Archives for category: literature

Dustless | Volume 16 | The Lover in the Snow [i]

Even an unfixed and unstable star still gives out light.

They seek stability, and yet end up floating.

They seek safety, yet remain insecure.

Is this not the state of life? Wise masters of the eras of the past have said: In ambiguity is immortality — but in certainty, only death.

Never still, and yet asleep, they drift on. Waters of beautiful Adomikan blue, so striking against the whiteness of the winter snows. Long-legged herons, with wings outspread; a swirl of currents, water in water flowing; mist in the morning; and at noon, a sharp cold clarity, good for seeing: a world more ancient than the worlds of humanity. High towers, in the distance, reminders of the empire’s order. Fallen statues, the woods alive with the rumours of ghosts. Lost civilisations.

Trade and passage, barter and debt: work in a day for some; for others, luxury of play to pass the long hours.

An obdurate foe. An exquisite ally.

Delirium. Haunting figures.

A great secret, hidden within the mind. And hidden within the secret, a new world: mysterious, irrational, infinite — Dustless.

%e2%80%a2dustless-fin16

Advertisements

Dustless | Volume 15 | For Pride in Their Flight

…boys chasing dragonflies
are lost in a moment
and their lives are too short
for pride in their flight

A city haunted by a decaying future.

Collapse is everywhere. Many flee. Grappling with failing structures, those who remain live out an uncertain present, their options narrowing, resources dwindling.

Because a heart can be numbered in moments, the citizens sense their fragile state: their famous city grows everyday more precarious. They look anxiously across the great river: from the east, forces approach, a new master rising, bringing a new law, creating an old fear.

For certain visitors, there is no choice: rest must be taken, healing sought, time killed. Although devastation is in progress, days are spent sightseeing the immortal glories of the ancient centre, enjoying the culture even as it falls under the shadow of an approaching end.

Among the Subtle and the wise, it is said: Only those who are able to stand alone can be truly loyal. Yet disorder and extreme events drive even the strongest heroes to surrender their isolation.

In the forges of the Ancient smiths, even the purest metals must give up their qualities, and melt, and blend with alien elements.

Weird alliances are formed: and dear pride compromised away.

Will it be enough? Will it be too much?

Desperation.

%e2%80%a2dustless-fin15

Dustless | Volume 14 | The Governor of the Desolate Cantons

…I will be a bridge to you, and you will be a bridge to me

Where old power breaks down, new power is sought. Where old leaders vanish, new leaders appear. Where old weakness is shown, new strength emerges.

Across cantons known as “the Desolate”, the tenuous order of a negligent regime dissolves. The hollow core collapses: in the ruins, a wild vacuum forms. People flee in disarray, leaving no authority: so strangers arrive, prepared to use violence, and good at it.

These are the days of assassins, the days of rats and crows.

A sleigh of bones, carrying a fairy-tale emperor. A thread of black metal, denying the road. A child made of snow, born from weeping. Wolves! Gloom in the mid-day sun: and at night, on the horizon, the light of an incinerating city apes the dawn.

A great bloodshed: a bloodshed like a sea.

How can such obstacles be crossed? How may we be lifted above them, carried beyond them?

A bridge is needed…

%e2%80%a2dustless-fin14

Dustless | Volume 13 | River direction

…the universe power round device time fail I speak it dust enters decay must follow replace the universe power round device time fail I speak it dust enters decay must follow replace the universe power…

They come at last to a place of imperial power, where the eye of the emperor sees, and his soldiers guard the Way.

In a fortress of voices, where it is said there are no ghosts, aid is sought, and the release from burdens.

They witness strange technology at work, devices that pull apart the curtains of the flesh, revealing the play of organs and the show of pain: the visible is made invisible, and vice versa.

A journey is a thing made, a house built of footsteps, a temple raised on riding horses. But the building of the journey can’t be seen, except as a trail of hoof prints in freshly fallen snow, coins and receipts handed over, towels and bedding to be washed, wisps of breath vaporizing in the freezing air…

For those engaged on a journey, all places become a function of direction: once reached, any destination must be left behind; and thus at once sets out on its transformation into memory — a material that cannot be touched and cannot last.

