The Simulacrum

The simulacrum is never what hides the truth – it is truth that hides the fact that there is none.

The simulacrum is true.

-Ecclesiastes

Jean Baudrillard

 

Semi-Charmed Life

I am in a grove. A sea of blue flowers swirls into view as the mist parts around my feet. I step towards the centre of the clearing. A figure is sat with his back towards me; by instinct I know that it is you. A flute is pressed to your lips. You are playing our song. The seductive notes float through the air and mask my footsteps as I approach. I am within touching distance of you and my heart is pounding in my chest.

You turn to face me and holding my head in your hands, your thumbs wipe the tears from my eyes. Your beauty takes my breath away and seeing this you smile. Our eyes meet for the briefest second before I look away. You wrap me in your arms, my breathing becomes slower, deeper. Burying my face in your chest, I inhale and intoxicate myself on your scent. You move away and part us a little, your gaze searching for something.

Our eyes meet again but this time I am entranced. I imagine falling through them and reading your thoughts. A dozen images flash across my mind like reflections on a mirror. I am not sure whether these fantasies belong to you or me but my face burns all the same. You smile at me knowingly, your eyes twinkling.

You lean forward and our lips brush with the lightest of contact. I open my mouth to protest when a second kiss stops me dead. This one is intense and passionate and the sensation of pleasure that swells within me drowns any doubt I may have. You lie me back on the grass and the mists swirl around us.

We set about exploring each other’s bodies, not soft and intimate like my daydreams; aggressive and desperate, satisfying the desire burning within us. We fumble with clothing as if time is of the essence, not a second to be lost lest it be gone forever. Tiny water droplets glaze our skin like sweat. You push yourself into me and I am lost to everything but this moment. This is what it feels like when our worlds collide.

My body arches up to meet you as you thrust deeper and faster. I close my eyes as I begin to melt into the intensity of my orgasm. I feel your erection harden, your breath coming in short bestial grunts. The initial warmth subsides and now you feel cold inside me. In the world outside a trumpet blasts and startled I open my eyes. Pleasure becomes horror.

From your beautiful brow two horns have sprouted. Your torso remains unchanged but your legs are covered in dark brown fur. You feet are hooves which dig deep into the earth as you pin me to the ground. I try to scream but you stifle it with your hand. You pause mid-fuck as movement across the grove draws your attention. Your lips curl into a smile. With a final disgusted look down at me, you withdraw and bound through the foggy air. A group of nymphs dance and call, beckoning you to join them.

I wake sobbing.

Inferno – Canto V

And now the notes of anguish start to play

upon my ears; and now I find myself

where sounds on sounds of weeping pound at me.

I came to a place where no light shone at all,

bellowing like the sea racked by a tempest,

when warring winds attack it from both sides.

The infernal storm, eternal in its rage,

sweeps and drives the spirits with its blast:

it whirls them, lashing them with punishment.

When they are swept back past their place of judgement,

then come the shrieks, laments, and anguished cries;

there they blaspheme God’s almighty power.

I learned that to this place of punishment

all those who sin in lust have been condemned,

those who make reason slave to appetite;

and as the wings of starlings in the winter

bear them along in wide-spread, crowded flocks,

so does that wind propel the evil spirits:

now here, then there, and up and down, it drives them

with never any hope to comfort them-

hope not of rest but even of suffering less.

 

Dante Alighieri

Lines 25-45.

Translation by Mark Musa

 

Under Egyptian Skies (Part 1)

The priest watched as the sun slowly began its descent into the west bank of the Nile. Ra was entering the underworld. The hour was approaching.

He entered the temple alone. Inside, the camphor lamps were being lit. The sacred hieroglyphs adorning the walls danced in the firelight. On the ceiling silver stars sparkled in a lapis sky. He approached the alter and held a torch flame to the pile of incense that had already been laid out. The air was filled with the magic of frankincense and myrrh. The scene was set. All he had to do was wait.

He crossed to the temple’s far wall and pressed one of the carved symbols, a dot within a circle. A door swung open and he passed into the hidden chamber. He, Djeuti, a boy priest was about to fulfil his destiny and become a god. He let his robe fall to the floor and sunk into the milky waters of his bathing pool. His assistants emerged from the shadows and scrubbed his body with boar hair brushes. His blood tingled beneath his skin and his pulse quickened.

