(Author’s Note: Dear Everyone, here is the opening chapter of my novella RETURNING TO THE WAVES)
–for Eli, Kim, and Sarah
After the fall of civilization, we were some of the few people left to retain the “classic” human form. Although this wasn’t out of any real laziness on our part, I can see how someone could believe this, comparing us to the huge array of new crazy physiologies that people took up during that great explosion of creativity, or the fact that we decided to stay rather than head off to some other dimension or become some new planet, which many people did. Even small children and babies. I don’t know what made us different. Although we could fly out of our bodies and travel with our consciousnesses to certain other dimensions and perform simple acts of similar natures, we couldn’t, or should I say didn’t, actually learn to fly while in our bodies or change ourselves physically to any great degree. I’m not sure why. We may have been somewhat challenged or possibly even a little uncreative. Imagination is pretty important. But what I do know, which I think says a lot, is that our life on the beach was pretty simple, and really suited us more than anything else, and except for Anacropolis Copius and his best friend BT Abernathy, who were persisting in being entrepreneurs even after civilization fell apart and bringing back ‘The Good Ole Days,’ our days, and nights, were filled with nothing but beautiful events.
We were in our little pavilion in an inter-dunal area by the sea, where the oaks edged out into the soft sand. There, we would cook and confer among the light summer breezes.
“Well, the thing is,” said Mrs. Herb, with a big gallon jar of pesto and a wooden spoon, “what I feel,” wiping oil off her chin, “it’s like we barely know what’s out there, or, in there. So I think we just have to pay attention and feel it out. I know we look pretty normal and everything. But, I mean, at least right now I really like eating, and since I been leaving my body a lot, just chewing seems like such an exciting thing, kinda bizarre, but I don’t know, just so real,” lifting another spoonful and making some grunting noises.
“I agree,” said Mr. Herb.
“Well,” stated Louis Solidago, adjusting his glasses, “the way I perceive it…” but then he looked at his kids who were shaking hands by standing face to face and levitating up and down. “How do you guys do that?”
“You can’t think,” said Lupus.
“Yeah. You can’t think,” agreed Henrietta.
“Well,” he continued, “I really appreciate all the people who left to explore other things. It’s like the air is thinner and thicker at the same time. There’s more possibilities, or, I can sense the possibilities that were already latent, as tangible pathways leading off my every movement. But to leave to somewhere else? Some other part of the cosmos? Permanently? I don’t know. This beach is like my body, my grounding.”
“Yeah. It’s like a space station,” said Mary Solidago, his wife.
“Yes. You’re right. It is very much like a space station, even though this sand and sea is not what we were taught to think of as space,” he replied.
“I know,” said Crème Fraiche, “I feel like if we needed to do more we would’ve already done it just naturally even though I feel like a loser sometimes when I compare myself to the rest of humanity…or should I say former humanity. But I think we have a part to play in all of this just by being ourselves.”
“Even though it may look boring,” I piped in, leaning against her.
Mr. Herb: “I guess it’s just relative. We can’t compare ourselves to other worlds and planets and all the cool things people turned themselves into, even though they were the same as us at some point.”
“Maybe we’re just Homebodies,” said Mary Solidago.
“You said it,” said Mrs. Herb, passing her big jar of pesto around.
The Solidago kids rose higher and higher to continue their handshake, rather than going up and down: “Hey, here comes Anacropolis,” said Lupus, looking over Henrietta’s shoulder.
We all turned. And there was Anacropolis Copius, emerging over a dune, like a human tank in the glaring sun. Even from that distance we could tell he was drenched in sweat. He wore his usual impeccable, albeit wet, silver suit over his amazing mass.
“He looks pretty determined,” said Crème Fraiche.
“Why do you think he comes out here?” I asked, lifting a scoop of pesto to my mouth.
Mary Solidago: “I don’t know, Giovanni. It’s like I start missing him and then he always comes.”
Mrs. Herb: “Why do you think we miss him?”
“I don’t know,” said Mary. “He’s like the opposite of everything I love.”
Mr. Herb: “And we’re like the opposite of everything he believes in.”
“Him and BT probably get bored planning to re-instate civilization without anybody to re-instate it onto,” said Crème Fraiche.
“Except us,” I said.
Louis Solidago: “Yes. Well, I must say that even if Anacropolis is the most ‘non-present’ person among us, he has the most present ‘non-presentness’ I’ve ever known.”
We all agreed. And then the rather overbearing entity, who constituted one of our only human neighbors, arrived.
“Hey, Anacropolis,” we all said, hopefully.
