The Augmented World – On the Pulling Away From Things

The white color of the clouds on the golden ambiance of the sky makes everything seem flat. In the distance, I can just make out the outline of the buildings under whose shadow I’ve made my life. One of those shadows seems larger and it is; it’s hard to define but the wall towers over even the horizon. And yet, it’s the City behind it which captures my attention, my heart, beating under a crimson not unlike the color of the blood which it pumps. I grasp the rails slightly harder as a particularly tall wave shakes me from my reverie. They tell me that this is nothing, that we’re not even out at sea proper but, for me, it seems as if the sea is doing its best to buck my balance and unsettle me. Not that it needs to do much work; I am already unsettled and me admitting that is a sign of it. After all, the whole point of what I do is that I am never unsettled.

That’s what people get wrong about guards or other such characters which are there to “enforce the peace”. They think that, like coiled springs, we are measured when the action begins, when the tension in our tendons is released and we, excuse me, spring into action. But that’s not the case at all; the action is the boring, unimportant part. Rather the containment of potential, the embodying of a possibility, is where we are most measured. By ourselves, that is. Competence among guards (and those other characters I mentioned, like painters or architects) is a ranking of restraint, a hierarchy of control. “Who are you before the water rushes from the mouth of the mountain? What is the depth of your aquifer, how deep do the waters in your bones go?” these structures ask.

This is, naturally, a result of the role we play. People have gotten this wrong as well, for centuries; guards aren’t there to stop crime or to fight wars or to eject the undesirable. They’re there to anticipate those things, to be there right before the spring uncoils and the mechanisms of action take over everyone. None of us high up on those lists kid ourselves; it doesn’t matter how fast you get or how calm you train yourself to be, when the ideas turn into words and the words turn into bodies moving through space, all of that flies out of the window and you’re left with guts and pain and grunts and willpower and just being too goddamn stubborn to die. All the stuff about uniform and tactics and commands and the rest comes before that. And that’s why they’re so important, the only thing that’s important in this line of business; with the rest, you just throw the die and lower your shoulder and barge through and hope for the best. The stuff that comes before is the art.

Here’s the problem I find myself in though, as the City slinks past beyond the horizon and the odd tricks of light which gave the Shimmering Sea its name begin to occlude my ability to scan the horizon. The problem I’m in is that the sea doesn’t care about any part of that. It doesn’t care about the before: ever tried to bark commands at your friend to impress the sea? Doesn’t work. That in and of itself is not that big of a deal; lots of things don’t care about the before and to deal with those things, we carry big swords and we train with them a lot. But the sea doesn’t care about the after either, the moments that come once words are done. For what shoulder can push against the waves? What willpower is there stronger than the inexorable pressure exerted by the sea on anything in its path?

Thus, the sea stands more than just aloof, apart or distant. People have gotten this wrong as well and that’s their worst mistake; the sea is not just a place to which you go but a road leading away from all places. It is what you must go through when you leave the City. It’s more than the other; it is the road to all others, it is the ultimate instruments in the act of pulling away from everything. And the thing about pulling away, the thing about leaving the City, is that it un-spools your meaning. That’s what the wall stands for; that’s what makes the City exist. That is the one true weak point of guards and police and painters and architects and street cleaners. They don’t exist without context and context doesn’t exist without relationships and relationships don’t exist without multiplicity and on the sea there is no multiplicity. There is only one. There is only the water.

And so, I am left with little choice but to form context. Turning away from the City and its walls, turning away from the fading brightness of the fading day, my red cloak billowing behind me in the rising wind, I walk towards the gullet, towards the stairs descending into the belly of the ship. They’re waiting there for me, my new family, the only family I have here, on the monolithic water. I have no choice but to speak with them, have no choice but to secure my own meaning in relation to them so that this sea doesn’t swallow me whole. Even if their language is blood, pain, violence and aggression, I must converse with them. I can already hear the whir of the bone drill warming up below. This is the art. The before. The how you deal with potential. With who you are before the pain begins. The what will you do to belong, knowing that belonging is the only hope any of us have against eternity. Knowing that, on the sea, pulling away from things is only natural but that in naturalness lies the death of all you are, the un-spooling of the ligaments which keep your identity alive.

The Augmented World – Doublebreeze

The City (obviously[naturally{of course}]) exists in many versions of reality. I don’t like the word “dimensions”, which you might have expected here. It’s too rigid, too quantifying. The City’s existence alongside these axes is much more fuzzy, much less clear than the word “dimensions” would allow; there are no manuals to all the different directions a street can bend within it. However, most (and by most, I mean “almost all save me, perhaps there’s someone else but I haven’t met them yet”) citizens of the City don’t interact with these realities beyond the possession of the knowledge that they exist, a faint awareness of the possibilities lurking just to the side of the cobblestones they know and love. Thus, any exciting tales of travel, whether through time (now there’s a “dimension”!) or the self or genealogy, any exciting ideas of alternatives, of a very safe jaunt into what-could-have-been, are snipped in the bud by the impossibility of access. The denizens of the City continue to live their singular lives, whether boring or exciting, without the thrilling possibility of encounter, of conflict, of friction that is generated when one faces choices they have made and perhaps should have made differently.

