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    September 23, 2012  /  IN Fiction  /  0 COMMENT

    The angel of the bottomless pit, who leads the army of locusts.  His name means Doom in Hebrew, Destroyer in Greek, Exterminator in Latin.    Walk through the woods with Abaddon, see flickering of his features solidifying, crystallizing, as time passes, [...]

The angel of the bottomless pit, who leads the army of locusts.  His name means Doom in Hebrew, Destroyer in Greek, Exterminator in Latin.    Walk through the woods with Abaddon, see flickering of his features solidifying, crystallizing, as time passes, walk progresses, wood deepens, awareness grows.  Commence with the coming of locusts.

Standing between labor and dusk, the faltering screen of corn stalks meandered with the innocence of dementia, across miles of farm land and down into a vast irrigation ditch floating thousands of tiny bodies.  Colonies of fungi rose up in blooming clusters, tinted with the fairytale hues of rogue minerals, rising from the soil to crystallize along fetid banks.  These were the villages and towns of the wasteland, the threshold between the civilized world and its refuse.  In this labyrinth of cap and gill architecture—lopsided cottages and unwelcoming inns without doors or windows, threading towers and subterranean industry—there were neither roads nor foot paths, but everywhere fields of mycological flowers grew dense on the backs of decomposing years.  He had been born here, but the recollection of his emergence had been blunted, the razing and slaughter of all that he knew was now an indistinct collective memory, again.

Few walked this emaciated route, fed only by gravity, as the day laborers backed their trucks up to the top of the gorge and released a torrent of spent forms into the pit—drawn and quartered sections of verdant husks and ochre kernels—which tumbled down the steep embankment to settle in the deep velvet hems of fungal old men.  Robed and bearded, the congress of hoary mushrooms judged the dead from their anchored ground, told them there would be no journey, could be no transformation, and their trivial incursion into common earth would be internment in perpetuity.

Yet from the fathomless hole that promised neither tunnel nor transport, fresh wings—still wet and viscous with dark fluids from centuries of rampaging flight—unfolded upon reawakening.  Feathers clung to connective tissue and bone, and a massive chest exhaled with the stalking glory of lucid memories resplendent with the submission of millions.  Legs shot through the soil with root force, freely cording bark into Spartan muscle with the gleeful pantomime of robust human life.  Claws mimicked fingers with free will, shale fractured and spun itself into filaments as a mane of petrous hair, lichen inhabited orbs which rotated and gleamed as green eyes, and a singular entity was again sculpted anew and released.

In the chill of his departing shadow, a woman arrived with Allegro gait, prodding a constellation of fungus with a branch, gently lifting a ruffled knot and disturbing the contorted air that clung to its infinite curve.   With an artist’s hand, she pried out the degraded ear of corn lodged near the base, causing no further damage to the remains of its essential form.  It had been ravaged by locusts and lay in her palm as a vanquished soldier who lived only long enough to die in his own land; she ran her fingers over the husk, reduced to lace, and brought them to rest on what was left of the yellow body, which collapsed in a shower of luteous beads under the weight of sympathy.

She walked the length of the irrigation ditch, crossed over this Stygian river to uncertain lands of human abandon every day, beyond even the most distant fields, where rampaging nature birthed asymmetrical, unsentimental things and frightening tangles of organic refuse were governed by sentience.  Two realms buttressed her tremulous world, but the landowner and his workers habitually stayed away from the bottom of the channel with its sporulating monsters and tainted population; they tended the living farm, dwelling amongst the familiar cycles of animal production: milk, eggs, meat, and offspring.  Civilizing habituality carried the overlord and his workers through the regularity of days and seasons. Disease and deformity were immediately excised, death was expected and decidedly mundane and incongruous events were universally viewed as fraudulent.

Others were enlisted to hack and grind, cure and kill. The most recent hires bore the castoffs from high plateau Eden to the edge of this place, never looking down as the unwanted reminders of a precarious balance tumbled into opaque water.

Ignored by her father for the span of years, marked with the cystic pocks of brutal attention, the woman yielded a lifetime of creation—paintings and drawings that inspired and defied, stories and novels which cast off the customary map of words, speculations and inventions of unsettling sorts—and flourished.  She painted fractured straw embedded in clusters of Red Maids, pale geometry against the soft magenta of snaking flowers, always rushing to finish the watercolor before songbirds toppled her composition in a frenzy to devour the plant’s shiny black seeds.  Strawberry roots attacked by mole crickets surfaced in her paintings as the sacrificed and the Destroyer.  Roses manifested in paint only after the dull regularity of their concentric petals had been rendered fascinating by the pestilent attentions of Rose Chafers, the Exterminator of late spring beetles.  When an animal lay dying and her father had abandoned his charge in its most lucid hours, the woman would come to stay with the creature and give comfort with alien words, to draw and record the unadorned nature of transition with pencil on paper.

Melon plumes shot from leatherback earth with volcanic ferocity, dripping back down to the heavily cratered ground to collect in viscous pools that had been farmland.  The air had translated the din of swarming Differential Grasshoppers to pure color—its only point of reference—and bore down on azure serenity with the suffocating coralline plague.   Neat, farmed rows were degraded to mastabas, and the control of planted fields yielded to the frenzied banishment of burial mounds.  Between the shoulders and rifles of the madder army that had once been sky, millions of locusts decimated acres of corn stalks that stood now as totems carved with grotesque features—restless mouths, ears, noses, and eyes that moved on three pairs of legs.

Through the jalis of verdant arabesque and voracious ornament, the elegant geometry of Differential Grasshoppers emerged in the space between their simple and compound eyes; antennae and palpus gleamed as a progression of Art Deco beads against heads marked with the lines of tigers.  Serrated legs curved into hinged joints and chevron armor crested before an abdomen of metallic purity.  In the din, crops bowed and shone with the naked spikes of dying corn stalks.

Copyright c November 3, 2005 by Julie Rauer


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