Strangelove

Within a mile the town had given way to scattered houses and then nothing but desert. The reservoir that we had seen on the drive down the night before was on the very outskirts of civilisation. It seemed a complete contradiction to find this sprawling expanse of water marking the boundary to the driest place on earth. The terrain was beautiful, we could have easily been driving along the highlands of Scotland beside a loch if it wasn’t for the delicious warmth that was beginning to creep through the morning. And of course all the American power cables. It seemed that no matter how desolate the landscape, how far away civilization seemed, there was always electricity close to hand. The American infrastructure was quite amazing.

We passed a motel on the shore of Lake Isabella and I was pleased that we hadn’t stayed there, even though it and the setting was far more picturesque. Our night in the Isabella motel had been one of the highlights of the trip so far and I wouldn’t have changed a thing. Something about it seemed far more Seth and I- waking up and seeing people and mountains and cars and an amazing sunrise- it was though by seeing the world as it really was, it became even more beautiful.

Seth and I didn’t talk much, driving along listening to the greatest hits. Occasionally we would point out something we thought the other hadn’t noticed but mostly we just sat there and enjoyed the moment, one of us singing along to the tunes as the mood took.

“It’s a straight road for ages, mind if I write my diary for a bit?” I asked. “I’m falling behind. Getting too distracted.”

“Go right ahead,” he smiled.

I pulled the black notebook out of my bag with its skull and crossbones pattern and read back over the last thing I had written- Tuesday night’s events. I let out a little sigh, this meant that I was going to have to write about Wednesday and it felt awkward to do so with him beside me.

Its your own fault, Eden, if you had chosen to do something constructive that day instead of lying under the covers, crying and listening to music then you wouldn’t be in this situation now.

There was nothing for it but to start writing and I found that once I did, the words flowed easily. But the energy between us was weird. I wasn’t sure if it was because I was sending it out- something I was making a conscious effort to avoid- or whether Seth could sense what I was writing about; either way there was tension that ebbed and flowed in the air. I tried to ignore it but eventually it became so distracting that I decided to take a break.

“Watcha writing about?” Seth voice was full of curiosity.

“Oh…um…Wednesday.” I said. I hadn’t wanted him to ask in case he thought that I was still upset by the whole thing. “I’ve been trying to keep a day behind but I wrote nothing yesterday so I’m a bit off-schedule. Really need to catch up.”

Out of nerves, I was fiddling with the pages of the diary as I was talking and idly, I glanced down at the page I had stopped on. A word stood out on the page.

“Oh, odd” I said shutting the book and putting it on my bag.

“What’s up?” Seth looked over.

“Nothing, I just happened to open on a page that I had written the title of a song that has just played. Was random that’s all.”

“Which one?” He asked, leaning forward in his seat.

“Strangelove.” I said avoiding his gaze and looking out the side window instead.

“What else is written with it?”

“Good question”.

I didn’t actually know, I had closed the book too quickly to see. Reaching for the diary I knew that there was no way I was going to get away with reading it without telling him what it said. I prayed I wasn’t gushing about him too much and took a deep breath. Its ok, he’s read your diary entries before, he knows what to expect. I thumbed through to the right place and read the whole page first myself, just to check how bad it was. I blushed.

“Well this is one of my typically, incoherent diary entries. Mostly I use this thing like a notebook, ramblings or songs that mean something. I hardly ever write down why though, so often I have a bunch of disjointed information. This page is mostly that type of thing.”

Seth was looking at me like he was expecting me to continue. I sighed, rolled my eyes and began to read.

“Ok, the seventeenth September, The Stars- This Charming Man, Zero 7- Destiny, Al Green- Look What You Have Done For Me, Beyonce- De-ja Vu, Depeche Mode- Strangelove. Can I just say I have no idea why that particular mix? They’re not even songs that I associate with…well… anyway… the next bit says that I dreamt of riding a camel from Dad’s house to Weir cottage three nights earlier- which actually was quite a random dream- and the last bit is me musing about Orpheus and Eurydice and noting that Clair de Lune by Debussy came on shuffle as I was doing that.”

Seth seemed puzzled as though he had missed some connection that he should be aware of and gave me a curious look.

“Its a Twilight thing” I shrugged “The first time Bella gets in Edward’s car it is playing and she names it. He is surprised that they like the same music.”

“Hmm, interesting” he said with a smile. “So you dreamt about Weir cottage?”