Anacropolis tried to speak but he couldn’t breathe. His face was glazed, and his hatless, bald head looked like an unpleasant, large watermelon without the skin. A few of us got up to help him sit down, or to offer him a towel, but he pushed us all away. We replaced ourselves and waited. Anacropolis closed his eyes and composed his breath. When he opened them, he was looking directly at Lupus and Henrietta who were still floating above us. To their own surprise, they slowly descended.
“Hey, I think we’re thinking,” said Henrietta.
“Good morning,” stated Anacropolis, sternly, as if speaking to unruly students.
“Good morning, Anacropolis,” we replied.
“We meet again,” he stated, evenly, eyeing us all authoritatively.
“This appears to be true,” ventured Louis Solidago.
Anacropolis: “Yes, it is very true indeed. And I suppose you know, also, why I made this rather arduous journey, which my role, or my station, I might say, laden with the weight of cultural responsibility though it may be, and demanded of me by the rest of proud humanity, called me to do?” asked Anacropolis, imperiously.
“I’d say the lack of ‘proud humanity’,” stated Mrs. Herb.
“Maybe it’s just the lack of pride, which I think is a good thing,” said Mr. Herb.
“Yes, lack of pride,” Anacropolis breathed in a satisfied manner, pointedly looking at our beautiful little copula, and various hanging herbs and plants and sculptures that we all endlessly made and remade. “And as a result of this lack of pride, and patriotism, I might add, look what happened to civilization. Yes. People died all over the place.”
“There was a lot at once,” said Louis Solidago, leaning back and thinking.
“Anacropolis, people didn’t die, they left or they changed themselves into new things,” said Crème Fraiche.
“Well, I guess you could say they died,” said Mr. Herb.
“I guess everybody should’ve left in waves. It would’ve smelled better,” said Mary.
“People got excited. What can you say?” Mrs. Herb said, kinda indignantly.
All I can say is the “Fall of Civilization” came about way different than anyone expected. And a lot of people expected it. It had been happening without anyone knowing it, like a flower coming into its glory during the night when everyone was asleep. No one really noticed at first that they didn’t need their cellphones to talk to each other over great distances, or that they could change their bodies, or that they could just appear somewhere rather than buy a plane ticket. Maybe they just thought for a few days there they were dreaming. But once they realized it, it was like an exodus. Somehow, our own technologies lead to abilities that were already there. Cell phones, the internet, mass surveillances, everything that you’d think would lead people into laziness and slavery were actually simulating and secretly getting people in touch with innate abilities they already possessed. People flew. People disappeared. People turned themselves into aquatic life-forms never before seen. People left their bodies and disappeared into the cosmos. Of course, once people shot off into all kinds of dimensions, and became such a huge array of other life-forms—just going-off creatively—there were a lot of abandoned bodies around. No one, it seemed, cared any more about being human. Except us. And a few others around the world who were also so absolutely satisfied they never left where they were either or else we probably would’ve had a party.
“Anacropolis, you should come hang out with us. We’re going to have a dance out on the point tonight,” Mary Solidago said, hopefully.
“Yeah!” shouted the Solidago kids. “We’re gonna dance in the moonlight!”
“Yeah, Anacropolis, it’ll be fun. You never know what’s gonna happen out there,” said Crème Fraiche.
“Yeah, especially when you dance!” shouted the Solidago kids.
For a second, Anacropolis looked down.
“Yeah, and you don’t have to ‘dance’—that’s why it’s called a dance cause once you call it a dance then whatever you do is dancing, you could just stand there and you’d be dancing,” said Mary.
“And the music,” said Henrietta.
“Yeah, the music,” said Lupus.
Henrietta: “It just starts showing up like people.”
Lupus: “Yeah, like people.”
“It appears to arise out of the form of anything, but I believe especially out of the plants, like latent equations,” stated Louis Solidago.
Mary Solidago: “He just likes the plant music, but it comes out of everything, Anacropolis, out of the stones and shadows—“
“And colors,” said Mrs. Herb.
“Yes, it’s all so hard to delineate one from the other,” said Louis.
“Right. There’s music of the forms, and then the music of the colors within the forms, and there’s what? What could you call it?” asked Crème.
“Their love for each other,” I said.
“But then there’s something even beyond all that,” said Mr. Herb, mysteriously. “Ooooowa!” he shouted as Mrs. Herb pinched him in the ass.
“You’re gonna confuse Anacropolis. Don’t listen to him, Anacropolis. It’s just fun.”
“Yeah!” shouted the Solidago kids. Then looking around: “Hey, where’s BT?”
Anacropolis, as if waking up and realizing where he was, raised his eyebrows in a strange manner: “BT? Do I know some person named BT?”
Henrietta and Lupus: “BT. He’s your friend.”
