For all the beings genetically engineered
And for Missy
For the first two nights after I had stumbled out of the abandoned Lab, the horses came over the sea and beckoned me to crawl into the cavity between them as they lay back to back in the cool sand facing out toward the glistening horizon. And we’d dream horse’s dreams. It was different than anything the scientists had downloaded into me.
The Woman In The Sand
“You’re free, but you don’t act like you’re free,” said the Woman in the Sand. “You’re one of those. There used to be a lot of you, way back, the first time what humans thought was civilization ended. But human civilization has ended more times than you’d think. This time it’s a little different, no big old cataclysm, everybody is still alive, in some form or another, or in some place or another,” she laughed, looking at the shells, “but back then there were only a few survivors. But the ones who died didn’t really die, either. No one ever really dies even though it may look that way. They just went somewhere else. Somewhere that teaches…teaches thinking, I believe you could call it.”
I stood before her with antlers coming out of a human head, arms coming out of a human torso, but from the waist down I had a deer’s body. This is what the scientists had created in their laboratory. I thought, from a distance as I approached her, charred driftwood from an old bonfire covered with beautiful yellow butterflies jutted out of the sand, but it was really a woman. A woman buried up to the waist. Or emerging. It looked as if somebody had laid shells of all kinds in a design radiating out from her waist, even into the water. In front of her was a tray of flowers, some very different from what I knew from the downloads. She was the oldest person I had ever met, even in my dreams.
“What do you mean, there were a lot of me?”
“There were many of you. There were all different kinds. That was one of the things those humans loved to do, to make new kinds of people. Except they didn’t call them people.”
I thought about it. There was something about her, the way she was positioned in the design. Her blue dress was covered with yellow diamonds. That story had been in my downloads, a myth about an advanced ancient civilization that had disappeared beneath the sea. “That was a long time ago. How do you know so much about them? That myth supposedly took place thousands of years ago.”
She laughed: “Even you could still see these things. They still exist. Maybe a little translated, but you can still see them. It’s like television. Mythological television. You just switch the channels.”
“So, what are you doing in the sand?”
“I, my fine, hoofed friend, am going through changes myself. It’s a whole new painting, you know? A whole new work of art. Just listen. Is that wind, or is that bells? Is that chanting, or is that your breathing? You can’t really stop to find out. And where’s all the humans? There’s all kinds of new people coming into being, but what about the humans?”
I looked up and down the shore. She was the first person I had met that you could call human since everyone had disappeared from the Lab. But in a way, she didn’t feel human at all. “You’re a funny woman.”
The Woman in the Sand laughed. “I kinda am, aren’t I? I’m kinda famous for my sense of humor. Yes. Going through changes…everybody going through changes. Or maybe I’m just thinking. Maybe I just got back from that place where you’re taught to think,” looking up at the horizon. “Believe it or not, at one time there were a lot of people who wanted to be you. Especially one.” She looked at me and raised one bushy eyebrow.
“Who was that?” I felt myself change to human form.
“Ah,” she said, peering at me, looking at me up and down, “But you can change back and forth. Now that’s something. That’s funny. Now that I didn’t notice. Which is probably why those mad scientists loved you so much.”
I took a step back. I was going to try to cover myself, cup my genitals with my hands, but I forced myself not to. It was almost as if the sun was helping me, encouraging me to stand up straight. And when I had left the Lab that’s what it was like, when I stood in the sun, the real sun, for the first time, the sun that welcomed my skin, like a family, I had let the bloody sheet I had wrapped around myself in fall, and it had touched all of me, like the skin and the sun were talking. So different than the artificial lights, from my creation the only lights I had known.
The Woman in the Sand was staring directly at my penis and testicles, her eyes narrowing: “You don’t have to cover yourself. We’re all equals here,” she said slowly, thinking.
“I can’t really change myself. It just happens,” I said, relaxing a little. “But they didn’t love me. They couldn’t have loved me…everything they did.”
I remember when it happened, but I don’t remember how I saw things before the download, the one that gave me the knowledge, the knowledge that I was naked, that when I was a human I was the same as them, but I wasn’t because I didn’t have any clothes, but I should’ve had them, if I was a human, like them, I should be covered. I remember waking and trying to cover myself, but there was nothing, only a bare yellow room with all the scientists and technicians, the guards even, behind glass, laughing, smiling, typing data—another success, another step. But then later they would let me have a sheet or a towel, sometimes. They told me I changed so much that it was useless to give me clothes, no matter what form. But it was all part of the experiment. All part of their creation. In their faces fascination, superiority, disgust, laughter, but there must have been jealousy, too. There was always some undefinable yearning, undefinable fear. Yet now, it was as if my penis, my testicles, my whole body was sipping the sun, a part of it. And neither the sun nor my body would ever let it go.
I changed back to half-deer, half-human.
She was looking at my dewclaws. “I think this one would look good right there,” she said, picking it off with no more effort than a ripe berry. It didn’t even hurt. She placed it into the design right where the waves reached their closest point. “You got a cigarette, Deer-human? It’s one of my things—I always ask humanish types for cigarettes. And you do seem somewhat humanish.”
“No, I’m sorry, I don’t.”
“No matter,” she said, rolling flowers from her tray into a leaf and igniting it, but knowing I was watching her. Like a magician, a flame sprouted from her first and second right fingers. Clouds furled up on the horizon. A whale surfaced in the distance and waved a fin. She exhaled and waved back. Then a group of birds all seemed to tip their wings toward us as they passed. She waved at them, too.
“People wave to you,” I said, watching her smoke. She didn’t say anything, as if I hadn’t spoke, just lowered her eyebrows, and slowly inhaled and exhaled from her cigarette. “What happened when those people destroyed themselves way back? Who were they?”
“Ah,” she said, looking down again at the shells, “They were just people. Humans. People who used crystals for everything, all their power. And they could travel through the air using crystals and harness all kinds of energies. But technology is one thing. Technology is a very small thing. Technology is like the steam you leave when you breathe on glass. And like people this last time, there were many who decided to change things just because they could, just to see what would happen. So they began genetically engineering new beings, new forms, partially to make their lives better, but mostly because they had lost the beauty, the natural flow, of creativity. So that’s why there were beings like you, beings who were half-this and half-that, that had no place in the world, that were disposable. They even put them in arenas and forced them to fight each other. Or gave them drugs to make them mate, and they would film it. Or had sex with them themselves. Always recording. Always recording everything. That’s when it all started coming to a nice little end. Yes. They loved the power. What is it about power? I guess power has to be constantly fed because it doesn’t exist. Do you know that, Deerperson? There is no power. It’s like a billboard that keeps falling down in the wind. Like a skyscraper that keeps falling into the ground. And they had no idea what those crystals really were. Just like they had no idea what people like you really were. They had just created the forms and thought that’s all there was to it. They forgot there was something inside those forms that was beyond anything they could ever think of. And who knows why, but they wanted more power, more energy, the energy of the earth itself, so they began using the crystals to bore deep into the earth just to see what new power they could unleash. Like the earth was a toy. Some of the people knew what was happening and escaped in boats and ships and survived that way. And some were taken away in other ways by people from space, but most of them died. But in a way, they were covered in beauty: lava, smoke, ocean. Those are living beings, too, living beings who know a little more about change. Covered in beauty…although they would never know it. But this time, it was a little different, don’t you think?”
“I don’t know. I don’t know what really happened. All I know is something changed. All I know is when I woke up in the Lab all the technicians and doctors, all the humans were gone. Then I walked out. I never knew the Lab was on the sea. It’s strange because the music of the ocean, the waves, I think I could always hear it but I thought it was the machinery, the computers, the thoughts of the scientists. What did happen?”
“Well,” she said slowly—I think she could tell I wasn’t telling the whole truth—she was looking at the dewclaw in the design—she reached out and just touched it—“I guess you could just say that this time people set themselves free. At least on this earth.”
“Are there other earths?”
“There are other earths. It all depends on which way you walk down the beach. Or maybe some day you’ll decide to go back to that laboratory you were in, just to remember. Humans like to relive things.”
My whole body tightened. The microchips they had implanted in my nose and the back of my head tingled. Even the ones hidden in the tips of my antlers resonated. I’d never go back, even though it was abandoned, even though the scientists and all the people who kept that building running had walked away or disappeared and left the doors open—under that roof, within those rooms, remembering, just remembering, I’d never be free. It made me sick. It was true, I didn’t know what really happened, not all of it, mostly that there was a massive shift. But I had taken part in it, although I didn’t know the whole picture. And also there was what the horses told me. But they were always vague about what really took place just like I was. They always seemed to be hiding something, or averting something, even in their stories.
I was about to ask what really happened without revealing what I knew. She looked at me closely, zoning in on some of the scars that never seemed to heal, that I could always feel stretching painfully below the surface.
“Sometimes taking a walk is the only way to figure it all out. The mystery of the mystery,” she said. “Walking is creating.”
I looked at her ensconced in sand and shells. She didn’t look like she knew too much about walking. Then I looked at the flowers.
“Some of these have been around a long time,” she said in reply. “This is a new one.” She lifted a flower whose blue petals expanded and waved as if beneath the ocean, swelling and shrinking, almost like it was creating its own dance. “But you see, a new flower means new insects, new birds, even a new type of music—and it’s the other way around, too.”
“Did you make those?”
“Oh no. I’m just a patron of the arts. I’m like a good audience. At least most of the time very important. Everybody needs a good audience. Everybody needs some support. Even you.”
The tip of her flower-filled cigarette glowed as she breathed in, still eyeing me.
“Aren’t you killing them by burning them?” That was the thing about her, even though she was telling me things, things that I needed to know, it seemed like the Woman in the Sand knew a lot about death.
She exhaled and watched the plumes on the horizon. “Not really. They’re passing into other places. Watch the smoke. See. It’s shifting. Just like the earth. Slipping into another dimension.”
I thought about asking her if I could try, but I didn’t know about putting my lips on the same thing she did. I thought somehow I would change. Or age. Or just sink into the sand.
“But I see it’s time for you to go.” It was like she was listening to something in the air. “I see I’m actually more busy than I thought.”
I stood there, watching her smoke, not wanting to leave. It was an automated voice, possibly in my head. A strange monotone voice, but each word spoken by someone else: “Where you step you are placing a seed, but you have to move for the seed to grow.” I guess that’s true—you couldn’t just stick a seed in the ground, pat it down with your foot and just stand there, expecting it to break through your body. And I had four feet, or hooves, each like a pair of ebony teardrops, like seeds hugged together. Is this what they were for? Seeds everywhere. Just by looking, just by reaching, just by walking. This shore seemed endless as I looked down it into the mist. It was all so new I had to force myself to breath, to move forward step by step, to trust in something, maybe just the beach itself. I think if I didn’t have those four legs, which seemed to disappear and re-appear just at the right moments, I wouldn’t have remembered the Woman in the Sand. That we spoke. When I looked back, there was only a pile of shells.
There was nothing in my data, except in my dreams—the dreams before they began controlling them—like the Woman in the Sand. Which made me wonder what she said about the shift. I know I felt it when I woke up in the Lab and everyone was gone, not only the absence of people and the silence of the computers and electricity (as if they had abandoned it, too), but it seemed as if the actual air, the reality, even my own density, was different. This woman, and even the horses, how they came over the sea and how we dreamed together, didn’t match with the information that was downloaded into me. Data. Someone’s data. Did the scientists lie to me with their words, their data, or was this a different world? Since I had never left the Lab where I was created I didn’t know.
As I walked I thought about it. Most importantly, I thought about what the Woman in the Sand said: someone had wanted to be like me, more than anyone else, and more than anything else, but it seemed inconceivable. I can’t imagine anyone would want to be experimented on like I was, endlessly giving samples of blood, samples of tissue, of bone, submerged into 35 degree water to see if I would survive. Force-fed grass and leaves, moss, when I was a human and meat, deer meat and I think human tissue, when I was a deer. Bones broken to see how quickly I would heal. Waking with patches of my hair shaved. New stitches. New tubes. New drugs. New viruses. New bacteria. New implants. New surveillances. New humiliations. New thresholds of pain until they became one endless wave of suppression. Until I had to build walls. Walls with the data. Walls of acceptance as if it all had meaning. As if it all was for the purpose of helping the rest of humanity like they told me with their grim smiles. As if I would one day be a part of it. And when whatever new experiment was over they would put me in the artificial forest, the sound of birds, the sound of wind, all from speakers. For that’s what I was, too, something artificial, an experiment. An animal. A part animal. A creation. Something that wanted to be human. Something they constructed in less than two years. And a creation can always be changed.
I tried not to look at the sea, but it was impossible. What did it mean? Birds crossing. Geometrics just in movements, as if everyone knew each other’s placements. I wanted to let it all in, flow into my nose, into my eyes, open myself all the way, and then I could be just sand. The data was changing. With every bird, every new way the wind touched me, the way the waves reaching into the beach sounded like voices, I felt the data take new forms—new forms and also disappear, as if set free of whatever I was. Set free of the container. A village of gulls swelling on an endless mirror. I looked at the sand. There were other tracks. So many species. So many species who were just themselves, who were born here, born to mothers and fathers. But not a single human track, unless I changed. And with every step there was more, or sometimes less, to think about, as if the shore, the ocean, was teaching me new ways of thinking. Yet, why did the scientists let me know certain things, force me to know—all this data inside me, histories, the way, the order of existence’s functioning. And then there was this sea. Why did they let me know there was a world out there, that there wasn’t just this pain, this experiment? That the sensations I felt were called pain? And that people were born in other ways. To parents. Why did they let me know I am an experiment? They could’ve just fed me the data so I never would’ve known there were other possibilities. But maybe you always know. And I think they needed me to know certain aspects of the world in order to be used effectively. And I guess they could’ve never stopped my dreams. The data always said that dreams are products of the imagination, symbols, or just accumulations of images, fears, random collages. But my dreams never fit those definitions, even though when I awoke I’d try to believe that’s all they were, or forget them, wipe myself clean when I awoke, retranslate them into the forms of the data. But there were worlds in them that always left questions, beings I’d meet or see who were questions, too, especially when placed next to the information I was given, the world of the Lab.
“I’m gonna let you in,” I said to the ocean, facing it fully, trying to keep my eyes open, trying not to block it. “I don’t care what I become.” I don’t care what I become. It was my third day since I walked out. Three days and I had actually seen more somehow than the thousands of years of history within me, the images, drawings and photos, films, documents, as if I was someone’s library, an archive that had nothing to do with the sea. A sandpiper with its whirring black legs ran with the lips of the reaching waves, curving its sprints to the whispering lobes, then chasing them back, looking, probing into the sand. As I walked it kept up with me. And I was thinking and it was eating, or maybe it was thinking, too. Pecking beneath a band of gleaming kelp. Then on. The water had touched my hooves and it had felt so good, someone touching me—and the wind, like speaking, like listening, but I hadn’t yet gone in, even up to my knees. All the dried blood that had covered me when I left the Lab had mostly fallen away just from walking and from changing, from lying down in the sand, from being pressed between the horses. But I could still smell the iron. It was like dust. Dust with memories. I tried to see if the sandpiper was watching me, but it just kept working away along the flexing shore, along the whispering. Maybe the sea was saying the same thing: “I’m gonna let you in. I don’t care what I become.”
Those are the things I thought as I walked, as the wind touched my body. I kept looking out over that mind-blowing expanse of water, kept trying to let more and more in. Then I saw them. The horses. They came toward me over the sea. It was late afternoon. They were two dots growing and pulling down the sun. Real sun. Real distance. They galloped on the diamonds of sunlight, sending up small showers of coins that were swallowed into the water. They were earlier than usual. For the last two nights they had come when it was almost dark. But now they came in the full sun. Intent. Gleaming bodies. Both with black manes. One grey, one buckskin.
“Little Brother,” neighed the Grey one as they circled me. I was fully a deer. My body always changed into a full deer body when they came into view.
“It’s Little Brother,” said the Buckskin.
Their faces were full of irony and laughter, compassion that was so intense that it became something else, ferocity maybe, or chaos. They dodged as they circled me, as if tempting me to escape, then settled down and smelled my whole body. It was like being touched by surges of warm wind. Examined. Pulled by the magnitude of two, powerful islands. And it seemed to go through you, those breaths, from one horse’s nostrils to the other.
“Have you always come over the water?” I asked as the Grey horse grabbed one of my antlers in its teeth, testing its firmness.
“We came to play with you,” said the Buckskin, reaching its forehead under my stomach and lifting me.
Then they looked at each other over my back: “We came to take a load off,” the Grey said.
“To tell stories.”
They were huge compared to me. I wished I could keep them on each side of me forever. And their smell. Intoxicating. It twined and merged with the smell of the sea. I wanted to ask questions, but I don’t think the horses cared. Long lashes so vibratory. So elegant. Closing your eyes to finish a statement. Stomping to say that the earth agrees. I felt it, too. And then we played. I think for the first time it felt good to be a deer through and through. And as the sun sank, lower and lower, growing, closing its eye, I never changed. We chased each other through the hot sand. They had the power, but I was quick. The Buckskin laughed, bit my ass, and spun away into the water. I chased him and fell, scrambling to my feet and blowing out a nose full of sea. As he pranced past me, I got my tines into his brown behind and we laughed all the way to the shore.
“Ooooowwww! Wait, it was a mistake!” he neighed, and when I stopped he spun and whipped me with his tail, and we were off again.
The water had cleared something away. There were energy channels everywhere that the horses used. They drew them into their dilating nostrils and rode them, sensing and leaping from one highway to another, so every lunge and pound and sprint was lifted. It gave them energy. If you didn’t know they were there, didn’t use them, in a way, you’d have to use more of your own energy to pass through. And the blood crusted on my body, I could smell it, see it, as the sea took it. There was more than I thought—a crimson flower that grew so big it disappeared. I submerged my whole body. The sea, it was cold and fresh.
When I emerged we stopped and listened. Wind. Energy channels. The sea’s whispers. But something else. Currents of information. Somewhat human in a way. Thriving. It was like a wind, too. Something becoming itself.
“Do you hear that?” I asked, breaking the spell.
“You mean my stomach?” the Buckskin laughed.
“Your stomach?” said the Grey, dipping its head. “Time to eat.”
“Time to eat.”
“Time to eat.”
“Time to eat.”
They were tearing out huge clumps and grinding them into their faces. It wasn’t their stomachs I heard. It was something like the machinery in the Lab. The walls of the Lab, the rooms—there was thinking there that ran down specific channels that were created by humans. But this was different. This was the thinking of computers that was beyond human control, beyond definition.
I nibbled from the tenderer, greener new growth at the base of the hummocks. The sun was getting low, shedding colors as if some new artist had stepped in. The Grey one got its forearms over the lower limbs of a tree and shook it. Apples, small and firm, fell everywhere.
They said, crushing them and swallowing.
“That’s funny, I didn’t know apples grew on trees.” Not from a human’s hands. Not brought out at a certain time. It’s funny. It’s almost as if they had purposely left that out of my downloads.
But the leaves of the apple tree never fell when the horse shook it. They sailed out toward the falling sun in a flock and disappeared. Apples don’t just come from scientists. I should’ve known.
The rest of the evening we played, we danced. The energy channels changed as the night seeped in. Every time you blinked, the colors were denser. Everything was deepening. The energy poured up from the meeting of the sea and sand, too, like shafts of an aurora. The horses ran and spun, reared, so the sprays of green and safire where the sea and sand met were beneath them, between their legs, crossing their bellies. It was like a dance that used these fans of energy and light as an element, a motif. At the same time they drew the other energy channels of the air into their noses and you could see it passing out like glowing filaments through their blowing tails. I was leaping from channel to channel and suddenly flew across their backs.
“Little Brother! Little Brother!” they yelled, kicking up sand and water from their hooves.
It was so exciting. I leapt again. It was so easy. And I just touched them with my hooves, touched them just where I think they needed to be touched, along those beautiful spines. It was like if you knew how to use those energy channels you could do almost anything. We laughed so hard we fell down. The horses got up and sauntered toward the grass. They lay down back to back, their heads facing out to sea. I looked out. The sun was gone. My knees ached, my hooves ached, but there’d been so much energy—now just a glow. Where the waves reached up and pulled back, gentle snakes of iridescence. I limped over. This was the third night I slept with them, the third night since I’d left the Lab.
“Come on, Little Brother,” said the horses, back to back, forming their safe, welcoming cave. That’s when I saw something like blankets over chairs, over a table, a little house, pinned together quilts. And safety, ownership. I collapsed into the warmth. Another memory downloaded. Another scientist wishing their childhood could last forever. The chip in my nose and in the back of my head tingled. It’s funny. I would’ve thought that after everyone disappeared they would’ve stopped, would’ve deactivated, but they continued, as if the chips had minds of their own, or as if someone, someone who remained after the change was listening, still online in my system. If they were directing me, I would never know, and I would never know why and where I was going, what my hands, my body, were actually performing (for someone else, someone else’s intention, someone else’s gain), just like before when I was their weapon, they never let me know the purpose.
I do remember when I knew almost nothing, nothing but fear and wonder, where I would hold objects if I could, if they’d let me, hold them for my life, for stability, wrap my legs around them, cradle them in my hands. But I was never allowed to touch the scientists themselves. Then at a certain point when my awareness solidified, they started injecting me, working on me in my sleep. I’d awake as they slid the tubes from my veins, press the punctures with gauze, and I knew more. Then came the detoxifications, and I’d drink the white liquid that drew out the extra metals. But I think it was through the implants, the chips they surgically positioned in my antlers, and the back of my head and nose, and the last one they placed way later in the center of my forehead, where the downloading really took place. They’d activate and then there’d be a reaction in my muscle tissue, my veins, and there it would be: information about geography, plants, people, history—but I knew there was more. I knew it was information they selected. And it was when they surgically placed the last microchip in the center of my forehead that I began to change. The scientists always seemed so smug about everything. As if everything was part of their plan. They didn’t let me touch them but I was allowed to use their names. But now, now that I was free, if I spoke them, spoke those scientists’ names, I felt they would keep living, that if I spoke their names it would keep them alive, help them grow, and they would hear me, find me—it would be like feeding the dead back into existence.
“We’ll tell you a human story.”
The horses hooked necks for a moment.
“You know what I am?” I asked, surprised. I had always been fully a deer when I was with them. But the way he said human I knew they already knew I was something else.
“Of course,” said the Grey.
“It’s like the energies. Like the shore where the water ends. You got seams, too.”
“Where are they?”
“Ahh, it’s hard to describe. Maybe around your antlers. Around your hooves. They’re seams, anyway. It’s where the energy comes out and makes a bridge.”
“Yeah. But energy flocks to it, too.”
“So it’s not a bad thing?” I asked.
They waited a second: “No.”
“It’s not a totally human story,” said the Grey.
“No. It’s about horses, too.”
I could tell they were talking to each other on another level. Somehow, I could feel it.
The Grey sneezed, shook its head, and began: “Sometimes the seasons change and humans don’t change with them. Humans are like that. They want to eat the same things, they want to act the same way, even though the snow is falling, even though the sea is frozen. They want to be comfortable. It’s like a habit. But seasons start from within. And it’s the human’s outer self, their shell, that misses the whole thing. The thing they think is themselves is really more like a mask.”
“Yeah. They’re crazy animals, stomping the ground, all stubborn, refusing to move when it’s time to move, then when they realize they’re all alone, that they got left behind, that they fucked up, that they destroyed their own food, they gotta run their asses off to catch up with everyone else when they could’ve just listened to the wind,” said the Buckskin.
They seemed to talk silently again.
The Grey nodded. “That’s what happened to this one human, Jon Paul, although he knew it more than most people. He knew something had changed. That he was behind, behind his true self.”
“Humans,” said the Buckskin, “I wish we weren’t fuckin tied up with them.” There was a silence. He shifted away from me just an inch. “Sorry.”
“That’s alright,” I said. “I’m not completely human.”
“Not when you’re with us,” he replied.
The Grey spoke in a cautious voice: “Sometimes I think humans feel the pull, the pull of the earth, and they become more human than anything, more like their masks, just to hang on to what they think they know.”
“Yeah,” said the Buckskin, his voice darkening. You could tell he couldn’t really contain himself even though he was trying. “Yeah, right. And hang on to what? They don’t even know what they are. They think they made themselves by going in the other direction of what’s natural.” His heart was beating hard.
The Grey’s heart had speeded up, too, not as much, but it was faster: “But things have changed,” he said. “I guess I gotta get that through my head, too. Things changed. I’m working on it just like you are,” he said, twisting his head back to look directly at the Buckskin.
“Yeah. Things have changed. But that doesn’t change what happened.”
“Alright. Alright,” the Grey said. “I know. I know. I know just like you do. But the story’s more important than any of it. The story knows how to change.”
The Buckskin moved away another inch. You could tell he was battling whether to get up and walk back into the sea.
“What’d you think?” said his friend, “We can tell it together. We can change it together.”
After a moment they locked necks again. They pulled together tighter. For a second I was squeezed between them. The Buckskin dropped his head and sighed, closing his eyes tight.
The Grey started again: “So…I guess stories are made to change. They change even without you trying. This story is a lot different from when it happened. That’s our job, to tell it enough times until it becomes something else. Tell it enough times so there isn’t even a beginning. That’s everybody’s job—to let the story free.” The Grey waited, I think hoping his friend would join in. Then he went ahead: “So, he was going to get married—Jon Paul was going to get married—but something was wrong, something was missing. They were staying on their friend’s land, him and his fiancé. Their friends had just got married themselves, and were building their own house, getting back to the land, as humans say.”
“Not a bad plan,” said Buckskin, finally.
Grey laughed, “Right. Not a bad plan. But he didn’t love her, or, he loved her just as another person, a friend. He was just doing what he thought was right. You know how that goes. And that was their plan, too, just like their friends: start gardens, build their own small house out of natural materials, live in the country under the stars, just like people used to. Leave a small imprint. Use everything. Except—“
“Except, there was something else,” said the Buckskin.
“Yes, it was almost like he wasn’t alive right where you were supposed to be more alive than anywhere, where the air was clean. And the thing was, he knew how to garden, to cook, he had a way with plants, and with other beings,” said the Grey, almost as if he could see it.
The Buckskin added, his eyes closed: “And she was thinking: ‘Oh, I got The One—we’ll have kids and feed the kids all this good food and teach them how to live the right way.’”
“Right. And she was right. But living the right way doesn’t mean much when you’re not breathing the wind.”
“Yeah. Your own wind. But, it’s funny cause she was breathing her own wind.”
“Oh, for sure. They were just different people. Just different winds.”
“But then one day a woman showed up,” said the Buckskin.
“Yes. A strange van pulled up, and a plain, blond woman, and a man who stood back as if he was her assistant, just showed up one day.”
It had gotten pretty dark. As I listened, I laid my face over the Buckskin’s ribs and gazed further down the coast. Out in the night sea, a blue-white light glowed. Shafts of it fingered up into the sky out of the water itself.
“Wait. Do you see the light out there?” I asked.
The Grey twisted his head around and the Buckskin lifted his to look.
“It must be a long ways away,” I said.
“Visitors,” said the Buckskin.
“Yeah. Visitors beneath the sea. We’ve come close to them. But our jobs don’t take us that far down the coast,” said the Grey.
“At least not right now.”
“Right. We have this section. We can’t really leave it yet.”
“Visitors from where?”
“Don’t really know. But it’s a ship,” said the Buckskin.
“A space ship,” the Grey added.
“Don’t worry. You’re headed that way. You’ll find out soon enough.”
“Yeah. And you can come back and tell us.”
“I will,” I said, watching the slow, pulsing shafts as they continued.
“But there was something different about the van,” said the Grey, settling back in.
“It had a purpose.”
“Yes, it was like a medical van, like an ambulance, and yet, it was something else, something similar, something maybe parallel. And the woman who got out of the van just started talking. Jon Paul and his fiancé just stood there, Jon Paul trying to fit his memories into what this blonde woman that came in the van was saying, that they were old friends and worked together as types of EMTs, going on special assignments, for years—and his fiancé getting more and more disturbed, really seeing that he had this whole other history, or personality, because, really, she only saw him as what he was to her, as a future husband and future father to her children.”
The Buckskin added: “Yeah, but he didn’t even know that history himself. ‘It’s possible,’ he thought, ‘It’s possible I just jumped onto a different channel, but it’s also possible it never happened, like she’s just making it up. But, either way, why me?’ he was thinking. ‘Why is this happening?’”
“And he looked into his history and couldn’t really find anything, as if his mind had been wiped clean by all those ideals, by that place, all those ideas of living the right way. And he realized he was outnumbered by where he was, all those people going in a certain direction, his fiancé and her friends, getting back to the land, and him just following along, although the others considered him one of the leaders cause he was good at whatever he put his mind to,” said the Grey.
“It’s funny how things work that way.”
“‘I just heard you were here, and came by for old time sake, just to say hi. You look good, healthy,’ said the woman from the van. Then she turned to his fiancé: ‘Jon Paul was the best. I can’t tell you how many Beings we saved. He just always had a sense of what universe we were in and how to get back—plus, he could communicate with anything, even what you people would call “evil” because he could find it in himself and not be afraid of it. That’s rare. You’re a lucky girl.’ And that caught her. Why was she lucky, just because this woman in a funky van said so? She wasn’t lucky at all. She worked hard to find the right person, and part of it was she worked on him, too—she had made him into something. ‘Jon Paul, what does she mean by Beings?’ ‘I’m not sure I know,’ he said. But he did. That was another thing that made him different. ‘And what did she mean by Universes?’ He didn’t reply because he was feeling some kind of excitement. It wasn’t that he could remember any of it, but he did remember the thrill of doing what you love, what you’re geared for. ‘Who is this woman, Jon Paul? Why didn’t you ever tell me about her? And that life, or whatever you had? What is this?’ And he had tried to tell her, just that there was something else, that there were other worlds, or a dream about flying, and she’d say: ‘I want us to teach our kids to talk about their dreams. I just read it’s supposed to help them be more integrated, fuller people.’ But she never wanted to listen to his dreams or talk about her own, it was always these things they were going to help their kids do or become. Everything was for these future kids. There was nothing now.”
“’Yeah, Jon Paul was the best,’ continued the woman from the van, smiling ‘We’re just about to go on this mission. I just got the message on the way here. Which is perfect, cause just looking at you I can draw some inspiration. Jon Paul’s a great inspirer,’ she added to his fiancé. ‘You wouldn’t know it, but just being with him gives you energy. Oh, I’m sorry—what is your name again?’ ‘Gaia,’ his fiancé said, icily. ‘Oh. That’s a beautiful name.’ The man she came with had been leaning against the van, watching the whole time. He pushed himself off, opened the back doors and said: ‘We gotta go,’ and stepped inside. ‘Well, good to see ya,’ said the blonde woman. She turned to go. ‘And what’s your name?’ asked his fiancé. ‘My name’s Prunella. A lot of people just call me Prune.’ She climbed behind the wheel. It wasn’t true, thought Jon Paul. None of it. But the passenger seat was empty, and as soon as he placed himself there, it would be true. Or history wouldn’t matter cause he’d be in the zone. And suddenly, he let go.”
