Weight: An old shepherd tugged on the ropes that had bonded with his waist. Daisy-chained were an ashen woman, boy, and girl, presumably his family. They had sullen looks and a world-weariness of those who had lost their home. Together they scaled a pass that spiraled up and down a mountain to an uplifting tune that went nowhere.
Lightness: A pit-bull grew up tied to an oak tree. His world was a nine-foot circle of dirt, acorns, and taunting squirrels. Having given up on escape, he fell into a deep slumber and dreamed of the pearly gates. A voice told him to come forth, but he couldn’t. The clouds turned dark and erupted with rage. The smell of burnt ash then woke him up. Tugging at his leash for the first time in years, he found it slack.
Incubus: I saw atop the fortress a seducer who had captured the host’s maiden. The two had eloped before abandoning the domain. Their unholy union left a pair of twin changelings in the wake. A clan of ravens took pity and raised one of them as their own where it assumed their eponymous title.
Raven: The sky temple looms over a barren city. A woman on the ledge stares into distant lands across borders. She seeks her father whom she’s linked to but never met. Shapeshifting into a raven, she forms a portal and flies into another’s dream. I follow suite.
Succubus: A seductress reins over the court. She assumes the role of queen over an absent throne. Suitors line up offering their hand, but she strings each along until they are spent and discarded. Her eyes then fixate on mine before a silver bolt struck her in the heart.
Dhampir: The hunter emerges from a shadow in the corner of the room. A man of few words, he quickly unloads several more rounds as the Succubus thrashes against the ground. When she finally bled silence, the Dhampir tasted a sample before spatting in disgust. Half-bred he scowled.
Envy: The tyrant wanted a piece of the sun. Confiscating all the gold in his kingdom, he built a palace high above the Eastern mountains and coated it with the element. This way, he will always wake up to his monument reflecting the light before dawn. The palace took a decade to assemble. On the day of its completion, he boasted to the sky that he will now be first to rise. The sun then blinded him.
Generosity: The prince had renounced all earthly possessions. His wealth, connections, and time would be given away to his people and the Buddha’s teachings. The royal family disagreed and trapped him in the palace. There, he mediated without eating or sleeping until word reached his people and they started donating aid. The family eventually relented but when they opened his chambers, the prince had already transcended. His body turned to gold.
Vengeance: The Chieftain had been accused of treachery and hung. I watch his family flee to the four corners of the land. They cut-off their own tongues to swear a blood-oath of secrecy, vowing to reunite one day only under the banner of hatred. The Erinyes raptured with glee.
Justice: The King had been poisoned and assassinated. I watch his young daughter rally the guards in defense of the castle. Barbarians surround the gates but she wields neither spear nor sword, offering herself in her people’s stead. Athena lent her her Aegis.
Morey’s Piers, New Jersey. Entry to this week’s WPS!
Meridian: A beacon appears on the horizon after a long dry spell. My supplies are running low and my compass desynchronized. I need to re-link with the collective, above and below.
Azimuth: The beacon looms overhead and I enter its orbit. Cycling between hot-to-cold to hot, the center pulsates with a code that I must decipher. Its shards keep me at a distance from the access point.
Zenith: I hear the sonorous commands of my station. His voice booms with my coordinates and the next destination. I split one half to follow.
Nadir: I hear a faint whisper which I’ve known long ago. Her voice is still a riddle but now with a twinge of the mercurial. I lead one half in pursuit.
Grey. The fury of a winter’s storm stifles every movement forward. I hardly see the ground some two paces from where I stand, enduring the mountain’s wrath. Yet, I still sense my companion a few meters in front radiating with a burning passion that casts all doubts aside. He was going to scale the mountain with or without help.
Red. Blood boils in defiance of death. Such was the color and mood of the sky when I reached the summit the next evening. I found his frozen body, stiff like the mountain, yet unyielding to its will. His was not alone for many others just like him also stood, encased in icy opposition against fate. Their spirits continue to fight, torching the clouds and staving off night. Blood burns the brightest when drawn to Death’s peak I thought.
Heaven falls. The spirals of new Babel that pierce the God’s realm began to buckle. My companion and I race down the tower, rappelling off the million-step coil that strangled the tower. Above us, the descending storm eviscerated man’s creation but not his hubris. The way forward was barred but not lost. Let us build Paradise on Earth to match the heavens then.
Hell rises. A wave of sand chokes new Atlantis, the city of the Sea. Now desert nomads, we huddle in sand pits as dust storms rage amidst the ocean’s carcass. Electrolyzing the sea-water was certainly a mistake after the atmospheric breach. A price we must all pay when we toyed with climate controllers. Is it man’s nature to transgress its bounds my companion mused? When man believes itself God, who is left to check him I replied?
Upstream. A young woman saunters down the banks of the river Lethe, distraught over her lover who drank from its waters and lost his memories. Torn between severing her own memories, she leans over to the water’s edge and casts her reflection on the amnesic currents. Despair prevails and she throws herself into oblivion.
