(Dear Everyone: Below is the entire version of my novel REPORT THE EARTH)
–for Samantha, Janice, and Unsuk
Converging. Everyone converging. What you think is convergence may be something else. Everybody converging to drink from a spring. And when you leave the spring are you like water flowing out, disappearing, reaching out like an appendage? Springs. Sources. Everything a spring. Look at this desert. It is a spring in itself. It is appearing. It is born. But then I am born, too. And history is born. Converging. Making love. To converge is to be a spring. With sun and moon and stars and everyone who comes to drink it. Sometimes I go up to the reservoir on the mountain, the lake on top this desert mountain, to use these gills. And they break out of my skin and it’s like Ahhhhhhh! So good! And down inside that mountain lake in the middle of this desert it’s like listening to Earth. The voice in the center. It’s like getting a report, a report on the state of this being we’re on, a report on myself. You can’t put it into words.
Altarberry. That’s what he named himself, out of the blue. One day he just said My name is Altarberry as if that made him some type of bigshot, bigger than the rest of us. It’s strange—Altarberry is like the humans that were here in this place a long time ago. When the mountains were cities. When there were more people than plants. When what is now beneath the plants shone in the sun. Metal. Glass. Things strangely symmetrical. I can see them in my dreams and when I look at the fabrics. So many people like Altarberry. Millions. Billions. But now I don’t know anybody like him. In fact, nobody’s really alike. Maybe a few. So maybe Altarberry doesn’t really stand out. There just used to be a lot of them. A lot of Altarberries. But back then in that era, humans didn’t look all that alike anyway. Just the same number of eyes (generally), the same number of feet, arms, things like that. Things that don’t mean anything.
That memory of choosing this life. I know the process I remember is not what really took place. It’s more like a translation. So much of it is constructed in reverse order from where I am now, from the perspective of this perception. The important thing is the choosing. That I know it was a choice. In a way, it sets you free. Not in all my lives, especially the human, do I remember I choose it. But then events, events after the choosing—are they lessons? That’s what you may think. I chose this life to learn freedom, to learn acceptance, to learn captivity, to learn pain, whatever, to learn to be aquatic, to learn to be on land, to learn androgyny—but it’s all more exciting than that. It’s all more personal than that. I know it. And by personal I mean it could never be defined as one lesson, or even multiple lessons. It’s all much vaster. Sometimes I think more than anything I chose Earth. And that these gills that break out, these webs and scales, that grow when I touch the water—that grow into the water—they’re just part of the agreement, the collaboration. Like I chose Earth and then we got together and came up with this physiology, and beyond that it’s all improvisation. Reporting, experiencing, may have nothing to do with learning.
Of course, people talk to me. Inside. From other places. It’s hard to put into words. Altarberry says people only talk with words. Outloud. Which is a really weird belief he has cause almost everybody talks with their minds, like telepathically. They might makes sounds or movements or whatever, but it’s usually just a small part of what’s happening from mind to mind. I used to talk back to the people from other places who I couldn’t actually see in front of me, people from other histories and fabrics. I had to cut it down to just one, although I do converse with other people at times from a distance inside like that. Unless I can see them—then that’s different, then we usually talk inside each other anyway. And if I talked to everybody, if I let everybody speak inside me, it’d be totally endless. There’s billions of voices to speak to that you can’t see just like there were billions of humans on Earth. And some people are boring. Some don’t have bodies even in other places. They’re not actually in other lives. Some who don’t have bodies think they know more than you do, or they try to make you believe it. But some of them are scared to have a body, like a body of their own. So I don’t talk to them. Sometimes I wonder about Altarberry, like maybe people talk to him and he doesn’t even know it. Like why the hell did he call himself Altarberry? Or maybe it’s just his History. His History’s talking to him. He thinks he’s smarter than me but I gotta be the one to figure it all out.
Sometimes I walk around the dreams and fabrics and really think about them. That world that Altarberry thinks he came from, you can make it like looking at music, music all laid out. But it’s full of strange, weird sounds. Is Altarberry really the same as that world? If you placed him next to the humans I think you could say that. But what about everybody else? Like the foxes. I love them. Somehow I feel they’re still here in this world. But somewhere far away. Once in a dream I looked out of one of their eyes. They have two eyes. That’s funny. Altarberry has two eyes. I have one eye. My one eye is bigger than four of those type of human eyes put together. It’s like four or five Altarberry eyes. All the worlds are like music and you can lay em all out. If you have time. It’s like with the voices. You gotta choose things. Put it in your repertoire. But only if you think it’s worth it. Altarberry’s world is just one. There’s so many. It’s like diving in an ocean of fabrics, layers and layers, shimmering folds and contours, everything, every color, every form you could ever think of. I don’t know how he does it. How can you go in there and choose just one? And keep track of it? Sometimes I think that’s why he’s older than me. Like really we’re the same age. But since he’s focused on this History thing he’s older.
All those past lives—they’re always changing, shifting, growing, giving me nutrients like I give to them. It’s just I’m me. All those lives—almost like birds, and I’m like a hollow, living tree that they want to nest in, preen themselves on my branches. In some lives I never knew about the rest of us, the other lives—almost like a family—existed. In some lives I knew more, or focused on it more. Like my awareness was a musician of lives. But now I’m me. I know. I feel. But in a lot of ways I leave it all alone. Just living is reporting. Reporting the earth.
But Altarberry’s different. He had parents that came from here a long time ago. He says he was born here and then taken away and brought back. I know in one history, the one he believes in, all the humans on this planet died. Some were taken off on ships. Altarberry and his parents were with them. That’s what he says. The space people took them off, saved them, and then his parents brought him back. Who knows why. He says the space people were humans who had colonized another planet. But I’m not so sure about that. But the Earth—it was like the Earth shook it’s skin, blinked its eye just in the right way, and all those humans disappeared. Billions. That’s the History that Altarberry loves, the time when the humans were still here, more humans than anything. It’s a funny history because I could be human, too, except for my eye—it’s too big and I only got one, and I can’t really talk like them, even though I try cause Altarberry’s my best friend. Those humans really liked to talk. And my arms, too. And my tongue, I guess. I know they wouldn’t let me be a human.
The sea. I know it exists. I’m listening from the desert. The girl so far away who lives in the city, the mountains, against the sea. Mira. So much space between me and it. Between me and her. Although we never met. Just her voice. Just speaking to each other from the desert to the sea, from this desert mountain to her mountains green, wet, covered with moss. Speaking yet not addressing each other. Reporting, and yet to everything. I know the sea is out there. So deep. And this life here in the desert so deep to have stayed in one place so long. And if I travel to the sea, to Mira, I’ll feel the stretching. But now, I climb up to the lake. The lake on top this desert mountain. It’s night. It’s like climbing up to the stars. Up here I’ll be able to hear it. I’ll listen with my gills. Movement. Fresh. Cold. Music passing through. All this time on land. It’s stretched me. So many past lives. So many future lives. Like songs. The thing about land is trying to keep your bearing among all the lives that you lived, that you will live—all those lives want to use your body as a home, as a station. On land you remember all these things, into the future, into the past. In the water it’s different. This trail. It’s been here forever. Even when it was only stars. Only space. Before the earth existed. Maybe that’s in the future. Climbing into the future. Discerning the past where the future is and the future in the past. This trail in the past may have been a comet burning through space until it turned to earth. To this trail. Rocks. Hardening. Pinions flaring their cerulean illumination. Like desert candles. Just this trail pouring from the bowl of the mountaintop filled with the lake. And grains of night shimmering like moon-rain. All the flowers drinking so deep. I climb to the top, the lip of the mountain, and look out. So high in the high desert. So many miles. I was here in the desert for a brief time in another life. My only other earth life. Not my only other human life, but my only human life on this earth. For most of it we lived deep underground. That life was just like a glimpse. Like a tiny solo in existence’s vast symphony. A human. Now there’s no reason to call myself anything.
I think the desert girl thinks those thoughts for me, the history of before I became this form—other lives, other experiences, other planets, if I had any. But really, I think I just appeared. Right now, and maybe for the rest of this life, that’s all I’ll need to know. I’ve looked around myself for fabrics that belong just to me but there isn’t any. That’s how a lot of us come here—we just appear. She thinks about the past and future, like her own. And her thoughts are like flowers inside me where in certain places, certain regions, before, I thought there was nothing. I could adopt them like children, all these past lives of hers, or these other lives that I’m supposedly connected to just because they’re flowers and just because I decided to listen to the desert girl, but I got all my own life, and I gotta figure things out for Altarberry, too. But everybody thinks about something and you can just take it up if you want to, take it on, like I got all these fabrics, all these worlds and variations I can see, of everyone around me, so thick, it’s like my own ocean, my own form.
But I try not to look too far into that History. Altarberry’s History. There’s so much I don’t understand. And it hurts to look at. It makes my head all crimped up cause it’s incomprehensible, but at the same time it wants you to understand it. Everything wants to be understood, not like the mechanisms of it like hey you gotta understand how my blood moves—but just like breathing together. It’s like winking. It’s like I wink my eye at someone and the way my lashes descend and lift they know and I know and we’re all just here and it’s great. But yeah, that History. Altarberry’s History. Or what he decided was his History. I guess it’s that mix of beauty and pain, just like here, that’s hard to understand. And then the humans. I just can’t see Altarberry doing the things they did. As far as I can tell, I think they thought that when you die you die and because of that they did the horriblest things. Like it was nothing at all. I guess it was all because they thought they were humans. Everything was to help humans. It’s like they couldn’t stop—they just cut everything open they could, injected everything with diseases and cures and electrodes and put things in cages, saying they were saving the world, or saving each other, but they’d do that to each other, too, like they’d kill and mutilate so many of each other as if it was nothing at all. And then cover the Earth with chemicals, tear into it like mad surgeons, taking, taking organs and covering the wounds with pollution. They had this whole thing that it was part of nature and survival. Part of growth. But it’s really cause they thought that when you die you die. Anger—they were so angry and afraid. And abandoned. I don’t get it—how can you be abandoned when you came here, when you chose it? Sometimes I wish I could walk into that world and change it, tell everybody it’s ok, but I know they’d cut me up. Or keep me in a laboratory forever. Two arms. Two legs. Two eyes. Like it means something. But that didn’t ever mean anything. So you can see why the earth shook its skin. It blinked like I was talking about, like it knew, and every one of them disappeared. Except for the ones taken away in the ships.
Talking like Altarberry’s super crazy, though. I don’t know what it is but I can talk to like almost everybody else—we just talk with our minds, talk with the music that’s everywhere—but that human language is weird, it’s like he blocked off all the other ways of communicating. I don’t think my throat was made for it. Or there’s some connection that Altarberry has between his throat and his thoughts that I don’t have. That’s why he always laughs at me. That’s why he always calls me stupid. Two arms. Two legs. Two eyes. Little tongues. And I guess the throat thing.
Of course, Altarberry was raised by so many beings, but then he broke away. As soon as he could take care of himself. He’s really good at it. Sometimes I try to help him, but I don’t eat anything he does. It’s like a whole different language. And he’s forgotten that everyone took care of him. That makes him different. Like really different. It’s almost like an ability that no one else has. Or like a loyalty. I mean, loyalty doesn’t need to happen cause we’re just here together, and that Xs out the loyalty thing. It’s like he has this musical ability or something that’s really specific. Like really he’s loyal to that History—he’s living with it. It’s funny to sleep with someone and they’re sleeping with something that doesn’t really exist.
Other people can see the fabrics, too. But I think I can see them a little more. It’s like fabrics spreading out in all directions. Thousands. Millions. Deep as the sky. Deep as the ocean. And different, too. Like if I’m around a certain person it’s like I’m at a new starting point in the fabrics, a new center. Like a new well of music. It flows out. And I can see worlds that I never knew existed. And from fabric to fabric there’s all kinds of avenues, all kinds of differences. Different ideas. The thing I like though is I’ve never seen anyone like me, with all the same things. I’ve definitely seen people who are close. Like the humans. Like Altarberry’s History. They’re close to me. We could even be the same if they thought that way. There was a lot of people born in that world that some people kept hidden. Or they surgically changed them after they were born. Or pretended they didn’t exist. Not only that but they created a ton of new people, too. It’s like some of the humans went crazy. Changing the outside of things. It’s funny, they’d create people and they wouldn’t think they were human, even though they created them. That’s why I know they’d cut me up, put me in a cage or something, inject me with viruses I didn’t agree with—I’d be all full of tubes. Of course, some humans would think I was beautiful, or fascinating, and put me on display. Or just different. They’d try to make me breed like humans. Even though I don’t have those type of things in my body. Or take things from my body to make more of me. Or cut off some of my arms so they wouldn’t feel uncomfortable because I’m like them but different. Cause I’m like their dreams. The closer you are to them the more afraid they are of you. But I’d disappear before that. Then they’d just have my body. But, anyway, that’s the thing—there’s fabrics radiating out of Altarberry, too, just as many as anybody else. But he’s stuck on that one. He doesn’t know that there’s worlds, there’s Earths where humans are different, where Earth didn’t have to take a big breath and hold it till all the humans disappeared. It didn’t even have to make that type of decision. So why Altarberry loves the one where everybody died I don’t know. But I think he’s feeding it, giving it something by wanting to go back to it that keeps it alive, maybe even keeps it from changing. But there’s other beings involved in Altarberry’s History that he doesn’t even know about—maybe the History’s hiding it from him—but they’re really different—they’re white beings with ferns on their backs and one eye, but in a way they’re human, too.
The deer are at the shore. This is the time they’re all the same color. They must be blue, the blue of blue, vibrant golden spots I think. Like mushrooms. It’s hard to see their colors within the night…that’s interesting: as if daylight reveals something’s true colors and not the other way around. Antlers glowing. By morning, one of them will have changed. They all have to sleep at some point and then when they wake one of them will be magenta, or jade, and their spots will be different: orange, even black, like islands, continents. But now I walk through them and just say hi just by walking through. Everyone nods to me or looks deep into me and I feel it, as if they put their antlers in there and touched the other side. And I do it, too, reach way deep into them, like caressing a wall, like the wall of a cave, as if you’re in the dark knowing that beneath your hand are priceless jewels so beautiful, so sharp you’re bleeding. When they awake, that one deer, whatever color it is, will do a dance, and you’ll see, throughout the day, that dance will change their color, the rest of them, you’ll even see how they even take on nuances of the dance’s movements in their walking, their eating, their goofing around, their listening which is endless, so by evening they’ll all be the same color again. Deer are big listeners. They taught me a lot. Like a deer, always listening. To the endless desert. To this bowl of mountain. All in a bowl to drink. And maybe I’m the one to be poured down to the south. To the city against the sea. Water meeting. Water drinking. Maybe I’m being sent as an emissary. We’re all at the well. The moon. The deer. Everyone watching while they dance. Listening while they dance. Filling forms like leaves adjusted by the wind into patterns arising. My feet are at the edge of the lake. Like one drum held to another. The drum of sky and the drum of this smooth water. It must’ve been a volcano. But the water is so cold. The voice of the water. And then the voices within the water, which is the voice of the water, too. I’m here, I say. I want to be a voice of your voice, too. My body another voice in your body, in your volume. The speaking beneath the speaking. The swimming beneath the swimming. I step in. Part of the depth. I can feel myself changing. I look back at the deer. That’s what I love about them, they can just stand there, or doing their simple dance just by shifting, eating, whatever, watching you, listening, but when you look back at them, when you’re on the verge of something else, that’s when you see what they really do. But you have to keep moving, you can’t turn around. If you do, they may even disappear. Or act like you’re hunting them. And maybe you are. You have to watch over your shoulder and keep moving. The water rises higher on my legs. Once I asked if I could spend a whole night and day with them and they let me. It was beautiful to be with them and just watch them change colors. But when I was leaving the mountain, when I was at the lip of the crater the next night leaving, I looked back—that’s when I first saw what they did. What they really did. Of course, I turned all the way around and they disappeared. That’s how I learned you don’t turn around. You keep going, so so slowly, but you keep going, going into that next place, except you’re watching over your shoulder. So now as I descend into the lake, as I’m transforming, I watch the deer. Antlers. Tails. A triangulation. Like trees and white fire. Listening beneath the listening. Speaking beneath the speaking. Dancing beneath the dancing. And then they come together. It’s like an ecstasy as I go deeper in, my skin changing, flaring colors. My gills are alive, waiting for the water to reach my neck, yearning to take part in this body. Where do they go when I’m on land? Somewhere, somewhere off into the space inside me, a fold in the endless rolling colors. My skin getting greener beneath the scales. I’m just a canvas for the moon. The deer’s antlers are turning silver. They back together into a ring, facing out. A circle of silver, pulsing trees of antlers, and in the center another of swaying ivory fire. All in this bowl, this drum held to the moon…by earth, by the mountain. The water, it’s speaking through me. I’m becoming its voice. Endless silk. Internal silk. The silk of an eyelid. It’s at my chest. The voice is swallowing me. I’m swallowing myself. Moon, I’ll gaze at you when I’m all the way in. I’ll remember. Deer music. It’s like looking at a star. The mountain growing. The lake deepening. They stand up on their hind legs together. Stars raining down. Arching. Antlers rubbing together. Fire within the forest. Silver like winter. Fire beyond the mountain. Stars raining. Stars lifting into grooves of night. That music of their antlers. So vibratory the surface of the lake tightens and prickles. A shifting you’d never see. Unless you look back. Look back while committed to the next breadth. The next step. Committed to the land. Committed to the water. To the moon. To the listening. My gills break free. Ahhhhhhhh! I’m crying. But soon my eyes will only know water. Won’t even know if they’re drinking or exuding. But still the deer music. The music that’s rearranging the music of the sky. Why do they do it? Just to see the music happening around them. Moon, I remembered you. I’m looking up. Watching you bending. And inside the lake another world burning blue.
Sometimes when I really get pissed at Altarberry I think about showing him what it was really like. I know I could do it. Sometimes I’ll see him in a dream and if I’m in a bad mood I’ll hide or shift into some other world or just make myself invisible. He dreams a lot different than I do. For one thing, he doesn’t remember anything. It’s like that History, those words or whatever he listens to, just covers him over when he wakes up. Or what he does remember is absolutely totally different than what happened. It’s so weird. But sometimes it’s weird, too, cause sometimes there’s this total other Altarberry. It’s like his twin brother. And we fly everywhere together. Once we even switched eyes like he took my eye on his forehead and I looked out of his two eyes and we couldn’t stop laughing. Altarberry has really beautiful eyes. So blue. He’s the only person around with blue eyes. It was so exciting. When we woke up I jumped on him and said: “We gotta—do da da da dooo it…some…sa saaaa some morrrrrrrrra!” He almost smiled, but then he pushed me off. Altarberry’s always pushing me away. “I…I…I want your eyyyyyyes! I…want…eyyyyyes!” “You’re a weirdo,” Altarberry said very calmly and walked away. That’s typical. That’s another thing—Altarberry doesn’t want me sleeping next to him. He says that only people of the same species are supposed to sleep next to each other. But I know people from Altarberry’s bigshot History used to sleep with dogs and cats, too, but there’s not too many dogs and cats around. Or they’re not the same. But I end up next to Altarberry anyway when I’m in that part of the mountains, the outskirts of the old human city. That’s the only place Altarberry hangs out. He sleeps in this little pagoda in this open area in front of this building that used to be covered with moss. But I guess it used to be a human building before it got covered in moss so it’s probably not that weird. It’s just the only one anywhere that looks like before. He spent tons of time uncovering it. That’s where Altarberry and his History thing hang out. It’s a weird place cause that History kinda stops the mosses, not totally, but it stops them from flourishing. In the rest of the mountains it’s like just tons of mosses and lichens and plants, and interesting people, and the beautiful big green spores rising and falling. But the History’s like a dome that surrounds Altarberry. And when you’re in it, everything’s a little different. Everything’s dimmer and this strange yellow. A yellow I’m not sure my eye really understands because it’s made of some strange combination of things. Or ideas. Maybe it’s just because it has to do with the past, but it’s hard to see the spores of the mountains, harder to hear them, and even the stars are dimmer or you can’t see them at all. It’s like this hundred yard radius, but as soon as you get out of it everything’s back to normal. But I guess I like it when we sleep and our fingers touch. They’re like old crab buddies hugging each other. Then he wakes up and I’m staring at him. He hates it! But Altarberry’s my best friend.
The blue burning changes me. Webs between all my fingers. My spinal fins that when I flare make me glow, that sends that rush into my blood, too. The opium of the water, of being beneath. And all Time washed away. Past lives. Future lives. On the land their own ecstasy. In the water…gone. Time measured by what? And a measurement creates Time. A flashing school. A glimpse of someone peaking from the coral. Just letting ourselves be known is a way of greeting. Our way. Feet elongated. I belong to the voice. I already belonged to it, but I’ve asked to belong to it, too. I’m at the beginning of the stretching. The length, the distance of the stretching, and then the shift—that’s the marking of my time. Sometimes you forget that it’s all not your body. That the moon elongating, continenting, then re-adhering, isn’t your mind. The deer music, all that vibrating, it’s in here, too. Deep in the mountain. In the mountain blood. Yes. The ocean. The girl’s voice. I have to hold them both. Let them run through my gills. See them with my hands. My webs against their skin. Inside their skin. Travel to the sea. How far? I dive deeper. It’s like a cone, a cave, this mountain lake, to the center of the earth. A cave painted with artists. A cave with other caves leading off it where other beings live. Everything glowing in its own way. Descending. It’s so easy to know that that flashing school of fish is your thoughts, that bundle of eels is your intention, and that this body is their theme, in the thickness, the silk, all in this mind hidden by the reflected night—all so connected, every breath. Glowing coral, like brains, all different colors. And my brain I place among them. It just happens to be here above my shoulders—even on land it’s in its own water—the water reaching into my ears calling. Electricity. Not thoughts. Not music. But now among the coral this brain takes its place. Electricity. And the fish that come and eat from us, clean us. Clean the currents. As I swim deeper. Did I leave it behind? So cold. So beautiful. Everything is my skin. I am everyone’s skin.
Not too long ago I got lost. It was crazy. It was after I really looked at Altarberry’s History thing. I never was lost before cause it never really mattered where I was. But suddenly it did. It was like that History kept imposing itself on everything. It must’ve been coming out of my eye. Like somehow it got in my eye and was coming out. That’s the only way I can explain it. But somehow I had to know where I was. Had to know how far I was from the ocean, from the outskirts of the mountains, from Altarberry, how close I was to sunset—and I felt like I couldn’t move. I couldn’t make a decision. I just started crying. It was like when all that happened the glowing of the mountains was disappearing, all the spores that rose up out of the mosses into the sky and descended lost all their color, but the tears, just the blur of the tears and just the taste as I licked them, let them run down my tongue, the salt speaking, feeding, leaving into the air, into the light, then coming back—it brought it all back—through the blur I could see the lights, the shimmer of the mountains again. A slug came outta an old vent in the earth. It came outta the tunnels beneath the mountains, the channels that the old humans built to get rid of the rain. It came out pulsing, iridescent. Like long, long breaths. Bringing the shimmering. Cause down in the vents there’s this ocean, this aquifer of mercurish opalescent liquid. Just the slug’s speed, so unbelievably slow, like it was thinking at a speed that was so slow it was beyond ideas, so present—it just overwhelmed Altarberry’s History, just rolled it into some old scroll covered in brilliant slime. And the mountains totally returned. The spores flared back into their full brilliance. For a second…it’s hard to explain but they weren’t mountains, they weren’t us, they were something that had been like destroyed, or destroyed itself, or separated itself. But now they were Us again. The slug was two feet long. And then it began writing. Or painting. It was tasting, kissing the bottoms of my feet. They were designs, burning, pulsing with iridescence, pulsing up my body like fingers of heat. They were like symbols that were music, too, radiating out from the center of my arches. It was like the resonance reached up through me to my ears from the inside and then I was no longer lost. I was just the mountains. Then the slug came up my legs. So much slime. So much iridescence. It was probably like human birth.
A symphony within a symphony. All those lives. They’ve detached and are waiting above the surface. Spreading. Flying off. Replacing each other. They weren’t mine anyway. Just a pool to draw from. But without those lives? Without the future and the past? It’s different. It’s vast even though the lake is small from the outside. It’s vaster in other ways. Yet, there are parameters. At least in a lateral sense. I will always hit the edges of the mountain. This lake that was once a volcano. It’s lips. It’s teeth. The parameters of a throat. An eye socket. And those lives in the air above, ready to re-adhere—maybe not the same ones—when I re-emerge. When my air-body takes over. When my gills disappear again. But what about in a bigger body, an ocean? An ocean that the girl looks out at? Who will I become? Is she calling me? Am I asking her to call? We speak to each other internally. Report to each other. But we don’t address each other directly. If I address my thoughts just to her, it’s hard to hear her voice. Maybe because I’m here. What would it be like if we ever met? But now the music begins. The fishes that are translucent bone. They know I’m here. They come out of their caves, their houses. My spine lights up even more, sending up pulses like rainbows. And the ends of my fingers, glowing, talking to them. You can see through their bodies and yet their bones are like starlight, like the liquid of starlight grown into ribs, fins, tails, lips, skulls, all shimmering, changing. And yet they are fish. As I go deeper and pass their caves it calls them out. And they start arranging. It’s like a game of music.
Beneath the mountains it’s metal and glass, shaped stones, put together by Altarberry’s humans. Everybody knows it, if they focused on it. But there’s no reason to ask how the mountains got there when you’re in them. Besides, how things got there doesn’t got a beginning or end. You could say the humans built what’s beneath the mountains, but who built the earth where they made these mountains out of, and who built the air and the water? It’s all impossible when you think about it. That’s why people don’t think about it cause you can’t. It feels good when you don’t think about things you can’t think about. I think that’s why people are so different now, that they fly or whatever, that there’s so many of us that aren’t like anything that was here before. I know Altarberry knows about them, but he never leaves the outskirts. He never leaves his building, the thing he turned back into what’s beneath the mountains, or what was beneath the mountains. Which took a lot of work. And still takes a lot of work. He stays there in his little world. It’s like a bubble. It’s like Altarberry’s little bubble. Everybody kinda skirts around it. Except his birds. And it’s almost like inside that bubble, inside that History, it’s hard to see anything else. I can see people fly over, people in their Sky-designs, but they’re dimmer. If I step outta Altarberry’s world I can see them plain as anything. He doesn’t see them at all. But I know he knows they’re there. He just taught himself not to look or think about anything but his History. Or his History taught him. It’s like this strange well pouring out of him, flooding the area. Flooding it with the past. Flooding it with one single fabric outta the millions. I guess I can see why everyone else stays away. It’s almost just like outta respect or something. I asked a lot of different people and that’s what I got. Altarberry doesn’t want them there so they don’t go there. I guess it makes sense. All I know is after spending a bunch of days there I get a headache and the back of my eye gets this kinda gritty, crusty feeling, which partially means I’m getting hungry, but it’s also the History, the weirdness of the bubble—and I know I gotta head off into the mountains and visit everyone until I get to the sea.
Under the moon, deep in the lake, everyone is translucent. Beings of glass and mirrors. Bones of mirror, flesh of glass. And yet living. In daylight there’s no one. Just a thinking mountain. Just stillness. A mountain full of water. A mouth that swallows you clean of dust, of thoughts, of history. Always cool in summer. Or in winter, snow falling into steam. But under the moon everyone is translucent, their mirrored bones giving off colors. They arrange themselves like rungs of a ladder above me all the way up to the moon. It’s like we’re a tall aqueous plant with that bending moon a distant pinnacle bloom, or a plume, and all the way up the stem the translucent fish are leaves, or flowers, too—a plant composed of many different types of flowers. And I am the roots, my webbed feet reaching deeper as I look up. It’s like a game of tension, of beauty. They know I was going deep as possible, but now that they all came out I can’t just swim away. I have to see it. They know it. They always know it. They know I’m built of fascination. Like that’s my soul. My heart. Fascination is stretching. Like if you give me fascination then I know we’re already speaking so deeply, speaking from the same heart, licking something salty together, mouths on the same instrument, making sounds awful and unknown that you can’t help but know they got a future. Everybody’s ready. They’re all in a huge ascending arrangement facing in. I’m the only one who doesn’t know what’s going to happen. Everyone else knows. Even the moon. Even maybe the deer. And then there’s me. But the way the colors pulse up my spinal fin, the way my fingertips and the eyes glow, my skin shimmers—it must just be the part that I think is me that hasn’t caught on. So I know and don’t know. That’s funny. It’s better than being either way. So much tension. They knew I was going all the way down—deeper than I’ve ever gone—and they stopped me. Maybe to give me something. Something that will carry me even deeper. Deeper in another way. But I do stop. Stop and look back up at the moon. And now it’s just colors. Where do they come from? It’s crazy. The fish puke beautiful, vibrant clouds out, each completely different. Crimson. Cerulean. Orange. Jade. The jade of jade. Not in a row, ascending from bottom to top or from top to bottom, but from different points in that long arrangement, almost thoughtfully, like a thoughtful, slow improvisation. I have to swim in a wide circle to see it all, the whole event. Colors. Colors. Beautiful clouds. Roiling. It all shines in my mind. Flares in my fins. Hunger in my gills. They knew the game would catch me. But now from the center, just with my two eyes, looking up through that tunnel of compounded colors—my webbed feet are growing, reaching deeper. And between my eyes, the dancing moon. So far away. And I do the craziest thing. It’s all evolving, evolving in slow beauty. It could go on forever. But suddenly I just let go. I shoot up. I tear right up through the gentle fabrics of roiling clouds, the exquisite tones that puffed out of those empty bodies, that were distilled out of space, out of the marrow of mirrors, blowing it all apart. It’s like that moon is on my forehead and yet it’s getting closer, too. My hands dive into the colors, mixing them, seeing them, as the fish bite my legs, my feet, forcing me up even quicker. They know. They’re laughing, vibrating, drunk with the fact that this will never happen again. Awwwwwwha! The colors are pouring through my gills. Colors. Blood. Food. Fluid of my eyes. I need it. I needed it. And then the moon. I burst out of the surface. My gills disappear. It’s just me and the moon. Burning. It’s like a standoff before we kiss. Did you orchestrate all this? No way—it wasn’t me. It was Us. All those lives re-adhering like mosquitoes. Pretending they’ve waited for me. But some of them have traded places. There’s no point in sorting it out. And the deer. As soon as I take a breath through my mouth I look for them. No longer where they were when I stepped into the lake. But still here. Their tales like beacons set up all around the lake. White flames. Evenly spaced. Backed to the water. Like a wheel. And my head at the center. Glazed in moon. The moon that was bait. Stretching…which means down there I must still exist. I must’ve never stopped for the colors. Stretching…stretching means I am still down there while being the face of this flower…while being many places, places I’ve touched with my roots, my falling petals, my parachuting seeds, my gliding edges, my fluff setting off. In the depths of the mountain maybe I’ll become that other person again. The human who lived in the earth. The one who lived far beneath the earth. Maybe it’s now. Maybe if I go deep enough it’ll be like I had fallen asleep. But I also know that when I emerge again onto land, she may not be part of my history—she may attach herself to someone else.
So, back to the story about the slug painting designs on my feet, which has a lot to do with what’s happening like right now. I must’ve lost consciousness, or changed consciousness, cause when I woke up I was heading back to Altarberry. The designs on my feet were leading me. Radiating who we really were. Who we really are. Radiating music. Radiating the present. With every footprint I left there was a glow of it. Everyone was watching, too, as if they could hear it. Some of the star-spores that are always rising and falling seemed to gravitate toward them, adhere and dissolve, giving the prints a whole new added glow. And you’d hear that from the inside, too, reaching to your ears. By the time I got to Altarberry it was dark. He was sleeping in his pagoda with the birds all around him. But as always it was like walking into a strange, tinted world that filtered out things. That History didn’t allow you to see certain things, didn’t allow certain things to shine. But at the same time there was still beauty. There’d always be beauty. And Altarberry looked so happy surrounded by his friends. Some had one leg up. Some had one eye open. Some were perched on him as if he was some kind of branch. And I just curled up next to him. My hands reaching out finding his.
The earth hadn’t blinked in a long time. And who was it blinking to? Other planets. Other people who wanted to come that humans wouldn’t allow. Humans who think they have to be the ones to choose certain things, but don’t believe they choose others. I guess its good I don’t know how to talk like Altarberry cause maybe I’d get sucked into that History, too. Even thinking about it is like a game. But there’s so many others. So many other ways to think. So many other ways of laughing than thinking about the past.
Sometimes I think the earth may’ve winked to the humans themselves. And the humans winked back! So anyway, just because everybody looks so different now doesn’t mean they weren’t human. Atleast at one time or another. Or one fabric or another. It’s the two arms, two legs, two eyes thing. I wish I could tell Altarberry that but he wouldn’t believe me. The funny thing, though, is Altarberry and the birds. They’re birds you’d see in that old Earth, but there’s others, too. Wherever Altarberry goes there’s a lot of them. And if you sleep with Altarberry you gotta expect there’s gonna be some sleeping with you, too. And that in the middle of the night one of them’s gonna start singing. I think they wake up from dreams and just want to channel the dream into this world before it disappears. I don’t think Altarberry pays as much attention to them as he should. Like he thinks its just natural. But things didn’t usually happen like that from his History. And they don’t happen like that now, either. The birds don’t pay much attention to me. We all have our own natural friends. But it’s not to say Altarberry doesn’t know they’re there. When he fishes I’m pretty sure he always leaves some for them, or when he picks berries. The birds pick their own berries, too, of course, but it’s always nice to share things with people of different forms. Sometimes they just sit really still and silent. Then it’s like Altarberry’s from somewhere deeper than all his ideas about stuff. Then it’s like they’re singing with each other although I can’t really hear it. He’s so different then. I know he doesn’t know it. It’s more like when I see him in dreamworlds and he’s that other Altarberry. We do things. We’re like so close. Another thing Altarberry doesn’t know is that the birds change when they get outta his range, outta his range of history. It’s the same birds but they change form. Not all of them. I think they just change when they want. And when you get outta Altarberry’s History thing, you see that some of them will fly up to the Designs that pass over the city. He doesn’t know it cause he never leaves his little area, and even if he did he’d bring his History with him.
The thing was, when I woke up, Altarberry was touching my feet. He had never touched me before. I always have to chase him down and hold him with all my arms just to kiss him or lick him and even that’s hard. But here he was touching them. He was tracing the shapes with his fingers like he was reading them. And all the birds were watching. They were mostly watching him, but there were tons of them. It was like a big event. The designs the slug painted on my feet were glowing on his fingertips, too. I closed my eye right away so he wouldn’t see me, then I opened it just a crack. It just went on and on. And it felt so good to have him touch my feet. It was like being flooded. And he was getting so close to the iridescence I felt his breath. Kiss them, I was thinking, please kiss them. I wanted it so bad. And I think the birds were thinking it, too. They were thinking: kiss the design, kiss the music, but it was the same thing. I think they were hearing it, hearing something I couldn’t hear but could only see and feel, the shimmering, like a rainbow rolled into muscles, into exploding tendons. Painted on my feet by an artist who came outta a vent in the earth. Slugs are like tongue-people just like me.
The deer have placed themselves all around the lake, holding up their white flags. I can just see the glint of silver antlers. All the points adhering, calling. My spine aligning as if some liquid is pouring through it, forcing it straight. And now I descend again. Eyes opening. Eyes closing. The colors have formed into stratospheres. Levels. Layers. Temperatures. It’s like pre-emotions. And the translucent people hovering through it like ships of thought. Just barely disturbing the levels. Just colors, colors in layers. I’m going deeper. And now one of the fish is right up to me. Colors throbbing through my gills. We’re face to face. A feeler comes off its forehead, glowing. Amazing translucent fangs. Do they just eat the colors and translate it into the mirrors of their bones? The feeler comes right to my forehead. My hands are up, examining the energy from both sides. Suddenly, a jolt goes through me. Then another one. There all around me. Shocking me. Jolting me with their feelers. Their eyes are laughing. I chase one to its cave. All the colors get sucked into a whole new arrangement. I stick my hand after it, my right hand. Awwha. It’s like two eyes are face to face. It’s like the eyes of the fish and an eye forming on my hand meeting, just spending time together in its apartment, except it is all silver. My hand is silver. Everything in that cave—it’s all silver thoughts. Then another stings me and I chase it down. It just barely makes it to its own cave before I stick my other hand after it. Awwwha! A burgeoning. Eye to eye. It’s as if within the caves my hands can see. And yet those eyes lead to the rainbows inside its bones. That’s what my hand sees. It’s a realm of bones. Vertebra of every color, arching, decomposing. Unfolding. And all these visions of my hands swimming through the eco-systems of my other sight that’s pouring into the swirling layers, all those stratospheres of colors, mixed by chasing the translucent people into the caves, and as I shoot after the next one they peek back out and watch the design that they made by getting me to chase them through their own breath. It’s all orchestrated. I have to laugh. It’s like being a painter’s brush, except I’m down in this lake. And there’s a ton of painters. And I’m being changed, fed, I’m part of it, too. I shoot back up, blow through the reflection of the moon one more time, and then I descend. The lake narrows. Deeper. Deeper. I’m drawing all the colors with me. Everyone comes to their doors to watch. And flashing schools of smaller fish play with the contours. The lake is ablaze with witness. Deeper. My palms shoot into caves, greeting those worlds like handholds. Down and down. Like a line dropped from the moon. Straight through me. Straight through the mountain. Putting my hands into tunnels is like reaching into the mountain’s body, this body full of crazy artists. Of brains of coral. I’m diving to the center of a spring. Converging. Stretching. So cold it hurts. I can’t think the same. My eyes are closing against it. I’m changing too much. But I can’t stop going deeper. My ears. It’s like beautiful, horrible singing dissolving me. No more lives. Not even this one. Not even who I’m speaking to. Myself. The girl in the moss city, looking over the ocean. No speaking. No gills. No body. Only a heart of…of…space. I open my eyes and that’s what I see. Stars. Trillions of miles of night. And silence. I have to close them. No more body. Just these eyes. Or just this sight. Have I become one eye? It’s hard to look. Hard to be suspended in space. I look again. Just vastness. Beautiful, scary vastness. I can’t breath. No gills. No mouth. I don’t need to breathe. I don’t need breath. Is this what’s in the center of the earth? Or is this my heart? Somehow I look behind me. There’s the earth. Just by looking I’m descending toward it. Descending toward someone. The girl. The girl I talk to. I have thoughts. I have eyes. I have these bodies, probably more than I’ve met. More than I’ve acknowledged. It’s time to set off on a journey. A journey back to earth. To the ocean where I’ll change. What is that? There’s electric shocks pouring through me. It’s the fish. They’ve attached their feelers to my feet and are pumping me full of color. Where have I been? I open my eyes again and I’m back in the lake.
Earth. What is it about Earth? To be changed by Earth but to track it. That’s the key. Otherwise what? I won’t be from another planet. I won’t be Zeaesque from Orophaze. From the planet that creates humanoids, that brought them here. I’ll be something from Earth. I’ll forget. Except there are no humans. Only one. Maybe the Earth will change us into a different relationship. A new arrangement. New placements. New proximities. In many years I’ll be Zeaesque again. I’ll remember. It’s just the amnesia, the letting go. Letting my form change. The fear of forgetting…that I am an Orophine. Like the humans forgot. Most of them did. But now I wonder. What did they forget? That they were created? That was part of the design, the experiment. We designed them to be creators, to be the highest creations on the earth, and yet they were always going other ways, other ways than their design. I’m hesitating. Looking down at the Earth. What is it about this planet? What will happen to me if I descend? But I know I will. Responsibility. It seems like something I’ve learned from the Earth.
I always pass out when I lick the algae, when I feed, which is usually alright, except one time I did wake up right on the end of one of the piers that reach out into the ocean, like right on the super far tip like if I even rolled over just once I would’ve fell in, in the sea, which I thought was interesting. It was kinda an interesting placement. I rolled back right away. I never go into the ocean, like all the way in, cause there’s so much algae, so much glowing, and salt, minerals traveling, speaking, and probably a gazillion fabrics, everything expressing, that if it gets on my tongue I don’t know what’s gonna happen. If I disappear from myself while in the water I may drown. Which is funny, I know, but I’m not sure I want to change just yet. At least not that much. At least not outta this fabric. The thing is I want to meet that woman from the mountain lake, the one who’s out where everything is dry. I want her voice to be right in front of me, not just in my head, not just a music in the wind that I can somehow understand. It feels funny to think it, to want it, to be asking for it without really coming right out and saying it. It’s funny. Our voices—they’re holding hands or something, they’re pulling on each other. It feels so good. Like when I’m going through the mountains to the sea it’s like I’m winching her toward me, like physically I think it’s really happening. And her thoughts…it’s almost like they’re making me grow, they’re pulling me toward her in another way. So what’s gonna happen if it’s true? If we really meet? Like why do we talk to each other? Like right now I’m pretending she can’t hear me. It’s like all the people of the mountains, of the shore, we talk, too, but it’s when we see each other, generally, when we’re interacting and doing stuff. But I guess there’s all the other voices I could talk to if I wanted, the voices in other fabrics, and the voices without bodies. But I think she has a body. I’m sure of it. She’s a desert person, but she swims, too. Like there’s changes, pulses that come from her, pulses like the surges of sounds, those exclamations when something transforms. And then the voice is talking in different ways, like there’s been a change in perception, and yet it’s her voice. I wonder what color her eyes are? She must be super beautiful. That’s funny. Cause everybody is beautiful. And yet maybe she’s more beautiful than that.
The weird thing is, sometimes when she sleeps she talks just fine—and she talks to me like I’m answering her, like we’re having a conversation somewhere else, except we’re not cause I’m here, I’m laying here listening to her. And then I fall asleep and when I wake up it’s The Eye—she’s always looking at me. It makes me sick. It’s like somebody following you around with a microscope. It’s really like ultra weird. Her eye is like super, super green. She’s another mistake. I don’t know why there’s so many of them now. I always chase her away but I only think she leaves when she’s hungry. She doesn’t eat anything normal. Once I saw her licking a building with that huge tongue. It’s like three feet long. Licking underneath the moss. And it was green as her eye. And she was glowing. Glowing like the city. That’s why I stay here on the outskirts where I can remember. Waiting for the others. Then we can make everything beautiful again. For Us.
It’s almost like I’m talking to somebody. I was talking to someone in my dreams, I’m pretty sure, but I don’t think it stopped. I’ve watched Mira but I don’t think she knows. She’s not smart enough to know anything anyway. She’s a mutant. With all her arms and tongue and eye. It’s sad. But I get sick of her, too, following me around. I’m not sure what to do with her when the others come back. When I have my family again. My people. She can go live with the other mutants in the city. Then we can rebuild, recover. We’ll have each other. We can kill off all this crazy moss and plants and take back the city. For Us. For humans. All those others can adapt to something else. Like there’s algae everywhere anyway, so to The Eye it wouldn’t matter. That’s the thing—these things, things like Mira, have no idea what’s normal. They have no way to gauge what’s normal, what belongs or what doesn’t. They don’t have any way to measure things, like so anything goes. Like the vocal cords. Like huge vocal cords that get carried by other creatures and just scream through the air. That’s the kind of thing you can expect in the city. They’ll come right down on you, like it’s a joke. Just to get a reaction. But I know that’s not the way things are. No one is supposed to see a vocal cord unless a doctor say so—or a scientist, someone who was trained to experiment. And they’re not supposed to fly. Or be that large. Which is why those other things gotta carry them. And species aren’t supposed to do things for each other like that, either. No one ever tried to help each other ever unless they look the same—or unless they can get something outta it to survive. Of course, after a while the vocal cords dry out and can’t do anything. Then those creatures gotta fly them to the lake in the center of the city (which humans built) and dip them. Then they go screaming somewhere else. I know they don’t like me cause I’m human, cause we built all of this.