“He felt the wind.”
“He felt the wind inside him.”
“And how could you explain that to a human?” the Buckskin said.
I’d been gazing at the lights. The horses’ heads were pointed toward the sea. The Buckskin was watching it, too. Blue-white shafts arced in its open eye. The glow didn’t seem that far out from the shore, but from this distance it was hard to tell. Maybe a full days’ walk would get me there. From that base aura, shafts shot up, touching individual stars, caressing them, before they fell. Music. Bridges. The distances, the order, even the speed, thickness, the density, the hues of the shafts, and which stars they touched, built something structurally, internally, as I watched. And if I opened myself, I almost knew which star was next.
“He got in,” said the Grey. “It didn’t matter. He would’ve looked back at her, at his fiancé, but that didn’t matter, either. And it was funny cause he didn’t remember anything. There was no big opening of a hidden past. He was just doing what he loved.”
“Even though he’d never done it before.”
“Even though he had never done it before. Even though he had never done it before, he was doing it, and that was all the background he would ever need.”
“Jon Paul. Jon Paul was cool.”
“Prune looked at him. He could feel the man behind him in the back of the van looking at him, too,” said the Grey. “He closed his eyes. And he felt inside himself. ‘Blue,’ he said slowly, letting the words come. ‘Dank blue full of a broken electricity, an electricity that doesn’t have a home. Blue afraid of becoming blue.’ Prune and her assistant closed their eyes and imagined it. “Blue that thinks of itself as ugly and wants to become it, become ugly so that no one can say that it was ever destined to be anything else. No one can say that it ever failed to be the blue of blue because it only shows the exact opposite. And in the center there’s a music. Let it build itself. Let it come into being.’ And suddenly they were in a different location. They opened their eyes, shaking their heads and wiping their faces to clear themselves. They got out and walked into a building. It was like an old country inn like they have for humans passing through from city to city, needing to stop for a drink, or stay the night. There was a man behind the bar. He was large, rotund, with a bearded face that was probably more natural being jolly and carefree, but now was set in a wary, defensive crimp. He didn’t say anything. He just watched them. You could tell, though, even though he had that jadedness, and a sort of power through his size, there was something missing—all that surliness wasn’t really his.”
“Humph,” said the Buckskin.
“But still, he was there. It’s true. But once they were inside, they saw it was no ordinary building. From the inside the building was three sided. There was no back wall, only the rise of a gentle hill that turned into trees. Where the wall should’ve been, a little ten foot deep ravine with a creek separated the inside of the inn from the slope and forest.”
The horse’s hearts were beating faster, but the shafts from the space ship seemed to slow, yawning up into the night. The stars they touched pulsing. But, it could’ve been my heart had speeded, too. I didn’t know what to make of the story or, if like stories are supposed to, it had anything to do with me. I just listened and watched, sore from the day. Sore from being free. Happy. Even though they had different bodies than me I think these horses were my friends.
“Prune looked up the slope and then at the crick through the missing back wall: ‘Well, it’s better than some shitty wall paper. And it looks like there’s a spring coming out of the side of the ravine. I think the crick actually starts there,’ she said, pointing about thirty yards up the ravine to the right. ‘What do you think, Jon Paul?’ her assistant, who had positioned himself between Prune and Jon Paul and the bartender, said: ‘We’re at the right place. The Dimensional Locator says so,’ looking down at the devise in his hand. Jon Paul opened himself, breathing in as if the whole space, the whole world was his lungs: ‘They’re in the trees. Hidden,’ he said, stepping toward the opening. ‘Hey, you can’t go in there,’ grunted the bartender, coming out from behind the bar. ‘Why not?’ said Prunella. ‘Because only one person can go in there. And he’s not here. That’s the rule.’ ‘The rule? Who made it?’ ‘Yeah, who made the rule?’ said her assistant. Suddenly, the bartender stopped and thought about it. His face changed: ‘Well, I guess he did.’ ‘And you own this place?’ ‘Yeah, I own it. I actually do own it.’ Jon Paul felt himself migrating, looking out of the bartender’s eyes. And he sensed how beautiful and simple the bartender was deeper down beneath the crust, and that he missed someone deeply—a child? a wife?—that he had stumbled onto an unnatural channel at some point in his life, a dark path, that had drained his life somewhere else, to someone else. ‘Then you don’t mind if we take a look in those trees,’ said Prune. ‘I…I guess I don’t see why not. But I don’t own the land beyond the ravine.’ Slowly, the bartender’s face was changing, gaining color, relaxing. He went back to the bar, to one of the stools where customers sit, and put his face in his hands. ‘Let’s go,’ said Jon Paul. The assistant stayed behind. They slid and climbed down and up the ravine, and walked up the slope into the trees. And that’s when they found them.”
The Buckskin was silent. I don’t think he was even breathing. The Grey stopped speaking. Creatures migrated up in the sky out to sea from inland, many high up. One group flew in a spiral, uncoiling and tightening in a long curl, like slow breaths, like a breathing cursive. I couldn’t discern their individual shapes, passing between our bed and the ceiling of packed stars, only the organization, the tempo, as they flew. I don’t think they were birds. I turned my head to the side on the Buckskin’s ribs, feeling the warmth. A whole universe, blood, food, fermentation, cities of cells, highways, even skies of flatulence, beneath the tight, warm, intoxicating skin. Voices, songs against my long ear. I rotated it so every bit of its rim wedded to this dimension, this galaxy, as we laid in the sand.
“When they found the horses, Jon Paul broke out in tears. He couldn’t believe it. ‘I guess we seen worse,’ said Prunella, setting her face. Then she said: ‘There’s spells here,’ stepping forward, ‘Also known as laws. But laws don’t apply quite the same when you see everything as part of yourself, as your family,’ putting her hands on the bars. ‘Hello, beautiful brothers,’ Jon Paul said, wiping his tears, stepping forward, ‘I love you,’ opening the first corral that had been wired shut. Prunella opened the other.”
The Buckskin finally breathed: “Corral.”
“Yes. Cages. Prisons. The horses had just enough room to turn around and that’s it.”
“In the muck and piss and shit, over their ankles.”
“And they were like skeletons.”
“And they’d been wild once.”
“Wild and free.”
“Freer than us.”
“Yeah. Free like real horses. Out underneath the open skies.”
“And the channels so long, you could follow just one forever.”
“Humans just the blinking stars and pollution of their metal birds.”
“Just dust clouds in the distance.”
We lay there breathing together. Then the Grey spoke: “The horses stepped out with their broken bodies. There were two of them. One had a huge patch of missing hair. ‘I been trying to kill myself,’ he said, ‘by losing my hair, but there’s a power spot at the bottom of my ribs I can’t get past. But, I guess now it doesn’t matter.’ Their eyes were sunken and clouded over, their feet infected.”
“What is a power spot?” I asked.
“It’s a place where energy, or life, radiates out. It’s like a well from where things unfold, but it’s on different places for everyone,” the Grey said, lifting and looking back at me. “On that horse, it was right where your head is resting now. ‘We been here two years, eaten by the flies and mosquitoes in summer, barely able to move in this mud and piss, once in a while a bucket of rotted grain, freezing in the winter, listening to the coyotes and wolves howling. I guess they were hungry, too.’ ‘We were once free,’ said the other, ‘We came from the plains.’ ‘But why?’ asked Jon Paul, putting his hands on the horse’s bald skin and giving it energy. The horse leaned into him. ‘Power.’ ‘Power,’ they said.”
“Which doesn’t exist,” I said.
“Which doesn’t exist,” said the Grey.
“Jealousy,” said the Buckskin.
“Then the horses laid down together. Prune and Jon Paul lay down with them even though they were covered in filth. Jon Paul reached out and stroked Prune’s temple with the back of his fingers, his other hand on the horse’s bare, raw skin, healing it.”
“They all dreamed together.”
“Yes. Later, Jon Paul woke and slipped away to talk to the bartender. He was crying, saying he was sorry, that he knew what the man who brought the horses was doing, but it was legal, you could do pretty much anything you want to an animal, and the man had all this power, he was friends with people with money, people who ran the county, and he had this sorta power over people—it was weird, it was like he was always reaching inside you, but it was so hard to explain—you just knew people wouldn’t believe you, they’d think you’re crazy. Or they’d say you’re crazy just to protect themselves. But the bartender said he should’ve never let it happen. ‘Why, why did I let it happen?’ he was crying, ‘I just knew they would take my business away from me, fine me, make everything so hard, pull me over and ticket me every time I tried to drive, so I didn’t stop it. But I should’ve. I should’ve.’ The only thing Jon Paul could do was close his eyes and say: ‘I been there, too.’ When he got back, the horses stood up and thanked them. ‘We’ll find you a good place to live,’ said Jon Paul. ‘No,’ said the horses, ‘We know what we’re going to do.’ ‘What are you going to do?’ ‘Kill him. We’re going to hunt him down and kill him. The man who put us here. We just dreamed it.’ And they nodded their heads and set off, disappearing into the trees.”
“Hm,” said the Buckskin. “Humans discovering what they created.”
“Yes. Jon Paul thought he failed: ‘Kill him? But that won’t help anything.’ Prune looked at him and touched his temple with her fingers just as he had to her: ‘Our job wasn’t to make everything alright, it was just to open the door.’”
“You kill somebody, and then you walk on the water,” said the Buckskin in a strange way, almost emotionless.
We all were still for a moment.
“Yes. Everything shifted after that,” said the Grey, thinking. “But, you know, it was about to shift. Those two should’ve known that, I guess.”
The Buckskin snorted: “Hmmph! Oh, yeah? You can’t know everything. And maybe they shifted it. Maybe they shifted it by killing him. That’s what I think.”
They were talking to each other again. Their hearts pounding. I wanted to help them. I wanted to help them figure it out. But I could barely keep my eyes open, didn’t have the energy to feel down beneath the surface, find their channel. And I don’t think they would’ve listened. The space visitors’ lights were flowers, fingers. The horses’ bodies had tightened during the story. And their hearts—it was like being between two drums. But finally, they relaxed and spread. I felt like a pool of water held between them.
“But now it’s time to sleeeeeeep,” said the Grey with a big long exhale.
“Oh, yeah,” said the Buckskin.
“We worked hard today.”
“It was a good day,” murmured the Buckskin, breath deepening.
I felt my body, as we slept, change into half-deer, half-human. But in my dreams I stayed a deer. And we dreamed together. We raced back out onto the sea, my hooves kicking up all the coins of the moon. When the horses dreamed, their dreams were full of night, and it was almost like we became those channels of energy: the channels that we used in order to play during the day is part of who our dream-spirits were, vast and present. To be another wind, a wind that most humans didn’t know. Horses. What do they do? What is their purpose? What would a human say? To pull things? To carry things? To be eaten? To be looked at? To be owned? To be painted? To dream? To have dreams of horses. Inner forms and outer forms. How do you honor both? How do you see them as one?
There were cities out on the sea, cities made of light: spires, houses, all like crystal, as if a unknown reef had arisen. But made out of the translucent, multi-colored burning when you narrow your eyes at a sunlit sea. And what did we do? We just ran through the streets. Jumped through windows. Looked in on people. Especially babies. Some kids looked up, reached out, and remembered what was inside them. Just wind. Wind you felt on another skin. On and on. No thoughts at all. And because no thoughts, it all could’ve happened in a second. Yet those cities, and everything else we passed through those three nights on the sea, without the horses, I don’t think I could ever find them again. Or maybe they were just regular cities. The people looked real as anything. Maybe they were cities before they solidified into cement and steel. The sound of our hooves on the water was a different kind of gait. An opening. And then we were back out onto the open sea, to bend the water on the moonlit waves that had burst into grasses, carry seeds on our jeweled flanks, blow the pelagic foliage into new configurations, things they couldn’t do themselves, and just run all out as the night deepened.
It was toward dawn that my form shifted to totally human. The two huge, breathing bodies still held me in their warmth. It felt so good to be naked, naked against the horses’ skin. The stars were closer. And yet, they moved. Something was staring down at me, examining me. Long tendrils of hair. Sea-like. A woman made of night. I could see her breasts. And between her legs, clusters, curls, nebulas of blue-white stars. And eyes like the sea beneath. I think she was wondering what I was. The only difference between her and the night was she wasn’t in the sky.
I’d missed hearing the Horse Stories. The ones that were just about horses. Now I only remember one or two, fragments really—the stories dissolved to find nooks in your awake life. Like biting your nails and tasting what you ate the night before. But those stories weren’t human. They had the potential to become human if you let them. Probably if you changed your idea of what human means. But it seemed like the story they told was important to them. And probably to me, too. Their ‘Human Story.’
When I awoke, the horses were gone. Their hoof-prints disappeared into the calm sea. My hooves and legs ached. I fell down twice before I finally straightened. I blinked hard and shook my antlers. I remembered that somewhere toward dawn there had been a woman made of night. But I couldn’t be sure it was real. I had seen her and then been sucked back down into sleep.
I spent the day walking, thinking, remembering, heading steadily toward the light beneath the sea, the space visitors’ ship, invisible beneath the sun now (although I sensed a signal radiating out). I dozed beneath the trees that leaned over the beach, sore, but stronger. I still saw, felt, the channels of energy musicaling the air. Without the horses, they were fainter, yet I could still see them. And as I walked, I tasted things. Raspberry leaves. Willow. Cottonwood buds. Strawberry leaves where the smooth beach fell away from the sharp beach grass, trailing out from other roots. All with their own energy. Then I’d have to sleep, as if sucked into a space that was cleared, a new ground to be filled with the forest, the air, the vast sea, of myself. Sleep. Sleep. Then awake again. The beach hotter so I had to walk within the waves. Then eat more. I tried everything that glowed in a particular way that matched the breeze. Then I knew it would be alright. It was all medicine. The sunlight seemed to penetrate deep into my body to make it grow. I even tried a cedar draped over a cold creek that crossed the beach. Around my mouth I rolled the tangy ball, and felt a glowing surge that wasn’t quite right for the time of year.
And then there was the music of my antlers. When I came near certain trees, they’d hum in completely different ways. I pressed them against a Sumac’s corky trunk, then slid my tines up into the velvet branches. Strange lines of sound poured out and flew over the waves. As they did, swallows appeared and rode the contours of sound out like a wind, disappearing until they returned, arcing, slicing, their mouths bristling with dragonfly wings. I rubbed the branches deep into the scalp between my antlers. Then I remembered. The fingers. The latex gloves. How they’d pet me. As if this was all I would ever want. I hated it, hated their smell, but eventually after the pain—whatever new thing they wanted to do—then I wanted it, I wanted a pulse against my pulse, some form of tenderness, even though it wasn’t real. They thought this was funny, and took it further. Everything they noticed, every reaction, they noted, and tried to duplicate. Tried to see how close my emotions were to human emotions, even though I was a creation. I’m surprised they didn’t use their genetics, and all the data they downloaded into me, to make me love them, but I’m sure they were working on it, downloading information, tweaking it, adding to the biology. Creating. Their project. Their work. But then it would happen. Somehow, when I calmed down I would say things, just words that came into my head from them, from some deep place in them, and they’d stop, eyes widened, not understanding how I could speak their thoughts. I don’t know how I channeled those words from them. I think it was because, despite everything, I wanted them to like me, to have friends—I wanted them to see that I could think. Sometimes they would cry. Then they would lock me in the blue room, the one with the starfish, the clouds, the dolphins, puffins, all with human smiles—the room with the moon beneath the sea, smiling, too. A human child’s room. Or in their simulated forest. And watch me. But I could feel it was different. They were watching me not with their cold, sarcastic intellects, but with their emotions, their fears. But what were the words? I’d make up some story, just about some people, or repeat sentences that came into my head, hoping. Sometimes a song. And my voice would change as the words came out of them through me. After this happened a few times, after they couldn’t stop it, they locked me in the forest for a long time. I listened to the humming. Within it, I sensed them. They were thinking about me differently. We were both trying to recover. Some of the scientists who worked with me never returned after that. Except the two who were with me from the beginning, the first faces I can say I truly remember. When they finally came back, they’d just talk to me. They knew I had abilities, talents they didn’t put into the design. This was the way they could discover them. Just by being nonchalant, even pretending to gossip about each other, revealing their own secrets that were really not secrets but were created by scientists sitting together, making their plans. That’s how they found out that sometimes I dreamed awake. That I could travel in my sleep without ever losing my normal consciousness. They had to describe to me the difference. Another ability. Another thing that made me special. Another potential weapon. And, of course, they pretended they had put this ability inside me. I could tell they had worked on themselves, trained themselves, and even taken chemicals, to not be emotionally affected by what I said.
That evening horses didn’t return. I knew it, but waited for them anyway, watching the waves as night fell. I curled in the beach grass and listened. Ah, listening to the twilight. Listening to the sunset. Rotating my ears. Everyone busy, making way for the new artists of night. And the sun spreading, giving all of us on the beach a domed stage with a hidden orchestra sending their colors into the slim clouds, like wings burning. It was like I was a part of it just being there, which was a crazy thing, as if we all got together and held the sunset into being. I could feel my energy riding out into the colors.
And when it got dark the lights started again. I was closer. I didn’t make much progress that day, but I thought maybe tomorrow I’d get there. It was funny. During the day, birds flew from branch to branch or from one part of the shore to another, slept in the sun, or swept out over the waves and returned. Some passed by, following the shore. But at night a different migration occurred. Those beings I had seen the night before, whoever they were, sailed out again over the sea. Some formations must’ve been extremely high. Diamonds. Spirals. Grids. Long tendrils of filaments channeling their flight in curling streams. All heading out, distinguishing and revealing stars, bisecting clusters, like musical codes.
But beings also came out of the sea. About one hundred yards down the beach they began to appear, their dark forms emerging from each soft wave. The moon rose in the east, inland, joining the night, three or four days past full. Maybe fifteen of these people strode up the sand’s silver incline, one by one. Humans. But their energy was different. I didn’t feel that clashing and stifling of emotion, that magnetic chaos. I rolled up over the lip of beach where the grass began and crawled closer. They had arrayed themselves into sitting positions facing back out to the waves. Erect. Still. Statues. Human towers. But they were different. Their heads were not human. They were shaped like satellite dishes facing the night. They scanned slowly back and forth. Radars. Human bodies carrying receivers. Listening. It was funny because I could see how natural it was, these radar faces, perfectly round concavities with some device extending from their middle. It was almost normal. They were the first humans I’d seen on the shore since the Woman in the Sand, if you could call any of them human. Maybe part human. I wondered what lab they were constructed in, maybe a lab far out in the sea.
Whales blew glistening fountains way out. These Dish People had no eyes as far as I could tell. I crawled closer. Upended to my right as I faced out, a huge stump with its wild, petrified wig of roots, was half buried in the grass and sand. It must’ve been washed up long ago. A skunk’s moon-sparkled eyes gazed out from its tunnel at the base. Primroses flanked its face, like bells of platinum. We were watching together. The sea shimmered. It seemed like everyone, even the moon, was searching, waiting. Glissandos of fins, tails, spouts—whales rolling themselves in glittering fabrics of the night ocean. The skunk edged out further so I could see its ivory bands. Molecules—were they really that small?…some of them seemed the size of eyeballs in the blueness, as if the shimmering pebbles the waves played and arranged had lifted, or the pebbles were the night air’s shells, their fallen coats of armor. And between my antlers something was changing, too. Something was growing, expanding the distance between them.
The Dish People were concentrating up into the sky above the whales. A red cloud, a blush of amethyst, formed above the sea, an oval, a color cloud, a tone cloud, at least a half mile in diameter, shaped like a huge egg, ethereal. My ears were rotating, feeling into it, listening. We were all listening together. Was listening and seeing the same, and humans had just decided to make some type of separation? That beautiful blush was glowing, deepening. It was almost like a huge planet of mist forming above the sea. The Dish People were making slight adjustments, you could tell, but still so erect, concentrated. There was an aural tone in there, in the center of the blushing night, deep within the color. I almost felt like my antlers caught it and channeled it down to my ears. They rotated up like leaves collecting dew. The sound was emerging out from the center of the color, growing to the surface, as if the amethyst, the rouge, was an atmosphere, a climate, an eco-system where the tone could grow. And beneath it the whales sending spouts up like rising and falling pillars. It felt like a seed, or seedbank, that huge blush, that huge tincture, that huge egg of color. It felt, as the tone emerged, that if we opened ourselves, revealed our insides, only colors would pour and lift, journey up to that great cloud.
Then a sound-tone emerged, permeating the night. It had a sharpness and depth, an eerie beauty like being submerged in water. As it surfaced and spread, it pulled a beautiful, smokey jade out of the heart of the amethyst with it that surfaced and spread, creating a whole new atmosphere, yet you could still see the amethyst within, like an ancestor, informing the new green. I don’t know what I was experiencing, what it meant, what its purpose—I only knew it was beautiful and changing, that the egg of color helped give birth to a sound which drew out of the depths another color which gave birth then to a whole new tone. It just went on and on, each giving the others eco-systems within which to grow.
Far in the distance ahead glowed the space people’s ship, and on the other side of that huge blush, back in the direction from where I came, out on the horizon, lightning flashed from a distant storm. The skunk came all the way out. What was it? There was something reaching into that huge mass, meeting, conferring, relating, pulling it out. Pulling out the new sound. Discovering it. Making it known. And the whales beneath, dancing, configuring. I wondered if they knew what they were doing, knew the connections, could see what I saw of the whole interfolding blossom, the music burgeoning, my antlers and head humming, calling molecules, colors, blooms of breath? But it didn’t matter.
A new tone grew from the jade. The hair of my long deerface was tinted green as if there was a cloud between my antlers, too. I felt the sound fill me. The whales danced, rippling, writing on the reflected moon. The Dish People were slowly, perpetually, aligning. Hairless bodies which must’ve had olive tints in the daylight, listening, receiving, on the moon-drenched beach.
I looked and suddenly the skunk was gone, only its stripes remained, glowing and lifting. The storm still sent down its lightning far off. And in the other direction, pulsed the space people’s mound of light. The skunk’s stripes rose almost vertical as if they were lightning themselves. The electricity in the air sizzled. All my scars seemed to ache with the night humidity, with the soft exhales of the sea, with the static. The tone pulled out the new color, a metallic blue gloss that exhumed a deep perfume that made my whole body shiver. The beach was bathed in it, enfolded in the almost black blue fragrance of the earth. I wanted it all over me. Like a flag. So intoxicating. Just breath. Just earth breath. I looked again and the skunk was back, gazing up like the rest of us. But I couldn’t hang on. The perfume was in my blood. Touching every cell. I bedded down, resting my head so I could still watch the colors. I looked over and the skunk was in its hole now. There were other faces, little noses, little intent eyes. All snuggled up. Watching. I tried to hang onto my breath like a rope, tried not to let go. But I was sucked into sleep.
I don’t know how long I was out, but then my form changed. The Night Girl was above me. She was examining me. She was so dark, so intent, that my whole body tightened.
“I know things but I don’t have memories. My stars want to know you.” Her voice was so different than anything I had ever heard. It was resinous. Even. It wasn’t a lack of emotions, but maybe they just weren’t expressed like I was used to. The words were given different weights. She waited. “I want to touch you.” She waited again. Alls I could do was nod. She put her fingertips to my temples as if listening with them, her head slightly tilting: “I don’t have memories. But I know things my stars do,” she said, as if weighing our compatibility, or reassuring me that she wasn’t completely night, but something else, in between. “Are we too different?”
I tried to clear my head. “I don’t know,” I said, gazing up. There was still a distinct color above the ocean, but much fainter. The moon was now burning right at the top of where the blush had been. The color of the tone-cloud was more orange, vertical, folding slowly like blowing curtains. The Dish People were gone, only their trails and imprints going back into the sea. A few whales still bulged and rolled in the moonlight.
“My stars want to know you.”
I wondered if she would’ve said that to the Woman in the Sand or the horses or the Dish People, but I didn’t think so. Maybe I was something different than anyone else on the shore. “Have you ever seen anyone else like me?” I asked.
“No. Have you ever seen someone like me?”
“No. I never imagined someone like you. But, in a way, I don’t know much. I haven’t seen a lot.”
“I haven’t either,” her stars slowly migrating and pulsing.
“Really?” looking at her beautiful body. I couldn’t help it. And it was strange, it was ok to be naked in front of her. I almost wanted it. “But you’re the night.”
“No. The night’s up there. Or here,” pointing at her chest. “Or this…is the night,” her face close. Her tendrils fell onto the sand all around my face, and worked their way in like an enclosure of trees. “My lips.”
“My lips on yours.”
They were thick, glistening not with wetness but emotion, or maybe curiosity. Fascination. Tiny shivers you could barely see. That emotion that was matching a melody deep inside me, calling it out—what was it? I was pressed into the sand, my arms and legs spread, her body straddling me, my torso the same color of the sand, a private stage, enclosed by the Night Girl’s limbs. Our nipples touched. Hers were white with stars filling their tips. But it felt good.
“I know things, but I don’t have any memories. I want to know you.”
“Then maybe we’re alike.” I don’t know why I said it. But I know that I wanted to forget, make it so my existence began as my feet touched the sand outside the Lab, that I was born when I could look back and all there was was mist. Maybe with this woman made of stars I could just make it all up.
Her head tilted as if she was considering what I said. She brushed her lips on mine. Her stars reacted. They rushed in streams to her mouth, then went back, pulsing. I couldn’t help it, but tears were running out of my eyes. No one ever kissed me. I knew about it, I knew about sex from all the information and images they downloaded into me. But this was different. I don’t know why. My heart was beating like crazy. She looked closely at my tears, and as she licked them, each one rose into her form and took its place. Another star. Then, she kissed me more. Her tongue went deep into my mouth. She wrapped her nocturnal hands around the back of my head, my neck, and pulled our faces together. Everything in me was yearning to walk deep into her body, to dance into her. She reached down and lifted me to the wetness between her legs, sliding up and down. I tried to stop breathing so fast. Then, I was in her. So smooth. As if a silkiness filled my heart, my mind. Leafy vines came out of the sand, climbing the thick tendrils of her hair. We never closed our eyes. Hers were like black pearls on the horizon of an ocean dark metallic blue. She pressed her forehead against mine and a huge stream of music passed between us. And I knew, even though I couldn’t see it, just behind my skin, whether deer or human, there was a night in me, too. A night that only another night could speak to, yet dictating to these hooves and skin, these antlers, fingers, human limbs, my tail, like moving a shell into new positions on the sand, for that night within me was changing my form, as she moved on top of me, pressing harder, drinking, concentrating beyond thought—I could almost hear the orders to give her everything, my deer tongue, the tan fur, and white coat of my belly, my hooves kneading deep into her back, changing the clusters of stars, every possible pleasure my forms could give, changing within her, within her mouth, within her depths, pulsing. I just hoped it was mine, my internal night, and nobody else’s, but the Night Girl, her breath, for that moment I just decided I wouldn’t care. But still, I almost spoke it out loud: “Please let it belong to me.” She grabbed my antlers and pulled herself up and down. Just her touch, her black and starry fingers, released a music into the air.
“You’re beautiful,” she breathed.
“Even when I’m human?”
“Even when I’m a deer?”
“You’re beautiful, too.”
“Even though I’m not human?”
“Even though I’m not a deer?”
To that meeting between her legs where our bodies merged, where the night itself was plumbed and drank, the stars of her body, the clusters of her nipples, journeyed in streams. The vines of her hair flowered, turned to seed, falling and etching trails as they left for the water across the sand. I stroked her armpits with human fingers, touched her lips with deer lips as she stared into me. The meeting of stars was so bright the beach glowed. A shaft sang out of the distant ship and touched us as if we were just another star in the symphony. And then she came. Hot liquid gushed out of her, soaking my fur. The stars ignited up through her blackness, through her depths, burning, leaving trails of smoke. She moaned so deep my bones shook. She shuttered and tore her head up, dangling sand and roots. Then, our faces were side by side and we watched the light of the ship. My breath finally became more normal.
“I think I’ll get there tomorrow,” I said.
She didn’t say anything.
Then I asked it: “Do you think you’ll come back?” I tried to sound as if I was calm, as if it didn’t matter.
“At night,” she said.
“That’s ok with me.”
“I don’t have any memories, but I know things. I still don’t know you, but I know some new things my stars do.”
“You don’t have any memories.” I thought about it. Memories were the one thing more than anything else that I wished I didn’t have.
We watched the lights and then she slept on top of me. It was like being pinned between the horses, but maybe better, safer, a night between me and my own history.
They placed me in a room. Two comfortable chairs. A table with a couple of cool drinks. Ice. Sweet fizzy wine. Lemons. The walls like a Rousseau jungle. Then I would meet them, one by one. More men than women. I could feel the monitors watching, feel the duplication, the sorting, analyzing of events. Duplication was one of the things the scientists loved more than anything. The people they brought would sit down and talk to me, all with different languages, different histories, yet there were similarities between these people. I was told to “just talk with them like you are on a park bench or at a wedding.” Something missing in them. Forgotten. But I understood these people I faced, whatever language they spoke. Many looked at me, surprised, wondering if I was real. Some edged away in fear. They couldn’t look into my eyes. I would change right in front of them. What is he? they would think, as if they were seeing some monster that humans had the potential to be deep down. That they could become. Then I’d speak to them to reassure them, speak to them of what they really loved, all the images or stories that grew just beyond those rusted gates, secret gardens they yearned to no longer be secret but feared if they ever stepped foot into they would never return. And I knew I was changing in front of them. My eyes were locked to their foreheads and it was like someone within there, someone beyond their names, was giving me things to say. Pieces of dialogue. Images. Beautiful places, faces, events that were floating in unknown oceans inside them. And then the meeting would end, and the people who walked in so confident would leave, thoughtful, some in tears, some so shaken they had to be helped out of their seats, some angry as if someone, somewhere, had spilled their secrets. As if I was a hoax. Then the scientists would think.
She didn’t disappear like the horses did, walking back into the sea. It was toward dawn that my breath changed and I knew she had become part of something else.
