Ancient Silk Road:
A jolt sent my thoughts scattering as the tiny planes wheels touched ground only momentarily, the hands of a young boy as he crashingly caresses the exposed flesh of a lassies thigh, before bumping back into the sky, flight reluctant to land for fear it may never fly again, or at least man’s flight; an intruder in the sky. I wondered if birds ever worried the same things as their mechanical counterparts, only momentarily, as thoughts were again scattered from the great mechanical bird resisting its predestined reunion with the earth.
Mans cause. Fighting our destination.
‘Maybe before criticising god we should question what we’ve done to make him silent for so long.’ The voice was mischievously confident as its words rattled round inside the cheap, pay-by-the-hour style, motel equivalent plane. They were beautiful before they shattered on the too thin metal sheeting that made the aircrafts skin while it bounced and bumbled to an eventual stop. Seats relaxed as if the craft itself was unsure about the landing, consciousness of self and not innards, we being only passengers, and loosened grip on bodies so we could depart. It would sit there in the hot noon days sun waiting for its next impossible flight, envious of birds whos very existence depended upon flying away.
She bumped into me, purposefully, hands yanking bags from under seats, and smiled when I turned partially round to see who it was that needed my attention.
‘You believe in god?’ I asked, confidently thinking I had the upper hand, in responding to her prompt.
‘Yeah.’ A certain boisterous air about her as she slung her backpack over shoulders.
Smirking as she walked by, a twinkle in her eye, ‘all of them, of course.’
All it takes. Is one impossibility.
I was tired from the travels, but my senses were excited at this new environment, this new adventure, response system torn in multiple directions. Was probably, at the end of it all, what kept man so fractured; an overwhelming curiosity in the face of being exhausted from existing.
Her walk was purposeful yet carried out its purpose in an unhurried, without a care in the world, sort of way. It was as though every single footstep was exactly where it was supposed to be. Which was really any footstep. But hers were aware of their belonging. A dance through his world. Carefully choreographed chaos.
She glanced over her shoulder as we danced the seemingly half mile from the runway towards the airport. It was a small building. Should have been built with bamboo. Looked more like a beach line spirits hut than an airport; but we were still some distance away. ‘Whats your name?’
‘Greetings & salutations Pen. I’m Atalanta.’
There is a grand beauty in the simple act of naming yourself, for the first time, for a new traveler. All all we are. Only travelers. The world. The sky. The stars. The darkness.
‘I wish people would do that more often.’
‘Ask my name.’
‘People don’t ask your name?’
‘Not any less,’ words already labored from the trek, ‘than anyone else I suppose. Just that, well, I think if we made a stronger habit of asking each other’s names it would go a long way towards being kinder to each other.’ She stared at me in a way I was fairly familiar with, though also in a way I wasn’t sure Id seen before. ‘I know, it’s silly.’
‘No, not at all. I quite agree with you Pen.’ And we finished the last bit of the walk in comfortably sweaty silence.
Upon closing the distance to the building it became painfully obvious that if anything the far off view hid the fact that his was no airport by any standard definition I had ever experienced. Like so many things in life, it was even bleaker up close. I sat down in the grass out front of the building (if indeed it could even be called such a thing), next to the dirt road that ran along perpendicular to the airport and landing strip, curved up ahead maybe a half mile or so and disappeared into the thick woods that seemed to encompass most of the area surrounding. Pulling my sketchbook out of my bag, I quickly made the markings to start.
‘Whats that?’ Atalanta asked with enticing surprise in her tone.
‘Its, well I’m sketching out the airport and landing strip,’ she only looked at me blankly, ‘see I’m a cartographer and’
‘Youre here to map out the island?’
‘I thought for sure you were here searching for riches.’
‘Since rumor of this place began circulation there’s been a fairly consistent flow of so called adventurers looking for hidden treasure,’ her eyes carried to the sky bewildered at its existence, ‘its really beautiful isn’t it?’
‘I suppose it is.’ I hadn’t thought of it in a while. The look in Atalanta’s eyes sent a shock of guilt down my spine for neglecting the obvious things right in front of me. Its easy to forget the world when you think you have it all figured out. ‘So is that what yer here for? Adventure and riches?’
She spent no time letting her smile engross her face, it catching me off guard how lovely she really was, a smile that seemed there long before I asked the question, only waiting for its moment, ‘adventure, yes, riches, not so much. I’m from Terra.’