But the thing is is he’s never touched me again. That was it. I did catch him looking at my feet but he’s never touched them. And the iridescence is fading. Everyday it’s getting weaker. And I’m getting hungrier. I’ve been with Altarberry and his History too long. I have to travel. I have to see. I have to lick deep into the buildings. My tongue has to be as green as my eye. Greener. But once he touched me like that…I just thought it’d happen again. Like he’d touch my feet every night. Even before we fell asleep. And then we could dream together. Like go straight in and not even have to find each other. Just walk right in and journey all over the place, all through the fabrics, like I could show him everything. Once somebody touches your feet like that it’s crazy. And I know the birds want him to keep doing it. They’re on my side. Or at least on the side of the music. So now I’m thinking like it makes total sense like if I put my foot in his face he won’t have to do anything. He won’t have to consult his History. It saves time. I’m not actually touching him. But it’s pretty close. It’s a big moment. But I know it’s gonna work out. Everybody’s pretending they’re sleeping. Everybody gots just one eye barely open. Even me. Ha. Ha. Just his breath. It feels so good. We’re all in his little pagoda in front of his building. It’s such a beautiful dawn. It feels like something’s draining outta me. Some kinda tension that I didn’t even know was there.
“Get your retarded messed-up feet outta my face!”
Everyone freezes. It’s like a flinch goes through everybody and then there’s silence. I know he can feel it, I know he can feel it, that he said something that goes against everything, that goes against the mountains and even the city beneath it or what it’s become. And that’s what it is, it’s just Altarberry, Altarberry against all of us. I can see how much it scares him. To think you are so alone. Alone when music is written on people’s feet. Alone when birds love to sleep on you. Alone when there is food everywhere. Alone when the mountains are shimmering, dancing, playing. Where new people appear. But now he says it: “You’re a fucking monster!!!! A MONSTER!!!!!!!!!!!”
Things keep going white, like huge flashes hitting me. And between them I keep seeing Altarberry holding himself. But at the same time he’s pointing at me, too.
I try to get the words, cause in a way I know what’s happening to him, I know so much. But it’s all so complicated in there. It hurts even though I know. I know. And birds are flying. And I can almost see that History, the fabric descending and ascending: “You…suuuuuhhhak!” I shout, covering my eye with all my hands.
“So do you!”
“I want to…to…I waaant to ta, teaall heh heh hyou sometimm!”
“Go ahead! Say it! You freak! You ugly freak! You can’t even talk!”
I uncover my eye. He stands there gloating. But he’s still holding himself in a strange way. It’s like something’s happening inside his anatomy.
“I…” I want to grab his hand but I don’t. What do I want to say? I know he can see himself in my eye, see his two eyes in my one eye. He’s smiling viciously, smiling, but it’s not real. Not real. And now I know it. He’s jealous. He’s jealous cause we’re all different. Scared cause we’re all different. That we were born to be different. That we came to be different. That we chose it. That we love it. That we’re Us. Except he is, too. Oh, Altarberry. We’re us. I want to say it: “Wwwwweeeaaaaaaaaaayayayyayaywwwwwweaaaaaaaaayayaaaaaaaaa—” it’s just a sound. I can’t stop it. He’s covering his ears. My tongue comes out. It’s wiggling up. Waves, waves ride up to its tip, faster, faster. And I’m rocking back and forth. Altarberry pushes me down and runs away into his building. Gradually the sound stops. I guess I said it. It wasn’t in his language but I think that was basically it. I realize I’m sooo hungry, which means it’s time to travel.
How do you say goodbye? I guess silence is the best way, just closing your eyes, just being there so fully that you become fire, lift off like a ship of ash. You find yourself somewhere else. I guess I’m saying goodbye. Listening really deep, like a deer. Listening into the earth, across the earth, then you can say goodbye—you can stretch and converge without even moving, you can say hi and farewell without stepping toward someone or away…except…except it’s all part of it, this body, this body going to meet other bodies, these eyes going to meet other eyes, or one eye, or the eyes of the sea—all part of who I am. I open my eyes. From the lip of the mountain it just stretches out, tan, almost shadowless, as if it hasn’t yet been completely born, like the basin of a footprint swept smooth by the hot wind, hundreds of miles of desert leading to the south, leading to Mira and the ocean—my next step, to traverse the footprint, step into something that hasn’t been completely born. On the obscure horizon you can imagine just from the mirages of heat that there’s other mountains, that the sea is right there, but I know it’s further. But from within those heat waves, where the sky dissolves, where the earth dissolves, there’s a point of darkness, almost like the communing of water and earth, like a spring, except it’s growing, growing out of the obscurity, out of the pre-form of heat and sight, just a drip, just a seeping across the endless radiance, traveling toward me, traveling my future path. It must be a Sky-Design passing over the earth. I’m seeing it’s shadow traveling over the burning basin toward me. A hundred or more birds must make its shape, traveling, changing, integrating, returning. It takes so long to get here but all the time I’m getting ready. Now I see it—almost like a bow and arrow, a drawn bow, yet enclosed within a greater circle. I still can’t see the birds in the sky, just their shadow. A drawn bow, yet it could be a bird, too. Or a stingray. Now I can see them. I follow their flight as they dissolve into the sun. A pulse. And the Design touches me…and I know. What I know is just in that shadow’s gift, in the journey’s gift—it’s not something you can make into a thought, it’s just there in my future, maybe even in my past. I’m ready. I close my eyes and open them, and head down the mountain into the heat.
Earth. What is it? What is it about Earth? We weren’t the creators of it, but we were the ones to bring the humans. And yet, now I don’t know. Decisions. Are they costumes? It didn’t take long for the city to turn into glowing mountains of moss. Then the mountains into their own eco-system. All set against the sea. Beyond the city inland it grows more arid until it is desert. Strange. My planet itself is more like a desert. Whiter. A desert of crystal. And everyone on my planet has given up on Earth. Turned other ways. Creating in other directions. Strange. City into moss into mountains into…a home. An ecosystem. A place for energies, Beings to appear and confer. Confer with each other, with themselves, with the ecosystem. With the Earth. Yet not everyone. Not everyone can come here. Will the Earth let me through? And will it let me out again? How do you speak to a planet? Merely thinking about attempting it causes some type of inner expansion. And I have to shut down to fill the space with color. To see which color arises. Colors unspeakable. When Earth began shutting its doors we tried to take the humans away. Then things escalated. The humans began dissolving, igniting into colors, into mist, thousands, millions, igniting, burning, blowing into spores, like they had only been pretending to be human. It wasn’t in the design. It wasn’t in the music. It was an Earth thing. Earth. Earth making a decision. We were only able to save a hundred. Out of the billions. Then we had to watch, watch the rest ignite, turn to flame and then to mist. And it was only moments before new life-forms began to grow. But none came from us at all, not from our planet, not from our music. Will the Earth let me through? And if it does, in what form? Somehow, I know it’s going to change me. As if it is speaking to me deeper. Now, I’m still like any Orophine, white, like a mound, one eye, my ferns, our musical tools, running down my back. We’re all so alike. Not like beings on Earth. All so alike except my ferns have streaks of magenta, which is unlike any other Orophine. I have to remain conscious. I have to track it. To be changed by the Earth but to follow it. That’s the key. Otherwise what? I won’t be Zeaesque. I won’t be from another planet. Zeaesque from Orophaze. But eventually I will be again. I’ll remember. It’s just the amnesia. The letting go. Letting my form change. Then I’ll remember. I’ll re-emerge. But then, when I do re-emerge, I may not be coming from our music—from Orophine music. And when we tried to bring the humans back? How strange that was. What actually took place? When we came through the atmosphere only two of us made it. And even the ship itself had changed. Only the young human and I? What does he remember? Does he remember anything? I know he exists even though it’s so hard to view the Earth now from Orophaze. Or is it a trick? An Earth-trick? When we tried to bring the humans back, the rest of them ended up in another part of the universe, except him and I. Eventually, when they tried again, no one got through.
A hill. But not like a hill that the Earth built. Too smooth. Too fine. Too single purposed. But enormous. Maybe not a hill. Maybe the lips of a giant mouth. A trail leads up to the edge. Once a human road. Now dotted with oasis of lichens larger than what humans were so that it’s become more natural and winding. Everything that was from the humans now buried in these tall lichens. Vehicles that are now eco-systems. Human machinery. Huge vehicles. Now like rhizomes, like tubers that the lichens grow from. I could pass it, keep heading south, but it’s calling me. I climb up the road in the heat. Now I see. It’s enormous. An enormous terraced crater. Every level blacker till the bottom, which is like a valley, like obsidian, gleaming, hardened, ponds reflecting sky. Machinery turned into gardens and topiaries sprinkled across its bottom. Yet miles. I can barely see the other end in the haze. From the sky it must look like a jewel, onyx, on this body, this throat…pain…is there pain? Or does it just look like pain? Incongruent with Earth’s untrackable beauty. Does it just not match with something internal, some type of pattern that existed before this coal mine, a pattern that still exists, that you can still see, that is behind this gouging out of Earth. Why am I seeing this? Just to carry it with me. You forget what it was like when everything is buried in the new growth, in lichen, when you live on the mountain where there were only a few humans. It’s funny, but in that human earth-life I had, we lived deeper than this, deep in the Earth. Like living inside the obsidian. Maybe humanity was trying to get there and one day it all caved in. That was another history. I don’t know if this pain is coming out of this crazy wound or my heart. I still feel it. They didn’t need to do this. They had the energy of the sun, the wind, energy that was in the air itself, that was in their own minds, and yet they ate into themselves like the people they kept in cages chewing their own paws, pulling out their own feathers, scratching themselves till their skin was gone. Cages. Who made the cages? The cages that didn’t exist. To step inside a cage made from your own blood. And fear. The fear is the fire, the furnace, and the blood is the metal and together you create your own cage, and you tear into the earth like it was your own body, like you’ve lost your mind. This black pit, this black wound, in the burning sun. And now a Migration comes.
In the old days I had to change my form so humans wouldn’t know me, they wouldn’t know who I was or what I was. They would think I was human. And we would walk among them, collating data, checking up on our creations, tweaking their anatomies, providing them information, technology. But now I think the Earth will change me into what it wants, which isn’t human. Did we consult it? Consult it about all those humans? Did we even consult ourselves? When an outward door is closed suddenly a million inward doors can appear, and can open if you let them: Access Denied has great potential. None of the Orophines now look at Earth. They can’t see it so they don’t want to see it. Now I’m riding on my own music, my own energy, not the music of the Orophine culture. The human I brought back still lives. I know it. He’s still in the city where we landed. Earth closed its doors to the Orophines and everyone turned away as if it doesn’t exist. New planets to populate. New physiologies. But our music…if we wouldn’t have turned away from Earth, would have viewed it as equal, as something else than a stage for our creations…what then? If we would’ve looked upon it as its own culture, from the point of view of the musicians we are supposed to be, I think our music would’ve changed. And then we would’ve changed with it. And you could blame the Earth—the Earth changed us—but from a deeper perspective it would be the music changed, the music that is the Earth, too. But by turning away, by pretending the Earth doesn’t exist, we could keep our form, our music could stay the same—even though we pretend that we are so creative, creating new beings, new physiologies, they are all created within the parameters of a greater, determinate form. It’s just that no other Orophine sees it. Yet, in a way, they do or else they would’ve never disowned the Earth. Why was I allowed through, and then allowed to leave…after I lost him. It was after we blew through the stratosphere that I saw it was just he and I. That everyone else was gone. Later, when I returned to Orophaze and rejoined the Conferral, I learned they’d been replaced into another part of the universe. As if the Earth had snapped its fingers and took them off the ship. Then it was just the boy and I. So young for a human. And when we landed the city was gone. The city, because of all the spores, because of the humans igniting, was more like mountains, a range of strange, erect mountains covered in glowing moss against the sea. And then I lost him. Or maybe the earth took him from my control. From the control of an Orophine.
She’s leaving. I hope for good. I don’t why things are this way. Why is everything so horrible? I hope I never see her again. I can’t believe this. The burning. It’s slowing down. Just the sound—just pouring out of her mouth. And her tongue. She’s like a mutant. If she comes back I think I could kill her, kill her and just forget everything. And what if everyone comes back and she’s here? What are they gonna say? They’re not gonna want me. I don’t know. I’m up on the second floor. The burning is going away. I drink some water. There’s birds on the ledges looking in. A couple are tapping on the glass. She walking away. I feel better. She’s walking away like she always does when she disappears for a week or two. Maybe by then they’ll be back. I have all the rooms set up for them, but I’ve been logical. I know they’ll change them. They’ll want them just the way they want them. But they’ll know that I cared enough to get it all set up, like they’ll know I been thinking of them, calling them just by knowing that they’ll come back. I still feel hot but it’s way better. Way better. I don’t know why it happens. It happens when the birds and I do things, too. They’re waiting outside for me. I’m the only one who comes in my building, in our building. Mira’s never been in here ever. But I think the birds could come in but they don’t—they either wait for me or take off, doing their thing. I don’t remember it really, but humans and birds must’ve been super close, always doing things together, working on projects. I can’t totally remember it but I think it’s true. If she looks back she won’t be able to see me behind the glass, but she’s leaving. It’s like she’s in a trance. With her face up at the sky. With her eye wide open. Even her skin is different than my people. It’s super dark. And she doesn’t have a navel or nipples, or anything that’s supposed to be between her legs, which proves she wasn’t even born.
It’s like a wave of shadow, many waves of shadows (what is the shape of this one?) feeling deep into the wound, caressing its depth with silk hands, the Sky-design so high, and for a moment it fits, as if the Design was lifted from the exact contours of this endless open pit, miles of shadow, miles of stencil. And then it touches me. The birds pass through the sun. Shadows speak over my body. I know things. I know things but I don’t know when it began. And this endless deep expanse—it’s different. Something deeper lifted. As if all of us by being touched by the shadows are submerged. As if we’re suddenly in the heart of ourselves.
Creating revelation. Creating revelation to be known. Expression is revelation. Exploration is revelation. These bodies, this Earth, this space, all revelation through creation and at the same time creation through revelation. Putting one thing before another. I’m entering the thermosphere. Earth. What will it look like now? What will I become? Or will this ship disintegrate? And I’ll turn to fire. Only one human to see it. The Earth has the power. And then what will I become if the only form I have, whatever it is, burns up? I’m hitting the atmosphere. In a sense it’s heat. It’s consciousness. The re-arranging has started. It’s like spreading. Spreading like a sea of fire. Across the mesosphere. Hanging on. I’m losing what I was. But there is something beneath. Awwha…like something has always been growing. Is the ship melting? I’m seeing so much it hurts. No…not pain. It’s something I never felt. I’m something that doesn’t feel. Even though I am feeling. Everything that I am, everything that is my body, that we all are from my planet, from Orophaze, vibrating, shifting, white, translucent plains, that can become what we want, what we need, and the spinal fin of ferns, of our instruments, on our backs, what is most important to us, it’s changing, changing without my telling it to change…but the more I am that thing beneath…it’s like a spring…like liquid…a gushing forth that can reflect anything, that anything can drink, see themselves in, and yet still be that spring. There’s ferns around me. Leaning in. Earth. Such an Earth thing that they’re no longer my body and yet they are. All singing. In flames. Burning and growing. Our instruments. Our bodies of music. And yet I am this spring. With fire all around me. For the fire to see itself. To elongate the fire. To all play together. Arpeggios. Glissandos. Brilliance born only to be burned away. Ornamentation like a gift. And now I’m through. Zeaesque as something else. I remember. I know who I am. Two eyes. I have two eyes instead of one. Two eyes. A mouth. Thick lips. Does that mean I’m human? No. And my ferns. My instruments. Gone.
The ship. It’s become more circular. Less like my other body. Less like a polyhedron. And this body…. Two eyes. Two arms. Two legs. Like some human prototype we never explored, that we never conceived with our music. It’s still forming, solidifying. Solidifying into wetness. Ahhha. There’s a memory there. In the burning. In the spreading. It’s disappearing. Or maybe what really took place is disappearing and turning into this memory. Facing the Earth. Like we face each other on our planet to create. Making a decision. A creation. A conferral. Conceiving from our conference, the Earth and I, conceiving from the music of our blending. And then this form…is born. So it’s not really just Earth. It’s Earth and that spring, that fountain beneath my form, my thoughts, collaborating, deciding on this new form together. It’s just so far beneath what you think of as yourself, as an Orophine, that you’d think Earth was making the decision. But a part of you, the surface you, has to hang on to it, remember it, or else that knowledge, the knowledge of the collaboration, disappears. Did the other Orophines on my planet feel it? Something entering, something leaving, something changing within the volume of our shared consciousness. Magenta. Wet. Pulses of gold rising to the surface, shimmering, evaporating. This wet skin pulls on the air. It’s like a human yet more fluid. This flesh reaching out, dripping to combine. Four fingers like a human, but no thumbs. Possibly no bones. They extend so easily. They can double in length. And in place of all the ferns, shafts of ivory filaments sprouting like geysers, like fountains, from the top of my head down from my purple skin, each tight plume spaced three or four inches apart. Zeaesque. And earth is covered in night. I slow the ship down. I’m still connected to it even though my form has changed. Even though my dripping, flowing fingers pour over the screens like some kind of living emotion. Like slugs. It’s almost better. Everything they do is full of messages. And the drips that fall to the floor, glob onto the council—they’re seeking to combine and grow like seeds. But on this glass I don’t think they have anything to combine with—they disappear, leaving only a dried sheen, which flakes, dissolves to dust, joining the atmosphere. It must only combine with something else. Maybe on the Earth. And these silvery plumes of hair…just their positioning is similar to the ferns on Orophine bodies, but maybe these aren’t aligned with music, with creation, like the Orophine ferns. Knowing your body and yet not knowing it at the same time, discovering it, talking to it, to the people who are your body…and what about our bodies on Orophaze? We think we know them so well. But maybe those bodies too have unknown things to say, things unlistened to. The city. It’s amazing. It was already changed beyond belief when we first returned. But now…. You would never know it was a human city. Just by the outline. And the spores. Ascending. Descending. Even past the ship. This high. I reach out and check. My data screen materializes. Spores. A type of bioluminescence. Unknown. No. Not spores like we think of them. More like a living nutrition. A consciousness that is nutrition. The city is completely consumed. When I brought the human back it had only just begun really. You could still see metal. And yet the shapes are still there. And the piers jutting out into the ocean, which were once cement and metal, are now like emerald fingers—everything so green. Fascinating. Fascinating. I came back because I felt we had failed and now this.
Without Mira here it’s easier to think about the future, how it’s gonna be—she just gets in the way, her and the rest of them. It’s like right when I feel it’s gonna happen, right when the ships are coming…I mean, it’s like just thinking about it is like being a beacon, something they can hone in on and follow—then there’s Mira and her eye. She thinks we’re connected. She’s always trying to touch me or something. She’s trying to pull me away from everything. She’s trying to change me. She doesn’t wear anything on her body—none of them do. I’m the only one. I’m the only human. So I gotta call out so they can hear me, so they can come back, so they don’t get lost. I was put here to hold my own. To hold our own. So that when they get back we can have a place. They can see what I’ve done. We’ll have a foothold and it won’t be like completely starting over. We can all sleep together in the building and sit down together and work out a whole plan. And I bet my parents will be like the leaders of it all. They’ll be the really smart ones. That’s why this building is like for them. They’ll come back with all the others and see that I haven’t forgotten them and I know how to do things right. Of course, there’s a possibility they’re dead. I’ve been logical and considered that, but then there’ll be someone who knew them and we can talk about it, and they can say things like: Yes, I remember how really kind they were, how they were such talented creators, and how your mother, she was quite a beauty in her time—but, really, I know they’re out there. I think I could feel it if they weren’t. It really feels like I’m talking to them sometimes even though I know that sounds crazy. There’s so many rooms and I just walk through them and make sure everything is in order. I don’t super remember what it was like, but there’s all this data in my head, so I must remember—it’s just not like memories like something that happened between me and Mira that I can remember—it’s just this kinda overall thing. It’s like everywhere just waiting for everybody to come back. I sit down, open a book, and look out the window. All the birds are waiting on the ledge. A lot fly down to the water I put in the pagoda and come back and pour little trickles into each other’s mouths. It’s like a game. I open the window and nobody comes in. They never do. They’re just on the ledge and in the trees. Strange. I wonder if they are the same birds. I guess I never thought of that. I guess it’s because they’re always here. I guess because they’re not human. I look down. Open a page. It’s a book on Astrophysics. All these numbers. So beautiful. Moving things in my head. Moving numbers. All the shapes on the page become shapes in my head. And then like a stencil that then shapes the radiance. Like the trees shaping the rain. Like when it rains and those spores give off steam and everything starts glowing. It’s like a slow dance. The spores don’t come near my world, my History. Sometimes I wish it all would’ve been here before. Then we wouldn’t have to do so much work. But once we get the city back we can build a wall. Or even a dome. We could live inside the dome. The more I think about my parents and my people, the less all that growth, all that moss and those creatures, all those things that are unnatural, inhuman, come here. Except Mira. It’s like I think really hard and it just spreads out. It’s like collecting things, too, collecting the right things and arranging them. But I gotta think all the time or else I’ll find the moss growing on the building again. It took me forever to uncover it in the first place, but the more I did, the more I remembered where I came from, that we were the people who built this whole earth, that it’s really here for us. All the other buildings surrounding the little park are covered, but my thoughts keep the moss from growing deeper, and the spores don’t rise out of them like the rest of the city. I had to uncover the pagoda out in the middle of the park, too. But beyond that, there’s just the river, and less and less buried human buildings, less and less spores, less moss and more lichen, less and less water, until it’s just desert. But it’s funny, the stencils. Inside and outside. Stencils inside of me and stencils outside of me. I just have to be careful cause if I get too caught up, if I play with the birds too much, the burning starts. I don’t know what it is. It’s something wrong with me. But it’s something I remember, too. I don’t know what to do cause if it went too far then I don’t know. It’s like standing on a cliff or standing in front of a curtain—it’s burning and you can’t see through the fire but then you’re stepping forward, too. Your body’s stepping into it. But I know it’s a curtain. I know there’s something on the other side. I don’t know but maybe that’s where all the people are, the people who aren’t coming back. Who were killed by all these spores, this stupid world of moss. I guess I don’t remember how it really happened, only how it was, that we were here, that this was ours. I’m crying but it’s stupid, stupid to cry, especially when they’re coming back. When they come back I’ll never cry. When my parents come we’ll just nod to each other, but we’ll feel it, like all the greatness, but there’ll be so much to do. Maybe our eyes will just get a little glassy like just for a second. It’s funny. It’s almost like they’re here. That’s what it feels like when Mira’s gone, like they’re here, just hitting the atmosphere, finally coming home.
The flight of birds, one bird of one species crossing a flock swirling, breathing together with their wings, a musical instrument of movement based on air—what does that mean to have a bird perched, watching you with little flickers, flinches, do you understand? and beyond, some impossible wings in the distance, some impossible migration on the edge of something—colors traveling out and catching the night on a string, turning it inside out, bringing up the bottom, making space. Every night I travel further south. I found a rhythm. The Migrations crossing stars, moment to moment new constellations. And seeing them you know things. Somebody knows. Somebody has found something on some shore and they hold it. They may even make a sculpture from it. My scales, the mountains of my spine, drink the moonlight. The wet breath of night. Further and further into something. Speaking beneath the speaking with my feet. Molecules creating themselves. And here I am pretending I moved them. And to fall asleep as the sun rises, sleep through the height of day, opening my eyes again as the sun is leaving, as if the sunlight drove me deeper, beneath a sheaf of rock or fallen tree, within the vibration of a stand of lichen, blinking my eyes as I travel crusted with dust, further south out of the desert to where there were more and more humans, more and more trees, more lichens, and that beautiful shimmer above them as if it is raining silver, as if the moon is laughing and shedding. Closer and closer to the ocean as if passing through layers. I look out of a rock escarpment. I’m on a slope. Grass flowing down to an enormous spiral of lichens that have grown from elevated earth. An ancient earth spiral. But the humans must’ve died upon it for the lichens to grow on it. I’ve seen other mounds like this while flying in my dreams. Panthers. Snakes. Bears. The sun is setting. Golden-green dust shimmers up from the lichens into nothing and returns. Beautiful highways into the evening sky. Then a Migration, a Sky-Design, comes. It is different than this spiral. Yet the birds in their density reform, adjust, and descend. They perch on the lichens, bathing themselves in the dust, preening each other, then lift, reforming into a new Design, one different than the one they came with, different than the spiral, yet retaining its simultaneous internalization and expression, and continuing on. Evening lifts me out from beneath the rock. It’s time to head for the ocean again.
But I don’t sleep in the building, especially this room, my parent’s room. I set it all up for them. The closet is full of men’s clothes on one side and women’s on the other. And there’s a bed. There’s beds in other rooms, too, but this one’s the best. I don’t know why I don’t sleep in here but I will when they come back. I just want it to be perfect. And if I sleep in here, Mira might try to come in. She’d mess everything up. I just end up sleeping out in the pagoda. I just want it to be perfect. This is like an oasis. Or a fortress. That’s true: if I can keep the growth away just by my thoughts, just by thinking about my history and our future, when everybody gets back we can just think, too, like all at once, like once we clear the growth we can think, like one part of our minds will always be focused on it, focused on all the spores and horrible beings in the city and thinking they don’t even exist, that they never existed. And we’ll just radiate it bigger and bigger until the whole earth is just back, back to the way it was, but even better, too. Maybe that’s what this is all about, like a whole new approach. Like there was something missing in the way we were doing things before, like we didn’t realize how powerful we were.
The wind. How can the wind be listened? And what is within the wind? The earth is within the wind. And the shimmering spores reaching up from the lichens, which were once the old humans from the old earth. Within the wind I can feel the ocean. And yet not a smell, not the wetness, the salt—more the minds within it, the minds at its shore looking out upon it, touching its skin with sight, sight and its surface, like boundaries meeting, and within the space new life grows. All through the daylight the wind holds me in its dreams, carries me so far from this body even though I know it’s there, even though I know foxes pass my body as I sleep and converse about the being wedged under a fallen tree, or they stand on me if I’ve buried myself in the sand and look out, like two crafty wings of fallen fire who have been here since it all began, rasping their music and listening for the call within the echoes, within the wind, too—all day embraced so that I don’t know which is louder, the percolating journeys of moles or my own blood, all dreaming as the wind teaches me because I asked how it can be listened, because I set off from something I loved, from the mountain lake—vultures standing upon the fallen tree so full of journeys and homes, fallen costumes—and within the wind I can hear her, hear her seeing, almost like a wind within the wind, the wind’s other side journey born and stretching, just opening, stretching by coming closer, stretching from the mountain lake, the deer, stretching toward Mira, toward that strange music of her body I feel with things growing endlessly between us, things heightening as I come closer. How the wind can be listened—I am one of those strands, one of those currents pulled—the wind holds my hand and carries me over the earth, and we whisper into ears, onto skins, we explore every crevice, every leaf and lichen, every fur impressed, music looking for music.
The mountains aren’t as high here—that’s what Mira calls them—but it’s really the city, the old city, which is going to be the New City, because we’ll probably change it, expand it. Maybe we can have a wall that you can move like further and further out. And then people can go to other places like this and then we can all connect. It’s like shaking hands. We’ll all wear clothes and shake hands and people will be different because they’re from different places, but we’ll all be the same because we’re human, so we’ll understand each other. I don’t know what the rest of the earth is like. Sometimes I wonder if I’m the only one. But maybe each city has a person like me, who took back a house or a building from the spores. We’re like seeds just waiting. But without us no one would be able to get back. We’re calling them with our thoughts. Of course, we’ll all be different. We may not all even be boys. Or some of us may be grown-up, too. But in the future we’ll be these important people. I don’t know if I really care about being important, though, cause when my parents get back that will be enough. I’ll be happy. We’ll be happy. They can take credit for everything, but I’ll know inside that I helped a lot. And then we can get down to business. Clearing everything. We’ll be able to touch all the steel, all the cement, and we can have big fires to burn everything else, like every day we can burn things, and in the distance we’ll see other plumes of smoke and know it’s happening all over the place, all over the earth. And at night there’ll just be this glowing because we’ll be burning all night, too. And we can do it in the little park in front of my building. We can use all the parks in the city for the burnings. Especially the park with the little lake in the center of the city. It’ll be like big fires brighter than the spores. And the spores will even get sucked in and burn up, like a big fountain. I chose this building because it faces the park. And it’s on the edge of the city. There’s not as much growth on the buildings around it because of my thinking. But there’s less and less buildings beyond the park, beyond the little stream at the far edge. That’s where I trap fish and there’s so many berries and violet leaves to eat. There’s places in the stream where it’s so cold I know there’s springs bubbling up, artesian springs. That’s where I drink. And the fish are orange. They’re like the gold fish people used to have but these are big with fins that look like wind. When I first started fishing I used worms on hooks but then there was the pain, the pain of the worms when I put them on, so then I started using the traps. The fish just swim in and then when I pull them out I talk to them. I guess I just say I’m sorry cause I don’t know, because I don’t want to kill them, but then I do and I eat them, but like really it only takes like a few fish a week. Then I swim. Whenever I eat the fish it’s like I can’t help but just jump in the water and swim and swim. And the birds dive down and make patterns skimming on the water. They get the bugs that are waiting for me when I’m totally under water. They hang out on the shore washing and preening themselves. Eating the fish I left for them. I give them their fish first so they don’t think I’m just giving them leftovers. Or hanging out on the branches above the stream doing their little dances and re-arrangements, changing their orders on the branches. The order always means something. You watch the order and you feel it inside. And I look at them through the water like a fish. And reach my lips up like totally even with the surface, making a hole and the birds hover over and drop berries in—bloop! Then I’m down again beneath the surface, coursing around, drinking from the cold gushings, my stomach full of fish and berries and violet leaves that grow along the banks. It’s funny cause we’re doing things that when everybody gets back I’ll be doing with people like me. Not that we’ll be doing the same things. But just like the friendship. Even though we’ll be working. The birds can become birds again and I can be human. And people will fly in planes and spaceships. I want to be a pilot. I want to fly up and soar around. And be important. Maybe I can carry people to other planets. I’ll be super calm about it. Even when things happen. It’s almost like I can feel it. I think like just being off the ground will be like you’re inside of music. Like the fish are inside me and I’m inside the fish. Except it’ll be in the air. But there may be other work to do. I know that. Really important things so I might not be able to fly and be important like that. Just important like everyone else. Just important cause I’m human.
It hasn’t been that many years since humanity disappeared, but you can still see where they’ve been, where they’ve fallen. Where their buildings or machinery are buried in the new growth. South. Like being shot from a bow. The arcing sun. More growth. You can see where the humans burned up. Char. Melted sand. Melted stone. Vases full of rain, full of dew. Then spread around them, the new growth, the beautiful, furling fountains of lichens. Every immolation an oasis. And everything the humans touched and made, too, like magnets for the shimmering spores of the lichens. Those people never knew what they were, that metaphorically they were more than human, that metaphor is more than human. Spores. Ships of ash. I didn’t have a life then, I didn’t turn to fire like they did, and yet I know this history. How? None of my lives, even the new ones that adhered after leaving the lake, belong to that time. Yet I know. Like it’s in the air. Or it’s being sent to me. Maybe by Mira. Now lichens bigger than humans were. All this growth using these human constructions like skeletons, bones of architecture, so that you barely see what they once were. Out here they’re like outposts fallen to the enemy, to nature, fallen to themselves, or just to change, or to time, or to the fact that things may not have the purpose you intend them.
An oasis. A fortress. We’ll keep the growth away just by thoughts, by the proper thoughts, by the proper arrangement, just by thinking about our history and our future—a consolidated thinking. When everybody gets back we can just think all at once, like once we clear the growth we can have huge meetings where we burn with our minds. Or like when we burn all the growth in piles we can surround the fire and just think and think, think all the weird plants away, think all the weird people away. Then we can create new things that’ll serve us, that’ll do whatever we say. But we can laugh, too. Like I think we’ll set up a regular time to really think about what we want and then we’ll have regular times to laugh and just talk. But I think more and more people will be able to do it like I do, like all the time, just radiating like our history into the future, like all around us. It’ll be so powerful nothing will ever change unless we want it. Probably if I wasn’t alone I could’ve never figured that out, but now I can teach people. But then, of course, I won’t be able to fly, to be a pilot, cause I’ll have to teach people how to put a part of their minds on the past so it can keep happening. That’s probably what happened, anyway, that people started forgetting to do that. It’s like if I was a pilot I might forget to do that, too. I don’t want that to happen. It’s not like the moss isn’t on any of the buildings around our house, but it doesn’t grow like crazy like it does in the rest of the city. That’s cause I think, I control it with my mind—I’ve arranged it with my mind. And I’ve done my best to keep the pagoda I sleep in clean of moss, too. That’s why this is an oasis. This is like our big foothold. It’s like our headquarters. And the spores don’t go up and down here. You can see them in the distance if you look, especially back into the heart of the city. But they’re dimmer than they used to be. Maybe my thoughts are affecting them, too. Up further to the north there’s less and less. There’s less and less houses and buildings until there’s just old farms. They’re all buried like mounds. The drier it is the further you get away from the city, there’s less moss and more lichens. You’d never know that some of them have the real world underneath them.
The bio-spores are like fountains, rising and descending, disappearing into the moss which fills the city’s shape, this place that was once a city. And then to the north, inland, less and less of this new growth until far off it is only desert, rock, sand, only specks of the new life, mostly lichens, among all those pinions, pines, shrubs, those flowers, plants that have been here for longer, from before the change. Placed here by other minds, other cultures, brought from other parts of the universe. I pass my new, dripping fingers over the screen and it changes. It shows where the new life is, lessening and lessening out from the city. I draw my hand back and the scan expands up the coast, more cities, larger, smaller, some enormous, which show up on the earth like jewels, like emerald reefs, all the vibrancy of the mosses and lichen, the fountains of spores, that were born from the burning humans. Humans and fire. There’s a connection there. A fascination. Like the way a human gazes into a fire must be how I feel looking down at the Earth. I pass my hand over the screen again. Dripping. I have to lick it up to get it off or else I’ll cover the whole image with this, this living wetness. Purple. Ahhh. When it separates from my fingertips and lands on the counsel I feel it and when I lick it off…it must be what the city feels when the bio-spores return. Cellular homecoming. Separation as a journey in itself. Understanding yourself as another body, as a body among the body of space. Information that isn’t data. That is separation and return. It’s like being a space port. I look. Yes. So many new life-forms in the city. They’re shown as specks of bluish silver. Spread all through it. So many. And the vegetation of the city pulsing like chlorophyll filled with gold, like a crust of green jewels filled with golden light. And then out into the ocean. More life. More color. More light. If I had more time I could arrange this into music. Just this image of Earth. We could play it. And maybe by playing it, understand it. Maybe that’s what we lost. Maybe that’s what we never had. That we took part in but is found outside ourselves. But where is the human? I can feel him. Almost as if he’s speaking to me. I’m getting closer. Soon I’ll be close enough to land. I slow the ship. I’ll wait till morning. I almost wish I wasn’t coming for him. To do what? To set things right? How can that be? How do you set things right? I don’t even know what went wrong. Maybe that’s why I’m here. Maybe that’s why I’m the only one still thinking about Earth. The only one that doesn’t pretend it doesn’t exist. The only one who took a chance and turned purple, lost my ferns. Lost my Orophine body. I don’t even know if this Earth will let me live. Is this body just a flash? Just a musical note rising and disappearing? The spores are so dense now. Pouring up. Pouring down. Up the coast more cities shown on the screen, more density. And below me…sky scrapers turned to green, lush mountains, more like paint brushes, brooms, flowers in themselves, no longer structures meant to abrade, to penetrate space, to prove human existence. Yet shimmering. It must be the glass. There must still be exposed glass in places. So not completely enclosed. The human. There’s an area more on the edge. Strange. It’s still vibrant with life, but with more the older life. And yet, compared with the old vegetation outside the city, it’s dimmer in this area. Like a circle seen through a sepia filter. I’m getting close enough where I can see it through the ship. Almost like an overlay, like a darker, murkier film over the area. The monitor zooms closer. The screen shows a building not at all covered in growth. And a life-form surrounded by smaller life-forms in a small structure in an open area in front of the moss-less building. I open my hand over the screen to get the data. Yes. Human. Human physiology. The sensors scan the rest of the city. Yes, in terms of human, in terms of the human prototype we brought here, he’s the only one. But I scan myself, too, just to see: physiology unknown.
Night travel within the shimmering curtains of listening, traveling deeper and deeper—and then the repetitions come, over and over as I drop deeper and all that has grown relaxes, levels, facing the earth I flex up and down, up and down—it comes from deeper, a deeper listening, a growth that rises into the repeating movements, the repeating form and placement, arising from the repeating, arising among the repeating, like an eco-system, arising out of this self within the night’s cradle, the repetition’s cradle, the earth. The repetitions come on their own. I never know when they are going to take over, but when they do my body drops down on all fours and flexes up and down, my tail whips, but my mind descends as if into black soil. Sometimes if I don’t know they are happening, or if they begin while I’m asleep, I’ll try to struggle back into my form from deep within, but then I’ll catch myself, relax, relax into the depth, into the blackness, like a seed, networking, grounding, in no hurry at all, until I’m ready to rise back up into the repetitions and take part in my body again. Many beings do repetitions but the space, the distance of the movements, the gestures, are so big, cover so much time, that you don’t notice. The repetitions cease now, and I see the Migration crossing stars, the Design caressing all the sky’s jewels as the formations play the night, stars disappear like codes, and as they disappear you knew it was going to be that particular star to distinguish, to blink, to wink, among the night song—as it does you know, you already knew, arising from the repetitions and feeling the correlations, the codes of silver, unborn when two beings meet, of skunks, of foxes, of deer, of packrats, of eagles and toads, of vultures, of every human who returned.
Humans. What is it about them? They never understood what we were trying to teach them. Was it in the mental capacities or just the configuration of physiology, the two arms and two legs, the uprightness, that didn’t allow for growth? And the chimpanzees, too. Another failed prototype. Yet we left those ones alone after a few attempts. We didn’t push them like we did the Homo sapiens. Didn’t endlessly tweak them. Didn’t take on their forms, the forms of our own creations, to walk among them and give them technology. The capacities were there, of course—it was just the doorways to those capacities, the connections that lead into those riches. But riches for who? The other prototypes—the orangutans, the gorillas, Bonobos, the ones we placed and left alone, all the others, all the human forms throughout Earth’s vast history, all variations on a theme…but what is the theme? That may be the question we never asked. It’s as if we never listened to our own music. And now that it has become something else, everyone has turned away. As if the music doesn’t exist unless we devised it. Unless it came out as planned. Which, by all accounts, it should have. There should have never been any doubt. Any discrepancy. It was a type of mutation, a mutation not of physiology, of limbs, of respiratory systems, even of electrical-mental movements, but of something else. Intention? Creation? Maybe the understanding of their own positions, their own postures, their own meaning within the universe, within the eco-system, mutated. Or, the importance of that meaning. Strange. Variations on a theme. And yet, variations that make a theme. If variations create the theme then are they variations? Or is the theme just this flash, this surfacing, like a bubble that rises through lava, through rock turned to liquid, through liquid before it becomes rock, and disappears? Like this body. Like those human bodies. Or are we the theme—the creators? From our white planet creating. Dictating. Creating form but then turning away. Or are we just a piece of a theme, a piece of a theme of Earth? Dawn. It’s here. I barely noticed, but it’s happening. Yes. Windows, glass among the mountains. Still visible. An expression. A part of the new body of the metropolis. Full of violets, purples, turquoise. So beautiful. I forgot how it happens. How that planet of burning light looks at the earth. Circles it like they know each other. And that morning apprehension. That’s a human thing. We don’t have that on our planet. Yet maybe we would with this configuration. Maybe they got it from us. Apprehension as if everything never before existed. As if the world is awakening from nothing. As if from death. As if…from life. As if you fall, fall and are eaten by radiant beetles who grow, pulse from your flesh and then you awaken in them. All so fast it’s hard to keep track of it. To awaken to be a root in the earth. Or a mountain covered in birdsong. Or to be a wet track on stone disappearing as the sun rises. To awaken as if you were a human child forced into battle who hid himself beneath a vehicle and fell asleep, crawling out to find only bodies and char and flowers. To awaken to be moss and lichen. Moss and lichen beneath two humans…in love. It must be this body. This dripping body Earth…and I…decided on. That could’ve stepped out of those dawn clouds. Or remnants of human thoughts. Voices I’m picking up that were left behind. That’s why I’m thinking this way. Time to descend. Time to walk again on Earth.
That’s why people like me. Cause I can be with them. Just like an energy. And they can be happier, sharper. And I’m happier and sharper, too—hard like the outside of a well, but I’m the well, too. Altarberry isn’t everybody. He thinks he is. Or he thinks those people that supposedly look like him are—are everybody. And his birds. He doesn’t listen to them, like really listen to them. They’re his friends and he doesn’t even know it. And so, what if they had human bodies but acted the same way? What if they were humans and could fly? Or just made music, music with their wings and shapes, with their songs. And they didn’t talk. Then he’d probably still be waiting. Waiting for the real humans to come back. Real humans who are afraid of everything. I’m at the edge of Altarberry’s zone. I can feel it. I can definitely see it. Hmm. That woman from the desert. I want to address her, like ask her things directly in my mind but she’ll disappear. I’ll lose the connection. At least for a little while. It’s just like playing together. Playing a music. Speaking. Speaking to everyone and listening. Being like a fountain among fountains. But that one fountain, her fountain…there’s something about it—it’s a special fountain even though we’re all a bunch of water. And look at me, I’m being really fountainy among the fountains, I’m being super fountaining without saying it—just thinkin it, thinking together, or at the same time, then everybody can share in it, everybody can help, but if I was just like spraying my water on her forever all the other fountains would lose interest. They might even disappear. But this way you might just wake up and suddenly you’re side by side. Altarberry could never understand how beautiful it is. Here I am, at the farthest edge. That dimness, Altarberry’s fabric, his History, and me being a…a monster and everything—it’s being left behind.