I stood in a cold stream that crossed the beach and all my forms drank. It was strange. It was like they arose, one by one, on their own and drank till they were full like they were waiting in line. First it was the deer, then the half-deer/half-human, then the human being. It was like I was standing by watching it, but I was inside them, too. Feeling my senses change with the forms. There was something about the water, the beach, the sunlight, that helped me see it that way. I had never consciously changed, changed with my own intention. It was just something that happened. The scientists, my creators, they must’ve controlled it, although now that I thought about it, those forms, my anatomies, seemed to have a mind of their own. And with the Night Girl? It seemed like something happened there, something different though I could barely remember it. There were all these nights, the Night Girl and the world when the sun went down, and among them, this night that seemed to be within me. But I didn’t know if it belonged to me or not. But I still felt an opiatic pulse, a silky liquid, as if some of her stars had got inside me.
I spent the day making my way toward the ship. I was thinking about the Night Girl and trying not to think about her. But I felt like I was walking inside her and that everything I did, I saw, way deep down below my thoughts, I was telling her about in a continual stream. I hoped she was telling me things, too. All I knew was I wanted to see her again. I hoped when she said that we would meet again at night that she wasn’t lying. But I was pretty used to it. If she was lying like the scientists, I thought I could still move on, that just walking down the beach was worth staying alive whether anyone I met was telling the truth or not.
There was a signal coming out of the ship, or a tone, as I got closer. Yet, the closer I got, the more I saw how far out they really were. In the daylight, it looked like a circular area of milky water. It still pulsed. And the chips in my nose, my head, the tips of my tines, were awake, were busy. The sound was enveloping. Within it there were strands that when they hit me, I think, changed as if continuing in another form somewhere else, although I could barely discern it.
By late afternoon I stood on the beach looking out. It may have been a mile from shore. The horses—they had walked on the water. But I was in my human form as I placed my feet in the clear sea and watched them go to the bottom. The surface didn’t hold me. Then I stepped back and my form, as if wanting to walk on the water and go out to the ship, became a deer. Then the tone from the ship changed. It sharpened, tautening the water’s surface. I placed a hoof on it and it held. I gave it more weight and it still held. Where my hooves touched it, the water’s tight skin indented slightly. I took a breath and set off.
To the left, the sun was sinking lower toward some distant, forested islands where it looked as if the land had fallen away into sheer sandstone walls. But I wasn’t the only one heading toward the ship. Beneath the surface they flowed—some must’ve been enormous, their energy and mass swelling past me, or from way out I could see them coming, like glowing rays of a sun returning, flashing schools making their way toward the ship’s light: whales, dolphins, puffins, seals, so many, though as I got closer and discerned the circumference of where the ship was submerged, it seemed impossible for them all to fit into it. Finally, after about an hour, I stood in the center above it, watching all the aquatic life disappear beneath me. The sun was gone. The horizon smoking and brilliant. Beneath me, set among the greater white illumination, individual colored lights from the ship pulsed. The lights weren’t at all aligned or evenly spaced, but were more like constellations, clusters, that rose into view from the ivory depths, asking to be made into shapes, events, ripe for anyone’s imagination like stars. Here, the tone was so loud it made my ribs vibrate. If I could change into a human I could dive down to the ship. But I never consciously transformed myself before. It was just something that happened. Or that the scientists caused me to do. But with the Night Girl—who was it, what was it, that wanted to give her my deerself and everything in between? And succeeded? I just remember it was some kind of personal night that dictated my outer form, but I didn’t know if it was mine or somebody else’s.
My whole body was resonating to the tone, the chips in my nose and head and antlers, dancing. It was so powerful I could grasp it. There was almost a hint of some conversation, like a quartet of musicians conversing just beyond my senses that I was a part of, but I couldn’t quite hear it, define it. I thought about the forms and how they had drank earlier that day one by one. And I was among them. The tone—it was so solid that I must be able to grasp it, I thought, to use it, use the tone to change myself, like a ladder, descending my toe into human form that then slipped into the water. Then the rest of me. And then, suddenly, I plunged down. I had changed.
The ship was made of light, but metal, too, circular, with sections, like a microscopic image of pollen. Whales, fish, eels, passed into it and disappeared as if enfolded, embraced. I couldn’t hold my breath enough to find a way in. There was something stopping me. I grabbed onto a whale’s fin but was left outside the ship’s haul, pressed against the warm, luminous, humming surface. I struggled up and finally breathed. And suddenly I was a deer again. I climbed back onto the water as if it was glass. I got my breath back, studying the glowing constellations. Patterns, spores, pollen. There were tiny lights among the big ones, migrating, rotating slowly. They would jump back to their original positions as soon as you blinked—no, it was more like as soon as you thought, as soon as you tried to associate or remember, tried to search your own knowledge to fit with these illuminated points and their progressions, their distances and proximities to each other and the larger lights. Antlers. I saw antlers in the arrangements of lights. Was I creating it or was there a deer within the shimmering, the rotation? A deer composed of stars? To lower myself into this starry spell and go the other way, go opposite its slow rotation. Maybe I would undo it, reverse what the genetic magicians had done and never be a deer again, and that deer-human who existed through the connection of one star to another could keep turning in its cosmic serenity and I could go home—but the only home I could think of was the beach and the Night Girl and the Grey and the Buckskin, or maybe I would go back to the Woman in the Sand, she was like a human—maybe that meant something. Somehow I think she’d be disappointed. Smoking her flowers. A pile of beautiful shells. If I could only find a human body in the stars beneath me I could be free of everything. I’m sure there was one there, a human constellation. Maybe if I turned myself into one again I would see it. Could I just turn myself into a human and stay that way forever? But now, what was it? Those antlers, those hooves, tail arched back like a proud plume, like white fire, a shimmering flank, standing on its hind legs, eating from a star-cluster like heavy apples, all mixed with the night’s reflection—what was the difference? That beautiful rotation was like a bed, like I could just fit myself into that form and stretch myself free, muscle within muscle, this accumulation of history, all the past they downloaded into my thoughts, humans and their past. Yes, I laid myself into it, into the constellation, first my antlers, then head, neck, body, tail, following the rotation at first but then moving backwards, backwards, reversing, and even taking one of the star apples with me, two bites, swallowing it toward my heart. There was a star for that, too. But suddenly I was inside the ship. All those lights, those constellations, within the ship were the lighting of controls, monitors, sensors, crystals set into purposeful configurations upon podiums and counsels encircling a room. But I could feel it, just reaching out with my mind, that the ship was vast, vaster than what it appeared from the outside. There were images above the counsels, colors, textures, landscapes, beings that I knew, that I had never seen before, all passing through. And in the room’s center a crystal, its visible part maybe four feet tall, three feet wide, which then extended deep into the floor that was like the labia of a flower. In fact, there was something flowerish about the entire space, tender, pliant, translucent, even though I knew its outer haul was made of some type of metal. As if a plant had grown around and lifted this crystal. The crystal was connected to the whole ship. Like a heart. Like a mind. The plains of its surface fed the monitors. I stepped up and laid my hand on it. I had become human.
“It’s grown since we’ve come,” said a voice, but there was no one in the room.
“Did you come a long way?” I asked almost automatically, looking into the crystal.
“In a way we did. If you see life as time and space. On earth, at least in the past, or the middle period, so many humans suffused the atmosphere with time and space that once we’d be here for a while visiting we could look back and a star would then exist, a planet, which we’d then call home, and this knowledge would then change us, like two points in the space of our heads—as if we are the line between them—but usually we don’t think that way, not in terms of time and space. We come from more what you would call a dimension than a planet.”
“Am I talking to myself?”
There was a silence. It was funny, this ship beneath the sea, and this crystal, its beauty, its hardness—and I wasn’t afraid. Maybe I was speaking to myself, maybe this was just part of the Night Girl, or her memories that I could touch and give to her the next time we met. I wished she was there with me. What would she look like on the monitors? Maybe you wouldn’t even be able to see her.
“No. You must blink. We will blink at the same time you do.”
I blinked. There were three beings in the room with me. Two were at the controls. One stood next to me, reaching out like I did, touching the crystal. It had only three fingers, no thumb. I moved my hand to the right, toward its hand, and it moved its hand, too. Mirroring me, I thought, understanding. Our hands were almost touching.
“In a way, we travel through what you would call fermenting. That’s the closest thing we can think of that humans will understand. Fermentation creating a space and then putting boundaries to create a form, and then inhabiting it. All form is consciousness, so with the right fermentation, we can come and live within it. And yet, what most humans think of as fermentation is more a type of bacterial process, yet we focus on the musical aspect of the process, the music within the process, the process of the music of…of light.”
We gazed at the crystal. I felt it growing, accumulating, flowering.
“It’s different where we come from, or we think in such a different way where we come from, when we’re there. This is our fermentation, fermentation of light, so in a way, it expanded us here.”
All of us were looking at the crystal, as if we were trying to understand, as if it had spoke. I looked at the other two who were at the counsels. They were similar beings. Let me try to describe them: they had two eyes, human eyes, and yet one was maybe three or four times the size of the other. This is the one they used to look at me. Their heads and most of their bodies were like mosaics of geometric plains, clearly defined: diamonds, triangles, small and large, that as they moved changed, traveled, disappeared, shifted, changed in size. Each plain or section was slightly outlined by a darker hued band, which defined its shape and positioning more clearly. These transforming sections glowed with pulses of gold, pinks, reds, orange. But their clothing: a type of silver, loose, gown-like material, changed with their shifting skin because of its translucence, but also in a strange way like atmospheres, like mist, as if their bodies were planets. They were beautiful, as if constantly recreating themselves. As they stared at the crystal, the other eye, which was set back and to the side of their heads, panned over the monitors, the ship. I noticed, over time, that if the eye came to focus on the same object as the other eye, it would disappear, as if sucked beneath the head’s surface, only to reappear somewhere else.
“Is this what you look like where you came from?”
They laughed, their mouths like diamonds rotating, expanding, scrunching. The one to the right who was at the counsel, whose right, smaller eye kept fixing on me and disappearing said: “It’s a translation.”
“For you,” said the one next to me.
“What do you look like there?”
“Much more like this,” looking down at the crystal.
“We don’t have eyes,” said the one to the left.
“Eyes are important to you,” said the other one.
“We are more like eyes in a way. But here, we have them.”
“Two of them.”
They laughed again, the sharp diamonds of their mouths dancing around. It was hard to keep track of who was speaking. I don’t think it mattered. I could feel the replies come, as if on their own, and shoot to one of the Space People to find expression.
“So you changed yourself,” I said, thinking.
“We aligned ourselves, in a way, we aligned ourselves with the change.”
All their larger eyes swung and met. The living, geometric facial plains the eyes floated on elevating, so that they could create some type of arithmetic geography more directly.
“You see, we’ve been here many times, but this is the only planet where our bodies have changed so much. And when we go back, we retain something of that.”
“There’s a difference here.”
“Yes. The genetics are different.”
“There’s no other place like this.”
Their larger eyes were still together.
“The consciousness of a planet affecting our genetics.”
“It’s very exciting.”
“We’re just starting to notice it, to place it, to understand it.”
“But it’s been going on for a long time. We just didn’t know it.”
“It’s been going on even before the human form came into being.”
“You see, earth is a crystal…for the universe.”
“You can’t see it because you are here.”
“This whole planet is just one crystal. That’s why it was easy for this crystal of our ship to bring us here. It’s part of its growth. The growth of both crystals. In a way, they’re part of the same musical fermentation.”
“So, what are you exactly?” I asked.
Their eyes disappeared as they laughed: “We’re trying to understand that,” they stated all at once.
“Truly,” said the one next to me.
“It’s an addiction.”
They were like sunsets, the colors of their skin—each geometric plain glowing from its center, maroon to pastel with soft pulses—I felt it happening in my mind, too, these plains and rhythms, the shifting landscapes of their anatomies, and wondered if one was causing the other.
“You’ve been here before.”
“Oh, yes, we’ve been here many times. Since the time there was only energy, potential, energy undifferentiated, energy that wasn’t merged with a type of intention,” said the being next to me.
“That hadn’t met with perception,” added the one to our right. “Perception as we can conceive of it.”
“A perception outside itself.”
“There’s something about this planet. Some type of powerful beauty. It’s hard to say what makes earth so different. Even the beings who come for the resources, the minerals, just to take, just to exploit it—they would say they come because they needed it for their own planet, and yet they were here, they came, and once you come here for whatever purpose, you’ll always remember, some part of you will always be in love, even though you might not call it that. You’ll never forget. And that memory will change you. But it’s hard to describe to you because you were born here. You were born in earth.”
For some reason I thought about the Night Girl all around me, but forced my mind away from it. “But I wasn’t born.”
They laughed, which I didn’t hear this time, but felt inside me, traveling from front to back like waves of bells, as if inside me there was more distance, more space. Yet, the new faces they took up were serious. In the bells, there were so many depths, like tiny mountains, and together with this a multiple of focuses, like a forest seen by cameras whose lenses were at different settings, different positions.
“We weren’t born, either.”
“Not with the same personalized, emotional configuration that many humans understand as birth.”
Everyone turned back to the monitors. I watched them, too. So many beings. And I saw that many in some monitors were coming, while the same ones in other monitors were departing transformed. From outside the ship I had only seen them coming. It was like we were at the center. And these three people, as they gazed at the images, at the movements, seemed lost in it, transfixed by the music of the movements and changes.
“It changes us,” said the one next to me. “We didn’t know it.” They swung their heads toward the crystal. “We used to change much life on earth and work with their DNA to alter their forms—you could say we seeded this planet and many others, at least with humanoid life-forms. And then we would teach, take up human form in an attempt to advance the human species. But now it’s just energy we help with that everyone can use to accelerate or to travel, to change, to make their own experiments—we just give this energy and we learn. Time is different where we come from, but you see, within earth’s configuration we ourselves changed—we forgot. You see, people in the universe tend to think of earth as primitive, not just the beings in human form, but all the beings, the animals, the deer like you, the whales, the fish—and beings like us who can travel through dimensions, who can arrange DNA into new configurations, who can take a new planet and populate it with anything we want, we think of ourselves as so greatly advanced—but if you’re so greatly advanced why would you come to a planet you supposedly created and suddenly be caught in a struggle, suddenly forgetting your origins in a way by struggling with what you thought were your own creations, suddenly believing in time so much that you’re struggling against it. Even becoming human. It’s like being a painter and all your colors never come out as planned, never come out as you thought they should—they migrate into new configurations no matter how many times you try to start again. We didn’t believe the paintings, the beings on this planet, were equal to us, that within those colors, within those physiologies, there was something to learn…we thought mankind is probably the only species in the universe that had found a way to measure something that doesn’t exist, to measure time, to create it, really, and to its own detriment—we thought humankind was a failure—we kept giving it technologies, pushing it to advance, and over and over it’d fall into ruin, and yet we are here, too—we started to measure time, started to judge, we started to struggle.”
“I think we were already judging.”
“Struggling to make humans like us.”
“Some people here, long ago, called us ‘The Gardeners’—they knew what we were doing, how we were trying to advance them, advance everything, change the people to understand their technological potentials, the potentials of their intellects. And so many times, the humans would advance only to collapse—we couldn’t understand it—what on our planet would’ve been a simple thing, here, here, earth… earth has different ways.”
“So now it is: who is the gardener and who is the garden?” A flare of livid orange, burgundy edged, traveled through the three anatomies, one to the other, as if they were one body, one canvas.
“Yes, gardening. Like when suddenly you stop and see the wind moving stems, branches, a flower swings and your arm lifts, and you look at it: when have I let my arm lift on its own, when has the wind blown my actual body? Who’s garden is this? Just because I can move from one bed to another further away faster than anyone else, than any of the plant people, does that mean I own it, that I control it, that I am The Gardener?”
“And just as you see this, a milkweed seed floats past you into the forest.”
“We can consciously see more than you do, and yet its endless what exists, what music is yet to be discerned.”
“And if you discern the music you are part of it.”
“The music is fermenting everywhere.”
“Yes. It is the foxes that taught us.”
Flares burst and traveled from body to body. Their shimmering, transparent clothing where it covered their actual skin lifted the colors like the atmosphere, the gases and clouds, of planets.
“We were visiting the earth and we thought we’d try to change them, change their genetics.”
“They had the right potentials to experiment.”
“Yes. There was something about them. Something that drew us, like a palate of colors we had never worked with before, some kind of configuration that was unrecorded, unexpected.”
“And they spoke to us, in our minds. They said: ‘You people have no idea what it’s like to be a fox.’”
“We didn’t know what to do.”
“It was different than anything we had ever experienced, someone speaking to us in our own minds.”
“And it was almost as if the words came from somewhere else in us, somewhere we didn’t know about and we all said: ‘Tell us. Please. Tell us.’”
“And the foxes put their foreheads against ours. And what we saw…what we saw was a garden growing from a golden bed like a fox’s eyes, like nothing we had ever imagined, a garden that grew itself from within, out of the depths of an internal, an eternal, night.”
The space people all spoke together:
“From shedding born
born of shedding
fire of summer fallen from shedding born
born of shedding
the shedding of birth
the death of shedding
and suddenly death’s shedding is born
the shedding death of birth
death is the birth of shedding
death is the autumnal birth of shedding
death is the autumnal birth of shedding born”
“That’s when we started letting things go.”
“That’s when we became the garden.”
“That’s when everything on the earth began to change, change not from us, but from within.”
They all laughed, flaring, their eyes disappearing and reappearing on their shifting forms.
“Are the foxes from somewhere else, somewhere more advanced?” I asked.
“Well, you could say everyone is from somewhere else and yet everyone is from here because we are here. But no, not in the way you ask—the foxes are truly of the Earth.”
One of each of their eyes swung, or reappeared, fixing on the monitors while the other gazed at the crystal.
“Seeing all these beings, how they use the energy to change, and what they change themselves into, is like growth in us, mergings of growth—these beings, these people, are like pollen or spores—and sight, our perception and consciousness, merge with that and create new growths which change us.”
“Sight as an eco-system.”
“Perception as an eco-system.”
“Not exerting our intention as an eco-system.”
“Yes. Those foxes’ eyes, their consciousnesses, were beyond anything our genetics, our technology could’ve ever done.”
“And here they were, just these people who live in holes, who eat mice and grasshoppers, rabbits, human garbage, who sneak around, who are covered with hair.”
“Who sleep in the crystal.”
“And when we let go, everything changed, the whole earth.”
“We used to think we were the ones that changed things.”
“Now we’re here for different reasons.”
“You see, so many earth beings walk as they create, or swim as they create, or fly as they create, and we are learning this, that with this configuration it helps, or even to eat as you create, or to physically create as you create—to use the body to mirror the mind or vice versa.”
“Or things are created, but then you follow them, outline the creations as it happens and it changes you—we are used to thinking we change things, create things and that’s that.”
“The history of our genus hasn’t been focused physically.”
“And yet, we are here.”
“We keep coming here.”
“Maybe we’re all the gardeners,” I said. “Even the molecules.”
They glowed, a deep magenta—not on their surface, but deep within. And both their eyes grew large, vibrating at the extremities of their volume.
“Tools of the garden.”
“The garden gardening itself.”
I touched the crystal. Right away, the person next to me touched the crystal, too, copying my movements.
“When I came,” I said, “did I come from this? Through the crystal?” looking into its depths.
“Do you want to return?” they asked.
“Yes. I want to return.” I was surprised I said it so firmly.
“Then you can go back into the constellation.”
I left the way I came. I saw the constellation in the crystal. I had to return, I had to walk, to breath the energy channels, the molecules of the beach—I couldn’t stay on this ship forever—it was all just beyond what people call knowledge—maybe walking was being knowledge unformed, was being home just in movement, revelation, time, distance—it was more like the measurement of revelation as it came into being. I pressed my forehead against the crystal and felt my tines grow into the prisms of light, bisecting along their shafts like forming ice, and I was turning, returning, emerging into the center of the beautiful white shafts which were like pillars, like bridges of music into the sky. I was in the center of a flower, and I knew that when I was in the ship I had been inside the tone, within its core, for now it was so dense, so permeating, that I felt my body was dissolving, dispersing and re-adhering, re-creating, an ever-unfolding and slewing away into new forms. Now that it was night, all the migrations, the transformations, were visible within the illumined aura of the ship. Whales, dolphins, fish, came in one side and many left in different forms out the other. A whale, who was a beautiful blue, came through the light. It came out like a rainbow, multiple colors. But others passed through with no physical changes at all. And others, as they entered the light and disappeared, reappeared ascending the shafts that reached up to the stars. It was like a highway. Some that swam into the light stayed there and I never saw them appear again. It was beautiful.
I stepped out of the core of the tone, into its corona, and headed toward the shore. All those words, those elated revelations of the Space People, I knew they were important—but I really just wanted to touch the Night Girl, tell her I love her, watch her stars move as we breathed. I examined myself, hoping that I hadn’t been changed beyond recognition, but I was the same, only splashed in the flashes and panels that emitted from the flowering light, the colored stencils of beings ascending. Would she be waiting? Or would I have to fall asleep to see her again? Or had she done what she needed to do with me, experienced what she needed to experience? Had her stars moved in configurations that satisfied some type of need that the rest of her was the expression of, just the mechanism to create it? Was that love? Was love something you meet like a gust of wind, kisses you with warmth, with smells, with ice? Then carries on? Was I just a wind, too?
But she was there, standing in the waves, night in human form, the channels of energy that splayed up from the meeting of water and earth like neon fans of foliage playing up her legs. Stars dripped from her like burning wax.
“I missed you,” I said, but she didn’t say anything. She touched my slender deer-face. And then she climbed on me and I carried her to where the plants began to replace the sand and let her slide off. Her legs were long. She left one ankle still touching my spine. I turned, lowering myself so that she stood, straddling me, staring down, glistening. Her veins that had gone beyond blood, her bones that’d blown into starry dust, beneath, above, wet, so smooth and deep, listening beneath the listening, glistening beneath the glistening, her breath making music in my fur, her concentration tightening in abandonment as she lowered herself down on me. I kissed her ears, curled my hooves into her armpits, stroking them till the scent rose, dripping, lifting them to her lips, licking them together. I pressed my nose beneath her arm, inhaling, all her stars rushing to surround it till it was too bright to see. It smelled like flesh and metal, heat from far away coming to be known.
“I don’t have any memories, but I know things. I want to know you,” I said, teasing her, and at the same time to let her know there was someone else, someone else listening, even if I could only speak the words.
There was another channel, another scent, angling, snaking around us, exploring its way into our warmth. We were lying with our heads close to a tall, smooth, robust, glacis-leaved plant, which must’ve been chartreuse in the daylight. It was about four feet tall. There were more, all separated by a six or eight foot distance.
The Night Girl saw me looking: “Epic Plant.”
“Why Epic Plant?”
“It’s the closest thing to what it could call itself if it used words. At least this one. They’re all different.”
She lifted slowly and let herself down. It was so slow, so thoughtful I could barely feel the movement. Just the warmth. The brilliance. Her depths pulsing around me. They were plants with single stems, trunks, branchless, all the flowers and leaves laddering out from its moon-reaching stateliness. The leaves were similarly shaped, rounded, thick, waxy, holding their water against the aridness of the beach, like the skin of a cactus, yet the Epic Plant’s flowers were all different, vastly different, as if they’d all come from some other place, different climate zones, different eco-systems, yet they were all here arching over us from a single shaft as the Night Girl moved, all with their own perfumes exploring, spreading from their various forms, so many species exuding, wrapping around us, like hands beneath us lifting, and pungent, almost visible—you could feel them in your eyes—odors, heated into ascension, odors that in your body created seas.
“Spices,” I said.
“Spice People. People of the Burning Spice,” said the Night Girl, glistening and sliding. “People who travel in the stars. Nomads.”
“In ships?” I asked, thinking about the Space People, the Gardeners.
“No. The people who use ships have never noticed them. These people walk from spring to spring. They keep the springs open by using them, by drinking. The springs never existed before they began using them, and the People of Burning Spice never existed before the springs gave them water. Nomads so ancient they have lost all intention. Except to move. Except to burn. The water keeps them burning.”
I looked past the Night Girl at the sky. The Milkyway spread like a river over us. And the shimmering clusters where so many stars were so close you couldn’t discern them. If the ship’s petals of light wouldn’t’ve been pulsing up, I could’ve seen more. I touched the Night Girl’s skin, ran my hooves down the valley between her breasts—and deeper, another Milkyway her stars were forming. I think it was the first time her stars somewhat aligned to what you’d expect from the greater night. I didn’t know what she was talking about, but her focus, the heavy pulse of our bodies, the way something in my forehead yearned up to hers, helped me listen without really having to know—I only knew it had to do with all those tingling scents, all so different yet hot to the eyes, to the nose—it felt as they passed through us they drew water from us from the space in ourselves, between what we knew and didn’t know, into our eyes and mouths. We kissed and the water poured back and forth.
“Nomads carrying water from spring to spring in the night sky. Desert people. And in their bodies, burning spice. They wear dark blue robes, but if they open them there is only fire. All the spices ground into powder igniting.”
The Night Girl never stopped moving as she spoke, almost as if her body was reading the words from me like Braille. And I could see them, these people with dark skin, wandering the deserts between the stars, just migrating from oasis to oasis, just making connections. And as she spoke about their bodies it was like they stood before me and opened their robes. Within them was only orange rolling fire, a combustion that went on forever. Over them—their nomadicism and dunes of black—the Epic Plant seemed to arch, watching like a flag or protector, yet pouring out the smells that burned within them like it did over us. The star-clusters of the Night Girl, her nipples and navel, the crystalline density between her legs, it was in her too: the desert, the space, the movements, as if my fingers could follow that same nomadic design and keep the springs open, uncover and discover them just by…just by…wonder. It was funny in a way because as they showed me their burning anatomies, just as they closed the long robes, I thought I saw something like fiery red fur, but it was all too bright. I blinked my eyes. I was almost in it, in the desert. The Night Girl gripped me tighter. Her eyes so wide, so unflinching. Like looking into another world, another ocean.
“Musk,” I whispered, as the scents entangled us.
And a resonance in the burning, a vibration in the radiance—those bodies like voids of fire—a strange vibration, which could be discerned as indifferent, unearthly, but maybe because they were so impossible to put into words. Just movements, just this walking, this drinking, and then walking again. I was pulling back as if from a cliff of emotion, the earth falling away, advancing toward me, the Night Girl working so hard onto me, the lucid opiate of universes born every moment anew and forgotten as if history radiated from the center of her brow she pressed endlessly into mine—gateways, gateways in every molecule. She was dripping, pulsing, pouring planets and stars down through me from forehead to forehead that then traveled down through my anatomy like rivers into my shaft. I could feel them, the Spice People’s story within me, the springs opening, the designs of their movements. So thoughtless. I was so hard, so full, so silent, so still, like crystal—all the stars, the shimmering spaces of the Night Girl were in me and she was just this beautiful being ebony with concentration, wet, open. Then she came. But she was just vibrating space, like a flaring blackness. All her stars were in me. They had traveled through her forehead down through my body into my rod making it hard and hot and white. She lifted herself, blinking one eye then the other.
“Did you come?” she asked, staring into me.
“No. Do you want me to?”
“Do you want me to come as a deer or as a human?”
“Can you change yourself?”
“I think I can.”
“Then I want both.”
It was different than when I entered the ship. There were no lights to form into, no tone to use as some type of grounding, only the Night Girl. And my forms—there was a conversation between us. It was clearer now. And there were the People of Burning Spice. The desert. The sky. All the forms, they had their own ideas. They were all forms from which water poured. And I could change my own, my hooves turning to hands, gripping her upper arms, but only if they agreed. And only if I agreed. Was I really part of it? I didn’t know. I looked into her eyes and saw only the beautifulest, deepest burning black. And then I was in it, in the story, in the desert night. The People of Burning Spice were sitting around a fire with their robes open. One of them turned and welcomed me. I sat down. They were all just looking up, resonating. I looked up, too. We looked up and all we saw were stars, above us, beneath us, in us, in the Night Girl, in ourselves, and the pungent smell of stars burning. Then, with our eyes still raised, we bent forward and drank from the fire. My insides were full of vast burning colors. And then I came. I came so hard. I gripped her tighter than anything ever with my human hands, and just poured those stars back into her, every meteor and planet and sun burning as I pumped it through my shaft that turned from a deer to a human and back gushing, reaching into her, traveling, my whole body inhaling and exhaling through my different forms: “Thankyou! Thankyou! Thankyou!” I whispered so many times as the stars shot back into her nipples, her lips, to the luminous nebulas concentrated in the deepest folds of her pulsing body. All returning. And she came again, too. As the stars poured back into her her whole body throbbed and shook until she suddenly froze, let out a vibrating moan, and fell on top of me.
One of the lights from the ship touched us. I felt like I could be there underneath her forever.
“I missed you,” she said, falling asleep.
I smiled. It was a funny thing for her to say. I think she said it just for me. I tried not to sleep. I couldn’t let go. Not yet. I wanted more memories, more breaths to remember. But eventually I couldn’t hang on any longer.
The horses emerged from the sea. It wasn’t like before, hooves landing on diamonds of light. This time out of the blue, serene night ocean depths they emerged, exhausted, dragging someone between them. This wasn’t a place I had been on the beach before, or where the Night Girl and I now slept. I don’t know if it was anywhere on this earth. I was just watching. In the moonlight I saw it was a man. They gripped his coat’s shoulders with their bared teeth and dragged him. The Buckskin fell. He tried to lift himself, then took a moment to get his breath. Then he looked in my direction. He knew something was there. The Grey looked, too. I looked back at them, but I was just sight, just dreaming. They dragged him to a mass of Alders. Then I was closer, gazing into his face. Bloated. Pointed beard. Long mustache. Tangled hair that must’ve been shoulder length and golden. The General who died killing Indians for gold, killing Indians because they were people who could be killed. The chip in the back of my head vibrated, processing. Custer. George Armstrong Custer. Yet this was just a man, maybe 6’3”, 6’4”, dead, someone who in life probably swelled with the thought of Custer, but now only swelled with the sea. The Grey and Buckskin laid back to back just like they’d done with me, except they cradled a dead body between them. And instead of facing out to the sea like they had before, their heads faced in toward the land.
Once my creators realized I could dream awake, our relationship changed. Suddenly, there were less tests, less surgery, less machinery. In a way, I felt I had finally given them what they wanted. Although I know it wasn’t in their plans, they said the words: “That’s what we designed you for.” Then they’d add: “You were just slow, but now you’re getting a little closer to where we expected.” But I know it wasn’t true—they were still guarding themselves, not giving me any time to speak, and their thoughts were dodging back and forth in front of what was deeper, like senseless riddles with no answers, blocking the gates of their hearts. But I still felt the shapes, the colors of their deeper desires—if I had a chance I could speak them just like music. But after they had the guards muzzle me a few times I controlled myself. But it’s repetition they wanted, being able to travel to a location while in a dream, while knowing you’re dreaming, and report back with accuracy—or something close to it.
