The Harmonics of a Dissolution
There was a flash and Astronaut X found himself floating high above the surface of the moon. The barren, colorless terrain stretched out before him endlessly and yet his shadow was nowhere to be seen, as if diffused and lost in the airless atmosphere. |
Just how far above the lunar ground did his feet dangle beneath him he could not tell, since there was nothing familiar about the moonscape that served as a point of reference. That which he guessed to be a tiny hill could have easily been a large mountain, and the craters came in all sorts of sizes. Surely, he must have jumped to this height and that should have served as a way to estimate the distance to the lunar surface, given the relation of the moon's gravity to that of Earth. But was it truly his leap into the air which brought him to this position?
To his dismay, he realized that his memory lay blank behind him like the sea of empty space above. Why could he not remember? He recalled the shuttle's liftoff, the exploding ascent into a darkening sky. But, the memory frames froze upon his release from the blue of the Earth.
Little did the lunar landscape resemble the pictures he had seen on Earth. Beneath him, waves of black charcoal shone with a silver phosphorescence. They formed the dunes of a shimmering desert, desolate only as a dream-woven field of diamonds.
He repeated the question to himself: Why can I not remember? An image of a star nebula flashed through him like a vague memory impression struggling to revive and complete itself out of a severed past. And, in unison, a subtle, undefinable pain sparkled about his chest, arms and legs, a pain which seemed to reside somewhere between the emotional and the physical, like a cry that issued forth from a dream body.
Somewhere in his nighttime, a forest of sparkling needles stung him with shimmering light, a torture chamber of celestial beauty. He felt as though he had passed through a filter of stars, disseminating him into a new form of infancy, a childhood subject to a cosmic upbringing.
His body dangled uselessly as he drifted along his inevitable trajectory, the derelict projectile of a severed past. As he gradually surrendered himself to his puzzling predicament, he turned to recall his life on Earth.
C e r e b r a l G e o m e t r i c s
Memories of his wife surfaced quickly and he instantly became fully absorbed in his reverie, reliving his past with a surprising intensity.
One night, while locked in her arms, he detected in her eyes a curious shade of silver, giving him the stark impression of the moon. Amused, he whispered into her ear, "your new name is Luna". She broke into a laugh. He commonly called her by that name.
Years later, upon coming home one evening, he found her caught in a strange fit of hysteria, gesticulating wildly and screaming obscurities in odd tones. Her eyes were filled with an animal estrangement; they possessed a sudden distance that seemed to have traversed the galaxy. Filled with confusion, he tried to calm her by embracing her firmly; she grew tranquil with time. Although she would not look him in the face they laid still together on the floor till late into the night.
A week went by without her uttering a word. Finally, during one of their silent dinners she suddenly broke into a flood of tears and confessed to him her fear of resembling the moon.
She would not offer a clearer explanation but she returned to her normal self quickly, as abruptly as her unexpected burst of madness. A few days later, he would take a trip away from home for training and they would be separated for several months.
The last night they spent together held a place in the back of his mind for weeks to come. It was an ordinary episode of affection, only the particular arrangement of an assembly of shadows on the bedroom wall gave his memory of the evening a curious pivot to an undiscovered perspective, one in which his wife was strangely absent.
It followed him like a ghost during his training. Somewhere behind his spine the shadows shifted slowly over the days, forming the altering patterns of a cerebral diagram, one in which his wife seemed lodged in an intersection of lines, lost in the infinitesimal point of a crux in the abstract geometry.
Existing behind a veil with a life of their own, the shadows seemed to act as puppet masters to the arithmetics of his mind; somehow, his observations of life's events were rearranged to synchronize with the floating shapes and planes. Cores of experience were mirrored within his innerscape, producing a filtered symmetry with the outside world.
One morning, a vision of her face emerged out of his sleep. Smiling yet sad, her features were carved out of soft ivory, clear and beautiful. Held fast in the corner of her right eye was a tear swollen to a rounded perfection.
Deep in the colorless droplet was a mirror of the world, reflecting minute shapes that were alive but unrecognizable, overlaid by tiny streaks of rainbow colors. He marveled at the beauty of this tear throughout the day. The image of her face frozen, it faded with time as a haze diffuses into the afternoon sunlight.
That evening, her image gone, he found the shadows behind his spine to have disappeared as well. Life had returned to simplicity. He went for a walk about the neighborhood. The streets impressed him with their calm residential air and monotonous architecture. He phoned his wife at home and discussed his upcoming return while absently gazing upon his own image in the mirror, alone in the motel room in which he had spent many weeks.
