The Demented World

Third Place / Eden Kupermintz

The third and final part of the Demented World, in one place:

It’s a field. When darkness finally descends, it’s a field. All day the sun has been blinking but now it’s finally gone to sleep. The humming of people, the braying of oxen, the silence of work, are gone. In the darkness, only the rush of the wind through trees, like a slow clapping, flows around me. Kneeling, my hands dig into the dirt. It is not a pleasant feeling but a needed feeling. It’s a field, I whisper to the grass, I whisper to the trees, I whisper to the brook, I whisper to the wind, I whisper to the lady bug, I whisper to the dung, I whisper to the night, it’s a field.

The earth supports me. I am her child. In the distance, the hills can be glimpsed, glittering in the million million shattered lights of the stars through leaves. A hill stands out, stands out from the felt corpse of the land. Like honey trickles into the pot, the earth slowly, slowly, slowly gathers towards a tor. My eyes sliver past the darkness, brush against the night, forgetting it is dark. I see, I see the tor. My feet start moving, dragged by the inexorable gravity that is the tide, the shift, the lay of the land. To turn seems to me an unimaginable effort, the breaker holding back the sea, the lighthouse holding back the storm, the vessel tacking against all the wind. And so, dragged, my feet create furrows across the field, in the fallow, over the criss-cross of the day’s work. It is a field.

A thousand lips kiss my ankles as my feet start climbing, slowly embraced in a lilted dance, a lurid clapping of tiny hands on bear flesh. I want to collapse, to sit forever in the grass, to eat forever the blades and drink forever the dew. But the tor calls on. Gently, the wind nudges at the nape of my neck, shivers following its touch like a silken thunder following a muted flash. Hold, step, hold, step, breathe, hold, step. Up the tor the thousand rushing hands urge me, up the tor to see the night. With a slow and familiar susurration, my hands move by my side, tracking lazy seconds as they drift by. I stop.

Turning, as if some cork has been unwound, I turn to survey the near past. It is a field. From here, the minute details of the day’s work, the paths of where the oxen plowed, the depth of the mounds created by the boots of workers, is unclear. It is a field. At the far end stands a tree, the tree. I am pushed gently back into the day, silently laid down by the arms of memory. I remember the light breaking through the leaves, the bark rough against my skin. I remember her hand running down my cheek. I remember the cries of the bees, the song of the tree, the daze of the free. I remember her hand running down my cheek. I remember her tears carving a small creek, in the base of my neck, where the chest joins the shoulder. I remember her sheltered, me sheltered, us unending, in the light of the bees.

I turn to face the tor.

I liken it to dying. I liken it to birthing storms. Standing on that top, back to the world, wind in my face. My hand reaches out, feeling for the warmth of the bark, the empathy and mystery that only a tree can’t quite give and yet promises. Finding it, feeling the pocked skin of a nevergreen, an alwaysgreen, a somethingelsethangreen, I lean on it hard. Sap fills my nostrils, banishing for a second the harsh ozone of the storm. Opening my eyes then, I survey my world. Rain. The first thing is rain, calmly descending on the lush fields of clouds below. It cares not on what it lands below, only that it passes through the bottom clouds, completing a journey from an unknown height that I can only sense, like an itch on the top of your head that you cannot quite locate or reach.

Then, there is sound. The sweet rustling of the rain through clouds, the silent, temperate breathing of myself, the notsound of the comforting tree. I am tempted to close my eyes again, but all births must be borne through with eyes open lest the child become a human. And so, with storms in mind, the third thing is the stinging. Held open against the wind, held open for the rain, held inside and outside for the hill, I gaze into the clouds. A few days ago I would have attempted to pierce through the clouds, to glimpse the land that lies below. Now, all I do is take it in. Gently swaying, in time with the wind, I allow the view to be what it is, allow the storm to silently contour what I am.

Slowly, there is music. Into the wind the hill leans, breaking ancient currents. A slow keening unfolds, speaking the pain of the birthing of storms, speaking my pain for just a few moments. I open my mouth, water slowly filling every cavity, every tongue-absent crevice. My throat is the perfect receptacle, vibrating in time with the wind, with the pain, with the hill. The blades of grass, once a thousand tiny hands clasped around my ankles, now sing in time. The hill becomes a sounding room, a place where echoes are given life, borne alongside storms. In a daze now, I begin to walk. Softly, like cushions for the treading, the grass accepts my feet and raises them ever so slightly.