Staring into my reflection. It keeps arriving. But then under the surface there’s all that water just going and going. I wonder where it goes. I wonder how it can have all this reflection. And like the diamonds of sunlight, diamonds of silver. Some are birds, like bird reflections and some are birds of reflection, or wings, wings of light that appear and disappear just like that. So easily. Things stretching. Things stitching in and out. But I’m in the river, too. Breaking apart and re-adhering. So much that it’s just what I look like. I wonder if you could look like that. And live. People would have a hard time talking to you. And my face, stretching and dispersing. Coming back. A bunch of eyes. And then just one. Pouring. It’s like the surface is like hot metal and all these reflections are the colors. And then we walk out, or fly out, or build ourselves cell by cell and become trees. Leaves pass by. They should start on fire. A pile of foam spinning by the rock. The orange fish are watching it. Their fins are like someone shaking out a veil. And I came down to drink or I think that’s why I’m here. I don’t know why I came down here, but it’s probably to drink. I don’t really remember. It’s just that time of day. Morning. It’s like being full from sleeping. I didn’t dream about Mira at all. Maybe she’s really gone. Things are back to normal. I don’t have to feel her watching me, following me around, getting her arms tangled in everything. She doesn’t have any purpose. She thinks her purpose is just because she thinks we’re connected. Like we’re related. But she doesn’t look anything like my parents do. There’s something happening. I feel hotter. Inside. It’s cooler here by the stream. It’s like the water is breathing. Shedding. Spiders on the rocks. And orange clouds of fish beneath them. But the spiders would never fall no matter what. I don’t know. I want to be a good person. Important. Like not important like fake important, but real important where you can’t even tell. And create things. Create life to be more efficient. Like what makes people different? Or are we supposed to be the same? Like can I be a pilot? Even though not everybody can be one? I guess that’s what it’s all about. Like flying. Like flying other people around…or flying for other people. All the surface, it’s moving, but each moment is lifting. Like sheets. Like pictures that lift and disappear. Or hang in the air but you can’t see them. The spaces. You have to force yourself, or trick yourself to see the spaces. They’re between what you’re supposed to look at but they’re like whole worlds. Like universes of color. Like beautiful metal, like mercury, pouring, flowing. I’m teaching myself but I’m a bad student, but I’m the teacher, too, so I have patience because I know it’s important, because in the end I know that I’ll be the best, or the student part of me will be the best and the teacher part of me knows that. Nobody else knew it but him. He saw it right away. They wanted to send me to some other planet but he said: No. I know this child. I know what he’s capable of. Someday he will be the one to see between things. I have spoken. That’s funny. I don’t know. It must be something else. Maybe it is flying. Maybe he’ll be this famous pilot and I’ll be his student and he’ll tell everybody that me being a pilot is more important than anything and I won’t have to be important like in the regular way, but like the way I really want to be. Otherwise like I don’t get it, there’ll be two mees. Or one me won’t really exist. Or one me will really be flying but the other me will be on the ground. But it would be better if there was just one me. But maybe they would meet up at night and it would be ok. They could talk. Maybe they could take turns. But the one that would always be on the ground being normal, that one would always be physical and the other one would fly everywhere but no one could see it, I bet. The one on the ground would have to pretend there wasn’t the flying one. It would be like a diversion. An act so the other one who doesn’t even have a body could fly. Just fly all the time. The one on the ground wouldn’t be happy, though. Not totally. Not totally unhappy but not happy, either. That’s the one who would probably be creating new humans, the geneticist. But maybe that would be like flying, too, flying in bodies and arranging genes—just the way he would think into them, think into their physiologies and manipulate them would be like wings affecting the air, changing the currents. It’s just that they both could be flying like with one body. Just themselves. They both could be together in my body like total friends. That’s why the teacher would make sure everybody understood how important it was that I fly. I don’t know what kind of ship I’d have. Maybe something completely different than anything that came before it. Maybe something that doesn’t even look like a ship. Maybe something that I totally created. All the birds…they’re making designs. Swooping down. Skimming. Dripping water from their little nails like dew on thorns. And the ones hovering above just creating forms between their reflections. Sending me shadows. The morning sky. Shapes of the morning sky. And the water spiders are coming. Racing. They’re like italicizing all the designs the birds are making. It’s almost like a great circle between the rock with the bigger spiders, so still, and me on the shore, and within it the birds and water spiders are etching, creating. They have to be just making it up but it’s something. It’s so much like that design on Mira’s feet. It’s so weird. Mira’s feet. I forgot it. Or…I don’t know. It seems like something covered it over. Or took it away. Cause I know she had something on her feet that was like this but I just don’t remember, too. And the water singing over the rocks. It’s funny but you forget about it. It’s always happening. The singing moves things. Everything is always moving. The singing is in the design, the design that never stops. Birds dancing, but their dancing also becomes something else in the stream, in the metal. It’s hard to tell…you could even say they came from the metal, from the reflection. Lifted from it. And the water spiders…weaving through the singing, darting from space to space. And the singing…it’s like lifting everything. It’s all becoming one thing. I think…I’m starting to burn. Like really burn. I don’t want to burn. I don’t want to burn. But I think it’s worse than ever. I gotta get deeper in the water. But I don’t want to ruin everybody’s design. I’m sorry. I’m sorry. Nobody cares. They just keep going. The birds even land on my head. Spray me with water. I’m still so hot. I go deeper in. Fish nibbling my legs. Their rough mouths on my nipples. It’s just my head. My head in the middle of it. My stomach’s red. It’s glowing. There’s fish in my hands. The singing. It’s like I imitate it. Just with my flat tongue circulating against the top of my mouth. The air shimmering through the spit. Then my mouth opens more. The more my mouth opens the louder the stream gets. And the birds all hover, trilling. How does this happen? How does this sound happen? It’s like inside. Like the burning is part of it. It’s like wings. Like all the birds. It’s coming through their wings, too. They’re spreading them. Hovering. Creating spaces. Spaces of sky. Spaces of metal. Of glass. Even of singing. Spaces of music. And vibration. As if they are creating the wind that makes music through them by creating wind. Or something. All part of the design. Never to be the same again by design. Like the seasons. The design that comes every second. Burns every second. Burns in the music. The music must feed the burning. How can something feed something by coming out? By coming out? Everyone is trilling. And I rise. I’m rising. It’s burning but I’m rising. I’m rising up into everybody and there’s sounds just pouring out of me. I’m up to my waist but my feet aren’t touching. I raise my hands and there’s a fish in each one. I’m not even looking but I see them. They’re gulping air but I think they’re singing, too, singing with their color. They slide back through the music into the color. Ripples. Silks of sounds. There’s something coming down. It’s coming down over the trees to the north. On the other side. A ship. A ship. It’s a circle. It’s like a giant spore, but I know it’s a ship. It’s coming back. They’re here. They’re here. They finally came home.
Green-gold spore-plumes flexing, rising, from the island of lichen, like fingerings of auroras into the night to touch stars, particulate rivers pouring from their furling bodies, and returning, shimmering, all shimmering back and forth, lichens with their green-gold flags wavering up into space. From where I am I can hear screaming among the shimmering music. Rasping. The lichens are three, four times as tall as me. They rustle, bend, shimmy, altering the molecule highways that rise like smoke from their tips into the night. This little island of lichen is surrounded by a broad lace of Primroses. I go down the slope in the moonlight. More screaming. In the distance other screams. Like something between a cough and a scream. It’s so piercing it makes you cringe. I stand before the island of lichen among the flowers, within the silver of night, and the screaming sending shivers through me, through the tiny, glistening highways of spores. The lichens are still being bent, shook, by something I can’t see, their edges drawn against other edges, played against themselves. It’s dense within the grouping but suddenly someone emerges: a fox. It bends one of the lichens and the glistening dust covers it. It shakes itself and screams, at the same time letting the lichen rasp against the one next to it, letting it all combine. The highways of spore re-adjust into the peaks of the lichens as they are moved. More screaming in the distance, more calling back. I can see another fox in the density, lower down, just that flash of fire. Suddenly, it emerges, and together they bend another lichen, front paws extended, putting their weight into it, vibrating the lichen’s furls into the furls of others, screaming, covering themselves with diaphanous dust. The shimmering highway leading up to the stars is re-aligning. Maybe it’s the highway that is screaming. Or the tiny spores. The molecules. The music. It’s almost as if the movement, the lichen’s repositioning and the highway of spores rising from its subsequent re-aligning, is dragging a star, leaving a space for the sound to come in. The Primroses seem to have grown, bell-heavy, agreeing. Agreeing in stillness. In the distance, other shimmering ribbons rise up into the night, and within them, within the ones I can actually see clearly, languid waves traveling up and down into the cosmos. All the stars, all the stars seem to be moving. The foxes break, one heading off into the open, the other disappearing behind a boulder. I look back and the first one is gone. Disappeared, right out in the open where it is impossible for anyone to hide. Atop the boulder where the second one went grows a twirling pinion. I wait. I can still hear screaming in the distance. I climb up and look over. No one. I climb down to where the fox should be, wedge myself beneath the boulder’s base and settle in. Dawn is coming.
I’m not afraid. I’m happy. I just want everything to be right. That must be why I ran here. I guess I don’t remember. I don’t remember coming back to the building. The burning is gone. Maybe that’s what makes the burning is there’s something missing like my people, my family, and that makes this space that burns. But now they’re here. Ok. All the birds are on the ledges of the windows staring in. They’re so still. I gotta check everything. But I can’t even feel things when I touch them. I hope Mira doesn’t come back. If she does I could say I don’t know her, that she’s just a mutant I see scrounging around. They’ll probably send a delegation. I don’t know. Maybe it’ll be formal. I have to remember to stand straight and not cry. I guess everything is going to change. I don’t know if I should wait here. They may not know I’m alive, that I’ve worked this hard. But then I guess if they didn’t know I was here they wouldn’t have landed so close. I’m sure they have the technology to see I’m here, or that something’s different than the rest of the city. Ok. Ok. I’m going outside. I’m shaking. This is crazy cause I’m happy. I know I’m happy.
Yes. This area is different. Strange. It’s like a circle. Some type of dimension overlaying, sucking the nutrients out of where the Earth is now. Like a mask over its present expression. On the screens he shows up red, pulsing. In front of the building that isn’t covered by the new growth. But further out from him, beyond a certain radius, the atmosphere brightens. I’ve landed the ship right on the edge of it. Why is he glowing, pulsing, like an ember? Maybe all the humans before they ignited looked like this if we had scanned them on the monitors. I don’t remember. There was too much confusion, too much racing against the Earth. Just grabbing whoever we could, whoever was left. So few. A hundred out of billions. Billions of fires. Humans and fire. And now there’s just this one. He’s different than the others we saved. But from the scans it’s obvious that there’s other beings who are close to humans in certain ways. And then there’s me. The new Earth-form of Zeaesque. You could say I’m no longer from Orophaze. Not until I change again. Change back. If I ever do change. If this form lives. Or dies. Yet, I am still Zeaesque. I haven’t forgotten. I haven’t become someone else. I don’t have to journey, to age, to lose my mind to remember. And yet this form. That I created with Earth. That probably never existed. Not a species. Only a species in itself. Purple with its gold sheens pulsing to the surface. Pulsing from a core. Not circulating. And the dripping. As if I’m constantly melting and being born. Constantly falling apart and flourishing. Going to seed and sprouting. Like a fountain. And these white plumes—they have something to say, too, I’m sure. Communication. What is it? What creates form on this planet? Is it just speaking well and listening as well as you’re speaking—and that is what creates a form, a structure, tissue, cells and molecules shaped, welcomed into the space of communication? A gathering of liquid? So…is there a decision? Is it a conference where decisions are made? Priorities are determined? Or is it just the communication and then the form is automatically born? It’s all so deep down and I should be able to listen, to take part, to learn to take part. Like a student. Like a student realizing there is something worthwhile being spoken around me. And within me. Like the Orophine Conferral. Yet more. This city. These mountains. And the ocean, too. The whole Earth. I feel I could spend millions of years walking in it, swimming it, listening to it, taking its hand and becoming form after form, reporting, reporting down into my core, being changed, even forgetting, forgetting is like being a form in itself, forgetting only so I can remember, like liquid, like breath, human breath, animal breath, breath of gills, wind making music through leaves, branches. Forgetting over lifetimes, forgetting and remembering within one life. Lifting my hand, watching the gold shimmering rise into the purple wetness. Earth. Maybe I’ll never leave. There’s so much to explore. There’s so many echoes to listen to in this body. Echoes of echoes. Systems that are beyond systems. Echoes fallen, rocking to the bottom of the ocean. Echoes of decomposition. Echo systems. An echo of what? Could you ever find it? Or is that another human obsession, a human thing that came from us. Humans acting out our deepest desires, our shallowest desires? But the human. I’m here for the human. He is why I came. My responsibility. I am the representative of our responsibility, our intentions, whether they were right or not. Whether other Orophines believe they exist or not. And yet, I don’t even look like anyone from our planet now. I may not even think like anyone from our planet. And now, here, I’m cut off from the Conferral. Without the Conferral I’m no longer an Orophine. Everyone has turned away from the Earth. So much so that it may not even exist. I’m on a planet that doesn’t exist. Because it is not viable to another planet’s intentions. And the other planets who were involved in creating the Earth? They may not have been affected at all. All the changes that took place focused on humans and their creations, the creations of our creations. Everything else co-exists. I can see that scanning the area and out further, even in the center of the city where the new growth has its greatest density, all the old plant and life-forms still exist—except for dogs and cats—species who were bound in some strange emotional way to humans—almost merging with them—but the other life-forms: flowers, trees, skunks, raccoons, they are just as vibrant as ever. Yet, here where the human is, there’s a suppression, a suppression of the expression of the present. Humans as an expression of the dreams of Orophaze. Orophaze dreaming and yet not realizing that it is our own dream. And yet, expression as revelation. Expression is a speaking. Expression speaks back. Is an echo. And creates an echo. That is why the rest of my people turned away, otherwise we would have to face what happened on Earth as an echo of our own voice. And yet…so many voices it’s unfathomable.
The park seems so empty even though it’s the same. They just have to come through the trees beyond the stream, then cross it and come out into the open. Then I’ll walk out, too, and we’ll meet out in the middle by the pagoda. I want to wait. I want to be calm because that’s how I should be. I’m so dirty. I mean, not really because I swim almost every day. And I wash my clothes. And I’m organized. But I guess there’s rips and things. Or I don’t know, maybe a little bit of dirt like grass stains, which would affect my stature. I could go to the stream and wash again but I was just in there and I can’t take my clothes off. I’d have to swim in my clothes. They might come like right when I was naked and it wouldn’t be right. That’d affect my stature, too. They’d think I wasn’t really like them and I’d have to explain everything. Or my parents would have to make some kinda excuse, make some kinda apology. And Mira would probably show up and it’d be like a super mess. I’m sitting on the front steps. I’m just gonna sit here. It’s so strange how all the birds are watching me. But I guess some of them are looking out to where the ship landed beyond the trees. Flitting, nodding their tails. There’s one on each shoulder like they’re looking through my ears. “Get out of here!” I jump up and swing my arms. Everybody lifts and settles, cocking their heads, ready to fly again. They can’t be here when everybody comes. I guess I never thought of that. But they’ve always been here, ever since I can remember. Ever since I came outta the city. Even before that. Before I started taking back this building. Before I started taking back this building I was deeper in the city. That’s true. That must be where my parents left me. And then I escaped, I escaped here. I escaped here but I think the birds were already with me. And I think I knew Mira. I think she followed me here. “Get out! You guys gotta get outta here!” Geez! This is crazy. I don’t think they’re gonna leave. Maybe this is normal. Maybe everyone will smile and pat me and say it’s ok, that I’m just different but it’s ok. I don’t think I’d like that, being accepted, or like tolerated or something. Then I wouldn’t be able to do anything. I’d be way down on the list. I wouldn’t be able to fly or choose things and my parents would have to explain things all the time. I don’t want to cry. I can’t cry. I’m not crying. I’m not crying! I’m not! I’m not! I’m just shaking but I think you can’t tell. The birds are back on my shoulders. Whatever. This just isn’t what I thought it would be. I don’t look right. I just wish I could remember. I wish I could really remember them. Remember what happened. I never really thought about it. It’s just like this world, this history, like this history, this history but then there should be all these things like memories with me in them, and things I felt, or just like smells, or the way the sky looked. I mean, I do remember this city and how it looked before, how it shined, like everything was Us, like a part of us, and you could see it, like everything shined and was angled and straight, and you could keep track of it. It didn’t change. Like the sky, the light, changed around it, above it, but the city didn’t change. Or it changed differently. It changed way different than this moss. It changed when humans built things or tore things down. Or expanded. All this moss. Pushing on me. Wherever you go you have to touch it. Or it touches you. It’s always touching you, reminding you it’s there. But then something happened between when my parents left me and when I came here, started taking back this place. Before I started getting ready. Cause when I came here…I think I already knew Mira, and the birds were with me. It’s before I came here that I saw all the creatures, the monsters that took over the city. The ones besides Mira. That’s when I knew I wasn’t part of them. I must’ve run away. And Mira was the only one that followed me. They were all too busy being monsters with each other. But I know I’ll know them when I see my parents. That’s what it’s like, like you know things like that right away. I’ll be drawn to these two people and they’ll just radiate this thing. They probably won’t show it, like right out cry or anything but I’ll be able to see it cause I’m part of them. I belong to them and they belong to me.
I don’t know what part of me really cares about Altarberry. My eye and my tongue are into other things, or they try something—if it don’t work they just move on. They probably know more than I do. Everything is so clear in the mountains. And every second you hope you’ll meet someone you know, and you hope you’ll meet someone new. I don’t know how Altarberry could’ve left all this, but his place is beautiful, too. I know I’m hungry. Like super hungry. That’s what I say when I’m hungry. I keep saying: Everything is beautiful. Everything is soooo beautiful. It drives Altarberry crazy. To him it’s just a noise. He can’t understand me. He usually covers his ears and walks away. Unless I chase him down. But now I’m going to the ocean. I always go to the ocean. And I come back. But now maybe I won’t come back. I guess I don’t know what part of me likes Altarberry. I guess maybe I’ll ask around. But first I gotta eat. I love how clear it is. How green. And the spores so emerald, swirling with that silvery lime color inside them, swirling internally with blooms of gold and rising up, way up high. Here, there’s stars in the daylight, but in Altarberry’s world it’s so dim you can only see them at night, but here the spores rise up to them—they make all kinds of pictures, and they’re constantly coming down, too, disappearing into the deep moss. I love the color of my skin against it, almost black against all that green. It’s even darker here. Like my color means something to the mountains and the sea. The spores glob out of the glass. There’s glass in the mountains like Altarberry has on his building. It’s just these windows on a lot of the mountains that the mosses never grew over. They left them open. That’s where the spores come out of when they rise. They become the glass, just glob out and pop into the orbs, and rise. It’s beautiful. Beneath the mosses there’s depths. There’s highways. My tongue can smell it. My tongue can hear it. My tongue always wants to talk to what’s beneath things. It pulls my face into the plush moss, and finds a crevice deep inside. It’s like a gate, like a hatch leading to a river of algae beneath the mosses, like deep into the skeletons of the mountain. Like green blood. Like my tongue is just a cell on some crazy journey into endless veins, reporting back, and the report is what keeps the rest of this body alive. It’s gorging on the slime. I gaze up. I just watch the spores. Going up to the star-pictures—the spores like stars going up to the stars. They move them. Or the stars are playing with them. And they’re descending, too. Everywhere. Rising and descending. Some of the stars might be pretending to be spores. I hope so. I know I’m feeding because I’m seeing the spaces between. How can you be a monster when you’re speaking the algae, when the algae wants to grow inside you just as much as it wants to grow in the bones of the mountains? When your tongue tells you that sometimes those bones are like crystal, cold, soothing, rebuilding, and sometimes they’re like cords of energy, just flowing, like licking around bridges, highways of colors? Or when the Sky-designs are heading back to the ocean? Just like me. Visiting everybody. That’s funny! There’s one coming right now! As I feed, as I think this, that beautiful formation of birds that migrates from the ocean across the earth and back, never the same. They’re heading out right now. For a second, they fit perfectly into the space inside where two mountain peaks come together. Somehow they can do that. They can form their outer shape to fit other forms, like so quick you can barely see it. And then it flies on. Everything’s becoming the space between. The shapes of the sky. They’re stepping out. It’s just the light. Just the pure light. The sheens. The reflections. Just the spaces. My tongue must be so green. So green it’s almost black. The shapes. It’s all so beautiful. Are they fuller? They’re being born. It’s people. Being born.
I’m at the stream. I don’t know. They didn’t come. It’s gonna get dark soon. The sun’s almost gone. The water’s beautiful like it always is at this time. They didn’t come. I think their ship may have been damaged. Or maybe everything’s changed so much they don’t know if it’s safe. The ship must be only a little ways away, but I can’t see it over the bank. The trees are too dense, too. And everything’s darkening. I don’t know why but I’m still in the trees on this side. If someone came out on the other side, they couldn’t see me, not until I step out onto the pebbles. It almost feels like there’s someone there, hiding in the trees, too. But I’m not hiding. It’s just where I stopped, it’s just where I’m waiting.
I try to focus on the human but examining this body, this earth-body, is so fascinating. Beauty. Ideas of beauty. Ideals. Concepts we didn’t work with, didn’t grow with, utilize in order to grow, on Orophaze where there are very few species, just us and the Flowers of Time, the crystals, the Lake of Birth and the humanoid species we create before we place them in the universe…and yet, and yet, the forms we created, the humanoids, were endless it seems, yet never to populate our own world, except the prototypes to show what we had done, kept in the Creational Display Gardens to give the Orophines who had just emerged the spark for what they would learn to do. All so bare, sparse. Always at the same volume of illumination. And yet a planet of concentration. A planet without the endless, wild burgeoning, the juxtapositions, the shifting combinations, the layers, the multiplicity that is inside and outside, that is everywhere, every brush of wind, every cell attaching to another or setting off creating more and more. More and more music. Orophaze and its austerities, looking over the universe, complacent in what it has done, the seeds it has planted…through music. That’s how we create. That’s how we’ve always created. With our ferns. With our intentions. With our concentration. With the simplicity of Orophaze. But here, what is simplicity? What is music? What would happen to one of us if we stayed here too long? What would happen to our music? Maybe that’s why everyone turned away, for to continue focusing on Earth we could change. Uncontrollably. There’s an energy cord between the human and I, and between us only water. I can see his red form in my mind. He’s in the trees just beyond the stones on the other side. I am in the trees just beyond the stones on this side. His core is red. I can almost hear it. And I am purple, magenta, with golds surfacing like continents of mists. They must leave my body invisibly. More music.
I’m stepping out. I gotta be seeing things. There’s something magenta. Something like from the city. But I can’t stop. It’s like I can’t stop moving forward. Maybe it’s like I thought about it so many times it’s like a groove, a channel. I’m in the water and it’s in the water, too. I can feel it’s thoughts, or the way it looks at me, like waves, like waves over my face. It’s like a human, but it’s even crazier than Mira. I don’t know why I can’t stop. The water’s up to my waist. It’s close. It’s maybe seven yards away. Purple. But bright. Like magenta. It looks wet. There’s gold. Bursting on its skin. All the colors, the music of the river, as if it just lifted off the surface. And the birds are landing on it. It’s lifting its hands. They’re perching on them. Like platforms, like branches. And they’re eating something from the ends of its fingers. It’s dripping—gleaming, solid but dripping. Thick lips and gold eyes, like a human’s except golder than gold and round—I think it has almost emerald eyelids—and plumes of white filaments, like fibers, opalescent, running down its back. The birds are flying back and forth, from its head to my head, from my hands to its hands. I’ve lifted my hands, too. Four platforms. I don’t know why but it seems so familiar. It must be from the city, from the time I can’t remember. I’m burning again. The way it’s looks at everything…it’s different. The way it’s looking at itself, at its skin. Things don’t look at themselves like that. And the plumes lift, they move. Maybe that’s its thoughts. Maybe I can know what it’s thinking by watching the plumes like codes. I don’t know why I’m so close. I don’t feel scared. But I’m burning, too. I feel like I met this thing before, like it knows my parents. Maybe it is from the city. We’re face to face. I didn’t think it would be like this. I can hear my thoughts. Before…what was it, they just shot off, like they were traveling somewhere, but now they’re here, like they’re just bouncing off a wall, painting it so I can see them. It’s like dripping, like its body is dripping yet solid. The fish are eating it. And if I eat the fish…then what? I’ll be eating it. The waves, the waves of its thoughts—they’re entering the burning, cooling it, leveling it. It came from the trees but it’s like it just lifted from the colors, from the sunset, from the sky and water meeting, meeting, within the water we came to meet. The birds are just hopping now, back and forth. Our hands are still out. I can stop them. I can move them, but it doesn’t feel right. Nothing feels right but it does.
“Why are you dripping?” I don’t know why I said that. I don’t know why I’m talking to it. Maybe if I talk I can get away, or figure out if it knows anything about my parents.
“I don’t know. I just acquired this body. The Earth created it. Or…I and the Earth.”
That was weird. I heard the words, but deep down. And then I brought them up, like I helped bring them up…to its lips. It’s because it’s twilight. But the words came up through the burning and cooled it even more. Ok. Ok. I’m in the river. I’m facing a thing, a creature. But I’m not afraid. Not afraid of it. I’m afraid of…maybe…I don’t know. Maybe I don’t want to know what it knows. But it speaks. And it’s…I just wish there wasn’t water between us. It’s like we’re touching. We’re like three or four feet apart but we’re touching because of the water. And it’s dripping into the water and the fish are eating it. And the birds are eating it. And they’re flitting back and forth. And I’m hearing its voice inside. I just wish we were on land. But we’re in all this color. Everything keeps arriving. When it spoke, its plumes didn’t lift. They may not have anything to do with words.
“Are you…I mean, are you male or female?”
Its plumes don’t lift. It’s hard to look into its gold eyes. It’s pupils are more like three circles stacked. And its skin. It’s…it’s…it’s lips compress, then spread and re-thicken. They shine as if painted with green gloss.
“We don’t have that expression on my planet. And yet, we’ve created that expression, the physical accents that were the beginning of that expression, here when there were humans, what many humans utilized to create gender. But this body…let me see.”
It’s scanning me and itself at the same time. I feel the coolness in different locations.
“Yes. By certain human perceptions I may be considered both. Yet in actuality I am undifferentiated.”
“Yes. Uncatagorical. Yet this may change.”
“Do you know my parents?”
The magenta music. The magenta and gold music, living, reaching, traveling, combining…and the music that I can’t hear. And our bodies on Orophaze? Did we hear them? So much creation through music, our music—creation outside of ourselves, yet what music created those bodies, the bodies of the Orophines? Outward. Outward. Outwardly focused. A people outwardly focused to create. And yet, here, Earth, everything is swimming outward and inward simultaneously—inner and outer water—inner ocean, outer ocean—water between us. The human. He looks so different than when I lost him. Taller. His expression, in a way, or his thoughts, have narrowed. Sharp yet confined. There’s fear. But not a fear of this person, this persona I’ve become. Fear of an outcome of our meeting. Eyes so blue. I remember them. All this water. This color. As if I lifted not from the depths, but from the surface, from the interface. And this body—it leaps—I can feel it combining, shaking hands with new forms as it leaves this form. And the birds take pieces of it. Always re-growing. Always feeding. The silver of reflection. The silver of greens. Of everything like diamonds. Ever-arriving. As my fingertips drip they thrive. I can feel it. How fascinating. And I can see that bending form of this body in the reflection. The plumes lift. They’re connected to the journeys of what was once my flesh. As the musics combine they erect, shiver. I can almost hear it. I know it’s there. I know it’s happening. A new music. Ah. It’s like being on the edge, the edge of space, as if I could just fall into space and become…everything. Earth. It’s like a joke. A joke we played on ourselves. Is this like a second birth? Being born out of the Lake of Birth on Orophaze, emerging, becoming fully Orophines…it’s different. Here I am born from this beautiful surface even though I stepped into it. It’s music. Music makes it all possible. The human. I want to touch him, too. Ah. Each leaping, each separation, I feel it, it’s reflection, but it’s a reflection of something else coming into being. And the plumes lift. All part of the creation. It’s happening here, yet in other dimensions. The thickness of Earth. What can be seen and never seen. The human looks at me as if I’m not what he expected. He’s connected to something. It must be part of his programming. Part of his coding. I remember that. There was a structure in his makeup that allowed the past to attach into his input systems. It was part of his design. And yet, this allowed for a greater talent for what he was created for. It’s almost like his perceptions are being rewired. Or joined, joined by another channel. He must not be conscious of it. Part of the coding. Part of the conflict. Is that what makes him burn or is the burning deeper, below the DNA, below the genetics—color as a burgeoning, color as a being known. Yes, below the DNA—there is something below the DNA, something that the Earth knows. That communicates without any known system, without any system at all. How does this body, my body, communicate? Purple. Gold. Opalescent plumes. Lifting. Twilight. Gold beings beneath the surface, swimming the water, swimming air, between us—air, water, wings, fins, flight, suspension. Is it only obligation? Responsibility? I must have changed when I returned with him. And now I’ve changed again. Responsibility. Obligation. There is no obligation in the Orophine consciousness. Only the obligation to create—not to what, to who we create. Responsibility to use our music. Orophine music. The music that is like no other. That creates humanoid life. So much yellow pollen on the surface. His body is reaching out to me, too. And yet his mind, the coding is like a stencil, only allowing certain information through. The music that is like no other. In this water. The birds. The spiders—circling us. The bigger spiders on the rock watching. Every second it’s different. It’s almost hard to believe I came in a ship. That I came from another planet. But I’m not forgetting.
The revelations. The revelations of land. The revelations of the water. It’s in the form and the form changing. The form in it’s element. It’s in the element. It takes time to recover. And then what to do with the revelations? And the revelations of night and day. Of the traveling. The stretching. To travel beneath night’s silver tree and then it’s almost as if sleep is when I climb into its branches, as I close my eyes a limb brushes my body and all I have to do is embrace it and then it lifts, and the journey begins again in a new way. To travel at night is to travel the underside. Behind the curtain. It must have something to do with the humans, the past. Or the presence. The underside of the repetition. I’ve taught myself to awake just as the sun disappears. This time I awake outside a cave. I don’t believe the cave was here when the fox disappeared. Only more rocks, flowers, Pinions. Tracks of so many beings who came to love the earth. I’ve come. Back to the surface. Dropped by the diamond tree of sleep. It isn’t just the wind that I hear pouring out, I can hear her voice within the cave, too. Yes, your voice. The cave is your voice. Yes, I slept beneath the boulder but when I awake I’m out in the open, probably more where the fox disappeared. Violets, turquoise, the aurora of twilight, sings above me as if they’re pouring from the cave’s depths to become the great gleam of the growing night’s beauty, as if the heat has lifted into these colors, into rivers, into the night’s currents. These slow sliding colors are an expression of the cave’s wind and Mira, a pouring, and the more I listen and am kneaded by the breath, as bats pour from the cave’s depth as if diamonds of black crystals against glass unfold from the corded stream over me: bats slipping from the wind’s cloak, squeaking from the depths of exhalation, more and more—like chimes they shimmer the air, their pee falls on me as they birth from the cave, like black blood flowing into the Fauvist sky. My whole body is wet, glistening. A Sky-migration comes and many of the bats waft up to greet the Design, which continues on into the naked night, while others spread out, singing the contours, voices sharp as pee, deep as their liquid, their sleep, up-side-down in the universe, their dark leather bodies filling with insect forms, with iridescent wings and carapaces. I look at my body—yes, I can see the night has found me and landed ships in my skin. My skin glows from the bats’ urine. Suddenly, no wind. Only the cave. I walk in. It’s dark at the entrance, but once I’m all the way in I can see. But not the usual way I see at night. I don’t know if it’s coming from my skin, from the twilight within me, the twilight that is still moving, transforming—the shifting, the rearrangings of sunset that found its way onto me through the bats’ liquid, makes everything lit from within. The cave is a voice, a voice without sound, a stairway deeper into Mira, a bridge, a ladder, maybe that will eventually emerge. And on these wet walls, depictions iridescent, of mercury, of jewels. All these depictions, they’re so simple, yet it’s the pigments, the opalescences, the shimmering colors they were built with that are pregnant with other aspects, like eco-systems—for the longer you look at them your vision, or perception, plants seeds for stories to grow, grow and change the forms. Among all the paintings, I focus on a planet. But the more I focus on it, the more it becomes metal, like a giant machine that was once somehow like the earth. And I am the last one left to fight against it. I fly in a little ship through tunnels of metal and glass, but it is like flying through a giant mechanism, a giant surveillance—yes, where-ever I go they can see me. I fly in a little pod through the metropolis that has taken over the planet like a shell, a shell that has forgotten what is beneath it. It seems at one time there was hope, there were others of us, all fighting, fighting against the planet’s complete encrustation by machines, fighting to be free of the Corporation. But now it’s just me. It’s strange. I’m making a decision. Who-ever I am in that life—even though they could keep going, keep running for a while longer—pulls themselves out of that body—they decide that it is time to die. And because there is no one left to fight, the machine, everything encrusting the planet and all the humans who created it, can finally die, too. I come back to myself, the cave. I’ve connected two pictures. One of a planet and one of humanoids creating machine-like beings in a ceremony. I didn’t know I did that. I could’ve connected that planet to something else. Maybe this Jelly-fish. Yes, the planet is part of its beautiful, diaphanous constellation—the tip of one of its glowing appendages. But they grow from the spine of another being, rising like smoke from a human city. Some of the tendrils come from whales on the being’s back, spouting into what becomes more stars, more jelly-fish. The being is some type of mushroom, yet human, bending down to more images. I keep pulling them in, connecting them. Then I break away and walk deeper into the cave. Further in is a pool, like a teardrop of polished stone. Opalescent. Many colors. Like oil. But some of the colors—it’s strange—they’re toxic. I can feel it. Gills are forming just below my jaws. But they’re different. Different than my normal gills. They want to breath it. Even the toxins they want passed through their bright filaments. They came for it. The surface moves slowly, almost thinking. Almost convex. But these gills, these particular gills, they’re like new friends—I want to give them something. I want to give them what they want. I lean down. No reflection. Only colors. It’s like looking at a planet from high up. The gills break the surface. And then, before I can ask the water to share its voice, I’m in.
I love waking up other places. It’s all about visiting. Then I move a little, like one of my hands, like extend my hearing into the darkness without opening my eye, and things begin, things get created. There’s a moment when nobody else is creating, just me—things I’ve never seen, but are me and only me—then it’s like the first bird when it’s still dark, and suddenly everybody starts singing. The funny thing is, a lot of times I wake up at the lake in the middle of the city. But what’s around the lake, what’s in the sky can be really different. It’s like waking up in the center of an eye, and all the mountains are the corona, all the green brilliance, all the gardens you see when people have an eye. Altarberry’s stuck on people having two eyes, but a lot of people don’t have any at all. Like all the mosses, the trees, the flowers, the spores, the stars. It’s funny cause they don’t have eyes but I think they know more about eyes, or possibly are eyes, or they’re part of one big eye like if you could fly up high enough, like some of the Sky-designs, and look down, the mountains would be like one big green eye looking out at the sea, or maybe looking out at space and the sea is in its mind, the eye’s mind. My tongue’s still green. I pull it outta the lake back into my mouth. The spaces. It’s like when I’m with Altarberry I lose the spaces. It’s like certain things get more important and what’s between them gets less important when really everything is alive. I guess it’s just cause I haven’t eaten when I’m with him like there’s not as much algae in his little area and it’s kinda different, not as rich, or, what is probably really happening is his big History thing is sucking on my nutrition. But then when I get away from him and lick into the mountains, all the algae and my seeing fuses—then it’s all the spaces, the reflections, the sparkles of light, the leaves you can see passing light around, throwing it all over the place, tossing and catching it, and the light laughing, and just the shapes that Altarberry thinks are behind everything, that are just nothing but sky or emptiness, they come out like a whole new body that I can talk to and understand. I guess it’s just what I think is normal. And like, too, the space in the Designs the birds make when they migrate back and forth from the ocean, the space between the shaped shadows they’re always sweeping the earth with—I speak with it.
“Do you know my parents?”
It’s like I’m waking up. My body is vibrating. It’s like I’m feeling this pulsing…this throbbing. I feel the water, the fish. But I’m knowing something, too. It’s like everybody’s trying to get me to not think about what’s really important. But I know. It’s like everyone’s trying to distract me. Even my body. My penis is getting hard. And that thing, that creature is dripping. It’s dripping purple into the water and it’s plumes are lifting. It’s listening to something. My body’s trying to cover over why I’m here.
“Do you know my parents?”
It must know. I know it knows. I know I know it. I don’t remember seeing it, but I know I know it. And I know my parents brought me. How can you be both a man and a woman? I wish the birds didn’t land on it. And then fly to me, land on me. They’re against me. And the water. There’s water between us. I don’t think it can see that I’m hard. But it’s looking. And I’m burning again. When it spoke before, I stopped burning. I just thought it’d be different. So different. It’s just not right. But I know how it should be.
“Do you know my parents?!”
Now it’s looking at me. I can feel the words inside me, too.
“They can’t be known.”
“Why? Are they dead? Why can’t they be known?”
The birds, the water spiders, the fish are still. They’re waiting. And the river’s music is so loud, so playful. Rock utilizing the water, water using the rocks as instruments, the sand, the branches dipping and swaying with the water’s breath, everybody using each other to sing, instruments and music simultaneously, composers and musicians and instruments and music all in a rock, in a leaf, in a cleft of stone cradling the reflected sky, in a shiver of skin, and I never noticed it’s precedence, that we all burgeon from it, all the times I had been on Earth before. Too focused on advancing our creations. Too focused on the humans. Too proud of being an Orophine. It’s almost dark. Everyone changing form to create the dusk.
“—you were genetically engineered.”
All the mosses and lichen, all the green, the mountains of green—it’s like telling you that this is a stage, or a playground that they built with their bodies, cause we all came here to say Hey, how are you? which I’m doing, of course, just by walking through it, greeting everybody just by making a trip and going to look out over the sea. That’s where I’m heading now. But it’s like I’m pulling that woman, too. The sea and the woman. She’s listening to my voice. And she’s speaking to me: look out over the sea. It’s like two eyes meeting, but it’s endless. I can feel something deeper feeding on it, deeper than even the woman in the desert, who I get the feeling thinks a lot. But, of course, different than Altarberry. She’s not thinking about the past even though I think she knows the past, or her pasts, or at least she’s not thinking about it in order to make it happen again. All the rows of trees along the valleys, all the flowers—just from looking at Altarberry’s fabric I know what was here before and really it looks better, like it likes it more, like the moss and lichens helped everybody, even the buildings, cause why wouldn’t you want to be covered with tons of deep green life? It’s like now the buildings can express themselves and show off. And maybe she’s thinking about me, and pretending she’s not talking to me just like I pretend not to talk to her, just talking to myself and I know she can hear it. But I’m talking to everybody else, too. Even Altarberry, I guess, but I might stop that. But for some reason me and the desert woman acknowledged each other. It feels different. I’m on my way to the sea so I can look out, then everybody can look out, everyone I’m speaking to—I’ll let everybody look out of my eye if they want. Even the woman in the desert’ll be able to see through it. And I’ll visit everybody who lives along the shore and see how they’ve changed. But now I come to an open area. It’s cupped in the palm of the mountains. Spores rising and falling.
Stars through the trees. Depths. Such interesting depths on this planet. Facets. The beginnings of separations. Tools of possible perceptions of autonomy through the way the light functions.
“You mean I wasn’t born?” He’s fully awake. And yet there’s some type of wall, a type of aggression. The history still pours out of him and yet it is weaker. It’s as if he’s having trouble tending the opening.
“You were born. You just came into form in a different way. A different way than what humans consider birth. Consider natural.”
We’re on a pagoda in the center of an open area. He’s awake, yet he’s wondering if he is awake. The birds ring the edges, many of them sleeping. There’s the building without the new growth, the one I saw him standing before on the monitors. Strange. It must be the human. He must have spent many hours keeping the mosses and lichen from it. The Earth is so beautiful at night.
“I don’t believe you.” Now he lifts himself. “Did you touch me?”
“When you lost consciousness, your body descended beneath the surface. Everyone lifted you. They told me to carry you here. That this is where you slept.”
He’s looking at his body. The moon is shining in on us. I thought it would be different. Yes. That the human would be different. But there’s anger. There’s conflict. And, yes—it must be this body…it’s difficult to comprehend. I want to become closer to him, but I also want to walk the Earth…yet…yet, becoming closer may be walking the Earth, a part of it. How do you complete a responsibility?
“I don’t believe you. No one told you anything.”
Parents. He was waiting for his parents. But his parents don’t exist. It’s something I don’t understand. It’s something I understand but don’t feel. Does that make it not exist? I put myself in a new position, extend my body along the wood floor on my stomach and face him. Structures. Structures of wood. And beneath. I can feel the plumes. He’s looking at me. Yes. There’s a film over this area. A strange thickness. It’s coming through him. It’s his coding. It’s like an opening allowing the history. And the history is almost creating a dome. Inhibiting the new growth. But not completely. And you can still see the spores in the distance, outside the density. Dimmer. The birds. They may be able to communicate even when they’re sleeping. They’re sending me information, conversing. So much to discover that is already taking place, and then the acts that create new conversations that then exist, that then may have always existed. It’s like feeling ethereal contours—by not thinking, by not bringing a template…it’s like leaping into the air, like swimming in an ocean of it, all the singing, the singing that is just singing. But you have to sing. You have to listen. Which must be a measurement: how well the Earth can be listened. And his voice, this conversation, it is before me now, it is external. And yet, there is a speaking beneath the speaking. These words are just our carapace, just what we want each other to see. It’s interesting. It’s so different than the Orophine Conferral. So different than when we changed our bodies to walk among the humans. Maybe he is someone, a part of who I’ve been speaking to…internally. Part of my thoughts reach out into eternity and part of them reach into him. And his thought, his report, do I hear it, too?
“I’m gonna find them. I don’t care what you say. I don’t care what you tell me.”
He faces me the same way, lying on his stomach with his chin propped in his hands, but then realizes it, sits up and draws his legs in. Night. Earth. Stars. Spores gleaming faintly in the eyes of some of the birds. And beyond the naked building, the city. Like mountains now. I can feel their lush luminous depths and heights breathing. Who lives there? And the new growth, the mosses, the lichens, how do they communicate? What do they know? And beyond that, the shore, the ocean. How has it all changed? What does it have to teach me? And this body, the Earthbody of Zeaesque, a new theme. To walk to the ocean. Every moment. Symphonic. Coming into being. I’ve been waiting my whole life for this. Somewhere beneath the Conferral I’ve been waiting. As my body drips and fuses, breeds with the wood, the plumes lift, the gold like pollen on the stream just before it disappears blooms—I almost heard it, it’s like a muscle, an ability that’s never been used, to hear the music that is born from the new combinations. You just have to believe it’s possible. Have to let go of your stature. Stature of the Orophines. It may have only been humanoids and ourselves that believed in it, believed in our own sense of hierarchy, and beyond that we never looked.
“You were the only human allowed back onto the Earth.”
Most of these people don’t talk like Altarberry. They can make sounds but the sounds are like bridges or something. Like signposts. I like sounds because sounds coming outta you are great, too. Like a branch with drips of dew that keep coming together as they travel down to the tip. The branch is the sound, but the drips of dew—they’re something else. Sometimes if I find a branch like that, like a real one, I put my eye beneath one of the drips and let it fall in. But sounds can be signals to get your attention, or like carriers, like little deliverers of thoughts. That’s the thing about Altarberry. It’s just sounds he was taught. He doesn’t know that sliding down them are other things that he can’t even see, that people like us can see. It’s funny. Sounds are funny. I’m standing right where I cried like I told you, right where the slug came out of the vent in the earth. It’s probably still down there, or down there it’s all iridescence, and iridescence appeared and painted on my feet. You can see all kinds of designs on the moss where probably a lot of them came out, leaving all their wet colors, their silver. They’re like paint brushes that comes from inside the colors. All those slow movements. In the center of this little meadow there’s six or seven huge flowers, the stems maybe six feet high. But the flowers are like balloons, beautiful, thick, lavender-colored spheres against all the lush, glowing green and spores thinking up and down. It’s like their colors sing. Sing among the singing. That’s funny. Most flowers show you what’s inside them. Or you never think about it cause it’s already there. Or it’s gonna be there. But these are different. My eye likes them. It’s blinking halfway, trying to speak to them. It’s trying different approaches. I know they can feel it. Things move just a teeny little micro-inch and it says a lot.
“Stand in the mirror. Stand in the mirror.”
There’s somebody to my right.
“Stand in the mirror. Stand in the mirror.”
It’s a being shaped like a tear, like a drip of dew. You can see through it, at least lower down. Coming out of its narrow upper body is a spray of filaments, like an umbrella spreading over it. Like a plume of clear tubes of light. But you can tell on their bulbous little tips, almost like little compact berries, there’s a ton of eyes. I can hear it speak inside me.
“Stand in the mirror. Stand in the mirror.”
“Ok, ok, I’ll stand in the mirror.” I actually don’t know what it’s talking about but I definitely like it. It seems pretty excited about me standing in the mirror. But it’s true, like between us, between me and the flowers and it, there’s a pool of liquid. It’s like what the slugs are made of, what they dip themselves in, except even more silver like mercury. Maybe it came to the surface, oozed up, like a spring. The Stand-in-the-Mirror-Person keeps floating up and landing in different places. I guess I gotta stand in the mirror. But I watch it as I walk over. Because you can see through it, whatever you see becomes its anatomy, like a spore descends into the earth behind it, but I see it, too, within the person, but huge, and I know it feels it. It’s totally interesting cause that spore took it’s place somehow, functioned somehow, within it like an organ, like other things like filaments of moss that you could also see through it’s body attached to the spore and formed some kind of energy system, just for a second, before they all moved on.
“Are you moving different places so I can see things through you?”