Except for on one street. Silver Street lies in the western part of the City, but not so close to the water that you’d call it a beachfront. Instead, it’s one of those winding paths you get in neighborhoods that used to be docks,  a narrow passageway which recalls warrens, carts plodding along and brisk commerce managed from the same houses in which the owners lived (every building was “mixed use” in the past, before the curse of modernism). On good days, when the wind was coming off of the waves in any measure, the smell of salt, fish and wood flooded its air. The people who lived on Silver Street were wholesome if not fancy, dotted with the odd protogentrifier, the smell of money but not too much money mingling with that of the salt/wood to create a weird scent that was not entirely uncomfortable. Now, the area had changed but not all for the worse. Not for the City clear divisions between good and bad, sharp lines in the sand/concrete, easy definitions of what does or doesn’t make sense. Eventually, while the traditional storefronts are all long gone, they were replaced by boutiques of many types, people trading either their niche crafts or the niche products made from said crafts, catering to those who frequented the area for its “charm” and “allure”. Oh, and in Silver Street the veil (“border” is much too tight a word, going well with “dimensions”, which I had earlier discarded) between realities is thin.

It isn’t thin enough to allow people to fall through. It wasn’t thin enough that Silver Street became a hub, a center from which spokes struck out to other realities, facilitating tourism of the oddest kind. No, it wasn’t thin enough for any of that but it is thin enough for oddities to assault the senses and often take those unaware (which again, as far as I know, was everyone but myself) on a heady trip through uncertainty, self doubt and double guessing as they muttered to themselves things like “Argent Street? Pretty sure I turned on to Silve…oh, that’s odd” or “My barbershop is gone! The City changes so fast these days. Oh! It’s…on the other side of Silver Street? What an amusing lapse of memory!” and so on, and so forth. It is thin enough to allow the odd thing to travel its loosely defined tundras and prairie lands (some of the realities had actual tundras and prairies, realities where the City had never come to be) such as small animals, trinkets, food, or even a peculiar smell or some other trick of the senses. Oh, and it also allowed those with the right knowledge, perspective and internal makeup (that is to say, me)  to ever so slightly push on the elusive ligaments of Silver Street and emerge in some other place.

Alright, I’ll cut the flowery structure and get to the point. My name is Edmond Doublebreeze. No, Doublebreeze is not my given surname. Yes, Edmond is my given first name. No, I won’t tell you what my actual surname is. Doublebreeze is what I mostly go by, a moniker I had selected for myself quite a few years ago to play a game with those around me, a game like a decidedly devilish criminal might play on the police before the clever detective comes along to defuse, a game whose central move was to hide who you were in plain sight. Ever since I can remember myself, I was the fulcrum of two, internal winds. Not mutually exclusive, they would often blow at the same time and mingle into a strange regiment of prevalent winds, a barometric map of my psyche. One isthe afternoon/evening breeze, an intoxicating thing blowing off of the sea the City resides on. It is a frivolous thing, like a child pregnant with the mythical knowledge awarded to children which is, at the end of the day, mystery. It leads me winding through the streets, heart full at the sight of a couple kissing, or a tree blooming, or shadow falling on the corner of the street like so, alighting everything by contrast.

Its fellow is, in a city which, again, does not suffer clear divides, a darker but not more malignant type of wind. It is the heavy wind of night, of pre-dawn, a stifling thing all jagged edges and whipping coattails. It sends me into a contemplative mood, a bloated melancholy that feasts on loops and internal speculation. And yet, I have done some of my finest work under its auspices, my eyes made sharp by the churning air, prickled to sensitivity by the acrid flavors of the latter wind. Why am I telling you all of this when you clearly care about Silver Street and its, for lack of a better term, magic? It is because these streams, these double breezes, somehow tie me to that street’s character. How? Don’t ask me; does the sailor know how the wind fills their sails? Of course they do but I’m not a sailor and none of this is a trade or science. It is just the way things are wired; when the breezes blow strongly through me, whether together or alone, I am inexorably drawn to Silver Street and its strange twists and turns and I can make that street twist and turn.

It’s nothing so conscious as those words might hint at; there is no will, no magus’s gesture. Often, when the winds are blowing especially strong and it feels like my fingertips might catch lightning, I don’t even notice I’m there, not to mention heading there. I stumble into the familiar square, where Silver Street adjoins with Coronation, and pass the wide-door’d knick knack shop that coronates Silver Street. I walk a few more steps, laughing or crying or shouting, and, suddenly, I am somewhere else. Once that transformation happens, the breezes disappear as suddenly as they came and my psyche is becalmed, left to motivate itself by its own devices. Usually, that’s not a problem; the alternative to Silver Street is motivation enough by itself. It’s not often dangerous (although some versions I’ve stumbled upon have contained some form of weird, urban violence) but it is always fascinating. The other Silver Streets don’t exist in a vacuum; it’s not a universe full of alternatives of just this one street! How dull would that be?

