Distance: Path 5

Path 5: The Mirror

Stillness enveloped me. I closed my eyes and sank as the gentle tugging of the tide took me wherever it wished. The world I knew was so far away from me, but the thought at the back of my mind kept me from peace. My arms move slowly through the water, and the substance changes around me. I hit the bottom, and allow myself to rest for a moment, keeping my eyes closed as my hands move gently through the changing sea.

Everything starts to feel strange though. Gravity becomes denser, and the pressure of the ocean releases itself from me. When I move my hands along the ground beside me, I feel blades of grass move amongst my fingers, and gusts of wind through my hair.

Gently I pry my eyes open, and the sky rests before me. The sun somewhere else, and clouds are drifting lazily in the blue. I feel a slight tinge of humidity, but aside from that, everything feels lovely. I begin to wonder, are the clouds wandering, or is it I that move amongst them? Someplace calm, adrift like so much flotsam amongst a sinking ship. The entire world set before me, and I giggle, and set it ablaze. Every day turns out to be a little more like me and every place seems to recall something that I’d like to see, and what I think about more than anything is why I’d want to be such an asshole. Who willingly turns into such a creature? The process is slow, subtle, and you only become aware of it when it’s far too late to save yourself.

But thinking of that brings no remorse to me. I look at the restless sky, the clouds shooting out from one another and racing at dramatic speeds, like ink spilled on paper. An odd and very calming feeling takes control of me. Some force of whimsy I lost long ago. It slams into the back of my skull like a train.

The clouds turn to smoke, but still they do nothing to sully my mood. Anguished cries by the universe, that its bastard children want salvation after trying so goddamn hard to destroy one another. Petulant little children that never want to face the consequences of their actions. The deaths ring across me, and I can’t for the life of me find any emotion to bring for any of them. Let them be, as they are now, as they always were.

One voice amongst all others seems above the cries. It cries for me, I believe. I lay here, and I look at the smoke. I try to ignore the sound, and remember what I was doing. I was looking for something, right? Or maybe it was a place?

The two of us, we were looking, wait, who is that person crying for me? It sounds really familiar.

Should the world shatter, should they all fucking die like I think they should, who would be standing to look at me? Sunken shoulders and mournful eyes filled with ash, looking at me with disappointment. Their end, my end…

I was sitting in the car looking at one person I had an intense dislike of, and another I wanted nothing more than adoration from. I remained in the back seat saying nothing, sinking into my shoulders trying to muster up enough courage to tell them what I needed to say. I left, and I said nothing at all.

I stand, and look to the source of the smoke, the island near the horizon is burning. Nothing leads into it, the bridges are broken and shattered, and there are no pathways to cross the blood red river. For whatever reason, I become aware that I’m burning with everyone there as well. I need to hurry there, before all is burned to foundation. This is my chance to figure out how my end came about. This place is where I died. Everything about me, all that I was, all I ever will be, and it’s burning there on that piece of shit island.

I look behind me, and I see the path, the one I clung to like a dear friend, but now, it means nothing to me. Narrow my vision, and then I watch it erupt into a colorful display as the pavement flecks into the air slowly, before dissolving into the air. Just like that, the only thing I thought could bring me salvation in this place has left me. I run towards the burning island, thinking to myself that with this final memory of mine a part of me again, I can find some other plain of existence, that I can forsake this wandering and be free.

My hand is tapping on a desk randomly, I’m waiting for very horrible news, I’m expecting the next week to be filled with nothing but begging and borrowing and finding places to sleep. Told me to wait, so I wait patiently, my mind wandering as I do so. All I can think about it how much my day is going to suck. It’s cold outside, and I don’t have a jacket.

Someone tugging on my arm, forcing me to try on clothing, laughing at the ignorant male with no sense of style. My sense of annoyance easily betrays what I am really feeling, but this is one of those times when being transparent to someone doesn’t bother me. Saves me from having to spend a lot of time apologizing for being a dick. It was cold outside…

Places parallel to where I run, faces all not mine I see in the same form, sprinting down a hill towards water that’s far too turbulent for a slow flowing river. Arms reaching up and pulling away a veil to showcase that nothing was behind the curtains. It’s all burning. Everything that was a part of me being sent to ash.

