Saturday, February 21, 2015

Sketches From When I Couldn't Sleep

Memory is a tattletale. I saw a sunrise bone and black. I recalled a man as a vessel, a collection of them, moving shapes like a tower of cups, swirling and threatening to collapse as he moved, waiting. I remember his thinness, his paleness, The King Of Where He Should Be. His scepter was more of a crutch, and was part of the ground, and became sky. I remember the shuffling and the deep big horns that the meat men play. There were slices in the air and out of these came armies and parties and fireworks and sisters and never wanting to break your own heart and burning powder and shouting and valleys filled with screams. Ash of grass. The shroud you wear for the horizon.

There was a dark and aching something underneath the car. I did not approach, not because I feared for my safety, but because I did not want to fall in, to let my life become adjunct to the dark, to commune with its need, and it was need. I wanted to remain myself. I wanted control. And so we watched until the sun came. It silently howled at us, growing exponentially louder toward dawn, until all that was left was my own self judgment where the car should be. He's still there, and I would avoid him all the time except that I need to know whether he's still there. He is, though. So I ignore him.

I remember screaming apart. I didn't trust myself at the time and nothing existed right or at the proper speed or timbre. I wanted to help, and they needed the story to be that I broke, so I did, and sometimes I believe "so I did" and sometimes I believe I just did and sometimes I worry how many layers there are before I can just sleep now.

It will fall hard when I am silent. Without my grasp everything will slip out. I want to be a dancer but no I don't. I just want to dance the best dance and nobody ever know it.
----
I lay awake tonight thinking on a volcano as a great parasitic crustacean of an elemental earth form, a towering muzzle. Inside it is ringed with jagged edges like teeth, constantly shifting as it foams fluid stone. It's eating the sky. Outside of the mountain are sacred ropes, holy base camps, where the death people climb. Green priests shouting toxic smoke at the heavens, eating only ash. They want darkness. They want the heat of the sun on earth. The very air thins as you go higher, consumed, bleeding a thick black noxious blood. Kill it. Kill the sky.

I see that and it's a beginning and I know stretched out like a hand there's a big fun idea to be screwed with here but by the time I get up, get the dog settled, and get situated, it's gone. All I've got is a pale reflection of the original idea. Coleridge as fuck.
----
That was life with the hole. It wasn't gory or oozing or even sexual, in the same way that for most people a flower or Greenland aren't sexual. It was there where it shouldn't be, between the gut and heart. Wide, excavated, the skin perfectly folded like those little places on the leather arms of chairs all around the opening, disappearing immediately into a blackness which....was what and went where? Every morning the hole was there, every night it lingered, sometimes smaller, sometimes wider, sometimes - and there was no way to verify this, for reaching in only left the touch of static and ennui - it was deeper.

The things which crawled out of that hole were all small, though some were the size of kickballs and about as attractive. They had eyes, so imagining more of a face around them, impressions of personality, was easier. The true thoughts behind those beady and googly eyes may have been only hate and madness but they were pleasant enough and harmless as long as you watched them.

He became hungry. Soon everything tasted like yellow mustard, to the point where he hated even yellow mustard. He couldn't eat anything, couldn't rest, but he never died. He was sustained by....

He realized it must have been the creatures. They came and went and must...fill him somehow. The terror came of what he would be if more of them came out, more than ever, their little tree frog hands scaling his Farrah slacks. If they could put things in him they could take things out. Sometimes it was deeper.

He began to fear it always. He slept poorly and lived in a constant state of dread, until the dread, while becoming no less salient or searing, became boring. The pattern of his life was a painting of a scream. The rictus maw of his thorax. And he lived comfortably if not well in the terror, because at least the terror was his. This malfunction of the body was something he understood, at least in a naturalist's sense. It was not something anyone controlled.

It happened all at once that whatever rare element of homeostasis kept the comings and goings of the little homunculi in check failed. The antibodies buckled and like a firehose the little muppets, each stranger than the last, each departure more shockingly final, poured out of his waking wound and painted his tiny world with everything he wasn't and would now never be.

That was life with the hole. You saw right through him now. Somehow he waited, and wasted, but did not die. The hole grew wider, but he maintained his composure. He was weakened. He was empty. Even his fear was now gone and alien and living in someone else's trash bin by now. A shell on legs, ready to crumble like cigar ash, but safe, for now,
so long as nothing happened
so long as nothing happened so long as nothing happened
so long as nothing happened so long as nothing happened
so long as nothing happened so long as nothing happened
nothing happened nothing happened nothing happened
so long
so long
so long

So long.
----
Paper skin and hanging meat. No place holy, yet so sacred, since always. How many eyes? They all watch and loll, yellow rolling clouds. The world is flies. Little legs and vomit and larvae teeth and undulating eggs (HOW MANY EYES?). Every surface dances. The light moves. You are protected. You are loved. A thousand thousand thousand eyes lust. Just meat and time yourself. Time is a luxury the fuzzy light doesn't have but echoes of that lust through generations hum, warming the anticipation of trillions of mouths which are not mouths.