Her familiar voice tickled his anticipation of returning home. The last several days of his trip were concentrated entirely on his work, making sure he passed the tests to prove the success of the training. He mentally prepared himself for his return home...
T h e I n v i s i b l e T i d e s
His thoughts drizzled to a hush, and his eyes ended their inward gaze. The ambiguous lunar terrain stretched out before him once again, like a childhood memory revived in a dream. The stars shone above like a suspended sea of crystals in mid-rain. How high was he drifting?
Several dispersed craters yawned before him, growing and shrinking to the shifting estimates flitting through his mind. His depth perception groping, the landscape became a myriad of possible surfaces which ebbed and flowed to his shifting perspective, multiplying with time into smoothly converging patterns that breathed like a living organism. The lunar terrain resembled the skin of a hologram.
A window to his memory opened once again. This time, however, each recalled event surfaced with a set of variations, like light shining through a prism. He glimpsed unfamiliar conjugations of his own life, until he finally floated freely into one of the rays of unfolding reverie. He found himself back at his astronaut training.
T h e S y n t h e t i c F o r m a t i o n o f a S p a c e D i e t y
They introduced him to the virtual machine while the 10 foot monitors were still tuned to the stormworld of a dead channel.
His being somehow felt at ease integrating with the white noise, the boiling frenzy of static was an open portal into which he could sink with little effort. He felt his psyche slowly move into the video screen, attracted by the comfort of a synthetic home, abstract and ambiguous.
Then, an image suddenly flickered into life and he found himself on the moon. His startled body shook ever so slightly and the echo of movement in the monitor made him realize the extent to which he was already connected to the lunar landscape.
Quite instinctively, he raised his right arm, bringing it before his eyes, and he witnessed a replica of movement and gesture clothed in an astronautís space suit. Delighted, he jumped up in the air and the moonís surface receded with exaggerated speed, bringing him back down slowly, as if parachuted. This was no Earth! He drew a deep breath and started to run forward. The ground beneath his feet was expertly manufactured to keep him in his place no matter what he did and the mechanics of the moving floor beneath him was as much a feat in robotics as the believability of the moving image on the screen.
And yet, his lack of weightlessness formed an incongruency; the weightless chamber was a different part of the initiation program. In a sudden fit of frustration he lashed out with his right arm like a tiger striking at a fantasy prey.
Calm once again, he noticed a pixel shine bright neon blue against the black and white backdrop of the virtual moon, a minor technical defect no doubt or perhaps a microcosmic defiance. It quickly disappeared, highlighting the oddly colorless nature of the lunar terrain.
Remembering that he was under surveillance, he began the routine exercises allotted to him. At one point, however, he decided to heave his body to the right in a sudden rotation, and the heart of the supercomputer raced to render the fleeting imagery. He glimpsed a tiny, transparent dust-storm of brilliant, colored light collect and disperse like an inter-dimensional tornado, an unexpected greeting from a subliminal landscape.
He found himself in a state of complete fascination. Here was the virtual reality of a moon which was at once barren, stark, and lifeless and yet harbored the potential of a lunar amazon.
He stood entirely still for a minute, then started shaking his body spasmodically. A microcosmic stormworld of artificial, quartz-like brilliance danced about the screen to the frenzy of a computer gone mad, the colors funneled in from the synthetic rainbow of a virtual fire. The fleeting image theatrics seemed to disintegrate the integrity of his vision, and he felt his mind become disembodied in the virtual machine, resting on the softbed of a malleable reality.
A shout from the surveillance room broke through his stupor and he quickly returned to his official exercises. His movement now slow and methodical he glimpsed sheets of electronic rain showering down and disappearing into the colorless reality. That night he dreamed of a moon that twitched inside him...
His memory reel began to fade, and like a layer being peeled, another scene immediately materialized.
S e e d s o f C o m p l e x i t y
An ocean of words flooded in and flowed freely throughout the four corners of his brain. Rivers of information penetrated the deepest contours of his mind, tainting even his most personal memories with their unfamiliar hue.
This portion of his training had him analyze large, complex systems which were unreal and hypothetical, fictitious economies, alien biological environs, unfamiliar cosmologies. The purpose was to teach him to think in grand scale and to develop his pattern recognition skills, so that if he were to come across an unfamiliar territory of experience on the moon, he would be able to jump right into the development of new theories, formulas, and categorical systems, to make necessary decisions on the fly.
His sanity almost derailed at the gigantic body of information pouring into his brain for hours on end. He began to see patterns develop in his mind quite vividly, so that they almost became hallucinations. The tests were endless and tiresome. Fatigued beyond belief, his mind made connections of the strangest form, linking aspects of reality that he hitherto considered completely disconnected.
