The Rest of the Village
Young Anna strolled through the clearing in
She was taking a longer break from her farming duties than usual. It wasn’t simply a matter of convincing herself that some of these presentations in the valley were selected by her mind for the first time, such an education was always at hand through her parents’ Soma machine and she accepted the many chances that she was merely acting out the role of an accurate observer. It was with this same acknowledgement that she told herself ‘it was about time’ a different kind of break was thrown in amongst the day’s decisions. The valley, a nice spot, was suited for this experiment – there was something about the subtle changes in its co-development amongst the sunshine and the human settlement that told her she would know whenever her strolls were unique, designed at the exact point to be necessarily inhabited by a machine that would take the moment and contrast it with the histories which must juncture at this precise arrangement of physical space. With it, there was a chance... to travel, just as the Soma machine always implied when you stared at it, and to see how the hills were going according to many other people’s co-inhabitance in an identical environment, and then to come back, and bring news and stories which the hills in your starting place had never told you. Would it happen? Did she choose to let her body go through the given motions without claiming to offer consciousness to the movement of her environment? For her mind was also going through the motions, the standard ones she gave it when it seemed so purposeful to experiment outdoors.
She ventured near the bank of long grass by the riverside, her tartan skirt skilfully avoiding the affectionate clinging of dandelions and iris petals. She stopped to bend down, eyes sliding up and down each blade, and again her mind began to run underneath the arches she carved with her eyes. Was it to section off her vision, imply that the histories of this area’s construction were present close by only if you were able to focus on those spaces between the tall blades clearly? Well, she felt close, and thankful. She felt it was a place she could rest. And she was thankful for that too. She liked the countless journeys she could access when entering any of those spaces, the evidently growing number of worlds that lay with any given choice of direction. She could become a dwarf again. Enter a village so efficient being made of tiny shacks and minature carnivals that no one dared question the purposeless of its existence in the open land. The warmth she found in the idea only suggested additional avenues she could choose to grant her yearning. “So that’s where my childhood memories of the minature land have gone. It will always be there.”
So it became space. One where Anna had a thought. Currently she was imagining herself bartering for some extra chocolate from the local storeowner in the little town. As a child she did this and always felt she was a big character in the village, however Anna figured that she must not have known the meaning of big, next to those same little-folk she was now big. Too big, for her movement jarred and rattled with every consideration of the two versions of Big Anna. Why, she wondered, I am going there in the future anyway. And as she focused on the big she knew now and above the village she saw a gaping amount of stars and a dark blue sky...
A big stall... Anna caught a glimpse but by the time she turned her body the festival stall by the riverbank was yet to be stood up. Anna got up, and walked away from her impression in the grass. Her body’s trail of warmth floated slowly enough to twitch the dry straw across the ground she had depressed and made new sizes of Anna to boggle the minds of the little local village folk, but this time Anna herself had not changed from the creation. Slowly the images spread throughout the stars.
“Anna...where have you been?”
“Oh, hey, I was just talking a walk to the riverside.” She scratched herself.
“Oh, back already?”
The old man sauntered across the kitchen and retrieved some dried raisins from the cupboard. “This year’s lot of cakes and shortbreads is going to fall short of demand,” he warned aloud as he made his way back to the bench. “Everyone’s mind is on the stockpile of Blessing’s High, and as a result people will notice the other things they’ve took for granted all these years.”
“I wouldn’t worry about it pa,” Anna started slowly. “What you say is true, and it’s what they want. We all been through this festival so many times.”
Did they synchronise? Did a version of events overlap, would Anna have an additional reminder in her life of where those childhood stalls marked the running track?
A pause for her thoughts. Said pa, “Indeed.”
Anna hesitated. “How does it become after growing up with the festival for so long?”
Pa turned around from the bench, and smiled. “Ho, I think I lose track of where I am myself!” Anna laughed, and she wondered, was he trying to take a bet?
It wasn’t worth his while! She snickered to herself, and began to observe an ultra-old pa beckoning new generation kids into the latest rocket ride which would take them for a six minute journey into the stratosphere and a backdrop of stars for only five pounds, and the new batch of vacuum grown alien citrus weed grown on the way from Alpha Centauri sitting on the tables next door, and all the women wondering whether they would do their best to create a preserve from the clippings or delve into them fresh. She herself found her ma and convinced her to spare some for immediate consumption! Chewing happily, she offered half to her pa. But what she wanted most, aside from seeing him eat, was to hear his thank-you...
Was he talking back to her, right now? She was measuring the values which determined this scene, she was a participating observer – but what she was against here was an open invitation, the strength of his mind against her own. They could both sit there and create worlds as fast as they could, but that balloon which was steadily inflating above her forehead yearned to be released, and there was nothing that her father could say to the packet, lest it be a pointless and tedious example – what do you do, packet? Why, I reveal information...
So, in her mind, she said nothing. In his mind, she was in his arms forever, as he could remember it. In a sense, something quite sizable exchanged between the two perceptions. Consider a new kitchen and colour scheme, and the two sitting quietly by the table drinking tea.