‘Wait you’re native? But’
‘But I don’t look like I come from an island no one ever heard of till a few months ago?’
‘Well, no, I didn’t…. I guess I just don’t know what to expect here.’
‘Just because the world doesnt know we exist, doesn’t mean we don’t know the world.’
My words caught in my throat as a carriage pulled by two beautifully constructed horses came rumbling around the far bend kicking dirt and dust into the air like a trail through aged memories before coming to a halt feet from where we sat.
‘Pen Octavio?’ The man behind the reigns had thick, dark skin, that shone in the sun rays exactly like the hair on the beasts he controlled, ‘they control me, not other way round,’ he murmured, his words harsh against the landscape.
‘Im Pen.’ I let it go for now.
‘Safe travel has been provided you to the Ancient Silk Road. Beyond that you are on your own.’ Letting words rest a moment as his older than the rest of him eyes scrutinized me more severely than I’d ever remembered before. ‘Atalanta,’ he nodded.
‘Willard.’ Her simple acknowledgement before turning towards me as I rose to stand up, bag slung over shoulder in one fluid motion, ‘you must have more pull than you let on if you’re being taken to the Silk road.’
‘Must I?’ I smiled a smile she wasn’t sure she wanted to return, ‘how do you think I got here in the first place? Yer not the only one who’s explored the world outside Terra,’ I winked at Willard, his head forward, eyes focused on things beyond what either Atalanta or myself could see, and stepped up into the carriage.
‘Can I come with you?’
‘Only if it’s OK with your gods.’
She only stepped up and in as a response. There was a quiet as the carriage bounced rhythmically down the dirt road, or, more accurately, dirt path. That was all any roads were anyway, paths from one point to another. Like pathways paved perfectly through space. Porous human consciousness incapable of connecting the dots if they aren’t already charted out, systematically, one by one beforehand. Speed limit already set because we are nothing if not the rulers of each other, so often forgetting what our authority makes us. A prisoner in our own cage. The suffering comes back round again, waiting for us to take notice. But we drive on down to the next. No time to stop and soak it in in large doses.
I didn’t like roads, which made this path far more pleasant than most I was familiar with. As it bended round the edge of the trees development depreciated drastically and we really were left on a trail that gently curved its way through the forest. A certain simplicity sensually cuddled up to me in being wrapped up in this place. Much like space exploration, I thought, disheartened as those that charted out the stars apparently never felt the need to go see them themselves and instead defined a world through a glass scope glass coping with glass thoughts reacting to their own fragility in a sense like feeling the warmth of a fire with hands on coals burned down watered out and extinguished many moons before our tender feet carried us to the pit it once burned brightly as though artists writing about love whom had never felt it.
What do you have to offer life when you’ve never lived it; only watching from afar with rented eyes?
Which was what so much of the human experience felt like; watching with rented eyes. Costs money, anymore, especially, though to some degree always did, simply to see. There has been talks and predictions throughout years, control: the money, the food, the water, the production, the land of a people and you’ll control them. The type of doom and gloom that always has some master up high in a sturdy chair who keeps all the peasants in one way or another loyal servants. Wasn’t those resources that the worms claimed would keep us all in check. Was sight. Was a dictatorship on human imagination.
Control sight. Control the people.
Of course no chair, no matter how high up, is ever very sturdy, and when they all come tumbling down all the eyes they’ve collected up will come rolling & rumbling from pockets and sacks and cover the surface of the land. Maybe have too much sight then. See more than we want to. That happens from time to time. Far more often than we’d like to admit, and of course that was the true meaning of Pandora’s box, once we saw the things we didn’t want it always redefined everything. Can’t unsee being alive. Even after yer dead. Was really the reality of reasons why people committed suicide. To unsee life. But there is no way to unsee it. And if those that have tried could come back and tell us they’d beg us to not give it a go. Cause the infinite sight of life in the haunted darkness of death is absolutely excruciating. Every time there’s a whisper in the wind that systematically sneaks in through creaks in walls and caverns in floorboards when we think we are all alone at home, every time a door closes under its own weight, every time a hand brushes hair on the nape of neck though there’s no flesh and blood near enough; it’s the dead trying tirelessly to tell the tale truth tempts from lies about the things we’ve seen. And there’s something, I glanced at Atalanta while breathing in deeply the dust and dirt kicked up by wheel and hoof, coughing a bit from earth in lungs, something here that doesn’t want to be seen. Something in the way the wind moves, mimics true love dried out from years of upkeep, pretending at desire but if you taste it just right you know its body language says ‘leave,’ its time to go. The wind, like so much else, often only a vehicle for words the speakers cant or wont say themselves. I wanted to see. Came a long way to see. More ambitious men would suggest such a thing as their legacy: mapping out the last of the ancient spaces on this planet, but I never had much need for these types of men and their ambitions. I pretended, like the mimicking wind, in order to see what I knew was specifically being hidden from me for all the years of my life so far, and most likely since long before that. Secrets held even before god said let there be light, for each of us. We are all billions of universes waiting to be illuminated one by one. And of course none of us are born only once, but over and over again, constantly replacing ourselves with new sight, and new secrets.
