Tuesday, February 19, 2008
WI: Time Travel
(OK. Onward and upward. Here is the ending of a much longer story of mine...time is traveling backward. Martin Redraven is reading from an ancient copy of Whitman's Leaves of Grass.)
In towns he sat among half-naked people who spoke a soft slurred language he couldn't understand. He unwrapped the leather book and read aloud to them, and small groups of people followed him when he moved on. When he stopped to rest, Redraven drew for them with a stick in the sand the circular Road of Life, the Path of the Sun as it had been shown to him: winter solstice and summer solstice, death and birth. Placing the stick in the center of the circle he rotated the point from left to right.
"A-ho-liiii," he sang. "A-ho-liiii. All universes are one universe, all worlds are one world, all men are one man...." Wherever he went the people followed him, always far behind, but always there. They called him "Wa-Ya-Nez-Ga-Ni," elder brother.
They came, in the shimmering heat of summer, to a parched place of many rocky caves, where rose a small, silver dome-shaped frame, the shell of the nose cone of a small abandoned rocket. Inside the blackened cone they dug a shallow pit and lined it with hot rocks. The purifying heat rose in a cloud of seething steam. Drained of energy and shining with perspiration, Redraven was given a necklace of eagle feathers.
They led him to another place where scavenger birds perched on the splintered fence posts surrounding an old cemetery. They stopped at a newly opened grave. In the pit, among hot embers placed inside and covered with wet spruce boughs, lay an old man, stripped naked and lightly wrapped in a blanket. The old man screamed hoarsely and rolled his head from side to side. After a time, they lifted him out of the grave, unrolled the blanket and gave him a drink of herb medicine. The old man whimpered mindlessly and picked at the blanket until they held the cup again to his lips. "Shik'a anilyeed," the old man cried out. "Help me."
"Nika lishyeed," another said, holding the cup for him. "I am helping you, sani, old one."
"Niseya, naashdaal," the old man smiled. "I went, and I returned. I go back."
* * * *
The road went on. The brushy hills were somehow familiar, but there was nothing to indicate a city had been here. The city ought to have been close, but there was nothing. Redraven stopped in a patch of shade and looked around. He backtracked to the hilltop, walked back and forth, squinting against the sun, and he thought he saw smoke rising in the distance. He followed the smoke.
"Good morning," Radraven spoke to the woman squatting in the dust outside her tent. The smoke from her fire lifted and dropped with the wind. Inside the tent opening Redraven saw racks of drying skins, baskets and tobacco bags. He said, "I am Martin Redraven. I am looking for someone, a boy called Joseph. He is my son."
"What is his name?"
"Joseph Redraven. His mother was called Aniid. Do you know of him?"
The woman shrugged and nodded, directing him toward a small white building. Redraven walked swiftly toward the building, half-fearing to arrive at last at that which he had come so far to find. One child lost. One tiny soul. His child.
He went up two steps to the high narrow double door with a brass knocker. White paint cracked and flaked about the brass circle. It was a school, a sort of school. He heard the choir of voices reciting inside before he touched the door. He waited a moment, listening. Then he could wait no longer. He opened the heavy door without knocking and stepped into darkness. A voice asked, "Who is there?"
A small, soft-bellied, stoop-shouldered fellow with gray hair and a stubbly gray beard met him at the door.
"Thank you, Arthur. You may return to your seat." A tall figure came down the aisle between the pupils, who sat quietly upon the floor. Little specks of dust fell softly in the gray light that filtered through the dusty windows. Redraven's blood pounded in his ears. "Good morning, Sir. May I help you?" A priest with thick eyebrows and hair cut off squarely at his stiff collar spoke. "Redraven, you say? Yes, Oh, yes. I know him well. Come in." Redraven stepped into the gray room. The priest's beads rustled in the folds of his dark robe. There was a confusion of whisperings. "The boys are always excited when someone comes." He called, "Joseph, come here."
Joseph started up nervously and approached them. His long slender legs were thin as a spider's. His back was bent and his head was bald but for a feathering of white about his ears. His chin trembled apprehensively.
"Joseph, this man says he is your father."
Joseph did not look surprised. He smiled shyly and put out his hand. Redraven took it in his own. At last he understood: a word, a glimmer of light broke in his mind. The Path of the Sun, the Road of Life, the Return. Time was variate, everlasting inflow and everlasting outflow, encircling all that had been, and was, and would be. The singer in his shirt sleeves, the Kosmos of the Book, had known it eons before, singing of the universe as a road, as many roads, for traveling souls circling like space itself--past, present, and future, not separate, but interlaced.
On the way out, with Joseph's hand still in his own, Martin Redraven caught a glimpse of himself in a square of mirror with a crack across the glass: dark young cheeks, and heavy black hair, truly black, as Geronimo's would one day be, as Ten Bear's, and Chochise's and Montezuma's would be.
* * * * *
In the dawn they lay together upon a sheepskin, Redraven's hand upon Aniid's breast. His eyelids flickered in the light. The air around them was warm and damp. She was here. He loved her more deeply than any person before or since. He did not ask how she came here, but smiled, and touched her cheek with his lips. She smiled as he covered her body with his own. "Nelikaah. Bohoneedza." The song in his head: We are on our way back. It is good,"
It began, the return, the ballet and pulse of first-being. The brown infant lay alone and naked upon a yellowing sheepskin, with the buzzing of flies thick above him. He cried, a feeble, steady cry. He urinated and the droplets landed on his belly and dribbled slowly down towards his back. He wiggled a little, and stopped crying. The droning of insects became a deep drowning hum. He slept, and the colored prismatic images that passed briefly across his eyes became a dark red.
He awakened floating freely in bouyant fluid,turning lazily from side to side, head over heel. His fingernails disappeared into the nailbeds of his fingers. His bones softened. The palate separating his mouth and nose divided, his ears moved downward. His toes curled, and fanned, and disappeared. The fragile jelly that was his fingers disappeared into the plate of his hand. The soft, red bubbling noises grew fainter to his diminishing ears. The morula shrank from three dozen cells to the mulberry cluster, and the cluster leaped to one throbbing cell: it's name was TOKPELA, endless space, without beginning, or end, or time. A benediction.
(From: The Stars as Sheep, the Void as Grass)