“You’re still painting the signboards, right?” asked Anna. “I’m thinking, I should keep turning over the flower-bed, right?”
Pa nodded. “Yes yes, I think mother is finishing the last of her negotiations with the fabrics clerk, too. We’ll be able to help with the house-duties quite soon.”
Anna waved her hand as her eyes lowered into the tea she sipped silently. “Oh, it’s fine. The tension around this year changes us...”
“Makes you complain less.”
She giggled, and thought of the future. A technological lifestyle twenty-four/seven, or a human conditioning set to pour energy into us once a year. It’s not like she couldn’t enjoy the historic implications of both of these methods realised by humans in each of their timeframes. Yet, this life of manually working the farm was what she came back to. There simply seemed too much of those futures, plenty of people in them and perhaps, just perhaps, much less of those who existed in the present and the past. It was the duty that looked the most distant from where Anna was, to create the tools necessary to exist in a lifestyle of environmental presence. The jobs were as arbitrary as they came, yet there they lay in the middle of the intersection plants next to soil. It could feel almost silly to slide an object back to where it was nonetheless in her own private light she could study her actions. Slip them away for the rest of the universe to access.
There were a lot of questions which were left unturned. She had never tried to stay in a place where all menial duties were attended to by technology, just as she had never attempted to contradict the resources required to sustain such possible mechanics. She had plenty of reasons to think she existed in this time. So why was it that she spent her time thinking of all the freed places. How her being there would have sorted out all of her regular balances in life and have finetuned a sequence of activities which almost matched her conception of joy to have them available to you. And then she would bring a couple of those activities home with her. Less and less it reminded her of home.
Outside, the sun was shining and trees took their turns bending over each leaf and relaying rays of light all over the Valley. Anna watched her father marching down the backyard through the separation of her fingers. She turned her head back to the crawlies hanging over the front fence. Will those need to be cut down as well, wondered Anna.
Approaching, she decided she was coming in the vicinity of a tree’s shade, and would be awash with a cleanliness of vision in the umbrella of unperturbed particles. They ignited into a sparkling mist on the horizon. When was the last time she’d been here? Why, I guess a month ago, but that month... It felt like a swing in your backyard, present heavy object, going hunting for it in your memory is closer than going to the park. How is it that I explore area? The sparkles drifted apart from one another and Anna could see a single orbit containing all of the floating particles. They behaved as a collective following a seguing, slow dance. What they were waiting for Anna could only wish to understand. However they were happy to allow her to overhear the many stories that they communicated to each other. Those particles that had existed here for some time danced the slowest and glowed the brightest whenever indicating there was a relevant story to contribute. Their chatter came in pops and clicks and Anna’s mind was tuned into a plane where they appeared to snap at various points in her head. She felt her hair begin to stand. You guys, she marvelled. Thanks for sharing. She decided to stay here for a few more seconds rather than assimilate the consciousness of every other space which looked like this one. One of the younger particles claimed to be imitating the motion of Mars around the Sun, another chimed in that it was studying systems further out than that. Why? asked Anna. It was to see all that existed while you can...
Anna did not get round to finishing half of the chores she had worked out between her and her father and mother. Instead, after dinner she curled up under the covers and lay thinking, transporting, all along feeling the the sparkles from the tree’s shade fizzing and popping within the confines of her brain. It was nice of you to come along, she thought before drifting to sleep.
Bright and early morning. Anna felt revived enough to make a trip out of the adjacent field. Guzzling her cereal and smacking her mother and father on the cheeks, she stored some honeyed wheat in her bag and set out the door.
“Taking too many breaks again.” Her father had jibed her gently over her morning plans. It wasn’t a break, she had felt like explaining. It was a section of her preparation, for the festival, and greater than that the objective she could feel so close, it had to do with work and research, it was a string of activities which she was responsible for and lay in a roughly straight line to this goal. Everyday it was like this. What was there to say?
She stood with the sun glaring out at her. She wondered if she was planning to be alone. But it wasn’t a huge field, she would be back before two hours. Soon, it crept over her, as she ventured one stride after the next, her mind was walking in a land that produced itself infinitely before her roaming mind’s eye. That soma machine, her thoughts shifted towards. Giggling to herself, she wondered, I always call it by the same name. The machine had long since lost its original form, at many times they had misplaced it and substituted in a temporary object without so much as a label to tell the bystander what it was, or what it represented. Yet, in the conversations it lived on, building on experiences, keeping its latent “memory”, very much signifying its family. Is it because, Anna thought, I too wish to stay connected to all the places I know?
Distracted. Was she still in the same field? It was hopeless, Anna decided, I cannot possibly know now.
“Oh, Soma machine,” she cried to herself. Her mind awoke, and continued roaming. She made her body come with her. Everything was responding, and to all parts of her whole, a look matched with a colour, a step matched with pressure, and the stories that would lie in the latency of the world’s reaction, they could only be as crisp as the response of nature underfoot her journey. Brilliant images of shattered worlds, ongoing destinies, cascading one after the other ultimately relaying to her head that the rate at which our images are destroyed is the rate at which your brain is active. It was always made to be a comfortable response. And it was her head, after all.
