Second Place / Eden Kupermintz

Part two is done. Here it is:

The Demented World: Part Berkanan
I’ve been to the galactic core. In the utter silence of a day that never was, I sat on a hill that was not my own and flew. The void was massive but I believed that on the other side, I might find something else, someone else. When I arrived there, softly etched into the cloud that was its edge, a common ground of silky stars that pulsated with a massive light, were words that shook with a feathery light. Consider writing, the magic of humans, the only thing we have that comes close to the wonders of nature like snails or leaves or radiation or snails. Slithering, we can leave our mark across parchment and that comes in many forms: paper, hearts, leather, stars, snails. We can choose to break off a piece of our inner furnaces and burn across, but gently, our chosen surfaces, our chosen messages. And these words pulsate and grow and slowly stretch, flimsy fingertips that cajole and beckon and push. They are fists and handshakes both, greetings and condemnations, blessings and casus belli.

So, on the core there were softly etched five words that I was surprised to find. After all, I thought as I looked around, there was nothing more alone than this, nothing more central. Central is used by people to denote crowded, not alone, full of people or meaning. But that is not a center at all, that is an outskirt. The core, the galactic core, is a place that is alone in itself, so silent it reeks, so unique it shatters its own borders, its own craters, its own snails. So, you can imagine my surprise at finding writing there. Who could trace it? What hand had softly grazed the molten, searing surface and left its intentions there? And, more importantly perhaps, how had it known to write these words in a language I would know? Now, I know what you are thinking, that all these facts only lead to one conclusion, as inexorable as an exercise in logic, drawn towards the end of its own arc like a snail towards, well, the end of its own arc.

But no, that doesn’t make any sense, and I’m trying to make a little more. I’ve already told you, this was when I first found the galactic core. But, this is not the ocean. There are no edges here, in spite of one you might find if you carefully look at what I’ve already told you, that was just a form for you to better understand. It’s a new thing, bear with me. In any case, this is not the ocean, so I can’t create or discover the edges, the others who plagued me or plagued me on. In this new place, I am not the pen nor the ink, not the blood or the ligament. I am simply me, guided as I often am by a burning star, that calls out to the core, calls out to the other stars around it. Again, you’re trying to make these limits, to make these mean something but there is one feature the core shares with the ocean: we hate your borders.

So, the mystery of what’s written on the core remains unsolved. I can tell you the contents, but that won’t solve the mystery:

“Hoc est verbum”.

I am now internalized. The processes which lead me to look outwards are no longer running, although their derelict corpses are still fuming with the hot metals that powered them. Was it the green fumes of their expulsion, the silvery haze of their denial, that originally ejected me from the outside world and injected me into my own arc? There will be many questions forthcoming, even more than in the ocean, but I do not think that the chances of answers erupting from between this void and my void are high. There is only one thing that can be described as high here and that is the static that is engulfing the breach between my void and the void, between my body and silence. Where am I? There are only drunken stars, liquid filled chalices that brim over with aching and pain and longing and broken parts which only fit too well. Everything fits too well. Wasn’t silence supposed to be foreboding, wasn’t fear supposed to be, well, a thing you should fear?

I was told so many things.  And all those things have squatted, taken residence in my void, struck roots into the firmament of my imaginings. And thus, all self-shadows become fearful daggers, all self-towers became derelict hulks, all self-tears become rivers of molten hearts, fields of ravaged stories, plains of murky deals. Traitors of shattered dreams. In the coming and goings of this flowing bickering, I was once lost. The problem is not that. The problem is that I have been found, found myself. It all fits too well. It’s like my arms have been gnawed on by horrid beasts, a painful experience no doubt. But the worst thing is not the blood that flows, or the pain that jabs or the loss of ability or the fear of a disabled future: it’s that the gnawed edges fit into the holes I find all around me, as if the same beast that has fed on me has also fed on the world and we, two shattered dancers that we are, come together beautifully, like a piece made for a puzzle or a sword made for the heart. And in that connection, I want to rejoice. But in the last moment, right before we connect, I can feel the betrayal. The holes fit too well, the silent hiss of joining is too forced, everything smells just like it should. It smells of an orchestra, built just for me, that lulls me into who I should be and will not.

