garage and forced him to sit in a chair in the center of it–all the while being careful to stay behind him. They obviously didn’t want their faces to be seen. Jordan was forcefully sat and his wrists were bound by–Jordan counted–4 zip ties behind his back.

“You’ve already made a mistake.” Jordan stated before the men could leave the garage. “You can’t be professionals, if there even is such a thing. It’s only been a few hours so we can’t be far from Seattle.” Jordan scrambled to recall his last memory. He quickly remembered walking home from school with his 6th grade classmate, a struggle, then nothing until regaining consciousness on the cold driveway. “My friend, the one I was walking with, say you, at least him, who knows how many others. I know I’m not far from home.”

Somehow, Jordan Deniet was able to grasp what was happening to him very quickly and when he did, an erstwhile dormant instinct rose to the proscenium of his mind: talk or die. Just keep talking. “Your hands are rough and this is a house a few hours away.” ‘Don’t say “maybe,” don’t be passive, state facts, make statements even if they aren’t completely true!’ The thoughts flashed across Jordan’s mind like neon marquee lighting displaying a play title and actors’ names. “A house a few hours outside of Seattle. Queen Anne, Capitol Hill, Colombia City, or Georgetown maybe.”

The men stood silent, hearing the words coming from this boy. “It’s cold, this garage is like all the other garages I’ve seen. Seattle! You’re from here, see!? A Seattle license plate!”

The men traced the line of sight of the boy’s head from behind. “God fucking…!” One of them exclaimed, seeing an old, loose license plate sticking out of some shelving.

“It ends in 6-4!” Jordan proclaimed. One of the men quickly yanked the plate form the shelf and then turned off the garage light.

“Shut up kid” one of the men said with an upwards inflection–a warning tone that implied that more words would result in physical assault.

“You are, you are from here, I can tell by your voice. This garage can fit 2 cars.” ‘More facts’ the thoughts flashed in Jordan’s mind. “I’m still alive. You guys aren’t killers. You’ve taken me for something that you need me alive for or else I would be dead already.”

“Don’t be so fucking sure!” One of them exclaimed. Then Jordan heard one of the men leave the garage.

“You’ve already made mistakes. This is probably the first time you’ve done this. I hear about kidnappers being caught on the news all the time. It’s common and they always get sent to prison for life or executed. You’ve already made mistakes and your bound to make more.” Jordan continued. He heard the other man return and frantically continued his rant. “The air is very cold and my parents already know I’m gone. You’ll make more mist-” He felt a rag shoved into his face from behind. The smell, the acrid chemical smell, this time 100 times stronger. He struggled under the large hand. Jordan felt a primal, screeching fear for a second and then nothingness.

When Jordan woke up, he was being shook to life by an old haggard-looking woman. He was lying, unharmed, on the bench of a bus stop. He shook his head wearily, barely hearing, and even less, comprehending the words of the old woman, who was obviously gravely concerned to see a young boy sleeping on a bus stop bench alone at the crack of dawn.

Jordan continued to ignore the words of the bewildered woman and looked up at the awning of the bus stop. It read “Powell & Hearth.” Jordan knew the streets. He was only a few miles from his home.

Lenkley: Chapter 2

It was Wednesday morning and Lenkley was riding the 72 bus from his rat-hole apartment in the garment district into the heart of Downtown Los Angeles to work. He lived above a warehouse style wholesale shop that sold potted plants of every variety. Every morning at 6AM he was awoken by the rolling aluminum gates that served as the store’s entrance. In the rear, large trucks and even louder truck drivers unloaded the day’s shipment of plants, cacti and other foliage. 6AM worked fine for Lenkley since he had to be in the office by 7:30. A natural alarm clock that eroded his sanity bit by bit every morning, but worked out in a practical sense. Between the blaring Mariachi music, the loud rusty gates being carelessly thrown up, and the cranking clutch of the Mack truck below, Terrence Lenkley had no need for an alarm clock.

He was dozing off on the bus with his forehead leaned up against the glass window, but he didn’t get too deep into slumber as the bus hit a particularly significant pothole in the road and bumped his head against the cold glass. Lenkley was pissed, but there was nothing to be done about it. They were passing through Skid Row and Lenkley watched as the bums sauntered out of their tents and began shakily shifting into hustle gear. The matter of the next high was to be attended. Where would the next $10 come from for their next hit? Theirs were crack-ravaged bodies that gave little credence to the blistering heat or the stinging cold. Lenkley always likened them to ascetic monks-denying their bodies comfort, oblivious to the outside world. The only difference, Lenkley thought, was the ultimate goal. One group sought Nirvana and the other sought a good hit. ‘Which was more noble?’ Lenkley thought to himself as the big orange Metro bus lumbered over the shitty road. One was temporary and one was questionable as to whether or not it could even be attained. Even if it were to be achieved, who was to say Nirvana was not also temporary?

Everyone is on drugs, Lenkley reasoned to himself. Everyone is just looking for temporary relief. That’s all life seems to be: the pursuit of a transitory break from a taxing reality. The strung out hobos were no worse than the corporate execs in the high-rise buildings who wheel and deal to make enough money so that they can afford the next high. Money makes them attractive to the women they cheat on their wives with. A big account here, a signing bonus there and you’ll be able to really woo the slut at the end of the bar at The Standard. And that’s the high, but once blow your load, where will you be? Face to face with the life you can’t stand and that eats away at you little by little everyday. Then its back to the office to play power ball and earn enough scratch for your next fix. Go ahead and pretend you are doing it for your wife, kids, and “a better life,” but I know different, Lenkley thought. I know what you love and its not your family, your career, or even the money-it’s the escape. The drug.