It is an orchard.
----
The pig nails in her hand bled into her blood. Rage and scream. The metal slicing metal keen of the tusked blade. Decapitation now. Revenge later. Her knee bone split against wet stone covered in chunks and beetles, crushed, into her blood.

His stride made silence, each cloven step a mountain split with lightning, each breath a butcher wind of decay and copper. She didn't see his eyes, held down by hocks and swollen oak. She felt the good one searching her wounds. The savoring.

A bed somewhere missed her warmth. A couple fellows. Melissa or Melinda or something. Bregganoch. His majesty. The bruise of her would linger and annoy. They would come and see the shade of her steel in the faces, the earth, the very walls of this place. Reflected in the eye of a god. They would see no small flesh thing, no cooling blood and sweat, no ragged scalp. The shape of her, footprint in pig shit.

Rage and scream. Into her blood.

Hell warm and impossibly wet it slipped around her, cascades of anticipation on its lips, closing her softly in the dark, stillness, rank. It breathed her in, and drew her breath out, and grumbled and gurgled.

They would not find her body. The would not find the shape of surrender. She gave little thought to salvation, only wreckage. She ignored the piercing tusks of her tormentors, so easy to reach. Gave no heed to the axe of the guardian. She needed a weapon.

Breaka chose god, and bit first.
----

They elected the goat and, at first, it was funny.

She built the lanterns herself, clumsily, little fire cages of rust and blood which her hefty husband hung in the boughs of the stillborn swamp.

The Ship of Apes screeched into the harbour without sail or oar, accompanied by a thundering sound like fingernails on bark.

She descended the stairs an etching of elegance, all covered in the finest ticks.

The evergreens shed all their needles white as death.

The creature was laughable but it emanated a confidence that this should kill them which was hard not to take seriously.

The skins of their palms caught in the leaves of the crop, and if you didn't know what happened here, didn't hear the screaming, the singing, you'd think a pink, rustling snow had fallen.

The church was slung low in the valley like an afterthought, or perhaps embarrassment.

"It doesn't *need* to climb trees."

She was pregnant, a widow these two years, and rotting in the ground since june, and a swan.
----

Crime rate in Dorwold spikes 9000%. City watch catches a criminal and executes him for his crimes. When they take down the body his mask slips off. It's an old artifact from the thieves guild, a mask which makes you appear as whoever the observer wants to see, good for seeming inconspicuous during an infiltration. If you get caught you are always someone who is supposed to be there. Watchman tries it on. Other watchmen beat him to death because he's a dangerous assassin the watch has been after for years.

Repeat.

With the watch occupied the guild ramps up its activities, which makes people more cautious. They arm themselves. The city leaders get the hang of what's going on eventually, but it takes a while, because showing the effect of the mask just creates new chaos, you're the duke, you're that bastard who owes me money, you're breasts.

Watch seals themselves off, suspicious of each other and the whole city by now. Word gets out. Whispers of goblins, faeries, demons. Your loved ones who are next to you right now are most likely people interested in robbing or killing or ravishing you. If you think they're not, that's the magic working.

Time. Fear. Beer.
Pitchforks. Torches.

Local regiments are called in to restore the order. Did you hear? Armies are massing outside of town. That's them. They've come. It begins.

Soon it's not even safe for the criminals. The town is dying. The power the guild spent to much time acquiring is worthless tender now. The guild is undone. The thief master was a fool to ever unseal that frankly *Stupid* artifact to begin with.

If that *was* the thief master.
----

The shoes were the haunting thing. The smiles were antiques, the comfort bedusted, the light hollowpoint. An absence of orientation trickled out of a stained-red rag and filled the air with pennyfunk. The walls were tall, the faces around him were young, and he was all alone.

The walls kept going far past the paint. Those faces were yellowed and long dead. The claws on its feet moored the bed to the previous century with fixed iron. Smiles were pinned. More cobwebs and curtains kept out only clarity. The gray hung heavy. Maybe gray it was.

The shoes, then.

These were modern styles and foreign sizes. Some looked his size, but most...

The big ones weren't concerning. The little ones kept shrinking, and there were too many. Too many for what, who knows? Too many for anything. The room was more theirs than his.

They ached at him. They longed at him and regretted in his direction when he tried to look away. They gnawed in his stomach. The shoes, aye, the shoes were the haunting thing.

The bigger concern was the chain.
----

All the ribbons came loose and the mud was made of beer and dancing and the swan was full of fire and fire leaped and trumpets trumpets and blind men cried as the tableau was reduced to swoons and children went to bed early and the moon bled and oaths forsook and vows broken and trumpets trumpets while animals bowed and the wind surrounded and everything that could be the Devil was thwarted and rejoiced and trumpets and hosannahs and IS is what was, when the law fell silent, when the virgins shook, when the world forgot, when the screams were one scream

...on a Thursday.