And in the end, what is there to fear? Why should I dread the pulsating stars that silently bow towards a forgotten center, as if of silk fly on a broken wind, dancing to the gestures of my gnawed hands that seamlessly fit into the holes all around me? I was told so many things, but I find that they are all correct, and this is what bothers me most of all. I want to know they are wrong, but I no longer have the capacity for that, like the crippled-me from before, dreading the disabled future with no hands. What is there to fear? This is what I must answer and cannot, this is the word that must complete the sentence but will not, since the syntax of this place, this “the void” cannot contain such actions, cannot accentuate such syllables.  At least before, I had tools, I had ways to describe what it felt like when the water was clawing my throat. The essence of this mount: when I was in the ocean all seemed broken but hadn’t even begun to break. Now that all is mended, it seems as if it hasn’t even begun to break but all is broken.

What is there to fear? Weren’t you fucking listening when I was drowning in the ocean? Maybe now that I’m in my void, the certain answer I have wretched might echo more:

Wings. Fear the wings.

And so, I find myself falling inside, inexorably drawn towards the core. Like tepid water that gathers at the bottom of a sink, filled with the fragments of all that it was used to clean (cups, plates, knives, wounds, pain), inexorably held in the hands of a newborn mother, permanently thralled in the arms of a never-shaking father. There is cold where I am, always the cold. I was bred to fear it, to slowly withdraw from the boundless tundra of inside. Flames of self worth and goals were supposed to burn away the snowness of Introvertia, to leave the ground ready for sowing. But I haven’t. I haven’t withdrawn, I haven’t lit the flames. They burn, like the stars, with a distant fire that is too hot to be called cold, but too cold to be called embracing. The ground is ready but there will be no sowing.

There will be no sowing. I fail to see how the wheat, flowers, palm trees, olive groves, silent orchards of sweet-too-sweet apples, will take root here. There is only cold, only the self-hugging gesture of solitude. A half-smile is my plow, a swept-back tear is my rake. Alone, I am the farmer of my own apartness, the tender of the garden of discontent. At the weekend market, they will all have bounties to display, boothfuls of embraces, stocks of smiles and well meant words. I will empty sacks, worn out cloth barely holding the non-commodity that is the only thing I could ever fill them with. The non-commodity of starkness, the unattainables of who I am.

The unattainables of who I am. This is what it is all about. In the end, the silent gesture that I would choose were I forced to choose a defining one, would be the shrug. But how can I be like that? Harder, how can I become that? And thus, I wander. The ocean, the core, the void, the silence, the Lictor, the King, the wings, the cicada swarm, it’s all just facets of the same shrug, faces of the same chill. The chill of my own thoughts. Like a child before a freezing bowl of ice, all that is possible for me is to shove my hands into it, to feel the frost, pain, memory, the shed moments of the past, the discarded words of paths frozen to apathy. All I can do is shove my hands into it and be burned once again, at the core of cold. The core of cold.

The core of cold. Somewhere off the middle of the void, that core is held. In the slightly not centre of energies I must never fathom, that core is ever-frozen, perma-silenced. All the rest, is a dance. The skirting of the waves of energies, a surfing of solar winds, on electro-magnetic wings, repelled by the particles that clash as the core radiates. I am a butterfly. A butterfly of winter, a butterfly of deep-encrusted streams, of rivulets of ice that gather at the edges of myself. I collect them. I melt them. I re-freeze them. I survey them.

And then I write them. And then I run them down your neck.

I should learn how to keep somethings hidden. I once encountered letters carved in stone, on a side path somewhere, that read “they paint not in light, but in shadow”. This sentence has plagued me ever since, especially now that I am floating, not surrounded by any water or other forms of embrace. I feel as though I suffer acute hypothermia, not an uncomfortable sensation. Hypothermia of the need to share, a bleeding of things inside into a depressurized outside, an escaping of troubled radicals into a stagnated void. Picture a thin trail of blood leaving my side, snaking through a black on black void. Red. Painful red. The thread twists and bites, like a core unleashed. The current, my inside. The flow, my pain. The medium, words. The point, missing.