That’s funny. I’m pretty sure it feels what you see. But I guess I gotta stand in the mirror. It’s thick but it’s not cold. It’s like beneath it is air. It’s nothing—you’re held but there’s nothing really solid beneath you. I face the flowers. And then I wonder: what is inside them? Which is funny cause I really don’t wonder what’s really inside anything. But wondering what’s inside is just like this thing, this doorway, or this little vehicle. You’re not supposed to really know. And you’re not supposed to find out, like literally. I pull my thoughts back, just a little. My eyelid’s slowly going up and down. I think they’re talking, the flowers and my eye.
“You stand in the mirror.”
“I know. I’m standing in the mirror.” It makes it happy when I say that. I wonder if the slugs are looking at my toes. They could be swimming around beneath the surface like fish and you’d never know. Owwwh. Owwwha. I can feel it. People are gonna start showing up. It’s like a magnet. They can feel like something’s gonna get created by the flowers not being open and me looking at them while standing in the mirror, and this person who has everything you see through it turn into its organs. It must be so crazy to function like that, like that’s your system, like your system is a system that is going to be different every second through someone else’s perception. But it must feel good.
So it’s just me. I’m the only one. I don’t know if I believe it. The earth is so huge. There were billions of people. How can there only be me—the last person. I can still see the magenta of this thing in the dark. It’s body is somehow luminescent. And the gold surfacing. Almost with edges of green. Almost like constantly blooming. And its plumes are like lit fountains in the distance, except they’re here. She…it’s…like humanoid, too, but even weirder than Mira. How can you be a man and a woman—or neither—but I can feel it, it’s flexing—it’s a man now, or mannish, or it’s the way you look at it, like there’s something in the way you look at it. But it’s lying. It’s lying about my parents. I just can’t prove it. But it’s gonna say something. It’s gonna slip up. And then I’ll know for sure. I just wish the birds weren’t here. But they act so content. Like this is all so normal. If they just flew off, I could’ve flown off, too, but it’s like they’re just patiently waiting for something, just sleeping, just watching. It’s funny, this thing is the first person to be here inside the pagoda besides Mira. The first thing. It’s looking at its body again, as if it’s trying to understand it. It’s listening. The way it turns its head to the side—so steady and smooth. So strange those plumes, the wet skin. I wonder if it can stop itself from glowing, from being like that. Water. I drink from one of the gallons, keeping my eyes on it. Something about its body, its skin, the way part of its body seems to journey off from its fingers—it must be absorbing moisture, from my body, from the air, pulling it in. It couldn’t live in the desert. It’s tricking me. It’s waiting. It just wants to pull me into the city. Into the mountains again. And then I’ll disappear. When my people come back I’ll be gone. No one will ever find me. I don’t know what’ll happen to me but no one will find me. Ever. I’ll become one of them. I’ll forget everything.
“They brought me here. And they left me to start…to start earth over again. They left me here so there would be a human, cause they trusted me.”
It’s thinking. It’s not answering. It’s probably calculating what it should say. It’s looking at its body again, then at the night, at the building, and then further on as if it’s seeing into the city.
“I brought you here. We were the only ones that Earth allowed through.”
It’s looking at my chest.
“What do you mean?”
“That Earth allowed through…yes…you and I were the only ones…after the end of humanity…after humanity burned…after it became this.” It reaches out to the city and up at the spores and nods. “After Earth destroyed our creations and closed its doors…to us.”
Yes, to us. To Orophaze. All these birds—there’s no one alike. One human. The probability is I am the only being with this body. Now that I’m out of the river, beyond the ship, I can feel it absorbing, absorbing moisture from the night, even from the human. It remains wet and glistening. He drinks a high quantity of liquid. It doesn’t appear to affect the birds as much. But they do drink from a bowl. It has designs of flowers, vines, fruit. It says France. France. He placed it there for them. He thinks about them. Connected. We were the only ones allowed through, him and I. Does that mean we are connected? Or did that passage, that entrance, connect us, put us into a relationship. Yes, the birds have stood on me, have eaten from me—that may be why they’re not as affected. And if we touch, if he eats some of it, if some of the purple dissolves into him, I may not dehydrate him. But we did touch. I carried him, yet the magenta, the migrations, didn’t enter him, didn’t join with his body. What would this body be like in the ocean? Even deeper into the city, the new growth, so lush, so wet? But I did touch him. I carried him here. Maybe the history. The history is like a shield.
He’s holding himself tighter. Almost like he’s creating armor. Almost like the building behind him, grey skin, ghostly in the moonlight. Grey like Orophaze. Like my old body, like my old planet. But on Orophaze the greys, the whites, are endless—they hold forth other colors, blush hints of other colors in the rocks and sand. There, it’s easy to create, to create and to know, to see what our creations are, abstract them, align them, keep track of their boundaries, design, and then with our music, form it into being. He doesn’t remember.
“Ignited. Vaporized. It is difficult to explain. We were unable to study it. There was no time. And we didn’t know how the changes would affect our own bodies…and consciousness. We collected as many humans as we could, that were left. We only had one ship close by that was monitoring the Earth when it happened. The ship was not large. And the time. The confusion. We were only able to collect a hundred humans. You were one of them. You were much younger. We don’t know exactly what took place, how it could be defined as a whole. We have identified many contradictory components. The humans seemed to heat up, to burn from the inside, then, when the temperature reached a height, to implode, leaving a mist. The mist appeared to coalesce—a high percentage of its molecules combined into a type of spore, which lifted up into the stratosphere and then descended. These are the spore-types that we can still see now. There were billions of them rising and falling all over the Earth. The cities were buried in mist. The mist itself that didn’t combine into the spores adhered to buildings, streets, human constructions, human machinery, and when the spores descended, and essentially re-contacted themselves, that’s when the new growth began. We don’t know if it was actual human flesh which turned into this mist or if it was somehow the disappearance of human physiology within the particular space itself which allowed this mist to come into being, or if the human form was somehow impregnated with an unknown life-form, and if this is true, how did it happen without our knowing it? These are some of the questions and hypothesizes we considered as we tested the remaining humans, the humans that we saved. And yet, what we didn’t take into account was Earth. Earth as a consciousness.”
Yes. The red I saw on the monitors, that I sensed at the river—I can see it in my mind when I look at him now. Strange. The humans we brought to Orophaze didn’t contain it. And he was one of them. But now on Earth he has it. It is like a potential. He must feel it. He reacts when I speak about the burning humans. He sits as if he is trying to hold it in. Do I speak of it, of this red I see inside him? Ask him how it feels? He must not remember. Not in images. But he fears it. What was it like? What was it like to see, to be a component of such change? Panic. Even suicide. Madness. And yet, I was able to watch some of them before the acceleration, before they all went up as if humans were the purest fuel—they’d lower down, sitting with their legs under them, thighs and knees out, neither happy or sad, none of the human emotions, yet not vacant either—unbelievably present—and then they would burn into mist.
“You tested us?”
“Yes. You were our constructions. Our experiments. We had to find out—or attempt to discover what took place.”
“That’s impossible. We made us—or we were always here—or we evolved, evolved to be the highest beings—evolved over millions of years from lower life forms—or…or God made us—even that’s possible. But you—you couldn’t’ve made us.”
He glares at me.
“Many humans considered us gods at different times when we took on human form. But we are not gods. We don’t consider ourselves gods. Or….” Or do we?
“Then why am I engineered? Huh?! Why am I genetically engineered? I know what that means. It means I’m not real. Right? And if you made us, then you are our parents. Then why do humans have parents? Why does everybody have parents? Except me?! If humans can have babies then why am I genetically engineered?! Right?! Right?! You’re lying. You are lying.”
He’s rocking back and forth. Emotions. It’s almost like they absorb into your skin. Like plants, they try to grow. And yet this body (this mind?) is a somewhat different soil, different atmosphere, which then must create a different emotion. Different than his. Tears pouring down his face. He’s just a sphere, an egg of arms and legs all drawn in, shaking. All the birds are awake. So many standing on him. Until there is no room. Looking at me. And this body…do I allow it to move, for these fingers to touch his toes. Why does that mean something? Why is that communication? I’ve observed humans do this my whole life, perform these actions with their bodies, even on Orophaze, even in the Display Gardens, and while monitoring the Earth and other planets. But to feel it, inhabit it, for it to inhabit this form, this mind, my mind—it must be different, it must be different than the Orophine mind, yet how, how did it happen, why am I here?—obligation?—on Orophaze that concept doesn’t exist, or it is known, documented as a human construction, an ideological construction of one of our constructions. Why were we the only ones allowed through the atmosphere? That’s when I must’ve changed. It’s almost like an enhancement, yet on Orophaze it’s a contamination, a stepping down, a stepping back. A stepping out? A stepping away. But how can something you create be less than you? If you create it, if you take part in its creation, if it is then less than you even though it can viably reproduce, even though it can viably create, then what does that say? Does that say something about yourself? Ah. It’s like muscles, muscles that aren’t muscles, muscles that suddenly exist, synapses that suddenly exist. Like lightning flashes and suddenly there is a world that you thought was just space, just fabric. My hand is already halfway there. The fingers are extending in length. A bird is on it, pointing forward, wings spread, flying my hand in, guiding it. And others framing his foot, like a funnel. But I am from another planet. I know more…more what? More history. More mechanics. Yet, what does he know? Beneath the surface of himself? Beyond his history? If I touch him like this, with this intention, the magenta will enter his skin in a new way because of my/his emotion, will combine, thrive, change him, change the dynamics of his physiology. Through the emotion I think it can enter the shell of his history. That combining, it creates new form, new music, releases it, yet just beyond aural and visual monitoring—other dimensions, other worlds—it must be some type of act of musical population, a growth untrackable from the location of its birth. I pull my hand back and it’s almost like laughter the way the birds flick their wings and twitter around, crafting energy. They’re laughing. And if I would’ve touched him they would’ve laughed, too. “We! We! We!” they are saying, dancing around, “We are friends!” So much to think about. So much to discover. We are already connected. This body has aligned me into being deeper physically in some way that Earth has sang into being, the possibilities within the music of Earth. And I am here. I’ve been accepted. Was I even brought here? Part of Earth’s music. And because part of Earth’s music…I am Earth.
There’s something about standing in the mirror and looking at the flowers. And not knowing what’s inside them. And wondering what’s inside them. Or at least pretending to. It’s all a game. The mirror I stand in, all the bright silver, might be shrinking. I might be drawing some up into me as I look at the globes. It’s the wondering. It’s the wondering without actually opening them. They’re so beautiful, so strong. Like balloons with veins. And beneath them dark, sharp serrated leaves extend sparsely from square stems. It’s almost like my sight could go in there and it does, but then I pull it back, just a little. Birds are showing up, perching on the mountains around us, watching. There’s a maple tree on a cliff that just threw some seeds to us, twirling down. Single notes of music swirling the volume until they disappear into the moss. I’m thinking but not thinking. That’s the best. My mind is on the edge of thinking and my sight is right within the skin of the flower. Everything’s vibrating. Everything’s creating. It’s so funny. It’s like walking on a branch with nothing beneath you. Then there’s that crazy chorus, like a hundred beings that you’ll never meet taking a breath, like breathing in and out at the same time. And then they appear. Something appears. They’re like gongs. Circles. But made from some type of merging of the flower’s flesh, it’s thick petal-less tissue and the mirror I’m standing in, the iridescence. They appear in the middle of the triangle that me and the Stand-In-The-Mirror person and the flowers formed. I didn’t imagine it, like imagine that that’s what’s inside the flowers, these gongs—it’s more like I had the focus and let the wondering go. The flowers are vibrating. Shimmering. Everything’s shimmering. And there’s more birds. I can see it all because I got a huge peripheral vision. And the gongs are radiating tones like waves. I think they’re solid enough where I can look directly at them without them disappearing. And then things get crazy! The Stand-In-The-Mirror person leaps over. To see the gongs I have to look directly through it.
“Call with our ears.”
That’s as close as I can get to what it’s saying. And the gongs become it’s insides, yet inside it they hang from plants like fruit, like seeds, like flowers that are growing their stems backwards down into the earth. The soundwaves from the gongs wash through Stand-In-The-Mirror, and all its filaments extend and shoot out. It’s like a cave inside it, a cave full of crazy colors with the gong-plants presiding over it all. That’s what its insides look like. As the cave walls pulse, it’s like jewels, like the walls are encrusted with pictures. The jewels crawl up the walls as lizards, riding on foxes. It’s like a star map. A star map in a cave. But in the Stand-In-The-Mirror-Person. Huge washes of tones are still pouring from the gongs, which here, on the outside, just float, attached to nothing. They change the tempos of the spores as the spores rise and descend. But the music of the spores is still among it all, too, like big tendrils of kelp. The maples on some of the mountain cliffs send down more seeds. And they twirl through the tones, braiding the sounds. And then They come. These guys I’ve seen before. I knew it. I knew they were gonna show up. This is like what they live for. They’re like big floating milkweed seeds, except they can grab you. That’s the thing—when things get created they can show up. Anyone can show up. They come in from different directions. So smooth. Some of them actually hit the ground or fly into a mountain and disappear into the moss. And some just pass by. But some can touch you and keep going like there’s an enormous wind carrying both of you, but you can’t feel any breeze at all—they just move on their own. They’re orange like big pumpkins, but they got really tiny filaments that grip you. And they float, almost slide through space, like pumpkins hanging from clouds. The thing is you can get off any time you want just by thinking that it’s impossible. Isn’t that funny? You think it’s impossible and you just fall back into the mountains. You just gotta do it at the right time. Otherwise, you can just go where they go. One grabs a gong and then attaches to a falling spore and they both disappear into the moss. Birds swoop down and land in the fluff of the passing seeds. They disappear for a second and fly back up. Another seed comes from another direction, grabs a gong and rises, attaching to a newly born spore as it goobs outta a mountain, and they rise up into the sky, the sound of the spore and the gong singing, almost turning into this beautiful groan. They disappear into a star. The lavender balloon flowers quiver. I wink. My eye could be one of them someday. Everything’s going along just fine. Just another day in the mountains. But now there’s the screaming. Everyone freezes. I have to cover my ears cause it’s so horrible. And then the Larynx comes, carried by those two birds. They’re pretty close to being fish. Their wings are more like fins that spin. And they’re blood red. They all come swooping in and crash into a mountain. The Stand-In-The-Mirror-Person ducks but one of its filaments catches on the Larynx and it gets pulled a distance away. You can tell just by the color that the Larynx is getting pretty dried out, so you know they’re gonna carry it to the Lake. That is if they can dislodge themselves from the moss. That’s all they ever do is come barreling in, screaming. But we all got things we love to do like that. There’s only one gong left, but maybe it’ll stay there. Stay there and work on something with the flowers.
I’m crying again. Shit. Shit. It doesn’t matter. This thing, it’s not even human. It probably doesn’t even know what crying means. I wish it was daylight. I’m crying, but there’s part of me watching, too. I’m watching myself cry. It makes me sick. I don’t even think—I don’t know if it’s possible to be two people. It hurts. Maybe there is something different about me. Which one am I? The one watching—it’s stronger than me. I don’t even know if it ages. It’s like I breathe in and I’m watching myself, watching everything, and then I breath out and I’m in me. The real me. I can’t stop shaking. I don’t even know what I am. I feel like I’m crying for everybody, everything. Maybe none of it will ever come back. I don’t believe it. I can see it so clearly how it was, and then I can change it, like add to it to be the future. Arrange it. Arrange it inside me. But maybe it’s not true. Maybe the history isn’t coming back. The real earth. Maybe…maybe I don’t have any parents. What does that make me? I know they brought me here. It was a man and a woman. I don’t remember it. I just know it. I just know it. So many tears. I gotta drink. I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe. I can’t let go of myself. I can’t let go of myself. I can’t let go of myself. I know…I know I look ugly. My face. I can’t show it my face. But I guess…I guess it’s funny cause we’re both wet. It’s wet and I’m wet. But I’m showing it I’m weak. I can’t show it my face till I can control it. But…but I think I could cry forever. For everything. There’s something crying through me. I don’t think that’s possible. I just want someone to hold me. I just want someone I can hate. That I can disappear inside. The earth that we were gonna make, we were gonna bring it back—it’s like I could’ve almost stepped into it, like it was gonna happen. Maybe I missed my chance. Maybe I was going to do it, like…I don’t understand what I’m saying. I don’t want to cry. It’s ok. I’m not crying. I’m breathing. I’m breathing. There’s a tear on the end of my toe. I can see it. And one of the birds…I can see it through the space between my legs. It drinks up some of the dripping, the purple substance that moves off of the creature. They’re like pieces of it traveling off, dissolving into things. The bird drinks it and then it turns with a flick. It’s coming for the tear. As if it’s washing down the purple. Washing down the purple with something clear. I want to pull away but I’m too tired. I feel all numb. I’m still shaking, but I don’t think enough for the alien to see. Here comes the bird. It bends its head to the side right above it. It’s looking right at it. Like two tears reflecting each other. But one’s an eye, an eye of a bird. It’s weird. It’s like being in the center of something, the center of something, like I’m the bird, like we’re all the birds, and we’re all watching, we’re all drinking tears, we all just got done crying, we’re all just falling apart, dissolving into things. I can’t…I can’t keep my eyes open. It’s its own reflection it’s drinking. But I can’t…keep…awake….
The plumes lift. And something is created as the magenta, the migrants of this body enter the bird. As if this new music shoots off like a seed catapulted, then swallowed by space, vacuumed through the gates, the orifices, in the music that already exists, that the migrations of this form are already a part of, that are always becoming. When the plumes lift you know other dimensions are being populated—even this one, invisibly, thickening it—but to see, to document those new life-forms of sound, of color, most likely of forms, existences, that we may never be able to define, things beyond our categories, maybe only grasped in translation, through that translator that runs continuously…what would it be like to shut down the translator, to disable it, then maybe I would be all plumes, I would become the act of the plumes lifting. When the bird drinks in the purple I feel the shimmer, outward and in. A tree’s bud falling into a stream. A leaf from a frozen rock taken back up by the wind. A wind so loud that when it stops the seasons have changed. A gift. Earth seasons. Earth change. This body…it must know the Earth, it must be educating me. The bird flicks around and is approaching him. Head tilting over his toe. One of his tears. There’s light in it. Must be the spores reflecting from their distant ascents and falling, the stars, the moon, and now its gone. Ah. Shimmering. So vast. So right here. So far from Orophaze. It’s going all the way through me, and then there’s the reverberations, the echoes, the departures, the plumes, the releases, the music I can’t hear which helps me listen to all the music that has become, that is, the Earth, that is Zeaesque. Again. On Orophaze no one would ever know me. Does he feel it, too? And then the bird lifts into the night. They all lift and play up into the bright darkness. He’s falling over, falling into sleep. It’s like his body is saying: finally. His body a released breath. I love to look at him. It’s like I’m understanding. But I can’t bring it up to understand it. Understanding that I can’t bring up to understand. Is this an Earth thing? A human thing? A thing from this place? Or is it the history, that dimension that found a gateway through him? Is that history like a parasite, a parasitical dimension, a linear past progression that is feeding on his perception? Using him as a host. But now, since the bird drank the tear, drank a piece of my body, and flew up, the spores are brighter, more stars, more sheen, everything a little more radiant, as if everything, every single thing is a luminous source. And this body—maybe it’s saying finally, too. This body that is a purple breath. I have to listen to it. To the space it touches as it comes into being. I know so little about it. Yet on Orophaze…do we know who we are, what we are? It seems in our history, long ago, we knew ourselves so deeply that we began to create—that deep self-knowledge, self-seeking, brought with it the ability to create, and the humanoid forms came out of that, that understanding of ourselves. But it seems like that history, that story, has taken the place of the true understanding—if it ever existed. Now we just create, because we’re Orophines, we create humanoid forms, we populate planets with the music of our ferns, because once long ago we gained, or maybe we just already possessed, a deep knowledge of ourselves—we looked inward and constantly brought out new tools because of it. So strange. How do I have these thoughts? It must be the Earth. The Earth and I. Like a game of information. This body. How hard it would be to let it go. At least now. I want to move with it to new locations, deep into the city, the mountains of moss, and then into the ocean, and dive deep, deep, forever, forever. I think the Earth believes in this body, my body, probably believes in everything that exists because we all made it together. Earth. Earth. I never want to leave you.
And now one of my friends shows up. It emerges from the moss and helps detach Stand-In-The-Mirror who floats off, kinda disgruntled with its filaments waving around, behind a mountain. There’s still a lot of birds watching and a lot of seeds flying through. The birds that carry the Larynx are having trouble. I think it was so dry that somehow it got stuck to the moss. My friend bores back into the moss and re-emerges, and helps detach it, and the birds and the big Larynx thing rise up and disappear in the direction of the Lake. Sometimes when it gets like that you feel bad cause it can only make a little reedy, squeaky sound. You feel bad even though it scared the shit out of you like two seconds ago. Now, it’s like everybody is heading out to do something else. My friend and me come together right in front of the only gong left. It spirals up outta the green ground. The gong’s turned so it faces the flowers a little more fully. It’s still sending out waves of tones, radiations that change the tempos of things, even our telepathy. It’s funny, but it’s like the gong could be a seed, too, like a seed you’d find inside the flowers, but them just speaking to each other is like probably creating seeds, seeds you’ll never see.
“That was fun,” Uwe thinks to me.
“Did you see what happened?”
“I saw it from under the moss. I felt it.”
“It was totally crazy. The Larynx ruined everything like always.”
“I know. Events need to start where it already is, then the only thing it can do is scream away and disappear. That can be dramatic, too.”
“Yeah, probably. But everything’s an event. And everything’s pretty dramatic.”
Uwe is so beautiful. I can remember it from since I appeared here in the mountains. It knows Altarberry. I think before Altarberry became a human, or really got into being a human, before he started making his little world. I call it Uwe. But it doesn’t call itself anything. Nobody does. And it could be a human, too, cause it has a bunch of human characteristics. It’s almost like the humans, Altarberry’s humans, took Uwe’s characteristics and made machines out of them, like pulling pieces of it, out of its body, to do things, mainly to travel beneath the earth. But it’s different. Like listen:
“Uwe, how do you travel?”
“You spin a lot.”
“Yes. I spin and become things.”
It’s actually spinning right now, slowly, but it’s a totally different type of spinning than I can do. Uwe spins inside, like its bones or whatever spins around the center of its body, which draws things into its mouth, but on the outside you can only see smooth, blue rippling, as if there’s some kind of spiral of bone or cartilage its whole length beneath the skin. It has seven eyes that are all around the rim of its mouth, which on a human would be the top of its head, except really it’s its face. Its face is its mouth. Which I have seen into. I’m not sure what I saw, but I’m not sure it had an end, either. It was like looking down into a whirlpool. Uwe has soft blue arms—like a lot of them—that come out and exude drips of sweet adhesive. Like right now we’re reaching out and touching each other. I’m absorbing some of the adhesive through my pores. It doesn’t stick to me like it can to other things, but then again I don’t really care if it does.
“You eat em, huh?”
“No. I dance and things become me.”
“I’m going to the ocean.”
“I’m going to the ocean.”
“Don’t start repeating things I say.”
“It’s because I’m standing still.”
Then a floating seed comes by. I realize most of them have disappeared. My tongue shoots out and attaches to it. I guess it’s heading toward the sea, too. “Come on, Uwe,” I shout, and wrap all my arms around it, and then we’re off. I look back. That was fun. But now we’re flying through the mountains. It’s so great to see everything from above. We pass one mountain that has an interesting group of ferns. I never seen them before, but things just appear like that all the time.
“Uwe. It feels really great to hold you. You’re so soft but I can feel something hard and spiral spinning inside you.”
“That’s what keeps me dancing.”
The way I’m holding it, with all four of my arms, and my two legs, with my tongue stuck to the seed, I think I can sorta twist around and look down in Uwe’s mouth. Wow. It’s really different than last time.
“Uwe. It’s like red cords of electricity. Like a net. Like octagons of electricity. What happens when things go inside you?”
“But you dance with things outside you, too.”
“Yes. Spinning gives access.”
It’s the kind of thing my eye loves: patterns, electricity, things that are behind the curtains of life. It’s winking down into Uwe’s body. But there doesn’t seem to be an end. And it smells like a skunk, like intoxicating and horrible at the same time, like the only thing to do is get away from it or join it, get to its center, the smell of a heart, like climb down into its hole and curl up with it and go to sleep, like the best sleep you ever had. Between the crimson cords it’s just more crimson depths. The cords, though, are bright like made of electricity or light. Like braided energy. Uwe doesn’t have any legs, only a tail, a tail that coils and writhes around. Everything that dances in may never dance out. At least not here.
“Uwe. What would happen if I went in there?”
“You would dance down into there. We’re dancing right now.”
“Would I disappear?”
“For a while. But you would be there, too. But then you could always come back. People do all kinds of things.”
“I guess I can’t disappear just yet. I’m waiting for somebody.”
We fly on. I guess I’m thinking. Thinking about Altarberry. And the woman from the desert. I don’t know if it’s right to think about people like that. But I do wish Altarberry was with us. Except he’d probably treat everybody bad. And the woman from the desert—thinking about her and not thinking about her, thinking to her and not thinking to her—or sometimes it’s just like a fish leaping from a calm sea, standing up from the colors of a sunset on the water, the sunset that decided to turn into the smoothest mirror in the world, inviting you to fall in and emerge in the heart of someone else—suddenly in the middle of a desert a lake would appear just so you could do it—but talking and not talking, thinking and not thinking, and moving it to that perfect point between the two—with the desert woman it makes that possible. But with Altarberry—I don’t know. I don’t know why he said what he did, that I’m a monster when everything’s different, even when humans had twins they were different, even the veins on each side of a leaf are different, everything vastly different and vastly the same. I just wish I didn’t think about him, especially since we’re so far away. I guess it’s just that we looked out of each other’s eyes and I’m trying to do it again, look out of his eyes and, I guess, from inside him, look at me. And then what? It’s funny, but when you’re in Altarberry’s History maybe you are a monster.
A hand comes up as we pass a flowered mountain knoll and attaches to the seed. The strange flowers are actually the body of a person I call Wave. Wave and Uwe know each other. I think Uwe’s been around the mountains longer. Waves’ skin becomes the past or future of where-ever it is and it crawls over everything slowly, just reaching out with it’s long arms, becoming things like bark, like a tree, like just now we passed a patch of flowers except on the far edge there was one small sapling, like a little tree that was higher than the rest of it which was one of Wave’s arms. But now that it’s not attached to anything, just the seed, it’s more clearly like a human, except like where humans have two arms and two legs, Wave has four arms and hands, which can extend out to huge lengths. Wave usually keeps close to the ground. Kinda like a spider. A lot of times you’d never know it was there. And since it isn’t against anything, except the sky, it’s slowly turning almost pure colors. They slowly evolve from somewhere deep within it.
Wave thinks to me, too, just like Uwe. But it’s a little different. Now, since it’s in the air, it’s just colors that I’m translating—it’s like colors that take on costumes as they rise within me, like physical costumes that say things, but really, to be completely honest, it takes talent not to make whatever you want, whatever your emotions want, outta what Wave, or even Uwe, send. Which brings up the fact that I’m still thinking about Altarberry. It’s funny, though. All these histories. All these worlds. The ocean of fabrics. If you don’t focus on just one then you see they’re like a substance that we grow outta, or on, or in, it’s like an eco-system, all really impossible to break down, to systemize—you just gotta feel it. The funny thing is is you could align with any of those histories and call them your own and your body would change to accommodate the “progression”—isn’t that funny? But a lot of people have fabrics that are just colors, like no events at all, or fabrics like just where the threads, the materials, the weave, is so vast you can’t see anything even though you know you’re in it. Which is funny cause right now Wave is a color and all the fabrics around him are other colors, colors that Wave could become, or the sky could become. I can even see the fabric where it’s a toxic haze from Altarberry’s humans. Wave has a super long neck. It’s almost like it’s using it’s face to scoop into the fabrics, the colors. I shift my focus to Uwe. Uwe’s fabrics are totally different—they’re like cloaks or wings of amazing threads, like pathways of electricity that adhere into patterns and tighten and expand like crazy silks that nurture into wings, wings stretched, wings folded, wings that hide things, or keep them warm, wings that allow things to disappear or emerge. That’s their fabrics, their histories. Maybe it’s not all that different than Altarberry, cause you could say these fabrics they got are all events, histories or futures, too. But I think with Uwe and Wave, they know that they all exist, and move through them, or dance with them (I don’t know)—they’re not just attached to one.
“You love the fabrics,” says Wave. Wave’s thoughts inside me are like bubbles rising outta red lava.
“I don’t know if I love them. I just see them.”
“To see them you got to love them.” When the bubble breaks it splashes your insides and glistens wet down your thoughts.
“I guess I do. I guess I love everything.”
We fly further. In front of us it’s becoming one big ocean horizon. I grip Uwe a little tighter. All Uwe’s little blue sticky arms are all over my torso. I got my legs around it, too. Wave’s just hanging, changing colors, scooping at the sky but I think it’s really scooping colors outta the fabrics. Maybe to Wave there’s no difference. Around us the spores are singing up and down, and beneath us it’s so green it makes your heart hurt. I guess I gotta ask it. I guess I never really asked anybody about Altarberry. Well, that’s not true, but, well, now it’s different.
“Hey, you guys know Altarberry, right? I mean, his name used to be Steven.”
“Human person. Your friend,” says Uwe.
“Yeah. I guess he’s my friend. He’s definitely human.”
“Human from long ago,” says Wave. I don’t think it’s ever met Altarberry.
“Uwe, you knew him from way back, like from when he appeared in the mountains. Like this was back before I appeared.”
“Yes. We found him on top of a mountain surrounded by birds. He didn’t spend much time with us. He didn’t spend much time in the mountains. I think the birds told him to leave. He was always thinking. He was always arranging inside himself.”
Now Waves says: “I know who he is. Nobody goes there. It’s on the edge.”
“But people still grow there,” says Uwe.
“The birds go,” I say.
“You go,” says Uwe.
“Yeah. I guess I used to.”
Wave says: “But a lot of us stay away.”
“Because he doesn’t want us to confuse him,” says Uwe.
“Because there’s everywhere, too,” says Wave.
“Because there’s everywhere.”
“Some people need their own space to grow…into themselves. It’s like fermenting into yourself. Like fermenting can be growing,” Wave says really calmly.
“Even though you might lose volume,” says Uwe. They’re both so calm about it.
Wave says: “Like decomposition—you can definitely get higher in the end.”
“Even though it may seem like you’re falling,” says Uwe. This is getting pretty annoying.
“A lot of us compose ourselves out of decomposition.”
“I KNOW!” I shout. “But what do you THINK about him?”
Uwe asks: “Like around him?”
“No. Like about what he is. I don’t know how to explain it.”
Wave says: “Hmm. Think from inside him.”
Then Uwe comes out with: “He’s talented.”
“Really?” I say. “With what?”
“Colors.” “Music.” I’m not sure who thought what. Then they switched it around: “Music.” “Colors.”
“In what way?”
“Arranging them,” says Wave.
“I guess I don’t get it. I think he just wants to make it all human, like it all was before. Which I guess could be a talent.”
Nobody says anything. Nobody cares. It’s not like they don’t care about Altarberry, but it’s like here we are flying on a seed to the ocean, and Altarberry’s in a total other direction in his little, weird cocoon thinking about the way things used to be. I guess they never lived with him like I did, or at least in the same way. Anyway, I guess it’s true. I guess we are on this seed. I close my eye like super tight. It’s like winking to everything. It always helps. And I just picture everything like just us, me and Uwe and Wave on one of the seed people just heading out, and the mountains and everything happening down there, and everything we can’t even see. And eventually it’s not just blinking to everything cause I’m trying not to be frustrated, but I’m actually becoming it, becoming the wink. Wave lets go. It’s just falling backwards watching us, but it’s arms are rotating so it’ll land just perfect. Sometimes I think Wave’s made outta rubber. It’s funny, as I watch it descend and get closer to the actual moss, plants I’ve never seen start sprouting from it’s turquoise body, birthing outta the depths of its last color, until when it hits they’re surrounded by the same lush mossy green as the rest of the mountains. And unless you really looked, like at the style inside things, you’d never see Wave.
“We’re almost to the sea,” I say to Uwe. I hold Uwe a little tighter. “It’s funny. When I feel you, like holding you like this, I can definitely feel the spiral, but when I look down in your face, it’s just all these amazing textures.”
Uwe doesn’t say anything for a second. Then: “You may not want to look down in there. I think something’s happening.”
“Strings of transfiguration.”
“I guess I don’t know what that is.” Uwe’s definitely getting wetter. It’s oozing a kinda lubricant. It’s slowly slipping through my arms and legs. That’s funny. The tighter I hold Uwe the more it’s slipping away. But at the same time there’s something igniting and flying off, some type of resonance. I can hear it a little better if I close my eye. “Uwe, do you think it’s stupid to think about Altarberry all the time, not stupid like stupid, but sorta off, like thinking about things that don’t match up?”
“I think it’s beautiful. It’s like a tree shaped by the wind.”
“You mean all twisted?”
“No. Dancing. A certain forced conceptualization of tempo is the only thing that would make it appear twisted.”
Suddenly, seven threads shoot up and attach to the seed. It happens so fast. They jet out of Uwe’s seven eyes—sizzling, crimson threads. They look like they’re made outta burning light. But they don’t hit my tongue.
“Should I let go of you?”
“I’m not sure yet. But you better keep an eye out.”
“Uwe, did you make a joke?”
“I think we made it together.”
“I think you’re spinning the other way.”
Uwe’s reversing and the threads are twisting together, forming a sizzling, pulsing rope. I let Uwe go. We’re both dangling side by side, bumping into each other. I think the seed’s actually changing speeds to cause it.
“It’s humming,” says Uwe about the seed.
“It’s talking to itself,” I say, the tip of my tongue inching around on its surface.
“It’s talking to the air.”
“Can you understand it?”
“I can, but I can’t think about what I’m understanding. But maybe part of it’s just these threads.”
“I can understand it,” I say suddenly, not even thinking it.
“What is it?”
“It’s this. This flying.”
All of a sudden, Uwe starts going up and down. It’s doing this totally crazy dance, flexing as if there’s somebody inside it. The threads keep shooting out and twisting, but now they’re wrapping around Uwe, too. It’s all going so fast that it looks like Uwe’s putting on some type of clothes. It’s kinda strange when all of a sudden your really good friend looks totally different. But it’s kinda normal, too. We’re passing over the last mountain and then it’s all ocean. The seed’s not stopping. I guess it’s just heading out over the sea. It’s so open, so vast, so blue. I can’t breath. I can’t go out there.
“Uwe, I gotta let go! You better, too—if you don’t you’re gonna go out to sea!”
Uwe’s still compulsively wrapping itself in its electrical threads, or the threads are compulsively wrapping Uwe. Either way, Uwe doesn’t seem concerned as I think it should, like I don’t think this happens to someone every day.
“But you always lived in the mountains.”
I start to focus on its fabrics because that’s what it must mean, but it’s too late, I gotta let go. And it’s strange—I never noticed it before cause I only rode the seeds once or twice—usually I just like walking or whatever happens when I wake up different places—but I think about Altarberry, or, like his world, his History, it’s like bringing something like a seed into you, too, planting it—but this is all impossible, to be attached to a flying seed is impossible I think, and now I’m falling, falling and watching Uwe heading out over the sea—and it’s funny cause I just close my eye and poof! I open it. Where ever you open your eye is home.
I’m hungry, but there’s other things more important. I gotta figure it out. If it’s true, if they’re not coming back, then I gotta go to them. I can bring them back and we can rebuild it. I know something happened. The air is different. Maybe it’s just that idea like they’re not coming back…it changed something. The air is lighter. Clearer. I slept way into the morning. And It’s still here. Magenta. Gold. The flares of gold—they seem to come from deep within it, then hit the surface, and disappear. Almost like a pulse. But they’re like expressions, smiles, thoughts. I can see them in its face when they hit and dissolve, no matter where they come out on its body there’s a radiance, a brightness that shines in its face, too. Those weird golden eyes with their three pupils, all together, connected, one on top the other. It looks at me like Mira does, but it’s different, too. It’s trying to understand me. Or it’s understanding something by looking at me. It’s thinking. Mira just wanted me to understand stuff, but I don’t think it really thinks about me understanding things. It’s more like it wants to understand. Human. Humanish. Almost like a person. But something from the city. It could be something from the city pretending to be from another planet. The birds like it. They poop on it. Some are white drips with green clots, some are just full of berry seeds and digested juice, and it runs down its shoulders, its chest, and gets absorbed, folded into the magenta. And then it thinks. Or maybe it’s its body that’s thinking. I feel good. Clearer. I slept so good. I think I dreamed of flying, and of crying, and the birds drinking my tears. But I don’t trust it, even though it didn’t touch me except…except, I guess, to carry me here, I don’t trust it. How can I know anything it says is true?
“You said there were humans on another planet?”
“Yes,” it says slowly. It’s thinking now. When I asked that it seemed to send a jolt through it. “Yes. The humans we designed to place on Earth, the ones we evacuated…we brought them back to Orophaze. You were among these. We made changes to their physiology, changes we thought would counteract the transformation, the combustion. And then when we brought them back and only you were allowed through—you and I—another planet was found. They could never have remained and prospered on Orophaze. Even though they can breathe there, there’s something else, something that deteriorates them, something lacking that Earth-humans, maybe that all humanoids, need. And the atmosphere, the whiteness, deteriorates them. Also, it is not something Orophines would allow.”
“Orophines? Is that what you are?”
“You are an Orophine from Orophaze. And you created humans?”
“You created humans…and humans…created me?”
It hesitates. It’s thinking. It’s weighing something or trying to understand something. “Yes.”
“It is what we do. It is what we have always done. Created humanoid forms, tended them. Experimented on them. It’s a component in the universe. It is our purpose.”
“No. Why did humans create me?”
Now it’s really thinking. It’s moving its head back and forth in a smooth rhythm. It’s body is flaring at a quicker rate. Yeah, why? If I was created by people, people who burned up, why aren’t I dead? Why am I here? Why am I different?
“As far as we were able to discover, you were initially genetically engineered to become a genetic engineer yourself—as far as we can tell, you were an experiment to further advance genetic manipulation by creating a human who would be more skilled in this manipulation itself. Whether they succeeded is impossible to tell as human civilization no longer exists on Earth.”
My eyes close. I can’t think. It’s like something is filling me, arising in me, crawling through me. My mouth opens: “You have to take me to this other planet. The planet with the humans.”
It’s like an echo. Like I heard it spoken but couldn’t acknowledge it. Now the sounds, the words, come from his mouth. Ah. Leave the Earth? Is it even possible? Now that I belong to it, that I am part of it’s expression, like being a river and also the one who comes down to gaze into its own reflection—can I leave? And what will happen to this body? I’m just beginning to learn from it…we are together. I am it. I think I am this form and the Earth. It’s just beginning. But to leave…what is it…responsibility…obligation? As if his desire is something I need to act out because of what? Because we created him? Because he is the only one of his form left here? Yet, here, I am the only one, also. Why does he need others of his form? Maybe I will be like that, too, yearning for the Orophine Conferral. The tint is coming back. It’s noticeable. It’s almost like a season. Almost like Time. He’s tending the opening again, he’s finding it, prying at it so the history can come through. Like a habit. Like a comfort. A future to step into like a comfortable costume. Could it really come back, that history? Somehow I think it’s possible. There’s a potential. Like a seed. But the Earth would have to agree. Obligation. And something else I’m feeling. Feeling?
“I don’t know what is happening on that planet. It isn’t part of my purpose, my focus. And from here, from Earth, I’m cut off from the rest of the Oropine Mind. From Orophaze there is a porthole. But…”
“But we’d have to view it, view the other planet from Orophaze. The humans on that planet, given the atmosphere, may have changed a great deal. Even though it wasn’t my purpose to monitor them, I know from the Orophine Mind that they are very different than the general human population here…as it was on Earth.”
“In what way?”
In what way? “It’s hard to determine…to express. I am unable to access the greater Orophine Mind here. I think it may be their understanding of what constitutes life.”
“But they look like humans?”
“But you changed them.”
“Yes. We altered them in order to compensate for the epidemic of combustion.”
“And you altered me, too.”
“Yes. Although your genetic map was different. We altered you differently just to see what course it would evolve.”
“Just to see what course it would evolve. Just to see what would happen. You fuckin things…you’re sick!”
Sick? Ill? Or…separated? Alone. Are we sick? Is there an imbalance? So many cultures of humans on the Earth. That became what they were on their own. Little tribes. So simple. Almost invisible. Almost invisible to us even. Invisible to Orophines. And to make them visible, to make them step to a higher level, to visibly act in the Universe…as the creations of the Orophines. To prove our own powers. How strange. How strange that seems thinking from this body. From thinking from the Earth outward. Orophaze. Orophines. This body would never survive, would never be allowed there. Yes. I could change it. Even here, I think, with effort, with practice, I could change it. But here, I want to listen. It’s part of the music. It’s making music. Music that has nothing to do with Orophaze, with Orophines. Here it’s all so unbelievably subtle and ongoing—listening, creating through listening, listening the Earth, being created through listening. It’s like a ladder that you ascend and descend all at once.
“I can only be sure we’ll make it to Orophaze. But I will try to bring you to the human planet.”
The gills replace each other. Different gills to understand, to join, different musics. How many times? How many different gills. I’m lost watching them. As if I am the water, the colors, the poison turned to nutrition, to oxygen, gleaned, cleaned—more toxins, more tones and gradations, must’ve joined the cave’s pool when I stepped in, when I dove into no reflection at all, just a slow churning, beautiful colors thinking too slowly to reflect, and gills that know no story at all until I emerge. I look out from the middle of a stream. Trees, spores, emerald mountains. The city. Mira’s city. Mira’s mountains. And the ocean. I can feel it calling. Singing its song. This stream leads to it. But when I look through her voice it’s the city I see. She must no longer be by the ocean. The gills disappear. Off on their own journeys inside me. I step out and head into the city, following her voice.
I watch it. There’s no turning back. It stands there and a screen appears. There’s barely any space. From the outside, the ship is like a spore, like one of the city spores, but it has sections that fit together into a sphere. You’d never know it’s a ship. It looks like something you’d find in a forest, a seed. A dull green color with just hints of shimmerings. But once we entered it you can see everything outside. There’s a carapace, a solid membrane, but it’s like looking through glass. I can see everything: the forest, the sky. But inside, there’s nothing else here, just us. And it’s screen. I sit on the floor. It’s like being suspended above the actual floor of the forest.
“Do you have a name?”
“Zeaesque. From Orophine?”
“Zeaesque. That’s a weird name.”
“Ah. I forgot. Your name is Steven.”
“Altarberry….” It’s thinking. “Why are you called Altarberry?”
“Why are you called Zeaesque?”
“Because I am like an ancestor. I am like Zea. It is a being who once existed on Orophaze. Why is your name not Steven?”
“Because I never was Steven, can’t you figure it out?”
“No. It may not matter. Soon things may take place so any name or history may not apply. We may not be able to leave the Earth and if we are able to leave, we may not be able to return. I must tell you that I may not appear in the same form once we pass through the mesosphere, that is, if we are allowed. You can still go back. We can still go back. I would very much like to explore the city, the ocean. Earth is—”
“No. What do you mean you won’t be the same?”
“When I came through the mesosphere I became this.” It looks down at its own body, still fascinated. But it’s nervous. Really nervous. The gold is flaring to the surface of its body constantly, almost sizzling. “It’s Earth. Earth makes a decision, or takes part in the decision.”
“What we become. What form we take. It’s a collaboration. As far as I can determine. A collaboration with a part of our consciousness that’s deeper. It may not be what we think we want. But I think if we listen we can understand it. It’s just…this form—I may lose it. I may return to my Orophine form. It’s just that here on Earth, this form…makes sense. But it’s true—it may not make sense anywhere else.”
“No. We’re going. I want to go. We’re going. I’m meant to go. I don’t care if we die, or if you change or whatever.”
“You’re not afraid you’ll never find Earth again?”
“I want to be with humans. Humans. You don’t understand cause you’re not a human. You’re not anybody. You’re just a thing. There’s probably nothing else like you.”
It turns back to its monitor. We’re lifting.