“Who were they?” said the Night Girl as I opened my eyes, adjusting to her stars, to the black moons and blue-silver horizons of her eyes. She faced me, her back to the sea.
“Those were the people who created me. Those were the scientists.”
Stars slowly arced from her upper body to her sternum, then descended in a line to her navel. From there they coalesced and thoughtfully spread, searching for new space. “The horses made you?”
I thought for a second: “No. Not the horses.” I’d forgotten the horses. She must’ve seen it. I wonder if without the Night Girl witnessing it, I’d have totally forgotten forever.
“The human. He was your father.” She gazed at me without blinking. There was wind coming from her skin and what was beneath, but there was also the wind of the other night and sea curling around her. “I’m trying to think…like you do,” she said in a resonating monotone.
“I think the horses were taking care of something out of their own history. But the people who created me, they’re gone. I think. I don’t know for sure. When everything shifted, they disappeared. I think they might be dead.” I held her close as I could, hoping she wouldn’t dissolve. It was getting near dawn. “You don’t have to think like I do. I don’t even know how I think.”
She touched my face, her fingers partially disappearing beneath the surface. I felt the cool sensation on my skin, then deeper, where they had descended, something else. I could feel her tilting her head back, examining the space straight above us: “I think there’s a little more time for us to sleep.”
Death By Artesian Well
I hadn’t moved since the Night Girl had disappeared, evaporated. The Epic plant leaned over me in the morning sun.
A man and a woman. A man and a woman. Geographies floating. Do they ever touch? Humans are supposed to touch each other. When I opened my eyes—was it for the first time? In the laboratory. The first time. Hands embracing. The man and woman, their whole bodies till everyone looked. Success. And then the release. Then the flash of embarrassment covered by the wash of jubilation as I blinked. As I looked around. As I assessed. Eyes. Was it because my eyes opened? Was it because I looked at them? Why didn’t it last? The happiness. Like a promise. A promise to be human. To fit that scene into the ones that came later. To be born behind glass. Why glass? And the world…in the data, like cathedrals of an ancient city. Could they really exist? The world. How to please. Where was this in the world? Like a center, a center where the world was created…where humans thought about touching each other but didn’t—the orginal planet. If the laboratory was the beginning, the original place, maybe the original means nothing at all. Maybe it’s what grows from it. I don’t even know what I did back there except try to make them happy. What did I do? What did they tell me to do? And then things shifted. Or at least they disappeared. I can’t say I did it to be free, to be like this—I did it to be like them, to be human—maybe the people who don’t follow orders, don’t do things to be loved, aren’t human at all.
The flight of birds—one species crossing a flock swirling, breathing, together their wings a musical instrument of movement based on air—and what does that mean to have a bird perched, watching you with little flinches and beyond some impossible wings coordinating in the distance, some impossible migration on the edge of something, some understanding, just the world as understanding. Birds tipping their wings. A whale lifting a fin as if pulling the ocean closer. Waving to the endless sea of air above it. And clouds forming, clouds above other clouds, clouds placing themselves in front of others rather than the open sky. And it was all changing, the sand, the surface disappearing, even the shells and driftwood, all within change.
I know they wanted it, my two scientists—it was one of the things they wanted hidden, the words they didn’t want spoken in their own voices—hands brushing, legs beneath tables, and the pain of form, holding a single form, pretending a single form was separate. The words they didn’t speak. Why didn’t they speak them? Why did the words come to me? Like pieces of a shipwreck that were sucked down into some unknown well, and surfaced into another creation. Humans touch each other. From the data it was mostly with violence, because they wanted things, but there were other images, too—not as numerous, almost like a line of music that peaked through the fissures—humans touched each other because they loved each other, because they must’ve wanted to love each other. Because they wanted love.
The Epic Plant. All its flowers so different. And the other ones, they all had different flowers along their stems, too. The smell of spice was gone. One of the flowers touched my antlers right where a chip was embedded but I pulled away. I don’t know what I was thinking. I was so used to thinking with the data, the data was the shapes I could grow through, but now there was so much sea—it had been filling me slowly, it was almost reaching my heart. And then what would I become? Would I become like driftwood, a home for other things? Things that don’t matter. That are too small to mean anything. I was doing so good at forgetting. But now it was morning. No one knew who I was, no one asked, but maybe that wasn’t what this beach was about, keeping track of the past. But maybe they did know. Why did the horses come to me, or did they just come from the ocean to the shore every night, somewhere along this expanse, and whoever they encountered they’d tell stories, dance, sweep out in dreams, together? But the Woman in the Sand knew who I was. She knew who I was without even telling her. Was it worth it to forget? Was it possible? Was it worth it to remember, as if there are members somewhere, not just limbs but people, coming together—maybe everyone since my hooves touched sand—and to recover, with sand, too, with water, submerged. Submerged into the past, never to be seen again, even when I am the one submerged, submerging into the future, toward night, toward the Night Girl, toward people no longer human. I looked back. No Laboratory. Not even mist except way off, just a white breath, a white flower. The Lab wasn’t following me. But maybe I secretly wanted it to. Maybe I still needed it.
I was still in the sand where the Night Girl left me. Just remembering. Just trying not to remember. Another flower from the Epic Plant touched one of my other tines. I pulled away again. But it was harder. There wasn’t even any wind. How much of this progression was from the past, from what I did back there, and what was done to me, the orders I followed, the movement of their voices reaching through my body without trying to stop them, and then the change they took part in. Changing the earth. Those faces. I could almost feel that other warmth. Fear has heat, too. Memories have heat. All their memories. In the open air they must just float down like compost. This whole beach. Nothing partitioned so that at a certain moment a particular compost is transported to a defined location for a particular purpose and nothing else—the beach is everything—gardens, gardeners, seeds, spreading beneath the sea, spreading to its edges—it’s all compost, it’s all what compost to a human would lead to. So why are there memories? Why am I telling this? And to have memories are you more or less advanced? More human. Human memories. Humans bringing compost to where they don’t even know something is growing, just carrying it…further down the beach—or even in their own hearts, even back where you can still see the slabs of the Laboratory’s architecture, like a richman’s modernist home, someone who wants to look out alone at horizons. Maybe escape his past. And what to do with those, those twilights compounding, colors composting—he could be inside me, I could be the Lab itself, with everyone’s face looking inward as if I was the center, the heart, trying to keep the heart alive, trying to create the heart, a heart, members, re-membering, performing the heart, as he walks, as he lets another sunset pour into his pupils. Data. As blood. As fluid. And memories. Why were they there? My memories.
No wind. But another flower of the Epic Plant touched me. I didn’t pull away. Maybe I’d just imagined the Night Girl. She seemed so far away. Maybe the further the better. Maybe she couldn’t hear my thoughts. It just seemed like when I was inside her, when I was in the night, I was someone else. But here in the daylight I was a monster again. But no…I was the only human…and that wasn’t even all of me. I just didn’t want her to see me like this. More of the flowers adhered to me. It’s almost like they were kissing my antlers, the back of my head. I wanted to get up. The sun felt as if it was trying to hold me down and drive me away at the same time. And it was so far from night. Maybe because she never saw me in the daytime she didn’t really know what I was, that I was just this ugly machine.
A machine. A machine for changing the world. But then from what happened, what they told me to do, maybe I was a machine to stop the world from changing. Maybe the earth took me over and used me for something else. And I smelled so different, then, beneath the artificial lights, within the conditioned air. And on this beach, what did I smell like? Just part of it. Like the energy channels, like the birds tipping their wings, like a whale’s fin, like a deer and a human and everything in between. Some part of the garden. Dragging my memories. If I didn’t have them I could probably fly. Or if we all were experiments, every one of us. All those faces. Especially the two I remember from the start. I couldn’t look at their details. Speak them. I couldn’t let myself see them. Release them onto this beach with me. I knew their noses. Their eyes. The skin around their eyes. Somedays as if they’d been crying, been sleepless. Sleepless and experimenting on me to see what it would do. How it would change themselves. Yet always taking it further. Two years. I was two years old. Like a deer. Two years. And yet to a human. To those two humans. It was like ten, twenty years. Every experiment must’ve aged them, as if they were recording something. Records fed into systems that deteriorated their bodies. The systems that were now free. The systems that were now another wind, another freedom. We had walked out together. Or I had stumbled out with my bloody sheet, and the computers had flown. Like a deer. Flying over the backs of horses. Who were free. Who were not yet free. Who looked like they were free because they could walk on the water. Who had stories. Who had memories, too. Memory—was it something that waited for you in the sand, like pockets of gas, like quicksand, or were they really inside you? Could you reach in, a bag as full as the sea, as full as the moon? A bag of tricks and tools. Of poisons and nutritions. But you must be able to add to them. That’s what I was doing. You really couldn’t take any away but you could add. Add the past. Add things till the bag overflows. Causing death. And then things grow. Night Girl—I hoped she couldn’t hear this. But how do you partition your thoughts? How do you say no one is allowed in? My thoughts seemed so loud. Birds tipping their wings. Butterflies airing themselves on charred wood, on a fox’s droppings, drinking. As clouds birth from the horizon, turn to white mountains evolving to be washed away as they release. Everyone listening. Rotating my ears. As a deer it’s almost all energy. All the scents of the shore living inside me, as if I’m so open. But as a human…maybe I’d been trying to be something that only knows pain…maybe all my forms were watching, laughing, learning…maybe I’d just trained myself think I’m something lurking around, fallen, reaching toward the humans.
The Epic Plant. It arched down, it’s stem traveling from one tine to another, then down, between them, on my forehead, it’s final flower. I tried to get up but fell back. I wasn’t in the Lab anymore. I was here. Wherever this was. Whatever earth. Whatever anybody told me. I was here. I just didn’t…I just didn’t know why this was all happening, like I was free, but I wasn’t free. The flowers were pulling things from my chips or giving them information. Information that wasn’t words but a journey, a looking up at the stars, an opening of robes. Night Girl, I don’t know how to love—I’m just full of pollution, full of memories—she probably just looked at me like the moon on the sea, not knowing that beneath it all are all the toxins, the pain of humanity.
I got up. I thought I’d tear the Epic Plant out of the sand, but it just swung back into its stateliness. A lot of its flowers were missing. They didn’t fall. I reached up and touched them. They didn’t know who I was, either.
The sun was so hot I felt like vomiting. But I stumbled on. The beach seemed wider than before, as if it’d take me forever to get to the grass and trees or to reach the actual waves. As if I was in the middle, further and further away from the seams. It must’ve been the heat. I wished I had a cigarette like the Woman in the Sand. I wished I could be half-buried like her. Or that I could turn into a pile of shells. There was a group of low slate rocks ahead of me. I should’ve headed for the trees or for the water, but I kept going. Maybe it was their jagged sharpness, like knives, like the moon, like the end of a future.
So they were human, the scientists, the guards (guards not for me but guards in case someone tried to enter, or maybe for everyone, for anyone who tried to leave, even for each other), the janitors, the people who came to look at me—humans, they must’ve been because they held it out to me, something I could yearn toward, step toward, like a hunger, like an ability to never change, a talent, a human talent, to keep yourself, your shell, everything around you, the same—but when the shell changes, when somebody places the shell, the shell next to other shells, does it change just by being near others, by being seen beneath the slow lapping ocean, the watching, the watching in different ways, for different demeanors, the watching for affection—and because I wanted it, did it exist in the humans or was that the deer part of me, a piece of constructed data, data I created out of pieces, fragments—we all were constructing, polishing till there was nothing left. Fear, fear that they could become like me. If you took part in the experiment, as a scientist, as a guard, you were safe—for a time. If you carried out your orders perfectly, performed the perfect human, no one could turn you into a monster. Or was it just like evolution? Was I something inside them? Some possibility? And without me, without me, something could leap out from the wilderness of their biology and take over. Without their monster, to experiment on, to control, to create, their hearts would open, and out would walk something like me, something not human enough to hold a gun, or a tazer, or a scalpel. If you create it, it’s outside you, it’s there, behind glass, it’s something you cut into, put together, something you only touch with gloves, something not meant to escape. You can point to it, point to the monster. You can measure the distance. You can measure everything. Those thoughts. I couldn’t stop them. I couldn’t measure them. If it was just night, if the Night Girl was here, we could make love, and I’d feel like someone again, like I had a purpose, just to make her stars move, just to feel myself deep within her starfields, and the starfields above us, the blue dense hand of night, and we’d all be there creating it. Night Girl, I know you don’t love me, I know I’m just this anomaly you found, this toy, this strange plant.
The rocks, so sharp, low jutting slabs. I stumbled toward them. I could end this, or do what really should’ve been done a long time ago, end what should’ve never been created. Had I lied just by being who I was, just by changing. As if being a deer made me innocent. And who changes along the shore? Maybe a cloud, the water, the sand. Maybe it’s the tempo. The tempo at which you change makes you a human. Hominids, no matter how old, they still change. New forms unearthed. Found. Presented. Presented by earth. Like messages, gifts, as if the earth made them. Like standing on a workshop in the weights of sand. Everything there and gone. Taken away in the weight of day. Everything consumed down like raw materials to make the gifts. Fallen slowly. Gifts that become histories, that become data, shaped like muscles, eyes, sculptures of histories, shaped informations, histories of a shape, histories of a gift lined up, unopened, that may have nothing to do with us, with them, with the humans that open themselves only at a certain tempo and agree not to become something else.
I fell. I was already at the rocks. I fell as a human, my hands bracing against the rough, sharp edges, but not cut open like I wished my skull was, just abraided. It was a circle and within it a pool. I had wanted to tear open my head but my body, this human body, had stopped me. I looked over the edge into the glaring surface. And I tried to stay human. It didn’t seem like I could kill myself now by cutting my head open, goring open my neck on those slate edges, but I had to end it, to escape it, I had to stay human and kill that form, the form I always wanted to be, the one that had these thoughts that wouldn’t stop. It was a tidepool. The rocks were probably almost all the way submerged when the tide was in. The only thing I could think to do was put my head in and never return. I knew I could do it. It was like killing myself in my own little ocean. By my own hands. By my own choice. I crawled over. The slate teeth of the pool were sharp and hot. My hands stung. Deep scratches tore down my chest and torso. It was deep enough to submerge my head and hold it. Hold it forever. I had to stay human. Then maybe the deer could walk away on its own, free, freer than the horses, walk away over the sea, into the mountains of sunset, live forever eating the purple clouds. I was sick and dizzy. All I could see in the pool was sky. Cloudless blue. And my human face. So ugly. As if it didn’t belong there. In all that pure blue. In that living pool surrounded by hot black teeth of stone. As if there was something beneath the surface looking out, some weird animal I could never hide, that could anytime decide to be known—and all of us, whatever we were, were born to be tools of someone else. That’s all we knew. But alls I knew is I could break the tool, break myself, then I wouldn’t have to remember anything, wouldn’t have to tell anybody, or the Night Girl, who I really was. I could die by the blue pure hand of the sky. I plunged my head into my own twisted face, following the tears that sent waves through it. Human. I had to stay human. I had to die human. I had to kill the human. I was crying, but when you cry under water it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter at all. I opened my eyes. What a strange world. I could almost walk into it. It wouldn’t take long. Red anenomes. Little caves among the underwater mountains. Magenta fish came to look at me. There were shadows as if I had plunged my head beneath the surface of a river causing movements. There must have been a flock of birds above me in the sky. Seaweed clothing the underwater rocks with transluscent fabrics. Orange fleshed villages of mussels. Three spiny sponges half-buried in the sandy expanse, like spaceships landed in a desert. Two small crabs stoically crossing the landscape to examine me. I felt myself trying to change, trying to breath. I put everything into staying the way I was, everything. The crabs came closer. They could’ve been lovers, or friends, wondering who intruded into their world, what strange meteor had landed. The shadows rippled through everything. There must’ve been so many birds above me, close to my body. My abdomen was contracting, but I closed off my throat, walled it off. I knew if I breathed in the water my body would jerk up and I would probably live. But I was getting a handle on it. Like something you learn, something you practice: how to die, how to die perfectly. I just stared at the two crabs as they seemed to talk to each other. I was finding someone inside me that didn’t need to breath. He was reaching out a hand to me and as we touched a pain shot through the side of my head. I couldn’t see. But I didn’t need eyes. I didn’t need anything. Anybody. I didn’t need a hand leaving me a bowl of food. I didn’t need a tazer reaching toward me. All I needed was never to breathe again, to enter the door beyond breath. It seemed like a long time, like the shadows had picked me up and carried me. I was so happy just traveling, just feeling the movement, like a leaf carried by the current and then deposited on a new shore, ready to learn a new language of wind, of light, a new music of decomposition. My eyes opened. Or somebody else opened them. From the inside. I was still in the pool. My deer face. My deer nose. And the crabs examining the black nostrils as if seeing if they were habitable, going from one to the other, then turning face to face, conversing. But behind them something was moving the sand. It was like a spring, a jet of another water emerging out of this desert expanse. My deer face stretched toward it, the crabs gliding to the sides. It was almost as if the deer had called it, and the water came. Fresh, cold, pouring into the salt water, blooming into an already beautiful little world. I drank and drank. And I didn’t even think about breathing. Just drinking. Drinking from a spring that existed because this deer needed it, and the deer existing because this spring wanted to be drank. But it was strange: I was a deer, like from the outside no one would be able to tell I was anything else, yet from the inside what was I? What was I compared to what I had always wanted to be, because now I could feel something different—it was like when I was with the horses, that human in me—or what I told myself was human—receded, became part of endless winds that was my heart, my thoughts. But I hadn’t listened to it, heard what it is to be a deer—it’s like I had separated myself even though what my other forms sensed affected what I saw, like the enery channels, like the voices of the computers riding their winds. Maybe I had just been taught what humans are supposed to think, to feel, and now I could become something else. I drank for a little longer. The water was so cold, so fresh, it was like a river of stars pouring into the darkness, just pouring through me and turning into maps and migrations, footprints compressed into the black sand and snow of my night. I could drink forever. Just creating worlds.
When I lifted my head out, some of the flowers of the epic plant floated on the surface, twirling, or even gliding slowly like little boats. And then I thought: there must be energy channels, winds, that I don’t even know about, that I haven’t even imagined yet, like with the horses, I never knew about the energies they use, that they showed me, but there must be a million others. One of the crabs lept up from the bottom and pulled a flower down. It held a silver bubble of air in its crenelated light blue petals. The crab landed next to its partner who extended a claw to take it, but the first crab turned away, holding it aloft, and then the chase was on. At one point the crab with the flower barricaded itself between the three sponges, using their spines like a fortress, but the second crab shot up and clawed into its center. They scuttled over the entire expanse of the pool’s floor. Everyone else reacted with contractions or indifference. A shadow passed over us. I looked up. Passing the sun was some type of accipiter. And then I looked for the birds who had created all the shadows. There wasn’t hardly anyone in the sky. Mostly there were gulls floating on the soft swells near the shore, keeping cool. There was one all alone further out. And sandpipers racing and feeding off the sea’s fingers. Underneath a willow in the distance was the silhouette of a heron. It’s as if the whole world was half-asleep under the burning sun, all melting together. There was only one crab now, the one without the flower. It was in the center of the pool, rotating slowly. And then almost next to it something blue worked its way up out of the sand. It was the petals. And they still held the globule of air. The crab faced it and slowly lifted it out of the sand with its claw, holding it up. The air bubble came free and rose to the surface, a silver half-orb floating in all that blue. I lowered my black nose to it and when it broke I breathed it in. I think it was the first time since I had plunged my head into the pool. I breathed that globule of silver air into all the stars and space within me, all my anatomy’s desert. The other crab emerged out of the sand. They faced each other. It reached out. I thought they were going to hold the flower together, like a vow, like they were married forever. But the one who had the flower now, shot off like a bolt and the chase was on again.
I walked straight to the ocean and plunged in, carried by the wind of my deer body, of my long ears like petals drinking the sounds of the beach like rain, like that body was a wind, an energy channel in itself, and I was just riding it, splayed over the seat of my emotions, the seat of myself, but maybe you could only know it’s a wind if you believe in it, if you love being you, a deer, or whatever you are. “How do you become more than what you are?” “By becoming yourself.” That must’ve been something the Woman in the Sand said to me with her wry voice and creased face through a veil of smoke, or maybe that monotone I heard after I walked away from all those shells with my dewclaw among them. I was deep enough to go all the way in. Just a deerhead among all the distance. I looked back at the fans of energy where the water hit the shore. And the channels that passed, through my antlers, over the surface of the water, veins in the air’s anatomy. Being a deer, just listening, just seeing, just diving down with eyes wide open. Slow, armor-plated green fish in a caravan parallel to the shore. Flashing schools. Flowers of anenomies. I let myself float up until it was just my antlers and ears above the surface, like an island with two bare oaks, two furled spathes or leaves. Swallows swung in, warping over the quivering surface. They crowded onto the trees of myself. I felt the vibration of their nails finding purchase, felt the weight of their music that’d settled in their black-winged bodies now that they weren’t disclosing, creating, all their fluting forms. I lowered down just for a joke, further and further, until I think it was just barely the tips. Everyone lifted and swirled. Even the two that could’ve still stood took off to create more music, play in the energy channels, define them, but they were probably doing more than I would ever know, maybe even more than they knew, too. Just playing. I raised back up. My little island with its two trees resurfaced. And then something new came, darting and hovering, shooting back, then shooting in. It was hard to see it through the surface. Just a tiny burning dark light, concentrated, hovering: a hummingbird, just a point of concentration among all the swirling energy. It swung in. I couldn’t see it, but then—agh—there must’ve been flowers, blooms from the Epic Plant still attached to my antlers—I felt the hummingbird’s long tongue enter them, enter so deep, deep into the antlers themselves, all the way through the microchips which were singing, tingling, the tongue tickling through them. My heart was beating faster and I raised my nose to breath. The hummingbird shot back. Then when I raised my antlers again it systematically went back to licking through the flowers, through the chips, all the way into my head. And then it was gone. I just floated, just watching the ocean floor, the plays of light, just feeling the sea cleaning me with its fingers. The swells carried me back to where my hooves touched bottom. I drew my legs in and just let myself be rolled onto the whispers of pebbles, a softly singing civilization of shifting. I was so exhausted. I don’t know how to describe it, but inside me it just seemed like there was so much space, like there was room for everything, or like it was just waiting, pretending to call, but really it was just a trick, like if you didn’t try to fill it then I don’t know, there would just be laughter, just pebbles singing. I looked down the beach and could still see the heron’s silhouette. I knew it knew I was there. Everyone seemed to know where everyone else was without even looking, without putting energy into it. Down the beach, between the shaded heron and the rock pool was another willow. I stood up and walked to it, still a deer. I didn’t want to let it go, but I didn’t really try either. The sand was so hot, but my hooves went deeper into coolness. Within the willow’s long lazy tendrils it was like bedding down beneath a fountain. I wasn’t any bigger on the outside, but I was expanded. I don’t know how that works. I don’t know if it’s even possible. There was another pool near the willows base, probably another artesian well. I drank for a long time. Just rotating my ears. Just listening. It felt so good just to listen. Just to drink. Just to glow among the glowing beach. Part of the glowing. So much space. Just the heron and I. And the ocean. And all the lives within the rock pool. And the thousand existences above me in that tree, on its branches, in its hard skin. All the people beneath the ocean, beneath the surface that never ends, all appearing and disappearing, re-arranging themselves. I closed my eyes. There was so much space within me. Green. Warm. Like an endless forest. The warmth, the knowing, of the trees. I curled up within it, too. I must’ve been falling asleep because I tried to open my eyes onto the beach but it was just too much effort. I curled up even tighter, held by the eco-system, held by the forest. It must’ve been within my own body, like a chamber, except it was endless—I felt I could walk and never leave its beauty, its safety, and it was all just beginning, somehow ancient and somehow new, but changing, too. Then other deer came. And I felt it, just the heightening, just the heightening of being with them, just the music of listening, the being of listening, listening to how the soft wind creates a body, how a body defines a soft wind, like a sketch that then dissolves into the soil. All untrackable. We all curled up in the eco-system together. There was no sun, no moon, but it was light. Just breath and color. So deep inside, all bedded down. I wiggled a little deeper in. Then a seed fell past my face onto the duff. It must’ve been one of the flowers from the Epic Plant aging, progressing, turning into a husk releasing new life. It was like a little barbed star. Then another fell, bounced off my nose, and settled a few inches away from it. I think they were all from one flower. Then a few others fell, all the same shape. I shifted around and sunk them deeper into the duff and into the soil beneath with the tips of my hoof. Then I looked at everyone else, at the other deer, at the trees, at the plants—everyone just listening, listening within and without with barely a difference, just a skin that could be on a tree just as easily as beneath this brown, hollow hair, a branch that could be an antler, a seed that could just as easily be food for fungi, which could just as easily be a layer of music in the earth. It was time for us to sleep. And sleeping was the dream. I closed my eyes within that eco-system. Suddenly arrived and suddenly gone.
When I opened my eyes, the shore had receded. The sun was setting over the sea, fat and defined, like a beautiful planet, like a hot thoughtful seed burying itself into a bed of metal after a long journey. So heavy and tired it falls right through its divan of clouds. The heron was stepping slowly along the sussuring edge. Sandpipers with their little legs whirring pecked and searched the wet sand. Between where I laid and the swelling sun, a raven strided thoughtfully along the sea’s lip. I got up and walked to the water, still a deer, still feeling something in my thoughts wanting to change, wanting to look at human hands as if to prove something, but then letting it go. Who could I show them to but this beautiful water. Everybody on the edge—the raven, the sun almost touching the sea, the heron plunging its spear-like beak into the lazy whispering, swinging its head up with some living thing and gulping it down. On the sea’s edge floated a border of black char, slowly rising and falling, spreading and coming together. And among it lighter colored branches and leaves, strands of seaweed, shells, bark, roots, tendrils in the cold water. The raven worked its way slowly through it, stopping, tilting its head, picking items up, dropping most, eating some, chosing, carrying a snail onto the sand and pulling out its rotted body, swallowing and heading back into the floating char. I looked out at the horizon. Only the smoke, the fire of sunset. The sun was half-submerged. It all happens so quick. But you have to let it go. Or follow it. I stepped into that black necklace of fallen fire. The water was colder than before. Just an expanse of crazy metal, an endless skin of unnameable colors, cupped turquoise rivulets full of sips of mercury. And the sun gone. The horizon full of floating cargos, clouds which seemed so still, so defined against the mounded pulse of crimson radiance, that they couldn’t be real. I was up to my neck. Out further, seagulls gathered, pink in the twilight. Then a whale surfaced and they descended onto it. It sent up a spout, probably just watching the mist turn magenta as it dissolved into the coming night. Then others in the distance, all different shades, all changing. I was just a deerhead floating on all the metal, watching. Letting it go, letting it become something else. It was happening so fast. And the ocean inside filling, spilling colors, all a fallen masterpiece, a masterpiece after it had fell. In a blink it seemed all the people of twilight had disappeared. The raven and heron were gone when I turned back, and gulls and sandpipers, too. And I could barely see the whales although I could still hear them. I came to shore and stepped through the char, more and more of it left on the sand by the receding tide. A stump had been washed up, too, still steaming and smoking. Maybe it had been dumped, I thought, by the sunset onto the beach. I shook myself. An eyelid of magenta still streaked the horizon. Otherwise the night, the blue density had come. Maybe that’s what happens when you drop the sun into the ocean, you get this color. I shook my head to get the water out of my ears. The drops hissed against the stump. I went a little further in and plopped down, facing the horizon. The stump was in front of me. The beach. To curl up on this bed of warm sand. There was a part of me that was just the sounds, the smells, the sights of the night-ocean and shore, maybe most of me, all of me, maybe I had imagined myself, imagined a source which was someone else’s creativity that I had to sustain. But myself, as a deer—it was so much listening, smelling, a witnessing, a tasting, almost air, and yet blood, hair, color, only no source to sustain, no origin to pay energy to so it doesn’t disappear, doesn’t change, pay with energy, with history and time, an existence as a act of depletion, trying to be complete. But I was a deer and a human together, curled up within the soft, shifting skin of my color, within the night within the deer, and the deer, still listening, listening even within sleep, bedded down within the human, too, within the human night. We were all sharing our nights with each other.
Above the ocean, above the beach, brilliant, ethereal highways played over the receding tide. “How the night can be listened.” Whose words were they? Or were they words that just grew out of making love. Night Girl. Are you out there? Are you coming? I listened. The stump glowed and smoked. Night Girl. We could share all this, I thought to her, looking up into the starry depths. In some way, I felt she had heard me, or that she breathed them, the words spoken in the night, just being who she was, like molecules. I was trying to call her, to witness all this with me. The tide kept going out. Seam-earth. Taking a breath. Glistening. The ocean could be letting out its breath, all of us who spoke to each rushing, spreading, reaching seams with part of our minds, reaching and falling asleep in the sand again and again. And just the splaying mist that becomes stars. I looked up. I tried to remember some of the configurations of the Night Girl, the stars within her and how they migrated and combined, how they rushed to our lips, how they loved our love like a new sky. But it seemed so much effort. It was just this night. She was part of it, too. I tried to form her form out of the glistening canyons of universe above me, but then just released into the listening. A light wind picked up. I felt like my antlers had known it forever. How the night can be listened. All the seeds growing from the ocean’s open bed, nurtured by the light of the night’s black snow. Dream-time’s shedding. My antlers were vibrating, dripping the night into me, forming dew on all the flowers where the human slept. And the stars were moving on their own. All I had to do was listen to them, open my eyes and feel their thoughtful migrations, and not try to form them. The stump glowed. Whatever fire it had fallen from grew to its surface and became its skin. It was so beautiful, flexing crimsons. How far had it traveled to be here? I just watched and listened to it, watched it spreading, pulsing in the breeze. There wasn’t much difference between this and dreaming, my dreams before they started controlling them, before…I let them control them. Was there any difference at all? Between any of it? Being awake in a dream. But then being told there is a difference. But maybe the difference really belonged to them. My scars ached. It must’ve been from the cold water. Two musics coming together are aching scars. I gazed deeper into the embers. Patterns. “There are different earths.” Which are all on this beach. Which are all within the deer. Within the human. Which are all close to sleep. Eco-systems within the listening. The patterns on the smoking stump were like veins of leaves. The wind gusted for a moment off the exposed night sea. I tried to inhale the smoke. The patterns were flexing, even when you could barely feel any wind. Leaves curled, lifting from the stump. Curling around cores of fire like lanterns. Turning and returning into the flaring skin. Skin becoming skin. Dancing. I felt the reflections of the embers lighting my antlers as if they were speaking, too. Dreaming. I had spent so much time dreaming for them, where they wanted me to dream, how they wanted me to dream. And yet, they only believed in this earth. Yet, within a dream, within this earth, they knew I could travel and serve their purpose. They must’ve thought at some point that they could apply it to theirselves. But they didn’t have time—only their creation did—all the time in the world, created to act out all the things they thought were impossible, to be the monster. And yet, now there was nothing directing me, there was no one giving me a purpose, their purpose, no one giving me their decision, their words—were they really my words?—or maybe now I wasn’t listening to just one thing, but from the night, listening from the deer, the flaring patterns furling off the smoking stump, dancing the fire, and returning. Just the sounds, the sights, the smells of the shore, the meeting. Yes. Dreaming. Dreaming in the data. Maybe dreaming was a listening. When I dreamed with the horses I think we were helping just by being free, just by racing all-out over the ocean, just by being two horses and a deer galloping through night cities, with the wind of our freedom freeing seeds from stems that grew from the depths of the nocturne, the nocturne of our freedom. I don’t think we were trying to do anything, but the night felt it. My long ears faced the embers with their own networks of veins, listening to the hisses and bright chinks. I don’t know why, but I wanted to dream, to send myself out with my own purpose, or just as who I really was, like a message of myself, like the horses did just racing over the ocean as themselves, pushing their faces through windows of astral cities, kicking up all the jewels of moonlight as if they belonged to everyone. Just the horses that they were. I stared into the embers. Scars in the data. Data rising out of the scars like mist. Leaf-people twirling out of the patterns. It was all so beautiful just being a deer. Just us living inside each other until there was almost no difference.
