The night carried no poetry within its blackening shadows—only the absence of certainty of my cause, and the dream which served as my lone guiding light. I wandered beneath my mother’s words, whispering them to myself over and over again, debating the specter of their implication. Yet what was certainty or even doubt in such a place as this, where lunacy slept with truth to create loping chimeras of fact and fiction? My family was silent on the matter, ignoring anything that did not require their refined attentions. They preferred dreams of endless savagery, where their appetites were given no limit and their prey was endless and sundry. To them, the matters of cause and consequence were tasteless fare, things that neither scream or die.
Of course, their simplicity could be taken as sublime. Their path through life, and now undeath, was metered only by the purest distillation of their ultimate purpose—killing. They were free to be what they wanted to be, consolidated beyond the surplus of life and limb, perfected to the execution of their truest desire. They had become art. It’s what they chose for themselves, and as an artist I obliged them. Theirs was an enviable, if completely insular, state of unyielding contentment. Yet such a state was not enough for me. I never wanted to be the colors that stained the canvas, nor even the brush that danced across the void—I wanted to be the hand that moved the brush.
I walked without care, dead voices guiding me where they would. There were ghosts everywhere, tethered in death as much by ethereal chains as by the earthly trappings that caused their passing. While not directly visible or detectable in any conventional sense, I could feel them with me beneath the shadows, their silence as distinct as a lone rose in a vase of orchids. There was something else as well, deep beneath the place, teeming with a combined number of ululations, calling out from the blind spot of my silence and shade.
There was also the other, a behemoth beyond the stillness of abandoned cities, gliding just on the other side of sanity, its protean outline pressing against my steadier thoughts, displacing them. I rather disliked the idea of it being an angel, as it implied a rigid order to the numbering of things and an exchange of freedom for compliance. However, I was confident the title was cursory, merely the name it assumed within a particularly dry moment of wit and whimsy. Their goal—the madmen under the darkness and the lunatic angel lurking the other side of sensibility—was to rid me of the girding dream that held me together, caused me to resist the world before my eyes on behalf of the one behind them. No mean feat, by any standard.
I had only just begun to test the emptiness of a nearby hallway when strange yellow light drizzled down from above. Small corroded bulbs recessed into the ceiling struggled to stay lit, some desperately trying to fizzle out while others blazed with an otherworldly radiance. The obnoxious chirp of an intercom system filled the silence, its crackling static mixing with the stillness and shadow.
Words splattered like blood from the speaker system. “Donald, here’s a thought. What if the banality and artifice of this life is reflected, even intensified, within death? I’m not speaking of some spiritual Hell, mind you, but a mindless provisioning for reality’s pointless reproduction and continuance—where the doldrums of daylight and dogcatchers hum along like Amish butter churns, holding up the universe within their respectively drab and dour turns.
“All the while, the appearance of a life that can be lived is the real dream. The only dream. A single solitary mercy, however unintentional, whispered into the machine. A secret without anyone to tell. And to wake from that kindhearted hallucination is to tumble into the gears of the dullard machine that makes the world. But it isn’t even a machine, is it? No, a machine needs a creator and a purpose. This place has been here forever, eternally meaningless in all directions. Perhaps that’s why she told you such beautiful lies, Donald—to keep you from looking down, so you could do all her dirty work without reluctance or reflection. God only knows what she’s really using you for. You should thank her, though. She armed you with far better fabrications than most humans receive. Regrettably, when you finally open to that dream of yours, that lie she told you, and its mechanical guts spill out all over the place...
“Of course, there’s one way out, a loose thread in the tapestry of nuts and bolts—go mad with us, Donald. It’ll keep you off the conveyer belt. Once we let you in on the joke, you’ll never stop laughing. My goodness you’ll laugh, Donald. At life and death and pain and suffering and dreams and dread… and that terrible liar you once considered your mother. Go on, pull the string and watch the world come undone. Perhaps if enough of us lose our marbles, the world will stop spinning altogether. That’s not so different from what you want, now is it Donald?”
I would have been happy to respond to that feat of verbal contortion with a well-articulated rebuttal, but the angel wasn’t interested in my response, only my attention. Attention that should have been spent far more wisely, watching where I was going.
Abandoned towers, however reinforced by the smoldering bones of ageless insanity, do not get any sturdier with time and neglect. And my being a rather large individual didn’t help things when I placed my foot upon a section of the floor that could nary support a draught, let alone my weight. Granted, the moment was entirely scripted—the fall, the jagged bones of the dead lining the pit of my descent (a wonderful bit of flourish, that) and my being partially flayed by them as I tumbled.
There exist some wonders that even I never want to see again, assuming one can ever truly see the same thing twice. What I saw, after my fall was cushioned by a surprisingly soft mattress, was the complete and utter cancelation of stolid sanity. I was upon what appeared to be an endless bed stained with the blood, urine and vomit that prolonged madness oft evokes from its hosts. I was not alone—punctuating the infinite length and breadth of this bed were lunatics of all stripes, one no less insane than another for their differences.
Some were strapped down, others held by chains, still others the prisoners of torture devices—these were only a fraction of the means by which they were held fast. Each of the crazed were inhumanly contorted. Their muscles, through ceaseless attempts to express the inexpressible, had completely reshaped the landscape of their physiques and faces, creating madness in body as well as mind. Unique to each was the sound they emitted, representing their specific species of infirmity—laughing, crying, screaming, squealing, begging. Suffice to say, it was an ungodly sound. I’d never heard anything remotely like it.
Rising from the center of the bed, should it have had one, lunacy sprang eternal and incarnate—the Angel of Madness itself, Deleriael. It was a cyclone of pure consolidated contradiction, a prowling paradox that uttered insanity through each pore of its fluctuating body. It physically resolved each statistic of known psychology into an eruption of volcanic nonsense, a form beyond my mind’s immediate ability to understand or accept, let alone appreciate.
The angelic master of the bed was also strapped to the mattress. However, many of its manacles had already been broken, and a great number of leather straps seemed poised on the cusp of snapping. All of this I took to be a physical metaphor concerning the creature’s progress at returning to the world, each chain and buckle a symbol for the intervening layers of reality that had already fallen to the master of madcaps.
I was about to try my luck at finding the edge of the bed, when Deleriael freed another of its many limbs from a stout chain and howled at me, “I’m tired of asking you, Donald! So now I’m telling you! GO MAD WITH US!”
I was instantly made flush with the bed as legions of viperous straps wrapped tightly around me, pulling me into its stained folds. I heard the awful memory of my mother’s confession creeping closer to recollection, her once distant words growing like feral tumors. Implications like monsters began to titter and harrow my every thought. I needed to escape.
Then I saw it, the door out—the escape from damning revelation, and beside it the Angel of Madness, politely holding it open.
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