I’m on the topside of the slide. In the throat, at the threshold of revelation, making an inventory of everything I see. Mineral deposits in the sink, loud graffiti on the walls. Urinal cakes emit the chemical scent of agent-orange flowers. There’s one fogged up window, a small toilet stall and three large tubes where urinals should be, wide enough to crawl through, to sit upright, to kneel, like the ones that vent air in hospitals, rise out of the roof and bend at right angles in the open air.
Flowing through corridors of familiar institutions. A toilet flushes in another part of the building. The sound draws nearer, impossibly close, trickling down the inside of my skull. I put my ear to the wall. Water falls along the long axis of my body and passes through the floor, dragging my bladder, seized in an uncontrollable urge to urinate. I step foot forward toward one of the tubes, tugging at my waistband in preparation of a flood.
Threading consciousness through the eye of a needle poked myself to see if I’m alive and bled; it’s the game over threat of living my final life. I can’t remember anything too specific. There’s a game we play in there. Its name incommunicable and keeps us coming back to find it. Once inside it’s easy to forget where I am. I come and go as I please, but never stay in either place for long. Commanding attention to bring information back with great effort to recall, contents of a room itemized in the dark behind eyes, before eyes, how they evolved in response to other eyes because there’s something out there watching us. Detects me beyond the threshold, across the placenta-like partition wall.
Waterslides in auxiliary hospital washroom, the janitor rushes in, tries to stop me. Wants me to pay a toll. I put my hand in my pocket. Feel the small, hard shapes of coins fizzle into non-existence like seltzer tablets. “I don’t have any money,” hands held out, palms up, universal sign for no money, but he keeps coming. Blue dickies morphing into form-fitting policeman’s blues, big black boots rapidly outstripping the size of his feet sinking into a grid of floor tiles as the room closes in, curling into n-dimensional space (anything above 4 presenting difficulties to physical objects so accustomed to occupying the more or less flat Euclidian plane) some kind of hyper-dimensional construct experiencing a break down or contradiction, as in the same matter occupying the same space. The skin of reality come peeling off to reveal the operations behind smooth exterior walls made more permeable to waves, light. The whole building, save for the roof, visible from any point inside or out, openwork steel girders bowed like the struts of a barrel or cask. While what should be the static, immovable fixtures of an institutional washroom—mirror, urinal, stall—shift with every angle of my approach, disappearing and appearing halfway up the wall and on into velvety darkness; the limit of programmable space. Blacked out to hide the deep structure of things I am used to seeing (or not seeing) here inside the box. Not even objects or shapes, just atoms, bonded in electrical night: the dark interior of a machine’s head tuned to a quiet station, nothing, not even cosmic background radiation nothing. ‘Nothing’ as far as I can conceive of nothing, but that may be something to something else, unable to raise my eyes higher than the top of the wall and the drop ceiling.
Footsteps echo in layered delay of no-time, hard and wet; assumes a grating, industrial sound.
The janitor reaches out to grab me.
I give him the slip—slide through one of the tubes.
Pop out in the poplar grove.
Behind the mirror is a room. A screen hanging from the roof displays the poplar grove in two-dimensional interactive computer game interface from the eighties. Something watches the screen, images of me as a stick man strolling through the knit graphics of a softwood forest. Flame leaves forever on the verge of exploding into pure colour. Tandem-walking on two legs, dragging my shadow, lagging along behind me.
Trees thin out to a field of tall grass. I wade through with swimming motions of my arms, sweeping the ground for rocks, holes, obstacles in my path. Emerging at the edge of a precipice where I join or am joined by, ‘the teacher’. Manipulating the environment through metaphors. Parallax prospectus of mental pictures pro specere the future. Flipping through photographs held up to the sky, taken from different angles, heights, POV of a bird in flight.
Rainbow waterfalls from spout in the sky, wellspring at headwaters of cloud pitcher pouring milk through cleft columns where sky meets earth. Beading off leaves and rocks finding fissures contiguous through cracked and uneven slabs of stone. Flowing in the dark undetected until it bursts forth into the worn crease of a stream, rushing toward the heart—center of the mandala. Shared affinity with municipal drains, crossed X streams, the one taking on the burden of the other, burrowing into habitat for humanity; the dank basement of a house built into the side of the mountain.
I feel around in the dark. The cave is dry, just the water sloshing inside my skin suit.
Nobody home. No home should be without a body and nobody without a home. Our bodies and homes are the same sort of thing. Temporary, we’re always moving on. When the second little pig moved out he bought a bundle of sticks and built a house.
The house teeters on the edge of its foundations as if the ground will open up and swallow it. House with the false bottom, digging down; further excavations reveal damp grottos, a parking garage, a skeleton beneath the floor. No one can recapture the psychosis of that place. No one is willing to go to such lengths. Enough to scare even ghosts away. Those with a propensity for such things might call it haunted: the house that haunts the town, the house that haunts itself. A long legacy with the realty company, defunct, de-fucto heap of rubble driving down the value of houses around it, hedges raised to block it from view.
Wake up… and the tragedy that befalls me is my folly.
If I were an animal what would it be?
Sheep. I sleep, enough. Counting. It’s time. Wasted.
I want to wake up in a past locus of time, as a child crying in a twilit room, mom and dad rushing in to tell me it’s alright, that it was only a dream, not a clock or a bomb about to go off…
The radio chirps 6:30 bluebird world report Pacific-standard-time to wake-up. Snoozing through news, weather, traffic, sports. Just over one million civilians… did I hear that or was it part of a dream? I turn off the radio, but the voice is still there. Could be the stereo? No. Must be the fillings in my teeth.
I search the house, haunting, hunting for a place without reception, but it’s hard to find a spot with no signal at all. Data floating around in the cloud until I hit the right place like watching home movies of myself tottering around a destroyed room, camera shifting amoungst the rubble, solastagia in condemned homes so we can’t move out or away. A ghost with no choice of which places to haunt, magnetized to a system of leys free of hunger, disease; supplied only with what a ghost needs, to relive old memories, pine and long for in autochthonic recursion of seasons—resurging streams, recurring dreams.
I crouch in a corner beneath a tall tropical plant.
The chattering stops, but I’m left without a voice in my head.
Just waking up? You should be hearing alarm bells.
If I am to keep this story going I will need to say a few things, otherwise I will roll over and go back to sleep.
Our lives online, games to kill time, games about killing. Blinking, cursor, ready… now there’s a game, its name a secret. Ticket, a token, I took the ride. The stub left in my hand spelling out the last few letters of the word, the name of the game—the other half of the story.
Daniel is a graduate of the Creative Writing program from Vancouver Island University. He is a reader and contributor to the Tongues of Fire reading series and has appeared in The Birds We Piled Loosely, Clockwise Cat, Crack the Spine, Grey Sparrow and the Gyroscope Review. He has written several books (novels), all currently seeking publishers. He lives in Victoria, B.C.