So it came that Anna would encounter the horse at the field next to the riverbank. The signal was loud. There were immediate reactions, the horse swayed forward and to the right, they were almost measuring each other. What could happen to such a relationship? A prediction, a game is made where you guess the right number years you’ll ever see each other again. It’s the same for both of us, so what is at stake? Anna often surrounded herself with objects that repeated, things you wouldn’t bother asking, “Are you dead?” Very old. That was for those objects. No one could tell her where the horse was born...
The horse gazed at her. It then began to trot slowly in her direction. Its head made dips and lazy circles before her, as if expectant of something beyond both of their abilities to communicate, respectful of the new information that might nonetheless rise from this combination. Gradually, Anna reached into her string bag and produced a handful of honeyed-wheat on her palm. The horse noticed, and bowed down to lap up the contents. “What’s your name?” Anna heard herself breathe.
The horse, finished with the wheat, bucked down a couple times then shaking its mane moved alongside the girl. With slow movements and a slight glint in its eye, the horse remained in contact with Anna until she managed to move her arm and swing herself over its back.
Martin was a good horse who would shake and nod his head when focusing on those around him. On horseback Anna was able to be assured that the next high of their gallop would follow the scrape with the ground. This is, when they were together. When Martin rested at his makeshift stable the two were soon to construct, Anna would pat his head making little swivels at the same time. The horse would be transported into a land long ago, when it used to wonder whether his mother took him to pastures and knew how it would taste for him to bite off slender blades of grass.
Anna didn’t feel she could let Martin know about the ideas she had been making, not just yet. She took a lot on faith actually. When they had rested by a stream’s edge she noticed that Martin’s stare was pointed at the the same object she was staring at, a black porous rock. Look at the indentations, the holes scooped out on top of holes, she could have almost said. However, it was enough, there was a correlation of what was outside – what she knew – with what was being processed in Martin’s brain. Evidently the rock grew. Split up, and was slowly distributed through the stars. She like everybody else didn’t need to translate such a process, there was a good chance it was too late for anybody to stop this information being fed back into the pool of history that originated its channel. Anna was a girl who liked to sit by this process. What she did need to question was, “Am I aiming for the right combination of facts?” Her life it seemed was shaped by the availability of education – each day she felt impelled to aim for something bigger and more crucial with it. A life where horses and humans recover old stories of co-inhabitance. An alternative migration destination for future citizens dissatisfied with worldly conditions. Newer, faster and less boring ways to travel. More energy sources. These were the things she aimed for. She became more and more wary of the people who would begin to live under such awards, people such as herself. No longer were they simply doing their duty in her vision feeding information back into the streams they ran from. No longer could she separate the start and end processes of her research and scientific experimentation. One day I will begin something I never finish...
She didn’t think of Martin though. Martin was too much part of the process, she figured, for me to think anything of him but silently powerful, already all-knowledgeable. She was comfortable beside him instead. In fact, she was so sure about the rock’s perception that they had together... they were indeed basking on the inner satellites of Alpha Centauri. How did you know it was from there, she asked him. The questions reminded her of childhood memories for during her time with Martin she allowed herself to grow younger, she surrounded herself with tiny awestruck village folk and images of strong horses and could not turn back.
What made them get up together and head off without a further word? What held Anna’s attention for all that time till sleep filling in the gaps between request and reply? Was it faith; that Martin was working on it, that the answer would smother all of the world in good time and good taste. Or, was it because Anna wanted all of the answers. Martin sniffed, he was learning information so fast he wondered whether he was about to understand that he has been flying all these years, not trotting. And this girl, well she would just have to join him, be happy everytime he stretched out his wings and curled up into the air. Clearly, this chance meeting was for him.
Martin devoured everything. He could have been described as greedy, but when you are a horse with wings... Right, he didn’t have to listen to anyone, he would pay attention to Anna but only when she insisted on lining up their eyesight. Martin was, as always, accutely aware of what was around him, so Anna might have been mistaken in thinking she was focusing objects for him, nonetheless to Martin it was a sure sign that they could travel... and as he became more and more impatient, that is exactly what Martin would do, he would take her with him. She would shout in glee, her hands transform into a butterfly, and after reaching the skies for an hour Martin would come back and reattach them to the rest of her body. She would then smile, and sigh, and Martin would look away, away from the stare in her eyes, and he couldn’t understand her spoken language, either. But he came back, and so did her hands. He kind of felt like taking them and tasting it in his mouth for a while. So he looked at her. She was already walking on the ground. Can I do it, Martin began to wonder.
Anna was beginning to have things on her mind about Martin. Do travellers really pack this much baggage, she wondered as they stepped on to the raft and headed downstream. It didn’t detract from the pictures and scenarios she was cajoling him into, and she watched Martin stand still and tense flowing along the water’s surface. This horse never seems to resist a lot, she thought.
What in the world could I possibly have a problem with, Martin thought.