Instead, the entire world around Silver Street (now there’s a Jerusalem for you) is also alternate, different, reconfigured. Is it because of Silver Street? That is, is Silver Street somehow so important that any changes to it are reflected in the world around it? That thought depresses me and so I answer, to myself since who would I have this conversation with, in the negative. It’s just that every Silver Street needs a world within which to exist and thus, whatever malevolent hand set the world(s) in motion, gave it a place which corresponds to it. On the aforementioned Argent Street, the City is a small commune that lives on the trade generated by nearby apple orchards. On S.I.L.V.E.R St., the neighborhood is dominated by personality merchants who cut and tailor opinions and moods to suit their customers’ wishes for the day. On Sterling Alley, the people wall wear top-hots except for on the 23rd of April where they shower each other with books and gives children roses. On S Way, talk is only allowed in whispers and serifs are currency, the rich owning all the sharp sounds they might wish for. And, finally (and one of my personal favorites) on Mercury Drive, the lights are all inverse and they make the most beautiful paintings in the world.

“Doublebreeze must be rich”, you’re now probably thinking, my dear guest. “How is he living in this, frankly and not to be rude, run down apartment? He has probably traded on the riches of a million versions and made a fortune!” your head is telling you, in that behind-my-eyes voice we all have. But, my dear guest, the fact is that I am not rich, not in the way citizens of our own City think of wealth in any case. I have always had my eyes and ears and olfactory senses geared towards one thing and one thing only. When the breezes blow through me and make my gait light as ball lightning or ponderous as a pachyderm or a mixture of both (resulting in a lurching dance of sorts, one part of me flying through the air after my own heart while another drags itself into the dirt), they eventually take me to the ever-winding ways of Silver Street in search of only one thing.

Dessert. In all versions of Silver Street, like all things are different, there are desserts. There are patisseries and boulangeries and boutique stalls and family owned bakeries and glazers versed in the Seventy Arts of Cooking and wonderful alchemists that wield their science in the ever elusive search of culinary perfection. And I shop at all of their places of business and I take back with me that and only that; desserts. I am the knight of the buttressed cake, a duelist of the rarest Order of the Pastry, a marvelous baron in the byzantine court of desserts! And here, in this shabby apartment, living my not-quite-ordinary life in the prison of my double breezes, I, Doublebreeze, partake and store and catalog said desserts. Come, come my guest, up you go and do set aside that dreadful cup of coffee I make for those not initiated (for I have had this conversation with select citizens of our City before, because eating alone, and especially dessert, is boring) and follow me into the Solarium and gaze upon

Apple dumplings from Eastern Pennsylvania, shipped to Argentate Boulevard at ludicrous expense, sachertorte straight from the hands of Franz Sacher while Metternich calls in at 361 Bright Lane, kunefe from Acre, sweet as dreams, chajá from Uruguay so fresh it still remembers the green plains where its dairy came from purchased at quite a price on our very own Silver Street from a lady underneath a pecan tree, mamounia from Aleppo, cream-y surface steeped in the history of ages pilfered for a smile by me from a lovely gentleman with quite gentle hands on the turn of Pearl Avenue as it spills into the ocean, marzipan from Toledo, still ringing with the sugary love that made it, Saint Honore from the well-lit streets of the City of Light blessed by the touch of the Living Saint who still walks its cobblestones at night, whispering to chefs who come to speak with him from all over the world, and all sorts of cakes, donuts, pastries, chocolate, and delights besides and all of them sampled and returned here by me from the alternate versions of this City. Possessed by my winds, set alight by flickering fire and doused by unplumbed depths, I gallivant from place to place on an endless quest for the perfect Chalice, one which I complete again and again: a quest for dessert.

Now, my guest. Shall we eat? I feel a light breeze blowing from the sea, carrying with it magic and peace and sanity and pleasure. Come, let’s eat! The doublebreezes blow.

The Augmented World – Yggdrasil Rising

My personality is a tatter made of bits and pieces of other people. The wind is high in my ears as I step outside of the school, briefly chill before I hug my coat tighter around me; it smells of rain and far away places, maybe the hill I am on acts as some sort of geographical receptacle for other points in space. The sun is setting but it’s not dark yet. Magic hour. I collect parts of people’s personalities that I find beautiful, useful, or fitting (all words for the same thing) and attach them to my own. A tree towers above me and, even though I am not stranger to the sensation, I take special note. This memory will be carved into my narrative, I suddenly know. The chill is heightened by the way the leaves’ green tinges the shade thrown by the tree, pink light of the climaxing sunset scattered between the organic holes in its tapestry. It gets colder but I don’t move; the wind is still blowing. I am a hub; I am the connector of disparate memories, disparate monads, disparate holes in the tapestry of the universe that we call “perspective”.