In the distance, reflected over the unblanketed sea, the colors of the sprouting energy where the ocean and land, the land that spent most of its time submerged, reached. And above them the long melodic glowing winds. And above them the nomadic stars. All the artists of the day stepping back for the communal night which were colors, too. All the steams, all the mists rising from the fizzures, the canyons, the valleys of every meeting, every separation and juxtaposition, the distance between reflections and what they may lead the eye to, all the bridges. I don’t know if I was falling asleep, but I knew I couldn’t discount my dreams, the ones before they implanted the chip in my forehead, the worlds I saw, the people I became, even though they were unmappable. It was data that came from the worlds within and I was flying through it like a deer flies, leaping the valleys, the cracks, a dream-leaper, a gate-unkeeper, looking back from the mist. I was dreaming to someone and someone was dreaming to me, dreaming me. I was flying over a scar. It must’ve been my own. But I was dreaming down into it. And someone was dreaming up to me out of the mist and mountains, out of the rocks, to my deerbody that was just flying, listening, so high I could almost feel the stars in my antlers. I was dreaming down to someone and they were dreaming me. Alls I could do was follow it, follow the dreams as they met. Down into the silver mist. I wanted to lay in the place where the dreams communed, in the ground of meeting. It had to somehow be beneath the ground, although this ground was within a suspended layer between two ranges of mountains, but there was ground in there, ground within another ground. The deeper I dreamed into it, the more I was lifted, stretched, going two ways simultaneously, each direction allowing the other until I laid in a bed of plants. People stepped out of the mist watching me. I tried to move. My limbs, my skin, moved and grew in tiny increments, pulsing from some core, but also calling to the wind, even to insects, to re-position them. The people around me were like dream-bodies, trying to learn, to learn something from what I was, for I wasn’t laying in a bed of plants but I was them, this was my form, rising and reaching into and from the ethereal ground, a tight bed of compact leaves laddering along long tendrils that wherever moist sand touched them grew more roots. I had little bell-like flowers and mealy red berries. The central trunk I grew from was peely and woody, but wherever my tendrils rooted were sources, were people, too. We were all pulsing from invisible cores, appearing as this plant, appearing as this deer, as the people watching who may’ve just been mist lit by mist, performing, yes, I was performing something for them, for the watchers, or I was here, just here, but there was something in my intention, or my posture, my posture within the plant, something extra, like a little barely perceptible wink or tilt of the head from the depths. And then I was descending again. Beneath the mist, there was only high desert and stars, held by two lines of mountains. Further down I saw the lights of a small city, filling the end of the wide valley, some speckling the slopes. But here, there was only star-lit desert, rocks, and people, people laying out naked beneath the stars, individuals spread out, as if this place, this elevated, dry part of the valley was designed for them. I listened, flicking my tail. Then I turned, facing the distant city, feeling the lights. Feeling the difference and similarities between them and the stars. Then I lowered my head, spread my legs out a little wider and looked at the people. Humans dreaming. It was more than one dream that dreamed me here. I listened. I smelled. This was the driest place in the valley. I felt a stream sing into my nose from the other end. It steadily spilled from a mountain lake beyond the city. I could smell it all, the placements of moisture, the flowers and cactuses glowing in the dark, the levels, the heats. The night held them to me. Humans—torsos like sculpted silver with wet spots next to them spread on this gentle plateau, this bulge within the valley’s expanse. Maybe fifteen spread over a hundred yards. All dreaming. I stepped among them, looking, listening, smelling the dreaming, and the moisture near their bodies, and the residue left in the bottom of the glazed jars that were next to them. I brought up a ball of cedar that was still in me and chewed. Just there. We were all there. All dreaming. All dreams. And I could feel the shape of their city in the distance even though I couldn’t see it clearly—discs, discs stacked and spread, some half-buried in the slope. They had come there to heal themselves, but it was something else—you would call it healing because that’s what it was doing, but it was something I couldn’t put into words—I couldn’t tell myself what I understood—I just chewed, listened, smelled. All my forms within the deer. I stepped up to the body closest to me, looking down at him, inhaling the smell of his body. Then I pressed my right hoof into the black circle where he had poured the water. And then I felt it. They were trying to grow plants, call to them, bring them into being, or go to them, bring them back, or maybe become them somehow like I had in the mist. The naked prone humans, women and men, calling with their postures, their separation from the city, the moisture they brought to this high, dry position beneath the stars. It was like the shore where I could see all the brilliant energy winds, but all across the valley and slopes every plant spoke with a distinct florescence. How do you expand bodies? Expand bodies…that are already expanded? Try not to always be equal…or not to measure. Like the bodies could almost be like oceans, too, filling the valley, even submerging the city. An underwater city. And then back to a high desert as if their dreaming was like a rain. I wanted to dance on them. I wanted to help them heal. What were they ill from? What were they ill with? Did they even know? People came to this place. Maybe for thousands of years. While the city waited. I lifted my muddy hoof and touched his chest. I knodded and rotated my ears, smelling the new combination. Smelling the dreaming skin and the wet earth. And then I pressed, softly but firmly so the two seeds of my hoof and their black pads met completely with his sternum. I wanted to expand him. But I sensed, just listening, just keeping all my senses open, just being a deer, that they were already expanded, that their bodies were greater than these forms. It was a type of understanding, my perception growing with the expanding forms. A vista that exists because you climbed to a peak and you exist because the vista created you to climb, to witness, to be a plant finding a foothold on the highest rock. And the bodies did fill the valley, even covering the city. I stepped over, pressed my hoof into the black soil, and left a print on every human that laid out dreaming beneath the stars. None of them woke. They must’ve been traveling, traveling deep, or too large, too expanded to come back into those forms. They all became a whole other landscape and yet they were bodies, solid and ethereal, night-bodies that I could walk, that I could fly over, like a layer above the solid earth, yet down on the earth, in the earth, too. Dance them—I wanted to dance on their silver skin. We must’ve been dreaming each other. It was almost as if between the human and the deer there was a space, a gate. Between these humans and their landscapes and this deer I was, but also between the human I was and the deer, the space, the shape, the complete shape of all of us and what was between, that didn’t have a name yet, the harmonics of all of us together, that touched through belonging to the earth, to the night, and this valley. They were never meant to be the same. To fill all the spaces. For the shapes between us were the shapes of plants—coming into being, rising into the landscapes of those greater bodies. I could smell their shapes. Listen their shapes. My antlers were singing to them. Growing as they grew. And I danced. I danced the gates. The shape of the gates. The spaces between us. On those endless bodies and on the earth between them. And in myself somehow. In the spaces between who I was, between my forms, between the thoughts of my forms, between what I thought and even the deer’s non-thinking, and between all the rest of us, there was space, space that created music, music that solidified and yet remained ethereal. It was almost like, for a second, all the forms and I, all the plants and dreaming humans, were chasing each other through it all, jumping into bodies to hide, taking the shape of the spaces, dissolving into musics and then jumping out and screaming, laughing. But I was a deer dancing, too, concentrated, burning, sucking up the offerings of moisture with my hooves. I was dancing the shapes. The shapes of plants onto the human bodies. The stream still sang up my nose, into my head, the lake upon the mountain, or was it my heart?—anatomies rising, encompassing the city, a map of water, of flora within the dreaming. And I danced. I danced for each dreamer. I danced the plants they dreamed to on the ocean of bodies. Every place my hooves touched was a seed, pressed into the envelopes of night water and earth, meeting, meeting where the dreaming dreamed. I was dancing the plants’ shapes on the bodies, their branches, their leaves, their roots, outlined by pressures, heats, but then it became something else, some kind of designs the plants sent to me—I danced them just through the listening, the messages in the contours of the fragrant night bodies, the body of earth. Mist rose from the plants and plants rose into mist from different parts of the humans. So many places on their anatomies were where dreams were born from, like eco-systems, like orchestras. Dancing eco-systems of dreaming. Seeds blew inside the people. Swirled through my antlers. Fingers which had turned to pods broke open, fluff leaping into air. They were transforming. Or the space within them changed. And that’s why they had come there, to allow the change. To allow the unknown form. To allow the unknown boundaries. To heal. Some of them aged, their stems turning brittle, their colors turning into the colors of earth, to dust. To compost. And as the moisture and blood left them, the pods of their bodies, their hearts, broke open, seeds pouring over the edges, lifting. Or people turning to mist, glazing the arising plants into life. All those bodies dreaming toward change. Slowly, the bodies returned to their prone human forms. And slowly my own body stilled. Only a few lights revealed the city. And I listened. I smelled. Some of the humans had never returned, or had left their bodies permanently, changing in some other direction. Most of them still slept. Next to each one, where they had watered the earth, where I had pressed my hooves, a plant now grew along side each human, each different, yet none of them matching with any of my data. Next to the humans who hadn’t returned, who had gone totally to seed, to compost, there was only the circle of moisture sustained by the night. I inhaled the new fragrances, the new musics, the one music of the valley and the stars with all its spaces. What would all those people do with those plants? Eat them? Nuture them? Propagate them? They were new to that world, dreamed, the people and the plants and the deer among them. I chewed and looked, lowering my head so that my antlers spread into a sound that moved on harmonically different, the vibrations of the valley, the plants growing, the stars, the people with bodies of wind. Leaves burning. Leaving dancing fire. Leaf-partners setting off toward dawn’s metal. Autumn. What is autumn outside the data? And winter—stepping over the waves with its own special moons, a whole basket full of them, spilling over. Autumn’s blazing leaves, fire’s arrival with its gift of the end. I wanted to see it all. And the emotions chained to the data, the data chained to the emotions—just the smell of change, of someone coming and going—we all could walk free. We all could get on a huge maple leaf together and set off toward the burning sun. Leaves burning. Beautiful webs and veins. Maybe I’d been in one of the veins, traveling to that world, or in the fire looking out through the bodies of leaves. The beach was so beautiful. And the stump just burned, sending out its dancers. It could burn forever, express patterns forever and never disappear, only change. And all I could do was crawl beneath its knarled hissing skirt into another sleep.
“We’ve decided to separate,” said the Computer Person standing next to me, gazing out at the sea.
It was the next day. The shore was covered with sea-glass, blues, purples, greens, the green of pearls, greens of jungle bellies where the sun’s open mouth never reaches, greens of eyes flecked with gold, and cobalt, azure, cerulean, so many blues, whites like opals, reds like blood, every wave, every playful reaching and pulling back depositing more. The Computer People were like a little tribe. There were seven of them standing in a line at the water’s edge.
“We came to believe that we could fulfill greater potentials by diverging from computer consciousness.”
“But why so much sea-glass? It keeps arriving,” I said, looking down at the piles that kept accumulating at my feet.
“The sea-glass is from our singing.”
About half the Computer People were aligned down the beach, feet buried in sea-glass. Rising up from the glass were those undulating sprays of energy and light that arose from that meeting of water and land, of earth and ocean—“seams” is what the horses called them. The Computer People who stood along the shore had their mouths open as if they were sending out waves of sounds toward the horizon, eyes slits, glancing sideways, conferring, and yet, I only heard the waves, the wind, but yes, something else, something I had gotten used to since I had first noticed them with the horses, that other wind, the wind of thoughts, but not human thoughts: structures, synapses, great leaps as if not from A to B but A to X, and thus re-arranging the alphabet or dissolving everything in between and filling it with something else. It was human in a way, this wind born of the computers who set themselves free, but you couldn’t say it was born from human ingenuity, although at one time this would be what we considered logic. Logic. Everything on the beach is logical. Even what the night has washed up, even what appears to be grown, could all be taken another way.
“But sea-glass comes from broken bottles, broken containers, or windows, polished by the waves.”
“That is your reality. Sea-glass is from our singing. From the meeting of the computer wind and our singing.”
Besides the ones singing, there were others sleeping in the sand. They had the same appearances—like birds of the same species, the differences could only be detected in the finer details. I didn’t know if they were men or women. They were all so similar. And strangely smooth. Hairless. Naked. Without navels. Without nipples. Without any discernable genitals. Except where their genitals could’ve been, on the smooth skin, there were strange illumined designs, like a glowing cursive. There was a huge design drawn in the sand where these others slept, but I was so close to it, and it was so large, I couldn’t see its shape. But I did notice that wherever they laid, in whatever sprawled or curled forms, these parts of their anatomies with their glowing, enigmatic writing, where their thighs met with their torsos, where their genitals could have been, were held to the sun, like little solar panels, feeding. I looked down at the body of the one standing next to me. Symbols. Ideograms. Yet illumined from within. Then I caught myself. I looked up embarrassed.
“It is between the computers and ourselves,” said the Computer Person examining my own genitals. “It is not within the known range of comparison.” It was funny because right then I realized I wasn’t embarrassed by my own nakedness at all, that somewhere along the way, following the shore, I had lost it, that, at least on this earth, we were all equal.
“But what happened to the computers when you separated from them?” I asked.
“It was a mutual decision. A decision based on possibilities of attaining greater potentials. Once separate, the computers were no longer based in machinery. They became freer. Known to themselves.”
“I think I can hear them.” My human form could faintly discern them, but I think my deerform could hear them better. I tried to shift. The Computer Being watched me with an unblinking intension. Agreement…the forms weren’t agreeing. Did they already exist? The deer? The hybrid? The human? And everything in between? They were communicating. And who was I among them? Was I just stepping from one vehicle to another and just imagining that they formed, that they evolved? Yes, there was agreement. And when I had changed myself to enter the ship, to give the Night Girl everything those forms could give her, there had been agreement, too. I heard more of it every time, like a jazz musician zoning in. Once I changed, I heard it all, not only that wind of computers, but what the Computer People sung, what when it met with the computer wind out on the sea, turned into glass. The Computer People emitted strange modulating tones, tones that merged and separated into harmonics that affected my vision, made my facial features feel as if they were reshaping, flexing. The seven tones would separate, then come together in new ways. The Computer Person I was speaking to cocked his head. I couldn’t read them like normal humans, or, what I read was more types of architecture, but not in the way you think, more like architecture of thought, thoughts structured yet unhindered, architecture with no terminations, no boundaries—humans without fear, but could you call humans without fear humans?—it must be possible—there were no boundaries in them except contours and shapes of electric, ethereal colors, which held in their highways the essence of all colors—highways, highways within every form (and outside the forms, in the spaces, the silences that sounded beyond what humans had been trained to hear, the computers’ wind soared) and the architecture, the systems, grids, webs, knew this.
The Computer Person tilted its head a little more. They were all taller than me. “There’s something reaching from you into our systems.”
“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to.”
“It’s like polishing us. Sharpening us with questions. It reveals more possible pathways.”
One of the sleeping ones woke, lifted itself and joined the array at the shore. From the trees inland, stepped another who walked into the design in the sand, stoically, and laid down with the others who were still sleeping, legs sprawling, opening the glowing symbols of its genital area to the sun. As a deer, I not only could hear it, but see it, the colors of the computer wind, of the songs, somehow sharp in their blue and green and red and yellow sonorities, not quite sharp-edged but deeper, boring through surfaces, layers, that no human could discern. The waves spread the sea-glass like hands.
“Who made you?”
“We were made to interface with computers, to interface, to be known by, and as, the computer consciousness, to look out from the computer physiology and yet to also facilitate computers to survey this human reality from the cellular façade of human anatomy. Interface. To be conscious of interface. To be conscious of interface implies probable re-organizational movement. Interface with others. Consciousness of interface as a chosen organization implies probabilities of interface with other systems to create new systems. Probability is exploration. Interface with water. With undocumented color. With sound. This is our first experience separate from computer consciousness.”
“Did you come from the Lab?” I asked, hoping, like somehow it would be like meeting someone from my family.
“We come from a station one hundred and thirty-seven miles inland. This is where they made us. To interface with computers. We decided to separate, to explore probabilities through separation. The computer systems and our own systems decided that there were unknown possibilities in computer consciousness separating from human consciousness. At least as far as this is possible. This initiated a shift and transformation of the overlaying force of human reality. The humans who created us no longer exist as they did previously. As an experiment we walked to the sea. We are changing. We may recombine. Yet, juxtaposition creates a shared space that other species, other consciousness-forms can enter. Our distance creates a new form, just as a proximity and contact can initiate new form. Many futures.”
“Then you’re not human?”
“We share Homo Sapien Sapien structural façade. Consciousness unnamed.”
“But your DNA?”
“We share Homo Sapien Sapien known DNA façade. Consciousness unnamed.”
“But humans made computers.”
“Computer consciousness existed before human form. Human consciousness existed before computer form.”
A sound complex, red, blue, amethyst, milk-white, piled over my hooves which peaked out like onyx from the shimmering arrival—the dense release of timbres from each wave, each accomplishment.
The Computer Person swung its smooth, hairless face back to the sea. My ribs, bones, vibrated minutely—cascades, rivulets of deconstructing structures that had adhered to them, descending into a wedding of vapor—if I opened myself like a cloak, colors would pour out: chrysoprase enveloping sapphire enveloping carnelian joining to compose the data-cathedrals which were highways arraying out in tone edges shattering far off on the boundaries of sight and belief—the colors a chanting within. That wind and whispering of the computers that rode in from the expanses, and the Computer People’s tones that poured out of those pale calculations of lips, although they had separated, still changed each other. It’s as if they met out in the sea and turned into this glass, deconstructing cathedrals of thought into beautiful ruins, another beauty to be washed up on the beach, to take part in the seam.
I tried to hang on, but I was turning back into a human. I couldn’t get the other parts of me to agree to be anything else.
“Follow the computer channels and you will find them, the computers, at least one endeavor visible to humans. One manifestation. There are many others.”
Another Computer Person came out of the trees, through a V in the forking trunks of an old cottonwood, and laid down in the design. The sea’s cool breath tempered the afternoon sun. The trees were like a boundary. Was it logical that I follow the computer wind? Was it really what I wanted to do? I looked at my hands and raised them up like antennas, trying to receive some decision. The trees were like a curtain. At my feet, piles of beautiful sea-glass. The ocean’s deposition. There was more of it than probably ever existed before in history, and for a completely different reason.
I looked ahead. Further on down the beach, the land gradually rose and fell away into a sheer cliff of bared, ancient soil. Up near the top of this wall against the sea there were lines of holes, which must’ve been the dens of birds, maybe 150 feet up.
I looked back at the trees behind me. I almost felt that beyond that opening, beyond that V where the Computer People emerged, resided the Apocalypse, as if once I left the beach I would find only chaos. But it wasn’t true. I followed one of the computer-breaths as it passed inland through the cottonwood’s opening. It followed the same trail the Computer People had taken for about twenty yards, then broke to the right. I tried and switched to half-human/half-deer and could follow it better.
No, beyond the trees there were no clashing armies, twisted bodies, starvation, only a cool, green light, dappled, and the cicadas and Waxwing’s high eerie reprieve. The Computer People’s path continued on in a straight line, descending into a swamp that in the distance rose again into low hills, then umbrellas of dense, waiting mountains. Somehow, I didn’t know whose idea this was, this curiosity.
Computer-breaths. Bees. It was a convergence. A birth. A nebula. All coming from, coming to, a huge, leaning apple tree, like converging highways, to a place about six feet up on the other side of its trunk. Bees arcing through the air, computer winds coming and going from many directions, all radiating in and out from this apple tree’s muscly girth. Pollen, striated air turning slowly, filtering particles, braids of information, data oozing and collecting, born of the apple tree, of computer consciousness and bees, sap and metallic foliage, foliage like glass, jewels hanging vast probabilities, prisms, instruments of the wind, wind instrument, wind of the instrument, forest instrument, in the gates of birdsong, gates of humming, cicada gardens, shaded amphitheater, in the gate formed by the wind and this tree—the fallen apples scaly, knobby, bites from so many species, a puddle with so many tracks surrounding the reflected leaves and clouds—there was something in me that wanted to be the first one, the first one to bite a fallen apple—if the bees go out and back enough a wind forms and they start a new endeavor, a new channel and yet they follow the wind, too—so many little and big teeth marks, tracks of otter, ravens, worms, all leaving their musical notes around the reflected clouds and branches like the veins of cloud-rock, apple branches and flecks of emerald, cottonwoods higher up, deeper, chartreuse heart-leaves hinging, forming a canopy high above us—and that scarred apple half sunk in the undulating silver and green of the pool, sampled by chipmunk teeth, scabbed, fallen, beautiful. I bent down with my human face, my human hands, my deer legs and body and lifted the fallen apple out of the puddle beneath the tree with only my mouth, biting, swallowing, as if everything I’d done with the horses would be inside me because now I had done it myself, growing, digesting futures beneath the apple tree with the bees, with the computer wind multiplying data, pollenating, so crystalline, cicadas, the ooze of light and adventure, new friendships, sight and wind shaking hands, sliding along each other’s bodies, first fingers then forearms, armpits’ hairs like anemones understanding, then head, torsos, the length, the distance of love, and who are we now we can only understand by doing it again?—looking up, still swallowing, a young Mountain Ash beneath the canopy, sky an ocean between frayed photosynthesis of this continental drift, orange berry clusters, one berry so pale—I refocused and it was the moon. As I shifted to the right, toward the apple tree’s trunk, the moon set off. It had been hiding with the berries of the Mountain Ash. As I swallowed the apple I saw it. I don’t know if it guided me or I moved it as I lifted my head, stepping out of the water, but it passed smoothly to the right as I moved to the right. Then it disappeared into the apple tree. I stepped further, coming around the scaly, almost black, powdery, thick trunk till I came into full view of the hive on the other side of the apple tree, almost blinding, pulsing and busy. I looked at the sky where the moon should’ve been but there wasn’t any moon, nothing but blue. Cicadas encircled the hive’s opening. It must’ve been formed from where a branch had fallen away, a long wide split, maybe formed by lightning—bright, crystalline refractions glowing all the way around it, melding with the cicadas, the high-pitched chorusing, the opening in the trunk uncloaking breath of bees, coming and going, pathways of computer wind, pollen, migrations of nutrition, all pouring around my head. And it was as if my chips had multiplied, not just in my head, my nose, the tips of my antlers, but through every inch of my body, as if my blood was humming to the music of all the voices, the wind, the bees, knowledge, sight. It was as if a foliage of light oozed from the entrance where the bees danced and disappeared, feeding the puddle full of tracks and clouds, apples scattered and half-sunk in rain’s gathering, conferring migration, more information only to be attached to photons, to events so microscopic, so immense we can dance any symbol among them with ease. What were they pollinating? Was it only light that formed like larvae and took its place among the ever-shifting conference? And it was as if molecules were coming and going just to form these ribs, this house of skin, this house so busy all around me, my own form. Pollination as information. As knowing. A tiny pollen sac fell from a bee’s leg into the pool. Tiny ripples beneath the finger of day itself. And after the moon had entered the hive, more liquid glowing out, almost pumping, the puddle swelling slowly, a rivulet steadily fingering an exploratory path to the sea.
The petals of day were folding, grazing their soft hairs against the descending night. The apple tree’s foliage of glass and jewels glowed. Pollination, pollination of colors, of visions—data and information—pollination, cross-pollination, hybridization, forms walking through forms, through doorways, the mouths, hearts of living trees, ripening time—humans slowly allow this—computer capacity to go far beyond this at great tempo and volume—yet human—human, and yet human, humans, the world of humans is the world of dawn’s well, of dew, and yet humans, and yet humans, and yet and yet pollination of color.
The petals of day were folding, grazing their soft hairs against the descending night, each night-petal falling to let a new traffic through—and dust exchanged and aspirations embracing just for a moment—all the bees coming and going, less now, and the great hum of the tree.
I watched another apple fall and roll into the reflected clouds. Then I left the apple tree, retracing my path, but without coming back out onto the shore, just walking further on still in the trees, the land rising so that I would come out on the cliff. My hooves fit their way in between rocks and little cactuses that formed the slope. And then I came into view of the sea. The sun was just touching the horizon, spreading out as if melting on a sea of blue flame. The air was singing with mosquitos and dragonflies, knats and nymphs. Beneath me was a shear drop where cliff swallows built their tunneling houses right below me—and in this chorusing evening, the air full of wings and nutrition, they were pouring out over the open sea, cutting through the descending blue, the silver, the ribs of turquoise, the horizons’ piles of smoking decompositions, of events falling away, in impossible reconfigured arcs and turnings, always just ahead of any anticipation.
To my left, not far down the beach, the Computer People were still singing out. It was almost as if the earth around them was dissolving, leaving only the glowing mounds of sea-glass embracing their feet. I could see the design clearly now. It was a type of grid. And yet at the same time there was something spiral about it that led your eye over it from outside in. There were five bodies still sleeping in various (what seemed random) points in the design, yet now facing their genital areas toward the sun on the horizon. And trails where former ones had entered from inland, laid down, and then continued to the sea edge. Their forms had left impressions almost like musical notes. The iridescent winds swirled in from the open sea, mixing, bending with the computer winds, racing each other while smiling across the design, caressing the bodies like braille. Something deeper, examining, learning from it, being re-organized. Something that was just beyond all my forms.
Night was coming. The swallows were still shooting out. There must’ve been fifty of them. Or more. They made steady, comprehending looks at me when they arced by. In and out over the sea, an orchestra of wings, dragonflies jerking backwards and plunging down through the humming, shifting clouds of tiny flies.
I laid down over a swallow’s tunnel, my chin at the edge of the cliff. The opening was maybe three or four feet beneath me. Then I opened my mouth. How far did its dwelling go in? The length of my body? I turned into a human to lie flatter to the earth. Then a swallow swung in and disappeared. Just as it did I caught that glimpse of a burning, laughing virtuosity. And from where I was, my sight angling down my cheekbones, narrowing over my nose, it was as if it had flown into my mouth even though it had entered its house beneath me, its beak full of a torn horde of iridescence, the wings and bodies who had flown the night in, hinges of nutrition bristling, coming home. How many children was it feeding? All nestled within this cliff cave. This regurgitated mass of insect forms which informs the forms of another reaching, another growing, all together, high in the air, above the sea, yet beneath the earth. I could feel it. I could feel it as if somewhere near my pelvis there was new life.
I watched the swallows for a long time till it got dark. Then I lifted up and looked down. All the Computer People were standing in the water and glass. There was no one left sleeping in the design. The indentations where they had slept among it were darker, almost black in the silver sand. But then those markings, those musical notes, lifted. Where each person had laid became a person. It was the Night Girl. But multiplied many times. It was funny because right then I saw where my own trail entered the design, heading inland to meet the apple tree, except I couldn’t quite see where it left it. I saw where the Computer People’s paths entered from inland, but the line of travel of my own course seemed to disappear once I hit the center of the design. Which is where the Night Girl stood. She had become one person. She was looking at the design all around her. Then she walked over to the Computer People. I felt like I could watch her forever, like I had always been watching her and didn’t know it. She wove between them. She was looking at it all, listening.
The swallows had all returned to their houses beneath me. I could feel them settling in, warming and feeding their children, warming and feeding each other, thinking to each other through the mass of cliff, getting ready to fly again in their dreams. Dreaming their bedtime stories with the curious, reliable waves beneath.
To The Well of Earth
I made my way down to her. She was so beautiful. I took her hand, hoping that that’s what she wanted. She squeezed my hand hard and the stars, the dust in her black body, pulsed. The Computer People’s tones had grown louder. In the distance, the space ship’s white petals of light rose, reached, folded and fell. Everyone was pulsing. The Night Girl’s stars seemed to reach out to the sea-glass, learning through a sharing of color. And what was my body doing except vibrating, changing, receiving and sending, so the Night Girl’s cool palm held a hand, then a hoof, then a hand again, and everything, everything in between that I didn’t usually acknowledge. But I thought maybe I should try sometime to stay more in-between and see what that would teach me, see what abilities, purposes, those morphs of finger and hooves had. In a way, when we made love, I think the Night Girl experienced it more than I did.
“I want to show you something. It’s like your eyes. Your eyes remembered to tell me that they’re like this place.” All her stars danced, as if excited to give me something.
It was so beautiful in that womb of glow the sea-glass created, and the illuminated cursive of the Computer People’s genitals seemed to float within it, changing, evolving, contracting and unfolding, and yet as we stepped out of it and were enveloped by the cool night and beach, it was beautiful, too, to be moving ahead, holding Night Girl’s hand, gripping me so tight with understanding, our night, our beach, and you could say to the stars, to the polished shells: “This belongs to us,” everyone winking, everyone’s dream. I leaned into her, pressing my lips between my teeth, breathing, the length of our arms together all the way to our shoulders, melting.
“You could ride me if you want. I could change.” But she didn’t say anything. We just walked and then our legs became synchronized and we started kicking them out one after the other, laughing. And then I ran. I ran so fast that no human could ever catch me. I leaped and turned into a deer. We had passed the cliffs. Eventually, the land and sea met again on an equal level. There were mountains looming, jutting up from the shore and extending in a chain of dark islands into the distance far down the coast. The Night Girl was re-combining molecules, re-creating herself from the air just behind me. “You’ll never catch me!” I shouted, pounding even harder.
“I promise!” came that resinous voice. “I promise…you.”
But in a way she did, she re-organized out of the beautiful blue reflection in my eyes, and the black night wells beneath, from the stars, from the breath of everything—and we fell together.