The sun shines down, through blackened clouds from burnt fears and recycled hopes/dreams/desires. Heats me like the world continually spinning. Spinning. We stumble forward through the fog, jagged edges of lives shattered cover the ground under our bloodied scabbed feet. Step after step after all that time and pain the sun shining down calls to us, so close, few more ste…… cries from the world shift that blood stained blackened mass we call existence and blot out the shine in front. There’ll be another ray breaking through, and till then? We soldier on digging bits and pieces of the world out of our torn and tattered flesh and call it our lives. The dreams of bleeding feet kept me company when eyes drifted to sleep under the gently aggressive bumblings of the carriage over the path of bodies that remembered before us. Dreams of sunshine. And clouds on fire. And bodies littering the roads. If all roads lead to nowhere; how do we get somewhere? Or, more importantly, where is somewhere?
Like lost travelers, we carry on, with absolute, unshakable certainty, that we not only know where we are headed but also how to get there. I was tired of certainty.
Atalanta bumped into my shoulder as the wheels nearly bucked us off the wooden bench, ‘eaasy,’ Willard lullabied soothingly out to the beasts that pulled us along.
‘How long was I sleeping,’ words strung together through yawns.
‘About a day,’ Atalanta casually responded, forced disinterest spilling over the edge of her pinker than I remembered lips.
‘Funny.’ She still didn’t laugh, didn’t respond, only shrugged the shoulders of her mirrored self in her head. ‘Yer,’ I looked down at my watch, voice confusingly trailing off into the woods, ‘serious.’ All we ever have of self is a mirror image in an imagination who’s been paid by god or the devil or both to pretend to represent what electrical synapses think we are. There’s holes in this, more than countable, our existence being only an idea in our (yours & mine) heads, and more than likely enough falls through that it’s difficult to claim the reflection is anywhere near complete. A lost day was hardly even noticeable. ‘This island isn’t big enough for me to have slept a whole day. Have we been traveling in circles?!’ There was an irritation in my voice that I’d blame on fear if prompted to explain myself.
‘All movement is in circles,’ Atalanta looked at me as though explaining nostalgia to a child, I could hear Willards grunts of agreement from his position behind her.
There was a moment, where I was trying to discern what was real, that I tumbled into, as we all do; it wasn’t the first time, but would be the last. Maybe they were fucking with me. I dozed off. And they decided to have a bit of fun.
But they didn’t.
My watch had stopped. I couldn’t tell how I knew this meant reality deserved to be trusted. It just did. Time had been controlled as only nature can do. The unseen controller of all our infallible numbers. Numbers failed, to meet our expectations, all the time, we simply didn’t notice, too obscured by our own flaws to see through most the time. That was important too though. Seeing those flaws. Our consciousness a mixture of both our strengths and flaws, whether aware or not.
‘How? … how did I sleep for a whole day?’
‘Time,’ came Willard’s voice without looking over shoulder to address us, as though speaking a general truth for all to hear, ‘can never be trusted, especially in this place,’ because after all, eyes aren’t needed for speech.
Though we see language all the time. We may see more in language than hear. And it made me wonder how blind people hear.
A great, grand, ball. Expensive suits and dresses. They billowed out and into each other. Embracing each others embroidered money instead of each others self. Society in general. And we wonder why we are so poorly to each other.