In the south-eastern periphery of my sight, quite long during magic hour on a hill, lies the City and a tree towers over it. Ağaç Ana reaches its hands into the sky, holding it in place. I smile. My own tree seems smaller (which, like all trees, it is) by comparison and that makes it seem more intimate (which, like all trees, it is). I take a step towards it and the wind increases. It is decidedly cold now. As my personality broke around the hardest day of my life, I realized that in rebuilding it, I could not repeat the same mistakes of my youth; monoliths are too fragile. Hours I set and tried to plan my own self while it, of course, coalesced silently into this hub. The wind suddenly changes direction and the air is filled with pollen; the tree is blossoming in the middle of the snap freeze, an Indian Winter. I raise my chin slightly into the wind and let the air blow around me, drawing tears from my eyes that are then whisked away. The tree stands in the midst of a roundabout and, around us, is a town.

Starting to walk is hard but I manage it. I have appointments in the City, mechanisms of ritual that the social unit does not suffer delay in. My tree walks with me, in the sense that I never really leave it; I leave behind a part of me that I, perhaps, picked up a month or a week or a lifetime ago. The hub molts, periodically (do not ask me of the cycle, I don’t know) and is an agile thing. As more pieces of people are added, so too pieces leave. This is useful; I am in may places at once. The road, slightly in need of repair, curves down the semi-golden ranges of the hill, leading to a highway. A highway towards the City, naturally. I have appointments. Above me, closer now, Ashvattha encompasses the sky, its multitude of branches reaching to the stars themselves. Count them: Cygnus, Alshain, Zhinü ducking underneath the cover and spinning her threads which hand across her million siblings. Walking the road, my thumb out for the kindness of strangers, I hug my tree.

Lights stop and then accelerate again and, suddenly, I am moving much faster towards the City. I will make my appointments. “What do you do” asks a voice beside me. “I gather people’s lives and store them inside me, forever branching into my own firmament” I reply. They nod. “Yes, that sounds reasonable, good idea” they follow up and a warm silence stretches besides us. They can tell my tree is swaying in the wind and they respect that. The cobblestones of the roundabout are welcoming and I feel at home in this town, even though I know nothing of its pathways and alleys, don’t know how it feels on Saturdays, have never seen its park crowded with people, have not tasted its myriad ways of being. It, like all towns and people, is a hub.

In the south-east, Yggdrasil rises and eclipses, finally, the sun. I have appointments and so does the City. I have tasted its markets in full bloom; I know the gentle curves of street and sidewalk. The lights stop and with a “good day”, I depart. Breathing deep, I turn down the boulevard and smile at its shadows waving hello to me. Yes, my friends, I’m back but only parts of me; a part has been left behind. “Yes, of course” they say. They are practical, being shadows and boulevard shadows at that (the most practical of shadows). “You’re a hub”.

The Augmented World – The Complete Garden

She sits in The Complete Garden with the stars singing out the names she had given them above her. Around her, trails bend and weave, quartering grass into discrete, endless segments. Within this fertile, contained, expansive space, dozens of communities thrive. She sits apart. Here, a few friends plant future promises, delving hands deep into the warm soil, a mutual handshake that’s been going on for millennia. There, a loosely defined pack of people hover around a clearly defined group of dogs, brought together by their need of ritual, of shared similarity. Smiling, these things wash over her as she waits for him. They would have washed over her anyway; her lack of motion is not subservience, not a change in routine in favor of a stronger other. It is simply an augmentation, like so much of her life has become now that she had him. Calmly, her days flexed, familiar time stamps and footmaps expanding to encompass this new thing that was coming to life between them. For now, The Complete Garden held her hand and pulsed with her breaths, expanding with the smell of evening citrus and contracting with a soft, cool, autumn breeze.

Above her, the stars sing the names she had given them. A whirl of constellations, a blizzard of choirs, their silver voices dance among the trees and their rough, welcome barks. At times, she paces, circumnavigating The Complete Garden with familiar ease. Of course, inevitably, the question creeps into her mind: “what makes this The Complete Garden?”. She knows that the very nature of the question is futile, its motivations moot and sterile from birth. However, the machinations of asking questions, the settling of mental muscles into well-worn, cerebral grooves, attracts her. It was she, after all, who had named this place The Complete Garden (silut in the magical intonations that made up her personal, universal dictionary). That day was not much different than today except that the sense of wholeness had not yet settled upon the place, reaching supporting hands to give The Garden its own, prehensile abilities.

Was that it? Was this The Complete Garden because it reached out to its visitants, not content with staying passive like its other, tellurian sisters? Perhaps. The idea certainly had its attractive symmetry but the fact remained that whatever responsiveness The Complete Garden now possessed had come after the naming and, thus, could not be its motivation. Such simple laws of causation still stood in The City, although for how long none could tell. Her brow furrows slightly at the idea and at the implicit, subtle, accusing finger pointing from inside of it. After all, was her naming not often in defiance of other rules The City held as fundamental? Did she not break the precious real with her very voice, every syllable uttered against the tapestry of understandings that made up the corpus of contracts called The City (a city)?