Anacropolis: “Oh, you must mean Mr. Abernathy, my business associate, fellow entrepreneur, and also Vice President of the Business Association. Yes, I know him. Which, in a laborious manner, leads me back to why I’m here—and don’t pretend you didn’t know—but I’ve come so see if your license to be on this beach has expired.”
Mary Solidago: “Anacropolis, people don’t need licenses for anything.”
Anacropolis: “Well, surprise. You may not have heard, but Deputy Abernathy and I feel it’s our sworn duty to re-instate all laws that were in affect before the fall of our great civilization. Which means you’re in violation of the No Camping On The Beach Ordinance, which was put into affect because people like you, of course, camped on the beach. In fact, as far as I know, it’s never been rescinded, so don’t try to make me believe you didn’t know you were in violation of this code, and many others, I might add.”
We all looked at each other and then at Anacropolis, who was the only one standing, except for Henrietta and Lupus who were trying to figure out how to float again.
Anacropolis: “I mean, what if people just have fun all the time?”
“Like cooking?” asked Mrs. Herb.
“Exactly!” shouted Anacropolis, proudly, then: “I take that back. Cooking is good. Cooking is proper. I’m talking about other kinds of fun.”
“Anacropolis, do you want any pesto?” asked Mrs. Herb, taking up her big jar.
“Pesto? Has it been refrigerated?” Anacropolis looked rather slyly dubious.
“We don’t have a refrigerator,” stated Mr. Herb, trying to look down Mrs. Herb’s shirt. They were still in love.
“Does it have any preservatives, and if it does, which ones specifically? And in what quantity?”
“We don’t have any preservatives,” replied Mary Solidago.
“Well, it depends. It depends on what exactly are the ingredients of this pesto, if you can call something that’s not in a sealed and labeled pesto jar pesto. Maybe we should just call it a pesto-like substitute. And since it is a pesto-like substitute, really, I’d need to know the exact proportions in order to compare it to pesto.” Strangely, Anacropolis kept raising his voice. Not only that, but he kept making peculiar head and eyebrow movements which seemed to be directed toward the bushes to the left.
“Well, actually,” stated Mrs. Herb, “there’s black walnuts for one thing, and basswood flowers, and violet leaves and wild garlic and—” but right then Lopeda, who had been softly snoring behind Mary and Louise, awoke.
Lopeda: “I just flew in a dream along the coast to the north. There’s people that are like Cedar Waxwings up there. Or they speak like them. They’re super into passing food from mouth to mouth and this seems to be part of some type of musical drama they’d put on. They’re all very beautiful.”
Louis: “Yes, I’ve heard them, I think. When they party it’s like their songs pass above us but catch in my head, too, like they stop and grip my thoughts like branches, and even pick them like berries to feed each other.”
“See, Anacropolis, we’re pretty boring compared to most people,” said Crème Fraiche.
Mary introduced her sister: “Anacropolis, have you ever met my sister Lopeda? She lives on the coast down south.”
But suddenly, Anacropolis and Lopeda just stared at each other. It was amazing feeling the silence around them, for Anacropolis always seemed to carry a clutter of noise with him and rattled the keys and change in his pockets constantly even running his thumb along the edges of his wad of thousand dollar bills obtrusively until he would realize he was outnumbered and clench them in his fists (as if anyone cared)—it was like he wanted to extend his body and schemes into the space around him. Yet now, it appeared as though Anacropolis had slipped and was carried by a great, silent stream. But even more amazing, Lopeda was transfixed by Anacropolis, too. We all looked from Lopeda to Anacropolis and were about to try (I admit) to tap into that stream of emotions between them (it was irresistible) telepathically, when the Solidago kids floated up above all our gazes and unearthed BT Abernathy, who was hiding in the bushes with a notebook.
“Hey, look. It’s BT.” The Solidago kids lifted him out by the shoulders.
Anacropolis cleared his throat. Lopeda dropped back down, humming and swinging her foot dreamily, then sat up attentively again.
BT (His long and expressive nose hairs looked rather annoyed): “Ah, yes, how did I get here? I must’ve taken a wrong turn when I left the chateau.”
“Yes,” agreed Anacropolis, readily. “Due to our great weight of responsibility, it’s often that even I am known to ‘take a wrong turn’ at times.”
“What are you writing?” asked Henrietta, hanging on BT’s arm.
“Excuse me, young lady.” BT dislodged his arm away from her. “This is not writing. As I was lost in thought—“
Anacropolis: “Yes. Yes. Lost in thought.”
BT: “Yes. I was doodling.”
Lupus: “It looks like poetry.”
Anacropolis: “Poetry?! BT, how many times—oh, wait. Poetry, yes, yes, Mr. Abernathy often pens patriotic odes. Isn’t that right, BT? I remember well your: ‘Ode to Our Forefathers Who Are So Big In Us’ or something to that affect.”