When they had finished, he climbed the steps and stood there naked and dripping whilst he was fanned by fronds of palm until dry. Jars were brought full of fragrant oils which melted easily into his hot skin. When his was fully anointed, his body was dusted with powdered silver and he glowed like a fallen star.

A low chanting began and the ceremonial kilt was brought and fastened around him with protective pins. A beaded belt of jasper and turquoise was knotted over the stiff linen. Bracelets and armlets were closed over his limbs, binding him to the temple and his duty. The sacred mask was carried on a strecher of woven reeds and placed before him. It was shaped like an ibis under a crescent moon. The face of God. Djeuti took it in his hands and gazed long into the hollow sockets. He imagined his eyes, the colour of waxed ultramarine filling their void. He wondered what she would feel when she looked upon them.

A royal mile to the south, the final preparations were made and the princess left her chamber.Her body was weak from fasting and trembled with a mixture of fear and thrill at what was to come. She leaned on her handmaiden for support as she descended the stone steps. Her voice was whisper as she spoke, “You are married Padme. Tell me, will this hurt?”

“It is love that hurts you Princess, not the act of making it,” her servant replied squeezing her hand in reassurance.

The entourage passed through the botanical gardens in silence. The exotic plants were drained of their colour by the twilight, reduced to monochrome shapes rooted in soil far away from their original home. Soon I shall be like them, thought the Princess. A trophy flower displayed to show the might of my King.

They moved into the avenue of sphinxes and she searched their stony gaze for clues to unravel the riddle of her life. They gave her no answer. Too soon the party reached the dock where the royal barge waited upon the water. Torches burned bright along the length of the boat, their fires reflected in the black water below.

She stepped onto the wooden deck and the drummers aboard began beating a slow pulsing rhythmn. The princess took her place on the golden throne, her heart pounding louder in her chest than the men could beat on their stretched drumskins. Padme sat at her feet and the princess leant down to her. “Sing me a song,” she whispered.

“What shall I sing you?”

“The Song of the Raven”

Padme’s voice echoed in the air and as the notes floated higher, the men adjusted their beat to match her rhythmn.

The princess closed her eyes and breathed deep, letting her mind drift away into solitude, carried by the dancing words. She felt the boat move below her as it was cast off from the dock. Oars were slid into the obsidian water and they left the bank and her innocence behind them.

In the darkness of his inner sanctum, the awakening God sat deep in silent meditation. His mind projected out from his body, ascending higher and higher into the sky above. He become a bird circling in the air. He could hear the music carried on the wind and her soul with it. His eyes snapped open. She approaches

He sat motionless as the drums and song grew louder and closer. Now she was alighting the barge and entering the complex itself. He could feel her gentle vibration resounding in the earth beneath him. She was walking between the towering pillars carved to resemble papyrus and lotus blossoms. Her eyes were downcast but he could feel her awe and how her heart marvelled at the temple’s beauty. He could feel something else too: her fear. He could sense it in the hesitation of every step.

His mind stayed with her, unseen and unnoticed until the party stopped before the temple of Al-Khemia. The moon was rising behind her, its silvery light directed through a gap in the outer wall. It was tracing a path along the ground towards her. Soon her feet were bathed in moonshine, then the curve of her ankles. It was time. The ritual was beginning.

Inside the temple, in the place where the boy Djeuti had sat, the god Thoth rose and took his place.

The princess felt the blood rise in her body as the power of the moon goddess, Nut, washed over her skin. The drums and song had stopped. Everything was silent. The night was still as though holding its breath, waiting for events to unfold. The air felt heavy and tight with latent energy. She shivered.

Her entourage had disappeared into the darkness and she stood alone at the entrance to the temple, watching as her shadow grew in the puddle of light. The ethereal silhouette of a slender young woman cast upon the stones. The moon rose above her and the shadow of the princess crossed the sacred threshold. Its head lay upon the feet of the waiting God.

The princess drew a deep breath and held it as her gaze was drawn higher. She saw the glistening skin, the beaded kilt, the honed chest. She wanted not to look but she couldn’t stop herself. Black, braided hair rested on broad shoulders leading to a graceful neck. The face of the ibis shone like a pearl in the moonlight as she looked upon the eternal eyes of God. In them, a distant fire burned bright. Her heart skipped a beat.

“Come Keshet’anan. The time is now”.

Her God knew her secret name and she had no choice but to obey.

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.