When it’s his turn to reply I talk. She kept a still stare. When I give something to him it appears lost in the post. Nonetheless, it seems like I will always be with him, because before his silence there was silence, proving nothing will ever change. Gradually, she began to count the number of consequences she thought of the horse’s existence, and she made too many of them for her brain. She turned her head, and the last thing Anna heard in her head was, “Am I thinking if the horse was something else like... and...”
The raft bumped into muddy bank further downstream alone, Anna would remember no more than falling asleep that night, she would wake up and Martin’s image would not be there.
Martin had returned with her arms only to not offer them back but look softly at her face and lift up into the air again and fly away.
Three days and I am now alone. Where did that part of me go? Anna thought skeptically of the Soma object. From the planet Earth? Don’t tell me, she thought suddenly, the Soma machine is in pieces? Again? She thought of an empty raft, flattened grass, her head moved and she thought of the posters in front of her on her bedroom wall, empty soda bottles, jewellery. She felt her hand. Pieces.
Martin meanwhile enjoyed life with butterflies. He knew what the parts were for. Unlike Anna, he did not try to remember.
Well, thought Anna, if I can manage to write down everything I say and think next time, I will not feel so empty. So she did, and the words left her universe and others read it.
It was the week before the festival. In a bad omen, Anna had managed to make up for all the gathering duties she had missed in the previous weeks and drift into a routine work-habit. From time to time she let go and sojourned in old galaxies, and alternate life-forms unwilling to sit still would pay her visits. Yet she had time to help her parents.
Maybe I am becoming one of them, she thought to herself dreamily.
On this morning, however, she had looked out to the fields. From the porch she could make him out, a boy, slender, dressed in corduroys and a yellow straw hat, seemingly preoccupied with something maybe he dropped in the grass.
She put on her sandals and walked out. Even as she approached the boy didn’t detract from his business, only until she stood right above him he looked up and gawked.
“I started out early this morning. That’s why I’ve made it this far,” he said.
Anna wrinkled her nose. “How far have you walked?”
His hands drooped, and he replied, “I’m from the neighbouring village, Joseki. I was bored.”
figured he hadn’t been doing anything at all with his pawing through the grass.
After saying this he had gotten up and introduced himself, and the two had
begun walking towards the river. The last time that Anna had been to Joseki was
in grade one, following parents who were transporting supplies and greeting old
friends. Michel, the boy, claimed to have stopped by
“Is it because of the Sun Festival?” Anna asked.
Michel blinked. “Is your festival coming around soon? Cool.”
They talked about how much they had loved local festivals in the past. It was indeed a place of familiarity, Michel agreed. But there were always changes too, he added. Anna sensed that he might feel uninvited, and spontaneously remarked, “It’s not simply a matter of assimilation when you make friends.”
Michel stopped. “What did you say?”
Removing the hand that had just fluttered into her mouth, Anna gasped, “Please, don’t go, not before we’ve figured out how to separate this,” she tugged at his arm, “before we can make sure we were never at the festivals together.”
It was just like Anna to promptly forget that they were born in different villages, for the development of the experiment. The compatibility of mind was her specialty. She felt she never wasted it on anyone, ’cause that was the kind of person she was. She had the power to help anyone who fell into her attention. The small tax they paid; why, they would never again know more than her, would they? But the information never belonged to them anyway, it was a small matter of having it divulged and then things could go back to going the way they were.
Would they ever make it to the festival together? Anna was quick to not create more than a couple of images of the two walking alongside cake stalls and music stages, because actually those were the images she wanted and there could only be so many images left for the future which combined a certain number of elements. But what would be required? Some finite number of moments, the festival was but one week away, she could sure keep track of those moments on a day to day basis.
“Can I ask you a question?”
As they walked, Michel said, “Sure.”
“What do you know about simultaneous states of being?”
To be in hold of such beauty and such presence. Am I in touch with the worlds, am I here wondering what it’s all about. This bubble I see between us, it fills me up with tears and hope. What is it that I am attached to between me, and this world? Everything. Until I pick it up. Michel breathed in. It is another meeting, but this time I have no appointments to keep, the place I seek can only follow the road I stand upon.
They had been hanging out with each other, Michel travelling between the villages to suit appointments. Today she lay there in the grass alongside Michel. “It’s perfect,” he whispered.
Her face gleened and she looked straight to the sky. With no further words he was able to extract all that he wanted to know. Anna felt Michel’s hands crawling in the grass and touched them. He pressed her hands into the ground. She wiggled a little, and still she faced the sky.
It was their creation. No longer an object of control, but something which stood out so clear that they could step inside and exist. It was stronger than any of the heavy objects which Anna had landmarked her paths with, yet this one always shifted along depending on where the two children were present. It was an idea, a dream and canvas that they shared, and never before had Anna seen such painstaking work duplicated from her memories and presented in brilliant light.
This was the kind of outcome that she wanted to know, to study, to breathe in, she could use any kind of idea she wished and knew that the strength of Michel’s mind would curb the impact of moving spaces and bend slightly to nestle the little world… and they could tow, nudge, flick it to their hearts’ desire.
Where would she go? She was now ready to take on any of the destinations in the future. The earlier she started travelling the more she would see. These were the worlds she could focus on, now that there was nothing left behind she needed to look out for… no, even her parents would understand.
