Teetering on the edge of oblivion, the black mask of reality torn asunder. Memories return. Afterlife images, meaningless surrender.
I was not tired when I heard the word whispered in my ear that night. Grey and dreary, starlight reflections on the wet asphalt. Colorless. Apart somehow, unreal. They told me to go home, now.
So I did, listening to my footsteps echo on the empty street. Urban homesteads with stoops for faces. Cold, lonely. I’d dreamt this before, I thought, long ago. Like a million years by the dream clock. So much undone, so much recounted. What on earth did it all mean?
Too late to question now. The man behind the counter said, “Go slow, take it real easy. This ain’t like anything you have ever had before.” So I did. I walked slow, I thought slow. Hands in pockets, hunched against the cool mist rain wondering, what have I done?
Ten minutes before, back at the bar. Hustlers, lovers, players and freaks. Night dwellers looking for something, don’t know what. The saxophone player meandering elegantly up and down the scales, breathing some heartfelt clarity into his somber notes.
I sipped my drink, absent mindedly tracing the faux wood grain table with my middle finger. Tapping the foot occasionally in expectation. “You have never had this before,” said the guru. So I smiled and gave a slight nod and agreed to meet him at the shiva shack at 12:30, second table from the bar. Dark corner, alone.
The word, echoing in the chamber of my ear. Ringing softly, spellbinding and gently wrapping it’s sonic tendrils round my mind. Deeper and deeper, spiraling, gently, so very gently into my inner sanctum. Below the conscious thoughts, beyond the electrical impulses, into the chemical complexes, making and unmaking.
Through a river of black current. Washing nakedly upon the beaches of insanity. Standing up, looking around. Breathing deeply, smelling nothing.
Footsteps echo. Oh, that is me. Still strolling down the street. Hands in pockets, hunched against the rain. Only the rain is gone now. The streets still dark and shiny. Almost home.
“What a world, what a world,” said he. The guru, as was his moniker, sat across me at the table, sipping from his cold, iced drink. “It is never quite what you want it to be. First it is this, then it is that. Whatever choice you take, you will always end up back at the beginning.”
Back at the beginning, back at the beginning. What was that sound? What was it he said to me just then? Was it a word or something more? Damn! I must remember to write these things down. But I wasn’t sure that it could be written. Was that possible, a word that could not be written? And what did it sound like? I could not remember.
So, then it was done. The guru leaned, gently again, across the table. A silent movement, like a ghost or a dream. All was still and quiet. The air hovered expectantly and the guru’s lips parted almost imperceptibly and whispered.
Go home. Yes, I remember that. It was just before. Just before, go home. The dreaded emptiness. Was that what he said? A word that means emptiness, that is emptiness itself. Non-existence, absence, something that is nothing. Yikes.
And on and on, into the spiral. Faces, stories, words, shouting, singing, slaying, competing, loving. No wait. Was it loving? Sights, sounds, feelings, smells. Objects of desire. Odd that I wanted that. Shit. Color me impressed, color me stupid, color me, oh, I don’t give a damn.
At the front stoop. My homestead grinning down at me, daring me to enter. Go home. Alright alright! Keys exited my pocket, entering the hole like a demon’s shadow in the darkness. The door swung open, suddenly and with great force as if to signal that this dream was coming to an end. I stood upon the threshold, my mind racing yet calm and undivided. The stairway extended in front of me. Straight up and then to the left as it wound to the second story.
I gathered my strength and took the first step. The sound wound deeper. I took another step, the vibration spread deeper still. A quick breath and then I mounted the stairs, steeling myself against the ever deepening word and continued without further hesitation to the second floor landing.
Unimpressed, I thought. So what. I made it up the bloody stairs. Disgusting. That was odd. Another flight to go. Go home remember, go home. So, round the bend, up the next flight. Zippity doo, no trouble at all. Hey! I went down into a fetal on the third floor landing as the sound wound round what seemed an impossibly deep crevasse inside my tiny, tiny head. How is there even that much space in there? It’s like the bleeding universe.
“What matters,” the guru mused thoughtfully, “is that you take my advice. Do not hesitate. Do not rethink your mistake. Simply keep moving forward. Into the darkness. Into the void. Follow the sound. Don’t get lost in your own self deception. The world wants you to fail. It intends for this to happen. If you want to get to the other side of this, then you must play a different game altogether. The game begins, now off you go.”
The sax player decided it was time for a break. The guru’s ice was lonely in his glass. The shack was suddenly very quiet and very empty. The smell of sweet smoke, faint and omnidirectional. The quiet hum, inside. I left the table and headed for the door. “You’ve never had this before.”
Street lights, yes. Rain, yes. Homestead, yes. Right, back on the third floor landing and holy hell, what was that?! Follow the sound, alright. The sound wanted me to go forward. Crawling on hands and knees down the hall. Hell, if anyone could see this, well, they’d just think I was pissing drunk as usual I suppose. “You’ve never had this.” Nope, I certainly never had.
Eyes closed. Feeling in the dark. It was easier this way. Should be coming up on my exit very soon. My door was the fourth down on the right. Passing Mrs. Suzie’s place, that was the second. And there was the third, not sure who lived there actually. Alright, here we are. Eyes still closed. This must be the one. Fumbling for my keys a second time, the metal in the lock, handle turning. Click. And the sound stopped.
I was in the door. Alone in my mind. No thought, no sound, no smell. Closing the door slowly, I opened my eyes and found that I was standing in my apartment but I did not recognize anything. There were shapes and shadows, spaces and occupied spaces. But they had no name. No indication of actually being there.
I moved through the space that I occupied into another space that then became the space that I was now occupying. I turned to look where I had been but it looked the same to me as where I was or rather where I am now. Since moving about seemed rather useless, I chose to sit down and close my eyes again.
There was that sound. Faint again like before but seeming to echo from within the very deepest space between my ears. So vast, so infinitely vast and empty and dark, this space. The sound reverberating over and over, exactly the same in this deep dark space. And then I could see it. I could see the sound inside my mind as if lit from within, pulsing and sounding and staying the same. And drawing me deeper, following the sound, playing the game.
Ice clinked. I heard the sound. And suddenly the saxophone came to life and all the flurry and activity of the shack swung about my head in an array of color. Reds and yellows washing about the place. Streaking in frenzied, vibrant strokes across the horizon of my perspective. I stared straight ahead, unable to move. The moment like infinity, the sound like some kind of horror.
The man, looking at me, somewhat amused. Crooked smile but kind eyes. Who was this guy? Why had I agreed to meet him? ‘Cause he had something, he said. Something I wanted but didn’t know I wanted. Well, hard to say no to that. Hard to say no to something interesting, something unusual arriving unexpectedly in the midst of an utterly predictable reality.
Utterly predictable, that was it really wasn’t it. This was the absence of predictability. This was a road map if you will to another dimension where bits and pieces move about as if removed from the laws of substance. Where in order to see you must not see. Where in order to know, you must not know.
The sound continued. The sound of the word. The sight of the sound. The darkness and the space and the space that was occupied. I opened my eyes.