The dream seemed to have been badly damaged, forsaken to the hungers of time and purpose, just a body anchored in brambles, barely resisting the pull of surging currents. Nonetheless, I began to see a unity despite its sundered parts, the fusion of subjects enabled by the monochrome of an ancient photograph, a web of infinite connection. The place was a rusted hacksaw laid against chains, pacing across lusterless iron, wheezing with every effort. It was a sincere effort, if a bit overwrought. The madness seemed in a rush, trying to beat the clock, win some kind of race. Or perhaps that’s just the way it appeared to a mind too long denied the fresh air of a proper dream. Either way, the place was entirely delightful.
The nowhere-world had passed the torch of light to another and equally unconventional form of illumination. Gone was the freestanding shaft of broken daylight—in its stead, a brilliant rain, liquescent fireflies falling like tiny comets from an uncertain sky. I cursed myself for trying to deduce its nature and function, realizing I’d been too well fed upon the doldrums of solid worlds. I lifted my face into the sky’s offering, allowing the rivulets of light passage into the deep scars of my face, filling my smile with flowing fire. I summoned forth my sisters, their own smiles set ablaze. The journey was its own destination—another unity, another mystery.
I soon glimpsed a structure in the distance, a huge house soaring unstoppable against the falling sky. Its uppermost portions were visible despite their impossible height, slipping the limitations of ordinary spectacle. Wonderfully, this was not a glorious house of grand design, but an aggregation of dilapidated tenement buildings, a beautifully endless complex of apartments.
As I approached the spiraling marvel, I alighted upon the cracked stone of a narrow walkway. The path led into and around a forest of crooked property markers, broken birdbaths, and close-packed hordes of tacky lawn ornaments. At last, I stood before the building, beneath a second rain—pinwheeling paint chips, cast off from the curdling exterior of the towering hovel. The wind narrowed to a whisper, allowing a single, contrasting note of air to sound out the appropriate awesomeness of the moment. In its turn, stepping out from behind the thin curtain of sound, came the relentless creaking of the rambling monolith, the unsteady balance of countless buildings standing atop each other’s rickety shoulders. I drew as close to the structure as I could without losing sight of its swaying top, enjoying how it conducted my vision into the boundless sky, my sight pulled into forever. Looking back over the path I’d followed to arrive at such a marvel, I watched as the ghost of the glowing rain rose again as a softly radiant mist, threatening shapes wandering its dimly visible interior. It was only this spectre of violence that at last caused my father to stir from his rest. Yet I was in no mood for the distraction of bloodshed—the spire called.
The place admitted me without resistance, the large door atop a teetering, rotting porch swinging open upon barely solid moorings. The heady odor of melancholy tumbled beyond the threshold. The wood of the lobby was so soft it felt like carpeting beneath my footsteps. The surrounding walls wore their water damage like museum art, each tone of orange and brown expertly laid into their death and the consequent birth of mold. Failing pillars of counterfeit alabaster barely hefted the cathedral ceiling above my head. They had failed altogether in numerous places, spilling the guts of the second floor across the fungal floor. The discount simulacrum of a Grecian lobby contrasted wonderfully the unapologetic cheapness of the succeeding rooms, each more wonderfully warped than the previous. The barely perceptible lights were like the gray stars of some forgotten, dilatated sky, hanging limply atop clouds of meandering dust. Faint sounds of movement, television game shows, and domestic disputes dripped down from beyond dense barriers of water-swollen support beams and mold-fattened insulation. Every inch the miserable glory of abandoned things, the idols of truest depression, the art of despair—all of it squeezed into a single, infinite dung-hole.
After only a few exquisite moments of exploration, the lights began to flutter, lilting into near darkness and dimming into sallow bleakness, a fruiting corpse smeared across dissolving walls. I hoped the effect foreshadowed some wonderful event, a brief distraction to buy the next performance time for a proper showing. I was not, it turned out, disappointed.
Within moments of the flickering, a vast emptiness overcame the atmosphere, a clearing out of unseen spaces for the facilitation of a massive predator, a kind of living melancholy. It descended upon me through the distilled sadness that comprised the kingdom of apartments. It was the sum of all tears gone hopeless and dry in their ducts, inscrutable for their infinite smallness, an elemental of purest failure. I could feel it grasping desperately at quite particular parts of my mind, if not my soul, seeking out what most resonated with its highly selective dietary needs. Fortunately, I am not a despairing creature, nor am I one to hold onto my failures—so I offered little by way of sustenance.
I was about to chide my invisible attacker over the futility of its quest, when it finally managed a handhold somewhere within the thoroughly broken parts of me. What afforded the scrabbling sorrow its traction appeared to be a bit of submerged memory. The recollection was rigid and cold, like the touch of a machine god. I could feel it approaching realization with the determination of a bloated corpse returning to the water’s surface. And so, I departed one lost memory for another, more deeply recessed remembrance.
I found myself in a familiar darkness, beneath a terrible storm. Thunder and lightning surged across the blackened sky. Mother lay dead in my arms, her blood hot upon my tongue. It was not the copper of ordinary blood, but the sweet fire of roses and secrets, all of it burning quietly behind my lips. The flesh of her heart glided down the back of my throat . . .
That’s when I realized the Vanishing Nowhere was true to its name, not some kind of battered dream. It was a vision on the cusp of being entirely forgotten, filling itself up with anything that might weigh it down, to keep it from the jaws of nothingness. My buried shame was nothing but a flailing lifeline for the grasping, and I was in far more danger than I knew.
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