I wonder if Uwe swallowed the seed, because it’s only him now beneath the seed-cloud sailing out, a crimson cocoon of electricity over the blue. You know there’s just as much in that upper blue as beneath it, just in the air—you can hear hints of it, like little folds, little smiles, like dimples or age-lines just barely audible above the sea. But the sea, I’ll never really know what’s down there cause I didn’t make myself to be it—but it’s strange, looking out over it I almost can’t breath—I’m on top of the last mountain that’s part of a little range that rises from the edge—the edge, that’s what it feels like, but also some strange stretching. I must be different. Maybe since Altarberry called me a monster…but I know deeper down that he was just talking about himself, because monsters are like exceptions, and its strange because he’s not really an exception cause we’re all so different—he’s just not thinking that way. He thinks everybody’s supposed to be the same. He is an exception, though, in his History thing. I don’t know if anyone else is obsessed with the past. That’s why it’s hard to talk to people about Altarberry cause nobody really thinks that way. Uwe and Wave did there best, I guess, just because we were all on the seed together. And they care about me. I don’t see Uwe anywhere now, just birds, just a few clouds. My eye’s blinking at the ocean. Yeah, I love you, too—that’s what it’s saying. Two oceans. It’s great sitting here looking out. Ooowa, here comes a Sky-Design, coming back. It’s almost like a maze, a bird formation that you could fly into and get lost. This one is round. It reminds me in a way of a beautiful stone full of black crenellations, veins, like turquoise that holds in it things you’ll never be able to define, pictures you’ll never be able to say looks like this or that, but at the same time you feel yourself grow when you look at them, or suddenly a shadow, when they pass, will touch you, and it’s almost like this brightness, this little sun rises in your head, or this moon lifts outta your crotch and burns in your heart, but it’s not really like that either, and you see them so much you forget—except now sitting on the mountain I can see them land—they’re coming back, back from the journey. On the ocean surface a ways out another Design is rising from the depths to meet with it. It’s glowing these amazing colors, but most of its bulk is silver, silvers full of green and streaming reds, tongues of gold. Like muscles of light. Like what Uwe’s insides are like except wrapped so tight and full of so many silvery colors. This is the shape that the birds started out as. It just rises up out of the sea whenever it wants and the birds come and land on it, take its form and then head out on their migrations over the earth. But like now, it’s rising up to meet them as they return, except when the Sky-Design returns from its journey it’s always different. It gets changed by what it passes over, what it’s shadow touches. The Sea-Design that’s rising now—it’s round, too, but really different. There’s a shape inside it, a tree or diverging veins or a star—it’s impossible to tell from here. But the Sky-Design is different now than when it left. It’s lining up above the Sea-Design. And now it descends. And the Sea-Design is changing, changing to fit the Sky-Design’s form until they touch. And all the birds for a second stand on the Sea-Design taking a rest. And then, suddenly, everyone disperses. The Sea-Design in its new form descends and disappears, and the birds who formed the Sky-Design take off in all directions, into the mountains, down the coast, some even off over the sea. I climb down. There’s nothing like that feeling of scaling the mosses—so many depths, so many greens. Every green you could ever imagine is here, like maybe this is the source of all greens in all the worlds, in all the histories and fabrics. Even the green of the spores, that diaphanous florescence with all its swirling limey silvers, its twinklings, as if filled with a luminous silvery green gas—they’re lifting up into the sky, meeting with the stars, probably even becoming stars or something, feeding the night, like even the deepest black needs it. It’s all so lush. My feet and hands grip into it. And my tongue’s probing away even though I don’t need to feed for a bunch of days now, maybe two weeks cause this body uses everything. It’s just talking, meeting algae people. It’s also mapping the mountains, like who speaks what language of nutrition. I love the feeling of all the different mosses touching me, drawing on my torso with long words, or saying really quick things on my wrists or armpits. And it’s like when Uwe and me were flying, it’s just this, this climbing says it all.
His history. I wonder if it could damage the ship, disorient it. It’s powerful. Some type of strange breath. Maybe the Earth is getting rid of it. Did Earth bring me here just to take this human and its history away? But no, the Earth allowed him through the first time, and I think if it wanted him exterminated it could do it. How can I leave when it’s just begun? Zeaesque. Zeaesque. What am I? Just a spring, some kind of clear liquid arising that I shape? That Earth shapes? That other people adorn with their perception? Just a spring bubbling up and what it reflects, what people see through it, what it feeds are my thoughts, my actions. It’s happening again. I don’t want to lose it. These plumes, this magenta, this gold—it’s flaring all over me. But we’re rising. We’re rising all the same. Why can’t we go back? Why didn’t I say no? What is responsibility? I’m spreading out. My thoughts are just a lake of fire. My being—fire, a hand spreading fire, painting fire, pouring fire, fire—and now…I’m me…I’m me…an Orophine. An Orophine again.
All these extensions. These piers. Green fingers that human ships attached to, reaching out into the sea. I don’t know. There’s something different. Something’s making me want to go in. It’s like this crazy song. Songs reaching through all my arms. My eye. It’s just that I’ve tried it, tried to go into the ocean—I guess because so many people are out there—and there’s something about my eye and the sea—what’s beneath the sea. And the fabrics. They’re different. It’s like they come out of you, out of your ears and eyes. I can’t keep track of them or know what fabrics belong to who. Maybe there’s just too many, like the sea is just all fabrics so dense and intertwining that you could never figure it out. But maybe it’s like seeing a bird: just cause there’s people flying everywhere, just cause the Sky-Designs are cool and you’d like to be a part of it, doesn’t mean you need to fly. That’s what I think about the sea. I don’t need to go in. Not only that but just the type of algae that are actually a part of the water, they get on my tongue and make me crazy. That’s why I don’t lick down into the piers. It’s the algae in there that’s different than the mountains. It’s so unbelievably thick and concentrated. And vast. It’s like being in space. Endless, salty space. Like past the stars. It’s probably like actually being a fabric if that’s possible. So I don’t know why I keep thinking about it, thinking about going in. There’s three long, green piers going out, encrusted with glowing mosses and algae, algae that you can even see, loved by the slow lick of the water. It makes you shiver in a beautiful way to watch it. I’m at the start of the furthest one to the left. The water’s so blue it hurts. Blue and green. They love each other. They’re like super friends. My eye and the sea. And up and down the shore patches and stretches of beaches where the old city didn’t actually touch the water. And way down the coast to my left a mountain that’s one big cylinder all emerald in the distant mist. I know from Altarberry’s fabrics that this is where the old humans created energy. I don’t know how or why. I’ve never gone down there, but now it’s such a beautiful shape, a column that rises out of the soft hills, wide and curving out at the top, held by the sea. It’s true in a way—Altarberry’s History is so close, just a blink away, just a blink that would hurt you, that would make it impossible for you to ever see again. But now it’s just my eye, my single eye, and the sea. They’re speaking to each other. And it’s like ashes falling on my thoughts. Gleaming shapes arising out of the depths. Just blinking. Just winking. And the ocean, those clouds like painted lashes reaching and curving—dissolving over the land—are winking, too—it just takes more time. And the blinking squeezes the whales to the surface. So many different kinds. Deep blues. Eternal greys. Blacks. And so many birds heading so many places. Watching each other. Ignoring each other. It’s all the same. I always end up here at these three extensions. I always walk out on one of them and just sit down and think. I think into the music, the music of the sea—and see into the music of the sea. To sea. To be the sea you don’t have to be anything except an eye on a body. Like a big flower. That’s what I am. I wonder if flowers grow beneath the water? The best is when you don’t look at anything, any one thing—then it’s all music—it’s like the music comes out—not just the music like the tones of the spores, or of the seed-people, but like the music beneath it all—it just oozes up. To the left of this last pier the beavers got a huge lodge. They had just started it the last time I was here, but now it’s this enormous circular thing attached to the mosses and the rest of the mountains that extends maybe ten or twelve of my own body lengths out into the water. It’s not really high or anything, not like any of the mountains, just wide. And there’s so much coming and going. I can see it all better from down on the pier. It’s funny—the top is covered with tons of turtles basking in the sun, so many different kinds, so many different faces, faces like coral, like stones full of jewels, all with their eyes closed. And the beavers climbing up and packing more on, more mud, more branches they got from the mountains, more mosses that start growing again on this big house like a new mountain, but also glowing coral from down below, the turtles moving aside or climbing on new heights of the life mounded around them, making room, all so steady. I can’t stop looking at it. I can’t really get a grasp on it but maybe it’s the mud, the deep wet brown. It’s like Altarberry’s tinted History, his dome, like taken so far that it feels good. It’s like the mountains are this giant green jewel that you can believe in, so wet, so eternal, and yet the browns of the mud are the internal of the eternal. There’s something about the desert woman and the browns reaching through me and speaking, one brown to another. Healing the healing. But I don’t know. There’s nothing wrong with my body. There’s nothing that needs to be healed. Reaching. Maybe that’s it. I’m looking back over the sea. I’m at the end of the pier. It’s just the two eyes—the sea and me. I don’t have to go in. I don’t have to do anything. Everything is so beautiful. Beautiful just as it is. But the desert woman—she must have two eyes, like Altarberry…and two arms…and she wants to go into the sea. What if she just passes by, passes through me into the ocean and I never see her again. I don’t know if we’ll still speak after that. Maybe it’ll just be space, space between us, space inside. I have so many conflicting feelings. I’m so hungry. My tongue’s coming out. I shouldn’t need to eat. But it must be because of the sea. The hunger. Of what? Of who? Of me. I am me. I am a sea. My eye knows it. I don’t need to be anything else. Do anything else. Do anything that I don’t already do. I don’t need to go in. To prove anything. To keep anyone. Everything’s so beautiful. My tongue’s reaching in. Reaching into the pier. Ah. Music. The deepest concentration of music. It’s igniting. Lush. Salt. Minerals of the darkest water. Like licking into fragrant oil. I am who I am even though I am everywhere. I am the sea. I am the sky. I am the beaver lodge. My tongue’s pulled my face against the slime as it reaches into the slick music’s heart, engorging. Just my eye and the sea. That’s who we are. The birds are gathering to meet the new Design. It’s rising as they descend. It’s all wings. I close my eye. I’m losing consciousness. I can still see it. It must be ok. Cause I’m winking to it all.
The city, it’s like a green emerald, and the glowing spores lifting, descending, even up here, but slower. We pass them. Pass through them. The ocean like a blue skin. The city, almost like a green leaf that fell from some tree in space and landed. Mira must be down there. I wish she could see this. With her big eye she could probably see everything, everything at once. More cities up the coast, and inland it must be desert. Fewer and fewer spores rising up out there and different, too. Tiny. More like shimmering curtains. I don’t remember any of this even though…it’s strange…I feel like I remember leaving something, letting go of something and then folding it back into my arms. Zeaesque. She…he…whatever it is is so still, like it’s not alive, it’s almost fixed in space. I can see everything. All around us. It’s like flying, flying just by sitting, just by looking. Earth. It’s so beautiful. It spreads forever and curves. Or is it me? I’m spreading. I’m curving. It’s like ice. Like cold fire. Like an eternity of cold, blue fire, hardening. And I’m within it, thinking it, disappearing, like the sky has hardened, like beautiful glass that if dropped becomes the earth, becomes the seasons, but even these thoughts, they’re tearing away, letting go like clouds, clouds full of purple. Sunsets. Am I full of sunsets, as if that’s all that exists within this heart’s walls, sunsets like layers within the earth, histories that are only colors within the ice, a purple wet body walks the tightrope between day and night, and I walk it’s body like a meeting of land and sea. It’s endless. All within the fire. It’s like a cool hand reaching into me. Altarberry. My name is Altarberry as the birds carry our bodies from two ends of the earth and put us together into a blue nest of stars.
Four arms. She is so beautiful. Is my voice, my report I send to her, that I send to everyone, different now that she is before me like this? Does it still exist? It must be just a part of something greater. Deerprints all around her, all around this lake, cradled in these glowing moss peaks like a refocusing of civilization, as if the civilization that human civilization was built on rose above it, above the humans, like an act, an alteration of perception that then became this. The lake reflecting all the spores in the twilight, and yet just the city itself is a civilization of twilight, the internal phosphorescence—torsos of mosses rising, fewer lichens than the desert yet still shimmering like smokestacks among all the green—but now these large strangely singing spores revealing the audible air for what it is: a living substance full. It’s almost as if it all exists because I look at her. All of her arms are wrapped around herself. I bend down. Her green tongue comes out and rises. One sleeping eye. And skin so dark, full of every color. I curl up in front of her, face to face. I want to touch her but I don’t. As I watch her tongue slowly bend in the air, I listen to the singing of the spores. The speaking between us doesn’t have that far to go, only one or two feet—it opens the doorway, the doorway of sleep.
I try to stay as far away from it as I can. I’m pressed against some kind of warm glass that you can’t even see, you can just feel it. I guess—I guess I signed up for this. I guess it told me. It told me it could change. It hasn’t spoken since we were still in earth’s atmosphere. Earth—it’s disappearing as if someone is pulling it away, beneath the surface of a black ocean. Zeaesque—this thing—it hasn’t spoken. It doesn’t have a mouth as far as I can tell. And its eye like a long vertical opening, more like green and black jewels all crushed together. And its body like a bulky mound of shifting ivory-opalescent fabric, wrinkled and sectioned like a polyhedron of translucent fibrous paper. It’s white plumes are gone, but along its back, like a little garden, is a row of some kind of ferns. If someone draped a buffalo with a white wrinkly sheet and planted ferns on it, this is what it could look like. Yet there is some type of electricity in it. The ferns are vibrating. The wrinkles, the sections, are constantly shifting, giving hints of other colors. It’s looking into its monitor. This is what I signed up for. This is how I’ll get to be with humans.
“Zea?” No arms. No appendages. “Zeaesque?”
Maybe it’s not her…or him…maybe it’s something else. But it feels the same inside. I close my eyes. I can still feel it. There’s some weird vibration, too, but within it it’s Zea.
“Zeaesque? Zea? Is that you?”
The ferns are vibrating. It’s turning. I’m looking into this long opening of black and green crystals. The eye, it shines with a wetness but the rest of its form is dry. So strange. No pupils. I’m not afraid. I know Zea’s in there. The vibrations, they’re so fine—they tickle my ears and then…is that when they become something else? Is it music? It’s like music dropped into a well and when I pull it up…it’s an answer: “Yes. This is Zeaesque. I am Zeasesque. From Orophaze.”
“Zeaesque. An Orophine from Orophaze.” The ferns shimmer and the vibrations hit me, turn to music and descend, and again I bring them up. Words. But they don’t come from its body like they did when we were on earth, when it was purple, when it had a mouth. It’s all internal. Is that laughter? It was quicker this time. “Zeaesque. You’re the same thing I left earth with. You’re not something else?”
It hesitates. The eye must be two feet long. There’s so much inside it even though there’s no pupil, just crystal, just color and light, even the black is like a type of light. Another thing with one eye.
I look down between us. No! No more earth. Or maybe it’s just one of those specks, one of those sparkles, like a diamond we held together…and dropped. Earth. Mira. The birds. Did I drop them, too? But this is what it means to go home. This is what it takes. This is strength. Just because I’m on this ship alone only means that I’m even more human. I’m not just human because I’m living like the rest of them, I’m human because I could’ve just stayed on earth, but I decided to choose it, choose to be human. If my parents are still alive I won’t even have to tell them what I went through, they’ll just know. And if this thing is right, if I was somehow created by humans, maybe that makes me even more human than human and I can help everyone, help them become better, stronger, change things, and we can make a new earth, even new humans, wherever we are. We can even make new, more efficient bodies. And if they’ve forgotten I can help them remember. But there’s something about where we are.
“I don’t see any planets from Earth’s solar system. I don’t see anything I recognize.”
“After we left Earth’s atmosphere we made a jump.”
“No. Not actually in distance. More in dimensional location. We are in a dimension unknown to what most of humanity had knowledge of…except in dreams.”
“Where is Orophaze?”
“It’s not here.”
“How far do we travel to get to it?”
It’s ferns are still. It’s funny, but in a way I can see some of it’s other colors from its Zea body in it. Within those wrinkled, white, shifting sections there’s a barely perceptible magenta tint and gold pulses. And in the stems of the ferns there’s purple streaks.
“It is more a switching of dimensions. It takes place through our music, our intentions, the ferns and the ship and the constellations. It’s different for every race. Orophine ideas concerning the connections and relationship of the stars—the stories placed into the connecting of stars—are different. Thus, the way we inter-relate and use them to travel through dimensions is not possible for another race of beings. They wouldn’t be able to reach Orophaze. Not without an intersection with our consciousness.”
“Then why aren’t we there?”
“Altarberry—” It hesitates. “Process…need to…process. I need to look at this dimension. I need…time. I don’t know what will happen on Orophaze. I don’t know what I will be.”
“Will you change again?”
“I don’t think so. But I won’t be an Orophine like the others.”
“Are you different now?”
“I have hints of my Earth-form, but it is something else. It is more I will be an idea, a concept, to the rest of my planet. Or a history that never existed that now, when we return, will suddenly again be alive. Orophines are very focused, almost singularly focused. The creation of hominid forms constitutes our musical art. And also the placement of the forms—where in the Universe and in what configuration—this is all our music, our purpose. There’s other planets involved in other life-forms, even energies, energies before they become form, but they are also very different consciousnesses with different approaches to creation, different…relationships and attachments to what they create.”
“But humans create things, too. From what you say they created me.”
“Creation…I don’t know how to view it. That’s why I don’t think I’m an Orophine. That’s why I think they will know it. I can already feel within the Conferral that I’m not aligned, that there’s been a change. That’s why we’re here in this dimension. You see these planets. If you could watch them for long enough you’d see that they make configurations around each other. Unpredictable configurations, not based on any known laws of repetition. Orophines tried to populate them long ago with a type of human. Actually many beings involved in creating life-forms tried to populate them, too, but it was impossible, it was impossible to even land. They just are planets. They just are movement. Music. That’s all they want.”
“But something must be able to grow on them.”
“Oh, yes. If we were allowed to create an atmosphere that would be conducive to humanoids we could do it, but their purpose is just to be. It’s almost as if just these planets being, existing, is an expression of life. It is life. They are alive whether something alive is on them or not. That’s why we’re here. I needed to see if my perception of these planets and their configurations has changed, has grown. Orophines don’t look into this dimension because it is impossible for them to create into it.”
“But you do.”
“Earth has been forgotten. Creatively forgotten. It doesn’t exist.”
“But what about the other humans, the ones that escaped? That you transplanted somewhere else?”
“Yes, to Orophines they exist, yet it is almost as if that new planet we placed them on was the original, as if there wasn’t an Earth. In a way, it’s a type of convenience, an efficiency, a way of allowing us to keep creating without looking back, without getting caught up in the past. That’s why for me to go back to Earth, to be allowed through when the rest were shut out…it makes me different. And I think everyone will know. Everyone already knows—or knew—that I left Orophaze on my own to come back to Earth, which is unheard of. I don’t know why I am this way. It must’ve started when we were bringing the humans back and it was only you and I that were allowed through. A change took place. A rearrangement as we passed through the atmosphere.”
“Or maybe you were already different.”
“Yes. In a way, it’s in my name.”
“That was your ancestor.”
“In name my ancestor. We are all the same. We all come from the same source. So we are all ancestors. But Zea was an Orophine who did something different. Orophines don’t do anything different. Our differences can only be seen in the new humanoid art-forms we create together. Otherwise we are always the same. We confer as a group and then we create. But now there is something different. Something is changing.”
It’s weird. We’re speaking, speaking inside. It shouldn’t be this easy. It shouldn’t be happening. But it’s just me and it, and space—and these planets that are just pure colors, one is gold, one is blue, one is red, one magenta, and others, all close together in space, all the same size, all re-configuring slowly, thoughtfully.
“But what about the other planets in earth’s solar system? There wasn’t life on them either.”
“There was life that as humans you couldn’t see—because of your conception of life.”
Because of our conception of life…I wish…I wish this ship had something, something I could hold, but there’s nothing, nothing but glass that isn’t even glass, nothing but Zea and its monitor. I pull my legs in. I press my eyes against my knees. Just Zea. Just Zea and me.
“Who was Zea?”
“Yes, who was Zea? Or was it just a story, a projection into the past? All the similarities and differences between humans and Orophines…yet, maybe more similarities, like humans are the physical expressions of so many things within Orophines. I think this makes sense. Zea. Zea was the ancestor who returned to the Lake of Birth. There is the history that long ago an Orophine named Zea returned to the Lake of Birth where we emerge. It was during the time of when the crystal gates flower. This is the time that many of us change form, fly up and drink from the flowers that emerge on the crystal towers. It is a time when our music sears and vibrates so intensely that anything not aligned with it deteriorates. Many of the humanoids in the Display Gardens must be rebuilt along with their environments. It is like a clearing and a time of birth. When this ancestor existed, this Zea, Orophines didn’t create, not in the same way. In a way, we were more like Earth. There were more variables in our lifeways, on our planet. More life-forms. We didn’t have the abilities to make music that then became our humanoids. Our bodies were supposedly similar, except for one very important aspect, and that was the Orophine body didn’t have the ferns it does now, and the ferns are instrumental in the creation of our creational music—it is the interface of our intention, our communal conferral, and this part of our anatomies that becomes then the music that then takes humanoid form.”
“But I can hear it. It’s your words. I can feel it enter me.”
“Yes. It is communication. It is different to transmit to a human while in an Orophine form. We usually change ourselves in order to appear like you, appear like our creations.”
“Will you stop saying that! I’m not your creation!” It’s the most annoying thing I’ve ever heard in my life. I feel like I’m burning. I feel like I’m gonna cry. It’s ferns stop shimmering. There’s a slow pulse of that same gold that was in its other form, but fainter. I look out. It’s just me and her, me and It, me and Zea, in the middle of nowhere. Bare planets of different colors. As if the colors say something. As if the colors are a joke or a relationship, like the planets are friends from being different colors, are related by being different colors. I wish I could track their movements. But they seem so close, like they are all moons to each other. “Ok, whatever. Whatever,” I say.
“Then this Zea, this ancestor, returned to the Lake of Birth, which no Orophine had ever done before and hasn’t since. And something changed in us, not only in our physiologies, but our postures within the universe. An ability with a purpose emerged within us to create humanoids and populate other planets with them. It became our creative purpose. And our bodies changed to have these green plumes. Why I am named Zeaesque is because the original Zea, the one from the history, was more violet, more purple than the rest of the Orophines, and you can see hints of this in my own physiology, especially in my ferns—there’s streaks of magenta running up the stems. No one else on Orophaze has these.”
“It’s in your body, too.”
“Yes. I can sense it is stronger since we left Earth.”
Zea turns. We watch the planets and all the stars beyond them. The stars—I don’t even know how you could create any constellations, any pictures out of them. It’s just like a sea. Unless someone told you where to look, how to look, what connections to make—or if you just looked long enough something would make sense. If you just lived outside, lay there every night and just watched and watched, then stories could emerge. Or pictures. Pictures flying so high they wouldn’t seem to move. Or maybe just music, music without stories at all, just light, light speaking to your bones, speaking to the minerals inside you.
“I guess maybe I’m glad we’re not there yet.” We watch for a while longer. Zea is so still. “What is the land like on Orophaze?”
“Orophaze…crystals…crystal sand. Light. Light everywhere. It is different to describe its details to someone. It’s unheard of. Most beings we confer with would be able to see it by reading our interiors. To transmit a description is different. To transmit a description is a posture never assumed.”
“A perspective. Yes. Crystals and our music. And the Lake of Birth. It is the lake where we emerge into the Orophine world. It isn’t like Earth. We live in a one area, one type of extended city, and the rest is crystals and sand, white sand.”
“Is it a planet?”
“You will understand it as a planet. The mind forms planets out of dimensions, almost like the forming of pearls.”
I look out. It seems the colors of the planets have changed. Or is it just the placements?
“Will they kill us?”
“No. That is not an Orophine pattern. But you…on Orophaze…you shouldn’t be on Orophaze.”
“But didn’t you bring us back there. Weren’t humans created there?”
“Yes. But it was different. It was contained. It was part of the project. There was conferral…among the Orophines. And the humans were separated. Their thoughts were deactivated. Neutralized. And we appeared to them in human form, or, I should say, we altered their perceptions in order for them to see us as human forms. They thought humans from their own history were saving them. Otherwise, humanoids are only in creational laboratories or The Display Gardens.”
“Yes. It’s where the forms are exhibited. It is like our history of all the humanoid forms we created. It is in essence what we consider Orophine history. They are forms without consciousness.”
“No. Not a zoo. These are prototypes. They aren’t alive even though they act out certain moments, programmed movements. They are only empty shells, only forms, so that Orophines can concentrate on our creations, confer, compare as a culture in order to create further. Like all humanoids on Orophaze they deteriorate after a few years and have to be replaced, yet they last longer than humanoids with consciousness would in our atmosphere.”
“Display Gardens…. Zea, are there birds on Orophaze?” I don’t know why I asked this.
“Only when The Birthing takes place many of us become a form similar to a bird. We fly up and drink from the flowers, but then we return to our regular forms.”
“What about this new planet, this new place you put the humans from earth?”
“I don’t know. I don’t know where it is or what it is like. This ship and I, because of my consciousness, because of my form, can only reach it from Orophaze. Orophaze is like a portal to planets that we populated with humanoid forms. We have to go there, go there and view it, internalize that part of the Conferral.”
The human is thinking. We must feel the same, the same about Earth. I think into him but it is too complex, too many flaring colors. And shadows, almost like shadows on the inside of his form. Flitting. Veins. Branches. Winged shadows. Like being in the river—so many layers. Thinking inside him, it is almost as if we never left being half-submerged in that river’s mirror. But it’s hard to stay within him. Like the river, there’s a current that wants to pull you in. Humans. Our creations. And his history…out here, all the stars, the travel, the suspension, must’ve weakened it. He’s changed. Is it still there on Earth? It could be anywhere. Or there must be histories everywhere that can attach to you, that you can attach to, that you can create. Like the history of Zea. Like the Display Gardens.
“Earth.” I didn’t mean to say it. My ferns spoke it, sang it to him.
“Earth?” He’s thinking. “Zea, why do you want to be on the Earth? Why don’t you want to be with other Orophines? Like I can’t imagine living on Earth without humans. That’s why we’re going. That’s why you’re taking me cause that’s the way things are supposed to be—you’re supposed to be with people who are like you, that you fit together with physically. I mean, I’m human. I don’t care if what you say is true. I don’t care if we were created by someone else. We’re still us. We’re still humans. And humans are different than anything. We change things. We’re the ones that decide things—not like the rest of the things on earth—we make decisions and we have the power to carry them out.”
“Yes. Earth. I don’t know how it happened. I don’t know how I changed. Or if I did change. Our mapping of the past doesn’t reference…emotions. Emotions. Orophines don’t reference emotions. I don’t know if emotions are an interface with Earth or if they exist within us. Like a latent chord. Earth. It is a planet of fascination. And to be fascinated…what happens when one is fascinated? A listening. A music through listening. Not an intentional music. Not a conferral with just other Orophines. Listening to create. Maybe it is just that Earth is so unpredictable. And now it’s stepped forth even further. It’s actually stepped in. Just the fact that we were the only ones allowed in—you and I. That’s when I must’ve really changed. That’s when other Orophines saw me as divergent.”
“Where did we land?”
“In the city. In the center of the city. We landed at a small lake in the center of the city. The city had changed dramatically since we took the last of the humans away. And when we tried to bring them back, it was as if the atmosphere, the Earth, separated us, and suddenly we, you and I, were in a ship like this one, descending through the spores without the others. The ship we came on, with the other Orophines and humans, was much larger. When we landed by the lake, those others in the bigger ship, they found themselves in another part of the Universe.”
“But we ended up on earth?”
“Yes. On Earth. When we’d left the first time when we were rescuing the burning humans, the new growth was just beginning, but by the time we returned it had greatly advanced. Many of the buildings were indistinguishable, were like hills of glowing moss. But it was interesting—all the older growth, the older living growth, like the trees along the streets, shrubs, flowers, they were unaffected. It was almost like they were being protected by this new burgeoning. It even appeared to create eco-systems even for individual species to flourish, specific little eco-systems among the greater valleys and heights of mosses. You were only three earth-years, human-years, old. That’s why to see you now, so much older, it’s hard to understand. There shouldn’t have been that much physical advancement since I lost you.” It must be the history. The history aged him into human pubescence. But I don’t know how to explain this. I don’t know if he’d ever be able to see it. The history may even block the explanation.
“I don’t remember that. Maybe that’s just something you remember. Maybe that was someone else.”
“Your name was Steven.”
“All I remember is that I had two parents. I don’t remember them but I do. I know it cause there was a woman and a man and they cared about me. They brought me here.”
The history is almost like a shield. Or…is he the shield for the history?
“It was I. You saw me as a human.”
All my hands are grasping something, creating something. I’m creating as I’m coming to the surface. As I’m waking up. I can’t hear the sea anymore, only the spores singing. I smell the water of the Lake on my tongue, but it’s also tasting salt, dust, minerals, sliding and attaching against tiny scales…of someone’s…body. I try to pull it back—I’m not fully in my form—I haven’t fully created into it. I can’t open my eye. Not yet. The Lake. I must be by the Lake. I can still feel the algae of the pier like wings inside me flying away. All my hands are holding something. My tongue detaches and comes back. Salt, dust, minerals, beautiful browns, endless browns, ochers. Like sunsets. Like a land of sunset. A land that travels by wind, that travels deep within stillnesses. My eye opens. She’s here. Her eyes open, too.
“You’re not human,” I say.
“But you have two eyes, two legs.”
“And just two arms, I guess,” almost like she wishes she had more.
“Yeah. Two arms.”
“And you have one eye and four arms.”
“But I don’t got a tail.”
She whips hers around so that it lies over my legs.
“Yes, and no tail. But you have a tail on the other end of your body.”
“You mean my tongue?”
“We’re kinda the same.”
“And now we’re…together.”
It’s like being between waking and sleeping, but which is being awake and which is being asleep, earth or Orophaze. If it exists. If any of this is real. My memories, or whatever they are, this view, this history, this past—I don’t know, I don’t know if I’m in it. Just a film, a film without a point of view. As if it is within this body, and this body is within a ship I can barely see, and this ship within a dimension of planets with only colors, uninhabitable planets, planets that are no longer objects. Eco-systems. Eco-systems that are echo-systems. Every form. I haven’t slept since when? How much time has passed? Maybe not that much. Maybe only an hour since we left the earth. Two hours? Or had it been a whole day? How long does it take to listen to Zea’s words, Zea’s music, now that it’s not spoken? When it descends, and it is me who has to bring it up. It’s easier. It’s like I just do it without thinking. But I still do it.
“But then I lost you. The city was inhabited by beings other than humans. Even as the ship descended I could see them on the monitor, new beings, spread throughout the city with different forms—and the mosses, the spores—it was overwhelming. And I had no communication with the rest of the Orophines or the other humans. It was just us. And it wasn’t as if my form had changed—I was still in human form—but I was different. My thoughts were…individual, or shared with other things than other Orophines—they were no longer the Orophine collective thought-conferral. They had other avenues that disappeared beyond my region of perception, into other forms, beneath other forms. And my own self was filling, also, as if things were speaking to me, forms were speaking to me. I didn’t know how to feel it, to place it, to confer without conferring with the Orophine—and was I an Orophine without the Orophine Conferral? We were standing outside the ship. The lake was reflecting sky, reflecting spores, reflecting these buildings, which were turning to mountains. Everything was glowing. No way to find order. No way to define the music among it. It was all music adhering into cells, into new beings, into light, and new dynamics of gravity. Alls I could think was I had to return to my form. I was still in a human form. I had to be an Orophine again, and then I could understand—we could understand. I remember you thought it was beautiful. You wanted to ride the spores, “ride the spores to heaven”. You kept pulling me. You wanted to go deeper into the city. You wanted to climb the mountains. You said if you climbed to the highest mountain you could turn into a spore, too. That we could turn into spores. When they came out, when they ascended, they globbed out of the windows that weren’t covered over. The glass seemed to convex and turn to liquid and then become the rising orbs, and when they came down they just disappeared back into the growth itself.”
“I know.” I remember. I remember it. I remember being by the lake with the ship. But it was with my mother and father. But I still can’t see them. I can see her, him, It—I can see Zea, but it’s like a story. I’m a story. It’s her story. Its story.
“No. I know about the spores, how they work.”
Its ferns stop. It looks at me. It faces me, pulsing, pulsing its pastel hints of color within all its whiteness. The pulsing slows. My heartbeat slows, too. In between waking and sleeping.
“The buildings, all of them had growth. And the streets were almost completely covered. Lush, tight valleys. It was like being drowned in an unknown music. The buildings that were completely covered weren’t empty. They may have had nothing left of their former interiors—I don’t know—but they were now filled with intense gold light, thick gold light, speaking, singing. I would’ve never known it but you broke away and dug into the moss of one of them and you found some kind of door as if you knew it was there. I got to you and you tried to pull me in. It was like a pulsing wall of gold, like an ocean, but I don’t even think you could see it. Alls you wanted to do was get to the top of the building to become one of the orbs.”
To become one of the orbs. How did we say goodbye? How was it when they left me, left me on earth. Left me to start over. But why would you do that? Why would you leave your child? I don’t remember gold light. But I do remember letting go. The feeling of opening my hand. And when I closed it again there was nothing but air. I haven’t slept in so long. Gold. A gold planet. A crystal planet. A magenta planet like Zea’s body. I just want to curl up on the floor and watch them. I’m already there. It’s like lying on warm glass. The gold planet. It’s as if it steps out. Moves toward the ship like a curious animal. I don’t know what’s true. Zea’s watching it, too. Zea’s facing the planets.
“Zea. You don’t want to go back, do you?”
“Of the other Orophines? But you said that they won’t hurt us.”
“Yes. I’m certain they won’t hurt us. It’s not in our approach. Not now. My fear is…I don’t know if I will ever get back to Earth.”
“But you’re not from Earth.”
“I know. But Earth…it’s as if we shared a form. My body this last time—we were It together, we made that body and shared it. It was our expression, our endless expression. Even you helped express it. And it’s difficult to describe but we expressed the Earth, too. The Earth and I expressed the Earth, or we were the Earth. It was like being an Orophine, except more. Being an Orophine, knowing the Conferral, I think helped me place that the Earth-conferral, the Earth-expression, took place on a greater level. It was like a music beyond anything, beyond our creation through our ferns. It’s almost as if….”
“Nutrition. We were feeding the Universe.”
“What?! That’s crazy.” For some reason I can’t help but laugh. I don’t know—it just seems so funny. It’s like Zea is just this child making up things. The gold planet is getting closer. And my face is pressed against nothing but stars. “Zea, you can’t feed the Universe by being some crazy magenta humanoid. I hate to tell you that.”
“I think it’s true. I think you were doing it, too.”
“But my body wasn’t created by Earth. Right? You forgot that part. You gotta keep track of what you said. It was created by Orophines, or it was created by humans who were created by Orophines. Or has that all suddenly changed?”
It’s all a joke. I’m so tired but I can’t sleep. I can’t let myself. So much space to fill. The gold planet. It’s watching us while the others play. If I close my eyes, it’s gold inside, too. Like I’m in the sun. But it’s only space. Gold with shadows, shadows of birds. Like a house, a building built of shadows of birds, or a body, like being in a body that is all gold inside and it’s skin is birds flying, playing. I don’t know if they miss me. Maybe they’re thinking about me and these shadows are their thoughts—or songs, or just flight—flying and thinking—or flying is something I never thought of, like it’s not just getting somewhere—it’s something else. I haven’t been without them since, since I can remember. But, it’s strange. I wonder now if they were always the same birds or if they changed. I don’t know. It’s almost as if I didn’t want to name them. Or maybe really see them. Or maybe…maybe think they were my friends. There was something blocking me. The gold planet. The gold inside me. There’s even that gold you can still see in Zea.
“Yes.” It’s watching the planets.
“What’s inside you?”
“What’s inside an Orophine?”
“It’s hard to use music that can be translated into human thought constructions to express what is inside an Orophine form. But it is a type of space, a type of circulating space with also pulses that travel through and out of the circulation. It is not like human anatomy.”
“But you supposedly created human anatomy.”
“It is what we do. It is our purpose in the Universe. We create humanoid forms. Yet, many don’t have the same internal physical systems as the humans we placed on Earth.”
“What color is it? What colors are inside you?”
“It is before color. It is space.”
It’s strange. It’s almost like being inside her. Like being inside her would be like this ship, just space, just floating, just lying here watching the stars, the planets who are just life and that’s it. Like everything that I’m seeing would be Zea’s skin. That wrinkled, sectioned, mounded body, opaque, pearly, almost translucent, and the ferns growing on a moving, thinking stone. From inside you could probably see everything. The whole universe. But I don’t think she’s on the inside.
“I don’t think inside you there’s no color. I think inside you it’s all gold.”
My ferns. My body. It’s not that the ferns are separate. There’s just so much music I don’t know. A gold tear snails out of his eye. A gold tear. Almost a planet. Coming out to meet. Coming out of their caves to create through acknowledgement.
“What’s humor?” he asks. He’s about to fall asleep.
“Are you ready?”
“There’s something I think I understood by us being here although it hasn’t surfaced.”
“Maybe you gotta pull it up.”
Space inside this form…but there is color. Purple emptiness. Purple somethingness. Purple emptiness decorating itself. Decorating myself with journey. Decorating myself with the human. I shift us to where we can enter Orophaze.
He sits up: “How did you do that?”
I can’t stop looking at her, her eye, her ebony body. No hair. Only the lashes of her eye. Her green eye is endless, radiant. It’s like speaking the green of the city. There’s a change in my thought structure. There’s more space now that we’re together. But not as much as you’d think. Not as much as I think. A certain region of my thoughts could exit out of her, too. And her thoughts could rise out of me. And yet, these same thoughts are traveling out from us, to the mosses, to the sea. To people we’ll never meet. And all the other regions—all I’ve been communicating—it’s vaster than I thought. It’s just that what I speak to her, what she speaks to me—it’s like a mountain, a mountain among many mountains, all birthing clouds that sail off, speaking with shapes, speaking with rain. We’re still holding hands. Suddenly, we stand up and face each other. Her legs are slightly bowed. I’ve changed since I’ve entered the mountains.
“Did you look different in the desert?” she says inside my mind.
“Yes. I think so. Now I’m greener. And my belly’s blue. It used to be more tan.”
We look at our hands. They’re all together between us. Held up like a closed flower. It’s strange. I open one finger.
“My claws have grown a little longer, too. It must be the moisture.”
And then she opens a finger. We keep going.
“Wait, I’m running out!”
We laugh. Just laughing we pull closer.
“Wait, you can use my tongue for one of your fingers. It’s like a bunch of fingers.”
Her tongue pours out of her head and snakes up beneath our hands into the nest of fingers. It’s pushing up through them so wet and powerful. And then it breaks out of the top. Suddenly, my tongue shoots out and they touch tips. We break apart. I don’t know what happened. We were laughing. Then, when our tongues touched—I don’t know—it’s like the mountains grew in height.
It’s like a huge flash. A huge blink. Maybe the Earth winked again. Winked bigger than usual. Winked like when all the humans disappeared. We look at each other. I take a step back. I guess I don’t know what to do.
“You’re a lizard.”
“I’m like a lizard.”
Her skin is all tiny scales, yet iridescent, green like the mountains, except for the front of her which is blue like the sea, like the sea close in to the beaches, all the way up to her chin, and it tapers down her legs and arms. Three long, clawed fingers and a thumb on each hand. Her head slides sideways in a slow rhythm. She’s more beautiful than I thought.
“You thought I was going to be like one of the old humans.”
It’s funny. I felt a tickling right before she said that. It’s my thoughts. There’s more there than I imagined. There’s so many. Some are the way we speak to each other. And some are thoughts that we share. But there’s more. Something’s leaving out of the eco-system of our speaking, and it’s tickling out of the space that’s left—the movement, or space, is tickling. But the eco-system—you could never figure it out—these thoughts, these messages are just like pollen, seeds.
“Do you feel that tickling?” I ask.
“Yes. It tickles to talk to you face to face.”
“Do you like it?”
“I think so. Do you?”
“I guess…I mean, I’m trying to understand it. I mean, I have this eye and all these arms and that’s who I am, that’s who I came here to be.”
“You mean because I have two arms and two eyes I’m like one of the old humans. That I think like them. But they were just one version. I was more like one of the old humans once in a life when I lived underground. But we were different. We didn’t think like the humans that were here in this place. We didn’t have that prejudice.”
I close my eye and focus on her fabrics. There’s so many. But then I see the one she means—so deep down in the earth.
“The one where you lived way below the surface? Where your culture made music with the people on the sun?”
“Yes. We were humans. That is a life that seems to stay.” She’s looking at my body. “What is the silver on your body?”
I look down. There’s slug trails all over me. It must’ve been on my way back from the piers. They must’ve crawled on me. But I don’t remember anything.
She has a ridge going down her spine like a mountain range of bone.
“They’re from the slugs. They come out of the vents in the earth. They help me sometimes. One time when I was lost they painted on my foot.”
“It seems I remember that. I remember hearing that from listening inside.”
“I think I told you.”
She looks up. The spores are singing up and down into space. It’s still morning.
“Do you like the mountains?” I ask.
“Yes. It’s like stretching. It’s like I’m stretched all the way from the mountain I came from out in the desert. And just being with you is like stretching, too. I look at you and I can feel it.”
Her eyes are crimson with pupils like ruffled vents, but the rest are all red, all iris. I look down. My arms are floating around. They don’t know what to do. I don’t know why I say it: “Do you want to go deeper in? We could go to the ocean.”
The planets are gone. It’s not like I even felt the ship move. Only Zea facing the rising monitor. And its ferns straightening, hardening, gleaming like glass. And now only stars, stars and space.
“Do you see it?”
“See what?” I look to where Zea’s facing. “All I see is stars.”
“You don’t see the ferns? If you do it will help us. We’ll enter more smoothly.”
“I don’t know. Alls I see is stars. Sprays of stars.”
“They seem to be emerging out of space…but they are made of space, or there’s light in the space, space in the light. But they’re growing out of it. Almost growing out of themselves. They’re made of what they’re growing out of. But I guess I see them. They’re like fountains. What do we do?”
“We enter it.”
“How long will it take?”
“We’re already here.”
The city, the mountains, are so lush—my skin, my eyes, drinking other nutrients than the desert, and yet you could find one within the other. And the speaking is different yet the same. Fuller, emptier, specific, vast. The specifics of Mira, her arms and her dark skin, her green eye right in front of me, make it vast, make it all vivid how endless it is, that the speaking goes everywhere like a report—you could even say it’s a report to the Earth, but it’s even beyond that. I feel that even from within that life below the earth where we sang to the sun, that just in those tones, or in the winds we heard back, just in their merging—if I’d known about this life, been in conscious contact—I would’ve heard the words I speak to Mira. Earth-core and the true surface, the inhabited surface, of the sun speaking. High desert and wet mountains—and sea. Two eyes, one eye. And the space between us, the space of different numbered limbs, the space where new forms grow.
“I really think that,” I think directly to her, knowing that she’s listening to my thoughts.
“I think it, too. I never really thought about it, but I think it, too: the space where new forms grow.”
Mira’s arms float about, almost like anemones, like they’re pointing to things invisible. The city is like mountains, like many mountains shrunk and gathered together, moss mountains—so many different shapes: cubes, rectangles, but all with the sharp edges taken off, some low and squat, some towering up like stalagmites. The mosses, too, are of so many varieties and shades of green, some tight, compact communities, some lush and flowing, deep greens, blue-greens, greens that have cores of gold, that look as if they have crimson interiors, all among the rain of singing spores globbing out of windows from the decomposed human metropolis—the metropolis that has advanced—rising up, feeding constellations, then descending into the valleys of moss. Something about watching them makes my stomach groan. We walk away from the little lake. I hold one of her lower hands. They’re a little bigger than the upper ones. I’m still reporting.