Lenkley was with them everyday as they rode the elevator together. But they were going all the way to the top of the building whereas he would be getting off somewhere near the middle. And they were all chasing the same thing.  Whether you rode the elevator all the way to the top or you parked cars in the dungeon, it was all the same. It was the same for Lenkley too who got off somewhere near the middle, and he hated that fact. The only thing worse than being a bum or being a self-diluted executive was being something in the middle. Street people and CEO’s had something strong and very defining in common: they both had made decisions about what they were going to be. The people getting off on the middle floors were ineffectual, timid types who kind of just drifted in the wind without putting up much resistance and making no defining decision as to who they were going to be. You have to admire the bums, Lenkley thought, because they had the bravery to face the streets, not give a fuck about societal norms, and seemingly care about nothing. You also have to give it to the old, stuffy farts in the corner offices for deciding that they were going to care about everything. Lenkley was somewhere in the middle. He had one foot in the corporate, material world and another firmly planted in the minimalist, Bohemian, I don’t give a fuck world. He was on the fence and was scared to jump off onto either side. He didn’t care about material things. One needed only to look at his apartment to know that. A single studio flat appointed with a futon, a T.V. tray that doubled as a dinner table and desk, a laptop, a second or third or fourth-hand coffee table from the Salvation Army, a mini-fridge, and a small plastic trash can. Lenkley really only wanted to make enough money to be left alone. At the end of the day, he was an extreme introvert.

After his father passed away of pancreatic cancer when he was 12, his housewife of a mother was left overwhelmed and embittered. His only sibling, an older sister, was incredibly attached to her father before he passed and she disconnected almost completely in the aftermath. The death rocked the Lenkley clan who lived too far away from extended family to get much support. His mother went to work as a bank teller to support the family but that left little time for her to monitor how the patriarchal loss was effecting young Terrence. Had she been afforded such time, she would notice more keenly how much Terrence was drawing further into himself and away from the outside world.   So much of Lenkley’s young life was spent alone watching T.V. and venturing into the greenbelt path that ran behind his Carson City, Nevada home. After watching cartoons that subliminally suggested violence against animals, young Terrance would wander out to the greenbelt in search of small rodents and other wild animals. If he was lucky, he could track down a rattlesnake and brain it with a ball-peen hammer or lure a racoon with a piece of bologna then strike it at the last second with a tire iron. These activities became a favorite pastime for young Terrence and he drew pride from the animal graveyard he amassed in the backyard that only he was aware of. At least, in this sense, he had some control over death. A control he had not had when his father passed. A fake control, but something that resembled it all the same. It comforted his developing mind. A psychologist would observe Lenkley at that age and determine that his obvious lack of empathy for the small animals he was savagely slaying suggests dangerous sociological detachment-no such psychologist was ever present in Lenkley’s life.

The bus was rattling through the mid-Wilshire district by the time Lenkley was through with his revelries. He was forced to ponder that which was immediate and pertinent. Namely, the U.S. Bank building in which he worked as a cold-caller for a marketing company. He hated his job but it was a means to an end. For the time being, Lenkley had no goals that extended past the next Gnostic mass when he would once again be in his element. Those masses were the only times Lenkley felt right. To say that he felt like himself in that dingy basement, rolling hard on a coupe good pills, would be an overstatement. Lenkley didn’t really know who he was, which, he figured, was a huge reason he was weak, timid, and indecisive in nature. Still, he felt that was where he wanted to be-hidden away from a culture he felt nothing but contempt for. Free to indulge in in the fantasies he was too modest to pursue in the surface world. He could not wait until the next Gnostic mass. He had a breakthrough of sorts at the last one, going to town on Bythos45. Now things were really getting tantalizing withe the Pistis Core. Now, Lenkley could put up with the droning of the pathetic old shithead that led each mass, knowing that on the other side of the sermon, he would be turned loose like he was in the greenbelt near his childhood home. And that, Lenkley reasoned as he entered an elevator with a group of suited worker-bees, was his drug. Completely unhinging was his narcotic of choice. Being free to act out what he suppressed on a daily, hourly basis, was his drug. He worked, he put on his corporate costume, rode a filthy bus down filthier streets to an office he had frequent fantasies about firebombing, and detached his higher brain to do a job that amounted to nothing, in order to be able to experience that release just one more time. An addict of the highest order.

The elevator bell rang and the digital display showed 14-Lenkley’s floor. The doors pulled open and Lenkley stepped out. The middle of the building. The middle of the road. Somewhere in between a prince and a pauper. Completely normal and unremarkable. But Lenkley could not suppress a mischievous smile as he stepped out onto the 14th floor. He knew that come the next gathering of the Pistis Core, he would be anything but ordinary. That was enough to get him through the week. It would be enough to resist the urge to start up another mass grave in his adult life.

Lenkley: Chapter 1

This was the part of the day that Terrence Lenkley hated the most. He hadn’t seen the sunlight for an entire 24 hours and he knew that when he swung the rusted metal plated side-door open, the stinging brightness of the 7A.M. sun would damn near blind him. When he got there it was already night time so he did not bring any sunglasses with him. Stepping into the sunlight would also usher in the official end to a glorious night of sloppy debauchery. But before he could stumble into the heavy door and come out the other side a normal member of society, he would take a moment and stand in the corridor that led to the side exit, and savor the warm fleshy smell of the night’s bacchanalia.

He had gained access to this place by lurking in the forums of Gnostic websites. Turns out one of the faceless members of one of the forums worked at a piercing and tattoo parlor not too far from Lenkley’s studio apartment in the fashion district. He walked in, pretended to be interested in getting his first piercing (he hated needles and thought only douchebags and goth queers got piercings) but more importantly he pretended to be interested in Gnosticism. Truthfully, he really had been mildly interested in the principles of Gnosticism. Many hours at work were misused reading through Wikipedia portals and blogs about Gnosticism. But this lasted for a week and a half tops. The next quasi-intellectual distraction from the monotony of work replaced Gnosticism in short order and damned if Lenkley even remembered what it was. But he surely remembers how this fleeting Gnostic interest changed his life. In that week and a half of scouring forums he began an online correspondence with one “Bythos45” who, along with a penchant for the counter-culture, shared a ZIP code with Terrence. So he ventured into the piercing shop nervously after being informed by Bythos45 that among other things, Gnostics sometimes observe seasonal orgies and that she may or may not be part of a group that adheres to such practices. She left the tip cryptic enough to be titillating but playful enough to imply a wink and a nod. So the day he actually visited her at her place of business, he made sure to brush up on his Gnostic jargon and vocabulary. He wanted to be able to talk shop with at least some fluidity. When he walked out of her shop he was smiling ear to ear, completely content with his performance. The Oscar for bullshit would have been awarded to Terrence Lenkley on that day if such an award existed. He had somehow dumbed his way through a short conversation with Bythos45 and convinced her that he was genuinely “into the Gnostic teachings but just needed a little guidance from some people that have studied it for longer than he had.” It was a good enough performance to secure Bythos45’s real name-Lydia-and a date: Thursday, May 12th 2001 would be the date of Terrence Lenkley’s first Gnostic mass.