Perhaps but what did that matter in the face of such beauty? Furrows now gone, her face lights up in a smile as she notices the children at play, more infinite fields unfolding in their minds than any Complete Garden could ever hope to contain. Her eyes wander across the multiple ponds The Complete Garden contains, waters reflecting the astral litany being sung from above. She wonders how, with their sharp hearts and emphatic relationships, her fellow sojourners in The Complete Garden cannot hear their melody. She could change that of course, she knows, with but a few names sprinkled here and there. But the warm itch across her shoulders which signifies such an event is not upon her and she has learned to trust her body with these things. After all, were not the tongue and the heart which did the naming a part of the body? Most assuredly. And besides, he was coming and her new rhythm urged her to conserve her strength.

She had never taken him to The Complete Garden before today. In some ways, The Garden was her place, an island where her work flowed most vividly. The entity which was The Garden now, having been named, felt so close, so familiar, that she hesitated to share it with any others. This thought brought another assault of furrows; it was not in her nature to hoard. Even when she worked the Orange Market she was forthcoming and welcoming, traits that were among the most precious resources in a market offering everything except decency. In that regard, The Complete Garden was perhaps the opposite of the Market and, alongside her own abode, her own fortress of shadows, was where she felt most at home in The City. That was, she knew, not a feat to be disregarded. The body urbane was home to many castaways, shunted off from the main flow of things by their own aberrations, their own rhythmic inconsistencies. Staying with the community was a balancing act of firmness and suppleness, a give and take of everyday life which could determine your fate for years to come.

And now, she was bringing someone into one of her modal cores, a thrumming beat at the heart of the percussive symphony that was her personality. That was dangerous, for everyone, but doubly so for a Namer. For what are Names if not specific cadences, spoken by tongue and heart in measured signatures? The furrows increase; perhaps this was a mistake. She once again looks around her and feels the warmth exuding from every bend of trail, every cry of play, every soft, murmured, constant humdrum of small community and she is suddenly not sure if she wants to share all of this with him. A bench presents itself at the right time, buckling slightly beneath her weight, burdened as it is by by-now dire contemplation, and she takes it without noticing. The smell of eucalyptus increases around her. Her hands are drumming against the wood, a hollow cadence that rings out only around her but where it is heard, leaves no thing the same.

Which is, of course, her answer. She is not the cadence, nor the fingers drumming. She is not the warmth of The Complete Garden nor is she The Garden itself. She is not the stars, whirling in their dervish dances in the sky, crying out their names. She is not the hands going into the dirt, welcomed warmly back to a contract signed by her ancestors. She is not the small community, nor the humdrum, nor the children at play. She is not even the bending paths, the trails carved into The Complete Garden, segmenting it into discrete parts. She is not, of course, the trees and their ugly, welcome bark or the shade beneath their leaves or their smells, so comforting to aching minds. She is not him or her or a floating piece of rhythm against a common stream of stage directions called society. Nor is she, indeed, the totality of this and its meaning, she is not, after all, The City.

No. She is the wood. She is the substance against which all of this strikes and drums and the Names are the beautiful music born between those things, sweet music born of conflict and meeting. And that gives her no small measure of freedom. The furrows are gone. She sits back in the bench, comfortably ensconced by its structure as only the body can ensconce the self, perfectly fitting and yet not at all there. She is the wood and suddenly he is there and his arms drum against her skin as he greets her and she smiles.

“Hey. I’m Elhar. I believe we’ve never met before, although you might remember otherwise. Will you walk with me in The Complete Garden and tell me who I am?”
“Hey Elhar. I named you, so I feel slightly affronted, but certainly, I will walk with you. But how will I know who you are and how will I tell you when I know?”
“Oh, don’t worry. I’ll tell you when”.

The Augmented World – Enshrine

The fecund smell of dates assaults my nose as I make study of the night. Long robes of white against me, faint shelters against a deep sky, are wrapped across my knees. I am perched; my chin almost reaches over the railing of the balcony, swirling iron giving precious, and hard won, comfort to my face. Oscillation Tower, my home, sways in clashing fronts of falling and rising winds. This is the autumn-spring, an in between indistinguishable from all other in betweens. You remember the beauty of her face, you’ve enshrined it. The wind is blowing softly, softly, singing faint hymns against the skin of my cheek. I am perched; my eyes survey the city, as the nose basks in the rich rot of dates, and its streets which never end. In these regards I am perfect for the season, the spring-autumn, an accessory well worn for the mood, theme and setting of the climate.

I contemplate turning, for just a moment, but a loud noise from the street below re-holds my attention. A band of youngsters, drunk on an abundance of time, their social nerve ends fraught from an expected catharsis. Some of them wheel side to side, bottles clenched hard in whitening knuckles, an easy going, nervous energy to them. Others are fumbling in each other’s embraces, eager lips attempting to communicate the now, the urgency, the death that’s coming, the release that’s needed as a dike to stem it. You remember the awe of her hair, you’ve enshrined it. As they pass beneath my balcony, sound increasing, I draw a deep breath and take a hold of their scent. It fills me. It enriches me. It turns me into a part of the scene and a part of my memory drifts into it, summoned by familiar traces: trees, wind, humans, sweat, alcohol, dog shit, pavement, neon, sleep for most but not for all of us.

