Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Dali's Egg ~ 15. The Chain

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The wings began to disintegrate as he passed the lone palm into the forbidden zone. Feathers flew in fluttering spirals; leather began to rot, brass buckles corroded in time-lapse on the harness. Out of control, John lost altitude, strewing debris behind. By the time he crashed through the treetops, the wings, and indeed his clothing and eye-patch, had returned to the dust. Naked as the day of his arrival, he tumbled through the darkness, cracking branches and scraping skin to land on his back amongst the bushes, the breath forcibly expelled from his lungs. He lay deafened in the pitch-blackness, his bitten tongue welled blood in his mouth, pins and needles invaded his left leg.
Long seconds of slow time before moving the leg experimentally, he felt the foliage attempting to pull him in. He scrabbled backward, no bones broken; clear of the Vampiric bush, spitting blood. His breath and hearing returned in deep gasps above the roar of the surf.
He waited for his heartbeat to slow.
He’d lost all sense of direction in the absolute darkness and was loosing all sense of purpose when, to his left, he heard the sound of something large making its way toward him; he backed himself up against a cold tree trunk, fists raised in readiness.
“John Gabriel,”
On carrion breath came the Stripper’s voice,
“A person familiar in surroundings strange.
The alarm on thine face is unsupported by circumstances.
You need not fear our darkness,
it carries no danger for those as strong or as stupid as thee.”
The Stripper paused and sucked a rancid sigh,
“Besides, we have pickings enough in the fecund carcass of Osiris to nourish us another eon.
That feeble minded creature,
Should have known better
fleeing the change that took his brother,
he wandered into places he’d previously warned others to vacate.
One man’s poison is another’s meat.”
John took a ragged breath and managed the words carefully on his swollen tongue.
“Wish way tha chain?”
The Stripper sighed once more; John could hear it hiking the dead load of wet meat onto its shoulder.
“Ah the chain.
We envy thine options John Gabriel.
We have stood on the peninsula and watched as those such as thee have taken that option,
watched with pain in our core,
in a just universe it would be an option available to all.”
The Stripper shifted its weight; John imagined he heard it lick once at the corpse on its shoulder. He shrugged the image off.
“Turn a half-circle,
then walk forward
this should take you to the spinal path,
turn right and your destination will await.
Farewell John Gabriel,
the light will soon be upon us.”
John heard the Stripper turn on the rustling floor of leaves and lumber off into the darkness.
The absolute darkness brought guilt and foreboding. He saw again Adam’s body crushed; feathers flying on the moon’s grey face. John’s chest tightened with the knowledge that it was his actions; his discontent that had led to the boy’s death.
He decided to wait for the dawn. He shuffled down to sit with his back to the tree trunk. He dozed for long minutes hours or days without dreams – aeroplane sleep – waking dry mouthed to find that he could make out the vague outlines of the trees as the sky slowly lightened behind the crash of the waves.