Day after day, the journey renders its world and itself invisible, and the travellers go on, drawn to the west, where a great city and a great river awaits.

%e2%80%a2dustless-fin13

Dustless | Volume 12 | Mask [iv]

Oh, well – what is their world, after all…? Look at it. A thing of make-believe and shallows, when all is said and done.

At the turning of the year, great festivities. The eating of rich foods, drinking of fine spirits, the gathering of large crowds: pyrotechnics, processions and the putting on of shows.

Under the bright lights of the ceremony, we are dressed in our finery, display our best appearance, and perform for each other: we stage the end of a dying year, the start of a new play and a new season.

Across the entire empire, village streets, town squares, city plazas, all are changed to theatre, and people let go of their ordinary lives, and join with each other, taking turns to deliver lines, or to stand in the audience and observe.

But away from the dazzling playhouse lights, distant from the crowds? In the shadows of the alleys, is there a different drama being performed? What scenes may occur where no one witnesses?

And in the darkness, when it is hard to see, sometimes we can become confused, and grow unsure if a mask is on or off — if a mask has become a face, or a face a mask.

And should the play of murder start?…

%e2%80%a2dustless-fin12

Dustless | Volume 11 | Mask [iii]

It’s here – in the room – right here! Oh!

In a village huddled on the Endless Plains, on the eve of a great festival, villagers keep their vigil through the winter night. To pass the hours, they distract themselves with stories and games.

Terrible forces may assemble in quiet places. In the intricate designs on forbidden cards, strange figures emerge. Creations of an ancient culture, no longer understood, but profoundly revered: on the floor of time’s pool, forces stir, sending currents upwards, causing the calm surface to tremble and swirl, marking the present with ripples and shadows.

Peering into the world of a mysterious system, playing with the fire of unknown powers, the villagers entertain a masked guest. But who is he? And what may be seen should the mask fall off?

%e2%80%a2dustless-fin11

Dustless | Volume 10 | Mask [ii]

…where things give up the limits of themselves, and become revealed for what they are, the drifting envelopes of dust…

Not only people wear masks: nature, too, embroiders to dissimulate, and paints in beauty what may in naked moments kill.

A pretty golden-eye thrush upon the branch of an old plum tree, with a song so sweet: it cocks its head, looks for passing bugs, unearthed worms, is an assassin.

And the assassin snake slips out of its skin, and is a new assassin.

Or a white butterfly stares with black and red eyes rounded upon its wings, through a shape of false force seeking to escape the unwelcome attentions of a hunting mantis.


Through an immense arboreal forest, travellers make their way, and the world prepares for a universal festival.

Villages put on their finest shows. The temples are decked with ornaments, banners proclaim the beauty of the sutras, pay homage to a far-off emperor.

The roads become tracks, and the tracks become paths. Paths narrow, and the trees press in. There are only small settlements: there is much wilderness. The prospect of safety dwindles. The chance of misdirection grows.

As in the world, so in the head: one traveller takes off his flesh, enters the vegetable labyrinth of the mind, and in smoke and dreams wanders ethereal palaces, the banks of fertile rivers, the streets of unending cities…

Although form is dust, the way to the Dustless state must be by form. To hold a glance, there must be a face: to look out, one must have eyes.

If the face in the mirror is a mask, what lies behind the skin? If the person inside the mirror is invisible, what is there left to see?

%e2%80%a2dustless-fin10

Dustless | Volume 9 | Mask [i]

Brace yourself, and act the man

When truth is in doubt, people wear masks.

The road becomes roads. The journey grows more complex. Travellers begin to lose their way. The longer they live, the more they learn: childhood begins to retreat, and the world, like a great forest, stretches on and on around them, and within them, a wilderness.

In such a world, there are many strangers. Are they truthful? Do the faces they show mirror their hearts? Or do they wear masks?

In such a world of dust, it is hard to become Dustless. In a world of strangers, wearing masks of lies.

Go deeper still into the wilderness: become truly lost. Then look to your comrades: look to the ones you know and love.

They, like you, are creatures of dust. Do even your friends wear masks?

And if so, who are they?

And you?

•DUSTLESS-FIN-9

Following an attack by a strange marine organism, Lord Naro enters a profound state of delirium.