There is a Namer’s touch to them. One of them is related to her, the girl who with a touch and a soft spoken word has changed my life. You recognize her grace, you’ve enshrined it. Here, atop Oscillation Tower, the City in which she resides still escapes me. But her touch is on one of them; perhaps it’s the girl with the frayed pants, knees peeking like submarine eyes on stems, clutching at her other so brightly. With her firm, prehensile grasp she seems to make her realer, as if her kisses anoint personhood, as if her encompassing, needy love describes her objective boundaries like the sea describes a cliff and the woman in her arms exists more for being kissed by such lips. Definitely her touch on her; the power of reality is the power of Names, and in this City she is the source of syllables.

Kfevic. In a half stumble my ears processed the words as I turned, a green park all around. I was sure I was alone but there she was, enshrined in chopped up light. Smiling at me, lightly touching my elbow and saying “kfevic”. I had never heard the word before, not in all the blazing banks and  dusty repositories of Oscillation House but I knew instantly what it meant. “Observer”. Supposedly detached, expectedly emphatic, pathetically imagining myself to be more than what I studied and humanely unable to resist sympathy. Observer. She spoke my being in a few moments and then pushed on, spices on her back and a destination on her mind, her knees in between the three and carrying the first closer to the second via the third. She named me and moved on, leaving me to stand in my own existence, splayed out in the fading light of a summer afternoon, as summer was dying.

It’s autumn-spring now and the coolrushofcoldwater that is existing hasn’t left me yet. I’m more present than before, the contours of my body not ending in a world I’d like to imagine as other. Instead, it’s all a blur and I realize that I’m faintly leaning over the balcony, wanting to join the extrovert bodies below me, wanting to scream wildly and dance and kiss. I draw back. You remember her touch, you’ve enshrined it. Deep breaths run across my esophagus, cooling my insides that would propel my outsides, cooling the kfevic resounding in my head, cooling the implications of being an observer that would use me to become realized. That would have me live out their story, that would have me live out my name. Harshly, I finally turn around, the sound of their revelry now fading down the street, the sound of my own breathing increasing around me. I shut the door of Oscillation House, leaving out the spring-autumn, leaving out the street, leaving out the rotten smell of dates. Bringing in myself and my existence and the power of a Name that’s burning inside me, as much as I would like to be rid of it. Back to the banks and the repositories, back to knowledge and the dissection of lineages, back to a bird’s eye view of a living map that won’t stop churning. Back to Oscillation House and the torpor of detached thought with the Name burning inside me as a contrast, an oscillation of being between what I am, who she says I am and how much I have no idea, not even a faint lead, of reconciliation.

I remember her voice. It has enshrined me.


The Augmented World – The Ritual of Sight

The thick, soft velvet of the Officers’ Court is like an island unto itself in the thick, musky dust of the Spice Markets. The orange particles of who-knows-what which swim in the crowded alleys bow to its fabric like so many courtiers, innately recognizing the authority which stems from military might blended with nobility. The hands which call the broad sleeves home, infrequently shaded by their cloth and then cast into light by the afternoon sun, flicker adeptly over the materials on display in the Markets: spices yes, but also rarer cloth than even the officer’s coat, delicate foods and flesh. They are strong and skilled, somehow warm in their prehensile strength, the hands of one who is both a warrior and an orator, who uses hands to cut the life from bodies but who also uses them to undercut the rhythm of one’s words. The hands lead upwards to muscular arms, broad shoulders and a gait which broadcasts, effortlessly, complete ownership and command of the situation and the people within the situation.

The hidden/seen contours of the arms, buried as they are underneath all that cloth but also so powerful as to defy obscurity, lead the eye up to the collar where three golden chevrons lie, dotted with silver stars. These tell a story which takes place far from the Spice Markets and the City which houses them. The chevron’s fine, definitive lines speak of a career spent in exile, training for a goal which the trainers feared. They speak, in their golden punctuation marks and sure, firm weave, of one who had identified the silent beat of such a life from the first day. Eyes coldly surveying the fateful scene replayed across a dozen dozen bases, camps and drafting points, that one’s mind had instantly deciphered it all, the discrete relationships of power and oppression which made the body called “military” run. It rightfully discerned the threat in the veteran’s gaze,  and it swiftly broke apart the fears, motivations and emotions of one’s fellow draftees and cataloged them for future use.

It did all this without even noticing it, the forward parts of it which understood things awash in the terror of separation and change. Of all of this and much more sang the golden chevrons, expanding their tune to encompass not only that one but also countless others who had worked alongside them. Their melody extolled ranks, platoons, units, regiments, divisions, whole systems of knowledge and reality designed to make things the same, to erase differences and make sure that unity and the military ontalogy prevailed. They sang of other necks, other shoulders, other strong, impossibly thick arms which led to hands so gentle as to almost make you forget their danger as they sorted through dried fruit at the Spice Markets, with the afternoon sun making particles of the air and the streets ringing with the shouts of the hawkers. They made sure, the chevrons did, that you did not forget that the one which stood before you now, back slightly turned to your gaze as if always on defense, even from spectators, that one was not unique. They were privileged but not singular; many others bore their chevrons, their careers, their memories, their understandings. Their catalogs. And all those mental catalogs were slightly different but quite the same, said the chevrons.