P o i g n a n t L i g h t
One afternoon, on his day off after a laborious week of this kind of training, he was sitting in a restaurant relaxing his mind when the beckoning gleam of sunlight reflected on the window pane of a faraway, parked car funneled his attention into a focus so acute that the rest of his surroundings seemed hastily and incompletely rendered, like the sketched outline of a marginal dream. The light glistened with the poignant signature of a celestial star-body, timeless and archetypal.
His inner dominion heaved. He inadvertently performed a withdrawal, distancing himself into a black hole of thought. He now peered at the world from a galactic traversal, forever retreating into a point of void.
Later, back in his car, he drove along the steel structure bridge. The alternating light and shadow played upon his mind, strobing visceral landscapes to which he eventually became oblivious. Then, a sudden opening of his view to the left: Chrome river, sunlight ignited. He drove ever deeper into a dreamscape, threading his way through an endless maze of unfamiliar streets, the world now painted in gleaming gold...
T h e E m b r a c e o f a C o s m i c F l u x
One week later, he tried to retrace the same driving route with the hope that he would slip into a similar dreamlike reverie.
He began musing about his wife and their final days together when she acted so strangely. He visualized her image being absorbed in the books on complex systems he had been reading. In the sudden flash of a curious insight, he understood her hysteria to have been a battle against Transparency.
His heart quickened with this peculiar thought, exciting him into a form of aggression. He envisioned her becoming transparent before him, spreading thin into the liquid breeze of an ever expanding ghost. And though he would no longer be able to touch her, he would swim through her. His heart raced with the longing to swim into her, to sweep the water which collected her, to charge into her water like a wild boar in heat.
Somewhere in a darkened alley, elongated shadows stole across an old brick wall, resembling the hand gestures of a sorcerer assuming the shape of a bird taking flight.
The astronaut suddenly felt his world shifting, his being sinking, as if dunked beneath the crest of some tidal wave he had been surfing, a sudden bipolar swing that toppled the very foundations of his emotional infrastructure. It drove him deep into a bottomless whirlpool of feeling and desire to which he became helplessly subservient.
S p e c t r u m D i s c h a r g e d
Color streaks bent and stretched the sky, threatening to puncture the Earthís atmosphere to allow the void of space to flood in. An aurora of light burst through the night, a nocturnal sunset stretched across an unseen horizon.
He could do nothing but abandon himself to his inner upheaval. And when the calm returned, he was floating in his car, his car floating through the street, the street spinning through the Industrial Manifest, the labyrinths whirling, his dream-body ever enlarging.
He was greeted by the sensuality of blaring sunlight glittering on water, the erotic, steady flow of a congested freeway, the forbidden sex hidden in derelict warehouse streets. He roamed the virgin forests, flew with the gentle winds blowing across the rolling hills, stretched his arms across the horizon, bathed in the sensuous light of both the sun and the moon as he straddled the alternating days and nights...
Finally driving back to his hotel room, he glimpsed a couple making love in a darkened city corner. Having mated with the night, he could not help but feel repulsed by the sight. He felt reluctant to return to his wife, having peeled away the anatomy of human desire and found an essence devoid of flesh.
The final days before his flight were spent in a dreamy stupor. He barely spoke to his wife, feeling far too distant to brave the chasm between them. He had lost all desire to make love to her. Instead, he would lay her down to study the curves of her body, deepening and unfolding, magnified into vistas of flesh whose limits were unsure.
...Or were all these reflections but aberrations of the translunar voyage?
He peered more closely into the prism of his memory and detected a kaleidoscopic shift. A nebula of stars gleamed inside him. That vague, indistinct pain of needlepoint shimmers in his dream-body issued forth like the cry of a moth.
Glaciers of soft moondust shifted to the invisible lunar winds, betraying long forgotten postures of his wife hidden in the contours of the barren landscape. A sleepy body stretching at dawn...A spectral silhouette behind a shower curtain...Curled fingers resting in a flock of hair...
M e l o d i u m
Arriving back home from his training, his wife was nowhere to be found.
There was a note in the living room, "Visit Dr. Rothenberg," and a phone number scribbled hastily.
The doctor turned out to be her psychiatrist. He did not know she had one.
He was a tall, thin man with an effeminate complexion.
"Your wife...as the days grew closer to your return, had been experiencing increased anxiety; she had a recurring dream several times which frightened the daylights out of her. She described it to be a perpetual nightmare that attacked her even during waking hours. You were," he paused and glanced aside for a moment, "you are... in the dream."
"Has she left me?"
