it’s falling from the sky
we’re all gonna die
i don’t know what to do
wanna get high?
(and watch the sky together
come apart in streams of light)
Look, Papa (the moon is on fire)
It has become vogue in this day and age that, before telling certain types of story, you should first tell the origins story of each character who takes place in the narrative.
Looking backwards in this way it becomes possible, perhaps, or easier—at least—to comprehend how a person “came to be a way”.
With this intention in mind, the characters begin somehow deconstructed into unformed lumps of clay, or plasticine; lumpish babes in swaddling cloth.
And from these humble origins the characters become either great heroes, or villains, or sometimes neither, or both, or rise up against adversity or break against it like a boat against rocks.
The story, in a way, becomes not a story about a thing but a story about a character. And we, the readers, are granted some insight into how that character was formed… how they became.
This is certainly a valid and sometimes necessary way to tell a story.
And yet… I wonder, what if we were to do away with that mode and instead chose to begin our story somewhere else. Perhaps right in its very centre, perhaps right at the critical moment upon which their decisions begin to become relevant.
At such a moment of crisis—at that point of that critical mass—might we learn what we need to know about a character in a matter of moments, or seconds, or sentences?
This too would be an origin story, perhaps, but of a different sort than those which came before. No longer need we know from where exactly our characters came, or how they came to be; we are merely with them.
And in being with them, might we not come to a more immediate understanding of who that character is, not from the beginning, but a beginning.
The truth is borne out in the words alone; of course we might start a story this way.
like a sheep
and fall in a heap
forget who you are
and pretend while you weep
tears that are dry
cos you can’t even cry
cos your brain has been altered by SSRI
so consider the rhyme
consider the season
consider the reason you’re reading this wisdom
this wisdom? or is it
something else instead
is it memories of people
who’re already dead
and recounted by fingers
that can sense the unsaid?
My mind is like a house turned sideways.
Nothing inside the house has fallen: the chairs and tables, the appliances on the kitchen counter, the books inside their bookshelves.
And yet; the house is sideways and I am crouching on a window. Beneath me loom the dark, spiky shapes of an unknown backyard.
The sky is probably down there, perhaps a swimming pool, perhaps paving stones and outdoor furniture all maintaining its logical positions in space like the furniture inside the house; but I don’t know.
I try not to look down. I try not to think about the thickness of the glass beneath me. I try not to think about the thinness of the glass beneath me.
My mind is like a house turned sideways. And here I am, held up by a single pane of glass. To fall would be impossible, after all, one does not generally fall sideways. And yet, it is as though the gravity of this place is different for me compared to everything else.
If I move, does the glass vibrate beneath me. If I breathe? I should breathe and yet, my breaths come in shallow, anxious snatches. What if I inhale too deeply and become too heavy for the window to support? What if the glass breaks? What if I tumble out into that sideways-world, that sideways-sky?
There is perhaps a fence down there. A building. Another window. And yet I am certain that if this pane of glass were to break, none of these would catch me. This is my window. The window of my mind. And although I do not recognise it, this is my house turned sideways.
If I fall I will fall into the orbit of the earth and I will sweep through that sky like a satellite. The earth would no longer claim me. My mind would be at the whim of angular momentum, dragged along a separate linearity.
So I remain still. I inhale small breaths. The glass wobbles beneath me–or perhaps I merely imagine that. For the glass yet holds.
The glass does not break.
In this year, a year belonging wholly to itself… which is to say, a year unlike any other, in the manner in which no year is like any other.
In this year, when the sky fell and we wept for the hole that it left; not only in the sky, but in our hearts.
In this year, when so much was taken, both from within and from without.
In this year, that we have numbered, as we do all others, so as to give it a place in the procession of time.
In this year, of sorrow and discontent, in this assembly of months so fleeting and so endless.
In this year, of truth in which we could no longer hide from hideous reason.
In this year, where we sought and still are seeking some meaning that still eludes us.
We must resolve to keep on seeking, as the thirsty seek for water.
We must hunger for the sustenance that we have not yet found.
We must hope, if only for a moment, in order to let that light in.
That trembling flame, so easily extinguished by the darkness that surrounds us.
We must cherish that light, which has burned in us for all eternity.
A brightness unexpected and absurd when compared against the vastness of the dark.
Let us endure and confess that light, despite the winds that might disturb it.
So that others might see and recognise that it yet burns inside them, also.
And together, a thousand lights, a million, might shine bright enough.
To show the way out of the darkness, not just for one, but for all.
Here he is again, you can hear him coming. Not me–no, no–I am your fearless narrator, I am your friend. But he, well… you’re going to have to make up your own mind.
Jingle-jangle, that’s the sound he makes and a whoosh as the runners of his sled carve through the snow and there is another sound, like muffled thunder, the sound of hoof beats.
“Ho ho ho!” he cries into the night and his eyes twinkle. He is omniscient, this figure all-in-red, he sees all and so he does not need to be told.
And his rugged, majestic beasts convey his sleigh through the winter’s night, a night frozen both in temperature and time, for neither of these things affect him. He sees everything. He travels everywhere. His is an ancient and eldritch magic.
Beside him, resting on the bed of the sleigh, is a gigantic sack. And the sack moves as though living things are trapped inside it, clamouring to get out. It is a disconcerting sight, but do not worry, it is simply the contents of the sack wrestling against the limitations of Euclidean geometry.
What I am trying to say is, the sack is bigger on the inside and this causes it to behave in such a way that can make it appear like it is pulsing, at times, like a gigantic human heart.
“Ho, ho, ho!” the man repeats and he tugs on the reins indicating that his beasts of burden should slow. He has come to a house at the very edge of the forest, a house resting in the shadows of the trees.
And now he exits the sleigh, one heavy boot at a time. The sack he slings across his shoulder and he stomps towards the house. Crunch, crunch.
There is a carrot on a plate on the doorstep and the old man frowns at it and kicks it away. He enters the house between the cracks in the wood, through a process referred to in some realms as thinning. Then, inside, he is whole again. He is whole and he is fat and his feet stomp loudly on the floorboards.
There, a mug of mead has been left out for him. The candle beside it burns low, the pool of melted wax glows. The old man drinks the mead, but it is not to his taste. Besides there was barely any mead in the cup at all, what a pitiful offering.
In the corner of the room there stands a tree, and the tree at least, hewn fresh from the forest in its infancy is almost satisfactory to the man in red. He goes to the tree and he brushes his fingers through the needles of the foliage.
There is only one stocking this year, though last year this very same house had three. It is hung up beside the tree, hanging from a loose thread from a nail on the wall.
The old man reaches into the sack and a thousand tiny hands clasp and claw at him. He shakes them away and removes a large lump of coal. This he tosses against the wooden floor, where it comes to rest at the base of the tree.
And then the old man passes back through the walls. He thins himself and then climbs back atop his sleigh. For those asleep in the house, this is but one night, but for the man in red it is his ever-existence. For him it is always this night, or the next one, or the next one. His existence is bound to the rituals of this night and this season.
Tidings of joy.
“Ho, ho, ho!” the old man says and grasps the reins.