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Author Topic: The Degenerate  (Read 5836 times)
mako
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Posts: 70



« Reply #45 on: March 10, 2017, 04:06:07 PM »

If there were a part one to this book, this would be the final chapter...

C9 Deliverance

“Do you think they’ll be mad at us because of the blanket?”

The question roused Mabus from his reverie, his face grim with the dull pain of fatigue.  His eyes widened a bit and it took him a moment to form a thought.

“Doubt it.  I left him all the tobacco and half the sugar and coffee I had.  A bit of an Indian trade I admit, but it should keep their feathers down.”

Irena looked up to see his moustache twitch.  They were walking an old Interstate highway headed west, finding their way past abandoned vehicles.  He sniffed as if to center himself.

“They won’t follow us,” he continued.  Not far enough to find us anyways.”

Irena trotted along, weak at the knees in the enduring rhythm of unconscious pattern.  

“I’m tired,” she said.

Mabus swung his own legs along a number of more steps before stopping.  “Me too.”

Irena stopped too.  They both stood scarecrow still, as if wondering whether they could move far enough to rest.

“Irena, do you hear that?”

“Hear what?”

It was early morning; the sun began rising over the mountains to their right.

“It’s like, thumping.”

“Oh that.  Yes.”

Mabus looked towards the metropolis towers spread out before them.   They had reached hotels at the outlines of the city.  He gazed back at Irena.

“For how long?”

“I dunno.  A while I guess.”

Mabus blinked.  He turned his head again and cupped his hands, making deer ears.  “That could be them,” he said, his back straightening a little.

She turned her head as if listening for the first time.  “I suppose so.”

For the first time in several hours, Mabus seemed to see here, saw the color of her skin in the morning sunlight.  She was wrapped tightly in the olive drab wool blanket, which trailed behind her, painted nougat brown with mud at the bottom.  She shook weakly, she skin sucked of color.

“Want some sugar?” Mabus asked.

She nodded.  They sat on the hood of a car and Mabus pulled off his pack.  His relief was evident and Irena shook once as if to ward the night’s cold.
He pulled sugar and coffee beans for them to suck.

“That tastes good” Irena said.

“Used to make a bet with my scouts on overnight outings.  That I could cook them the best meal they’d ever tasted in their lives over a campfire in the woods.

Few of them ever believed me.  Then I’d take them out hiking hard all day, as far as most of them had ever walked in their lives at once before, maybe five miles on hard trail.  

“By then, it didn’t matter what I put in that cook pot; a few noodles with a bit of salt, a piece of wild fish with butter on it.  Then I’d make each of them confess it was the best thing they’d ever eaten before I’d let them have more.  Worked every time.  They’d call me Chef from then on.”  Mabus grinned at himself.

“This is the best meal I’ve ever had, Chef Mabus.”

“Haha!  Good girl!  Have some more!”  He watched her take it with delight.

“The beating changed,” Irena said after a moment.

“I can barely hear it.  What does it sound like?”

“Like…a different beat.  B-boom, b-boom, b-boom. ”  

They were quiet a several moments, listening.   Each barely moved a sore muscle.

“That’s promising.  Still a ways to go, but we made good time last night.  Think you can keep going?”

“I will try.”  But when Irena rose to walk, her legs buckled.  She fell and began to cough again.

Mabus was to her quickly.  He breathed deeply and relaxed, then puffed.  “I’ll carry you again.  We should keep on.  I need to keep on schedule to go back for James.”

Irena let him pick her up, wrapping her arms tiredly around his neck.  They continued on.

*****

James had descended from the theatre’s higher floors by means of a copper drain-pipe fitted to the wall.  On the last half floor the pipe had shifted enough to cause him lose his footing.  With one foot he propelled off the wall face, to turn himself around so that he could land facing forward.

This time his roll was graceful.  No sooner than he had begun to recover, did he suddenly hear something bearing upon him.  He turned in time to see something berserking down upon him.  It lunged at him like an airborne wrestler.

It happened too fast for even his nervous system to react.  He turned on one knee as if accepting an attacker from sieza.  The stick, which he had long-since learned to keep with him while rolling, was still in his hands.  In the practiced kata of shōmen'uchi, it was up in his hands, one palm up against its metal surface, and as soon steady as it descended again.  James yelled a fierce kiai, which seemed to come from his whole torso.  The stroke stopped an inch from the scrambling creature’s head.  James breathed in quick triumph.

The advantage was as soon lost as obtained however, for the creature, unabashed by the psychological attack immediately leapt for James again in a froth.  Now James, whose guard had been slipped, felt a reversal as the incensed male fell upon him.  In a cloud of ash he wrestled with the thing which would have been twice his size where it not half emaciated.  James felt his ribs as he gripped a chunk of its flesh to keep its head away from his own.  It stank.  It scraped the side of James’s face with its fingernails.

The thing was strong, wild and spasmodic.  It breathed through tightly clenched teeth, like an ape in a rage.  James’s practiced movements kept him in advantage of leverage, as he maneuvered from side to side.  Manipulating the creature’s spine through its arm, he pressed against its tricep with his own, stretching his arm away.  When it tried to bite his hand and arch its back against him, James was inspired to grab it by the hair.  When he had gained the advantage, he flipped the other wrestler over and scrambled for his rod.

His hands were too tense to wield it properly.  As the creature rounded upon him again, he bunted it and turned to smash the small end against its ribs, ending the scramble.  The creature curled into the pain as James ran.

It was not the only one out, however.  Others were forming in doorways as if curious of the raucous.  They had hardened, deadened eyes and decrepit postures.  James was suddenly aware of how many lived in the abandoned city.  Some watched on.  One ran at him as if in challenge.

James found his muscles too tense from the wrestling; his upper torso was seized into a hard knot of utter tension.  He slowed and took a breath, trying to force his life-locked fingers apart, and spread his stance.  Ready for flight, he managed to open his fist far enough to permit the bar to slide through his hand.  He waited in line with the creature’s attack and dropped to a knee for stability and to change his position and held it there.  It was timed so that it ran its face into the cold steel of a 90˚ angle iron.  The thing dropped bleeding from a wounded eye socket, wriggling in anger.  He took a breath and moved in a circle from his knee, checking his surroundings.

Aikido taught me to pull my punch, he thought to himself.  He was breathing hard, in long deep breaths for control.

He took off running again, this time with lighter steps.  More post human monsters poured from the buildings around him.  James wondered at them.  It looked as if a hive of insects had been kicked and the ants were pouring out for war.

They trained me to pull my punch, his mind said again, thinking of the wrestler.  Aikido almost got me killed.  He almost touched his bleeding cheek and then thought better of it.

I could worry about the blood, but that’s useless now.  He was running down the street.  When one of them leapt for his legs he merely jumped it and kept running.  Another he dodged and stopped only to strike once hard in the shin with his improvised bludgeon.

How dangerous, to teach someone not to hit.  Its negligent homicide!  It almost killed me with only its instincts.  My training couldn’t match mere instincts.  After all my training!  “Damn!” he yelled aloud.  He was angry and gritting his teeth, his eyes burning hard in his face.  

The crowd of creatures surrounding him were pooling up behind him, yelling and screaming, likely to be the last angry riot recorded on Coeur D’Alene’s streets.  He turned a corner to lose them around a building, and turned again into the building and out a window on the other side, rolling violently against the pavement before he turned down another alley.

He began to run, tears streaking down his face, yelling “damn!” into the wind as he went.  A cool morning breeze disturbed old tar papers wedged against a car in the pavement.  James barreled through a couple female citizens seeking a place in the mayhem, letting his angle iron meet their hard skulls as he passed.

He ran, hid, maneuvered and dodged until the sound of chaos was behind him, down new streets, over fences and across open spaces.  Everything blocking him was met with anger, and he moved as a mountain without thought or conscience.

In a long half hour, he found himself bent over in exhaustion, gasping for breath and relief.  His face was covered in dusted tears.  When he found the strength to breath, he began to sob.  The long withheld pain of many months in darkness.  The thoughts of his mother and father lost states away in a pandemic.  His withholding of himself around Mabus and Irena.  The world, the hope of the world and all the people lost and tormented within it.  

It hit him with the empty, impersonal force of an empty universe staring at back at the human imagination.  It struck him with the force of a religious experience.  It pinned him to the earth with sobs, smashing his tiny ego into the dust of mortality.  His lips felt clods of dirt as his mouthed gapped against the ground in violent tremors.  He gripped the earth and cried aloud, towards and against the earth, with all his might.  