Months of sheer boredom passed as he became a trusted member of the Pistis Core: a concentrated group of Gnostic enthusiasts in the Los Angeles area. Lydia had failed to mention to Terrence that initiates must actually practice abstinence in their Gnostic infancy. So it took a couple months worth of attending masses for Lenkley to even see his first orgy much less participate in it. But it was worth the wait. Each one was better and more addicting than the last and the previous night’s hedonistic cabal did not disappoint. Lenkley relived every moment in a flash as he stood there in the hallway inhaling the stale sex. The amphetamine fueled night kicked into gear as usual. Small, talkative cliques formed in the basement of the old burnt down bar that was their meeting place. A few groups of five or six people who gravitated toward each other because they had grown comfortable with one another over the months and in some cases, the years. The effects of the Ecstasy and cocaine soon became apparent in the room. The small talkative groups were becoming languid throngs of groping and playfully caressing bodies. That’s when clothes started coming off-the veterans wore robes. True, there was more queer sex going on than Lenkley would have liked-the first hour or two always ensured that Terrence would be relegated to voyeurism until as someone in the hetero pockets of fornication would grow too tired and there was room and opportunity for him to slip in-but when one of the Gnostic “priestesses” really got going, it was magic. Tonight it was Bythos45 who got rolling the best. She was taking on four at a time. bent over, splayed out, and stretching apart at the seams, humming for more with every ejaculate deposited in or on her. When the party started rolling like this all the discipline and mysticism of the early evening’s lectures dissolved in stagnant sweat and smeared cum. There was nothing disciplined or mystical about four dudes railing the living fuck out of a wailing she-banshee in the throes of pain masked by pleasure and diluted with amphetamines. Yes, their goal for the night was to “become the animal and reach true humanity by shedding any semblance of it from your being if only just for a few hours,” but Lenkley knew that bullshit was the furthest thing from anyone’s mind while they were feverishly pounding each others’ bodies together. There was very little spiritual about it. Nothing divine. When the show really got started, there was almost an atmosphere of ill-will in the sex acts that were performed. But Lenkley couldn’t care less and he suspected that no one else cared either.

He really went to work on Bythos45 that night once it was his turn at bat. He relished demolishing someone he had developed an acquaintanceship with. He resisted the drugs telling him to release too soon. Instead, he pulled out before he reached critical mass. He was given permission to invade her mouth as every other orifice of her body was being occupied. She was being jerked and pulled too much to give him any kind of consistent rhythm so Lenkley took it upon himself to create his own. Grooving his bare hips into her mouth and pulling out until his brain and body could take no more enticement. In the end he gripped her dyed black hair close to the scalp and held her face in place as he created a splatter art painting on it. It was the most assertive and aggressive thing he’d ever done in his meek life. He staggered backwards and dropped himself on one of the old bar stools from upstairs, leaning his upper body on a table that doubled as one of the many small shrines to various bullshit deities. He sat there, breathing deeply as he watched a recharged male member of the Pistus Core take his place in Bythos45’s mouth.

It was a terrific night but now it was over. Terrence had been coming down from the E for about an hour and a half. Now it was time to come face to face with the comedown’s natural enemy: sunlight. This was the part of the day that Terrence Lenkley hated the most. The moment before stepping through the portal that would take him from the world where all of his hidden characteristics were let loose, and into the world where he was just a normal member of society. He leaned into the door, pushed it open and immediately shielded his eyes and stepped into the bright disorienting world. The sun beat misery into his brain, he just wanted to get high again but miserable comedowns were routine for him at this point. So he reigned in his stumble to a respectable gait by the time he reached the sidewalk from the alley and disappeared among other respectable pedestrians making their way to work or some other respectable destination. As he walked, his head was bent forward and filled with satisfying fantasies of kneeing the square walking ahead of him and kicking his face as he was doubled over in pain. Cracking his ribs under his business-appropriate blazer. Lenkley saw a pair of stockinged legs in formal heels walking fast up on the right. Fantasies of bludgeoning Mr. Businessware gave way to ripping those stockings in half at the pussy and shoving himself between the long smooth legs that were walking so purposefully alongside him. Then he imagined how sweet it would be if Stockings and Mr. Businessware were actually husband and wife. He’d make bloody Businessware watch as he ate his wife dry, shoved a triple stack E up her ass, and finish in her mouth. Mr. Businessware with the Bluetooth in his ear faded from sight and the click-clack heels of Stockings marched out of an earshot but these sadistic fantasies persisted in Lenkley’s head as he walked himself home form an all-night, intoxicated, pagan orgy in a dirty basement in dire need of a bleach tidal wave. Just a normal member of society.

Some Soma in the 60’s

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There was the annoying glare of the sunlight beaming through the large bay window into the TV right on time as always. Tab twinged her foot subconsciously every time this happened. With her program all but obscured by the damned sunlight her mind was no longer occupied and very much up for grabs. She had been watching Password and Paul Anka was the guest appearance of the day. Tab was successfully occupied until 3:30 when the glare made the set unwatchable. This was the crux of her day. With her 3 year old boy fed, all cleaned up and taking his afternoon nap, the kitchen in order and with her husband not due home form work for another 2 hours, Tab was woefully left to her own devices. Sure, she could draw the curtains and eliminate the glare but that made her sunken Greeley, Colorado living room too dark. ‘It feels like a cave’ Tab would think to herself every time she did so. Like every day she stared intently at the screen trying to salvage an image but, like every day, to no avail. The aggravation was what always snapped her from her TV induced stupor. Now, completely aware of her surroundings at 3:30 p.m. Tab had to figure out what to do with the 2 hours it would take for either her son to wake up or her husband to come home. Of course, such considerations were recently becoming a mere formality for Tab; she knew essentially how she would occupy her time.

