The Other Asterion

The day is always too short. It’s auburn hair – flowing wide and long, growing, floating – blinds you to dream with eyes open until it turns its head away; until you drown.

Walk away. Walk over the yellow leaves, scattered, staring from the brown encrusted soil below. Faces veiled will reveal themselves. Twigs stoop low, scratching the knees. The lamps outside the fourteen ash- coloured pillars of the house burst. Bright, yellow shards of light fly past like bronze swords hurled, swiped clean and dry of Red ages ago. A light blue entails; scathing the flesh, swerving past the grass. You walk.

The shimmer on the ocean is usually momentary. It’s a sheet of steel glinting under the dark, full moon sky tonight; heaving loud sighs, bulging and falling against the wind, roaring and whistling all along. The village is ruined.  It’s air was filled with your mysterious powers. They were of the past; no one dares to cross the wild pine forests and reach your side of the ocean now. You could’ve been long dead if they hadn’t known that you weren’t one to age. Words were spilled only when one was on the death bed. Those were the days they got to learn about you – the whole of the village stooping over a dying man’s bed, clinging to his last words. It was Suprus who started the tradition. His skin sagging with the burden of his long endured secret, head thrown back on the pillow, he wondered how that sight had led him to waste his entire life and spat it out. There is no fear in a dying man and thus, the ones who had the misfortune of witnessing one of your spells waited for that moment and grasped and held on to it until they could let themselves free. You could have made the odd ones out by just looking at them. They walked with their feet shuffling too close, their bodies stinking, their heads muddled and faces contorted. Some said you made them mad so they cannot be taken seriously. Some totally disbelieved in your presence but all of them were united by fear. More than a hundred years ago, Suprus saw you scraping a hole in a lone tree by the ocean with your bare hands and teeth. He took you for a lunatic at first – like they all did – but when he walked over and by the time he reached, the hole was complete and then he saw your face, before running frantically for his life.

The Queen saw you again only nine years ago. She was there to accept you. Waiting for you in the forests she spent her nights hoping for just a glimpse of her child. When the rumours swelled and stank in the fields, her heart bloated and rosined.  You never showed up from your hole in the tree. Months passed. She had just walked over before you emerged from the sea. Clouds of smoke formed on the utterance of your name were to last longer than her life and they slithered out into the night cradling her soul. She had not known all there was to know. You started a fire and started flattening your soles over it; uneven from birth.

Tonight, the village was ruined. Tonight, the lamps outside the fourteen pillars of the house burst. Miles and miles away, you can almost see the twelve busts they erected of you over the palace exploding one by one. The one in Red doesn’t. Your tree, your house, is flung far away by the storm. The waves of the oceans all over the universe are made to rise and swirl, higher and higher, until they can no longer penetrate the skies above but fall down with a splash wreaking havoc. Cassiopeia flies away on her chair; its rusted legs falling down in fragments placidly. There is enough Time. There is always enough time.

Far north, you imagine Theseus, the Redeemer, seeping into the middle of the ocean and burying himself forever. What he had been like, you wonder. Was he bull or man? Could he have been possibly a bull with the face of a man? Or was he like you?

 

What will you do now, Asterion?

Where will you go?

 

See also: The House of Asterion by Jorge Louis Borges

 

Sliver

Grey clouds with a sputter of faint light beyond cracks float steadily on ashen water. Shining and opaque. A rectangular depthless coast lines the flat fields, widening to a darker horizon. An interplay of lights ensues an onyx sky weighing down.

Beneath, a heavily wrinkled palm spreads out.

An eye, grey, half-buried in endless crinkly folds bears down on the alleys of the crumbling desert. To shut its dusty hardcover rowed with sounds and lies. Put to dust the bare twigs and limbs parading the final order of a vanishing world.