An hour passed slowly under his lament.  Thoughts flashed and passed and went, as if reordering themselves to the new reality.  Raw, unaltered feeling coursed through his vessels, as if having cleansed them.  He felt empty, open and renewed.  He found his head rested against a small red car, exposed in summer heat.  He stared into the sky, watching the clouds pass in impassive majesty.

He sat there, dumbfounded, as if trying to remember something.  A thought, like a butterfly, was flittering somewhere in his subconscious, flirting for consideration.  A thought, he remembered that seemed somehow important.  Something which seemed to apply to him, to the here and now.  To something he should do, as if soon.  Perhaps, right away.

He gazed into emptiness as if to catch the butterfly.  He said aloud, in a mumble from his listless lips: “what should I be remembering?”

Then, there was a sound.  The sound of a roaring which seemed out of place with the rest of the peaceful world around him of tree leaves flittering in the breeze and the sun casting light on the segments of a searching fly.  A beetle was pulling itself along the ground in short stops.

Then he heard a voice.  His consciousness seemed to slam back into him from somewhere else and the sound of an engine filled it as it approached him.  He suddenly rose to his feet, not as fast as he might have expected to, given his fatigue.

A large hum-v was approaching down the stretch of highway towards him.  The flare!, he remembered.  It moved towards him as oddly, he thought, like the black metal box from the movie: 2010 Space Odyssey.

Now that’s an odd thing to think of at a time like this, he thought.

*****
Logged
mako
**
Posts: 70



« Reply #46 on: March 10, 2017, 04:06:57 PM »

Mabus has carefully chosen his route, along the I-90 overpass which he thought could give them a vantage of the city without exposing them to the many buildings full of holes for banshees to be in.  It was certain to both of them by now that the beating was music being played from the city’s center.  Rock and roll no less.  One song, he had proposed, could have been an Elton John from the bass patterns.  But the music had stopped a half hour ago and the streets had remained quiet since.

Spokane’s city towers loomed around with a powerful presence.  The time walking into the forsaken city had set the two companions into a quiet reverie, a not unhappy melancholy of sorts.  The lack of movement in the city was the most unsettling aspect, but was not enough to cloud their hopes of meeting people in an organized community.  Mabus suppressed these hopes as best he could, but his fatigue kept them entirely within.

Irena’s gentle weight was now as if part of his own; his steps carried him forward in an entrained pattern.  She nearly slept as she held him now.  The feeling of her warm body was his comfort and sole concern.  It soothed him like petting a cat.

“Mabus” she said sleepily, and suddenly.

“Yes.”

“There’s something down there.  Some people.”

“Where?”

She pointed.  “Down there.  They’re sneaking but they’re different.”

“Good eyes.  You’re a good spotter.”

“Thank you.”  Her voice was hoarse.

“I see them.  It looks like a search team, or a military group.  They’re dressed well.”

Mabus knelt to observe the small team from over the cement guard rail.

The men below them wore a variety of clothes, configured like winter apparel.  Their wrists, necks, heads and ankles were all cleanly covered by various sorts of gear—duct tape in a few cases as if to seal the joints in the clothing. They were also padded in various ways as if to prevent—

“They’re armored against bites.  These guys look like they know what they’re doing.”

The men were moving in a rehearsed pattern.  A man from the back ran quietly up to the group, crouching behind a car.  Another moved forward a little slower, watching carefully between parked cars as he went.  The team formed a small circle where they met, three or four them together.

“I wonder if it’s them.”

“Could very well be.”  Mabus thought about their situation at the pace of his bouncing moustache.  “I’m not sure what to do.  I don’t want to lose an opportunity if it is them, but it’s hard to tell.”  He looked to Irena.

She shrugged.  “I suppose there’s only one way to know.”

Mabus laughed from his nose, his face intent.  “True enough.  I guess if they attack—run?”

Irena nodded as if to disagree.  She looked at them thoughtfully, but unafraid.  “I don’t think so,” was all she said.

Mabus remembered James jumping quickly for the log hiding the hatch to the underground lair that had housed them safely for months as the world deteriorated about them.  He remembered, as if from a feeling in his gut, about the strange events that had brought these two children to him at a most impossible time.  He thought of Teddy, and the radio, the plane that had been grounded at just such a time—he his head.

“Alright.  Let’s signal these guys.”  He let Irena down.  Her legs were recovered enough that she stood on her own.  He took her hand and stood up, one palm outstretched as if to signal passivity.

One man in the entourage saw them immediately and signaled the others to stop.  Each of them moved to cover as efficiently as mice caught under midnight kitchen lights turned on suddenly.  Mabus raised them both up slowly, letting themselves be seen.

It was all quiet for a moment.  Mabus whistled.

He heard and saw movement.  He could see, through the glass of a car beneath them, a pair of goggle covered eyes looking back at him.  He cleared his throat and summoned a greeting.

“Hello?”

“Hello,” was the swift response.

“Friendly?”

“Friendly.  Yourselves?”

“Alone and lost,” Mabus replied.

There was more shuffling below, and Mabus caught movements of a couple men signaling to each other.  Part of the group was out of his vantage, and he waited broadside in the sunlight with Irena holding his hand.

“We’re coming up.  Lower your arms and wait there please.”

“Alright,” Mabus replied, with a smiling welling up.  He looked at Irena expectantly.  She smiled back as if to show she had been right.

It was a short moment before Mabus and Irena saw the padded men approach with different weapons in their hands—a couple of good baseball bats and one with a couple of police cudgels.  They all had knives or a machete strapped tightly to their bodies in ways that looked not to make a lot of noise.

They stopped a short distance from Mabus and Irena with their weapons relaxed and looked at them for a couple of moments.

“I have to ask you,” the oldest man of about 35 years began to ask. “If you have been bitten or if there was a possibility you have been bitten.”

“No possibility,” Mabus replied.

The men seemed to relax further.

“Where are you coming from?” the man asked.

“Coeur D’Alene,” Mabus replied, “up in the mountains.”

The man nodded and looked at the other two men looking calm and curious around him.

“Can we offer you shelter and lodging with our people?  We have a community living safely in the center of downtown Spokane.  Safety, food, water, medical supplies—we have it all.  We own the Spokane Convention Center and Riverfront Park.”

A smile broader than Mabus had ever remembered spread across Mabus’s face.  Irena’s was bright and tired.

“We’d love that.”

“You look like you’ve earned it!  Man, we’ll take you there right away.”  The man thought to a minute and turned to the others behind him.  “We’ll take them back and double back for a second trip today,” he said to them.  The other two nodded, smiling.

He signaled beyond Mabus and Irena.  They turned to watch a fourth and fatter figure waddle from behind a car, settling a pistol back into his waist belt holster as he came forward like the donut sheriff.  Mabus was surprised.

“I’m Carson, by the way.  This is Ben and that’s Brett.  Guy behind you’s Randy.  You two look like you’ve had some rough adventures.”

“We’re lucky to be alive.  Mabus,” he nodded downwards, “this is Irena.  We’re glad to have found you.”

“Likewise.  I think you’ll be happy in the city.”

“Thank you.  Oh, but there’s one more of us but he isn’t with us.  We were split up at Coeur D’Alene yesterday and planned to meet up but we had some things change.  I’ll need to go back for him promptly.”

“Let’s get you back someplace safe and we’ll see what we can do for you.  The city center isn’t far.  Boy, you guys look like you could use a solid meal or three.”

Mabus nodded, “do you have meat?”

The man laughed.  “We have everything.  C’mon, follow us.”

Mabus and Irena followed the four men carefully down the streets, bearing northwest, learning quickly their patterns of movement and always staying at the center.  The men stopped several blocks into their weaving street pattern to retrieve several bags stashed inside the back of a truck that looked as if it’s a tire had blown some time ago.

Two of them loaded the packs onto their backs and they continued on their way.  It was only thirty minutes now, and Irena carried herself without much issue.  The men seemed alarmed at first by her occasional coughs and Carson signaled her to muffle them in her sleeve.  They moved on without further occasion.
It was a little under an hour before they neared the downtown convention center.  They moved into an alley covered up with boards, so that only a small passageway opened through it when one had been moved.  They carefully moved in single file through the corridor created there by a dumpster, following it to the end where a metal plate had to be moved out of position.  

There was a sewer pipe here which Ben removed, ushering them down the ladder below.  Each moved silently in turn, using hand signals.  They followed the long passage some ways, taking a few turns and entering a locked door which connected to a cleaner stretch of passageway which looked as if it provided a corridor for campus ventilation and utilities.