It was cold outside. I was sipping coffee, making observations on how much my home town had changed, how everything that I claimed to know so well was alien to me now. Speaking of the people I forgot, and I expected a bitter jealousy to yank me to reality. Instead, I am told I should reach out, that I should refuse to be forgotten.

Kind of an interesting thought, now that I think about it. I refused though, again lost in my prebuilt annoyance. I had nothing to be upset about, and the turbulence in my mind was actually soothed away.

A shaded figure standing perfectly still in some terrible and nearly broken craft, in the middle of the river, a circle expands around him, and the water calms within it. As my feet touch the water, the river explodes in anger. That circle and shadowed being remain untouched. For whatever reason, the water gives way to me, like some half way point between the soil and the stars. I am climbing the explosions of the seemingly coagulated mess, pushing my way towards the other side, trying to avoid the figure that rests calmly in his craft, smiling at me like a bastard.

I try to push my way to the sides, and as I do, my head turns to see the ruins of one of the bridges I used to pass over quite often. Some pillars still stand, but mostly, there’s just two early parts ramping off to nowhere, jutting out from the shore on each side of the river that seemed to devour it. I try to recall crashing, redirecting, something about the way they changed, that reflected change in me. Quickly putting this thought aside, I push and claw my way through this torrent of strange substances.

I had very ignorantly assumed that the only ways to kill time required a good sum of money. I’m brought to the water, and everyone is unpacking, and I wonder why I bothered to join them. Being underage, the prospect of free alcohol likely had something to do with it. I am acclimating to this group slowly, and I have only myself to blame for that. I take my sandals off, and wade through the warm water. Stingrays glide around my feet, and it’s quite beautiful, really. I’m too worried that I’ll step on one of them and piss them off though.

Someone sits beside me as the sun starts to set, offering me a slightly chilled beer, telling me that I need to pull the stick out of my ass. Good advice.

The river is fighting me every step of the way, each time my hands move to pull myself further, the water becomes as solid as metal, before shattered and bursting around me. The ordeal to cross the river takes quite a lot out of me. I crawl onto the soil on the other side, and collapse for a moment, letting the burning sensation in my arms and legs pass from me.

Looking back at the other shore, I still see the shadowed man standing in his ship, the circle of tranquility still providing him haven. His head turns to look in my direction, and it sends a chill down my spine and into my feet even. Turning around, my aim is only the places that I can bring back in memory, so I work again to return to the burning city that I called home in my youth. I will let nothing stop me in this, I will reunite myself with that one last moment, and when I am whole…

Well, I’m not quite sure what I will find, but every fiber of my body screams at me that I need it.

I move to empty roads that once were busy at nearly all times of day. What few vehicles are left seem empty and rotten, rusted to the ground, tires flat, the upholstery torn and covered in mildew. I move at a curious speed through the exit that spills out into the main causeway for the island’s traffic. Tracing through memories while I look at the smoldering ruins of places so familiar, I feel an odd sense of wishing for the old again. Commutes that make traversal of the island miserable, the sounds of everyone spilling out into this road at once, either smiling, yelling, pouting, or various other feelings. The small field at a school I once attended, a place that offered a brief reprieve from the suffocating cluster of buildings and traffic.

So few dreams fostered around here, and every part of my youth was spent just trying to keep myself from boredom. No one ever really cared about their impact around here, and I never really saw why they should. I remember when the arcade closed down, and a part of my youth died with it. Pangs of remorse course through me, that so much of my self was associated with all of the commercial and the mundane.

I had a lot of fun there though…

So many empty homes, and I traverse so many roads and buildings I used to never glance at. Everything is empty. Worse, I realize me span of perception was so limited. Two major roadways, and that was the beginning and end of the universe to me. Ignored so much just to remember a few spots I’d haunt with a great deal of frequency.