The previous winter Tab’s husband Patrick took her to Lake Tahoe for skiing. The trip was something of a bonus from Patrick’s boss for being one of the top 4 performing salesmen in the ’68 fiscal year. Tab was thrilled. She had never been to sunny California and relished the ideas of breaking free of the monotony she found herself resenting more and more as a stay at home wife and seeing the coast for the first time in her life.She loved her son and husband but her feelings for them were unmistakably sullied by a suppressed resentment even if Tab didn’t realize it herself. During the weeks leading up to the trip, Tab took an evening to go to the library and read up on Tahoe. She found that it was about a 5 hour drive drive to the coast from where they would be staying. “We’ll be able to carve out some time to drive out and see the coast won’t we?” Tab asked as she gently unclasped her silver earrings and placed them in the jewelry box on the nightstand next to their bed. “Honey this is a skiing trip. Besides, it’s November. The coast will be nothing but cold and craggy.” To this, all Tab did was give her husband an intent look dead in his eyes as she raised her left eyebrow ever so subtly. Patrick caught the look, continued to unbutton his shirt and relented. “I’ll see about a rental but no promises.” Tab smiled and continued to undress.

The flight had been enjoyable for Tab. Despite being wedged in the center aisle between her husband and a man who immediately fell asleep and began snoring upon take-off, Tab’s spirits and excitement could not be dampened. Tab wasn’t exactly the athletic type so skiing was something of a periphery bonus. She was most eager to drive out to the California coast. When they got to the front desk of the resort hotel, Tab immediately spotted a desktop cardboard stand with brochures for all kinds of activities and services including car rental. She silently gripped Patrick’s arm as he was checking in and nudged her nose towards the brochures. Patrick took one. The weekend trip began early Saturday morning with lessons for Tab. She had never been skiing before but Patrick had and enjoyed it even from his youth. So he attended his wife patiently as the instructor ran her through the basics. Eager to hit the slopes, Patrick rushed her to the bunny course and took a first run with her. It didn’t take 5 minutes for Tab to hit an ice patch, tumble over and twist her ankle. The weekend was shot for Patrick but Tab took the incident as divine providence that they have nothing to do together now but drive to the coast. They could leave first thing Sunday morning and still have time to make their 4:40 flight, she reasoned to Patrick. She slept early that night to rest her ankle but at 8:00 p.m. Patrick was still wide awake after they had their dinner so he went down to the hotel bar. He was disappointed that his weekend of skiing was so immediately brought to an end and somewhere around his 3rd highball, he began to suspect that his wife intentionally took a spill just so that they could have more time to take that idiotic coast trip of hers. Patrick noisily inserted his room key into the lock and sauntered into their room. He walked into the bathroom and saw the Hertz brochure on the sink. He threw it in the toilet as he urinated and flushed it all down. He went to bed without setting an alarm. The next morning, the Maynard’s greeted the California sun with a good old marital spat. Neither of them woke up when Tab wanted to and a hungover, unwashed Patrick informed his wife that the drive was not happening. “It’s not in the budget.” he half argued to his irate wife. Tab went down to have breakfast while Patrick showered and spent the rest of the morning and afternoon reading magazines in the lobby with all of her things packed. Patrick took a short hike around the resort grounds and watched football in the bar until it was time to pack up and head to the airport. It had been a disaster of a trip- no skiing and no sex. They were stone silent with each other the entire flight home. When they got back to Greeley Tab insisted she needed to see a doctor for her ankle. “It’s just a rolled ankle, it should be healing fine on it’s own.” Patrick argued. “Well it’s not.” Tab said matter-of-factly and that was that. The family doctor prescribed rest and Carisoprodol.

Tab uncrossed her legs and got up from the couch. She went into the kitchen and fiddled with some flatware for a bit but nothing was taking. She did a lap through the house but nothing needed cleaning. She stood in the living room scanning the E-Z Chair, coffee table and TV console and finally made her way to the upstairs bathroom and the medicine cabinet. Her eyes instantly fixed to the shelf where she knew her next activity would be waiting for her. She selected a bottle with her name, Tabitha Maynard printed on the label along with the name Soma. She rattled 2 capsules into the palm of her hand and went back down to the kitchen. Her Oxford’s clinked on the orange sunburst Linoleum floor as she headed towards the liquor cabinet. She poured herself a whiskey glass half-full of Chardonnay and gulped down the 2 capsules with her first swig of wine. The potent little muscle relaxers became part of her daily routine when things would get dull. Long after her ankle was completely healed, she took comfort in between the medicine and liquor cabinets. These days, she swam languidly into most evenings on a soft wave of blissful numbness. Everything was so much more enjoyable in this state. Everything that crept to the forefront of her mind when the glare of the sun sobered her from her broadcasted ossification became so much more tolerable with these pills and maybe a couple glasses of wine. She jaunted into the living room once again and turned on the hi-fi. The cool electric organ keys of Eddie Layton drowned out most of the noise of the TV that was left on. Tab swung her hips and cha-cha’d clear over the sunken sectional where she collapsed on a cloud of pillows and couch cushions. Laying there on the couch, her head hanging off the seat cushions and her feet up on the backrest, Tab was laughing uncontrollably. She put the palm of her hand to her forehead as if to feign embarrassment but was belly laughing the whole time. The upside-down position she found herself in on the couch was remarkably comfortable to her and as her laughter subsided, she began to feel sleepy. Without moving a heavenly muscle, she closed her eyes and thought hazily, ‘That was the closest I’d ever been to the coast.’ She drifted off but could hear the faint jingle of the Hamm’s Beer commercial playing on the Television as she slipped away, “In the land of the sky blue waters….”