They danced and swirled like beautiful, retarded, swans. And when they sat, to talk, their hands felt moistly at their faces, blank eyes, just to see what they meant. Hearing language is only half, if that, of the battle.
Willard turned slightly round this time, grin absent on his face, ‘see for yourself.’
The carriage came to a halt with not a motion or sound from the driver as he continued to look directly into my thoughts. Horses having known, having made this trip more times than moons could take note of; the road ended into a grassy path, green unlike any green you’ve ever seen, green unlike any word has ever been, green like grasses made in magic, and littered with travelers. Travelers, I would once learn, searching for many of the same things as me, just in different ways. Must have been thousands of them. All in the same direction but none in the same steps.
‘Where is everyone going?’
‘Same place as us,’ Atalanta stepped down into the soft grass, her voice joyful like the lure into a surprise party, ‘the ancient silk road.’
Feet touched ground and I felt at home in the grass which now I could see was long enough to blow in the breeze like life and death choreographed dance moving all particles simultaneously in rhythm. It felt lovely. And I never even noticed it. Feeling shadowed by storm clouds in the distance over seas surely sulking ceremoniously, chatter catching silently and held for moments yet to come.
There’s a feeling, constantly, that it is all about to change. Whatever it all is.
I stepped further as Atalanta and I took our place in the procession. People hobbling and running and chatting and laughing and crying together. I looked over to Atalanta, ‘People have tried to map this place before haven’t they?’
‘Mmhm.’ We walked on,
passing an elderly couple laughing at how the wind tickled against their skin, ‘I… have tried to map this place before haven’t I?’
She only smiled, ‘come on Pen, there’s still a ways for us to go.’
They marched on, the crowd, the horde, some joyous and lite, others heavily dragging deadened dense days as weight in limbs that dug deep down deliberately into the ground leaving paths that dried up into the skies behind them like temporary trails of water left behind sobbing travelers only to dry away nearly simultaneously in the seething shining sun. Both types tumbled, here and there, into the brilliant green, in different ways and different manners but tumbled all the same, picking themselves back up and carrying back along as we all do. Some act like picking ones self back up after we fall is some great and noble act, when in truth it’s just a part of how we function in this gravity; it pulls us down but it pushes us back up, only a bit, after, and even when we’re dead, only difference then is we are no longer weighted down (happy or not) by skeleton and meat, it pushes us back up, though since so much unweighted we soar detached from a ground we’ve spent so much time falling into.
I couldn’t find a difference between the smiles and the frowns, after a while. ‘How much further is it?’ I distractedly asked Atalanta, curious but not so.
‘Hard to say,’ came her words, as curious but not so as my own, ‘depends on when we’re ready. Some of the people here have been walking for years. There’s rumor that a few have been here forever. If yer inclined to believe rumor.’
‘Forever! What like some kind of limbo?’
She was right, after all. Consciousness a constant evolution. How could existence be anything but a waiting period working recklessly towards something and everything all at once? We never reached the destination, but only checkpoints we didn’t know were checkpoints till we got there and asked, what’s next(?). What was next was usually the same as what was next here, now, for us… another step. There was nothing to do but to move forward in any vacuum. Or backward or sideward or upward or downward. But it was all the same. I watched their smiling, their grimacing, their indifferent faces and knew it was all the same direction, all the same goal, and it made me smile and grimace and not care as we travelled along in the stream of people flowing down a beautifully green grassed pathway to our dreams.
They say nothing lasts forever. But how can they know unless they’ve been there? And if they have been; how can they say without lasting?
On the side of the path, some distance up, we came upon bodies littering the ground like old dead from drying trees. The bodies lay as though statues covering each other like blankets. They waited so long, Atalanta explained to me, for something beautiful to happen that they forgot every day was beautiful. Maybe as a message to the rest of the travelers. A reminder to spend less time waiting, less time watching, and more time being. It’s easy in this passive world to be sucked into the death of unmovement. Only observer for fear of acting for fear of being for fear of being wrong.
But there is differences in movement and action. And this aesthetic in dying nature showed those willing to see just that. Though I’m not so sure any of us are willing at all. It is not our will that births us. Nor our will that kills us. So how can will have anything to do with what happens in between? What were these bodies as trees fallen exploring in their will? Like magnetic fields torn to themselves. I watched as many of the travelers still alive wrote in books, sculpted bits and pieces in hands, drew on small canvases made of large leaves. Some of the dead. Some of the world surrounding them. Some of things completely other than. Their hands and eyes and minds and skin distracted with their own bits of storytelling as they walked or jogged or ran on towards the silk road. We create art, always have, because it is the only place we can be free; the only place we can live untethered.