So many changes, and so much of it seems alien and new, even the parts that aren’t burning. The familiarity I once clung to now is outside of my being, and it is as though I am searching for that, trying to drown myself forcefully in nostalgia, even though I’ve just gotten re-acclimated with my memories. Many of them are terrible anyways.

In the middle of the parkway, a mirror, a vast thing that covers all four lanes. My reflection within it reminds me of the latter days of my existence, when I was very far away from this place. So much seems strange about my features, and there’s a name etched somewhere on the other side that tries to bring up more memories of this place.

Very important to move away from this place. The people I called friends, the places I thought brought me comfort. I sought them elsewhere. I was not going to let this island control me. Swimming in my veins are the sounds of the afternoon, they move into my eyes, the other side looking at me with great desire. Everything around me isn’t what it seems to be. I am not what I seem to be. I am someplace else, dreaming as I often dream, and this is nothing but a construct. Everything here shall be removed from me.

Staring at a reflection that should be me, but they are not in sync. One side shrugs away the weight of the world with a very tired indifference. The other is very upset.

I see a smile on the other side, but I don’t think I’m smiling. Quite the opposite actually. I retreat away, but the image remains where he is, his eyes dim, and he stretches and twists. The buildings on the other side are burning now too, I can’t tell where the mirror is, or if it even is there.

The skin breaks and twists, the smoldering ash of the city races towards this nocuous being, filling the cracks, making its skin appear like some caked over salt flat turned gray. The reflections mouth bursts open, teeth moving wherever they want on the broken face, eyes disheveled and nose missing. The hands seem to expand at the pace of melting candle wax, drooping to the ground to support the weight of this awful broken looking reflection. When I speak, it tries to do so as well, but nothing more than a strained chocking sound emerges from it.

I feel great relief. That this thing can’t get to me. Its face is wrong, everything that should not be, but is. I would turn, but I’ve been that way before. I stand in the middle of the burning memory, and realize that this thing stands to oppose me. It is clawing at the mirror with great force, trying to bring the two halves into a whole. He cares not for the reunion of memory, he is seeking me with all his might. Like the thing cast out from the sea that tried to claim dominion of my mind, all I know of this creature is that he will bring me to ruin. There is little urgency in his expression. However, he is a ruined and pathetic form, he strains with all his might to shatter the glass that separates us, and fails even in that. I don’t know why I should bother being afraid of this.

Now dumbstruck, I have no idea what to do. Part of my body surges with fear as this thing runs his clawed hands up and down the glass, trying to shatter it with all his will, yet he seems to go about this in a lazy way. The rest of me regards him with indifference.

I came here to cut on this thing, to bleed it into what it was once part of. It was me, I made him, and he knows this. I struggle to rise above my trepidation, to yell that I am the maker and destroyer. Through the years, I sheltered my mind from fear, telling myself that I had seen it all before, that there was nothing that could hurt me. I walk forward, smiling at the reflection, and this pisses it off. I put my hand on the glass and wish for it to go away.

As quickly as my bravery shoots into my brain, I see the glass begin to crack and break. It sounds different than normal. I think I hear the sounds of laughter and singing as the webs extend in the break, lines that zigzag suddenly, saying that the two halves of the city are still different, even when they look so similar.

The mirror shatters, and what is beyond makes me think it was less a mirror, and more a window. As the glass comes to the ground and breaks further, I hear the sounds of fire crackling, and people screaming in agony. Odd strings being plucked that are out of tune, a melody made for chaos, as relentless and dissonant as it is harmonious and repetitious.

And the reflection stands there, unable to look at anything, unable to move. It remains motionless, unsure what to do.

To watch, to feed, and crawling up and down, the scenes that play out like I’m sitting and watching a projector go through my memories. The cigarette burns on the film are now spindly shadows that turn into claws and eyes, but the person on screen seems oblivious.