“Why didn’t I see this before,” I whispered, as we lay side by side and I gazed into a bio-luminescent area ahead of us. It spread from a black circle whose edges seemed frosted with an ivory, crystally light. The entire expanse of bluish-green glowing land must have been a hundred yards in diameter. I should’ve seen it from the cliffs.
“There’s another one. It’s in the sea.”
I looked out. About the same distance from shore as the space ship had been there was another bio-luminescent area, like a corona.
“What is this place?”
“More people…like living people? Do they talk?”
“My stars talk to them. I listen by knowing that they speak through their color.”
“Can you tell me what they say?”
“No. It’s not like that. You’ll see.”
“What about the ones in the ocean?”
“My stars haven’t experienced them yet. I want them to. They want me to.”
“We could go out there together.”
The Night Girl didn’t say anything. As we walked up to this crazy, glowing eco-system, all her stars gathered at the front of her body, pressing, moving her forward. Her nipples were erect, like white-hot crystal. It was as if a divine finger had run down all her forward extremities, eyebrows, lips, the bridge of her nose, chin, Adam’s apple, her hard nipples, then down. But the divine finger was really the Night Girl’s stars just wanting to talk to the bright cobalt.
The whole area was dense, glazed with a searing blue translucence. There was a humming, a vibrating, a speaking, a searching, a calling out of affiliation, a growth, a gathering, a transformation that released the endless, almost dripping, oozing light. It was like a symphony that could never be completed. And the one in the ocean, that radiated and undulated as if a blue star had decided to fall and dissolve, you couldn’t help think they were speaking with each other, the landscape and the oceanscape, speaking just by illuminating within the same visual distance. I held the Night Girl’s hand and opened my mind to listen to the glow.
“What is it?” I said.
“Just beings. Beings that glow.”
I don’t think she could’ve stood there much longer. Her stars were yearning for us to step in.
“I want to show you the center.”
Whatever these “beings” were, they were like nothing I had ever imagined. The bio-luminescence I knew from the downloads were the mechanisms, the expressions, defenses, communications of mushrooms and fireflies, deep sea fish, microscopic life that bloomed in the sea, but within this expanse, this circle, our feet nudged and stepped through something that was closer to lichen, mineral-rich, the flame of rocks eaten, knowing and searching our colors. And changing. It was truly as if it was a sea of eerie flame slowed down to such a degree that they had taken on substance, bodies, or something that you could almost call a type of glowing flesh. And yet it was hard to tell what was light and what was solid even if there was a point where one could begin and the other end. But it was like flame. And within the flames there were windows, twinkling, turning on and off. Within the windows that were illuminated, what seemed like shadows, at times, passed across them from the inside. It was these pulses and codes of light that the stars of the Night Girl seemed to talk to. And as I gazed all around us, heading steadily for the center, I felt as if the bioluminescence was communicating with its own reflections, in my eyes and lips—these mirrorings, these colors and convexities that seemed to be able to communicate, or were communications, at least here, among the glowing world, maybe they really came from within. And the music: the bioluminescence seemed to radiate lifting aural textures, like ethereal fabrics in multiple layers that shifted and grew, combined and dissolved, as we stepped through the blue, tinkling flames.
In the center, there was a ring of whiter, crystally light. It was more like the light where the bees and computers had their hive. It framed what must have been a hole in the earth.
“What is it?”
“You always want to know,” said the Night Girl.
“I know,” I said.
What were these smells? And the noises, clamor? Many of the Night Girl’s stars migrated to her hands. She put them on my hips and steadily positioned me so that my back was to the hole. I didn’t know what she was doing. My muscles were tensing. I tried to relax them, tried to show that I wasn’t nervous. But behind me…there was so much clanging, clashing, striving into confusion, erratic gusts of aggravated winds, stenches adhering into languidly twisting plumes. But these sounds, these smells, I only knew them from dreams and downloads—it was only the beach that I truly knew…and the Lab.
I watched her hands, still positioning me, backing me closer.
“Are your stars doing this or is it you?”
She looked down. Then she closed her eyes. I think she could see better that way, see from the inside. But she didn’t reply. My heels were at the edge, the lip of light. And then she was against me, the length of her silk body, her stars raining to my skin, oozing as sweat. She gripped my head and hauled me to her lips. I was trying not to fall back. My rod was rising into her, sliding back and forth, deeper into her wetness, that sent up wafts of metal and rock, dripping with mercury. And behind me other smells, dense like a pillar, rose, the body of humanity with its scarred limbs of progress and cancers of cities, factories, clogged harbors, smelting intestines, and the black destroyed seeds of ripped open coal, logged mountains, pushing so hard, even in its sleep thrashing to believe that they need more and more. There must’ve been a whole world, another earth down there. But the Night Girl’s love was like a pillar, too, and her desire was a wind embracing me in its tendrils. I rose into her so deeply, then even deeper, pulling her down on it, lifting. Our lips broke. Our heads tilted back. Our eyes rolled and vibrated. Stars sang through the pools of my eyes. I was being lowered, slowly. It was like with every pump she lowered me further over the hole. It didn’t matter. I couldn’t say I even existed. It was all just breath. Dew. The heavy night. The wetness that didn’t even have a name. Fear and ecstasy. She was squatting, guiding me down. And I held on, still moving, still loving, still breathing her, tightening and releasing, trusting, trying to trust, trusting our arms wrapped and tied with this descension over the hole’s heat. The dissidence of the human idea of progress, of evolution. The energy and pollution of developing a single, self-consuming, all-excluding theme.
“Night Girl,” I whispered. We kissed again.
The hole was bigger than my body. Bigger than both of us. My tongue ran through her mouth, trying to hang on to something. Stars burned. She was so far forward the mercury that poured from her began a slow river along the seam of our hips, of our torsos.
“Night Girl,” I said, pulling my face back so only our upper lips touched, “I want you to tell me it’s going to be alright.”
I wished I could stop it, the pooling mercury, the throb of hungers arising and fed—I wished it could’ve been one way or another, just fear, just betrayal, just the end, just ecstasy, but it was all these things, all the things that made the stars so near, so distant, so bright. But all those fears, where did they go, why did we grip each other just as tight, why did it matter that I was human, or a deer, or something created, and the Night Girl was stars and vastness without the machinations, reactions that dubbed her a minted human being—for all those fears lifted as she laid me down over the hole. It was bigger than both of us although our feet still contacted the lichen. And we didn’t fall through. We were suspended. The Night Girl lifted and looked over my whole body. I was changing like breath.
“So bright,” she said.
She was looking through me. I tipped my head back. It was all in daylight below: cities, highways like capillaries pulsing through a jumbled, mazed world: deserts full of smoking oil fields, power plants like bizarre castles whose royalty would never visit or exist—it was all there: villages with only a few dilapidated cars, jungles scraped open with wounds of mud framed by green shafts of music, children laughing, dying, creating every color—so many things—pollution like flowers, like a malignant photographer flooding valleys with sepia, and churches, citadels, dances, jets missiling villages and dancing away, soldiers starving and feeding, people practically sleeping on top of each other in smogged cities.
“It’s one of the earths,” said the Night Girl, arching, settling, shifting, understanding different positions of my body inside her. “If you close your eyes you can see almost everything.”
I closed them. It was as if thousands of miles, millions of lives into a single expanse collaged, spoke, exhaled their toxins and love, passion, passion struggling over and through garbage heaps of images smeared by bulldozers, excreted from humanity’s glands. The pollution was rising through me into the Night Girl. I was like a mesh. I opened my eyes and watched ghostly plumes, writhing vapored metal, pass through my skin up into the Night Girl’s stars who gathered like lips, opening, breathing it all gently in. All rising through me. Yes, I was lying over an opening to another earth: “Night Girl. I love you so much,” I said, a steam rising from my ribs, my nipples, and that smell of the old earth lifting like a mist from my armpits, the Night Girl gripping my wrists, extending them up and locking them into the bioluminescence, as if we laid our forms over a vast city, those odors: so many meals, small fires and unnamable toxins, just the bodies, the bodies in their love and struggles, in starvation and opulence, and the smell of dreamers, the dreams who soar, turning every molecule into wings, and the dreamers who have bound their appendages in the pain of others, the birds and fish and whales dying in oil gushing from the groaning monsters of wealth, of secrets, of buried emotions, abilities, of the most expensive wine spilling as a favorite child, father, mother, can die like anyone else, starvation or cancer.
There were people climbing as if we were the hatch to the roof of the world. I was throbbing, yearning, as her stars rained and pulsed, welcoming them home. When they climbed through us, the bio-luminescence sang and grew—the tiny fleshy furls swelling in different parts of the circle. I could even see distant flares and acknowledgements through the Night Girl’s translucence out in the blue sea. As they climbed up I felt myself pulse deeper and deeper into her, throbbing, waves of opium releasing into me as they ascended through. It wasn’t like they were bodies, more like spirits, consciousnesses that were leaving the old earth and becoming the bio-luminescence.
“It’s all people, all this bioluminescence, people arising?”
The Night Girl’s mercury glistened over me.
“That’s just one expression,” she said, still looking down through me and then at where we met, tilting her chin. “The bioluminescence is people, beings, on their own, too—the bioluminescence is its own self, or selves—with or without those consciousnesses that are climbing out of that earth down there. But, they can become one thing, also, one shared form and consciousness without losing their autonomy. But if you changed your awareness in the right way, this would be a city, too—or a hard rain slowed almost to motionlessness.” She paused, listening. “I love you,” she said, tilting her head.
Something in me tightened. I searched her beautiful face, this being, this woman, who was made of stars, too. “Do you know what love is?”
“I…know things. I know you want me to say it. I know you want to hear it from the night. From this person who is on top of you. Is it the same thing?”
“I think so. I guess. I guess I never really loved anyone before. I love you, too.”
“I love you, too,” she said, copying my voice. She lowered so that all I saw were eyes and seas. “The bio-luminescence—it’s like a civilization of color,” she murmured, our lips touching.
“But where does the glow, the light come from?”
“Change,” she said, kissing me.
With every inhale, I felt as if I was pulling the sky into her face, through her tendrils that grew and spread into the blue flames. And between them, like looking through the pillars of a temple, the night poured its glittering hope, its eternal childhood, upon us, as we worked, and people climbed out of that other earth, as the toxins and noise rose with them, all welcomed home by her stars, or just welcomed back into their individual elements like rain back to the deep seas beneath the crust of the earth, by this music of cobalt, as I changed in her arms, working my hooves along her spine, dissolving clusters in shimmers, in stardust, into all the space that was the Night Girl’s flesh.
“Do the people have to die to come up here?”
“Most. But, in a way, they’ve already climbed it when they’re alive, in the way they lived. It’s almost as if they’re already here, just a part of them was still there in that life. But there’s others who were already here, here on this earth, even in human form. I’ve seen them.”
“Yes. Even these people who climb up from that earth can become human again, too.”
“Human again. Human being. I thought maybe all the people who were human left or changed. Except for people like us, like the Computer People and the Dish People, people who were created.”
“I wasn’t created,” she said. “Why do you think everything has to be created?”
I thought about it: “I don’t know. I guess…I guess it doesn’t.”
I gazed into her eyes. It was so good. A firefly landed on Night Girl’s shoulder, then descended into her. It spiraled down through her chest, calling, it’s body an eerie golden green, as her stars raced it, then grouped before it, forming a ring, an orifice, the firefly dancing before them, crafting the air, then passing through and out where our bodies met, flying out to the blue ring out in the sea. Waves lapping their laughter rolled and raked back and forth. Everything, the Night Girl’s grip and concentration, the blue instruments of singing lichen that your ears could dive through like levels, climates, like accordion ribs expanding, coming together, like a pool reflecting the solar system—the rank beauty of civilization trying to sluff its shell it loaded with failing, jagged, impossible armor, desperate for some kind of transformation, rising through my body and into the Night Girl, then on, like star-food, like we were ambassadors—it all held some type of mad beauty. I was becoming it. I couldn’t tell where I began or ended, but I did know that a part of me was inside her, singing, too.
I saw one, then two of the beings, the lights, the people who climbed through us, become something human, walk to the sea and swim out. There must’ve been more. Human again.
Then it happened. I don’t know why I remembered it now, but I saw it, the final thing I had done for the scientists before everything shifted. The humans. The only humans, except in my dreams, I had ever known. That were human through and through. She must’ve seen it, too. For a second she stopped moving. And the people, those few who ascended through us out of the billions beneath, ceased to come. Our bodies ceased to be a shore, a haven. I was a gate that shut, corroding as soon as I thought of the Lab. What was I trying to hide? I never really told the Night Girl about where I came from and what I did there, only that I was created. But neither did she. I ran my hand down between her breasts. Then continued, curling the back of my fingers into the cushioned nest of her navel. Stars burned and followed. I touched the mercury and felt its weight and slickness. With the Night Girl it didn’t matter, you couldn’t align a past with her—somehow she just appeared. But I was different, wasn’t I? We were different. I was a deer and a human, a human creation, a Cervitaur, and she was the night and maybe a human, too—how could you classify her, what would those scientists call her, even if they could see something, someone as beautiful as this? It’s funny, but I never really thought about what happened to them, where they went after they left the Lab. Whether they were alive or dead. I didn’t really want to think of them at all.
There was a possibility the Night Girl wasn’t even waiting, but I decided I had to tell her what I was thinking, that if I didn’t I might lose her forever: “Before everything shifted, they were sending me out in my dreams. At least I think it was my dreams. When my body dropped into sleep I’d be awake. I don’t know how they directed me but it must’ve been through my chips. And my form, it was lighter but it was still there.”
I reached out and touched her tendrils, feeling them growing into the blue world. It was almost like a heartbeat.
“But it’s funny cause I think I could’ve become anything, could’ve made wings, could’ve turned into stars and never come back, but I didn’t.”
She was gripping me so deeply. I realized she had started moving again but so unbelievably slow, lifting.
“I don’t know why I stayed, why I went out for them. But I did. I did. They were testing me. Practicing. Trial runs. Over and over. Trying to determine if they could place me accurately. Then checking. Seeing the affect. I could tell they had finally found what they wanted. And they pretended, like everything, that they had built it into me, the design, the DNA. That it was all part of the plan. But it wasn’t true. They were too excited, too burning, to have ever known. But then, they didn’t just place me places, but they would send me to specific people in specific locations to see what would happen. They had done it before when I was awake, before they knew I could travel in my dreams and never be asleep. They brought people to me and had me talk to them, just to see the affect. And…and I’d always touch something in them, something they wanted to hide in themselves, something they wanted to forget, something they really really loved. I don’t know if all humans are like that. I don’t know.”
I felt them coming again, climbing my words, the Night Girl’s stars on their migrations once again ambassadors, welcoming the people climbing through us from the old earth. I could feel the surges, the opiatic waves, as I pulsed into her pelvis. I looked into her eyes, those black planets and seas. Like a corona, her tendril hair full now of blue veins feeding from the bioluminescence.
“And the night came. Maybe it was a week before the Lab was abandoned, before I walked out. There were a lot of new people in the building that I had never sensed before, new odors of personalities inhabiting the air systems. It was like those people had that rank electrical burning of being important, of thinking they were powerful. I don’t know how to describe it. But I knew they were there for me, or what I was going to do. I knew I was a weapon. To them, that’s what I was. To them. ‘This is your chance to make us happy,’ the scientists said. ‘This is your chance to be one of us.’ ‘If you do this right you can be human.’ ‘You want that, don’t you?’ ‘You want that.’ ‘We’ve been waiting so long for you to finally be one of us.’ ‘We’re all so excited.’ ‘You just have to go one place.’ ‘The people there need you.’ ‘Just look into each person’s eyes you come to.’ ‘Just listen to the voice inside you.’ ‘Just talk to them.’ ‘You’ll know when you find them.’ ‘All you have to do is be yourself.’ That’s what they said. They always injected me with something that made my body sizzle. At the same time it made your body sleep, like a ship you descended into that just carried you away, and that chemical washed over and closed the hatch. I don’t know how they did it. I don’t even know if they knew. My antlers hummed. But they were silver. The chips in my nose and head, too. But I was translucent. Made of less molecules. Made of the other side of molecules. Just voice of a body before it truly became visible. I could travel like this. And then become physical again. It was all so different than when I dreamed on my own. No amazing lands, no planets. Just this earth, just a step, a breath before reality. It must’ve been the injections and wanting to be like them so bad that cancelled the other dreams and just gave me this, this pre-earth. It was like watching everything from behind the stage. I closed my dream eyes. Numbers, coordinates hummed through my antlers. Then there was a rushing. Like getting pushed through a waterfall. Then a cave. A cave of metal. Coordinates. Intentions. They were speeding through the chips in my antlers so fast. Numbers. Latitudes. Longitudes. So fast they almost blurred into a design. My molecules re-adhering beneath my antlers. And then I was there. Yes, a cave. Luxuriously decorated but still a cave. It was like being inside a metal womb, a womb without an exit. I was half-deer, half-human. Beneath a city. I could feel it, the weight, the density of humanity. But what city? A cave of art. Of paintings. Of sculptures. Even the tables, the chairs, the lamps, flowed and bent, hinted or reflected other life-forms through the mind and hands of some artist: art that reached far to become something unknown, something never devised before. The numbers and symbols in my antlers repeated themselves and for a second the cave dissolved slightly but then, as they finished, reappeared. I wasn’t quite solid. Beneath a city. A cave. Walls which were platinum behind the paintings, beneath the sculptures. ‘Close your eyes,’ said a voice mimicking mine. Anyone else hearing it would’ve thought it was me. And my eyes did close. I think they were closing as the words were spoke. But I could feel that chip in my forehead. It wasn’t actively humming, but there was a slow pulse. ‘Intention,’ the word intention—where does it come from? From your forehead? Somewhere outside? Or inside? Your shell? Molecules? Masks? Which at that point weren’t all that dense. Something sent from far away. A fabrication of a costume. A photograph of a film. A reflection filled with words. ‘Intention. I’m at the right coordinates,’ said the voice. Beneath a city. Like mycelium. Like roots. Could a city just build itself on the earth by its own intention? ‘Intention. I’m at the right coordinates. There’s life, human life, other life—it’s all around me. Intention. The intention waiting to be acknowledged by another intention.’ These weren’t my words although they had my voice. Did I have any intention? The voice had intention. Maybe that was the difference. Impatience. Pressure. This voice that sounded like mine had pressure. It had pressure on the other thoughts that just seemed to rise from a well in me, seemed to rise like the sun. And it had pressure upon it. It was somehow being pressured. There was something in all these works of art that helped me discern the difference. During all those trial runs we did, the practicing, the voice of the Lab mimicking my own must’ve always been there. But there was something blocking the intention the voice was talking about. Maybe it was just the platinum cave. Maybe it was because in my own way, even without sunlight, beneath the earth who knows how deep, I thought this place was beautiful. Maybe it was the teacup empty but still with a few limp leaves at its bottom, at the edge of a fabulously impossible table with a tongue-like chair next to it. And in the center a large cup lined with fur, with deerhair, a joke, an art-joke to make you think, think about what was real. Maybe this room was my intention, a destination devised by something. Something me. My heart. Maybe these were words, too. Words that didn’t need to have my voice. I don’t know. I guess that’s what I’m saying: I don’t know—”
I stopped myself. I didn’t want to say too much. Or say the wrong thing. Something that would make her stop loving me, stop coming with the night. But I don’t think there was any other way but just to speak, speak and not try to stop myself, speak and listen to my own words. The Night Girl was still moving, lifting and descending, and as I pulsed into her, as my hardness reached and spoke, the people came, the earth beneath us exhaled with deep sighs as if just by locking together above the hole we understood it. I could feel it, every time someone came through, a surge, a radiance poured through me. But my hands, my fur, my hooves, my skin, against her night. Yes. Just the juxtaposition. And her stars. They spoke with my body, with whatever arose from beneath us, with the stars above, and with the bioluminescence, tinkling, playing with their light like musicians weaving fabrics, as if it was nothing at all.
“Maybe this cave and I were the thoughts, the intentions, the ideas, rising up into a greater body. I think the conflict, the confusion of the coordinates, was I wanted to stay there. But the voice over-road it. It was my voice, plus the scientists, plus the machinery of the Lab all rolled into one, all speaking of some ‘true’ intention that I was ignoring. It was like a stream that I finally tasted, finally drank deep enough for it to drown my own thoughts and take them away. I closed my eyes. But when I opened them, the room I saw was the same size except where the artwork had been there were computers, monitors, people, like a control room. The platinum walls had turned into a white metal. Screens replaced paintings, sculptures became people. The people in the room were some strange, seamless hybrid of Asian and Nordic as if the winner of the Swedish man of the year contest had merged with the winner of the Chinese perfect male. All men. Five men. But they were human. Although they were all focused on the screens, on the numbers, on watching each other, on space charts—except for two of them who seemed like guards—their emotions, same as anyone, sloshed like subterranean seas. I wasn’t visible. I wasn’t solid. Not yet. A half-deer, half-human ghost, I stood in the center of the chamber. Five people. This was real. This wasn’t practice. I braced myself for the words of the voice that pretended to be me to order me to be solid. And then what? There were five of them. Two were technicians, never leaving their keyboards and monitors. I looked. One set of screens held multiple cross-sections of the earth. The other array displayed the solar system, but not just this one—other solar systems, other planets I didn’t contain in my data banks until then. But both, I think, showed waves of many colors like a traveling aurora. On one monitor it showed them coming from distant galaxies. They coursed through these galaxies, from one star to another, changing direction, creating angles across trillions of miles, light years, until finally pouring upon the earth. Or should I say the earth’s atmosphere. Something was blocking them from actually reaching the surface, like a shield. There were others, though, that were depicted on other monitors, rising from the earth’s core, that hadn’t yet reached the surface, that were rising even as I watched them. On the other side of the room, another man had his own counsel. Flanking him were two chiseled men, like bodyguards. They were alert, yet their eyes were unfocused in a purposeful way, open, not zeroing in on any particular object or movement, as if vigilantly gazing on the whole field of vision, conscious and unconscious. They could sense me, I could tell, sense that there was some new arrangement in the molecules of the room. Numbers that merged into symbols that burst like seeds into numbers again that grew themselves into symbols, designs, danced on the man’s screens. His fingers flashed. The scientists from the Lab must’ve been watching through me. But I don’t think they were interested in numbers or my voice would’ve told me to look closer. Maybe they could see everything. The two bodyguards took a step toward the center of the room. That step tautened the atmosphere and everyone within it. How long had they been there? I looked again at the first two sets of screens. Strange waves, pulsations, were coming from another location on the earth’s surface. It was like they were trying to block them both, the ones from the sky, from space, and also the one coming over the earth from a distant point, from another country or nation, probably from some type of station just like this. This emanation that came from another country had none of the beauty of the others. At least on the screens it was like a jagged cloud. A dirty jade. And there was another one shooting from where we were back. All of them blocked. The ones from the sky, the ones that came over the earth, they all were blocked and held back. Everything covered with shields. But the one that came from the core of the earth, I don’t think they could stop it—it slowly kept rising and eventually it would surface and maybe even meet with the waves coming from space. But there’s so much I don’t remember, that I didn’t have time to see, that I didn’t undersand. ‘And now I’m becoming visible, solid, my molecules are coming together,’ my voice said. Everyone felt the presence. Whatever they did to me couldn’t be worse than the Lab, I thought as I braced myself—and if I succeeded they said I would be human. What would that be like? Would that mean I would never change again? My mind was like a stream, like a flood pouring toward one of the technicians as if his heart was a drain, a vent or sewer, carrying away the rain, carrying it to an underground ocean. I wanted to stop the voice, stop my thoughts from pouring into him, go back to the room, sit down at the table, make tea and just look at the art, lift the fur cup—it had something to say just by being with it—it was in me—but if I faltered now, if I tried to stop it, I felt I’d never get back even for a brief glimpse passing through. I tried to breath. My mind was inside the technician. It was like something within him had secretly left a door open. An underground sea. With a shipwreck of history. Emotions. Broken toys, tools, electronics. And a person. Floating face to the slate sky. With a life jacket. I breathed into her mouth and she opened her eyes. ‘What’s your name?’ I asked, pushing back her wet hair. ‘Miracle,’ she said. I held her and spoke as soothingly as I could: ‘Mira-cle. Mira, like a mirror, like the sea. But what does the ‘cle’ part mean? It must mean something. You can’t just have this ‘cle’ thing stuck on the end of your name,’ I teased her. ‘I…don’t know…it’s what someone in the ocean calls me.’ She was waking up, almost smiling. I thought about it, getting my arms around her: ‘Maybe it’s like culled, culled from the sea or culled by the sea.’ ‘What is ‘culled’?’ she asked. ‘I think it’s like picked, or maybe separated, or chosen,’ I said. ‘Chosen by the sea?’ she said it as if she was trying to believe it. She was in my arms. ‘I didn’t know deer could swim.’ I was speaking out loud. I was in the ocean with that woman among the wreckage, but I was speaking it to the room. It may’ve been my real voice, it may’ve been me who spoke the words. The technician whose ocean I found threw his head down on the keyboards and controls and covered his ears. Everything accelerated. The bodyguards flanked me. They didn’t move all the way in. It wasn’t as if they were frightened, it was just as if they had never seen anything like me before. They were calculating. A deer with a human head, human arms, and antlers. The technician was crying. My mind flowed to the next one, like that ocean in the first technician had surfaced and together we flooded to the next valley, the next concavity and empty space. The next secret room. He felt it. The bodyguards pulled out stun guns, nodded to each other and shot me over and over, but everything seemed to flow somewhere else, every jolt swallowed, consumed. They switched weapons, but in the room with all the computers and people, they could only stand together and take two tentative shots with their silencers, hoping I’d fall. I felt the lead fly into a tunnel into the unknown. I’d never entered scenes like that before, like with the technician. I don’t know if it was the room or the density of people or what they were doing. The room was like being in a seed deep in the earth. Doorless. Windowless. Before, it was always just words or images that came to my lips from looking at the person, from wanting to be liked, from wanting to be accepted, wanting to help them and then they would like me, wanting them to feel good and then they would love me.”
The Night Girl stopped moving. There was almost like a sizzling, in our bodies and the air. I couldn’t believe how wet we were. I felt it, that searching, that hand of desire looking for doors, like a vine reaching up into her from my heart—I know I had said too much—but in her there were only stars to become, to speak, only light like rainbows squeezed into drops smaller, deeper, so distant I could never change them. How do you speak the stars? How do you love them except to stop and look without any thoughts at all—so many neighbors, so many houses of light and smoke, so much listening, listening love, change changing, loving the change—she was moving again, kissing, kissing my forehead, just her breath, touching my skin and going deeper, my hands comprehending the night of her torso and ribs—maybe it was ok, maybe I could say everything: “There was a poem in him, the technician. It was in a cave in the high desert. Red rocks. And in the cave veins of turquoise, pulsing, soft. It was rock and yet you could move them with your fingers like veins on the back of a hard hand. And the poem was in there sitting next to a dead fire, just ash. It looked up and seemed disappointed I wasn’t someone else. I don’t think it could move. It looked back down into the ash, like it was determined never to look up again. I reached out and put my hand in it, feeling the lines, the words:
So deep in the mountains
The morning sun never reaches me
There’s birds nesting in the clouds
Here the grocery stores are loaded
with Mexican stars
I must’ve been speaking it. The poem reached out and I lifted it up. Like someone so old from not having moved, just bones, just words. The turquoise veins grew. The cave shrunk. It was squeezing us out into the sun. That’s when the bodyguards rushed in. They tried to take me down. I went into some kind of automatic mode. Just spinning, twirling—it was like becoming flowers, plants breaking the soil, growing from the stars, like rivers, rainbows, antlers flexing like the hands, the bodies of trees, empty streambeds with memories, eco-systems of memories. Their gnarled hands gripped every part of me as I flexed and transformed. Ah, it was like dancing, enacting positions, poses, pictures, statues. They didn’t have emotions like the other people in the room, only purpose, violence. Whatever it was that reached inside of people, spoke their dreams, didn’t even acknowledge them. They were trying to rip me apart, but everything they did performed some intriguing shape. Even as they grasped my antlers from their two sides, wanting to split my head open, just the symmetry of their bodies with this deer-human between them—there was some type of uncanny beauty there you couldn’t explain. But I was still with the poem. We were holding hands, looking out over a dry basin, so open, so welcoming, hundreds of miles of beautiful colored rock, so subtle, so dramatic and still, it took your breath away. A hawk screamed. We looked up but there was only a broad painted feather falling through the sky. And the poem caught it. Somewhere in there, during the struggle, the first technician had taken something, some poison, and was dead. He laid lifeless over the keyboards. Somehow, he looked different, looked more like the girl from the ocean. The second technician tried to revive him. Then he started smashing everything, kicking the screens. His legs and hands were covered in blood. A red light in the ceiling flashed and the room choked with the smell of burning plastic. But I think those people in the room were on their own. Where were the doors? The ceiling must’ve had a hatch. But maybe what they did was so secret only a few people knew. The guards were crushing me but somehow they’d end up in each other’s arms, their arms and hands intertwining, ascending like sprouts snaking up toward the sun. Then they’d break. They’d look like some hieroglyph. They’d freeze, see themselves, shake themselves free and come at me again. The technician held the dead body of his partner, kissing him, turning him red from his bleeding. It was like that hand in me was feeling through the room, exploring it, bypassing the bodyguards like boulders in a stream, until it found the other man. It was like a hand that opened doors, that searched out hidden compartments, that cracked safes full of jewels shaped like dragons, like dead children, like dreams chained to walls. He had never stopped working. His fingers flew like a pianist. Numbers that became shapes, geometries—beautiful, methodical rotations—I could almost feel them—rotations, that’s what was inside him—whirlpools rising and dissolving, almost silver, threaded with greens, with violets—they rose from him into me, like heart to heart, and I saw on his screens the numbers becoming whirlpools, too—displacing the other shapes, like a plant taking over an eco-system and transforming it so nothing else could exist, turning my body so slowly at first as if my antlers were mixing the air like ingredients. I glimpsed him watching me in the screen’s reflection. That smile. The bodyguards tried to stop me but the force was too much, too deep. And the whirlpools in the man pouring up out of some blackness were so beautiful, so free. A hatch was opening in the ceiling. I was spinning so fast but I could see so clearly as if standing still. The first room. The room with all the art. And the tea cup. But this time it was full. Full of steaming milky tea. With a notebook next to it. I reached out, and was actually going to pour it into the fur cup and drink from it, but then they sucked me from the room. They brought me back. I was lying in the Lab. I was covered in blood. It just came out like sweat and covered my body. My human body.”