In this void, few rules are maintained. The awful, relentless, impossible cliche that all actions must have reactions, is not maintained. That rule was the first thing chucked, the first magic written on discarded clay and then burned in the fires of the stars. Few rules though have survived the inexorable transition that was forced upon this space. Power is inverted, meaning is optional, cold is lasting. Into this triangle, my crimson snake, the cord that cannot be broken, the caudal lure is lowered. What prey do I call? What endings do I flirt with, in placing such integral doorways into my own void, bare and open to all who would tread it?

This is a far cry. We are long detached from the books and corners, long come down, past the stepping stones, over the breaching wall. But I persist. Why do you? Reader, I must address you. I feel as if a great injustice is being done to you, you the holder of the crimson line, you that tugs on my sides, goads my ribs and coats my current, my ever-flow outside. Can you feel the cold, reader? Can you feel the inversion of power, the optionallity of meaning? This is my madness: I keep clawing at my head, at my scalp, at the place between my ribs where the cord connects. Do you know? Can you feel? Will you tread my integral doorways, left open for you? Why would you?

This is the absurdity of all of this, one I grow weary of retracing. No matter how many doorways I leave open, what current I launch through the crimson cord, I don’t want you to follow. Inaccurate. There is a part of me that doesn’t want you to follow. All my other parts create this rambling, draw the cord, tear the doorway, inverse the power, optionalize the meaning. But there is one part that is shivering right now, in a cold wind that enters from the window to the void. It crumbles into itself, it is plagued by goosebumps, it shudders in the wake of your breath. The memory of the wake, the slightest potential that you will enter. A pointless game but one which I cannot stop.

I don’t have the rules for stopping, only for going. And so, I go. I play my turn, moving worn out pieces on a yellowed board, floating through the void. Such colors! Red, yellow, black, blue, ocher, sadness, pink, indigo, fear, madness, pain, vermilion. While the part of me that is most me shivers, bewildered in the barrage of colors and emotions, cradled in the swooning motion of the stars. Look, the door is open. Follow it please don’t come in will you oh god stay out no enter come inside never please leave me alone i am waiting for you don’t take the first step inside i’ve left the door open don’t use it tread the path please please please don’t. Don’t.

I think the biggest lie you’ve ever told me is that I’m similar to you in some way. This was so sinister that words fail me when I attempt to measure it. It is the silent murder at the base of all of this. Fitting, now that we stand at what I’d like to imagine, hope and force to be the middle of this journey. Fitting, that we should touch base with the inherent crime that drives me, fuel for the dreaded engine, ropes for the endless machine. It was a simple gesture, left to right, that slit my throat, urging the blood to flow, to bite, to change everything. I expected you to cup your hands and soak deeply of my life-blood. That would have been acceptable at that point, a natural step once we have accepted that you killed me. But no. You stepped away, your face askew in fascination, considering the crimson-shed torrent of myself. Why? How? None of these came to your mind. Yes, I presume to know you. It’s all there, etched into the knife you used, the only mark I will leave on this world.

I faced death and longed for the nod, the look of approval from the only thing left to me. Nights I spent awake, staring, feeling the blood slowly pumping over my chest, hands and blanket. I waited for the ceiling to collapse, for the fan to stop, for the windows to shatter, for my mind to let go. Surviving was not an option, never once crossing my animal mind. But I lived. How, is unclear. You know that pain when you smash your knee against a corner in just that way, that numbing throb that seems to disappear but echoes through the rest of your day, slowly undulating in the back of your mind, coloring all your encounters? Like so. Like so I rose from my bed each morning, surveying the ellipse of the world with echoing eyes, drinking the meaningless buzzing sound of existence with punctured ears.

Drown. Drown was all I could think, all I could command myself. But like a bloated body, filled with involuntary gases which are the only remains of a shattered physique, I would not sink. Forced, uncontrolled, mindless, my own sense of self would stay afloat. How I wished for it to drown but all that was possible was to keep floating. And I float still. Afloat in this endless void, I release a crimson line into the stillness. A child sometimes cries for no reason but to wake his parent, to draw attention, to be held because he is too ashamed to simply ask for a hug. So am I, ashamed to wake you for an embrace. And so, only a thin line of crimson, afloat in this ending void, screams out in silence. Ha, an oxymoron. Useless devices held in flux by our own abilities to be gray. How fitting.

