Surrealscape # 8

A circling in the blizzard. Life-threatening; maybe dangerous. There were five of them. There were three of us. The Arctic winds spit mouthfuls of Arctic snow in our eyes, obscuring the enemy. We were blinded, but the tundra monsters could use their black eyes to see through sheets of white. Growls and snarls…testaments to their collective rage unfolding. Now, suspended paws with extended claws…their collective rage was here. Tighter and tighter we drew ourselves, into a knot at the center. This was the Siberia of stereotypes, exiles, nightmares. It was desolate. It was awful. And we were trapped.

Curses on our journey, and on the hatching of the idea of it! We had traveled through vast, colourless landscapes – barren stretches swathed in white, gloomy tree clusters clothed in white. Here and there, a white-covered chunk of broken machinery, lying lonely in a field. We had inhaled ice crystals of air. Some days, the skies had cleared and a weak sun had shone down. Those days had been the coldest of all. My face, my body: sunken, calloused, wind-whipped. Patches of rawness showed pink amongst the white – I was a red white man. Would my skin ever heal? Not if we could not extricate ourselves. One of my two fellow journeyers (he of the large nose and black moustache) was to blame. Mind gone from starvation, frost-bite, and the landscape of nothingness, he had poached a bear cub. The other fellow and I, we had guessed what was in store. “Our fate will follow us closely now” the other had said.

They say that when fear becomes the overwhelming emotion, time stretches. Or rather, our perception of time stretches. This was very much the case. I saw the beasts closing in. Their movements were exaggerated, slow-motion. It seemed almost as if I were watching the scene from behind, or above, or on a movie screen. Still I thought: I want to stay on this earth a while more…I like this earth a bit. But my hands are numb, my legs are numb. Still I thought: I love my five senses…I enjoy using them, fancy finding what I can catch with them out there in the mess of earthly environments. All, every – except for this frigid, desolate nonsense. So I dream of the desert.

It had been a long journey out in the hot hot dry dry. My fingernails had grown long and thick; they had irregular end-shapes, and were starting to curl. My face, my body: browned, leathery, rhino hide-like. I was a black white man. Would my skin ever heal? A fortunate thing there were no mirrors in the desert. Beyond what they already meant to me, I would have disliked seeing the crinklage. Before the desert I had lived amongst civilization, and was thus, from time to time, exposed to the villainy of mirrors. Although I prized my sense of sight, I had never enjoyed the visual experience that mirrors provided. I had never enjoyed seeing me reflected. I would rather have gone my whole life never having seen my face. It is not that I was particularly ugly (before, before, I had in fact been rather handsome). No, it was because in my reflection, I saw mortality. I saw Death, always, and thus the end of sensorial experience. Upon viewing my reflection, I would think: I do not want it to go all dark just yet. I don’t want the silence just yet. The void pushes me – how do I push back? I had yet to experience the proof of other dimensions. I knew there to be other dimensions, because even when I felt explosive with the sensorial injections of my sad little four, there was a mysterious, pregnant space that sat inside me, a tiny gremlin squatting in my stomach, waiting. Wait – here I was now in the desert, while I knew myself to be actually in the tundra, surrounded by bears. Maybe it was finally happening…maybe I was beginning to encounter the next dimension, the fifth, those so-called “worm-holes”, those “wrinkles” in time! I was speeding back and forth so quickly that I felt myself in both places at once!

Wait – something was wrong, things were not what I had expected…time was moving normally again in both desert and tundra…but I was still in both desert and tundra simultaneously. My fellow journeyers looked at me in fear and confusion; it was the same for them. In the tundra, the beasts were circling, approaching. In the desert, we three were surrounded by a ring of flames. The circles danced around us. So much for my pleasant desert dream. Bears, flames, bears and flames. Snow, heat, snow and heat. I grew dizzy. Alternating sensations bombarded my brain with their conflicting inputs.

“How do we escape?”

“There is no way out.”

Indeed there was not. We screamed our screams of agony as the tundra monsters tore into us, as the fire ate into our bodies. Pain devoured us as a fat child devours a jelly doughnut. Amidst the pain, dying quickly, I heard the strangest of sounds. It was laughter. More precisely, it was the giggling of young girls. Between life and death, I saw them. They were running towards us through the falling snow, across the dunes of sand, with their arms outstretched, practically tripping with gaiety. Then my eyeballs were ripped out in a swipe of bear’s claw…they fell to the ground, melting in the orange-blue caper of combustion, along with the rest of us. This was how we ended up, we three adventurers, in the large, empty country of Death.

Death was also not what I had expected. It was not the end of sensorial experience; it was just a display of minimalistic extremes. Kind of like the last few months of my life. At the beginning, I even found the country rather lovely. My initial desert dream, made milder. White sand, white sky. White sky once blue, now fully bleached after eons of chewing on the sand’s reflections. White sand so white that one only looked directly down at night. During the day, a dangerous disco of retinas burning was the result of such daring. And there was nothing but this gleaming white field of heat for thousands of miles. At night the sky was blueblack. There were no stars. Even in total darkness the sand glowed faintly – it was beautiful then. But this was how the lovely of the land went wrong: the similarity in coloration between white ground and white sky was supremely disorienting. One’s eye was eternally searching the subtle line of the horizon (this line being the only spot where one could see that sky was a titch bluer than ground, and ground a titch more yellow than sky, due to their proximity). The searching was involuntary, springing from a required assurance that one was not walking upside-down on the floor of the sky, but rightside-up on the floor of the world. Perhaps such monochromy in a landscape sounds romantic in the retelling, but after truly spending some time in the country of Death, it became a kind of torture.

How am I in the land of the living, alive once more? Here is how: I found a mirror in the white desert of Death. It was large, it was tarnished. It sat upright in the sand. I had wandered alone for many days before coming upon it. The other two who had walked a while with me were gone, having dissolved into sand or sky (I can’t remember which). After so many days wandering through sweltering emptiness, the mirror was an incredible sight. I was at once horrified and delighted. All the things that could have appeared out of nowhere, and it was the one thing I hated most. Or maybe that was the point. In any case, it was a thing, and in a country utterly bereft of things, I had to cherish it. Cherishing it involved looking at myself in the glass. A funny thing happened when I looked. Because I was already in Death, instead of seeing Death in my face, I saw Life. There was nothing particularly symbolic about it. Life looked appetizing the way it settled in the contours of the reflection of my face. It filled my face full of purple and orange and green shadows. Then, when I reached out to touch a bit of green splashed over my chapped upper lip, my finger slid into the glass! And so the mirror sucked me up, and spit me back out into Life.

~ by kingzoko on June 28, 2010.

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