I am strong enough, now, Anna thought to herself. I will only get stronger, but I’ve talked to too many people for me to believe that I am lagging behind in conversation too far to populate worlds with the people of my choice and have them coax ensuing generations by themselves. The people of my creation are like me, they are strong, yet they can still see things, they can all represent the introduction of new possiblities as I do, as Michel does.
She farewelled Michel and went home to arrange battalions of space soldier figurines by the bed.
“I will go to the festival.”
Michel looked sternly for a moment into Anna’s eyes, and
she felt the air push into her lungs as he made his declaration. “
They were picking cherries in the southwest pasture of the Valley. Michel had had a brief introduction to Anna’s parents before voluteering to help with the preparations as a gesture of gratitude. Anna quickly whisked him out of the kitchen and the two had deposited hurried farewells as they departed the home.
Anna looked at Michel as he searched the cherry crop. Underneath the straw hat was a mop of fine fair hair that seemed to interfere with Michel’s concentration as he stretched and grimaced towards the task. His clothes appeared to be handmade, dyed with natural colours and quite new as indicated by their generous size allotment. She leaned in a bit closer to him as she plucked a random pairs.
“You seem almost preoccupied with thoughts,” she offered airily.
Identifying that she wasn’t looking at him, Michel said continuing to squint at the plants, “What kind of thoughts?”
Anna almost spoke, but then remembered it was not an internal monologue within her head she was engaging in any longer, and that something new should be offered whenever a world presented itself through the moment and between multiple pairings of eyes. So she said, “You choose.”
They drifted eyes closed. Anna sent a hundred henchmen in suits in Michel’s direction just by opening her mouth, and to laugh at that. Michel tightened up and popped them all into thin air with electrons cascading from the spatial wake of his fist. Anna erected a cage from under Michel’s suspended feet and prowled around like a maniac ready to devour the children and the shortbread house in one go. Michel threw his head back and cackled and the two became frantically involved with paperwork in adjacent office cubicles. Triumphantly Anna stood up holding the final report page over the cubicle wall, and with a smirk Michel snatched it, devoured it, and spat out a cloud of bats to shower his neighbour’s personal space. “You’re quick,” she said, laughing. Michel was actually a fireman in a world, and the one person who pissed him off the most was a girl called Anna who maintained she prefered to inhabit an igloo. He tried all sorts of desparate acts to demonstrate their connection in the universe but the final straw was receiving a sacrificial flammable plush goat with instructions and Anna chose to walk away from the world, her head turned backwards to a poor despondant Michel, laughing.
At a town memorial she was alone for a while. She sat by the cloudy weather. She had walked a few street corners before returning to the shrine and resting. It occured to her that trouble was brewing on Main St but she would rather lurk in the shadow of the town’s business and feel the wantonness of space’s combinations and all the patterns of energy states around. It was not a typical opportunity.
A figure began to approach from the town centre. It revealed itself to be Michel, and soon he came to a stop in front of Anna’s quizzical eyes.
“Where have you been?”
A puzzled expression. “Here,” he said.
It was not the truth. Michel had been watching Anna all along, and watching the worlds that held them both with such variety of hands, calm, stiff and catastrophic. But one place he had left for without a word. He didn’t care if Anna was able to track his location without him communicating, in some sense he would have been overjoyed if she had chosen to. But where the hell was that girl? he thought to himself impulsively. She shared moments with him, it was clear enough. But there was something strange about the location she stood upon, something which was marked out in his vision.
My gosh, she’s in my head, and my poor eyes have turned backwards.
Anna felt cold. Had the world been distorting in her eyes? She rubbed her face and stepped back from the cherry shrubs. Soon enough, the remnants of hindsight crumbled away and she saw that Michel held a pigeon in his hands.
“You saw what happened, he was moving on the ground, trying to straighten his poor head. My guess is that he nosed his way into a fence or something.”
“But what do you mean,” said Anna, “this bird...”
“You were there with me.”
And she knew it. She had chosen to linger. There was no way she could have decided to do so without first investigating what lay on the other side. He was ruining what had been pleasant constructions of townships, roads and heavy weather in her memory. So who did she think she could hide from, and did she really intend to express her justification that in such rare occasions it is profitable for an individual to do what is the most improbable action, to milk uniqueness from randomness.
“I create, dammit!” she yelled at him.
“Oh, damn you!”
“You want me to believe that too?”
“I like you!!!”
She wanted to hold Michel, but it was as if she continued to see a person who was holding her back at arm’s length. Gingerly, she reached out to the bird. So warm. Her eyelids fluttered and she began to feel dizzy.
They sought a solution and a cause to the problem. All around the galaxy bank managers found themselves slowly getting fat around the seat of their pants. As Anna and Michel popped in the office door this manager was almost relieved to have to stand up and greet them. “Sometimes,” the manager spoke, “my kindness is overwhelmed by the heinous blank-space in storage. And I have strangely agreed to contribute much of my attention to only this. True, it is not always blank, but the blanker it is, the ‘better’ the galaxy judges itself, and I am only here to make up equivalent blank-states with my paper work, to let them live in this fantasy world.