“Yeah, can’t get that little place out of my head at the moment. That was one of those strange dreams when you know you are dreaming but it feels real, I could feel the camel rocking and everything.” I said watching the world pass by outside. The whole incident had got me thinking, maybe it wasn’t coincidence that I stopped on that page. I debated internally whether to say anything and then blurted “Do you know the story of Orpheus and Eurydice?”

“I don’t think so. Tell me.”

“Orpheus was a musician, he was either part god or exceptionally talented, Im not sure which. Apollo taught him to play the lyre and his wife was Eurydice. She got taken to the underworld for some reason, either Hades, God of the underworld kidnapped her or she was bitten by a snake. It depends on which version you believe. Basically Orpheus loved her so much that he decided to descend into the afterlife to find her, so he crossed the Styx and walked through hell and his music charmed Hades and Persephone so much that they agreed to her release. The only condition that they made was that Orpheus would not look at her until they were back in the land of the living. So together they walk to freedom, her following him and they get all the way to the exit and he crosses over the threshold and looks back. With that she disappears back into the shadowy depths.”

“And what did you write about it in your diary entry?”

“I was thinking that if he had trusted more in her love for him and not had to reassure himself that she was really following then they would have got away with it.”

“You think that he was uncertain about his love for her?”

“No about her love for him. I don’t think he believed she loved him as much as he did her and that is why he turned around.”

“Interesting perspective.”

“Its so weird, that poem under the subway back home all about Eurydice. It really did feel like a universal message last time I walked past it.”

Seth was silent and I wondered what he was thinking. As the sun crept higher the sky turned the same clear blue as his eyes; the land outside of the jeep had become barren and sandy, only a scattering of scrubby bushes clung to life. Mountains spanned the horizon cradling us like protective guardians, and in their custody, time danced a different tempo. You could feel it slow down, relaxing and savouring the moment along with us.

ENTER

To avoid reality I dream. To reveal the reality of myself I dream.

The sky is indigo. The hour is late. My screen flashes yellow. I scan my fingerprint and it unlocks. A message awaits. It reads – Return to the Labyrinth

We’ve been here before you and I. Centuries ago you would have slipped away from your servitude on the whim of relief. Across the mud and dirt you would have appeared at the threshold of my door. The floor inside strewn with flotsom of a million adventures. The rose petals, the animal skins, blood scattered papyrus, and cracked and tarnished halos.

The sign above my door says ENTER. One simple word. It is a command, an invitation, a challenge. There is no warning. No words could contain the beauty and terror of what lurks within.

Everyone knows that something strange happens here. This is the road that leads to nowhere and everywhere. This is the place that vampires become victims. This is where pilgrims journey looking for saints and leave broken by their sin. Some that travel here never leave at all. Many are lost within these walls.

This is the labyrinth within and without the heart.

Tonight the threshold is the screen and the floor is lines of code. I let the book slide from my lap. ‘The Unfinished Tales of Uqbar’ falls to the ground. The clock on the wall carves out the seconds of this soul asylum but as I open the screen we have already fled. In the virtual arena a few zeroes to the left and our identities are changed. Binary is the mask that disguises us. I begin to type out a world where we belong. The landscape of our escape is the space between words.

Here the present is infinite. The past is nothing more than a fleeting memory. A ghost in a fog of misfiring synapses. The future is the untyped arrangement of endless possibilities. The truth is just a fragment of the whole.

Ever present, it leaks back to us. It leaks back in legends, in myths, in dreams. All we have to do is remember.

We enter the labyrinth as fools seeking paths not yet determined. We find ourselves in dead ends, we catch ourselves in our own traps. When we think it is over, it has only just begun. There is always a new possibility. There is always a hidden door. Take nothing for granted.

What is it I have to remember?

I build this reality.

This is the maze of my imagination.

ENTER

Sonnet 144

Two loves I have of comfort and despair,

Which like two spirits do suggest me still

The better angel is a man right fair,

The worser spirit a woman coloured ill.

To win me soon to hell, my female evil

Tempteth my better angel from my side,

And would corrupt my saint to be a devil,

Wooing his purity with her foul pride.

And, whether that my angel be turn’d fiend,

Suspect I may, yet not directly tell,

But being both from me both to each friend,

I guess one angel in another’s hell.

Yet this shall I ne’er know but live in doubt,

Till my bad angel fire my good one out.