As I watched creation, Atalanta watched me, and slowly diverged away from my path. I only noticed when she was nearly too far away to be heard any longer.
‘Where are you going?’ The trepidation in my tone surprised me, it didn’t surprise the trees, or the grass, the sketches in notebooks or the bodies on the ground, but it surprised me.
‘I have my own path, Pen.’ Was her simple reply.
‘But what if I need you to map things out right?’
‘Sometimes,’ she spoke as though a parent to a child, ‘to see the world clearest we need to look at it without the things we need most.’
And with that she was gone. Too far for me to respond. Too far for me to see. Most of the people continued on, or not at all depending on their time, but each as unaffected by my abandonment as by its absence, except for a small boy watching intently and quickly, to the point of frantically, scribbling words down on paper held in his hands that looked older than the rest of him. Neither of us spoke.
I only turned and continued on down the path towards the road, or at least what I thought was towards the road, as he watched me fade into the tall grass while sitting, aged hands continuing to scribble till long after I was out of sight.
The pathway curved out round a corner of thick raspberry bushes and fed into dirt ground instead of grass covered. My heart skipped a beat at the prospect that sight would open up around the bend into the silk road I had been traveling towards for what seemed like forever, anxious as though returning home after many years away. The couple from earlier smiled up at me weathered from the journey, hearts anxious much like mine. A comradery forms under similar adventures. An understanding of each other as people. Even in something so simple as silence, something so simple as a shared look between tired travelers. And before I knew it, as I twisted round the edge of the bushes, several small children having stopped to snack on the sweetness of perfectly ripe berries: there it was, the ancient silk road.
It was not a road at all, so much as a bridge. The earth fell away here into an emptiness that explained every existential crisis mankind had ever had. It was this, this break in reality, which seeped up into our world and fed into all our fears of nothingness. It was in this that we learned to be afraid of ghosts in the dark. The empty atmosphere it spewed out constantly, subtly, seemed more what we were made of than nothing else. Had to be miles wide, and extended in further beyond ground than any eyes, no matter their sharpness, could see.
The end of the world.
And simultaneously the beginning.
A mirror broken in half to form two. Or one, with missing strings pulling us together.
I could feel the pull to the other side. But this was an island. How could such a break be?
‘There’s still frame, and yet more outside of the mirror isn’t there?’ A small voice called out in response to my thoughts. A voice I could not see, a voice I could not locate in the mass, now so many more times larger than it had ever seemed before, of faces.
‘Well yes but,’ I found myself replying.
‘Isn’t there even, a frame and yet so much more, around your perspective of this world?’
‘I suppose there is.’
‘Then why shouldn’t this island function the same? Everything is only a smaller or larger version of itself.’ The traffic of non-locomotive machines rumbled up further like patrons standing in line for a ride that could only fit a few at a time. Life like a ride that could only fit a few at a time. ‘What happened when too many tried to ride at once?’ I unwillingly asked aloud to pits of laughter and applause in the crowd from faces who looked, that looked, less real than I could ever remember.
‘Then here you are. With everyone trying to die at the same time.’
At this I looked down. The voice jumping from particle to particle in order to reach me. A tiny bright green silk worm rest righteously round shoelace atop of my foot. ‘For such a tiny thing.’
And he motioned to the far far end of the bridge, ‘my larger self.’
Miles away at the other end of the bridge, the other end of the world (see, where one ends and the other begins also must the other end and one begins…. all simply dependant upon which way you’re facing), were what must have been two absolutely gargantuan silkworms orchestrating the silk road. Gargantuan as even from this distance, with so very much not between and so very many travelers, they still towered above all else in the land high into the sky above. Imagine: silkworms being friendly perches for weary birds tired from adventure to stop and rest. All creatures need rest. And it’s nice to have some company while doing so.