The silver stars sang a bittersweet counterpoint to all of this. They, more scarce in their existence, told discrete stories for the onlooker who spoke their language, the language of heraldry, communal memory and the intricate relationships which existed between them. To such a savvy onlooker, they told of personal sacrifices, missions undertaken and goals achieved which were personal and non-obvious, each one placed on one’s shoulders willingly, without command. They spoke of the City’s Walls, blue-green usually in their metallic somnolence, deep red with the blood of invaders who had crashed upon their ligaments, flesh made from men and women like the one who stands before you. The silver stars chant of the mechanic ease with which those same arms which brought you to gaze upon such astral decoys then rose and fell upon the building blocks of a new bridge, one which would connect the City and a far away, long lost settlement. They whisper, mumble and babble about all such things to the onlooker with the language to listen.

The eyes which do such skillful gazing are, however, beginning to show some hesitation, a slight flicker to their so-far hungry exploration. They know that now, with the deep channels of the arms explored, the broad plains of the shoulders excavated, the towering monument of the neck explained, only one destination remains for their hunger to feast upon. In that realization, that selfsame hunger collapses on itself, avidly attempting to battle the ocular momentum it had, just before, fed constantly with the need for knowledge, trapped forever in the ritual of sight. It knows, this hunger and the onlooker which serves as merely the host to its base intentions, that the only place left to go is the face and it is afraid of what it would find there. Far beyond the songs of chevrons, well past the storytelling of embroidered stars, it knows it will find pain, fear, defeat, horror and resignation, as it has found every time in the faces of the City’s “citizens”, if that moniker even fits any of them anymore.

This shock of disappointment, this death of hope is what it had come here originally to avoid, why it had drifted so avidly to this one, this seemingly unbreakable bastion of the City, made flesh by years of order, years of obeying order (and orders). It hoped, and its host hopes, convincing itself that it and not the hunger was the progenitor of this observance, to finally find conviction in this broken place and now it fears that disappointment awaits it once again. And so it does, but not in the sense which it had imagined, not in the sense which, born from failure as it was, it could ever have imagined. The eyes finally have their way, as they always will, momentum cresting over the moment and a slight wind turning the officer’s cheek ever so slightly in their direction, the afternoon light flinging golden unmasking on the face’s features. And in it blazes that same conviction which the hunger had convinced itself that it sought, that it had chased, through the onlooker, for so many years, bright and mighty and self absorbed. Through their eyes, the officer speaks all there is to know about the songs of chevrons, the chasms of secure arms, the mesas of bulwark shoulders. Their cry glory and honor and the faultless assurance that all is right and so long as the City stands nothing can really be wrong.

And the hunger screams and shrivels and burns in the light of such conviction, consumed by victory.

The Augmented World – Starnamer

In the city, there’s a woman. She’s quite young but not so young that your adult mind could catalog her into the rubric of a child. She has her own stature and poise, her own vector through the crowds; she has places to go.During the day, with the warm, warm wind subtly holding her cheeks in a supple embrace, she runs from stall to stall. She has the day’s goals tied to her shoulders, containers that hold all that must still be done. Be it for her own, humble aspirations or for those of men and women of longer mustaches and larger ambitions, she pours her sweat into the cobblestones. Anointed with her spring step, with the fluid embodiment of her time and effort, the stones disappear under foot as she hops from place to place in the Orange Markets (so named, of course, for the distinct hue which makes up the walls and the air and the people).

Afternoon. There is a hint of respite, both from the heat and from the sharp gazes of those that hire her, as the sun begins to fade. There are plenty more hours of light remaining but, soon, as the harsh yellows of noon fade into the soft embers of early evening, lemon water will wait on a windowsill. She lives, our woman, a few blocks away from the market. Somehow, contrary to what you might imagine (I’m on to you, you sneaky imaginer), she doesn’t live in a hovel. Her house is spacious and embracing, existent without flaring into grandeur. Most of all, it is cool; shadows dominate its interiors, providing an imperfect mirror to those casts by stall coverings in the Markets, tarpaulins which suffocate the air rather than free it from the heat. Here, in her home, close to the Markets, there are soft edges and softer people, murmurings of water and whispers of shade. It is a good place.

The house is called Matner. It means “flowing dark” but in what language, only one person knows and others wonder. You see, it is well into evening now and our woman is, like the moon which now celebrates a triumph through the Rome of the sky, celebratory in her other skills. After the day’s hopping is done, after a scorching return across anointed cobblestones, after the lemon water has been drunk and the shade sojourned in, our heroine names. In her own, soft language, syllables woven from intentions and intuition, she names everything around her. The stories are street corners and treetops, shadow and light splayed between the streets that run underneath her veins. Walking them with a sure, calm stride, she lets her eye roam. Naming, to the chagrin of the learned Stolae in their University Towers, is a skill more akin to art than to science (not that such a divide means anything, whether in scorching noon or cool evening). So, her eyes roams free and whatever it lands on, whatever her heart calls out, whatever her supple, weary hands come to rest on, she names.

