The morning rises. The morning sets. Calamity spins on its great wheel, that ball of fire in the east. I look towards the west, for the setting of darkness, and it does not come. Something else – an ancient pounding, a sluicing of my soul – and I fall, I fall into the abysmal dwelling of mystery. There is a shrill, a cackle, and it rips through reality. I incline my ears toward this new sound, and realize I cannot hear. I clench my fingers to prepare for the fight, but I cannot move. I race through time, searching out my life, my understanding, my knowledge of the golden tree, but it never comes to me. The gold is blurred against the sky – as if I were dreaming a painting underwater. I cannot even think. Suddenly, I have arrived before this strange altar.
The time has come, I repeat to myself, unsure my words, which feel like iron weights, bear any consequence. I am as insignificant as I ever was – I see clearly, I see the formations of the world spin in locomotion, the small smattering of people scatter across the earth, raising stone, dreaming of coyote-men, sleeping amongst secret glades and praying to dragons. I see this all now, these ideas and figments as repeated oscillations, turning in a universe that makes no sense, or in one sense, that cares not to explain itself. There is a ceiling above, invisible and thick, and for all the mysteries existence has to offer, it remains locked.
My philosophy dances with regret. This form approaches me, this light, and I feel the weight of a voice upon me. Its sound is majestic and mighty, molded out of sunlight and starfire. It enwraps me totally, grips my fibers, transforms the substance of my stuff into something glorious, beyond recognition, something fit to wear only the most royal of minds, a kind of being so transparent that every thought spilled fro me, as if I were a cup tipped, and the water of my thoughts fell like a river into eternity, into the bosom of the voice.
It is quiet; it is still. The clouds fade away, to an infinite velvet of luminescence; to fall to dreams is tempting, but impossible. The anticipation of contact is here, and yet still, nothing is seen, only the soft blanket of the impassible universe.
And then I know – the intelligence I have thirsted for, the imagination withheld, returns like a frozen wind, and I see the inevitable. The glory of the heavens open; the golden hue and crafted thrones sparkle like cut gemstones – the vast crowds herald to me, and strangely, I am left without words. My life is a quilt, and I am the hand holding the edge. I stare into the pictures, reliving each scene: I am a child by the river, cupping my hands beneath the clear surface. My mother calls from the bank – there is a wilt in her voice, and although I have lived this time far too numerous to count, I had never noticed this before. It’s as if her voice was crying without the sobs or tears. It was merely wilting, like a dead flower, stripped of color.
There was a slight breeze, a murmuring in the sky. I felt it through the tunnels of the trees that sat beside the river. A sadness swept over me, nefarious and grim, for the wilting of a beautiful flower was not beautiful. Even as, the flowers beneath my legs (as I was crouched beside the quiet river) fell to the green earth, petals splayed and shriveled, and the stems sagged weakly, kneeling into sprigs of grass.
I withdrew my hands, now soaked with glistening river water, and touched the dying flower.
My mother called still. She was calling for me, unmelodious, frightened, and I felt a quaking from my feet. I stood upon the green earth, my hands dripping with slime, and I felt my ribcage implode as realization starkly hit me.
My brother is dead.
That sweet boy, with his dark curls, his fleshly human soul, his small boy hands, his innocent eyes; he now sleeps in an unfathomable place, dreaming of eternal things, singing songs without names or tunes, while I remain, the sole heir to his philosophy, his companion and friend, his right arm. He has passed, vanishing and leaving only the cold bones and dry skin of his earthly body behind.
I was stunned, I remember, and so I said nothing. It was then my mother broke down, and her steady, wilted voice shattered, and she stopped calling me and put her face in her hands. She was having her own battles then, her own harmonies and artistry in chaos within her. But I was much too troubled to perceive. My mind kept going back to moments of peace when we would play on mountains, unsling imagination from its rook and run as dancing hussars through the wild world. But now, even that strange solitude becomes hushed – those moments of tranquility, of embraced love, are dropped like heavy stones, and the boom resounds in my silent and stony face.
That was how it remained – unforgiving, timeless. I wanted to beat water from the stone, but nothing came. I could not cry, I could not weep nor wail. I was frozen in that moment, and it was then when I realized I would never be the same. I lost touch with the world. That sacred connection, like when two people touch and feel a spring of eternity well up between them – that essence was no longer there. I was distanced, put aside, flung to the far reaches of mortality, made into a stoic observer of the pain and suffering of the human race.
My mind flashes forward. Rings of light invade my vision, and I shudder, falling to my knees in gasps of failing breath.
I am older now. The quilt has changed – this must be a new memory. Perhaps, then, I truly am dead, and this is what they mean when they say to relive your life after you die.
It is a cold, November day. The frost is out, the morning air chill without pardon. The trees have shaken their leaves to dust replaced by crystals and memories of life. The heavens, I notice as I look skywards, are pale, boring, white, a dull pastel slapped on by an invisible God. He must be sleeping, I remark to myself, to let such a world come to be.
My fingertips are cold through the gloves. I remember now – it is Saturday morning. I am supposed to see a friend today, and go on a trip with him. We are going to California, where it is said the hills are beaten from gold and there is a breeze of salt and spice in the air all year round.
He drives up to the sidewalk. I notice there is a bag, brown, leather, boxy, beside me. And so, we are off, driving into the wind, watching as our lives and youth are abandoned beneath the wheels of an old Dodge truck.
It is like being reborn. On the road, and you can dream new dreams, forget who you are, invent new personalities, and try on new hats. We are two vagabonds, two thieves, two wandering heroes in search of the mystical land of gold. We cross ice-storm mountains, swim through lightning plains, and imagine worlds being born over and over again in the flashing clouds.
We slip into the slipstream, and time seems a little closer to reality – tomorrow is closer, tomorrow is here and now, a plausible thing to be grasped with unfailing hands, linked in that sacred connection which ties men to each other, and that bond grew between us. I forgot my past.
But we cannot escape our past.