“Where is my fantasy world? Is such kindness absolute?” he asked, expressionless.
Michel placed both hands on the table.
Anna, Michel and the bank manager went looking for a cause. Who did they talk to? Among the drooping trees and surrounding vegetation, some birds, squirrels, rabbits. They began to see a city in between the canopies. Slowly with dedicated work they created people-inhabitants. As they made their way across the plain Anna would notice quick, self-conscious glances from Michel, and she watched herself offer back her own imitation when she couldn’t help it. When they ate, they ate quietly, and to pass the time, they thought thankful thoughts about the studiousness of the banker. Anna helped Michel steady himself across logs when crossing streams, and it was unpredictable, sometimes upon reaching the other side he would continue his path, other times he would stop and hold her midway, talk about the board game strategies they favoured, or the cost of the mission they were on and the sense that incredulousness was brewing with every ongoing moment back at his village. Then they would walk again, sometimes hands connected, sometimes milking the irritated facial expressions of the banker as they laughed at him. Not once did they beg for a story to happen. Nor did they pay attention to activities the local people found themselves engaging in. Anna assumed, there were simply too many. This was the feeling from the start, that she was not alone.
Even with a half-finished ‘re-landscaped’ forest turned to city, they decided to step inside. Not unnoticed, it became clear that the place was not measurable as the harmonious functions of energies states evolved from a single beginning. Voices were heard behind their backs, stares hit the side of their heads and bounced away uncollected by their initiators. However, Anna thought, it is, as always, the result of the people’s own self-organisation, even if at this stage they may not know it and try to put the blame on us.
Through the perception of passers-by the group made their way in and out of universes. Even the bank manager was sure that he would find a version of himself who was native to a horrible world of problems and unbalanced energy. And when I meet you, he thought, I will be able to assimilate your strength and it will be possible to end what I started. Michel and Anna were quite confident that when the encounter occured it would be no big surprise. Yet, they each grew nervous, edgily recalling their own involvement in the creative process of the city. The structures fit the images they had conceived of, yet they had never spent much time thinking about it. To have the object in front of you is to face the possibility of staring at it for much time with much detail.
In short, they had never claimed this was their world. They were waiting, in a sense, to be needed by their perception, the problem applied to their abilities. None of them asked for anything more, and neither had the pigeon. Anna stared at bridges. She stared at clock towers, shopping malls, theatres, and then under lamp posts, multi-level car parks, signboards. Anything significant.
Vibrations suddenly reached up along Anna’s legs to her fingertips. What’s going on, she wondered. One by one, people on the street came to a halt and looked in places. She could sense it, these people, my children... They will come after me.
An earthquake was taking over the land and people, silent, were running to emergent destinations. Anna turned, shared a look with Michel standing beside her, then saw that the bank manager had already situated himself in the park behind them, slowly tracking all that happened around.
“This is a natural world,” breathed Anna. Flakes of concrete departed from places they were previously content to cling, billboards drifted from bending steel structures, electrical wires tensed and snapped. She thought she could see it now, and her legs seemed to ride on the tremors underfoot. They became very slow as she focused on her mind. “The energies are as restless as they remembered it was at the beginning of time. I am a child of this earth who could expect nothing else. Can we not accept this legacy as a connection, and discover the bits of you left over which can use the knowledge to rebuild time, make it unique, to create a gap in the universe and fall into it softly.” Was this the cause, she wondered, did the pigeon look into her eye and convey the peace passed down for generations since its ancestors’ time.
Anna watched a man in an overcoat run past a narrow building shaking dangerously amongst the chaos, and then stop, and look up. Her eyes widened.
Michel started to run.
“I’ve seen this before,” breathed the man beneath the building, dumbfounded.
This old apartment block checkered with sad, drooping eyes for windows, appeared to cough. It twisted, but could not get a view of what was happening behind it. Creases appeared in its forehead before the groundfloor dropped out of its mouth and it began to howl a great yawn.
Is this all that I can perceive about the problem, Anna thought to herself. That time stands still and floods the earth with symbols of your birth and the vibrations of your existant reality. All you are is a participating observer, observing acts which are already too late to stop but in the same logic a participant in the history of them. Anna wanted to forget about it, but the tower remained whole, unsplitting to the the very end, crashing to the road billowing a cloud of dust.
When they had first entered the city he was hearing muffles in an alien language from Anna’s direction. His first reaction was to respond, “Huh?” but he couldn’t even tell if that was what he said when no response from Anna came to guide his interpretation.
Michel felt the urge. His lips quivered madly, What I am thinking? he found himself frightened to ask. In his own way Michel was the kind of person who knew how to keep ‘in touch’ with an environment, yet being quick to spot things sometimes meant they became indistinguishable from created perception. The immediateness, the closeness that could either feel so enjoyable or so sterilising was deleting the stories behind his environment’s change. More than ever, he felt he understood the worth of a companion within whom his eyes could drift for a while and regain respect for the newness of information.
But no one was here with him.