In any case, I have forced this to be the centre of our journey. With the force of my own despair, used as an antique wedge to a bole or bark, I have driven a milestone into the ground. From here, I hope to start climbing. Slowly reaching for the crimson rope, I shutter out the pain that grips my hand as it grips the cord. I open my eyes and stare deep into the void around me, discerning the shaky pattern that grips them in an ever effervescent dance of subtlety. And I swear. I swear deep and true, dredging the bottoms of my tar-soul, finding the willbediamonds and gripping them fierce. And I attach the cord back, feeding it into my legs, my back, my neck. A loop. A loop of blood. I cup my hands beneath my bleeding throat and drink deep of my own crimson fluid. And so, the murder becomes propulsion.

Here we go.

I set the void on fire.

It’s like driving home through a storm. The water is running underneath your car, what you would like to view as an extension of yourself. It runs in rivulets and pools in pools, feeding on its expected nature, responding to your siren calls. You see it as rain, remember it as rivers, dream it as waterfalls. A mirror runs across your cheek, lost brethren to the music outside, calling from inside you to its lost sisters that commit suicide on your windshields. The rain intensifies. You begin to grow afraid, part from the extremism of current conditions, part a silent shudder running up the stem of your brain rooted in somethings that you will never utter.

It’s like the middle of the road home through a storm. The ubiquity of the water is terrifying so you make up rules. Now the road rises, that must mean that I’ll see some rivers now but there won’t be pools at the top because that’s not how water works dammit! Now we’re going down so I should expect pools at the bottom, better drive slow. But the truth is, you cannot control the things that truly make this system go: the faults in the drainage.

It’s like the end of the road home through a storm. You look back on the road you’ve made and realize how much you were at the mercy of the drainage system and the thousands upon thousands of feelers it stretches underneath all the cities everywhere. A man went home early, a drainage broke, a pool formed, a fear planted in your heart, a slight moment of lost control. A road suffered more wind since a tree was felled, its edges corroded, a rumbling was set in motion, your foot clenches on the brakes, your eyes tighten. And you lose yourself in this flaw, in this all too human thought about chaos and systems and patterns and random and where you fit in all of this. It comforts you.

It’s like the moment when you go to sleep later that evening, after driving home through a storm. A creeping comes upon you, something that mirrors on your cheek, the fear that you felt in the heart of the light, the heart of the noise and absolute silence of storms. You realize you said were. Were at the mercy of the drainage system. But the realization comes upon you, like a predator, where you thought you were safe, it comes upon you. You are at the mercy of the drainage system. You feel the valves that are rooted in the insane pits of your thought, the pipes that are laid from the cistern of your words and you know fear again.

It’s like the deep of the night when you’re asleep, after driving home through a storm. You seek escape in sleep but even there you can feel the drainage system. Worse than that, more wisdom is forthcoming: sleep is the drainage system. It’s the valves and the pumps and the pressure holds and the bolts and the ducts of everything that counts. And it too, is random. No, it’s the source of random. Dreams flow forever on corroded roads beneath the ground, where a faint rhythm echoes from the center you imagine to yourself. Reaching, yearning, for the “close” valve, you break your nails on the rusted metal only to discover there is no “close” valve. There is no “open” valve.

There is only driving home through a storm. Only the end of the road through the storm. Only the moment when you go to sleep later that evening. Only the deep of the night when you’re asleep. Through a storm.

Followed am I through the tears of wretched fogs, hunted along paths that I have set myself. Silently, I figure that the stars in their random motions will hide me if I only turn so, if only gesture thus, if I only end there. But the doing, the doing is a different matter. When the hounds are silent is when fear rises for followed I am across the stepping stones of my own trepidation. Bewildered, I tumble like a Sufi mystic, flowing white robes stained by the hands of cliche gods, unfurled at the whim of over-told winds, bereft at the edges of endless tapestries that mean nothing. And so, onwards I pace while above me a burning void beckons, offering child-like hands for the caressing, forgotten-like eyes for the wondering, ending-like bones for collecting. Feeling the flames that burn above, I struggle to keep my eyes on the path.