The men were less cautious here, and began to talk to each other.  Carson explained that they had the entire underground network mapped out form the campus and had secured each point of entrance.  The teams, he called them, moved out each morning from the central location and went out in various ways to procure things for the people inside, scout and seek refugees like themselves.  There were almost a thousand people living there now, the survivors.
“When we get there they’re going to want to isolate you two for a while and watch you.  It’s protocol that anyone even remotely concerned with infection goes into decontam.  It’s not a big deal.  We’ll see if we can’t send some men to go find your third member.”

They ascended another ladder and found themselves in a wide, barricaded cement passageway with a set of large metal doors entering a parking lot below what looked like a museum.  Another man, atop the wall there signaled them to stop, holding a rifle in his hands.  

 “It’s Carson.  We found these two at I-90 this morning.  They came from Coeur D’Alene last night.  We came to drop them off.  We’ll head back for another run.”

“Are they clean?”

“See for yourself.  Good grief Dan.  Let the poor folks through.  They look like they haven’t eaten in a week.”

Dan nodded lazily.  Then he hopped down to open the large garage door for them.  The metal whined as it opened enough for them to get inside.

Irena and Mabus were moved along until they were inside the building at the entrance to a theater.  They were locked inside a small receptionist office while the men unloaded their bags and discussed their plans for the afternoon with Dan.

“Get ahold of the cooks and make sure they get fed right away.  They think a third member is still out there and they want to go back for him.  Ask Dale or Sherron if we can’t send out a team or look for him or what.”

Dan nodded mutely and stood by as the team arranged themselves and headed out again.  He followed them out and returned at a leisurely pace.  He put his head to the ticket window: “I’m going to go find someone.  I’ll be back.”

They waited a number of minutes, relaxing in the padded seats of the ticket booth.  Mabus let his head slump a little and had begun to snore lightly when Dan arrived with an older woman at his side.  He pointed to them and returned to his post.

A skinny, aged woman with her reddish hair combed to the sides greeted them through the office window.  “I’m very sorry about this.  We have to lock up everyone that comes here for a while to make sure it’s safe for everyone.  We had an incident at first with someone we thought was clean.  I’m sure you understand.”

“I do,” Mabus said.

She smiled.  We’ll get you out of here soon.  Someone will be bringing you a nice hot plate of food here soon and something to drink.  Is there anything you’d like in particular?

“Bacon.  And cheese,” Irena said, looking at Mabus hopefully.

“I think a nice hot cup of coffee would do me well.  I could eat anything right now.”

“I think we can do that.  We’re glad you made it here safely.  Now did you say there was another member of your party you were waiting for?”

Mabus explained about James and the circumstances which had split them apart, and where he was likely to be now.  The woman nodded as he spoke.

“If you’ll give me a little bit, I’d like to see what we can do about that for you.  We don’t usually send teams out that far but there’s a chance we could arrange it.  I don’t imagine you’re in much shape to headed back out so soon.”

Mabus slumped in his chair as if in relief.

“Give me a little bit.  I’ll be back soon to let you know what I find out.  And I’ll send your requests to the chefs.  I’m sure coffee will be no problem, probably cheese too.  We’ll see about bacon.”  

The woman smiled with a playful wink, and Mabus sat back further in his seat with his fingers crossed as if he had just been kissed.  Irena tugged on his arm as she left in excitement, grinning happily.

Both she and Mabus were asleep by the time food arrived.  They sat up long enough to enjoy every bite, sip and lick of the foods they had not had in months—corned beef, fresh eggs, canned green beans, a small salad, milk and a thermos full of coffee.  There was one half peice of bacon and a large piece of cheese on each of their plates.  They relished and laughed in fatigue as they ate.

It was another hour or so, and another hard-earned nap, before the strawberry haired woman returned with a satisfied look on her face.  She woke them by knocking on the glass.

“Alright.  I have some news for you.  I wasn’t aware, but a small team from our community headed west last night headed in the direction you came from.  They were scouting farther south and arrived in Coeur D’Alene early this morning.”

She passed for a moment with a smile.  “I had them radioed and—they found your friend.  James I believe?”

Mabus wiped a sleepy eye from his face, rising in astonishment.  “Yes, that’s him!”

“The only bad news for you is that they were not planning on coming back for a while.  They plan to be out several weeks in fact, heading east over the mountain pass to look for survivors before the winter snows start.  They may go as far as Missoula.  He decided to go with them.”

“That’s wonderful news!” Mabus exclaimed.  Irena was bright.

“I was so excited I came to tell you right away.  You can both rest now.  I brought you sleeping bags to use, but they’ve asked me to keep you contained overnight just to make sure, for the sake of everyone.  This is a very safe place and you’ll be welcome here.  We’ll make sure you get food and drink and anything you need until then.”

“Thank you so much,” Mabus replied.

“It’s our pleasure.  We’re always happy to have new people.  Now is there anything else I can do for you right now?”

“No.  Don’t think so.  I think we might just fall asleep until you let us out.”

“I suspect so.  I was on my own for a while at first too.  I was the same way.”

“Thank you so much.  We’ll be ok here.”

The woman unlocked the door to drop the sleeping bag, a chamber pot, some snacks and water and a few other provisions on the floor, and then locked the door again.

“Wait until you get a hot shower” she said, with a teasing look in her eye.   Mabus smiled charmingly at her.  They held eye contact for a moment with warm smiles in their eyes and she turned to leave.

“Welcome to the city.”

“Welcome indeed” Mabus said to himself, setting his fingers together once more and leaning back in that warm, padded seat to rest.
Logged
Dodys
****
Posts: 363


« Reply #47 on: March 10, 2017, 10:40:35 PM »

  Awesome! A very good read,Indeed!
Logged
mako
**
Posts: 70



« Reply #48 on: June 22, 2017, 08:02:30 PM »

(Subchapters 3.1-3.5) I've added to the subchapter between chapter's three and four.  I'll repost it from the beginning here.  It is called "The Cave of James," a special internal adventure through meditation.

Next month, in late July, I will be traveling to Spokane to do area research for the second half of this book.  I will continue expanding on James's internal journey until then as I am able.


C3.1 (subchapter) – James fights his mind in the underground bunker

Underground and Within

Let’s create something.

It came from within, deep within.
 
It came from so deep within, they could have been words whispered from miles away, so he did not hear them.  Instead, they resounded like seismic waves until they reached a place near enough to his consciousness that it caused him move a little without knowing why.

It made a chink.  A small crack in the fabric of his world, breaking his confusion in a percussive hairline fracture, and creating space.  The space for something new.

That was good, because James was awhirl in a dismal pool of his own thoughts.  A captivity of sorts.  It was the beginning of madness, he felt sure.  He moved to a place where he could sit.  There was only one thing he had not done to fill the time in this eternal night underground.  There was nothing more to be had in his exercises, in storytelling with Mabus and Irena, his stretches, sleeping long or eating food.  It was his mind most in need now.

The mind.  James did not know what to do.  He had never meditated.  Never longer than to bow in and out of class at his dojo.  The mind.  It was a screaming infant left without a mother or a playground.  An ugly screaming child no one wanted.  And yet, it was his.

I don’t want the damn thing!


Let’s create something.

This time, he almost heard the words.  It was a whisper of wind on a soprano lullaby in the stillness, landing on his skin with the etheric soft touch of a butterfly’s feet.  So instead, it reached him as vague feeling.  

Being so, it struck him with a sense of sudden inspiration.  It organized his will to still his body and to do something he did not know how to do.  He straightened his spine, pulled his feet in towards him, put his hands together in his lap, and became still.  He breathed.  Slowly.

His thoughts spun around him in a vacuum black hole, like little things he could grab onto.  Little movies in his memories and amoebalike feelings in amorphous clouds within his vision with dark space in between, swirling.  The thoughts came faster and faster.

In not two minutes time, it seemed the most he could handle, and he peeked to open his eyes.  The light of Irena’s watch hung there, like a lighthouse at sea, anchoring the drifting boat of his mind.  He sat there a moment, hypnotized by it in a way.  It was enough to recover himself, before he dove back in.

Enough!

In an instant, there was something.  Something real around him.  It was under him and...

It was water.  Black water.  Black churning water in a black world of blackness.  Above him, the sky was like a lesser black, almost a burgundy black and deeper darkness in all his periphery.

He swam, like a castaway at sea, gulping for air.  The tides assailed him as he struggled against to remain afloat.  Then it picked him up.