At last, there is the slope. The hill slowly rises behind me and my hands are spreadeagled  now, embracing without thought all that they can scoop. The rain intensifies. The wind continues. The sound escapes me. The music abates. Standing, alone now, I realize I have forgotten the tree, the nevergreen, the notquitegreen. Too late now. I turn one last time to survey my path. Somehow, by some trick of perspective and water, I can see the field. But the hill, the hill now captures most of the scene. And on it, of course, is the alwaysgreen, the tree, the staff, the shelter. I raise my hand to wave. It waves back. Singing again, I scream a faint goodbye. I do not know if it responds, but I do know that it is green. Turning, I face the storm, arms open, throat open, eyes open, song open.

I wish I could say I was regressing. But that would imply that the road behind me still exists. In the clouds now, in the fuzzy in between that I have created for myself, all signs of the present are absent. They’re not gone, for that would imply action on their part. There is only one actor here and he is the clouds. Slowly, they work their arms on the landscape, shaping what once might have been hills, trees, horizons, into an ubiquitous plain of muddled echoes.  Right now, I am lost of my own volition. In the clouds through which I walk I can no longer see myself. What faint light I hoped for, what source of direction that might have been my lighthouse, is swallowed in the body of nearly-solid water. Through this, like a bell whose tongue has been covered in foam, echoes a single realization:

I did this because I’m afraid. I’m so afraid to end this. Inside, I look back at what’s been, still blindingly clear through the clouds. I can easily trace the shimmering railways of the paths I’ve trodden, feel the copper taste of the blood self inflected wounds have drawn. I am filled with awe, somewhere aside from the anger and hate, at the structures I survey. All the more grand in comparison to the mediocre surroundings I now find myself in. If this is the present, an occluded field, devoid of form or shape, what is the future? Nothing remains to rage against. Nothing remains to lean against. My fingers clench and un-clench,  looking to grab some dirt, to strike at something. But all is cloud and striking at clouds is meaningless; all I’m left with is a faint tingling, a soft whisper and a ringing of bells in the distance. I can almost make out the harmony, come to terms with the song. In the background, faint cirrocumulus voices sing, like a choir dismembered across a vast distance. If I try, until the blood is rushing in my ears, I can hear their words:

Turn back. Every sinew of my mind softly beckons for me to turn back. It would have been easier had they shouted. Instead, soft implications, hollow requests, serpentine prayers. Slowly, patiently, worming themselves into my core, like an apple past its picking day. Stumbling, I reach out my hand but encounter only cloud. And so, losing balance, I crash to the soft ground underneath. Gone is the grass, suffocated by too much floating water. Gone is the hill, the tree, the field. All that remains is a colorless, formless mass. Soft beneath my fingers, it offers no resistance. I try to sculpt it, to make something that will last, but it will not take. Sobbing now, I turn to the side, all momentum robbed of me. Looking up, all I can see are clouds. Up and up, for what seems like forever, whiteness. The faint voices still sing, the faint words still somehow resound in the center of all this lost space. My mouth, my thirst slaked, my throat lubricated, forms words. Inquiring, begging, extolling, it says:

“Who. Who will create me again once I am gone. Who. Who will breathe life into me once the clouds come.

Who”.

When I was a child, I had s special relationship with a garden. It filled my life and I filled its lanes. They seemed to contain endless life. Brilliantly, I remember parceled fragments of it, iconographed forever into the chapel of my mind. Littered among discarded balls, slowly waving leaves, carefully tended stones and distant dolmens made of trees are my own lanes. First memories and dreams, first fears and thoughts, nestled throughout the checkered corpse of what the garden was. Like a figure moving across a desert that never sleeps, I can at any moment sink into these lanes, swim in the fresh grass, gaze over the intimate horizon, caress the crescent of my own childhood. I go there rarely, both mentally and physically. For me it is a rarity of being, a state which is both intoxicating and dangerous as it contains myself in a nascent form, a fractal of who I am and will become.

But now, I turn to it. Lost in the shapeless clouds of my own fabrication, I am without purchase. I can feel the tender tendrils of the white water slowly slithering in my meditating mind, seeking to wrap themselves across the clotted nadir of my identity. I feel no anger towards them for they are not evil. They only do what water does best, cleaning cavities and leaving nothing behind but the shape of what was. The vessel without the substance. Before sinking, or are we after sinking, I reach out, hands flying to grasp at whatever strong point remains. And I find the garden. Now though there is something more. Imagine the face of your mother, slightly changed. Feel your hand running over the door to your own house, knowing something has changed in a subtle way. In the garden now, something minute yet monumental has shifted.