William Shakespeare

The Scientist

Our steps are slower as we return to the station. It is as if we are both walking towards something that we don’t want, but neither of us knows how to stop it. There are a few seconds of silence. The air is heavy with words left unsaid and no time to say them. Both of us are contemplating the thoughts inside our heads. Out of nowhere, a voice in mine urges me not to waste the precious few minutes remaining.

“I was thinking that our book should be a trilogy. All the greatest stories are. Lord of the Rings, His Dark Materials, The Divine Comedy. Remember I said that I was basing it on Dante’s journey and that Virgil was his guide? Well in Purgatory the reader gets to learn more of Virgil’s story…” I let the words tumble out before i can stop them and wait for you to realise what I am trying to say.

You glance at me with fear in your eyes. “I told you. I can’t write anymore”.

“Can’t or won’t?” Because you should, I feel that so deeply. I know it is the truth. And I think that deep down you do too.”

You are quiet. I don’t want to push you too hard but I feel compelled to tell you this.

Too soon we are stood by the train. There’s still ten minutes before it leaves. The doors are stood open and after the coldness of the night air, it looks warm and inviting.

“Come and sit with me?” I beg, pulling on your arm.

We sit next to each other and I turn towards you trying to catch your eye. You won’t look at me. In deference to your feelings I lower my gaze and focus on your hands. I take them in mine and suddenly everything I have wanted to say comes tumbling out.

“I know that you are scared you will become that person. I know that those memories pain you. But I think that it is hurting you not writing because that is what you are. You are trying to deny your god-given talent, to mask what is underneath, but you should know that you can never find true happiness that way. It took me years to work that out, please believe me. People care about you too much to let you become like that again. I care about you too much…”

Unconsciously I have been stroking the back of your hand with my thumb while I have been talking. It is madness to talk more. I know you don’t want me to. This is not what you want to hear and I don’t want to be the one saying it. I am paining you and that hurts me. But with utter certainty I know that no-one else will say it.

For whatever reason this has fallen at my feet and so I carry on my words regardless.

“Whoever you were back then, I don’t think it was really you. It was just your reaction to a bad situation. You cannot be afraid to love because you have been hurt before. It is not the making of mistakes that is the problem; it is whether we learn from them. Please, at least consider this. Please”

“It might be a little abstract,” you murmur.

I can see my reflection in the tears that glaze your eyes. Tears that you still won’t allow to fall. My heart breaks that I am the one who is forced to cause you this pain. I wish I could take it all back, that I could make you forget that I said it. I want to make it better.

I kiss you.

Without thinking, acting totally on instinct, I kiss your lips. I have waited years for this moment; wanted it so much it hurt. None of that matters now. All I care about is you and trying to fix this wound that I have reopened.

I expect you to push me away, or pull away, as our lips touch but you don’t. For one perfect moment nothing else in the universe exists except us and the love I have for you. It is a love that runs deeper than romance or friendship or anything else in Creation. It is a love that existed before time began and will last until the world fades.

It is a love I try to give you with a kiss.

Our eyes meet as I finally move away from you and I wonder if you felt it too.

“I should go,” you say.

In a flash you are out of the doors and walking through the station. I watch you all the way, longing with every fibre of my being that I could follow you with more than my eyes. You look over at me and raise your hand in goodbye. I smile and wave back and then you are gone.

You are gone.

Girl Comes Incomplete

I dream.

I am running. Trapped in a valley, in the barren winter of my limbo.The disfigured boughs of blackened trees suppress the constellations above, suffocating all light. Beasts chase me and I flee blind. There is no chance of escape. This hunt is familiar and I know how it will end.

I stumble and feel them inch closer, their fiery breath burning hot on my neck.

A star breaks through the branches and hurtles towards me. As it approaches, its shape becomes defined against the darkness. I realise it isn’t a star but a bird. A snow white raven heading straight for me. I have no time to alter course, I know what fate awaits me if I slow my pace for a second. I brace for impact with the bird, but as we collide she alights on my shoulder and croaks directions into my ear. My legs respond of their own accord, her power over me is absolute.

In the distance, I see a patch of milky twilight.

“There,” she caws. “Run. There. Fast”.

My exhausted muscles scream but I dig deep and arrive at a wall of holly. The branches part at my arrival. I step though into a dense fog; the ground feels solid but supple. Pulsing with energy as though alive.

The jagged hedge closes behind me and the beasts cannot follow but still they chase my scent. Their noses sniff the ground, growling and yapping as they track my escape.

I turn to look into the raven’s emerald eyes for the first time. “Who are you?” I ask.

“A friend,” comes the reply.