There was a wave as large as a ship to his right.  It did not crest, but the wall of would have crushed him.  Instead he resisted it in his mind, like keeping a dream at bay by a sheer power of will.  It did not stop the wave, it only sort of smudged it and stopped it in place.  It was like stepping a few seconds back in time and taking a picture with an old Polaroid, then smearing the ink where the wave was.  It stopped time, but did not stop the reality of the wave.

James’s mind reeled in the space of this time-out, his mind scratching for any solution.  This wave would surely kill him, he felt.  He did not know what to do.  Try to fly away?  Tell the water to be still?  Grab on to the side of a ship?

Each of these met a logical fate.  There was no ship.  He could not fly, not in time.  He did not have power over these forces.  Each time he stepped back in with some new solution, the waves would beat him again.  Each time it became clearer that the weight of the wave was crushing him, had crushed him, would definitely batter him into itself and consume him.

He was afraid to choke.  Afraid of falling into the deep, black unknown of suffocation.  As he fought by will to keep the battering waves at bay, he realized his breathing had become shallow and irregular.  In recourse to his fear of drowning, he began breathing deeply, more slowly, so that in spite of his predicament he could feel the oxygen pouring into his body.  It split his mind in two, one in each world to do so.

In a matter of moments, it seemed bearable.  He was no longer afraid to drown.  With every breath he felt the life giving affirmation of rich air expanding into his lungs and spreading into his body, feeling it saturate him against the grim reality of a swirling black ocean.  Then he stepped more fully into the mind that was here in the waters, and allowed the breathing mind to sink deeper into his subconscious, like a basketball player keeping the ball dribbling in a pass.

Then he let go of his stalemate with the water and let it carry him.  It was every bit as violent as he expected.  His crushed him with tons of water and rolled his body mercilessly through the void of his feelings.  He swirled in confusing patterns as the water battered him again, and again, and again.  He kept himself breathing and waited.

His lower mind began to remind him of the pain in his back, which seemed only appropriate given the brutal submersion he was undergoing.  But he was waiting for something.

In this churning, he sought direction.  Not in anything nearby, but far away.  He was searching for something like land, not with his sight, but with sense.  Feeling outwardly for miles in all directions for anything there.
There was something.  He felt it.  He was sure, but not exactly sure where.  It had a vague direction, as if it were more this way that.  But the waves did not seem to be moving altogether that direction, so he wondered how he would get there.

He began to swim.  Against the madness of his rolling sense, he took small measures in the direction he sought.  Anything he could bring his body to accomplish, in any direction to move towards his destination, and in the lulls between swales he swam as hard as an athlete.  It was as difficult in his mind as it would have been in the real Atlantic.  He choked and spat and swallowed water, but still he breathed smooth and clear and strong.

He was nearly strained to the limit in his back.  He returned to the second mind long enough to see that his back had slumped considerably.  He stretched it straight to ease the pain, and ease the pain it did.  He stretched it tall and wiggled it around to loosen the vertebrae, realizing his time was short for this reason.  He set it straight and stiff and continued a few moments longer.

Land was nearer now.  It had taken his the better part of a quarter hour to get this far.  Was he half way now?  He thought so.  There was a measure in his mind that seemed to tell him so.  A measure he seemed to create for himself—like he could have done it faster but also could not.  It wasn’t fair.  Or it wasn’t right.  Or couldn’t work that way.  Or something like that.  It was his own law unto himself, which he hid from himself under the justification of it all being realistic.

But the waves were not his rule, nor did he control them.  Rather, they commanded him.  There was no stopping their reality any more than a man can squish hard marble between his fingers and make it drip.  The waves he could not stop.  He could only detain them temporarily, though always the waves seemed to win over him.  It was frustrating.

It took many minutes longer than he hoped.  In a dash of sudden hope, he could spring forward towards the island, as if cheating.  He could warp and see the island grow nearer.  Then that invisible self-law would draw him back, and he would watch in silent desperation as the distance between himself and the island grew ever nearer.

Finally, it was too much.  He had not reached the island by the time his back hurt too much for him to continue.  He was straining himself as from hard exercise and was finally at a limit.  He was so close, he had begun to even see a shoreline in the gloom obscurity of his meditation.  And then, he collapsed onto the floor in the semblance of a small unrolling motion.  He was near to panting from the exhaustion of his back and mind, but he continued to breath so as to control the noise and not disturb the others.

Tomorrow he would reach the shore.
« Last Edit: June 22, 2017, 08:04:42 PM by mako » Logged
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« Reply #49 on: June 22, 2017, 08:04:14 PM »

C4.2 (subchapter) – James’s Island

James was better prepared today.  He had done his usual routines in the bunker: spent time with the others; done his exercises and especially focused on his back; doing his stretches and treating his back with extra attention, after chores and food and other things.  Now Mabus was teaching Irena an old mnemonic trick for memorizing thirty objects, each in only a second’s time, so that any of them could be remembered in a fraction of that time in any order upon being asked the number to which it corresponded.  She was entertained.

They had not seen him do his meditation last night when he had woken to do so, but today he decided to do it then even while they were up.  If this were a thing he was determined to do, it was foolhardy to attempt to hide it in so small a space.  Unsure what Mabus might make of it, he began anyways, stretching his spine as he settled into position.

Mabus did see him of course, but made no show of it.  He was happy to let James mind his own activities so long as he seemed to be taking care of himself.  He also saw how awkwardly the boy seemed at the task, looking nothing in the way of a trained monk; he correctly assumed James was teaching himself for the first time.  It was all for the better, so he said nothing and only looked up on occasion when Irena was busy with her memorization.

James was a quiet boy, despite the leisure with which he interacted.  He was still waters.  Mabus tried not to disturb such waters when he could avoid doing so.  He wondered what the young man sought in the routine, even considered trying it himself.

Inside of him, James was an oceanic cauldron of mad, inky waters.  He saw that now.  He had almost been afraid to dive back in, given the difficulties of yesterday, but he settled himself anyways by the power of a strange, deep attraction he found in this new world in his head.

Perhaps it will be better this time.

He found that it was.  It was better by a measure.  Better by half so far as the waves were concerned.  Once his breath was steady and his second mind descended, he found himself again in the ebony swells, except this time the blackness above him was not so black, nor the waves so strong.  More like an ocean squall rather than the eye of a hurricane, and the sky a more visible shade of burgundy.  It relieved him.
He began to swim, much as before, the exercise of it more bearable this time.  There was less turning over and upside-down now.

In half the time he made the same distance of yesterday, and given the situation of having not wasted half his meditation getting this far, there was some time before his back would give out.  He kept himself tall and well balanced.  He sat as Aikido students stand and move.

Still, it was a good eight minutes before he reached the edge of the shore and he was tired just the same.  His mind felt stretched as if it had just performed hard calisthenics, and was still sore from yesterday.  Still, he had made it.

He lay there, on a bank of sand as a castaway unto himself.  It reminded him to breathe as his mind relaxed with the cognitive strain of hard swimming behind him.  He breathed as he attuned himself to the subtle new world around him.  He listened.

There was no sound, save perhaps a quiet storm-swept breeze and the noiseless static of his own loneliness.  He recalled the feeling of sand on the shores of Lake Michigan.  This sand was cold, the way he remembered it had been an early spring day with chunks of ice still gripping the shore.

Finally, he looked about himself.  The sky seemed calmer from here, and the intensity of those waves merely echoed with faint significance.  There was grass above him; he could feel it there before he saw it.  It looked like wheat.  Beyond it, large tropical trees with the tendril aerial roots of a banyan and large coconut fronds above him.

“What can I do here?” He asked himself.

Anything.


He almost heard it this time.  Did hear it.  Or perhaps could not quite hold onto the hearing long enough to remember.  He fumbled and the reply left him as if were a quarter note of silence in the performance of a sonata.  But the shape of it remained.

Make a fire, he thought.  And so he gathered sticks for himself to make a fire, before realizing he had no way to light it.  He sighed.  A waste of time.  It made him wonder what he was doing there at all.  He lay there, cold and miserable by the light of an unlit fire, watching the murky reds of the sky melding with the all too familiar blackness about him.

He listened in a distant way to Mabus and Irena.  He almost could not hear their words.  It was as far removed from the two of them he had been in weeks.  Where the walls of plastic had enclosed him like the constrictions in the womb before, he now felt expansive, lively, and free.