Though it’s worth mentioning that the silkworms were in fact not very good company at all. Silent behemoths dedicated solely, singularly, to the constant creation of this ancient road. Some claimed it was pure decay that kept the organic machines gleaming gorgeously green in the sunlight busy all this time. Others were convinced that they spun the silk anew not to replace parts of the bridge but instead adding to it, pushing the end and the beginning the beginning and the end further and further and further away from each other. Maybe for some grand scheme. Maybe just because that’s what they were made to do. Must one question the automatic acts according to their own nature? With or without those acts redefining the world? The universe?
Being redefines being continuously. To dictate that based on consciousness seems precariously unnatural.
But of course.
That’s the nature of consciousness.
I watched them as they worked. Millions billions trillions maybe more tiny regular sized worms much like the one on my shoelace kept busy back and forth along edges along centers all along replacing tiny bits here and there holes and breaks in the silk road like poorly paid city workers spreading coal patch with nearly no other real purpose than to slow down traffic.
Nothing slows traffic quite like progress.
But these workers were different than the average road crew not only because they were tiny but also to some great degree because they were tiny and so were squished fairly often leaving bright green even brighter and greener than their fluorescent outer shell guts streamed into the white silk like intricately swirled marble designs in floors of rich landowners who decided they were too good for the ground. Maybe they should have built great monuments to cover like man who killed one another over the ground then built cities and roads and structures to cover up all the blood in the dirt.
Dying for duty. Man and worm alike. Was all any of us was doing, really. Death a duty. Life the same. Life little more than an obligation to live because we were born.
‘They say the gargantuans were there before even the island. And while that seems to not make sense; I have no evidence to the contrary.’ The worms voice carried surprisingly well considering its small size.
I sat down, careful not to shake it off, at the outer edge of the silk road, arms wrapped around and chin placed on knees, ‘why aren’t you doing patch work like the others?’
‘Some of us patch. Some of us create. Some of us just are.’ It seemed reasonable, and yet, and yet something somehow missing. ‘It’s the silk,’ he said with eyes cast down, I’ve simply run out.’ And left it at that, till continuing moments later, however many moments it took for such things I didn’t count because I couldn’t, for if we could count time, track time, we wouldn’t need to populate the world with ticking machines to remind us exactly what time it was, ‘that’s not quite true either. I never had any silk to begin with.’ There was an incredible space. How does one comfort a creature not able to do what it thinks nature borned it to do? ‘What kind of silkworm has no silk?’ His voice trembled with sadness as he now looked up at me with tearful eyes far too ashamed to even look away.
‘I imagine,’ my words suddenly stuck in throat, shaken free with empathy and genuine compassion I hadn’t exactly expected, ‘one meant for something especially different from the rest.’
And with that a friendship was born. We find solace in our existence meaning something for others. It means nothing for us. It can’t. It just is. We just are. But to others it can be more than anything our thoughts could possibly conjure up, like a breath of fresh water when drowning in the hot dry suffocating air of the desert, bits and pieces of ourselves we didn’t realize were us or even missing until we stumble upon them in a dark corridor leading us to decisions we couldn’t have made without putting the pieces back together in an incomplete way, the border of the picture that we think we see every time we look in the mirror or touch our face casually while yawning sleep out of eyes on bright sunshining mornings in our dreams.
I dreamt this place not the ancient silk road not Terra not Earth but everything with or without particles and now it was time to pretend I wanted to understand what it meant. I hated dreams. They only left you either longing for a reality you can’t touch or thankful for a reality that can’t touch you. Both were like death without the dying part.
It was my part now to cross the silk road. I stood, with the silk worm still comfortably caressing my lace, and took a step or two approaching the line where dirt became something else, where dirt became silk, and let foot linger in air only as long as I could continue to stomach before placing it beyond the border of what I knew would be a place I could never return from in the same way as before entering the existence of. We become the journey as we search for destinations we thought held something special for us.
There was no difference, or was a difference, but that was no different than anything to pass and yet to. The ancient silk road felt like the road leading to felt like the path that led to feeling here. ‘I thought… I don’t know, maybe it was going to feel somehow different.’
‘Roads don’t feel,’ my tiny friend responded as he began his own unnoticed journey, ‘the same way as you.’
It was an interesting sort of way and instead of questioning it I only carried on. Step after step. Waiting for the thing that decided when and where was the right time to rear-up revealing reality raucously reinvented in my risked retinas, vision always risked when tested to watch for monsters of perception bursting through otherwise generally accepted thoughts. And before I knew it. There it was.