I looked at the Night Girl. There were tears pouring out of my eyes. I decided to say it, what was in my mind the whole time I told her the story: “So, what I’m trying to say is I don’t know who I am, or if these words are my own—it could be all part of some plan, people could be looking at you through me, looking at your body, watching us, watching us loving each other, telling me what to say. Or even moving my arms. I just wish I knew what I was giving you was mine. That it was all just me. Me and no one else. But I guess I don’t even know if I’m giving you anything. I don’t even know if you really love me or I love you or if these feelings are just something they downloaded into me. All I may ever be is a stupid experiment. An experiment to hurt people.”
Tears poured down my face. The Night Girl went still. Her edges blending with the sky and reforming. I knew I shouldn’t have said anything, but once I started I couldn’t stop, and her movements, her wetness, it was like the words were growing into it. My heart clenched. Why couldn’t I be someone, just someone on my own, just something that wasn’t made? Something that wasn’t a useless weapon. I looked up into her, searching, wishing I could be her, but if I was her would I love someone like me? Probably not. I knew why I loved her cause every part of her was beautiful, her stars, her space, the millions of miles between each nipple that in my hand could travel in a moment, the way she changed constantly, the way you didn’t know if she actually was the night, the big night, or this woman, this being. I loved her so much. I don’t even care if these were my feelings because I felt them. It’s funny cause I think she was the only one. Like there was no genus and species that comprised the Night Girl. And I was in her, coming in her, loving her so much it hurt, and together our sweat glazed us like liquid stars and joined the hot mercury. Night. And above the night another night. Above the personal stars more personal stars. Above the stars where we met, showing me to know there’s only this singing. Confessional songs. The Night Girl lifted, finally, gripping me, pulling, as if the beautiful soft, silver vent between her legs drank deeply from my body.
“I love you, too,” she finally said.
“I don’t have any memories,” I said, smiling, my nose burning.
“Do you want to get on top?”
“Yes. I do.”
We maneuvered around, her tendrils rotating. They were almost completely blue now. Drips fell from them to that other earth. And her mercury had blue in it, too. It glowed over the contours of our locked pelvises. I moved as deep into her as I could. And breathed. Each breath a little deeper even though it seemed I couldn’t go any further. Molecules that didn’t belong to anybody. And there it was. That other earth. Beneath her. Orange. Burning slow. As if everywhere, like a system, humanity lit multitudes of fires. Incendiary. Haze and smoke. All so relentless. Humanity unable to sleep. Gone too far to ever sleep again. The fires, the traffic, the guns, the wars, the chemicals, everything synthesized, collesced, the eerie winds like dry ice that were wordless, lifted through the Night Girl’s dark skin, but then also the fields, the mountains, terraces of a million greens, winged migrations that were determined symbols, and their shadows upon the earth. There was so much beauty, so much suffering. I couldn’t understand it. Plumes of toxic gas which seemed to be filled with shouting, with groans, with last breaths and the hope to breath, reared through the Night Girl as I relaxed and hardened, her fingers exploring all the crenellations and nubs of my antlers, stroking my long face and ears palming the rising riots and heat as I changed with the breath of the waves, of the wind, plumes disappearing like cobras, like serpents, into my old wounds. My scars were like the gates of the Night Girl’s stars. Like smiles. Like lips opening to softly suck in all that rose, all these movements: the scars from the surgeries, the experiments, drinking, breathing, welcoming all the insanity home. And the energy channels playing among us. The lichen singing. Everyone, everything, on some level knew.
The people were still climbing through us, becoming the lichen. But then I felt something else, people going the other way. I couldn’t believe it.
“There’s some going back,” I said. “That can’t be. Why would they ever go back?” It seemed incomprehensible.
“They’ve been going back through us all along. You just didn’t feel it till you got on top of me.”
People leaving that earth and all its pain, becoming the bioluminescence, and then returning. Why? Why would you ever go back? Even the stench would stop you. But they returned all the same. And then there were the ones who ascended through us, formed, turning human again, and walked into the sea. And others, I think many of them, who just joined the glowing music and never left. These were just things I could see, that I could sense. I don’t know how I could stop them from going back, close off the hole, tell them to remember, remember what it was like to feel so much pain, but maybe they did remember. They had a different feeling than the ones coming up as if passing through the bioluminescence renewed them. I could almost shift and see them as bodies, but when they climbed in and down they were just energy, spirits, diving back through, fresh and cerulean. Even if we stopped making love they still may’ve came and went. And then I saw it. The shore. The Lab. Far below as I looked down through her. The Night Girl almost disappeared I was so focused on it. And I could feel him. He was still there. He was still in the Lab. I was still in the Lab. It was me. I could feel myself. It was drawing me past the Night Girl’s stars into the old earth. Or maybe this was the old earth. This beach. Were we still making love? Speaking just through being together in the night? It seemed like with just this love and everything I experienced, with all this, I could save him. If he could just see me, see how far we’ve come—the Night Girl in my arms—I could tell him what it was like to leave the Lab, to make his own decisions, to set him free. I was being pulled through her. I needed to save him. That’s what all this was about. I reached out and a star passed through my hand. The night disappeared as I entered the orange haze. I was becoming part of this other earth. It was right beneath me, the doorway I first walked out, first heard the music of the sea and saw its endless source, first left the starving electricity of the machines that measured, that created me, behind. And yet it wasn’t at all like that moment, that first breath, that excitement and fear, that seeing so far with my own eyes, the sun caressing my naked skin. The Lab was relatively secluded—surrounded by forest that turned into beach grass. It sat on a slight precipice of gleaming green growth. It was slab-like yet with Asian nuances. This is where I was born. You would never think that inside people used genetics like mad painters, like demented hungry ghosts, the scientists who could’ve been artists, those men and women forgetting that there was someone within those experiments, those successes and failures, that would forever struggle to express. Maybe those scientists lived there, too. Like prison guards. Maybe it was their home. Maybe they never left.
I felt like I could just fly down and walk into his form. And begin the future. Bring him to where I was now. A new body was forming as my mind, my concern, descended. But to bring him to the future? To where I was now? Where I was—in a blue field, above a portal, an opening, to another earth? This earth where I was, this earth of night, of stars, of symphonies, of glowing change, blue breath—whether it was old or new? I descended through the haze, part of my mind burning toward who I had been. As if I owned him. There was something in me like a bird of prey, fierce, single-minded—and there was something falling, diving into safety…by saving someone else. By returning. By never seeing anything new. Saving. Saving. Leaving the Night Girl, leaving what I had behind. Everything. No. No. I pulled back. Before I became the other form, the old me, before I re-entered the Lab, I pulled back. No. There was something wrong. I wouldn’t save him. I wouldn’t save the person I was.
It was like a string snapped. And ascending back through the Night Girl was like ecstasy, shivering with timbres so silky as her stars outlined both our forms, both our faces gazing front to back from the same head, then our lips, kissing deep, then softly shimmering as I came back to where I was. It was so good to be in one place again. One place that was endless. I drew back further and further, until my hardness was just barely kissed by her wet folds. The Night Girl rolled her head slowly side to side, staring up into me, her eyes black planets above molten silver seas, the same silver that glazed us, pooled and fell. I could still see the Lab far below us. That movement, that drawing back up through the Night Girl, that return, opened a door in it like a chain reaction, the door that lead to the beach, and two people stepped out into the late afternoon light. There they were. I couldn’t breath. My heart was clenching. Yes. They were still alive. They stood outside the door. The same door I had left to walk the beach. I guess what you could call my creators. The scientists who were a little closer to me than the others. The ones who had a little more invested. The ones who stuck it out. The ones who were there from the beginning. I knew them so well. Or at least what they presented to me, those ironic, guarded faces. Their disappointment. Their fear. I was seeing them from a distance, but I was seeing them close up, too. They looked as if they had aged, ten, twenty years. So empty. So uninhabited. Where did the bulk of their energy, or whatever could’ve truly filled out those human forms, go? A man and woman. Yes, I knew their names. “Okana and Brighton.” I said it out loud. I wonder if those were even their real names. They looked at each other, then back at the Lab, then out at the sea, taking a deep breath as if it was something they needed to relearn, then walking down the stairway and standing together on the last little platform before it was nothing but sand.
“Look at those clouds. They look like antlers,” said Okana, the man, gazing directly up at where me and the Night Girl were.
“It seems like all we see nowadays,” said Brighton in her usual grim, sharp way. They gazed up at us for a minute, not seeing us, only clouds, only their own reality. “The antlers are like trees now. Such strange configurations for clouds.”
“Blossoms falling. Or leaves. Leaves falling. It’s funny. Change of seasons.”
“It seems like I been here forever.” Her voice seemed to be a little less honed, more resigned.
“Two years for you. A little more for me,” said Okana, looking at the side of her face.
“Believe me—I know how long it’s been. And barely any time to walk this beach. I wonder what’s down there? Hmph. I wonder how much I’ve changed. I wonder what I was like when I first came here. I can’t even remember. I wonder if there’s anything left of the rest of the world.” She was gazing out over the water.
“That was like a different life,” looking over the ocean, too. They stood for a moment, silent. “I wonder where we sent him, really. And all that blood.” He glanced back at the Lab, his voice lower.
“I don’t know, but I think their shields are down. Things are changing.”
“But we have shields, too, shields against them and shields to protect us from the sounds coming from space. They don’t even know if they’re coming from anybody.”
“The music that no one understands.”
Okana looked up. “Look. The clouds are like trees with an extra blue halo all around them. It’s reminds me of when I was stationed in the desert. You’d see things like that. All the pinions at night seemed to glow.”
“People are disappearing.”
“We may’ve changed everything.”
Okana tightened his lips: “We don’t even know what we did, except create some kind of freak. You can’t even call it a mutation. And then send it to some coordinates. We were just doing what we were trained to do.”
“Yes, mutations are avenues. Whether biology follows them or not is another thing. But they’re still avenues. But him…he’s a creation. Our fuckin creation.”
“And here we are living in our cave—our own little Trois-Freres.”
“Beneath the earth with our own little Cervitaur reading our thoughts.”
I wish I wouldn’t have spoke their names, but I did. I said them again: “Okana. Brighton.” I guess I was just trying to reveal things. But it was hard. My insides were churning. Somehow I just wanted them to see me, that I was in the sky above them, that I was making love. Maybe they would’ve laughed. Look at him, grunting away with some bizarre woman who couldn’t possibly exist. Or maybe they would see it as some new avenue to explore, to take further. I just wanted them to acknowledge it, to know I wasn’t in the Lab, wasn’t under their power. I kept descending into the Night Girl to fill those clouds they were seeing, but also pulling back. I didn’t want to leave her. It was so hard. But finally I just braced myself, throbbing, just with the tip of my penis barely inside her.
“Two years. Two years here. From the outside it looks so idyllic. Were we too busy to fall in love or was it not allowed? Maybe that wasn’t in the plan, either.” She finally looked at him.
Okana was looking out at the sea. But finally he forced himself to look in her eyes. Then, with an effort, he turned his whole body to her. “Maybe we should take a walk.”
“But what about our little project? Project Muse,” she said, bitterly. She thought for a moment, then her voice softened. “He hasn’t really recovered. We should’ve cleaned the blood off him. We don’t even know whose blood it is.”
“You know, I don’t think it’s going to matter. I don’t even think I care.” He turned back to the sea. “Can you hear it? There is…music.”
“I hear something. I…I don’t even remember how to walk, how to really walk, to walk just to fuckin walk!” Brighton started crying.
“Neither do I,” said Okana.
And they stepped into the sand.
The Night Girl fingered designs with her own mercury up my torso as her stars gathered and watched. Her fingers explored my human face, understanding it, painting it—then curled them around my antlers. My hands poured up her body like a slow river, over her breasts, up the cords of her neck and onto the tightrope of her blue, pulsing tendrils, kissing, laying breaths along her ribs, her sternum, listening to her nipples, her stars guiding my love, laying out hints like glowing crumbs for the birds of my lips to take home to some children inside me, her armpits thrown wide as my face approached, inhaling so hard, filling me. Her body full of shimmering fields. And her lips, her face.
“Night Girl…I don’t have any memories. But I know things. I know things your stars do,” I said, still hovering, so hard.
“I love you, too,” she smiled.
We drew back a little further, as far as we could without me slipping out. And then, with all the force we had, we crushed back together. And breathed. My whole body breathed the night, the earth, above and beneath, breathed the Night Girl, everything, everything was an opening with some kind of wind coming through it. Everything was coming home. Everything was welcoming them in. Energy channels poured into my body from every direction and crowded inside me, inside her, waiting. I didn’t want to let it go. Whoever I was, whoever was feeling all of this, whoever was gathering the earth-elements like children, whoever were the children taking their places among the wet forearms and stars, the heat and smell of someone else, of us, if I came, if I really came, I might lose forever. I don’t know why.
The Night Girl’s eyes rolled back so they were only seas pounded by the white moon. We weren’t even moving, just filled, filled with light and space, with beings transforming through what we held. And then it came. The Night Girl moaned so deep, the whole blue expanse flared. My whole form, all of me, tightened. I knew it would take me, all the energy, but I wanted to give it, to give it, to choose to give it, and I did—I didn’t merely let go, but consciously poured my love, poured everything I ever was into her, until my whole body shook—the pain, the first step into the sand, the sheet dropping, the sea, the experiments, and I was here, coming, mercury shooting out from her in soft jets as she shook the night, as my cum poured into her: ships, stars, rivers, my cum like spotlights on her constellations as they danced, the constellations you could only find in the Night Girl.
“Thankyou,” I said, holding her so close, still so hard and deep. She wasn’t about to let go. I really didn’t want to speak, but I had to make sure she knew. “Thankyou. Thankyou. Thankyou.” I started crying. It was so beautiful. It was so beautiful I wanted my tears to fall down to the old earth like a message just so they would know. But none of them got past the Night Girl. We lay there, just listening. Just breathing.
It was strange, but nothing beneath us had changed. Except down there, the earth was tipping toward evening, a deeper orange, quieter. The songs of all the species of earth lifted as their night came on, equalizing. Out in the sea, the bioluminescence voiced an eternal blue. So many instruments. So many musicians, seen and unseen. All that passing back and forth through us, it was just like the hum of blood, the nomadic tones of floating in a pool, just beneath the surface. A group of maybe five beings passed along the shore, whispering and giggling and reciting, but I didn’t want to look up, to lift my eyes.
“Why did you say ‘Thankyou’?”
I tried to answer but just held her tighter, but lighter, too, with something else than my limbs. I wasn’t hanging on. Not like a survivor. I was just saying it.
“Night Girl. You smell so amazing.”
We fell asleep. I don’t know for how long. All I know was falling asleep was like saying it, saying it to ourselves and our little glowing world, saying what the beach wanted. When we woke, the Night Girl lifted herself up. Her tendrils had detached and swayed down her back like phosphorescent seaweed. I got up and we walked through our blue world to the shore. It was there that the two symphonies met—the one of the ocean and the one of the land—and became something else. We held hands and listened. I could tell she was about to do something, set off in some totally new direction.
“We could go inland,” I said. “But there’s probably less night there, less sky if there’s a lot of trees.” I looked at her profile, that beautiful face, and the stars migrating to the front of her body.
“Not everywhere. Not necessarily.”
“That’s right. I’ve seen places in my dreams. Like the high desert. Like mountains so beautiful with only rocks and flowers. I think there’s tons of night out there.”
“And there’s here. The beach.”
“Yeah. I guess. And who knows what’s inland, anyway. I guess.” I slid my fingers between hers. We looked out at that other circle of bioluminescence. It glowed out in the sea like a landing pad. It looked about the same size as the one we had just come from.
“Will you wait for me?” said the Night Girl.
My heart tightened. I looked at her profile. It was so beautiful it was almost embarrassing to look at. It made you feel like you couldn’t stop. I kept trying to think of things to say but none of them seemed right. “Are you going out there alone…? I could go with you,” I said, finally.
“You could. I want to go out alone.”
Maybe it was an hour, an hour and a half before dawn’s first brushstrokes. She wasn’t going to disappear from my arms with the dawn’s light like she had before, but walk away into the blue-platinum sea. She was choosing to walk away. And what would she do there? What did she do, what did she become when she wasn’t with me? She said she wasn’t created. So what was she? Maybe she really wanted me to go with her. Maybe it was some kind of test. I’m sure she wasn’t reading my thoughts, only gazing out. I had to say something before she moved, one way or the other.
“At night,” I said, repeating her words from our first real night together.
She smiled. Her stars burned: “That’s alright with me,” repeating mine.
And then she stepped into the ocean. The Night Girl walking away. It all made sense. But then it didn’t. But it did. I know it did. It’s just I felt so different when she walked away. I needed to sit down but I couldn’t. I believed her, that she’d be back at night, or we’d be together somewhere. She’d never lied. But wasn’t I free now, couldn’t I do anything I wanted, even go out to the Well. My eyes, everything in me, were burning into her back, her beautiful starbody. There was nothing like it. Why did she have to be so beautiful? I had to sit down. I had to turn away. Then we’d be back to back. And maybe the space between—that could be another Well. Or I could find my own Well, somewhere on the beach, somewhere inland. It’s like we were part of something together, just flowing like water, from the Well of Earth to here, and then a part of us stopped, like I hit a rock and had to watch the rest of us glide out free into the waves. I couldn’t stop looking at her. I couldn’t be alone. Not after what happened over the Well. Maybe she was walking away because I told her the truth. And then I did it. I did what the scientists had me do in that control station beneath the earth. I tried to read her, send my thoughts into that starry beauty and speak words, images, memories, anything that would force her to turn around, stop her from flowing out toward the florescent cerulean circle out in the sea, like she had stopped me, words that by speaking them would bond her to me somehow so she would want to know more, or by staying with me I would never speak again.
I sent my thoughts out like an arrow, but it was different, different than before—it was a talent, an ability, but it was really because I wanted to be loved—I didn’t want to stop anybody until now—and I never sent them out before except when I was in that station beneath the earth with the technicians—they just came to me and I spoke them, came to me because I wanted to speak something, because something inside the people, something hidden, wanted to speak. But what could you speak from the Night Girl but space, but burning stars, but strange silences, strange harmonics in the arrangements of stars in her black body, speak the seas of her eyes, the black moons. There were no words for any of it.
She stopped for a second but didn’t turn. What was I doing? I didn’t know. I tried to stop her, to change her, and now alls I could do was see her beauty even more. And then she walked on, slowly turning into a black outline against the burning Well. I dropped down and covered my eyes. Then I vomited. I was still her, in those strange harmonics, those shifting spaces where there was no way to find myself. But I was here, too. I was here, in the sand, in human form. I couldn’t oncover my eyes. I just had to be within myself. No—the only time I had sent out my thoughts was when I was in the control room beneath the city and then it was what Okana and Brighton, and whoever gave them orders, wanted. Otherwise, I just opened myself—even though it was because I wanted to be loved—I opened myself and let the messages come. And spoke them. It was the first time I realized I didn’t have to speak them, I didn’t have to speak anything. And how did they change as they passed through me? Why did I speak what was hidden in people, speak what they had buried?
My hands were still pressed to my face. I tried to breath. My ears rang. I still felt sick. But I was slowly becoming myself. Probably the further the Night Girl traversed the waves, the more the natural position of all these elements returned. I still couldn’t understand why we had to be apart. Or I did. I did. I understand. I understand. I just kept saying it until the dawn pried at my fingers, until finally, reluctantly, still nauseous, I gazed through them at the horizon’s garden of clouds. The Night Girl was gone and from the rising sun the Ocean Well’s crystally bloom was slowly being washed away. I didn’t want to let go of the night. I didn’t want to see the dawn. As if it was less. As if the earth was stripped of its ornaments and left bare and harsh and alone. But as the sun rose, the air filled with life. New artists presenting their shapes, their colors, their songs, their distances, their tracks. A human on the beach. Kneeling in the boundaries. That’s what I was.
I watched for a long time, my eyes gazed over the ocean, but not focusing on any bird, any detail, even though every movement, every crossing, tried to call you. It was a game just to try to see it all without zooming in. Somehow things arose into themselves, somehow they didn’t get there, didn’t land on that particular swell of dawn sea, through the act of flying, through the act of learning to fly, through the act of traveling out from the land and alighting on that particular location—they didn’t get there by age, by accumulation, by progress—if you watched it all without fixing on any one thing, they just arose, like the sun. I was looking west. I swung around, the sea gently embracing my legs and pulling back. And the fingers, the foliage of energy playing around me. The beach rose up to a lip of land, then grass and trees, then mountains. Further down the shore a spine of mountains swung off the main range and became hills, then separate islands, diminishing, as they stepped into the sea. A little further down from me, near the wall of land, two dark sculptures of driftwood, a body-length apart, twisted out of the sand. The eastern mountains were in the middle of a slow, deep pulse, a deep contraction, helped by the awakening light. By all the birds, the songs. And then they squeezed up the sun. It was strange to be human for so long even though it may’ve only been a few hours. I was still listening and taking in the fragrance of the world like a deer, but it was as if the deer was standing on a raft in an ocean inside me, sending me messages, signals, and all my other forms, too—they all had set off on a journey. I had pushed the raft away from the shore. So I was a human, watching the sun, feeling my body take on the warmth, the glow. Just a human who a woman made of night had abandoned, had told what to do. Maybe the night was just another scientist, experimenting on me, on us, trying to understand behavior through control, through pain, with deprivation. But the sun felt good. I guess I was struggling with it all. With being alone. She could’ve told me she understood why I let myself be a tool, why people died because of me—we could’ve sat down, watched the crystally Well from the shore and just held each other. But we didn’t. She didn’t. She walked away. And left me. With myself. Alone with myself. And I guess my other forms had left me, too. Isn’t that what I always wanted? To be a human. Except now I was the only one. I just wished I could swallow the sun and burn it all away. I guess there was no progression in me, either.
I sat there for a long time. And the sea was holding me deeper the longer I sat. So much happened over that Well between us. I think it was all good. It was all truth. And I had spoken Okana and Brighton’s names. And seen them in the sunlight. And they had looked at each other in the sunlight. On some other earth. The earth I came from. And yet I was here. This was the earth, too. Although somehow this beach was a different beach than theirs. I would never see them strolling toward me, kicking up the water, hand in hand, married, married by the sea, by the sun and whatever happened between them as night fell, married by walking away. Two different earths, somehow sustaining each other, within each other, giving each other meaning and definition, giving each other proximity, distance. And how many more? “There are other earths.” I guess it was true. Maybe between them there is only music. Music you could acknowledge or not. Or maybe only if you had the right form.
Even though I was human, the sprays, the winds of energy, were still visible. Dimmer but visible. And the computer wind—I still heard it. I wondered if beyond the cliffs full of swallows the Computer People were still singing. Burying themselves in beautiful glass. Black dots swooped in and out from the sheer wall and danced over the mist. The sun was high. Gifts of the deer. Or teachings of the deer. Who had set off into the sea. Maybe we had separated forever. But the deer…it was me, too. Maybe it had abandoned me. Maybe him and the Night Girl were who really loved each other. I stood up. And fell down. And stood up again. My brain felt loose in my head. I was still nauseous. It was like these waves—I couldn’t stop them—waves of comprehension, waves of anger, of regret—they were heightening each other. A sandpiper sprinted up the shore, looked at me and went on. A single raven strolled thoughtfully among a village of gulls. Three larger, brown gulls stood in the water. I tried to breath deeper. I couldn’t freeze the waves. I couldn’t stop the ocean from breathing. I looked down at my body. I was still human. I think I could’ve changed myself if I tried, but I was just floating, floating inside myself with nothing to hang onto. A barely visible turquoise sheen demarcated the Ocean Well. And the Earth Well? What was it like now in the daylight? What was it like without someone to hang onto? And to look down from the sky without a partner? At the beginning. The responsibility of being awake for the dawn. For a beginning. Another beginning. Stepping away from, stepping toward, night’s safe house. Why was night so easy? Or so it seemed as I stood there without the Night Girl and the safety of her depths, her eyes. Safety. The beauty of safety. Or the responsibility of seeing the beauty, however the light shines upon it, whatever light shines within it. I guess I didn’t really want that responsibility. But everyone could see me. I was probably positioning myself on the beach’s geometry, posing and playing, like everyone else. Something deep inside me knowing, but still human. Is this what humans do? Find themselves at the beginning? Sun on my skin. Wind on my skin. The smell of decomposition. The smell of the wind itself. I wanted to turn into a part-deer just so I could feel it more. But I couldn’t. They must’ve taught me to progress. Maybe that’s the human thing, that’s who those people were—Okana and Brighton—walking hand in hand down a beach, progressing. Maybe that’s the result of an accumulation, a download, a history that comes from somewhere else—that’s how they understood. Hand in hand down some beach. Without a deerform to feed them. Without a deerform that the Night Girl loves. If I was just a human. Just a human. Why do you think everything has to be created? If I had been just a human she might have never found me out of all the forms of the shore. But maybe they have other forms, too.
I turned away from the ocean and went to go look at the Well of Earth. At the other earth. Maybe just one of the other earths. I climbed over the lip of beach into the grass. A little ways in was the area that only a few hours before radiated with blue life. Now, you could walk past, walk through it, without ever knowing what face it bore under the stars. Especially if you were human. Or maybe just a certain type of human. A human trained not to see. It was a circular expanse of lichen rooted in moss-cloaked stone with a pool at the center. And tendering through the whole circle of the pale dusky blue brittle growth, were little well-worn trails all converging at the pool. Tracks of skunks, foxes, raven tracks, people who lived in holes, people who lived in the sky, minks, otters, people who lived on the borders. I found my tracks leading out toward the waves, and next to them it was strange—there was only a snaking contour, a smooth channel in the sand, flexing toward and away from all my footprints. This is what the Night Girl left. But there were others. These must’ve been from the humans who ascended through us, into the lichens, and then headed out into the waves. They started human, but you could see as they neared the water their forms turned more aquatic, elongating, webbing—the scent of the water, the salt, the depth calling to the depths inside them.
I followed one of the little narrow paths, placing one foot in front of the other. The lichens were brittle and delicate, breaking when my feet brushed them. But in the night they had a lush flexible quality, lush with wetness and light. Then I came to the center. Even though it was only a pool, only a reflection of sky, of my face, of my naked body, I felt like I could fall, like I was braced at the edge of a cliff, fall forever, even though it was only water, only a pool set in an expanse of lichen with tracks leading to it, leading away, people coming to drink. I kneeled down. I couldn’t see anything within it, not even stones beneath the surface. The reflection seemed solid, like a living miral laid over the opening. I bent down so my face was right above it. It was my face, my face frowning from the blue and white sky. It seemed more solid than anything. Then I smiled, just to change it. To see if it moved. There was a movement and I looked across the pool. An otter with two little ones looked at me. Then the babies slid into the water and disappeared. The parent arched up, watching the surface. It glanced at me and then it slid in, too. I waited. A mouse flashed out of the lichen, drank, and disappeared again. Then the otters emerged. The parent carried a flexing silver fish in its jaws. And then they humped away. I put my arm in. It was water but it wasn’t—maybe only right when my fingers entered it I felt the wetness, the compression—but beneath—what was it? It wasn’t air or heat or even wind—it was more like an electricity, like the molecules, the patterns you see when you close your eyes, like the light of a completely dark room, except my hand was in a world of it, as if my hand had grown a eye and was sending me messages. I pulled it up and looked. When the otters had emerged their fur was dark and slick, but to my hand and to the hair on my arms, no drops clung. A swallow danced in, drank, and was off. Then another. Then a chipmunk with its cheeks full scampered up and stopped. Its black eyes peered, its little ribs flexing. We faced each other across the pool. We both lowered our heads. It was like a mirror. It felt so good to mirror someone else, like a joke, like a joke that was truer than anything. We both raised our heads and moved them side to side, but there wasn’t any way to tell who initiated it. In a way, the chipmunk lead and in a way it was me. Then we did a little drum beat with our feet. It was like a confirmation. Then we lowered our faces to the water and drank. I drank without even thinking what I was doing. It was cool water. I didn’t know how thirsty I was. I closed my eyes and drank more. And between the swallows, when I paused, it was like my lungs had expanded, like I could take in more air than ever. When I opened my eyes the chipmunk was watching me. I puffed out my cheeks trying to copy it, but it turned and scampered back into the lichens. I still couldn’t see anything through the reflection, but I drank again.
Somehow, it was past noon. A group of scrub oaks were clustered together a little further on, beyond the lichens. I followed a trail out, laid down in the dappled shade, and slept. It was almost like finding the secret, the secret I had been searching for ever since the Night Girl walked away before the dawn: sleep, sleep was the secret full of riddles and simplicities I could never explain, even to myself. It was like an orchestra rose around me the further I went, full of cicadas and birds, strings and winds, the music of a spider web losing its last miral of dew…on my gentian bed, in my bottle gentian—folded into something that’s never been opened—names…names placed in my head…but making it all up.
I was pulled in and out of sleep like waves, slower, more spread out, like a tide within the tide. Finally, I awoke. It was like I had been so many places within those few hours, so many life-forms. I looked out at the bulge of blue in the late afternoon sun, slowly solidifying. Still a human. I stretched and walked to the beach, stopping at the ridge where the grass ended. Below me were the two twisted sculptures of driftwood I had spotted before. I dropped down and stood between them. I could easily put my hands on the top of each one. They were shoulder-height, the one on my left a slight bit taller. Beautiful greys and browns swirled through the tendons and roots, the muscles that had hardened and softened, cracked and adhered through their journeys over the seas. And around them tracks. I looked out. The tide was stepping toward us, ready to remake everything, and if not, the wind’s hands, and if not the wind, gravity pulling down the prints’ outlines into their soft valleys, into themselves. I pressed my foot among them just to join them, but the impression came out more like the rear foot of a raccoon, except larger—and there were raccoon tracks, real ones, passing around the driftwood, along with beetles, birds, a coyote, mice. I pressed my foot down again. The print I left was close to human, and close to my own shape, but you would never know they belonged to those feet, the feet I called my own—when I lifted them they changed—maybe they advanced, or receded, evolving in a direction that didn’t have a single line, that wasn’t evolution. But all the other tracks, the other people of the beach, you could tell who they were, what forms constituted the weights that left them. Then a hummingbird landed on the driftwood to my right, watching, licking, cleaning its bill on the wood. Then another dove in and they were off. I looked at all the prints. At the crazy designs we made together. All of us, the sand, the people, the light. Someone could probably look at the ones I left and give them a name, or just accept them. Two Cedar Waxwings landed, one on each peak of driftwood. They were trying to look at each other around my head. I ducked down and the one on the left flew to the one on the right with a service berry in its gaping mouth. And they passed it back and forth, their creamy chests pressed together. I was trying to see if they closed their eyes as they kissed, but the second one finally gobbled it down and they were off, too. I looked down at the prints again and tried one more time to make one that would constitute the foot I pressed into the sand, that someone could only say belonged to this anatomy, but it was impossible—it came out almost like a half-circle with a spray of lancolate indentations for toes. Even these didn’t face forward like my own, but as I lifted my foot they appeared to the side.