So despite the cold, he chose to love the place.  It was somewhere he could go beyond the claustrophic confines of their tiny, underground bunker.  He promised himself to return there every day to explore, to see, and come to know this world within himself.  The burgeoning world of his hidden mind.  An island of liberation and peace.

Then he felt a small path.  Between a trees.  A way to go.  It made him interested, but the night was too dark for exploring, the jungle too dangerous to traverse in the night.  Tomorrow, then. 

He let his back release.
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« Reply #50 on: June 22, 2017, 08:07:54 PM »

C4.3 (subchapter) - The Cave of James

James was optimistic by the time he reached the waters.  Yesterday’s meditation had gone well, and he had anticipated further exploration today.  Mabus was at his exercises and Irena was trying to read a stained paperback copy of “Guerilla Warfare” by Ernesto “Che” Guevara.

If the waves were less violent, he did not know it.  He paid them as much attention as an older sibling gives a younger one when a potential mate is in the room.  He made the swim with the same indifference and made it to the shore in half the time as the day before.

Today, he was surprised to see the moon peeking through a slit of clouds.  He hadn’t put it there or intended to see it present itself.  It simply hung there, making the shore brighter than it had been before.  That was well.  He could risk the trail, despite his apprehensions. 

He saw grass, the tropical tree-line and the remnants of a fire.  Then he remembered his clothes, sticking wetly to his body.  He felt cold.  He was cold.  So he went to a nearby branch arching over the unlit campfire and removed them, hanging them up as if to dry.

He felt the grass along his way as he stepped up onto the bank.  The road was dark with dirt on a wide path that could almost be a road.  He walked it slowly, thankful to have anywhere to walk, even if no further than the span his own mind.

It was exceptionally quiet in the quiet world of himself.  He breathed its air, remembering moist air in Miami, Florida where he had visited once in the winter.  It had that kind of taste, though it was considerably colder.  He shivered.

He walked.  He breathed.  He walked.  There was another, smaller trail running off into the trees to his left, but it was too dark.  Another time.  He continued walking.

The trail began to rise in a long, steep ascent over the tree-line.  It was a mountain, and the road gave way to stone stairs carved neatly into its face.  It was at least a thousand stairs.  Maybe more.

He walked them one by one, almost counting his steps.  Step.  Breathe.  Step.  There was stone railing two feet thick to either side with old moss everywhere.  There were cracks deep in the gray rock.  He continued his monotonous steps upwards.

Walking up this never-ending flight was as effortful as the swimming had been, but without the same sort of stress.  He was almost glad for it.  It numbed his mind the way all repetitive things do.  It numbed him like doing math homework, or the same version of Ikkyo over and over again in training, and that was well.  He hadn’t walked this far in too long.  He liked to walk.

Finally, as if two parts of himself finally came to an agreement, he allowed himself to reach the top.  As he crested over, there was grass in a mild lip curving away from him.  It created the larger bowl of a valley before him, looking like the saucer at the top of an extinct volcano.  There was a pond below, an old building, a stand of trees and a dark place.

James looked back over the foliage of the island beneath him, and beyond into the dark waters of the sea.  As he looked back at the waters, now so far away, he felt it in his torso.  This valley seemed a much more stable place to be.  He began down.

The building standing near the pond was in shambles.  It had the look of an old Spanish missionary church in southern America, grown over and desolate.  There were two doors that looked as if they had not been opened in many years.  He passed this too.

The waters here were clear.  Fresh water, with an exquisite sparkle in the moonlight.  It was dark too but in a transparent way.  They were only dark by virtue of the night around him and not, as the waters of the sea, by their own intrinsic opacity.  He decided to drink from these waters, and he saw a frog swimming slowly in them.

Out here, all alone in the open air.  It was beautiful.  Far too dark by an exponent, but quiet and peaceful and most of all, outside.  He laid in the grass and looked up at the moon.

There was something drawing him here too.  It called to him with a mystic, a magic.  With wispy fingers of the world of fantasy, and of fairy tales, and imagination.  These curled up at him from a place deeper within himself, deeper within his own world with tug colorless, unseen tug of an animal caught in a lasso, so that no matter how much he might have loved to stay outside, he was drawn inward, deeper, downwards into himself.  He breathed as it tugged at him on, enchanted him, and persuaded him to move on.

A quarter trip around the pond was an entrance to a cave.  The dark place from atop the hill prior.  Above it was a sign, burnt clumsily into a bad piece of plywood as if branded with a straight iron.  It read: “James”.

Did I put that there?

He could not hear the answer.  He stepped inside.  There was an old torch on the wall, but with nothing to light it.  He wondered how to progress.  There had to be an answer.  He mused on this predicament for a while.

Light, fire.  Moonlight?  No.  Are the rocks flint?  Not likely. 

He could try anyways.  He grabbed two rocks and proceeded to pound them together over the old torch.  It cracked and shattered in his hands.  Then it made him mad.

How am I supposed to light this without any tools?  He threw the rock towards the pond where it splashed, sending moonlight rippling in sparkling rings.  The moon itself was bright on the surface.  Then, he thought of a way to cheat.

I don’t care.

He prepared the torch, grabbed a new rock and prepared to strike it again.  Then for only a second, he cracked open his eyes to let the light of the bunker lamp enter his consciousness.  It entered with the feelings and pictures of that other world—Mabus cleaning himself up in the quarter-bath and Irena looking board with her book.  The light entered where the rocks had struck and with his will, he made the torch come to life in his hand.

It was a strong light but it seemed artificial.  He didn’t care.  It split him apart at some level, putting him at war with his sense of propriety and realism.  You can’t do that.

Yet he had.  He was.  He did.  It is.  There was no taking away the fire now, not without endlessly debating which world was most real, most valid.  He could have vibrated the two split realities now forever.  He didn’t. 
The fire was lit.  Most of all, it allowed him to explore further into the strange depths of his own imagined universe.

He had hardly noticed how much his back hurt again.  He felt tired.  He relaxed and let go.
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« Reply #51 on: June 22, 2017, 08:12:36 PM »

Chapter 4.4

James proceeded into the mouth of the cave by means of his mind-hacked torch.  If the entrance were an organ, the Chinese would have called it external, or Yang, extending into or through the mountain and not being quite the rocks within it.

A peculiar effect of James’s particular sense dominance, his being kinesthetic, was that his inner world was diffuse, vaguely formed, almost etheric, except where he focused acutely and especially touched.  The effect was of a marbled detailing of what he experienced as if only places here and there concretely existed.  The rest was cloudlike, dreamlike, except where he paid it studious attention.

It was so where he touched the wall upon entering the cold, subterranean cavern.  He felt cold and felt cold stone too where his hand brushed the surface of the wall.  Where he looked and touched there was a bit of moist moss and the most intricately detailed surface of mossy granite stone, such as he had seen elsewhere in the hills of Michigan.

The sensations of damp, cool underground air were vivid to him too, being more recent in his memory and immediately so. The rest was a mist of potential, swimming indefinitely in his periphery.

There was a walk-way, he envisioned, railed with rope of rice-like texture, something like tatami, spanning a dark, narrow expanse opaque with concealed waters.  His light scarcely reached it.  Around the place where his hand touched, the rope had the finest grain bristles detailed in remarkable contrast to the rest against the palm of his hand.

This spotty inner vision could have seemed effortful and slow, but wherever his consciousness passed it created the world that would remain clear to him forever.  That is, what he saw was, and would remain so.  Unless, it changed—which it sometimes would.

He crossed the suspended bridge, to a descending stone path leading to a set of stone stairs.  The stone stairs wound downwards in a counterclockwise helical spiral in huge blocks suspended from the center.  They opened up ways downward, and James nearly counted the steps to keep them vivid and ground himself into the experience.  They opened into a large room illuminated in a dull cadmium red.

The redness seemed as if breathing, or beating.  Down he walked, down, down, around and down.  Down the spiral stairs and further down.  The rhythmic pulsing on the walls gave primitiveness to the living cave.  Down he walked, still down.

At the base of the stairs was a podium of some sort with a large, leather bound book atop it.  Magma poured in a hissing stream from the rock wall, imbibing the very libido of its cavernous depths, but was not the cause of the pulsing.  The walls expanded and receded in a rhythm that came from across the pool to a large…

Sleeping dragon.

James froze in terrified admiration at the moving hill of a beast across from him as he slowly scanned the massive creature with his eyes.  When his eyes fell on the head of the resting monster its eye opened to him as if it had felt itself seen.