It was remarkable. This road. This place. These silkworms who scribbled and scribed stories into tangible reality that held us above a pit of endlessness. The gargantuans beaconing me and the rest of the travelers here to move forward into each of our own secrets and mysteries. I drew out the scene in my sketchbook, fumbling along, and wondered about the young boys aged hands. Looking down at my hands I began to include them in the paper along with the ancient road and the gargantuans, millions & billions & more smaller silkworms, and the sun and the trees and the grass and the upside down cavern below. I’d mapped it all out before. Or tried. Atalanta had said as much. But why couldn’t I remember? Maybe falling into the lines on my own hands. The lines of my own reality. Peripheral something left to be filled in later with clever lies no one else would be paying close enough attention to notice. All we were. Clever lies close enough to the truth nobody bothered to fact check. Left to our own devices we all became myths on ancient roads talking to silkworms who had no silk to offer.
My feet dodged and danced around the others below me in an intricate pattern some programmed part of me already knew, so my focus could continue working on the sketches. There’s not always time. And when there is it’s so hard to keep up with. Too busy watching the mechanism to see the seconds behind the curtain. And I didn’t want to miss anything, not this time.
A subtle rain began to fall from somewhere above me in the sky. It’s not being in the rain, but being wet, that’s a bummer. But being wet is a part of being [in] the rain, honestly. And that doesn’t only apply to rain, but everything, life, art, love; all the same thing with different words, and all are unavoidably wet. This wet felt, somehow a slight different than I’d felt in other rains. I was learning that things on Terra didn’t necessarily function the same as other places I’d been… any other places I’d been, and so a difference in the rain only made sense.
Eyes drifted upwards after I hurriedly put my sketchbook back in the pack. And I quickly saw why these droplets had a unique existence. They were, in fact, coming from the gargantuans. Could they possibly be tears? Did silkworms cry? ‘I’d swear….’ words pelted away by the rain drop tears.
‘They are exactly what you think.’ The smaller worm had worked it’s way up to my shoulder. I wouldn’t have been able to hear a word it said if not for the closure of distance, rain drop tear song being much too loud for tiny voices. ‘There’s something in one’s own sorrow that eats a way into their actions in life. Look.’ Motions for attention and I looked down to the silk road itself.
It had begun to erode away, dripping down into the endless space below, in the spots where silkworm tears landed. Like a world slowly melting into the space it came from, but only in the spots too fast filled with sorrow to mend. Or at least only in those spots to start with. Then they leach into the rest, like a comfortable rot, or a fluid shadow, inching over the surface of its own intent, its own purpose, in order to birth more and more of what it thinks it is, what it needs to think it is. Wondering if rot thought rot is what it is. Or if shadow dreamt of being sunshine. Does a creature need to think what it is in order to spread itself like a slowly stagnant slipping surrender slavishly growing till there’s nothing left to object to?
Did the gargantuans know what they are?
Did they know what their tears were doing?
Something told me they did. Something told me that all creatures had to endure both the doing and undoing of themselves simultaneously in a constant stream flowing downward only to crash upon its beginning endlessly in order to exist. Every single one of us, every single moment, dead and alive, existent and non-existent, wrapped up in one tight knit bundle. ‘You’re unweaving,’ I whispered up to the giant creatures responsible for carrying us all over the nothingness that threatens our desire to endure, ‘and I think I know why.’
The smaller worms had quickened their pace in an attempt to patch the holes that became newer and newer, as I knelt down. The worm on my shoulder had inched away as well, back to his belonging, and I’d felt a slight pang of loneliness, maybe for the first time, at the realization that I’d never know him from the unnumberable mass of his striking likenesses, no matter if I would ever be given the chance.
And I thought of Atalanta. Maybe once far enough away we never recognize again, recognize the same cause the same is gone. The best part of knowing you is knowing me and now they are both gone, died and brought back infinite times since then, and now.
My fingers began weaving bits and pieces of silk here and there as my thoughts wove through the memories of what was yet to come. It was only when the hole below me was nearly patched up that I realized the gargantuans had stopped crying. And I realized something else as well.
The gargantuans had stopped producing silk. Strands hung like tattered flags off flagpoles who’ve not felt wind in ages from their conveyor type holes. They were only as two organic behemoth statues silently motionless listening to how existence felt.
The smaller worms had gone.