“I can smell the ocean.”
“Me, too,” she says. “It isn’t that far. We can get there before the sun goes down. But we might meet a lot of people on the way. I always go to the sea and say hi to everybody. And even though everybody may be different, like changed their bodies, we’re still friends. And…you really probably want to swim in the ocean, I guess, don’t you?”
“Yes. That’s one of the reasons I came here. That’s one of the voices I think I been speaking to.”
She closes her eye in a strange way, like a little too long for the way we’re walking. But I can’t hear her thoughts.
“What about the human?” I don’t know why, but it comes into my thoughts.
Suddenly, she looks at me.
“You mean Altarberry?”
“I think that’s his name. I heard you speaking about him telepathically…kinda a lot when I was in the desert.”
“I guess. Geez. Yeah. I guess I talk about him a lot. He’s a human. He’s actually from when there were humans, when it was mostly humans.”
“He’s still here?”
“Well, I guess he escaped and came back. Some space people took him away and brought him back. That’s what he says. He wants to make it all like it was. He wants it all to be human.”
“Why are you laughing? I don’t think he’s funny at all. He’s a jerk.”
“I don’t know, I guess I just been so many things.”
She’s smiling, too. Our hands get a little tighter. But all the muscles, the grip of her hand, is always moving, playing.
And then I say it: “You’re more beautiful than anybody anywhere.”
But I know she knows I’m telling the truth. She’s not derailing the path of our thoughts. It’s like my ocean is wide open to her, and to think into her is like flying.
It’s funny. Walking through the mountains with Aira, it’s like showing her myself, every inch of it, or like letting her look super deep into my eye until we’re both swallowed. Except we’re in the mountains. But Aira keeps staring at the spores. She lets go my hand and starts rubbing her stomach. Then she drops down on all fours. She’s doing push-ups, over and over. And she’s moving her head back and forth. It’s weird—the repetitions—they’re changing things. The spores are slowing down. There’s one goowing out of the mercurish window of a low mountain. She keeps pumping up and down. Then her face swings toward it. The spore’s almost all the way out. Aira leaps onto the mountain. It’s unbelievable, like the distance is crazy. She hits the vertical moss above the window on all fours, swings her head toward the spore again and lashes her tail. And then she’s on it. They’re lifting. Her weight doesn’t really affect it, but she’s biting into it—she’s eating it, or breaking the skin. She gots it between her tight lips and is tugging back and forth. And now it breaks. I’ve never seen this, I’ve never seen anyone do anything but ride the spores. She hits the ground. She’s drinking what’s inside it. It’s strange. It’s like limey silvery air. She’s sipping it. Her eyes are shut tight. And she’s panting, but I think her breaths are getting steadier. It’s funny, though, before she’s done, the spore’s deflated shell descends into the moss just like the others do and you can still feel the pulse, like the same type of heightening as always when they go into the ground. And now she’s doing her repetitions again, down and then up, except this time she does a bunch of little ones at the top before coming down again. I go over and sit next to her. And I kinda look around, wondering what everybody thinks. My heart’s beating a lot, too. It’s funny. I never really seen that, but it doesn’t matter. Nobody says anything. We all eat somebody, even if it’s light. A couple of maple seeds come twirling down, spinning up the music, chasing each other and follow the spore in. But it’s interesting—the repetitions—I feel like they’re pulling things toward us.
Crystals. Like mountains. We’re passing between two huge crystals. So high. Like skyscrapers. And space behind us. Like we’re entering a world hidden by the star-ferns. In the center of them. But now the stars are gone. Just a searing whiteness. Everything grey or white with hints of pink sometimes. It hurts to look at it. Mountain ranges of crystals. And some kind of city below us with disc-like buildings. It must be a pink lake outside of it. It’s shaped like a tear leading out of the city. But we’re passing through the two huge crystals, like a chasm, a gate the size of mountains.
Zea turns from one to the other. Her ferns are shimmering. They’re almost radiating color. Like vegetation made of flexible glass. And magenta pulses coming to the surface of her body. “It’s happening. It’s happening as I’m returning. It’s almost orchestrated.”
“What is it?”
“The crystals are growing their flowers. Look. The Orophines are flying up. This only happens at certain times. To your humans and your marking of time it only happens once in a thousand years. It is how new Orophines come into being. But why now?”
The creatures fly up, fly up past us to the walls of the crystals. “They don’t look like you.”
“They’ve morphed. They will return. It doesn’t happen to many of us, but when the flowers form on these two crystals, some Orophines change form and they can fly up and drink from the flowers.”
They are almost like Hummingbirds, yet enormous. And yet I can see how they’re like Zea. The same opacity and wrinkled plains, only with long glass-like beaks and wings, hovering near the flowers which are crystal, too, and drinking, buzzing, their ferns shrunken into a bristle of feathers.
“The flowers—are they crystal, too?”
“Yes, the crystals grow them out of themselves. But it is only these two crystals. Between them is a gate to other realities, other dimensions, other universes. It’s how we travel to places like Earth. And how we return. And it’s almost between the two dimensions that the flowers grow, just inside Orophaze.”
“So Orophaze really isn’t a planet?”
“It is the mind that can form this into a planet.”
The ship slows as we watch the feeding. Orophines with wings and beaks rise from the city and hover around the clear flowers.
“What is it? It’s like a rainbow.”
“It’s liquid crystal.”
“Yes. It’s almost like blood. And then new Orophines emerge out of the Lake of Birth. It’s the drinking, the drinking that creates us.”
The city is just as opaque, just as chalky as Zeaesque. A planet, or I guess a place, of crystals and dust, rocks, and a conglomeration of buildings, round, almost like discs with flat tops and spires rising out of the centers. Many different sizes. They fit into the strange brightness of the planet, more grey than the rest of the planet. The city must not be more than a mile in diameter with the pink lake about a quarter of its size extending out like a drip with more mountains, more crystals beyond. But we’re descending, we’re descending into Orophaze. As we descend you can see Orophines gathered on the roofs.
“Is this the gate where we can get to the new earth.”
“Yes. But if it exists I don’t think it’ll be anything like the Earth you knew.”
“Where will we land?”
“Most Orophines will be focused on the Birth, the drinking. We will create less interference if we land on the other side of the Lake of Birth.”
“Do they know we’re here?”
“Yes. Most of the Orophine mind is in Conferral of the birthing, but a part of it knows we’re here.”
I think we’re both trying to brace ourselves. Zea’s ferns are swaying as if a wind is blowing them, but they’re still like glass. The Lake of Birth. It’s like deep pink. Shimmering pink. A pink full of crystals, flecks of silver. Where it channels into the city there’s a crowd. Everyone here is an Orophine, either in that bird-form or like Zea, a mass, a wrinkled, sectioned mass with one dark eye and its ferns. The other form has only one eye, too. It’s not that different, just elongated, just a long glass beak and stubby wings that glisten. On earth, they’d never be able to fly.
“Zea. I want to leave. I want to get out of here.”
Zea doesn’t say anything. It’s just looking at its monitor. Everything is so bright, so searing. It’s beautiful but it isn’t. It makes you feel like you could almost not exist, that you are just a thought. It’s something you’d dream, but you’d want to wake up, you’d pray to wake up.
I land the ship a small distance from the city. What will happen? So much of my consciousness is focused on the Birth, every new Orophine that emerges I can feel it, a pulse, a voice, a thought rising. Lifting them and yet they appear. Appear on their own? It’s possible. I know there’s something different. There’s some type of new expression, as if someone changed the tuning, altered the possibilities. Orophaze. I never felt fear. So human. Fear of what? Change? Nutrition? A nutrition that will change me?
“What do we do now?”
“We go outside. Brace yourself. You can exist on Orophaze for a certain amount of time. You can even breathe the atmosphere although it isn’t oxygen. But I think you will age.”
“How long will we be here?”
“We will have to go to the Creational Archives. There, we can view the new planet where the Earth humans were brought, if it exists, if they still exist. Then we can coordinate and I can bring us there. Without viewing it, without it entering my system, and shifting, expanding to include that aspect of the Conferral, I don’t think it’s possible for us to reach it.”
“But then…then what will you do?”
“I will change myself into a human and bring you there. And then I will try to get…back to Earth…even though I left it.”
“But you only left it because of me.”
We look out at all the crystals, all the light, the Lake where I too emerged.
“There isn’t any sun.”
“On Orophaze, there is no sun.”
My ferns. I can really feel it now. They are different. It’s our relationship. It’s that we have a relationship. And yet I am them just as much as ever. There’s no time to understand this. But yes, there’s more music than I thought. More music than Orophine music. They send it out and the ship opens.
We step out. It’s like being encased in light, searing light, swallowed in an over-powering electrical buzzing. My vision—it flexes. It’s like something is eating me, trying to turn me into dust, trying to turn me into crystal. Zea’s facing me. I feel her thoughts. It’s music entering me. It’s like food. Like food to be able to stand this. This buzzing—is this the Orophine music? I focus on Zea. Mountains of crystals behind. Light. Sand. Sand that is crystal. Zea’s form makes sense here. And its ferns, the new form of its ferns—more like green glass, yet still pliant, still shivering, sharing in the waves, the waves within the waves, ripples of sound coming from everywhere, crossing, touching—they make more sense here within the hungry sound—and light, as if there isn’t one inch of this planet that isn’t burned by light. The ship is like a diamond now, clear, faceted—you can see inside it—it’s so different than when we were on earth. The lake is so vivid against the whiteness, so dark pink and full of crystal, thick, motionless on the surface, but deeper you can see the glittering silver particles roiling slowly, unfolding.
“Are you feeding me?”
“Yes. I’m trying to assimilate you the best I can.”
“Yes. With an understanding of Earth music and Orophaze music. At least that’s what I’m understanding from the ferns.”
“But isn’t it you? Aren’t they your ferns?”
“I don’t know. Yes. But there’s something different. I knew there was a change, but now that I’m here on Orophaze I can feel it more than ever. It’s…space, too—there’s more space in the music, or more space within us, fertile space. It’s more like our intentions are harder to align. Or the ferns are doing things. Just the ferns. When I first came back to Orophaze from Earth when I lost you, the Orophines sensed there was a difference, but now it’s greater. Much greater. And the shapes of the ferns. Now that I’m here I can see there’s more space between them.”
“Zea, I feel strange. It’s as if everything in me is vibrating against each other.”
Zea seems to float over the surface of Orophaze, over the granules of crystal. I breath but I don’t think it’s oxygen I’m breathing. Zea must’ve made it so I don’t need it. We pass along the lake toward the city. They must know we’re here, even if they didn’t share Zea’s mind. My whole body in this place doesn’t make sense. We’re entering the city. In a way, they are like earth buildings, except circular. They have flat roofs like slabs of cut stone. In the center of each one a spire with different size spheres on it extends up. The windows are sheets of glass that are all the way around the walls of each building, separated only by a foot of some other grey material, but the windows themselves are like a slow swirling crystalline sheen, like soap on water. The buildings all seem to be only one story, except built on terraces, as if on a small mountain, and beyond them towering ranges of crystals. On the far side of the city from where we are soar the two crystal towers where we entered this planet, and the white bodies of Orophines flying up to the flowers.
I hear Zea’s words: “There’s more beneath the buildings. This is just the surface expression of our city.”
We ascend into it. And we pass Orophines. I try not to breath. I don’t think it’s even air anyway, just a sharpness.
“Zea, they’re not even looking at us,” I think to her.
“We are not part of what Orophines are acknowledging. But they do see us internally. We are not part of what is supposed to be happening in Orophine reality. Over time, they will know. Orophine Conferral is focused presently on the Birth. But a growing part of it is also on the new music, the ferns. There something happening that I can only describe as a new relationship. It’s like us in a way, you and I. For a creation to travel through the city with an Orophine is impossible.”
“Where do they create the humans?”
“They are created in the largest building on Orophaze—you can see it from here—and then transported away to other planets from there in ships. We are not a large population and our focus is very singular.”
I follow where Zea is facing and there is a circular building like the others, yet larger. From where we are we can see down to the pink lake. It tapers into the city. We watch. And you can see Orophines emerging from it into the groups along the shore.
“How does it happen?”
“Through the group mind. Through the group mind of Orophaze. It’s the crystals, the Lake of Birth, the music, and us, our ferns, our bodies, the space within us. Human birth is different. It’s a structure we created. An experiment. It’s almost like a musical game.”
The searing is getting to me. It’s so bright. And it’s almost turning me to dust. There’s something wrong here. “Zea. You…you and your Orophines—you seem to know so much about everything. You can travel through space and change your forms and everything…and create humans or whatever. But you don’t know anything.” I think I’m crying, but the tears…I think they’re being eaten by the atmosphere, they’re being burned away, evaporated through vibration. It’s all a game. It’s all a game. A game you play with your parents that don’t exist. Ah. There’s something being taken away from me. It doesn’t want it to go. It belongs to me. It belongs to us. Zea’s so still, facing down at the Orophines emerging from the pink fluid. “Zea, let’s go—let’s just go. I feel sick. Let’s just find the humans.”
Now it’s happening. As we pass between the buildings, Orophines start to glide by at slower speeds. The buildings don’t have doors. They just emerge out of the sheens of the windows, almost as if that surface is what becomes them, their forms, those wrinkled, sectioned, white, living mounds. Zea stops.
“We are here. The Circle of History.”
“What is it?”
“It’s where we can view your humans. We can view any planet that we populated from here, even many places that have potentials.”
“Is that all you look at, places you might be able to put humans on?”
Zea doesn’t answer.
Zea passes straight into the sheen and disappears. It’s like facing a mirror, except it doesn’t reflect me. So many colors, piling, folding. I hear Zea’s voice again in my mind. “Follow.” I step in. It’s like entering a different world. What is it? It’s space. Swirling space. Dark. Some type of slow, evenly paced pulse, like a gong beneath water. The burning vibrations are gone. The sounds of Orophaze are gone. And the searing light. The building, the Circle of History, only these windows. It’s as if the molecules that live within it have thickened, have grown. Hints of colors. Potentials of colors. I follow Zea to the center. Zea starts rotating all the way around slowly. Its ferns straighten, then their tips reach in and meet. We must be directly beneath the spire. I can feel waves of strange energy splashing down on me from the vague ceiling. The building is large—one hundred feet from the center to the windows. In each window there is a different tone, a different image. They aren’t views onto the city. Zea is still turning. Its ferns are growing up into the ceiling. The pulsing is deeper. The windows are changing. They come closer to us, individually, and then return. Different distances yet they are too far to see clearly. And the space…you can see it siphoning into the images as they advance.
“What are they?”
“Worlds with humans?”
“Worlds with varying humans, and worlds that humans have affected.”
“Is it alright that I talk to you?”
“How many types of humans are there?”
“Thousands. Even on the Earth at any given time there has been many. If you looked at their bones they would seem the same, even if a forensic anthropologist examined or dissected them they would appear the same, but they are very different creations.”
“Even though they functioned similarly?”
“Yes. The physical functioning, though, can change from planet to planet, from world to world, or from worldview to worldview of the humans. What you understand as how a human physically functions is more an agreement within your group intellects. In a way, it is a merging of the atmosphere of Earth and the physiologies we created, but it is also our own experiment to have you view your body with that particular perspective of physical dynamics to see where it will lead. It is just another creative avenue. Yet a creative avenue that has potentials to ultimately lead to a higher level, a level closer to where the Orophine Mind resides.”
“But many species on earth function the same way. They breathe. They circulate blood, too. They eat things.”
“Yes. This, in one sense, is a musical collaboration with other entities who are involved in populating Earth with other forms, plant forms, other animals, but it is also partially how the human mind, or a particular human cultural mind, the one we focused more on advancing, views and creates their reality.”
“And then it ignited.”
“Yes. Now I know that all this was…frivolous. That’s why I want to return to the Earth. It’s like going back to the basics, the basics we can create together, the basics we can create every moment. It’s the excitement of knowing nothing at all, just that we’re doing it together. The Earth and I. Whoever is the Earth. I am searching for your humans. In a way, I am glad you brought me back here. Who I am, what I’ve become, it is an interesting divergent element in the Orophine Conferral.”
Suddenly, one of the windows comes all the way to us. Zea stops rotating. I put my hand on Zea’s form. It’s like nothing I ever felt. Voices, voices that make a tissue almost like fiberglass, yet responsive, like fibers of light. It must be the voices of other Orophines. But it’s like cold electricity. Fibers full of a strange, opaque light. But it’s good to do it. It’s so strange but reassuring to touch Zea’s body. We’re so different. And humans…I see them. I’ve never seen a human, really seen them. Like except in my memory—I think. The window keeps advancing steadily, as if we’re stepping inside.
“Zea, are we there?”
“No. We are only viewing it.”
“But we’re in it.”
“Yes, we are in a history of it. It may not be what is presently taking place. It is a History. It is like a consciousness that will always exist, that can be accessed. You can even interact with it, it is true, yet I know that what we will find if we actually go there will be different, close but different.”
I try to move, but it’s strange, it’s almost like being frozen, but I am moving yet so unbelievably slowly—I know it’s happening, but just lifting my arm may take ten, fifteen minutes. And I can’t turn around. I can’t see if we’re still half-in the Circle of History, or what’s behind us. And…and at the same time there’s another point of view. I’m experiencing them simultaneously.
“We are attaching into a place in this world, this history, that aligns with your tone.”
“Zea, why can I see the planet from an aerial point of view and see these humans up close at the same time.”
“I don’t know. Your consciousness may be freer.”
There’s something pulling me toward my people. I’m pulling me toward my people.
“We have to get to them. We have to tell them I’m here.”
“I’m getting coordinates, alignments. I’m consuming the tone. The tone beneath the tone.”
“You don’t understand. These are humans.”
It’s strange. The planet is bare. Barer than Orophaze. It’s I’m like flying over it all. Yet, this is just one point of view. The other is a vast room. It must be beneath the surface. Like a vast laboratory. It’s almost like I could walk in there and everyone would know who I am. Humans on tables. Humans in liquid. And all the humans who created them.
“What are they doing?”
“They are genetically engineering. This is their purpose. This type of human is much more closer to the Orophine. I can see what we’ve done now to solve many problems, we’ve made them closer to ourselves, life-forms with a single purpose.”
Computers, holographs, a scientific laboratory. Yes, I could walk right into it. It’s almost as if I can feel it, feel my place, like a form, like a pre-form ready to receive me, and then I can spread. It’s like I’ve been so confined on earth, in this body, but here I can just pour out, cover everything, and everyone will understand because we’re humans, because we can change things, because we’re meant to change things—it’s like everything, everything alive, is our glove that we slide our hand into and we move. It’s always been like this. Always. Yet, now we’ll know it. We’ll own it.
“No other life, except these flying beings.”
It’s like Zea’s voice directs my vision. A glass enclosure. They must be birds. Birds. Strange. They are almost like glass, yet they live. They are huge. Vulture sized. It’s almost like they are bound to crosses hanging within this transparent cage. Glass birds. Is this what I’m looking through as I pass over the landscape? My other point of view? Am I looking out of one of these birds? One of these birds that are still free?
“They are genetically engineering new humans with these beings to allow themselves to survive on the surface of the planet. I don’t know if this planet would naturally allow humans.”
Birds. My birds. My birds. I wonder if they say that about me: Our Human? Our Altarberry.
“Strange. It is as if you were created to be part of this.”
Created. Created to create. And my parents. When did I stop thinking about them, believing in them? Somewhere on the journey. So many humans moving, working, like a dance. So many dances. I don’t know. It seems I had other parents, parents that I left. I know how it can be done. I could put my finger on the key to merge the human physiology with anything. The birds. I know how to merge with the birds. Is that why I was left alone—to understand how to merge, to understand, too, how to differentiate and define—what is human and what is not, and how what is not can be used, to put another species’ potentials to use, to point out a species’ unconscious trait and turn it into a human enhancement. It’s almost as if without it we are walking among instruments and pretending they can’t be played, that they are beyond us. The birds sleeping on me. I think that says something. That says something. Maybe I’m alone flying above this planet. Maybe I’m the last one left. Who is it that can step into this world? Who is it who’s pulling me? Any one of them could be my parents. And they all have white skin like me.
“Are you ready?”
As if rising from face down in a pool we lift out of the scene. The window recedes and fits back into the distant, circular walls. It’s strange. Strange. I can still feel myself flying, I can still see the new planet from an aerial point of view. It’s like an air current in my head, like a strain of music.
How does a body grow in new ways? It’s unheard of. There’s something different in the Conferral, in the Birth. This is the last time I enter The Circle of History. The last time I am part of the light of Orophaze, a part of the music…which has changed. I know that I will either return to Earth or die trying. When did it begin? It must have been even before I was allowed through to Earth with the human and then returned. Or can you define a beginning? How can this be my planet, my mind, and yet I am in love with Earth? And on Earth the Orophine Conferral ends. I no longer create in the same way. I may not even be an Orophine, and yet my mind swirls in a greater mind, the pre-music that must be beyond, way beyond, the Conferral. And yet…and yet I am a disturbance, I am something that shouldn’t be here but is…brought by a human, brought by an obligation to a creation. It’s like an experiment. But who is initiating it? As if eventually this and everything else possible will somehow burgeon, will somehow be initiated, too. The human—you could see how once he saw the new planet his history was re-awakened, how it poured out simply viewing into that world. All these intentions. Like pointing to things one by one and saying this is the beginning, and in that moment it is true. It’s as if the history we viewed, that new human planet, wants to join the history that the human brought with him. Yes, it’s still with him—only now that we are back into the light it’s being burned away, dehydrated so that it may simply detach, float like ash, dissolve into the Lake of Birth. The new humans are so like Orophines. I could feel it. Maybe that was the solution. And a planet that didn’t seem like it wanted that type of life-form, that wasn’t suited to human life. And the birds, which were almost made of crystal…. Just one point in the history. Maybe those humans will flourish. Maybe those underground laboratories will arch up and spread like seeds. And yet, where are all the other planets? Why aren’t they helping populate this new planet, with viruses, bacteria, plant-life, anything? Only humans. Humans and these crystal birds. But in a way, they abandoned Earth, too, only helped bring new life-forms and then went on their way—new endeavors, new approaches—we barely know who they are. We only know them by their energies, their tones, that they send to the planets they have worked with, conferred with. To the Orophine it is unfocused. Irresponsible to purpose. Yet, deeper within me there is a wave of change. Something is happening at the Lake of Birth.
I’m emerging, emerging from the repetitions. They grow me. The material of this body—grown up into these mountains—deep in the repetitions, that’s where I was. But now the repetitions are a ground from where I can return. Mira’s sitting next to me. I’m back. And full. The repetitions must have fed me. I focus. A trail of orange, crimson, and gold, shifting leaves, all burning with their colors, snakes through the buildings on the vibrant moss.
“I’ve never seen anything like it. It’s like somebody’s footprints,” I say, rubbing my eyes. They must’ve appeared while I was in the repetitions.
Each leaf is slowly shifting, as if they’re feeling out new increments of placement, new proximities to each other.
“I think I know who left these,” says Mira. “I call it Heartglove cause it plants its heart in things, and then a new one always forms. But you can’t talk to it like most people. It doesn’t answer anything. You just see it, like glimpses of it. It’s almost like a hand or a starfish, but it’s always burning like a star of lava emerging and cooling into the ocean floor, shedding ash that becomes pollen. And in the center of it is its heart that’s like blue crystal. That’s what it plants places.”
We follow the leaf trail through the valleys. We place our feet onto each leaf, which continue their thoughtful shifting, totally unaffected by our weight, almost carrying us. Within the density of the mountains, the reporting is different. You can even forget that you’re reporting. The deeper in we go, the higher the mountains. The old human city—you can feel it, almost remember it, like a buried trellis. Like bones, like bones full of light, of liquid, of rivers. They just ooze out a humidity, feeding the greens of the mosses, feeding my skin. And the higher the mountains the more ordered the valleys, the old streets between them. Everywhere, spores are singing up and down. I smell the ocean. My skin’s tightening the closer we get. My glands are pulsing.
The leaf-trail leads into a tunnel in the middle of a mountain’s base. We stop at the entrance.
“I don’t know if I’ve seen this place before,” says Mira.
It’s a square tunnel that leads beneath the mountain. The only light is an eerie glow of the compact, wet mosses that insulate its distance to its other end, and the square of chartreuse light beyond. You can tell it opens into a courtyard or a chamber.
“Do you feel that?” she asks.
“I feel it. It’s a force. It’s different. It’s so…adamant. Like something wants its space.”
We walk in anyway, or the leaves almost carry us. It’s like walking into a wind, but the wind is like a warning, an intention, a concentration. It’s like being on the edge of defying orders of someone you love not to disturb them, that if you do, that’s it, they’ll turn from you forever—but it’s also like trying to figure out how far you can go, every step, because for some reason you have to, for some reason it’s important to you and to them. We’re at the other end. And as we look into the courtyard, walled within lichen-clothed, wedded, octagonal stone, our bodies slowly take on a wash of the chartreuse glow. It’s like a temple.
Mira’s smiling. “I never seen turtles this far into the city.” Her tongue reaches up and strokes the lichens. One of the turtles swings its head toward us and she pulls it back in.
“There must be hundreds.”
“Yeah and a ton of different kinds.”
There’s turtles everywhere, all throughout the courtyard, all with their eyes closed, but in the center is a huge pile all together, all on top of each other, concentrating, shifting, burrowing. It’s all illuminated by a chartreuse light. And it’s full of the clacking of shells. The glowing trail of leaves continues into the middle of the pile and disappears in the center, leaving a radial of char and pollen on the shifting shells like a flower.
“What are they doing?” I ask.
“I don’t know. It’s crazy. But look, Aira, there’s no spores in the sky above us.”
“Yes. And the sky looks different.”
“I wanna climb up and see what’s outside these walls,” says Mira, pulling on me.
“Alright. Climb on.”
My claws dig into the thin lichen. Mira’s wrapped around me, all her arms and legs, torso to torso. It’s unbelievable.
From up above the entryway on the walls of the temple that feeling of warning, like don’t mess with us, is even more intense, like a heat pouring up.
“Let’s go higher. Do you think you can?”
“Yes. I think so. My claws are digging into the old stone beneath the lichen. It’s almost like clay.”
I scale higher and we look back down. Mira grips me tighter. I climb further. And now we look out over the edge of the temple wall.
“That’s super crazy.”
“It’s endless. Temples as far as you can see. Is this in the city, in the mountains?”
“No way. This is somewhere else.”
For as far as you can see, it’s just temples, temples of a thousand different kinds, cradled in endless forests disappearing into the mist. We look into it, lost—it’s so strange and beautiful.
“Did humans build these?”
“I guess. It definitely wasn’t Altarberry’s humans.”
Then we look back down.
“We gotta get outta here. Before the turtles get mad,” says Mira.
“Look. Look at the walls. Were they like that before?”
“It’s like paintings. Paintings made of jewels. Like maps. I think I can remember dreaming about them,” says Mira.
“I found some on the way to the city. In a cave. But these—maybe they’re star maps. Maybe it’s from us seeing the temples. It may’ve changed something in us.”
“It’s like the paintings are oozing out of the stone. Look. The turtles with all the pollen on them are burrowing deeper into the center of the pile. Heartglove must’ve went in there, like its whole body.” says Mira.
I scramble down to the tunnel with Mira hanging on, and for a second we just face each other, hugging, like we don’t know how to let go. And then we look back. That intensity, that warning, it’s more intense than ever.
“But inside, like going in to my thoughts, you know, it’s weird, with the turtles there’s something like this nurturing, like they’re taking care of something, like not caring about anything but taking care of someone else, or something else. I think that’s what they’re really focused on,” says Mira, thinking.
“What do you think those paintings are?” I ask. “They’re so wet, like squeezed out of the stone. Plants puking up moons and planets from their flowers into space.”
“It’s like histories, like fabrics,” whispers Mira.
“Look, there’s a human woman riding on a turtle. And she’s holding turtles in each hand.”
“Look, they’re entering a cave made of stars, as if space is full of caves.”
“Maybe every star is a cave.”
“It’s like stories of creation, except you’d never know which fabric they belong to.”
“They could belong to any of them.”
“Or they could all be part of one.”
“And you could arrange them endlessly.”
“You could just swim and swim, deeper and deeper, and never come up again.”
I’m being moved from the Conferral. I’m moving myself from the Conferral. I am part of it. Of the process. I agree. I am agreeing with the part of me that is still the Conferral. It is as if I am still part of it, and yet I am in the distance, and this is…new. To be moved from the Conferral is something that has never been done. To move from the Conferral is something that has never been done. And to be at a distance…I feel it…solidifying…there is a music between us, not the music of the Orophine Mind, something else…music as a bridge over an ocean between two continents drifting, becoming lobes, like a river defining two halves of a city, two bodies, and yet we are in bodies, we express bodies, we collaborate with physical structure, we are physical structure collaboration, we are the music of a cloud of color in a pool, the music of light glistening—all Earth things—I’m thinking in Earth metaphors…I’m thinking—
“I can see the Birth,” says the human.
Yes. Look down at the Birth. Zeaesque. To be completely separate from Conferral is impossible, at least on Orophaze, yet on Earth the Orophine Conferral drops into the water and spreads. There, it is all conferral, all music. The Lake Of Birth. Now everyone is positioned on rooftops looking up at the Drinking, looking down at the Birth, and surrounding the channel that reaches into the city. Looking down. I am looking down. Not with other Orophines. With a human. And that distancing. That juxtaposition. That space.
“Zea.” He’s looking at me now. “Your ferns have grown. And they’re darker, more purple.”
I can feel it, like a temperature. When they lifted up into the spire and then as they returned…there was that moment of…decision. Maybe it was also a conferral that I pretended not to hear.
“Do you like them?” I ask, ask the human.
“They definitely look like you. They remind me of you on earth.”
We look down together. Many new Orophines have already emerged. But there is something happening. Already, just in us, a human and Zeaesque looking down at the Birth, something is happening, something new, but it has already been happening, maybe since the original Zea returned to the Lake, maybe before, maybe ever since there were Orophines, and before that, it’s been happening: everyone knows it—the Mind, our Mind, it’s concentrating so hard that it’s shedding, burning with cold fire, giving birth. An Orophine is emerging. I glance up and can see so many winged Orophines clustered around a crystal flower, drinking, almost pulling it forth, pulling it forth with the Conferral and everyone’s ferns so erect, so vibratory just in their impossible intention, making it happen. Why? Why now? And suddenly, you can see it, even from this distance you can see that it is different. It’s in the ferns. It’s among the ferns. A wave of disturbance passes through the Conferral. A pulse of horror.
“Zea. What is it? I just felt something. It’s making me sick!” The human vomits and it turns into crystal dust.
From this distance I can only see the darkness, but from the Conferral I know that among the ferns there is hair, shocks of black human hair on the new Orophine. Altarberry rises. He wipes his face. The atmosphere is destroying him, yet out here among the dryness, within the light, his history is almost gone, just a chink. What is happening in the Circle of Creation? It’s hard to access it. I should be able to see everything. I should already have it inside me. Maybe I will die. Maybe I will never reach Earth. Maybe I will fill one of these new forms. And remember. And the Display Gardens—there’s just a barren melted area on the other side of the city where they were. The Birth cleared them, destroyed them, or maybe it was the other Orophines. I try not to focus on it, try to partition my thoughts, so that the human won’t look.
“Zea, we gotta get outta here—” He vomits again.
The searing. It’s burning me. And the sound—I can’t stand it. The cartilage in my body feels as if it’s dissolving. And there’s something else now. I can’t stop puking. I reach out and touch Zea again. It helps. Nothing feels right. Nothing feels like it should.
“I don’t care where we go—we have to get off this planet.”
“Yes. You can go be a Human.”
It’s strange. Zea says it like I’m not. Like I’ve never been a human. We make our way down to the lake. There’s a huge circle surrounding one Orophine. And the sky is empty. Maybe the flowers are gone. Maybe they drank everything. Zea hasn’t spoken, hasn’t communicated. The ship is still there, still like a diamond. I haven’t taken my hand from Zea’s body. I don’t think I can. Not till we’re safe. It’s like I’m being drawn so deep inside myself I can barely hang on. Like digging deeper and deeper inside myself to find water, to find shade, to find silence. I’m so exhausted. We’re in the ship.
“Zea, I have to lay down. I’m sorry. I don’t know if I can keep awake.”
Zea’s counsel appears. We lift. Zea still hasn’t spoken. It seems so like an Orophine. I have to keep awake. My face is against the floor. I let go of her or him or whatever. Whatever. The city is beneath us. We’re approaching the two enormous crystals. No more Orophines. No more flowers. Everyone gone. And beyond just more crystals, more light, into an endless distance, but, suddenly, we’re in space.
It’s kinda funny. Aira’s almost human in a way—but sometimes she’s more reptile, like when she took down that spore. That was totally crazy. I think I like her more for doing something that nobody’s ever done. But it’s not like she looks at them now like she wants to eat them. At first I was thinking it could’ve been a problem. But in a lot of ways, she’s total human, except like most of my other friends she either knows her history, like the ones that are beyond this life, or it doesn’t matter, like it doesn’t matter in a way cause you just love everybody. Like everybody loves Altarberry. Like not going there and bothering him even though he’s burning up with all his History thing is like showing him love. And now he seems so far away. Like this time going to the ocean, it seems like we’re almost in different fabrics. Maybe it’s like being with Aira doubled it, doubled the distance, multiplied it, like where we are the sun is getting down and where he is it’s just rising. And the space between us…. I guess what I’m thinking is funny cause just watching Uwe head off and disappear with the seed, and thinking like Heartglove just totally disappeared into the turtle pile, and thinking about Aira…well, it’s like different. And it’s all tied up with stupid Altarberry or something. I just get the feeling like when people disappeared before, like when they changed like that, it was different before I started hanging out with him. Like it was exciting. It’s not bad now either, but there’s just that second sometimes when I gotta remember they’re not gone, like gone for real, which is really creepy when you think about it, that just cause you can’t see someone, like see them with your eye, they don’t exist—and because they don’t exist, or that you can’t see them, there’s something wrong, which from Altarberry’s point of view is like having four arms and one eye and a really knowledgeable tongue—or any of us in the mountains, even the people who were here before like the beavers and turtles, like there’s something wrong with them, too, just because they’re people with shells or hair or cause they build houses in different ways. Something’s always wrong with everything. I guess, in a way, I’ll never go back. Like I’m too far away now to go back and hang out with him. Like I don’t know really. The mountains may not even let me find him. And then there’s Aira—who can probably hear all this, who I’m probably telling it to anyway. We’re holding hands. And here’s the ocean. I guess this is it. With all this water, you know anything can transform. I keep glancing at her and giving her little squeezes, but she’s not responding. It’s not like she’s letting go, she’s just so intent on the water. I don’t know. I think she’s changing colors. The nubs on her spine are growing, elongating. We’re at the base of the pier closest to the beaver lodge. It’s crazy. It’s grown a lot since I was here. It’s almost touching the pier and everyone’s still at work, even the turtles that are sleeping look like they’re doing something important. Some of them move aside for the beavers bringing up the glowing coral and mud from the ocean, and the ones dragging branches and moss from the land—they move without even opening their eyes. What can Aira hear? She doesn’t turn my way even when I think this. Aira. Aira. That’s all I can do is say it in my mind. I just don’t want to make a sound outwardly, like send it out. I mean, she’s right here. Her nails are digging into me. They’re growing. They’re growing into my hand. And there’s webs forming between her fingers. The sun’s going down. There’s whales rolling in the colors. Maybe it was better to be alone. I mean, when I was alone, she could hear me—I know it. It’s like my thoughts are moonlight, moonlight coming through the trees, and the shapes that touch the moss are what she hears—and the shapes are always changing. I guess it’s who you think you are, that’s the shape, the stencil. We’re almost at the end of the pier.
“Water. Water forever,” says Aira, and these huge red gills break open beneath her jaws. “Come on, let’s go,” she says, hauling me toward the water. She’s not even looking at me, just boring her nails into my hand. Rainbow bands flare over her body. I don’t know what to do. I don’t want to be forced anywhere. It’s like worse than being with Altarberry!
“No! Let me go! I’m not part of your stupid fuckin mind!!!” I tear my hand away. There’s blood everywhere. Then my tongue shoots out. It’s shoots down to my hand. It’s covered in my own blood. It’s going crazy. It’s shooting up into the sky. I’ve never seen anything on it except algae and now it’s covered in blood. “Ahnnnnnahhhnannanananahhhhannna!!!!!!!” It’s writhing. Sounds are writhing outta me! Everybody’s looking. Except I’m me! I’m me! I’m me! I’m me!!!!!!!! It’s like the whole fabric’s rippling. All I can see is sky. Sky! Sky! I think: I am sky!!!. Now she’s touching my whole body with her nails, just softly, just stroking me. Woowa. It’s funny, all the blood on my tongue—it’s not red, it’s green. Maybe it’s always been green. Her nails, they’re like rain. Reptile rain. I’m still looking up. Past the point of my tongue. I can barely stand up, but you know, I’m just gonna let myself fall. Maybe I’ll fall into the ocean and then I’ll just disappear into all the fabrics forever. But I don’t fall. I’m in Aira’s arms.
“Ah, I’m so tired,” she says, carrying me.
“I think I’m supposed to say that.”
“It doesn’t matter.”
I look into her eyes: “Don’t you want to go in the water?”
“There’s water everywhere. Even in the desert there’s tons of water.”
She’s so strong, and as we get to the base of the pier, she gradually changes back to what she looked like before.
“Sometime I want to carry you,” I whisper.
“That sounds like the best. Do you want to lie down? We could sleep together.”
“Can we hold hands like when we first met?”
“Yes. I want to hold hands. I want to hold all your hands. I want our legs to hold each other too.”
There’s a platform of moss a little ways from the pier before the mountains start. It’s funny, I don’t want to leave the ocean, like even if Aira wanted to carry me back into the mountains I would tell her we gotta stay, like I don’t know, like something about being here feels good, like it always does, just looking out with all the unknown beneath you—it makes a lot of sense—like that’s just you or something—a bigger you. She lets me slide out of her arms but I grab her right wrist and pull her down. Then we curl up, facing each other. My hand’s almost healed.
“I feel like I’ve been through so much since I met you. Almost as if I lived more than one life,” she says.
“I know, but we only been with each other not even a whole day.”
“It must somehow be a layering. Layers within layers.”
“You can see them?”
“Yeah, if I want to. I look from the inside and it’s like being in the center of a huge ocean of fabrics all going in every direction from who ever I’m looking at, but it’s really more inside them.”
“Do they change?”
“I don’t know. Why?”
“I guess I don’t think of them as fabrics. I think of them as lives that still exist, lives that I’m living, except somewhere else. But they change. They’re similar to birds on a branch. And I am the branch. They land and pretend to be my leaves, my flowers, except they come and go—there’s different ones all the time, except for a few. And I talk to them. I report.”
“Maybe it’s the same thing.”
“Do you have fabrics?” she asks.
“Ha. Ha. That’s funny. I look but there’s nothing there. Maybe I’m not looking hard enough, but I think I just appeared. I think I’m new. And it’s not really weird cause there’s others of us, people who don’t have any fabrics or colors or places at all. It’s funny in a way, too, cause like with myself it’s not something I’m supposed to think about, anyway, like if I thought about it all the time I could make one, and then maybe other ones would come to it, but then there wouldn’t be any time just to look at stuff with people. But, you know, it’s funny cause I think sometimes you think about those things for me.”
My tongue comes out. Aira slides her leg over mine. Those tiny scales, sometimes they can be smooth, almost like the inside of a clam, and sometimes they can be abrasive depending on which way she moves. My tongue starts glistening over her slowly. We’re looking into each other’s eyes. Her tongue comes out like a little snake and squeezes mine with its fork. Mine’s about ten times as thick as hers.
“Aira. Is this what we’re supposed to be doing?”
“I think so.”
Her tail comes up and slides between my arms and comes back down just barely touching my chest and my belly.
My tongue runs softly over her neck and down to her armpit. She closes her eyes, lifting her arm just a little. The softest scratches, the tenderest awakenings, that’s how her nails, just their tips, feel in our mass of hands. My eye’s burning cause I don’t want to blink. No way. I gotta keep looking. My tongue strokes the skin beneath her arm. It locks into the tiny scales. They grip each other, hold each other. They must be friends. Friends holding each other and pulling away, just feeling the closeness, the promise of distance, of space—just a little tug. Aira lets out a breath. And just those little tugs, the wetness of my tongue, the rough saltiness of her skin, it’s like music pours up, releases up, out of the wedding. My tongue writhes a little deeper and pulls again. More music. It’s so crazy—you forget that there’s music everywhere, that the spores are constantly singing, filling the air—it’s just the voice of the mountains—and it’s like crazy loud when you think about it, but the funny thing is is you never do, except when like Altarberry says it makes him sick—or except like now, when another music enters it, like a pocket of gas, like a scent—it rises up above us and forms a layer, a layer that extends into the distance. I don’t know what I’m doing or what my tongue is doing by itself. Like I don’t know, like maybe I’m just this thing that carries it around. But I guess I’m this thing that carries my eye, too. And the rest of me. Every tug and Aira lets out a little gasp and closes her eyes even tighter. Once in a while her tongue comes out and flickers over mine like a little red flame. The music released is like a leaping of voices, but voices you can’t say belong to anything you know—and then they’re above us spreading and my eye in a way wants to turn them into colors. In a way, it does, you can see it, like magenta, or violet, but then the sun is gone like the whales told it to come to them with every leap, like they cooled it down with their spray and it fell asleep and fell into the sea. So now everything gots those crazy colors. And all the mosses of the mountains, the trees, all the plants and birds, they’re joining in, joining in to this sunset, too.
“I love you,” we say together and laugh, noises coming outta me, Aira clicking. But she doesn’t open her eyes and I don’t close mine.
Then my tongue goes to the other pit. It slides, locks in, pulls, then slides deeper, locks in again, and slowly contracts. Aira’s flaring almost as much as she did on the end of the pier. It’s so good.
“It’s like a cave. It’s like my heart is a cave,” she says.
The voices are rising out of each other, peeling back, rising into our little stratosphere.
“Do you hear that?”
“The music?” she murmurs.
“Yeah. Whose voices are they?”
Aira just gasps again as my tongue and her skin pull and there’s another release. Every time the new one joins the others, it spreads and the stratosphere thickens above us. And the more I stare at her beauty the more I see her fabrics blossoming around her, aging, dying, decomposing, turning to dust, being born, just coming in to fill the space.
“You been on earth before a lot of times,” I say, looking into them.
Now she opens her eyes: “Yes. A lot of times. But also a lot of other planets. But the lives change. They’re always changing. It’s almost like they try you out, to see if they can live on you. And you can hang onto them if you want. But I think some are easier to hang onto than others.”
“I can see the one where you’re beneath the earth.”
“That one’s been with me for a long time.”
We pull together. My tongue and her skin, our limbs, too—all my arms fit around her body so perfectly and my hands grab those mountains on her back and pull even tighter, and her nails embedding just barely in my skin. Our faces are side by side, staring up. We’re flexing our jaw muscles back and forth.
“It’s already dark,” she says.
“I know. It’s crazy. Do you like the mountains?”
“I do. But I’m so tired, too. I guess it’s just been overwhelming how dense it all is. And everything is so loud.”
“Yes. Everything. The colors, the movements, the people, the spores.”
“And our music,” I say.
“Yes. Our music above us.”
“You can hear it?”
Her tail comes around between my legs and runs slowly down my back. More music comes out and rises up into the layer, more voices, but my own moaning, too. We watch the spores ascending and descending.
“It’s funny, funny compared to this, that life that I lived underground. We were deep, not just beneath the surface. The deeper the better. That’s how we thought in that world. So beautiful. So concentrated. So vast. Vast in concentration. Endless networks. Enormous chambers. Some so large in the earth that there wasn’t much difference between that sky and this sky, this night sky, when you were within them. Once you see sky like that, sky that is earth—what does that mean?”
“Maybe I was in that life, too.”
“Maybe I was the sky. But now we’re both the sky.”
“The spores are funny,” she says, watching them.