Light

It was a weird creature with two left hands, one right and a fishtail in place of legs.  Bathed in pure white light, it seemed to lure and then soak all of it leaving dark and ugly patches with irregular shapes aside. Because of all that light, it came across as a silhouette. There possibly could be nothing more alluring than this whimsical form which left everything around it fizzle down to a blur. As I watched on from a fair distance, the harmless creature increased in size incredibly. The white of it against the black now pierced my eyes. The arms got bulkier. The ones on the left left no space even for a sheet of air to squeeze through and were undoubtedly getting conjoined. The right one swelled larger than the two on the left which, in fact, no longer were two. As they constantly grew larger in size, they seemed to flatten out now or maybe it was because of the light. Ever so gracefully, the arms took the form of wings with the growth multiple times than a moment before. The tail too had turned magnanimous. The creature was calm or was it the sedative process of evolution that was going to betray all anticipators and optimists by creative a monster and not God and that made it look calm now? By the look of it, it could’ve been calm and careless as their Gods but it also could’ve been really determined. Even fuelled by a strong and clean motive to destruct. The form had now ceased to grow. It appeared it could grow no longer, no larger. The ugly patches around seemed to have been perforated and much out of them had managed to endure the light, seeming to discharge from the creature now and not from the sun beyond, had turned grey and were fast receding. Blots of light now tore apart from the wings and the tail and the whole body of the massive giant and swallowed the ugliness of its counterpart. They were getting rid of even a miniscule grain of dirt and fought amongst themselves to increase in size before one joined the other and made it more powerful. The initially massive form was no longer to be found as it had now innumerous of those torn out of its own skin fighting for space and yes, light.

Just the next moment a mad wind blew and shockingly there was nothing else then to be seen or found except, obviously, a clear blue sky.

 

Portrait: Horselover Fat

Pictures flit across his mind. Holding a frosty, opal drink made out of nothing, he picked up bits of un-stringed, clutter – some sounds made in green, dark rooms under a slinking layer of narcotic haze; conflated arguments over pop – psychology, overrated suicides and other crimson faff.  It had been 28 hours since day had struck. The wires were giving out and people had started crouching outside on the porches, sweating from the stifling underbelly heat of the land. Just then, in the second floor of an inclined wooden block by the street, his head pressed to one of the walls of the room, Fat had a stroke. It was anamnesis. And it had struck him thrice in the forty three years of his non – existence.

Drink

They return to the park in the evening. Dirty, pale, scurry-eyed, claws digging into mud, heads thrown back, limbs arabesque, someone gasps across pale fires gyrating atop metallic poles in the thick of the night. The dirt is as thick as the fog. The winter chimes in the bones pricking out and the animals get butchered in the stables in their own piss and froth. At the junction of the alleys choked with overflowing drains and stink and wrapper, a few men stagger drunk, screaming obscenities. The pitch is no feat at night. Wails jump no meridian.

Shrill

You cannot encapsulate oriental dungeons or palatial cubicles through windows that open to the street. The street spouts gourds of spirit that rise from its holes. The wind twists gargoyles to dust under cold embers of the night. A sheet of shadows flutters and descends on withered trees and decrepit bodies rotting in files.

Bury the stone. Scratch the rock. Hack the night and let its igneous molt flow.

You take a piece of bare, sterile land, and you roll some big hollow stones on to it. Inside those stones, smells are held captive, smells which are heavier than air. Now and then you throw them out of the window into the streets and they stay there until the winds tear them apart. In bright weather, noises come in at one end of the town and go out at the other, after going through all the walls; at other times, they go round and round between these stones which are baked by the sun and split by the frost.

 

– Jean-Paul Sartre, Nausea.

Portrait: JLB

It was when Borges transcended the state of eternal stillness locked in the image of standing upon a fleeting staircase, exploring the intricate labyrinthine possibilities of existence, did he learn that in order to become immortal, he’d have to first turn into a frog.

In the darkness abetted by his enfeebled eyesight, he turned to his memory for aid. He rummaged and wore books; traversed through myths and reason, religion and wars. He walked with kings, tribes, slaves, philosophers, theologians, thieves, pimps, murderers, dream tigers and always, a recurring glazed, gold-rimmed mirror.