BT: (adjusting his glasses) “I wrote that in the white heat of the moment.”
Anacropolis: “Yes. Yes. It was a very logical and well-structured oration that—”
But Henrietta and Lupus grabbed BT’s notebook and floated over to us. Mrs. Herb grabbed it.
“Well, as far as I can tell, it’s only a title and a couple words. It looks like ‘Recipe For A Pesto-like Substitute’ with the ‘Recipe’ crossed out and ‘Ode’ written in.
“Kinda hastily, I’d say,” Mr. Herb stated, leaning over and looking.
“BT. It’s not basswood wood, it’s basswood flowers. You can’t put wood in pesto.”
“Very well,” stated Anacropolis imperiously, waving his arm. “This brings me to the other reason why I made this arduous journey to your little hovel, yes, hovel. As you may have heard through the grapevine, Chef Abernathy and I, Chef Copius, are opening a restaurant.”
“A restaurant?!” we all shouted. “That’s great!”
“We’re like a restaurant, too!” said Mrs. Herb.
“Yeah!” yelled the kids.
“That makes two restaurants,” said Mary Solidago.
“Yeah. That’s probably like more restaurants per capita than anywhere,” said Mr. Herb, rather proudly.
Anacropolis pressed his temples with his palms and looked at the sky: “You Are Not A Restaurant!!!”
Then Lopeda spoke softly: “What’s it called?”
Anacropolis slowly lowered his palms and shyly looked at her: “It’s called… Che Coppa Copius.”
“I think that says a lot,” said Lopeda, furling her face and really thinking about it. “I think a name like that’s important.”
Suddenly, the atmosphere was so absolutely vibratory nobody could move, or, the music that seemed to suddenly appear, moved through us in a way that took the place of anything any of us could do. Except for Henrietta and Lupus. They had BT’s arms and were levitating up and down, attempting to lift him off the ground, so that it appeared that BT was flapping his wings like a graceful heron as he gazed from Anacropolis to Lopeda and back in a worried trance.
“When does the restaurant thing open?” asked Henrietta.
“Yeah. When can we come eat at your place, Anacropolis?” chimed in Lupus. You could see they were trying to speak with one part of their minds and not with the other so they could still rise off the ground.
Anacropolis spoke as if he didn’t even know the word: “F-r-i-d-a-y,” he pronounced slowly, uncertainly, as if Friday was some kind of object he had come upon in the sand.
“When is Friday?” asked Mrs. Herb. We were all overcome by the opiatic atmosphere.
“Well, Friday is the last day of the week,” said Mr. Herb, half-awake.
“No, I think Sunday is the last day of the week,” entered in Louis Solidago.
“No. I think Saturday Night is the last day of the week and Sunday doesn’t really exist,” said Crème Fraiche, leaning into me.
“Yeah. Sunday is this whole other world,” said Mary Solidago, smiling to see her sister so happy.
“Yeah. I can see certain days that I lived that were probably Sunday,” I said, smelling Crème Fraiche’s body surround me.
Anacropolis’s eyes began moving from face to face, and he slowly seemed to be returning. Then, his jowls began to quiver and he started swinging his head from side to side. Lopeda dropped back down and closed her eyes. Then from where-ever he had been, Anacropolis returned: “Friday! Friday! Friday is Friday! Friday is two days from now! And that is Final!” he shouted.
“Although we don’t open till around 4:30,” added BT.
“Oh!” we all shouted, “Ok! Ok! Yes! Yes! Two days from now!” We gave each other proud looks. “It’s so simple. It is.”
Anacropolis grabbed BT’s notebook that was still in Mrs. Herb’s hand. “And there is a dress code.”
BT shook himself free of Henrietta and Lupus and they marched away back toward the empty city.
“Hmm. A dress code,” murmured Mrs. Herb.
“Well. It is a rather nebulous statement to proclaim a dress code and not state it’s parameters,” stated Louis Solidago, thoughtfully.
“It’s a secret! A secret dress code!” whispered Henrietta and Lupus, excitedly.
Then, we all had to agree that no matter what the dress code, and no matter what Anacropolis and BT could ever serve, as they only really ever ate outdated cans of food (even though they did, amazingly enough, appear to have attempted to glean some type of recipe from us) that just their dedication in opening a restaurant with really no one to patronize it, except our own little community, was really great. We agreed that the main thing we had to do was somehow keep track of the days and know when Friday actually came, which Louis Solidago immediately agreed to do by taking a levitation class from Lupus on one day and Henrietta the next and that would be the day that, in the later afternoon, we would head for Che Coppa Copius.