Downstream. A young man saunters up the banks of the river Lethe, disoriented from having imbibed its waters. He witnesses a young woman struggling against the river’s currents, desperate to remain afloat. Out of instinct, he dives into the watery rapids and rescues her.
Parts 1, 2, 3
A sunset looms in the distant West as we blaze towards its horizon. Upon a furious pace, we barely manage to halt time as we delay the coming of the night. My companion is exhausted for old age has made it harder to outrun the sun. Press on comrade! Mustn’t let the shadows overtake us he muttered but with a hint of glee between heaving breaths. I wasn’t sure if he understood his fate or simply laughed in the face of it. After several more hours at this breakneck pace, he collapses onto the ground. Darkness creeps around us and he tells me his body can go no more. Shutting his eyes, he falls into the most peaceful of slumbers. I remove the sun so that it would never rise again.
I awaken in a maze of galleries. Lining the walls are an arrays upon arrays of masks, thousands of them upon my estimation. I meet a man frantically trying on different masks. While observing him between swaps, I realized that he had no face of his own. Approaching him, I inquire as to the nature of his predicament. He replies that over a lifetime, he had lived a life of vanity in the image of others, never having discovered who he was or what he wanted. The masks, once the veneers of his successes, were more like decorations over a cast that veiled a forgotten injury. I took all the masks down from the galleries and handed him a mirror. Over time, he grew eyes to see his own reflection and found his way out of the labyrinth.
A cancerous forest envelops us with a suffocating canopy. While the largest hardwoods thrive under a brilliant sun, there is hardly any light left for the life below. It seemed like the trees had grown too massive, too competitive in their struggle for attention. We approach a listless grove where song and mirth used to ring through time immemorial. My companion, a dryad who helped raise these woods, stares despondently at a leafless sapling wedged between a network of overgrown roots. This one has no future; she spoke with a tear welling up in her eyes. Perhaps she gave them too much love and had nothing left for herself. I uproot the sapling and transplant it on a burgeoning planet, where it would grow magnificently through the ages into tree onto itself.
Drenched by the night. A single spotlight shines upon a lone warrior having hewed down waves upon waves of apparitions that lurk beyond sight. The ground beneath him is stained with his own blood, wounds inflicted upon him by his demons. His steely eyes however betray no hint of fear as he begins to press forward. His destination however is unclear as the path is circular. Demons materialize in greater force, drawn again to his blood thirst which he satiates. I dare not approach him as to maintain the illusion. Instead, I invert his vision; once demons in light, now warriors in dark. The cycle of bloodshed was at last annulled.
Parts 1, 2, 3
The year is 2718. Following the great catastrophes of the previous decade, mankind is headed towards extinction. No longer able to sustain a biological reality, humanity built virtual worlds from the dreams of its surviving members. To integrate man’s irrational desires with the facticity of his turbulent and all-to-often destructive past, a semi-autonomous intelligence was created to guide each dreamer towards a critical point where he or she could die in peace. Over the numerous trials, several notable cases are recounted from the agent’s logs.
I’m on a sailboat with an old man in his late 50’s out on the open sea. We’ve been hounded for days by a pack of sharks that seek to pull us into the dark depths from behind. Yet, we never see these hunters for when we turn to meet them head-on, they appear as harmless pools of fish which we caught and ate. When I asked my fearful companion as to whom his enemies in life were, he responded, my friends, for they always in secret tried to outdo me in my endeavors. I subsequently transformed myself into his image. As we sat back-to-back, both fish and shark were no more but we began to starve. Realizing his error, he turned towards me and then dove into the sea.
I awaken aboard a space telescope orbiting a planet. My co-astronaut is a scientist taking scrupulous photos of distant galaxies yet all of the photos that lined the walls appeared blank. I ask him what he’s looking for and he responds, hope. I take a closer look at the planet from a nearby window and I could hardly make out its features. Ashen clouds blotted out most of the oceans but after several orbits, the planet was undeniably Earth. Have you given whilst indicating the blank plates? He replies, I am looking for hope but I do not believe it can be found. I then produce a snapshot of a young woman, an estranged daughter I suppose. Find your hope in her, not in distant realms. He took a moment to ponder his situation and then gazed back upon Earth, perhaps the first in the longest time. The planet appeared less gloomy than before.
Upon a busy suspension bridge overlooking a great river stood a young woman in her early 30’s. She leans too far over the railings and plummets into the river. No one else along walking along the bridge seemed to take notice. The scene then repeats itself but with a different person. I conjecture that the real dreamer is hidden amongst the many faces that pass this bridge, wishing both to maintain anonymity and to be discovered. Respecting such conditions, I start saving each person over the next hundred or so iterations. After the last person was saved, I was greeted by a collective voice of those whom I saved, “thank you for caring”.
Parts 1, 2, 3