On a Friday, smoke. And Hooks. On Saturday a feast. Sunday just rocks, rocks everywhere.

On Monday, trumpets.

No sleep. Trumpets.
----
The stars are all in pain. There is no orbit or firmament. Constellations are families, cities, kingdoms. There is only falling. There is exploding forever. There is no death yet. There is dying forever.

Only falling. Not always so. Once, there was a world, perfect and orange. Its seas boiled in the cool quintimoonlight. They brimmed with ancient skeletons and angry pods of proteins and neurotoxins. One million forty seven land masses pockmarked the complexion of this perfect life engine. On three thousand of these were eyes. One eye looked up.

Star.

There was a little, low room in a squat building made of polished compassion on a terraforming chrysalis deep in the heart of nothing much existing. In that room was a girl, as close as we can reckon. Tomorrow her head would be cut off and she'd become a woman. She understood what this meant.

Star.

In Kent a madman scrawls in a dirty book. He speaks the language of the universe. The morphine and the caterpillars told him. He had to make up new numerals that meant the oldest numbers. Now he knows that what we think of as constant change is actually static, that there are great shifts we only register retroactively, piecing life together in the stillness and writing in what must have been. But also what could have been. The universe works like thumbing through photographs and we accidentally created ghosts, God, and goodness leafing through our memories. Hold on a tick, that's not right, carry the four...

Star.

To ever truly know anything, any fact, yourself, to know the universe, is anathema. Knowledge is panacea to the cosmos but truth is curare. You are missed, perhaps, but you are gone. You are not you. You don't exist as you. Your truth burns. Your soul oxidizes in the vacuum, and that can't even work really because *STAR*

The heavens are hell. We made up angels but they were real anyway. Only falling.

Which Means It's Coming.
----

It thinks it's passing as human.

The room is filled with hardened men and women, some by soldiering some just by surviving. Nobody here is a stranger to fear. Nobody's a stranger to the horrible things in the world.

This thing comes in, see? Thing is the only word for it. It comes in to...let's say it's a bar. Into the bar. It walks in, but it doesn't walk right. It politely and gently closes the door behind it, but it doesn't do that right either. It's like every movement it makes is a little wrong in an obvious, alarming way, like if you saw someone close a door with several compound fractures in their arm, their noodly appendage slopping against the lacquer.

Not that this thing is just a LITTLE wrong, mind you. A golden garment more holes than thread hanging over it. Something approximating a lower jaw, rattling up and down, side to side, with no seeming match to the sound its mouth(?) is making. It's like it's made from pieces of things. Wicker, or cobwebs, or dried leaves, or insect parts. They hang in a mass in the shape of a bridal gown. As it moves, little filaments of things catch on different surfaces, stringing itself about the room. As it stands still, things writhe up, small skittering things leave its folds, and these probing tendrils slowly fan out, filling space, searching along each surface...

You know when you open a window in an old house and it hasn't been cleaned and it's a mix of dust and cobweb and exoskeleton and hair and vegetation? There's sometimes a big clump of that? Imagine that slowly unweaving itself in a glass of water. It's standing at the bar, since we said this is a bar, and it's ordering a drink.

Now it's talking in a voice you know. Not KNOW know, you've seen the guy it belongs to here before. The bartender knows him. Calls it by name. He's not sure of the play. And the thing just starts making small talk with the bartender like nothing's odd. It dawns on you, as it must have the bartender, that this thing  is something beyond what we know but we are also beyond what IT knows because it thinks this is working. It thinks you're fooled. It's jabbering your man sounds at this other man shape and it thinks you are lulled. It is impossibly alien and a little stupid. That's when you actually become not afraid but terrified.

Because now you can't feel fear. You can't just not show it, you can't let it sense fear, or smell fear. It's slowly filling up the space in the room. A piece is in your drink. Better not notice. Go on with your festivities. It can reach everyone and everything. You're all inside it and if even one of you does something, makes a wrong move, if Johnson tries to play the damn hero, if it suspects?

That's all your mind can fill itself with, the knowledge that you're helpless, that there seems to be no obvious end to this, and that if you think about all the terrible things that might happen or ARE HAPPENING then you and everyone in here may.....what?

And now the thing is looping back on itself. It's starting over parts of the conversation. It's saying things the bartender said, interspersed with perfect bars from the song being played on ever more entangled instruments. You're being touched now. Everyone is. The thing's speech breaks down into tapdancing Moses nonsense, and then into just sounds, and then guttural clenching...

In that moment there is a terror knowing you're trapped but outside of that bar, and that world, a different story is written. One that can't be appreciated in the moment, in the room, but which potentially makes the thing pale in comparison.

If it is not hunting it may be hiding.