"Yes, I'm afraid she has...This must come as a great shock to you."
"At night, as she laid in bed alone, the mattress and sheets would gradually 'liquefy', the word she used, and she would begin to drown. She would scream for help and you would enter, only instead of helping her out, you would put your fist to her breast and shove her deeper. The size of your arm made a significant impression on her, it had grown to match the spatial dimensions of the rest of your body, with a musculature she described to be clearly disassociated from human form."
The astronaut was lost in thought and there was a long period of silence. The silence seemed to expand and permeate the room.
"She must have told you something else. Is there anything she told you to say?"
"No, that was all she wanted me to tell you."
The astronaut pondered, and then spoke with some hesitation: "Did she ever relate to you her fear of resembling the moon?"
The doctor looked confused, and eyed him with a strange air. "No, never. What an odd thing to say! I've never heard of such a thing. She gave me a detailed account of her disturbances, but she never brought up the subject, or anything similar."
"Do you know my profession?"
"No...she asked not to speak of it, despite my insistence."
Walking about the room with his head bent in meditation, the astronaut wandered about the office for a few minutes, finally coming to a halt before the doctor's desk, standing tall above it. Before he spoke again, he was aware of a part of him flying out of the room and witnessing the two of them from a bird's eye perspective. The rest of the world seemed to have frozen still at that moment, and only the two men were now capable of motion.
"You see, I am ... an astronaut."
He could not be certain, but he thought he could discern a barely perceptible quiver at the edge of the doctor's lips, as if betraying a subtle wave of repulsion or disgust, his expression quickly turning into a state of confusion.
The doctor searched his face for some clue he could read. The astronaut's eyes possessed a surge. And although his facial expression was very alive and animated, it was completely vague and nameless. The psychiatrist groped for an interpretation, his eyes steadily losing ground till he finally abandoned the quest in vain.
The astronaut envisioned the doctor's head to be encased in a glass bubble, staring out with wild eyes.
"Your wife, she was very disturbed," the doctor finally exclaimed. "She felt she couldn't face you to tell you her decision of breaking the marriage. That is why she asked me to perform the task. Tell me, have you ever acted aggressively towards her?"
The question stabbed him over and over again during his drive back home. He felt nothing but love and tenderness towards his wife, and would not in the least imaginable way have done anything to harm her.
B u r s t M e a d o w
Early the next morning, right before the break of dawn, he had a nightmare of an exploding space shuttle, its fire spreading endlessly across the land, burning forests, scorching suburban neighborhoods, and finally transforming into a mushroom cloud that hovered unmoving above the surface of the Earth. The magnificent roar rang in his ears for nearly a minute after he had awoken, to be gradually replaced by the soft puttering of rain outside his bedroom window.
The soft silence and the wet rustling of tree branches mesmerized him as he stared at the empty spot where his wife would have been wrapped in gentle sleep.
He ached to her absence, although the world exuded calm.
Serenity. He stared at it as if it were a living creature in the room, like a domesticated cat purring to his touch, but his eyes blazed fierce with battle. His head swam to life's memories, a crystallized matrix orbited around his mind: The car accident he had caused in his youth due to his reckless mania for speed and overcoming obstructions; his obsession with construction sites and their enormous machines that drilled into the earth, their endless pounding thrusts reverberating for miles; his repeated bouts of madness due to his insistence on plumbing every nook and crook of his subconscious; and finally his present determination to become one of the privileged few to travel into Outer Space.
No, serenity was not for him. This was the way he willed it. But, his insides now ached to the absence of his wife, to the burning of the shuttle's fire.
T h e L u m i n o u s F l o o d s
Later that morning, having fallen back to sleep, he dreamed repeatedly of a great white light that fell upon the earth and spread throughout the globe like the burst rays of a gigantic lantern. Figures of men and women stood suspended like frozen ghosts within the ever expanding luminosity, their silhouettes quivering to the light's intensity. Life on Earth was a dimension swallowed, the planet's population reduced to mere phantasmic shadows of an extinguished dream.
He opened his eyes to sunlight, a crisp blue sky, and the clear definition of shadows. it was late in the afternoon and the clouds and rain had dissolved. The house stood empty with a natural calm and no breeze or sound disturbed the air outside. His head felt galvanized by over-dreaming.
Wandering about the rooms, he found them larger and more complex than usual in their silence, reconfigured into a maze that echoed a past life he now had difficulty recalling. He quickly took to emptying the house of its furniture, except for the mattress of his bed, and he stripped the walls bare of their paintings. He left the mirrors hanging and went out to buy some more. The empty house became vibrant with echoing light.
