Entry to this week’s FFfaW! Image courtesy of Louise with The Story Teller’s Abode!
Tis a gift to all the unborn,
to dreams and to desire,
to futures that seek to pass.
But can they will it?
Knowing that their journey must end,
and their efforts naught for themselves.
Endure they must this contradiction,
for their time given must be returned in kind,
transformed into innumerable forms realized,
to buttress the chasm from which they came.
And if they succumb to the wasteland?
The profligates and the sloths,
those who dismantle and coast.
What of their fates?
Tragedy, for they hasten the end.
Time wasted, time revoked.
“The plebs. Why do they leave? Don’t they know all roads lead back to Rome?”
“Their shepherd understands this but he must delay, lest slaughter and slavery reach his people.”
“So exodus he proffers but revolution he disguises. Marching in circles to cull the weak, breeding the strong to fight the stronger.“
“Would the empire be so blind? Wolves can smell their sheep a hundred leagues away.”
“The empire let them go for they no longer desire food but a challenge.”
“And the shepherd?”
“A sheep-wolf or a wolf-sheep. Makes no difference.”
Among the riches that gleamed and spoke,
Charcoal failed to shimmer but smoke.
Hidden within that rough of gems,
It breathed fire and warmed cold dens.
Why so glum? You serve a fine purpose,
But Charcoal no longer wished to feed a furnace.
So it threw itself against grain and sand,
And found itself an artist’s hand.
Charcoal made only one request,
Give me a subject so I can express.
The artist grinned.
“Time is so fickle” exclaimed Celine. “You waste it when early, lose it when late. Yet it lags when you try to count it and flies when you don’t pay attention to it. Why do we have such a hard time pinning it down?”
“Well there is downtime, or dead time as we Americans call it”, smirked Jesse. “Time is like spacing between words or short pauses of silence. One has a hard time counting silence, no?“
“Your French is little behind the times J but I see your point. Maybe time is like a road-trip. One remembers the landmarks or the events along the way but hardly the drive. Extending this analogy, life would be a race against time, to fill the silence despite knowing that it ends with the one final event of death.”
Jesse’s face held a contemplative look. “Yet, one can borrow, share, and spend one another’s time together. Others can help fill the silence but ultimately, it is one’s own burden. Maybe this is why the young aren’t much bothered by it whilst the old feel the strain.”
“Indeed, the young have novelty on their side. The old who are burdened with the repetition of living don’t have that luxury.” Celine paused for a moment to gather her thoughts. The sound of her wristwatch filled the silence. “It’s getting late and I have to wake up early for work. Thanks for hearing my thoughts.”
Aboard a life-raft and adrift at sea, a young man gazes into the night’s sky. A city-borne, he sees for the first time the vastness of the cosmos, fields of stars too innumerable to count, a tapestry spanning the ages. In the darkest of places, stars shine brightest; may their light guide the lost for we all lose our way from time to time. Realizing this, the young man would eventually find land and his place among the stars.
One vanishing point. A road stretches into eternity for none have found its end. An old man gazes into its horizon, where rolling clouds under the ocean blue sky met the orange of the desert. Behind him belies an abode, closer to a memory than an actual home. This is where he began, where he first saw his own reflection. The vanishing point gazes back, tempting him to follow suit and push further than all the countless attempts of the past. Buried treasure awaits him at its end he thought; his eyes preserved the last of the road’s memory. Geared up for the long pilgrimage, the vanishing point moved itself just out of reach.
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
Awoken from my inebriated stupor, today marks day 0 when the time-palindrome was set in motion. Although I’ve succeeded in gaining immortality, the conditions of my “victory” were not of my choosing. You see, the year is 2015 and has perpetually stayed 2015 over the last one hundred years. New years 2016 has never happened for upon the strike of midnight, the arrow-of-time is reversed and the days are undone until new years 2015, day 0 as I put it. Although lucid during this reversal, I no longer retain my agency as I am reduced to a mere observer of perceptions. A cruel joke indeed for any progress unravels itself in front of waking eyes within a year’s time. Such is my immortality in a gilded-cage, drifting along ebbs and flows of unceasing tides.