A lull comes about, and there’s immense sorrow suddenly. I’m stuck in this spot, watching the projections and the figure dance across burns in the film.

Was it fear that played across the child’s face as I’m looking at him play with a long lost friend? No, he doesn’t know about the thing lurking in the projector, this already happened, he hasn’t had those dreams. But a curious mix of emotions came to him, and being forced to see it, I try to understand it as well. Does him no good, to know that only in the future would someone stand as a third party to observe, but I do my best. Deserves some form of hindsight, I believe.

I push forward, somehow forcing the reel to spin faster, and I’m watching the years spin by so quickly, the burns spelling out things I could only guess at with my feelings, my crude and frail senses trying to understand the things that would always elude me. I finally get to a spot where the haze sets in for my memory, and I’m staring at a version that looks much like I do now. I slow my focus and I watch him. His heart feels as heavy as mine, his mind feels as scattered, and the burns trace out the shapes of long fingers clutching at his head. He is fighting everyone around him for absolutely no reason. That’s all he knows though.

I kick away this form, and stand within the burning city, marveling that everything that has come together must now fall apart. I thought it would, but not as a cluster. This ending is like an explosion, where I had figured it to be more like a domino effect.

The buildings lift from the sky and begin to shake away their flames, as the air fills with their presence darkening all things, a light of red embers falls like snow, trying to burn my flesh as they kiss it and die. Small pin pricks of pain flashing across my skin as I watch the housings of my memories begin to interlock in a strange and ornate fashion. A hand emerges from the black and red skies, formed by cloud and ash, and it picks at the remains of the buildings, trying to carve them into a strange and massive ornate symbol. Hands within hands, branches of some tree, dead with knowledge and acceptance. Many more emerge, and shove the symbol into the ground all around me, tearing the island into this new form. I’m within the middle of some maze now, crafted from the remains of what I remember.

A viscous substance leaks from the cracks, creating small veins that flow upwards, trying to form something far away from where I can see, it paints the buildings like vines would paint a decrepit place no longer desired for habitation. When they strike at the clouds, I hear the sounds of thunder emerge. Eventually, the walls are completely black, and rain starts to fall from the sky.

I remain still, and I hold my arms and hands out, letting the cool rain sooth my burned skin. I take my clothes off for a moment, and back in the downpour. When I open my eyes after feeling satisfied, I notice not only is my skin no longer burned, but all the marks upon my flesh are gone. The scars on my chest and arms have vanished. As I put my clothing back on, the relief of something so miniscule fills me with glee. Nothing shall stain me, and the rain shall purify my body. I shout at the sky as the shower continues, letting it know how much I appreciate it.

But I really must be on my way.

Traversing the ruins, I begin to think this is less of a maze, and more that I’m being corralled somewhere specific. There is no variation, I’m being forced to go one direction. Thinking I had left the path behind, my mind begins to at first shift to annoyance, but as I see the black vines across the walls get washed away in the rain, I actually wonder where this will lead me on the island.

Came and went, so many places I dwelled, and the silver lining always stood out of reach. Try to memorize every spec of land I come across, create a map to remember places that seemed to matter. They mattered to me, but I didn’t matter to them. I never found any spot where I belonged. Always an interloper that throws a wrench into things.

There is recognition in some of the walls destroyed and molded into something new before me. Signs advertising places I used to frequent. It increases as I wander deeper around corners and pathways. I wander upwards as the rubble now builds into a stairway leading to have a grand view of this twisting corridor I must traverse.

At the top the view is wide. I stand atop a platform made of many dead structures that looks over the entire island. The clouds above seem calm now, and the rain slowly starts to dissipate. In the center of this circular platform there are people sitting in chairs looking at a box.

I’m aware very quickly that I’m watching a memory that shouldn’t belong to me… because I’m within that box. The shadowy half melted reflection stands over it. The loathing he so intensely distilled within me, seems so potent that it will become a physical manifestation at some point. He puts his melted hand on the box, and I feel a knot in my chest tighten, and I fall to my knees trying not to focus on the pain.