U n w o v e n
He became obsessed with arranging the plethora of new mirrors in such a way that they formed extended corridors of his own mindscape, multiplying its geometry. He would spend hours tilting a mirror just right, so that specific sections of the house were rendered double, so that walking by created the right type of reflected motion.
Somewhere in the glass palace, his wife's features were caught in the infinite recursion of adjoining mirrors, forever receding... until her essence formed the skeletal framework of his newly transfigured home. He felt her breathe within him. She shifted in his being like silk in wind.
Over time, the plexus of mirrored pathways seemed to scribe the arithmetics of buoyancy. Deep within the reflections, sections of his house were held ambiguated, broadening the horizons of his innerscape like the unfolding wings of a gigantic bird, blurred cinematic vistas enlarged to cosmic infinity.
The day of the voyage was approaching. Hours slipped by like minutes. Night came quickly and devoured the light. A day was merely the rapid sweep of the sun across the sky. It was as if the globe had been set to fast motion. He remained awake through many mornings and many nights, enjoying Earth's rapid revolutions.
Entranced by the way the rays of the sun shifted about the walls, he mapped their curvature of movement to trajectories and patterns of his own mind, at long last discovering the subliminal grounds of his everyday perspectives. The transformations of the heavens were now seen in grand scale; he viewed Earth from the perspective of an inter-planetary voyager.
The sky seemed to have thinned to an airless blue, allowing the void of space to flood in. The great white light in his dream began permeating his waking world with a gradual luminance like a fog which glowed. It was just a matter of days before his house became flooded with light. The rays, infinitely coalescing through the mirrored gateways, ignited his innermost being into an impossible brilliance.
His memory of the shuttle launch was now a smooth and effortless ascent into the darkness, as silent, calm, and unreal as the moonscape that stretched out before him.
T w i l i g h t A b s o r p t i o n
He realized suddenly that he was heading straight towards the mouth of a crater. He tried to estimate its size, but with little success. Quite rapidly, he found his feet had crossed the outer perimeter. And the black valley loomed directly below him.
The shadow cast by the farthest border drew its line barely beneath the nearest edge, so that the majority of the crater's mouth was a well of darkness. The opposite edge slowly climbed upwards and judging the speed of its ascent he estimated the crater's radius to be at least a mile. It felt unlikely that he would drift over and across to the other end; he seemed to be descending into it, the mouth opening wide to receive him.
The farther he fell, the larger seemed the dimensions of the crater, with time to stretch miles and miles towards the horizon. He was reminded of a friend's description of a certain cathedral in Rome, the size of which could not be discerned from the outside, "...for only as you walked deeper into its sacred hall did you realize its immense proportions."
Eventually, the far edge reached eye level and he waited for its line of shadow to strike him. Slowly, he saw himself being immersed in darkness. He watched the outer ridge rise above him like a computer screen rendering line after line of black till finally the world turned blank before him. Not a trace of light could he see.
He fell imperceptibly.
He braced his legs for the landing. Time passed by slowly - or had it stopped moving altogether? - but he never hit the ground. He slipped into a state of panic, and he felt as if the atmospheric hold of planet Earth extended its arm thousands of miles to grip his being with an intolerable pressure. And then, like a lightning bolt that lashed at his mind, a scene from his adolescence materialized before him.
A crowded motorway at sunset, a backdrop of orange sky above black terrain. A steady stream of headlights cut across the darkened horizon like diamonds.
He lay panting in his compacted car with a broken rib cage. He had skidded off the freeway and landed in a ditch nearby, the jolting outcome of his reckless mania for speed and his relentless desire to overcome all obstacles. Luckily, he had injured noone but himself. The shattered glass wedged into random parts of his body seemed to collectively spell out the hieroglyphics of some esoteric script.
For an hour, he waited for help to arrive while staring out the broken windshield at the passing headlights, forever growing bigger and being replaced. It was a visual sequence he had no choice but to watch. It repeated without end, like a segment of clipped film looped to the undying fascination of a director who had at last captured the perfect scene. Intermingled with the throbbing pain inside his crushed chest, the flashing whiteness pounded on the gates of his mind like an undecipherable message screaming endlessly to be comprehended.
Now, the strobing flashes crisscrossed and twirled inside his head with the syntax of flapping wings trapped in a webwork of overbright sunlight. After a sudden crescendo of complexity he witnessed the wings dissappear and felt himself being hoisted through an upward corridor, transformed into a being of incandescent radiance. Like sharp, needlepoint spears, the vast field of stars broke through the crust of his skin to suddenly disseminate him into an unfathomable expansion, the surging wind of a burst celestial body.