John rose on stiff joints and aching muscles. His mouth tasted coppery with blood from his bitten tongue and he spat dryly in an attempt to clear it. He picked his way through the undergrowth until he came upon the path. Turning right, as instructed by the Stripper, John followed the undulating path as the heat of the morning sun filled the forest with the high-pitched roar of insects. After a long hot walk the path began to climb steeply, cutting into the red powdery rock in a series of large steps that led ten metres up to the small flat top of the mesa. John stood and gazed down at the rocky peninsula where the rusty black chain creaked and groaned out into the blue green ocean.
He looked back at the island, the mountain, the moon, smoke from Eden’s kitchen. It almost seemed real.
His heel bumped into the old man, he almost fell backwards.
The old man was the same red as the mesa, he lay on his back cruciform, in places John could not tell where the old man ended and the mesa began, he was not sure if the man was being colonised by the mesa or vice versa, but it seemed that the process was almost complete. He crouched beside the dry sandy body - his mind on hold - the face was vaguely familiar. He noticing that the chest rose and fell almost imperceptibly, as if attuned to the rhythm of the waves, he could see tiny puffs of sand stirring at the nostrils, he felt the hair on the back of his neck prickle with disquiet.
“The rocks are aware of your presence interloper.” came a voice that rustled like hundreds of dead insect wings in the breeze before a storm. John jerked back as bulbous eyelids retracted to reveal eyes, the whites yellow with age, staring up at him. “The rocks do not care the reasons for your presence. The rocks do not care.”
They stared at one another, three eyes and an empty socket. John recognized the familiarity in the old face as a family resemblance; only this one was older than the Blueman, way older, the lines in the face deeply etched and fractalled beyond the limits of John’s eyesight.
“I thpoke to your thun up there,” John pointed back up at the mountain, doing his best to annunciate the words clearly, tongue catching on his teeth painfully, “He thed you wunth had all tha arnthers.”
The red body of the old spirit seemed to grow even stiller. For a while John thought that the old man would not answer.
“My son,” came the eventual rustle, “was damaged at birth, he fell from the crucible… he is a fool.” A ripple travelled through the old man’s body, “The rocks do not care for the answers, answers do not bring relief to the rocks, the rocks have no questions.”
“Tha chain,” said John pointing out to sea, “Where duth it go?”
The old man in the sand sighed shallowly
“Questions. Always questions. The rock does not care where the chain goes. The chain links the links of a larger chain, et cetera et cetera.” He coughed a little cloud of red dust from his lungs, “Now leave, go, walk the chain, don’t walk the chain, it’s all the same to the rocks.” He closed his eyes and seemed to settle deeper into the sand. John rose from the supine red figure; his naked body had begun to sweat profusely in the heat of the sun, the breeze coming off the sea turned the sweat cool on his back. He turned and walked unsteadily to the edge of the mesa, looking for a way down. Choosing what seemed like a likely groove in the erosion, he descended from the edge in a barely controlled slide; loosing his balance completely for the last two metres and landing face down on the grassy dune with the surf roaring in his ears. From somewhere deep within his stunned and battered mind Martha’s face rose in absolute clarity and his heart filled with the beauty and familiarity of the vision. He tried to drink in the detail of her face but the closer he looked the hazier it became until he was left with only a vague sense of déjà vu. John Gabriel rose spitting beach sand, and stared out at the chain, an involuntarily shiver ran across his shoulders and the back of his neck. Someone just walked across my grave he thought.
He approached the giant black ring embedded in the rock. He stared out at the chain that stretched out into the infinity of the hazy sea and wondered whether he was doing the right thing. A seagull circled, watching, and John grasped on to the remnants of the memory of Martha’s face as he climbed onto the creaking chain, finding hand and footholds unsteadily on the pitted links.
Ten metres out from the shore and John had gained confidence; the chain did not sag beneath his weight but continued its rhythmic creak as he passed beyond the line of breakers that had drenched him cold at the outset. The seagull too, after a few half-hearted dives and warnings, had left him to his folly as if to imply that this one was beyond help.
With the breakers now some way behind, John’s exertions were draped in relative silence, the occasional lap of the swelling sea serving to punctuate his rasping breath and the creak of the chain. Muscles aching with his unfamiliar ape-like horizontal climb.
He rested briefly, looking back to find that the island was now lost in the haze, the view back the same as the view forward. Loneliness had never been so absolute. Briefly he contemplated going back.
“The rocks don’t care,” whispered the sandman on the red mesa.
John Gabriel cocked his head to one side, imagining he heard the sound of the wind wailing mournfully on the haze up ahead,
“Fuck it,” he inhaled deeply and continued to walk the chain.


Tom said...

..someone just walked across my grave...creepy

Justin Russell said...

The oldman chose the Third Way huh? Where does it lead? Frying pan, into fire?

James Higham said...

And isn't it a good thing that the rocks do have no questions?

Jimmy Bastard said...

Impressive as ever pal. Several superb sentences in this one that had me thinking out loud.

Pisces Iscariot said...

Tom: I hate it when that happens

Justin: or prhaps just another frying pan?

James: indeed, what would we answer?

Jimmy: I hate it when that happens :D

Jon said...

wonderfully unsettling... brings up thoughts of some writing by beckett in Molloy... except this is held together better... thanks pisces

RBC said...

WOW!!!!! This is by far the best writing I have read in English blogs.
I am not going to tell you which writer it reminded me of because
0) it would be very annoying
F) it only has to do with the scenario
43) he is from another country and from another time
¿?) comparisons are sometimes hideous.

I don’t know what can I say, you just left me wordless. The only thing I can think of is that any time I have to cue up at the bank, I am going to feel like John Gabriel.

Harlequin said...

so glad to see the story continue... I especially liked the talk with the swelled tongue... and now, he is out there where the rocks don't care...
so much remorse and enigma here... and great imagery
good stuff!