Stations of the Heart Chapter 18: Jaded One

It hadn’t crossed Jed’s mind- his thoughts while he was in the desert and forest were majorly occupied with finding a way out- but now as Jed was negotiating his way down the wall of his hometown, he realized that soon he would step foot on familiar ground after not having done so for so long. The inside of the wall was textured and craggy so Jed had no problem climbing down via natural foot and hand holds. Carefully he made his way down to the cobble stoned ground. His feet were planted down in his hometown once again and he turned to face it. The streets were dark but dim light from the homes of the fortunate boys who had companions and the weak light from the three crescent moons above made the passageways, avenues, and alleys navigable. Indeed, Jed had known every street and route available in his home town as well as he knew his own name, but what Jed was looking at now seemed completely foreign to him. He stood there looking as far down the major avenue as he could. This place didn’t feel like his home. True it looked exactly the same; the streets, the homes, even the smell of moisture tinging off the cobblestones underfoot, but something was undoubtedly different. As Jed stood contemplating, he realized that it wasn’t the town that was different, it was himself. Jed had always felt content in his hometown- before his journey that is- but now all he felt was contempt. A hollow, empty feeling caverned out his insides as he stared at the streets of his home. When Jed, not of his own volition, set out on the journey, it was with the goal of coming back home. But so much had happened, so much had been experienced by Jed in between then and now that at present, Jed came to a most tragic conclusion: home was the last place he wanted to be. This place was not Jed’s home anymore, he didn’t belong there. Still, there was no going back. Where could he even go? He was shut out of the forest by his would-be spirit companion, and if he wandered the desert alone he would surely die. He didn’t really want to do either of those things anyway, but in that moment, he couldn’t think of a place he actually wanted to be. It was like there was no place for him anywhere, no home. The boy Jed Ano who was taken from his home, traveled a great distance, experienced much, and returned with no companion to call his own, had no choice. All that was left was forward motion. With that, Jed began walking down the broad main avenue of his town, toward his home.

As Jed walked through his hometown, he felt a though he could wretch at any moment. The songs and sounds of the boys who came back with companions made him sick to his stomach. He envied them, he resented them even, and couldn’t imagine how he could cope with hearing those sounds every night from now on. Initially, Jed wrote off the unease of his stomach as his sour emotions being projected on his physical form. But as Jed continued to walk, he realized that his queasy stomach was not a psychosomatic occurrence, but rather the product of a profound hunger deep in his gut. Jed was hopelessly hungry and there was nothing that could be done about it there in his hometown. There was no food to speak of there. Jed wondered how the other boys who ventured beyond the walls of the town managed to quell their hunger. Maybe they had never eaten anything in the forest to begin with and therefore their hunger had never been awoken. This got Jed thinking about the other boy’s journey’s. Were all of our encounters different? Am I the only one who now feels an insatiable hunger? Jed wondered these things but in the background of all he pondered was the physical ailment of his stomach. He had hoped beyond hope that a long, hearty drink from his canteen would help to sate his hunger and calm his stomach. But before he could even reach for his canteen he remembered that it was empty. He drank the last of the water when he had exhausted himself outside the walls of the town. ‘No matter’ Jed thought optimistically, ‘I can just go refill it at the well.’ Jed was grateful for the menial task that now presented itself; it provided him with a goal he could actually achieve, no matter how fleeting or trivial. A distraction from the emptiness he felt inside. So Jed altered his course ever so slightly and headed toward the center of town and the well with its vital content. The waters of the well had been the only sustenance available to the boys of the town, but it was all they needed-Jed included. This was true until Jed was introduced to meat at the feast of Pintiler. It may have been true of the other boys who went away from town as well because most of them never left their homes to collect water after they had returned. Some never left thir homes again at all and were never seen again. Jed wondered if the boys who came back with companions felt the same hunger he did. He quickly dismissed the thought and reasoned that they were in all likelihood too enveloped in bliss to ever be troubled by hunger. Whether they tasted the food in the forest or not. Jed took his conclusion as hard truth because of the few vague recollections he could muster from his time with his phantasmal companion in the house of spirits, he knew there was no such thing as hunger- indeed nothing of the outside world existed at all- when communing in that heavenly state. Jed could not recall feeling anything but an immeasurable warmth and ebullience during his interminable time with the enigmatic spirit. But now Jed was back on earth, mingled in with the rest of the unfortunates, the blissfully ignorant, and select blessed. ‘What a loathsome mixture of individuals’ Jed thought to himself. ‘That we should all have to return to the same place and live amongst each other seems like some kind of cruel joke or criminal indifference. But of who’s design?’ Jed thought about this for a few moments but couldn’t think of anyone to blame when he came to the conclusion that there was probably no one tending the light of the day or watching over the darkness of the night. Whatever the reason, Jed was now alone, making his way to the well at the center of town in the hopes that water would cease the very real hunger he felt within himself.