“Cause you almost know, almost know what stars they’re going to. And the stars are…are the stars moving to meet the spores or are the spores going to the stars?”
“I think it’s both.”
That layer of music grows: a stratosphere of deep magenta with slow wafting plains of turquoise and amber, like every release, every tension and slick purpose, every pinprick of her nails, compounds the layer of sonority above us. In a way, it’s so crazy loud. You can hear it all the time: rivers within rivers, like everything that’s water, everything that’s air, has a river in it, and then within that river, like every river you could ever define, is another one. That’s it’s sound. But you can totally look through it and see the night sky, too.
“The spores don’t happen as much when there’s no mountains and moss, so here on the edge they stop, and then out in the ocean, it’s just ocean.”
“But there’s still stars out there. And they’re still moving. It looks like caves.”
“Yeah, I guess that’s right. If you look at it like that, it is like caves. Like tons of them. Maybe if we make love forever we’ll end up as one of the caves.”
“Is this boring? You probably do this all the time. There’s probably a lot of people in the mountains to do this with,” says Aira, suddenly.
“No way! This is so good. I never really looked at the stars like this—well, I guess I have, but not with you…I mean, and the music—you forget that there’s music until you release some. I mean, I never released music—not with two bodies, not with your body. What about you—I mean, do you like it?” I ask.
“I don’t think I could ever relate to anyone what it’s like to be with you, but I hope that everyone feels it. I hope that when I’m focused in another life, I’ll still be able to access this one.”
“Maybe it’ll be like your life underground.”
“That’s interesting. Yes. Because it was love, too.” She holds me a little tighter. Her nails go a little deeper in. “Just living underground was like love. And the main thing we did besides live, live like that, revering the planet, was make music with the people on the sun. It’s interesting. You’d think that being on the surface would make it easier, but it was the opposite. The deeper we lived, the further from what certain human cultures have delineated as “light”, the clearer we could hear the sun-people, the clearer they could hear us. There was so much art down in that world that we made with our minds and our hands, amazing fabulous architectures, but this art was different. It was like all the thousands of humans who lived beneath the surface were one collective musician and all the thousands of people who lived on the sun were another, and we just played and played, as if staring into each other’s eyes. Accept it was more like telepathy. Musical telepathy over an enormous distance. That’s how I know that the sun, at least at that time, has only a burning stratosphere, and beneath it there’s something else. But that music that the people of the sun and the people within the earth played to each other just went on and on—people knew it, they took part in it, but at the same time they lived their lives, made their own art, did all the things they needed to do just to live, and to explore, and yet at the same time were in this intense musical collaboration. I don’t know what it would’ve sounded like to a human from the surface if they could ever go that deep. But I can still hear it, I can still hear pieces of it rise out when you lick me. It wasn’t that we used instruments or even our voices—it radiated out of our minds and filled the enormous spaces of our world, filled the Earth. I don’t know how to describe it—tones, wave-tones, stepping in front of each other, climbing each other, born from each other.”
“What did you look like?”
“We were like humans with huge eyes that extended beyond the sides of our heads.”
“How many eyes?”
“You know, I think I want to be the only humanish thing with one eye, although I bet if I look around in the fabrics enough I could find one.”
“Maybe on this planet you’ll be the only one.”
My tongue heads down her body and grips into the crease where her leg comes out of her torso. She’s gasps and starts clicking. It’s funny cause her tongue is just flicking up into the night. The stars sparkle even more.
“Hey, do you feel it? It’s a Migration. I think they’re coming back to the ocean.”
“Yes. I feel it.”
We’re totally locked together. Just watching. Watching the sky. Mira and Aira. Just watching the night. It’s not like the Sky-Design is making any sounds, you just feel it, like in the daytime when you feel that shadow touching the land, like way in some far part of your body, but now it’s like among all the vast night and glowing emerald spores rising and falling. We watch, just our two faces side by side. Stars start disappearing and flashing back into view as the Migration sweeps slowly past. And there it is, as if someone did drop things into your mind like a well, shiny things that won’t stop glittering ever, but will never stay the same either.
“And then you know,” says Aira.
“Yeah. But you can’t ask what you know,” I say.
“Because it’s a code that only the night inside us can read,” she murmurs.
“Yeah, because we’re like Night-bodies, even in the daytime.”
“What is that?” Aira’s looking out at the ocean.
“It’s the glowing Ocean-Design that rises up. Watch cause the Migration will descend onto it and change it.”
“It’s so beautiful, but from here it’s hard to see. It looks circular. Is there a design inside it?”
“Yeah. That’s how it started. It’ll rise up in some shape and the birds’ll come down and land and fly off with that shape, and then they’ll come back from their migration different, and then the Design will change to their shape and descend again. But when it comes back up again it’ll be totally different, like a totally new Design. I’ve watched it from the mountains. But you never know when it’s gonna happen.”
“So that’s how it starts.”
It is hard to see from where we are. It just looks like this amazing, prismatic circle of light. But you can see that when the birds condense and descend they shape it into something more like a star with all kinds of rays coming out. And then it’s gone like an old beautiful whale. My tongue’s moving down the inside of Aira’s leg to her foot. It’s almost pretending it’s not going there, wrapping itself all the way around her leg and pulling.
“I think my tongue is sleepwalking.”
“I know. I think I’m falling asleep, too.”
“Even with the music?”
“Yes. I feel like we could climb up in it.”
Her nails are pinpricking the back of my neck. I think they’re entering my skin, which heals on them so when she pulls them out to put them somewhere else there’s another tugging and sensation and they heal again. All kinds of musical voices come out and rise up. You could probably identify each one and call them something, but it’d take forever. But those pinpricks are like releasing channels of energy in me, too. Aira and me just stare back up at the stars, our jaws flexing back and forth. Her little tongue comes out and caresses around my eye. It’s like everything I ever wanted without even knowing it.
“It’s interesting. That life beneath the earth. I remember it so clearly. One time a group of us journeyed all the way to the surface. It was a ritual. A ritual we were enacting for the whole culture. A solemn ritual. But the solemnity was like a performance, just a part of the ritual in a way, because there was really delight filling us. People even had to tighten their lips harder not to smile. And you felt the others, the whole massive population delighting, smiling into us, our group of twenty people ascending through capillaries and chambers in the earth. The closer we got the surface the less used the caves and passages seemed to be. I think they had been used a long time before I had been born, before our culture had gone deeper. But that smile was unbelievable. You never wanted to actually let it go because holding it back felt so good, like melting, like blowing apart. And the music of the sun people was receding beyond our grasp, like a diamond dropped into a deep pool, down and down, the closer we came to actually seeing the sun, to it touching our skin. You’d think it’d be the other way around, but it wasn’t. And there were designs crafted onto the walls of the tunnels. The closer we got to the surface the more they appeared, glistening, like melted jewels, so wet, glowing. They were painted by our own people, but so long ago no one could really remember: other beings dancing with humans, humans and other beings becoming each other through creating together with their bodies, transforming, then radiating, migrating, in different directions. Humans and other beings creating particular spaces between their bodies through their posed juxtapositions and you could see that that space, that particular space they created was the form, the anatomy of a new being. Humans flying up to the sun. Humans descending into the earth. But besides the humans, most of the beings to us then were unknown. Dancing. Always dancing. Even in their migrations. And then…that’s strange…every time I’ve looked at this life…yes—then we came upon someone in the cave, looking at the paintings.”
“What does she look like?”
“You’re right. She is a woman. She’s…has…one—Mira! What are you doing down here?! What?—Everyone’s turning toward us. I think I said it out loud in that life!”
“They can’t see me. Only some people in the fabrics can see me. But I can’t stay in them long. Everybody’s asking who you’re talking to. They don’t seem all that surprised.”
“No. Not in that world. We were more open to communications with other beings than many of the last humans. But they see I almost start laughing and they almost start laughing, too. That’s the thing. During the ritual nobody talks because they could start laughing. So I just can’t say anything out loud.”
“This cave is beautiful. I never been in a fabric beneath the earth like this. I’ve seen them but I never entered one.”
“How long can you stay?”
“I don’t know. I think it lasts a little longer if I’m lined up with the fabric in a certain way, just being me, like me and the fabric and the people in it are closer to the same sound or something. I like this one. It’s gorgeous. What is all this?” I’m looking at all these huge luminous blue cords.
“It’s networks, an endless civilization of mycelium that lives fairly close to the surface. Mira, can you feel the smile? It’s pushing us. It’s growing through us.”
“No. Not really. But I can feel something coming through you. Like you’re the face of something, something beautiful. It’s crazy. The mycelium is like totally humming. There’s like huge glowing cords of it, like all intertwined.”
“It’s almost too conscious for our people to communicate with—but we know we speak with it somehow just by living beneath it—it’s more like a multiple overlapping of pulses, as if a finger softly touched a pool’s surface in us on many levels at once.”
“It’s bathing us.”
“Yes. It bathing us in its bio-luminescence—that’s how we know we’re speaking with it. It’s interesting. It’s the product of this mycelium, what many humans would call its waste, in a way, which gives us life. The excrement from the glowing mycelium’s civilization, its networks—the juice leaches down to us, and this is what we drink. This is what our bodies want more than anything. So to see it first hand is like meeting a great artist, someone you always revered, who keeps you alive.”
“Is this the first time you seen it?”
“Yes. This is the first time.”
It’s crazy being in one of Aira’s fabrics. We’re walking side by side holding hands as we all travel up through the cave; and she’s like a total human, except with super large, protruding black eyes; and here, in these bodies by the ocean, we are so entwined, licking and loving like crazy. I don’t know how long I can stay there but I want to make it to the surface with them. Maybe it’ll even be in the mountains where we come out. Only maybe it’ll be in someone, like we’ll just enter someone’s body and look up at the sun. But I’m seriously falling asleep, too. And I know Aira is, too. And all the music that has arisen—I just want to climb up and sip it, sip it with Aira, and we can just climb in and sleep forever.
“It’s so hard not to smile. Especially with you walking next to me,” she says.
“There’s no more designs. No more mycelium. Are we almost there?”
“I feel like my face is melting. I can’t look at you. I can’t hear any of the music of the sun, but, yes, we see it. We’re stepping out. Mira, we’re stepping out! And—the laughter—and the laughter—breaks free!!!”
It’s a desert. Endless tans, peaches, ochers. Way off to the right a plateau with a big vein of white stone winking through it. In the distance, straight ahead, towers of rock as if the desert floor exhaled and it turned to stone. No mosses, no lichens, just the distant promise of mountains so far away. We emerged from a cave at the base of another plateau. And everybody’s going crazy. Everyone’s laughing. All these crazy white people with their enormous black eyes. The sun, it’s beautiful. It’s speaking. It’s laughing. My tongue shoots up into the laughter. Waves whip up it almost cracking outta of its tip. And I start moaning just to be like them, but it’s real, too.
“Do you feel it?! Do you feel it?! All our people—they’re laughing all the way up through our journey—they’re laughing out our mouths to the sun. Do you feel it?!”
“I think so. Here, I want to hold you, too.”
The whole crew is convulsing, grabbing each other and embracing. They’re even falling down. I grab Aira.
“I can’t believe you’re so human, so white. And your eyes are so big, so black.”
We press our foreheads together under the burning sun, on some earth or another, among a bunch of crazy people with huge eyes. My tongue’s still whipping up at that laughing orb. It goes on and on, and then finally, like the wind settling, the laughter goes down.
“Why do those people do this? Don’t they laugh like anyway?”
“We do. We laugh all the time. We’re very happy. It’s easy in a way because we’re inside the earth. But before the ritual, for a month, no one smiles, no one laughs. Why? I don’t know. Maybe it’s the stretching. It feels so good. And the pretending. The going deeper and deeper just in our history. And then just the humor of it, the humor of anything you do. And were the people on the sun laughing?”
“I could definitely hear laughing.”
My tongue comes back in.
“Your not going back with us, are you?” she asks.
“No. I only got a little more time before I get pulled out of this fabric. I just want to look at the desert.”
“It’s interesting looking back at you and stepping into the cave with the others. It’s almost impossible but I’m doing it. Your back is so beautiful.”
Now I’m really really falling asleep.
“It’s interesting. When we got back, there had been a change in the music we played with the people on the sun, so in a way, I think all that laughing, that journey, it was like a hinge, like a garden gate, but what that hinge was attached to was probably nothing at all, just the music, just the fun of creating with people so far away, that you couldn’t even see, didn’t even know what they looked like. I left that life soon after that. That was maybe all I really wanted to experience.”
Aira and me are so locked together. Then my tongue reaches her foot. It ploughs up its center toward her toes, spreading, working between the bones, pulling me back from the desert, from Aira’s fabric, and I just get one little wink in before I’m fully back in this world. Aira moans through her whole body. The music that pours up is like a stairway, like terraces—some of it enters and joins the layer above us, but a lot of it just hovers in increments like steps, steps up to the bigger music.
“I’m falling asleep,” pants Aira, clicking and licking around my eye.
“I know. I think we can go up. Go up and slee…sleep…in the music.”
I just want to do one thing before I pass out. I just want to brush Aira’s eye with my lashes. I guess it’s just the ultimate. It’s like saying everything. And you can’t take it back. I mean, I never did it with anybody else except Altarberry, which was like a disaster. And I think he was sleeping anyway.
“I want you to,” says Aira. She can hear what I’m thinking.
“Does it mean a lot to you, too?”
“I don’t know. But I bet it will. I bet I’ll want it.”
And then I do it. I get my eye really close. I hold her so tight and her nails go so deep into the base of my head. It’s like we’re melting into each other. My tongue has her other foot. It’s totally unbelievable. It’s like a blink, like a wink, like the softest, most meaningful wink of my life. But I never open it again—cause I’m climbing, climbing up the steps of music, reaching down and lifting Aira out of our entangled bodies.
“We’re going up, we’re going up into it,” says Aira when she pulls her eyes away from our forms and looks up at the layer of voices and colors. “It seems so solid.”
“As solid as we are.”
We laugh cause we’re just in our astral bodies, our dreaming bodies. And then it’s like a spreading—we’re spreading each other. The music’s sipping us, breathing us till our edges are indistinguishable, just densities of colors, voices within voices. It’s like the bodies beneath us, the two bodies entangled in love, are the only reference. Spreading. Everything spreads as we climb up and yawn into the bed of music that misted from those sleeping forms. We’re laying down into each other as if we’d walked a thousand miles, as if everything before this was somehow some kind of crazy, relentless dream. She’s stretching me. She’s stretching me forever.
“Mira. Ah. It’s like every molecule has two faces. One for me and one for you. And together they’re the music, the stretching. I’ve never stretched this far.”
I can’t talk. It’s like we’re in a river. The river is forever. There’s fabrics radiating out from it. There’s plants that grow along it, recording its voice. And me and Aira. All of our eyes together. We’re a river. A river of music looking up.
“All the stars have come together,” we say at the same time.
It’s like a huge river of stars, a huge river sparkling from one end of the night to the other above us.
“Do you think we can climb up there?” she asks with this absolutely plush, dreamy voice.
“Are we the craziest lovers ever?”
And we try to lift the whole river, the giant river of music, the stratosphere we created, and all its fabrics, up into the river of night, which is like one of those absolutely crazy monumental things you do when you’re in love, and suddenly we’re gone, like the best gone ever, gone like when I lick the right algae and lose my mind to the mountains, gone inside Aira and Aira gone inside of me, as the two rivers touch.
Space. Did that really happen? Pulled beneath the surface. Returning. A human planet. Why was Earth a human planet? Zea. Zea’s speaking. Speaking inside me.
“I would like to go to the planets, the planets that are just planets. I need to re-orient…and to confer. There is a new element in the Orophine Conferral, or I am a new element, a new growth. I think I can help.”
I agree…I am agreeing…agreeing…I agree…I agree to what Zea wants—
Somewhere in the night her tongue must’ve went back into her head. Now I only see the ruffling of my scales, even some patches missing, rebuilding, as the sun rises above the mountains.
“That was the absoluteliest craziest best night of sleep I’ve ever had,” says Mira, digging in a little further.
“I know. I think we were totally gone. We left completely.”
“But to where? We weren’t even in any fabrics. We were just super gone.”
“Should we get up?”
“I think so.”
“My nails are still in you. I think your skin’s grown onto them. I think it’s going to hurt to pull them out.”
“Oh, that’s part of it. You don’t know how it feels. It really feels good. And it heals right away. Go ahead.”
Mira presses her face into my neck. Her tongue slides out and encircles my throat, but tight like a noose.
“Are you sure?”
“I guess if we gotta get up we gotta get up. I guess the sun’s kinda telling us to.”
I tear them out. Mira’s tongue contracts so I’m only seeing white, but I place my hands over the bleeding openings and feel them come together, smooth over as if they were never there. Her tongue releases and pulls back into her mouth. Then we look at each other. We stand up. Strange. Something different. But is it in my physiology, or is it in what creates my physiology, the shiftings, the structurings that then become shapes of tissue, courses of blood, that have changed?
Mira looks me up and down and then puts all four hands to her neck and stretches, blinking her eye: “I guess I do, too. But it doesn’t feel bad.”
“I’m sorry about all your scales.”
“Don’t worry. They’re rebuilding.”
She brushes some of the rough spots with the back of her hands.
“Should we go back to the pier?” she asks.
“We don’t have to.”
“It seems like the thing to do. It’s like all of me wants to do it for some weird reason.”
We walk slowly, the sun on our skin. So many birds. So many whales. And the beavers and turtles building, expanding. Behind us all the spores of the city going up to the stars which are dimmer but still visible, and that old powerplant down the shore so alive with the mosses and birds perched on its circular smokestack. Mira holds my hand while her two lower ones face backwards, playing with my tail, trying to catch it. Her left one keeps feeling her neck. We come to the base of the pier.
“What now?” I ask.
“I guess we go to the end?”
“This is different than last time.”
“I know,” she says, furling the skin on her head.
She’s actually pulling me. That’s one of the differences. And the further we get from the shore and the beaver lodge, I can feel the water deepening around us, beneath us. I know it’s going to happen. I know I’m going in. But I don’t really understand the difference, the change, until Mira starts screaming.
“Aira! What’s happening to me?!”
Her tongue’s whipping out and wrapping around her own neck.
“Mira! It’s ok, it’s ok.” I grap her and hold her. “It’s gills. You’ve grown gills.” Disks of sharp cartilage are protruding beneath her neck skin between the bands of her tongue.
“No way! I changed?”
And that’s the thing. I look out at all the water and can feel it, feel it deep through me, but I haven’t changed at all from my physical proximity to the water, but I know I can, I know I can ask it to happen.
“Wait!” she says, looking at me. “You haven’t changed at all.”
“I’m about to.” It’s strange. It’s almost like an agreement is taking place. “I got a feeling I can change it now, or I can ask that other aquatic form to take over even when I’m on the land, or I can go in the water in this form, as long as they agree. Before, it just happened.”
“Maybe it’s always been like that and now you can hear it.”
“That’s possible. Now maybe I can hear the conversation. I guess because we made love like that. Here, let me see.” I unwrap her tongue. “They’re gills alright. But they haven’t come out yet. They’ll come out when you hit the water.”
“Are you sure?”
“I’m pretty sure. But if not I’ll lift you out.”
“And carry me back to bed.”
“I’m gonna fake it.”
We look down at the water. Then, I understand what was missing before as the words come: Sea, I’m here, I say. I want to be your voice. A voice of your voice. I want to speak from inside you. Speak your volume. I close my eyes and listen, listen as deeply as I can. That’s what was missing the first time, the speaking, the attempting to speak, the intention it takes to try to speak with the water.
Mira stretches: “I do feel different. I feel more stable. I feel like I want to go in. Like all of me.” She feels her neck with all her hands. “It’s like two like blades of cartilage. Does it hurt…when they break out?”
“No. It’s feels good. Like you’ve been waiting for it forever. And it usually happens right as the water hits them. They feel like they’re actually growing into the water.” I touch my own neck. Just a little hint of them. “It’s strange. The last time we came down here, they just broke out before I went in at all. That’s never happened. Always before it’s been when I’m actually all the way in.” I look at Mira. “I’m really sorry. I’m really sorry about last time. That I just pulled you.” She doesn’t say anything, just smiles. We turn back to the water. “Should we do it?”
“I’m ready,” says Mira. “I can’t wait to show Uwe this.”
And, instead of slowly descending into the sea, Mira grabs me with all her hands, and jumps in.
It’s like a journey. Just this feeling. Just being with Zea. Maybe all the birds are in Zea’s body. Like passengers. Like stowaways. Like seeds. And Zea is a mountain. Maybe we’ll never get there—to this new earth. We’ll just travel. All of us. Travel through space. Just making it up. Just thinking. Singing. Looking out. Like passengers. Carrying messages. And eventually after years we’ll remember them. Open them. And then we’ll be somewhere like earth. And Mira will be there and all my birds. And even more cause there’ll be more birds than ever. But you have to fall asleep for this to happen. This is the sleep ship. The sleep ship is going deeper. Deeper into space. Zea’s here, too. We’re flying. We were sleeping on the deck and now we’re being lifted. The moonlight’s getting beneath us and now we’re getting lifted up. We may be on the earth but we’re really just traveling through space. Zea’s magenta again. So beautiful. Lips glistening. I just look at Zea and we fly faster, deeper. Where’s our ship? I say. It’s in our hands. It’s another message. Or it’s a cargo. Is the message our ship? We’re holding it together. Like a little house. All four of our hands. Zea’s hands. We’re touching hands. Holding a gold light. It’s only us among the stars. But we’re full of birds, too. I think we’re the message. Or we’re the ship. Zea and I. And our hands. How can you have a ship of birds? It’s crazy. Zea, we should open it. We been carrying it for so long. Zea smiles. It’s been good to carry it. Yes, it’s been good, it’s been really good. It’s like I’m reaching inside our own hands. There must be another one of me. I slide my fingers between one of Zea’s fingers and one of my own. It’s full of gold. The little house of our hands is full of gold light. The message is written on gold paper that has turned to light, melted from having been carried for so long. Melted from the heat. From looking into each other’s eyes. A blue eye and a golden eye. I’m opening it with both my hands. It’s all light. A house of light. Zea, come with me. But I can’t hear her. I must be within our hands. But maybe they let go, let go of the light. Gold tissue. Gold branches within the gold.
And then the gills break free. My gills. And it’s like music pours through my head, through my body—ahhhhhh! Breathing the music, breathing the ocean, being the ocean music as I move—bubbles, and that sifting of understanding, the passage, the understanding of the passage and its vibration, and everything that my gills absorb as they vibrate. And then as I assimilate, as I become the music of the sea, I watch Aira change. She’s beneath the surface with me, but she’s the same. Now she concentrates, concentrates into relaxation, and her water-form pours to the surface of her skin. It’s brilliant. Long spines with florescent colors traveling down them arch out of her back. Her fingers extend and webs form between them. It’s so crazy and beautiful. Colors flare over her scales. And then just like me her gills break free. We hover there, just staring, just breathing, just smiling.
“Are you ok?” she asks.
“Yeah, I think I’m totally ok. I think it’s the gills, like I’m part of the music now. I feel like I can stay here forever. And the fabrics. I always thought in the ocean I’d get overwhelmed by the fabrics, that there’d be millions…but there isn’t any.”
“No,” says Aira, looking up. “They’re up there.”
I look up. And it’s true. It’s crazy. There’s like all Aira’s fabrics. I see them just waiting up there above the surface of the water, changing, taking off and trading places, and other ones, too, for other beings. It’s like above the ocean there’s just this layer, this atmosphere, of fabrics, and beneath it’s just ocean, just water, just everyone swimming, everyone being colors. It’s crazy what’s down here. Everything glowing. The sea floor slopes away from the shore gradually and then levels. And its full of beautiful coral, beautiful fish, seals, whales. We swim closer to the shore and see two huge pipes jutting out beneath the water from the old human city. They’re like fifty yards or so away from each other. The one closest to the beaver lodge is pumping out an opalescent liquid, thick and heavy, like the stuff in the sewers where the slugs live, and the other one slowly oozing out this liquid that is gold, like condensed golden light.
“Where does it come from?” asks Aira as we swim closer.
“I think the opalescent stuff’s coming from the sewers beneath the mountains. But I don’t know about the gold stuff.”
“It’s beautiful. Some of it seems to harden, but most just integrates into the water. Look, there’s beavers chiseling from the stuff that solidifies.”
“It’s like rock.”
Big beavers pass us on their way back and forth from their lodge and the pipes. They swim down to beneath the pipes where the gold and opalescent liquids have turned to what looks like polished stone, polished by amazing vibrant sea slugs. With their teeth, the beavers carve out pieces of it and carry it back. There’s others, too, bringing back coral, mud, ropes of kelp. We swim over to the lodge, which is totally different from beneath.
“It’s a turtle shell. Like a super huge turtle shell,” says Aira.
It’s crazy. You’d never know it from the top, except maybe from its shape, yet from beneath where there isn’t anything piled on, it’s clear as anything. It’s a turtle shell, except super big. And it must be growing because it’s size fits to the expanding pile of debris above it. Beavers and turtles swim in and out the holes, which radiate a silky green glow from within. We swim up and two ancient-looking snapping turtles block the opening.
“It gots that same feeling of the turtle temple,” I say.
“Yes. Like we shouldn’t try to go in there.”
Two otters chase each other through us. The turtles separate and they go in and are swallowed by the chartreuse light. More beavers and turtles come and go. We back away and the turtles separate so that the opening is free, just a beautiful glowing opening in a giant turtle’s shell.
“Do you hear that music? It’s almost like a pulsing, a throbbing,” says Aira.
“Yeah. It reminds me of listening to a heart.”
“I wonder what’s going on inside there?”
“I don’t know, but I betcha it’s crazy.”
“We’ll just have to imagine it,” says Aira
But there’s no time to imagine anything cause we’re diving deeper and deeper, hand in hand, just feeling all that music pass through our gills.
“It’s like I can understand everything down here. I just can’t think about it.”
Aira laughs. It’s like the deeper we go, the more her body makes sense, the more everything becomes lights and signals, flashes and waves of colors. The whole sea floor is just so encrusted with florescence of every different tone that it’s hard to look at. It’s almost hard to define the structures of the coral it’s so vibrant. And among them are these coral like big brains, red, orange, blue, that exude colors into the atmosphere. But now that we’re deeper, and further out from shore, too, it’s so absolutely loud from the whales and seals. The whales are making these huge moans and slow laughs that shake your body—they’re like smiling with their voices over everything—and the seals make these bizarre twirling tones, ascending and descending, spinning, then almost like swallowed by the yawns of the whales. Everyone, every sound and movement, is playing, playing a huge game of benediction. Aira reaches out and touches my face and I swear all the colors of the sea brighten.
“Did you see that?”
“Yes. It affects the light.”
Aira’s body is pulsing with colors. Bands of florescent reds and green and yellows pulse up her spines and you can see them continue to other fish, flare in eyes peeking from the coral. We pull into each other’s arms. I can feel Aira’s heartbeat, but I can see it, too, big rainbow bands of it flaring over other fish’s bodies, radiating in the coral. Seals twirl around us. Two whales slide past us and press us even closer together, which is probably impossible. I close my eye and run my lashes down her whole face. Then I press it to her forehead. We still fit together. Maybe even better. I run my fingers down her spines and tones come out, they just twang out and join the other music.
“I think everybody knows we’re in love,” I say.
“I know. I think they want us to know it, too. They want us to be the colors of it.”
“I don’t think my tongue wants to come out. I don’t think it likes all the salt. But I want it just to see everything.”
I finally get it to come out. It doesn’t come out far, just past Aira’s face. One of the color clouds from the brains goes to it and a strange cobalt flares down my body, and then it travels on to someone else.
“Wow. Do you think I could keep one of those colors?”
“I don’t know. Probably if the color agrees.”
“I guess the colors are alive.” My eye loves it. I’m surprised it doesn’t just come outta my head and take off into the coral.
We spend the day just playing, watching, feeling all the arrangements, the movements, within and without. Making friends with everybody. Evening starts falling. But it’s like the lights, all the bio-colors brighten with the descending sun. We’re pretty far out. And beneath us, it’s like the edge of a well that just descends into blackness. We stare down into it.
“Do you see anything?” I ask.
“I feel something.”
“I’m gonna look really deep.” My eye concentrates way in. “It’s just a speck. Just like a super dim star. But I think it’s growing. It’s probably coming closer. This must be where the Design comes up, it comes out of this well.”
Other sea-beings are gathering and looking down, too.
“I think I do see something,” says Aira. “If I turn my eyes to the side a little I think I see a really dim star.”
I look up to the surface. All the beautiful impressionisms of sunset. But among it you can see the black water-warped silhouettes of the birds gathering.
“I think I can hear it, too.”
It’s like bells, like chimes, like the shimmering of Aira’s scales in the sunlight turned to sound, but just barely coming into audibility, just growing as the light gets brighter. It’s like an important event that everyone stops whatever they’re doing to watch. But it is growing, like quicker than you’d think. The whales start rotating in a big circle around the well, and the seals go in and form a funnel, along with these long fish that are like shards of mirrors, sending down their twirling songs.
“It’s like they’re lifting it up even though it’s coming on its own,” says Aira.
“Maybe they’re just honoring it. But maybe they’re changing it, too. It’s crazy. I can feel my eye locking onto it, pulling it up.”
“And look, look at all the birds swirling, maybe they’re pulling it up, too.”
“Everybody’s calling it,” I say, concentrating down into the well. “I can see the Design. It’s a spiraling star. It’s turning slowly. There’s like a star beyond each tip, too. And two circles inside.”
Everyone, all the seals and whales and fish and birds, and the Design, are turning in different directions, at different speeds. Rotations within rotations.
“It’s getting close,” I say, squeezing Aira’s webbed hand.
We drift away from the edge.
It’s a star, a star of tissued light, but light so concentrated, so dense, millions of prisming colors and tones refracting together, birthing together, turning, rising, all enfolded into brilliant muscles. The seals and fish break from their funnel and join the larger band the whales are making, yet still going in the opposite direction. It’s so beautiful. Every living color, living finger and sinew of luminescence, just sings in you, sings in your bones, as if this is what they’re full of, chimes, bells, shimmerings, like the sunlit ripples on the sea just before you close your eye, yet solid, turning from the center of the earth. It’s crazy—it’s like being on the edge of yourself and just light, just a chime that is so important, that never ends—just the click of a leaf letting go from a branch, all of them, all of them falling through any fabric you could imagine, they’re still happening, still sounding through the universe, still as important as the rising sun, the rising spores, the moss, and just looking at the Design of light ascending you just know it.
“It feels as if my bones are melting,” says Aira, transfixed.
I try to say something but I can’t. We’re still holding hands but I can’t feel her, I can’t feel anything. I can only hear. I can only see. The spiraling star surfaces and all the birds descend and take up the Design. They fit themselves onto it as tightly as they can, taking its shape. Now they lift and it’s like a signal for night to completely fall. It’s weird. It’s totally weird cause the only thing I keep thinking is that I’m witnessing myself. But I don’t even know what that means. The Design of light’s descending now, back into the depths.
“We can’t let it go. We can’t be away from it!” says Aira, breaking away from me. She dives down after it.
It’s crazy. But it’s true. To lose that light, that shape, that was singing in you, that was the shape somehow of your bones, that your bones understood—it’s like impossible, like a super heartbreak. I dive down after it, too. Aira’s ahead of me. It’s like her colors are morphing into the colors of the Design, as if she could disappear right into its center. I don’t have the webs she does or her tail that’s just spinning away as she tears after it. Down. Down. But it’s my eye—it’s still attached, it’s still locked onto the Design. And it pulls me, anchors me. I’m almost reconstructing myself closer and closer until me and Aira are side by side.
“I’m losing energy,” says Aira, desperately.
“Grab onto me. My eye can keep us attached to it.”
I wrap two arms around her and she grabs on to my waist.
“I don’t think it’s any use. I think we’re losing it.”
It’s true. We’re still getting pulled deeper and deeper, but the Design is getting further and further away. All around us it’s just black.
“It’s like a star again, like when we first saw it.”
We watch it, just a glimmer that’s finally swallowed into nothing at all. The only light is the bio-colors, the electricity, of Aira’s body.
“Where are we?”
Shadows. Gold darkened. Like wings. Like falling feathers. Like the walls, the walls that have no distance are gold feathers, like spread and layered fans, with arching veins, quills, growing, all within the gold. There’s no floor. It’s all around me. The shadows becoming flight. Birds. Messages of bodies. Messages filling the shadows. As they grow, harden, the gold deepens. Messages filling the shadows. Messages of flight. Lessons of suspension. It’s all of them. All my friends coming out of the gold. Just for me. They form, and grab my body, my thoughts, and we lift, out of the gold womb. Just horizon, an ocean of color, with a sun descending, and we fly toward it. Layers, everything just layers of solid colors, frozen waves of pastel tones, all the way out to where the fat, red sun is burning. Growing. Releasing its distance. Everything, the mountains, the shore, the water, abstracted, reduced, a pre-earth, pre-mountains, just beautiful planes, like a cross-section of the earth’s tonal history. And we fly, all of us, racing each other toward the sun. More of us: leaves, flowers, seeds, all of us nodding, racing each other so hard but knowing that if any of us fell behind we’d stop and help them get going again, carry them, so that everyone can burn. The melting sun—it’s everything, it’s in our minds. We’re pouring over the ocean, over the solid planes of light, into it. Not a wave, nothing, just color, just burning, burning like nothing I’ve ever known. Ah, my whole body is stretching, stretching from its center. We’re not above any horizon—we’re here. My arms reaching so deep into the flares, and my thoughts that pulse of fire. It’s so beautiful. My arms like limbs that the birds perch on. They pretend to die, to burn into colors and fall so full of autumn, a beautiful mosaic dancing. We’re all building something. And the moon. It comes to teach us a new way to fly. To die and fly. To turn to a burning leaf and fly up. It’s teaching us one by one. To burn, to burn within the burning. And it’s my turn. How to burn, how to decompose, how to dance, closer than anything. I look over the moon’s shoulder and everywhere it’s smoke and beautiful colors. And I put my chin on it, so blue and bruised, yet radiant. Blue like my eyes. I love you. And we start dancing slowly. Is this the way you fly? Just holding someone? The autumn—we’ve built it. Everywhere strewn cuttings, pools of paint glistening among the smoking trees. I bury my face into the moon’s skin. And all the birds flying like the moon flies, holding themselves against the singing clouds. It’s all smoke. It’s all decomposition. It’s all the mess of our masterpiece. I hug the moon a little tighter but I know I have to let go. It gathers everything in its satchel. Just a blue-white heart that can hold it all, all the autumn we made, we flew into being, all in its shell we don’t need to forgive. And then it rolls away. Just like that. I’m still in the sun. I’m still reaching. I know the birds are here, too. It’s all burning. I can feel beyond the combustion, further out, everywhere, as if the dance was just to feel beyond my own burning. Yes, it’s shrinking, reducing through my body. The sun. Shrinking into my core. I’m…I’m in the ship. Floating. Zea. Zea looks like it’s sleeping. Facing the planets. And my body. I’m above my body. Then…who’s body…who am I? My arms and legs are extended. The sun that I was in is gone, but I still feel something way beyond myself. It’s as if I am the ship and the ship knows. I know what the ship knows. But I know it because I let it into my heart. How do you do that with a ship? This must be what Zea feels, how we travel. The gold planet. It’s just getting back to the others, fitting itself back into the shifting configuration. I have silver arms and legs yet I can see through them into space. See through them to Zea. And my body beneath me, sleeping. I wish I could touch it. But I can. I’m understanding how I can without having my hand just pass through, without just fitting back into my heart. Just touch something without being physical. The ship, the shell, has the understanding of the universe—but no, it’s not the universe, cause you couldn’t see this place from earth, not even a glint—dimensions…and how do you reach them—where are they?—but I can do it, I can move us anywhere, human or not, somehow I know, I know with the ship and my heart.
The Conferral. It makes us Orophines. It becomes this form. But I am outside it. Most of me. Most of me that is not Conferral. Orophine Conferral. Yet on Earth everything held its molecules, released its molecules, with me—everyone lifted those purple hands that held the human. It’s all changed—my relationship to the Orophine Conferral. Yet, maybe expanded. Decisions that I watch and yet I am felt—Orophines feel me watching—and to be felt affects the Conferral. To be acknowledged is to be a part. And yet, whose decision? The Conferral pulses. Tightening. Tightening. As if we are just one Orophine. Just one. And Orophaze is the one mind. Just a crystal tip within the nothingness. Tinier. Harder. Sharper. Boring into itself. But it can’t disappear. No matter what, it can’t disappear. And then the release. It washed through me, even here on the outside, watching. I’m understanding through emotions what is happening in the Conferral. Whose decision was it to place myself here? Explosions. Explosions on the tip of light. Maybe I’m not seeing the Conferral. Maybe I’m seeing beneath it. How can a new form mean pain? A new form emerging from the Lake of Birth. A new variation. On Earth it would be beauty, fascination setting off like a ship, Earth setting off into itself. But on Orophaze…. I know the Conferral can still feel me. I exist. Maybe it doesn’t want to let me go. Not completely. And the new Orophine. The shocks of black fiber. Maybe it’s Zea, the first Zea, returned. The planets. The planets who are just planets. I’ve come here to see them, for them to help me understand. I look out. No…they’ve changed. No. It’s…I’m not seeing them…it’s…I’m seeing…EARTH.
“EARTH,” I say to Altarberry.
He lifts his head: “I changed it. I think I changed my mind.”
We look at it together. Three earths, the one within Zea and the one within me. And then another earth where our gazes meet. I still feel the ship, but I am within it again. Zea moves it. But I am part of it, too. Pulling it closer.
“Zea, were you in the Conferral?”
I put my hand on him…or her. It’s so strange, so different than a human. But have I ever touched a human? They must’ve touched me—but maybe only when they made me.
“What was it like?”
Zea’s ferns, it’s like tiny fluxuations rising up through the main stems up to their tips. They’re more like vegetation again. I try to touch them with the back of my fingers. What is it? Something like an electrical force, but different. The nearness of my hand forms a sound, creates a sound. Or there already is a sound and my hand, the shape of it, relates to it, with it. I want to ask Zea if I can really touch them, like hold them, put my face in them. It would be like pushing through into some forest no one had imagined. But…I don’t know how to say it. How to ask. The earth is so close.
“I’m still part of it. I’m still in relation to it. Maybe just that I know it exists. Or maybe I grew from it. There’s so many changes. Like enormous ripples. I don’t know what will happen, but I know that however long I can it’s important to be known to it.”
“Are you ready?” I say, looking at the beautiful earth.
“Yes. Are you?”
“I guess…to tell you the truth, I can’t wait. I can’t wait to return.”
And it happens. The burning. The descent. The fire of earth. I think my hand is still on Zea although we are nothing but stratosphere. Nothing but that meeting between one space and another. Not even like walking a bridge, but being the bridge itself.
“Are we upright?” we say together, for in this blackness, this endless blackness, it’s impossible to tell.
“I don’t see any molecules…nothing,” says Mira, staring at me.
“But I see you,” I say, and that smile lights up her face, and her eyelid lowers at me over that glowing green eye in that special way.
“I can see you, too.”
It’s strange, when we look at each other, when we think those thoughts together, that love, my colors radiate stronger.
“You’re still blue,” I say. An aura of cobalt radiates out of Mira’s black skin.
“Really? I guess you’re right. It’s hard to see with all the light coming off you.” She looks over her body. But it’s in the whites of her eyes, too, blue lifting the emerald corona. The deep jewels of green call to you like the green of the city, trees, bamboo, a tunnel to get lost in. My colors are all over her, every flare, all the electric prismatics running up my spines, the fins extending down from my arms to my hips, all my pulsings, lighting her dark skin. We just face each other. Hovering. Glowing.
“I love you,” she says, and we glow even more.
“We must be so deep. No one’s even answering us.”
Mira’s hands grab mine and we pull together.
“Maybe if we glow bright enough we’ll be able to see something.”
But we don’t see anything beyond our own bodies, our own light, no walls to the well, no beings singing with colors answering us.
“Is it just us?” I ask.
“I hear something,” says Mira, listening really hard. “We can’t think to each other. We have to just be for a second.”
Just quieting our thoughts, we glow even more intensely, like the slow pulse of a star.
“Do you hear it?” she asks after we’re still for a couple minutes.
“I think I’ve heard it before. Are we drifting, drifting toward it?”
“It’s gettin louder. I think we can swim toward it,” she says.
“It’s the spores, it’s the city, isn’t it?”
We swim, locked onto the faint sound of the mountains, the spores with their tones as they sing up and down in the sky, and everything else, yet squeezed, as if it’s reaching toward us through a tiny, metallic hole. But then we see it. It’s like an emerald star.
“It’s so cool looking,” says Mira. “It’s like the mountains are getting born.” She stops swimming. “Look we don’t even have to try. It’s like gravity.”
And it’s true. We just let go, let all our limbs relax, and the emerald star just keeps growing bigger and bigger; the songs of the mountains, like one polyphonic voice, envelops us, enters us like green, metallic air. We bow our arms out to each other and form a circle, gazing up. Below us our feet touch in the center like a cone.
“This must be the lake. This is where we first met.” Mira gives me a little squeeze and we hook our toes together, but we just keep gazing up. Our faces are shining from the spores.
“The surface must be calm to be able to see so clearly.”
For it’s true. You can see everything, the mountains yawning around the lake, even the vibrant windows that the spores goo out of before they ascend, and just the beautiful jewels of the deep night, shifting, migrating; the mountains themselves, so green, so full, exuding their own glow as if they’re holding within them magmas of light. The mountains…Mira’s home, as if we’re within it, born from it, stepping out from behind the curtain of our love. But there’s something standing on the water in the middle of the lake, standing on two hind legs. The beautiful ivory flame of a tail lifts and swings. And antlers, antlers like branches polished into silver. We’re beneath it, rising. And standing on the antlers…something like fire, like the deer’s holding a flame with its antlers up to the night, to the stars and spores, to the mountains like a bowl, as if the night could drink us all. The flame reaches, moving stars around with black paws.
“It’s a fox,” I say. “It’s a fox standing on a deer’s antlers. Do you see it?”
“Where! Where’s the fox?!” shouts Mira in my mind.
And they both look. Look down into the water.
“I think they see us.”
“Where are they?”
“They’re right above us. But the fox…it’s moving the stars. It’s like making a hole. It’s reaching in and pulling out stars from deeper in and piling them around. It’s climbing in. It’s reaching back and helping the deer. It’s climbing in, too.”
“Shit! Am I gonna miss it?!”
We hit the surface. I watch as Mira’s gills disappear. We both gaze up into the center of the night.
“I can see the hole,” says Mira, her tongue coming out and rising in the air. From here it almost looks like it could reach the den. “But it looks like they’re plugging it from the inside.” Stars, as if mixed with black soil, are pushed from the depths of space to block the opening.
“You’d never know there is a fox and a deer in there.”
“Why couldn’t I see em?” she frowns.
“I don’t know. I guess it’s because I’m from the desert. I guess it’s just because they’re part of my world. But they’re here. So I bet you’ll see them eventually.”
“I guess I just want to see everything you see. But it’s kinda stupid.”
“I don’t think it’s stupid. I feel the same way you do.”
“I guess it’s just cause I seen the foxes in the fabrics. I think they can travel through them. It’s like they’re walking on limbs of trees, and then jumping over to a log, or jumping over a crick, except they’re jumping through fabrics.”
“Maybe that’s what they were doing, digging a hole into another history.”
We’re just two heads bobbing on the surface of the lake. I change my form so I can breath the mountain air. It’s so strange to change at will. We just breath and listen, mesmerized by the music of the colors, the movements, all the arrangements that have nothing to do with anything but music talking to music, color talking to color, light and sight the mantle of what seems like sound’s royalty, like a beautiful royal bed you could climb into.
“Isn’t it great? I never been in the lake before. Like in it.”
Her tongue extends almost level with the water, curving down at the tip. She makes a circle around us, sending a big spiraling ring to the shore. Her eye so green, just part of the green florescence of the city.