Finally, sweat overcomes me. The pulsating waves which are my own emotions being burned, being digested, being fabricated, surround me on all battled edges. To my knees falling I come, like a supplicant before the discarded totem of his own memory. And everywhere, as if by magic, the burning void awaits me. I am surrounded but not pressured, caged but not against my will. Faintly, I feel my heart beating a tiny staccato, a foxtrot of the soul, the last waltz of resistance. I should have a sword, thinks I, a fine thing. I would attempt to draw it in a last gesture of defiance, only to fall at the feet of this corroding statue. My skin would be porcelain then, feeding off the flames, discarded. But there is no sword. The path buckles beneath my fingers and I realize I am not done. Rising to aching knees, I look around me for direction. Yes, the stones still stretch to some horizons, still attempt to hug the impossible inner distance of my words. Well then, if a road presents itself, who am I not to follow?

Followed am I through the veils of clutching faces, chased along dreams that I have burnt myself. With a shout, I exhort the stars to release their random secrets that will reveal me if I only turn so, if only gesture thus, if only end here. But the singing, the singing is a different matter. When the choir is silent is when hope rises for followed I am across the threshold of my homestead. Liberated, I tumble like a lost child, flowing white robes stained by the hands of self-murdered gods, unfurled at the whim of never-spoken winds, bereft at the beginning of an endless tapestry that means everything. And so, backwards I turn while above me a burning void embraces me, offering child-like hands for the escape, forgotten-like eyes for the finding, ending-like bones for burying. Feeling the flames that burn above, I struggle to tear my eyes from the path.

Followed am I. I feel my own icy breath on the back of my neck. Serpent images are beckoned from the deep. Eyes turn inwards, knees turn downwards, body crashes forward. Supplicant, I give praise to my own firestarter, to my own fuel cord, to my own match. The flames flicker out. The void is restored. And in its center:

Calm. Infinite roads stretch from an epicenter of the mind. Eloquent blues paint around the hills. A soft wind plays around cheekbones, plays inside cavities, plays inside nasal tunnels, plays inside thoughts. Above, the stars no longer wheel. Halted, they asphyxiate on a single spoke, a nail driven into the sky. Rust is the color of the nail. Rust, is the color. The prairie is littered with shells, hollowed out memories of words, hollowed in threads of purpose, hallowed potsherds of forgotten empires of intention. From the belly of the land, from the place where emotion flows into supposition, supposition into action, action into denial, denial into misery, misery into the belly of the land, rises the nail, the rusted nail.

Across it, a figure of me runs. Into the sky, on a stellar highway of rust, on the smell of blood forgotten, on the tinge of iron, on the spoke of gut, a figure of me runs. To where, I do not know. Discarded, still while the figure runs, I lie. All porcelain now forgotten, all swords now shattered, all cords now furled inside. The joints of my hands are white, not from struggle, but from the faint light that is released from halted stars. They shine brighter for having stopped. They shine brighter for the rust. The figure of me is dull, shadowed, leeched of light, or love, or darkness.

This used to be void. I was scared then, but I knew nothing.  I invited the nail, the raising of the monument. I imagined myself chased while I was being welcomed, thought myself a silence when I was noise, created myself a portrait when I was a landscape. Now, I am still left with the same tools but the intentions slowly shift. I lie, still. Halted, I can release. Like the stars, I shine brighter for having stopped. The fire is still but more potent, searing the insides of me, the rusted insides of me. And I can’t stop. Can’t stop burning.

And so, instead of water I yearn for fuel. And so, instead of release, I climb the nail. Balancing the edge, eating the border, masking the defeat, I run towards the stars. Still behind me, runs the cord, the tether, the anchor. I feel it but do not see, find it where it did not hide. Ignoring it, I run. The stars are porcelain, the sword, the rust, the highway to themselves. The highway towards me. The tether tugs. It grows tight. I am halted, violently, falling to my knees. I grip the nail with my hands, grip my hands with my pride and tear.

I hold a sliver of rust in my hands. I turn. I strike. I cut.

I. Release the tether. I. Strike the cord. I. End the silence.

I trust. The dark.

I breathe.


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