In short order Jed arrived at the well and found himself a bit reluctant to approach it. After all, it was from the well that the waters that swept him away to that insane forest arose. The well, the heart of the town, the eternal provider of life-sustaining water, it was the last thing Jed saw of his hometown before he was thrust into an odyssey which still had no discernible purpose that Jed could fathom. It was unchanged. Stoic in its readiness to give willingly. Jed walked up to the rim which was as high as his belly button as it had been before he left. From this inadvertent measurement, he realized he had not grown any taller, as the boys who returned home with companions had. Jed looked down and saw that the water was high in the well, almost reaching the rim. The surface was calm and smooth as though it hadn’t been disturbed in hours. He looked down at the water and saw his own reflection in it. He stared at himself for several minutes. It was the first time Jed had ever studied his own face. His jawline was sharply angled. His nose was crooked and a little high off his face but everything else seemed to be in good proportion. Dark and heavy shadows hung beneath deep and perfectly shaped almond eyes. He was struck by the appearance of his own eyes because within them was a profound sadness. A sadness that was transmitted whether Jed could help it or not. ‘What a sad looking person’ Jed observed to himself and tried to force a totally unnatural smile. The reflected smile looked ridiculous to Jed and he gave it up. That was when he noticed something else reflected in the well water. It was a silver crescent. ‘The moon’ Jed realized, ‘but where are the others?’ Jed tilted his head toward the dark sky and say only the silver crescent moon. The red and blue moons had completely disappeared. This saddened Jed immensely but he was at a total loss as to why. Somehow he felt emptier inside now that there was only the original moon he had known his entire life and not the others. Still, even the silver moon before had been a full one, now it was some foreign scythed shape. Not even half of what it used to be. It seemed like every trace of familiarity, every memento of former happiness was taking its leave from Jed’s life, just as the moons above were. Jed could feel the emptiness inside him grow, just like the sky overhead was being emptied of light. A tangible emptiness radiated inside of Jed, so much so that it became a physical aching. Jed bent over the rim of the well and hung his head. “What am I supposed to do?” he whispered quietly down to the water. “How am I supposed to proceed?” Moments of quiet despair often lead to moments of great clarity and in this way, Jed heard a phrase ringing in his head. It pushed through the unmanageable dross that was filling his head and made its way to the forefront of Jed’s thoughts. ‘Forward motion.’ Jed tried to file it away among the droves of thoughts crowding his consciousness but it persisted behind every thought Jed had. ‘Forward motion.’ ‘Forward motion.’ ‘Forward motion.’ ‘Forward motion.’ ‘Forward motion.’ ‘FORWARD MOTION!’ It was as though the words were branded onto Jed’s brain but after a few moments of meditation, Jed knew what they meant and in that moment of clarity and revelation, Jed suddenly felt a great weight lifted from his being and felt himself in a state of odd, empty, peace. Every nagging thought i his mind was suddenly purged and all that remained was his next move. Jed knew what he had to do; he had to move forward. From the moment Jed arrived outside the walls of his hometown, he knew that it was not where he needed to be, or at least he knew it was not where his journey would truly end. Jed was filled with relief, clarity and resolve. He stood up straight, took a deep breath and did what he came to the well to do- draw water from it. Jed took his canteen in hand and scooped up enough water for one single drink.

As Jed walked down the winding streets and alleyways towards his home, he could hear the songs and communions of the fortunate boys and their companions. He could feel the emptiness emanating from the homes of the unfortunate ones because the echoed the same emptiness that rang inside himself. Only, none of these things made Jed sad anymore. He looked upon all of the humble houses and whether they were alive with laughter or dead with silence, he smiled at all of them. It occurred to Jed that he would have liked to see what his face looked like now that he was wearing a genuine smile but, ‘Oh well’ he reasoned with himself, ‘forward motion.’ It was different now that he was walking through the streets of his hometown. Different because he felt everything. He felt the loneliness and sorrow of the unfortunates. He felt the exuberance and elation of the fortunate ones.and all he could bring himself to do was smile upon both alike. Any resentment or envy had dissolved into the ether with the discovery of his new goal. He himself had felt both emotional polar opposites and everything in between and all he could do now was smile at all of it. Maybe he was smiling because it all seemed so petty now, maybe he had finally snapped, or maybe he was smiling because unlike anyone else in his hometown, he knew where he was going next. Jed didn’t know which was the true reason but it didn’t matter in the least. After all Jed had been through, all he had gained and lost, he realized that he never truly lost himself. No matter who he had become in the forest or the desert, he realized now that he had always retained himself, just as Lashpat the great snake had advised him to. This gave Jed great comfort and courage. Jed looked upon all the homes, felt everything, and smiled.

Jed stood before it, staring at it. He smirked at it lovingly as a proud parent would when watching his child at play. He never paid more attention to it in all his years as he did now. He ran his hand gently across its solid surface, feeling the grizzled grains against his palm. Finally he reached for the knob and entered the door to his home. A stagnant cold overcame him upon entry, he felt bad for leaving his faithful home alone for so long. He walked all throughout the interior of the house, which didn’t take long at all, it only consisted of a few empty rooms with maybe a chair here and a table there, but Jed sat in every chair and leaned his elbows against every table as if to make amends with the old house for being absent for so long. He ran his fingers along the cool walls nostalgically as he made his way to his bedroom- the room where he had spent so many dreamless nights in blissful ignorance. That all changed of course, when the night came in which he had had a dream and his life would set out on a course that would change him forever. But in this moment, Jed only remembered those peaceful nights when he would sleep soundly and unperturbed by any cryptic nocturnal messages. He made it to his bedroom, looked upon his bed…and smiled. As Jed walked toward his bed, he took a quick inventory of all the possessions on his person: one raising tree seed, and a canteen with enough water in it for one drink only. Jed sat down on his bed and took a look around his mostly empty room, held the makeshift pouch containing the raising tree seed in one hand and his canteen in the other and thought to himself, ‘I can’t believe this was all I needed.’ At this, Jed chuckled to himself. Then Jed looked out his window as he had done so many times during those peaceful nights. Only this time, instead of seeing a full, bright, and somehow wholesome silver moon, he saw only darkness. Not even the meager crescent shaped remnant of the silver moon hung in the sky. It had completely disappeared. At this, Jed smiled. It was time for Jed to move forward. Jed took the last raising tree seed from his pouch and put it in his mouth. His tongue balanced it flat inside his open mouth. Jed hesitated for a moment. and let his mind settle into some serious thought. He looked around his room, closed his eyes, and imagined, as hard as he could, all the places he had been, all the creatures he had seen, all the sounds and smells and tastes that washed over him like a tidal wave. Then, with eyes still securely shut, all of these images disappeared and Jed suddenly felt like he was a gigantic empty room all by himself. A heavy lump grew in his throat and a warm tear streamed down his face. He open his eyes and declared to himself and to all that is unknown, unseen, and to those who will never know these words were spoken but to whom they were certainly addressed, “As much as this is for me, it is also for Lashpat, Iparel, the poor giant desert lizard, and even the ever-confused Nashper and Railnia. Forward motion.” With that, Jed raised his canteen to his mouth, gulped down the water, and swallowed the raising tree seed. It was Iparel’s last beautiful gift to Jed. His canteen was now completely empty and he placed it on the small table next to his bed. He laid down flat on his back, closed his eyes, and slept.