James breathed deep from his seated position, feeling his real stomach compress tightly against his spine as he exhaled.  His internal image of himself was frozen on two feet, feeling the magnificent of outright, though unsubstantiated—fear.  It was as much excitement as he had had in weeks—and here in this amazing new little world…

Then, as if he had insulted the dragon by his wondering thought it came fully awake, writhing its body like a tribal dancer and vomiting fire.  The beast roared as it flung its head towards him, missing with flames too high to hit him with the first pass.  James saw an entrance in the rock across from him and sprinted for it.

His breathing changed suddenly, and a distant part of his mind calculated whether Mabus and Irena would notice as she leaped for it.  A solid metal wall slammed shut behind him as a hiss of molten flame pelted its experience.  James lay on the floor, imagine himself to pant.

Then he looked up, at the face of a pretty, amber hair, freckle-faced girl with a round face tugging on his arm. 

“James, are you alright?”

He wondered how she knew his name.  Well, I guess she’s part of me.  He began dusting himself off self-consciously as he sat erect.  There were two others in the room with him, and computers, displays, instruments.

She was cute. Yes, that was alright.  Real or no, there she was and was a sore-sight better than the bleak dark world of damp underground living with his sister and a nice old man.  He would take it.

She wore something like a lab-scientists coat, with a better cut.  They all wore lab equipment, with a more or less casual set, like something from a sci-fi rather than a technical college.

“I’m just fine.  Thank you.”

She had a real Jenny-from-the-block look about her.  And especially a Jenny from his block, say, the block he grew up on.  Just the sort of girl they grew next door, and yet, not like any particular girl he had ever seen before.  She was novel in a downhome wabi-sabi sort of way, which was to say: perfectly imperfect.

She pointed at him teasingly, as much with a finger as with her hips: “you shouldn’t have woken it up.  Why can’t you be quiet?”

And she had that perfect homegrown sass that suited him too.  He could see she’d tease him remorselessly, which suited his self-deprecations appreciably.

“My first time here.”

“Obviously.  You’d think they could send a better candidate.”

“But I’m the only one.”

“Which is the only reason you were picked.”  Her jaw moved flirtatiously to the side.

“Wait, picked for what?”

“To sit in the chair and pretend you’ve got a dick big enough for the job,” she said, pointing to the chair above him.

“So I’m in charge” he shot back confidently.

“I’m in charge.  At least when it comes to you.  You sit in the chair and give commands like you’re told when you’re told and at no other time.  Which is not right now,” she continued as James opened his mouth with another thoughtless retort.

“Right now, we check your general health.  Strip off your clothes.”

James was caught in outright astonishment and only let his mouth hang open.

“Oh give me a break.  Tell me you wouldn’t do it for any back-alley prostitute who’d take your nickel.”

James felt his face flush.

“Do I need to ask again, big boss?”  She eyed him like a broken horse for a moment, then turned her back casually.

“You can leave your clothes there on the floor until we’re done.”

When James was butt naked on the cold stone floor, one of the men took him to a bench with a white surface, lit up from underneath by lights the length of his body.  James laid down with a chill.

“So, where am I” he asked, keeping his mental map of her location in his mind with frequent eyeshot glances.

“The man was a very scientific type with square-framed glasses and short hair, with handsome hard lines.  But James did not feel the regular cock-to-cock assessment between himself and this man as he normally might have, but rather, a vague kinship or familiarity of sorts.

“You’re in the command chamber.  We also run diagnostics on you from here and, well, really anything else you want to know about yourself.”  The man pointed to a screen on the wall above James’s head so that he had to look up to see an outline of himself, upside down from this vantage, on it.  The image of his body was illuminated in lines of nerves and points, something like a cross between a neurology map, and a Chinese meridian chart.

“You’ve got very healthy veins.  Don’t worry.  Just ran some tests on you last night while you were sleeping.”  He winked at him.

His pleasant female seemed busy with another task in another part of the room and was ignoring him perfectly.  The man strapped on a blood pressure monitor and then began sticking acupuncture needles into him, connected to silver thin on some sort of tesla looking device.  James felt the cold stone make cool blood run up his back.

“Ah,” the man said.  “we can stimulate your back to try and get it to warm up a little.  Would you like that?”

“Yeah, sure” he tried to say casually.  “That would be great.”

“Plug him into the dragon and see how he does” the girl said across to him.

“Tsssk.” The man replied.  “You’d fry him for sure.”

“We’ll have to work on that, won’t we” she replied in a professional tone.

“And you watch out for her,” the man said with another wink.  “But I’m a gentleman doctor.  Call me Dee.”

“D?  Just, D?”

“Yeah, Dee.”

“Alright.  I guess I’m not very creative.”

The man shrugged.  “It takes all sorts.”

After some time, the dragon had gone back to sleep and James had entered a deep meditative rest from which he was now being roused, as truly his back was getting sore.  He had taken the needles out and was now offering him a medical gown to wear.

“Thanks, I’ll take my clothes.”  He crossed the room passed she who didn’t look up as he did.

“So, what’s your name?” he asked as he pulled on his shirt.

“I’m Kay.”

“K?” he asked, unsure how to take it.

“Okay.  I mean—”

She looked up at him sharply.

“And you are?”

“Sargey Domitriev,” the third man replied mechanically.  James blinked in amazement.

“Thank you.  Nice to meet you all.  Thank you for ah, taking care of me.  Will visit again soon.”
 
He turned to leave quickly, letting his back relax as he exited the meditation.
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« Reply #52 on: June 22, 2017, 08:14:10 PM »

Subchapter 4.5

Past the sleeping red dragon, and the rhythmic walls, past the stream of molten rock flowing with its own crimson hue against the stone passages, and the girl with sienna-red hair, was another rock hallway worn smooth with the essence of ancientness.  A curving, upward arc of this passageway had four large stone steps, each its own color, following a prismatic progression that began with a brilliant red, as of cleaned firebricks.  To his right at each, a door.

This first was of worn cloth like burlap, hole-worn and a bit flapping in the corner.  Through that corner had accumulated a small current of sand as if liquid had poured in and then frozen in its shape.  A hot breeze blew through it as if by the pressure of warmer clime.  James lifted the cloth, spilling sand at his feet.  A desert.

Dunes.  Miles of dunes in sea cap patterns under wind currents as fickle and lazy playing over them.  James breathed sweet relief of the warm, arid airs.  A shiver erupted up his other body, somewhere else now.  The sand, banked beside him; he ran his fingers through it causing it cascade to his feet and into his shoe.  It was hot to the touch.  He smacked his dry lips in want of water.

In the distance, a small glimmer caught his attention.  Some miles away, over naked sand dunes, something sat as of another shape—square or cylindrical, either.  It sparkled with mirage waves under the heat of the pressing sun.  A small city!

It was a long walk.  He would need water in order to make it, he reasoned.  A staff and perhaps a desert robe.  He reentered the cave, letting the cloth fall behind him.

The next door was of solid wood, like oak, of double Dutch architecture and handsomely engraved, and embroidered in living ivy, its stone stair pleasantly orange.  James tried the lower door, and, peeking through smelt the scent of a wooded mountainside and its creek.  Birds chirped from this wooded grove and a butterfly landed on a wildflower beside him.  The rocks had mosses and lichens.

He looked out in wonder to see an ocean spreading far beyond with great cliff-like peninsulas erected monolithically from its waters.  A small triangular patch of white or two at their base seemed as if it were a ship far and far away.

He breathed deeply of this fresh, moist air before turning from it too to the all-too-familiar feel of the cool, damp hallway.

The next was a door of cut crystal, set in well-manufactured wood.  Sunlight spat through its panes in well-lined patterns against the floor and wall.  James opened it unto a small precipice above a large cliff with a long, suspended bridge leading to a great city, a magnificent city built into a towering tree as large as an old redwood.  It sat atop a towering round cliff of its own, a perfect island amidst cliffs and several anchoring stops for the switchback bridge away.

The city seemed active and nighttime was setting there.  In an open field a group of people playing or sport or training for combat.  Many stairways and bridges connected small huts, homes and shops suspended above the rest of that place.  James breathed this in with fond memories of quiet summer nightlife near the waters of Lake Michigan.

The last stair, emerald green and seemingly cut, as the rest, from some semi-precious stone, opened into thin air, directly to open sky.  Clouds passed before his vision into a powder blue sky of serenity with a single great bird soaring in its lofty heights.  In the distance, was a piece of a golden floating city mostly obscured in cloud—but there it was.  It lasted until the cloud covered it again, and then all was blue and snow white, the earth was a mere pastel of mixed colors far beneath him. 