The denizens of the city, often bejeweled merchants or stocky up-and-comers that live like squires around the knighthood of the Orange Markets, react according to their own temperament. Those whose eyes are still wet, whose blood still runs fast and free through the capillary caverns in the underworld of their bodies, they lean slightly forward. Like the poor clutching at carpet-ends after a king’s coronation, they slightly bend towards the sacred moment, knowing that it doesn’t exist by sheer probability but hoping that, perhaps this time, a name shall be bestowed on them or their things or their loved ones or their places. Those who already stand bowed, their shoulders hunched over with something quite different to the fever that possesses the aforementioned semi-believers, they move slightly back. Their calcified fingernails and manicured bones move before the ripples of the naming, the ontological premonitions that herald the coming of verbal genesis. Like a sleeper who wakes too slowly or your skin when it transitions from extreme heat to cold, this initial bestirring hurts them. Muscle memory long repressed suddenly comes back and that which was once dead (or, at least, storied to be dead) now jolts back to life with a painful pinch.

For names are, in this broken world, the closest there is to magic and our heroine is, in this broken world, the closest there is to a magus. “Matsel” she whispered once at the opening to her house, where light flowed in (which explains the name) and mixed with the dark within and so it was, the light dancing ever so slightly faster, almost giggling underneath the touch of the syllables undulating from her tongue. She smiled then and went to her favorite cafe, where upon she consumed oily vine leaves, her favorite dish. Naming left her ravenous, as if something rode back on the vibrations of her craft and knocked at the doors of her cellular structure and demanded a balancing of the price. This evening, which could be any evening, really, her stomach is yet full; no flagpole or tree or window has yet caught the sparkling hook of her eye. She’s not frustrated exactly, our heroine, but perhaps her step is a bit quicker, as the sun begins its slow descent into the ocean. Perhaps her teeth are slightly set, soft pressure permeating her cheekbones as words and names dip and dive behind their white, calcium-constructed bars. Perhaps her poise is somewhat missing, muscle-awareness and balance lost in a growing desire that sweeps before it the pretensions of the self at control.

All that is meaningless for she turns a corner and suddenly, she knows where is she is going for she has already arrived. The corners of her lips, far from delicate after years of working in the orange dust, crack slightly as the faintest smile pushes them upwards. She is in a square she knows well, not far from Matner, her home. In fact, she can see its cool windows or one of their corners, at the very least, just up the street. Above the square though, her eyes now returned to survey the scene for a place to rest, lies a very different house than her abode but perhaps one which is also somehow the same? Regardless, she knows it well; everyone knows it, and its blue-wearing denizen well. Perhaps she even spies his face on one of the balconies, moving one of the silken drapes quickly across to avoid her gaze. Yes, this is definitely where she had been heading. For, you must by now understand, nearly nothing of the square and even less of the house and surely nothing of the blue-clad man had been named. Not exactly a fear but an apprehension, an instinct written deep into her cells, had up until now guided her away from this place. Even though it was so close to where she lived (or perhaps exactly because of that, sensing some domicile danger) she had only once or twice entered this square and let her eye snag and her heart leap and her tongue speak.

But now that biological tug was gone and with the ease of olfactory oils she slid across the square and closer towards the small garden in front of the house, naming left and right. Her eye snagged and her heart leaped and her tongue spook, all imagery of bursting dams irrelevant in the face of the flood of song and language that flowed from her. “Sinbak” (Little Friend) she spoke to the curve which made the square a square. “Selnir” (Light Shadow) she told the flicker of shade that hugged the lamp as the sun fled the coming night. “Baket” (Friend Maker) she sang to the gate that opened into the little garden. “Filop” (Sister Stone) she intoned to the first step, one of three, that led to the door of the house, the door that opened only once or twice a year. “Elhar” she whispered to the man in blue as he opened the door from within, tears carving deep tunnels into his cheek as years of isolation came crashing down in front of her shoulders, in front of her callouses, in front of the practical, human, living, breathed, lived in beauty that was her body, in front of the radiating vitality she exuded, the Orange Market smeared on her knees, the musk of spices that she carried lilting on her long, dexterous fingers.  “Elhar” she breathed to the main in blue as he offered her his hand, his eye snagging and his heart leaping and his tongue craving the contours of her neck. “Elhar” she murmured into his shoulder as she gathered herself to him, tension breaking between them, the city humming inside them, the names flooding before them, the drapes snapping above them, the house resplendent around them.

“Elhar” he recited, finally breaking his age old silence, as the door closes behind them, finally naming her, finally giving her back what she had given so freely to everyone, merchants and urchins and citizens and strangers and crooks and priests all, simply taking and taking more. “Elhar” he assures her, his voice muffled as they stand in his flowing, deep hall, giving reality to her name, anchoring it to her body, to her self, to her dreams, to his hand on her shoulder and her calcified fingernails coming to life as they brush his tears from his eyes, as they eat at his sorrow with their soft hunger, as they trace the valleys of each and every line on his cheeks.

Elhar. Starnamer he names her and in doing so she dies and he dies and the lights die and the night comes and the stars live and they smile.