A beautiful dream: Something light but at the same time dense with moisture was yielding to his moving body. Hes eyes were closed, but he could feel a vast space with nothing in it both above and below him. Cool air was whisping past him at brisk speeds. It was a new sensation to be sure, exhilarating but peaceful and calming at the same time. He could hear the wind rushing in his ears and he wanted to embrace it because it was so soothing. Though his eyes were closed he could tell it was night time because the darkness behind his eyelids was deep and absolute. He wasn’t cold but he wasn’t too warm either, he was somewhere in the zone of tolerably cool. Comfortably cool even. Sounds of wind blowing by at a healthy speed filed his ears, steadily, consistently, almost like white noise. Great open space above and below him. ‘Open your eyes.’ Fog surrounded him and he was definitely moving. No concept of orientation. Up? Down? All he knew was that he was moving at a cooling pace, but neither of his arms or legs were in motion. Fog still surrounded him. Fog? No, maybe, possibly clouds? The it all breaks away. Staring down at the ground, but from an apparently great height. ‘I’m flying. Effortlessly flying.’ the ground below is featureless. Just some sand dunes and consequential shadows. It’s night time, but he could see clearly. It is still unfathomably comfortable. The breezy night air caressing his body and filing his lungs with serene vitality. Then he sees something break the mostly featureless landscape. Birds? ‘Why do hey look so familiar?’ A small flock of them. ‘Wait, are they upside down? Eyes?!’ A great ‘GRRROOOPPPPP!’ is heard like a ghostly echo from across a great bay He feels a definite sense of familiarity but can’t place it. The upside down birds with eyes in their wings are flying far below him but he follows them from above. The moist clouds disappear from him and just as he notices this, an undoubtedly familiar sight sprawls out underneath him. He is now flying above his hometown. He sees the walls surrounding it, the homes that populate it, and that is when he sees it. In the space that the boy Jed Ano’s house once occupied, a huge, mighty tree now stands.

 

-The End

Stations of the Heart Chapter 17: New Perspectives

Jed stepped back and looked upon the place he had lived his entire life, the place he had existed contently before being stolen away to the eccentric forest and abandoned in the desert wasteland. This was the place Jed was trying to return to all this time. Wasn’t it? As Jed looked at the walls of his hometown he felt something he hadn’t expected to feel upon finding his home: ambivalence. He didn’t know if this was the place he had wanted to return to after all. So much had happened since he had been there last, he had changed so much. There were new desires and cravings that now dinned deep inside of him that being in his hometown could not fulfill. Jed had never looked upon his hometown from the outside, but still, there was something different about it. The pale and insufficient light from the three crescent moons was cast down on the structures of the town and gave it an atmosphere of foreboding emptiness, as though the streets and homes inside were inhabited only by ghosts.

He continued to gaze at the walls of the town while Nashper and Railnia were stoic in silence, one of the rare times the duo were not bickering. Jed turned and looked at the giant tortuous. Nashper with his big, perfect orb, black eyes. Were they his mentor? Were they his tormentor? Jed wondered. On one hand they deserted him in his times of need and danger, but on the other, they had ultimately delivered him back to where he supposedly wanted to go. Mentor or tormentor? Jed was still unsure but he supposed that it did not matter anymore, his journey was over. Likewise Jed was unsure as to whether he should thank or curse the enigmatic turtle. He decided to make one final attempt to communicate with Nashper and Railnia. He took a deep breath and opened his mouth, “Where will you go now?” but it was no use, the words came out in an incomprehensible chorus. Jed was now completely unable to say anything that wasn’t in song-speak.

“Once again my dear boy, I’m afraid you’ve lost me. But I suppose it is of no consequence anyhow, this seems like a natural point to part ways. I don’t know what this place is but you seem to have some kind of connection to it so we’ll leave you to settle accounts.” Nashper replied. The something began to happen to the tortuous’ shell. The designs on it became animated and started to flow and shift. Jed could make out faint colors on the shell blending into one another and crawling back and forth. The curved, flowing design that adorned the turtle’s shell completely rearranged itself into a new pattern but with a similar aesthetic. Then something even more surprising happened: Railnia began walking forward in the direction the three of them had come from. Railnia was now the front-facing head and Nashper the stern. They were walking the other way, back into the desert, Jed noticed.

“Forward movement!” Railnia called out with a hearty laugh.

Nashper with black, lifeless eyes still locked on Jed’s commented, “Indeed, forward movement is all that exists.” as he was now backing away from Jed. Jed watched as they slowly moved away and was yet again filled with ambivalence; sad to see them go but glad to be rid of their perplexing influence. As he watched them fade in the distance he realized that that part of his life was now over and it was time for him to go home. What else could he do? “Good luck getting over that wall.” he heard Nashper call out.

“No blue light?” he could hear Railnia ask.

“He’s not an idiot.” Nashper replied.

