Disturbed from generations of precarious sleep just below the rim, the gilded line lurched and buckled in the face of a fierce intellect hurling itself against the bars of a cage that multiplied with each new injury to successively Byzantine latticework. Auric shards harvested the prancing blue light of a blown glass shade, living falsely on the sideboard as a knot of cumulous clouds, while the surface of her tea arose from its porcelain cradle. From handle to slick pitcher plant walls that ensured an acid bath drowning for those plotting escape, the cup shuddered as the disc—enfeebled milk skin backed with an agitated tannic underbelly of Ceylon umber—hovered above the table in humble confusion as sentience seeped in.
From its prison of late afternoon traditions and hyperbolic etiquette, the new white disc of conscience and liquid memory stared down on oak boards set with years of soft lace starched to rigor mortis, stiffened to hold unnatural shapes. Hermit Thrushes and Morning Glories woven from fine cotton thread were frozen into doilies, napkins, and matching table cloth, unable to sing or coil shut against the night, but condemned to an eternal pantomime of purpose.
Sailing chimera of tea and curdled awareness drifted around the perimeter of a small cottage lodged in the gut of a dense forest. Tumor that ached and solidified from seed to bloom, the house had simply appeared one day, fully built, in a Spartan field of scentless lavender bred for superior color, and decorated with only a few stunted birch trees cursed with bark that peeled sky to ground in sunburned human strips. In the span of months, an unseen hand began to rewrite the genetic code of trees, which grew with grotesque abandon to obliterate the sun. Altering the gentle progression of hours and seasons, a newly rampant density stalked the patterns of life and forged them into unrecognizable shapes; everything held within the confines of the forest was reassembled and converted—organs, muscles, tendons, connective tissue—with barbaric ritual into a rare, unnatural course of bone.
It was always winter on the forest floor, in fallen birch leaves crushed in desiccation under anvil moss frozen to oppression, in mushroom cap gills that shattered underfoot, in the ice bound martial footsteps of insect colonies which should have left no trace. Yet they achieved no great height, these rampant trees, only frantic growth without direction. Trunks pierced the cottage at unpredictable and dangerous angles, sending out a profusion of misshapen branches that ravenously embraced its planks and window sills; what had been a foreign body was now an implanted lover of malicious character. Encroaching wood gleamed with the razorback hair of celestial ice, a majestic empyrean radiating pure crystalline fire and unbridled force; it found a victim stripped of free will and set about wounding her mortal structure in soft, discreet places—which immediately petrified upon healing—then methodically raped every sacred space until the woman was no longer capable of movement.
Birch ice bloomed from the outside in, explosions of needle celadon and prickly teal which crept along baseboards and up walls in concentric frozen rings until the bedroom wallpaper surrendered its passive floral identity, morphing into great flapping broods of Promethea Moths that watched her in nightmares from the false eyes at the tip of each wing. From her cathedral of bone, the woman could only watch the tabletop through the marble tilt of eyes that rolled as a persistent irritation in twin bivalves ringed by the fibrous beard of her lashes. Congealed red sea of raspberry preserves roiled in furious seeds frozen into constellations on waves. Lemon cake, jocular to a fault in the over saturated hues of summer, layers of pink icing blind with exuberance, towered over the high tea landscape in treacherous granite steppes promising impalement at their feet. Always the forest hurled ribbon shadows at everything she tried to eat. Beetle armor bread encased the soft fillings of her sandwiches, imprisoning them in ever shifting cages which altered to prevent each new attempt at escape, assuring that their insides would rot away in secrecy.
Drifting towards the table’s edge, the ellipsoid of milk and tea shrank with the fear of nonexistence, lost the certainty of substance in a world that would persist without its presence. Lifted in air currents sculpted through window panes broken by the ubiquitous forest, the spherical entity of accrued years, blasphemed expectation of humanity, paused above the head of the woman who sat too still, a Shiva with multiple arms alternating wood and flesh. Since childhood, she had traded substance with the chair that held her, grew into her, hostage of the misconfigured protein that systematically forced her stem cells to become bone—perpetually twisted hominal root cursed with random knots, her arms splinted against human expression and torso bent in geometric acceptance.
For the true dead, the course of the world persists without their presence, buttressed by the impermeable strata of petty obsessions, delusion and rampant avarice to pacify a terrified populace, polarized lust and hatred notched with gray increments of all the emotional shades forgotten in between, and the march of schedules to neatly partition the impending collapse of time. It is both unacceptable and horrific, the notion of mass continuity despite individual absence. Obliterated and washed away from consciousness, not disappeared but gone entirely, leaving only a fragile wake of images, words, or music. What of the fluid death which prances, regal and cloven, back and forth between the realities of being and ceasing, transcending nonexistence? Dragged along in the echoing folds of its garment are watchers of the vital world, which finds its seasons and passions without them. Marked as voids of lucid thought, waking hollows, impressions of past lives—they contemplate their own bedrock ghost, fixated on an outline that still breathes.
Thousands of years ago, the woman watched herself as fossils in shale. As soft parts rarely found, supple marine animals and pliant leaves collected on her forest floor in a thin film of carbon delineating the most transient aspects of their form. She knelt down in the cast of hard parts, stone fields of mammal and shark teeth in perfect structural preservation, intact sea shells, and grievously altered bone replaced with minerals dissolved by circulating water—and was carried away.
Copyright © July 19, 2007 - By Julie Rauer