I have to get out. This is one place which I refuse to give you. With childish movements, newly powerful hands moving frantically, I smudge the leaves, the lanes, the dolmens, stealing them from your sight. Returning now with a jolt to the clouds, I hear someone screaming hoarsely before I realize it is me. No. No. There is a different way to leave this place or if I must give you the garden to leave it then I’d rather stay here forever. Rising now, shaking off the lethargy borne on my shoulders for so long, I scream a torch into existence. Waving it around me, I scream fire into its head, into your head, into my head. Around me the white walls are receding. In their dying, sinuous arms I can see images of what was so far: islands, corners, cicadas, her, kings, edges, her, her, cores, coils, bridges, her, she, her, companion, lover, her, her, a road, she, she.

Her. Was this all about her? For now, yes. I am in the middle of the garden now, in my mental flesh. Not observing but there. And yes, all lanes lead to her. All leaves bow to her. All dolmens sing to her. And I’m done. I won’t give you the garden and I won’t give her the garden. Stoking the forge I find here, I begin to set fire to the hive. Lanes twist in burning under burnt twisting leaves that wave between crumbling dolmens. The structure of the garden slowly blows away, turned to charcoal bones. At some point I closed my eyes against the heat. Now, the wind slowly speaks to me a single word, a single world that I had forgotten: “Open”.

And open I shall.

Do you know that faint feeling of being pulled by an accelerating vehicle? It’s a warm tug, an inward sensation of being held to one direction. I remember clearly such a moment, endlessly falling into a pleasant curve, dragged by benign forces of getting from A to B into the distance. Closing eyes, I feel delicate sunlight on my shoulder, head resting, pressed against a murky window. It’s plastic, my forehead slowly sinking into the semi-liquid material. Opening eyes, I can see brown dirt, grey building, blue sky, needless activity. Sighing inwardly, I slowly turn my head to the other side. In between my eyes, an ocean of light swims softly. Yes the susurration says yes you can give in you can let go you can end you can be still.

So, I am still. Around me, ashes of a garden swirl in a zeroing in whirlpool, circumventing the epicenter which is I. The story has grown thin, dear reader. The Demented World lies before us, decelerating in the void which it has always occupied. My fingers are heavy from typing, my tongue is weary from talking to myself, my words are laden from creating. And you to, I see into your heart and I find heaviness there. But, before I fully sleep, before all realizations are tucked in to the comfort of the bed of our convictions, I find the need to regale you one last time, or twice, or thrice. We’ll see.

Do you know that faint feeling of everywhere? When you have shown yourself door, thoroughly assisted yourself in exiting silently off center stage? It’s a silent hand on the shoulder, your own, reaching around your inhibitions and showing yourself the lane to everywhere. Yes, I remember a day when I was bathed in green and eaten by white, gazing blindly at a sky that blinked and blinked and blinked in front of me. The door was shown, the key was turned and, falling away from the grass and the slope, I found myself everywhere. Yes, there was a hug there and a faint kiss on one cheek. And then the other.

Why then do I still sit in this garden? All that remains here are ashes but they speak to me. Whispering, on the edges of my hearing, the ashes tell me all that I have told you. Do you see? Do you see? I am not the storyteller here at all. I am only a messenger of ashes, only a herald of tiny storms, only a preacher of forsaken poems. I am sorry, dear reader. So sorry. I have mislead you. None of this is about me. None of this was felt by me. None of this was experienced by me. It was all The Demented World. And I am no longer it. I am no longer the World, the world, the word. Set ablaze, what I maybe, maybe, was is not me anymore. And so, while recreated in a crucible of pain, I am still a liar.

Do you know the feeling of letting go? Neither do I. This is what I must unlearn: to hold to pay to own to seek to tread to weave. I will engrave this on my heart that even now flutters. Forget to hold, to keep for yourself. Forget to pay, to divide and breathe. Forget to own, to fight and achieve. Forget to seek, to dream and speak. Forget to tread, to pace and heave. Forget to weave. Forget to weave. Faintly, I remember this moment. In the future, some I is looking back and remembering this, the window, the darkness, the vibrations, the room, the hands, the hair, the eyes, now closed, the throat, the silent breath, the letting go of breath, the realization. The moment when the weave was set, when the weave was ended, when the weave was created. And he is not me and I will be him. I will be him, I will be I.

I am no longer the World, the world, the word. Dear reader, read me as you have: I am no longer the word, the world, the World.

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