Though only metres away, Michel could see that Anna was lost to his cries. He gave up, and determined that he had to frame their relationship in quantities of time now. He was the one currently moving. But he did not feel in control; more correctly, he was in control of the physical world in ways that he could not keep track of. The spasms of his muscles made him fearful to touch the pigeon, and afterwards he couldn’t stand the random thoughts in his head that his presence at the scene was possibly incriminating, not to authorities, but to himself. He had almost no image of each passing second. Unlike Martin, it was not a simple matter of flying away, but if he had known Martin, perhaps he would have taken a leaf out of his book. The worlds had never before been so close and so disconnected, it was a swivelling, consuming entity. How he wished he had a better imagination he thought as his view beneath half-closed eyelids began to shake itself loose from his strain of his mental sleep. He leant back. Disintegrate, he thought, and the building did. Stay still, he said, but his perception created and shook the earth. Through the tremors he clenched his fists.
“Why don’t they do something?! Can’t they see that I can’t be responsible for everything?!”
He saw people remarking they had wasted away years of their life being lazy and could no longer spare the time. He saw buildings lend an eye to the commotion but continue to obey his every unconscious radiation. He saw kids musing over the idea of destroying some property themselves but got bored and went and played. It’s too late, he thought, I am the cause. He saw Anna.
Michel felt sweaty. He needed someone to share his guilt with, but there was no one, only the voices inside his head, and he began to talk to them, angrily.
He was covering his eyes, inside the cloud of dust surrounding the floored building. The tremors had ceased. Further back, Anna saw that he was trying to clear bits of the debris, and breathed, “You’re here!” She saw him stare at her and look away determinedly. She opened her mouth and hurried towards the building.
Alone in the park, the banker stammered, “... A miscalculation?”
“I’m sorry, I can’t help but see this picture of you where you would not be here unless you were asked.” Michel looked away from her as he calmly pulled out pieces of concrete.
“But it’s not fair. I probe far and wide. It’s obvious that my skills are never inaccessible to all who see my words.”
“That you want people to be in positions where they need your help?”
“What could you care. You believe my words are powerless anyway.”
“Ridiculous. But I agree, you leave yourself no choice but to make up my answers.”
“Michel, I don’t need to ask you questions.”
“But you test all that is around you.”
“I am surrounded by everything.”
“When, and where? Your tests are so old, Anna. Behind in our conversation. It is not a matter of the world forgetting about you. You must allow yourself to be continuous in your reproduction, not in the moments but in the connection.” So, for a while, they looked into each other without a thought crossing their mind.
“You talk about my past? You know how I feel about doing things? And you can read all of this in the way I perform, the way I achieve?”
“The outcome is done.”
“You would speak at the end of the story.”
“So, we are getting close to it.”
Anna was fighting what appeared to be angry citizens on a world halfway across the galaxy, who had drilled a hole into her mind and climbed inside to stage protests. There is enough of me for all of you, she warned them sternly. When the world seemed so hopeless, she decided, why don’t I do something?
A crowd of people, including the banker now, had begun clearing away the old building’s remains. Anna was staring at a window. Through the moving dust, she thought she could see the man with the overcoat.
She climbed inside the tipped-over room. The man lay directly in the middle of an open window frame which was now at rest upon the ground around him. Breathing fast, she pulled out the limp body of the man, still warm.
Outside, she supported his back and leant her head forward to study his face.
He awoke, his eyelids shaking, and he stared into Anna.
“... I was just going about my business,” the man croaked meekly.
“You will survive to continue,” breathed Anna.
He swallowed. “How is that?”
“How?” She slowly let him lean against some piled rubble, and stood up. “Only if you ask how you feel will you be asking how it will disappear.”
The man’s head began to roll back. “My past? I see. I see you.” His mouth held itself open.
Anna blinked. “You see me?”
As the man made small nods of his head Anna gradually drew her stare away from him.
All along she had been there.
With one look at the bank manager, Anna took the group far away.
It was a vacant space filled with streams of light and a spattering of distant stars. The three of them, simultaneously forgetting what it was to breathe, slowly floated in a rough huddle.
The bank manager awed, “I am but one, and this is but one space.”
“So swing it, sister,” Anna said. Michel laughed.
The banker looked ahead, and Michel and Anna could faintly make out an pulsing of intense glowing light. Supernova. The death and rebirth of gravity’s world.
“Are you serious?” muttered Anna. Anna and Michel looked at each other, then squared up before growing image.
It grew hot. Michel thought, “Have I really looked too closely this time?” Slowly Anna took all that was around her and murmured the words, “Soma, to whence you came.”
The bank manager suddenly came between the children and the sun.
“No! You must take up the role which exists outside of this space, I am reminded of the numerous ‘spaces’ and tasks which indeed have progressed before my years and will for an uncertain time beyond them. But now,... Go! Leave this. My kindness is absolute!!!” And although the children could not take him with them, they did take his words, the last of the manager’s they would ever hear.
It’s a strain, watching what you do. I think I’ll take you with me. Michel rubbed his head. My knowledge is that which I guide my travels with, I am more than happy to watch cooincidences between what I desire and what I see increase their floating numbers each day. But my system has alerted me in a way that was never necessary in a relationship. Despite your efforts, you have already started to erase me from your perception, I sense that version of myself crying its soundless scream. I have acquired a new set of eyes, and I intend to use both sets to their prescribed efficiency. He opened them.
