to me, it’s always been a quandary of yes or no. but charlotte, she saw things in a different light. the light of distant planets from far off solar systems with suns that shine brighter than our own. for her, it wasn’t as black and white as yes or no. instead, it was an entire spectrum, wavelengths that translate from colors to sounds and back again creating an ephemeral fabrication of folly and fancy. it’s the things between things, the moments that pass between moments as they’re passing by. it’s all over in the blink of an eye. but at the same time, it lasts millennia. it travels as fast as light across the universe then circles around to the back of your head and you only feel a light burning reminiscent to a light from a magnifying glass, focusing the suns rays into one decimal point in order to burn leaves, plants, memories on the back of your mind. that’s all she sees and all she believes. but to me, the answer will always be her, and now.
we knocked over a ceramic vase as we stumbled into our apartment. the lights were off and we hadn’t grown accustomed to the layout, which made it difficult for us to walk through, in the dark, backward, drunk but still, we tried and we eventually found our way into the bedroom. in the darkness, we jumped on the bed and began to undress. there’s something so natural about this, it’s like our bodies are on autopilot and we’re engaging in the ancient act that leads to where we are today, without people doing this for generations and generations, there wouldn’t be generations and generations to reminisce upon. so much anticipation and build up leading to a certain ecstasy that can only be described as that which is the result of sex. but, of course, once the act is done there are doubts that flood the room like sweat and perspiration keeping the body cool after so much action. the man finished but did the woman feel enough pleasure? the answer is too often the same. how pathetic, i think as she rests her head on my chest. she sounded as if she felt pleasure and joy but was that true?
her bedroom’s walls were full of cut out pages from magazines and large posters of bands, musicians, and stills from films I’ve never seen or heard of.
she invited me into her apartment
i was nervous so i stepped into her bathroom to collect myself
i noticed everything in her bathroom was pink. even the towels and shower curtain were pink. but it wasn’t overwhelming. it was more subtle. subtle accents. this calmed me…
The sky opened up above young Munro Wolcott. It had been an overcast Thursday up until this point. As the clouds parted ways, the bright sun shone down on Munro. His eyes had grown accustomed to the grey sky, the dull stormy weather, and the soft, shrill breeze that would sweep from east to west every few minutes. But now, the sunlight radiated from the sky in such a haphazard manner that it felt a bit rude as if the sun itself had it out for young Munro.
He held his forearm over his eyes as he tried to look at the shining star in the sky that decided to peek through the monochrome clouds. At first, Munro could not see a single thing. Everything in his line of sight was pure white. His pupils were unmistakably shocked by the brightness. Each time he blinked, however, he could see vague outlines in his field of vision. He blinked faster and faster until his eyes became used to this new brighter environment. When he finally regained his sight, he could clearly see what shone down from above. Clearly, it was not the sun. Munro had an inkling thought that this might’ve been the case but he didn’t want it to be true. But alas, there shining above young Munro, was the spirit of John Oppenheimer.
“Munro,” spoke John in a blistering voice that affected Munro’s ears the way the blinding light affected his eyes. “Y-yes?” Munro said, hesitating. “How are you, old chap! It’s been far too long!” “It has.” Munro was not enthusiastic at all. How could you be? The gargantuan visage of a long-dead local was staring down at him. John’s bright smile reflected even more light; all of this light, shining over poor young Munro. He still held his forearm close to his face even though his eyes were now completely used to John Oppenheimer’s bright face. “How’s the family? How’s Hilda and the boys? All well, I hope?”
Munro didn’t respond. He didn’t have to. Once John got started, there was no way to stop him because he wasn’t listening to anyone else but himself.
Munro’s annoyance had evolved into disdain. He stood there in the barren field looking up at the man’s face as he droned on and on about this and that. The sky is a very comfortable place to live in! John would say. Not as comfortable as St. Ragantine’s Hostel but it’s close! He would continue. Munro had heard the same tales time and time again.
Why today, on a beautifully grey, cloudy, overcast day would John Oppenheimer decide to pay Munro a visit? The thick clouds were no match for old Oppenheimer’s blinding light but they remained there, keeping Munro company, seemingly out of pity for the young man. “And then, Martha showed up with even MORE casserole. The entire firmament broke out into laughter. It was glorious, old chap! You must’ve heard it, surely. It was that storm from a couple weeks ago!” John had concluded his new story, to which Munro paid no attention.
“That sounds really nice, Jack,” Munro said. “Look, man, I’m really busy today. I have to get a lot of work done before Winter rolls around. Can we talk some other time?”