I was young and believed that what I was experiencing was love, but it wasn’t such. It was torture. I see the good reflected in the ones left behind, me spitting at their feet as I claim to cherish my freedom. It stands to reason these things did not kill me. I almost lost all of myself trying to stand above it. I had believed I had conquered those things.

I was older, and very tired, the few left standing propping me up on false foundations saying that the world could still be at my hands, but I was more aware of the lie than they were. I tried to take comfort in that, but ended up destitute and with only the knowledge that the ones that claimed to care were just as harmful to me as I was. It seems to me that those things did not kill me. They might as well have done so. Did not belong, was not welcome, I was a thorn in the side of everything.

The awful looking bastard that I call myself vanishes. I burst out of the box laughing at all of them. The dressed up body points and shouts that he told them it would end like this. Dash that away though, back to the truth of it, and exposure to this reminds me that I still don’t know how it happened. I don’t know what killed me.

All of the faces that extend their sorrows, they were the ones I wanted nothing to do with. The faces I hoped would show up and see me off as I parted from this world, they’re not there. They forgot about me. So much time passed, so much hurt, and now I’m looking at the faces of shitheads I never liked, and they’re the fuckers left tending to my corpse. A legacy made from them to defile my memory so they can say what they please.

I stand on top of the box and shout at them, but it’s just a memory, their faces are as empty as their intent. I don’t think this is the whole of it, but I think it makes perfect punctuation for this awful fucking story. My legacy is rubble, and these worthless sacks of shit. Start to think the ones I wanted here are better off not showing up. I caused so much harm, that it’s better off just to forget about me.

Perhaps that was the fear that put me in the box in the first place? Smiling as I saw the world shrink, and realized that even though I tried so hard to avoid my heritage, the same fears, and the same problems gripped at me, and I couldn’t avoid them. I didn’t want to be forgotten, but as time passed the only things I left behind were not tokens of affection or joy or inspiration, I was a fucking bulldozer that ruined anything decent standing in front of me.

And it comes flooding back to me, as I see the blank faces of dead people weep blood as they look at the floor and not at my body. I stand next to the box, and I feel awful, because it all came to pass. This terrible show of falsehoods and those taking liberty with my name to prop their selves up to a better state of mind, all of it came true. I reach inside and grab at the chain around my neck that has burdened my body for years, and I fling it aside with careless abandon. I already got rid of it, and I sure as fuck don’t want my corpse to keep it. No one will remember that soul, and no one will remember mine. Many sides of me are screaming at the people, telling them they’re all terrible for letting this come to pass, but the final judgment of my wrath is still aimed at my self.

I let it come to be… To spite them, my self, the entire goddamn universe… fuck all of it!

I didn’t really know much about dreaming, never put much faith in anything beyond myself, and if I died? Well I’d wait and find out what would happen, I had nothing else to think about or comfort me.

There’s a necklace by my corpse, and no one’s left to pick it up. I sigh in relief, and see that no one else will suffer the same way. The weight of all that I have done fades, and regret and hindsight are the only things left to remember me by.

What do they know about dreaming after waking? How could they see this peaceful and terrible place that we all travel to? If they die, will they see me? If I’m gone, why do I still see them? How could they know about nothing, when everything they know is based on something? Empty minds already flooded with bullshit. Empty lives hoping the next one will be better.

I watched as those around me told me worthless bullshit to say how pointless it was to suffer, that I should just be happy because I should be happy. I grew so weary of hearing the same crap from people that knew nothing about me, so I decided I’d never let anyone know me. They wanted smiles and laughter, so that’s what they got. Each night I would sit alone, weep into my hands, unable to know, unable to function. I had no idea what to classify myself as, why everything kept breaking, why I couldn’t bring myself to find anything that mattered. No matter what I did… I never said a word.

Looking at the casket now, I just laugh.