And of the travelers there was but only one left: me. Something in the solitude split me open and allowed for the breathless wind to casually finger through my insides like a cat, bored, toying with a mouse not because it wanted to but because it was supposed to. We all, mice, cats, wind and man alike, get lost in our supposed to’s. So lost that we don’t know what we’re supposed to do anymore. It being only automatic.
For how shall we breathe if our lungs stop doing it for us automatically?
What part of us do we focus with our thoughts to pump blood if our heart suddenly forgets how?
If the automation of our bodies abandoned us, would we remember what we’re supposed to do? This I didn’t know. But luckily, my body hadn’t abandoned me, and instead stood up and carried me over the last parts of the ancient silk road, between the stoic gargantuan silkworms, and to the other side. The other side of what I’m still not entirely sure.
But that seems less and less important the more revolutions round the sun you take: certainty. Being sure was as likely as being anything else. I couldn’t guarantee I was. How could I guarantee I was sure?
An itch upon my shoulder drew my attention like art draws itself out of artists. Man created art so he too could give birth… in this, woman is the nurturer & source of all that we know. Both only hollow shells without the other. So then what is self if meaningless on its own? We die through each other so that we can be gods in the meantime. It might be worth the trade. All depending.
The itch grew and as I dug fingers into it there was a sense it was spreading to my fingers as opposed to any sort of satisfaction. Eyes laid upon skin and I saw that there was less skin than I had expected. The itch was a flat though limitless nothingness that sensually crept along my being like a boy falling in love with every girl he saw. Like under the silk road. It would seem, maybe I hadn’t made it over to the other side after all.
My shoulder and fingers were already dripping shadowed holes of what was once recognizable matter. One can not recognize what one doesn’t know. And as far as human consciousness had allowed us till now; we don’t know what dark matter is. It was me. It was matter that was tired of pretending the sun was the center of the universe. I knew if it continued on I wouldn’t be recognizable anymore. To me nor anyone else.
The worst of death leaving the dead standing right in front of a universe universally predetermined to blindness of death. Was I dead? Was I dying? That’s what this was. The ancient silk road only the boatman’s boat over the river of the dead. My nothinged hands soon enough joining the crowd reaching up from the infinite to grab others seeking safe passage to adventures they weren’t yet ready to die for.
But when are we ever ready? How can we be ready for the things we really need the most; those things set to change our lives? If we had been ready; wouldn’t we have already been changed, already began that process? Ready suggests some level of the journey having taken place. Though maybe, now, that’s what this was. Only a glimpse of the redefined that would eventually be me on the other side. I’d gotten this far. Traversed the river of the dead by way of silkworm sorrow. I missed my tiny friend. I missed Atalanta. And I wondered what her journey had looked like. Wondered if she knew this place as intimately as she claimed. If anyone could.
My feet carried me further on past the silk road, into the border of a thick dense woods. I crumpled down to the ground under the weight of the sleek nothingness that kept flowing over me like gentle water. Become like water, I thought, and would have laughed if not for being terrified that’s what was actually happening. I was transforming into the endless matter of this existence.
I was dying.
There’s a never ending stream of moments in our lives in which we could have should have would have died if only we knew how. One doesn’t walk into dying. Dying has to be learned. Just have to remember; we all learn at our own pace.
Eyes hung heavily in their sockets as the line of trees at the forest’s edge swayed and sauntered in an intoxicating dance, both taunting and warning me. They formed links of what I could tell, even in my near hallucinogenic state, was a very direct hurdle that had to be navigated carefully for anyone planning on continuing onward. And that was the only ward that was available. The tree line stretched out so very much further than the eye could see, all along its border being the loving arms of the deep break in the earth I traveled over on the silk road.
We are sometimes, maybe more often than not, more often than we’d like to know, forced into our nature. Our nature, as well as our*s (a singular possessive) nature. The two becoming a distinctly separate cohesion. Finding self in spaces we didn’t think we had words for once the electricity was shut off.
It’s overwhelming. My eyes fluttered their last bits of before, drained of the energy that got them this far, blurring, maybe, something slowly coming, approaching from within the wooded cage that sat before me smiling greened teeth. And I faded off. To dream of things past and yet to come, though having no way of telling which was which.
Reality a string of silk waiting to be ancient, woven from heartbroken worms crying tears designed to make us truth.