He reflected in wonder, breathing deeply and continued upward.  The hallway terminated into a small room that seemed familiar to him.  It felt homely and comfortable and had an air of imperturbability to it, its thick stone walls now as if vaguely warm and secure from intrusion.  A handsome, but not ornate door was its front, with another to its rear.  And, a bed.  His bed.  His bedroom.

A small lamp on a dresser, a book neatly on that dresser, and an unassuming rug.  A thick, gray quilt made for Michigan winters and a small fireplace with wood beside it.  A closet set into the wall near him with sliding wooden doors, tastefully shut.  Zen, clean, and inauspicious, as plain as he felt himself to be and as near to home as himself.  The “me” of this labyrinthine place.

James took off his shirt and put it in a basket under his bed; this room cleaner than any he had lived in before.  He took of his shoes and left them by the front door.  The room was cold, so he put wood in the fire place and took his time lighting kindling for the procedure.  He sat for a minute on this bed in contemplation, then checked his closet.  There was a simple, large hooded tunic as if something between a Jedi’s robe and a Bedouin cloak.

He returned to the bed, relaxed and slipped under the covers, there to fall asleep and dream. 

The desert tomorrow then.

He awoke.
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« Reply #53 on: June 22, 2017, 08:16:59 PM »

He took a large plastic jug with him into his meditation today by putting it beside himself in the half-lotus sitting posture he was trying out and seeing it last.  It appeared with him in his room, where he woke up.  He donned the tunic from the closet—a seamless fit.

For water, he entered the orange door, going far enough to hear the birds and collect it from the stream.  Then he reentered the stone passageway and walked through the burlap door.  I need sandals, he thought.
The imagined heat was half as good as real desert air, but it seemed to warm his psyche sufficiently.  Yes, there was that vivid desert pressure, that bone-warming feeling of breathing cocooned in thick blanket and yet trying to breathe.  Arid breaths burning in the nose and throat like a shot of bourbon on a summer’s night.

There were two or three miles, maybe four, to the city across the sands from him.  He left footsteps in as he went.  Step by step he made the long trek in his mind, cheating nothing from his own experience of it and appreciating the warmth.

In due time he made it to the outpost, where a man was unloading grain sacks from a camel at the gate and was speaking in Arabic.  The guards, looking at his wares hardly headed James as he passed through the stone gates.

Inside, the city was a bustle with vendors, grocers, merchants, craftsmen and townsfolk wandering amidst them.  People sat in corners smoking and gossiping, in the shade of worn cloth overhanging the carts.  A man moved with a single cow through the city, its bell clanging back and forth in rhythm well in time with the pace of things.  An old woman sold fortunes from the entrance of a sandstone shop.

People moved in the streets in a way which reminded James of slow swap-meets back home, where he often browsed for cheap HAM radio gear.  There was a merchant there, weighing coins shrewdly on a scale.  The man looked up at him from one eye.

James walked to where he was.  The gaunt-limbed man with a hawkish nose surveyed him appraisingly.

“May I help you.”

“Yes, can you exchange currency?”

“What currency.”

“American dollars.”

“The man’s upper lip betrayed a twitch, then he sucked in a little air through his teeth.  James thought back to the wallet he had carried on a plane ride to Washington, detoured to Idaho.  He hadn’t checked that wallet since the hotel.  But he thought, maybe sixty, sixty-five?  Seventy, with ones and change.

“You won’t like the exchange rate.  Not here.  One silver to an hundred of your dollars.”

James shifted in place.

“I have less than seventy, and can add three papers to it.  Good paper.”

“No.  Not for less than seventy.”

“One hundred to one?”

“You can’t exchange that kind of coin anywhere around here.  Not anywhere!  I’m telling the truth!  No one will take this.  So you’re lucky to get one silver out of an hundred, ok?

“Then why will you take it?

The man stammered, astonished.  “Me?  Why will I take it and no one else?  Because I know how to sell it, that’s why.  Or rather, I know who to sell it to.  How to spin a story out of it.  Make it something it’s not—precious, rare, exotic.  So seventy of yours buys 10 pieces here and that’s all.

"What can I buy with that?"

"A loaf of bread.  Maybe two—if you wash a few dishes perhaps."

"That's outrageous."

" Outrageous!  Who’s outrageous?  You think you can come here and force your money on me, no way.  This is outrageous."

The man's cynical stare made plain the middle-easterner's hard pragmatic aptitude with coin and numbers.  He seemed as hard-nosed about his coin as were the lines of his face.

"What good is paper money to me here, huh?  The people here would make cigarettes with it at best.  I cannot exchange this directly.   Not anywhere.  Not for a thousand miles in any direction, or behind any special door."  The man split.  "I mean, it's not even precious metal.  Your money's useless to me ok?   Good luck if you want to try but I doubt you'll get bread for it.  Some beans maybe."

James stared back at the man setting against him for an obvious swindle, a sudden hot rage happily gripping him.  He wanted sandals, not a loaf of bread.  He was sure this would cost more and the man was taking him for an dunce.

"A dollar buys me a loaf of bread where I come from.  It's good money.  I could sell it better myself as foreign art to any cloth vendor around here.  One hundred to one is extortion."  He weighed his next words briefly, casting a guess at the difficult merchant.  "Fifteen silver for my seventy."

The gasped in amazement.  "Who do you think you are!  I don't care what your money's worth to you!  Twenty silver for seventy nothing!"  The man snorted.  "No way!"

"Then I'll move on."

"Go ahead, move on then.  Please."

"I need more than a loaf of bread."

"Don't ply me with your moralism boy!  What do you know of the world?  Some privileged foreigner with no sense of ethics.  What do you know of ethics with all your education, huh?  Nothing.  And what does the world owe you?  Nothing!  And that is the answer I have for you.  Nothing!  Not a breadcrumb or a drop of water; not if you come to me or anyone else here thirsty and naked and hungry and under abuse."

The man’s words had the paternal overtone of James’s father on a drunken philosophic rant.

"Stupid boy.  You think ethics can come before coin?  You think your philosophy can buy bread for you?  Not ever, nor will it ever.  Look at the desert and learn this one thing from its majestic brutality—you deserve nothing but what you earn through your own sweat and blood and tears.  Look at any animal in the sand that lives by stealing and outwitting and competing with all sorts of hostility.  You think there is an ethic higher than coin?"

The man began laughing to himself.

"Money is the highest moral authority in this world boy!  Understand this.  Feel it.  Appreciate it with every cell in your body.  With money you buy a sense of liberation from the struggle for survival—only!  But without it not one of your precious ideals will hold an ounce of fluid to your parched lips when the vultures circle over your head for the blood in your tissues.

"You can buy naivety.  You can even buy it for someone else, but know this - if you chose to remain naive and ignore the true philosophy, the philosophy of real value, then know that someone bought you that liberty at the cost of their own pain and suffering.  Your flesh is so plump with complacency I'm not sure you could ever understand.  You’re a rich grape drunk on its own juices.

“Everything you have came from your parents or whatever other selfless creature raised you.  And not even this much explanation of anything do you deserve!”

The blood has risen like the desert sun to James's head, and he felt as if he could sweat hatred outright.

"I know how to work!" he said through gritted teeth.

"Then go to work!  There's a coal mine over there that might take you at one silver a day, ten hours hard labor.  Maybe, but I don't think you'd last one."

Ten hours hard labor, James heard in his mind, remembering the long work shifts he had hated at the grocers in his home town.  That easy work that had bought him an Aikido education after his father had stopped paying for his in high-school, and finally a small apartment several years later.  His father had said something similar.

It was all he had been able to afford despite full-time work on a diet of rice, eggs and sparse vegetables, but he had done it.  Earned it for himself.  It was true he owned nothing, and this man in himself obviously knew better the limits of profitable understanding in James's psyche.

He was biting his teeth hard in anger, he realized.  Something here had struck a delicate cord in James's interior.  He returned to the breath he had ceased to attend and let his avatar self breathe out in a huff.

"I'll take whatever you'll give me for my money," he relented.

The merchant's eye glimmered between approval and disgust like his father’s on a wine.  "Then I'll add a fee for good advice and we'll agree that you earned that."

James almost lost his temper entirely but remembered Mabus and Irena sitting not far from his meditating body and decided to hold it.  He focused on his breath.

"Agreed." he said, simmering.  An egg could have baked on his forehead as much as on metal under the sun in this desert place.

