from Albumen

We trust the senses to function at half capacity most of the time, but this trust has not exactly been earned, and when we find ourselves deceived, we throw objects around the room in what might appear to an outside observer as a jealous rage. A tantrum having at its center the fear that we are turned inward on ourselves so thoroughly that we will never be able to escape. The grass grows to the height of the front windows and still we hold ourselves about the knees and whisper oaths that don’t possess the ring of truth. That rely on geographical notation to such an extreme degree, they are likely to be studied in the not-too-distant future by ethnologists and archeologists hoping to secure valuable information about where we lived and why we lived there and why we ultimately disappeared. And sure, these are all questions we should be asking ourselves beforehand, but who has the time, what with the gazing at the stars at night and the long discussions about what we should do with the information we gather? Should we write our observations down or just let them hang in the air like musical tones? Those that originate not in the mind of the musician or even in the belly of his instrument, but in the turning of the wide world itself, the motion that is motion without our ever experiencing it except through the ears. And even then, some people claim you must be deranged in order to receive the full benefit, that this derangement can not be accidental or haphazard. It must be something you accomplish yourself through the use of substances like the exotic powders I frequently keep with me in my jacket pocket. Or simple practice, whichever is most effective. I’m not sure I agree, though, with the majority when it comes to this issue as they have been misled frequently about almost everything, and when I hear what others have referred to as the music of the spheres, what I hear is a kind of grinding like that you might expect when someone is attempting to shift gears on a standard transmission from second to third and gets stuck back in first again for a moment without meaning to. Does this make me unbalanced or am I just simply more attuned to my environment than most because I don’t believe it possesses any reality in itself and must first appeal to my imagination before it can be allowed to exist at all? Does it mean that I am overly fond of those powders I mentioned earlier that taste faintly of garlic and come in packages with inscriptions on them in foreign languages? It seems no two of these packages are adorned in the same language. Each is unique. Some of them even utilize no recognizable alphabet at all -- just pictures of tigers on them, and colobus monkeys and vine-smothered plants all rendered in an unusually delicate hand.

Off in the distance, the mill wheel stands frozen. An emblem of something as yet to be determined. A reminder that all reminders are superfluous. The closer we get to it, the further we are from that state we refer to as euphoria because we don’t know what else to call it. We haven’t any experience in this part of the world and so we necessarily rely on descriptions we have brought with us from home much the same way we brought our livestock and our particular way of tying knots. Under the shelter of the rock overhang, tiny invertebrates scurry about in the moist soil and one can scoop them up by the dozens in one hand. It isn’t wise to do so, though, as they are perfectly capable of protecting themselves with venom. Of course, I enjoy the sound of screaming as much as the next guy so long as that sound is far away. But the plan seems to involve drawing a line nearby and then seeing who might be willing to cross it -- if, that is, anyone can be rustled up to serve in that role. Right now, we are completely alone and have no desire to play the part of adversary ourselves. Not that the part is mandatory or that we wouldn’t do a good job. It’s just that the ground rules seem to have been written up ahead of time, and in haste, so that violating them would no doubt bring about more than just simple forfeiture. Extinction is not too strong a word. Better to hearken back to a time when the air was cold to the touch. It carried with it a promise of romance acceptable even to those who didn’t see themselves as susceptible to that particular set of emotions or circumstances, who didn’t believe they were suited, for instance, to walking hand-in-hand from one ordinary place to another in the company of someone else, who still envisioned a future sitting alone in a chair facing in the direction of the newly-risen sun and drinking from a decorative glass full of absinthe. They were, of course, mistaken, but not in the way you might imagine. They were destined, many of them, for positions of great responsibility on aircraft carriers or sitting atop towers made of glass and steel. For long and unbelievably fulfilling lives spent in the company of people who hadn’t even been born at the time of their original, desolate visions. People who would one day be engaged in delivering their eulogies, in filling those eulogies full of references to Meister Eckhart and those nineteenth-century theosophists who presided over sťances where the furniture rose and rattled about the room on occasion like outsized crabs hoping to get themselves reunited with the surf.

Each day is the day it could dry up completely, the alien voice that issues from your throat at moments when you think you have nothing whatsoever to say. Moments when the adrenalin is flowing due to unforeseen circumstances – ladders leaning suddenly backwards, meteorites passing by so closely overhead you can hear the air expanding. Still, the calendar keeps turning itself over and the phrases add up to numbers beyond counting and those who listen to you, when they are not too busy baking bread or fiddling with their toes which have become rough for some reason at the edges and threaten to turn in on themselves like the reproductive appendages of ferns, think that perhaps you are not the one uttering these things. They are being channeled through you and when you disappear, they will be channeled through someone else more intelligent yet and less likely to crave attention for something he hasn’t actually accomplished. After three or four days living off of whatever happens to land in the vessel – grasshoppers especially which taste a little like popcorn coated in a very thin layer of glass – your mind too would begin to consume itself. You too would see chandeliers in the tops of trees and hear the voices of what you begin to believe are Scandinavian politicians emanating from the empty spaces on either side of the river. The line of reasoning that leads to this conclusion seems clear and consistent enough to convince you of the inevitable truth of the hallucination, but there is something missing. A card with no names on it. Merely a pen and ink rendering of the sun. The inner harmony one experiences when the outside world is conducive to the continued existence of all who inhabit it. I pull the johnboat to shore finally believing that the house on the hill is calling my name, or someone inside it is and to continue downriver would be tantamount to admitting my name no longer belongs to me, that I am no longer worthy of this or any other name because I no longer recognize them. After successfully maneuvering the muddy stretches stitched loosely with cattails and the footprints of any other creature that did so beforehand and then suffered its inglorious fate, I approach the house with a trepidation like that you might feel when the violins and the violas are sawing away at deliberate speed and you can’t tell where that sound is coming from, where it originates. Perhaps the musicians have secreted themselves away in a nearby dwelling and have left the door to it partially open so that the soundtrack they produce is still audible to anyone standing outside the dwelling, but they can’t be seen themselves unless one finds the proper angle, something within a range of, say, two or three degrees and available only to those who are feeling particularly adventuresome. Risking splinters and certainly worse injuries still, they would have to clamber up a pile of castoff planks and bits and pieces of dried shrubbery and other debris stacked up outside the entrance to the dwelling by whoever abandoned it due to economic woes or a violent threat by the neighbors some fifty to one hundred years ago -- this being the best estimate of anyone with a keen eye for architectural detail and a familiarity with the rich oral history of the region in question.

Charles Freeland and Rosaire Appel