Several nurses who had been instructed to sit with me during the critical phase of my delirium found the experience too harrowing, and asked to be relieved of this duty. Patients in nearby rooms were taken to other, more distant rooms. Faced with these unprecedented symptoms, even Woya was troubled out of reason: he later confessed to me that his mind wandered towards the impure and barbarian notions of possession by evil spirits. Certainly, he had never witnessed such torment. Only Virsodanva Veka proved strong enough to undertake long sessions of vigilance beside my bed.

When the doctor recounted to me the convulsions that had shaken me then, I pitied myself, though (at the time, while speaking with him) I could not recall anything at all of those intolerable hours. Often, I cried out: almost always, I seemed to be in great fear. One peculiar effect of my disorder, which many found most troubling, was that sometimes when I shouted out it would not be in my usual voice but, as it seemed, in the voices of others.

Woya-tsa himself, for all his professional and inherent calm, admitted that he found himself questioning the nature of the world itself on encountering this unsettling phenomenon. He said his reason could not bridge the gulf that opened up between his knowledge and what he saw and heard as I lay there crying out. For not only was my normal voice distorted by terrors the nature of which he could not see, and not only was it bent by agonies the cause of which he could not ascertain, often my voice would change, grow deeper, and seem to be emitted from a hitherto unguessed region of my being. And it wasn’t merely that, in my delirium, I was impersonating other people, pretending to be a child or woman: uxo, it was worse, because there were moments when the voice that came out of my mouth appeared not to belong to me at all.

Only when I seemed to have recuperated fully – a matter of several weeks after first recovering consciousness – did Doctor Woya give me some account of what he and others had heard at my bedside. Sometimes, he said, my voice was so deep, and so contorted, it sounded inhuman, though it spoke our MidImperial tongue. Sometimes – more disconcerting still – it seemed I was communicating in my normal voice, but in no language the staff in the hospital had ever heard. And yet it was definitely a language, Woya believed: there was a fluency and an articulacy about the sounds that convinced him this was not the gibberish of a completely unravelled mind. At other times, my voice issued odd clicks and grunts and hisses and whispers, something subhuman, Woya said, reminding him of the language of insects. Any of these manifestations would have troubled all sensible witnesses, but there was yet a further variation in my distress, one which actually caused nurses to flee the room; and even Woya himself, on one occasion, said he found it unbearable, and had to leave me in the sole hands of the redoubtable Virsodanva Veka.

For not only did my voice sometimes sound like that of another man, or other men, it changed eerily and grew more strange still: it slipped from the tenor of the masculine altogether, and grew light and female.

While it was technically possible for a male voice-box to produce these different effects, the doctors agreed, not Yamgo of the Five Stars, nor Samisama, not the most brilliant actor of the Kunobun Ventriloquists’ Theatre could have commanded such an amazing range of voices. Male, female: they all sounded utterly real, as if they belonged to some individual. If you had turned your back, you would have thought a third person had entered the hospital room, and was speaking while I lay unconscious on the bed.

Woya said it was difficult to comprehend: when I was speaking as a female, there was no question that the words were coming from my mouth, but there was also no question that the voice was that of a woman, and not a man; and Woya could not put the two certainties together to form a rational whole. But most extraordinary and moving of all, he told me, were the moments when the timbre and intonation of my voice seemed to shed years, and I spoke not as a grown man, nor as a mature woman, but as a child.

This was too disturbing, Woya said. Most of the voices that spoke out of me were bearers of distress: some were angry and hostile, some were in pain, some fleeing pain; some were uttering bizarre orders; some were panicking, some grieving. Sometimes, at the height of the hallucinatory stage of my illness, different voices would chase one another out of my throat, and I would seem to be speaking in quick succession almost as if a line of beings queued inside me, wishing to communicate, and even squabbling among themselves. Then, abruptly, I would speak in my own voice, or in another voice, and utter something completely banal, a comment about the weather or the expression of a desire for a particular food for lunch, and it was precisely the ordinariness of these remarks which, juxtaposed against the chorus of other voices, highlighted the eeriness of my condition.