As soon as Munro finished uttering his words, he immediately regretted it. He knew there was no way of changing John’s mind. How could a mere mortal man bargain with an eternal being made of pure light? Munro had crossed a line, he was sure of it. But the fear he felt didn’t bring anything to fruition. In fact, he began to feel darkness take over the landscape once more. Munro looked up at the sky and saw John receding into the grey clouds. The clouds quickly returned to their original places, as if ravenous to return the earth below into a dark, desolate land.
“That worked way better than I expected!” Munro said and he continued to reap his field.
It was on that day when we decided to drive to the mall because you thought we’d reached the level in our lives where we should start purchasing art, even if it was a cheap imitation.
It was the feeling that mattered. The synthetically destroyed sculpture, born without arms in order to replicate the original. It’s somewhat promising that we, now, see the destroyed and ravaged remains of art from bygone eras as the epitome of perfection.
The Venus de Milo wasn’t conceived without arms yet that’s how we saw her when we met her so, to us; she’s always been a double amputee in loose-fitting clothing that adds to her beauty. (Although the look of distress on her face does read as if she’s thinking, “I really wish I had some arms right about now.”)
How funny. These works that took years, if not decades, to complete arrived at our century as less of their complete form, yet they are so beautiful because of their age and their pure will to survive. And now, the clones and offspring of these relics can be purchased at a reasonable price at your local mall.
“It’s a—how do you say—experimentation,” you said as you looked the window. The seemingly perennial dusk light that entered my Ford Escape lit you up but I, being the safe driver I am, could only enjoy your beauty through my peripheral vision. Strangely enough, the warm honey light remained for such a long time within the car, against your face and reflecting through your hair, as if it was waiting for me to give my full and undivided attention to the theatrical production the world had set up for me, and only me, apparently.
You looked out the window, into the horizon, into the half-visible sun sinking into the edge of the earth when we arrived at a stoplight. Finally, I was able to turn and look at you and, although the moment could’ve lasted only a few seconds, my eyes and soul sure were glad that time stopped for that moment. As soon as the light turned green (which you kindly pointed out to me) all the remaining light the world had was ripped away and dragged beyond the horizon, leaving us to drive on a dark street, sitting in a dark car. I reminisced on the moment that perspired not a minute before, remembering you, and reached my right hand out, to rest on your thigh.
“An experimentation,” I said in response, clearly not focusing on anything specific save for the sense of the fabric of your dress against my hand, the way your thigh feels when pressure is applied, how the reflective strips on the road only shine because of the car’s headlights. A deep, hidden jump of fear frolicked within me. What if the store is closed? I thought for a brief moment.
“What’s wrong?” you said, probably because you noticed that the pressure my hand was supplying suddenly stopped.
“Nothing, nothing,” it really was nothing, why does my subconscious mind enjoy bothering me and making me worry so much? Does it grow bored, unable to escape me? Does it regret who it chose to control? This is when I enter my dimension of inescapable rhetorical questions. At least your voice helped to bring me back from the abyss my subconscious so seductively attempted to drag me into.
“An experimentation in whether art affects the environment that it occupies,” you said continuing your previous thought.
At this point, with the change of light and scenery (we were approaching the mall, which meant the residential neighborhoods were being replaced with freeways, cars, and tall buildings) had made it feel as if hours had passed since that moment at the stoplight when in fact it had only been a minute or two at most. Again, my mind was playing tricks on me. Time seems to stretch for eternity within my head but outside, it ticks on and on as it has forever, although it does so suspiciously.
“Explain, I have no idea what you’re talking about,” I said. I could feel your eyes on me as I pulled into the mall’s parking lot.
“What is there to explain?” You said, getting out of my car. “Imagine waking up in a room with nothing up on the walls and then imagine waking up in a room with a few painting hung up.”
We walked in silence for a few steps across the empty parking lot. I remembered my college dorm and the band posters I had up then I compared that to my current living situation, which includes naked walls, and I found no change regarding how clothed versus naked walls, or an “environment with or without art,” affected me.
“Okay,” I said.
“Now, think of a museum. We could make our bedroom the Musée des Beaux-Arts.”
“I guess. I would prefer our bed to walking through museums for hours.”
“But now think about why we go to museums.”
“Don’t you think it would affect you if your bedroom had sculptures and paintings of people all around it? You’d feel as if everyone constantly surrounds you, even if it’s just a subconscious feeling. Imagine if you woke up in the middle of the night because you heard a noise and the first thing you saw was a shadow of a man next to the window. You’d panic, yes? Or just imagine what it would feel like to have that many eyes, open eyes, looking into your bedroom. It must do something for you. And to me too, of course.”