Hunger

The city is a young boy standing in the middle of a road stretching far and wide joining the flyovers, highways and gardens to the prairies, mountains, oceans and reaching beyond. A station lies eastward at a distance, the lines passing from behind. Every hour or so, a goods train mostly bearing wood for the paper and coal for the fire from the nearby villages and towns passes by; the engine hissing, slowed down to let a metallic screech pierce the evening air, muffled by the regressive rumble of the wheels, headed toward a harbour parallel to the station. From the street one could hear the trucks start once loaded with the heavy logs and innumerable sacks of coal and cement and all that the train brings from the other world. The labourers squatting by the crossing, smoking hand-rolled tobacco or playing cards, jump up at the first whistle of the train and tying up their turbans, rush to the station.

 

Along South, on both sides of the street loom weak and discoloured old buildings, sighing out their nostalgia from a coarse surface. An old businessman, forty to fifty of age, returning home from office- the formal shirt still tucked in, the shoes not having lost all its shine from the morning – remarks the cab driver of it being one of the first establishments of the city. Kids pass the cab on their way out from the buildings, guffawing aloud, hysterically and complacently with a chewing gum between their teeth. Men in groups of four to five stand at the bus-stop smoking cigarettes or eating from the stalls. The ones behind them sweat profusely in undershirts from the heat of their stoves. The automobiles rush about; their headlights flashing hitherto, horns sounding like trumpets blowing in a local wedding. Like the one taking place a few miles ahead on the very road. Trumpets, like the ones blown at the procession, a few miles ahead on the very road.

 

Meanwhile, the widow on the fifth floor of the first block to the boy’s left props a chair into the balcony and sits down to pick at and squash lice from her neighbour’s daughter’s head. On the ground floor in a narrow lane passing by, the barber brushes an old razor against the leather belt hung on a nail driven in a wall of his ghetto 13 years ago; in the same manner he has been doing it for as many or even more years. Westward from where the boy stands, at a great distance, bright garlands of colourful bulbs can be seen hanging low creating an almost clamour of lights. Young men with heads raised high plead and beg with the whores for a bargain; another day spent, another night awaited. Junkies flit about in their dirty, grim jackets with different shoes on each feet – one’s brothers and sisters and lovers from their salad days, neither recognize. Beggars lie slumped in corners, making clamour-some noises with a plate and a bowl, once in a while, even in their sleep. Drunkards curse and act drunk and sleep and be loud and wail and moan on the streets.

 

No one hears the boy sing anymore. No one cares enough. The boy, in the same voice, has been singing for how many years now no one knows for no one is old enough. No one remembers their ancestors’ talk about the boy for nobody believes enough. No one knows where he came from. No one cares when he doesn’t go, eat or sleep. They pass by him, alone, in a group, with a mob, in their vehicles, in the trucks, in the trains. They pass by, they pass through. No one even sees him except for a drunkard on a late night afraid of stones being peddled at for waking the world to this marvel. No one sees him. No one hears him. But the boy still sings. Not excusing a single quiver or change in the tone or the pitch he sings continuously, all days and nights. The song never repeats, never ends. It progresses slowly and slowly and it has been happening for so long now that it must have become the song of the whole universe, which the world doesn’t hear only because it is totally consumed by it, living it and swaying to its every single note and rhythm without knowing it. He sings the song, the liveliest and otherwise indefinable of all, that no one hears.

 

The city is a young boy standing in the middle of the road, singing, without restraint, without a care of its own.

 

The world, now an old man immersed in absolute darkness of the nights belonging to the universe, his song broken down to silent whispers and cackles and screams, everyone hears in their dreams not one understands, like ever before, and the deepest and the loudest and the saddest of his wails and howls ricochet and die down inside, within the emptiness of his own flesh, unheard, unfreed.