“What do people do in the mountains at night?”
“All kinds of things. I sleep a lot. Or half-sleep, just watching, just blinking at things. That’s what a lot of us do, just stare up. It like feeds us. I think it enters our eyes. But it’s kinda different being in the lake. It’s kinda crazy like we’re conducting it, like helping the night enter the water like in a different way than the water can do itself. I can feel it.”
Under the water Mira’s hands are teasing me. I take my tail and wrap it around her hips and turn her slowly as she gazes up, her tongue making a circle on the surface around us.
“The mountains are turning,” she says.
We watch the night for a while.
“Do you think we should go back down?” I ask.
“I was wondering that, too.”
“Or climb out. We could lay down together like when we first met.”
Mira keeps turning slowly, giving little pinches on different parts of my body. I try to grab her hands but they shoot away too quick. She closes her eye really slowly. She doesn’t open it. I’m still turning her, her face reflecting the emeralds and silvers.
Then she says it: “I think we should go back down.”
Which is what I’m thinking, too.
“But,” I say, thinking, “we might get lost. We might not find our way out. We might end up somewhere else.”
“Yeah. But we’re choosing it. Last time we were following the Design. But this time if we get lost, we’re gonna get lost cause we knew it could happen. Besides, we could end up like someplace totally crazy.”
“You’re totally crazy.”
“I am when I’m with you. Besides, I’m just sayin what you want me to!” She whips her tongue around my neck like three times and spins me around. Then we get serious. We hold hands, forming a circle like before and gaze up, extending our legs down and touching our feet. And we look at the mountains, the spores, the sky, and just listen, listen with every part of ourselves, as we descend.
I don’t know how we came to hold hands. I don’t remember it happening. So much information. And the river before us. It’s like holding hands with two different beings. Two brothers. The history is pouring out of him and into him again, and at the same time there is this other being, this other Altarberry, maybe he doesn’t even know. But we’re here, we’re back. All the music so articulated. So clear. The river so beautiful. Overhanging trees reaching down to watch themselves in the flow. The history. That strange yellowish tint. It’s reaching out. Maybe it’s just part of him. But we’re here. Soon it’ll be twilight. Through the trees you can faintly see the spores, like stars. And the boulders in the river. The spiders. It’s all so calm. We step in. I missed this body. This expression. Magenta. Gold. We reach the center. I turn. I face Altarberry. I don’t know why. My back is to the city, his building, his pavilion. He’s looking at me. He’s looking at me through the history like a distance he’s trying to cross, trying to come closer.
“Zea…do you remember when I asked you if you were a man or a woman?”
It’s strange. We’re still holding hands. Both of them now. And between us only water. Only color.
“Can I kiss you?” he asks.
We draw together, body to body. Our arms stretch straight out from our bodies. We’re still holding hands. Sliding. They play without even thinking.
More information as our lips touch. But so different than what passes between our hands. But how can I describe it to you when you’re the one pressed against me—you’re the one giving me all of this…what am I thinking—am I thinking to you?
“I love you.” We both say it. We both say it at the same time. To have watched humans for so long say those words. And now to say it to you. Do I know that it is enough to be able to say it?
“I love you, too.” We both say it again. There’s laughter. Laughter everywhere. We’re covered with birds.
They’re here. They’re all over us. Everywhere. I can’t pull my lips from Zea. There’s just trilling, singing. The music of feathers brushing us. Sharp feet. Re-positionings. Zea, I’m glad—
“Zea, your body…I’m glad, I’m glad earth let us through. I’m glad we’re together.”
Zea slides its left hand along my arm to my torso, then down. I didn’t realize I was so hard. I’m asking it to do this. Am I asking you to do this?
“I don’t know.”
Zea touches my penis. Her—his—its whole hand is around it. So different than mine. Like my body is being bathed, bathed in music, in colors that meet within it. Our skins. But Zea’s is just depth. Gold surfacing, washing, gushing from its depths. Dripping. I can feel the purple of its body traveling into me. The drips pulse up. Zea. Zea’s stroking it. So magenta. So beautiful. The birds are watching. They’re singing into us. And the fish are here. The spiders. Everyone. I’m coming. Zea!
“Zea! I’m coming! I’m—”
I pour it out into Zea’s hand. I look down. For a second I see the whiteness beneath the water. Then it disappears into its form. Plumes pulsing, almost as if they are drinking at the air.
“Zea…” I’m trying to breath. “Thank…you.”
I feel like I’m going to fall into Zea’s depths. I don’t know if it’s right to thank somebody. It’s like space, space to be filled, but what to fill it with? Am I just trying to fill the space?
Zea’s processing, assessing. I don’t know. I may have…expanded. I may have changed. I don’t know if it’s seeing me. Its eyes are closed. But anything could enter into it, fill the space. It’s so wide. Something needs to fill it. I wonder if the building is ok. But Zea’s blocking me. Why did it place itself in front of me when we were heading back? And the other humans. Yes. Being with Zea made me forget them. It’s like we never really left. All that and we never even left. I was supposed to go find the humans. And the burning is back. It’s back. The birds are lifting. They’re fanning us. They’re fanning into the space. That’s what the space is. It’s full of fire. Why am I afraid of the burning?
It’s back. You’re back. Your eyes are so gold. So beautiful. What was I just thinking? Burning into the space?
“Zea, I want to make you feel good. I don’t know how. You don’t have…things like a human.”
“You make me feel waves of information. New creations. Seeds floating from us, swallowed by other oceans. I don’t know this body, but what happened, what’s happening—”
We kiss more. The birds are still facing us, fanning into me. The burning. I try not to cover it. I’m trying to let it grow. I’m trying not to stop it. If I could go to the building I know it would stop. But I don’t even know if it’s wrong. I don’t even know if I’m like all the humans that exploded. They made me to create. But what does that mean? That I’m a machine? A machine that creates other machines, only they’re cells, blood, skin, organs, like villages, laid out, delineated onto a landscape of the human anatomy. The human psychology. But they’re machines, too. The Orophines created them and they created me. So what is a real human? More space. More burning. But we’re kissing. We’re putting our foreheads together. And now it happens. I start to sing. I sing into her. Our foreheads are together. Our arms are out. Trilling. All of us. All of us. How did it begin? We shifted into it. I just want to make Zea feel good. And it’s like opening everything. Everything. My voice is reaching so deep into Zea, up into its plumes. And it’s like looking out of fields of glass, brilliant glass fibers. Yes, this is a place—one of the places—whatever we sing or do is born, born in a new way. Born for the first time. Remembering us. And if I trill in another way, other things are born, in other places, and I’d look out through the plumes into other worlds. And Zea’s singing into me. Ah! I feel them growing. Zea, you’re growing them. Plumes—I want to see them, see them from the outside, but I can’t stop. Zea’s voice is a strange flexing, a piercing modulation. It keeps slipping off a single, searing note, like people leaping from a bridge. Zea’s going through me. I’ve never seen these worlds. They’ve never existed. Zea’s traveling through the burning. Like a torch. It’s all burning. It’s all burning space. But it’s mine. It’s ours. We all burn. We all sing. I slide through her wet arms into the water so it’s just my lips. And a creamy tan bird with a crest and black-painted eyes swings down and balances a bright red berry on the edge, on the edge of my open mouth and the water. And then Zea leans down to kiss me again. And it falls in. I’m lifting. But I have to let something go. Maybe it’s just all the humans. Do I love them? Do I love it? Yes, it’s like throwing my clothing into the fire. And they join. They kiss. We’re all singing. We’re all just burning away.
One tone breaks off, descends, and the other slips into another dimension. And then they regrow. And his trilling is like molecules, like wind pouring through an open window. I am an open window? Did you know? Did you know we needed this breath? The molecules slipping. Our foreheads pressed together. I can’t open these eyes. I don’t even know what color they are. What kind of openings. Keyholes. Just birdsong. Birdsong among the gates. Shadows. Openings like keyholes crossing this purple form. Purple like the Earth-Sun disappearing. The evening giving birth. All the trilling like an ocean beneath the two tones. And one keeps jumping in. I follow it so deep into him. Gliding my sight along the colors, the colors of the sky are touching you. I haven’t forgotten, forgotten that we’re singing, singing deeper, from the inside. I am the song, the song of the river, where everything meets. Did I give birth to Zea, the Zea who kisses, the Zea who sings? And this is color? The dream that was deposited, that came to be known. That speaks with the ocean, the Earth, in shoals and folds and silver returns. Keep singing Zea. I’m living the landscape of every trilling. I’m touching your spine, reaching up into it. I am a fern. I’m growing up into the night above the night, the dawn beneath the dawn, pulsing deep into the dream beneath the dream. You slip through my arms. You are just lips in-framed by colors. I bend down to kiss you and the berry falls in. Lifting. The human is lifting.
My gills break free. I’m trying to breathe in that shrinking green bubble of the mountains as it pulls away, as we descend, inhale it through these red reeds like notes of music so it can become my blood. But I bet it already is. I’ve already breathed the mountains, licked the mountains, seen them and that’s why my eye—and my tongue sometimes—is so green. That’s why my skin is dark cause the green loves it. But it’s weird. I’m not sure this was the best idea.
“We can still go back. I can still see the mountains,” says Aira. We’re thinking the same thing.
“I know, but…but we’re choosing it.”
I feel like I’m just repeating what I said before. The surface of the lake is just a green star now, the only star in this galaxy of nothing, except Aira and me, our colors, our thoughts. And now it disappears. As soon as it’s gone you lose all sense of direction. We’ll never be able to swim back in that same direction cause direction is just this thing that doesn’t exist. It’s only us. No music or anything, even though I try to find it with my mind.
“Are you ok?” she asks.
“I just keep thinking about losing the mountains, that we’ll never get back.”
“I know. It was so beautiful being there with you. I never thought something like that was possible.”
Aira glows. She’s brought her gills back. And I glow, too. Down here it’s like she’s made of electricity, of light.
“I wonder if we could sleep down here, just floating, just breathing,” I say, thinking we haven’t slept in a long time.
“I don’t know.”
“Just letting go.”
“Just letting go. It sounds nice,” she says, but I can tell she’s a little worried, too.
We wrap ourselves together.
“Are we lying down?” I ask.
“I think so. Are we sleeping?”
She’s kissing the corners of my eye with her rough lips. Her nails sting into my back from the salt water. My hands play her spines, her fins, but the music is swallowed as soon as it releases, into something deeper, blacker than anything.
“I think I’m getting used to our bed,” I say. I think I am sleepy, but here it’s hard to tell.
“I think we’re turning,” says Aira, looking at the blackness.
“I don’t know.”
“Do you think we’re falling asleep?” Which is kinda what I hope, that we’ll just fall asleep and wake up back in the mountains.
“I think you’re moving. I’m going to hang on to you,” she says.
“Wait, I think you’re the one who’s moving. I gotta hang on to you.”
“It’s a pulse,” says Aira. “It’s pulling us.”
“I think I can hear it. But I think we’re sleeping, too.”
“I don’t think there’s a difference.”
It’s like being carried in a deep current, a current you can’t really feel on your body. And that throb, that pulse, like moon engines, like wind flashing and flaring into this world in a very precise rhythm, like the moon looking from one fabric to another, back and forth, is getting louder, pulling us in.
“Do you see it?” I say. “Another star.”
“Do you think we’re being pulled back to the lake?”
I look really hard, like my eye goes way out: “It’s a different kinda green. There’s more gold in it. And it’s shaped different. It’s not as circular. The green is more like an aura around a silver core.”
Aira’s listening: “And you can’t hear the spores. It’s just that throbbing, that pulsing. I’ve heard it before.”
“It’s pulling us.”
We’re going up, just like we did toward the lake. It’s like a little mercury continent in a black sea. But the closer we get the less it looks like an opening.
“Maybe it’s something metal.”
The throbbing’s getting louder. Like a rhythmic pumping sound. It’s nothing like the lake, like surfacing into the mountains. I mean, there we totally knew where we were. But here, it’s just metal, like a liquid metal edged with a yellowy green.
“Maybe it’s a melted star.”
The rhythmic throb is pulling us and just the sight of the beautiful mercury is pulling us, too. I know my eye’s not afraid of it. It stays open as we enter it—the silver, so heavy, flexing, responsive—it’s millions of crazy tiny little beings so tight, so quick, moving together like one mind.
“Look,” says Aira, who I can’t even see, “when you think something they respond.”
And right away I think: “I love you.” And all the tiny beings contract toward my eye. It’s all just a dense hive of silver molecules.
“I love you, too,” says Aira, and they flex even closer.
“Are they flexing toward you, too?”
All I can do is feel her feet, feel her thoughts and her hands, covered with mercury, with this huge civilization of microscopic silver beings between us. But now we emerge, emerge into a green-golden illumination, into a rhythmic hum, into a beautiful chamber.
“Into the beaver lodge,” breathes Aira.
“Into the Turtle.”
We’re like frogs, just eyes, just peeking out of the surface. Eyes born from mercury. And what are our bodies? I don’t know if I can even feel Mira now, her feet or her hands, because we’ve become mercury, too, we’ve breathed it, we’re breathing it right now, our bodies full of metal, of mirrors—all those tiny beings. Just eyes. Just Mira’s eye. And this almost burning, chartreuse light, radiating from the walls of the lodge, of the turtle shell, squeezing, allowing, with every throb looking into us, into the lodge, into its own shell, then somewhere else. Over and over. Creating.
“It looks like everyone’s sleeping,” Mira’s eye slowly scanning around.
“Sleeping and sleepwalking.”
“Yeah. I can’t see any eyes open.”
Muskrats, otters, but mostly beavers and turtles fill the beautiful chamber. And it’s true, you can’t see one eye open anywhere. So many are curled next to each other sleeping, yet sleeping with a purpose, as if they are aligned with the pulse. And the ones that move, that come and go—the pools of water of the openings closing their eyes as they enter like a hypnotic hand, or pulling the cloaks of sleep off them as they leave—they function slowly but steadily from deep within. We are the only ones who are seeing with our physical eyes. Except a plant that seems to preside over it all. It almost touches the ceiling.
“It’s a Digitalis,” I say.
“A heart plant,” says Mira. “I can feel it.”
It’s growing out of another pool of mercury.
“I don’t think it’s sleeping like everyone else.”
“Can you talk to it?”
“It doesn’t respond. I think this is like a whole different world.”
It’s so beautiful within the turtle shell, within the lodge, just the chartreuse light, the pulsing, the smooth shell-sections that fit together, steadily growing, saying something beyond any arrangement and yet, arranged.
“Look,” I say, “the beavers are making supports with the pieces they chiseled from the pipes. It’s like pillars of gold and pearl.”
“Do you think the Digitalis can see us?” I ask.
“I think so. I think it can see everything.”
“I guess beaver lodges are for dreamers.”
“And turtles shells are for dreamers, too.”
The Digitalis’s flowers are tubular, magenta bells, listening downward and outward, like ears full of networking red veins, and ivory spots black edged, like hypnotic continents, hairs gleaming inside the bells like glass—its spear-like foliage a dark green among all the browns and the chartreuse throb, the gold and pearl of the columns that the beavers expand and heighten with the pieces they chiseled from the pipes—all from a single ascending trunk—it’s tip full of smaller, unopened buds bending against the ceiling. Yet, the flowers are like eyes, too, watching us, watching everything.
“It’s pumping,” says Mira. “It’s like a heart.”
“The entire chamber,” I say.
And Mira swings her eye to me: “Hearts are for dreamers.”
“You can feel the whole place growing, just a tiny bit with every pulse.”
“But who are we?” she asks. “I mean like who are we in the heart?”
“I don’t know. We’re the only ones with our eyes open.”
“But everybody gots eyes like we got.”
“So, maybe…we’re the eyes in the heart,” I say.
“So maybe we’re just seeing stuff. But I bet everybody else is seeing stuff, too,” says Mira.
“Maybe we’re just reporting, reporting the Earth.”
“To each other.”
“And everybody else.”
Now Mira says with her emerald eye sparkling above the silver: “Maybe even the beavers and everybody are listening to our eyes. Hey, let’s blink, blink at the inside of the turtle’s shell, blink to everybody, everybody dreaming and everything,” her eye vibrating.
“Alright. But I haven’t closed my eyes since we emerged. I don’t know what will happen.”
“I know. That’s the thing. I think something’s gonna change. Like something totally crazy could happen.”
“I think we just gotta wink like we know, like you’re saying I know, like it’s in me, too, like I know what it’s like, and like even if I don’t know what it’s specifically like, I know we’re here together, like I know we both decided to come, like we made a decision to come here, like we came to love the Earth…you know what I mean?”
“I think I can do that.”
And then we do it—we close our eyes, we close our eyes with a purpose, not even to dream, not even to see something clearer like peeking behind the curtains, not to travel with sound, but maybe all of those, too—one endless wink to all the dreamers and dreams. One of the large, lower flowers of the Digitalis falls over each of us—at least I think that’s what happens—like a bell over our eyes—and it is like a gong among the pulsing as we suddenly descend through the silver, a wink, too, almost feeling those veins and continents, those glassy fibers for a second, as the tissue of my own eyes. And I can feel Mira again—her hands, her feet. Deeper and deeper. It’s not like before when we watched the lake disappear. We’re just descending. Now, it’s all silence. And where is Time? Where has it gone? We blinked to Time, too. We blinked to the seasons. To the heartbeat, too. Blinked to the Blinking. We’re still blinking. Still in the center.
I don’t want us to part. But we do. He’s sliding up against my body, through my arms. He’s lifting. His arms spread. All the birds are trilling, diving down and swooping up his body, creating a wind. I’m still inside him, reporting. And the tone, it must be the tone that dived into the trilling, sending out ripples, waves, that set things free. He’s lifting. He’s above the river. Just another bird. Trilling like everyone. Ah! The History. It’s pouring from his fingers. So beautiful. Like amber. Like a migration. Like a migration back to where it belongs. A dark, deep warm yellow returning—to the sky, the twilight, to flower petals, to heighten the crevices of algae on the rock. To the glowing streaks of the water spiders. To bees embraced in flowers. To arm bands on the big spiders watching from the boulder. From fingers to feathers to veins of leaves passing, uncurling, while filling with water again. It’s like he had drawn pieces, genes, notes, dim yellows, tones—everything he could—and arranged them into a history, his History. All the pieces, all the rungs of the History’s spiraling ladder, returning, returning to where they were drawn.
And now our eyes open.
“How long were we gone?” I ask Aira, just happy to see her. I can’t believe how beautiful she is, oozing into the blackness.
“I don’t know. I don’t know where I was…where we were. But I feel I could live another hundred years and never get tired again. But I think I love you even more.”
“I think I love you even more, too. Like a lot.”
It’s crazy, cause suddenly we look down, down through our hooped arms, down through the sorta diamond our feet make: intertwined toes, heels together they make a little gate, a window, and way beyond it, another star.
“Another star,” says Aira.
“Yeah. I hope it’s coming toward us, cause I don’t got any motivation.”
“I think my only motivation is to be here.”
“Yeah. Which I don’t think is motivation.”
“It’s a lot of different colors.”
We just watch it growing.
“Are we moving toward it, or is it coming to us?” I ask.
“I don’t know. I don’t know what it is. What it leads to. It’s so many colors. But it’s all light,” she says.
“Maybe we’re descending. Maybe this is the center of the earth. But I guess I never really thought earth had a center.”
“I don’t think I do, either. Maybe it’s just some kind of fire.”
We watch as it grows, except now it’s way bigger than the star of our feet. We pull closer and touch foreheads, still looking down, and we say it together: “It’s the Design.”
I look really hard and then I relax. I didn’t realize it before but my eye is locked on to it, pulling, hauling it up—the thoughts I have, they seem to fall away, and I see it—it’s like just me and Aira floating together looking, looking through the configurations of our body at: “The Turtle.” It’s a turtle made outta light, outta every color, just its outline, just the shape, slowly turning as it rises—a head, a shell, four legs with webbed feet and a tail.
“Are we just seeing it cause of the beaver lodge?”
“I don’t know. I don’t know if there’s a difference.”
A cloudlike nebula of light, bluish-green, arches over what constitutes its shell, and this is what first touches our feet. But it’s crazy cause right away we’re lifting. It’s lifting fast. We look up. At first there’s nothing, but suddenly a circle of wavering pastel is born into the nothingness.
“I think it’s dawn,” says Aira. “We been swimming all night.”
It grows—beautiful glowing strands of the day coming. You can even see the emerald radiance of the mountains, the spores like pollen sifting over the surface. The sky unswirling, yawning, stretching, thinking about its costumes: Maybe something different today. All in-framed by the luminous corals of the sea floor ornamenting the edge of the well.
“We’re going to hit the surface pretty soon.”
A blue-white light edges the growing frame from all the coral, from all the people of the ocean.
“Look. Faces. Tons of them. That’s so funny. They’re all watching us. They’re all looking down at us rising.”
And we now emerge, emerge outta the ocean floor. It’s the wildest thing I think I ever felt. Me and Aira, we still got our faces together, her tail’s all around me, she’s in my arms, every single one of them. We’re passing through all the faces, all the seals and fish and whales. It’s like we did something, but I don’t know what. I’m just glad, glad to be back, glad to be with everybody. In the dawn light, the sky’s going crazy—it’s all the birds waiting to land, waiting to take up the Design and head out across the earth.
“There’s no time to get off!” I yell. So we just hold each other tighter. And suddenly, we’re in the open air. All of us. My gills snap shut and take off somewhere inside me. And there’s this crazy almost crack as Aira shocks back into her land-form. And we’re swarmed by hordes of birds, too busy to take any notice of us, just pouring down and reconfiguring, jostling, all sizes and colors, birds of prey and scavengers, gulls, little songbirds, sparrows, all with their sharp nails finding the light. But—but it’s like an enormous bird, a human, a human bird lands right against us in the center of the Design: “Fuck! Fuck! It’s fuckin Altarberry!!!!” I grab him into our hug, and Aira hugs him, too. “Altaaarbeaaaarreeee!!! Yeeee!!! Wha—wha—wha—fuck you doin—you—you—you—doinyeeeeeeeeeeeee??!!!!”
“I came to fly! I’m flying with the Design!” he says in my mind.
I can’t believe Altarberry’s talking like the rest of us, like telepathically. It’s crazy!
“But what about your humans?” I say back.
“There’s humans everywhere! Everywhere!” he says, looking at us and all around. I think I’m actually gonna cry. We just look at each other. “I think we’re ready to lift off. I think I have to go,” he says, really looking at me.
He shakes Aira’s hand, which is kinda weird—I mean, I think he knows we’re lovers even though there’s no time to know anything.
“Don’t you gotta get into the Design?”
“I am. This is where I’m supposed to be.”
“But there’s nothing here.”
Everybody lifts, and the crazy thing is as everybody takes off, shaped like a turtle with Altarberry so happy in the middle, the Sea-Design descends, and we’re plunged back into the sea. My gills come back and break out. And I look at all the lights of Aira’s skin. And we swim back to the pier just thinking, thinking inside each other, inside ourselves—it’s almost like plants rising and falling, spreading seeds, full of nutrition, of the loftiness of death which is always alive. I just can’t believe Altarberry can fly.
“I guess humans really aren’t all that weird,” I say, and she smiles at me—I guess cause she’s been a human. But the really funny thing is is just before we get to the pier we swim past one of the turtle openings beneath the beaver lodge, and two huge algae coated snapping turtles close together in front of it, ready to take our arms off.
I look at Aira and she smiles, and we laugh, bumping shoulders: “I guess we’ll just have to imagine it.”
Night comes. I’m receiving reports. After Alt lifted and flew off I came here to watch the twilight, to be part of it. Even in that short time we were away the building, and even the little pagoda I’m lying in, have been colonized by moss and lichen, civilizations growing toward each other. It’s beautiful to see how many different moss and lichen physiologies are living, feeding, growing, clothing these architectures with new architectures, one giving birth, in a way, yet living, hidden within another, but only hidden if you see it that way, if you see a general visual precedence as loss, if you see one beauty as greater or lesser than another, if you see yourself as the only creator. I watch the gold surfacings of this body, the spores, the stars, the city, the mountains glowing. Reports from Altarberry. The last one was as he was falling asleep on a mountain close to the shore. Three piers covered with moss and lichen. The old nuclear powerplant up the coast in the distance. A huge house of mud and branches and coral made by beaver-people. Falling asleep surrounded by his friends. But it’s as if the reports are calling me to the ocean, laying a path. I take the jug of water and pour it all over me. It absorbs before it can reach the floor of the pavilion. The city, the ocean, all the wetness, the depth, is calling my body. I lie here and watch, listen, one step deeper into the city, one step closer to the sea. My body dripping, combining, creating. There was one report—Altarberry said he saw something on top of one of the buildings—they were ferns, quivering in the twilight, ferns that looked like the ferns of an Orophine.
She knows what I’m going to say.
“I know what you’re gonna say,” says Mira.
It’s strange, I never really thought about it, what the stretching means, what it creates. Or maybe not so…interpersonally. But it’s true—no matter what you do it’s there. You could try to minimize it—decisions in order not to stretch—but isn’t that an illusion? She’s waiting for me to think it to her, think it in one clear thought. My tail swings up and plays in her armpits and I kiss the corner of her eye. She’s holding me lightly, barely touching me. Two bodies. Two skins. There’s stretching in us being apart and there’s stretching in us being together. We’re by the lake, standing over a vent, listening. And the slugs come out and begin climbing us. I still haven’t thought it directly to her, but she’s in there, in here—her thoughts and my thoughts are lifting each other, feeling each other’s mass, each other’s weight. I look down. The slugs are so silver. Opalescent silver. There’s five of them. Climbing our legs, adhering us. It’s going to make the stretching even more intense, fill it with even more radiance, energy. Mira opens her eye when I think this. Our legs are glowing with mucous, higher and higher.
Suddenly Mira says: “But is there a passage from the desert lake to this one?”
I didn’t even know it, but there’s some type of tension leaving, and I say: “We’ll make one.”
“If you want to. I do. If we just let ourselves stretch. Like I just have to stretch. Just me. Just in myself. That’s what I do. But then we can stretch, too.”
“Stretch and make the connection?”
“I think. I hope.”
“Are we doin it together?” she asks with her eye closed.
“Yeah. For sure.”
“I just don’t want to be the only one.”
“No. I love you more than anything.”
“I love how we fit together,” she says.
“I know. It just keeps getting better.”
The slugs are up to our bellies. We’re being wrapped in mucous. It feels so natural, almost like we’re doing it ourselves.
Mira finally holds me tighter: “This is crazy. I mean…are we getting married?”
“I think so.”
“The mountains are marrying us.”
Mira’s tongue comes out and touches one of the slugs and retracts. She shakes her head. “It’s horrible. But it feels super good. It feels like us. It feels more like we’re stretching into each other rather than away from each other.”
“I think it’ll always be like that.”
We’re almost completely covered.
“Hey, can I ask you something?” I say.
“Sure. I guess,” she murmurs.
“What’s that screaming sound?”
We both listen. There’s this weird screaming getting closer and closer.
Then Mira opens her eye and laughs: “That’s the Larynx.”
We watch as these enormous vocal cords carried by red birds flies over us, searing the air with its voice. There’s an enormous splash and sigh when they drop it in to the lake.
Mira and I turn back to each other. And it’s like being in a womb, like being within the body, the marrow of sound, so held, held by Mira, held by the slugs who are like ambassadors of the opalescent earth. The opulent earth. It’s endless. And when we dry it’s like the release of the longest kiss.
If I ever return to Orophaze…to being an Orophine…to being the Conferral…the planet of crystal, of searing light, I don’t know I would ever look at it the same, even with an Orophine physiology—or this body I have now that seems part of a balanced dynamic that can connect with anything, that could even emerge from the Lake of Birth, just its liquidness, its depths of magenta and surfacings of gold—but on Orophaze, this anatomy would have to make the Lake its home, an eco-system cradled by the austere crystals and radiant dust, just to sustain its aqueous nature. It’s only the Orophine Mind that would think of this new form within the Lake as incongruent. But now I think to, I speak to, the Earth, directly to the Earth—I say to it: Not yet. I can’t leave you yet. And now I’m in the city. I’m heading to the ocean. The reports keep coming from Altarberry. So many forms the Design integrates as it passes over the Earth, as they land and return to the sky, changed and changing. How could you ever track it? The city so wet, so green. Spores born from swirling glass, iridescent emerald globes singing up and down in the lush susurration of history’s succession. All the old trees, the old vegetation, pots and plantings, rows along the buried streets, are taken care of, held, almost given places of honor in the new eco-system. And it’s almost as if the buildings, the structures beneath the moss—is this what they are doing, too? Honoring the moss, of the life that can live on them, creating to create more creation. They are still alive, changing, maybe more alive than ever—although you can’t see them—alive with, and for, more than humans. And my purple body, when I reach out and touch the mountains, drips and disappears into their depths, into the depths of the mosses, the individual bright cilia, the fine hairs and crowded landscapes, every green tone imaginable, creating imagination’s uneven edges of two races, two tongues, a thousand tongues, a thousand tectonic plates beneath the city pouring up light, within the depths of bones, of rivers and rocks, disappearing the purple pulse and diaspora into the architectural depths, all feeding other dimensions, yet filling this one with song. Songs everywhere, songs released, just like when I touch Altarberry, all the joining is so much nutrition. And what do I feel within them before the reporting magentas ignite into an imphathomable polyphony: skeletons of crystal, of liquid gold? It’s like laying on a well of music, reflecting every cloud, every whisper of wind, every face, with or without eyes, which are music, too. Music. Orophine music. It’s among the Earth-music somewhere. Somehow, I hear it. It’s not the same. It’s almost like a root that you know grew into a bold flower loud with colors and scents, a root, or a rhizome that you see for the first time, its shape, its glowing power among a thousand others. The music’s radiating from the top of the mountain before me. My body’s almost like pure liquid, like water, yet it doesn’t have the weight, and every hold my fingers place on the mosses, so tight, so knowing in their beauty, it is the music released, the feeding of other thicknesses and this one, that my body reabsorbs in the wetness of the city, lifting plumes, silica, keratin, singing their poses, that attaches me in. So many mosses, mosses on top of lichens, mosses on top of mosses, as these fingers adhere through collaboration. And the gold pulsing up from my own center and through my arms to their tips. Even with this body these buildings, before the change, would be impossible to climb. Too shear. But even more, too two-dimensional, like trying to climb a ladder painted on glass. Only made to be climbed from within. In a way, it makes sense, all those living, aspiring humans, making these structures alive as coral, which is always changing into something else. As if it was all planned. Planned…from the moment outward. Like the gold, which I think if I opened up this body, dove inside it, I would never find it’s source—I may not even find any of the gold itself. Orophines. Orophines would never perform such an act, but they would have their creations do it for them. And here I am climbing toward an Orophine music. An Orophine music that has changed. Evolved. It’s impossible not to, it’s impossible not to try to understand, or befriend, something I once was, befriend something I thought constituted my place within the Conferral. This must be what Altarberry reported. And as I come over the lip, my plumes erect, everything, everyone, toning. The ocean shimmers in the distance beyond the shimmering ferns as if their music is shaking it, as if the shimmering light is shaking their fronded bodies. Orophine ferns and yet they are not growing from an Orophine. It’s so strange to kneel down among them and look at the green city, the spores which seem to be laughing just going up and down, just listening: creators…just like everything, the mosses, the buried buildings, the humans who turned to fire, the shifting stars, the sea. The ferns and my plumes sing back and forth, and I don’t even try to understand them, I just feel the releases, the migrations, the things that I will never see are coming into being, creating this view. Somehow I feel more like an Orophine than ever. I don’t know why. All I know is I want to go to the ocean. I don’t know if coming back for Altarberry was the right thing. It may not have mattered. But maybe Altarberry is just a representative of the Earth. And maybe now I am, too. I touch the ferns. What are we creating? Are we creating us? Everything’s so gold. My eyes are dripping gold. Is it ok? Did I do the right thing? I hold some of it in my hands. And the gold that pulses up from my depths, shimmers to it…. I place some of it on the ferns. Such beautiful sounds. And I look down through them. There’s a being with dark skin walking through the valleys. One eye. Four arms. A human.
“You’re more human than I am—that’s for sure!” I laugh when this magenta being calls me a human. Now I think into it a little more closely, behind its words. It seems like it doesn’t really know the earth. “Are you new?” I ask. “You look like you could’ve come out of the ocean. I’m goin back there. I got gills now so I can breath all the musics. We could go together. But you probably don’t even need gills.”
I know this purple person’s not a human like Altarberry’s humans cause it speaks into my mind. But I don’t know—now Altarberry can do that, too, like consciously, like he knows it.
“But you are close to the humans we brought to Earth. Except—”
“Except!” I say, spinning around, “I got one eye and four arms and a better tongue.” My tongue arcs up and looks down at it. “Hey, what’s your name?”
“Zea. That’s so awesome. It seems like a name I would call you. And we can go to the sea. My name’s Mira.”
I look into its fabrics. It’s a lot of the same world, like searing white, crystally, super dry, but they do vary in different ways, like gradations. There’s earths, too. It’s funny looking into Zea, into its fabrics—all those dry landscapes of light within someone so wet, so beautiful and purple—it’s like diving into the gold pulses, diving into its gold eyes, walking its plumes like forests, like fountains of starlight. You can tell Zea totally belongs in the mountains and the ocean. It belongs to earth. It’s funny, cause it’s dripping, too, or there’s migrations of its form, of the magenta substance setting off and collaborating with the mountains. It’s like new fabrics growing among the old. But it’s funny—Zea’s just like this gorgeous, wet pod.
“I think you’re gonna love the mountains,” I say.
And I see it, the same earth that Altarberry thinks about, Altarberry’s History. It’s pretty crazy, and it gives me this weird feeling, like a good feeling, almost, I think, if I don’t block it, but it’s almost like that fabric of Altarberry’s, and Zea’s too, that History, it’s almost like a bed of moss, like this deep color, among all the other white, searing fabrics, and, of course, there’s other Histories, other earth histories, sprinkled among all the whiteness.
“Do you know my friend Altarberry?” I ask.
Gold surfaces and spreads out of its core into the magenta and disappears. It’s like its heartbeat, like its arriving of emotions.
“Yes. He is my friend, too.”
“That’s crazy! Wait till you meet everybody else. Of course, there’s new people all the time. And, of course, people disappear all the time. Like I can disappear anytime, too, like anytime I want. But wait till we go to the ocean. We can go look at the beaver lodge. Have you ever swam in the ocean?”
“You’re gonna love it, like super love it. We can swim all day and night.” I’m still kinda looking at its fabrics. “You know,” I say lowering my eyelid, “there’s a lot of other earths.”
Zea looks at me. It looks over my whole body and then at the mountains. “You mean…”
“Whole, completely different earths that went in completely different ways.” Somehow I gotta say it. “Like so much that there’s really nothing you could call human.” Somehow, I don’t know why, but I feel like crying. I guess it’s just Altarberry again. I guess it’s just Aira, too. In a way, everything’s so good, like it’s always been that way, you know, but now I can understand it, or just let it happen. But I’m crying anyway, and Zea’s crying, too, and it’s absolutely weird to hug, like wet and ethereal and every part of us that touches combines, not like into you really, but into a fabric, fabrics getting created all around us, like that beautiful wet body and plumes of ivory, it’s like music turning into other worlds, but it takes touching something else to do it, the music that you can barely see. My arms are around Zea. Its plumes are so strange, like different instruments than Aira’s spine. I guess I don’t want to play them, even though they’re giving off, even receiving, or reporting, sounds on their own—or I do…I mean—I guess I’m telling Aira everything, I’m telling you everything, Aira, even though I don’t have to, even though I’m telling it to everyone.
“Thankyou. Thankyou,” Zea says with it’s eyes closed. “I can’t see them but I think I can feel them. I wish every Orophine could hear this. But maybe they are.”
Gold tears are pouring over my shoulder. It’s funny, I cry just thinking about Aira and Altarberry, I guess cause I love them so much, cause I know they’re coming back, cause we’re gonna spend all this time doin stuff and thinkin to each other, just playing this crazy music that’s endless. After a while, we lean back and look at each other.
“Isn’t this great?”
“Hey, let’s go to the ocean. It’s like one big, beautiful tear.”
The desert mountain. I’ve finally returned. Maybe returning is the biggest stretching of all. All the journeying back, the pulling away from Mira, now seems like a blink. And the space between us, all now under the auspices of the moon, so high, full, the desert candle. This mountain could’ve gave birth to it. And the desert’s pale breath, stretching back toward the invisible ocean. To grow ourselves between mountain and mountains, between the two lakes. The deer are at the shore. I walk through them to the water, just saying hi, just glad to see them again. And then I step in. I feel my gills, my spines, my scales growing, finding their places. Preparing to emerge. Waiting for my agreement. It’s like a music. A possible music. A style. That I can take up. A combination that is completed in this form, in this water. It’s different now, though, after journeying back to this mountain—in a way, I don’t want to make the decision anymore, so I make the decision to let it all do whatever it wants, this body can be whatever it wants to be again. I’m up to my knees and beneath it’s all changed—the webs, the elongations, the physiology that belongs to the water. And above it all, the lives that I accumulated while walking here, like friends. They’re still in me, in the part of me that hasn’t submerged. Every stretch. Every stretch is filled. Water, I want to be your voice, I want my body, my thoughts, to be a part of your speaking. I take a step and look back. Heads leaned and lowered together, antlers moving, like a migrating forest rearranging itself, giving off sparks as they touch, as they journey and lock into different skulls, and the sparks like cinders lifting and disappearing into the moon. I step in up to my neck and the gills break free. It’s just like before. Mira’s returning to the ocean, too. I can feel it, hear it. They both sing to me, the water of this lake and her, and I sing them this moon, this rock of night, this pearl, this drum of the lake’s skin rhythmed with moonlight, with voices of ivory and opalescence, with antlers and sparks—singing the deer. I’m beneath the surface. I’m made of light. The luminescence of my body speaks to the moon and everyone beneath. The fish with skeletons like glass come out and form a design with the moon languidly bending in the middle. But I dive deeper even though my spines and their bones flash to each other. Deeper and deeper. I’m stretching from everything. I’m stretching with everything. Until it’s only space. Only stars. Only sparks before they become stars again.
The timbres of sunset. This is the first time I see it so fully with this new body. On the city’s lip, it’s eyelid—whose colors are these? Who do they belong to? How can I say they’re not within this purple physiology, within the gold surfacings, within my tears, and if they are the same colors, even reflections of the same colors becoming something else on this vast surface, aren’t we the same?—no boundary, no creator and created, just us. We stand next to each other and take it all in, let it all out. On the horizon, the sun fills itself as if drinking from a vast, painted cup, darkening, burning colder, relinquishing its distance, and just that giving away of everything, that revealing, and the clouds that pass it like solemn fish take on a new cargo of night coming pressed into violet, turquoise, cerise, a cargo of hearts. And beneath them and us, the ocean’s bulge of turquoise and silver skin. The sunset is its own ocean, it’s own transitory symphony that will never be the same, that you know is soon to end, and the only thing that can take on that loss is Earth’s night.
“But it will happen again. Again and again,” I say to my new friend.
Mira doesn’t even look at me. But the two her of arms on my side squeeze my arm and shoulder, little squeezes as if they’re still testing me, listening to the combinations. The music heads off and joins all the colors.
“I betcha we find out.”
“I don’t know if I can let this go.”
Mira’s thinking, she’s thinking about something else: “That’s the great thing, cause you don’t have to let it go, it just changes. Look at the beaver lodge. Me and my friend Aira were actually in it.”
I focus down at the mound that’s built into the last pier and what was once the elevated cement of the shore.
“How did you get in?”
“I’m not really sure. I think Aira’s really good at that stuff just naturally. I’m not sure it’ll ever happen again.”
“I feel a form of power radiating from it. It’s radiating outward and inward at the same time, expressing deeper. Strange. I’m almost certain there’s traces of it in the gold that surfaces in my body.”
“That makes sense. Hey, did you ever blink at things, like look at something you love and blink at it? It’s kinda like you do it all the time, but then you can like join in, be like hey I’m doin this, I’m blinking to you cause we’re all part of it, cause I love you.”
“I would like to do that.”
“Ok. Here we go. Let’s hold hands.”
“And just face it?”
“Yeah. We just face it. But we’re blinking to other stuff, too, things we can’t see. It’s just that we’re here. And this is the sunset.”
“Is the sunset blinking to us?”
“Yeah. There’s a lot of things blinking to us.”
I look out. The sun is gone, but there’s even more depths to the colors. It’s almost as if the whole ocean and sky is turning inside out. And we just hold hands. I can feel all the colors, the musics, migrating back and forth through us. And in the periphery I can see Mira’s big eyelid lowering with my own. Blinking. Blinking to Earth. I’m not really sure what it means. But I just do it, just focus on doing it. The whole Earth turns into light and colors, every music possible pouring over the slit. It’s like giving everything you are and letting go. And just saying I’m here. Our hands are merged.
“Look! Look!” whispers Mira, staring down the shore at the old powerplant. “It’s like a drip of fire.”
I open my eyes and look. I can barely see it, just a hint, a speck of amber that disappears and reappears, coming down the green side of the old smokestack of the powerplant, like an ember. Her eye’s super wide. The whole iris is glowing like emeralds lit from behind.
“What is it?”
“I don’t know. When we blinked I just felt it.”
“Where is it now?”
“It’s getting close to the bottom. And…it’s coming this way.”
Now I can see it. It is like a drip of fire, crawling closer and closer, following the shore. Mira’s tongue shoots up into the air and she hugs me. She lets go and spins around. She stops and we gaze at it. Now I can see it. Beautiful like fire. Gold, slinky eyes as if it knows everything, and if it doesn’t know it, it doesn’t really matter, but it does, and of course it knows we’re here, but it pretends not to know, but it does. A swallow swings past it in the falling night. Still so many colors it’s body calls to, that swarm for their last expression into its fur. It takes a snap at the swallow as if it is a laugh, a yawn, as if it could’ve grabbed the swallow out of the air if it wanted to.
“What is it?”
Mira’s crying and laughing at the same time: “It’s a fox.”
How do you send a telepathic gift? But maybe that’s all we are, gifts from the core, washed of lives, out of the blackness, and able to become the gift of something else like the earth, of star-fields, the moon creating stars over a bulge of sleeping stems of a wet field, moisture dreamt, weighted with the gift, out of the blackness, out of the blackness between stars, out of the night within the earth, out of the Lake of Birth. I don’t know why I’m calling it that. Some other life that became my own. Some history in the entourage that converges in the open air. The Lake of Birth. Just a star. A star that I found by diving between the stars. I float out of the blackness toward it. The blackness that can lead anywhere. Just a light. Converging with another light. It’s like a game. Like holding up a finger and feeling the wind coming from everywhere. Like pointing a finger between us and a spring is revealed because it is already there. Convergence. Return. My head emerges into the green city. Into the emerald iris of the mountains, the pupil reflecting spores singing up and down, playing with the encrusted, laughing night. All one beautiful eye.
All the energy you need, we need, all the nutrition, is in the Design. And you don’t know the shape of the Design we’re in except seeing the shadow on the ground which is always changing, healing, changing our shape—and the call among us to descend, our feet grasping the form of an ancient mound, a rock lipped plateau, an ox-bow of dried river, a reservoir with island and piers, all messages which pass as we listen, just listen, flying, so intent, just flying and becoming whatever we become. A glance, a wink, or even an extra widening of an eye in the wind, is all we need to thank each other for being in the Design. And you just let it happen. You let it happen by being right here. It’s like a voice we share. A voice that pours over the Earth like painted silk, a fabric set free in a river beneath the sun, beneath the moon. And I’m crying—I can’t help it. That’s my message to Zea and Mira and the Earth. The other fliers glance at my eyes, watching the tears wiped away by the wind. Caressing the Earth with my friends. Most of us are different, different colors, different sizes, wing-spans, our beaks, everything; and even like the gulls, the ravens, the vultures, the finches—they’re all different among themselves, too—and what would I call myself, which is funny because I’m the only one among us who would probably call myself anything—maybe a human—maybe a human is just another species of bird.