“This ‘experimentation’ sounds a bit sinister.”
“That’s the point. It’s supposed to make you more alert, at least that’s my initial hypothesis.”
Thankfully the mall was closed. Tonight, we would be able to sleep alone in our room, no open eyes to gaze at us while we drifted in our dreams.
Let’s say, for a moment, that you are being held in the hand of some giant beast. Although the beast’s hand is soft and comfortable, you’re feeling anything but. This isn’t King Kong. In fact, you have no idea who the beast is. All you know is that you’re small enough to be held in the beast’s hand and that’s exactly what’s going on at this precise moment. So let’s imagine that.
You’re high above the world. You lean over the beast’s grasp to take a look down but all you see is clouds. Clouds far, far below you. You look up but all you see is black, matted fur going for an eternity. You see no sight of the beast’s face. But something within you, that voice you hear from time to time, let’s you know that you are—in fact—being held by some beast and you’re currently traveling incredibly fast towards some unknown location.
But Where Are You Going?
At this point, you feel the cool breeze flow through your long auburn hair. You almost cut it off last week but you decided not to and now you’re happy with your decision. You probably look super great with your hair flowing in the air. Like a model or an actor in a hair product commercial. After your small encounter with narcissism, you look down and notice that you’re basically tethered to the beast’s hand. But what tethers you? You feel a thick rope wrapped snugly around you. But upon closer inspection, you realize it’s, in fact, the beast’s hair. As you look across the hand, which is a pretty wide sight to behold, you notice there’s a small (pillow-shaped) tuft. You crawl over to it and rest your head on it. Some fur from the beast’s hand suddenly convenes and creates a blanket, which covers you warmly and snugly. You sigh, you think about how odd and absurd this is then your little voice says, calmly but sternly. “You’re so comfortable right now. Don’t make a big deal about it, Karen. Just go to sleep.”
When Aveline passed away, she couldn’t help but smile. She held her infant daughter, Tabitha, in her arms. Little Tabitha, her black hair stuck to her forehead, napped as she was held comfortably in the caring bosom of her mother. Aveline felt pure joy in this moment. The pain and anguish from the disease that was claiming her life simply vanished. As long as Tabitha was in her arms, Aveline was at peace.
Aveline smiled, closed her eyes, and drifted away. Neither the high-speed screeches of the military aircraft nor the destruction of buildings and structures could wake her up again. That was twenty years ago now. Twenty years have passed, yet the ramifications of the war still linger. Buildings have yet to be rebuilt. The skies remain gray. After all this time, all this loss of life, the world has yet to recover fully.
Tabitha Solberg lived on a secluded mountaintop cabin with her grandmother. This cabin sat atop Mount Laverne for nearly a century. It overlooked the town below. From their vantage point, Tabitha and her grandmother (whom she lovingly referred to as “Oma”) could only see the beautifully translucent blades that permeated throughout the town, everything else was a blur.
Once a month, Tabitha had to go into town to buy goods to sustain her grandmother and herself. As Tabitha trekked through town from her visit to the market, she wondered if she’d forgotten to purchase anything. Winter was fast approaching which meant they wouldn’t be able to easily visit town if they required anything.
As she ran through the market list in her head, Tabitha allowed her mind to wander. She took the same route she’d taken many, many times before. In her mind, she began to visualize the aurora light shows she’d witness from up above in her cabin home. With her grandmother by her side, the two surviving members of the Solberg clan looked up at the night sky, mesmerized. Ribbons of green, blue and mauve light danced and swayed in the twilight firmament. Tabitha grinned as she turned on Gisela Street, past the collapsed library. She’d be home before nightfall.
The ruins of the town had solidified in the years since the war. Back then, modern weaponry was used. It was unknown at the time but these weapons had strange—often marvelous—side effects.
When the bombs and gases first ravaged through town, many lives were lost. Buildings became ruins and children became orphans. In the years since then, the emissions from the bombs and gases seemingly clung to the destroyed buildings. In time, these emissions solidified, creating beautiful crystalline shapes. Sharp and otherworldly, these shapes may simply appear on one side of a building or may completely overtake a collapsed structure. The shapes jot out at sharp angles, holding their milky clear, glasslike form for all eternity, never budging.
Like strange, opalescent blades of grass, the crystalline structures hung on to all of the town’s decimated buildings. To a visitor, these “blades” would appear like something out of a dream. The locals of the town, though, had grown used to the blades. At this point, the townsfolk considered the blades nuisances.
