A Thousand Years A Night

Mornings are dark, dark as pitch, with the sun sailing in his golden barque on the other side of the world. Dangerous times — everything stirring or going to sleep is sharp-toothed and vast and ceaselessly hungry. She has seen her fellow sailors eaten by the dozens, snatched beneath the greasy current by some ophidian bulk. What happens to them? The lucky survivors shout speculations, curses, blasphemies in a thousand thousand languages, but it’s all noise; no one knows for certain.

The walls of the canyon are high, high and sheer, and the river cutting through is fast, fast. She has been drifting for centuries, helpless in the current, buffeted from lotus petal to lotus petal. The river is sunless, by definition, but even dead enough of his radiant splendor has leeched into the rock to limn everything in an uncertain half-light light.

The world rings like a glass bell and her flower snaps closed and she cowers at the bottom. God has died again, and his funeral procession gouges the canyon walls wider. She balls her fists into her eyes and shudders at his transit, her bloodless flesh searing at his presence, even so.

The Boulder Speaks to Sisyphus

She has been born so many times that the experience lacks all novelty. Gush of amniotic fluid, a bright pain that she knows she will later learn as light, the thundering normality of lungs emptying and filling for the first of a hundred thousand breaths. Voices she has heard and loved and forgotten speaking again for the first time.

The slow inevitable ascent of puberty. Crying in the bathroom, the taste of blood on her lip after gym, bad skin and better. The old familiar torments. She wakes up restless and angry and it takes her days to remember the name for what she feels, weeks to recall the names of her mayfly tormentors.

She watches her father die again. Grief is as automatic and empty as a sneeze.

She gives birth, fights with her daughter, sees her married, sees her grandchildren. They blur together. She meets a man in the woods and cannot remember what he is, parent, child, lover, monster. The existence of things has begun to dissolve, a cigarette in the wind.

She dies. Is born. Again and again. Light and sound, calligraphy, meaningless noise.

What will happen when she finally forgets she can’t know for certain, but after infinite time even weariness has its limits.

The New Jerusalem

They are fond of sunny days and open spaces which she has come to fear. There has always been these empty streets, these deserted alleyways, these shops boarded up and dark. Windows papered over with torn newsprint; she has tried every door and found it locked, no sanctuary there.

Noon is a dangerous time; no shadows then. Their voices echo off the elaborate concrete of the untenanted high-rises. She hurries from street to street, head down and ragged collar up, eyes glued to the tips of her shoes. She has seen them now and then, flashes in the corner of her eyes, and bled for it, been burned for it. They are not made to be seen in their power and their glory, the splendor of the noonday sun.

She has been here a nameless length of time. She cannot remember anything before, but there is an ache for human voices that tells her of other times, other places, less god-touched, more human.

Eater-of-the-Dead

Happy birthday!

She’s ushered into a small little room and left there. It’s pretty bare — no posters, no prints of famous (if bland) art, no pictures — just a card table and a folding chair and a laptop. She takes a firmer grip on her paperwork, then reminds herself not to crinkle it, then sits down and opens up the laptop.

An elegant user experience it ain’t, but there’s a certain brutal grace to the interface’s sheer efficiency. First page, name, date of birth, date of death, previous address. All clearly labeled, all distinct, no questions.

After that, it’s page after page (after page after page) of the most exhaustive purity test imaginable. Every thirty or so pages there’s a little window that pops up reminding her to take a break, get up and stretch, keep herself fresh and limber.

The overhead light buzzes slightly.

Normally she scores really low on these things, and it’s a point of pride. She used to get ideas from them, but of course now that’s not really possible. Still, there’s a lot less in here about sex than what she was expecting. Oh, there’s some, of course, but even that’s mostly more about abuse and coercion than anything, and any coercing she’s done was more-or-less consensual. She marks a lot of NOs.

Some of the questions are awful.

Put Down Your Burdens and Weep

Death was a mountain in an empty plain. Four months she hiked, and four months again, and again four months; for a year and a day she hiked to come to the foothills of the mountain that was Death, and lost her name along the way.

There was a gate at the bottom, and it was open. No eyes kept watch of the road up the mountain of Death. She set her foot on the path and began to climb.

First to go were her memories, snagged in the branches of the silver trees that lined the road, where they hung, heavy as gold, among other, stranger fruit.

Next to go were her desires, lost in the sable darkness of the caves that pierced the sides of the mountain of Death. Jackals caught them up with teeth bright as diamonds, snip snip snap.

Last to go were all eighteen of her senses, blown away by the winds that clawed at the cliff faces of the mountain that was Death.

For an impossible time she was, but knew nothing. She existed, perfectly unaware, and neither heat nor cold nor distance nor motion nor time touched upon her.

Such were the hazards of the mountain of Death.