When the child, spoke, though, it always cried for help, and Woya found this nearly unbearable. He recounted how the child was a young boy – and to Woya, this boy was real, it seemed to me, even though the child spoke out of my mouth, and from some unaccountable region – and how the call for help was deeply affecting. Of course, there was no possibility of help being given, and so Woya felt both frightened, and concerned, and completely helpless. He said he definitely wanted to be able to give the child some reassurance, to soothe and calm it, because the fear in the child’s voice was palpable, and there is surely nothing quite as poignant as a child looking out for help. Woya-tsa felt torn and so disorientated that, as he told me, he began to worry not only about my sanity, but his own; indeed, he began to grow worried that, after his experiences by my bedside, the very notion of sanity itself was being thrown down before him, and he was entering a domain in which he was poorly equipped to survive.

Woya-tsa also told me that he had even tried to speak to the child, to call out to him. Woya-tsa attempted to learn the child’s name, but there seemed no real contact possible. Woya-tsa was unembarrassed and unashamed of his actions, even though some of his colleagues thought his behaviour eccentric: nevertheless, no other doctors called in to assist on the case remained unshaken by what they found. Most stated their opinion that what I was undergoing was a state of profound hallucination, and that the voices speaking out of me were fragments of memory or illusion, which had been chameleonised in my distress, taking on the properties of people and episodes I’d witnessed during my life. However, most also accepted that such a diagnosis was very limited, and that the case had a certain freakish fascination.

Woya-tsa described the child’s voice as not panicked, exactly, but possessing a kind of calm fear. The tone was plaintive, somehow rather distant, as if speaking out of another element, or through a distorting device. Not only was the child concerned for his own safety, but he also seemed very intent on passing on some information, or a warning.

Of all the voices that spoke out of me during those awful days, the child’s voice was, by common consent, the most alarming. “Help me,” he would say: “they are coming. They are coming. Please – help me. Why don’t you help me?”

Few of the doctors invited to give their opinion on my case believed I would ever recover. The general prognosis was that, even if something like consciousness returned to me, my wits would have been cast to the dusts, and I would never really be Lord Sokosozuin Naro again.

In this, I believe the doctors were right. And yet, finally, one evening I opened my one remaining eye, and looked out of it.

The day before, the jelly-like secretion had abruptly dried, and could be brushed off my face in a kind of powder.

The first words I said – although I don’t recall them myself – were: “They are coming. They are coming. They are coming.”


Dataslivers

Woya | Family name of the physician responsible for Lord Naro

Virsodanva Veka | The name of the captain of Lord Naro’s bodyguard

Uxo | “No”

tsa | Honorific, given to doctors and other members of a certain class

Names in Dustless | Naro, is the family name | Sokosozuin = Soko-so-zuin, Soko, son of Zuin


From Comb | Volume 8 of Dustless

Dustless | Volume 8 | Comb
It is known as the Still Building.

It is the building reached through the mind: the building of a different world.

But what happens if the world of the mind grows greater than the world outside the mind? And the ordinary life of pebbles and trees, of family, of work, grows dim and unreal? But the illuminated life of the mind grows brilliant and free?

People speak of delusion, of delirium, of madness: but have they ever truly entered the Still Building?

There is an old ZirCong saying: When the mind swallows the world in which the mind lives, that is the beginning of a new truth.

Along a remote road, to the north, in winter, travellers meet with a man who has entered the Still Building, and become lost there.

Can the travellers believe the strange tales they are told of a world reached through delusion, delirium, madness? If you remain in the world of the Building, wandering without end, will you find in there only loss and decay, the same dust that is found in the ordinary world?

Or is the Building greater than the world from which it rose? Might it be Dustless? Might you find inside you the beginning of a new truth?

Dustless | Volume 8

Please explore…

Volume 1 | The Sentinels

•DUSTLESS-FIN1

Dustless | Volume 1 is approximately 20 pp./a5

status | published 11 02 2013

Amazon Kindle Store:
Australia | Dustless | Volume 1
Canada | Dustless | Volume 1
India | Dustless | Volume 1
UK | Dustless | Volume 1
US | Dustless | Volume 1

ASIN (Amazon Standard Identification Number) | B00BEZL4ZU