So for a few moments Michel forgot what was the consciousness of Anna and only considered her identity. If Anna had known, she would not have been troubled. She was a strong girl who exercised control of her perception daily. She even recreated it regularly. So what was it that she saw, that made her enter a loving world associated with Michel’s absence. Clearly, it had everything to do with her brain.
Has it only been my projected words which I have witnessed when believing in the existence of a conversation with Michel? I would pick up the words and eat them again, but where? In this tree? In this fruit? In this bird? In this head? What are those things which I identified during Michel’s silence? What are those things I loved which I had only created, so that I may delete them and be in touch with the worlds again.
She fell blank. They had spent quite some time together.
She strolled alongside the
man-made flowerbed that hugged
Thanks, you guys. I could go on forever.
They waved, and floated back to their place among the grass.
Anna straightened up now, and she went to work. I can’t abandon this place, she thought to herself as she arranged the objects scattered across her desk on the asteroid outpost. There are still so many homes for this information, they deserve a long and strong life.
Further across the galaxy, Anna coped with the gruel she was charged with serving for the umpteenth time to the resident cavepeople.
By the time she had reached home and sat down and ate tea with her father and mother she was already in a major split. Oh, the demands she allowed herself to give into! It was so heady being present in so many scenes at once.
Maybe he would still be there…
Where? Inside her head?
NO! Oh, but he was there. Actively expanding her universe, feeding away at the walls of her cerebral cortex.
It was my dream to be stronger than you, she thought.
Michel stood on the threshold of Anna’s family’s house. He had come back the next day only to say goodbye. She edgily took her jacket off the hook, and faced the floor.
“So you really wanna go, huh?”
“Yes, I must.” Michel held open his eyes in her direction.
Anna knew she was being taken. She scraped her foot along the floor boards, and knew it was no instinct for horses to run, or fly. We had to sit on their backs, feign emergency, all so we could be in the same time and place when they executed the act… And then we were supposed to know, if only through sight alone, that we should be there with them.
And then humans open their mouths and try to tell you this.
“I know you still like me,” Anna said, and peeked upwards. Michel was still there, listening. Not looking anymore.
His head swayed to one side. “You can’t ask me that.”
“I’m not asking!” she yelled. She stepped nearer to him. “I want to go with you!!”
He looked up. “You want to make this with me?”
She shuddered. What was he saying? Expecting her to grasp new motivations in so short a time? And then she knew that we he was saying was large. A large project, laying out space one detail at a time, engrossing its developers for countless periods. All for love. For the extension of what was finally unknown, what in the end. Against this, she was to hold all of the open-ended spaces, the microscopic world in the grass, the dome of perfect space, the sky in the eye, the ones she had faced in the last few weeks and all of the years before that, some that long ago she had never said goodbye to. She didn’t care about what they thought of her all this time, she cared about what she thought of them, about that day when those fears would be vanquished and their positions in the relationship requited. Here Michel stood, not so much trying to wrestle any of the precious objects from her hold, but eyes lifted off them, assuaging her slowly through his look, his touch, that where he was headed the worlds would always be loyal, trailing softly through the air, now solemn but respecting this silent departure. And she knew, all along she had been telling these places to sit, rest their heavy presence in the darkness where only the moon and herself came out to seek once a night. He stood there eyes open asking what planet she was on now, and what was the one that needed her help. What he was taking from her.
Let him have it. All the worlds I spoke of and all the ones I hadn’t.
She despaired. He’s gone. She knew it, and again she hadn’t seen it, and now Michel was a flat-shaped object spinning above the porch. She walked away and felt her despair’s pull, its delicate grasps of her hair as it slid softly into the wind’s arms. A decision? It was not something she could stand. I said everything I could, didn’t I? That look. It stole everything, I gave him everything. Willingly? No! But she hadn’t said it. She hadn’t said everything. She had wished to share it instead, but she couldn’t even say that. Forever unfinished worlds danced inside Michel’s mind. I’m not even talking to you, Anna, he thought.
Maybe he would search, she pondered. Maybe he would exit the area and find new hide-outs that he could write ecstatically about to her. Maybe she could never spend enough time there to find out everything herself, but with his help they would be close. Close to an external point meant being close to each other, wasn’t that right?
But their eyesight had been split forever. He saw her, she, only his touch. It was the touch of everything new in the worlds.
There was nothing I wanted more. To not think of another festival spent without. As she stared at the towers of Blessing’s High and the new factory-made umbrella stands littered alongside Lift River, she dreamt of home but thought that here at least she could enjoy the sun. When she talked she would receive replies from her mum and her dad, as it has always been, and as she would come to know, how it would always be, long after Melody Valley could no longer perceive the three. Reaching into her pocket, Anna pulled out some alien citrus weed, chewed thoughtfully, and walked past the many stands.
luffy (at) diamondsky.org
islisis: thank-you for the pretty pic
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