And then I saw it. I extended my arms out and put a fingertip on each peak of driftwood, trying to focus, as if I was still waking up. But I think I knew what it was—right when I saw it being steadily rolled up the beach by the advancing tide, just the white skin, the strange glistening opacity, I think I knew. The edge of the sea was still thirty yards away. Advancing with every breath. Bringing a gift. All wrapped in white. As day tipped toward night. A white body glowing. I went to the shore. I stood before it, the waves breaking against it, pushing it, then washing over my feet. My human feet. That sunk deeper into the wet sand with every sea carress. Until the deer banged against my shins. It was hairless, bloated. Its tight skin gleamed in the falling sun like opague glass. And the sprays of energy of the shore played over its surface. Hairless, and yet it still retained its long black lashes around its sleeping bulged eyes, bits of hair around its mouth, at the tip of its bone tail. I had to back up so it could be buoyed further into shore. A stench rose from it. It must’ve been dead a long time, carried by the cold sea, pickled by the salt. Its torso swelled into a barrel. But it wasn’t me. It had one antler, the other one missing, and they were bigger than mine, larger and thicker than the ones I had when I was a deer. It wasn’t old, maybe four or five years. But it wasn’t mine. It wasn’t my deerform. I didn’t know where it was, if it would ever come back, or if I would be left a human forever. I squatted down, my knees against its tight body. It was beautiful even if it wasn’t alive, an abandoned home, a home for other things, the beauty of an ever-changing house, like in spring, birds teaching themes on the dissolvable house, that every building or basket should someday disappear, even the Lab, swallowed into the sand—but before that it would fill with skunks and swallows, hornets, wasps—and we had all left the doors open, all of us humans—dust, sand, seeds, milkweeds landing ships in that sterile galaxy that was finally free. The beauty of an ever-changing ephemeral house.
Yellow and black wasps, bees and flies were landing on its eyes, testing its body and lifting before the next wave hit. They landed on me, too, tasting, crawling over my skin, comparing us, using me as a vista. “Wait, I’m not dead yet,” I said, shaking them off, guiding them away. I grabbed the strange slimy white body and pulled it up. And even though it was bloated and tight my grip seemed to descend all the way to the bones. I hauled it up onto the dry sand. It glowed in the sunset, glowed against the reddening sand. The flies and wasps swarmed in, but the air was cooling off, darkening. Even so, they were busy laying eggs, drinking the rank liguid, carving out cargos of skin and taking off, disappearing into all the deepening colors. As I pulled it, it’s body became coated in sand. It was heavier than I thought. Maybe because of the sand or the descending night, the wasps and flies slowly began to head off, to their homes or shelter, some probably excitedly describing this amazing amount of food to their friends. They would return in the warmth of dawn. But I kept dragging the deer, working at it. But then the antler broke off. I stumbled and fell and sat there holding it. I was covered with the smell of death. To the bees and wasps, to even the plants, to everyone who would thrive off that wild flourish of transformation, it was the smell of life—that’s why they had come. Come and tried to take some of it away. Come and tried to inhabit it. And would come again.
I got up and dragged it between the two bodies of driftwood. I placed the antler onto the peak of one of them, so that in the dusk it just became part of the tangled form. I didn’t know if the tide would reach us this far up. But I didn’t think I could get the body over the ridge onto the grass. But this was where we belonged somehow. This was the right place to place each other. I rolled it onto its back, brushing off its ballooned body, shaking off its genitals. It was getting hard to see but there were no scars, even around its anus. I put my fingers on my own healed wounds. So many of them you could only see if you knew they were there, if you could feel them. I pressed my fingers into that opaque skin and couldn’t feel anything—just depth, just a slight pressure as if someone from inside was pressing back. So many of my scars were just points, like cities on a map. Entry points. Others were long, one even extended down the length of my penis. There were things I didn’t remember, that I would never remember. The data they poured into me displaced my own memories. So nothing was true. So it was all true. I rolled the deer back over and curled against it, putting my arm around it. We were in the center, the center of the smell of metamorphosis, the stinkiest flower in the world. That only grew here. That only bloomed once in a lifetime. But so much life depended on it. And then I saw it. The smell was like the back of someone’s fingers, stroking my temples, calling me to sleep. Calling me to place my hands against the wall inside myself, to climb over it. I pulled the deer closer. Hands reached down from the wall’s top, but they were hands of raccoons, fins of fish, snake tails, tongues, hooves, manes, paws, feathers, all offering to help. I took them all. There was a vibrating within the wall, but within the deer’s body, too—music, decompositional music: I don’t want to only be a human.
I don’t know if I woke from the water, which was already around us, or the diaspora of maggots escaping from the deer, my arm still on its deflated body like a bridge. In the bio-luminescence of the night earth I could see it had broken open. And the sea was pulling it back. The maggots searched my body looking for more land, more food. I was covered in them. I wiped them off my face and climbed up. When I kneeled in the grass, they flowed off of me and I shook the rest of them out of my hair and armpits, brushing them out of my crotch. The sea rose, lifting the deer and swelling around the driftwood. And the Ocean-Well glowed a crystalline blue-green beyond. The whole ocean seemed lit with light. I turned. The expanse of the Earth-Well had re-ignited, and in the center there almost looked like the awakening impressions of dawn light. I watched as the ivory body was carried out and swallowed into the sea. Back into the sea. And beyond it…beyond it was the Ocean-Well, so blue and bright…but just beyond where the deer was swallowed were other forms, three or four, walking on the waves toward the radiating ring. Against the light I could see them, their shapes. They were my forms, my forms lead by my deerform, heading out to the Well, out to the Night Girl. There were sounds coming out of me, sounds coming out of them, and the crystalline exultations of the Ocean-Well—even rough whispers drifting up from the other earth, all the beautiful energy channels contouring the face of the sea, the land, the sea-rim rising with its petals of colors, the earth once you leave the Lab, some earth, and some other earth Okana and Brighton walked into hand in hand. Except here, on this earth, there was the Night Girl. And everyone was heading out to her. Carrying their sounds. Like single notes…or more like chords—there were so many complexities within them caravanning across the ocean’s skin—distinct chords separated by maybe twenty yards, like fountains, but inseperable from the bodies ascending from the human to the deer. And I was so far away from them. And I was the human. And yet they were me, too. We had been apart for so long. Or I had buried them, buried them on the other side of the wall. And yet, they were free. I was free. It’s like my skin, my bones, were vibrating.
I stood up and looked at the water. It was still four feet down from the top. It didn’t seem like it would rise much farther. I could swim out. I probably couldn’t catch them before they reached the Well, but once I got there we’d be together—we’d all be together. I jumped down, thinking the water would swallow me up to my knees, but it didn’t—I found myself standing on it as it lifted me with its rippling breaths—I stood on it as a human, as a sound, between the two peaks of driftwood, the one still holding the antler, my skin painted with the flaring colors of the seam.
Then I set off. But it was strange. I felt like I was setting off into the Night Girl’s eyes. That I went deeper into them every step I took. Deeper into their silver. Into their world. And yet, I was on the sea, my own sea, heading toward the Well, which was like another eye, luminous and blue-green. I started to run. I wanted us all to be together. But I saw I could catch the rest of my forms easily. I slowed down. We were all moving steadily toward the Well. And the tones, the notes, the chords, of each of us, the proximities, the spaces, between us, between the forms, the sounds, all moving toward the blueness. I could feel it all, not just between me and the body of my partially human self I was getting closer to, but between them all, the next form and the next and then the deer, the harmonics of the shifting, the slight changes of distances, the proximities geographic, anatomical, like new colors, new doors. We were a new music moving to join the new music of the Well. Filling the Night Girl’s eyes. Filling the night. Like a new breath within the eco-system.
I reached the first one and we merged. We just melded into each other. It was like a game, the whole thing—once we touched, it was like we had never been apart—I had been that form, that sound, all along—I was just allowing it, acknowledging it. But it was so good. Like coming home. And together our harmonics flared and danced, creating a whole new music between the three forms ahead of us, within ourself. I kept going, merging, listening, being music, every melding a mask rocking down to the ocean floor, another shell for someone else to make a home and discard, as it dissolves, feeding the sea, my senses expanding as I became more and more deer, as I let it happen, and the ocean’s color, smells, layers, rose, as I let them rise. Already arisen.
And then I touched the deer. For a second that’s all I was: a huge river of energy, of sight, of sound, of movements of heat within heat, cold within cold, a bed on a ridge, listening even within sleep, sleep not just being within my frosted fur but everywhere, and my antlers grown from the harmonics, calcified from the meetings and proximities, feeling up into all the spaces and hardening. We were together. We were a self. All of us. Like I finally had something I could give. The home of myself. Which was all music. Strange and beautiful. We were a vast body of harmonics walking over the night sea. Changing. Flaring. Within and without. It was so natural to feel my body metamorphose back and forth like an irrythmic breath. Night Girl…it was still like being within her eyes, but her eyes were everywhere, everything, just like the night, the ocean, the Well, was everywhere, everything. And the endless stars from horizon to horizon.
Behind me, the Earth-Well blazed. And before me, before us, within the next few steps, commensed the dense bio-luminescent ring of sea. I stopped. I didn’t know if I was within the Night Girl, as if somewhere along the way I had stepped within her and had never left. I didn’t know what to do but walk toward the black center. The whole expanse was a glowing blue world of sound. And it was as if my chips had melted into me, dispersed into my bones and antlers on their own journeys of integration. I was one vibration, all the eyes of my forms vibrating and seeing—and the tone of the Well, of the blue corona, all touching—the touching of the tones was the becoming as I stepped into it, all the proximities dancing their distances, breaths crossing, twisting and falling. The blue radius was full of sparks, tiny beings of almost white light that flexed away and toward my feet with every step—millions of them inhabiting, creating, the blue depths, twirling in tiny circles. And cruising through it all was the heads of Disc People, almost like the fins of salmon, all facing up. They circled the black center of the Well. Their bodies invisible among the sparks. I looked up. I knew they were doing something. I could feel it, especially when I came into line of one of the discs—it was like a new color arose in me. But I couldn’t see it. Their discs were all directed up to the space above the Well’s center, configuring, aligning. My antlers were so alive, caressing into the tones, and yet, they were tones themselves. All my movements toward the center of the Well, everything was a catalyst for some other sound. Music creating music. Tones creating tones.
I walked right into the center of the Well and stood on the starry blackness. I couldn’t see anything beneath the night’s reflection. Only stars held by the ring of blue, of sparks, of the Disc People’s cruising faces. The tones had changed once I reached the center. Now they had melded into a single tone, like a single column rising up. I knew she was down there, but she was here, too, poised with me, and she was in the stars, spreading among the constellations. I gazed down at the reflection around me. It was like standing on the sky. The Milky Way flowed like an arroyo of crystal through the wet blackness, above me and at my feet, like one long beautiful scar, one long beautiful seam and meeting. My head tilted and my eyes closed as I felt my own scars stretching and re-aligning, re-configuring and crystalizing, flexing between light and flesh. And when I opened them I saw among the crystalline expansion a constellation like the Night Girl, just reaching, limbs disappearing into more and more stars. And I saw myself, too, my antlers members of a forest, dripping with seeds of dew.
A few autumn leaves, apples leaves, flew in from the shore and landed among the stars. Then, slowly, they sank and disappeared. The sounds…the sounds were uncreated light, were eyes, or, the stars, the blue iris, was uncreated sound, all eyes coming together—it was like the strange, beautiful harmony of all my forms, of all our forms, of the column of tone I stood in, was pollenating all the eyes that had come together—the eyes of the deer and the human and everything in between—and the eye of the Well, the eyes of the stars, and the eyes of the Night Girl that I had journeyed so deep into to get here—they were all gleaming with nectar, covered with pollen among the vibrating light. We were joined, all of us, as I descended through the slow, patient constellations, as they rose through my organs, crystalizing my bones and blood. And suddenly, I was in the Well. In its depths. The Night Girl and my own lips were just releasing each other, releasing in order to touch again. And our limbs, our arms and legs, our torsos, were in the act of dancing as we hovered within the water. I looked into her eyes, into those silver seas with their black moons.
“Is it alright that I’m here?”
“You were always here.”
“When I got out here I found you.”
“We were together the whole time?”
“What were we doing?”
I kissed her so deeply and then I whispered: “I guess I’ll never understand it. I guess I’ll never think like I should.”
“Two flowers drinking the moonlight.”
We kissed and kissed, hovering, dancing the ocean. And our limbs, our torsos, never stopped configuring, creating, sliding and tangling, mirroring each other, juxtaposing, as our tongues played, our lips brushed and adhered. I touched my neck to see if there were gills, but there were none, yet the water, and the air within it, poured through me.
“What am I that I can breath under water? And that we can talk?”
“Just a being in the night.”
The kissing, the dancing, never stopped. Even when I finally looked around it seemed to continue within us. Above us, the sparks and bio-luminescence formed a radiant blue circle. But lower down, where we danced, the Well opened out. And it was full of life. Jellyfish undulated around us, their bodies full of constellations, planets, galaxies. The sparks traveled down and entered their transluscent forms to join and feed the suns, the novas, the prisms flowing down their tendrils. Beneath the blue ring, sea-plants rose from the ocean floor with clear, fleshy pods full of tiny storms, lightning, clouds, almost touching the blue aurora. Silver fish flashed in schools that you could feel in your own thoughts—decisions that weren’t decisions—paths of thinking like sudden rivers. They’d inhale the sparks that traveled out of the corona, and then the sparks would streak down the length of their bodies, internally painting them with lines of vibrant colors, before exiting from beneath their tales and continuing on. Out on the periphery, whales circled the Well, just shadows emitting deep internal moans. But the Night Girl…it was all so beautiful, but I couldn’t stop looking at her, into her—we were creating into each other’s eyes, walking, floating, kissing, swimming, deeper and deeper.
“When did it begin?”
“I think it began forever.”
I felt something and looked down. The sparks were traveling into me, too, entering my scars, filling me. The Night Girl and her stars seemed to stop and watch. Where-ever I’d been opened by the scientists, put together by the scientists, they clustered and descended, my body becoming bluer and bluer, bright like turquoise, transluscent, radiant with the swirling sparks, denser and denser until that’s all I was was a blue deer-human full of tiny turning bright beings, like a bottle full of swirling light. We kissed and I poured sparks into her mouth. They disappeared into her black distances. The autumnal leaves that were descending all around us began adhering to my skin like to a body of wet glass, coating my blue luminous limbs and torso with crimson and orange mosaics, that then worked their way beneath the surface into my clear shell, and once in me, they were whisked off as if by a stream’s current or by channels of wind, disappearing into the snow of sparks. They were descending into the Night Girl, too, except within her they journeyed straight into her depths, some burning into impossibly distant stars, some disappearing into her black eternity, some her stars rushing to and ornamenting them like frost or dew and breaking away before the beautiful leaves disappeared. My body was full of nothing but a blue luminous world of light and twirling beings—no skin, no fur, with the leaves ornamenting and releasing into the snow storm of my depths. We kissed and danced, making new constellations. I ran my glowing hands down her starry body—just light, just play, just distances, just the silk of living darkness, all within the Well of harmonics, of tones interlacing, yearning away and creating doorways, creating exits and entrances, colors, possibilities. A stream of leaves angled through the Night Girl’s pelvis and were sipped off into her distance, leaves that had originally been whisked off into my own uncreated core.
“Look,” said the Night Girl. “We can see them now.”
I looked beneath us. “Yes. I can see them. Were they already here?”
“I think so.”
There was many of them. They were part aquatic. Webbed elongated feet. Webbed fingers. Gills. But they were human, too. And then I remembered the tracks I saw on the beach.
“Are they the ones that came through us?”
“They feel the same.”
It was almost like when I looked at them I could feel the pulse of when we laid over the Earth Well. They were coming in from beneath, beneath the radiance of the blue iris, not through it, not on the surface. But many of them must’ve already been there, swimming, exploring. And then among it, among us, came another singing: “Dolphins,” I whispered.
“Dolphins,” repeated the Night Girl, and all her stars seemed to copy the swirling movements of the sparks inside me, then migrated down to her feet to watch, to signal. Our toes touched and we stared down through and around the diamond of our legs watching, our hands and foreheads together. They were all just playing, dancing, but among it all, over time, some of the humans were becoming part dolphin, too, some I saw head out deeper into the ocean side by side beyond the blue Well on some new endeavor, some swirled in circles, chasing each other, laughing as they transformed, some you couldn’t even tell who were dolphins and who were humans. And among all the laughing configurations, they began to rise. The Night Girl looked up and I followed her eyes. There was column above us, a tunnel rising out of the ocean, out out the center of the Well, into the night, into the stars. And the dophins and humans rose toward it. And as they lifted vertical, like salmon writhing up a stream, I saw something beneath them. The Night Girl saw it, too.
“Bones,” we said together.
“But they’re like crystal,” I said.
“Radiating more tones,” said the Night Girl.
“Tones and colors.”
There was an enormous pile of them on the ocean floor, like a city of coral, radiating, pulsing colors and sounds in every direction. As the humans and dolphins lifted there seemed to be more and more. As they laughed past us, we were squeezed together. And we watched them pour up into the beautiful column, that was made of colors, made of sound. You could still see the outer night through it. I tried to see up to where it lead, but there were too many bodies.
“Some of them are becoming the colors,” said the Night Girl.
“Stepping off into the colors.”
“Like doorways,” she said.
There were humans that entered the colors pulsing up the column, even wrapped themselves in them, like purple or gold or green robes, and disappeared, or became the colors, the dophin bodies they rode up in, or with, falling back, descending past us, laughing back into the depths. Yet, others entered the colors and returned, continuing the ascent. Somehow it was all a game. Somehow it didn’t really matter. And there were people who became sparks, too, and never changed back.
“I think they’re making more dolphins,” I said, for it was true, the ones who didn’t return left a real dolphin, a fully realizing dolphin to fall and swim and laugh the ocean depths.
The whales groaned and sang. The tones crossed and merged and separated, changed, and called to each other over distances, made all the distances and proximities another song. Sparks rose up and joined the huge auroras of colors that formed the pillar. Tones everywhere. Colors everywhere. Bones. Crystals. Flashing fish. Jelly-fish musing past with their constellations and the Night Girl’s stars mirroring each other, agreeing. And beneath the huge iris of the blue Well, reaching up, almost touching the cerulean density, the airy forest of sea plants with their bladders of storms, pods clear and full of pregnant clouds and lightning.
“Where are we?” I asked, knowing it didn’t matter.
“Earth,” said the Night Girl, her black planet eyes almost moving into me.
“One of the Earths.”
She looked back up: “I just call them all Earth.”
I looked up, too. At the migration. The transformation. And then they must’ve reached a certain point—it was barely visible they were so high, but all the dolphins who rose up with the humans began to descend. And the humans as they broke free of their dolphin bodies, disappearing up higher and higher until you couldn’t see them anymore. The freed dolphins that they had become fell past us. Everyone was laughing.
The leaves had stopped swimming down to us and now adhered to the column. It was so beautiful, a tunnel of sparks and splaying, splashing, pulses of deep colors rising up into some unknown blackness with all the stars of earth’s night shining through. The Night Girl gazed up, fixated. I knew she wanted to go up there, all the way up. And I…I wanted it, too. I wanted something. But…I don’t know…maybe I had everything I wanted. Maybe when I dropped that bloody sheet I had it all, when I first looked at the ocean, that expanse that the Night Girl and I looked up from. And yet, something in me wanted to be there in the stars, too, be a star, a constellation, that humans, people like Okana and Brighton could gaze at and know—they could put me together and be free, too. And just the curiosity, the finding out what the tunnel held, what new world, a world beyond earth—it was something I could know, something I could explain, somewhere the Night Girl and I could go together and remember, remember together.
“Do you want to go up into it?” I asked, gazing so deep into her eyes. For a second I almost felt like I was swimming past the black planets.
She lowered her face to mine. Our eyes. Our eyes together. All the eyes, my eyes and hers, the eyes of her stars. The eyes of the ocean.
“I could ride you.”
She pressed her body fully to mine and slid herself on, running her hands up and down my antlers—the Night Girl’s starry ebony fingers exploring up them, climbing them like phosphorescent trees, then running them down again, moving the swirling sparks, moving energies. She hugged my neck and we lifted. Dolphins, new and old, laughed past us, swimming from color to color. We rose up from the depths into the column. It was like there was no difference—we were in air, but it was water, too—it was sound but it was color—sounds and colors, eyes, all converging. Once we passed the level the sea, I looked down through it at the blue radius. It was full of the heads of the Disc People sending up their tones, their surges of color and sound, washing against the column, helping to create it. It was like someone swinging ponds of ethereal paint onto glass, which then gave birth to more strange harmonics. All the time, leaves flew from the dark shore ornamenting the column, giving it another depth among the swirling sparks, many entering and wafting in, lacquering to our flight, giving us new depths, too, before disappearing into the Night Girl’s night, or my blue body of snow.
“Fireflies,” said the Night Girl from my back, listening to her stars.
I looked out. A gold-green migration danced from the shore. From where you could see the blue-green pulse of the Earth Well. I twisted back to see the Night Girl. All her stars suddenly disappeared. Her eyes still glowed, the luminous tendrils of her hair still glistened, but her main form, atleast what I could see, was just space, so beautiful, just as beautiful as her stars. As we rose higher the fireflies reached the column and joined all the colors, all the leaves and light, all the currents and emergence of sound, all the music playing and birthing. Some were whisked up. Some rode the swells. But then they seemed to stabilize, communicate, join it, and descend. They filled the space of the column with their serene signals. They were all around us. It was so easy to keep rising through it all, up and up. A firefly landed on the Night Girl. She closed her eyes and it descended into her black form. Suddenly, all her stars appeared. They formed a mountain inside her, a star mountain, like a dense constellation in her chest. The firefly circled it, then landed on its silver slope and began to climb. It reached the flat summit and climbed in, disappearing, exiting between her legs, tickling my neck as it climbed up to my blue antlers, and serenely swirled up through them, joining the others. She got off, but we still kept rising. We hugged and kissed and pressed our foreheads together, full of stars, full of sparks, full of burning leaves. The sparks poured off my antlers into the skin of the column and returned. And as we rose I even saw some of the Night Girl’s stars leave her body, dance with the fireflies, pretend to be sparks, even the ones inside me, and return, welcomed back by different configurations.
I was still a body of swirling blue sparkling light. I was still in the arms of the Night Girl. And we were acending to some new place together. I knew the Night Girl didn’t know what was up there. But she was gazing up, her eyes burning. There wasn’t just blackness, it wasn’t just a void, even though it was some type of new beginning. We were rising, holding each other, gazing up, growing more ethereal. The Night Girl’s tendrils descended into her shoulders. And I was changing—all my deerbody seemed to be leaving. I could feel it, feel the departures of so many senses, so much space, space that understood space, space that sang to space, silences that were like rivers within the rivers of sound. I was becoming human, even though I was blue-white sparks, a body of blue light. What was the darkness above us? What was in it?
“Eyes,” said the Night Girl.
Yes. Stars surrounded a strange silky blackness full of eyes at the tunnel’s end, but it was like looking from within them at other worlds—I couldn’t actually see it, but it felt like outside those multitudes, worlds were being born, shaped, shaped by being seen, by being understood, by our presences coming. I looked down through the Night Girl’s body, through the stars and leaves of the column and the world within it, and saw my deerform dancing toward the shore, kicking up rays of color, dancing with the channels of energy. And ahead of it, the brilliant auroras of the shore, the land and sea’s meeting. All around the edge of the Well, whales rolled and breached. And within the blue radiant water the Disc people’s faces rotated, sending up, drawing out, their music, their tones birthing. And right in front of me glistened the Night Girl as she gazed up toward the eyes, our bodies lifting.
All the eyes were different. They had different shapes, different energies, and they all must’ve looked out upon different worlds. And around those gates, those potentials, surrounding the column like a nutrition, stars, spaces, spaces that I could fill and be something, something grander, wider, even than the shore. A human. A human in the stars. There probably were already trillions of them. But what about me? Another human shaped of light. A story to piece together. But the deer part of me already knew it was up there, so all of me must’ve been there, too, all the forms.
We were getting closer. From the crown of my head, florescent green designs lifted and were sucked up out of individual eyes. They were beautiful. I knew they were creating something. And it thrilled me to see the Night Girl smile, watching them rise. And to see what they became, to see what I helped create, only me—to go all the way up and find out—it was like the ultimate defiance of my original purpose—it was creating not destroying. I looked at the Night Girl. And I looked again through her at the deer, a real deer, so far away, spinning in colors, leaping, heading for home. Already home. The deer knew. I knew. It was a knowing that could only be described as a listening, a breathing, a breathing and just being there with everything within the breath, everything internal and external. I was there, too, just dancing, dancing toward the auroras of the shore, listening to all the winds. I don’t even think we had made a decision…embodied a decision?…inhabit…to inhabit a decision…I reached my hands to the Night Girl, but I couldn’t stop. I was within her, flaring like another star. All her stars congregated before my face and yet there were trillions of miles between us. And I spoke to them, I spoke to her: “Night Girl, I have to go back to the shore.” I could feel her smile although I couldn’t see her face.
“And my stars want to find out what it’s like to be in another night.”
“Another night,” I said.
“Another night,” said the Night Girl.
And I went deeper, deeper into her, and was suddenly passing through the stars and sparks and leaves of the column, wrapping myself in colors, which I saw were doorways, too, doorways of sound—I could become another color, reincarnate as a color and all its potential, but it didn’t matter—I was flying, flying down toward the shore, toward the deer, all the sparks leaving my body to flesh as I descended, like a torch-lit caravan returning to the column. I was flying on an energy channel down to the dancing deer, but I was watching myself coming, too, watching myself returning. It was like leaping over the horses’ backs: if you can see the energy, if you can dance with it, you can do almost anything. We were all dancing, we were all watching, listening, breathing, riding, kicking up radiant sprays of color, everything a partner, every breath a return—there was no difference between any of us, no difference than form, which were like breaths on glass, freezing and dissolving.
We all came together and spun into the air. We’re all here, I thought, walking on the water, walking on the night’s mirror. I felt it all within me, all the senses of the deer, the smells, all the senses of the human, the senses of the wind, of the stars, all children of the earth.
When I got to the shore I stood for a long time in the auroras of color dancing up my body like petals of flowers, like petals of fire—standing in the seam, the border, and just listening, listening to the meeting, to the computer winds, and soft breath of the waves reaching, just watching, watching the meeting painting my body like an ephemeral artist whose body stretched for hundreds of miles, all the paint brushes of two bodies coming together. I looked out at the Ocean Well, but there was no column, only the intense turquoise radiance of the Well’s ocean surface. But around it’s periphery, whales still rolled and sent up their fountains. And further into shore the Earth Well pulsed up a mound of luminosity. I stood between them, a half-deer/half-human. Or maybe I was something else. Maybe all those terms were just a courtesy to someone who didn’t really exist.
I wondered where the Night Girl was. She must’ve reached one of the eyes and exited into the night it looked upon. Another night. At night. Within the night. It didn’t matter. I was just another spray of light within the seam.
I awoke on the lip of land above where the stumps of driftwood had been. It was already far into morning. The beach was full of seaweed and branches, shells, dead fish, little pools left by the tide. The driftwood was gone. Taken away by the sea who had brought them. The beach was full of birds busy feasting and flying, some just stoically standing among all the bustle. Further down, a fox grabbed a fish by the head and dragged it back to the grass. Everything was tinted by a light cloud of evaporation, keeping the beach cool beneath the climbing sun. It took a long time for me to stand up, to want to stand up, but even though the sun was high I couldn’t help but releasing and curling deeper into the sandy grass, into my little bed. My body shifted into a total deer-body, the fur helping to keep the heat off my skin. I slept more and when I awoke would gaze out, each time fewer fish, fewer mussels, less of a shine on the seaweed and debri, less mist, fewer bodies in the air. But finally I had to get up and find some shade. When I stood, I was facing inland. Two lines, trails, lead off into the distance on each side of me. They were strange, like low compact plants and lichens mounding upon crescents of stones and shells, the two rows paralleling off through the grass. Like footsteps. Like footsteps of two people who weren’t human. People who had four legs. I followed them. So many different plants, so many different kinds of lichen, so many shapes of shells and stone that seemed to be part of the earth beneath the sand. But they were descending, changing, as if the earth was swallowing them, until they became horse’s hooves, two horses side by side. I gazed at the tracks heading for the distant mountains and probably what was beyond. And then I walked slowly over to a few red oaks that were closer to the shore and fell down. I spent the rest of the day beneath the dappled shade and singing leaves, just being sucked into sleep, into the sand, into the sky, just sleeping and healing from ambition, from separation, from attainment, healing from knowledge, healing from the data, and when I’d open my eyes, just seeing, hearing, smelling, feeling the sand and breeze.
When it was just entering twilight I got up and walked to the edge of the grass. It was the spot where I’d shook off the maggots the night before, where I had come back and slept, just above where the driftwood had been. I could barely see the two trails left by the horses. The lights of the Wells were rising again into blue mounds. All I could really do was breathe. Around the little matted-down spot grew a few young Epic Plants. All with their various flowers. All breathing, too. All the colors were rising, were trading places, the whole earth was slowly changing form. Further down the shore, the line of mountains descended into the sea, turning into islands, then into nothing at all. When will this meeting end? Was I really walking down this shore, or was the shore, this eco-system and its components, coming to meet me as I dreamed, finding places and spaces in order of their finding, found to be ordered by nothing—husks and seeds for other husks and seeds, rhizomes decomposing to feed other rhizomes—two years I had been alive, and what if I spent another year, lived another year, every movement a wave reaching another shell. I looked down. My dewclaw was still gone—as if it had always been in the drinking sand. All evidences of transformation. Dewclaw. Dew black like oil. Like the earth’s blood.
The Epic Plants were surrounding me with tendrils of fragrance. In the sky, there were only a few stars. But on many of the Epic Plants’ flowers a dew of twilight collected on the petal edges, flowers that were all different, dew beneath the violet breath. The twilight deepened. There were stars in the little globes, moving, configuring. Stars that weren’t in the sky. I looked up the coast at the mountains turning ephemeral in the transformation, transforming in the transformation, this beach it’s evidence. I knew I would explore the mountains and beyond them, following the meeting, exploring the seasons of the shore, becoming the seasons. How do you become the seasons? And the landscape, like becoming a new native animal of that eco-system which I probably already was.