At certain times, however, on rare days when the sunlight was strong enough to break through the 20-year clouds that permanently lingered atop the village, lights in visible wavelengths would pass through the town’s blades. Reflecting and refracting, the light and blades created a beautiful light show. Reminiscent of reflections off water’s surface, the light that was filtered through the blades would cause small rainbows to appear on other surfaces. If the town was busy, the silhouettes of the townsfolk would play along with the light show. Shadow and light would meet, creating eerie and spellbinding illusions.
It was a true sight, a wonder to behold.
The older townsfolk tended to compare these light shows to sunsets in the days before the war. Oma, for one, would continually talk about how beautiful those sunsets were. “These will never compare!” she’d spit, pointing at a nearby blade, then fall into one of her well-known laughing fits, her cackles echoing throughout the town’s alleyways.
Although Tabitha, along with the rest of the townsfolk, had grown accustomed to her town’s blades, she always loved a certain part of her route back home. During the war, many beautiful monuments and statues were destroyed or stolen. This was before the blades had taken over. Thieves and intruding soldiers would take whatever priceless artifact they could find, undoubtedly to try to sell it later on in life. The town, which was previously vastly populated with gorgeous statues and works of art, was now barren. Save for the head of Rhea.
For nearly a century, the marvelous, colossal statue of Rhea, mother of the gods, stood at the town’s entrance. She was built by a particularly adept and adventurous trio of artists in a time when no war could feasibly knock on the town’s door. This was a time when art and creativity flourished. A fruitful, generous time that seems like ancient history now.
The creation of Rhea was a feat so incredible that the town’s people had no choice but to place the enormous statue in the only place it could stand: right at the entrance of town. (She welcomed visitors with her towering presence. The townsfolk felt protected under her watch.)
Rhea stood proudly for years and years. That is until the war broke out.
On that fateful day, a thick veil of fog encapsulated the town. Enemy pilots couldn’t discern where the fog ended and the clouds began. The only sign of the town was Rhea. She would peek through the clouds. Her marble face, as arresting as ever, glaring down the barrels of enemy planes. She put up a good, noble fight. But as with most beautiful things in this world, Rhea was destroyed by man.
Although it took many bullets and bombs for Rhea to lose her footing, she succumbed to the tragedy of war. Not many people can recall the day they saw her fall, although many will lie and tell you a highly detailed, yet incredibly erroneous account of that catastrophic event.*
Tabitha stopped for a moment to look at Rhea. She could see the indented tear mark on the lower side of Rhea’s left cheek. Growing up, Oma would tell Tabitha that the statue was of her mother, Aveline. Three suitors decided to build an effigy in her honor. This little tale captured Tabitha’s imagination from a young age. Now, at the age of 20, she still held Rhea close to her heart because whenever she’d make eye contact with that enormous stone head, she didn’t see the mother of the gods. No, she saw the face of her own mother, Aveline Solberg.
Tabitha then wiped a tear away and continued down the dimly-lit street.
To be continued…
*A scared and untrained pilot unloaded his ammunition too early, striking the coast of the town. The explosion and shockwave caused the earth to shake tremendously. The gigantic statue of Rhea, an ode to beauty and birth, a colossal work of true majesty, collapsed that day. As she fell backwards, in slow motion, Rhea took one last look at her hometown before she was destroyed. Many accounts say she shed a tear before she hit the ground. Others, knowing the properties of inanimate matter, refute that argument with pure scientific evidence. Regardless, everyone in town agrees that the destruction of Rhea was the behemoth needle that broke the camel’s back. After she fell, the war ceased. Most of the statue’s ruins were stolen, never to be found. All except for her marvelous visage. Her head, too large to steal in a knapsack and too beautiful to deface, survived the fall. It rolled through the wide streets of town for a few yards until it found its permanent resting place, right at the end of Condorus Avenue. There she lay, resting on her left cheek. This was bittersweet. Finally, the townsfolk could witness Rhea’s true beauty. After spending so much of her life high above them, she was at last at their eye level. In time, those marvelous vapors of war reached her but something strange happened. Instead of causing those all-to-common blades to jot out, Rhea’s stone face was encased in an impenetrable, glass-like substance. Forever cemented to the ground, immovable even by the hands of the gods. And even though the rest of the town seemingly grew tired the irritating blades, every resident, young and old, marveled at the beauty that was Rhea. On rare occasions, light would penetrate through her crystalline enclosure, causing the most beautiful light to jolt out. She glittered and shone brightly, a true beacon of hope and serenity for a town that so desperately needed it. This was the head of Rhea. And this is the tale of how she came to be on the end of that street.