"Eight pieces, and you can buy a loaf of bread over there."  The man said it with a coldness appropriate to those that live in the desert.

James took the pieces metered out to him, and was turning to go when he felt a commotion in the crowds around him.  Something bumped into him hard, and suddenly someone shouted to "seize the boy!"  Irena had dropped a water jug which rolled into him.

With his proprioceptive awareness, James grasped a tangle of something trying to get away from him.  He pulled up a ragged shirt with a young street orphan in it.

"He stole my coin!  He stole my coin!" a man shouted from yet afar.

James looked in compassion at the mess of a boy—deep brown adolescent eyes and dirty limbs.  The boy was screaming, "Let me go!  Let go of me!"

The men were approaching.  James let go of the boy and stepped out to them.  The men stopped momentarily as they were about to grab him, astonished that James had released him.
"Hey, you let him..."

"How much did he steal?" he asked the men.

"Three pieces.  Not much, but more than that street rat deserves."

And more than I deserve, James heard himself think.  He took five from his pouch and handed them to the men. 

"A few extra for your troubles," he said, placing coins in the larger man's hand, which rose almost unconsciously to take them.

The man stared at the coins, huffed angrily at the boy, and turned around.

James caught the merchant's eye as he left the streets; it twinkled with a sense of mutual understanding, and yet somehow betrayed no interest in the affair.

He walked back the long way to his room, feeling hungry, and dreading his usual meal of beans, rice and fermented cabbage.  His three coins clunked unpromisingly on the nightstand and he laid down to complete his mediation, his back relaxing into an imagined soft bed.

He hadn't realized how deep this meditation had been until the familiar clammy cold sunk into him again, as familiar as close family, and he shivered.  How real that place had felt!  For only a few minutes he had forgotten this dismal underground world as completely as if he had really been somewhere.  Someplace warm and dry and hot, with different lessons, different struggles.  Other problems than the ones too familiar to him and close at hand.

He had really been someplace other.  So much so as in a dream, that his very nerves and emotions seemed changed by those circumstances and events; the climate of that strange place; and the attitudes and beliefs of those there.  A world within himself he had never seen before.

Before he rested, he searched his bag for the wallet and withdrew the money.  The paper he burned then between his fingers, as if in offering.  The coins he rolled into toilet paper for his next trip to the abode, to be disposed of with finality.

Mabus watched his ritual act with quiet interest, but said nothing about it.
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mako
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Posts: 70



« Reply #54 on: June 23, 2017, 05:31:19 AM »

Chapter 4.6 – Orange Door

Inside the orange door, James revisited the cool creek circling down the mountainside.  He knelt and drank straight from it, cupping his hands to his lips.  He had entered more hydrated this time, remembering his dry lips from the session before.

There were maples, oaks and pine in this forest, with understories of wild berry, grass and even moss on large, smooth boulders.  The air was clear and fresh with the smell of salt blowing up from the coastline.  Squirrels, rabbits, deer and bear James felt as much as saw in the wooded hills. 

The door behind himself was cut into vertical rock, as if a cave door.    He filled his water again from the creek and began walking quietly down an old animal trail towards the beach, listening to birds and crickets as he went.  He took his time and enjoyed it.

The beach opened unto a vista of magnificence.  Large archipelagos with sheer cliffs and steep banks wooded thickly out in the open waters.  Several large ships with ancient cloth masts drifted amongst them auspiciously, catching gusts of wind in their sails, the smaller of which seemed to be fishing vessels between at various points between the islands.

As he walked along the sands, he imagined he could hear something rhythmic, like his own heartbeat.  He followed the sound some ways to where it grew into drum-like patterns.  Then voices as of those singing, and other instruments.  A hand drum and berimbau, the stringed instrument of dance used by Brazilian slave dancers for their martial art.  Other humans dancing and singing together by the waters.  He felt deeply excited as if it issued from his gut.

The group was happily engrossed in the sand.  Several large men cast kicks at each other in the traditional Capoeira form, their arms and legs covered in exotic tattoos.  Several women too, dress in little more than was ever tasteful in beach culture, their wrists, necks and ankles embroidered in handmade jewelry and their skin appreciably darkened by long exposure to the sun.

They ushered James too them with shouts and laughter, large smiles on their faces.  James joined the roda with delight, and began to sing and move as he watched the two men circling, kicking out and withdrawing.  Then soon the two men parted and he was invited to step in against the winner.

He tried to imitate and learn the kicking style, as he had learned it on short occasion from a group of practitioners in Michigan.   His gymnastics had given him some ability with headstands and handstands so that he had some natural way with its inverted moves.  The man swirled his feet around with grace and precision, allowing James for a time to hold his own against him.  Then finally the man tapped him gently with a foot that he could not have blocked and he returned to the circle at the sound of congratulation and communal laughter.

Then, as if he had overlooked it before, there saw the woman playing the stringed berimbau.  She looked at him gently from beneath long, natural lashes with azure blue eyes.  Her neck was elegant and her skin was the perfect mullato tan envied by Europeans and smooth as the ocean surface.  She wore fine crafted beads of coral and rare sea shells on coconut fiber; her hands delicate against the single string of the instrument.  The cloth she wore was of animal skin of some sort aged by weather and water as of one who had lived here long.  Her hair was dark and long and hung straight in waving curls as though a single sheet cascading over her strong and delicate shoulders.

She was, Her.  Somehow someone he already knew.  Someone very familiar to him though he had never seen her before.  His perfect woman. 

She was some enigma of his subconscious desires wrapped in a package too perfect to be found anywhere else.  He remembered staring at the image of a Brazilian model with a similar feeling as a young man.  Except now, She was even more real to him.

When the Angola stopped, she laid down the instrument with a graceful delicacy and walked to him.  James felt his blood boil in anticipation.  She put her hand out to take his and lead him a small ways from the group.  They did not seem to notice or take undue interest in this.

“James,” she said, looking him in the eyes.  Her neck was tall and well suited to her frame.  It showed the delicacy of a spring fawn tough not without strength.  Her eyes pierced to the center of his heart undefeated and he felt a wellspring of vitality within him.

“Yes,” he replied.

“Dance with me.”

James found he could not speak.  He was overwhelmed with this woman as close to him as his own heart, and indeed within it as it seemed.  It seemed to break him over with emotion and pleasure as though the ocean itself had released from within him and was gushing up through his organs like an ecstatic fountain of absolute internal happiness, of joy.

These feelings seemed so distant to him that it almost hurt, as water singes dry skin or parched land for a time.  This fluid emotion felt apart from him, strange as it twisted his guts into colors in a way he had too long forgotten.

And he found there he had no sexual desire for her.  At least, not in the way he had that basic desire for other women.  No, she was too precious for that.  Too enchantingly perfect.  No trace of mere lust could have entered his consciousness in regards to her; she was too high above that and not because he would not.  Oh, he would.  But he could savor each fleeting second of being with her because she was supremely worthy of James’s highest virtues foremost to anything, and he knew he could wait ten thousand lifetimes for a woman of this resplendency.

She had moved a hand to his shoulder and begun to dance with him in the sunset, a quiet Argentine tango of intimate subtlety, and had moved close.  And somehow, James had held a thousand thoughts and feelings about her in the space of those few seconds while at the exact same time remaining completely and totally absorbed in the minutia of those few romantic seconds of blissfulness awareness. He was total here and yet completely lost in a world of ravishment, wonder and holy dedication.

He felt ten times the man then and held himself strong with his spine erected to relaxed dignity he had never known.  He felt his spine surge with deep sensual energy that held him upright and seemed to heal the pain of fatigued muscles there.  His breathing deepened as he held her hand to dance.  He wanted no place else to be in the entire moment.

Feeling strengthened by her silken touch, he danced with her and his slow breathing for a long time, much longer than any previous meditation by a factor of no less than two.  Twenty, thirty and perhaps forty minutes passed before the image seemed to slip away and he let go his dancing partner on the beach, the sun now having set in his mind. 

His back was sore, but in another way entirely.  It had held him up for twice the length of time and yet felt stronger, better than before he had started.  It had that pleasant soreness of good exercise; not painful in any way.
The bitter return to reality did not dishearten him this time.  Instead, he found renewed inspiration for enduring his trail here.  He could not be so easily conquered again by his weaknesses and struggles.  For he knew She would be there again.

Mabus and Irena were already asleep when he returned, so using the light from the watch he settled himself in next to his sister, and mouthed the words to himself as he was falling asleep: “I love you.”
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