“That’s not what I meant at all. Once again you are confusing the…” Railnia’s voice drifted out of range and they disappeared over a dark desert dune. Jed turned back, looked at the enormous wall surrounding his hometown and realized he had no idea how he planned to get over it. He had been too caught up with finding his home that he had yet to give any thought as to how he would get into it. The surface of the wall was smoothly planed, no doubt the work of sand-laced wind, so there was nothing in the way of footholds. Climbing it was out of the question. ‘No blue light’ Jed thought, ‘What could Railnia have meant by that?’ Jed began to walk along the perimeter of his town, searching the wall for any clues as to how to get in. He walked for hours but the wall yielded nothing. It was the same the whole way around. Jed grew frustrated and impatient. ‘Have I come all this way to find my hometown only to be forever sealed outside of it?’ he wondered achingly to himself. He sat down with his back against the impenetrable wall that threatened to rob Jed of his very sanity. He hung his head downward and stared at nothing in particular but the ground. It was a course mixture of sand and soil, but soon Jed noticed something more pertinent about the inconspicuous earth beneath him. There was a faint reddish hue to it. He had seen that exact hue somewhere else before, he was sure of it. It quickly came to him. He looked up at the now emaciated moons and saw that the color of the red crescent moon was the same as the ground beneath him. Indeed, Jed realized it was the very light of the red moon that was coloring the ground. There was a red moon, a silver moon, and a blue moon. ‘Maybe…’ Jed had an intimation and immediately sprang back to his feet and began walking the perimeter of the wall again. He upped his gait into a jog, all the while observing the ground below him. Still red. He continued his trot for some time until he came to a hopeful point. He stopped. It was a point where the ground reflected not red light, but silver. Jed advanced his output to a full-on sprint but even after what seemed to be a full hour, the ground was still awash in silver moonlight. Jed’s lungs were pinching, his muscles cramping, and his aching body pleaded for him to stop but his mind was much too anxious and it overrode the desires of his body which, in that moment, Jed decided was subject and slave to the mind. Then Jed’s hopes were affirmed and his discipline was rewarded. The silvery ground gave way to a blanched, blueish hue. Jed finally stopped, bent over, resting his palms on his knees and panted furiously. His head swooned and he nearly passed out but he revived his tapped resources by gulping down the rest of the water in his canteen. It was all gone now and Jed had placed everything he had on this one bet. If it did not work, he would surely die outside the walls of his hometown without any water. After regaining his composure and reigning in his frantic breathing, Jed reached into the makeshift pouch hanging from his belt and pulled out one of the last two raising tree seeds he had inside. The blue coloring projecting onto the ground was indeed sallow but its hue was close enough to that of the raising tree seed that it gave Jed an idea. Indeed, the idea that would spell success or certain death for Jed. “No blue light?” Railnia had asked. Well Jed found blue light, ‘And it better yield some good results.’ Jed thought. He knelt down and with his hands, dug a hole in the sandy dirt where it reflected the blue light of the moon. It got to be several inches deep and Jed stopped. He sighed, held the raising tree seed over the freshly dug crater, and in a low voice he sung-spoke, “Please Iparel, take me home.” The he dropped the blue marble-like seed into the hole he dug and proceeded to cover it up with the displaced dirt. Jed stood back up and waited but nothing happened. He had hoped that a great big tree would come rising up from beneath the ground and that he would climb it clear over the wall, but several minutes passed and nothing of the sort happened. In fact, nothing was happening at all. No noise, no rumbling ground beneath Jed’s feet, and certainly no sign of an enormous life-saving tree. Jed was staring at the patch of earth that he had disturbed, imploring it with his mind to yield what he had counted on so desperately, but no matter how hard he stared or how much he psychically pleaded, the ground did nothing. Jed collapsed to his knees next to the planted seed and banged on the ground with his fist. Pummeling the ground, he became energized with desperation, trying to beat some sense out of a cold indifferent earth that would one moment, follow the laws of logic and reason, and then the very next, confound Jed’s mind to the brink of madness. Nothing made sense and just when Jed thought he had a handle on the workings of the outside world, it proved just how little he really comprehended. It did so now at such a pivotal and deciding moment.

Jed knelt with his face to the floor like a zealot bowing in the presence of his god. But worship was not what prompted Jed into his current bodily position, it was despair and exhaustion. Without the life-sustaining water from the well just on the other side of the damnable, dooming wall, Jed would bake in merciless sun that was well on its way, dried up and dead. Jed thought of Railnia’s words, “no blue light,” ‘Just more nonsense’ he dejectedly concluded. He thought of the seed that had failed him. The seed that he planted in the ground that did not grow. The seeds that he procured for the sake of the beautiful and benign Iparel. The seeds he would never be able to give to her. In this moment he wanted to be there in that meadow with Iparel. He wanted to be there and not locked out of his own home with no hope of getting in. He remembered his brief time in the meadow with Iparel and realized it was the only time in the forest or the desert that he felt happy. He had felt happy there in the meadow with Iparel. He remembered the little tune she played on her rounded flute that caused the light-bugs to dance and a new tree spring forth from the ground. That tune was vague in his mind. The long arm of pertinent and demanding occurrences had since pulled a thin veil over the notes. But Jed focused hard, he had not recalled the tune since Iparel herself played it in the meadow but there was no way Jed could have completely forgotten it. As he lay face-down on the ground the melody was slowly coming back to him. All of his cognitive faculties were now commissioned with unearthing the structure of Iparel’s melody from the musty recesses of his memory. It was coming back. The memory traveled from his brain to his lips and he hummed the opening notes of the tune in confirmation. For the first time, the fact that Jed could only use song-speak actually became a benefit and the song came forth from his lips in perfect translation. His recollection yielded more of Iparel’s tune and his tongue and lips transcribed it into audible sounds. As he sang, jed felt the vibration he had come to know so well in the outside world. It was weak beneath his body but Jed repeated the notes of Iparel’s song over and over again with more intensity, pronunciation, and volume until the timid vibration grew to a tumultuous quaking. Jed now unleashed the full capacity of his song-speaking abilities and belted out the tune in high volume to the night sky. The walls of the town themselves shook with reverberations of the forest tune and the ground was rent by the powerful upward thrust of a mighty evergreen tree. Jed quickly grabbed hold of one of its hearty boughs and was elevated higher and higher until the height of the tree surpassed the height of the wall by several feet. The song brought the seed to fruition and yielded a, tall, straight, life saving tree for Jed. Jed, who was now perched in the upper canopy of the great tree, took a minute to admire it. It was the most beautiful tree he had ever seen. A beautiful gift from Iparel. While grasping on to the sturdy bough, Jed lowered himself and dangled his legs down toward the narrow top surface of the wall. The tips of his moccasins grazed the solid surface and Jed slid the bough slowly through his hands until he was planted firmly standing atop the great wall of his hometown. Jed Ano stood there for a while, perched on top of the wall, looking down on the town. He had never seen it from this vantage point before. It looked so small and insignificant to him now. It had seemed so encompassing and daunting before his journey. As he looked on his home, he wondered what it was he would be returning to. The town looked dead and lifeless. He heard the faint, eerie songs of the boys and their companions and felt the emptiness of the houses of the boys who were companionless. He considered his fate. Jed Ano stood tall above all of it in this moment, but his destiny lay in descent.