There was this urge within me, to rub everyone’s face in the mess they made, to show what the world had done to me, a monument to the car crash that was my life. I guess I kind of did that, but now I have no way of knowing if it worked or not.

They don’t know that I’m still here. They don’t know that I’ve become everything. They don’t know a damn thing. So I smile and laugh, walking around them, touching them with many different hands and making them all shatter.

And I’m happy for that. I don’t need to consider their thoughts now, I don’t need to consider poverty or loneliness. All of those trivial things are so far away from me.

I could think upon how awful it is, that for every good memory I have, there are many bad ones outweighing it, but that doesn’t bother me at all now.

I’m opening a box and unpacking all my old shit, sitting in an empty room with blank white walls. The things I considered the key to what I am, and now they’re just odd little play things that make me sift through the past. Every direction I take, I splinter out and leave behind an image that doesn’t smile, but seems content enough.

So there he lies, in the box, and for all that I now remember about my life, I can’t bring myself to look inside of it. I kick the casket, and it tumbles over, breaking apart, revealing that there’s nothing inside of it. I am very relieved to see that. Suppose I should actually find it a bit amusing in some ways. Not the first thing that comes to mind though.

There they go, the lives he wanted to affect not even knowing what happened. No one’s here. A footnote that had no weight in the way things worked out. Someone to smile at, and wave goodbye… was very good for that.

Here he rests, on an island of my making, burned to nothing, and nothing will rebuild upon it. The rain starts again, continuing to wash away the rubble and the ashes, the things and places and people he no longer needs to remember.

There they go…

Still have no idea how it happened. Did some tragic accident occur, snuffing my existence out suddenly? Did I put a gun to my head and end things on my own terms? Why does it matter? In the end, I’m still dead. There’s no reason for me to care about the why or how. So I forget about that as well. It is ultimately as meaningless to me as this island itself is.

The air has a bitter chill to it now as the rain falls, and the clouds continue to darken. Many could take this as an ill omen, but for me it brings serenity. Was there worry that wandering from my steps would bring me to this memory and make me mournful? Was I meant to stay on that road because there was concern that I could not console myself over my choices? Hah, that seems a laughable thing to be concerned about. Think I was a little too stubborn though. Could have come to this realization far sooner. That too, is an amusing thing to think about.

No, I shall not weep for myself for eternity. That was what I did with my life, and I have escaped from that finally.

I want to know about dreaming after waking. How have I come to this wonderful and terrible place? Now that I’m gone, will they still see me? Now that I’m gone, why can’t I still see them? How can I be a part of nothing, when forever now I’ve been a part of something? My mind empties of these worries and concerns, my mind empties itself of all my burden.

Some strange figure of light emerges, and tries to intrude upon my calm reflection, pointing to the path. I converse briefly with this person, before I allow it to illuminate the trail for me.

Every splintering path, every fraction of myself that was lost in something deep and far away, they converge here to create me. I perceive an ornate trail that extends outwards, up and down and side to side. But it’s all fading away now. This being that stands next to me says that I don’t need it anymore. Everything has returned, and gone away. I am told that there is just one last thing I need to let go of. Looking out at the storm clouds, I let this island sink into the ocean, and I go someplace else now, guided by this bright figure.

At last now, I can be adrift in something very different and new, and I am at peace. I allow perception of myself to fade away… and then all of me is gone… forever.

I am so sorry…

–   –   –   –   –

Well that is that and this is this
Well you tell me what you saw and I’ll tell you what you missed
When the ocean met the sky.
You missed when time and life shook hands and said goodbye.
When the earth folded in on itself, and said
“Good luck, for your sake I hope heaven and hell
Are really there, but I wouldn’t hold my breath.”
You wasted life why wouldn’t you waste death?
You wasted life why wouldn’t you waste death?

The ocean breathes salty wont you carry it in?
In your head, in your mouth, in your soul
The more we move ahead the more we’re stuck in rewind
Well I don’t mind. I don’t mind. How the hell could I mind?

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